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October 03, 2006

On Conference Call With John Ashcroft

Any questions I should ask?

Whoops, he's just getting off now as he's getting on a plane to speak to Eastern European audiences about freedom.

I'll type up my shabby notes later.

One question I asked was about the much-maligned Patriot Act. A lot of people seem to be against this for vague reasons, and yet I've seen very little, if any, specific objections to it. The only specific objection I've read has to do with libraries. I didn't get to follow-up about the Great Library Scare, but I didn't have to, becaus Ashcroft went there himself.

I asked specifically if there were any provisions he thought were unwise, or, alternately, what he considered the best specific objection to the Patriot Act from those who objected, even if he himself didn't agree with the objection.

He declined to answer the latter part, stating he "wouldn't make the other guy's case for him" (note: quotes here are very loose paraphrases, by and large), but went on to note that Dianne Feinstein had gotten 20,000 emails and letters and phone calls complaining about specific alleged violations of civil liberties due to the Patriot Act, but few of these had anything to do with the Patriot Act. Some, he said, had to do with complaints about the post office (I couldn't break in to ask what these complaints were). When he asked the ACLU for specific alleged civil-rights violations of the Patriot Act, he said, they were unable to produce any. Further, he said, there have not been any successful lawsuits proving any violations.

Those who oppose the Patriot Act, he said, have done so "very profitably," using vaguely sinister allegations to drum up contributions. He regrets having been such an important cog in the ACLU's fund-raising operations.

He noted that pure ignorance keeps people believing that, prior to the Patriot Act, the government couldn't subpoena business or financial (or any other) records; somehow people have this idea that prior to the Patriot Act, no one could look into your books, even with a court order.

And he then said that he found it ridiculous to imagine that there is a "special sanctuary" for library records, that all other records can be compelled via a court order, but that "child porn predators and terrorists" were somehow immunized from subpoenaes should their internet use or research be conducted in a library.

Well, hear hear to that. I am baffled that just about any record -- including sensitive medical records -- may be subpoenaed by the state given sufficient grounds and a court order, and yet what you do in a library is, according to the left, absolutely sacrosanct. Why? Who knows. Free exchange of ideas or something like that. And yet it baffles me that if a man were using a library computer to make arrangements with a hitman to kill his wife, the sanctimonious librarians and ACLU would claim his illegal solicitation of murder should be, for reasons unfathomable, protected from any examination by the state.

If the coloration of your penis, for crying out loud, is material to a criminal investigation (as it was in the Michael Jackson investigations), the state can compel the production of records relating to your dingus; and yet, we're told, it's unAmerican to request internet-use records or a list of books a terrorist might have checked out.

Frankly, I think it's just because librarians lead extraodinarily boring lives and this is the One Sexy Thing they've ever been involved in. Makes them feel important, standing up to the state and all, before going back home every night to eat their Salad For One and watch Gray's Anatomy.

I also think it's part of the liberals' time-warp sense of unreality, where it's perpetually the darkest year of McCarthyism and Boston censorship, and they really, really believe in their hearts that the government is on patrol to find out which subversives have been reading Catcher in the Rye and Tropic of Cancer.

I rather doubt the government would seek a subpeona (or that one would be issued) just to find out who's reading Judy Blume or Martha Grimes' mysteries, but the left is pretty damn sure John Ashcroft is interested in such things.

And hence, as always, the OUTRAGE!

I have a simple rule. If the state can get hold of your private financial records, or your even more private medical or psychological records, I can't see how there's some implicit constitutional protection of which Oprah Book Club recommendations are on your reservation list.

John Ashcroft's Book, Never Again, is excerpted here, and is available via Amazon here.

I would try to get a hold of it through Amazon, or from a friend, because you just don't want the G-men finding out you rented it from a library.


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posted by Ace at 03:08 PM

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