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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.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”