No Comment — March 14, 2008, 2:59 pm

The Center Holds

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.

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Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
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Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
The Soft-Kill Solution·

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"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
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“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

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In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

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