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A primer on the ACLU.

"Our positions are mainstream positions," says Norman Dorsen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, defending his organization in the wake of George Bush making an issue out of Michael Dukakis' boast of card-carrying membership. The ACLU does have a long history of efforts to protect actual constitutional rights, but a sampling of its recent positions can allow readers to decide for themselves where the mainstream lies.

The best source for the ACLU's positions and world view is its own 576-page listing, last published in 1986, of "Policy Guides," which are approved by the national board; local branches often take more radical positions. Here is a primer on the ACLU as a mainstream organization:

Without mentioning the word "deterrent," the ACLU voted to legalize everything from heroin to marijuana. "Gambling, attempted suicide, sexual relations or the introduction of substances into one's own body" should not be crimes. (Policy 210, Victimless Crimes.) Drug use is akin to catching a cold: "There is today widespread recognition of the fact that narcotics addiction is at bottom an illness to be treated and not a crime to be punished." (Policy 214, State Control of Drugs and Alcohol.)

"A fine should always be the preferred form of the penalty," the ACLU says. For those who do go to jail, "the probation should be authorized by the legislature in every case, exceptions to the principle are not favored, and any exceptions, if made, should be limited to the most serious offenses, such as murder or treason." The group doesn't mention furloughs. (Policy 242, Criminal Sentences.)

Schools and Beepers

School discipline must be strictly limited. Despite nearly universal problems in urban high schools, "the school has no jurisdiction over its students' non-school activities." This explains ACLU opposition to the more than 50 school districts nationwide that have banned electronic beepers from the classroom. These are now a key tool of the school drug trade. A spokesman for the group's privacy and technology project says, "The school has the burden of proof to show that the beepers are disruptive and not being banned because they are linked with illegal drugs." The ACLU is consistent-it also tried, unsuccessfully, to protect students from searches of their lockers. (Policy 76, Secondary School Students' Civil Liberties.)

Workfare is unconstitutional. Citing "basic concerns of fairness, dignity and privacy," the ACLU "opposes work requirements at government-assigned tasks as a condition of eligibility for welfare benefits or for any transfer payments designed to compensate for insufficient income." Presumably, the group will sue against the welfare-reform program Congress just passed. (Policy 318, Poverty and Civil Liberties.)

The Constitution mandates increased welfare spending. Welfare "classifications which exclude some people from the basic necessities of life, while granting such necessities to others, are constitutionally 'suspect.'" This is the legal argument, so far rejected by the Supreme Court, that the group is using with some success in state courts. It translates immediately into taxpayer or third-party obligations and invalidates reforms encouraging an end to welfare dependency. (Policy 318, Poverty and Civil Liberties.)

Equal pay for equal work is not enough. "The current ACLU policy on sex and race discrimination in employment encompasses the concept of comparable worth as the essential next step in achieving full equality for women and minorities." (Policy 315, Employment and Education.)

No more rescue attempts of American hostages or secret operations against terrorists. "Abolish all covert operations." (Policy 117, Controlling the Intelligence Agencies.)

There can be no military draft, even in wartime. Although the Supreme Court has ruled against the ACLU, the organization's position remains that "military conscription, under any circumstances, is a violation of civil liberties and constitutional guarantees . . . at least in the absence of an extreme national emergency as defined by ACLU." (Policy 120, Conscription.)

U.S. officials owe U.S. constitutional protections to foreigners overseas. The ACLU says the "Constitution requires the same standard of conduct for government personnel (whether civilian or military) overseas as it requires at home." Presumably, if he's ever arrested, Gen. Manuel Noriega must get Miranda rights read to him or be set free; by the same reasoning, poppy farmers in South America have a Fifth Amendment taking claim if the United States sprays their land. (Policy 401, ACLU Role in International Civil Liberties Matters.)

"The ACLU supports the decriminalization of prostitution and opposes state regulation of . . . prostitutes of both sexes." Prostitution is protected by "the right of individual privacy," and solicitation comes under the First Amendment. (Policy 211, Prostitution.)

Homosexuals can be foster parents. In 1986, the ACLU radicalized its position on nondiscrimination against homosexuals to include all rights that would "qualify gay and Lesbian couples for benefits and rights enjoyed by married persons, including the right to become foster parents." In lawsuits, the ACLU has also tried to establish the right for homosexuals to become Big Brothers and to marry. (Policy 264, Homosexuality.)

Contrary to hundreds of years of Anglo-American practice, "the ACLU opposes tax benefits for religious bodies." The group's reasoning is tha "the free exercise clause is put at risk when the establishment clause is breached." The group has litigated against the Catholic Church in particular. One complaint against the Catholics is that they oppose abortion and thus the church is a political entity; of course, churches are in the business of expressing themselves on matters of ethics. (Policy 92, Religious Bodies' Tax Exemption.)

"The ACLU opposes any restraint on the right to create, publish or distribute materials . ... on the basis of obscenity, pornography, or indecency." The procurers of children who appear in kiddie porn can be punished for crimes under the rubric of child abuse-if the police can catch them-but sellers and distributors are absolutely protected regardless of the content-that is, regardless of what the little boys and/or little girls are doing or having done to them on screen. (Policy 4, Censorship of Obscenity, Pornography and Indecency.)

Rating movies is itself an unconstitutional prior restraint. The ACLU opposes the industry rating system for parental guidance that categorizes movies from X- to G-rated. "Rating systems create the potential for constraining the creative process" and "inevitably have serious chilling effects on freedom of expression," the ACLU says. For example, "hotels, airlines, pay television . . . frequently refuse to accept X-rated films." Does the ACLU want Debbie Does Dallas shown on transcontinental flights? (Policy 18, Rating Systems Sponsored by the Communications Industries.)

The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill was required by law. Beginning in the early 1960s, the ACLU led the fight to empty the nation's mental institutions. The leading principle was that "mental illness cannot by itself be a justifiable reason for depriving a person of liberty against his or her objection." There could be commitment in limited circumstances, for example where there is "an observable violent criminal act against self or others in a time period immediately preceding or during the commitment process." In any case, "the individual has a right to counsel at every step of the proceeding" and "an involuntarily committed individual must be allowed to refuse any treatment for mental illness." See, for example, Joyce Brown, New York City. (Policy 244, Civil Commitment.)

It's perfectly fine for the ACLU to argue these positions. Indeed, it's probably healthy for society to have a fringe group agitating new "rights." But others are entitled to criticize these positions as having little to do with the Constitution or, for that matter, with common sense. After all, a president who belongs to the ACLU has many chances to implement its policies, from passing new laws to repealing old ones to nominating federal judges and Supreme Court justices.

Reprinted by special permission from the Wall Street Journal.

All work and no play makes kitty a dull pet

"Play can be considered the work of kittens," says Dr. Gary Guyot, a psychology professor at Regis College who has studied cat play. Through interactions with siblings and mothers during play, kittens learn how to live in the world. "It is during play that kittens learn to control how hard they can bite and to retract their claws when interacting with others," Guyot says. "Kittens raised in isolation tend to be aggressive and hyperactive. They often mature into cats with behavior problems. Male kittens raised in isolation are unable to mate and have poor grooming habits as adults."

An only kitten is hard to wean, and it cries often. It cannot cope with separation from its mother or its surrogate mother-its owner. "This is the type of cat that displays anxiety during environmental changes or separation from its owner," Guyot notes.

Moreover, kittens raised with littermates but separated from their mothers at about two weeks of age are reported to be more suspicious and cautious than those kittens weaned at the usual time of six to eight weeks.

Feline social graces are taught by interactions not only with mother and siblings, but also with people. Handling kittens daily when they are three to seven weeks of age leads them to become friendly and loving to people.

Encourage your kitten to engage in such behaviors as stalking, chasing, and pouncing, which teach kittens basic survival skills. When you drag a string or toss a ball for your kitten to chase, you are actually helping the kitten improve its motor skills by learning to adapt its speed to that of the moving object. In this way, it can monitor and change its pace as needed during a chase. These are the behaviors needed by cats to catch food in the wild.

Choose games and toys that are fun, safe, and stimulating to you and your cat or kitten. Dr. Guyot suggests taking your cue from the cat: "Observe what the cat likes to do and how much he wants to play. Cats tend to like things that are smaller than they are; a small rubber ball provides more enjoyment than a large beach ball." Cats are adapted to see movement. The horizontal movement of a string dragged in front of the cat or a rolling ball is a powerful stimulus.

Anything can become a toy. My cat, C.K., loves a paper sack. He appears to be playing hide-and-seek with himself. One of my clients entices her cat out from under the bed with a string when I come to give vaccinations. (I operate a house-call veterinary service for cats.) The lure of the string is greater than the cat's fear of me.

Midnight, a cat belonging to my friend Judy, likes to find small objects and hide them in Judy's shoes. Judy says: "He casually drops the crumpled paper or spool in one of my shoes. Then, he sidles by and acts surprised to find the object in the shoe. He retrieves the object and presents it to me. I always make a big deal over it by saying something like, 'Wow, where did you get this, Midnight?' He looks very pleased with himself."

Lavern, another client, has taught her cat, Bubba, to ring a small bell at the bottom of the back door frame when he wants to go outside. Lavern admits that she rang the bell, opened the door, and crawled out the first few times so that Bubba would get the idea. When Bubba accidentally hit the bell the first time, Lavern opened the door and pushed him out. Now, when Bubba scratches at the door to go out, Lavern ignores him; when he rings the bell she opens the door. Lavern claims that she is playing with her cat; Lavern's husband says that Bubba has trained Lavern to open the door.

Get down on your cat's level when instigating a new game; it's hard for a cat to relate to a towering giant. Provide a variety of toys and games and rotate your pet's toys once or twice a week. If your cat enjoys catnip, rub it on old toys to give them new appeal. Offer string or yarn as playthings only when you are able to supervise. If swallowed, these items can cause intestinal problems. Beware of toys that contain squeakers, buttons, or other small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed.

Michel de Montaigne, the great 16th-century essayist, asked, "When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?" Playing with your cat may be therapy for both of you.

Questions for the Vet

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

Re: "Beating the PetBoarding Blues" [July/Aug. '88].

I knew someone whose dog starved itself to death while she was away on a trip to a foreign land.

Later, some near neighbors of mine had a dog that refused to eat when the elder Iy father was away at the hos pital. I told the daughter, "Next time you talk to your dad on the phone, call Trixie and let her hear his voice." She did, and it worked. After a few words to her, he said, "Go and eat your dinner now, Trixie," and she did. This might help, at least in cases in which the absent owner has a pet-sitter and a grieving dog.


Hastings, Nebraska Dear M.L.O.,

A pet that feels a strong bond with its owner may grieve when its owner is absent. Cherished toys, blankets, chew bones, and articles with the owner's scent can be left for animals at kennels. Talking with the pet by telephone is an excellent idea.

H. E. W.

Dear Dr. Whiteley,

I am planning to take my dog, a 3 1/2-year-old female Chihuahua, to Europe next year. I am worrying about how she will react to the flight.

I left her with ftiends last year but will not travel again without her. I worry too much and miss her. I will be away for many months and want her with me.

Would a tranquilizer help?

I will, of course, take her to a vet for an exam and have all her medical papers in order. She has a passport, which contains her medical record and will also have her photo and nose print. (It asks for a nose print.)

I will begetting her carrier soon, and it will be kept under my seat. The flight to Milan will be approximately 7 1/2 hours. My first concern is for my dog, and for her comfort and happiness.

She is also on a human diet. She will not eat dog food. She eats vegetables and fruit (baby food), cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, turkey, and chicken. Occasionally, she will eat beef (sometimes as baby food), plus baby-food dinners. I never use grease, always broiling or boiling the meat. She also eats oxtails, more so in the winter. This is basically what her diet consists of.

Does she need other vitamins? I have given her cod-liver oil, which helped her coat tremendously.

She exercises and has never had fleas or other problems in the 1 1/2 years since she's been with me.

Elvira Bergami New York, New York

Dear Elvira,

You might ask about airline policy for taking your Chihuahua out of the carrier for exercise once or twice during the flight. If she tends to become excited during travel, tranquilizers may be of benefit to her. I usually recommend that tranquilizers be given to the pet on a trial basis before traveling. Reactions to tranquilizers vary among individuals, and a trial period will enable you to adjust the dosage of tranquilizer for your pet. The pet should be sedate but aware of its surroundings.

The proof of anydiet is the appearance and health of the animal. The correct balance of nutrients can be difficult to achieve in a homemade diet. If you feel that you must feed her "people food," I suggest that you try using the following formula, obtained from Hill's Pet Products, a company that produces prescription diets for pets.

Canine Restricted Protein Diet

1/4 pound ground beef (do not use lean round or chuck)

2 cups cooked rice

1 hard-cooked egg, finely chopped

3 slices white bread, crumbed

1 teaspoon calcium carbonate

Balanced vitamin-mineral supplement

Cook ground beef in skillet; stir until lightly browned. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well.

This mixture is somewhat dry, and its palatability can be improved by adding a little water. Keep it covered in the refrigerator. You might vary this diet by substituting one-fourth pound of cooked chicken breasts for the hamburger. Do not supplement the mixture with the cod-liver oil, because fat is obtained from the meat in this diet. Calcium carbonate is available at most health-food stores. A few drops of liquid pediatric vitamins will suffice for the vitamin-mineral supplement. Your dog needs approximately onefourth pound or a little less of this diet daily.

H. E. W.

Send your questions for the vet to: vets on Pets, The Saturday Evening Post, 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Because of the volume of response, the editors regret we cannot reply personally to all letters.
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Title Annotation:American Civil Liberties Union
Author:Crovitz, L. Gordon
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Dec 1, 1988
Previous Article:Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa.
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