Why we love the medical profession

Even if they suspect they can’t give you anything to actually fix the probably-viral chest cold that’s been making you miserable and keeping you from sleeping, they CAN give you stuff to ensure you won’t care. All hail narcotic cough syrup.

That is all.

Just when you thought PATRIOT couldn’t get worse

From the Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON — When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act’s expanded police powers. The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates. Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ”a piece of legislation that’s vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people.” But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ”signing statement,” an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law. In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law’s requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ”impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive’s constitutional duties.”

We have separation of powers for a reason. When will the people wake up to what evil this administration is doing? The biggest threat to the US since 9/11 has never been Bin Laden; it’s Bush and his imperial presidency.

Bruce tells us how it’s going

From security expert Bruce Schneier’s weblog, and also Wired:

It seems like every time someone tests airport security, airport security fails. In tests between November 2001 and February 2002, screeners missed 70 percent of knives, 30 percent of guns and 60 percent of (fake) bombs. And recently (see also this), testers were able to smuggle bomb-making parts through airport security in 21 of 21 attempts. It makes you wonder why we’re all putting our laptops in a separate bin and taking off our shoes. (Although we should all be glad that Richard Reid wasn’t the “underwear bomber.”)


Via here, and verified at Snopes:

On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin http://www.raskin06.com/ , professor of law at AU, was requested to testify. At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: “Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?” Raskin replied: “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” The room erupted into applause.

Emphasis added, for awesomeness.

Heathen has a cold.

But that doesn’t make this any less funny: Franz Ferdinand Frontman Shot By Gavrilo Princip Bassist. From today’s Onion, natch:

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — Lead singer and guitarist for pop band Franz Ferdinand, Alexander Kapranos, is in critical condition today after being shot by a man identified as the bassist for rock group Gavrilo Princip. “We ask fans to cooperate with Interpol to find the assailant, and call upon British Sea Power, Snow Patrol, and The Postal Service for help,” drummer Paul Thompson told music magazine NME Monday. “The suspect had links to The Decemberists and The Libertines, and we are following up on all leads.” It is unclear whether the shooting was linked to The Polyphonic Spree’s invasion of Belgium earlier this week.

Irving, Texas is a police state

Cops up there made a sweep of 36 bars last week wherein they arrested about 30 people on charges of public intoxication. Inside the bars. Their rationale? These people might drive later. That one of the bars was a hotel bar, and at least some of the arrested persons were registered there, is apparently irrelevant.

What jackasses. Somebody fire these thugs. More via The Agitator<a/>.

PR is hard

However, it’s probably only hard because, at least in the corporate world, “PR” means “LIES.”

Someone at the Post got an amusing release from some flack somewhere about the valuable role funeral directors will play in the event of a mass fatality event. (I am not making this up.) Post reporter calls back for clarification, and transcribes conversation. Madcap hilarity ensues. (Local Copy)

These are not the same cat.

Two different cats Not that I expect you to be able to tell, mind you. The top cat is Hudson. The bottom cat is Bob.

I can tell because the desk in the top picture was in a duplex I rented (1114 15th Ct., Tuscaloosa) from 1991 to 1992; that cat was the issue of a friend’s girlfriend’s cat. Said friend’s girlfriend was too irresponsible to (a) spay her cat or (b) vaccinate mama or the kittens, so unfortunately that little cat — Hudson — was born with feline leukemia and had to be put down in fall, 1992.

Hudson most truly belonged to a Former Heathen Companion, who visited the duplex often and fell hard for the not-so-bright-yet-very-cute cat; Hudson decided she hung the moon, and that was that. Before we knew she was ill, F.H.C. had managed to adopt her. We all moved to two apartments in Northport in summer 1992, but it wasn’t long before we realized Hudson’s condition.

Hudson had a little while, we were told, before she’d be really ill, but she couldn’t be around other cats. We set her up in F.H.C.’s apartment and kept her happy, but we knew it was a matter of time. Crafty bastard that I am, it was also during this time that I started trying to find another cat, which was oddly harder than it sounds. Tuscaloosa County Human Society had no kittens at all for several weeks. Finally, they called me back. They had one. I left my office immediately and drove out to TCHS, where I met a very scraggley, rat-looking, frankly ugly little kitten who was nevertheless VERY VERY VERY VERY HAPPY to be touched, held, etc. She came home with me, and for a little while we had a cat in each apartment (and a rigorous hand-and-clothes-washing plan). Eventually, Hudson had to be gently promoted to the Choir Invisible, and we consolidated Cat Operations in my apartment. We missed Hudson, but Bob’s healthy-kitten antics made it easier.

The bottom picture is Bob, asleep under the sheets on my old waterbed in that Northport apartment, sometime between summer 1992 and summer 1993; since the shots are from the same roll of film (film! What the hell is that?), I’m inclined to say earlier rather than later. I can tell by the bed placement, F.H.C.’s laundry basket in the background, the closet door, and the dresser thing on the right.

It was just a happy coincidence that Bob ended up being a dead ringer for Hudson once she put on a few pounds, but I’ve never minded. It certainly made F.H.C. happy, especially since Bob was quickly just as much her cat as Hudson had been. Amusingly, the only other H.C. that Bob has truly liked is, of course, Mrs. Heathen, whose lap she is loathe to leave even for cheese. The cat’s got taste.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Miles

Agent Triple-FFF and his Ace Sidekick Boogielips have blessed HeathenHouse with some damned fine Miles Davis for our birthday, and it just plain smokes. Some fool’s been sitting on this stuff for 30 years.

Of course, it being 1970-era “Live-Evil” Miles, it’s probably best that Mrs Heathen is out of town this weekend. Chicks don’t dig on the fusion Miles so much.

Still: SMOKES. Smokes. Smokes. This band includes his “young turks” — John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett, Michael Henderson on bass, Glen Bartz on sax, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Airto Moreira on percussion. It’s six disks of live goodness from the Celler Door, in Washington DC, from December of 1970. As our friend Cary is fond of quoting, it’s worthy of a full-on Ted Baxter “TOP NOTCH” bellow.

(Of course, if you don’t dig electric Miles and all his trumpet-through-a-wah-wah glory, you can also use it to clear rooms.)

More the anti-choice Right

It’s no secret now that many on the Right would like to ban not just abortion, but also birth control. Recall that the cases before Roe concerning privacy were about just that, not abortion (Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479 (1965)), about access to marital birth control, and the follow-up Eisenstatdt v. Baird (405 U.S. 438 (1972)), about access for unmarried persons). These are people who want women to be mothers not just first and foremost, but ONLY. They’re attempting to redefine pregnancy as the moment of sperm-egg union (the AMA says it’s implantation) in order to reclassify emergency contraception and even birth control pills as abortifacients, and are working to spread misinformation about condom use. This is the same crowd, most likely, who don’t want us to vaccinate against HPV, since safer sex means might lead to more promiscuity.

This makes clear that anti-choice isn’t just about abortion. If you’re truly opposed to abortion because you believe all pregnancies should have a chance at birth, the logical position is to support the widest possible access to good education and birth control, but these people don’t see it that way.

Salon has more. Read up, and then send some money to Planned Parenthood.

We don’t like where this is going

Slashdot alerts us that scientists have discovered that capsaicin, the chemical that makes chilis hot, kills prostate cancer cells.

“The good news is that we can cure your cancer. The bad news is that you’re going to have to put this habanero up your ass.”

RFID and hysteria

While we recognize that there may well come a time when RFID virii exist, the current stories about exploits utilize equipment that is a long, long way from the stuff people are actually using in the supply chain today. N.B. that the BBC article refers to creating an exploit in “only” 127 bytes. That’s awesome, we’re sure, but the key bit of data to remember for currently-used supply chain tags is that they hold 96 bits.

Furthermore, the exploits discussed in this paper strike us as almost comically bad; i.e., they rely on all sorts of other holes in the system, like leaving the door open to SQL injection. The “possible scenarios” they discuss are even worse, suggesting that a nefarious shopper might bollocks up a supermarket by replacing an item’s tag with one of his own.

Let’s stop with hysteria and think more in terms of the real world, ok? RFID exploits such as this are a long way off in the real world. The best protection NOW is to make sure we’re smart with new tools like RFID. An excellent place to start would be in NOT putting RFID in passports, not whining about “RFID Viruses! OMG!! WTF!!”

Coolest. Game. EVAR.

Maxis — SimCity’s publisher — is preparing a game called Spore. This GoogleVideo is a presentation by Maxis’ Will Wright at the 2005 Game Developers’ Conference. You start as a tiny organism in a drop of water, desperately trying to evolve. The game moves through animal stages, tribal stages, a “Simcity-esque” phase, all the way through interstellar colonization. There is, of course, already a Wikipedia article, and screenshots can be had at Spore.com. It’s said to be due in Q4.

Holy crap. WANT.

Music to our ears

Via Atrios, who quotes a Pew survey:

The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is “incompetent,”and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: “idiot” and “liar.”

Phone companies are made of pure stupid.

So our Razr went tits-up on Monday, but with an inventive and new failure, not, apparently, the one that’s going around. (Go figure.) We called Cingular, explained the situation, and they agreed to send us out a new phone. The options were “wait a week” or “wait 1-2 days,” but the latter costs $7. Whatever; we needed a phone. It’s just another example of the pure unadulterated suck provided by wireless companies.

Anyway, as part of the conversation, they needed to know what color Razr was involved. “It’s black,” we said, “but at long as you don’t send us a pink one, we don’t really care.”

Imagine our surprise when the phone arrived the next day. It’s a silver one, which was fine. We found in the box nothing but the main phone body itself wrapped in plastic in a no-frills inner box. There was no battery or SIM card, just as we expected — but also missing was the back panel of the phone. Fifteen minutes later, when we got a human on the phone, we were told “oh, yes, we only send out the phone, not the accessories.” The back is an accessory? “Yes, sir.” Whatever (once again). Please send us a black one, then, so we don’t have Houston’s only two-tone Razr. This time, at least, they waived the $7 fee.

So the black phone just arrived. In the box was a more or less complete Razr kit, including (a) a black Razr; (b) a battery; (c) a black back panel; (d) a charger; and (e) a new manual. So much for not sending out “accessories.”

Now we’re going out, so we can send these goons their other two phones.

Things we learned today

It turns out that cron is smarter than we thought, such that it’s much harder to fuck yourself over DST than we assumed.

Still, we moved any jobs in the skipped-or-repeated interval to before 0100 or after 0300, just to be clear.

If this makes no sense to you, just move along and don’t worry about it.

Dept. of Economics, Nonstandard Instrument Division

From one of our far-flung correspondents:

So, [a coworker] bought a little Toyota three years ago for about 5m pesos ($7500 at the time) and the going price used is now about 4m pesos ($8000 now). So the dollar has sunk faster than the depreciation on the car, and he’s going to make money (in dollar terms) by selling his car after driving it every day for three years. I think it says something about the quality of your currency if you can make money by going to South American and investing in cars.

Dept. of Stupid, Compressed Gas Division

Go read this; the following excerpt sets the scene:

These [tanks] are usually equipped with pressure relief fittings, since nitrogen does tend to want to be a gas, and gases do tend to want to expand quite a bit. This tank, though, which seems to have been kicking around since 1980, had been retrofitted by a real buckaroo. Both the pressure relief and rupture disks had failed for some reason in the past, so they’d been removed and sealed off with metal plugs. You may commence shivering now.

Maybe this is why they’re so hostile to due process

The prosecution may well have totally screwed any chance of the so-called 20th hijacker getting the death penalty.

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 13 — The sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui teetered on the brink of a mistrial today, as the judge in the case angrily said she might spare him the death penalty following the disclosure that a government lawyer had improperly coached some witnesses. “In all my years on the bench, I’ve never seen a more egregious violation of the rule about witnesses,” Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said.

Shouldn’t this be a slam dunk? Isn’t Moussaoui (a) barking mad and (b) representing himself? They can’t win under those circumstances, so they have to CHEAT, even knowing what the stakes are? Wow.

More here.

The Baby, the Bathwater, and the Moral Bankruptcy of the Catholic Church

Catholic Charities in Boston will stop helping to place ANY foster children in permanent homes rather than facilitate same-sex adoption.

The controversy began in October when the Globe reported that Catholic Charities had been quietly processing a small number of gay adoptions, despite Vatican statements condemning the practice. Over the last decades, the Globe reported, approximately 13 children had been placed by Catholic Charities in gay households, a fraction of the 720 children placed by the agency during that period.

Yeah, you read that right; 13 out of 720. They’re willing to bail on the 707 to keep from helping the baker’s dozen. Nice move, kids. Clearly, dogma is more important than compassion, though we Heathen think your ultimate boss may disagree.

If it were up to them, they’d figure out a way to make those myths about masturbation true, too

Never forget that our nation, “conceived in liberty” as we may be, was in fact initially founded by people too uptight to be British.

The latest manifestation of this ongoing American puritanism is detailed in the latest New Yorker; forces on the Right are working to prevent the widespread adoption of an HPV vaccine, since to remove its risks would be to encourage sex. HPV is a precursor to cervical cancer in women, but men can carry the virus as well. By pursuing this angle, they are actively attempting to stifle medical innovations that would reduce disease and death because they don’t want people fucking any more than is absolutely necessary. How much more screwy can you get? In what way is this moral?

(Yes, we just linked to Andrew Sullivan, but we initially got it from Atrios.)

They’re all bought and paid for.

The House has passed a bill backed by food industry lobbyists gutting all state food labeling laws and assigning all such authority to the FDA. The bill had no hearing, and is moving forward despite the opposition of most states’ attorneys general.

Maybe the Senate will be more sane on this, but we doubt it. At what point will be insist on REAL lobbying reform?