We the People: Get a warrant

A new Rasmussen poll (found via Daily Kos) indicates that a large majority of Americans like their surveillance accompanied by a warrant.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of American adults agree that a search warrant should be required before the government can ask Internet providers to turn over customer records. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 16% disagree and 20% are not sure.

The poll results come on the heels of a federal court decision last week that struck such searches from the USA PATRIOT Act as unconstitutional.

The people are not giving in to the fearmongering of the Bush crowd.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Because we think you might care…

Noteworthy items out there in the ether:

  • Either civics teachers are doing a terrible job or some kids aren’t paying attention in class. Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released yesterday by the First Amendment Center. USA Today has coverage here. In an unrelated story, 40% of Americans say they will vote for this guy for President in 2008.

Our prison population is number one in the world. We’ve got more inmates than Russia, more than the known number in China – what a distinction for the Land of the Free.
Americans who prefer to ignore reality don’t want to spend money on support programs for “ex-cons.” They call it coddling. They ignore that it’s more expensive to keep building $150 million prisons and spend millions more in maintenance costs to house them.
Just the words early release scare people who conjure images of some Willie Horton raping and pillaging his way through their communities. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It won’t if prisons are used to rehabilitate rather than warehouse inmates. It won’t if you have effective support programs to help released inmates make a successful return to society. Most important in that transition is helping them to get a job.

  • Speaking of rich, white, male privilege and of further expanding Pennsylvania’s already overcrowded jails with more black and brown young men, on Tuesday, the PA House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on House Bill 326, which would increase criminal penalties for gang-related activity. Meanwhile, today’s New York Times features a story about the failure of such legislation in other areas of the country. “L.A. has this approach of being tough on crime,” said Craig Watkins, the district attorney in Dallas, where some Los Angeles-style tactics are being rolled back. “But the result of that is overflowing prisons, high crime rates and increasing numbers of gang members. Now we want to be smart on crime.” Clearly, the planets are aligned when a DA is saying the same thing I’ve said privately to friends and colleagues.
  • Finally, friend of the ACLU Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus was assaulted by Capitol Police on Monday while waiting to enter the hearings featuring General David Petraeus. His crime? He was wearing a button that said, “I love the people of Iraq.” As Firedoglake notes, this is not what democracy looks like.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Harrisburg residents complain of police abuse, call for investigation

HARRISBURG- A determined group of city residents aired complaints of police brutality at tonight’s City Council meeting and called on the council to launch an investigation into the behavior of Harrisburg’s police force.

“We’re not here picking on the police,” said Loretta Barbee-Dare, head organizer for Harrisburg ACORN, who reminded council that ACORN came out in support of the police earlier in the year when some officers were laid off. “But there may be some who need additional training.”

ACORN organized residents of the Allison Hill neighborhood to attend tonight’s meeting after city activist Diane White was allegedly assaulted by a city police officer on September 1 as ACORN’s annual Back to School Block Party was winding down. White alleges that she was punched, maced, kneed in the back, and had her arm twisted during the assault. Neighbors have claimed that approximately 20 city police officers arrived on the scene with dogs and forced people into their homes.

White alleges that the officer in question would not allow her to retrieve the city permit she had that allowed ACORN to block off a few streets for the party. Barbee-Dare noted that among the 20 officers who responded to the scene she saw one woman and no African-Americans or Latinos.

Barbee-Dare also questioned why one of the HPD’s foot patrol supervisors has been unable to locate a report on the incident.

“I don’t understand why Captain Ritter can’t find it on the computer,” she said.

Barbee-Dare said that it was a traumatic ending to an otherwise enjoyable day in which ACORN distributed school supplies, backpacks, and other goodies to school children from the neighborhood.

“There were a lot of kids having fun, feeling valued, feeling appreciated,” said Kelly, a city resident who attended the party. “I’m concerned about their mental health after seeing that.”

While another party in the city that weekend has received considerable media attention, tonight is the first time that the local press has covered the events at the ACORN block party. ACORN called a press conference on Monday, September 3, which was covered by one local television station that did not air the piece because they could not corroborate the story with city police.

Other residents told city council that this was not an isolated incident.

Greg Thompson, who is a member of the local ACORN chapter, said that he was attacked twice within two weeks by city police officers, once when he was assisting a hearing-impaired family member who was being questioned by police officers and once when he photographed officers late on a weekend night distributing parking tickets to cars parked near a bar downtown frequented by African-Americans. Thompson stated that he was maced during the second incident.

White claimed that such behavior by some HPD officers has been going on “for years” and blames the war on drugs.

“There is a system of racism that we’re all victimized by,” White said.

“The community is afraid of the police,” said Wendi Taylor of the local NAACP branch, “and the police officer was afraid of (White).”

Nancy, a 58-year resident of the Allison Hill neighborhood, believes there are racial overtones in the police-community relationship.

“I’m white,” she said. “I’m protected.

“Why aren’t the black residents protected?”

Harrisburg ACORN is calling on City Council to conduct a full investigation into this incident and city police behavior generally.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Insider: Another attack would doom freedom

At an event in State College in the fall of 2005, an evangelical pastor told me that we need the ACLU because, according to the pastor, if there is another terrorist attack, America will become a police state. (He was simultaneously chastising us for our stands on religious liberty.)

Now conservative Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law and late of the Justice Department, has laid out in a new book and an interview in The New York Times Magazine just how far the Bush administration is willing to go in decimating freedom.

According to a column by Robyn Blumner in the St. Petersburg Times,

In vivid detail, Goldsmith describes how the administration used the specter of terrorism as a means to expand the power of the presidency.

This was especially true, according to Goldsmith, of Dick Cheney’s top aide, David Addington, who once told Goldsmith that if the OLC ruled against an administration policy, “the blood of the hundred thousand people who die in the next attack will be on your hands.”

Addington seemed to relish the coming of another big one and what powers loyal Bushies could arrogate in the aftermath. Goldsmith recalls him saying: “We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious (FISA) court.”

In other words, after one more terrorist attack, the administration could get Congress to wipe away any kind of warrant requirement for domestic spying.

Team Bush and its “one bomb away” agenda would use the next attack to finish the job of consolidating the nation’s power in one man.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Voice of which people?

One must be quite brazen to call his organization “Voice of the People.” Apparently, “the people” that VOP speaks for are those who believe in political assassinations.

As pointed out by regular contributor Alan in the comments section, Frank Jorge of Latino Americans for Immigration Reform and the Antelope Valley Independent Minutemen had this to say at the VOP rally in Harrisburg on September 1:

Let me share with you what I think may happen in these United States of America because I am convinced that if something does not change we will dive headlong into a civil war…Grandmothers have told me, “Hey, I’m locked and loaded. I’m ready, baby. Let’s go.” (crowd cheers)

We do not know how the violent phase of this process will begin. Conceivably, maybe one of those who have had one of theirs killed by an illegal alien will utilize their second amendment rights to take out the killer and, in addition, take out a politician that made it possible for that to occur. (crowd cheers) Politicians will respect you, politicians will acknowledge your power when they see a round flying through their windshields and into their flesh. (crowd laughter) That will get their attention.

Andy in Harrisburg

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PATRIOT Act victory!

Fly, Eagles, fly, on the road to….err, I mean, yeah for us! Yeah for the U.S.! Yeah for freedom!

Federal court strikes down National Security Letter provision of PATRIOT Act

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero wrote, “In light of the seriousness of the potential intrusion into the individual’s personal affairs and the significant possibility of a chilling effect on speech and association – particularly of expression that is critical of the government or its policies – a compelling need exists to ensure that the use of NSLs is subject to the safeguards of public accountability, checks and balances, and separation of powers that our Constitution prescribes.”

“As this decision recognizes, courts have a constitutionally mandated role to play when national security policies infringe on First Amendment rights. A statute that allows the FBI to silence people without meaningful judicial oversight is unconstitutional,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Video of the day

Here’s some video from Voice of the People’s anti-immigrant rally in Harrisburg on Saturday. The subject of the video isn’t as interesting as the crowd shots. This video shows a) just how sparse the crowd was and b) the significant skinhead presence. Even the photographer observes the skinheads gathering around the guy who was being taunted from the podium.

The most generous person in our group gave VOP attendance of 150, which is what the Times Leader said. The Patriot News overblew the crowd at 200 (and miscounted ours by half), VOP had delusions of grandeur with their claim of 300-400, and the Standard Speaker was off the chain with a claim of 600 (and gave us double what we had). It would be nice if the Standard Speaker actually attended the events they report on.

The only media that called out the obvious skinhead presence was The Times Leader, but CBS 21 in Harrisburg made it pretty obvious with their video.

Meanwhile, American Humanity points out that at least one white supremacist group, Stormfront, is bragging about its turnout at the VOP rally.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Murder Victims’ Families join the blogosphere

We’re excited to hear that one of our allies, Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, has launched a new blog at www.mvfhr.blogspot.com. MVFHR is a group of murder victims’ family members who oppose the death penalty, and the organization is a member of the Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition. From their kick-off post today:

Jeanette Popp believes the death penalty should be abolished so that it can no longer be used as a threat to coerce confessions from innocent people. But when she first learned that the two men she had believed were guilty might not be guilty after all, her most pressing question was, has the original story been a lie? Everything she thought she knew about her daughter’s murder was now called into question.

The MVFHR team knows what its doing and is a major reason why New Jersey has a moratorium on the death penalty and will probably soon abolish capital punishment. Check them out.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Message sent: Inclusion is a community value

HARRISBURG- Under beautiful, sunny skies on this holiday weekend, local government officials, social justice advocates, and a diverse crowd of about 50 supporters gathered at the Sunken Garden in Harrisburg’s Riverfront Park to urge communities throughout Pennsylvania to embrace inclusion as a community value and reject the divisive tactic of anti-immigrant ordinances like those passed in Hazleton last year.

Speakers at the press conference included Linda Thompson of Harrisburg City Council; Homer Floyd, Executive Director of the PA Human Relations Commission; Jose Urdaneta of Lancaster City Council; Fabricio Rodriguez of Jobs with Justice; Toni Smith of York City Council; and Regan Cooper of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition.

Thompson announced that Harrisburg City Council passed a resolution earlier in the week to join the National League of Cities’ Inclusive Communities program.

“Harrisburg has affirmed its place as an inclusive community,” Thompson said.

Floyd noted the PHRC’s concerns that ordinances like those in Hazleton lead to discrimination while Cooper called on the government to protect workers.

“The government needs to enforce its wage laws and its occupational safety and health laws,” she said.

Rodriguez and Smith talked about their own immigrant heritage. Rodriguez’s father emigrated to the United States from Ecuador, and Smith came here from Italy after World War II.

The press conference was organized in response to a rally at the capitol sponsored by Voice of the People, an anti-immigrant group from Hazleton. After the press conference, about 30-40 people in the crowd went to the capitol to offer a silent counter-message to the VOP’s hateful rhetoric.

VOP has held several rallies in northeastern PA, which have attracted about 200-250 people per event. Despite VOP’s claims that the Harrisburg event would their biggest rally yet, only about 100 people turned out to support VOP’s message. In addition, the VOP crowd included an obvious and significant number of skinheads and other white supremacists.

The press conference and silent presence was organized by the Pennsylvania Network of Unity Coalitions, Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition, Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, and the ACLU of PA. This ad-hoc working group is encouraging communities throughout the Commonwealth to counter the divisive tactics of group’s like VOP with similar events and activities, including unity festivals, pro-inclusion resolutions and ordinances from local government, and public press conferences. The working group also asks supporters to take a group photo with a sign that reads “No Hate in Our Town” and a second sign with the name of the town and send it to education@alupa.org. The group will post the photos at the No Hate in Our Town blog.

More information about the No Hate in Our Town campaign is available by emailing education@aclupa.org

Andy in Harrisburg

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