George W. Bush--April 20, 2004: "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires---a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
George W. Bush, July 14, 2004: "A couple of things that are very important for you to understand about the Patriot Act. First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order."
As the spying-on-our-own-citizens scandal unfolds, the favorite talking point of the right-wing pundits has been, "The president had to bypass the FISA law, because there simply wasn't enough time to get a warrant!" Fortunately, people like Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts are part of the reality-based community:
We know now what he knew then: This was a lie.
Want to guess how long it takes to get a warrant to eavesdrop? ... In extraordinary circumstances, investigators can listen in for up to 72 hours without a warrant. You know how many warrant requests were submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Court last year? According to The [New York] Times, 1,754. How many were rejected? None.
And yet a sizable chunk of Americans sincerely but naively are willing to give up their freedom because they think "the president is just trying to protect us." For them a couple reminders are in order. The first by columnist Bob Herbert from yesterday's New York Times:
For a president---any president---to O.K. eavesdropping on U.S. citizens on American soil without a warrant is an abomination. First, it's illegal---and for very good reasons. Spying on the populace is a giant step toward totalitarianism. In the worst case scenario, it's the nightmare of Soviet-style surveillance.
Related to that is the all-important matter of the separation of powers, which is the absolutely crucial cornerstone of our form of government---our bulwark against tyranny. ... Get rid of the checks and balances and you've gotten rid of the United States as we've known it.
The second comes from Mr. Pitts:
...It's not hard to understand the urge to look the other way. Because with all due respect to the threat terrorists pose, Franklin Roosevelt was right. Fear itself is still the first enemy. When people are scared, they don't think, they don't reason and they want nothing so desperately as to just stop being scared. So often, they'll go along with anything that holds out that promise. Even if it means allowing the rights our forebears won from Britain's King George III to be denuded by America's King George I.
Still, we should be ashamed.
Freedom deserves a better epitaph than fear.
The ultimate irony? Even after four years of Bush's secret spying shenanigans and public pledges to "protect the homeland," the 9/11 commission says we're still not any safer. Now that's something to be afraid of.
Cheers and Jeers cowers under the bed in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
Note: I shall now read today's C&J---out loud, mind you---while drinking this glass of water...
By the Numbers:
Days `til Spring: 69
Days `til the Musher's Bowl Winter Carnival in Bridgton, Maine: 31
Minutes President Bush spent hearing the Iraq-related views from 13 former secretaries of state and defense last Thursday: 5-10
(Source: Think Progress)
Seconds of talk-time per Secretary, if the meeting lasted the whole 10 minutes: 46
Iceland's rank among the least-corrupt countries in the world: 1
America's rank: 17
Chad & Bangladesh's rank: Tied for 158th
(Source: Transparency International's 2005 report)
Your Puppy Pic of the Day: Meet the snarkiest cocker spaniels in the country. And each one comes with a free lock for your liquor cabinet. (Cheers to C&J'er Polisigh for the link.)
DOUBLE MEGA CHEERS to the lipstick falling off the pig. How much fun is this?? Tom DeLay formally announced Saturday that his days as House majority leader are over...and now the Texas court of appeals says he's got to stand trial like a common criminal. I really want to send a heartfelt condolence card, but I haven't found one with the word 'asshole' in it yet.
EH, WHATEVER to Day 1. The Senate judiciary committee's confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito began yesterday. Round 1 summary:
"Let's see. I'm an Aries. I love puppies, snowflakes, female subjugation, folk music, an imperial presidency and slumber parties. I think Nick is a creep and Jessica should make him pay! Does my Scooby Doo tank top make me look fat...?"
Maybe tomorrow Senator Coburn will shut up and let the nominee speak.
CHEERS to false alarms. Dick Cheney went to the hospital early Monday with shortness of scowl. Doctors detected formation of a small conscience polyp, which was quickly removed. Crisis averted.
JEERS to the first overused phrase of 2006. Ta daaa! "Tip of the iceberg" is the term being bandied about to describe what we currently know about the Abramoff scandal. C'mon, journalists, call it what it is---the crown of the crapheap.
CHEERS to outrageously brilliant ideas. Memo to the New York Times, which decided to start charging people to read their columnists: Hey, why not go to a system like Salon.com's, where we have the option of watching a commercial to gain a free "day pass?" Sponsors would beat your doors down for the exposure. Mr. Publisher: Tear...down...this...wall!
JEERS to lung cancer. Now it's claimed the life of Lou Rawls. Enough already.
JEERS to the defense secretary you have, not the defense secretary you wish to have. Turns out that, had our troops been properly "supported" by Donald Rumsfeld with the proper body armor, hundreds of our troops would still be alive today. And now Hillary wants to get to the bottom of it. If you scheduled your hearings around Rummy's squash game, ma'am, would he be obliged? Gosh, yes.
JEERS to reform at the speed of tortoise. On January 10, 1878, a constitutional amendment was introduced in the Senate that would give women the right to vote. The amendment was so slow to catch on that it wasn't signed into law for another 42 years. Who says men are insecure?
CHEERS to Maine: the Straight-A state. We get the highest marks possible for our stop-smoking efforts by the American Lung Association:
The state set aside more than $15.3 million for tobacco prevention and control this past fiscal year--36 percent more than the minimum recommended by the Centers for Disease Prevention. Tobacco products can be purchased only through a clerk and with a photo ID; the state conducts regular checks. Smoking is banned in restaurants and bars and restricted in public and private workplaces. And lawmakers just doubled the tax to $2 a pack--$1.08 more than the national average.
Our only quibble: cigarette butts on sidewalks are piled waist-deep.
JEERS to not paying attention. On January 10, 2001, President-(not)elect Bush and his "national security" team (Condi Rice and two street mimes) received a top-secret Pentagon briefing on military challenges around the world. We suspect they tuned out somewhere around, "Now listen carefully, this is important..."
CHEERS to defying expectations. C&J thought Brokeback Mountain would fizzle as it went national. Wrong! It had the highest per-theatre average last weekend:
"Brokeback Mountain" seems to be dashing speculation that its subject matter -- a homosexual romance between two old sheepherding pals -- would turn off audiences outside of urban markets.
"We're very squarely in middle America, all the way to Duluth, Minn., Portland, Maine, El Paso, Tulsa, Wichita. We're in the heartland," said Jack Foley, head of distribution for Focus Features. "I think that's no longer the real issue. The real issue is how much the film is being seen by people all over the country."
And as punishment for being so wrong, I must be sentenced to 6 months in a pup tent with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
CHEERS to the bloggers' wrath. Online residents of MySpace.com---which was bought by Rupert Murdoch and News Corp---promised they wouldn't interfere with the freedom of the site. Surprise, surprise...they were full of shit, and now they're hearing about it from angry bloggers:
The intervention by News Corp in the traditionally open-access world of the web---in particular the alteration of personal user profiles---provoked a storm of angry posts in online "blogs".
"This is soooo like Fox and News Corp to try and secretly seal our mouths with duct tape," wrote "Alex" to Blog Herald.
JEERS to getting picked on. This morning C&J gets extraordinarily-renditioned to the dentist to get stabbed in the gums with metal spears. They have TVs installed on the ceiling so patients can have something to watch besides the hygienist's nose hairs. I always turn on Fox News. It makes even the messiest root canal seem like a deluxe facial.
CHEERS to serving your country. Prince William followed in his little brother's footsteps Sunday by joining military school at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. The Bush twins, meanwhile, are still trying to find West Point on a map.
CHEERS to the latest excuses for home vegetation. Out on DVD today: The Constant Gardner, Hustle & Flow, and the 20th anniversary (yet sadly commentary-free) edition of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Still Ben Stein's finest moment...especially compared to his political ones.
One Year Ago in C&J: January 10, 2005...
CHEERS to Joe Scarborough. His berating of payola-taker Armstrong Williams is really something everybody should see. And why do we suspect this is just the tip of a White House money-for-propaganda iceberg? [1/10/06 update: Oops.] Bless whoever came up with the Freedom of Information Act.
CHEERS and JEERS to good news and bad news. The good news: more companies are accommodating gay couples with children by offering flexible work schedules and benefits. The bad news: While some states disagree, the federal government still says it's A-OK to fire someone for being gay. Cart...Horse.
And just one more...
CHEERS to my homo town hero. January 10, 1982 was a dark day for Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Its most famous son, Paul "Center Square" Lynde, was found dead in his Beverly Hills home, the victim of a sudden death heart attack. The jokes the barely-closeted queen tossed out on Hollywood Squares were armed with delayed-reaction fuses, and often took a beat or two before their true meaning kicked in. Take it away, Paul...
Peter Marshall: According to the French Chef, Julia Child, how much is a pinch?
Paul Lynde: Just enough to turn her on...!
Peter Marshall: We've all heard the old phrase "A pig in a poke." What is a poke?
Paul Lynde: It's when you're not really in love.
Peter Marshall: Paul, is there such a thing as a female rooster?
Paul Lynde: Yeah, they're the ones who just go "a doodle doo..."
And there's an amazing web site with lots of Lynde clips here. Enjoy.
Floor's open. What are you cheering and jeering about today?
Today's Shameless testimonial
"I will do everything in my power to stop anything beneficial to Cheers and Jeers, period. Every single thing that benefits their pooties in particular I will do everything I can to make sure that it gets slowed down or stopped."
---Sen. Rick Santorum