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Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 04:38 PM PDT

Text and Subtext

by Vox Libertas

Today we celebrate not the 234th anniversary of the birth of this nation, of our declaration of independence—that was two days ago on July the 2nd, the date that the Continental Congress unanimously passed Mr. Richard Henry Lee's resolution of independence, the day on which the United Colonies of America became the United States of America. No, we celebrate the 234th anniversary of the publication of the formal text stating the reasons for that independence. We celebrate not the act but the explanation, not Independence but the Declaration. Today we celebrate the power of words, of ideas, of reasons and reason. The great acts were on April 19th, 1775, which is commemorated as Patriots Day only in the Massachusetts, our offspring state Maine, and for the past decade, the state of Wisconsin, and July 2nd, 1776, which is not to my knowledge celebrated, despite John Adams' prediction.

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These are the times that try men's souls. On the one hand we have the Supreme Court of the United States empowering corporations at a time when they already come far too close to owning our representatives, our government and our country. On the other, we have a populace that doesn't understand how our most fundamental principles tie to either this question or the trying of accused terrorists.

Someone MUST speak out about the nature of our Rights and our Constitution.

We seem to have forgotten the truths that our founding fathers took to be self-evident, the principles to which our nation was dedicated. Many on the left are decrying the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision, while at the same time civil libertarians often thought to be on the left have spoken in defense of the decision. As it turns out the questions here are not simple, and to work them out requires really knowing both how the system works and what the underlying principles are. It's not easy stuff, and we seem unprepared for it.

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The December 31 deadline for reauthorizing three key clauses of the Patriot Act — and the possibility of introducing reforms in the process — is fast approaching.  In response, Get FISA Right has put together an Open Letter to President Obama, and we're seeking your signature and support.

The open letter is available in a couple of places on the web. The primary copy that we're gathering signatures on is at the Bill of Rights Defense Committe site ( If you are a member of, we also have a copy there using their new petition tool (

Come, sign them, tweet about them, spread the word!

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This morning beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be marking up S.1692, USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2009 (spnsors: Leahy, Feinstein, Cardin, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Kaufman). This act will be re-authorizing several key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, determining how are civil liberties are protected, and whether the provisions will be re-sunsetted and visited again.

Senator Russ Feingold is expected to introduce several amendments, attempting to bring this bill into line with the JUSTICE Act, which he and Senator Durbin introduced a couple of weeks ago. That act would have made several fixes to the Patriot Act, and to the laws regarding National Security Letters. Sadly, Senator Leahy, the committee chairman first offered a substantially weaker bill, then watered even that down at the behest of Sen. Feinstein.

Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel at Fire Dog Lake, and the members of Get FISA Right are live blogging the business meeting. Join us at Please join us.


Wed Oct 07, 2009 at 03:58 PM PDT


by Vox Libertas

In the last couple of weeks very important things have been going on in the realm of Civil Liberties, and our concern for issues like Health Care, Iran, Afghanistan and the Chicago bid for the Olympics have distracted us from it. And  it is not going well. You can help. Help put pressure on the US Senate and House of Representatives to put important protections of the rights of "US persons", our citizens and resident aliens into the law as it is renewed.

If you listen to Fox News, "Some on the Left" or "Some Democrats" want to strip the federal government of critical powers to protect us from terrorists. Unfortunately, as they are making these claims in defense of the USA PATRIOT Act, they get most of the facts wrong. Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute has a video and blog posting that tears their coverage apart.

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Mr. President,

It is with great sadness and regret that I must decline your emailed request. I do this with intimate and personal knowledge of how important this legislation is. I am a computer consultant by profession, and with the downturn in the economy, my income has been slashed to a small fraction of what it once was. In fact, our family has had to rely heavily on my wife's part-time income while I attempt to build a whole new business. Last week, that reliance ended. In a fall down the cellar stairs, my wife broke one ankle and the other foot. Because I have been self-employed for the last 2.5 years and my wife is only a part-time employee with no benefits, our only health insurance is what we can afford to pay for out of pocket. The bills arising out of her injury and her inability to work combine put us in a precarious position.I find myself having to rely on the charity of others, on the Council for Aging in our small town, on volunteer organizations such as Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts, and the support of family members.

Believe me, sir, I know how important health care reform is. but...

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The news last week was that only 20-30% of Americans are willing to identify themselves as "Republicans". When John Dvorak's blog polled its users as to their politics and party affiliation and asked them what the Republicans needed to do about this, the first response included the following,

Its likely a third party...conservative, will rise, if the Republican party cannot cleanse itself of Democrats aka RINOs

Then we would have no choice but form another party...however we are hopeful we can expel them...and recover those who left.

The Republican party is shrinking and losing votes, and the response of an ardent advocate of the party is that what they need to do is "cleanse itself" of the "Democrats aka RINOs" that are inflating its membership. Somehow, if the party can expel the Democrats in their midst they can then recover the true Republicans who left the party because of all these Democrats in their midst.

If I may, "WTF?!"

As an Independent who vote about 40/60 Republican/Democrat for the last three decades of the 20th century and who has voted 100% Democrat for the 21st, I think we Independents may not have made ourselves clear.

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Senator Feingold has said that he’s going to give the Administration "a few more weeks" to come up with a bill to roll back the FISA amendments, introduce his own bill if they don’t. He's also indicated that he is open to suggestions on a model bill in this area.

So, the time is at hand to define what we, the people, mean by "Get FISA right", what we want to see as the laws controlling domestic and foreign surveillance. What alternative do we propose to warrant-less wire tapping?

As a member of "Get FISA Right", I've started asking this across the net, at our web site, on Change.Org and on my own blog, "Vox Libertas". Adam Shostack has raised it on Emergent Chaos. Now is the time to discuss it here on DKos.

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Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 11:36 PM PST

On Sex and Evolution and Politics

by Vox Libertas

And now for something completely different... Usually I write in my Vox Libertas diaries about politics, about the Rule of Law, the Constitution, the behavior of our elected leaders and the dangers that I see in the growing trend to authoritarianism, oligarchy, the cult of personality and the centralization of power.

Today, I am going to write about politics, too, but also about evolution and science, homosexuality, morality, philosophy and love. I do so inspired by Proposition 8, and reading an article about altruism and evolutionary psychology, and because a new yet dear friend asked me if I knew any other lesbians. And perhaps because it is a time of family and holidays, and the darkest days of the year.

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On Thursday, I noticed something on The Verdict that really bothered me. The next day, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo commented on the same general issue, though he did not mention the particular incident that had caught my eye.

On the Verdict, they were discussing Barack Obama's speech in Berlin, when Dan Abram's asked,

ABRAMS:  So, what‘s the problem?

WATKINS:  The problem is this—speeches like that are reserved for the commander-in-chief of the United States.  The commander-in-chief speaks with the American people.  Barack Obama is not just a citizen of the world or citizen of the United States, he is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

They know he‘s running for the presidency and what you do when you give a speech like that and you‘re not the commander-in-chief of all the American people, is that you undermine the institution of the president.

Commander in Chief of all the American people?

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A recent claim claim by Lawrence Lessig, a strong Civil Libertarian, made me stop and think.

[Obama's] vote for the FISA compromise is thus not a vote for immunity. It is a vote that reflects the judgment that securing the amendments to FISA was more important than denying immunity to telcos. Whether you agree with that judgment or not, we should at least recognize (hysteria notwithstanding) what kind of judgment it was. The amendments to FISA were good. Getting a regime that requires the executive to obey the law is important.

People on the left, people like Glenn Greenwald, Jonathan Turley, Russ Feingold & Chris Dodd keep painting the recent FISA as a false compromise, a capitulation to Bush, & a blot on the 4th amendment. So why do Lessig & former Constitutional Law lecturer Obama say that it is important? Who is right?

Well, either you can pick your authority figure & believe them—you pays your money & you takes your chances—or roll up your sleeves, wade into the bill & make your own decision. I never was the "argument from authority" type. So, why should I pick one camp or the other?


Who do you trust on FISA? Whose analysis do you base your support or opposition on?

4%3 votes
7%5 votes
0%0 votes
10%7 votes
15%10 votes
7%5 votes
15%10 votes
3%2 votes
1%1 votes
0%0 votes
1%1 votes
6%4 votes
18%12 votes
6%4 votes
1%1 votes

| 65 votes | Vote | Results

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Wed Jul 09, 2008 at 05:09 PM PDT

Quiet Revolutions

by Vox Libertas

Today the rule of law, the checks and balances and the rights reserved in the Bill of Rights were damaged as the FISA act was once again altered and retroactive immunity was authorized for law breaking telecoms. A lot has been written about this. I will not add to that.

Instead, I thought I would point out a pair of quiet revolutions that took  place over the last couple of years that got very little coverage. I do so for two reasons. First it is worth noting that not all of the battles for civil liberties in the last couple of years have been lost, and second, it is important to realize that major changes both for good and ill can happen with virtually no one noticing.

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