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Glenn Greenwald and I recently agreed in an Air America interview that all signs pointed to the House of Representatives folding and giving President Bush most of what he wanted in a new FISA continuation bill, including the hot-button issue, telecom immunity.
Well, I am elated to say that I was wrong and so was Glenn. When I worked my way through the House bill, I found it was a highly respectable product. It holds firm on key elements of the prior surveillance architecture, and, on the issue of telecom immunity, it follows Nancy Reagan’s advice by “just saying no.” The Judiciary Committee did yeoman’s work on this, issuing a report that flyspecked the major issues and staked out very sensible positions across the board. I kept thinking about doing a post to laud them for their work, but then I thought—somehow these pols always manage to embarrass us in the final minute, so best to wait and see how this turns out. Well, this time I was too cynical.
Now the votes are in, and the House has mustered a respectable majority: 213-197.
This is a gratifying vote, and looking over the list I see a number of members who seemed ready to cave to the fearmongers who have come to the right conclusions in the end. Beyond this, I watched the debate on the floor and was more than pleased. The arguments presented showed a move away from the politics of fear and towards a sensible balancing of civil liberties and national security concerns.
This was a good day for the Constitution, and a very bad day for President Bush. We need more like it.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”