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Civil Rights / Liberties


CA: The Courts, Congress and Executive Power

Take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to explore the historical and legal underpinnings of crucial issues facing our nation, including:

  • The nature and meaning of the “war on terror”
  • Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch
  • The power to initiate war
  • The illegality of aggressive war
  • The power to make and to disregard treaties
  • Presidential signing statements
  • 4th Amendment protections, warrantless wiretaps & searches, and the “war on terror”
  • The State Secrets Doctrine and its effect on the courts
  • Military commissions and enemy combatants
  • Extraordinary rendition and torture
  • Due process rights of U.S. citizens during the “war on terror”

The course will benefit your legal practice and knowledge, no matter what your specialty, as the topics we will address go to the heart of the rule of law itself—the cornerstone of our legal system and form of government. Click here to register.

Every lawyer in California might well find the liberty or property interests of his or her clients directly impaired by governmental claims of emergency authority to enhance national security, as has already occurred during the past decade in cases of arbitrary detention, warrantless surveillance (a subject of extensive ongoing litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California), the use of the state secrets doctrine to impede litigation and prevent disclosure of information (the subject of a groundbreaking case currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit), and domestic espionage, searches, and seizures that military personnel have conducted, among other controversial federal government practices.

This course will supply lawyers with the knowledge necessary to deepen their knowledge of and successfully apply and defend crucial elements of the Constitution and statutory law, as longstanding legal principles continue to the present day to be challenged or ignored by the federal government in pursuing its ongoing struggle against international terrorism. Click here to register.

Why Three Branches And Two Parties

By David Swanson

Civics 102: Getting Real.

Our government is divided into two parties, balanced by checkbooks. The Republican Party's role is to please lovers of death-match cage combat and Dallas Cowboys fans. The Democratic Party's role is to befriend masochists and Chicago Cubs supporters. Together, the two parties keep the war machine and Wall Street singing in harmony.

A tourist in Washington recently asked for directions to the military industrial complex. The answer: Look deep inside.

Our government's two-party structure established by the founders in the book of Genesis is further subdivided into three branches of government. The executive branch faithfully executes the will of the two parties and is led by a president whose functions are: to please people who think it's exciting that England still has royalty, comfort children who had no fathers, and interest the readers of celebrity gossip magazines.

Our Neighbors' Keeper: Local Cop Chiefs Want to Create a Nation of Snoops

By Dave Lindorff

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and other big city cops are calling for a new system of “citizen watch” programs, allegedly to help them spot hidden terrorists. I view this new call for a nation of private spies with a deep suspicion born of experience with the LAPD and its historic penchant for spying on law-abiding residents of that city.

Today! Grand Central! New Yorkers to Stage Dramatic Anti-War Protest As Administration Debates Afghanistan

New Yorkers to Stage Dramatic Anti-War Protest As Administration Debates Afghanistan

What: Theatrical Protest & Photo Op

When: 5:30-7:00pm, Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where: Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Following Monday’s protest against the US occupation of Afghanistan at the White House, anti-war organizations will gather tomorrow inside Grand Central Terminal.

The World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, War Resisters League, Veterans for Peace, Brooklyn for Peace and others have invited their members to participate.

Organizers cite the report of General Stanley McChrystal projecting a dire outcome for the United States unless Obama further increases troop levels as a reason for immediate urgent protest. This weekend, 10 US military were killed in some of the heaviest losses in the war.

Will Airports Screen For Body Signals? Researchers Hope So

Will airports screen for body signals? Researchers hope so
By Pamela Benson | CNN

The days of being able to walk through airport security checkpoints while wearing shoes and a jacket could return if an experimental program proves successful, some Department of Homeland Security officials say.

The Homeland Security-funded project is Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST. Instead of focusing on whether you have hidden explosives or whether you're carrying a weapon, sensors and cameras located at security checkpoints would measure the natural signals coming from your body -- your heart rate, breathing, eye movement, body temperature and fidgeting. Read more.

Twitter Crackdown: NYC Activist Arrested for Using Social Networking Site during G-20 Protest in Pittsburgh

Twitter Crackdown: NYC Activist Arrested for Using Social Networking Site during G-20 Protest in Pittsburgh | Democracy NOW!

Elliot Madison was arrested last month during the G-20 protests in Pittsburgh when police raided his hotel room. Police say Madison and a co-defendant used computers and a radio scanner to track police movements and then passed on that information to protesters using cell phones and the social networking site Twitter. Madison is being charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility, and possession of instruments of crime. Exactly one week later, Madison’s New York home was raided by FBI agents, who conducted a sixteen-hour search. We speak to Elliot Madison and his attorney, Martin Stolar. Read more.

San Diego Preps For "What Do You Really Know About War?" & "Bring Their Buddies Home" Vigil

 

What do you really know about war? Hear from the people who have been there:

 

    • Iraq
    • Afghanistan
    • GI Resistance
    • Women in the Military
    • Homeless Veterans
    • Military Families

When: Sunday, Nov. 8th, 11:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Where: Multi-Purpose Rm - Student Services Center

Keynote Address by Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51), Chairman of Veterans Affairs with highlights from Arlington West & Cross My Heart, by Peter Dudar & Sally Marr. Music by Kevin "Mac Mac" McCoy.

FREE but donations appreciated. REGISTER BEFORE NOV. 4TH FOR FREE LUNCH TICKET. Program followed by a sunset vigil:

Stand in silence along N. Torrey Pines Rd. (North and South of Muir College Drive) for a Sunset Vigil to honor those who have died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq We will provide each participant with a memorial page to wear bearing the name of a fallen soldier, or you can bring your own for someone you wish to honor.

DiFi and Pat Leahy, Silencing the Librarians

DiFi and Pat Leahy, Silencing the Librarians
By emptywheel | FireDogLake

There's a cynical passage in the new PATRIOT language that DiFi put forward the other night. It basically creates an exception in the worsened Section 215 language just for libraries.

‘‘(B) if the records sought pertain to libraries (as defined in section 213(1) of the Library Services and Technology Act (20 U.S.C. 9122(1)), including library records or patron lists, a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought—‘‘(i) are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against inter-national terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities; and ‘‘(ii)(I) pertain to a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power; ‘‘(II) are relevant to the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; or ‘‘(III) pertain to an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power;

This language requires that before investigators demand libraries turn over records, they must first prove that the person to whom the records pertain is either an intelligence investigation suspect, or is in contact with one. So for library records, and library records only, the new language requires some showing of reasonable cause first before the investigators can request the information. Read more.

Cindy Sheehan Moving to Washington

ABC's Punch with Jake Tapper: Cindy Sheehan Moving to Washington

“Sometimes I look at what I think Senator McCain would be doing, and what Obama’s doing and I can’t discern any difference. And I think that Obama’s foreign policy is obviously a continuation. When you have Robert Gates. When you have McChrystal. When you have Hillary Clinton, who is supposed to be the secretary of state, but who has always been for these wars of aggression. I see is clearly a continuation, a continuation of the policy of empire,” Sheehan told ABC News.

Park Police arrested Sheehan and 60 other protestors yesterday, after Sheehan chained herself to the fence on the North Lawn. Sheehan says she refuses to pay the fine and that she and other anti-war activists plan to “step up” their protests until the administration shows a willingness to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

“We’re going to create a movement that’s going to demand a change of policy,” she said, explaining that her plan is to create large, coordinated acts of civil resistance, “It’s going to be massive.”

Antiwar Protesters Takeover White House Sidewalk (A Slideshow)

On Monday, around noon, Oct. 5, 2009, a spirited antiwar rally was held in front of the White House. Sixty-one protesters were arrested there in a nonviolent "Civil Resistance" action. Here are some sights and scenes from that event.

Million Moran March

Peace Activists Arrested at White House

UPI video here.

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, just after noon, about 60 activists were arrested at the White House for failing to obey a police order. The nonviolent “Civil Resistance” action was the largest such antiwar demonstration at this particular site, since President Barack Obama took office. Hundreds more participated in the event, but chose not to get arrested. Some of those arrested wore orange jump suits and black hoods. A few had chained themselves to the White House fence. “Peace Mom,” Cindy Sheehan was one of those arrested. According to the press release of the sponsoring groups the action was carried out in order to focus attention on ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the U.S. occupation of Iraq; stopping the U.S. drone bombings in Pakistan; and to demand the closing, as a moral and legal issue, of the Gitmo and Bagram prisons. The activists also want the culpable members of the Bush-Cheney Gang brought to the Bar of Justice for their role in sanctioning and carrying out the illegal policy of torture.

See: National Campaign for NonViolent Resistance and DC: Join Pro-Peace & Accountability Groups for Plans & Action 10/3-5/2009 and Voices for Creative NonViolence and for a legal perspective on the practice of nonviolent resistance, check out Professor Frances A. Boyle's’ excellent book, "Protesting Power: War, Resistance, and Law".

For the exact charges placed against each activist arrested and for the exact numbers arrested, and for the organizers’ estimate of the crowd size, go to sites of the groups linked in the above cited press release.

High Court To Decide If War Memorial Violates Constitution

High court to decide if war memorial violates Constitution
By Bill Mears | CNN

A federal judge has ordered the Mojave Cross, a war memorial erected by a veterans group 75 years ago, to be covered. It's boxed in plywood. The issue is less about what the cross symbolizes and more about where it sits: In the middle of the Mojave National Preserve, which is government land....Riley Bembry, who served as a medic in World War I, helped erect the cross in 1934. It sits on a 4,000-foot plateau and was a place of reflection for many vets who retreated to the desert in part to recover from severe lung diseases caused by mustard gas attacks during the Great War. An annual Easter service is held there, but until recently only locals knew about it. The site is not on any maps.

Driving along a pockmarked road amid rocks and Joshua trees in a lonely southern California desert, religious controversy might be the last thing you'd expect to encounter.

And if you don't look too closely, you're likely to zip right past the focus of a hotly contested Supreme Court battle. Read more.

Sibel Edmonds: A Few New Developments in the Makings of a Police State

Sibel Edmonds wrote:

A Few New Developments in The Makings of a Police State

What happened to the month of September?! For me, it just flew by: The Krikorian Case, the American Conservative Magazine article, the latest from former FBI CI Specialist John Cole, several interesting interviews for our upcoming Boiling Frogs Show, building and designing my soon-to-be-launched website…and of course full-time motherhood and my part time job. Well, I am still standing!

I am expecting to have the new site up and running by mid October. Since ‘blogger’ doesn’t have a forwarding function I’ll post the notice for the new site as my last post to direct our readers to the site. It’s not going to be just a new site but the beginning of a new exciting project. Once the move is completed and we are settled, I’ll announce the names of my investigative journalist partners whom you all will recognize, together with a few other projects and objectives.

I’ve been running behind in publishing my next series of Boiling Frogs Interviews. In the next few weeks I’ll post interviews with John Cole (Former FBI CI Specialist), Melvin Goodman (Former CIA Analyst), Richard Barlow (Former CIA Analyst), and Steve Kohn (Attorney & the Founder of National Whistleblowers Center).

Speaking of interviews, here is the transcript of a great interview by Scott Horton with Philip Giraldi and Joe Lauria based on the American Conservative Magazine cover story.

Here is some semi-recent news and developments related to our ‘Police State’ topics I’ve been meaning to post, but for one reason or another were unable to actually sit down and do:

President of words but not actions

Those of you who’ve been following the latest on the President’s half-hearted promises on the future of the State Secrets Privilege may want to check out his latest action in ‘action’ and ‘implementation.’ The informed civil libertarians have been cautioning against celebrating our Attorney General’s vague announcement of improvements in using and implementing this privilege. They are right. The changes are in words only and cosmetic at best. As we all know the new administration has been defending, justifying and actually promoting the former administration’s abuses of this unconstitutional privilege. Here is the latest case: Read more.

Charges Against Yoo Protesters Dropped

Charges Against Yoo Protesters Dropped
By Riya Bhattacharjee | Berkeley Daily Planet

The Alameda County district attorney’s office announced Wednesday, Sept. 23 that it would not press criminal charges against four protesters cited for misdemeanors during a rally at UC Berkeley’s School of Law.

The Aug. 17 rally called for UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo to be fired, disbarred and prosecuted for war crimes for his role in crafting the Bush administration’s torture policies.

UC Police Department officers cited and then released Stephanie Tang, George Cammarota, Elliot Cohen and Donna Norton for trespassing and disturbing the peace on campus when they refused to comply with an order to leave the law school building after exhibiting loud and disruptive behavior.

Tang and Cammarota are members of World Can’t Wait, an activist group that organized the protest in collaboration with Code Pink and the National Lawyers Guild on the day Yoo returned to the Berkeley campus after a semester at Chapman University in Orange County.

Cohen is a former member of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission and Norton lives in Petaluma.

All four joined the protest on the steps of the law school formerly known as Boalt Hall, and then entered the building, where they talked to students and waited for Yoo, a tenured professor, to show up for class.

The group of 60 or so activists, community members, and current and former law school students voiced their desire for a comprehensive criminal investigation into Yoo’s role in the writing of interrogation memos while he was legal counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001 to 2003.

The Obama administration on Aug. 24 released partially declassified CIA documents that criticized the agency’s interrogation program in 2002 and 2003 as poor, resulting in the use of “unauthorized, improvised, inhumane and undocumented” techniques. Read more.

The Ultimate Media Marriage: Comcast and NBC? The Stuff of Nightmares

The Ultimate Media Marriage: Comcast and NBC? The Stuff of Nightmares
By Susie Madrak | Crooks & Liars

You think you've seen conflicts of interest with Disney owning ABC? You ain't seen nothing yet. Imagine the same people who brought you Comcast just sort of ... massaging the media message in favor of their own corporate strategy. Yes, the same people who charge you for service calls for their unreliable cable will be in charge of the news coverage. Oh boy, what could be better?

NBC Universal executives declined to deny a report Wednesday night that Comcast, the cable giant, is in talks to buy the television and movie company from General Electric.

Comcast also did not deny the report that bankers for the two sides discussed a possible deal Tuesday in New York. Read more.

Civil Rights Groups Seek International Help on Felony Voting

Civil Rights Groups Seek International Help on Felony Voting | Blog of Legal Times

The Sentencing Project and two national civil rights organizations have asked an international human rights body for a hearing on felony disenfranchisement laws in the United States and other countries.

The groups may know as early as next week whether the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will accept their request for a hearing. The groups want the commission to decide whether laws and policies prohibiting convicted felons from voting violate the right to vote free from discrimination under the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.

"We wanted to bring attention to the issue of felony disenfranchisement and put a human rights framework on the issue," said Marcia Johnson-Blanco, a voting rights attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We've been litigating the issue in the courts and felt we sort of hit a block in our system."

By casting the issue as a human rights matter, she explained, advocacy groups have another avenue--an international one--in which to seek change.

The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the Lawyers' Committee and the Sentencing Project in requesting the hearing. Read more.

Lawmakers Cave to FBI in Patriot Act Debate

Lawmakers Cave to FBI in Patriot Act Debate
Powerful Senate leaders on Thursday bowed to FBI concerns that adding privacy protections to an expiring provision of the Patriot Act could jeopardize “ongoing” terror investigations.
By David Kravets | Wired

The Patriot Act was adopted six weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, and greatly expanded the government’s power to intrude into the private lives of Americans in the course of anti-terror and criminal investigations. Three provisions are expiring at year’s end.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee chairman, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) introduced last-minute changes (.pdf) that would strip away some of the privacy protections Leahy had espoused just the week before. The Vermont Democrat said his own, original proposal of last week could jeopardize ongoing terror investigations.

“All of us are mindful that threats against American safety are real and continuing,” Leahy said at the hearing . “I’m trying to introduce balances on both sides.”

He was discussing one of the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act — Section 215. That allows a secret court — known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court or FISA court — to authorize broad warrants for most any type of records, including those held by banks, libraries and doctors.

The Leahy-Feinstein amendment, which is likely to be adopted by the committee and sent to the full Senate next week, does not require the government show a connection between the items sought under a Section 215 warrant and a suspected terrorist or spy. Read more.

Portable Pain Weapon May End Up In Police Hands

Portable pain weapon may end up in police hands
By Paul Marks, New Scientist | Obama's Quagmire

The Pentagon’s efforts to develop a beam weapon that can deter an adversary by causing a burning sensation on their skin has taken a step forward with the development of a small, potentially hand-held, version. The weapon, which is claimed to cause no permanent harm, could also end up being used by police to control civilians.

The idea of the weapon is to “create a heating sensation that repels individual adversaries”, according to the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) in Quantico, Virginia, which develops less-lethal weapons for the US military and coastguard.

Tests with a rifle-mounted infrared laser, carried out at a US air force lab near Dayton, Ohio, have determined a combination of laser pulse power and wavelength that causes an alarming, hot sensation on the skin, but which stops short of causing a burn, says JNLWD project engineer Wesley Burgei. Read more.

Protection Or Peril? Gun Possession Of Questionable Value In An Assault, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Sep. 30, 2009)--In a first-of its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.

The study was released online this month in the American Journal of Public Health, in advance of print publication in November 2009.

“This study helps resolve the long-standing debate about whether guns are protective or perilous,” notes study author Charles C. Branas, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology. “Will possessing a firearm always safeguard against harm or will it promote a false sense of
security?”

A Second Bill of Rights

Let's Try Democracy By David Swanson, BlackCommentator.com Columnist

This is the second of three excerpts from Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (Seven Stories Press) by David Swanson published here by the kind permission of the publisher.

Click here to read any of the commentaries in this series.

In places where we are not already protected, or where we have been shown to be vulnerable over the last eight years or before, legislation and amendments can be used to expand our existing rights and establish entirely new ones. All of our rights, new and old, should be properly protected by placing violations of them in the criminal code.

1. The Right to Vote

New Cookie Technologies: Harder to See and Remove, Widely Used to Track You

New Cookie Technologies: Harder to See and Remove, Widely Used to Track You
By Seth Schoen | Electronic Freedom Foundation

This is part 1 of a three-part series on user tracking on the web today. You can read Part 2 here.

Cookies are still a privacy problem for web users, many years after privacy advocates first raised concerns about their use to track web browsing. Today, cookies are one of the main mechanisms that advertising companies like Google use to track and profile users across sites and over time -- often building up a single gigantic profile for years and years. Many EFF members respond to this threat by using their browsers' cookie management features to limit which cookies they'll accept or how long they'll be retained.

But it turns out that the cookie situation is quite a bit trickier today, and sites that want to track users have new technical options that are hard for users to respond to. The traditional "cookie" is an HTTP cookie, invented by Lou Montulli and John Giannandrea at Netscape in 1994. But today many browsers implement a range of things with the same kind of cookie-like tracking behavior -- mechanisms that are far less familiar, harder to notice, and often harder to control.

A great overview of the wide range of cookie technologies confronting us today is Cleaning Up After Cookies, an article published last year by Katherine McKinley at iSEC Partners. McKinley describes five cookie-like tracking methods that go beyond traditional HTTP cookies, and explains how browsers often fail to let users exercise meaningful control over these varieties of tracking. Read more.

EFF Wins Release of Telecom Lobbying Records

EFF Wins Release of Telecom Lobbying Records | Press Release September 24th, 2009

Government Must Provide More Information on Campaign to Give Telecoms Retroactive Immunity

San Francisco - A judge ordered the government Thursday to release more records about the lobbying campaign to provide immunity to the telecommunications giants that participated in the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ordered the records be provided to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) by October 9, 2009.

The decision is part of EFF's long-running battle to gather information about telecommunications lobbying conducted as Congress considered granting immunity to companies that participated in illegal government electronic surveillance. Telecom immunity was eventually passed as part of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008, but a bill that would repeal the immunity -- called the JUSTICE Act -- was introduced in the Senate last week.

"Today's ruling is a major victory for government transparency," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "As the court recognized, it was unlawful for the government to deny Americans access to this information in the midst of the debate over telecom immunity last year. We're pleased these records will now be available to the public as Congress considers the JUSTICE Act."

More Obama Administration Witch-Hunt Targets

More Obama Administration Witch-Hunt Targets
By Stephen Lendman

The FBI's top six news stories for the week ending September 25 were about arrests and/or indictments of suspected Muslim terrorists. Combined, they became the latest national security targets in America's war on Islam.

Waged relentlessly since 9/11, it continues unabated under Obama for the same political advantage George Bush sought by stoking fear to be used as a pretext to wage imperial wars and crack down ruthlessly at home with police state efficiency - today against Muslims, Latino immigrants, environmental and animal rights activists, and street protestors, tomorrow against anyone voicing dissent.

Najibullah Zazi - The FBI's Top Story for the Week Ending September 25, 2009

On September 24, an FBI press release announced the indictment of Najibullah Zazi, an Aurora, CO-based legal US resident from Afghanistan on a conspiracy charge "to use weapons of mass destruction (explosive bombs) against persons or property in the United States" based on allegations that he "received bomb-making instructions in Pakistan, purchased components of improvised explosive devices, and traveled to New York City on September 10 in furtherance of his criminal plans."

He was also charged with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI regarding international and domestic terrorism. In addition, the indictment alleges that he and others traveled in interstate and foreign commerce and used email and the Internet to carry out his "criminal plans." If convicted, Zazi faces a potential life sentence even though he's likely another victim of police state justice in Washington's war on Islam.

New York Times writers David Johnston and Scott Shane called it "One of the Most Serious (Cases) in Years based on documents filed against Zazi that "he bought chemicals needed to build a bomb - hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric acid - and in doing so, Mr. Zazi took a critical step made by few other terrorism suspects." He made his purchases at a beauty shop, hardly the sort of venue for terrorist supplies.

Hydrogen peroxide is a common bleaching agent and mild disinfectant. Acetone is an inflammable organic solvent used in nail polish remover, making plastics and for cleaning purposes in laboratories. Hydrochloric acid is used in oil production, ore reduction, food processing, pickling, and metal cleaning. It's also found in the stomach in diluted form.

If ACORN Disappeared, Who Would Aid The Poorest Of Us?

Guest OpEd: If ACORN disappeared, who would aid the poorest of us?
By Rory Lancman, NY State Assemblyman | NY Daily News

Wasn't it odd that so many ACORN workers hardly blinked an eye when a woman identifying herself as a prostitute showed up in their offices ostensibly to ask for guidance on how to buy a house? It's as if such people - prostitutes, people with substance abuse problems, young men with criminal records - show up at ACORN offices all the time asking for help.

Crazy, no? Or maybe that's what ACORN does. That and helping high school dropouts prepare for a job, building affordable housing for single mothers, signing kids up for health insurance, counseling homeowners facing foreclosure, and encouraging every American to exercise their right to vote. The uncomfortable truth is that tens of millions of Americans live the kind of lives where the availability of help from groups like ACORN is the difference between having food on the table or not, having a roof over their heads or not, seeing a doctor or not, and having a voice in the political process or not.

Recent disclosures about certain questionable practices at ACORN, the left-leaning nationwide community advocacy organization, have raised questions about the organization's very legitimacy.

But as ACORN rightly moves to get its house in order and restore its credibility, it might be worth taking a few moments to ask some other questions, not about ACORN but about ourselves, and our commitment to lifting up the millions of our fellow Americans who live in a netherworld of poverty, hopelessness and victimization.

You cannot understand the ACORN videos (understand, not condone), without making some honest effort to understand this netherworld in which ACORN and too few other hardy, modern day missionaries work to improve the lives of people most of us never see and never want to see. Read more.

New Broad FBI Surveillance Rules Are Unconstitutional

New Broad FBI Surveillance Rules Are Unconstitutional | Press Release

The FBI has released its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), an internal policy document that explains how FBI agents would implement the unconstitutionally broad surveillance powers of the 2008 Mukasey Attorney General Guidelines (AGGs). One particularly bizarre provision allows the FBI to violate the AGGs without approval from, or notice to, the Attorney General. The DIOG, written on December 16, 2008, was released with heavy redactions late Friday as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Muslim Advocates.

The original Attorney General Guidelines were adopted in the mid-1970’s to limit the FBI’s investigative authority after it was discovered that the agency was engaged in widespread abuses and violations of constitutional rights – including politically-motivated spying on figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. Mukasey’s 2008 AGGs are much broader and allow FBI agents to use paid informants, spy on a person’s activities or engage in other types of intrusive surveillance without “factual predication” – that is, without probable cause or any evidence of wrongdoing.

It's Congress: Don't Forget to Wash Your Hands After Hearings

By Dave Lindorff

Some years ago, my wife and I, together with our young daughter, took a circuitous summer train trip through France, Italy, Austria and Germany. The last leg was an overnight express from Berlin that deposited us at the Gare du Nord in Paris just at sunrise. Feeling washed out from the ride, we made our separate ways to the facilities. I was standing at the urinal with a bunch of other men, relieving myself, when I heard this awful groaning coming from a stall. The groaning grew louder and more painful sounding. Some guy was obviously having a terrible time with his bowels. The agony continued, to the point that we who were by now washing our hands at the sinks were looking at each other in puzzlement, wondering what was going on. I even wondered if someone should ask if the poor wretch if he needed help.

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