a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

On Wisconsin

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th February 2011

Over the weekend, unions and progressive organizations mobilized “Save the American Dream” events across the country to show support for Wisconsin public unions in their fight with Governor Walker.  On Saturday, I joined the rally at Dupont Circle in downtown Washington DC.

Video interviews with rally goers, including Jesse Lovell (DC for Democracy), Johnny
Barnes (ACLU-NCA), Jim Epstein (Pathfinders International) and others.

Plenty has been written about the confrontation in Wisconsin, and I’ll take up some of that below.

But this post is mainly about relaying the solidarity and notably high spirits that I felt among the demonstrators — at least a thousand of them, by my estimate, maybe more — and in myself for that matter.  At a time when it’s tempting for even some working class people say “I’m hurting, so they should hurt too” — and of course all but irresistible for mainstream media to give them a megaphone for that — it was great and important to feel like we were answering a call on Saturday, and to be with others who felt the same way.

Will that have an impact?  I don’t know — but not doing anything certainly would have had the wrong one.

As to the issue: clearly I agree with the labor movement for circling the wagons against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining, or I wouldn’t have gone to the rally.   The problem is well known; the labor movement as a whole is in undeserved disrepute, and the public sector unions are both a last bastion of that movement and — as has been repeated ad nauseam — ones indirectly employed by taxpayers rather than corporations.

For those who decry high public sector pension plans, I say first of all: why exactly? What is it about paying people well, as agreed on in a contract, for the jobs they have done?  Was a gun held to anyone’s head when the agreement was signed?  What is it about contractual obligations you don’t understand? I thought that was an underpinning of capitalism; does it suddenly not count when it’s a mere employee’s union?  Ezra Klein has relayed a study pointing out that “Wisconsin public-sector workers face an annual compensation penalty of 11%. Adjusting for the slightly fewer hours worked per week on average, these public workers still face a compensation penalty of 5% for choosing to work in the public sector. […]  The residents of the various states, when all is said and done, will probably have gotten the work at a steep discount. They’ll force a renegotiation of the contracts and blame overprivileged public employees for resisting shared sacrifice. Which gets to the heart of what this is: A form of default.”

Rick Ungar at Forbes Magazine makes the point similarly: “If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs as that would not be possible- the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions. What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.”

But we lose sight of the forest for the trees and even the weeds by focusing on Wisconsin pension plans.  It’s not about that.  It’s about unionbusting pure and simple.  Walker confirmed that in the hilarious, notorious sting pulled off by the Buffalo Beast’s Ian Murphy (calling in pretending to be billionaire rightwinger David Koch), in emotionally recalling a final planning meeting where he compared himself to Ronald Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers union in 1981.  As Chris Hayes and Naomi Klein pointed out in a memorable MSNBC segment, we’re essentially facing a “Shock Doctrine USA”: a manufactured crisis leading to the looting and crippling of the public sector — as well as the crippling of solidarity with each other, and of a common purpose beyond looking out for number one.

Van Jones speaking to union supporters, Dupont Circle
From Wisconsin Solidarity Rally, Feb 26, 2011

I return to the rally, where former Obama White House official Van Jones made some interesting remarks — about the “Tea Party.”  Responding to widespread boos when he named the group, he held up his hand and said “no, no — they are our brothers and sisters too.  They just don’t know it yet.” And then he went on to say that he respected the Tea Party for one thing: that on the heels of defeat in 2008, they didn’t decide to “come crawling to the center” but instead redoubled their efforts for the principles they believed in.  And just as the crowd saw where he was going with that, he said it: now it’s our turn to do the same thing.  No crawling to the center — stand on principle.

Bucky Badger sez: On Wisconsin unions!

And no throwing fellow progressives under the bus.  A final great thing about the DC rally was that the site and time had actually been registered by a different coalition — one resisting cuts to women’s health and reproductive health funding —  and was generously shared by them.  Likewise, there were environmentalists with Sierra Club posters, and civil liberties advocates like Mary Beth Tinker and Johnny Barnes (ACLU-NCA) on the scene.  People from all facets of the American left are banding together to fight back.   It makes me hopeful that we can win this one, and start winning more.

EDITS, 2/28: Chris Hayes, not Hedges, David Koch, not Richard.

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Civil liberties: the next generation

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 21st February 2011

Binta Coulibaly, Maddie Nephew, Susana Perez
Binta Coulibaly, Maddie Nephew, Susana Perez

My daughter Maddie Nephew and her friends Binta Coulibaly and Susana Perez have produced what I’m proud to say is an exceptional video documentary titled “The Fight for Student Rights: Student Free Speech in Schools.” The video, based on a paper Maddie wrote earlier in the school year, is their entry in this year’s “National History Day” competition; their school — Eastern Middle School, in Silver Spring, Maryland — has built their superb humanities and communication magnet program around participating in this event.

For her paper, Maddie interviewed both Mary Beth Tinker — one of the defendants in the seminal free student speech case Tinker v. Des Moines — and State Senator Jamie Raskin, who among many other accomplishments literally wrote the book on student rights; the team went back for some very interesting video interviews with both of these civil liberties champions.

Last week, the girls (and I) were thrilled to learn that their work would be featured on the web site of the ACLU of the National Capital Area; the article is titled “Are You Smarter than a Seventh Grader?” I saw how hard they worked on this — and while I suppose I may be biased, I’m honestly very impressed with the result. Thanks very much to Johnny Barnes of the ACLU-NCA for rewarding their work with some very well deserved recognition. As he put it,

The future of civil liberties is in good hands.

[crossposted from the blog of the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition]

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“One Nation” minus one friend

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th December 2010

We March For Hope Not Hate
Children with “We March for Hope not Hate” sign
at 10/2/10 “One Nation” demonstration
( Click for “One Nation” slide show).

The “One Nation” event — already unimaginably long ago, more than two months! — at least succeeded in discomfiting one fellow who needed it. John Avlon — the smug author of the unbearable “Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Taking Over America” — was unaccountably assigned to the rally by the Daily Beast to confirm his superiority over attendees.  He reported:

The signs started off badly as I approached the Washington Mall. “Yes We Can… Bomb Civilians!” read the first sign I saw, held aloft by a 2008 Ralph Nader supporter from Providence, Rhode Island, named Adrian. Behind him, representatives from “The World Can’t Wait” positioned a black-hooded orange-jumpsuited effigy to protest Guantanamo next to signs that read “Stop Occupation and Torture for Empire!”

A pre-game rally south of the Washington Monument featured drum circles and papier maché puppets. President Obama was called an “imperialist president” who was insensitive to the “African community” and “the 2.5 million people in concentration camps called prisons.”

I’ve never been sure what’s wrong with drum circles and paper mache puppets, and I’m pretty sure nothing’s wrong with confronting a supercilious prig or his readers with the facts of mass imprisonment in the U.S., bombing civilians, occupation, torture, or an assertion of empire that matches facts and is actually embraced by leading thinkers on the right.  But if there is something wrong with it, I guess we’ll all just have to live with ourselves.

Next, though, Avlon noticed some more debatable signs — but just as debatably classified them all as anti-Semitic, un-American and beyond the pale:

The curious migration of anti-Semitism to the left was evident in signs that read “End All U.S. Aid to the Racist State of Israel” and “Fund Jobs, Not Israel.” I cringed as these marchers crowded past a group of World War II vets from Columbus, Ohio, being wheeled to their war memorial as part of the excellent “Honor Flight” program.

Why those vets would necessarily care one way or the other — either about Israel or about what protesters think of it — is presumably clear to Mr. Avlon, but was left unexplained for the rest of us.  It’s one thing to say these demonstration participants were somewhat off the main message of the day — jobs, employment, economic help for those needing it rather than for those not needing it.  (Though their signs did arguably match the One Nation principle of providing “greater national investment in new jobs, improved infrastructure, and public education instead of escalating military spending.”)

But Avlon’s objection was broader: these people had no valid point whatever, and their failings indicted the demonstration as a whole.  To me, that’s an insidious sentiment of its own. Read the rest of this entry »

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One routine FOIA checkup, one clean bill of health

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th December 2010

Federal Bureau of Investigation
November 30, 2010

FOIPA Request No.: 1157666-000

Dear Mr. Nephew,

This responds to your Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request

Based on the information you provided, we conducted a search of the indices to our Central Records System.  We were unable to identify responsive main file records.  […]

To the extent your FOIPA request seeks access to records that would either confirm or deny any individual’s placement on any government watch list, please be advised that the U.S. Government can neither confirm nor deny whether a particular person is on any terrorist watch list. […]

Sincerely yours,

I got the clean bill of surveillance health about two weeks after filing my FOIA request, using forms supplied by the Defending Dissent Foundation. While I thought the odds were somewhere between slim and none that I’d been worth wasting FBI time on, I didn’t know for sure, I’d wondered about it before, and I figured it would be interesting to find out one way or the other.

I’ve been arrested for civil disobedience twice in my life.  Once was way back in 1983, at a mass blockade of Lawrence Livermore Labs, where U.S. nuclear weapons are designed; there were 1300 of us, and we spent 11 days in jail — in our case, a huge circus tent on the grounds of the Santa Rita Jail — before eventually being released en masse.  The other time was on my own, on September 11, 2005, at the Pentagon-sponsored “Freedom Walk” commemorating 9/11 and ‘supporting the troops.’  I wore an “Abu Ghraib guy” poncho and hood, and carried a sign reading “For Them, For Us, For Our Troops: Never Again” (in part) on one side and “Freedom?” on the other. Back in 1977, I joined a demonstration against building a gym on the site of the Kent State shootings, but wasn’t arrested.  Besides those incidents, I’ve been involved in various grassroots political groups from time to time, mainly the nuclear freeze and free zone movements in California,  and impeachment efforts in Takoma Park.

Defending Dissent FoundationI outlined those activities on the Department of Justice “Certification of Identity” Form 360 available via Defending Dissent, following the helpful directions they supply separately.  (As per the example given there, I also included the meeting about the FBI raids on peace activists that I attended in early November.)  I put the envelope in the mail, and figured I’d hear from them in two or three months.

Instead, it was just a couple of weeks.  And — as I suspected I would — I learned that I’m not all that interesting, and that the FBI is not quite so monumentally stupid as to think that I am.

But many other people have been equally peaceful and undeserving of FBI or police attention, yet got it all the same.  The anti-death penalty and peace activists who were infiltrated and reported on by Maryland State Police might have once scoffed to think they were under suspicion as well.  But at some point they filed a FOIA request — and shone a light on serious police abuses of power and infringements of the right of free speech, free assembly, and freedom from surveillance without reasonable cause.

For most of us, most of the time, I think the best way to think of a FOIA request is as a kind of routine citizen checkup: a checkup on your privacy and liberties, and a checkup on the country.  I’m pleased that in my case, the results were good — one unsurprising positive data point to weigh against the negative ones.  I’ve met people who were morbidly and almost certainly unjustifiably paranoid about this kind of thing, and I don’t think that does anyone any good — it deactivates and discourages you for no good reason.  My one little experience pushes back against that at any rate.

So if you’re at all politically active — and even if you’re not — I think you should submit a FOIA request, too, or even organize a FOIA party with your friends.  If you’re like me, it’s likely you’ll find there’s nothing to worry about — and if you’re like me, it’s also likely a request you’ll want to get in the habit of repeating from time to time.  If you do, share the results with Defending Dissent, where great people like Sue Udry stand ready to help with whatever develops.


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Activists report suspicious government activity: the Nov. 6 FBI raids forum

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 13th November 2010

As advertised here and elsewhere, activists convened at the Washington Friends Meeting House last Saturday afternoon for education and brainstorming about the recent troubling FBI raids and grand jury subpoenas of peace and solidarity activists in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan. Search warrants indicated the FBI was looking for evidence of “material support” for foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) in Colombia, Palestine, and elsewhere — but as forum-goers were to learn, the idea of ‘material support’ has been stretched past the breaking point. A diverse and engaged crowd of some forty people attended the forum, and peppered each of three speaker panels with questions before brainstorming together about the next directions they could take.

A video of the first panel is shown to the right.  This video and two more like it are displayed on an “11/6 forum videos” page together with links to news items, analyses, and documents referred to by panelists.

The first panel, “What’s Going On and What Are the Legal Rules in Place?,” was led off by Sue Udry, of the Defending Dissent Foundation, who spoke about the raids themselves, the shifting legal predicaments the activists involved are in, and the background of ever more intrusive, expanding uses of surveillance to address ‘terror threats’ allegedly emanating from nonviolent peace, animal rights, and environmental groups, to name a few. Using the Inspector General report on the FBI, and revelations from Pennsylvania, Iowa, and elsewhere, Ms. Udry made clear that the FBI raids are not isolated incidents, but an escalation of an already deteriorating situation.

Ms. Udry was followed by  ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson.  Like Ms. Udry, Ms. Richardson noted how the expanding surveillance undermined both the Constitution and real counterterrorism efforts by “dumping more hay” on the haystack, instead of focusing on searching for needles.  She described the United States as a surveillance society “collecting 1.7 billion records and communications a day. … When you get to 1.7 billion, that’s not about the government going to a judge and saying “I have a suspected terrorist, I’d like to read his emails,” that’s about our government turning its extraordinary computer powers loose on the American people.”  Charity and Security Network executive director Kay Guinane focused on the recent Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project ruling, which she and others believe probably green-lighted the raids on the peace activists.  John Hardenbergh of the National Lawyers Guild discussed the grand jury process, acknowledging the old saw that prosecutors could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich — though he got a laugh with the observation “it depends what the ham sandwich is accused of doing.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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So it turns out there are four Harmony, Wisconsins: phonebanking for Russ

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 27th October 2010

Building votes for Russ
A good evening’s work done

I took part in an orientation for Russ Feingold remote phonebankers yesterday, and dialed Wisconsin voters for four hours tonight.

Tell you what: I’ll do four more on Thursday — but maybe you can make an hourly pledge in the comments and then go straight to the Get FISA Right with Russ Feingold fundraising page and make your contribution.

The orientation was attended by at least twenty(!!) people from around the country on a conference call. To get signed up for an orientation, call (414) 727-5682 . You’ll get an 800 number and an access code to join the conference call.

Our orientation guy was very good: concise, enthusiastic, organized. He sent materials by email so we had an agenda is and a handout describing the online data entry system to look at. Obviously, with a week to go before the election, I think it’s safe to say the campaign is thinking about getting out the vote (GOTV) — i.e., Lincoln’s old line “find out who your friends are and get them out to vote.”

And that proved remarkably easy in the phone calls I made. When I actually reached someone — as ever, maybe 40 percent of the time — it was almost always “Oh yes!” “Straight Democratic ticket!”... “I’ve always voted for Russ!”“We’ll be there!” Some agreed they’d vote early or absentee, some said they’d vote on Election Day — a sentiment I understand, since I kind of like voting that day too.

Goal Thermometer

Needless to say, some people hung up on me or weren’t thrilled about calls later in the evening. Also, a small fraction turned out to be wavering or undecided voters. Occasionally, people would need to know where to vote early — almost always City Hall or “Village Hall” — and I’d go to one of the tabs I’d set up for the locales I seemed to be calling — Edgerton, Evansville, Milton, some others. One of them was from Harmony, WI — and to my befuddlement, four of those showed up. Wisconsin is clearly a very harmonious state!

The “VoteBuilder” online data entry software works superbly and the data are well maintained — meaning there were never times where the number was wrong, though (again, as ever) there were often times where it was disconnected or not in service. Once one call was over, you entered the “not home” or “support”/”early vote” information, saved, and got a new person to call. Nice features: (1) sometimes other persons in the household were listed, so you could switch gears and ask for Joe instead of Betty Smith; (2) a “note” field let you describe what happened in the call if need be — wants a yard sign, etc.

Folks, I promise this $3,000 goal is the final one — and we’re very, very close. Could we push it over the top sooner rather than later, so the Feingold campaign has just a little more to work with between now and Election Day? Let’s support Feingold one more time. Thanks!

[crossposted from “Get FISA Right”]

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Dissent is not a crime – DC activists to hold forum on FBI raids

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 22nd October 2010

Protest of FBI raids 22
From “Protest of FBI raids” series by Alan
Wilfahrt, on Flickr. (Photo used with permission)

On September 24th, 2010, the FBI raided anti-war and solidarity activists in Chicago (two homes) and Minneapolis (five homes and the office of the Anti-War Committee). During the raids, the FBI took computers, cell phones, documents and personal family items. In total, 14 activists in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan were subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury. They have subsequently refused to appear.

“Get FISA Right” activists recently decided to add the organization’s name to a petition protesting these raids. Now there’s a chance to learn more about those raids, and lend support to activists opposing such infringements of First and Fourth Amendment rights.

On November 6, civil liberties activists and experts will gather from 1-4 pm the Friends Meeting House in Washington, DC (2011 Florida Ave., NW) to examine the FBI raids and other attacks on activists, our legal rights, and how our community can respond. Admission is free, the event is open to everyone.

The program and other details follow:

The FBI Raids: Activists Respond to Government Intrusion

What’s Going On and What Are the Legal Rules in Place? (1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m)

  • Update on the FBI raids and other recent incidents of harassment, infiltration and surveillance of activist groups — Sue Udry, Defending Dissent Foundation
  • A look at the tools police and intelligence agencies use to quash dissent and the laws that allow it — Michelle Richardson, ACLU (invited)
  • Material support laws and the Supreme Court’s Humanitarian Law Project decision: what every peace, solidarity and union activist needs to know — Kay Guinane, Charity and Security Network
  • Function of the Grand Jury — John Hardenbergh, National Lawyers Guild

What Are Our Rights? (2:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.)

  • Know Your Rights – in the streets, in your home, at your office — Jeff Light, Rachael Moshman, Ann Wilcox, John Hardenbergh, National Lawyers Guild

How Should the Movement Respond? (3:10 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

  • A discussion led by activists Michael Beer, Nadine Bloch, Raed Jarrar, Gael Murphy
  • Solidarity, support and resistance – how should the movement respond to the raids and other recent provocations?
  • Advocacy to change the laws that allow unconstitutional surveillance, infiltration and detention.

The event is brought to you by the National Lawyer’s Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Washington Peace Center and Defending Dissent. For more information about this program, contact Malachy Kilbride at 202-841-2230 or by email at Organizations can use an online form to co-sponsor the event, and are then expected to help publicize it. Finally, while it’s not necessary, if you have a Facebook account, it will be helpful and encouraging to let us know you’re attending via this event announcement.

I’ve participated in one organizing call so far, and plan to attend. I’ll report back about it here as best as I can; we’re also hoping to videotape the event and post that as well.

[crossposted from “Get FISA Right”]

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Stand By Me

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th October 2010

OVER TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS raised for Senator Russ Feingold — and counting! We are standing with our friends. We are standing with Senator Feingold. And we are standing tall for civil liberties, the rule of law, and for real democracy.

To all the good people who make up “Get FISA Right” — give yourselves a huge round of applause.

[crossposted from “Get FISA Right”]

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Wow – $986 and counting for Feingold!

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 8th October 2010

As I write this, we’ve raised $986 for Senator Russ Feingold’s re-election campaign — just $14 shy of our goal of $1000. Way to go, “Get FISA Right” supporters! Nearly two dozen of you have stepped up with generous donations — thank you all! For those who haven’t — please support Russ Feingold now!

By adding different “refcode” tags to the different email appeals and blog links, we’re able to see where the donation clicks are happening. Of the 23 donations so far, about one third were done via the mass e-mailing to “MyBarackObama” lists, another third happened via links at this blog (either in the post or the ‘widget’ at the upper right corner), and the remainder have come from untagged links or other miscellaneous sources. The lesson seems to be that everything can work, but it may work best when it’s synergistic and simultaneous — it seemed to me that donation pace accelerated during the day yesterday, perhaps as multiple reminders showed up on people’s computer screens. …So get ready for another blitz. Support Russ Feingold now!

Enough on fundraising minutiae — how’s the Wisconsin campaign going? Unfortunately, the most recent polls I could find (October 1) suggested the race was getting tougher for Feingold, with Johnson if anything widening his lead. At the Huffington Post, Mark Blumenthal writes: “The trend in Johnson’s favor since the summer is hard to miss. Our trend line estimate now puts Johnson ahead by nearly 10 points (52.9% to 43.1%).” On the other hand, the Feingold campaign has cited internal polling showing the race is virtually tied, and Feingold has gone on the air with an ad accusing Johnson’s team of ‘excessive celebration.’

Whatever the case may be, it’s important for us to not let dismay at poll numbers turn into inaction, and thereby turn those numbers into a self-fulfilling prophecy of defeat. Support Russ Feingold now! Let’s go ahead and do what needs to be done so Feingold can keep fighting the good fight in Wisconsin — while his opponent hides from view. The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel’s Don Walker reports (October 7):

Turn on the television or listen to the radio, and Republican Ron Johnson is everywhere. Finding him on the campaign trail can be a little more difficult. […] Aside from carefully scripted campaign events, it is hard for the public to get information about his appearances before groups and organizations. “We don’t receive any advance notifications of his travels or appointments,” said Stewart Rieckman, general manager and executive editor of the Oshkosh Northwestern, Johnson’s hometown newspaper. The Associated Press says the same thing. The Wisconsin Newspaper Association also inquired about a campaign schedule for member newspapers, but the Johnson campaign has not responded, according to Beth Bennett, the group’s executive director. Last Sunday, the Northwestern published a profile about Johnson. Rieckman said Johnson did not respond to multiple requests for an interview for the story. “This is the strategy,” Rieckman said. “Shield him from the press. Keep him under the radar.”

Walker goes on to attribute that to the advent of online campaigning. Personally, I think “Citizens United” and a tidal wave of anonymously sourced advertising has more to do with it. Johnson doesn’t show himself because he doesn’t need to show himself. When he does, it even embarrasses some conservative spectators, as at a grassroots “vetting” event where Johnson was asked whether he supported the Patriot Act. Johnson’s response:

…I’ll put it this way: So much of the Patriot Act exists in law, and they just put it within that law. I certainly share the concerns of civil liberties. Now if you have Barack Obama in charge versus George Bush—I wasn’t overly concerned with George Bush in power. I’m a little more concerned about the Patriot Act when you have Barack Obama. […] Our nation was at risk. When you’re at risk by things like international terrorism and stuff, you have to react to that. And you sometimes have to give up a little bit. But again, I like the fact that it should be of a temporary nature and be something for renewal. …

“pompadour”‘s response shows that civil liberties concerns aren’t limited to the left:

Here’s a tip for you, Ron: A law that compromises civil liberties is problematic no matter who’s in power. […] That[Johnson]’s comfortable with the Patriot Act in one administration’s hands but not another—and that he’d keep it around anyway—demonstrates how far from the Constitution Johnson’s actually standing. He doesn’t grasp the very real danger that lies in passing and growing accustomed to any law that grants government unconstitutional powers over the People.

(Emphasis in original.) Couldn’t have said it better myself. Support Russ Feingold now!

[crossposted to “Get FISA Right” blog]
UPDATE, 1pm: $1002, from 24 donors!!! This is now one of the most successful fundraising drives for Russ Feingold on ActBlue — we’re currently in 9th place for total dollars raised and 11th for number of donors. Thanks to everyone who has helped and to everyone who has donated! Let’s run up the score for Russ Feingold!

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Support Russ Feingold now

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 5th October 2010

The following is a proposed email pitch to “Get FISA Right” supporters.
[UPDATE: a collaborative draft based on this is underway at Get FISA Right’s “wetpaint” site.]


Senator Russ Feingold — the Senate’s champion of civil liberties and the rule of law — is facing a tough reelection campaign in Wisconsin.  Recent polling results suggest the election hangs in the balance; some recent polls have Feingold behind, but Russ is optimistic, citing internal polls showing a dead heat.  His opponent Ron Johnson’s chief strength is that he’s a plastics millionaire who can bankroll his own campaign juggernaut.  Politically, well… in Jim Hightower’s words, if [Johnson] were any dumber, we’d have to water him.”

Goal Thermometer

As a supporter of getting FISA right again, and of repealing the PATRIOT Act, we probably don’t have to tell you Russ Feingold is our best ally in the Senate. National security / human rights advocates have had to develop separate scenarios for the post-election period, depending on whether or not he stays in.  One has told me: “Even if Democrats hold the Senate, if Russ Feingold is not among them, the dynamic (and the White House, internalizing the message that “civil liberties don’t sell”) will tack demonstrably to the right.

It’s absolutely  critical we help him out as much as we can. So we’ve set up a fundraising page — Get FISA Right With Russ Feingold —  where “Get FISA Right” supporters (and anyone else) can contribute to his campaign.

What has Russ done for us, for civil liberties, for the America we want?  You name it, he’s fought for it — often having to “wage war with my own leadership …to get that opportunity.”

Stand with Feingold — support Russ now!

  • Russ Feingold was the only senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act, presciently warning, “I am also very troubled by the broad expansion of government power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. […] ….the government can apparently go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone. All it has to allege in order to get an order for these records from the court is that the information is sought for an investigation of international terrorism or clandestine intelligence gathering. That’s it. …”

    Fight the PATRIOT Act — support Russ now!

  • Senator Feingold’s principled stand against the PATRIOT Act gained him allies in the effort to block the Military Commissions Act in 2006. Speaking in opposition, Feingold said : “Under this legislation, some individuals, at the designation of the executive branch alone, could be picked up, even in the United States, and held indefinitely without trial and without any access whatsoever to the courts. …why would we turn our back on hundreds of years of history and our nation’s commitment to liberty — particularly when there is no good reason to do so?”

    Restore the rule of law — support Russ now!

  • Senator Feingold has worked with President Obama when he can, but has called Obama to account when he must.  Feingold produced recommendations doubling as a scorecard for evaluating Obama’s performance on the rule of law in his first hundred days in office.  The senator was among the first to criticize the Obama administration’s overuse of state secrets privileges — giving the Obama administration Grade: D | Status: Troubling”

    Hold the White House accountable no matter what — support Russ now!

  • And of course, Senator Feingold was at the forefront in fighting against the FISA Amendment Act ratifying lawbreaking by the Bush administration, joining Senator Dodd in proposing an amendment to keep the telecom companies on the hook for assisting illegal surveillance. Feingold:“…even as the administration sought and obtained broad new authorities to collect communications of Americans, the administration refused to even consider when it might be violating the Constitution.    If the administration can’t assure us that they respect the Constitution, Congress needs to step in.”

    For real checks on executive power — support Russ now!

In an era of lockstep Republicans and pusillanimous Democrats, Senator Feingold stands out as one of the few politicians on Capitol Hill to stand up for what’s right, no matter who disagrees with him.

It’s our turn: stand up for Russ now!

Thank you in advance!

Thomas Nephew for “Get FISA Right”.

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