New in the Blogroll

Famous pro Blogger Chris Mohney gots himself a new personal blog to replace his old one, so we’ve updated the link on the sidebar. Astute readers recognize him from his fine work at Gawker, and (long) before that his reign of terror in the electronics department of the Galleria Rich’s in Birmingham, Alabama. Oh, and there’s a funny story you should read about just exactly how he managed to get hired by Gawker Media in the first place.

Also, he’s getting married. Just saying. So if he thinks he has time to blog for money, plan a wedding, AND keep up a personal site, well, we wish him luck.

NYT on the Antiterror bill

From an editorial today:

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

[...]

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

We are so fucking doomed.

Oh, it gets worse and worse and worse

Congressional Republicans are now pushing through a bill that would legitimize Bush’s extralegal wiretapping behavior, more or less gutting the already meager protections of FISA — which Bush ignored anyway, thereby making him a felon many times over.

As the Jackson office says, “Idiots have stolen my country. I have to go puke now. And move to Sweden.” Right there with you, buddy.

The Senate is killing Habeas Corpus as we speak

Go read. It’s worse than you think.

The Senate just killed an amendment to ensure federal courts could review the legitimacy of individual’s imprisonment on suspicion of involvement in terrorism.

Why do we need an amendment? Because the bill in question is that bad. Not that anyone noticed; it went down on party lines, with even “Maverick” McCain voting against it.

Kerry‘s had something to say about it, too:

We’ve got to tell the truth about what’s happening right now — right now — in our country. We must start treating our moral authority as a national treasure that doesn’t limit our power but magnifies our influence. That seems obvious, but this Administration still doesn’t get it. Still. Right now — today — they are trying to rush a bill through Congress that will fundamentally undermine our moral authority, put our troops at greater risk, and make our country less safe.

Let me be clear about something-something that it seems few people are willing to say. This bill permits torture. It gives the President the discretion to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions. No matter how much well-intended United States Senators would like to believe otherwise, it gives an Administration that lobbied for torture just what it wanted.

The only guarantee we have that these provisions really will prohibit torture is the word of the President. But we have seen in Iraq the consequences of simply accepting the word of this Administration. No, we cannot just accept the word of this Administration that they will not engage in torture given that everything they’ve already done and said on this most basic question has already put our troops at greater risk and undermined the very moral authority needed to win the war on terror.

Oh, and it gets worse. From the LA Times:

BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops “during an armed conflict,” it also allows him to seize anybody who has “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.

Glenn Greenwald has more:

There is a profound and fundamental difference between an Executive engaging in shadowy acts of lawlessness and abuses of power on the one hand, and, on the other, having the American people, through their Congress, endorse, embrace and legalize that behavior out in the open, with barely a peep of real protest. Our laws reflect our values and beliefs. And our laws are about to explicitly codify one of the most dangerous and defining powers of tyranny — one of the very powers this country was founded in order to prevent.

[...]

Thomas Jefferson, in his letter to Thomas Paine, 1789. ME 7:408, Papers 15:269, said: “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” And Patrick Henry warned us well in advance about Government officials who would seek to claim the right to imprison people without a trial:

Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings–give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else! …Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.

Bush will sign this bill without a thought of what he’s doing, which is, in essence, undoing 800 years of legal tradition.

If you voted for any of these GOP weasels, well, fuck you. If you’re a senator opposed to this and didn’t try to mount a filibuster, fuck you, too. And if you don’t care about this law and its implications, well, fuck you twice. We are now officially a nation of shitheads. It’s Rob’s phrase, but we believe it.

Seriously. How long do you think it’ll be before someone politically inconvenient to the current regime is disappeared? An investigative journalist? A pro-choice activist? An environmentalist? It’ll be legal, under this law — Bush can declare someone an “enemy combatant” and keep them wherever he likes. It’s a complete end run around separation of powers, and that’s precisely what this imperial President wanted.

Does the government EVER do anything useful and logical?

Starting today, Federal law restricts the sale of cold meds containing Pseudoephedrine because, apparently, sometimes people make meth out of it.

The amount of pseudoephedrine that an individual can purchase each month is limited and individuals are required to present photo identification to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine. In addition, stores are required to keep personal information about purchasers for at least two years.

Let’s consider briefly how many people that is (very few) versus how many people need those drugs for allergy season.

Also, we’re completely sure this will solve the meth problem. Not.

Jackasses.

Stewart and Olbermann on the Clinton Rebuttal

The media, of course, missed the entire point of Clinton smacking Wallace around — that being that the historical record makes abundantly clear that his administration did far more in pursuit of Islamic terrorism than Bush would have you believe, or than Bush himself did. This is no surprise.

However, Jon Stewart was paying attention, as was our national treasure Keith Olbermann, who termed his comment “A Textbook Definition of Cowardice.” Crooks and Liars has an easier-to-view video; it’s well worth your time, even if you just read the transcript in the first link. His closure we’ll include here:

The “free pass” has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush.

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us — then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.

And there it is, Mr. Bush:

Are yours the actions of a true American?

Dept. of Marching In

The New Orleans Saints returned to the Superdome tonight for the first time since Katrina with a 23-3 rout of the Atlanta Falcons; they began by going up 7-0 in the first minute and a half — as the kicking team. The Saints are now 3 and 0, and have their first Monday Night Football win since 1998. By the way, at 3-0, they’re one of the top 5 teams in the NFL at this moment (only the Colts, Bengals (!), Seahawks, and Bears can match them; the Chargers are also unbeaten, but have only played twice).

Who Dat? Who Dat?

Well Said

In our suitcase, we found the midsummer New Yorker we’d misplaced on our last trip (July 10 & 17), which kind of makes up for the lightweight nature of the current issue.

Anyhow, there’s a long rumination about the future of liberal internationalism by George Packer in which he discusses the struggle with jihadism as compared (by others) to the Cold War against expanding communism. The final few paragraphs are well worth your time:

The critical view [of l.i.] is not confined to the pacifist and anti-imperialist left. It can count among its most thoughtful and influential adherents the writer David Rieff, who a decade ago in Bosnia was a leading liberal internationalist himself. The interventions of the past ten years, culminating with Iraq, have turned Rieff into a deep skeptic of power used in the name of human rights — a self-proclaimed realist. Writing recently in The Nation, and amplifying his latest book, “At the Point of a Gun,” he suggested that “when you posit the fundamental benevolence of the liberal universalist order and identify the United States as a guarantor of that order . . . you are stuck with the prospect of a virtually untrammeled use of American power.” In other words, there is a straight and not very long line from the Atlantic Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Abu Ghraib and Haditha. Like Kurtz, those who begin as humanitarians have a way of ending as barbarians.

Rieff writes with the bitter scorn of an ex-interventionist, and he forces innocent believers to confront the most painful questions about the motives and consequences of their actions. He dislikes, above all, the moral vanity inherent in American exceptionalism — the idea, as the Bush Administration’s crucial 2002 position paper “National Security Strategy of the United States” put it, of “a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests.” For Rieff, there is no union; America is just like any other empire, acting out of selfish concerns, and its moral fantasies make its power only more dangerous. Rieff is in love with disillusionment, and he was resolved the crisis in his own outlook by taking an impossibly pure position. . . For Rieff, the fact that NATO was partly designed to enhance American power means that a benign view of Truman’s foreign policy is childish. Having gazed into the dark heart of liberal internationalism and recoiled, he doesn’t allow the possibility that NATO is both a tool for America to assert its will and an arrangement that has benefitted large numbers of people, most of them non-Americans, for more than half a century.

American power, currently reviled around the world, is an inescapable fact, and when it allows itself to be harnessed to the wishes and interests of other nations, especially democratic ones, it can be a constructive force and win wider acceptance. As the German journalists Josef Joffe writes in his new book “Uberpower: The Imperial Temptation of America” (Norton; $24.95), “If the United States is an empire, it is a liberal one — a power that seeks not to grab but to co-opt.” This is not a narcissistic fantasy but an accurate description by a European who, unburdened by the torments of exceptionalism as few American writers of any persuasion are, can say matter-of-factly to his American friends, You have made your problems worse, you have acted recklessly and selfishly, but don’t overdo the self-criticism. Other countries naturally resent your power, but most still prefer it to the alternative. The world can’t afford these wild mood swings.

One of the greatest challenges of the new few years will be to rescue democracy, human rights, and national security from the company these words have recently kept. A clear-eyed understanding of our predicament begins with the recognition that American interests and values do not always rhyme; imagining that they do makes it more likely that in the end we’ll compromise both. [Emph. added] How can the U.S. fight jihadism without supporting dictatorships? Regime change by force has proved disastrous; elections have brought to power Islamists whose commitment to democracy is doubtful; ongoing blank checks written to Saudi princes, Pakistani generals, and a decaying dynasty in Cairo are bound to bankrupt sender and receiver alike. It’s ahrd to imagine a waning of the jihadist threat that doesn’t involve some kind of liberalization in the Muslim world, either because Islamism comes to be reformed from within or because it comes to be rejected by subject populations. (Iran, several decades ahead of the Arab countries, is where this struggle can be seen in sharpest relief.) A serious American policy towards Islamism will do well what the Bush Administration has done badly or not at all, and without triumphalist speeches: modest, informed, persistent support for reformers, without grand promises of regime change; concerted efforts at reconstruction and counter-insurgency that bring to bear the full range of government agencies as well as alliances and international institutions. Since these tasks will fall to the United States one way or another, we should learn to do them better rather than vow never to try again. large ideas drawn from historical analogies can help as guiding frameworks, but the glamorous certainties they seem to offer are illusions; we still have to think for ourselves.

TSA: Still a pack of useless morons

They’ve “relaxed” the security guidelines starting tomorrow, but insist this new position will be permanent. Guess what? It still has ZERO to do with security in the real world.

New procedures also were announced for toiletries and products like lip gloss and hand lotion that passengers bring to the airport. Previously, those liquids have been confiscated at security checkpoints. Now, these products will be limited to 3-ounce sizes and must fit in a clear, 1-quart size plastic bag. The bags will be screened and returned if they are cleared.

Does anyone who’s not a braindead government functionary actually believe TSA is an impediment to anything but hassle-free travel? Seriously? And if so, can we have some of what they’re smoking?

Chris Wallace Gets a Smackdown

The idiot son of Mike Wallace tried to ambush former President Clinton on Fox, with predictable results. Transcript, Video.

Wallace asserted they’d asked the same leading questions of Bush Administration figures, but, well, turns out he’s a lying little bitch.

Clinton was by no means perfect — no matter what else he did, for example, he’ll always be remembered for Lewinsky and his poorly considered pardons — but it sure would be nice to have somebody in public life with the ability to fight back against right-wing, neocon bullshit like this.

Update: The Rude Pundit points out an excellent bit we missed:

But let’s not let one quote pass without notice. When Wallace, armless, desperately turning his head to wipe the blood off his mouth, asked Clinton about promoting democracy in the Muslim world, the former President said, “Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power.”

Now that’s an undercut to the gut of the Bush administration.

Word.

Remember the (Original) Alamo

We don’t mean Ozzy’s ersatz urinal; we mean the kickass theater in Austin. Rents, taxes, and insurance are eating them alive, but they’ve got a plan we think you’ll like. In short, their scheme is to become a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the kinds of film and film-related entertainment for which the Alamo Drafthouse has become justifiably famous. Check it out.

(Thanks to Mrs. Heathen for pointing this out.)

It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, but DAMN if we don’t hate that fish

MediaMatters dismantles Bill O’Reilly’s newest opus, “Culture Warrior.” The summary? He’s a damned liar, a fool or both.

This is just a small sampling of O’Reilly’s falsehoods, distortions, and misrepresentations. Although he has a habit of accusing people of being “cowards” when they decline to appear on The O’Reilly Factor, he refuses to have most of “the S-Ps” on his show — where they might answer some of his charges — because “it is hard to imagine a more loathsome group.” This refusal extends to Media Matters: Despite the fact that he has attacked us on the air numerous times (and in the book calls us “vile”), not only does he refuse to allow a representative from our organization to appear on his show to respond, he has never been able to cite a single instance — not one — in which we have said something about him that wasn’t true.

McCain Sells Out

Not that this is a surprise; the formerly principled Arizona republican — who is sitting in Barry Goldwater’s seat, no less — has his nose so far up GWB’s ass he can tell what he’s having for lunch. As a consequence, his supposed resistance to allowing the Bush administration to detain and torture suspects with no legal recourse or grounds has evaporated like, well, a kidnapped Canadian sent to Syria.

The “compromise” arrived at by the Senate and White House basically allows the executive branch to do as it pleases and disregard Geneva more or less at will. Habeas corpus won’t even enter into it because — you guessed it — Bush’s folks will still get to decide when that applies. We’re now the first nation on earth to legally authorize violations of the Geneva convention. Congratulations.

Coverage and analysis at Eschaton, Digby, This Modern World and American Prospect. In particular, from the latter:

There is nothing in this bill that President Thumbscrews can’t ignore. There is nothing in this bill that reins in his feckless and dangerous reinterpretation of the powers of his office. There is nothing in this bill that requires him to take it — or its congressional authors — seriously. Two weeks ago, John Yoo set down in The New York Times the precise philosophical basis on which the administration will sign this bill and then ignore it. The president will decide what a “lesser breach” of the Geneva Conventions is? How can anyone over the age of five give this president that power?

Also, from the Washington Post, quoted at Whisky Bar (go read his contrasting quote, too):

The bad news is that Mr. Bush, as he made clear yesterday, intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation.

Under the compromise agreed to yesterday, Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to U.S. courts. The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes.

Cite

If you think this is a good idea, just imagine what would happen if you or someone you love ended up on the wrong side of these provisions. It does happen. That’s why we have due process, and why we have a real court system. Bush & co. seem content to dismantle all that in the name of Fightin’ Terra, but those who support him would do well to recall that governments rarely give back power once the people have ceded it. Even if you think this is a good idea now, we can guarantee we’ll see these provisions applied in ways you won’t be so happy about within a very few years.

The GOP’s “Keep In The Vote” Measures

House Republicans passed a bill yesterday that would require voters show photo ID in Federal elections despite objections from Democrats (and despite the fact that a court in Georgia has dismissed such a law as unconstitutional). Leaving aside the “papers please” implications and the fact that it amounts to a poll tax (government photo IDs aren’t free), it imposes another hurdle on a demographic traditionally outside the GOP tent.

It’s hard to escape the notion that a party seemingly bent on preserving a low-turnout electorate must not, at its core, hold truly democratic values. The GOP opposes efforts like Motor Voter, even, precisely because they make it easier for more people to vote.

Food for thought. (Via MeFi.)

Dept. of Ancient Onion-ism

From 1999, Disgruntled Ninja Silently Kills 12 Co-Workers:

Sales supervisor Irene Young, whose cubicle was directly across from Tenchumaru’s and who on several occasions had questioned the wisdom of having an office ninja, was the next victim, killed instantly when a single thrust from a razor-sharp ninjato-katana sword pierced her cubicle wall, sheared through her computer monitor, and plunged through her heart.

Remember Maher Arar?

We do. From our 2003 entry:

Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian. Returning to Canada from vacation in Tunis last September, he flew from there to Zurich to New York, intending to continue on to Montreal. US officials detained him in New York, refused his requests for an attorney, would not tell him what charges or allegations resulted in his arrest, and eventually deported him — to SYRIA, where they knew he would be tortured or killed. He was held for over a year in total — ten months in Syria — before finally being released on October 5, thanks to the efforts of his wife and Canadian authorities.

A Canadian government commission officially exonerated Arar today, 3 years later. He was arrested and sent to Syria to be tortured with no due process, no trial, no jury, no judge, no charge, no nothing. He was essentially abducted and sent to Syria by our government despite the fact that he’s not a US citizen, does not live here, and did nothing wrong. The Canadians gave the U.S. people bad intel, and based on this intel people acting in our name had him tortured. He had no chance to avoid it.

From the NYT story:

Mr. Arar, speaking at a news conference, praised the findings. “Today Justice O’Connor has cleared my name and restored my reputation,” he said. “I call on the government of Canada to accept the findings of this report and hold these people responsible.”

His lawyer, Marlys Edwardh, said the report affirmed that Mr. Arar, who has been unemployed since his return to Canada, was deported and tortured because of “a breathtakingly incompetent investigation.”

[...]

However, the commission found that the designation [on a "terrorist lookout list"] should have only been applied to people who are members or associates of terrorist networks. Neither the police nor customs had any such evidence of that concerning Mr. Arar or his wife, an economist.

[...]

Evidence presented to the commission, said Paul J. J. Cavalluzzo, its lead counsel, showed that the F.B.I. continued to keep its Canadian counterparts in the dark even while an American jet was carrying Mr. Arar to Jordan. The panel found that American officials “believed — quite correctly — that, if informed, the Canadians would have serious concerns about the plan to remove Mr. Arar to Syria.”

Mr. Arar arrived in Syria on Oct. 9, 2002, and was imprisoned there until Oct. 5, 2003. [Dates differ based on presumably more up-to-date info - Ed.] It took Canadian officials, however, until Oct. 21 to locate him in Syria. The commission concludes that Syrian officials at first denied knowing Mr. Arar’s whereabouts to hide the fact that he was being tortured. It says that, among other things, he was beaten with a shredded electrical cable until he was disoriented.

American officials have not discussed the case publicly. But in an interview last year, a former official said on condition of anonymity that the decision to send Mr. Arar to Syria had been based chiefly on the desire to get more information about him and the threat he might pose. The official said Canada did not intend to hold him if he returned home.

This is why it’s not about “torturing terrorists” or “imprisoning bad guys” — it’s about preserving due process. It’s about making sure that innocent people aren’t imprisoned, and it’s about continuing to the the U.S.A., and not becoming a tin-pot dictatorship in the name of preserving the freedoms we’ve denies people like Arar.

Ah, Microsoft

It surprised no one that the new Microsoft media player (“Zune”) is incompatible with music purchased from Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Apple won’t license others to unlock their files, and they have little reason to — with 80%+ of the player market and an online store that currently ranks FIFTH of all music retailers, digital or otherwise (just behind Amazon), Apple would gain little by letting even someone like Creative play their files; playing nice with a serious competitor like Microsoft would be stupid.

So already, Redmond is entering a market with a significant disadvantage about which they can do little. Still, they’ve got bags and bags of cash, so as long as they’re smart they can succeed here, right?

Well, we’ll never now, as they’ve opted for Stupid. It turns out that the Zune will be incompatible with music protected with Microsoft’s “PlaysForSure” DRM scheme, which they developed in partnership with several online music vendors in an effort to compete with iTMS.

Outside of Zune’s own store, it looks like the only stuff you’ll be able to put on a Zune will come from unprotected digital files like ripped CDs or tracks purchased from vendors who don’t do DRM, like eMusic. Zune will represent a parallel music ecosystem in the Microsoft world; if you bought protected Windows Media music at Rhapsody, there’s no way to unlock the files to put ‘em on your Zune. Sorry. Buy it again.

Wow.

Vote with Diebold? Your vote isn’t safe.

Prof. Felton has released a security analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS machine showing it can be compromised in as little as one minute. Here’s Prof. Felton demonstrating the hack on Fox (of all places). Also, it turns out that the cabinet on these things can be opened with a standard minibar key, which makes it pretty clear how serious Diebold is about security.

Diebold, of course, is once again blowing off researcher concerns, insisting there’s no problem with the machines.

Dept. of Putting Things In Perspective

Death Chart

Based on actual American mortality figures since 1995, this chart shows how dangerous terrorism really is. All of the following are more likely to kill you than Al Qaida: Falling, accidental poisoning, drowning, the flu, a hernia, or being shot by law enforcement.

Think on that last one a bit.

(Via BB.)

War Damn Eagle

Polls are out. Ohio is still on top, but number 2 with a bullet is Auburn (on the AP; USA Today has ‘em at 3, which is where AP puts USC).

Notre Dame is still overrated at 12 (AP)/13 (USAToday). The Hurricanes are out of the top 25 on both polls.

(Before anyone whines: yes, we went to Alabama (22 on USAToday, unranked on the AP; this is soft, since they’ve not played a real game yet), but we did it on money our dad earned on an Auburn D.V.M., so we win either way.)

R.E.M. as they were, as they always will be in our head

The original line-up reunited briefly at a benefit at the 40 Watt in Athens on the 12th.

We know there’s a whole generation who think they really started at “Monster” — like this writer — but for us the key material ends at “Document.” The performances linked above reflect that reality, as does the new I.R.S. years retrospective and companion DVD we’re awful close to one-clicking at Amazon.

(Via MeFi, which has more relevant links.)

How We Got Here

Atrios points us to a new book describing how absurd and incompetent the CPA was in immediate postinvasion Iraq; the primary qualification was party affiliation, not area of expertise. We’re adding the book to our to-read list post haste.

It’s theoretically possible to be happier about football, but we’re not sure how

Alabama had a creampuff (41-7 over Louisiana-Monroe) this weekend, but these results are worth a cocktail or two:

  • Auburn over LSU (7-3) in a solid example of SEC football toughness;
  • Florida (for whom we have little love) squeaking by Tennessee (for whom we have much, much less);
  • No. 11 Michigan spanking the everliving FUCK out of overrated No. 2 Notre Dame 47-21 — in South Bend, no less.

Honestly, we have no idea why ND always gets rated so highly in the late summer, only to get smacked when they bother to play real teams. They squeaked by unranked Ga. Tech (14-10) in the first week, legitimately beat Penn State (another poll darling), and then got their asses handed to them today. And they don’t play another ranked team until USC in late November. Between now and then, they’ll entertain such powerhouses as Purdue, Stanford, UCLA, and the Armed Forces Trifecta. W.T.F? If they stay ranked, it’s only because Lou Holtz has some deal with the devil.

The tickets to “Pretender Island” are ready for the Irish and the Miami Hurricanes, as ESPN put it. (The Canes dropped to Louisville, of all people, 31-7.)

Our government, bought and paid for

The FCC ordered a taxpayer-funded study suggesting greater media ownership consolidation would be damaging to local news coverage destroyed in 2004. It surfaced recently as part of Kevin Martin’s confirmation hearings; someone forwarded a copy of Sen. Boxer, who is now demanding that the FCC address the report and its coverup.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

The banality of evil, Telco style

Did you know it was still possible to rent telephones from Ma Bell? And that it costs $29 a month per set to do so? And that some 750,000 Americans still do? How much do you want to bet they’re all retirees like this woman?

Do the telco folks just not have grandmothers?

We don’t mean to say it’s evil that they offer this service. Obviously, that’s not the point. The point is that you can buy a phone in any given month for less than thirty bucks, and they know this, and they further must know that nobody renting phones has given this any thought at all, and that they’re probably all pensioners who just don’t know any better. This is known as “fucking your customer,” and it’s the sort of thing telcos can get away with because, historically, they have no competition to whom you can take your business if they piss you off.

Congress Still Trying To Fuck Constitution

This is rich. The Senate committee has passed Arlen Specter’s bill on to the Senate. Said bill addresses the illegal wiretapping this Administration is so fond of by redefining it as “not surveillance,” presumably operating on the theory that we’re all morons. It also manages to completely gut FISA, the law that Bush is continuing to violate as we speak. More here and here.

Another reason to love the *Economist*

Here’s their take on what an actually truthful preflight announcement would sound like. We particularly like the part about the water landing. Enjoy.

GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.

The flight attendants are now pointing out the emergency exits. This is the part of the announcement that you might want to pay attention to. So stop your sudoku for a minute and listen: knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survival if we have to evacuate the aircraft. Also, please keep your seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not illuminated. This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form of disturbance that can cause severe injury. Imagine the heavy food trolleys jumping into the air and bashing into the overhead lockers, and you will have some idea of how nasty it can be. We don’t want to scare you. Still, keep that seat belt fastened all the same.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft’s navigation systems. At least, that’s what you’ve always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn’t sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it. We will have to come clean about this next year, when we introduce in-flight calling across the Veritas fleet. At that point the prospect of taking a cut of the sky-high calling charges will miraculously cause our safety concerns about mobile phones to evaporate.

On channel 11 of our in-flight entertainment system you will find a video consisting of abstract imagery and a new-age soundtrack, with a voice-over explaining some exercises you can do to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis. We are aware that this video is tedious, but it is not meant to be fun. It is meant to limit our liability in the event of lawsuits.

Once we have reached cruising altitude you will be offered a light meal and a choice of beverages—a word that sounds so much better than just saying “drinks”, don’t you think? The purpose of these refreshments is partly to keep you in your seats where you cannot do yourselves or anyone else any harm. Please consume alcohol in moderate quantities so that you become mildly sedated but not rowdy. That said, we can always turn the cabin air-quality down a notch or two to help ensure that you are sufficiently drowsy.

After take-off, the most dangerous part of the flight, the captain will say a few words that will either be so quiet that you will not be able to hear them, or so loud that they could wake the dead. So please sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. We appreciate that you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing Veritas, a member of an incomprehensible alliance of obscure foreign outfits, most of which you have never heard of. Cabin crew, please make sure we have remembered to close the doors. Sorry, I mean: “Doors to automatic and cross-check”. Thank you for flying Veritas.