No surprise here, frankly

Via Wired’s Thread Level blog, we find this: FBI Spy Docs Show G-Men Don’t Understand Security. And they’re right. Click through.

Instead of personal userids, the FBI relies on log sheets. This may provide sufficient accountability if everyone follows the rules. It provides no protection against rule-breakers. It is worth noting that Robert Hanssen obtained much of the information he sold to the Soviets by exploiting weak permission mechanisms in the FBI’s Automated Case System.

We’re gonna start early this year

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Louisville notched 73 points against their first opponent last night, but catch this: said opponent is Murray State (home of the Racers), and they aren’t even in Division I-A. Lousiville and their ilk (Rutgers, anyone?) would get their asses handed to them if they played in a conference with real football schools, and didn’t clutter their schedule with creampuffs from lower divisions.

As is, they don’t play a ranked team until November 8, when they’ll likely fall to Rod’s West Virginia squad. They close out against similarly-overrated Rutgers on the 29th. Between now and then, they face such powerhouses as Middle Tennessee State, Syracuse, Cincy, UConn, and South Florida. How they’ve started the season as a top-ten team is simply beyond me. Put these birds in a stadium with a major conference team, and our bet is they’ll fold like a cheap suit.

Crime in the Future

Via Slashdot:

The FBI is investigating fifteen store robberies in eleven states, committed via phone and internet. The perpetrators hack the store’s security system so they can observe their victims. They then make customers take their clothes off and get the store to wire money.

Now that we’re older, we can become disappointed in the arc of a rock band in only 3 days

Over the weekend, we had occasion to visit with Chief Real Estate and UFO Analysis Correspondent BC at his satellite office in the wilds of Alagoddambama, where we engaged in more cigar smoking than should be legal, not to mention the barbecue.

Anyhow, ol’ BC has music tastes sometimes more adventurous than ours, and definitely hipper. Consequently, we were exposed for the first time to a band we’d heard of, but never listened to: Rainer Maria, an emo-esque trio from Wisconsin (and eventually Brooklyn) that formed in 1995.

(The first disappointment was that they’re already broken up, but this may not end up being so awful given what followed.)

BC had their second album “Look Now, Look Again” (1999) on his iPod, so it was that that we first pulled off eMusic when we got home. It was as good as we recalled — hey, even Pitchfork liked it — so we went back to the well, so to speak, to see what happened next.

That would be 2001’s “A Better Version of Me,” which was, if not as strong as LNLA, at least as good. We liked it enough that we immediately checked out 2003’s “Long Knives Drawn,” only to find that we’d gone A RECORD TOO FAR. It’s plodding, and not nearly as interesting as the earlier work. As it happens, the mavens at Pitchfork agree with us (like we care) that the tension provided by Kyle Fischer’s occasional backing vocal are a key part of the mix, and that relying exclusively on Caithlin DeMarrais’ voice is a mistake. Sadly, nobody seems to have told Rainer Maria about this, as the final record provides more of the same. We doubt we’ll even bother with it, actually.

So, there you have it: we discovered the band on Saturday, and by last night we’d already decided when they jumped the shark. Someday, perhaps we can manage to compress the entire process of fandom to an afternoon.


Via JWZ we discover that someone in a position of authority, finally, has been found guilty of something in the wake of the Abu Grahib abuse scandal.

Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was acquitted on three counts:

cruelty and maltreatment for subjecting detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by dogs; dereliction of a duty to properly train and supervise soldiers in humane interrogation rules; and failing to obey a lawful general order by ordering dogs used for interrogations without higher approval.

So what was he guilty of?

The jury found him guilty of one: disobeying a general’s order not to talk to others about the investigation into the abuse.

Sweet God in Heaven, WHAT THE HELL?

Dept. of Temptation

College football is upon us, and the Alabama opener isn’t televised except on pay-per-view.

Quick, somebody talk us into, or out of, paying $109 for ESPN’s GamePlan package on DTV.

Slacktivist on Black Sites

It’s long, but go read it anyway; here’s the final graf:

What we do know is that any useful information collected at the Black Sites has come at an enormous cost. The fact that “90 percent of the information was unreliable” and the rest is suspect is a problem. But a far greater problem is that, as a consequence of embracing the KGB model [designed to produce confessions, not information], we have made ourselves suspect and unreliable. The CIA’s secret interrogation program, like the lawless detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, is a major obstacle to any meaningful victory in the “war on terror.”

Domestic Terror

The goal of terrorism is typically to disrupt and frighten the target society, subverting their calm state, so that more attention is paid to the terrorist’s cause. It almost never works at creating change the terrorist would like, but it frequently succeeds at least in damaging the society targetted, not in the least because political leaders in these societies often play directly into the terrorist’s hands by capitalizing on the fear for political gain, or to increase their own fiefdoms.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell is one such functionary; Bruce Schneier notes the following dialog from an oft-linked interview McConnell gave with the El Paso Times:

Q. So you’re saying that the reporting and the debate in Congress means that some Americans are going to die?

A. That’s what I mean. Because we have made it so public. We used to do these things very differently, but for whatever reason, you know, it’s a democratic process and sunshine’s a good thing. We need to have the debate.

Wow. “If we talk about security policy, people will die.” Um, bullshit. Democracy cannot thrive in an environment of secrecy. Certainly some intelligence should be secret, and some planning, but a hard line must be drawn between legitimate operational security and shadowy surveillance practices turned on regular citizens.

McConnell’s interview is interesting for a number of reasons, as pointed out at BoingBoing; perhaps most interesting is that he explicitly confirmed what the government has been refusing to comment on, even in court: that commercial telcos have been helping them spy on Americans. Also worthwhile are the links at the end of Schneier’s post, especially those to Salon.

Dept. of Silly Milestones

Over the last 2,458 days, we have provided you people with 4,917 posts. Today, the all-time posts-per-day average is above 2.000 (it’s actually 2.0004) for the first time. Despite the recent loquaciousness, the first few years of Heathen were based on a much less friendly system that made it a pain in the ass to post. Consequently we posted far fewer screeds; the site’s been consistently over two per day since 2004, but it took a long time to drag the life-of-Heathen average up.

We hope you people are happy. ;)

Other upcoming bloggy milestones: the 5,000th post should come in about 40 days, and the 7th anniversary is approaching in November. Mark your calendars, or whatever.

Holy CRAP this is the coolest thing EVER.

Forbidden Lego is a collection of Lego designs for models that will never see the light of day in official kits from Lego, Inc.

Forbidden Lego written by a pair of Lego master builders, who used to work in designing advanced Lego sets (e.g., Mindstorms). While they obviously got to work on lots of cool things while they were there, there were certain projects that just turned out not to be suitable to be made into kits released by the Lego company. They wrote the book to give some kind of a tantalizing hint at the kinds of things that go on behind the scenes at Lego, and the kinds of neat things that might get released in a world without product liability suits.

Models described include a catapult and an automatic pistol. Must. Have.

Dear Palm: Please Stop Sucking

People who know us know we’re gadget fiends. We used Newtons, for crying out loud, before Apple fucked ’em up by ignoring what Palm saw so clearly: small and connected and cheap will win, not big and unsyncable and expensive. The final Newts cost a grand, but wouldn’t sync with our desktop, and were nearly as big as the laptop we had at the time, all while Palms were $299, the size of a pack of smokes, and flawlessly syncable.

Anyway, so Palm ruled for a while. The original Treos were pretty fantastic, and showed what might ultimately happen in the whole PDA-phone convergence space. But for some reason, about 4 years ago, they stopped doing anything new or interesting; every product in their lineup now is a weak riff on the original 600, and that sucks. Heathen Central has even migrated off their venerable 650 to a — gasp — Windows Mobile device; it was only about a buck more than the Treo, but includes vastly greater capabilities (and, as noted at the time, outperforms the iPhone as well).

So, Palm, what the fuck? Fortunately, we’re not the only ones to notice this slackass behavior by Hawkins and company: Engadget lays it out for them quite nicely.

(N.B. the first suggestion under “Other Stuff.”)

The Onion’s in rare form again

No One In Women’s Shelter Able To Cook Decent Meal is profoundly wrong:

CLEVELAND–Despite having no other household responsibilities to occupy their time, none of the residents of the Cleveland YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter can prepare a decent hot meal by 6 p.m., sources at the shelter reported Tuesday.

“If it’s not burned or under-seasoned, it’s the same goddamn thing they made yesterday,” said group counselor Devon Martin, who doesn’t work all day long in the shelter’s therapy sessions to microwave his own leftovers. “Without mastering this important life skill, these women will never be able to leave the shelter. It’s not like they got anywhere else to go, anyway.”

Although records show the shelter houses more than 100 battered women, there is some speculation that this number may be exaggerated, as hardly any of the laundry bags left in the hallway get taken care of.

(Via Frank.)

This just in

We’ve just spoken with our Attorney, who had an amusing tale to tell of Apple technology.

The Attorney is one of the only other folks we know to have used and loved the Newton platform; he had two, since he had to replace the first after a tragic Camaro accident. It appears that this now venerable Newt has spent the last several years plugged in on a shelf in his office as the “deep storage” device for some addresses he rarely needed.

Well, said Attorney purchased the a new iPhone recently, and set about doing some long-needed address book consolidation. In a fit of what can only be described as unabashed optimism, he took note of the infrared eyes on both new and old Apple devices, and attempted to beam the last of his Newton-based addresses to the new iPhone.

It worked.

We should be so lucky

Rafe Colburn loves the Wire, but what gets us is this bit from the end of the post:

The last point I’d make about the show is that it is truly a love letter to the city of Baltimore as it really exists in the eyes of the writers. You can’t watch the show and not fall in love with Baltimore, ugly as it is. It makes me wish someone would write a really good show about Houston, my favorite deeply flawed city.

What, you mean Houston Knights wasn’t enough? (heh)

Dept. of Amusing Things Found on Wikipedia

heh In a pre-coffee stroll through Wikipedia this morning, we found ourselves browsing the entries for a variety of handgun rounds (already far afield of our original quest there, which was to determine the age of the .32-20 round mentioned in a Robert Johnson song; for the record, it’s from 1882, already venerable with Johnson mentioned it).

Anyway, on the entry for .500 S&W Magnum (a truly absurd round about the diameter of a AA battery), we found some interesting choices for “related” articles, preserved via screenshot at right.


Here, have a sample

Agent Rob points out these guys. (Actually, it’s apparently one dude). The “Night Ripper” album includes an absurd array of samples, from 40+ years of popular music:

  • Boston
  • James Taylor
  • Paula Abdul
  • Verve
  • Arrested Development
  • Chicago (“25 or 6 to 4”)
  • Manfred Mann (“Blinded by the Light”)
  • Kansas
  • Steely Dan (“Black Cow”)
  • Paul McCartney and, separately, the Beatles
  • Smashing Pumpkins

Plus a million snippits that made us go “oh crap! What was that?” Here’s a sample track; there’s more at their MySpace.

Remember Jose Padilla?

He’s the American citizen arrested 6 years ago on charges he was working to build and detonate a “dirty bomb” on behalf of Al Qaeda. His case got interesting quickly, since the government maintained that he wasn’t entitled to any legal protections because he was held as an “enemy combatant”.

The courts eventually intervened, and the government was forced to try him in the regular courts, finally according him the same rights that ANY of us should have. Remember, this is a CITIZEN that the government simply declared to be beyond the reach of the rule of law. If that doesn’t make your blood run cold, we don’t know what will.

He may well have been a bad guy, but we’ll never really know, now, because our own government basically destroyed Padilla over the course of his 6-year incarceration (much of it in solitary confinement, and subject to CIA “interrogation techniques” designed to dismantle Padilla’s mental health) and only then tried him in public. He was found unfit to stand trial by a forensic psychiatrist, but they overuled her and tried him anyway. He was found guilty on all counts yesterday. From Lindsey Beyerstein:

Over Dr. Hagerty’s objections, Padilla was deemed fit to stand trial for conspiracy to murder people abroad and providing material support to terrorists operating in Bosnia, Chechnya and other foreign countries. A Florida court found Padilla guilty on all counts, Thursday.

By destroying Padilla, the government cheated us all out of justice. If Padilla had gotten the speedy trial that he was entitled to as an American citizen, he might have been legitimately convicted while he was still of sound mind. Instead, the government tortured an American citizen and thereby undercut the legitimacy their prosecution.

Glenn Greenwald has more:

For a substantial time, Padilla was denied all access to the outside world, including even access to a lawyer. In court, the Bush DOJ repeatedly argued that the President possesses the power to imprison even U.S. citizens indefinitely and with no charges simply by decreeing them to be an “enemy combatant,” with no review of any kind and no opportunity to contest the validity of the accusations.

The administration repeatedly contended that it was exercising this extraordinary and definitively tyrannical power — a power literally denied for centuries even to the British King — because it claimed that dangerous terrorists like Padilla could not be tried in a U.S. criminal court. Today’s verdict — along with scores of other terrorist convictions obtained with full due process rights both in the U.S. and other places, such as England — gives the lie to that claim.

All along, the Bush administration could have, should have, and was constitutionally obligated to charge Padilla with crimes if it wanted to imprison him. There is no more defining American liberty than the right to be free of arbitrary executive imprisonment, and like so many other basic liberties, the Bush administration violated and assaulted this right for no reason whatsoever.


Worse still, the notion that Padilla received a “fair trial” is dubious, to put it mildly, and will undoubtedly be vigorously contested on appeal. Last year, the New York Times obtained a copy of a video from Padilla’s imprisonment which showed techniques that can only be described as torture — systematic sensory depravation and gratuitous humiliations which clearly broke Padilla as a human being in every sense that matters, all before he had been charged, let alone convicted, of anything.

A word on the weather

It rained a little here yesterday. Everything’s fine. It always is.

Our dear relatives, we understand, are taken in by the national media’s narrative of “Houston” — a single, small place, apparently — being flooded by the remnants of a tropical storm (with a very pretty name).

Here’s the deal. (We said this once before, remember.) “Houston” is not like most places. It’s much, much bigger. Our city covers some 600 square miles. Some of that is on a flood plain, yes, but (as we have mentioned before), this is not where we live or work. Even Allison, in 2001, didn’t put water anywhere near our front door. Erin, God love her, was just a thunderstorm where we live.

“But people DIED,” we can almost hear you cry, “surely you’re understating!” Actually, we’re not (and don’t call us Shirley). Houston is also coastal plain, meaning that in any serious rainfall we will accumulate water in low-lying areas. Despite the near constant nature of this, every time it happens several folks decide to try to drive through it, and sometimes this is a fatal error for whatever reason. We also understand that a roof caved in somewhere down near Clear Lake, but, frankly, if it caved in under yesterday’s rain, we’d be thinking about “poor maintenance” rather than “storm” as a proximate cause.

So, yes, we’re fine. It rained a little. Everything’s fine. It always is.

And good riddance.

Another Republican has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2008; this time it’s our cousin Chip. Let’s hope his district hasn’t been gerrymandered into permanent Republicanism, and that the good people of it realize what voting for Bushites gets them.

Max Roach, 1924 – 2007

Jazz giant Max Roach died today; he was 83.

Roach‘s list of achievements is long and storied: he played with Duke Ellington Charlie Parker as a teen; he was one of the first jazz musicians to teach college full time; he was the first jazz man to win a MacArthur (1988). He’s on Miles Davis’ “Birth of the Cool,” and about fifty-eleven other seminal jazz recordings. He wrote music for Sam Shepard plays, and won an award for it. He played with Mingus, Sonny Rollins, and Dizzy, too.

We’re running out of giants, dammit.

I don’t know Butchie instead

Yeah, so Milch’s latest has been given the kiss-off by HBO, which is understandable, we reckon, since its 10 episodes required actual thought in a world dominated by television shows that penalize said. It was still good, and fun, and thoughtful, and if that wasn’t enough, it used a Joe Strummer track for a theme song. Here’s a video clip of Strummer playing said song on Letterman only a few years back; enjoy.

Best. Craigslist Posting. EVAR.

This is just fabulous; so good, in fact, that we’re quoting the whole thing:

Reply to: Date: 2007-08-14, 1:01AM PDT

People throw that expression around a lot, “I’m looking for a partner in crime,” or something along the lines of, “I’m looking for the Bonnie to my Clyde.” It’s cute, I think. These people that say these things, they’re legitimately looking for someone to share experiences with, someone to be passionate with, and I am A-OK with that!

Or, perhaps, they’re delusional and they think love is actually a crime…I don’t know, maybe they’ve listened to that shitty Anastacia song too many times or something. Whatever.

Anyway, while just saying it is sweet, I actually mean it. I am looking for a partner in crime.

We’ll start off with small things; infractions and misdemeanors, mostly. We’ll jaywalk back and forth, flipping off oncoming traffic and exposing ourselves to blind people and getting drunk in public on Heineken and Robitussin. Then, when we’re ready, we’ll move up to vandalism: we can get pigs blood from a butcher’s shop that I know and use it to paint “EAT MEAT” in a large, serif font on the windows of that Vegan grocery store we always shop at. Then we can rob liquor marts for booze and cigarettes and money; we’ll give the first two to homeless people and schoolchildren, but we’ll use the money to buy silly hats from thrift stores (I have the feeling you’d look really sexy in a homburg).

When we’ve saved up enough money to buy a couple of airsoft guns that look real, we’ll put on a couple of hats from our collection (I have dibs on the stovepipe) and rob a bank. We won’t go for the safe, no, we’ll do it just so we can take the money from the tills. When all the money’s in the bag and we’re making our getaway, we’ll pull over to the side of the road and strip, get in the back seat, and empty the bag of money all over ourselves. In the pile will be that exploding dye pack that you see in movies, the one that splashes permanent red ink on everything. When it explodes on us, we’ll kiss and draw little dollar signs and ampersands and other symbols nobody’s ever seen before on each other’s flesh. We’ll fuck and later we’ll push the car off a cliff. It was your mother’s anyway, and she deserves it for saying that I’m a bad influence, in my opinion.

A couple of years will go by. We’ll change our names and pretend to be married and move to a small town in Illinois. I’ll masquerade as a reverend and lure the penitent into your clutches, and it’s in this way that you’ll become one of the most prolific serial murderers in history: torturing the victims in our basement and killing them in curious ways (like with a toothpick, or in the process of trying to find out whether plucking nose hairs can cause a lethal infection–the reason I always give to you so I don’t have to do it). Our weekend bible retreats will be a cover for dumping the bodies. After a long stretch of this I’ll show up in your torture room while you’re using dental tools on a person trying to find out if the human anus can accumulate plaque, I’ll have a suitcase and I’ll be wearing the only fedora I have left.

“I’m leaving,” I’ll say.

“I know,” you’ll say, “I could tell this was coming.”

I’ll put the suitcase down, “This just doesn’t do it for me, not like it used to,” I’ll sweep my hand towards the writhing naked man on your table of horrors.

Your eyes will glide down towards the chainsaw on the floor, thinking, weighing. “You should go,” you’ll say.

“I’ll always remember you,” I’ll say.

“Just go.”

I’ll leave and change my name again and become a youth counselor or a parole officer, something ironic like that. One day, when I have a family of my own and I’ve grown fat with beer and ennui, I’ll be watching the news while I’m eating blood pudding and I’ll see that you’ve assassinated someone important. Your face in perpendicular mug shots will be cracked and bruised, but you’ll still have that grin I remember you having after doing something wicked and pulling it off perfectly.

As I climb into bed that night my wife will talk to me about soccer camp and what shouldn’t be put in the recycling bin and whatnot, and all I’ll think about are the great times that we had, and the great times we could have had if maybe I just stuck around a while longer and tried to make it work. I decide that in the morning I’m going to tell my wife about my plans to assault the soccer coach that keeps yellow-carding our son for kicking his cleats into the back of the other kids’ knees, just to see if she’d be into that.

Pic4pic. Girls brought up strictly catholic preferred.

We sure hope this gets him laid. (Brought to our attention on The Well.)

We’re all a bunch of hysterical goons

Bruce Schneier notes an article on perhaps the one book to speak truth to power about our preoccupation with terrorism:

John Mueller suspects he might have become cable news programs’ go-to foil on terrorism. The author of Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them (Free Press, 2006) thinks America has overreacted. The greatly exaggerated threat of terrorism, he says, has cost the country far more than terrorist attacks ever did.


Mueller’s book is filled with statistics meant to put terrorism in context. For example, international terrorism annually causes the same number of deaths as drowning in bathtubs or bee stings. It would take a repeat of Sept. 11 every month of the year to make flying as dangerous as driving. Over a lifetime, the chance of being killed by a terrorist is about the same as being struck by a meteor. Mueller’s conclusions: An American’s risk of dying at the hands of a terrorist is microscopic. The likelihood of another Sept. 11-style attack is nearly nil because it would lack the element of surprise. America can easily absorb the damage from most conceivable attacks. And the suggestion that al Qaeda poses an existential threat to the United States is ridiculous. Mueller’s statistics and conclusions are jarring only because they so starkly contradict the widely disseminated and broadly accepted image of terrorism as an urgent and all-encompassing threat.

Bruce links to the whole article; click through to read it all.

That said, you should probably still pay the light bill

Apparently, some researchers have happened upon an old philosophy class notion: namely, that we can’t actually know whether or not the world around us is real. This, combined with the ongoing increase in computing power, led them to the conclusion that humans may eventually decide to model the whole world in much the same way millions play with Sims. Denizens therein would not be aware that they weren’t real, natch (see also the works of the Wachowski brothers).

This all ties into Cartesian thought; ol’ Rene is the one who gave us “Cogito, ergo sum,” or “I think, therefore I am.” It’s less a statement of being than an affirmation that this, in fact, is all we can really know. If we can think, we must exist in some form, somehow, somewhere. We take everything else on faith.

Our first exposure to this was, like many others’, in a freshman philosophy class 20 years ago. Dr. Hestevold asked us one morning something along the lines of how much we trusted our senses and perceptions, and how firm we were in our conviction that we were actually sitting in ten Hoor Hall, on the campus of the University of Alabama, in the year 1987. Virtually everyone agreed that, yes, this was the truth, so he passed out a letter (mimeographed blue ink on ever-so-slightly damn paper!) that we paraphrase for you now:


I’m sure you’ll agree the simulation is a smashing success! Every aspect of late-20th-century life has been modeled with the greatest degree of accuracy possible, right down to my old colleague Scott Hestevold, who tragically passed away in 2006. You are, of course, safe and sound on a table in my laboratory in Switzerland, though we’ve conditioned your brain to view this information as only slightly more credible than the ravings of a streetcorner madman.

We’ll have a fine meal when you emerge, which we’ve planned for a few hours from now as you perceive time.

Dept. of Literary Resurrections

My friend Brad has a pretty ugly episode regarding his book Bear Bryant Funeral Train. We’ve just discovered that our favorite college prof — the recently retired Don Noble — actually reviewed the reissue of his book, and has joined the chorus of Brad’s defenders:

In September of 2005, it seemed Brad Vice had it made. His story collection The Bear Bryant Funeral Train had won the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. The book was published and was in bookstores everywhere, waiting to be bought. And then the storm broke. It was noticed that some of the sentences in Vice’s story “Tuscaloosa Knights” (with a K), in fact the first few sentences, were almost exactly the same as some sentences in Carl Carmer’s chapter “Tuscaloosa Nights” (with an N) in Stars Fell on Alabama.

Vice was accused of plagiarism, and within three weeks the prize had been withdrawn and the book recalled and pulped. It has to be the fastest rush to literary judgment in American history.

What Vice’s attackers, in their undue haste, failed to consider was that Vice, born in DCH and raised in Northport, had been educated in the English Department at UA and at the University of Cincinnati in the theories and techniques of postmodernism. This was not plagiarism, this was hommage, collage, playfulness.

Sweet. Our copy of the reissue is on order as we speak. All hail Brad, and all hail Dr. Noble and the rest of those smart enough to realize Brad was getting a raw deal.

Sweet GOD it’s miserable

We just stepped out for a minute, thereby encountering the midday heat.

Approximate Houston temperature: Eleventy Billion Degrees. Cars were vaporizing into superheated plasma. Concrete was boiling.

Fourth Amendment? What Fourth Amendment?

First, Bush and his cronies blatantly and repeatedly violate FISA, each example of which is a felony. Bush admits that this is happening on national television. Nothing happens.

Then the fucking laptop majority rolls over and allows him to completely gut FISA, so that he can’t be troubled with such issues anymore. This law, which supposedly sunsets in six months, effectively gives the administration carte blanche to eavesdrop on any person, at any time, and in any place, for any reason. Period.

But oh, it gets better: now they’re claiming the Constitutionality of eavesdropping undertaken prior to the FISA-gutting cannot be challenged, on account of “national security grounds.”

Look, if you’re not pissed off by this, if you’re not mad enough to spit nails, you just aren’t paying attention. This president HATES the rule of law. He HATES that he can’t just do whatever he wants, and laws be damned. This is awful close to the Nixonian “it’s not illegal if the President does it” argument — but then again, at least Nixon had the decency to resign. Bush and his ilk show no such fiber.

Yet Another Indictment for DRM

Google has decided that they’d rather not have all those videos people bought from them, so they’re taking them back. Sure, they’re going to credit the customers, but the end point is this: the consumers bought something, and now Google doesn’t want to have sold it, so — thanks to the magic of DRM — they’re able to call a mulligan and undo all those transactions.

First, it’s surprising that it’s Google doing this (their motto is said to be “Don’t be evil”). Second, this is pretty much all you need to know about DRM. If vendors have the ability to revoke your purchase later, they will. It’s DRM that allows that. Don’t patronize companies that foist DRM on their products; you’ll never really own anything that way.