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In a stunning indictment of the Bush administration and Congress, best-selling author Naomi Wolf lays out her case for saving American democracy. In authoritative research and documentation Wolf explains how events of the last six years parallel steps taken in the early years of the 20th century’s worst dictatorships such as Germany, Russia, China, and Chile.
The book cuts across political parties and ideologies and speaks directly to those among us who are concerned about the ever-tightening noose being placed around our liberties.
In this timely call to arms, Naomi Wolf compels us to face the way our free America is under assault. She warns us–with the straight-to-fellow-citizens urgency of one of Thomas Paine’s revolutionary pamphlets–that we have little time to lose if our children are to live in real freedom.
“Recent history has profound lessons for us in the U.S. today about how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, especially in what were once democracies. The secret is that these leaders all tend to take very similar, parallel steps. The Founders of this nation were so deeply familiar with tyranny and the habits and practices of tyrants that they set up our checks and balances precisely out of fear of what is unfolding today. We are seeing these same kinds of tactics now closing down freedoms in America, turning our nation into something that in the near future could be quite other than the open society in which we grew up and learned to love liberty,” states Wolf.
Wolf is taking her message directly to the American people in the most accessible form and as part of a large national campaign to reach out to ordinary Americans about the dangers we face today. This includes a lecture and speaking tour, and being part of the nascent American Freedom Campaign, a grassroots effort to ensure that presidential candidates pledge to uphold the constitution and protect our liberties from further erosion.
The End of America will shock, enrage, and motivate–spurring us to act, as the Founders would have counted on us to do in a time such as this, as rebels and patriots–to save our liberty and defend our nation.
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.38(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Naomi Wolf was born in San Francisco in 1962. She was an undergraduate at Yale University and did her graduate work at New College, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.
Her essays have appeared in various publications including: The New Republic, Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Ms., Esquire, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She also speaks widely to groups across the country. The Beauty Myth,, her first book, was an international bestseller. She followed that with Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change The 21st Century, published by Random House in 1993, and Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, published in 1997. Misconceptions, released in 2001, is a powerful and passionate critique of pregnancy and birth in America. In 2002, Harper Collins published a 10th anniversary commemorative edition of The Beauty Myth.In The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on How to Live, Love and See (2005), Wolf shared the enduring wisdom of her father, Leonard Wolf, a poet and teacher who believes that every person is an artist in their own unique way.
Wolf is co-founder of The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, an organization devoted to training young women in ethical leadership for the 21st century. The institute teaches professional development in the arts and media, politics and law, business and entrepreneurship as well as ethical decision making. She lives with her family in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
The End of America
By Naomi Wolf
Chelsea Green PublishingCopyright © 2007 Naomi Wolf
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe FOUNDERS and the FRAGILITY of DEMOCRACY
But a constitution of government, once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 7, 1775
To U. S. citizens in the year 2007, the very title of this book should be absurd. It is unthinkable to most of us that there could ever be an "end of America" in the metaphorical sense. But it is when memories are faint about coercive tactics that worked to control people in the past that people can be more easily controlled in the present.
When I say that the Bush administration has used tactics that echo certain tactics from the past, I am making a conservative argument. You will have to look at the echoes I note and decide for yourself what to make of them. We know that Karl Rove seeks the goal of a permanent majority. A permanent majority is easier to solidify for the future if democracy's traditional challenges to power are weakened or silenced.
I won't insult Republicans by calling this goal a "permanent Republican majority," although Rove calls it by that name. Most Americans-Republican, Independent, orDemocrat-are patriots and believe in the Founders' vision. I have to assume that one reason for this assault on democracy is to secure the "permanent majority" status of a far smaller group, or rather of several smaller groups, driven by motives of power and money: the great power represented by access to an executive that is driving an agenda unthreatened by the people's will, and the vast amount of money that has begun to flow from a condition of uninterrupted domestic surveillance and open-ended foreign hostilities.
Authoritarianism, Fascism, Totalitarianism: Some Definitions
Are any of these terms legitimate for this discussion?
I have made a deliberate choice in using the terms fascist tactics and fascist shift when I describe some events in America now. I stand by my choice. I am not being heated or even rhetorical; I am being technical.
Americans tend to see democracy and fascism as all-or-nothing categories. But it isn't the case that there is a pure, static "democracy" in the white squares of a chessboard and a pure, static "fascism" in the black squares. Rather, there is a range of authoritarian regimes, dictatorships, and varieties of Fascist state, just as there are stronger and weaker democracies-and waxing and waning democracies. There are many shades of gray on the spectrum from an open to a closed society.
Totalitarianism, of course, is the blackest state. Mussolini adopted the term totalitarian to describe his own regime. Political philosopher Hannah Arendt writes of the post-World War I era and the "undermining of parliamentary government," succeeded by "all sorts of new tyrannies, Fascist and semi-Fascist, one-party and military dictatorships," and culminating at last in "the seemingly firm establishment of totalitarian governments resting on mass support" in Russia and in Germany.
Arendt sees Germany and Italy as variations on the same model of totalitarianism. She defines totalitarianism as a mass movement with a leadership that requires "total domination of the individual." A totalitarian leader, in her view, faces no opposition-it has gone quiet-and he can unleash terror without himself being afraid.
Fascism is a word whose definition political scientists (and even fascists themselves) do not entirely agree upon. Though Mussolini coined this term (from the dual rods, or fasces, carried by officials in ancient Rome), some Nazis did not see the Italians as being tough enough to qualify as true fascists. Umberto Eco wrote of latter-day "Ur-Fascists" and other critics have described "neo-Fascists" or "sub-fascists" when they refer to more recent violent dictatorships that use state terror and other kinds of control to subordinate the population and crush democratic impulses-notably in Latin America. The Columbia Encyclopedia defines fascism as a "philosophy of government that glorifies the state and nation and assigns to the state control over every aspect of national life.... Its essentially vague and emotional nature facilitates the development of unique national varieties, whose leaders often deny indignantly that they are fascists at all."
Throughout this letter of warning, I will use the term "a fascist shift." It is a wording that describes a process. Both Italian and German fascisms came to power legally and incrementally in functioning democracies; both used legislation, cultural pressure, and baseless imprisonment and torture, progressively to consolidate power. Both directed state terror to subordinate and control the individual, whether the individual supported the regime inwardly or not. Both were rabidly antidemocratic, not as a side sentiment but as the basis of their ideologies; and yet both aggressively used the law to pervert and subvert the law.
This process is what I mean when I refer to "fascist shift." Two aspects of most definitions of fascism are relevant here: Fascist refers to a militaristic system that is opposed to democracy and seeks, ideologically and practically, to crush it. And fascism uses state terror against the individual to do this. When I talk about a "fascist shift" in America, I am talking about an antidemocratic ideology that uses the threat of violence against the individual in order to subdue the institutions of civil society, so that they in turn can be subordinated to the power of the state.
This fascist shift has proven compact, effective, and exportable, long after these two regimes met their end in World War II. If it is too emotionally overwhelming to think of Italy and Germany, you can consider the more recent fates of Indonesia, Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Guatemala, all of which suffered widespread state terror and the activation of many of the ten steps that I describe, as leaders sought to subdue the people. A fascist shift brings about a violent dictatorship in a context where democracy could have taken the nation toward freedom.
Some critics responding to an essay I wrote laying out the spine of this argument were more comfortable with the term authoritarian than with fascist. A number of U.S. writers have used "authoritarian" to describe the Bush administration. Authoritarian, in contrast-the term Joe Conason uses, for example, in his prescient book It Can Happen Here-means that one branch of government has seized power from the others. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it as "favouring, encouraging, or enforcing strict obedience to authority, as opposed to individual freedom....") Conason's argument is entirely right for where we are at this point: in July of 2007, America actually already has an executive who is disregarding the restraints of the two other branches of government.
But authoritarianism has many guises, and some are relatively livable for most people. For instance, you can have a military leadership in an authoritarian system, but you can have fairly independent courts and a fairly independent press. Indeed, people can see authoritarianism as rather attractive in what they understand to be a time of national emergency. Authoritarianism can be downright cozy compared to some alternatives. The grave danger in America is that events are not stopping here.
When I refer to other societies, I use the terms totalitarianism, fascism, and authoritarianism where they are appropriate.
State terror directed against the individual is the difference between a fairly stable American authoritarianism and the fascist shift I am writing to you about. Theorists such as Arendt and Zbigniew Brzezinski saw top-down terror to be at the heart of both Nazi and Soviet regimes. They argue that it was the overwhelming power of the secret police agencies such as the Gestapo and the KGB that led to the fear that blanketed these societies. More recent historians focus on how populations in fascist or totalitarian systems adapt to fear through complicity: In this view, when a minority of citizens is terrorized and persecuted, a majority live out fairly normal lives by stifling dissent within themselves and going along quietly with the state's acts of violent repression. The authors of an oral history of Nazi Germany point out that, though it may sound shocking, fascist regimes can be "quite popular" for the people who are not being terrorized.
Both perspectives are relevant here: Top-down edicts generate fear, but when citizens turn a blind eye to state-sanctioned atrocities committed against others, so long as they believe themselves to be safe, a fascist reality has fertile ground in which to take root.
When America gets fascism it will be called anti-fascism. Attributed to Huey Long
America has flirted with fascism before. In the 1920s, a number of newspaper editors in the United States were impressed with the way that fascism coordinated with capitalism. In the 1930s, when Americans were suffering from economic depression and labor unrest, some U.S. leaders looked at the apparent order that Mussolini and Hitler had imposed on their own previously chaotic, desperate nations, and wondered if a "strong man" approach would serve the nation better than our own battered system. As historian Myra MacPherson puts it, "In the thirties there was alarming support for Hitler [in America], with American-style brownshirts proliferating...." Nineteen-thirties American fascism boasted many followers, nationally known demagogues, and even its own celebrities, such as aviator Charles Lindbergh, one of the most famous Americans of the day.
Some commentators of the era speculated that demagogues might spearhead an extreme patriotic movement such as those in Italy and Germany. In 1935, crusading journalist I. F. Stone compared Huey Long's dismantling of democracy in Louisiana to Hitler's legislation dissolving local self-government.
In 1939 author James Wechsler wrote, "There was genuine fear that a fascist movement had finally taken root in New York," where reactionary hooligans were staging anti-Semitic street fights modeled on the German youth actions. Other U.S. intellectuals thought the time was right to develop an American fascist mystique themselves, and began to do so.
American interest in fascism was prevalent enough for popular writer Sinclair Lewis to satirize it in his 1935 classic, It Can't Happen Here. Lewis, as Conason eloquently notes, showed step by step the ways in which it-a fascist coup-could theoretically "happen here." Though many mocked Sinclair's premise in 1935, many others read his fable of warning and thought more seriously about the dangers that American fascism really represented. It was healthy for Americans at that time to imagine the worst that could unfold if the nation chose to follow the seductions of fascism any further.
What Is Freedom?
"It's a free country," any American child will say, a comfortable assurance that this same American carries as he or she grows up. We scarcely consider that that sentence descends to that child from arguments for liberty that date back through generations of Enlightenment-era English and French philosophers, who were trying to work out what "a free country" could possibly look like-even as they themselves lived though or looked back on reigns of violently abusive and capricious monarchs.
We tend to think of American democracy as being somehow eternal, ever-renewable, and capable of withstanding all assaults. But the Founders would have thought we were dangerously naïve, not to mention lazy, in thinking of democracy in this way. This view-which we see as patriotic-is the very opposite of the view that they held. They would not have considered our attitude patriotic-or even American: The Founders thought, in contrast, that it was tyranny that was eternal, ever-renewable, and capable of withstanding all assaults, whereas democracy was difficult, personally exacting, and vanishingly fragile. The Founders did not see Americans as being special in any way: They saw America-that is, the process of liberty-as special.
In fact, the men who risked hanging to found our nation, and the women who risked their own lives to support this experiment in freedom, and who did what they could to advance it, were terrified of exactly what we call dictatorship. They called it "tyranny" or "despotism." It was the specter at their backs-and they all knew it-as Americans debated the Constitution and argued about the shape of the Bill of Rights.
The framing of the documents upon which the new national government rested did not take place as we were taught it did-in a sunny glow of confident assertiveness about freedom. That scenario is a Hallmark-card rewrite of the real mood of the era and the tenor that surrounded the discussions of the day. The mood as early Americans debated the proposed Constitution and the Bill of Rights was, rather, one of grave apprehension.
For the Founders shared with the rest of the people awaiting the outcome of their labors a dread of what nearly all of them-Federalist or anti-Federalist-saw as the real prospect of a tyrannical force rising up in America. This repressive force could take many forms: the form of a rapacious Congress oppressing the people; the form of an out-of-control executive; or even the form of the people themselves, cruelly oppressing a minority. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were set forth not as a flag flying merrily but as a bulwark: a set of barriers against what the Founders and their fellow countrymen and women saw as people's natural tendency to oppress others if their power is unchecked.
What recurred regularly in various arguments as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights took shape was the widespread fear of an unchecked executive. It's not surprising that these patriots would so deeply fear a single man invested with too much power. They had just freed themselves from being subjugated to George III, an abusive, not to mention mentally ill, monarch.
The Founders had fled repressive societies themselves, or were children or grandchildren of those who had done so. The North American colonies were settled by people-Puritans, Quakers and others-who had fled countries in which they had been imprisoned and even tortured for such acts as assembling in groups to pray; or for attending certain churches; or for publishing pamphlets critical of the King or of Parliament. The Founders knew from their own experience how the Crown treated those who talked about democracy (that is, "sedition"). They knew about criminalized speech, arbitrary arrest, and even show trials. They had personally to reckon with the risk of state-sanctioned torture and murder: Each of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence could have been hanged if the colonies had lost the Revolutionary War.
When Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, the little book that helped start the big revolution, he risked being hanged by the British Crown for treason. Indeed, the Crown did charge Paine with sedition for having written another book, The Rights of Man. He was tried by a jury hand-chosen by the government that he had attacked-a jury sure to condemn him. The proceedings were a mockery of the rule of law. In spite of his lawyer's brilliant defense, as one witness put it, "the venal jury ... without waiting for any answer, or any summing up by the Judge, pronounced [Paine] guilty. Such an instance of infernal corruption is scarcely upon record." Paine's publisher was dragged off to prison in chains.
Arbitrary arrest, state intimidation, and torture were the tactics of the tyrannical monarchs of eighteenth century Europe-tactics that the Founders sought to banish from American soil forever. The Founders' rebellion on this continent intended systematically to open a nation up to freedom-meaning, fundamentally, freedom from these evils.
In colleges with progressive curricula, the Founders are often portrayed as "dead white men," whose vision was imperfect, who denied women and the poor civil rights, and who defined an African slave in America as being three-fifths of a person; old guys in wigs who wrote documents that are now dusty in language that seems to us to be either arcane or to offer sentiments that are so obvious now they have become clichés ("... life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ...").
Excerpted from The End of America by Naomi Wolf Copyright © 2007 by Naomi Wolf. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Ten steps
1. The founders and the fragility of democracy
2. Invoke an external and internal threat
3. Establish secret prisons
4. Develop a paramilitary force
5. Surveil ordinary citizens
6. Infiltrate citizens' groups
7. Arbitrarily detain and release citizens
8. Target key individuals
9. Restrict the press
10. Cast criticism as "espionage" and dissent as "treason"
11. Subvert the rule of law
Conclusion: The patriot's task
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an insightful and courageous book that shares a pattern leading up to totalitarian regimes around the world. It is also one of the greatest contributions to scholarship in the twenty-first century. And it is written with crystal clarity. I have presented this material, many times, to my college students. While the truth (i.e., the demise of American democracy) may not be popular, it will ultimately prevail. It was an honor to meet Naomi Wolf on an Oxford street on May 20, 2015, and shake her hand. Hard working, flexible, charismatic, persistent, and convincing are just some words that begin to describe this talented author. Old Testament scholars are familiar with the questions "... Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? ..." - Isaiah 33: 18. Well, she is HERE, and she is HERE.
I read this book several years ago and reviewed it recently. Though some of the author’s remarks are very dated, the important trends she identified continue today, regardless of who occupies the White House. Politically, the author and I are very different, so I disagree with some of her observations, interpretations of history and conclusions, yet we share many of the same concerns about our nation. I totally agree with the author’s conclusion, that “we must stand up directly to confront those who have committed crimes against the Constitution — and hold them accountable, as the Founders trusted us to do.” I recommend this as an important read, regardless of one’s ideology, political affiliation, gender or age. It raises legitimate concerns and identifies dangerous trends that demand our attention.
I've always been impressed with Naomi Wolf's skill at documenting social and political trends. She deftly joins the pieces of the puzzle together, using specific examples (backed up with copious research) to show us the Big Picture. In this book, Wolf details how the Bush administration is methodically dismantling our democracy and unraveling our Constitution. She outlines 10 steps that the administration is undertaking--from surveiling citizens groups to restricting the press--that have also been taken by governments that ultimately became fascist regimes, such as Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. It's chilling how even the rationalizations used by Bush are the same as those used by fascist heads of state. This is an important book that everyone should read.
Every American should read this book and start asking questions about the content; challenge those that are breaking our Constitution with illegal laws; stop this systemic dismanteling of the bedrock of these United States of America.
I'm not big into politics, yet I was drawn into this book simply because of the movie adaptation, which is now on DVD. What liberties have we lost because of the 2001 Patriot Act? What is Blackwater? Is our country in danger? The answers to all these questions and more can be found in this book, which is well written and told with a passionate voice. Check it out.
It is imperative that everyone not only read this book, but ACT to change the trend to disintegrate our freedoms. If our president can create secret prisons that operate outside of the rule of habeas corpus to permit torture-- Abu Grahib--create a secret paramilitary to operate outside of the Constitution--Blackwater-- and laws that allow the President to subvert the rule of law with phone tapping and email intervention and categorization of dissent as 'treason,' then taking away our freedom to speak is not too far off. There has been 'mission creep' by this administration--the enemy has become anyone who opposes the U.S. way of doing things! The language being used was also used by Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin why have our ears become deaf to the intent behind words like:sleeper cell from Stalin, Homeland and New Europe from Hitler, Axis of Evil from Mussolini? She is absolutely right: we have turned over our power to hired politicians. The problem is that they too are powerless, and if you watch C-Span's two channels covering The House of Representatives and Senate...you can clearly see they have NO power to make change. They argue about the most senseless triva at the expense of the larger picture. We DO need a grassroots effort to reclaim the U.S. Constitution. And the time is NOW to create it! Thank you, Naomi Wolf, for sticking your neck out to remind us of our role in this democracy!
althought the book opened my eyes to alot of thing. This is not only the Bush administration it is society letting the government take control of every thing it is bush fault for doing it but it america fault for letting it happen . more peole need to stand up for what they want in america and stop letting the government control everything and rather we as american want to admit it the govenment can and does control everything. when reading this book.I felt that the US is just like any other country and the wealthy is the pwoerful that is not just american it is everywhere alway has been and alway will be.
A startling wake up call for anyone who loves the United States and the principles that have made the USA the beacon of light for the world. For those who consider this only a partisan effort, well Hitler had his supporters also.
Americans always think it can't happen here, but it can, and it is. Naomi Wolf, a modern-day Paul Revere, warns us that fascism is coming and that people need to wake and get active on a non-partisan basis.
This was a little scary to read, but probably more than a touch overstated. Is Ms. Wolf paranoid, or just trying to sell books with shock value, or is she instead actually right about a sort of pseudofacism existing in America today? The answer may be all of the above, especially the last two points. I agree that we should be highly skeptical of our leaders, especially when an apparently highly incompetent one is in charge, but things could be far worse than they are in America today. Overall, a gutsy and somewhat disturbing read that I recommend.
This is the scariest book I have read since 'The Shining' and it is all true. I guess I was naive. I knew the Bush administration was taking our liberties but how far and to what it could possibly lead to evaded me until I read this book. I feel the current campaigns should be address more of these ad hoc powers then the war and the economy. I hear nothing from the Democratic candidates about closing secret prisons, stopping torture or returning habeus corpus. Is that just assumed? Remember we cannot stay quiet while the government is taking away our rights and our privacy, because soon they will be coming after us. I am giving this book for my daughter to read. I encourage anyone who buys and reads this book to pass it along to neighbors and friends. The best weapon we have now against the fascist-like actions of the Bush admistration is knowledge and awareness.
I have read this book four times just this week. (And watched Wolf in a brilliant debate on C-Span) For those of us concerned about the direction we see our country headed, but are a bit rusty in our understanding of civics, this short primer is a no nonsense review of the steps that could alter American freedoms forever. Written by an outspoken advocate of democratic liberties, Wolf sites hundreds of examples from the past and links them effortlessly to what is happening today. I must admit that I am as guilty as anyone at letting my civic duties slide. My company was founded on the premise that there is almost nothing more important in life than ¿independent thinking.¿ I am ashamed of my lapse in the area of big government. First it was, ¿I just don¿t have time to read up on all the issues and seriously study all the candidates after all, what difference will my one vote make??¿ Then as election day rolled around it was, ¿Well I am really too busy to vote today, I will do it next time.¿ Next time never came. Sure, I am an outspoken critic of current policies at dinner parties and cocktails by the pool. Aren¿t most of us?? But now I am asking myself, sincerely, what have I done to channel my political frustration into solid action?? I agree with Wolf I have been so caught up in my own business, finances, life, family, friends, and fun that I really hadn¿t taken the time to connect all the dots. But if we don¿t start connecting the dots soon, all the wonderful opportunities that ¿seem¿ to keep us away from our citizenship responsibilities will be severely impacted. 5 Stars for Ms. Wolf and her latest book.
For all the skeptics who might think that the ideas in this book are ridiculous, don't be fooled. Everything she says are supported by facts, also mentioned in the book. Naomi Wolf is an intelligent woman and anyone that didn't like Bush will love this book and those who like Bush should read this book.
The topic sounds good and that's the only reason why i read the book. Wolf discuss how through some of the Bush administrations actions it appears as if America is on it's way to becoming a dictatorship. Being an intellectual i always check book's refrences, and just as i figured 90% of Wolf's quotes are from left wing liberal documents, not surprising because she too is left wing. The majority of the book is Bush smashing, Bush did this and Bush did that. She tries to make it seem like Bush is Hitler or Mussolini (even though she claims she isn't trying to). One thing she doesn't hit on is that Hitler and Mussolini took power and kept it and weren't reelected. This book makes it seem like Bush is trying to take over America, yet he is leaving office soon so the new president could easily undo all the 'bad' that Bush did, so i don't see the problem? It's an interesting read, but a liberal document none the less.
Being a true Patriot and Veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan...I could not even finish this book. While I understand what she was trying to do and I even could not deny some of the logic, most of it was spin and mis-direction. Anyone with a brain has to understand that books like this from someone like Naomi (and the same goes for the other side, politically) are going to be bias to their personal beliefs and in this case against the Bush Administration. I did not agree with many things the Bush Administration did or did not do, but this book made me sick at times and angry because it is so opinionated that the American people are not getting the truth, especially any of her references to the War on Terror, yes I said "War on Terror" because that's what it is and always will be. Anyway, while I don't agree with Naomi's beliefs or political views she makes a reasonable effort to bring some things to light that many people don't understand, the problem is very few authors can be down the middle on the explanations. The sad truth is that our political system is so flawed and corrupt on both sides that I do believe that we are facing a possible end of America...the current administration will be the final nail in the coffin if they keep doing what they are doing. But, I will keep trying to understand liberals, conservatives and libertarians...because I have not seen enough from any of them to feel that they have all the answers. Such is life...I just hope and pray we don't lose our freedoms. PS - If you are not engaging in anything criminal...you should not have any problem with the Patriot Act ;-)