How We’re Getting Fucked, SCOTUS Edition

The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote. In a victory for the Bush administration, justices said the 20 million public employees do not have free-speech protections for what they say as part of their jobs. Critics predicted the impact would be sweeping, from silencing police officers who fear retribution for reporting department corruption, to subduing federal employees who want to reveal problems with government hurricane preparedness or terrorist-related security. Supporters said that it will protect governments from lawsuits filed by disgruntled workers pretending to be legitimate whistleblowers. The ruling was perhaps the clearest sign yet of the Supreme Court’s shift with the departure of moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the arrival of Alito.

More here.

We’re just glad it got better

For your amusement, we present one of the unaired pilots for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are apparently two floating around; we’ve been told this is the second, later one. Both feature most of the right cast, with two major exceptions: Principal Flutie is played by Stephen Tobolowsky (“Ned Ryerson” from Groundhog Day) instead of Ken Lerner (Star Trek actor Armin Shimerman doesn’t take over as Principal Snyder until the 9th episode), but the biggie is that Willow isn’t Alyson Hannigan.

You can tell Joss wrote this, but the snappy dialog associated with the show (and with Angel and Firefly) apparently developed after it got picked up.

Good Rant!

Katha Pollitt beats the snot out of the antisex Right in her most recent Nation article. Mostly, it’s about how some are deeply opposed to a vaccine against HPV — which would therefore prevent cervical cancer and save lives — because it might encourage women to have sex.

No, we are not making this up. We wish we were. They’ve stopped being about “prolife” and are now more or less embracing “anti-sex” as a rallying point. Don’t think for a minute that these folks would stop at a repeal of Roe; they’re after Griswold, too.

What you’re doing this weekend

Our friends at Infernal Bridegroom Productions have been working with Daniel Johnston for a year or more on an original rock opera based on his songs. Last night was the preview party, and let us tell you just how incredible it is: Wow. Mrs Heathen and I were taken aback, and we’re not easily stunned. It’s solid and beautiful and amazing.

Do not miss this. It runs Fridays and Saturdays through June 24 ($15). Go quickly, though, as you may want to see it again. We do. Call 713 522 8443 for reservations.

We knew they were out of touch, but this is astounding

Tom DeLay has turned to Stephen Colbert for support, apparently unaware that the “Colbert” on TV is a parody of right-wing blowhards like O’Reilly., his legal defense fund’s web site, is featuring a video of Colbert’s hilarious interview with Robert Greenwald, director of the anti-Delay film The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress. Colbert does his usual idiot-conservative schtick while Greenwald explains, fairly clearly, what DeLay’s done. According to the fund’s mass email, though, Greenwald crashed and burned under Colbert’s questions.

Are these people really that stupid?

We know what’s going on, and it has nothing to do with principle

Somewhat surprisingly, GOP lawmakers are bitching about the FBI raiding Democratic representative Jefferson’s office and gathering evidence, which is an entirely appropriate response since Jefferson is so crooked he has to screw his pants on in the morning. The GOP’s actual agenda? Almost certainly laying the groundwork for similar bitching when any of the major investigations into GOP wrongdoing lead to similar raids on GOP lawmakers. (Which seems sort of inevitable, when you consider Abramoff and Cunningham cooperating with prosecutors, doesn’t it?)

As the Axis of Nielsen Hayden notes, could they be any more transparent?

Yet again, we point out how hostile this Administration is to its citizens

Abu Gonzales wants to prosecute journalists who print leaked classified information. While we’re sure this is a popular idea among those who’d rather we didn’t know about secret prisons, Abu Graib, torture, extraordinary rendition, extralegal wiretapping, and the NSA sniffing through all our phone records, well, we’re pretty sure the Founders enshrined a free press first for a good reason — specifically, so that the press can serve as a check on governmental power. Think Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, etc., too, if the more recent examples aren’t good enough for you.

It other words, shut the fuck up, Alberto.

Bye, Sam

Sam This is a picture of Sam from this entry back when Sam’s parents had an engagement crawfish boil in 2003. Sam liked the crawdads so much he’d eat them when they were still pinchy, which is both hilarious and nasty.

This week Sam was diagnosed with a grossly enlarged heart, cause unknown, and pretty unusual for a dog as young as Sam (he was about six?). Mrs Heathen and I spent last night and Thursday night hanging out with Sam and Joy and baby Gwen, partly as a favor to Joy, and partly because we loved him, too. His breathing was terribly labored, but he seemed to like having people near him.

About an hour ago, Joy and Carl called us to tell us he’d passed on at about seven this morning.

Bye, Sam. Lots of people miss you.

In which we reflect on years past

Our generation, Heathen, will have much to answer for and much to explain as we grow older. The 80s were an odd time; the west was in thrall to vicious right-wing philosophies promulgated by Reagan and Thatcher, and the world of the arts reacted accordingly. It is possible, we presume, to explain 80s-era covert military adventurism like Iran-Contra and the like as an outgrowth of the culture of fear that thrived in the Cold War. After all, we watched films about how to handle post-nuclear-exchange fallout in gradeschool, and bravely tried to pretend such an exchange wouldn’t destroy the world as we knew it, and that it also wasn’t in some way inevitable. But this, too, is understandable in the socioeconomic and geopolitical wake of the second World War, and the subsequent cooling of the US-Soviet relationship that probably peaked at Yalta.

Still, much remains of the 80s that children today cannot hope to understand or even sympathize with. They will look back on these things with horror and revulsion, and be utterly incapable of reacting in any way that does not include wholesale dismissal and damnation, and there is no excuse or justification we can offer.

We speak, of course, of this guy’s hair, and all sort of related crimes preserved forever by the Intarwubs. Children of today, we’re sorry. Especially for this, too. And also this.

But not for this or this. Not at all.

Update: Final link fixed.

Ohio, summarized

Those close to Heathen are of course aware that we spent part of the week in Dayton, Ohio. Of Ohio, we say only this: It is not a coincidence that the Wright Brothers are from Ohio. Only a place like Ohio could push men to find new, faster methods of transportation, presumably in their search to put Dayton, et. al., behind them.

Hat tip to M.A.D. for pointing this out.

We’re sure you’ll get a kick out of this

Subject: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills are separating. We seed the horrid joke well with these few from, well, The Well.

  1. “The divorce should be a snap for Paul — she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”
  2. “We understand Heather has no idea why, either — she’s totally stumped.”
  3. “Apparently, it’s just to hard to follow in Linda’s footsteps.”
  4. “At least we know she didn’t kick him out of the house.”
  5. “Sources say she’ll insist on a hefty settlement, as she has no visible means of support.”

Additional entries entertained in the c-c-c-comments.

Specter Gives In

In a shocking development, GOP senator Arlen Specter HAS been (past tense) pushing hard for a clause in a pending bill that would force (well, maybe) the administration to actually seek a legal judgement on the legality of the NSA domestic spying program.

In a not so shocking move, he’s given in, and no such clause will be in the final bill. The more Right-wing members of his committee are apparently opposed to any sort of judicial oversight on executive power. Glenn Greenwald:

Without the provision which was originally “demanded” by Sen. Specter, it is basically impossible for any plaintiff to ever challenge the legality of the NSA program. In very general terms, in order to have standing to bring such a suit, a plaintiff would have to prove that they have been specifically injured by the warrantless eavesdropping beyond the injuries of an average citizen. But the program is secret and there have been no investigations into it. As a result, nobody knows whose calls have been intercepted without warrants. Therefore, any would-be plaintiff would be immediately trapped in the type of preposterous, bureaucratic Catch-22 in which American law specializes and which the Bush administration is eager to exploit — namely, since nobody knows whose conversations have been eavesdropped on, nobody could ever make the showing necessary to maintain such a lawsuit, and since the administration claims that all such information is highly classified, the evidence necessary to make that showing can never be obtained. Thus, in the absence of the provision in Sen. Specter’s bill, the administration would be able, in virtually all circumstances, to block a ruling on the legality of the NSA eavesdropping program…

What passes for “controversial” at the mainstream networks

The United Church of Christ, a fairly normal Christian church, created a spot emphasizing their inclusive nature. The pseudochristian Right spends so much time talking about who’s going to hell, they must’ve figured it was about time someone associated with a Christian church said something in public that actually had something to do with Christ’s teachings. It’s a brilliant and lovely spot, and you should watch it.

However, you can pretty much only see it online, since NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, et. al., have all refused to air it. Tthey’ll cheerlead for the Administration and the war, but the idea that God loves everyone is too “controversial” for TV. We’re not sure how that worked, but we’re pretty certain the degree to which the ad would’ve made the right wingers apoplectic played a role.

It just gets better and better

Remember when it was “oh, we’re just watching foreign calls with the NSA, no big deal!” — even though it was manifestly illegal according to FISA, which is, you know a law? And how then it was, “oh yeah, we’re also creating an enormous database of every phone call in America, but don’t worry, we won’t abuse that information”? Yeah, well, the abuse started almost immediately.

From Atrios:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells us the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources. “It’s time for you to get some new cell phones, quick,” the source told us in an in-person conversation. We do not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls. Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation. ABC

How far will we let them go?

Dept. of Creeping Domesticity

So, late last week, half of the Heathen World HQ Master Bedroom Closet fell to the ground with a resounding and mildly disturbing thud. The culprit? Frankly, while the hardware was quite loaded, the real problem is that the builder chose unapologetically shitty closet hardware in the first place. So fuck him.

Anyway, Mrs Heathen and I thought about it, and did a bit of research, and then braved the wilds of the Galleria Area yesterday to fetch a $400 pile of Elfa closet hardware. This stuff is wholly unshitty, and not THAT expensive for what you get (four bills got us 8 linear feet of stuff, including two levels of hanging rail in one segment and a column of shelves at one end). The whole system hangs from a rail you can, if you like, screw into the framing timbers at the top of the closet wall (that’s what we did; Elfa insists you can hang the whole thing with drywall anchors, but we’re pretty sure that’s bullshit). Ten minutes with a level, a pencil, and a drill and you’ve done all the actual work you need to do. Everything else is closet lego.

So, the upshot is that Chief Heathen’s end of the closet is roughly 900% more attractive than it was before, especially after the more or less unavoidable purge associated with moving everything out of and then back into the closet. Seriously: we’ve gone back upstairs to admire it several times since the installation. The downside to this is that Mrs Heathen’s half of the closet — the part drastically less used prior to her arrival — is still rockin’ the craptastic white wire stuff, as is the end wall of our end. However, she has an Elfa catalog, and we’re pretty sure she’ll have a plan by the time we get back from Dayton later this week.

Oh yes. Dayton. We still don’t know why a Silicon Valley company would put their demo and education center in a city so hard to get to simply, but they didn’t ask us when they built it. We understand putting it in the midwest, which makes it reachable from both coasts, but what the hell is wrong with Chicago? We suspect they’re getting kickbacks from airlines for all the connecting flights they’ve generated. Weasels.

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad

Bush stated today that they’re not trolling through our private lives with this massive, unprecedented database of telephone calls. That doesn’t even pass the giggle test, but it sort of doesn’t matter what he says at this point — only the raving nutbird looney right-wing fringe believe him anymore. It’s going to be amusing to see if this is the event that drags his approval ratings into Nixonian territory (though, to be fair, his disapproval numbers are already higher than Nixon’s).

Our Emerging Police State, Part 2

Remember Bush’s aforementioned illegal domestic spying plan, wherein he insists he’s “only listening to overseas calls?” Yeah, turns out instead that the NSA has been trying to listen to every phone call in the US, and that the big telcos — with the exception of Qwest, God love ’em — totally rolled over despite the complete lack of warrants.


Our Emerging Police State, Part 1

The Justice Department inquiry into Bush’s manifestly illegal domestic spying plan has been killed because the NSA will not grant the DoJ attorneys sufficient clearance. No, we are not making this up. The NSA is apparently in a position to kill an investigation of itself, and nobody’s screaming about what a complete conflict of interest this is.

Truth from Chile

After passing on these startling findings to Our Man In Chile, a conversation about wildlife ensued. O.M.I.C. was at the same time observing a very small hummingbird outside his window, which led us to the following conversation.

O.M.I.C.: i am in no position to dispute their findings
Heathen: Because the mountainous regions of Chile are utterly and tragically devoid of enormous reptilian predators?
O.M.I.C.: among other reasons, yes

Then, slightly later:

O.M.I.C.: there is an impossibly small hummingbird outside
O.M.I.C.: it’s like a large bee
Heathen: I got some (poor) pictures of a normal sized on in Mendocino on our honeymoon.
Heathen: It kept folding space and suddenly being somewhere else.
Heathen: And was therefore hard to photograph.
Heathen: Frankly, the whole idea of alligators is pretty bizarre.
O.M.I.C.: it is much easier to explain hummingbird behavior if you assume not that they are very light, but are instead infinitely dense
O.M.I.C.: re: alligators, i think it is very important, at the end of the day, to be thankful that you were not eaten by something. without alligators we lose this small satisfaction.

So there’s that.

Unanswered Questions

Mark Pilgrim is blogging again; the linked entry poses a question we here at Heathen would very much like the answer to.

How DO you back up 100GB of data a year for the rest of your life? All the documents and pictures and videos and whatnot pile up quickly, and while hard disc space is cheap, it’s not particularly solid or suited for long-term storage. Tapes rot. Paying someone else is, at this point, a nonstarter (Mark looked). DVDs are tiny (4GB each) and also not immortal.

We’ve stated before that, for real security, you must measure your backup security in time zones and spindles. It’s actually more than that: you really need to keep them “live” on a real computer and not on some disconnected hard drive someplace, too. Why? Formats change. Keeping your data live means you keep it on reasonably recent technology (ask my client where he’s gonna go to get the pre-DOS 5.25″ disks from his GRiD read, for example). Right now, though, there just doesn’t appear to be an easy way to solve this problem. You’d think it would be a business plan in here someplace, but apparently not. Or not yet, anyway.