The Patriot Act boils down to this: To thwart terrorism and the funding of such, the U.S. government has decided to poke around in your personal life.

By Michael Quay, weekly column

Standing in line at the Phoenix Federal Bank, I was admiring the intricate mural of the phoenix bird above the fireplace. After a minute or two, I was next in line, so I turned my attention to the service counter. There, above the nameplates of the bank tellers and the latest seasonal decorations, was the small plaque, now familiar in every bank in the United States, the Patriot Act plaque.

The Patriot Act boils down to this: To thwart terrorism and the funding of such, the U.S. government has decided to poke around in your personal life.

Harassing swarthy religious fundamentalists in European airports is not enough to stop this evil plague. No, we must dig into your bank account and make sure that the $300.00 you have stashed away for next year's Christmas Club does not get diverted to the Al Allahbacchar Iranian Gun Club.

And while they are at it, the government also wants to know what books you check out from the library and what movie videos you rent. It is also interesting that the new and improved Uncle Sam has access to your "super-saver" grocery store card. Every time you swipe to save on your grocery bill, remember that the feds have a direct line of data to see whether you buy regular Pledge or the new lemon scented kind. All this with no search warrant needed.

This surveillance may seem silly to you, but it didn't to our (now exiting stage right) Attorney General John Ashcroft. Who knows, maybe one of the first signs of anarchy and the decaying of traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic family values is when an American starts purchasing tofu instead of ground beef. Or what could be more threatening to the American way of life then when some sneaky subversive communistic lefty shows the all-too frightening signs of vegetarianism? Why that's only a hop skip an' a jump from socialism!

Yes, I know it is a sacrifice, but let us all recite in unison: "eternal vigilance is the price of freedom" even if it means that this vigilance happens to be scoping out your kitchen and bedroom.

But now it is time for Attorney General Ashcroft to sing his farewell rendition of "Let the Eagle Soar Like its Never Soared Before," (a song he made up all by himself). We can soon take down those $10,000 curtains he had draped over the statue of Lady Justice in the Capital.

Mr. Ashcroft's resignation will become effective upon conformation of a successor. In a statement released by the White House, George Bush said "Ashcroft has worked tirelessly to make our country safer" and "served our nation with honor, distinction and integrity." John Ashcroft was appointed to his current position only after he lost a Missouri senate race to a dead person. (You do the math.)

Mr. Ashcroft may be leaving the spotlight for now, but the passion play is far from over. Next in line for the position of Inquisitor General is a man by the name of Alberto Gonzales, a Bush friend and disciple with a penchant for torture. And considering the frightening enemies we face within our own borders, he won't be confirmed a minute too soon. I mean, who really cares about finding Osama anymore? Things are getting really serious around here. It's that sexual deviant Sponge Bob Square Pants we need to track down, or it'll be curtains for everything we hold sacred.

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