Thursday, October 19, 2006

Congresswatch for 10/19: Elves and Orcs and NBA Basketball, oh my!

Congresswatch for 10/19: Elves and Orcs and NBA Basketball, oh my!

Santorum and Kennedy

Someone please tell me what is happening here.

Oh, Rick Santorum-chan! How your antics amuse me. It’s good to be able to lead off Congresswatch with some humor for once.

Santorum defends Iraq war

Bucks County Courier Times

Embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said America has avoided a second terrorist attack for five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has been drawn to Iraq instead.

Santorum used the analogy from one of his favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien's 1950s fantasy classic "Lord of the Rings," to put an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq into terms any school kid could easily understand.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.

"It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.," Santorum continued. "You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."

In an interview with the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board late last week, the 12-year Republican senator from Pennsylvania said he's "a big "Lord of the Rings' fan." He's read the first of the series, "The Hobbit" to his six children.

A spokesman for Democratic opponent Bob Casey Jr. questioned the appropriateness of the analogy.

"You have to really question the judgment of a U.S. senator who compares the war in Iraq to a fantasy book," said Casey spokesman Larry Smar. "This is just like when he said Kim Jong II isn't a threat because he just wants to "watch NBA basketball.' "

According to a Harrisburg Patriot-News editorial, Santorum said the North Korea dictator "doesn't want to die; he wants to watch NBA basketball" as a reason why Iran is the bigger nuclear threat.

All this while the GOP is trying their damnedest to save Santorum. Okay, while I understand the idea of trying to hold on to the seat for dear life, I don’t understand why they would exhaust so much effort on a guy who is most likely doomed (and really stupid, judging by the previous article). But I guess they must figure there’s something to salvage. An ’08 run? Hah! Not likely. Maybe it’s because he hates those icky queers. Oh wait, it is!

ROSYLN, Pa. — Keith Hollenberg, a member of the evangelical Assemblies of God church, is worried that one of his political heroes is about to lose his bid for reelection.

So when he saw Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) at a car show here, Hollenberg volunteered to help in what has become an urgent project for social conservatives in Pennsylvania and around the country: keeping Santorum in the Senate.

"I'm a big fan of yours," Hollenberg told him. "Keep on pulling for the right thing."

Santorum, an outspoken advocate of banning same-sex marriage, restricting abortion, and other social conservative causes, is considered this year's most-endangered senator.

It is a four-alarm fire for conservatives, who are bringing water buckets from all corners of the political world. Across Pennsylvania, pastors are preparing to stuff voter guides into their Sunday bulletins. In Washington, D.C., Paul Weyrich, a national conservative leader, hosted a conference call to give a pep talk to Republicans in Pennsylvania. In England, some Santorum fans are planning to cross the Atlantic to help campaign.

"I think it's important for people across the country to recognize how important it is not only to pay attention but to get engaged in this race, whatever way they can," said Colin Hanna, head of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group based in Pennsylvania. "If Rick Santorum were to lose, it would be cited as a turning point in the social conservative movement."

Santorum is not just a key link between the Republican Party and Christian conservatives. He is also one of President Bush's most unapologetic allies in Congress and a member of the Senate GOP leadership. And he is the apotheosis of a younger generation of Republicans — led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — that transformed the party in the 1990s into a more confrontational, ideological political force.
Oh, and how hilarious is this picture from the same story? That’s a look of trust if I’ve ever seen one! I’m sure my own reaction to Santorum approaching me during dinner would be about the same.


Thanks to George for pointing this one out:

“Nixon’s secret plan to win the war is resurrected from the dead (and the secret is still safe)”

Sen. Conrad Burns said at a debate Tuesday night that President Bush does have a plan for winning the war in Iraq, but he isn’t about to share it with the world.

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Tester replied that Bush’s only plan is to stay the course in Iraq, costing more American lives and billions of dollars, and to pass the war on to the next president who will take office in January 2009.

The two candidates’ answers about the war produced the most sparks at a debate before about 800 people at Montana State University-Billings sponsored by The Billings Gazette and the university. It was the two candidates’ sixth debate; they face off for the final time in Great Falls Friday night.

For the first time, Burns publicly expressed some concern about how effectively the U.S. is waging the war in Iraq. He echoed the views of Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, who recently returned from a trip to Iraq.

“We can’t lose in Iraq,” Burns said. “The consequences of losing is too great.”

Burns, however, said the U.S. does need to change its military tactics there. “If we don’t change, we’ll pay a heavy price, but we cannot afford to lose it,” he said.

Tester said that Burns has finally admitted that his “stay the course” position in Iraq is wrong and welcomed the senator to his own side.

For nearly a year, Tester has called on Bush to develop a plan to remove U.S. troops from Iraq. Burns has criticized Tester’s position as “cut and run.”

“We’re in a quagmire over there,” Tester said.

Burns told Tester firmly not to put him in the Democrat’s camp on the issue.

“I said we’ve got to win,” Burns said. “He wants us to pull out. He wants everyone to know our plan. That’s not smart.

“He says our president don’t have a plan. I think he’s got one. He’s not going to tell everyone in the world.”

Many in the crowd, which was dominated by Tester supporters, openly laughed at Burns’ claim that Bush has a plan.

Tester said Bush’s only plan is staying the course in Iraq at considerable sacrifices to U.S. troops and the federal treasury.

“We went in under false pretenses,” Tester said. “We pulled the troops from Afghanistan and put them in Iraq. Osama bin Laden is still running free.”

The war is costing the U.S. billions of dollars a year that could be better spent on helping middle-class families and small businesses, the challenger said.

Tester said he is not for “telling our opponents what we’re going to do. The fact is, we don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Replied Burns: “We’re not going to tell you what our plan is, Jon, because you’re just going to go out and blow it.”

Finally, looks like Ohio might be going Blue! Or at least Purple. I forgive you for putting Bush in a second time. Besides, some of my best friends live in Ohio.

The bellwether state of Ohio appears to have become hostile terrain for Republicans this year, with voters there overwhelmingly saying Democrats are more likely to help create jobs and concluding by a wide margin that Republicans in the state are more prone to political corruption than are Democrats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS

Ohio is home this year to closely watched races for governor, the United States Senate and a growing roster of competitive House seats, and the state has become one of the most contested battlegrounds of 2006 and one in which voters at this point are strongly favoring Democrats on many issues.

The Democratic candidates for governor and Senate hold commanding, double-digit leads over their Republican opponents in the poll and respondents said they intended to vote for the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in their district by a 50 to 32 percent margin.

The results raise alarm bells for President Bush and his party across the nation three weeks from Election Day.

The poll found a striking slippage in the president’s standing among white evangelical Christians, a constituency that has provided a strong vote cushion for Republican candidates in recent elections. In November 2004, 76 percent of white evangelical Christians in Ohio voted for Mr. Bush. When asked in this poll whether they approve or disapprove of the job Mr. Bush is doing as president, 49 percent approved while 45 percent disapproved.

Ohio is a Republican-leaning but heavily contested state that twice voted to elect Mr. Bush and gave him his Electoral College margin of victory in 2004. But it is not a perfect microcosm of the country, and in particular it has higher levels of economic anxiety, the poll found.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:40 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Large and Small for 10/19: Dog and Cat Fur, Crackdown on Puppy Mills, and Global Warming hits the wallet

Large and Small for 10/19: Dog and Cat Fur, Crackdown on Puppy Mills, and Global Warming hits the wallet

Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania

The weekly Large and Small entry is a completely new feature to the Junkheap, and reflects my own growing interest in animal rights and environmental concerns.

Let’s start with something that seemed like a no-brainer to me, but is apparently a big enough problem that the EU actually required a ban on it: using cats and dogs for their fur. I applaud the ban, but holy shit, who would wear something like that?

ANIMAL welfare campaigners today welcomed a vote by the European Parliament in favour of an EU-wide ban on the sale of dog and cat fur.

MEPs approved the ban as part of the first ever European Community strategic plan on animal protection. Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett, recently appointed honorary vice-president of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), said: "This is a historic turning point in the fight to ban this inhumane trade.

"The vote by members of the European Parliament sets in motion an EU-wide commitment to ban the import of dog and cat fur products to the EU."

Mr Barrett said he had lost count of the number of constituents who had contacted him to support his calls for a total ban on the trade.


Here’s some more good news: Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell (a Democrat, no less, whoo) has appointed the state’s first prosecutor specializing in regulating all of those damn Pennsylvania puppy mills. Finally there’s going to be some sort of oversight and hopefully measures to make these animals’ lives better and hopefully shut down the abusive breeders.

HARRISBURG - Seeking to end the inhumane treatment of dogs in commercial breeding operations, Gov. Rendell is expected to announce today the appointment a career state prosecutor to lead the embattled office charged with regulating 2,500 kennels across the state.

Jessie Smith, a 20-year veteran of the Office of Attorney General and a former board member of the Harrisburg Humane Society, has been named special deputy secretary of the Bureau of Dog Law, according to administration sources.

Rendell, who pledged in March to take action to improve conditions in the state's "puppy mills," also is expected to announce the appointment of Jeffrey Paladina, a former assistant district attorney, as special prosecutor for dog law enforcement and the establishment of a four-member enforcement team that will be dispatched to problem kennels.

"This is the first step toward a long-term solution to the puppy-mill problem in Pennsylvania," said Bob Baker, an ASPCA consultant who served on a working group that made recommendations to Rendell early this year. "This sends a strong message to breeders to straighten up or there will be action."

Animal welfare groups say the bureau has been unable to stop the worst offenders because it had rarely used its power to suspend or revoke kennel licenses. "The excuse it gave was that it didn't have an attorney to handle that," Baker said.


So, global warming isn’t that important because it doesn’t personally affect you. Right? Wrong. For even the most money-headed of people, global warming can have tangible, real impacts on the most important thing: their bottom line.

Oct. 11, 2006 — U.S insurance rates are already rising because of the impacts of global warming — and consumers should prepare for even higher rates — as flooding, wildfires, and other extreme weather events become more common, a new study says.

It's an important issue for insurers, who have already suffered billions of dollars in losses due to increases in serious weather events that fit the pattern of global warming. Severe weather is on the rise, the report says, costing insurers $92 billion in the 1990s and $23 billion in 2004 hurricane losses alone.

In some cases, insurers have pulled out of high risk markets completely, shifting the burden to taxpayers.

The report, "Climate Change and Insurance: An Agenda for Action in the United States," was released by insurer Allianz Group and conservation group World Wildlife Fund.

While U.S. insurance companies have been good at looking at the historical risk from natural catastrophes, the report says they have been slow to adopt the latest scientific findings in their computer models that project future risk and in turn, set rates.

"U.S. companies have a very sophisticated set of tools, but they look backwards," said Hans Verolme, director of the World Wildlife Fund Global Climate Change Program. "What they do not yet do is take in to account some of the knowledge that has been acquired in the scientific community."

As that new knowledge is taken into account, consumers will increasingly see the focus on global warming reflected in their insurance bills.

"As a general consequence of global warming, insurance prices will go up," said Clement Booth, a board member of Allianz. "There's no question about that."

And insurance agencies are taking notice, and are doing something. What a strange, strange bedfellow for the environmentalist.

NEW YORK – Insurance companies, who like to stay out of the limelight, are becoming leading business protagonists in the assault on global warming.

• Next week, Travelers, the giant insurance firm, will offer owners of hybrid cars in California a 10 percent discount. It already offers the discount in 41 other states and has cornered a large share of the market.

• This fall, Fireman's Fund will cut premiums for "green" buildings that save energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases. When it pays off claims, it will direct customers to environmentally friendly products to replace roofs, windows, and water heaters.

• In January, Marsh, the largest insurance broker in the US, will offer a program with Yale University to teach corporate board members about their fiduciary responsibility to manage exposure to climate change.

The insurance industry's clout is sizable. It's the second-largest industry in the world in terms of assets, and has a direct link to most homeowners and businesses. It insures coal-fired power plants as well as wind farms, so it can influence the power industry's cost structure. With its financial muscle, the industry could help advance the use of new financial instruments designed to allow companies to trade greenhouse-gas emissions in the same way that commodities are bought and sold.

"The insurance industry has the ability to change behavior, policies and communicate with clients," says Nancy Skinner, US director of the Climate Group, which lobbies for business and government action to address global warming.

Some consumers are already noticing a negative effect of this shift. In the past year, some 600,000 homeowners living in a zone that an insurer considers a high storm risk in an era of climate change have seen their policies cancelled or not renewed. This includes coastal areas stretching from Texas to New York. Currently, coastal properties are valued at $7.2 trillion.

Strange bedfellows, but I welcome them.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:50 AM :: (2) comments

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Homes Raided In Weldon Influence Probe

Homes Raided In Weldon Influence Probe

Remember this one? Yeah, the investigation continues...
Federal agents raided the homes of Rep. Curt Weldon's daughter and one of his closest political supporters yesterday as part of an investigation into whether the veteran Republican congressman used his influence to benefit himself and his daughter's lobbying firm, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

The investigation focuses on actions the Pennsylvania congressman took that may have aided clients of the business created by his daughter, Karen Weldon, and longtime Pennsylvania political ally Charles Sexton, according to three of the sources.

A grand jury, impaneled in Washington in May, has obtained evidence gathered over at least four months through wiretaps of Washington area cellphone numbers and has scrutinized whether Weldon received anything of value, according to the sources. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.

The investigation focuses on Weldon's support of the Russian-managed Itera International Energy Corp., one of the world's largest oil and gas firms, while that company paid fees to Solutions North America, the company that Karen Weldon and Sexton operate.

The congressman, for example, intervened on Itera's behalf when U.S. officials canceled a federal grant to the company. He also encouraged U.S. companies to do business with Itera at a time when its reputation had been sullied by accusations of Russian corruption.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:28 PM :: (0) comments

53% of Voters Say They Back Va. Same-Sex Marriage Ban

53% of Voters Say They Back Va. Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Oh, Virginia-Chan :( If this passes, I'm never moving back.

A majority of Virginians support a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, although voters split on the measure when presented with interpretations of its potential impact, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Fifty-three percent of likely voters said they would vote for the amendment, and 43 percent would oppose it, the poll found, indicating that three weeks before Election Day opponents still have a long way to go to make Virginia the first state in the country to defeat a same-sex marriage amendment.

The only part of the state to oppose the measure was Northern Virginia, where voters rejected it 55 percent to 42 percent, further evidence that the Washington suburbs have become a political and social world apart from the rest of Virginia. Respondents in the rest of the state backed the measure 58 percent to 38 percent, according to the survey, conducted over three days last week.

Despite the overall results, the poll provided some hope for opponents of the measure. Their chief argument is that the language of the amendment is too broad and would endanger contracts between unwed heterosexual couples. Supporters contend that the measure is limited to declaring that same-sex marriages would never be approved or recognized in Virginia.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:26 PM :: (0) comments

Get Local for 10/17: Endorsements, Endorsements, Endorsements

Get Local for 10/17: Endorsements, Endorsements, Endorsements

Tuesday’s Get Local feature (in addition to the supplements that pop up for stories that are just too juicy to wait) will eventually evolve to cover local matters other than just politics, but for the moment, it feels natural to cover elections and campaigns with state and national elections just around the corner. And boy, did today’s update catch me off guard. Good stuff ahead…


Regular Junkheap readers may remember some of the crap that went down during Maryland’s primary back in September: lost and delayed reader cards, late closings due to those cards, massive delays in voting, and questionable results. Ah, it truly was a great time for local elections. Well guess what? It looks like nothing’s been fixed, just in time for the real thing:

Diebold's new ExpressPoll 2000/4000 electronic poll book failed miserably in the September Maryland primary election. The poll book is separate from the Diebold TS voting machines used in the state. It contains all of the information on registered voters that was contained in the old paper poll books and it is used to check in voters. The failure of the e-poll books in Maryland, as well as the manner in which the problems have been “fixed” raises serious concern about whether they can legally be used in November’s elections.

According to the Associated Press a software patch produced by Diebold fixed one problem that plagued the equipment in Maryland's primary. Another problem, reported by the Baltimore Sun (article in archives) required a software patch that was produced by a Diebold sub-contractor, Advantech Co., Ltd., who was responsible for the e-poll books "losing synch".

The Sun goes on to say:
  • "The poll books contain a trove of information about each of Maryland's more than 3 million registered voters, and were designed to replace the cumbersome alphabetized binders filled with the same data. When a voter signs in at a precinct, the system marks him or her as having voted.
  • "When the machines stop talking to each other, different poll books at a given precinct might not agree on how many people have been checked in to vote.
  • "Underwood [Ross Underwood, the director of the ExpressPoll Division of Diebold] said Diebold was aware that Georgia, which uses an earlier model of the e-poll book, had similar problems during its primary in July, but had thought the problem was in the earlier model's hardware.
  • "Since Maryland reported its problems, Advantech concluded that was not the case.
  • "A solution to the third significant flaw likely will involve affixing a piece of polyester film [mylar] to the machine's hardware, so that a computer card that is programmed with a ballot for each voter makes sufficient contact with the e-poll book so that it can be configured."
According to the Associated Press article, Maryland Project Manager for Diebold, Thomas Feehan contradicted Underwood and said:

"The problem did not develop in Georgia, the only other state to use the machines statewide, because it did not use that field, Feehan said. When software was changed to bring up that field in Maryland, the company did not discover the flaw because it did not test enough names on individual machines, he said. "

"I would say it was an oversight," Feehan said."

Sounds like November 7th is going to be a lot of fun.


Now here’s a study in contrasts that just delights the hell out of me. Take a look at who got official endorsements in our Senate race yesterday. Ben Cardin, the Democratic candidate, received the full support and time of John Kerry:
U.S. Senate candidate Benjamin L. Cardin teamed up with his party's last presidential nominee, John F. Kerry, yesterday to build support among black business owners in Prince George's County, rally volunteers in Montgomery County and raise campaign cash at the Redskins game.

The appearances by the Massachusetts Democratic senator came as fundraising figures released by Cardin and his Republican rival, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, show that both candidates raised about $1.3 million during the five-week period ending Sept. 30.

Steele has raised a total of $6 million and had $2 million in the bank, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Cardin, a Baltimore congressman, has collected $6.4 million and had $1.6 million on hand, according to numbers provided by his campaign.

The figures provided yesterday are two weeks old and do not account for the costly TV commercial time both campaigns have purchased since then.

Speaking to about three dozen federal contractors, lawyers and local politicians gathered in Upper Marlboro yesterday, Cardin expressed support for locating government facilities in Prince George's, leasing space for government offices in the county and providing more opportunities for minority owners to secure contracts.

"Prince George's needs to be the first priority," Cardin said.

With the retirement of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D), Kerry emphasized the importance of keeping both of Maryland's Senate seats in Democratic hands as control of Congress is at stake in next month's election.

"People in Maryland can't be fooled by slick advertisements, by the rhetoric," said Kerry, seated between Cardin and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) at the company headquarters of Cool Wave Water. "You've got to send us Ben Cardin to fill [Sarbanes'] shoes."

In the meantime, who does Republican Candidate Michael Steele get? What political heavyweight (hee hee!) could he find to support his candidacy? That’s right: DON KING:
Boxing promoter Don King yesterday campaigned with Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in Prince George's County and Baltimore, telling black voters to support Mr. Steele's U.S. Senate candidacy even though he is a Republican.

"For black people, there can't be a fealty to party. That's not fidelity to truth," said Mr. King, a Republican.

With his trademark hair standing straight up, Mr. King appeared with Mr. Steele at a cafe in Largo Town Center and then on a street corner in West Baltimore. The two then visited a youth boxing center.

Mr. King criticized the state Democratic Party for not promoting black leaders.

"You don't have any black faces on the Democratic ticket," Mr. King said. "John Kennedy said sometimes party loyalty asks too much."
That’s right, the hair means he’s qualified. Also, I would contend that hair's not standing up nearly as much as it once did. Looking pretty lackluster, actually. I mean, look at the hair in its prime:

It just can't compare. And if the hair can't compare, what does it say about the candidate, I ask you?


Finally, the Democratic (Martin O’Malley) nominee for Governor and the incumbent Republican (Bob Ehrlich) faced off for their first televised debate last night, which got quite testy. WUSA 9’s webpage describes it just as well as I could: “Ehrlich portrayed O'Malley as a whiner who engages in class warfare and "drive-by attacks" on Republicans.

O'Malley criticized what he said are "two Bob Ehrlichs" -- one who made campaign promises in 2002 and another who didn't keep those promises after his election.”

Ehrlich’s a fine one to talk about class warfare. What a moron. You can find the debate in its entirety at the WJZ Baltimore website.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:39 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, October 16, 2006

Eye on the DOJ/Civil Rights Watch for 10/16: All Hands on the Internet, the Porn Squad, the Abu Ghraib Sex Ring, and another Gitmo Investigation

Eye on the DOJ/Civil Rights Watch for 10/16: All Hands on the Internet, the Porn Squad, the Abu Ghraib Sex Ring, and another Gitmo Investigation

Full plate today for EotD/CRW; the guys in the Administration have their hands full with the issues that are important to the American people, like regulating the Internet, checking whether people possess pornography, and torture. Okay, that last one, that might be an important one, but for all the reasons that the Administration doesn’t care about.

America has become a very strange place; in the five years since 9/11, it seems as though any terrible act, any shock to the body politic, has become an excuse to remove more civil liberties. See the Patriot act, or the recent screwing over of habeus corpus. I don’t really understand how stealing our freedoms makes us any safer, but hey, I’m not paid the big bucks to run the country. Now comes the inevitable freedom-limiter for the Foley scandal: a movement to store every user’s browsing history. This certainly couldn’t be used against a political foe, could it? Oh, Alberto, you always make me smile!
Washington, D.C. - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - infoZine - "Already we can see the rumblings of legislation in Congress," said Tim Lordan, executive director of the advisory committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus. "It's definitely going to color the debate."

But parents of Web-browsing children should not view Foley as the classic example of an Internet predator, Lordan said.

"His interactions with these teenagers were begun with notes in the hallway, walks for ice cream down the street. I mean, he attended the pages' graduation," he said.

Yet parental fear fueled by recent events could encourage legislators to push for more stringent Internet laws, Lordan said.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., are among public officials who support legislation that would require data retention, which would force Internet service providers to document and store all users' online activities.

"One thing we've continuously heard from state and local investigators and prosecutors is that many Internet Service Providers don't retain records for a sufficient period of time," Gonzales told a Senate committee Sept. 19.

He said a department task force is working on the issue.
Now here’s something I bet you didn’t even know: registered sex offenders, even if they have served their time, are “free” for the rest of their lives to be convenient targets of local and federal sweeps. So, say, a District Attorney up for re-election decides he or shee needs to look tough on crime. Who would be the obvious target? Why, sex offenders, the easiest group to demonize. Who gives a damn about them? Not many people, apparently. Please note, I am not defending the sex offenders’ actions, but time served is time served, and also that “child porn” is cited as the “all the way up to” in this story. That means that these guys could easily have been nabbed for petty violations. Convenient, no?
Federal and local law enforcement officers swept through Calaveras and Tuolumne counties this week, checking on registered child sex offenders and whether there were any signs of child pornography in their homes.

Calaveras County Sheriff's investigators and a Modesto-area FBI agent, went to the homes of 21 registered sex offenders yesterday and Wednesday. The officers were checking that the felons were living at their registered addresses and to see if there was any salacious material at their house.

Two men were arrested — Jimmy Ray Arnold, 47, of the 5500 block of Hallas Drive, Mokelumne Hill, was arrested on a parole violation and Richard Darrell Cadle Jr., 40, of the 400 block of Main Street, West Point was arrested on a probation violation. Sheriff's officials refused to disclose why they suspect these two men were not following parole or probation rules.

"It could have been something as simple as possessing alcohol all the way to having child pornography," said Calaveras County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Seawell. "The investigators are not releasing the circumstances on the arrests yet."

Of 14 men targeted in Tuolumne County, none were out of compliance, said Sheriff's Sgt. Matt Zelinsky. Investigators did arrest two men, on unrelated misdemeanor warrants, he said.
Speaking of porn, hot off the heels of his comment about Teddy Kennedy, Christopher Shays (R-Conn) continues to prove that he’s losing his damned mind. Apparently, in that weird, twisted mind, Abu Ghraib was about torture and sex and pornography, but absolutely not torture. But yet it was torture? Just what the hell is he saying here?

HARTFORD, Conn. --Republican Rep. Christopher Shays, who is in a tough re-election fight, said Friday the Abu Ghraib prison abuses were more about pornography than torture.

The veteran Connecticut congressman said a National Guard unit was primarily responsible for the abuses although it was actually the 372nd Military Police Company from Cresaptown, Md., an Army Reserve unit.

"It was a National Guard unit run amok," Shays said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It was torture because sex abuse is torture. It was gross and despicable ... This is more about pornography than torture."

Shays sought to defuse controversy over his previous comments suggesting the Abu Ghraib abuses weren't torture but instead involved a sex ring of troops.

"Now I've seen what happened in Abu Ghraib, and Abu Ghraib was not torture," Shays said at a debate Wednesday.

"It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from (Maryland) who were involved in a sex ring and they took pictures of soldiers who were naked," added Shays. "And they did other things that were just outrageous. But it wasn't torture."

The lawmaker's comments were in a transcript of the debate provided by his opponent, Diane Farrell. Shays' campaign, contacted Friday, did not dispute the comments.
Finally, well, well, looks like the military is continuing to defend its own, or something like that. After all the instances of torture perpetrators getting off with no sentences or not investigated at all (check those links, I dare ya), the military is now proving that it’s not afraid to get tough on whistleblowers:
MIAMI — The U.S. Marine Corps has threatened to punish two members of the military legal team representing a terrorism suspect being held at Guantanamo Bay if they continue to speak publicly about reported prisoner abuse, a civilian lawyer from the defense team said Saturday.

The action directed at Lt. Col. Colby Vokey and Sgt. Heather Cerveny follows their report last week that Guantanamo guards bragged about beating detainees, said Muneer Ahmad, an American University law professor who assists in the defense of Canadian suspect Omar Khadr.

The order has heightened fears among the military defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners that their careers will suffer for exposing flaws and injustices in the system, Ahmad said.

"In one fell swoop, the government is gagging a defense lawyer and threatening retaliation against a whistle-blower," Ahmad said. "It really points out what is wrong with the detainee legislation that Bush is scheduled to sign on Tuesday: It permits the abuse of detainees to continue, immunizes the wrongdoers and precludes the detainees from ever challenging it in court."

The Marine Corps said the gag order had been issued to ensure the legal team's actions were in compliance with professional standards. "The Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps, as Lt. Col. Vokey's direct supervisor, has directed him not to communicate with the media on this case pending her review of the facts," said 1st Lt. Blanca E. Binstock of the Marine public affairs office.

Defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners say the personal stakes are high and point to the Navy's failure to promote Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift after he successfully challenged the legitimacy of the Pentagon's war-crimes commissions. Two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled the commissions unconstitutional and lacking in due process, Swift was passed over for advancement and will be forced by the Navy's up-or-out policy to retire by summer.

At least three other military defense lawyers for the 10 charged terrorism suspects have also been passed over for promotion in what some consider a subtle reprimand of their vigorous defense of their clients.

"We've all known that representing folks in these kind of circumstances would have consequences, but to actually see Charlie passed over after he takes his case to the Supreme Court and wins — that certainly put it in the forefront for me," said Army Maj. Tom Fleener, who represents Ali Hamza Bahlul of Yemen.

What a week.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:45 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Iraq sectarian spree kills 83 in 2 days

Iraq sectarian spree kills 83 in 2 days

I found the part about the new Islamic Iraqi state especially interesting.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - At least 83 people were killed during a two-day spree of sectarian revenge killings, as Iraq's government said Sunday it was indefinitely postponing a much-anticipated national reconciliation conference.

Separately, the U.S. military reported the deaths of a Marine and four soldiers.

A brief statement from the Ministry of State for National Dialogue said only that the Iraqi political powers conference planned for Saturday had been put off because of unspecified "emergency reasons out of the control of the ministry."

The failure to bring Iraq's divided politicians together appeared likely to hurt Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's attempts to strengthen political consensus, underscoring the effect worsening violence is having on efforts to stabilize the U.S.-backed government and curb the bloodshed.

An Iraqi militant group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq announced Sunday in a video that it has established an Islamic Iraqi state, comprising six provinces — including Baghdad — that are largely Sunni and parts of two central provinces that are predominiately Shiite.

That statement came from the Mujahedeen Shura Council — an umbrella organization of insurgent groups in Iraq that have be trying to drive out U.S. forces and topple Iraq's fragile government.

"We bring you good news of the founding and the formation of the Islamic Iraqi State ... to protect our people," said a man identified in the video as the group's spokesman.

The man in the eight minute video, which was posted on a Web site commonly used by insurgents, wore a traditional Arab robe and had his face blocked out.

Weekend revenge killings among Shiites and Sunnis left at least 63 people dead in a city north of Baghdad. Eleven people died Sunday in a series of apparently coordinated bombings on a girls school and other targets in the northern city of Kirkuk, where Kurds and Arabs are in a tense struggle for control of the oil-rich city.

Even by Iraq's bleak standards, October has been an especially bloody month. Hundreds of Iraqi's have died in attacks and 54 U.S. military personnel have been killed in the first two weeks alone.

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