The Grey Lady, reexamined

Wired News is running a piece this week pointing out what most web folks have been irritated by for years: New York Times article links expire, which makes them particularly inappropriate for web usage. We here at Heathen actively try not to link to NYT stories, since we know that in a few weeks, (a) the link will expire and (b) motivated searchers will discover that online access to that same article will cost them $3, or 300% of the cost of the daily edition.

This curious policy — charge for archives, give away the daily news for free, and above all have the links break — means that folks looking for information on current events via Google will find virtually no reference to the Times. The Wired piece considers what this means for the “paper of record” — and how they got to this odd position.

Another fine rant

We like Mykeru.com a lot. This time, he provides a bit of commentary on Bush’s snub of the NAACP:

Bush to NAACP: Fuck you, porch monkeys
Yeah, you think that’s a little bit hyperbolic? Maybe you think the choice of language conflates between Bush and Cheney, which is easy to do if you’re the sort of person who always got Shari Lewis and Lambchop mixed up. But for a president who claims again and again that he’s a uniter, not a divider, despite loads of evidence to the contrary and the dead bodies to prove it, Bush’s reaction to the NAACP, where he is content to be the first president in 70 years to fail to address this, the country’s largest and most august civil right’s organization, is puzzling.

There is, of course, more.

In which we note once again how evil Clear Channel is

billboard They’re refusing to mount a billboard in Times Square purchased by an antiwar group. While a variant of the original design (at right) with a dove instead of the bomb is still being evaluated, CC stated:

[…] the decision to reject the ad was made independently by the Spectacolor division. But he said the company generally does not run copy that would be unsuitable for children or cause them to ask difficult questions, nor does it run political attacks that could be considered “personally offensive. SFGate.com coverage

Yeah, we gotta avoid those hard questions. I mean, that could lead to THOUGHT and ANALYSIS, and that’s only for people who hate freedom, right?

Via jwz.

Introducing Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, Jackass

It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. . . . Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife. Cornyn, advocating a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in a speech Thursday to the Heritage Foundation.

Via the Washington Post.

No reason to worry about this. No reason at all.

Homeland Security officials are looking into ways they can postpone the November election in the event of a terrorist attack on or near Election Day. (More coverage at Yahoo.)

Specifically, they have requested that such emergency power be granted to the newly created U. S. Election Assistance Commission, chaired by New Jersey preacher DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. More analysis at Agonist and Atrios, both of whom sum it up nicely. The biggest point is this, from Agonist, who first quotes Newsweek’s coverage: quoting and then commenting on Newsweek’s coverage:

The prospect that Al Qaeda might seek to disrupt the U.S. election was a major factor behind last week’s terror warning by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Ridge and other counterterrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots. But the success of March’s Madrid railway bombings in influencing the Spanish elections–as well as intercepted “chatter” among Qaeda operatives–has led analysts to conclude “they want to interfere with the elections,” says one official.Newsweek

And then says

They’re gnashing their teeth over the “success” of the Madrid Bombings in influencing the elections. You bet they are. However, nowhere does Newsweek mention, that with all these warnings, they haven’t raised the threat level. Hmmmm . . . Makes you wonder: you think they might be a bit worried about their poll numbers?Agonist

This sort of thing reminds me of what Teresa Nielsen Hayden had to say (her line is the first comment, but read the entry, too) a while back: “I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.” Pay attention. The democracy you save may be your own.

Because, you know, it’s illegal to take pictures of stuff if you’re brown

Ian Spiers went to take pictures of a local landmark as part of his photography class. The cops decided he was up to no good despite the fact that countless others at the location were also taking pictures.

Law enforcement must not be allowed to continue to coopt 9/11 as an excuse to harrass people they don’t like, or that don’t look like them. They work for us. Their job is to keep us safe, not bully student photographers.

This is just lovely

According to the LA Times, the Pentagon now plans to hold some detainees in secret to prevent them from being subject to legal scrutiny under the recent SCOTUS rulings.

We’re pretty sure that’s just plain evil.

More on the DMCA

Lawgeek discusses a recent preliminary injunction granted to a tape drive manufacturer seeking to use the controversial anti-cirumvention provisions to prevent repair services from working on legally sold drives for legitimate customers. If this ruling stands, it could be illegal in the future to have your car serviced by anyone other than the dealer, for example. Does this sound right to you?

In other copyright news, the INDUCE act — which makes the DMCA look almost benign — is creating quite a storm of protest. Hatch’s law would render illegal any device or technology that “induces” copyright violation, meaning that, essentially, copyright holders would have a say in what technology would be legal. The INDUCE act could be used to attack, among other things, VCRs, iPods, and even general-purpose computing equipment. I think we know by now not to trust anyone who says “well, sure, it COULD do that, but trust us, we won’t use it that way.” Right. Read more.

Will this race ever be about policies?

Not of the GOP can help it. Paul Krugman compares the candidates on health care, as an example, and comes to this conclusion:

The Kerry campaign contends that it can pay for its health care plan by rolling back only the cuts for taxpayers with incomes above $200,000. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which has become the best source for tax analysis now that the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy has become a propaganda agency, more or less agrees: it estimates the revenue gain from the Kerry tax plan at $631 billion over the next decade. What are the objections to the Kerry plan? One is that it falls far short of the comprehensive overhaul our health care system really needs. Another is that by devoting the proceeds of a tax-cut rollback to health care, Mr. Kerry fails to offer a plan to reduce the budget deficit. But on both counts Mr. Bush is equally, if not more, vulnerable. And Mr. Kerry’s plan would help far more people than it would hurt. If we ever get a clear national debate about health care and taxes, I don’t see how President Bush will win it.

The trials and trevails of our president

The Pentagon announced this week that it “accidentally” destroyed the exact records of GWB’s military service that would have proved he was never AWOL. What, exactly, are the odds? I mean, we’re sure he’s innocent, but now he has to live with the stigma of guilt because of this ever-so-unfortunate turn of events.

Yeah, right. Kos has more to say on the subject, and pretty much nails it. Ask a lawyer what destroying evidence means in criminal procedings, too; if we follow those rules, we should assume not that the records were exculpatory, but that they were as damning as possible.

More evidence we’re completely doomed

Some right-wingers up north have decided to market republican ketchup — and hey, why not; it is, after all, a vegetable thanks to Reagan — as an alternative to Heinz, which they view as “unpatriotic” due to its tenuous connection to Kerry’s campaign (his wife’s family holds only about 4% of the Heinz food company at this point, and has no management role at all).

Yeah, that’s it: to these people, supporting a Democrat is unpatriotic. Rove must love it when people are this stupid.

We suppose that there is a bit of charm to the simplicity of her theory

Then again, it’s also simpler to believe the world is flat. The Guardian covers the career and influence of Laurie Mylroie, someone best described as “nutbird Saddam conspiracy theorist.” Mylroie believes, among other things, that Saddam was behind every major act of terrorism against the US in the last 10 years, including the Oklahoma City bombing; she’s also sure they pulled of TWA 800 despite the NTSB’s findings that its tragic end was accidental.

Notwithstanding all this, she was nevertheless hired as a terrorism consultant by the Pentagon; Richard Perle thinks she’s fabulous, natch, and Wolfowitz apparently drank the Kool-Aid as well. Of course, that these guys were already looking for a reason to invade Iraq just made the path easier.

Starting with a theory and then working to publicize only the evidence that supports it isn’t exactly a quest for truth; it reminds us a bit of this piece on distinguishing pseudoscience from the real deal.

Bush wins, we lose

The House, which had momentarily grown a pair as opponents of the PATRIOT Act — from both parties — sought to curb portions of the far-reaching “anti-terror” law, has backed down in the face of a veto threat. The Feds will remain free to peruse our reading habits. Oh joy.

Critics of the Patriot Act argued that without it, investigators can still obtain book store and other records simply by obtaining subpoenas or search warrants. Those traditional investigative tools are harder to get from grand juries or courts than the orders issued under the Patriot Act, which do not require authorities to show probable cause. [Emph. added.]

Once a government GETS powers, they are generally loathe to give them up. Those who give up liberty in the pursuit of security would do well to realize that, and that (furthermore) this kind of “safety” actually puts us in MORE danger from an overpowerful government. Bruce says so, and he knows what he’s talking about.

Another reason why the DMCA hates freedom

Check out what NEC wants to do with their batteries. If they have their way, it’ll be illegal to bypass their “protection” and make batteries compatible with NEC devices, allowing NEC to charge whatever they want with no fear of competitive pressure. Look for the same thing to happen with any consumable, like ink cartridges (where this stuff is already happening), toner cartridges, and even garage door openers (though there’s been some case law there already).

Remember that Medicare bill?

The one that cost half again more than Congress was told? The one where an actuary knew this, but said he’d been threatened with dismissal if he told Congress the real figure?

An internal HHS investigation confirmed that the top Medicare guy, Thomas A. Scully, did indeed threaten to fire the chief actuary if he told the truth. Scully has since resigned to take a job as a — wait for it — lobbyist for drug companies (who will benefit from the law, natch). This is good for Scully, since the investigation found that if he were still a Federal employee, he might be subject to sanction; as is, he broke no laws, so he’ll suffer no consequences. (NYT link; use nogators/nogators)

Not that there’s anything WRONG with that

Norwegian couple has sex on stage during a concert by — and we are not making this up — a band called The Cumshots.

Ellingsen, age 28, and Leona Johansson, age 21, are members of the environmental organization “Fuck for Forest.” They have sex in public in order to put focus on the rainforest.

We got yer rain forest right here. Heh heh. Heh heh. GG Allin would be proud, we’re sure.

In case you still don’t get it: DRM and the US Constitution

Microsoft is selling a DRM’d proprietary version of the US Constitution. For $2.99, you can download it; the license agreement prohibits printing it, and explicitly limit you to making two copies a year. (More here and here.)

Wacky, huh? Sure, this is pretty benign; the Constitution is widely available in a variety of forms, and free and un-DRM’d digital copies are, well, free. There are, however, interesting implications here; Groklaw has more analysis.

Interesting developments in the world of one of our favorite restaurants

The Heathen have been eating at New Orleans’ famed Galatoire’s since the Carter administration, and the Heathen Family ate there for a couple generations before we did; it’s dining out writ large, in an old style rarely done anywhere but there anymore. There are fancier, more haute places to dine in the Big Easy, but if we’re only there one night, we eat at Galatoire’s.

It therefore comes as something of a surprise to us that Galatoire’s has been the victim of a bit of a scandal involving the firing of a popular waiter; a second, more pleasant surprise comes in the form of this book on the history of the century-old restaurant.

It’s about time to go back to 209 Bourbon, we think. You can’t get a decent sazerac in Houston — at least, not since our housekeeper stopped bringing us illegal absinthe — and the presence of a satellite Brennan’s does not render one humid, bayou city interchangable with the king-hell example on the Mississippi.

In which Patriotism is examined, explored, and defined

Pete McCloskey knows a thing or two about patriotism, having served in Korea and as a Republican member of ongress. Read what he has to say about it, about freedom, and about what’s really important.

The truth of the matter is that patriotism requires supporting the troops, but not necessarily supporting the foreign policy that sends them to Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan or Iraq. Patriotism is simply the willingness to fight, and if necessary die, for a cause reasonably believed to be in the nation’s interest. That is the patriotism July Fourth reminds us to honor. The word “patriot” is too precious to allow it to be used by the thundering rhetoric of politicians that patriotism requires not only “supporting the troops” but also supporting the foreign policy that puts them at risk.

It gets better.

Ironically, the politicians who most eagerly use the term “unpatriotic” have often declined to take the risks taken by Nathan Hale and the signers of the Declaration of Independence: facing hostile rifle and artillery fire, or worse, being hanged. Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay and George W. Bush somehow never chose to face machine-gun or artillery fire during the wars of their own youth. As patriotism justifies honor, it also requires honor on the part of those who would claim it.

Word.

We know it’s not nice to taunt the afflicted, but sometimes we can’t resist

Waxy.org finds for us a fun new web game: go to Amazon.com and look up some universally acclaimed work, like say Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Sort the customer ratings by “lowest first” and read what some slackjawed yokels have had to say. Hilarity ensues!

Perhaps the most bizarre comment Waxy finds is associated with John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme: “I think about Kenny G., for instance. His rythmic session is much more regular, whereas Coltrane’s session seems sometimes to loose the beat.” Er, right. (Predictable hilarity available also for films, books, etc.)

Dept. of things we meant to post earlier

Over at Balkinization, there’s a lovely summary of the recent jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas:

Putting together Justice Thomas’ opinion in Hamdi with his vote in ACLU v. Ashcroft, we may infer that the President can throw any citizen in a military prison indefinitely, but that the citizen has the right to view pornography while there.

Heh.

In which the Bush Administration sinks to new lows in its campaign against science

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta quietly published new regulations concerning what Federally-funded organizations doing HIV-prevention work may say and do, and the rules run counter to virtually everything known about preventing AIDS. This LA Weekly article has more:

These new regs require the censoring of any “content” — including “pamphlets, brochures, fliers, curricula,” “audiovisual materials” and “pictorials (for example, posters and similar educational materials using photographs, slides, drawings or paintings),” as well as “advertising” and Web-based info. They require all such “content” to eliminate anything even vaguely “sexually suggestive” or “obscene” — like teaching how to use a condom correctly by putting it on a dildo, or even a cucumber. And they demand that all such materials include information on the “lack of effectiveness of condom use” in preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs — in other words, the Bush administration wants AIDS fighters to tell people: Condoms don’t work. This demented exigency flies in the face of every competent medical body’s judgment that, in the absence of an HIV-preventing vaccine, the condom is the single most effective tool available to protect someone from getting or spreading the AIDS virus. Moreover, the CDC will now take the decisions on which AIDS-fighting educational materials actually work away from those on the frontlines of the combat against the epidemic, and hand them over to political appointees. […] This means that, under the new regs, political appointees will have a veto and be able to ban anything in those educational materials they deem “obscene” or lacking in anti-condom propaganda.

Perhaps, in his haste to emulate Reagan, Bush is attempting to ensure AIDS is once again the health crisis it was when the Gipper shuffled out of office. Yes, that’s inflammatory, but in cases like this, what are we to think? It gets worse:

Under the new regs, it will be impossible even to track the spread of unsafe sexual practices — because the CDC’s politically inspired censorship includes “questionnaires and survey materials” and thus would forbid asking people if they engage in specific sexual acts without protection against HIV. For that too would be “obscene.” (Questions about gay kids have already disappeared from the CDC’s national Youth Risk Survey after Christian-right pressure).

So: No condom message, and also no information gathering for public health purposes. I’m sure this is going to work out just fine. It’s not as those there’s not already ample science behind the efficacy of condoms in the face of HIV, and never mind what a bunch of virgin priests want you to think.

READ THIS ARTICLE. The agenda of this Administration is absolutely contrary to all good epidemiological science where HIV/AIDS is concerned, and they’re doing their very best to make sure all the good science gets quashed. The human cost doesn’t matter to these people; all they’re concerned about is ideological purity.

There’s a fax number and an email address at the end of the article. These new regs are in a period of public comment; let them know how wrong this is, and that it’s time to stop letting the Christian Right determine science policy. Let them hear you now, and make sure you let them hear you in November.

More: This October 2003 Salon story covers the trevails of Advocates for Youth, a national nonprofit that provides comprehensive sex education information. AfY was audited three times in a year by the Bush administration; they contend the reason is that they’re openly contemptuous of abstinence-only programs. AfY is not alone. Again, we have an administration here that is using ideology to try and trump science. Check your history books for what happens when leaders try this particular plan.

In which Sony fucks up again

In CNN story teasingly titled “Will Sony’s new Walkman run over Apple’s iPod?“, they behave as if a smaller, cheaper player were something new on the market that the iPod hasn’t had to confront before, and that price and capacity are the reasons people buy the iPod. We’re pretty sure neither is true.

The real kicker of the story is buried toward the end:

As with Sony’s other players, the NW-HD1 plays songs in the company’s proprietary ATRAC format only, meaning it is not compatible with other online stores and cannot play tunes in the popular MP3 format.

Yup; it doesn’t play MP3. Nor does it play AAC, which iTMS uses, nor, we expect, does it play Microsoft’s WMA or WMA+DRM formats. Yeah, we’re sure Jobs & co. are quaking in their boots over this one.

In which the Executive is reminded why there’s Checks and Balances

On Monday, the Supremes ruled that not only did Yaser Hamdi — an American captured in Afghanistan — have most of the rights afforded accused criminals, but that the Gitmo detainees must also be afforded the opportunity to challenge their status. (The Jose Padilla case, in which an American citizen was arrested in the US on suspician of working on a dirty bomb plot, was handed back down on a technicality, but it seems clear from their Hamdi ruling that Padilla would enjoy at least the rights afforded Hamdi.)

No one was more surprised than I that the Court was willing to slap the Executive so hard; this is an astoundingly good thing for our Republic. As Justice O’Connor, writing for the majority, said:

We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the NationĂ•s citizens. […] Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with other nations or with enemy organizations in times of conflict, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake. […] Likewise, we have made clear that, unless Congress acts to suspend it, the Great Writ of habeas corpus allows the Judicial Branch to play a necessary role in maintaining this delicate balance of governance, serving as an important judicial check on the Executive’s discretion in the realm of detentions. […] Thus, while we do not question that our due process assessment must pay keen attention to the particular burdens faced by the Executive in the context of military action, it would turn our system of checks and balances on its head to suggest that a citizen could not make his way to court with a challenge to the factual basis for his detention by his government, simply because the Executive opposes making available such a challenge. [emph. added] Absent suspension of the writ by Congress, a citizen detained as an enemy combatant is entitled to this process. Because we conclude that due process demands some system for a citizen detainee to refute his classification, the proposed “some evidence” standard is inadequate. Any process in which the Executive’s factual assertions go wholly unchallenged or are simply presumed correct without any opportunity for the alleged combatant to demonstrate otherwise falls constitutionally short. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, elipses denotes elided citation

The Court makes it very, very clear that what the Executive has done — detain people on their say-so and refuse to allow any sort of judicial review or access to counsel — is wholly inappropriate and definitely unconstitutional. Thank God someone’s paying attention; even a Bush-friendly court couldn’t give ’em a pass on this bullshit.

Ashcroft, apparently unfamiliar with or contemptuous of the portions of the Constitution inconvenient to him, has had a predictable reaction, insisting that the Court has “given more rights to terrorists.” We submit that the only rights being withdrawn or granted here are those enshrined in our most basic law, and the only granting happening here is a restoration of rights illegally abrogated by an overzealous Executive. The Court says you may not imprison people indefinitely with no counsel or right of judicial review; it has NOT said you may not investigate and arrest terrorists. (That the Court had to even rule on this is a bit shocking, and is emblematic of the sort of power grab apparently acceptble to the ruling party; Ashcroft’s reaction makes it clear that HE thinks he ought to be able to lock anybody up he wants with no review, and I think that’s more than a bit scary.) Recall that none of these people have had any opportunity to challenge their status, not even U.S. citizens Padilla and Hamdi.

Some will insist that our Constitution ought not apply to “terrorists,” though we wonder how we can tell the terrorists from the rest without some judicial review. Simply trusting the executive branch doesn’t seem like a terribly wise move; there’s a reason we have three branches of government, and if you wondered why before, perhaps this sequence of events will remind you.