You Have No Right To A Secret Ballot

If you thought that you had the right to a secret ballot when you vote, think again. A federal judge in Colorado has ruled that ballots that have identifying marks that can be easily traced back to voters is perfectly legal.

Saying there is no fundamental right to a secret ballot, a federal judge Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by elections integrity activists that challenged whether counties can print ballots with identifying numbers that critics say can be traced back to individual voters easily.

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Senate Follows House In Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

Both of South Dakota’s Senators followed House member Kristi Noem and voted last night to extend  three controversial Patriot Act spy measures that were set to expire in a few weeks. Tim Johnson and John Thune concluded that our 4th Amendment wasn’t important and voted to allow our government to continue the following Constitutionally challenged activities:

• “Roving wiretap” provision that allows the FBI to obtain wiretaps from a secret intelligence court, known as the FISA court (for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped.

• The “lone wolf” measure allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for whatever reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. The government has said it has never invoked that provision, but the Obama administration said it wanted to retain the authority to do so.

• The “business records” provision allows FISA court warrants for any type of record, from banking to library to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

As for our fearless leader Barack Obama coming to the rescue by not signing this? Not going to happen as he is on record wanting these provisions extended as well.

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The Silence Is Deafening

A full 24 hours after the House voted to extend the spy on Americans portion of the Patriot Act, not one Republican blog in the state that I am aware of even mentioned the story in passing (or Dem blog that I can see). I just love the constant rhetoric from the Reich Wing on protecting our freedoms at all costs but when it comes down to actually doing so, silence.

So Ms Noem, how do you reconcile the fact that you along with 274 of your cohorts in the House have chosen to vote against the very principles you claim to hold so dear? Even worse, how does Michele Bachmann who just a few weeks ago decreed that her colleagues be able to cite the specific passage in the Constitution that validates any bill before the House, explain away her obvious hypocrisy?

Bueller, Bueller

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House Renews The Dilution Of The 4th Amendment

While the tea party concerns themselves with the Hawaiian birth certificate of Barack Obama and John Boehner sends 450 million in pork back to his district while railing about overspending, our 4th Amendment rights get trampled on once again.

The House today voted 275 – 144 to extend provisions of the Patriot Act that among other things provides for the following:

• The “roving wiretap” provision allows the FBI to obtain wiretaps from a secret intelligence court, known as the FISA court, without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped.

• The “lone wolf” measure allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for whatever reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. The government has said it has never invoked that provision, but the Obama administration said it wanted to retain the authority to do so.

• The “business records” provision allows FISA court warrants for any type of record, from banking to library to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

Isn’t it nice to know that our Congress (Kristi Noem included) have their priorities straight.

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What 4th Amendment?

While most were rushing to protect their 2nd Amendment rights against non-existent threats last week in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling that further erodes what is left of our 4th Amendment rights and we hardly blinked.

In California’s People v Diaz (pdf), it was determined that the police had not violated the defendant’s rights by searching the text message folder of his phone without a warrant ruling that it was “valid as being incident to a lawful custodial arrest“.

We granted review in this case to decide whether the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution permits law enforcement officers, approximately 90 minutes after lawfully arresting a suspect and transporting him to a detention facility, to conduct a warrantless search of the text message folder of a cell phone they take from his person after the arrest. We hold that, under the United States Supreme Court?s binding recedent, such a search is valid as being incident to a lawful custodial arrest. We affirm the Court of Appeal?s judgment.

Until recently, legal warrantless searches had been limited under common law to those that focused on weapons concealment or destruction of evidence such as looking for items that could harm law enforcement personnel but with this ruling we have continued to slide down the proverbial slippery slope started a few years ago during the restructuring of FISA. Under FISA the government had already been granted wide latitude to listen in on our phone calls without first getting warrants and now they can search your phones. So what’s next?

Never bothered to pattern or code lock your smart phone? Maybe its time as I still think the 5th Amendment is still valid…

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Just Wondering

So why are issues that were supposedly just peachy with Conservatives just a short nine months ago like non-Senate confirmed advisors (Czars) and government run healthcare (similar to Medicare) suddenly no longer Constitutional? I mean if you have no problem with our government torturing prisoners and performing wiretaps without warrants on US citizens on US soil, what could you possibly have against these issues?

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Who Needs The 4th Amendment Anyway?

Our illustrious Congress already irreparably weakened the 4th Amendment earlier this summer when they passed the “Spy on Americans” act, also known as the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and now the Justice Department wants to pretty much erase it from the Constitution.

A Justice Department plan would loosen restrictions on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to allow agents to open a national security or criminal investigation against someone without any clear basis for suspicion, Democratic lawmakers briefed on the details said Wednesday.

And here is the meat of the Justice Department plan:

The senators said the new guidelines would allow the F.B.I. to open an investigation of an American, conduct surveillance, pry into private records and take other investigative steps “without any basis for suspicion.” The plan “might permit an innocent American to be subjected to such intrusive surveillance based in part on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or on protected First Amendment activities,” the letter said. It was signed by Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. (emphasis mine)

Just like when dealing with a 4 year old, you give in once and they want more. What’s worse, knowing the total lack of backbone exhibited by our wonderful Democrat led Congress, the Justice Department will likely get what they want.

Finally, speaking of FISA, since the FISA bill all but cut off at the knees all pending lawsuits against the Telco’s, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has had to resort to plan B. They will instead sue the US Government over illegally spying on US citizens as the final bill signed into law didn’t contain the government immunity that Bush had requested.

Considering George Bush will long have been out of office if and when this goes to court, the new administration will be left to deal with it. If it is Barack Obama, I will have zero sympathy considering his flip flop on the issue.

And yes I know the above scenario is highly unlikely, but I can dream can’t I?

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You Just Have To Love The Irony

I don’t know if the DNC realized the irony of this or not but less than a month after the Democrats in Congress capitulated on FISA, one of the chief benefactors of the bill just happens to become one of the prime sponsors of next month’s convention in Denver.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has the skinny on the primo AT&T swag that will be waiting for every delegate and media member when they arrive and adds his take on the NASCAResque turn of events in current day politics.

What’s most striking about the Convention bag — aside, of course, from its stunning design — is how the parties no longer bother even trying to hide who it is who funds and sponsors them. But — an earnest citizen might object — just because AT&T is helping to pay for the Democrats’ convention and having its logo plastered all over it the way a ranch owner brands his cattle doesn’t mean that they will receive any special consideration when it comes time for Congress to debate and pass our nation’s laws.

So where is the irony?

When President Bush signed the FISA Reform Act, the numerous lawsuits against AT&T for assisting the government in their previous illegal warrantless wiretaps pretty much went away potentially saving the telcom company $21,000 per affected person. The Democrats, including presumptive nominee Barack Obama changed course and voted for the immunity despite previous pledges to the contrary which pushed the bill over the top. Now all of a sudden the convention, which was having money issues with some talking about scaling down the event, has a new big time sponsor?

I’d say that this all sounds like a new topic for Oliver Stone to make into his next JFK type movie. But something this obvious wouldn’t need the master of conspiracy theories to connect the dots would it?

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Suing Bible Publishers

Worldnet Daily (ick) has an article that discusses a lawsuit brought forward by a gay man (that’s a homosexual man for the American Family Association’s homo-filters) against 2 Bible publishers for violating his Constitutional rights.

Bradley LaShawn Fowler, 39, of Canton, Mich., is seeking $60 million from Zondervan and another $10 million from Thomas Nelson Publishing in lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

Fowler filed his claim against Grand Rapids-based Zondervan Monday, alleging its Bibles’ references to homosexuality as a sin have made him an outcast from his family and contributed to physical discomfort and periods of “demoralization, chaos and bewilderment,” the paper said.

Now I have no idea if this guy has a case, but what I consider a bigger point about this story is just how much certain interpretations of the Bible have been changed to reflect the world view of some homophobic biblical scholars that have been charged with updating these versions of the Bible. And as a result, how the ideals of those that follow their teachings have followed suit.

A perfect example of this shift towards unbridled religious driven homophobia by some is given by Fowler as part of his lawsuit and it perfectly documents this change by showing how much one passage has changed in the last 40 years.

In 1970, I Corinthians 6:9 read as followed-

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulteres, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effiminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.

In 1982 ,the same scripture read like this-

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodimites.

In 2001 the same scripture reads like this-

Surely you know that the people who do wrong will not inherit God’s kingdom. Do not be fooled, those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob these people will not inherit God’s kingdom.

Anyone notice a pattern? Over the years as gay and lesbian groups have begun pushing for more equality, the more anti-gay certain versions of the Bible have become. Kind of explains why the religious right’s agenda has become so anti-gay centric doesn’t it?

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Excuse Me?

The AP hasn’t been doing much for their reputation of late, first they go after blogger’s for quoting their content, then they go all ga ga over McCain with fluff pieces galore, and now they publish this wonderful piece that tries to convince us that Barack Obama’s capitulation on FISA reform is actually part of his grand move to the middle.

I won’t quote the AP’s David Espo and his reasoning here but considering I honestly considered myself a middle of the road moderate at one time, giving up our Constitutional rights was a chapter that I somehow missed when I was studying the moderate handbook…

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