More evidence of a police state

A new St. Paul, Minn., police policy for investigating protest groups draws praise from police experts for its sensitivity to dissent, but criticism from those who worry that police will spy on activists leading up to the Republican National Convention.

“It looks like they are in the business of infiltrating groups,” said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, after reviewing a copy of the policy requested by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

Failing to learn from history

Young Americans, whose liberty and security will depend in part on how future presidents conduct foreign policy, have good reason to study how past presidents did it.

A recent scientific survey, however, determined that most college seniors didn’t know the difference between President George Washington’s understanding of the imperatives of American foreign policy and President Woodrow Wilson’s — remarkable, given that Washington’s and Wilson’s visions represent profoundly different strains in the making of American policy.

More and more chances for bad meat

It’s not just the meat of “downer” cattle we should be worried about infiltrating our food supply. There’s little standing in the way of meat from sick pigs, sheep, goats and other animals from winding up on our plates.

Even though 143 million pounds of possibly tainted beef from ailing animals had to be recalled recently after a videotape showed workers allowing cattle too ill or weak to stand being slaughtered, at least there exist federal regulations intended to protect us from eating meat that could make us sick.

Yellow journalism at The New York Times

One of the first rules of decent, principles-abiding journalism is that you don’t print rumors. That is nevertheless what The New York Times just did in a smear job on John McCain, who is very nearly certain to be the Republican nominee for president.

The city of Berkeley screws up again

The brouhaha sparked by the Berkeley (Calif.) City Council these past couple of weeks demonstrates again that you can be within shouting distance of one of the world’s great educational institutions and still be terminally stupid.

The council, as almost everybody not in a deep trance must know, voted to send a letter telling the U.S. Marine Corps to, in effect, get the hell out of town.

Predictably, that got the right-wing bloggers knee jerking right back, sending them into paroxysms of righteous indignation.

The wizard behind the spy curtain

Sometimes in these United States, the curtain seems to be pulled back to reveal the wizard and all his phony manipulations. Such a thing has occurred with the bill known as the Protect America Act.

Let me say at once that I apologize to no one for taking the view that America should be protected. Of course, how it is protected is always a matter of concern given the current crew running the government.

Fidel Castro stepping down as Cuba’s leader

Ailing revolutionary icon Fidel Castro permanently gave up the Cuban presidency on Tuesday, ending five decades of ironclad rule of the island marked by his brash defiance of the United States.

In a message published by the online version of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, the 81-year-old Castro said he would not seek the presidency again when it is decided later this week.

Off we go into the wild, outdated yonder

Air Force officials are warning that unless their budget is increased dramatically, and soon, the military’s high-flying branch won’t dominate the skies as it has for decades.

After more than six years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Air Force’s aging jet fighters, bombers, cargo aircraft and gunships are at the breaking point, they say, and expensive, ultramodern replacements are needed fast.

Amtrak beefs up security

Amtrak will start randomly screening passengers’ carry-on bags this week in a new security push that includes officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains.

The initiative, to be announced by the railroad on Tuesday, is a significant shift for Amtrak. Unlike the airlines, it has had relatively little visible increase in security since the 2001 terrorist attacks, a distinction that has enabled it to attract passengers eager to avoid airport hassles.

Amtrak officials insist their new procedures won’t hold up the flow of passengers.

The illusion of safety

The first telephone call came around 4:30 Thursday afternoon as I was about to turn on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” The second came a few minutes later. Within 30 minutes, I had received eight calls about Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where a lone gunman had killed five students.