FIRST TO GO.

FIRST TO GO. Were there ever any doubt about the Bush administration's contempt for the U.S. Constitution in general, and the First Amendment in particular, two stories from the morning papers stick it right in the reader's face -- not that we'd be inclined to do anything about it.

An extraordinary piece by the Washington Post's Peter Baker tells of a White House manual for dealing with protesters at presidential appearances. The manual was released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which got hold of it as evidence in a case brought against the federal government by a West Virginia couple who were arrested for wearing tee shirts bearing anti-Bush messages to a Bush event for which they had tickets. Among the tactics outlined in the manual is the creation of "rally squads" who will surround and obscure demonstrators from the cameras. While other attendees of presidential events are forbidden to carry any form of sign or banner, these form the rally squad's arsenal.

"These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators," it says. "The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

The good news: the federal government settled with the couple for $80,000 of your tax dollars. Oh, and she got back her FEMA job, from which she had been dismissed after the arrest. No admission of wrongdoing, though. A second story with a bit of good news: the AP reports that the Pentagon is shutting down its database that tracks anti-war groups. Those duties will be shifted to the FBI.

--Adele M. Stan

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