Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 15, 2005 · Page 15
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Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico · Page 15

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Page 15
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B Y L ISA L ANGE People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Richard Pryor was known for his biting humor that was both uproariously funny and poignantly insightful, for his unfettered use of language and for his Hollywood comedies. But we at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were privileged to know another side to Mr. Pryor. For the last decade, he generously supported our campaigns, wrote letters and opinion pieces and appeared in advertisements. He made a point of being available when we needed help in drawing attention to abused animals. In 1999, we had the pleasure of honoring him with a Humanitarian Award at a gala celebration in Hollywood. What we appreciated and loved about this generous man was his keen sense of justice. It was not enough for him to use his sharp humor to fight racial stereotypes. He wanted to end exploitation of all species. He hated oppression, whether the victims had two legs or four. Just last month he wrote of his disappointment in a black- owned circus and drew a clear comparison between the animals and his own ancestors: “They were brought out of Africa and into chains in America. Or they were born into slavery here. Yes, I am talking about the first African-Americans to reach these shores, but I am also describing the animals now enslaved in circuses. The species and continents are different, but the stories are tragically similar.” “The animals in circuses are held against their will by chains and domination,” he continued. “They are forced to perform a series of acts by coercion and violence because they would never normally do these things on their own. They can never choose their own partners, their own homes, their own food or have control over any aspect of their lives. I don’t care how this is dressed up by promoters with music and lights, it is still slavery.” Mr. Pryor helped PETA bring about groundbreaking improvements in the way animals are raised and slaughtered for Burger King, Wendy’s, Safeway and other fast-food and grocery outlets. He sent a letter to a South African court asking the magistrate to impose a maximum sentence on two men convicted of beating 30 young elephants captured from the wild. When he saw video footage showing chickens scalded alive when they were slaughtered for KFC restaurants, he appeared in an ad urging people to join him “in boycotting KFC restaurants until the company agrees to meet PETA’s simple demands to eliminate the very worst abuses.” Perhaps most moving was his fervent support of our work to end pointless animal experiments by health charities. His own struggle with multiple sclerosis had a profound effect on his attitude toward medical experimentation. He didn’t want to be the excuse for researchers to harm animals and was critical of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for their animal studies. “Make sure the check you write to a charity doesn’t pay for cruel experiments on animals,” he warned the public. “Your donation should help end suffering — not cause it.” In 1999, his Christmas card to friends and family depicted a monkey, mice and other animals running to freedom from a laboratory cage. Those who knew him personally will miss the man. Those who knew his work will miss the performer. Those of us who saw how much cared about everyone, regardless of species, will miss his compassion. Lisa Lange is vice president of communications for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front Street, Norfolk, Va. 23510; B Y A LBERTO R. G ONZALES United States attorney general WASHINGTON — On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists inspired by hatred murdered nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. In response, Congress overwhelmingly passed the USA Patriot Act. Now, before it adjourns for the year, Congress must act again to reauthorize this critical piece of legislation. Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations are at work: Their stated goal is to kill Americans, cripple our economy and demoralize our people. The bill to be considered this week is a good one. (The House voted to extend the act Wednesday.) It equips law enforcement with the tools needed to fight terrorists, and it also includes new civil liberties protections. Members of Congress should put aside the rhetoric and focus on the facts surrounding this vital legislation. The Patriot Act has been successful in helping prevent acts of terrorism in many ways. First, it updated antiterrorism and criminal laws to reflect evolving technologies. Second, it increased penalties for those who commit terrorist crimes. Third, it gave terrorism investigators the same tools used by those who pursue drug dealers and the Mafia. Most important, the act helped break down the wall preventing regular exchange of information between the law enforcement and intelligence communities. Four years later, after a lengthy and extensive public debate, Congress has produced a comprehensive reauthorization bill to permanently reauthorize 14 of the act’s 16 expiring provisions. During this important debate, Republicans and Democrats have discovered that concerns raised about the act’s impact on civil liberties, while sincere, were unfounded. There have been no verified civil liberties abuses in the four years of the act’s existence. Furthermore, the new bill adds 30 safeguards to protect privacy and civil liberties. Specifically, it includes measures providing that those who receive “national security letters” may consult an attorney and challenge the request in court; requires high-level Justice Department sign-off before investigators may ask a court to order production of certain sensitive records, such as those from a library; and requires that the FBI describe the target of a “roving wiretap” with sufficient specificity to ensure that only a single individual is targeted. In addition, this bill further strengthens homeland security by creating a new national security division at the Justice Department, providing additional protections against the threat of attacks on mass transportation systems and at our seaports, and granting us additional tools to protect Americans from terrorism. Congress must act now or risk bringing terrorism prevention to a halt. For example, it is widely accepted — and documented by independent bodies such as the Sept. 11 and WMD commissions — that a lack of information-sharing and coordination in our government before the attacks of Sept. 11 compromised our ability to connect the dots about what our enemies were doing. The Patriot Act helped dismantle this barrier. And if we allow certain provisions to “sunset” on Jan. 1, we risk shutting down essential intelligence-sharing that occurs in the National Counterterrorism Center and other facilities where law enforcement officials sit side-by-side with intelligence professionals. Those who voice concern that Congress is rushing to reauthorize the expiring provisions fail to recognize the oversight it has conducted. In 2005, Congress held 23 hearings focused on reauthorization and heard from more than 60 witnesses. The Justice Department was pleased to provide witnesses at 18 of those hearings, with more than 30 appearances by our experts. I testified three times, explaining the importance of the act, responding to concerns and directly addressing the act’s critics. My testimony was informed not only by the successes of the act but also by my personal meetings with representatives from groups such as the ACLU and the American Library Association. During the reauthorization discussion, I asked that certain provisions be clarified to ensure the protection of civil liberties, and Congress responded. For example, Section 215 of the act permits the government to obtain records on an order issued by a federal judge. I agreed that the statute should allow a recipient of such an order to consult a lawyer and challenge it in court. Further, I agreed that Congress should make explicit the standard under which such orders are issued: relevance to an authorized national security investigation. In 2001 one prominent Democratic senator agreed that the “FBI has made a clear case that a relevance standard is appropriate for counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations, as well as for criminal investigations.” The president has said that our No. 1 priority is preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack. Reauthorizing the Patriot Act will give those in law enforcement the tools they need to keep us safe. Op-Ed Page e-MAIL US The Journal op-ed page e-mail address is ◆ A LBUQUERQUE J OURNAL T HURSDAY ,D ECEMBER 15, 2005 A 15 First Amendment V ital to T oday’ s Democracy Editor’s note: There’s an underlying reason why you can read the Albuquerque Journal this morning. It’s called the Bill of Rights. Today, Dec. 15, is Bill of Rights Day. And what better way to honor the day and the document than with this year’s winner from the Foundation of Open Government’s Gerald Crawford First Amendment Essay Contest. N ATALIE K LEIN La Cueva High School How does change happen in a democracy? Politicians cannot push people around to fit their plans. Any brief study of prohibition in the 1920s will show that laws passed down from above which are plainly pitted against the will of the majority will never be effective. The real power of a democracy comes not from the authoritarian writing of laws or forced administration of justice; Thomas Paine’s mission was to curtail the entity of government, which he saw as a “neces- sary evil.” If our lawmakers and judges aren’t really in control of law and social change, who is? Democracy, of course, is government by the people and for the people. Only the people themselves can bring about real, lasting social change; trouble brews when elected officials attempt to pass down change without the people’s consent. This is precisely where the First Amendment becomes absolutely essential to American ideals. The freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, petition, and the press are the essential liberties guaranteed in the clause, but these rights are not valuable only because they are privileges we casually praise; these are rights, the very keys to democracy. Without the freedom to circulate ideas in word and writing, the people have lost their power to create their own government. If you want to imagine an America without the First Amendment, imagine an America where Martin Luther King Jr. is not able to make his “I have a dream” speech. No Southern Christian Leadership Conference. No Black Panthers. I would live in an America where racial prejudice would still be legislated, equality only a pipe dream. Imagine an America where Betty Friedan is arrested for writing about equality of females. No ERA. No NOW. I would live in an America where I would be an inferior citizen, unable to hold the same jobs as men, unable to pursue the dreams I have. The right to assemble peaceably gives the people a place where the simmering catalysts of free speech and press can begin to boil the waters of public life and prevent stagnant democracy. Without this liberty, there would be no protesters of Vietnam, no League of Conservation Voters, no churches. I would be essentially robbed of the opportunity to meet with others of the same ideologies; power lies in numbers, and an America without protection for those groups would severely damage the chances of our ideas reaching our representatives. Protection of free exercise of religion with a guarantee that religion is never state-sponsored allows Americans to make change based on fervid faith. It keeps America from discriminating based on religion as most colonial powers did, and it keeps citizens free to believe as they wish and allow these beliefs to influence their lives. In an America sans freedom of religion, churches never could have played such an integral role in the Civil Rights movement, giving the community a way to connect, to empower themselves based on the strong ties of religion. Without these protections, I couldn’t go to my church twice a week without fearing retribution or even transgressing the law. The right to petition the government allows the people to check the government’s actions. Without actions of petition, there would never have been a Declaration of Independence or open rebellion against tyranny. All things tend toward entropy and disorder, including established govern- ments; if left unchecked by the people, even the most upstanding democracy will tend toward oppression and ruin. History clearly shows me how incredibly important these rights are to my life today in America. Without the First Amendment, I would not be able to worship freely, be treated equally under the law as a woman, write letters to the editor of the newspaper, or even speak a word of dissent to friends. America would not be able to function as a true, open democracy; the stagnation which is corruption enters democracy when the people have lost the ability to assemble, speak, write, petition — in short, to influence — the government they live under. Only when social movements rise from the pews, press or people do they come to mean effective, representative laws based on the populace of America. Only when freedom rings in all areas of a citizen’s private life can democracy in America remain pure. Patriot Act Reauthorization Helps Keep Americans Safe Pryor Fought Animal Abuse PRYOR: Likened circuses to slavery 5 5 60 C omfo rt F i t 24 Watch enlarged to show detail. TissotT-Touch,thetouch-screenwatch.$595 Seasonal brilliance. 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