A larval town, Arcata, CA, pop. 16,000, puffs itself up like a banded newt, seeking not a mate but media attention, and lo! it succeeds. Arcata already has a foreign policy, like all self-respecting municipalities these days, including my dear old Manhattan, bless its grimy heart. Arcata is against the war. It is against global warming. And now it is against the Patriot Act.
When Arcata is against stuff it passes resolutions, and so Arcata “has become the first in the nation to pass an ordinance that outlaws voluntary compliance with the Patriot Act.” Outlaws voluntary compliance, mind you. “I call this a nonviolent, preemptive attack,” says David Meserve, the Arcata freshman City Council member and latter-day Jefferson Davis who drafted the ordinance, bravely sounding the call to nonviolent arms.
Arcata objects, in particular, to noxious provisions of the Patriot Act that allow the FBI to commandeer information from libraries and bookstores about the reading habits of their patrons. Earth to Meserve: law requires force, and in a showdown between the United States Army and the Arcata Municipal Police and Affiliated Busybodies Association, I know where I’m putting my money. You want to condemn the Patriot Act, fine; I’ll be there right beside you. You want to try to force people to refuse to comply with the Feds, on pain of…on pain of…on pain of, let’s see, a serious talking-to and being sent to bed without supper? Think it over, OK? I would call the whole affair sophomoric, but for the fact that Meserve is not yet a sophomore.
(Another: Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Juan Non-Volokh notes that in Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled that the state and local officials could not be compelled to enforce a federal regulatory program — in that case, the Brady Act. So Meserve may actually have a legal case after all.)