Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)


"Victory Act" a defeat for American principles

This is from a letter I sent to my Congresspeople:

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose the so-called Victory Act and other legislation that would unnecessarily expand law enforcement powers and diminish our civil liberties.

I have read that some members of Congress are pushing legislation that they have misnamed Victory Act that would allow evidence to be introduced into court cases even if it was gathered in an illegal manner. This would give federal agents the incentive to overreach the scope of their investigations and use improper surveillance techniques. Innocent people would inevitably be spied upon and investigated without proper court review.

This was one of the very things the Framers had in mind to prevent when they put the Fourth Amendment and other protections into the Constitution. That is sufficient reason, in my mind, for keeping them in place. The fact that the Bush regime wants so badly to remove them is another--because I have little doubt that their motives are questionable at best.

I have also learned that, under the Victory Act, a new federal crime of "narco-terrorism" would bring mandatory penalties of 20 years to life imprisonment for the possession, manufacture, distribution, import or export of any amount of any controlled substance that "directly or indirectly" aids a "terrorist organization." Under this provision, low-level drug offenders could face life imprisonment for buying or selling drugs to people unknowingly connected with a terrorist organization. It would also hand any government in power, whether legitimate or not, a huge weapon to use against political opponents or other "inconvenient" people. All it would take would be a small drug plant (a technique with which, I'm sorry to say, our law enforcement people are already far too proficient) and a baseless allegation before a FISA judge (with no oversight or appeal, of course), and all of a sudden a major pain in the administration's arse is behind bars, incommunicado for the rest of her life. This is a tactic more reminiscent of the colonels in Myanmar than the principles we claim to hold dear here in what we like to call the land of the free.

I do not believe that the Department of Justice should be able to require a person to appear in their offices to produce records and answer questions without a warrant or oversight by the courts. This would remove key judicial review and create a situation prone to abuse.

Once again, I urge you to oppose the so-called “Victory Act” and other government actions that threaten civil liberties.



Cuba travel policy has got to change

A segment of a letter I sent to Speaker Hastert:

We Americans have the right to travel virtually anywhere in the world. This freedom allows us the opportunity to observe, learn from and share with foreign cultures. Americans' right to travel should be universal. It almost is, with the glaring exception of Cuba.

Restrictions on Americans’ freedom to travel to Cuba violate the Constitution. Freedom of movement allows access to information and encourages the free exchange of ideas. Like freedom of speech and association, the right to travel is essential to our democratic values.

Cold War justifications for the travel restrictions are obsolete. The Cold War has ended and the Department of Defense has determined that Cuba no longer poses a significant military threat, rendering obsolete the government’s justification for the travel ban. We should eliminate, not tighten, the restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Finally, limiting travel to Cuba hinders the Americans’ ability to promote democracy and human rights in Cuba. When Americans travel abroad, they spread values of freedom and justice, and help advance the free exchange of information beyond our borders. The end of the Cold War and collapse of Communism in the former Soviet bloc--in nations to which Americans’ travel was not restricted--illustrate that the sharing of our democratic ideals through personal interaction is one way to bring about change.

In Cuba we have a situation very similar to the one that prevailed in divided Berlin. The people of Cuba can practically look over the fence that keeps them penned in and see the benefits of a free society. Allowing American citizens and permanent residents (many of whom have family in Cuba) to travel freely back and forth between the two nations can only help in the spread of the kind of information that Fidel Castro's regime is desperately trying to keep from his people.

We cannot allow our foreign policy in such an important local matter to be hijacked any longer by a small, bitter, misguided, but very vocal group of Cuban exiles. Simply put, they are wrong and it is largely their fault that Fidel Castro is still in power. It's time to tell people like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to sit down and shut up until they can come up with a workable plan for bringing freedom and democracy back to Cuba. What she and her people have been peddling since I was a boy has obviously not worked. It's time to try something else.



To hell with John Ashcroft!

From a letter I sent to my two senators:

I believe that there should be checks and balances over government surveillance and that our First Amendment rights should be protected. Ideally, this would mean (1) impeaching George W. Bush and all his cabinet (especially John Ashcroft!) for conspiring to subvert the legitimate government of the United States, and (2) repealing the incredibly mis-named "USA-PATRIOT Act." Since neither of those actions seems likely, I'll settle for taking back our civil liberties by removing the most egregious abuses in the so-called PATRIOT Act and then allowing the whole mess to sunset out of existence in two years' time.

The PATRIOT Act allows law enforcement agents to conduct secret "sneak and peek" searches of my home. Investigators can enter my home or office, take pictures and seize items without informing me that a warrant was issued for a very long time--if ever.

The government can now use a special intelligence court to collect information about the books I read, my purchases and my personal finances. Government agents can now obtain many types of my personal records--educational, medical, financial, sales, library, etc.--even if they have no reason to suspect me of a crime or probable cause to connect me to such a crime. In fact, the PATRIOT Act prohibits the holders of that information, such as librarians, from disclosing that these records were turned over to the government. Meanwhile, John Ashcroft and several other Bush minions are junketing around the country on a PR-damage-control tour trying to tell us that up is really down, white is really black, and egregious violations of fundamental human and civil rights are really no big deal at all.

A hallmark of American democracy has long been that our individual privacy is protected against government intervention and snooping as long as we are not guilty of wrongdoing. Unfortunately recent government efforts on "data-mining" would obliterate these protections-- the government would simply collect data on everyone. Doing so would make us all suspects and in effect eliminate our personal privacy.


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