Small but revealing
Sometimes it is the small(er) things that really reveal the fundamental nature and mindset of regimes. In America, the Bush government is reclassifying as "secret" material already placed in the National Archive:
Documents have been disappearing since 1999 because intelligence officials have wanted them to. And under the terms of two disturbing agreements — with the C.I.A. and the Air Force — the National Archives has been allowing officials to reclassify declassified documents, which means removing them from the public eye. So far 55,000 pages, some of them from the 1950's, have vanished. This not only violates the mission of the National Archives; it is also antithetical to the natural flow of information in an open society.
An open, democratic society? That's the last thing that Bush and his controllers want. Might result in resistence to the latest foreign adventure or environmental destruction.
In Britain - and this is a "little thing" only in that a relatively small number of people are likely to be affected - the Blair government is planning to both drastically cut payments to people wrongfully convicted of crime, but to entirely abolish a millennia-old principle, "innocent until proven guilty".
Mr Clarke acknowledged that a move to a "not proven" verdict would be a major change. "It would be a radical change. We are going to have a look at it. The time has come to assess it," he said.
Behind this is an anti-liberty, very Daily Mail rightwing attitude that we are the respectable middle classes and they - anyone in the dock - must be the dangerous other. And if they happen to be found not guilty - by a jury of their peers - it must have been a mistake, for the instruments of state authority are always right.
But sometimes the little things also demonstrate individual creativity and initiative. Sussex ambulance service has created a series of first aid instructions for MP3 players.
The project was the idea of a paramedic, Stuart Rutland, who said that he hoped it might help in an emergency. "I like to go running and listen to music - but what if I turned the corner and somebody had collapsed? I have 11 years of paramedic training, but not everyone will. It's just about what to do in those moments before an ambulance arrives.