And here they come, my children: The slithering tentacles of USA PATRIOT. If this article doesn’t make you physically ill and very angry, I don’t want to know you.

Time to speak bluntly. Listen up.

USA PATRIOT must be stopped; it must be rescinded; the people responsible for it must be turned out of government and quite possibly tried for treason.

John Ashcroft and his minions lied to us when they said they’d never turn this legislation against anyone but terrorists. If they believe it to be in their interests, which are not our interests, they will lie again.

They used our fear and grief in the wake of 9/11, our anguish over the fates of our friends and lovers and familes who died, to pass legislation they had repeatedly attempted to sneak into law before the fact. If they believe it to be in their interests, which are not our interests, they will exploit the dead bodies of our friends and relatives and lovers again.

In fact, based on their track record I’m hard-pressed to say what these creatures wouldn’t do. I don’t think I’m ready to find out. What I do know is this: There’s no room left to wait and see — not if your livelihood depends on the First Amendment.

As for the journalists currently threatened, my thoughts are especially with the good people of Tech TV, who have enough to worry about right now without this hanging over them. Their owner seems to be a fellow with his heart generally in the right place; whatever the reasons for their current uncertain situation, I hope very much that he stands by them now both morally and financially.

Good news: I have your day all planned for you. First, go to the video store and rent/buy a copy of Identity, the John Cusack/Ray Liotta film. Return to your domicile. Watch the movie. Now switch on the director’s commentary and watch it again, and enjoy how a really good movie can turn downright great when you let a smart person point stuff out as you go along.

The end of the baseball season has many of us on edge, but some things are predictable as overpriced stadium beer; to wit, whinin’ Red Sox fans. ATTENTION BOSTONIANS! You’re in this predicament not because you pissed off the Bambino, but because your city sucks and God hates you. If your baseball team doesn’t make that clear to you, two words: Ben Affleck. Are we clear?

So I decided it was a good day to go to the zoo, only I forgot that no day is a good day for me to go to the zoo. Anyone who can’t own a fishtank because she worries about the fish getting bored, a zoo trip… unadvisable.

National isn’t the worst zoo I’ve ever been to — Seattle will be holding that title as long as they adhere to that one-hen-one-rooster policy — but large areas of it are still fairly old-style and thus rather unnatural. I somehow ended watching a serval (an African feline about twice the size of a housecat) pacing in that way animals do when captivity is causing them severe emotional stress.

He was in a pen about the size of my last apartment, going back and forth in a five-foot area next to the fence, not apparently noticing anything around him (not that there’s a lot of traffic near the serval pen). The top of the fence is electrified; the top of the cage had a net over it so birds and other potential diversions were unlike to fly in. He had a hiding area, but it appeared to be mainly concrete. He wasn’t looking at anything in particular — in fact, he reminded me of that thing I do when someone’s stressing me out really profoundly. (Hard to describe. Try it sometime, or better yet don’t, because when I snap out of it the aftermath shows up on satellite photos.)

His misery was palpable, and do you blame him? This is his life, a sliver of hard-packed, mostly bare, profoundly circumscribed terrain with nothing to do all day but sleep or pace or eat when permitted. I understand the serval is more or less threatened in various of its habitats, but is this the best we can do? There’s an old philosopher’s dilemma about allowing a town to enjoy unlimited peace, happiness and prosperity as long as they agree to condemn one of their number to an existence locked away from everyone else and tormented for no reason in particular, deprived of every good thing regardless of his personal merits or faults. Is the zoo different? Different enough?

Hell, I don’t know, maybe kitty was having whatever constitutes a bad day for Leptailurus serval. Maybe he was waiting on a phone call from his agent. Maybe I’m reading too much into compulsive, unfocused pacing. But I don’t think so, and I don’t believe I can visit the zoo again. At least the animals at the Smithsonian are already dead.