Wendy Kaminer

American lawyer

Wendy Kaminer (born 1949) is an American lawyer and feminist writer.


  • Only people who die very young learn all they really need to know in kindergarten.
    • Comment about the title of Robert Fulghum's famous book, in I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional : The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions (1992), Introduction, p. 7
  • I'm better at criticism than social engineering, so I always have a hard time answering good practical questions like "what can the average person do?" Of course, there are obvious answers, like the average person can get involved in local politics, the average person can get involved in violence prevention programs in his or her own neighborhood, the average person can engage with local radio and TV talk shows on crime. I'm afraid, though, that's not a very good answer. I'm best at knowing what I can do personally, which is write and think about issues like these, point out problems, and hope that people like you can do a better job than I can of figuring out where to go next. I've always seen the formulation of public policy — and solutions to social problems — as a collaborative effort. I've always felt that my part of the job was to analyze and criticize in the hope that other people might use my work to forge solutions.
    • "6/24/95 Wendy Kaminer on Crime" (24 June 1995)
  • Not everything that appears true is true. The ACLU is devoted to some very controversial principles — like the principle that everyone who is arrested should enjoy the same constitutional rights, regardless of their alleged crime or their character. We don't take that position to irritate people; we take that position because we believe in it. We believe in it, in part, in a spirit of enlightened self-interest, because the rights of each one of us are co-extensive with the rights of everyone who is arrested and prosecuted in the criminal courts. If we all don't enjoy the same rights, then no one enjoys any rights at all; some of us merely enjoy privilege.
    • "6/24/95 Wendy Kaminer on Crime" (24 June 1995)
  • Interactivity has the virtue of democracy, conferring upon everyone with access to a computer the right and opportunity to be heard, but it's also saddled with democracy's vice — a tendency to assume that everyone who has a right to be heard has something to say that's worth hearing.
    • Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety (2000), p. 233
  • Jerry Falwell knows who caused the terrorist attack on America: the ACLU. “The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this,” he declared on the 700 Club, because, he explained, the ACLU, abetted by the federal courts is responsible for “throwing God out of the public square (and) the public schools.”
    This is a familiar charge and a false one. God is still present in the public schools, where students are free to pray, alone or in groups, so long as their prayers aren’t officially sponsored and don’t infringe on anyone’s freedom not to pray.
  • I’m not blaming religion for all or even most human barbarism. Of course faith in God generates compassion and altruism as well. Religious belief probably motivated some rescue workers who tried so heroically to save people from the wreckage. Religious belief offers solace and strength to people in the awful aftermath of the attack. But while they gather together to pray and seek comfort, protection, or approval from God, so do the terrorists. Whatever lessons we take from this dreadful attack, we should never forget that it was, after all, a faith based initiative.
    • "Our Very Own Taliban" (17 September 2001)
  • To rationalize their lies, people — and the governments, churches, or terrorist cells they compose — are apt to regard their private interests and desires as just. Clinton may have lied to preserve his power while telling himself that he was lying to protect “the people” who benefited from his presidency. Liars — especially liars in power — often conflate their interest with the public interest. (What’s good for General Motors is good for the United States.) Or they consider their lies sanctified by the essential goodness they presume to embody, like terrorists who believe that murder is sanctified by the godliness of their aspirations. Sanctimony probably engenders at least as much lying as cynicism. We can’t condemn lying categorically, but we should categorically suspect it.
  • When the government seeks to expand its power to spy on us, for example, it should be required to show how the loss of anonymity and freedom will make us safer. The FBI already enjoys the broad power to eavesdrop; according to government reports, it intercepts some two million innocent telephone and Internet conversations every year. The administration wants to expand its power to conduct surveillance by minimizing the role of the courts in monitoring it. Will this make us safer from terrorism or simply less safe from our government?
  • Give the FBI unchecked domestic spying powers and instead of focusing on preventing terrorism, it will revert to doing what it does best — monitoring, harassing, and intimidating political dissidents and thousands of harmless immigrants.
    • "Ashcroft's Lies" in The American Prospect (14 July 2002)
  • University of Delaware President Patrick Harker grudgungly terminated the ideological re-education program exposed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (and reported here last week.) FIRE has the story, which includes troubling accounts of threatened retaliation against students who declined to defend the now defunct "residence life" program and to demonize FIRE as an ideologically biased, conservative organization.  (In fact, FIRE is a civil liberties group that advocates for the rights of all students, regardless of ideology.)
    This is a victory for freedom of speech and thought, of course, and one that demonstrates why preserving free speech is so essential. University of Delaware officials did not terminate this program because they suddenly realized the wrongfulness of subjecting students to mandatory thought reform. They terminated the program because it was publicly exposed, and, outside the university’s ideological bubble, it was simply indefensible.
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