Jim Macdonald over at Electrolite sums it up:

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for torture.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for corruption.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for cronyism.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against habeas corpus.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against our troops.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against liberty.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against the Constitution.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against being secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against Social Security.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for “preemptive” war.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for incompetence.

A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote for Bush.

Go out today. Vote Democratic.

Today is the first day of the struggle to take our country back.

The Rude Pundit puts it as, well, he tends to:

Why vote against Republicans? Because Fuck Them.


State Power and Inefficiency in Microcosm

We think there are plenty of examples of how fucked government is, but this example in particular shows the capricious and absurd nature of discretionary law enforcement. Precis? Internet fact-checker Snopes can’t give a straight answer on whether brackets around your plate are legal or not in Texas because several local law enforcement agencies in our fine state seem to enjoy being dicks about a statute that’s clearly aimed at something else (e.g., anti-camera screens and such for EZPass scofflaws), but is worded in a way that allows them to decide all decorative brackets are illegal.

Yes, Heathen got a ticket today. Yes, we were speeding. We don’t have a problem with that — it’s been a while; we’ll either get a ticket lawyer or take defensive driving. Big deal. The bullshit factor entered the equation when the cop wrote a ticket for “obstructed plate” because of the aforementioned vague law that, apparently HPD has decided to be jackasses about, and never mind legislative intent. Our plate number is absolutely crystal clear, and there’s also no doubt what state the plate comes from.

The real kicker: the cop pointed out that all I had to do was take off the bracket and the charge will be dismissed, so he knew he was writing a ticket for no good reason. This means HPD is issuing worthless paper as a policy, presumably for their own amusement, and they’re doing so based on a deliberately incorrect interpretation of the law.

The Houston Press weighed in on this governmental brilliance a few months back:

A Houston Press employee found out the hard way recently that Houston police are still giving out tickets for having a frame around your license plate.

Three years ago, a new, broadly written state law prohibited frames that obscured the readability of license plates. Car dealers then came up with new, smaller frames, but even if the only thing that’s obscured is the bottom half of “The Lone Star State,” you’re getting ticketed for it if HPD pulls you over for a more major violation.

“We tried to get them to be a little more bending on it and understanding,” says Walter Wainwright, president of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association.

Adding to the pointlessness is the fact that if you remove the frame after getting ticketed, the city will waive the $120 fine. And they pretty much assume you’ll do it; most prosecutors often don’t require a photo of the newly nude plate.

Which is fine for traffic-ticket lawyers. “I’d rather have a speeding case with an obstructed plate than just a plain speeding case,” says Robert Eutsler. “Because if you came to me with a plain speeding case and we got it dismissed, but you still had to pay money [for court costs], you may not be all that happy with my services…You can get the non-moving violation dismissed for free if you do probation for the speeding, so [a client] thinks, ‘Oh, I don’t have to pay that $120 fine on the obscured plate.'”

A ticket that almost never results in a fine — there’s got to be some point to it beyond making lawyers seem efficient, but damned if we know what it is.

And people wonder why we have a crime problem.

Johnny Reads Hunter

Dr Thompson’s best work, as read by one of our finer actors:

The bit in question, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were here and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant . . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened. My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere.

There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Papers, Please

The DHS wants us all to have to obtain clearance to travel out of the country:

Forget no-fly lists. If Uncle Sam gets its way, beginning on Jan. 14, 2007, we’ll all be on no-fly lists, unless the government gives us permission to leave-or re-enter-the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HSA) has proposed that all airlines, cruise lines-even fishing boats-be required to obtain clearance for each passenger they propose taking into or out of the United States.

It doesn’t matter if you have a U.S. Passport – a “travel document” that now, absent a court order to the contrary, gives you a virtually unqualified right to enter or leave the United States, any time you want. When the DHS system comes into effect next January, if the agency says “no” to a clearance request, or doesn’t answer the request at all, you won’t be permitted to enter-or leave-the United States.

Bruce Weighs In on the Boarding Pass Guy

So, last week a guy named Christopher Soghoian created a fake boarding pass generator website. Big deal; that the whole boarding pass system is absurdly insecure is not news, right? Well, maybe and maybe not, since Chris got two visits from the Feds, and lost all his computer gear in the second such visit (which is hard to see as anything but an extralegal punitive measure).

Security expert Bruce Schneier has a bit to say about the whole affair. A bit:

Soghoian claims that he wanted to demonstrate the vulnerability. You could argue that he went about it in a stupid way, but I don’t think what he did is substantively worse than what I wrote in 2003. Or what Schumer described in 2005. Why is it that the person who demonstrates the vulnerability is vilified while the person who describes it is ignored? Or, even worse, the organization that causes it is ignored? Why are we shooting the messenger instead of discussing the problem?

As I wrote in 2005: “The vulnerability is obvious, but the general concepts are subtle. There are three things to authenticate: the identity of the traveler, the boarding pass and the computer record. Think of them as three points on the triangle. Under the current system, the boarding pass is compared to the traveler’s identity document, and then the boarding pass is compared with the computer record. But because the identity document is never compared with the computer record — the third leg of the triangle — it’s possible to create two different boarding passes and have no one notice. That’s why the attack works.”

The way to fix it is equally obvious: Verify the accuracy of the boarding passes at the security checkpoints. If passengers had to scan their boarding passes as they went through screening, the computer could verify that the boarding pass already matched to the photo ID also matched the data in the computer. Close the authentication triangle and the vulnerability disappears.

But before we start spending time and money and Transportation Security Administration agents, let’s be honest with ourselves: The photo ID requirement is no more than security theater. Its only security purpose is to check names against the no-fly list, which would still be a joke even if it weren’t so easy to circumvent. Identification is not a useful security measure here.

Interestingly enough, while the photo ID requirement is presented as an antiterrorism security measure, it is really an airline-business security measure. It was first implemented after the explosion of TWA Flight 800 over the Atlantic in 1996. The government originally thought a terrorist bomb was responsible, but the explosion was later shown to be an accident.

Unlike every other airplane security measure — including reinforcing cockpit doors, which could have prevented 9/11 — the airlines didn’t resist this one, because it solved a business problem: the resale of non-refundable tickets. Before the photo ID requirement, these tickets were regularly advertised in classified pages: “Round trip, New York to Los Angeles, 11/21-30, male, $100.” Since the airlines never checked IDs, anyone of the correct gender could use the ticket. Airlines hated that, and tried repeatedly to shut that market down. In 1996, the airlines were finally able to solve that problem and blame it on the FAA and terrorism.

Life and How To Live It

Late last week, our friend Xta posted a fine appreciation of life and living over on her site. In it, she mentions some monks who wake each day with the thought “today, I die,” to encourage them to live as well and fully as they can in each day they have. She had a serious health scare a bit ago, but came out fine — and with a renewed appreciation for this mortal coil:

Now I’m living as if each day is my last, because it could be. It could be yours. Really. And if it is: what do you want to do?

Of course, what falls out of that test may well turn out not to be so great, so be careful with the application of “Today I Die”:

I mean, it can’t possibly be healthy for my body or mind to spend each day sobbing uncontrollably and trying to eat as many Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburgers as I can before nightfall.


Some GOOD news, for once

Two bits of optimism-inspiring info from the tech side of the world:

  • Microsoft is threatening to withdraw from China because of the regime’s appalling human rights record. We’re unaccostomed to saying nice things about Redmond, but this is spot on. We here at Heathen believe Americans should act in ways that support the values on which this nation was founded; helping foreign governments perpetuate their tyranny is in now way an American value.

  • The FCC has smacked the shit out of Massport. The Massport goons were trying to force their tenants to stop offering free Wifi to travelers (specifically, Continental Airlines and the free wifi in their Presidents’ Clubs), which, as it turns out, is illegal. Only the FCC can regulate that spectrum, and they find Continental’s behavior to be perfectly reasonable — and also make it very clear that Massport’s arguments were utter bullshit designed to protect their own expensive-to-use Wifi solution.

Shockingly enough, this means we’re heaping praise on both the FCC and Microsoft in a single post. What’s the world coming to?

Photo Tips

A flash, while viewed by some as an invaluable tool, is sometimes the cause of odd coloration or other strange artifacts in photos, and for this reason is sometimes eschewed by more serious photographers in some situations, particularly at night.

Chief Photography Analyst Triple-F has done some research into this phenomenon, and points out a very useful comparison illustrating the differences between night photography with and without flash. Enjoy.

Well, thank God someone’s keeping track

We know you must be curious about the Deadwood fuck count — which turns out to be 2,980 over the run of the series — so it’s good that these folks have done the math. Bonus: they also track fucks-per-minute (FPM; 1.56 for the whole show) as well as the all-important fuck-to-cocksucker ratio on a per-episode basis. Whew!