Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is a former senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly. She also serves on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A lawyer, social critic, and former Guggenheim Fellow, she writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture. Her latest book is Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today. Other books she has written include Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety; True Love Waits: Essays and Criticism; It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture; I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions; and A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality. Kaminer's articles and reviews have appeared in many other publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Newsweek, and her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio.

Before embarking on her writing career, Kaminer practiced law as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and the New York City Mayor's Office.

Wendy Kaminer retains copyrights to all her articles.

Recent Articles

Criminally Unjust

I t's no coincidence that declining support for capital punishment has been accompanied by increased mistrust of law enforcement and discomfort with the war on drugs. A relative lull in violent crime during the 1990s contributed to a reconsideration of harsh police practices and prosecutorial tactics. But many people are willing to tolerate bad policing so long as it's directed at bad guys. Few complain when guilty suspects are deprived of their rights and coerced confessions prove true. It's the abuse of innocent people or those guilty only of minor, nonviolent offenses that has prompted some tentative public review of the current regime. It's not just the use of DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongly convicted that has aroused concern about criminal justice. The bias and bloodthirst in law enforcement have simply become unseemly. During the past several years, racial profiling became impossible to ignore; even conservatives like Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator Joseph Lieberman...

Speech Isn't Cheap

D espite the materialism that defines American culture and our reverence for financial success, a suspicion that money really is the root of all evil retains its appeal, especially among progressives. The association of wealth with corruption is particularly clear in debates about campaign finance reform. Reformers are self-proclaimed proponents of "clean elections"; their opponents are presumed to favor dirty politics. Even centrist politicians eager to occupy the moral high ground (along with the occasional conservative like John McCain) fulminate against "big money" and "special interests." Of course, the view that political contributions exert undue influence on policy is not exactly unfounded. Bribery, or what one Tammany Hall figure called "illegal graft" (as opposed to "honest graft"), is an especially sturdy political tradition. Voters, as well as politicians, are subject to being bought (however...

Reproductive Emergency

L ife is one long emergency for most advocacy groups--whose members are apt to be united by the belief that they're besieged. To an outsider who lacks their political passions, however, they seem less besieged than overwrought. So casual supporters of abortion rights may be unimpressed when the National Organization for Women (NOW) declares an official state of emergency in the battle over reproductive choice. The "Emergency Action for Women's Lives," targeting the U.S. Senate, is being launched with an April 22 rally in Washington, D.C. So far, this campaign doesn't seem to have generated much excitement or publicity. But the more you know about threats to choice, the more you share NOW's sense of urgency. A majority of Americans support abortion rights, but rather queasily, and the anti-abortion and pro-choice movements have been stalemated for several years. Pro-choicers narrowly defeated efforts to criminalize particular abortion procedures (in the guise of bans on mythical "...

Abortion and Autonomy

T wo important abortion cases will be decided by the Supreme Court this term. In Hill v. Colorado , the Court will rule on the constitutionality of statutory buffer or bubble zones--no-speech zones around abortion clinics and individuals entering clinics, in which even peaceful anti-abortion protests are prohibited. In Stenberg v. Carhart , it will determine the constitutionality of a Nebraska bill prohibiting "partial birth" abortions. A great deal is at stake in these cases. They will determine the availability of abortion and the legality of common abortion protests, at a time when public support for reproductive choice appears relatively weak. (Support for obnoxious, controversial speech is never strong.) The abortion rights movement can withstand a loss in the buffer zone case, and probably deserves one. The Colorado law establishes a 100-foot buffer zone around the entrance to any health care facility; within...

Up from Reparations

S elf-invention has always been an American ideal. We're supposed to enjoy opportunities to make our own fortunes and control our own fates, in this world and the next. The Calvinism of seventeenthcentury colonials proved less quintessentially American than did the notion that you can choose to be born again in Christ. This is not a culture inclined to embrace ideas of predestination, spiritual or financial. In the mythic, utterly egalitarian America--the democratic America Tocqueville described--we create our own futures, unburdened by our familial pasts. That is the American dream and a primary ideological obstacle to winning reparations for slavery. Demands for reparations challenge the vision of an American meritocracy. African Americans have not enjoyed equal opportunities for self-invention, advocates of reparations insist: Tenacious economic discrimination, widespread denials of voting rights,...

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