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Peter Murphy

Even though goth archetypes Bauhaus officially went the way of Bela Lugosi after a short-lived reunion five years ago, their frontman Peter Murphy is determined to keep the funeral pyre burning. Tonight, he and his solo band are performing a program entitled “Mr. Moonlight: Celebrating 35 Years of Bauhaus,” for which he’s playing only songs he wrote with his sometime mates from Northampton, including, for the first time, cuts from 2008’s Going Away White, which came out around the time the band became undeadundeadundead.

Tue., May 7, 7 p.m., 2013

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Fat Worm of Error

Sightings’s bassman Richard Hoffman personally assembled this murders row of noisemongering experimentalists all the way from the left coast to ours, solely for this unique ear-shredding evening. Legendary avant-gardist provocateur Tom Smith of now-defunct genre-defying deconstructionist collective To Live and Shave in L.A. is doing double-duty, first duo-ing with Velvet Monkeys’s (and TLASILA collaborator) Don Fleming, then teaming with No Neck Blues Band’s Pat Murano in an extra-cacophonous edition of local gnash-n-burners, Sightings. Making the trek from Massachusetts is Northampton’s finest, the brain-draining, conceptual art-punk jamz troupe, Fat Worm of Error. With Child Abuse.

Wed., Jan. 4, 8 p.m., 2012

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Northampton Wools

Sonic Youth impresario Thurston Moore named this experimental rock ensemble after a real wool store in his current place of residency, Northampton, Massachusetts. The rub, as he tells it, is that he can’t cash any band checks because all the local banks would just give the money to the crochet and knitting shop. Good thing for him, then, that the average ticket tonight is an affordable $11. Good for the fans, too, because, judging from his set at ATP this past September, he can alternate pretty herky-jerkily between caterwauling clanging-on-guitar noise and his sometimes soppy singer-songwriter ballads. With Sightings.

Fri., Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m., 2010

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‘Little Fury Things Records Party’

Named for the great Dinosaur Jr. jam, Nat Hawks’ Little Fury Things has been been one of the nicer homespun psychedelic noise dispatchers of recent years. A showcase at Public Assembly—consider it their anti-South by Southwest—will bring some of their acts to New York for the first time. Maryland’s SpermWhales are dreamy and droney (example song title: “Slow Wave Sleep”), while Northampton’s ColorRabbit are even gentler (see: “Falling Into Snow”). Boston’s Birthdays, meanwhile, trade in gently tumbling pop deconstruction. Hawks (who plays in Christian Science Minotaur) debuts a new project, too, Hwi Noree. With Island’s Eyelids, ZK, and more.

Sat., March 20, 7 p.m., 2010

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Richard Hell+Dorothea Lasky+Thurston Moore

Since 2001, Northampton buds Thurston Moore and Byron Coley have spewed handmade poetry ‘zines, noise tapes, scholarly research, and enthusiastic record reviews. This season finds them at White Columns, where issue #10 of their Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal takes the form of a gallery show presenting their magnificent collection of radical East Village poetry rags, beginning with the Fugs’ Ed Sanders’ Fuck You and delving into all manners of joyously agitated NSFWness. Moore’s semi-weekly improv sets have included sessions with drummer Chris Corsano and Sonic Youth comrade Kim Gordon. This week adds a reading by Richard Hell, the punk luminary and novelist.

Fri., Feb. 19, 7 p.m., 2010

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Joining the War Over the Constitution

Two months after the 9/11 attacks, 25 teachers, retirees, lawyers, doctors, students, and nurses—none of them professional civil libertarians—formed the Bill of Rights Defense Committee in Northampton, Massachusetts. They knew the Bush-Cheney war on the Constitution had begun.

That October 25, the White House had terrified Congress into rushing the Patriot Act into law. In the Senate, only Democrat Russ Feingold—accurately predicting the continuous rape of the Bill of Rights—voted against it, disobeying Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who desperately wanted to avoid the Republicans tarring the Democrats as unpatriotic.

The unintimidated 25 citizens of Northampton convinced more than 1,000 of their neighbors to sign a petition that, by the following May, motivated the Northampton City Council to unanimously pass a resolution mandating local police to inform the people when federal agents of Attorney General John Ashcroft were enforcing the Patriot Act in the town and its environs.

In the spirit of this nation’s founders, the resolution boldly directed: “Local law enforcement continues to preserve residents’ freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and privacy; rights to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures even if requested or authorized to infringe upon these rights by federal law enforcement acting under the . . . Patriot Act or orders of the Executive Branch.”

General Ashcroft was later to tell the House Judiciary Committee: “The last time I looked at September 11, an American street was a war zone.” Anyone on those streets could be the enemy.

As additional Massachusetts towns and the city councils of Ann Arbor and Denver took Northampton’s lead and passed similar resolutions, BORDC founder and director Nancy Talanian put together a masterful website to synchronize a growing national movement—rightsanddissent.org (on which I click every morning to find out the cities, towns, and states creating new committees)—and news stories from around the country on further administration raids on the Constitution. By now, more than 400 cities and towns—and eight states—have passed BORDC resolutions and continue to monitor local and state police and their congressional representatives.

This truly grassroots movement is a 21st-century revival of the Committees of Correspondence started in Boston by Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty in 1767, which became a news network throughout the colonies. Those committees reported the growing abuses by the King’s transplanted governors, customs officials, and troops of the Colonists’ individual rights, which were rooted deep in English history. In a 1773 secret meeting in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other rebels committed a hanging offense by starting such a committee in their state.

In 1805, an American historian of the rise of the revolution, Mercy Otis Warren, wrote: “Perhaps no single step contributed so much to cement the union of the colonies, and the final acquisition of independence, as the establishment of the Committee of Correspondence.”

As I have often reported here over the years, the BORDC, while not igniting a revolution, has strengthened the resistance—locally, regionally, and nationally—to our own king’s war on the Constitution. And some references in the Congressional Record show that members of Congress are aware of BORDC members among their constituents.

But the war on the Constitution continues. While the Patriot Act has been somewhat watered down, and there are continuing American Civil Liberties Union lawsuits to bring deeper changes, much of the Patriot Act—not to mention a noxious stream of Bush executive orders—keeps the war on the Constitution thriving. For example, I’ll soon be reporting on efforts by Attorney General Michael Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller to return to J. Edgar Hoover’s methods, with expanded FBI power to begin terrorism investigations of Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Talanian, as the BORDC’s equivalent of Paul Revere, says: “These years of grassroots action to restore constitutional protections have led to increased oversight . . . but they have fallen short of the full restoration of constitutional rights and liberties.”

Therefore, a new BORDC “People’s Campaign for the Constitution” will “continue local organizing with a focus on the lawmakers in Washington—rather than city and county councils and state legislatures.” As Talanian emphasizes: “The new president, new Congress, and the 2009 expiration of Patriot Act provisions offer the best opportunity we have had . . . to change the direction our nation is taking.”

In a future column: the structure, organization, and resources (including a toolkit and database) of this BORDC rescue of the Constitution, as well as ways to get involved. Meanwhile, there is now available an essential, concise, and accurate blueprint, Talanian points out, “of how key anti-terrorism laws and policies enacted since September 11, 2001, affect Americans’ constitutional rights.”

The sizable booklet, The “War on Terror” and the Constitution, is organized around the Bush laws and policies—corresponding to sections of our Constitution—that directly affect our lives and those of others. Shown on each page are the breakdowns of what the Bush Tories have done to each part of the Constitution: For example, “Fourth Amendment: Right to Privacy: the Provisions of the Patriot Act/What They Say, What They Change/How Each One Can Affect You” is included as well as illustrative stories of the sneaky ways the Act is being used.

Take Section 206 of the Patriot Act: roving wiretaps by the FBI under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. How can that affect you? “There is no requirement that the FBI tap the line only if it knows that the intended target is present at the location . . . [this] allow[s] conversations of innocent bystanders who may be using the device to be wiretapped.” At their office. Or anywhere they use a phone or a computer.

Also included are key Supreme Court rulings on these laws and executive measures, with detailed notes that lead to more information. This publication should be in every place of learning, including graduate schools, and, as the new Congress begins, on the desk of every member.

To get a copy ($3, and wholesale prices for quantities), contact the Bill of Rights Defense Committee at info@rightsanddissent.org or 413-582-0110. You can order one online at rightsanddissent.org or download a printable order form at rightsanddissent.org. It’s a sequel to Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet, “Common Sense.”

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Part 4: Stuff You’ve Probably Never Heard Before and/or Should Hear More of . . .

SYNOPSIS In which more stuff old and new is dragged out, digitaized and uploaded for your edification. Listen, track it down buy it if you can find it.

We’d also like to take this time to say “Howdy!” and “Yes, please!” to Uncle Dr Brien, a new friend from VCU (he’s with Virginia Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioral Genetics; and No!!! so don’t ask) who wrote us an amusing and very lovely letter about Suburban Lawns and such, also teasing us with lots of obscure stuff even we haven’t heard… Do send it on, friend! And to say “Howdy!” and “You are too kind!” to another music lover, Uncle EJ (oh, how we love the initialed ones) who makes nifty art and has great taste in podcasts . . . . Anyone who loves Miss Dana Kletter as much as we do is instant family to us.

NEXT WEEK: Soundtracks for imaginary films
ldbeghtol@gmail.com


Playlist for Episode 35

Winterpills
A Folded Cloth” and “Handkerchiefs,” from The Light Divides (Soft Alarm, 2007)
Pretty folkie stuff from pretty folks in Northampton, Mass. They seem to have a textile obsession, but we like that about them. This disc brand new and scores very high in our imaginary “this is what music is and was meant to be” chart. Gorgeous understated production, lovely melodies sung by people who can really sing, and little or no annoying affectation. We’d bake gingerbread for them, yes indeedy.

Ultra Vivid Scene
“Winter Song” and “Don’t Look Now (Now!),” from Rev bonus disc (Chaos/4AD, 1992)
Cool stuff from the bonus disc that came with the original pressing of this album. Long before we knew anything at all about Mark Dumais/Crash, we loved this album and this song… Little did we know then that “Don’t Look Now (Now!)” is a somewhat rocked-out version of one of Crash’s best songs, on which a young Mr Ralske plaed really really great guitar. Your Uncle LD’s version, wrought — or overwrought — by his outfit moth wranglers, is to a certain extent patterned on this cover. It’s sexy, creepy, and more than a little desperate. Which to us equals l-o-v-e.

Rubella Ballet
Unemployed,” from Greatest Trips (Brave, 1990)
“Money Talks” single (Ubiquitous, 1985)
Another dancefloor hit from this fine, fucked up combo, circa too long ago. Flailing (with or without strobes, flattops and long black coats) is definitely in order while listening. They sure made hating fun. We’ve played “Lovelife” before — Greatest Trips has a fantastic dub mix, incidentally — and we’re delighted to share some more of this wondrous chaos with you. But oh! How your Uncle LD longs to remix “Money Talks,” and make it harder, louder, and more virolent.

Sam Phillips
Your Hands” and “Animals on Wheels,” from Omnipop (Virgin, 1996)
She’s publicly proclaimed her crush on Uncle Stephin, which seems pointless since as she says, only likes people with “man parts.” But who wouldn’t adore a gal who named her supposed “best of” — culled from three amazing, almost unheard major-label albums — Zero, Zero Zero? Hey, over here . . . We’re single.

Paolomar
Woah!” and “Top Banana,” from All Things, Forests (Misra, 2007)
Fab new stuff from their brand new, very excellent 4th album. If possible it’s even better than P3, which had songs called “Albacore” and “Knitting for Pleasure.” — which, surprise! where not about tuna and a kinder, gentler Billyburg. They may seem like nice, friendly kiddies at first, judging from their glorious, delirous pop . . . but we wouldn’t want to meet them in an alley behind the skating rink.

The Railway Children
In the Meantine,” from Gentle Sound (Ether, 2003)
Gentle Sound,” from Reunion Wilderness (Factory, 1987)
Oh, Uncle Gary . . . shoulda stayed at Factory. We once read a review of The Railway Children’s first album that called it a “bright pop postcard from the North” and boy, did we run right out and fetch it. They got jangle just right, and worked it for a while. But then… something happened, and they tried to be all dancey. Anyhow, they were and probably are still monumentally underloved. Gentle Sound is Uncle Gary redoing mostly-acoustic versions of songs from his early TRC albums. It’s all about his very distinctive voice — Red House Painters guy always made us think of this band, vocally — and almost too pretty guitars. The full-band versions are much more intense, even with the somewhat-annoying production. Still, we cry for them. Him. Something.

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Kranky Synth-Punk Francs Finally Flail Their Flesh and Blood for Foreigners

While patriots condemn the French for not being proper sycophants to Uncle Sam’s forever war, I have always applauded the naturally obstinate and perverse among them. Take Metal Urbain, guys who attempted a failed trip around and through punk rock as a flailing guitar band without a flesh-and-blood drummer in the late ’70s.

With big-deal axes, bitter attitude, indecipherable ranting—all you could grasp were the panicked cries of “Fasciste!” in “Paris Maquis”—and a pre-Linn drum machine, Metal Urbain were a recipe for singles success in a record shop in Northampton, a Pennsylvania town valued for its concrete mix. A few locals, starved for rock violence that didn’t sound like FM, patronized the place and fought over dibs at the kranky Frenchmen.

The Metal Urbain micro-mania was duplicated across the country in a few stores that could import the band’s synth-percussion-augmented punk. A year or so after, a few imitative American bands began peddling tapes. Smersh in Jersey, F/i in the Midwest, the Psyclones in California, and others tried their hands with tweezed synth-drums and garage rock. But it was too early, apparently; Big Black were a year or two away. If you were using a drum computer, it was art-dance à la mode—ooh, that’s French—or die. Even their countrymen didn’t like Metal Urbain much; their homies snubbed ’em for foreigners and the likes of Ganafoul (a boogie band), Telephone (a Franc Rolling Stones cruelly heckled in their one trip to the States), and Trust (a deadening third-string metal act).

But now Metal Urbain, as brutal pioneers, finally have a proper American archival release: Anarchy in Paris! The lyrics are still a mystery, but the spare punch-yer-face power chords colliding with snarls from agitated men get your blood flowing. The band’s trashed electro-drum widget whirs angrily in time, crunching through an idea of how “Train Kept a Rollin’ “/”Honey Hush” ought to sound—Foghat for the Hansel und Gretyl crowd.


Following an album-listening party November 5 at Niagara, Metal Urbain play Southpaw November 6, the Mighty Robot November 7, and Tonic November 8.

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Resistance Rising!

With advances in technology and ever-increasing government surveillance, the situation has worsened since Orwell’s imaginings of the future. —John Whitehead, the Rutherford Institute, November 4, 2002


Despite the self-satisfaction of George W. Bush and John Ashcroft, and the somnolence of the press, there is rising resistance around the country to the serial abuses of our liberties. More Americans are becoming aware of what Wisconsin Democratic senator Russ Feingold prophesied from the Senate floor on October 11, 2001, when he was the only Senator to vote against Ashcroft’s USA Patriot Act: “There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country where police were allowed to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country where the government is entitled to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your e-mail communications; if we lived in a country where people could be held in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, the government would probably discover more terrorists or would-be terrorists, just as it would find more lawbreakers generally. But that wouldn’t be a country in which we would want to live.”

Some of that warning has come to pass. What has become more specifically evident is underlined by Lincoln Caplan in the November-December issue of Legal Affairs (A Magazine of Yale Law School): “The [USA Patriot Act] . . . authorized law enforcement agencies to inspect the most personal kinds of information—medical records, bank statements, college transcripts, even church memberships. But what is more startling than the scope of these new powers is that the government can use them on people who aren’t suspected of committing a crime.”

As then house majority leader Dick Armey—a conservative Republican libertarian—told Georgetown University law professor Jeffrey Rosen in the October 21 New Republic: “The Justice Department . . . seems to be running amok and out of control. . . . This agency right now is the biggest threat to personal liberty in the country.” (The Defense Department is an even bigger threat, with its Orwellian plan to place all of us under surveillance—more on that in a later column.)

One sign of the growing fear of losing our Bill of Rights protections against an out-of-control government came from the heartland. On September 8 of this year, the Journal Gazette, a daily newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana, published a full-page, five-column editorial—its first such broadside in nearly 20 years. The headline was “Attacks on Liberty”: “In the name of national security, President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and even Congress have pulled strand after strand out of the constitutional fabric that distinguishes the United States from other nations. . . .

“Actions taken over the past year are eerily reminiscent of tyranny portrayed in the most nightmarish works of fiction. The power to demand reading lists from libraries could have been drawn from the pages of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. . . . The sudden suspension of due process for immigrants rounded up into jails is familiar to readers of Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here.”

But what is most encouraging is the continued growth in cities and towns throughout the nation of Bill of Rights Defense Committees or their equivalents, a number of which are working with ACLU affiliates. The first BORDC, as reported here, was formed in February this year in Northampton, Massachusetts, when about 300 doctors, nurses, lawyers, students, teachers, and retirees formed a group to protect the citizens of that town from the USA Patriot Act and the subsequent unilateral attacks on our liberties by John Ashcroft.

After the Northampton city council unanimously passed in May a resolution officially supporting the protests of the BORDC, other towns and cities learned how to organize similar committees through the Northampton group’s Web site: www.bordc.org.

Fourteen town or city councils—from Takoma Park, Maryland, and Alachua County, Florida, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Berkeley, California—have now passed, sometimes unanimously, similar resolutions originated by local BORDC organizations. Other proposals are pending before local government bodies in 40 more cities and towns, in 24 states. One BORDC is in formation in New York City.

Next week: The details of some of these resolutions that involve city and state police and local members of Congress. The roots of the Bill of Rights Defense Committees, it is important to remember, are in the pre-revolutionary committees of correspondence, initiated by Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty in Boston in 1754.

In 1805, in Boston, there was published Mercy Otis Warren’s History of the Rise and Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. A historian, playwright, and political pamphleteer, she wrote in this, her major work: “Perhaps no single step contributed so much to cement the union of the colonies, and the final acquisition of independence, as the establishment of committees of correspondence. This supported a chain of communication from New Hampshire to Georgia that produced unanimity and energy throughout the continent.” Sam Adams and other patriots continuously spread the news of attacks on the liberties of these new Americans by the King, his ministers, and his governors and officers in the colonies.

These committees, as Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once told me, were a precipitating cause of the American Revolution. Yet John Ashcroft accuses his critics—among the most active of which are the Bill of Rights Defense Committees—of “capitulating” to the enemy. More Americans are coming to agree with Dick Armey that Ashcroft’s Justice Department “is the biggest threat to personal liberty in the country.” Who, then, are the American patriots now?

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The Sons and Daughters of Liberty

In 1756, in Boston and other cities and towns, the coming of the American Revolution was speeded by mechanics, merchants, and artisans who organized against British tyranny. Calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, they set up committees of correspondence in the colonies to spread detailed news about British attacks on their liberties. They focused on the general search warrant, which allowed customs officers to invade and ransack their homes and offices at will.

In the spirit of the Sons of Liberty, on February 4 of this year, some 300 citizens of Northampton, Massachusetts, held a town meeting to organize ways to — as they put it — protect the residents of the town from the Bush-Ashcroft USA Patriot Act. On that night, the Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee began a new American Revolution. Similar committees are organizing around the country.

Speakers at that town meeting were defying John Ashcroft, who threatened dissenters in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year. He denounced those “who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty… Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies.”

But speakers at the meeting emphasized that the USA Patriot Act and the the succession of unilateral Ashcroft-Bush orders that followed apply not only to noncitizens but also to Americans in that very hall. William Newman, director of the ACLU of Western Massachusetts, pointed out that law enforcement agencies are now permitted “the same access to your Internet use and to your e-mail use that they had to your telephone records” — and may overstep their authority. “The history of the FBI,” Newman warned, “is that they will do exactly that.”

Also speaking was University of Massachusetts professor Bill Strickland, whom I first met when he directed the Northern Student Movement during the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s. Said Strickland, “The elements of the Patriot Act place all of us in danger.”

One result of that meeting was a petition, signed by over 1000 Northamptonites, urging the town government to approve a “resolution to defend the Bill of Rights.” Thanks to a persistent organizing drive, that resolution passed the Northampton city council by a unanimous vote on May 2. It targets not only the USA Patriot Act but also all subsequent actions by Ashcroft and others that “threaten key rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens and noncitizens by the Bill of Rights and the Massachusetts Constitution.”

Among those key rights: “freedom of speech, assembly, and privacy; the right to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The city of Northampton officially asks, from now on, that “federal and state law enforcement report to the local Human Rights Commission all local investigations undertaken under aegis of the [USA Patriot] Act and Orders; and that the community’s congressional representatives actively monitor the implementation of the Act and Orders, and work to repeal those sections found unconstitutional.”

This is a signal to the mostly passive members of Congress that actual voters are watching them.

In April, similar resolutions to defend the Bill of Rights from the Bush administration and from complicit members of Congress afraid to challenge Ashcroft were passed in the nearby towns of Amherst and Leverett. And Dr. Marty Nathan, of the ever industrious Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee, informs me that “the city councils of Ann Arbor and Berkeley passed civil liberties resolutions in January,” as did the Denver city council in March and the city council in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 17. Other cities are also preparing resolutions.

You would think this grassroots movement to secure our liberties would be of interest to the national media, but I have seen little of it on television or in the print press.

To find out about these campaigns around the country, and about a range of organizing tools, you can visit the Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee’s website.

At the town meeting in Leverett, Massachusetts, Don Ogden, who initiated the resolution, noted — and I hope the FBI transmits this to John Ashcroft — that “it is truly Orwellian doublespeak to call such unpatriotic efforts a ‘patriot act.’ ”

Like Northampton, the town of Amherst also passed its resolution unanimously. Select Board Person Anne Awad did not at all see Ashcroft’s “phantoms of lost liberty,” but rather a clear and present danger to our constitutional rights.

“As members of the Select Board,” she said, “we want to know that all residents and visitors to our town feel safe. We do not want to support profiling of particular types of people. If one group is viewed suspiciously today, another group will be added to the list tomorrow.”

A further indication that many Americans are ahead of their representatives in Washington in wanting to be safe from Ashcroft is an April 24 Associated Press report: “Despite the fear of future terrorist attacks, a majority of Americans are unwilling to give up civil liberties in exchange for national security, according to a Michigan State University study. Nearly 55 percent of 1488 people surveyed nationwide said they don’t want to give up constitutional rights in the government’s fight against terrorism.

“The telephone survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, was conducted from November 14 through January 15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.” Sixty-six percent “opposed government monitoring of telephone and e-mail conversations.”

The original Sons of Liberty were an instrumental cause of the American Revolution, and they spread the liberating news without an Internet. Think of how much more and swifter organizing can be done on the web now. Let me know, at the Voice, what other towns and cities are doing to keep the Bill of Rights alive. Please do not use e-mail.