Elsewhere on the web…

It appears we missed some sort of set-to in re: Miley Cyrus’ pix in Vanity Fair. The whole thing is confusing as hell, since obviously the Mileys (like the Birtneys before her) sell at least partially on sex appeal, aspirational and otherwise, but whatever.

Thankfully, Defamer is on the case. Allow us to summarize their excellent summary of the whole affair, and the proper reaction thereto:

ZOMG111!!!!!!1 TEENAGERS FUCK!!!!! HORRORS! Meh.

Thank you, and good night.

The Future According to Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky’s “Gin and the Cognitive Surplus” is really an amazing summary of at least one way of looking at where we are, now, societally, and how interactive, collaborative media is on the cusp of radically changing the societal landscape.

In this piece, Shirky talks a lot about how TV sort of came to the rescue of a suddenly (relatively) idle public in the postwar expansion, a public that never before had much in the way of “free time” to deal with. The sitcom was born, and we all watched, and we watched for decades, and people continue to spend a lot of time in this one-way medium. In so doing, we consumed, for a while, an enormous cognitive surplus. Instead of creating something new, we watched a shitload of TV.

Anyway, he continues to relate the story of an interview with a TV producer who wanted to see if he was suitable for the show in question. In answer to a question about what sorts of “interesting” things he was seeing online, he talked a bit about the flurry of activity around the Pluto Wikipedia page as the astronomy community shifted its categorization from “planet” to “nonplanet thing,” expecting the follow-up questions to be about authority, participation, collaboration, and the like. The TV producer’s response? “Where do people find the time?”

And I just kind of snapped. And I said, “No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you’ve been masking for 50 years.”

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

It’s about participation, and how any level of participation — LOLCats! — is more engaging, more important, and fundamentally more interesting than what people have been doing with that time since “I Love Lucy” showed up. It’s not all LOLCats, though. Social networks are already powerful and interesting, for example. If we use some tiny percentage of our TV time to do something participatory, something collaborative, something interesting and creative, how long before one of those somethings dwarfs Wikipedia and social networking in net value? Of course, TV people don’t want to hear any of this, but it’s almost certainly true.

Shirky ends with a fantastic anecdote that has this as its punchline:

Here’s what four-year olds know: a screen that ships without a mouse ships BROKEN. Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for.

WORD.

(Warren Ellis has the video here, which is worth watching.)

Smartphone Smackdown: RIM v. Apple

This NYT covers a somewhat surprising development in the smartphone market: it’s now a fight between relative newcomer Apple and corporate darling Research In Motion (i.e., the makers of Blackberry). Stalwart Palm and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile are at best also-rans, and tiny Symbian never really had a chance.

The key bit, which could fortell hard times for RIM, is this:

(RIM co-CEO) Mr. Balsillie thinks that R.I.M. is in the best tactical position for the coming fight. He points to its close relationships with 350 carriers around the world — like Verizon and AT&T — that sell, often at steep discounts, BlackBerry phones and the accompanying monthly e-mail service.

Apple and Google, on the other hand, are vocally trying to dislodge the carriers from the nexus of the North American wireless market. Unlike other phone makers in the United States, Apple sells iPhones from its own stores and has negotiated relatively stingy contracts with the carriers, in exchange for limited periods of exclusivity. Google, for its part, unsuccessfully bid for wireless spectrum this year in an effort to force carriers to be more open to allowing various handsets and Internet services on their networks.

R.I.M. makes its alliances clear. “We are sort of polite and amiable and we gently interrelate with the carriers and try to find compatibility,” Mr. Balsillie said. “It may be a better strategy to fight the carrier. We may be wrong. The carrier may get disintermediated, in which case we fade with them.”

In other words, R.I.M. is content to please carriers, not actual customers. Apple has turned that whole ecosystem on its ear by creating a phone that has literally made AT&T’s year, financially, because people wanted it People actually LIKE it. On the other hand, people with Blackberries are typically folks who have never touched another smartphone, and who use what their IT drone tells them to use. Of the non-corporate BB users I know, most have switched to the iPhone for sheer ease of use and lack of hassle.

It’s important to note that the Blackberry system is dependent on R.I.M.’s servers to work, even for private, ISP-based emails (unless you just use the browser to access a webmail account); the iPhone forces no such Rube Goldberg mechanism on its users (though neither do the offerings from Palm, WinMo, and Symbian). Up to now, R.I.M. was also the only real game in town for centrally-controllable mobile email; a lost Blackberry can be wiped remotely, over the air, by an administrator. This summer, that feature — along with holy-grail native Exchange support — comes to the iPhone, which means Apple is seriously bringing it to what has been R.I.M.’s essentially uncontested territory.

What we talk about when we talk about llamas

In a brief phone call with Mrs Heathen, we discussed how many llamas there are named “Dolly.”

Mrs Heathen suggested that, while it’s true that expressing it as a percentage of the total llama population does neatly sidestep the need to know exactly how many llamas exist, llama population distribution also influences name statistics. If llamas are mostly in large groups, then there will be more names used less frequently; a llama farmer is unlikely to name two of his own llamas the same thing. On the other hand, if llamas are mostly in smaller groups, each such group could have its own “Dolly Llama,” and the overall percentage of Dollys is likely to be higher.

None of this, however, properly accounts for any large-scale industrial llama husbandry, where we presume the llamas aren’t named at all, though if we stipulate that we’re discussing only the universe of named llamas, we’re back on solid ground.

Things Worth Considering

Travel a bunch? Consider signing up with Dopplr, which — in addition to being yet another victim of the vicious web 2.0 anti-E hysteria — helps you figure out whom you may know who’s also travelling to the same places.

Magnatune, Take 2

BoingBoing points out that one record lable, Magnatune, is doing quite well selling DRM-free music, and that in fact its classical division is growing by leaps and bounds in a market where conventional classical sales are in the toilet. We’ve got a couple of their releases, and they’re amazing. Check ‘em out.

In which we go all geeky about whiners somewhere else

The Consumerist is great fun, but sometimes they, or their commenting public, kind of miss the mark — as they do in this story about a declined check at a K-Mart.

S. wrote a check at Kmart earlier this month and it was denied. No reason was given—just “denied.” It turns out a separate company, Certegy, made the decision, so S.—who writes, “I’ve never had a bounced check”—tried to track down someone at Certegy who could tell her what was wrong with her checks.

Cry me a river. First, you’re writing checks in 2008? Seriously, WTF?

More seriously, though, what the whiner ran into was a risk-based turndown. This post describes something that’s pretty common in the check verification industry. I used to work in software development for Telecheck, but it’s been a long time. The basics of the business are probably unchanged, though.

Back then (late 1990s), TCK had two main products for merchants:

  1. Their flagship guarantee product; and
  2. A verification-and-collections product that was cheaper.

Guarantee cost a percentage of each processed transaction, but it meant that if TCK issued an approval code, then the merchant was covered — if the check went bad, Telecheck paid him anyway, and collected the money plus the bounce fee on the back end.

Verification-and-collection was just what it sounds like: they’d run checks at POS, and approve or deny against the same database (with some differences), but bad checks were just bad checks. The merchant would only get paid for them if TCK managed to collect, minus a commission.

So, when a check is run through the system, the first thing that happened was a search for any actual negative data. For TCK, you’re negative pretty much only if you actually owe TCK money and/or the bounce fee. People who bounce checks and then pay TCK later after a paper notice are TCK’s favorite people (think about it), so neg-data turndowns only happened if you had an open item; that turndown was called a Code 4. Owe Telecheck money, or owe a Telecheck verification client money? No checkwriting for you. Don’t? No neg data. Knock yourself out.

That was the end of the story, as I recall it, for verification customers.

However, with guarantee, actual risk analysis turndowns came into play for people without neg data. As a boss of mine used to say, there are two kinds of bad checks: people borrowing money, and people committing fraud. The former are collectable, and the latter aren’t. The trick is knowing which is which.

To try and eliminate fraud, they used scorecards. There used to be a single checkwriting scorecard, across all SIC (essentially, type of merchant) codes, published by (I think) Fair-Isaacs. TCK developed a whole bunch more, since it turns out that LOTS of factors correlate to the relative riskyness of an unknown checkwriter, for example:

  • Men are riskier than women
  • Younger people are riskier than older people
  • New accounts are riskier than established accounts
  • Low check numbers are riskier than higher check numbers
  • Checks written at the end of the day, or in particular Friday afternoon, are riskier than checks from earlier in the business day/week.
  • Etc.

Obviously, too, some merchandise is riskier than others. Subwoofers are risky. Carrots aren’t. All this intelligence — and there was a half a floor in Houston full of very smart people doing the analysis behind this — came into play only for guarantee customers, since it was actually Telecheck’s money getting risked there.

Getting a risk-based turndown from TCK meant you looked too dicey for them to say, absolutely, we’re gonna cover this check for the merchant. The merchant could, of course, decide to take it anyway (but would get no guarantee), and will certainly suggest another form of payment, but TCK just doesn’t want any part of it. For Telecheck, the risk turndowns were Code 3.

Now, back then, some other companies were trying to also do risk management turndowns, but they’d do stupid things like simple velocity turndowns (“no more than N checks in Y period of time”), which is mathematically indefensible, or even simple cumulative price limits (also stupid). TCK had LOTS of years of actual POS data to draw from to create valid predictive models, which is what made them the higher-end provider back then.

So, at the end of the day, risk turndowns are just that: risk management. I don’t know anything about these new companies in the check verification market, and (as I said) my TCK insider knowledge is a decade old, but back then the whole code 3 thing wasn’t surprising or weird to me. It seemed like good business based on the inherent riskiness of checks and the inventive product (for the time) that TCK was selling (guarantee). Sure, people whined about it, but TCK wasn’t and isn’t in business to make checkwriters happy. They’re in business to make sure POS checks are as safe as possible for their clients.

Endnote: Since college, I’ve never written POS checks, even when I worked for TCK. Too much trouble. Amex uber alles.

Dept. of We Told You So

Microsoft has announced that they will be shutting down the servers that authenticate music purchased through MSN Music or related services, which means anyone with media purchased from those outlets is screwed if they ever want to move said media to a new computer, or upgrade the computer’s OS. This, by the way, is MS’s famed “PlaysForSure” music store.

This is what happens with DRM every. single. time. You don’t own the music. They do. And at the end of the day, they don’t care about you.

More developments

Some bits:

  1. I’ll put a link on the side, but comments here will accept formatting in something called Markdown; hit the link for a summary. You’ll find your paragraphs separating as you’d expect automatically, though.

  2. I’ve finally fixed the permalinks and census/archive links over at the old site, though I don’t have stats for Jan-April 08 owing to the hosting debacle. I thought about fixing the script to do the math, but then I realized that no one gives a shit, so you monkeys will have to be content with plain-old links to those months.

  3. We’re playing with something called Typo here, which is built on Ruby on Rails. Don’t worry if you don’t now what any of that means. Mostly, it just means I had to hack shit for a couple hours to make an immature framework and poorly documented blogging system sit up and play nice.

It’s shocking that there are still NO decent and easy-to-set-up blogging systems. MoveableType is an absurd hodgepodge of PHP, Perl, and God knows what else, plus it’s a resource joke. WordPress is a giant flashing “please hack my server” sign (the front page of their blog notes two critical security problems in the last six months alone). A hosted service is Right Out. In a word, GAH.

  1. Expect the template to keep changing as I figure out how to make it do what I want.

  2. Comments are officially BACK. Enjoy.

Well, that’s disturbing

This NYT story points out that while the US accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, we have nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. China, with a population far greater than hours, has about half as many prisoners. We incarcerate ONE PERCENT of all American adults.

This cannot be good.

This is an experiment.

Everything is subject to change. You can, however, now comment again. Archives are still back at the old site for now. Everything subject to change, and obviously we won’t be putting up with a lame-O canned theme for very long. Inshallah.

You want new? I got new.

I’m piloting the next version of Heathen here; look there for new content, but n.b. that I’m not completely making the move yet, and some things aren’t quite configured properly yet. Even so, it’s promising.

Dept. of Geeky References

I totally didn’t notice until it was pointed out to me, but on Friday’s Battlestar Galactica, four characters meet clandestinely in “weapons locker 1701D.”

ZOMG!

What? You don’t get it? Ah. I forget, sometimes, that not all the Accumulated Heathen are orthodox geeks. Naming the locker thusly was a deliberate shout-out to that oldest of geek tribes, the Trekkies. Every iteration (well, except one) of the Star Trek “Enterprise” has been numbered some variant of “NCC-1701.” Wikipedia helps us with the lore (no, not the Lore):

Missing from this list is the version captained by the dude from Quantum Leap in the wholly forgettable and blessedly short-lived Enterprise series; since there are no letters before “A,” even in the Star Trek universe, that ship was the Enterprise NX-01.

Old but worth reading

A little while ago, this essay about working on the Donkey Kong Atari port surfaced online, and since then it’s been sitting in an unread tab in my browser. I’m in allergy hell today, though, so I’m cleaning house, which means I’m finally posting it here. Enjoy, my geekly brethren.

Dept. of Pow’rful Nostalgia

Merlin Mann has posted video of an early R.E.M. appearance that happens to also be the first time I saw them. It’s from a Nickelodeon “teen talk show” called Livewire in 1983.

I remember watching this on a big console TV sitting in front of the couch at the house I grew up in, mesmerized, but didn’t have the presence of mind to write down the band name. It wouldn’t have mattered; the cultural backwater that was pre-Internet south Mississippi didn’t have any shops that would have stocked Chronic Town anyway.

Three years later, I found Fables of the Reconstruction, though, and that was that.

Supporting Our Troops, Private Ryan Style

What they didn’t include in the movie is that apparently Private Ryan and his family lost all military benefits because he got pulled from combat. From the AP:

FRESNO, Calif. – Forced to leave the combat zone after his two brothers died in the Iraq war, Army Spc. Jason Hubbard faced another battle once he returned home: The military cut off his family’s health care, stopped his G.I. educational subsidies and wanted him to repay his sign-up bonus.

It wasn’t until Hubbard petitioned his local congressman that he was able to restore some of his benefits.

Via JWZ, today’s bizarre quote

Someone shouted “OH SHIT, it’s coming back!” and pointed up the street. I looked, to see a monstrous pit bull galloping down the street, full-tilt. I remember thinking that it looked just like one of those things from “Ghostbusters” as it leapt, soaring through the air and shoulder-checking the man with the OE cans, sending him flat and the cans scattering.

The dog then grabbed a can in its jaws and bit down hard, puncturing the can and shaking it like a baby — which sent streams of malt liquor shooting out of the holes around its fangs and straight down the monster’s throat. It spat the mostly-empty can out into the street, covered in drool and malt liquor and wagged its tail, happily burping.

The man picked himself up and yelled “motherfucker, what did I JUST TELL YOU,” and grabbed the dog by its neck and belly, clean-and-jerked it and threw the thing like a soccer ball as far as he could. It hit the pavement and skidded, snarling and growling and ran straight for him, knocked him down again and grabbed another can.

This cycle had been iterating for a little while.

(More)

“He liked you all greased up, like a porkchop.”

JWZ is on a roll with the weird text:

“Motherfucker was crazy,” says Gloria Daniel, a girlfriend he kept on the side for forty years. “It was the drugs.”

One night in the summer of 2001, after he’d slathered her in Vaseline (“He liked you all greased up,” she says. “Like a porkchop”) and wore her out trying to come, he gave up and left the room, and Gloria dozed off. When she woke up, Mr. Brown was standing at the foot of the bed in a full-length mink coat over his bare chest, a black cowboy hat, and silk pajama pants with one leg tucked into a cowboy boot and the other hanging out. He had a shotgun over his shoulder and a white stripe of Noxzema under each eye. “I’m an Indian tonight, baby,” he announced. “C’mon, let’s let ‘em have it.” Then he dumped a pickle jar of change on the floor, told her to get a machete, and went out to the garage. He took the Rolls, drove ten miles to Augusta, weaving all over the road, clipping mailboxes, smoking more dope, and screaming about being an Indian. Gloria kept thinking she should flag down a cop, say she’d been kidnapped.

Like she says, motherfucker was crazy on drugs.

Spot on

Nerve and IFC have teamed up to produce a list of the 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time, and it’s a doozy. Longtime Heathen faves The State are well represented, including “$240 dollars worth of puddin’” and “Porcupine Racetrack,” among others. Don’t miss SNL’s “Gerald Ford is Dead” skit, either.

Their entry for “Porcupine:”

39. Porcupine Racetrack – The State

Is “Porcupine Racetrack” the best musical of the ’90s? I wouldn’t argue against it. A parody of Broadway musicals played so straight it’s almost an homage, it packs in class consciousness, an aborted tap breakdown, syrupy melodrama (“So God if you’re above / And it’s orphans / That you love / Then help the porcupine I chose”) and the triumph of the human spirit (in the form of Thomas Lennon wearing a giant porcupine outfit) into less than three minutes. It’s a marvel of performance and production design on a budget — the manic energy of the cast selling every last ounce of the willfully bizarre premise. Conceived by Mr. Lennon and set to music and performed by Teddy Shapiro, who wrote most of the incidental music on the show, it’s a tour de force of brightly colored absurdity — performed with loving care, all the way down to the checked suits and newsboy caps. –R. Emmet Sweeney

Oh, THIS is a good idea

US research into foot-and-mouth disease, once a serious scourge of American agriculture, has heretofore been done on a remote island. This makes sense, as a biohazard mishap there probably can’t screw up our food supply.

In a move worthy of some sort of bizarre satirical skit, the Bush Administration wants to move this research to Kansas. WTF?

In which we turn into our grandfather, and don’t mind

When I was a kid, I thought my dad’s dad was kind of odd because whenever he’d find something he liked, he’d buy several. “How come?” I’d ask. His answer was always some variation on “they might quit making them.”

I figured it was some sort of depression-survivor thing, but now, at 38, I find myself thinking the same thing a lot. The most recent example: Several years ago, Mrs Heathen gave me the first home coffeemachine I’ve ever had that actually made consistently good coffee. Drip machines might start strong, but they’ve got weird internal parts you can’t clean, and are probably inconsistent temp-wise besides even if they DO attempt to heat the water before it hits the beans. I’ve had a mess of them, from a variety of manufacturers, and the fact of the matter is simple: they all suck. I even looked sideways at Erin for bringing this one into the house, since at the time I was making coffee a cup at a time with a filterholder set atop my favorite mug (it’s slow and sucks for volume, but it works and makes good coffee).

The model she found was a vacuum style pot made by Bodum that was actually electric. Put in water, put in coffee, hit the switch, and either watch the show or come back in a few minutes to perfect coffee, every time. The whole thing came apart for easy cleaning of every surface (though in truth, I had to ask Mrs Heathen to clean the interior of the bottom half every so often, since her hands would actually fit inside it), which meant none of the lingering weird flavors that have haunted basically every drip machine I’ve ever drunk from. Simple, direct, and reliable, the Bodum Electric Santos was damned near perfect.

I used this blessed, wonderful device nearly every morning for three years, but this week it developed significant cracks about the (plastic) base. It leaks, and therefore no longer makes good coffee. And this is the point in the story wherein I discover the model has been discontinued and that no one, apparently, makes an electric vac pot anymore. There are stovetop models (from Bodum, even), but nothing with the fire-and-forget brilliance of my late, lamented Santos. Aside from some used ones on EBay, it looks like I’m SOL.

I totally should have bought like ten of them as soon as I realized it was the One True Coffee Device. I’m kicking myself now, and counting my gramps quite a bit wiser in the bargain.

More reasons to never vote Republican

Harper’s has a longish and well-documented piece on how the GOP reworked the Justice Department to pursue political gain, not, well, “justice.” It’s something the GOP has long accused other parties of, naturally, but the only group that reliably attempts to or does turn the DoJ into a political hit squad is the Republican Party. It is the GOP that repurposed the Civil Rights division into something cleverly designed to suppress voter turnout. It is the GOP that began purging USAs for not initiating political investigations into enough Democrats. It’s the GOP that’s got a hard-on for the Voter ID act, which will certainly further suppress minority and lower-income voting — and, in so doing, increases their share of the vote, since those folks don’t usually vote Republican.

And, let us not forget, it is the Bush DoJ that has pursued political cases with partisan rigor:

In 2007, Donald Shields and John Cragan, two retired professors, released the preliminary results of a long-term study of the Bush Justice Department’s investigations of public officials. They found that between 2001 and 2006 the Justice Department had initiated 375 investigations of public officials. They also found that 298 of those investigations targeted Democrats and 67 of them targeted Republicans. Shields and Cragan concluded that the odds of this imbalance occurring randomly were one in ten thousand.

One of those 298 Democratic targets was former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Arguably the most successful Democrat-ic politician in recent Alabama history, Siegelman had occupied almost every statewide elective office, frequently winning by large margins. He was elected governor in 1998 with a 57 percent majority. In 2002, however, Siegelman faced a strong challenge from Republican Bob Riley. The election was the closest in the state’s history, and was ultimately called for Riley following a late-night “computer glitch” that moved votes on just one line–that of the gubernatorial contest–enough to reverse the outcome of the race. A study the following year by Auburn University’s James Gundlach strongly suggested “systematic electronic manipulation.” But this electoral oddity remains unexamined by the Justice Department.

Later that year, however, as the Mobile Press-Register was publishing a poll that showed Siegelman trouncing Riley in a rematch, the Department of Justice finally took action. It launched an investigation of Siegelman. The case was based on allegations that Siegelman had appointed Richard Scrushy, the CEO of the Birmingham-based health-care firm HealthSouth, to an uncompensated hospital-oversight board as a quid pro quo for Scrushy’s having arranged a $500,000 contribution to a 1999 initiative to promote a state lottery bill favored by Siegelman. There were several problems with the case. First, the contribution itself was legal. There was no payment to Siegelman, or even to his campaign. Also, Scrushy didn’t support Siegelman in the election. He was a Republican and had backed Riley. In addition, Scrushy had been appointed to the same board by three prior governors. And finally, according to his own uncontradicted testimony, Scrushy didn’t even want the appointment.

It was a clear case of selective prosecution–and if the theory applied to the Siegelman prosecution were to be applied uniformly, many in the Bush Administration would now be in prison. George W. Bush singled out 146 individuals who gave or gathered $100,000 (to his actual political campaign) for appointment to far more desirable postings as ambassadors, cabinet officers, or members of his transition team. Not a single one of these appointments triggered a Justice Department investigation.

The piece concludes by noting the very real damage Bush has done here, and how it may become permanent:

It is improbable that any contender who prevails in the 2008 presidential election will renounce the Bush model of a redefined presidency. A newcomer will likely differentiate his (or her) policies on a number of points, pulling back somewhat from positions (such as the presidential right to torture or wage preemptive war) that have drawn sharp criticism. But these changes will be introduced as a matter of presidential policy, not because the president is bowing to law defined by Congress or to constitutional constraints.

Our Constitution provides a mechanism for countering transformational excess, but the people’s representatives thus far appear to have decided that the impolite process of impeachment is only for presidents who have affairs. Given this failure of will, we must be prepared to accept a changed system in which the will of the people is subsumed by good manners and fearful politics. As long as this new democracy prevails, little will matter beyond the will of the president.

Food for thought.

Don’t confuse them with facts

Doonesbury examines the myth of GOP fiscal responsibility. Hint: it’s a lie.

  • Over half the national debt was incurred under a Bush presidency
  • The proportion grows to 70% if you include Reagan
  • Out of 19 budgets submitted by Bush I, II, and RWR, only 2 were balanced

Yoo Dirty Rat

The much-ballyhooed John Yoo torture memo has been declassified. Madcap hilarity does not ensue. Among the spectacular legal assertions Yoo manufactured: the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to terror cases, even on domestic soil — in other words, warrantless wiretapping is A-OK! (N.B. that the notion of whether or not the Bill of Rights and the Constitution apply to foreigners in the U.S. is well settled law; they do, so it doesn’t matter if the person being investigated is a citizen, alien, illegal alien, or whatever.)

Further, Yoo’s imperial doctrine asserts that the President has the authority to simply abrogate laws that are in his way, such as those prohibiting harsh treatment of detainees i.e. torture. In this way, Yoo is directly responsible for at least some portion of the abuses found at Gitmo, in Iraq, and at undisclosed black sites maintained by the CIA around the world. N.B. what Wikipedia has to say about Authoritarianism:

Rule of law is frequently opposed by authoritarian and totalitarian states. The explicit policy of such governments . . . is that the government possesses the inherent authority to act purely on its own volition and without being subject to any checks or limitations.

John Yoo is, therefore, a WAR CRIMINAL, and ought to be in jail. Instead, he’s on the faculty at Berkeley Law.

Presumably, it was dressed provocatively

Ah, Ohio:

BELLEVUE, Ohio — Police said an Ohio man has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a picnic table.

Police arrested Arthur Price Jr. after an anonymous tipster dropped off three DVDs that reportedly showed Price in the act.

According to NBC Toledo, Ohio, affiliate WNWO-TV, the videos show Price tilting the metal round picnic table on its side and then laying up against it to have sexual intercourse with the table. Afterward, he can then be seen cleaning the table and the deck.

During questioning, he reportedly admitted to having sex with the table. Police said he also admitted to bringing the table inside his home for sex.

Price faces four counts of public indecency. He was freed after posting $20,000 bond, authorities said.

Granted, if this had been in Alabama, it would have been his first cousin’s picnic table.