This is SUCH a bad idea. Please get us one.

Shelby is at it again. The upcoming SuperSnake Cobra variant will boat up to 725 horsepower. That is not a typo.

Las Vegas – April 27, 2007 – Shelby Automobiles will use newly-developed Ford Racing GT500 performance packs to help transform a limited number of 2007 and 2008 Ford Shelby GT500’s into fire breathing “Super Snake” coupes. The Super Snake post-title package will include enhancements to the Ford Shelby GT500’s handling, styling and power; tuning options will range from a warranted 600 HP V8 to over 725 HP (unwarranted). Only a limited number of Super Snakes will be built per model year at the Shelby Automobiles facility in Las Vegas beginning in late 2007.

Thank God for Utah

They make it clear that all kooks aren’t Southern:

Utah County Republicans ended their convention on Saturday by debating Satan’s influence on illegal immigrants.

The group was unable to take official action because not enough members stuck around long enough to vote, despite the pleadings of party officials. The convention was held at Canyon View Junior High School.

Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan’s minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty.

In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants “hate American people” and “are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won’t do.”

Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to “destroy Christian America” and replace it with “a godless new world order — and that is not extremism, that is fact,” Larsen said.

At the end of his speech, Larsen began to cry, saying illegal immigrants were trying to bring about the destruction of the U.S. “by self invasion.”

Republican officials then allowed speakers to defend and refute the resolution. One speaker, who was identified as “Joe,” said illegal immigrants were Marxist and under the influence of the devil. Another, who declined to give her name to the Daily Herald, said illegal immigrants should not be allowed because “they are not going to become Republicans and stop flying the flag upside down. … If they want to be Americans, they should learn to speak English and fly their flag like we do.”

There does, however, seem to be a definite Republican trend toward ‘batshit insane.’

(via Rob)

Contractor Diary: Frequent Guest Edition

We suspect most business travelers with a consistent and long-term destination do what we do, which is arrange for the hotel to hold onto one’s major suitcase over each weekend of the contract. (Some are able to escape the weekly packing/unpacking ritual entirely, by arranging for a long-term rental of the room, but the economics of this are sketchy at best.) Doing so greatly streamlines the whole airline thing; we fly with a briefcase and a small carryon with any other incidentals or return/replacement clothing, check nothing, and have nothing with us that requires a pointless TSA baggie.

The fine folks at the Holiday Inn Express in ClientTown have been very nice about this from week one, and we’re very glad of that. They are quite used to seeing Mr Heathen arrive, tired from the road, ’round about 11 local time each Sunday evening. We pass over the all-powerful Amex, pick up our key to 108 — it’s always 108 — and head down the hall to drop off the travel bags before returning to pick up the big-ass rolling hanging bag we leave here. It’s a routine.

In recent weeks, we’ve actually taken more advantage of this hospitality: we’re now leaving two bags, and have discovered that they’ll gleefully hold onto any leftover beer for the weekend as well, kept safe and cold in the office fridge. Perhaps in response to this, or perhaps because they’re just darned nice people, they’ve started being even more helpful: in the last couple weeks, the Sunday night girl has taken to bringing our bags to the room as soon as we check in, instead of waiting for us to knock on the office door. This isn’t a hotel with bellmen; it’s a business deal without so much as a coffeeshop, so it’s definitely more service than we expected.

Well, this week they did one better. As we checked in, we were informed by the nice desk lady that our bags were in fact already in our room, as was our leftover beer. “Have a nice night, Mr Heathen.”

That was nice. We liked it.

Do you trust cops?

You probably shouldn’t.

We’re sure that most police officers are intelligent and principled individuals, but the fact remains that when a small group is given extraordinary powers in society, “trust” is not really something that should be operative. Blind trust in authority is madness; the only way to survive is to create a rigorous oversight structure that makes it all but impossible for the empowered to engage in the kind of criminal behavior that is unfortunately so common in law enforcement the world over, and that we see exemplified in Atlanta in the story linked above.

The Economist notices DRM

They think it’s bullshit, too, though it’s a little surprising they buy into Audiable Magic’s claims so completely. In any case, it’s clear to anyone who’s paying attention that DRM is doomed — on CDs, DVDs, or whatever. It can’t work, and, as the Economist puts it, “there are better ways of doing this than treating customers as if they were criminals.”

True. (Widely linked.)

Tell us again how the GOP is the “fiscally responsible” party?

Take a look at this graph of the US Debt over the years, and note well who was driving during the most dramatic red-ink spending.

Prior to the Neo-Conservative take over of the Republican Party there was not much difference between the two parties debt philosophy, they both worked together to minimize it. However the debt has been on a steady incline ever since the Reagan Presidency. The only exception to the steep increase over the last 25 years was during the Clinton Presidency, where he brought spending under control and the debt growth down to almost zero.

Comparing the borrowing habits of the two parties since 1981, when the Neo-Conservative movement really took hold and government spending really has gone out of control, it is extremely obvious that the big spenders in Washington are Republican Presidents. Looking at the only Democratic President since 1981, Mr. Clinton, who raised the national debt an average of 4.3% per year; the Republican Presidents (Reagan, Bush, and Bush) raised the debt an average of 10.8% per year. That is, for every dollar a Democratic President has raised the national debt in the past 25 years Republican Presidents have raised the debt by $2.59. Any way you look at it Conservative Republican Presidents can not control government spending, yet as the graph above clearly shows, President Clinton did.

Josh hits it out of the park

Josh Marshall’s analysis of why we’re still in Iraq is a must-read:

This is the key point: right near the beginning of this nightmare it was clear the sole remaining premise for the war was false: that is, the idea that the Iraqis would freely choose a government that would align itself with the US and its goals in the region. As the occupation continued, anti-American sentiment — both toward the occupation and America’s role in the world — has only grown.

I would submit that virtually everything we’ve done in Iraq since mid-late 2003 has been an effort to obscure this fact. And our policy has been one of continuing the occupation to create the illusion that this reality was not in fact reality. In short, it was a policy of denial.

It’s often been noted that we’ve had a difficult time explaining or figuring out just who we’re fighting in Iraq. Is it the Sunni irreconcilables? Or is it Iran and its Shi’a proxies? Or is it al Qaida? The confusion is not incidental but fundamental. We can’t explain who we’re fighting because this isn’t a war, like most, where the existence of a particular enemy or specific danger dictates your need to fight. We’re occupying Iraq because continuing to do so allows us to pretend that the initial plan wasn’t completely misguided and a mistake.

Remember when the Iraq war was going to cost $1.7B at most?

Slacktivist does.

TED KOPPEL (Off Camera): Well, it’s a, I think you’ll agree, this is a much bigger project than any that’s been talked about. Indeed, I understand that more money is expected to be spent on this than was spent on the entire Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe after World War II.

ANDREW NATSIOS: No, no. This doesn’t even compare remotely with the size of the Marshall Plan.

TED KOPPEL (Off Camera): The Marshall Plan was $97 billion.

ANDREW NATSIOS: This is $1.7 billion.

TED KOPPEL (Off Camera): All right, this is the first. I mean, when you talk about 1.7, you’re not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for $1.7 billion?

ANDREW NATSIOS: Well, in terms of the American taxpayers contribution, I do, this is it for the US. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges, Britain, Germany, Norway, Japan, Canada, and Iraqi oil revenues, eventually in several years, when it’s up and running and there’s a new government that’s been democratically elected, will finish the job with their own revenues. They’re going to get in $20 billion a year in oil revenues. But the American part of this will be 1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.

Since then, “the American taxpayers” have spent at least half a trillion dollars — at least five times the total cost of the Marshall Plan. Chunks of money several times greater than Natsios’ figure have simply gone missing and the monthly cost to the U.S. is more than $8 billion.

In 2006, President Bush appointed Andrew Natsios as the administration’s special envoy to Darfur.

Now, here’s something interesting

Cory over at BoingBoing points us to Voce, a high-end wireless carrier. Ordinarily, we’d dismiss the whole idea, but this time it’s not quite so laughable as a blinged-out Vertu.

They’re targeting the rich and status-conscious (n.b. that truly awful all-Flash website), but the actual terms of the deal are interesting to anyone with serious cell needs:

  • $500 one-time setup fee (well, that part kind of bites);
  • $200 a month for unlimited calling, messaging, directory assistance, etc.;
  • A live-person 24×7 concierge/PA service that will answer any question or request that can be handled by phone or web;
  • Free loaner phones for international travel (Mr Acosta! Check this out!);
  • All phones are fully insured against loss or theft; just call ’em and they’ll send you a new one, apparently;
  • Aside from that, you can upgrade phones every 12 months for no cost.

There’s definitely some extra cash floating around in this deal, but the monthly fees alone don’t represent a huge premium over a heavy voice plan with a data package. $500 setup is steep, but a new Treo 680 (which would be free with Voce) would be $299 at Cingular with a 2-year contract. Voce is contract-free.

Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps

This story is all over the web today, but it’s worth your time. Bush is on the way out, but the work we’ll need to do to repair the damage he and his ilk have done to our republic is just beginning.

The 10, for those too lazy to click:

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a gulag
  3. Develop a thug caste
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens’ groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Stifle the free press
  9. Insist dissent equals treason
  10. Suspend the rule of law

People think we’re safe because we’re the US, but in reality we’re only as safe as we make ourselves. This means holding our leaders accountable for their actions, and insisting that they follow the principles upon which our nation was founded. Bush fails by every measure, and much of our populace fails with him for going along for the ride.

Abu hates the First Amendment

Watch this case carefully:

In June, a case is slated to go to trial in Northern Virginia that will mark a first step in a plan to silence press coverage of essential national security issues. The plan was hatched by Alberto Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty–the two figures at the center of a growing scandal over the politicization of the prosecutorial process. This may in fact be the most audacious act of political prosecution yet. But so far, it has gained little attention and is poorly understood.

In the summer of 2005, Alberto Gonzales paid a visit to British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith. A British civil servant who attended told me “it was quite amazing really. Gonzales was obsessed with the Official Secrets Act. In particular, he wanted to know exactly how it was used to block newspapers and broadcasters from running news stories derived from official secrets and how it could be used to criminalise persons who had no formal duty to maintain secrets. He saw it as a panacea for his problems: silence the press. Then you can torture and abuse prisoners and what you will–without fear of political repercussions. It was the easy route to dealing with the Guantanamo dilemma. Don’t close down Guantanamo. Close down the press. We were appalled by it.” Appalled, he added, “but not surprised.”


Rather than approach Congress with a proposal to enact the British Official Secrets Act–a proposal which would certainly be defeated even in the prior Republican-led Congress–Gonzales decided to spin it from whole cloth. He would reconstrue the Espionage Act of 1917 to include the essence of the Official Secrets Act, and he would try to get this interpretation ratified in the Bush Administration’s “vest pocket” judicial districts…

The object of this exercise has been broadly misunderstood by many who have followed it–and particularly by Iraq War critics who delight in a perceived slap-down of AIPAC. But this is tragically short-sighted. If the prosecution succeeds, the Bush Administration will have converted the Espionage Act of 1917 into something it was never intended to be: an American copy of the British Official Secrets Act. It is likely to lead quickly to efforts to criminalize journalists dealing with sensitive information in the national security sector, as well as their sources.

Contractor Diary: Airplane Passtime Edition

We bought a Playstation Portable, and therefore managed to blink away the entire 3+ hour flight yesterday fighting terrorists.

We note that our virtual kills were precisely as effective and protective as anything TSA did all day.

(Seriously, this thing is pretty excellent. We need game recs.)

Contractor Diary: Local Navigation Edition, or, On what planet does this make sense?

We had to return to the hotel at lunch to pick up something, and accidentally got off the Interstate one exit early. No problem! We’ll just take the surface streets over!

Er, no. First, it appears that there’s no simple way to do that, as every apparent road — and there weren’t many — turned out to curve inappropriately away from our destination.

Then — second — we found a promisingly named thoroughfare, only to discover that the grandly named “Western Maryland Parkway” is in fact a DEAD END.


Adventures in Bill Payment

So, what with the travel, we have little time in the Heathen World HQ to handle bills & etc., so that gets done over the phone and Intarwub. This is ordinarily not a problem, except today.

When we started this gig, we realized we didn’t want our net access filtered by Swedes, so we picked up a Sprint EVDO modem to use with the Powerbook. The first bill was due, but we didn’t remember to bring it until this week. What follows is our attempt to pay the bill:

  1. Call the number on the bill. Select “pay bill” when asked. Input the phone number of our device (yes, the modem has a phone number). Get told that we should “hand up and press Star-3 in order to pay.” Unless, of course, you don’t have a phone. Nice one, Sprint.

  2. Head to the web site and try to register. Jump through an inordinate number of hoops to discover there’s some kind of problem, and we’re somehow not authorized to pay our own bill. Right.

  3. Call the number on the bill and press “0” over and over until we get an operator. Explain our frustration to the idiot scriptreading girl. Explain we’d like a summary of the current bill (yes, they’re stacking with additional charges, which is why everyone hates telcos, but whatever). Then have this conversation:

HEATHEN: Ok, I’d like to pay the whole bill with my Amex. IDIOT: How much did you want to pay? HEATHEN: Um, let’s put the WHOLE BILL on my Amex. IDIOT:And which credit card did you want to use? HEATHEN: For the third time, let’s put the WHOLE BILL on my AMEX.

Sigh. Previously…

Why Blackberry is stupid

The entire Blackberry/RIM service is down because of a failure at Blackberry.

Such a centralized point of failure is prima facie a bad idea, and is almost never acceptable in Information Technology, but it’s how Blackberrys work. Your mail goes from your server to THEIR server, and only then over the air to the device. There’s an extra step there that makes no sense.

The Heathen preferred wireless email plan involves a smarter device (a Treo, but Windows Mobile devices are also capable) and a smarter connection (such that the device can just reach over the Internet to the right mail server), so that for us email goes directly from our server to our handheld with no middleman. Simpler is better, and is also CLEARLY more robust.