Just because you're paranoid

Just because you're paranoid: So Buzz and the missus were doing our monthly shopping at Sam's Club this weekend--bottled water, beer, toilet paper. When we got to the checkout, the clerk told us that our account had changed. We could no longer use a debit card but had to pay with cash. (We didn't have that much cash on us, so we put back the toilet paper and kept the beer. Priorities, priorities.)

We then went to the service desk to find out what was up with our account, since Buzz has not yet become such a deadbeat that we can't card things at Sam's. The answer was surprising: Because of the USA Patriot Act, we would no longer be able to use our debit card at the wholesale store unless Sam's had a drivers license number on file.

"Have you ever read that act?" a clerk asked. "You should. It's a scary piece of paper."

Damn scary. Oh sure, we've all heard about how the Patriot Act is whittling away at our civil liberties, limiting defendants' right to counsel, freeing federal agents' hands to do secret searches, expanding wiretaps, etc. But what are a few limits on our rights compared with preventing a red-blooded American from securing a big bag o' butt-wipe? With all the assholes in the Bush administration, you'd think they'd favor the free flow of Charmin. (Buh-dump-bump.)

Buzz spent a couple of days phoning and e-mailing Wal-Mart headquarters to find out why the anti-terrorism bill was interfering with our Sam's shopping experience. Has a gallon can of Beef-a-Roni become a WMD? (Makes sense, sorta.) A company spokesman told us that the clerk was mistaken. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with Sam's Club, but if we gave him our membership number, he'd try to uncover what the real problem was. Right, like we're dumb enough to fall for that one. Instead, we think we'll surf over to www.aclu.org and see what we can do to keep the mass consumer goods flowing--oh, and civil liberties, too.

Movin' on up: The Dallas Observer has now relocated to new offices at 2501 Oak Lawn Avenue, at the corner of Maple Avenue. Come pay us a visit. Oh, and if anyone runs into Laura Miller, tell her we found something of hers while we were cleaning out the old basement: her sense of populist outrage. It's a little shriveled and dusty but might still work. --Patrick Williams

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