Who says Missoulians never get to clash with beltway bigwigs over important issues like the Patriot Act and the Bill of Rights?

While ever-popular and increasingly powerful Attorney General John D. Ashcroft continues to steamroller the values of civil libertarians—this week a secret, three-judge panel cleared the way for broader use of wiretaps and other surveillance under the USA Patriot Act (a legal triumph for Ashcroft)—a few local libertarians won’t rest until they’ve tossed in their two cents.

A citizen-sponsored resolution proposed this summer to protect the civil liberties of Missoulians has resurfaced as City Council business.

A handful of municipalities around the nation—including Berkeley, Calif., Denver, Colo., Ann Arbor, Mich., and several cities in Massachusetts—have already enacted similar resolutions opposing the feds’ post-Sept. 11 actions. The cities say that they’ve had their basic civil rights restricted.

Missoula could be next on the bandwagon, but first City Council and the Missoula Police Department need to get their ducks in a row and work out exactly what the resolution would and would not empower local law to do—a sticky subject for local cops who rely on other, perhaps non-resolutioned, law enforcement entities to help them out.

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Thanks Atari. Thanks Nintendo. Thanks Sega. Parents—some ironically, some earnestly—credit the video/computer game revolution of the ’80s and ’90s with immunizing their kids against old fashioned book learning.

Unable to swim against the deluge of gigabytes, “Montana Rules” gives driver’s ed instructors a computer-age weapon: a CD-ROM game with hip characters intended to teach Montana teens traffic safety and traffic laws.

But something tells us at the Indy that the hip characters meant to replicate Montana teens won’t convince the kids to skip Buffy to play the game. Among the cast of characters we find John, the skateboarding Indian; Erin, the shade-sporting snowboarder; and of course Hank, the cowboy with the five o’clock shadow and the hayseed in his mouth.

But it isn’t the characters that make teens yawn most, it’s the fact that there are no chances to hijack the game and run over pedestrians or opponents. Instead the game is a simple trivia test with questions like “If you become stranded in a snow storm the best thing to do is…” (hint: it’s not “Lay down and go to sleep”), and “Habitual offenders are…” (sorry, the Indy got this one wrong so we can’t help you).

While the game isn’t what we’d call fun, the designers are aware that their subject matter comes with inherent limitations. Even they admit that “this is the game that makes studying for the driver’s test almost fun.” And hey, at least it’s better than having your Sunday driver of a mom quiz you over the morning Eggos.

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