Make up your own “Mightier than the sword joke”

Frequent traveller Joey Devilla reports that the Brits are confiscating PENS at the gate — not at security, but at the gate, as part of the boarding process:

Another thing they don’t tell you — in fact, they don’t tell you until the search at the gate: they won’t let you bring a pen onto the plane. I only lost a ball-point pen which I’m pretty sure came from Tucows’ office supply closet. Others were less fortunate; in the bin where confiscated pens were being collected, I saw a at least a dozen “executive” pens, including Crosses and Mont Blancs. If you’re accustomed to carrying an expensive pen, do not take it with you!

Without pens, we had nothing with which to fill out the immigrations and customs forms required for international flights arriving at their first port of entry to the United States. We ended up — all 172 of us — sharing the chief flight attendant’s pen, passing it from row to row. (Emph. mine.)

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Plame “Solved?”

CNN is reporting that it may have been Richard Armitage who leaked (purportedly inadvertantly) Valerie Plame’s name (but not status) to Robert Novak. Armitage was a vocal critic of the Administration’s policies in Iraq, and left his post in the State Department after Bush’s first term.

Novak’s July 14, 2003, column cited two unnamed Bush officials as sources for the information about Plame — which, regardless of source, Novak was clearly publishing for partisan reasons; the entire point of the column was to discredit Plame’s husband, who had been debunking the whole “yellowcake” idea in the press.

Upshot: if the Administration isn’t behind the leak or its confirmation, well, good for them. We’re afraid the laundry list of grievances against this most mendacious of mobs, however, is still plenty long, and there’s no shortage of crimes for which many in this White House should, but probably won’t, stand trial.

Big Music Still Doesn’t Get It

Universal is said to be working on a new online music store called SpiralFrog that will offer music for free. However, there are several dealbreaker problems:

  • Users must log in to the system at least once a month, or the files will stop working;
  • Users will not be able to burn the music to CD;
  • Users will be unable to download the music to iPods.

Yeah. We’re sure Apple’s quaking in their boots on this one. No thanks.

Sen. Ted Stevens is an even bigger goatfucker than previously believed

Wonkette reports it’s Senator Tubes holding up the budgetary transparency bill. Both sides of the political blog world have been trying to figure out who the anonymous member was stopping this legislation, and it turns out it the pork king from Alaska. What a fucktard. Does no one in Alaska watch the fucking news? This douchebag is more embarrassing than even my home state’s legislative team.

Dept. of Software Experiments

So, this afternoon Mike mentioned trying Thunderbird as a one-stop solution for both email and RSS feeds, which sounded kind of interesting. It would have to be VERY good to get us to switch from using the native plus the standalone NetNewsWire. Mail is no great mail client, but it wins by being completely integrated with the Apple Address Book, which in turn syncs seamlessly with the Treo; there’s no way we’re going back to multiple address lists. NNW, on the other hand, is legitimately excellent. Still, always intrigued by the prospect of new software — and free software at that — we downloaded T-bird to give it a look-see.

A very brief look-see, as it turns out. We can’t seem to make T-bird arrange itself in a way that doesn’t look like ass and waste acres of space; even its version of the layout we use in both Mail and NNW wastes so much space it’s useless to us. and NNW aren’t free or Free, so we’d like to find alternatives, but at the end of the day we also can’t backtrack on functionality or interface. T-bird loses on both counts.

Of course, if we were like Mike, we’d still be reading email in emacs, so we expect T-bird will frustrate him for wholly different reasons. Heh.

Life in Police States

A man in Baltimore was arrested for stealing his own car in a particularly egregious case of “DWB.” Despite having clear title to the vehicle, it was apparently the testimony of the owner of the stolen car (a Cadillac of a different color) that got him off.

Even so, here’s the real kicker: “police sold Spence’s car at auction two months before his day in court.” Yup: his lawfully purchased car was grabbed and sold by the state despite the absence of any crime.

Jackasses. We need a clear and national reexamination of the forfeiture laws in this country; police cannot be allowed to get away with behavior like this.

Here’s something fun

It’s a Bush video, but this time Bush isn’t the jackass — CNN’s Kyra Phillips is. See, Kyra left the booth with her wireless mic attached and on. When she went to the bathroom. And nobody managed to kill it, so her powder-room chatter went out live.

Awesome. We’ve heard anecdotes for years about pastors hitting the head with their mics still on, but we guess Kyra managed to miss those stories.

What Terrorists Want

Security guru Bruce Schneier points out that what they want is, more or less, exactly what we’re giving them: overreaction, disruption, fear, and terror.

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we’re doing exactly what the terrorists want.

We’re all a little jumpy after the recent arrest of 23 terror suspects in Great Britain. The men were reportedly plotting a liquid-explosive attack on airplanes, and both the press and politicians have been trumpeting the story ever since.

In truth, it’s doubtful that their plan would have succeeded; chemists have been debunking the idea since it became public. Certainly the suspects were a long way off from trying: None had bought airline tickets, and some didn’t even have passports.

Regardless of the threat, from the would-be bombers’ perspective, the explosives and planes were merely tactics. Their goal was to cause terror, and in that they’ve succeeded.


But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show’s viewership.

The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn’t make us any safer.

BushCo’s End Run Around Geneva

In the wake of the recent unfriendly court rulings on Bush’s novel approach to Constitutional law and human rights, Administration lawyers have been working overtime to pass laws designed to immunize the Administration and its minions against war crimes prosecutions:

In June, the Supreme Court (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) placed commander in chief Bush and the top of his policy-making chain of command in jeopardy for the treatment of their suspected-terrorist prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan and elsewhere.

So much has happened since June—the Middle East war, the civil war in Iraq, and the plot to blow up multiple U.S.-bound passenger planes—that most Americans have only a hazy idea of this Supreme Court decision that blew up the administration’s grand strategy for extracting information from its prisoners around the world by any means necessary.

But quietly, in fear of that ruling, the administration has drafted two changes—in the War Crimes Act and in our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions—to foreclose any prosecutions of the Bush high command. The goal is to get these amendments passed by the Republican-controlled Congress before the midterm elections that could put the Democrats in control of the Senate or otherwise significantly increase their power in Congress as a whole.

Says Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice: “This bill can . . . in effect immunize past crimes. That’s why it’s so dangerous.” As Fidell also told the Associated Press, the intent is “not just protection of [high-level] political appointees but also CIA personnel who led interrogations”—including in their secret prisons.

That’s right. Having blatantly violated the principles we hold dear as a nation, not to mention the Geneva Conventions, they’re now scrambling to save their asses now that it looks like all their shit is coming home to roost.


Here, specifically, is how the Bush high command is trying to escape the consequences of the Supreme Court’s stinging reprimand. One proposed amendment would forbid any prisoner to use the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights in any American court. But—as National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro points out—the administration’s lawyers claim that this restriction “does not affect the obligations of the United States under the Geneva Conventions.” Huh? I’d like to see White House press secretary Tony Snow handle that yo-yo if anyone in the White House press corps knows enough to ask the question.

The second amendment the Bush team wants Congress to push through would change our War Crimes Act, which calls for the prosecution in our civilian courts of those who commit war crimes. The amendment would exclude from prosecution those who’ve violated a section in the War Crimes Act that references this language from Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting “at any time and in any place whatsoever . . . outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” (This would also expunge the much publicized language of the McCain Amendment to the Detention Treatment Act of 2005.)

Pay attention. These are dark days for our Republic, but enough attention focussed on stunts like these can help save us.

Sometimes it’s not worth even TRYING to buy local

So, in Houston, unlike many places, we still have an actual local record shop or two. (We used to have two serious ones and a handful of smaller ones, but this year Cactus closed up shop after 30 years.) Because they’re a dying breed and because we prefer physical CDs to downloads, we tend to patronize them when we don’t just point our browser at Amazon, which is about half the time, give or take, and depending on what we want (something new and still on the charts is easy to buy locally; obscure back catalog stuff is almost impossible).

Yesterday, while Mrs Heathen was watching implausibly attractive doctors whine about fucking, we happened to be browsing through our podcast list when we found something cool from Morning Become Eclectic. An Austin-based band called The Black Angels made noises we enjoyed, so we figured we’d head over to Soundwaves and pick up the disc today. After all, Austin band, right? Amazon has it, and so does iTunes. Surely they’ve got a few copies.

Er, no. Not only that, the only record of theirs that Soundwaves can even get, it seems, is their eponymous EP, not the full-length LP released in April. And when we left the shop, Mrs Heathen’s car wouldn’t start. It’s about 95 degrees today, which is precisely the sort of weather you want to be push-starting a Hyundai in. Guess we’ll order it from Chez Bezos after all, since the only thing that sucks more than Houston weather in August is DRM.

Reckon we’ll have better luck buying a new battery for the Hyundai tomorrow? Let’s hope so.

The Pig in the Parlor

This analysis of the judicial smackdown given to the manifestly illegal NSA wiretapping program breaks it down very clearly:

Since its disclosure last year, President Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program has been denounced as unlawful by the vast majority of legal experts, Republican and Democratic members of Congress and even conservative commentators.

Last week, a federal judge joined this growing chorus with a stinging opinion that found Bush had violated the Constitution and federal statutes in ordering the National Security Agency surveillance program. In striking down the controversial monitoring program, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor chastised the government for a flagrant abuse of the Constitution and, in a direct message to the president, observed that there “are no hereditary kings in America.”

While Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales insists that the legal authority for the program is clear and filed a notice of appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, few experts outside of the Bush administration support the program. To the contrary, federal law seems perfectly clear in prohibiting warrantless surveillance. Even leading Republicans, like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), have denounced the surveillance program.

The far more difficult question is the implication of Taylor’s ruling. If this court is upheld or other courts follow suit, it will leave us with a most unpleasant issue that Democrats and Republicans alike have sought to avoid. Here it is: If this program is unlawful, federal law expressly makes the ordering of surveillance under the program a federal felony. That would mean that the president could be guilty of no fewer than 30 felonies in office. (Emph. added.) Moreover, it is not only illegal for a president to order such surveillance, it is illegal for other government officials to carry out such an order.

Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

Technical answer to an obvious question

Inforworld asks — and answers, in detail — “Is Windows inherently more vulnerable to malware attacks than OS X?

The answer is pretty clear (yes), but the reasons why are enlightening, even for the not enormously technical. Simply put, OS X was designed to be secure and multiuser from the ground up (based as it is on Unix). Windows views those bits as afterthoughts, and performs accordingly. Attempts to secure Windows without a ground-up redesign are pretty much doomed to fail, as we’ve seen. Apple, with its much smaller market share, has made enormous strides in hardware and software by being unafraid of dragging their customers through potentially rocky transitions: ten years ago, they moved from Motorola chips to PowerPC chips to achieve better performance, and it worked well. Five years ago they introduced an entirely new, only sort-of backward-compatible OS, but have still managed the transition fine (modulo some holdouts). Now they’re changing chips again, from PowerPC (whose growth and development has become moribund) to Intel, and by all accounts that’s going pretty well, too.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has chained itself to the altar of backward-compatibility forever, which in turn means it’s held back by design decisions made before Michael Jackson got creepy.

Lieberman: Still a Jackass, Still Clueless

Remember how, on primary election day, his Joe2006 site went down? Remember how they made much noise about blaming the Lamont campaign, and how they insisted they were going to file criminal charges?

Yeah, for the most part that’s horseshit. Their site went down because their tech people were idiots. Now they’re trying to hire a new tech staff, and they’re being given the cold shoulder by two prominent Democratic tech firms. Said Blue State Digital: “Thank you for your inquiry about Blue State Digital’s technology services. Unfortunately, we cannot be of service to the Lieberman campaign. We work exclusively with Democratic candidates.”

Holy Crap: Truth from Microsoft

Slashdot points us to coverage of a Microsoft exec discussing the folly of workplace web blocks:

Jobseekers will think twice about employers who lock down work internet access, a senior Microsoft executive said today.

“These kids are saying: forget it! I don’t want to work with you. I don’t want to work at a place where I can’t be freely online during the day,” said Anne Kirah, Microsoft Senior Design Anthropologist.

“People that I meet are saying this to me every day, all over the world.”


People were increasingly making use of anonymous proxies that couldn’t be easily blocked by corporate firewalls, bringing in their own wireless broadband services for use with a personal laptop or with a work PC or accessing instant messaging via mobile phones and PDAs. […] “Bill Gates said years ago that if you worry about internet productivity, you’re worrying about people stealing pens from your stationery cupboard… there are bigger things to worry about.”

Security risks are one thing, but the quest to block every conceivable nonwork website or protocol is ultimately wrongheaded and silly. Yes, some of your employees will slack off reading sites (like this one) or chatting with friends, but at the end of the day you can tell the productive types from the slackers. Weed out those who take too many liberties and don’t get their work done, and don’t worry about your productive team members reading ESPN.

People dislike being treated like children, and react accordingly. Kirah makes another point: that people who’ve grown up with IM and related technologies will view employers who resist the usage of them on “productivity grounds” to be bizarre dinosaurs — and they’ll be right.

Over the years, we’ve been on many corporate campuses with a wide variety of Internet policies. On the whole, we found smarter, happier and more productive employees in places that didn’t care if you took a break to read The Onion once in a while.

Brits are just snarkier than we are.

The Guardian has reviewed Paris Hilton’s new CD:

For a woman apparently ill-suited to anything more taxing than standing around nightclubs in a pair of really enormous sunglasses, Paris Hilton is quite the polymath. In recent years, the hotel heiress has variously revealed herself to be a TV star, a perfumier, a jewellery designer, a nightclub owner, a model, an actor and an author (albeit one whose book, Confessions of an Heiress, was described by a disgruntled Amazon customer as “a huge blow to the medium of literature as a whole”). You read her CV and boggle at what wildly improbable occupation she might turn her hand to next. Spot-welding? Cognitive neuropsychology?

Alas, no: it’s singing. Lest one carp, Hilton has been quick to point out that singing is a vocation for which she is eminently skilled. “I know music,” she reassured the Sunday Times children’s section. “I hear it every single day.”

While this obviously gives Hilton a massive advantage over those who have never heard any music and thus believe it to be a variety of cheese, there remains the nagging suspicion that this might not represent sufficient qualification for a career as a singer, in much the same way as knowing what a child is does not fully equip you for a career as a consultant paediatrician. (emph. added)

Ouch. (Oddly, they go on to give the record 2 of 5 stars. Go figure. Perhaps they’re also more charitable over there.)

How We Feel About XML in 250 Words or Less:


Do not ask us about Java or JBoss.

Things we just don’t buy

That sports of any kind at any level are worthy of the sort of rapturous, overwrought ejaculations characterized by Frank Deford‘s vapid Wednesday blatherings on NPR (usually about baseball) or, more immediately, David Foster Wallace’s much-ballyhooed 6,500 word meditation on Roger Federer (“Roger Federer as Religious Experience,” NYT 2006.8.20). It more or less goes without saying, then, that the likelihood of these sesquipedalian eruptions being worth reading is roughly on par with, say, the danger of terrorist attack. Deford, an aging sportswriter (he’s nearly 70), can’t get enough of baseball, and thinks it’s a great metaphor for life. As if that’s never been said before.

Still, Deford is a sportswriter, and one in the last act of his career. Sportswriters have always erred on the side of clumsy, purple prose — and false profundity — to avoid the central fact that reporting on sports is best accomplished with tables and numbers, not endless synonyms for “beat.”

Wallace, though, is theoretically some sort of elite literary craftsman (though one who should employ an editor capable of snapping his “footnote” key), which implies to us that he should have something more interesting to say than “I really, really like Roger Federer,” especially if he’s getting nearly 10,0001 words in the New York Times.

Seriously. What. The. Fuck? We’re hardly unlettered here at Heathen, but the appeal escapes us utterly – and we even like tennis.

[1. His footnotes ran to over 2,000 words. Seriously, David, the whole footnote schtick was clever when Nabokov did it in 1962. Now it’s just irritating.]

Two Years for a Joint

Mitchell Lawrence sold a joint to an (adult) undercover cop. Now the 17-year-old is doing two years in prison for this tablespoon’s worth of grass. He’s a felon.

“Drug-free zone” laws are bullshit even in the bullshit world of the “War on (some) Drugs.” They don’t protect kids, they have no deterrent effect, and they have a disproportionately racist impact. The Drug Policy Alliance has a video about this you should watch.

Things About to Disappear

Photo by George Clark / Hattiesburg American The drive-in theater (Google SatMap) where we saw Moonraker with our dad (at an age where the implications of “Doctor Goodhead” completely escaped us[1]) is about to close. It’s hung on for years, off and on, but Katrina seems to have pushed it over the edge.

Hit the photo at right for a small gallery at our hometown paper. Drive-ins were weird things; given the climate and the mosquito population, we can’t imagine too many of them ever did well in our native Mississippi. The Hargroder family actually owned two in Hattiesburg, but we can’t remember the other one ever actually functioning. Attending high-school football games as a kid at the rapidly-collapsing white-flight school our father sent us to, though, we can recall seeing the Beverly’s screen in the distance, silent but still compelling from a half mile or so away. It seemed surreal that it still existed in 1979, let alone 2001, though we guess nostalgia can account for a lot.

([1.] We were much more worldly-wise by the time we got to see Goldfinger.)

For once, Bush tells the truth

BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

We’re pretty sure his statement here on Iraq’s lack of complicity in 9/11 represents one of those times when his handlers have fits. This administration has been beating the drum of Saddam-Osama complicity for years; when Bush says here that no one in his administration has blamed Saddam for 9/11, he’s lying; Cheney did the talk show circuit for months touting this very canard in the runup to the Iraqi invasion.

Hey, didn’t we used to care when presidents lied, like, even about piddly shit where nobody got killed?

Required Reading: Calling Bullshit on the “U.K. Explosive Plot”

Via The Register, where they actually pay attention to things like “science.”

Binary liquid explosives are a sexy staple of Hollywood thrillers. It would be tedious to enumerate the movie terrorists who’ve employed relatively harmless liquids that, when mixed, immediately rain destruction upon an innocent populace, like the seven angels of God’s wrath pouring out their bowls full of pestilence and pain.

The funny thing about these movies is, we never learn just which two chemicals can be handled safely when separate, yet instantly blow us all to kingdom come when combined. Nevertheless, we maintain a great eagerness to believe in these substances, chiefly because action movies wouldn’t be as much fun if we didn’t.

Now we have news of the recent, supposedly real-world, terrorist plot to destroy commercial airplanes by smuggling onboard the benign precursors to a deadly explosive, and mixing up a batch of liquid death in the lavatories. So, The Register has got to ask, were these guys for real, or have they, and the counterterrorist officials supposedly protecting us, been watching too many action movies?

We’re told that the suspects were planning to use TATP, or triacetone triperoxide, a high explosive that supposedly can be made from common household chemicals unlikely to be caught by airport screeners. A little hair dye, drain cleaner, and paint thinner — all easily concealed in drinks bottles — and the forces of evil have effectively smuggled a deadly bomb onboard your plane.

Scared now? Don’t be. Keep reading. There’s a catch, and it’s a biggie.

Making a quantity of TATP sufficient to bring down an airplane is not quite as simple as ducking into the toilet and mixing two harmless liquids together.

First, you’ve got to get adequately concentrated hydrogen peroxide. This is hard to come by, so a large quantity of the three per cent solution sold in pharmacies might have to be concentrated by boiling off the water. Only this is risky, and can lead to mission failure by means of burning down your makeshift lab before a single infidel has been harmed.

But let’s assume that you can obtain it in the required concentration […]. Fine. The remaining ingredients, acetone and sulfuric acid, are far easier to obtain, and we can assume that you’ve got them on hand.

Now for the fun part. Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It’s all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don’t forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked “perishable foods”), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You’re going to need them.

It’s best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate — especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation — to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie. Easy does it

Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you’ll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you’ll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

After a few hours – assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven’t overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities – you’ll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.

But! Terra! Terra! Look! Muslims! Terra!

Right. Nothing to see here. There’s certainly not an actual THREAT to see here.

We asked University of Rhode Island Chemistry Professor Jimmie C. Oxley, who has actual, practical experience with TATP, if this is a reasonable assumption, and she told us that merely dumping the precursors together would create “a violent reaction,” but not a detonation.

To release the energy needed to bring down a plane (far more difficult to do than many imagine, as Aloha Airlines Flight 243 neatly illustrates), it’s necessary to synthesize a good amount of TATP with care.

In other words, it can’t be done, at least not with TATP, which is what the London plot apparently hinged on. (Aloha 243 was the flight in Hawaii that landed safely without a significant portion of its fuselage; we’re sure you remember the story.)

They continue, now discussing our collective reaction to this “plot:”

Certainly, if we can imagine a group of jihadists smuggling the necessary chemicals and equipment on board, and cooking up TATP in the lavatory, then we’ve passed from the realm of action blockbusters to that of situation comedy.

It should be small comfort that the security establishments of the UK and the USA — and the “terrorism experts” who inform them and wheedle billions of dollars out of them for bomb puffers and face recognition gizmos and remote gait analyzers and similar hi-tech phrenology gear — have bought the Hollywood binary liquid explosive myth, and have even acted upon it.

We’ve given extraordinary credit to a collection of jihadist wannabes with an exceptionally poor grasp of the mechanics of attacking a plane, whose only hope of success would have been a pure accident. They would have had to succeed in spite of their own ignorance and incompetence, and in spite of being under police surveillance for a year.

But the Hollywood myth of binary liquid explosives now moves governments and drives public policy. We have reacted to a movie plot. Liquids are now banned in aircraft cabins (while crystalline white powders would be banned instead, if anyone in charge were serious about security). Nearly everything must now go into the hold, where adequate amounts of explosives can easily be detonated from the cabin with cell phones, which are generally not banned.

Big Finish:

The al-Qaeda franchise will pour forth its bowl of pestilence and death. We know this because we’ve watched it countless times on TV and in the movies, just as our officials have done. Based on their behavior, it’s reasonable to suspect that everything John Reid and Michael Chertoff know about counterterrorism, they learned watching the likes of Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vin Diesel, and The Rock (whose palpable homoerotic appeal it would be discourteous to emphasize).

It’s a pity that our security rests in the hands of government officials who understand as little about terrorism as the Florida clowns who needed their informant to suggest attack scenarios, as the 21/7 London bombers who injured no one, as lunatic “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, as the Forest Gate nerve gas attackers who had no nerve gas, as the British nitwits who tried to acquire “red mercury,” and as the recent binary liquid bomb attackers who had no binary liquid bombs.

For some real terror, picture twenty guys who understand op-sec, who are patient, realistic, clever, and willing to die, and who know what can be accomplished with a modest stash of dimethylmercury.

You won’t hear about those fellows until it’s too late. Our official protectors and deciders trumpet the fools they catch because they haven’t got a handle on the people we should really be afraid of. They make policy based on foibles and follies, and Hollywood plots.

Meanwhile, the real thing draws ever closer.

Oh, and no toothpaste on the plane, and nevermind about what risk it does or does not pose. Such is our administration’s commitment to faith-based programs.

Our Growing Police State

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Emiliano Gonzolez, an immigrant who has not been charged with or convicted of any crime. He was stopped by a state trooper in Nebraska, driving a rental car, and in possession of some $124,700 in cash.

Officers found no evidence of any crime. However, they’ve decided to keep Gonzolez’s money on the grounds that only criminals would have that much cash, and the Appeals Court agreed. WTF?

Gonzolez’s story — and remember: no evidence has been offered even suggesting it isn’t genuine — is as follows, reported here:

On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez’s name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez — who did not speak English well — and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez’s story.

Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez’s story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, “We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion… Possession of a large sum of cash is ‘strong evidence’ of a connection to drug activity.”

Got too much money? You’re probably a drug felon. They may not be able to convict you — what with being innocent and all, and what with the wholesale lack of actual evidence — but apparently they get to keep the money anyway. Especially, we figure, if you’re a minority or an immigrant.



RyanAir is threatening to sue the British government over its unremittingly stupid airport “security” measures:

Michael O’Leary, the outspoken chief executive of Ryanair, described the new restrictions as “farcical Keystone Cops security measures that don’t add anything except to block up airports”, as he issued the ultimatum.

Mr O’Leary ridiculed the notion of searching five- or six-year-old children and elderly people in wheelchairs going to Spain. Such scenes, he said, would have “terrorists laughing in the caves of Afghanistan”.

Why we rarely read CNet anymore

For one thing, they’re barely more than a press-release regurgitation service. Check out the first grafs of this story and see if you can spot the problem. Note: You should be able to play even if you have no idea what they’re talking about:

A broadband provider’s claim of superfast speeds may only be as good as its weakest link, which could be its domain name server software.

A report issued Thursday by Nominum, a company that sells domain name system (DNS) server software, indicated that some broadband service providers need to bulk up their DNS servers to ensure that broadband users actually get all the benefits of their high-speed connections.

Kinda gibberishy, I’m sure, for folks who don’t know anything about this. Let’s break it down:

A broadband provider’s claim of superfast speeds may only be as good as its weakest link, which could be its domain name server software.

“Whoever sells you high-speed internet — your cable company, your phone company, whatever — probably says you have speed of X. However, if they’re fucktards and don’t know what they’re doing with DNS, you won’t get the speed they’re promising.” It is totally ok if you have no idea what DNS is. It’s important (it sure SOUNDS important, right?). Actually, it really is important. But keep reading.

A report issued Thursday by Nominum, a company that sells domain name system (DNS) server software, indicated that some broadband service providers need to bulk up their DNS servers to ensure that broadband users actually get all the benefits of their high-speed connections.

“Some people who sell DNS software say that many Internet company DNS servers suck!” **And, presumably, they ought to upgrade to Nominum. Er, no.

Like we said, it’s a recopied press release. It’s like CNet is Fox and Nominum is the GOP. Paying any attention to this story is like asking a barber if you need a haircut.

Now: we here at Heathen actually use OUR OWN DNS servers. Most of you don’t have that option, and that’s fine. We do it for other reasons that 99% of our readers have no interest in (we host lots of other domains — see? We already lost you.). However, the real kicker here is this:

There is no market for closed-source, proprietary DNS software, at least among people who know what they’re doing. Everyone WE know who does DNS does it with BIND, which is free and open source. It’s the standard. Paying for DNS is like paying for a web server — i.e., a sucker’s game. Nominum probably knows this, which is why they’re feeding bullshit PR to a halfass “tech” news service like CNet.

Score one for the Rule of Law

The NSA spying program has been ruled unconstitutional:

In a 44-page memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, — who is based in Detroit, Michigan — struck down the National Security Agency’s program, which she said violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

The defendants “are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) in any way, including, but not limited to, conducting warrantless wiretaps of telephone and Internet communications, in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Title III,” she wrote.

She further declared that the program “violates the separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III.”

The Justice Dept. will, of course, appeal in their quest to consolidate their power and ignore the rule of law.

Everything ought to be this easy, or, Technology Done Right

Our new Vonage device arrived today. We picked the “already have a home network” option on the signup menu, so they sent us a little black box to plug in. We were dubious, but when it arrived and really didn’t have more elaborate instructions than that, we figured we’d try it.

No shit, it was as simple as:

  1. Unpack box.
  2. Plug in power to box.
  3. Plug box into our network (cable supplied).
  4. Plug a phone into the box (cable supplied).
  5. Wait about a minute.
  6. Done.

Very nice.