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Archive for August 1st, 2008

By- Suzie-Q @ 5:00 PM MST

Israel, Iran and the Bomb

The Nation

By- Jonathan Schell & Martin J. Sherwin
July 30, 2008

Israel and the entire Middle East are approaching a stark existential choice: a nuclear holocaust or a nuclear-free Middle East. “Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months,” said Benny Morris, a well-connected professor of Middle Eastern history at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, in a recent New York Times op-ed. Morris also predicted that should the attack fail, “a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level” will occur. Indeed, Israel’s air force recently practiced maneuvers for such a strike, and Iran responded by test-firing a missile that can retaliate against Israel. In a desperate effort to assure its local nuclear monopoly, Israel is in danger of courting national suicide.

Can new diplomatic strategies be launched before the hawks take to the air? No question is more important for international security, yet no conventional solution, diplomatic or military, seems likely to resolve it. Even if Israelis did not believe that an Iranian bomb is an existential threat, the consequences of letting Iran proceed with its nuclear weapons program are grim. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, all wary of a nuclear-armed Iran, are only a few of the nations in the region that have recently shown a renewed interest in nuclear technology.How are the Americans and Israelis going to deal with this threat? Serial bombing? That is an admission of failure, not a foreign policy. It is a prescription for an escalating series of wars that could eventually lead to Israel’s destruction. A solution requires thinking beyond the conventional wisdom. It requires a grand initiative that would fundamentally change relationships in the Middle East.

The key to unlocking a dynamic and comprehensive peace process is Israel’s (unacknowledged) nuclear arsenal. To date its purpose has been to deter an overwhelming conventional attack. But absent radical change, the region will eventually become crowded with unstable, nuclear-armed states. The threat of a Middle East bristling with nuclear weapons should be as terrifying to Arab states as it is to Israel. In such a dangerous environment it is inevitable that Israelis will have diminishing confidence in their deterrent. Under the circumstances, it is prudent to consider what might be done, other than bombing Iran. There are sanctions, of course, but few informed Iran scholars believe sanctions will produce the desired results.

Although the outlook seems dire, Iran’s nuclear ambitions–and Israel’s nuclear arsenal–may have created a diplomatic opportunity. Does Israel’s arsenal have value beyond military deterrence? Can it be traded for the security and stability Israel has sought since its inception? Can Israel formulate a “Grand Design for a Nuclear-Free Middle East” linked to a transformative settlement of the issues that have troubled the region since 1948? Is it possible for Israel to be more secure in a nuclear-free Middle East than it is today? The answer to all of these questions is a qualified yes. It’s difficult to be optimistic about any Middle East peace initiative, but what is the penalty for trying?

(more…)

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GEF @ 7:08 PM ET

GOP congressman hints at support for sending Rove to jail.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Karl Rove in contempt of Congress. On MSNBC yesterday, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), breaking with his party, said he believes Rove should be forced to testify. “Let him explain his involvement, if any, in this Don Siegelman case.” When pressed on whether he was suggesting sending Rove to jail, Jones signaled that he supports this option:

Q: Knowing that he’s not coming, should Congress use its inherent contempt power and haul him in, possibly put him into jail?

JONES: Whatever authority Congress has, we need to uphold the institution.

Q: So it sounds like you’re saying that you too think that that should be a real option here.

JONES: I think that we should uphold the institution and the integrity of the House of Representatives.

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Republicans Stage “Oil Lobby” Revolt…

GEF @ 6:08 PM ET


House Dems turn out the lights but GOP keeps talking

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats adjourned the House, turned off the lights and killed the microphones, but Republicans are still on the floor talking gas prices.

Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders opposed the motion to adjourn the House, arguing that Pelosi’s refusal to schedule a vote allowing offshore drilling is hurting the American economy. They have refused to leave the floor after the adjournment motion passed at 11:23 a.m., and they are busy bashing Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for leaving town for the August recess.

At one point, the lights went off in the House and the microphones were turned off in the chamber, meaning Republicans were talking in the dark. But as Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz..) was speaking, the lights went back on and the microphones were turned on shortly afterward.

But C-SPAN, which has no control over the cameras in the chamber, has stopped broadcasting the House floor, meaning no one was witnessing this except the assembled Republicans, their aides, and one Democrat, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has now left.

Only about a half-dozen Republicans were on the floor when this began, but the crowd has grown to about 20, according to Patrick O’Connor.

“This is the people’s House,” said Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.). “This is not Pelosi’s politiburo.”

Democratic aides were furious at the GOP stunt, and reporters were kicked out of the Speaker’s Lobby, the space next to the House floor where they normally interview lawmakers.

“You’re not covering this, are you?” complained one senior Democratic aide. Another called the Republicans “morons” for staying on the floor.

Update: The Capitol Police are now trying to kick reporters out of the press gallery above the floor, meaning we can’t watch the Republicans anymore. But Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is now in the gallery talking to reporters, so the cops have held off for a minute. Clearly, Democrats don’t want Republicans getting any press for this episode. GOP leaders are trying to find other Republicans to rotate in for Blunt so reporters aren’t kicked out.

Update 2: This message was sent out by Blunt’s office:

“Although this Democrat majority just adjourned for the Democrat 5-week vacation, House Republicans are continuing to fight on the House floor. Although the lights, mics and C-SPAN cameras have been turned off, House Republicans are on the floor speaking to the taxpayers in the gallery who, not surprisingly, agree with Republican energy proposals.

“All Republicans who are in town are encouraged to come to the House floor.”

Update 3: Democrats just turned out the lights again. Republicans cheered.

Update 4: Republican leaders just sent out a notice looking for a bullhorn, and leadership aides are trying to corral all the members who are still in town to come speak on the floor and sustain this one-sided debate.

Also, Republicans can thank Shadegg for turning on the microphones the first time. Apparently, the fiesty Arizona conservative started typing random codes into the chamber’s public address system and accidentally typed the correct code, allowing Republicans brief access to the microphone before it was turned off again.

“I love this,” Shadegg told reporters up in the press gallery afterward. “Congress can be so boring. … This is a kick.”

Update 4: The scene on the floor is kind of crazy. Normally, members are not allowed to speak directly to the visitor galleries, and visitors are prohibited from cheering. But in this case, the members are walking up and down on the floor during their speeches, standing on chairs. The visitors are cheering loudly. Some members even brought in visitors, who are now sitting on the House floor in the seats normally filled by lawmakers, cheering and clapping. Very funny.

Democrats faced a choice here: Should they leave the cameras on and let Republicans rip Pelosi & Co. on C-SPAN, or should they leave the cameras off and let the Republicans have their “tantrum,” as one Democratic aide characterized it, with the cameras off? So the cameras are off, but Republicans, and the crowd, are clearly enjoying the scene.

Update 5: Republicans are literally hugging each other on the House floor. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), not normally known as a distinguished orator, just gave a rousing speech, accusing Democrats of stifling dissent. He referenced President John Quincy Adams, who returned as a House member after being defeated in his presidential reelection bid. Waving his arms and yelling, Manzullo brought the crowd (including a lot of staffers shipped in by GOP leaders to fill up the place), and he left the floor to hugs from his colleagues. You don’t see that up here every day.

Update 6: Rep Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) just pretended to be a Democrat. He stood on the other side  of the chamber and listed all of the GOP bills that the Dems killed.

He then said, “I am a Democrat, and here is my energy plan” and he held up a picture of an old VW Bug with a sail attached to it. He paraded around the House floor with the sign while the crowd cheered.

UPDATE 7: It’s over.

Right at the stroke of five Georgia Rep. Tom Price announced that House Republicans were ending their impromptu protest on the floor of the chamber, ending a five-plus hour rebellion with a round of “God Bless America.”

The assembled tourists, aides and members in the chamber gave Price and his compatriots a standing ovation. They left the chamber to shouts of “USA! USA! USA!”

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GEF @ 5:28 PM ET

Feds can search laptops without reason at airports

By ELLEN NAKASHIMA Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop’s contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The policies … are truly alarming,” said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who is probing the government’s border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin.

DHS officials said that the newly disclosed policies — which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens — are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. Officials said such procedures have long been in place but were disclosed last month because of public interest in the matter.

Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices have been taken — for months, in at least one case — and their contents examined.

The policies state that officers can “review and analyze information” in the traveler’s laptop “absent individualized suspicion,” and that the laptops and other devices are to be returned “in a reasonable period of time.”

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” including hard drives, flash drives, cell phones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover “all papers and other written documentation,” including books, pamphlets and “written materials commonly referred to as ‘pocket trash’ or ‘pocket litter.’ ”

Reasonable measures must be taken to protect business information and attorney-client privileged material, the policies say, but there is no specific mention of the handling of personal data such as medical and financial records.

When a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information, any copies of the data must be destroyed. Copies sent to non-federal entities must be returned to DHS. But the documents specify that there is no limitation on authorities keeping written notes or reports about the materials.

“They’re saying they can rifle through all the information in a traveler’s laptop without having a smidgeon of evidence that the traveler is breaking the law,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Notably, he said, the policies “don’t establish any criteria for whose computer can be searched.”

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson Ahern said the efforts “do not infringe on Americans’ privacy.” In a statement submitted to Feingold for a June hearing on the issue, he noted that the executive branch has long had “plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant” to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that “the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices.” Searches have uncovered “violent jihadist materials” as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

With about 400 million travelers entering the country each year, “as a practical matter, travelers only go to secondary (for a more thorough examination) when there is some level of suspicion,” Chertoff wrote. “Yet legislation locking in a particular standard for searches would have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers’ often split-second assessments are second-guessed.”

In April, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the government’s power to conduct searches of an international traveler’s laptop without suspicion of wrongdoing. The Customs policy can be viewed at: http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/travel/admissability/search—authori ty.ctt/search—authority.pdf.

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Wal-Mart Warns Workers Of Democratic Win

WSJ/AP | August 1, 208

UPDATE: Wal-Mart has issued a statement regarding The Wall Street Journal article outlining how it’s warning employees to beware of voting for Democrats. AP has the details. The Wall Street Journal article is excerpted below this excerpt from AP:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, denied a report Friday that it had pressured employees to vote against Democrats in November because of worries that a bill the party supports would make it easier for workers to unionize.

The measure, called the Employee Free Choice Act, would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret ballot elections. It was co-sponsored by Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, and opposed by John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee.

 

The original report from The Wall Street Journal:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they’ll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies — including Wal-Mart.In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise …

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don’t specifically tell attendees how to vote in November’s election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

“The meeting leader said, ‘I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won’t have a vote on whether you want a union,'” said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. “I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote,” she said.

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By- Suzie-Q @ 12:00 PM MST

Tell The Bush Administration: Hands Off My Laptop

Think Progress- By Guest at 10:52 am

Our guest blogger, Peter Swire, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and served as the Clinton administration’s Chief Counselor for Privacy, working on encryption policy and other issues.

Today the Washington Post ran a front-page story on a topic previously reported by ThinkProgress. Homeland Security is telling customs agents they can search, and take, travelers’ laptops and other electronic devices without needing any reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

The Post story highlights a new Customs and Border Patrol policy document that states:

In the course of a border search, and absent individualized suspicion, officers can review and analyze the information transported by any individual attempting to enter, reenter, depart, pass through, or reside in the United States.

The new policy says CPB can take away the laptop or analyze copies of its contents:

Officers may detain documents and electronic devices, or copies thereof, for a reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search. The search may take place on-site or at an off-site location.

CBP says that the officers are supposed to return the laptop and destroy copies of the contents if nothing illegal is found (but be sure not to have any downloaded songs that you haven’t paid for).

That is far from comforting, even once you get your laptop back days or weeks later, because “nothing in this policy limits the authority of an officer to make written notes” about what was in the laptop.

In my Senate testimony in June, I highlighted many reasons for concern about suspicionless searches of laptops. The basic response from Homeland Security has been: “We can search everything in your suitcase at the border, so we can search everything in your laptop.” The new policy, though, highlights one intriguing protection at the border — the policy follows existing law and says “sealed letter class mail” can only be opened with probable cause.

In short, Congress has long recognized that searches of intellectual content at the border are intrusive. The government is forbidden from sniffing through your mail at the border without probable cause, and similar protections are due for laptops.

What to do next? The Post reports that Senator Russ Feingold, who called the recent hearing, intends to introduce legislation to require reasonable suspicion and bar racial profiling for laptop searches. In addition, join the “Hands Off My Laptop” online campaign, which has already sent over 20,000 messages to CBP about the need for privacy protections for laptops.

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Afternoon Jukebox… Black Horse & The Cherry Tree

By- Suzie-Q @ 11:55 AM MST

Good Afternoon Justice Bloggers:

Happy Friday !

Have a wonderful & safe weekend! 🙂

S-Q

KT Tunstall- Black Horse & The Cherry Tree

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