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

I Spy

A merican culture thrives on contradictions. It exalts individualism yet is rife with the conformity so essential to consumerism. It preaches self-reliance and personal accountability (especially for poor people) while enriching pop psychologists who provide excuses for sins of the middle class. It nurtures feminism and encourages face-lifts. So we shouldn't be entirely surprised by the paradoxical convergence of reality TV shows with a growing concern about privacy, although the intensity of these opposing trends is particularly dramatic. Democratic and Republican pollsters attest to a "groundswell" of concern about privacy, which politicians rush to address. George W. Bush declares himself a "privacy rights person." Al Gore speechifies about privacy on the Internet. Congress considers hundreds of privacy protection bills. Still, people cede their privacy voluntarily every day for the promise of security. They willingly turn over photo IDs to airline clerks, in the vain hope of...

Fear Itself

T errorists enjoyed a symbolic victory when Congress shut down on October 18 to check the premises for anthrax--but both the House and Senate have seemed increasingly irrelevant anyway since the September 11 kamikaze attacks. The Bush administration, not Congress, is responsible for new counterterrorism legislation that includes breathtaking expansions of federal-law-enforcement power, like the authority to conduct secret searches of your home or office in an ordinary criminal investigation. The USA Act (formally, the Uniting and Strengthening America Act of 2001) passed the Senate 96 to 1 with little debate after Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold embarrassed and infuriated some of his liberal colleagues by attempting to introduce privacy protections to the bill. The House adopted a very similar measure--dubbed the Patriot (for Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act--after a coup by the administration and House Republican leaders, who managed a...

The War on High Schools

High school gave me my first lessons in bureaucracy: Rules were meant to be rigidly applied, not questioned; power was meant to be abused by petty functionaries. I don't mean to malign the entire faculty of my school. It included some very good teachers who encouraged curiosity and provocation and never lost their sense of humor. Because of them, high school also offered opportunities for self-expression and contained rebellion. I regularly got into trouble for insubordination, but I was never suspended, much less expelled. It was the mid-1960s, a time of protest, not zero tolerance, and there was no clear rule that prohibited challenging or even insulting teachers and administrators. So the authorities simply reported me to my parents. My beleaguered mother came to expect their phone calls and made frequent visits to school, trying to placate whomever I'd offended. "You have such a nice mother," one of my teachers once said to me with wonder. I doubt that my mother or any of my...

When Congress Plays Doctor

When HMOs deny life-saving care to their patients, members of Congress fulminate. Recently, 275 of them, including 29 Republicans, voted for a patients' bill of rights. "Deny American citizens effective, life-saving treatments or palliatives for pain?" I imagine them saying indignantly to the HMOs. "That's our job." In the past few months, Congress and the Justice Department have been busy malpracticing medicine, callously violating patients' rights. The House passed a bill effectively criminalizing physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, despite its endorsement in two statewide referenda. The Senate passed an anti-abortion law that prohibits doctors from employing particular surgical techniques, even if they're necessary to preserve the woman's health. The Justice Department proceeded with the prosecution of two men, one stricken with cancer and the other with AIDS, who used marijuana to alleviate nausea and pain. The department relied on congressional declarations of the medical...

Parochial Schools and the Court

Although it is frequently attacked as an elitist institution with no regard for the public will, the Supreme Court is hardly immune to cultural and political trends. Justices are, after all, appointed by presidents with particular ideological agendas, shaped partly by polls. Once they ascend to the bench, a few appointees may surprise and disappoint their political patrons, but many do not. So, at least indirectly, the political preferences of voters wield considerable influence on the Court. It was no coincidence that the Supreme Court toyed with invalidating capital punishment in the early 1970s, when public support for it was relatively low; it's not surprising that as support for the death penalty has increased (along with the conservative hold on government), the Court has committed itself to expediting executions. It's worth noting that Roe v. Wade , the 1973 decision invalidating abortion prohibitions, which anti-abortion activists consider the epitome of judicial arrogance,...

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