Ben Adler writes: The New York City Council passed up an opportunity to send a birthday present to the Bill of Rights on December 15, 2003, the 212th anniversary of its ratification. Resolution 909, a measure to defend the Bill of Rights against the USA Patriot Act, was scheduled to come to a vote and was expected to pass, but City Council Speaker Gifford Miller held off on bringing the bill before the full council because, his office says, he didn’t want to take attention away from Saddam Hussein’s recent capture. New York City would have become the 229th locality, and the largest, to pass a resolution condemning the Patriot Act. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, has been spearheading the campaign to pass Resolution 909. She said Resolution 909 “has nothing to do with the capture of Saddam…actually one could argue that there is all the more reason to pass it today because we have to reaffirm our respect for individual liberty as we protect our country.” Miller promised to bring the bill to a vote in the next term, on January 21.


Conveyed by Amtrak through the blizzard, Senator Robert Byrd made it to the December 14 Nation Institute dinner in New York City in time for the war’s most eloquent opponent to provide his view on Saddam Hussein’s capture. His talk was the highlight of an evening sparked–like the magazine–by spirit and controversy. Another high point: the presentation of the $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship by donor Perry Rosenstein. Accepting for David Protess, founder of the Innocence Project at Northwestern’s Medill journalism school, was his former student Pam Cytrynbaum, who helped win the release of a Louisiana prisoner sentenced to life. An emotional moment came when another man freed by Protess’s protégés after seventeen years on death row–Aaron Patterson, now a candidate for the Illinois State Legislature–made a cameo appearance.