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Surveillance immunity bill for telecoms tries livin’ la vida loca

Mental health amendment spins Republicans into irony-free zone

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Only the paranoid survive. But which ones - the kind who choose to live in solitude, à la Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, patiently loading and unloading their weaponry to protect themselves from the dystopian techno-state? Or the kind living in Washington, who yearn for proto-totalitarian surveillance authority, all the better to protect us from ill-defined archetypal foreign threats and solitary lunatics living in the middle of nowhere?

Those rival camps - pass the medication, please - briefly crossed existential paths on the floor of the House of Representatives last week, when the Republicans took another stab at retroactive immunity for the as yet unrevealed - and almost assuredly illegal - warrantless surveillance activities of the American telecoms companies.

Crazy as it sounds, the latest maneuver by House Republicans to outflank Democrats, civil rights activists, and Constitutional scholars sought to attach retroactive immunity for the telecoms giants onto a completely unrelated mental health bill.

“This bill is intended to ensure the mental health of Americans; yet, no American’s health can be fully secured if they are under attack by a terrorist or facing the potential threat of terrorist attack,” Representative Peter Hoekstra , R-Mich., said last week on the floor of the House of Representatives, in support of his attempt to amend the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act.

The act - which sought to end discriminatory treatment by insurance providers against individuals with mental health or substance-related disorders - was over ten years in the making, and had the support of the nation’s mental health experts, including the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, and the American Psychological Association. Maybe a test run in Congress is in order.

It’s difficult to see how increased secret surveillance will reduce the paranoia of those most in need - those such as Dylan Stephen Jayne, who live their lives peeking out from behind the curtains in anticipation of black helicopters spiriting them away.

Fortunately, sanity - as practiced in the august halls of Congress, at least - appears for now to have prevailed. Pass the meds, Congressman. ®

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