The Mouse That Roared

AshcroftAn article in this morning’s Post had me cheering with approval (well, figuratively, anyway — the family was still asleep). Most everybody with half a brain recognizes that the USA Patriot Act — or a substantial portion of it, at least — is ridiculously unconstitutional. But, of course, in their rashness after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Congress demonstrated that there wasn’t a collective brain among them and passed it anyway. Now that people have actually read the Act — and the more intelligent among them are starting to object vociferously — the Congress is stuck in the position of having to question its earlier judgment. The more ethical among them... okay, even I couldn’t keep a straight face with that one, so let me rephrase it... those most approaching some sort of ethical code are starting to wonder if it should be revised. Given the juggernaut that is the Bush regime, however, it appears unlikely that anything will be remedied in either the executive or legislative branches of government; if anything, it appears that things will get much worse (Patriot Act II, anyone?).

But it appears that at least one small municipality isn’t going to wait for things to “magically” get better. The City Council of Arcata, California, has made it a crime to willfully comply with requests made under the Act. At first blush, this seems like a largely symbolic gesture, except for one small detail: Should any such request be made, the matter would go before the courts — and not between the secret police and some poor defendant who won’t even be given access to a lawyer, but between two public entities. Not that I have a whole lot of confidence in our government’s judicial branch — especially after the 2000 presidential election, when our Supreme Court demonstrated that they could compete with the best of our legislators in terms of corruptibility — but I’m hopeful that somewhere along the line, we’ll hit a federal judge who isn’t cowed by political pressure and can actually exercise rational judgment. Now, is it likely that Ashcroft’s goons will make a Patriot Act request in little Arcata (population 16,000)? Not really. But if other jurisdictions take similar stands (to date 89 cities have passed resolutions at least condemning the Act), then sooner or later the conflict will come to the fore.

Bravo, Arcata.


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