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Up yours, Ashcroft 

There is no conflict between liberty and safety. We will have both or neither.
— Ramsey Clark

Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.
— Samuel Johnson

Minneapolis did it. So did Baltimore, Albany, Taos, Sausalito, Santa Monica, Fairbanks, Montpelier, Cambridge and Missoula. The whole of Alachua County did it, as did Broward County. And lest you think that it's only done in liberal enclaves, note that the entire state of Alaska -- which hasn't elected a Democrat to Congress in more than two decades -- did it too. (As did Vermont and Hawaii, but we all know what kind of Volvo-driving freaks populate those two states.)

What all these municipalities did -- 130 at last count, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union -- is stand up to John Ashcroft's Justice Department by saying no to the USA PATRIOT Act. Each one of them has adopted a resolution telling the Justice Department that enough is enough, that they are not going to play along as Ashcroft uses the terrorism boogeyman to systematically dismantle our civil rights. Their police aren't going to use racial profiling, they aren't going to enforce regressive immigration laws, they aren't going to make arrests based on suspicion of terrorism, and they aren't going to take part in terrorism "task forces" that usually end up netting anyone who looks vaguely Middle Eastern. Neither are their librarians to going to help the feds snoop on library patrons by divulging databases of who has checked out what.

If you think that last bit is an Orwellian fantasy, think again. Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act specifically authorizes the FBI to access an individual's "business records" -- including financial, medical, student and library records -- without having to show probable cause of criminal activity or intent. The librarian (or bookseller) is not even allowed to let you know the feds are sniffing around. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh said in June that the Justice Department has already visited about 50 libraries. He wouldn't say whether or not the "visits" were based on Section 215.

The PATRIOT Act is, of course, Ashcroft's reaction to the horrific acts of Sept. 11. That he got it drafted and before Congress only a week after the attacks -- and demanded that it be passed into law in record time -- should concern freedom-loving Americans from sea to shining sea, no matter your political stripe.

But participation in PATRIOT Act harassment is not compulsory -- the federal government is not all-powerful, at least not yet. As Republicans love to say, the states still have rights, one of which is to tell the feds to bugger off when they've clearly gone insane. Which is what 16 million Americans have done, and what Orlando and Orange County should do. What we need right here, right now, is a little old-fashioned civil disobedience.

Contact your city and county representatives and tell them you want to see a resolution codifying opposition to PATRIOT Act tactics like wire tapping, secret arrests and "sneak and peak" warrants that are executed without probable cause. Tell your representatives that we don't want our police and sheriff's departments participating in terrorism task forces. (Of course Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary never met a task force he didn't like, but let's not forget that the man is elected, and can be unelected and replaced by someone who respects the Bill of Rights. Same goes for our corpulent little U.S. Rep., Ric Keller, who is more concerned with his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of double cheeseburgers than the U.S. Constitution.)

Orange County librarians and booksellers might want to take a page from librarians in Santa Cruz, where every night the librarian shreds handwritten requests for reference books, Internet logs and other material the feds could possibly find of interest. In Spokane, librarians regularly purge their databases of who has checked out what. Can't turn it over if you ain't got it.

Come on, Orlando. It's time to be patriotic and tell Ashcroft to shove it up his Act.

Very interesting ...

So, the Bush junta is finally having its baby-soft feet held to the fire on the fact that -- golly gee whiz -- there aren't any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after all, and our President in Chief sent Americans to fight and die based on a lie. And that little whip-'em-into-a-lather speech about Iraq buying uranium from Africa? Umm, well, you see folks, err, the official word from the White House now is that, umm, it wasn't really true. The report was a, uh, what you might call, a fake. Hey, anyone want to see the president land on an aircraft carrier?

What we have here is a monster scandal brewing, one that should rightfully end in the impeachment of George W. Bush. There is no greater breach of trust than a president lying about why this country must, right now, go to war. Bush did exactly that. Naturally, you wouldn't get any sense of that reading the Orlando Sentinel.

A New York Times op-ed piece July 6 written by Joseph C. Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador sent to Africa last year to investigate the alleged Iraqi uranium purchase, put the Bushies in a tither. Of course the story -- that the American public was hoodwinked as to why we went to war -- only rated play on page A15 of the July 6 Sentinel, and not at all July 7 or July 8, when the White House was finally forced to come clean. Guess something has to be really important -- like sports stars trying to clean up their images -- to rate A1 play.

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