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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current,  events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.– Amendment IV, United States Constitution

Barack Obama has called the wholesale collection of Americans’ telephone records and Internet traffic only “modest encroachments” on our rights.

He justifies such violations as necessary in the War on Terror, which is odd, because he doesn’t believe in the War on Terror.

As happens frequently when government wrongdoing is brought to light, last week saw an evolution in its justification. National security topped the rationalization, of course, with the explanation that revealing the data collection would tip off terrorists.

I first heard this explanation when covering the police beat many years ago. In those days the rationale was, “We don’t want the suspect to know we’re after him.” It’s silly, of course, because all suspects – including terrorists – know the authorities are after them.

Next came the claim that reaping the data had thwarted a couple of terrorist plots. Still later in the week we learned we had no right to our electronic communications because we didn’t own the mediums of transmission. Apparently, then, the content of phone calls and e-mails wouldn’t fit under the broad category of “effects” in the Fourth Amendment.

Finally, we were told the government never would abuse Americans by misusing the data collected, basically telling citizens, “You can trust us.” This may have rung false, given admitted abuses by the Internal Revenue service. You can put me in the “doesn’t trust ‘em” category, where I have resided through five Republican and four Democratic administrations.

Anyway, the situation allows us to imagine future, “modest encroachments,” like:

How about your bank records? Why should the feds need a search warrant to look at your checking and savings accounts? After all, you aren’t their custodian, and crooks use banks. Why not allow this modest encroachment.

Keeping us safe from terror? Sweeping up phone and Internet records – a modest encroachment – didn’t keep Boston safe from the Tsarnaev brothers, did it?

What’s next? Certainly you’re aware of periodic efforts to put GPS units in every automobile, ostensibly to enable the government to tax us based on our highway mileage. Of course, it would also help keep track of potential terrorists, entailing just a modest encroachment on the privacy of the rest of us. Watch for Big Bro to make another run at this.


Meanwhile, in California: Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, D-Compton, has introduced a resolution to name the western span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge, after the storied former Assembly speaker.

Non-Californians may not know the bridge is bisected by Yerba Buena Island, with a new, eastern span under construction to replace the section damaged in the 1989 “World Series” earthquake. It seems a shame to leave this section out of the renaming, as it has been plagued by materials and procedures that are at least questionable – just like Willie B. during his tenure in the state Capitol.

Trickle-up economics? The Assembly’s current speaker, John Perez, D-Los Angeles, has a plan to make “middle-class” students at the state’s universities as dependent on government as their less affluent brethren.

Mind you, the University of California system already waives tuition for students from families with annual incomes less than $80,000. The waiver line is $70,000 for families with offspring in the California State University system. Under Perez’ plan, tuition discounts of up to 40 percent would help students from families making $150,000 a year or less.

Middle-class students, naturally, think this is a swell idea, having grown up in a world where the cost of education never declines. The cost could go down, of course, if universities’ overstuffed bureaucracies – and salaries – were brought to heel.

Costs would be further reduced if thousands of students lacking the mental capacity for true, college-level scholarship were not enrolled in the CSU system.

 

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