OK, OK. I know. It's time for my annual good news column.
It's a deal I made with a friend to make up for all the depressing news stories I had to write this year.
This was no easy task. Aside from the end of the Bush era, and the election of Barack Obama, there wasn't all that much good news to be had. But perseverance paid off: My discovery of a fitting subject came during a session of the U.S. Senate on C-SPAN, that exciting channel sponsored by the cable industry.
Amidst the hollow echo of a totally empty Senate chamber (did you know the C-SPAN cameras are only allowed to focus on whoever is speaking, and never allowed to pan the whole chamber, full of empty seats?) stood a Republican senator, voice quivering, arms flailing, face reddening, railing against our National Security Enemy Number One, the American Civil Liberties Union.
Now, what was this legislative grandstander getting so apoplectic about? The ACLU's activities in coordinating defense teams for detainees at Guantanamo.
But why he should have been surprised - or acting surprised - is a mystery. The ACLU has been doing this kind of unpopular stuff for almost a century.
Let's go all the way back to World War I. Then, the National Civil Liberties Bureau, the ACLU's predecessor, defended the First Amendment rights of antiwar dissidents in the face of massive government repression. The administration of President Woodrow Wilson (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize!) banned anti-war literature from the mails and prosecuted individuals for merely expressing opposition to the war, or criticizing the President. Just like some Third World dictatorship!
People were convicted and sentenced to ten-year prison terms for allegedly interfering with the draft, even though they had said nothing about the draft itself.