IDC losing yet more support

There are signs that even more people are feeling that introducing Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC) ideas into science classes is not something worth fighting for. The Cleveland Plain Dealer deputy editorial director Kevin O’Brien, who would have been the most likely person on their editorial board to support IDC writes in a December 28, 2005 column:

What’s with these Intelligent Design people? For years, they’ve been lampooned as anti-intellectual, marginalized as religious nuts, and voted out of office whenever they’ve managed to sneak in under the radar. Now they’ve taken a solid whipping in federal court. And just watch: They’ll be back for more.

[A]s taxpaying members of the public, Christians have just as much right to a say in educational policy as anyone. But if they hope to be effective, they have to make an argument that’s scientifically valid.

Intelligent Design isn’t it. Neither the existence of a higher power nor its participation in the origin of life can be observed or measured, which is what science is all about.

Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, who identifies himself as a religious conservative, says in a December 28, 2005 Washington Times column that he actually welcomes the judge’s ruling:

The decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III to bar the teaching of “intelligent design” in the Dover, Pa., public school district on grounds it is a thinly veiled effort to introduce a religious view of the world’s origins is welcome for at least two reasons. First, it exposes the sham attempt to take through the back door what proponents have no chance of getting through the front door. Judge Jones rebuked advocates of “intelligent design,” saying they repeatedly lied about their true intentions. He noted many of them had said publicly their intent was to introduce into the schools a biblical account of creation.

This leads to the second reason for welcoming Judge Jones’ ruling. It should awaken religious conservatives to the futility of trying to make a secular state reflect their beliefs. Too many people have wasted too much time and money since the 1960s, when prayer and Bible reading were outlawed in public schools, trying to get these and other things restored. The modern secular state should not be expected to teach Genesis 1, or any other book of the Bible, or any other religious text.

Both O’Brien and Thomas acknowledge that the US is built on secular principles and that Christians should stop trying to make it into a theocracy. O’Brien says:

This nation’s founders wisely drew up a secular system of government, but they understood that the system they created was geared to a moral people who were capable, especially in their public lives, of restraining themselves.

And there’s the key for Christians living in today’s America: Our fight should not be to win control of government institutions – even so small an institution as a classroom – so as to restrain others. Our fight should be to win control of the nation’s culture by persuading Americans to see the value of restraining themselves. (my emphasis)

Thomas agrees, saying:

Culture has long passed by advocates of intelligent design, school prayer and numerous other beliefs and practices that were once tolerated, even promoted, in public education. People who think they can reclaim the past have been watching too many repeats of “Leave it to Beaver” on cable television. Those days are not coming back anytime soon, if at all.

Thomas recommends that those people with strong religious beliefs who are concerned about what they are being taught in the secular public schools should do what they should have done all along: take their children out of the public schools and put them in religious schools or home school them.

I have long been writing that a secular public sphere with great freedom for the private practice of religion is the system that has the best chance of promoting peace among the various religious beliefs. I had not expected such ringing support for this view from such unlikely allies as O’Brien and Thomas. It is very welcome.


After my postings on race and prejudice, a reader kindly sent me a DVD (thanks, Josh!) of the film Crash (the 2004 film written and directed by Paul Haggis, not a different 1996 film having the same name), thinking it would appeal to me. I saw it and can report that it is a terrific film, with an excellent ensemble cast, including the minor characters. It captures how race is the prism through which most people instinctively initially view things, even though they may know better intellectually. It also shows the unpleasantness and damage that such unreflective responses can cause. It shows how people are complex in their motivations. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

The pettiness of some congressional bribes

In following the Abramoff affair in the media and other past scandals, I was struck by something that Adam McKay gave voice to, and that is the relative smallness of the amounts used to bribe these congresspersons. It is not that the fact that some of these Congresspeople can be bribed but that their price is so low. According to the <a href= New York Times: “Alice Fisher, an assistant attorney general, said Mr. Abramoff offered up gifts to government officials that included an all-expense paid trip to Scotland “to play golf on a world-famous course, tickets and travel to the Super Bowl in Florida, tickets for concerts and other events in Washington, repeated and regular meals at his upscale restaurant, and campaign contributions.”.

Dinners, concert and Super Bowl tickets, seem to me to be rather cheap to buy off a congressperson who earns $158,000 per year and in addition has enormous perks and extremely generous benefits. Why would anyone run the risk of being accused of taking bribes just for the sake of a steak dinner and whiskey or whatever it is they eat and drink at “upscale restaurants.” Even if one was a glutton, how much could it cost? $100? $200? And the same for concert tickets. Surely they could afford it?

Maybe the campaign contributions were large. And the trip to Scotland could perhaps run into a couple of thousand dollars, but surely if they really, really wanted to play golf at a famous course in Scotland, they could have afforded to on their salaries.

I think that it cannot be just the amount of money involved, although money has to be a contributing factor. It must also be the fact that being bribed is used as a marker of the fact that you have power, and some people like others to think that they are important and have the sense of power over people and events.

I think that being offered a bribe must be gratifying to the ego of such people. I also suspect that being offered a bribe someone who you think is important (because they are rich and/or celebrities and/or powerful and/or well-connected) is more valuable than being offered the same bribe by just regular people.

For example, if I offered to take a congressperson out to dinner at a fancy restaurant in return for doing me a favor, he or she would probably laugh at me or be insulted or even have me arrested. But if Donald Trump took that congressperson out for the same dinner, he probably would be granted the favor. The fact that someone supposedly important is paying attention to you, is spending some of their precious time with you, is fawning over you, gives much greater weight to the occasion and makes you feel important too, and generous (and even indebted) towards them. So you do them the favor. You take the petty bribe.

There are some people who do take bribes having a significant value. People like the Republican congressman from San Diego Randy “Duke” Cunningham who resigned after being found to have taken millions from defense contractors to steer contracts their way. (See a video of a conversation between MSNBC talk show hosts Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough where the latter, who used to be a Congressman, is candid about the blatant quid pro quo that exists between lobbyist payoffs and the favors they get in return.) There are also people in lower profile occupations who enrich themselves by taking a large number of small bribes from many people. These people clearly see bribes as a revenue stream, a steady augmentation of their income.

But for the others in all professions and in all walks of life who take relatively small bribes despite being paid well, I suspect that ego and a feeling of power play a big role.

One occasionally hears or reads about college professors who are approached with bribes for grades. I cannot imagine that the bribes offered are significant enough to make it worthwhile in any tangible sense, so I suspect that if professor succumbs to this kind of temptation, he or she does so for the same reasons given above, because it appeals to his or her sense of importance.

In all my years of teaching in both Sri Lanka and the US, I am happy to report that have never been approached with anything that could be even remotely construed as a bribe. Whether this is because my students have very high ethical standards or they think that my power ego is too weak or unworthy of being flattered, I cannot say. But I am thankful all the same.

POST SCRIPT: Britain taking the lead?

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair is often derided as ‘Bush’s poodle,’ eager to please his master by doing everything asked of him. But veteran journalist John Pilger points out that when it comes to criminalizing dissidents and opponents, Blair (and England) may be slightly ahead of the US.

The courage to stand up for what is right

It takes enormous courage to stand up and oppose one’s peers when they are doing something wrong, especially so when it is in the middle of a war and you have to make a snap judgment. Hugh Thompson Jr. was a person who had that kind of rare courage. He was a young 24-year old helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War who came across fellow American soldiers in the process of massacring Vietnamese civilians during the infamous My Lai massacre in March 1968. The events that immediately preceded his arrival were described this way:
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Fighting the fear-mongers

Glenn Greenwald is guest blogging over at Digby and has an excellent piece titled Attacking Bush’s only weapon: Fear that extends what I wrote two days ago. He quotes a Bush speech delivered on October 6, 2005 where Bush says:

“The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation.

“Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, ‘We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life.’ And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

“The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century


“With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers.

Greenwald then analyzes the speech and others like it by Bush and Cheney and the rest of the administration and what they are trying to achieve. He really nails it.

Islamic terrorists here, as always, are depicted as omnipotent villains with quite attainable dreams of world domination, genocide, and the obliteration of the United States. They are trying to take over the world and murder us all. And this is not merely a threat we face. It is much more than that. It is the predominant issue facing the United States — more important than all others. Everything pales in comparison to fighting off this danger. We face not merely a danger, but, in Bush’s words, an “unprecedented danger” — the worst, scariest, most threatening danger ever.

And literally for four years, this is what Americans have heard over and over and over from their Government – that we face a mortal and incomparably powerful enemy on the precipice of destroying us, and only the most extreme measures taken by our Government can save us. We are a nation engaged in a War of Civilizations whose very existence is in imminent jeopardy. All of those plans for the future, dreams for your children, career aspirations, life goals – it’s all subordinate, it’s all for naught, unless, first and foremost, we stand loyally behind George Bush as he invokes extreme and unprecedented measures necessary to protect us from this extreme and unprecedented threat.

It is that deeply irrational, fear-driven view of the world which has to be undermined in order to make headway in convincing Americans that this Administration is engaged in intolerable excesses and abuses of its power. The argument which needs to be made is the one that we have seen starting to arise in the blogosphere and elsewhere: that living in irrational fear of terrorists and sacrificing our liberties and all of our other national goals in their name is the approach of hysterics and cowards, not of a strong, courageous and resolute nation.

Greenwald goes on to say what must be done to counter this fear-mongering and the paralysis that it induces:

What must be emphasized is that one can protect against the threat of terrorism with courage, calm and resolve – the attributes which have always defined our nation as it has confronted other threats. Hysteria and fear-mongering are the opposite of strength. The strong remain rational and unafraid.

In a rational world, the basic principle of risk is that it equals impact times probability: “In professional risk assessments, risk combines the probability of a negative event occurring with how harmful that event would be.” But the Administration has spent four years urging Americans to ignore that way of thinking and instead assent to any Government measure, no matter the costs or comparative harms, as long as they are pursued in the name of fighting this Ultimate Evil.

In fact, it is now essentially prohibited in good company to even raise the prospect that the threat of terrorism is exaggerated. It is an inviolable piety that there is no such thing as overstating the terrorism risk. One is compelled to genuflect to, and tremble before, the paramounce of this Ultimate Threat upon pain of being cast aside as some sort of anti-American, terrorist-loving loon.

The Administration has managed to get away with the Orwellian depiction of fear as being the hallmark of courage, and conversely, depicting a rational and calm approach as being a mark of cowardice.

In order to persuade the population that George Bush must not be allowed to claim the powers of a King, literally including the power to break the law, Bush opponents must attack that fear as the by-product of weakness and cowardice which it is. A strong nation does not give up its freedoms or sacrifice its national character in the name of fear and panic.

It is a great article. You should read the whole thing.

For those who are worried about being killed in a terrorist attack, you should see this site which gives you the statistics of all the other ways we can be killed. The point of this is not to frighten people more but to help them keep things in proportion. There are about 15,000 murders in the US per year, five times the number killed on 9/11, (and this happens every year) yet most people do not get paralyzed with fear at the thought of being murdered by criminals. We just go on with our lives.

POST SCRIPT: Combating obfuscation

One of the things that have puzzled me about the Bush Administration’s decision to wiretap people without warrants is “why”? The law allows for emergency situations since the government can wiretap first without a warrant and ask for retroactive approval from the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court within 72 hours. The court has shown a great deal of deference for administration requests for wiretaps. From 1979 through 2004, the FISA court has approved 18,742 warrants and rejected only four! So why did the administration not apply for warrants?

My suspicion is that they wanted to wiretap people that they suspected that even this highly compliant court would find objectionable. Who could such people be? Here are my guesses:

1. Journalists
2. Political dissidents (antiwar activists, peace and justice movements, etc.)
3. Politicians

There have been some attempts at obfuscation about the seriousness of the warrantless wiretapping program by the NSA. For a good list of the baseless arguments that are being made (such as “Bush did not violate the law” and “Every President did it”) and the actual facts of the case that rebut them, see here.

Frightening people to subvert the Constitution

Those who justify giving the government sweeping powers of spying, arrest, detention, torture, and even killing usually resort to three kinds of arguments.

td051224.jpg The first is the extreme hypothetical: concocting some bizarre scenario (“A nuclear bomb is going to explode in New York City in one hour and only a captured terrorist knows where it is and how to defuse it.”) in which the only options seem to be torture or worse. The second is scaremongering, using inflammatory language to exaggerate beyond recognition either the powers of terrorists in general or some specific threat that was supposedly foiled by the authorities (Remember that Jose Padilla was originally supposed to have plans to detonate a ‘dirty bomb.’ That charge has been quietly dropped.) The third is to argue from the negative (“We don’t know, or can’t tell you, how many dastardly plots have been foiled or deterred by these government actions so we should fall on our knees in thanks to the government for carrying out these illegal actions that may have saved our lives.”)

It is curious how these apologists for government abuses display a kind of whimpering, fearful attitude that requires them to view the President as their protector, rather than finding strength within themselves, and in their neighbors, the legal system, and the Constitution.

As examples of the above points, see this exchange between former Republican Congressman Bob Barr and current Republican Congressman Dana Rohrbacher on the CNN program Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on December 16, 2005. (You can see the video here.) I have highlighted some key portions and corrected some obvious misattributions to some of the statements.

Barr forcefully makes the case far better than I can why the government wiretapping story is a scandal. Rohrbacher, on the other hand, weaves all those three strands of arguments into his responses, falling back on the usual hypotheticals, scaremongering, and distortions to essentially argue that the President can do whatever he wants, irrespective what the laws and the Constitution says. Notice how often Rohrbacher brings up the foiled plot to “blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.” Barr gives him his comeuppance on this right at the end.

BLITZER: Americans spying on Americans. In a story first reported today by the “New York Times” and confirmed by our own sources here at CNN, President Bush is said to have authorized the super secret National Security Agency to conduct electronic eavesdropping here at home. The president is saying only that he won’t discuss ongoing intelligence operations. 

Joining us now are two conservative Republicans who have very different views on this issue. From Atlanta, the former Congressman and CNN contributor, Bob Barr, and from Capitol Hill, California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Barr, what’s wrong with what the president has decided to do?

BOB BARR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What’s wrong with it is several-fold. One, it’s bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it’s bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it’s bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order. 

So it’s bad all around, and we need to get to the bottom of this.

BLITZER: Do you agree, Congressman Rohrabacher — I suspect you don’t.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER, (R) CALIFORNIA: No. What’s really bad is the fact that we have an evil opponent who wants to blow us up and that six months after 3,000 of our American citizens were slaughtered right in front of our eyes, that we were confronted with this challenge. I’m really sorry that we have this kind of evil enemy that wants to slaughter us, but I’m very happy that we have a president that, six months after they slaughtered 3,000 of our citizens, he decided to follow up on a lead that was given to our people by breaking up an al Qaeda cell in Pakistan, and followed through on that to make sure that there wasn’t another imminent attack, and thus probably saving many thousands of American lives. We can be proud of President Bush for protecting us. 

BLITZER: Congressman Barr, what do you say? 

BARR: Well, the fact of the matter is that the Constitution is the Constitution, and I took an oath to abide by it. My good friend, my former colleague, Dana Rohrabacher, did and the president did. And I don’t really care very much whether or not it can be justified based on some hypothetical. The fact of the matter is that, if you have any government official who deliberately orders that federal law be violated despite the best of motives, that certainly ought to be of concern to us. 

ROHRABACHER: 9/11 is not a hypothetical. We are at war.

BARR: No, but the hypothetical is the — the other cases you were talking about. 

ROHRABACHER: Bob, now that we are at war, that is not hypothetical. We have an enemy that has decided that they’re going to terrorize the American population by committing mass murder. That is not hypothetical. We are at war, and sometimes at war you — 

BARR: No, what you were saying, Dana, is that there were other case — those are hypothetical — 

ROHRABACHER: No, that’s not — Bob, you haven’t read this. No, that’s not hypothetical at all. One of the cases that was involved in this, was someone who was attempting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and because of these wire taps, we were able to stop that. 

BARR: No, you’re wrong there, Dana. First of all –

ROHRABACHER: And by the way, how do we know who wasn’t deterred from blowing up other targets. The fact is –

BARR: Well, gee, I guess then the president should be able to ignore whatever provision in the Constitution as long as there’s something after the fact that justifies it. 

ROHRABACHER: Bob, during wartime, you give some powers to the presidency you wouldn’t give in peace time.

BARR: Do we have a declaration of war, Dana? 

ROHRABACHER: You don’t have to do that. 

BARR: We don’t? That makes it even much easier for a president.

ROHRABACHER: No, you just have to make sure that the people of the United States understand that we are at war. They understand that al Qaeda slaughtered 3,000 of our citizens — more people than the Japanese slaughtered at Pearl Harbor. 

BLITZER: Congressman — let me interject for a second, Congressman Rohrabacher. 


BLITZER: Everything you say is true, but why not go through the process of either getting new legislation authorizing this or let the court orders be fully implemented? In other words, before the NSA goes and eavesdrops on Americans, get a court order? 

ROHRABACHER: First of all, let us note that all this eavesdropping on Americans were that, there were some people living in the United States, whether they’re American citizens or not — we don’t know how many are American citizens — that were involved with contacts overseas. This is eavesdropping on people who were doing international calls and the list that we got, came from what — came from an al Qaeda cell that we broke up in Pakistan. 

I am very pleased that our president didn’t wait around but, instead, ran right forward immediately to try to follow up on this and find out what they were planning. I believe he probably thwarted several major attacks by doing that.

BLITZER: Congressman Barr, do you want to respond to that? 

BARR: Here again, this is absolutely a bizarre conversation where you have a member of Congress saying that it’s okay for the president of the United States to ignore U.S. law, to ignore the Constitution, simply because we are in an undeclared war. 

The fact of the matter is the law prohibits — specifically prohibits — what apparently was done in this case, and for a member of Congress to say, oh, that doesn’t matter, I’m proud that the president violated the law is absolutely astounding, Wolf.

ROHRABACHER: Not only proud, we can be grateful to this president. You know, I’ll have to tell you, if it was up to Mr. Schumer, Senator Schumer, they probably would have blown up the Brooklyn Bridge. The bottom line is this: in wartime we expect our leaders, yes, to exercise more authority. 

Now, I have led the fight to making sure there were sunset provisions in the Patriot Act, for example. So after the war, we go back to recognizing the limits of government. But we want to put the full authority that we have and our technology to use immediately to try to thwart terrorists who are going to — how about have a nuclear weapon in our cities?

BARR: And the Constitution be damned, Dana?

ROHRABACHER: Well, I’ll tell you something, if a nuclear weapon goes off in Washington, DC, or New York or Los Angeles, it’ll burn the Constitution as it does. So I’m very happy we have a president that’s going to wiretap people’s communication with people overseas to make sure that they’re not plotting to blow up one of our cities. 

BLITZER: We’re out of time, but Bob Barr, I’ll give you the last word. 

BARR: Well, first of all, or last of all, this so-called plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge was bogus because it had to do with a group of idiots who were planning to dismantle it with blow torches.

Rohrbacher has to know full well that there was no plot to “blow up” the Brooklyn Bridge but keeps saying it because of the scary image it produces in people minds, especially when coupled with repeated mentions of nuclear weapons. The plot that was supposedly uncovered was a plan to use blow torches to bring it down, a harebrained scheme is there ever was one. Note that in the original news story on this on June 15, 2004, this was relegated to a passing mention near the end of the article, which indicates how insignificant this threat was viewed then. It is only later that people like Rohrbacher, in their efforts to support unbridled presidential power, have elevated this to a major plan to “blow up” the bridge.

People like Rohrbacher know that if you repeat a falsehood long enough, it becomes part of the public consciousness. This is why you need journalists who know the facts and can (and more importantly will) challenge such falsehoods as soon as they are uttered. Unfortunately not many do. It tends to be the bloggers who are keeping track of the details.

As Atrios points out:

“They keep reminding us that Bush’s illegal wiretap plan uncovered a dastardly plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge. Said plot involved bringing down the Brooklyn Bridge with blow torches. It’s rather like busting me for my evil plot to blackmail the world’s governments for ONE MILLION DOLLARS by threatening to send the moon crashing into the Earth.

But, either way, that isn’t the issue. The president broke the law. Repeatedly.”

2006: The Year to Say “Enough is Enough!”

The past decade has seen the systematic whittling away of civil liberties, the bypassing of judicial due process, and even the condoning of torture, all in the name of fighting the war on terrorism. It is time to fight back, to say that these actions are setting a dangerous precedent, by giving the government almost unlimited power over the lives of ordinary people. These creeping encroachments on rights long taken for granted lay the groundwork for an authoritarian system of government.

We need to start exposing these actions, so that people become increasingly aware of how far down this dangerous road we have gone. As a start, we can begin by examining a lesser known story (at least in the US) of how the Tony Blair government in England and the US government have been complicit in the torture that has been going on in Uzbekistan.

Craig Murray was once the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan. His complaints about the Blair government’s complicity with the Uzbek government in torture got too much for the British government, which set about unsuccessfully trying to smear him, but they did manage to remove him from office.

He has now written a book that the British government has tried to suppress because it contains incriminating evidence about how the CIA passed on to England information received from torturing prisoners in Uzbekistan.

In a preemptive response to this attempt at suppression, Murray has released those documents to bloggers so that the news will be out and impossible to suppress. You can read the story and the documents, which also reports on the US government’s strong support for the brutal and repressive Karimov government in Uzbekistan, at the Blairwatch website. Thanks to the internet, the documents have now been mirrored on so many sites around the world that the British government will be unable to suppress them though they will undoubtedly try to punish Murray severely to deter future whistleblowers.

As the Blairwatch website says: “Craig Murray stood up for what many of us believe, and it cost him his Job, his health, and his professional reputation. The least we can do his stand by him as he defies the UK government’s attempts at censorship, and possible prosecution.”

The Memory Hole website (which performs an invaluable service on keeping track of documents and photos that become politically embarrassing and the government would like us to forget) has the documentation about the US government’s cozying up to the Karimov government, as well as that government’s acts of torture and repression.

Why are the UK and US governments so cozy with Uzbekistan and Karimov, despite its appalling reputation? Here’s a clue: Uzbekistan currently possesses about 600 million barrels of proven oil reserves, but this is soon expected to increase.” It also “has estimated natural gas reserves of 66.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf).” While not making the top 10 rankings in either oil or gas reserves, these are sizeable.

(Note: There are also calls in England for a parliamentary inquiry into another allegation of torture by British secret agents, in Greece this time. England seems to be also rapidly using ‘anti-terror’ legislation to justify giving its security forces extraordinary powers over its citizens.)

Greg Saunders has more on this that is well worth reading.

POST SCRIPT: Talk on the Collapse of Intelligent Design

Case’s Department of Biology is pleased to present:

The Collapse of “Intelligent-Design”: Will the next MONKEY TRIAL be in OHIO?

A talk by Ken Miller, Brown University

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Strosacker Auditorium
Case Campus
7 pm


Kenneth R. Miller PhD was the star witness in the recent Dover “Panda Trial” in Pennsylvania where Judge John E Jones found “intelligent-design” to be a religious view, not science. He is the author of a bestselling high school biology textbook that was subject to the Cobb County, GA disclaimer sticker that warned students that evolution was “a theory, not a fact.” The stickers were removed by court order in 2005. Miller is also author of the bestseller, Finding Darwin’s God.

Questions from the audience will be entertained and the event will be webcast.

Free and open to the public

Contact: Patricia Princehouse 216-368-8585,

My new year’s resolutions: I want to be on ALL the naughty lists

A long time ago, President Nixon, descending into paranoia, maintained an “enemies list” that was leaked to the press. But Nixon had by then become so unpopular that being on Nixon’s enemies list was actually seen as a badge of honor. Humorist Art Buchwald expressed his outrage at not making the list, despite all the articles he had written making fun of Nixon. Buchwald said that as a result of this omission his wife was being snubbed by society and he could not get the best tables in restaurants, which were being reserved only for people on the list. “What kind of government is this” he fumed “that does not even know who its real enemies are?”
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The Danger of Apathy

In a series of recent posts (most recently The Loyal Citizen’s Contract with the American Government, I have been sounding the alarm about the dangerous encroachment on civil liberties and traditional concepts of the rule of law by the current administration. Many people do not seem to be alarmed so why am I? Once again, we have to look at history and learn from it to see where this road might lead.

In a recent article, Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, shows how far the current administration has gone in emulating the kinds of regimes that were once routinely condemned for their human rights violations. He bases his article on three books: Our Endangered Values (Simon & Schuster, 2005) by former President Jimmy Carter; Nikolaus Wachsmann’s Hitler’s Prisons (Yale University Press 2004); and Robert Higgs in Resurgence of the Warfare State (Independent Institute 2005).
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The Loyal Citizen’s Contract with the American Government

It seems like not a day passes without a new allegation of the Bush administration trampling on civil liberties, violating the law, and disregarding the constitution. I had been collecting links to write about my concerns about all this but the list kept expanding too rapidly for me to keep up, with fresh allegations appearing while I was still pondering what to say about the earlier ones.

One of the things that concerns me is the willingness of so many people to give up cherished and bitterly won freedoms and constitutional protections in return from some vague assertion from the government that these measures were taken to ‘protect them.’ It seemed like they take the position that there is nothing that the government can do in the name of security that they would oppose. David Brooks’ op-ed column in the New York Times on December 22, 2005 plumbs new depths in finding rationales for the president to do almost anything in the name of national security, and to pooh-pooh any quaint notions of judicial oversight. (Sorry, this article is not available online.) The Wall Street Journal reports that some observers say this willingness to give up all pretence to civil liberties has its roots in the decision to attack Iraq.
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