Police State in Minneapolis

They’re rounding up suspected protesters in advance of the Republican convention. Near as we can recall, this isn’t actually illegal.

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

This is obscene. Some heads need to roll over this.

Clemson Who?

The Tide put a full-sized SEC hurtin’ on #9 Clemson tonight, to the tune of 34 to 10, and it wasn’t even that close; the Tide held the ball for over 41 minutes, and outproduced the Tigers 419 to 188 yards (all in the air; Clemson had 1 rushing yard). The Tide blew two early scoring opps, settling for field goals when John Parker Wilson couldn’t connect even without meaningful Clemson resistance in his first two possessions. Quoth Bowden the Younger, “they outplayed us on both sides of the ball.” Clemson was completely unprepared for SEC speed and toughness.

To be fair, though, Clemson is just Clemson. They lost to Maryland and BC last year, for crying out loud. This #9-ranking is preseason bullshit, even if knocking them off it does fuel Tide passions. The Alabama faithful should remember that Clemson hasn’t beaten UA in 12 straight meetings, even if the last one was a 56-0 shellacking back when Bear ran the show (1975). Alabama gets a couple easy weeks before the next “real” game — next are unranked Tulane and Western Kentucky, followed by freshly Nuttless Arkansas on 9/20 before a big show in Athens against currently #1 Georgia. Let’s hope Nicky Lou can keep it together, and keep this win from going to his young team’s head.

More to come. Inshallah.

Buchanan on Obama

This is really amazing. Buchanan — somewhere to the right of Mussolini, typically — is over the friggin MOON about Obama’s speech; quoth Keith Olberman: “We had to stop PB gushing over Obama’s speech for the sake of time. Perhaps that will tell you the story better than anything else we can say.” Word.

Direct link.

Again with Barack

We sort of wondered if this clearly very gifted speaker could top his race speech, or his stage-setting winner from the 2004 convention. That was misplaced worry; even Pat Buchanan seems to think Obama’s was the best convention speech ever, and GOP street-fighter Alex Castellanos’ reaction ends with “whoever didn’t get picked for Republican VP today may be a lucky Republican.”

Your lips to God’s ears, Alex.

True.

Online acquaintance JeffreyP has this to say about airline fees:

If it’s really the case that airlines can’t make money in the current environment without resorting to these pricing practices, how come Southwest, one of the most consistently profitable airlines in the country, doesn’t charge anything to check a second bag? And how is it that Continental can possibly get away with serving free meals on its flights?

Also: Fifty bucks to check a second bag, Delta? Seriously? Seven bucks for a fruit plate, Northwest? You guys are douches.

Tacking on all these little charges is cheesy. It’s yet another thing (in addition to abusive airport security and interminable delays) that makes me not want to fly at all. Anytime you can’t express the price of something in a sentence or less, there’s nearly always something predatory and possibly crooked going on. Anytime you can’t express the price of something in a sentence or less, there’s nearly always something predatory and possibly crooked going on.

Totally brutal. And probably also true.

This bit from the WaPo almost certainly sums up The Clone Wars better than anything else:

Lucas fulfills his lifelong dream of completely dehumanizing his space opera, replacing it with a digitally animated style that is somewhere between cartoons, Christmas specials and panoramic paintings on the side of a van. One thing is definitely intact from the most recent prequel episodes: From the first frame, all but the learned geeks in the audience won’t know what the heck is going on. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (celebrity voices impersonated) are in the midst of the legendary and pointless Clone Wars, the battles of which seem to transpire on either Planet Marriott Airport or Planet Phallic Symbol.

Zap! Pow! What’s? Boom! Happening? But wait: Now Yoda has ordered our heroes (accompanied by their inappropriately dressed teenage Jedi summer intern, Ahsoka Tano) to help rescue the kidnapped toddler of Jabba the Hutt. That’s right: There’s a Baby the Hutt. I’d go on explaining “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” but you’d think I was high.

Omnibus Picture Post

So, lots of Flickrism; in rough chron order:

Obviously, I’m still finding my feet with the 50, but it’s still awful cool to be able to shoot indoors with no flash.

Posted in Pix

Dead Man Walking

Palm has released its new Treo Pro, which turns out to be just another Treo-running-Windows (not Palm OS), with few if any new features, and a marginally slicker case.

However, the real fun comes with this tidbit: It’s being released without a carrier partner and is therefore unsubsidized; it costs $549, or hundreds more than virtually any competitor from Blackberry or Microsoft or Apple (remember, the 3G iPhone is $199). Sure, it’s unlocked as a consequence of this, but this means precisely squat to 95% of the cell-buying public.

Not quite as dumb as the famously-aborted Foleo, but awful close. Somebody put a bullet in these guys; they’re done.

Once again, Microsoft sets new standards in user-hostility

The primary Heathen machine developed a hardware fault, so I’m working on a backup and was, until about an hour ago, happy using webmail for both personal and work stuff. Our work tool is Exchange, which means the webmail is Outlook Web Access (OWA). OWA is, generally, not awful, but I just ran into some pretty annoying shit.

One of our products uses an Access database to store some data. A client’s having a problem today, so they sent me their DB so I can try to track down the issue. No worries, right? You’d think that, but…

It turns out OWA blocks Access files as “potentially unsafe.” There appears to be no way to convince OWA to allow those files through. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll just set up an IMAP account.” IMAP is easy and simple and means my mail won’t get out of sync despite using multiple computers. For the sake of variety and education, I decided I’d try Entourage, Microsoft’s Mac-side Outlook-like thingy.

Setup was easy, but it took about 2 minutes before I wanted to strangle someone.

It turns out Entourage won’t let me have the database files, either. The help file says:

An attachment to a message was blocked.

Cause: For security reasons, Entourage blocks attachments that could potentially harm your computer.

  • Solution: If you do not trust that the attachment is safe, delete it from your computer.
  • Solution: If you trust the message sender and want to receive the attachment, ask the sender to compress the file and then send it to you again.

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot. MS is now fixing their absurdly broken OS’s security problems by crippling their mail programs. Delightful.

More

I did a bit more digging. It turns out that, if you Google long enough there is a way to disable this nanny feature, but it involves changing a .plist file inside the Entourage bundle in /Applications. It’s totally absurd to put editable settings in /Applications, but never mind that. (Also, this little “feature” is yet another example of how Microsoft is actually not interested in selling software that appeals to users; it’s interested in selling software that appeals to administrators, but what ever.) What’s even more fun is that the list of verboten filetypes is dominated with extensions that are meaningless in the Macintosh context. I can click all day on an EXE file, but it’s not going to run on OSX, so there’s little point in keeping me from downloading it. On the other hand, Office files can and do carry destructive payloads, but .DOC isn’t on the list. Yay Redmond!

Things that aren’t clever

The Olympics video site is built such that it will only work on Intel Macs, not PowerPC Macs.

Based on my understanding of building Mac software, doing this means they made a choice to deliberately exclude the PPC machines (and there are still millions out there; Macs have long useful lives — Mrs Heathen’s laptop, for example, is one) when compiling the software. Apple’s build tools create so-called Universal binaries by default that work on both architectures. Someone at NBC or the Olympics is basically just being an asshole.

That much, at least, is clear

Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes: “I’ve been frankly confused by this fascination that everybody has with Netflix.”

Even better is Keyes on library size: “I don’t care how many movies are available to me. As my personal taste as a customer, I want to watch the new stuff so whether we have 10,000 movies or 200 movies doesn’t matter if I don’t want to see any of the movies that we have . . . our assortment is heavily weighted toward newer releases and mainstream staple titles.”

It Begins: SabanWatch 2008

We had big fun with the PointsPerMillion jabs last year, but we’re putting it aside this time around in favor of sheer unadulterated partisanship; after all, they’re not spending any of OUR money — Chief Heathen attended UA on a scholarship surplus, and we’ve never bothered to give them one thin dime in the interim. We’d just like to see ‘em win, given that they’re paving NickyLou’s driveway with gold anyway.

The Tide are ranked low (#24 AP, unranked USA) in the preseason, which isn’t at all unfair given the 2007 record (7-6, 4-4 conf). So here it is:

  • 8/30 Clemson (#9) in Atlanta (ABC)
  • 9/6 Tulane
  • 9/13 Western Kentucky
  • 9/20 @ Arkansas
  • 9/27 @ Georgia (#1)
  • 10/4 Kentucky
  • 10/18 Ole MIss
  • 10/25 Tennessee (#18)
  • 11/01 Arkansas State
  • 11/8 @ LSU (#6 USA, #7 AP)
  • 11/15 Mississippi State
  • 11/29 Auburn (#11 USA, #10 AP)

We can’t help but notice that Saban’s boys must play three traditionally tough — and ranked — rivals on the road. We hear good things about the recruiting class; here’s hoping they come through. We find out with what might be a real game, even, against a top-ten squad. Roll Tide anyway; we’ll check back in on Sunday as per usual; until then, we’re not going to try to handicap the schedule.

Good News for Maher Arar?

Arar is the innocent Canadian we kidnapped at JFK and sent to Syria for torture under the “extraordinary rendition” program. He sued, but his suit got quashed by the district court on state secrets grounds, and that dismissal was upheld by a subset of the 2nd Circuit.

Now the 2nd Circuit has decided, on its own, to rehear the case en banc.

Now here comes the unexpected part: the 2nd circuit has announced that it will reconsider the case en banc, which means all the judges on the appeals court will hear it and vote on it. What makes this truly surprising is that Arar’s attorney didn’t ask for it; the court granted the rehearing sua sponte, on its own. That is extraordinarily rare. It suggests that there were a number of judges on the circuit who agitated for the rehearing because they believe it was wrongly decided.

Sure would be nice if some folks actually met consequences for what they’ve done to Arar, and what they’ve done to our nation.

Update: Frank chimes in with a link to the actual order.

Phelps is a piker

Swimmers are getting all the love right now, but as this post points out, they’re not as far along in the “what’s the human limit?” game as sprinters — in part because of the Speedo suits’ “unlocking” of an additional tier of speed.

Twelve years ago, Michael Johnson doubled in track (200m and 400m), and the record he set in the 200m — 19.32s — remains absurdly out of reach. In a sport where hundredths of seconds are desperately hard to come by, Johnson’s 200m record is a full 0.30 seconds faster than his nearest competitor (Tyson Gay, last year). By comparison, Usain Bolt’s best 200m time (set in Athens this July) is 19.67.

(Via Kottke.)

Whoa

This is a pretty fantastic photo of the still-incomplete tallest building in the world, the Burj Dubai Tower. The last official height statement was from May: 160 floors, 636m tall.

The Sears Tower, by comparison, is “only” 442m and 108 floors.

So proud.

Via BoingBoing:

A Hong Kong computer programmer who had legally resided in the US for 15 years (since he was 17) and fathered two American children went for his final green card interview and was locked up, detained until he died of cancer that the DHS refused to treat him for. [...] In detention, his complaints of excruciating back pain were treated as fakery, and he was dragged around in shackles after he lost the ability to walk, taken on long, bumpy drives while official demanded that he drop his immigration appeals. The jailers who caused his death were private contractors with fat deals with the DHS to lock up immigration detainees.

As he lay dying, his family — wife and two children, aged 1 and 3 — were denied access to him while the warden considered their request to visit.

More at NYT.

Yes.

Onion: Obama’s Hillbilly Half-Brother Threatening To Derail Campaign.

Barack Obama’s once-commanding lead in the polls slipped to two points Monday, continuing a month-long slide that many credit to the recent appearance of the Democratic candidate’s heretofore unknown half-brother, Cooter Obama.

[...]

Nonetheless, political experts said Cooter’s increased visibility in recent weeks has hurt Obama’s polling among urban, upper-middle-class, non-straw-hat-wearing voters. The Obama camp has scrambled to control the damage caused by Cooter’s penchants for loudly practicing his banjo during Obama’s speeches, repeatedly referring to Barack by his childhood nickname, “Ol’ Jelly Legs,” and chasing his troublemaking pig, Mbogo, in the nude in the background of Obama’s CNN interview on the importance of education.

Wait. What?

See if you can find the oddball name collision in the following Olympics story:

BEIJING – Cat Osterman is accustomed to delivering for the U.S. women’s softball team.

On Wednesday, the 25-year-old Houston express-mailed a no-hitter for the Americans in a 3-0 win over Australia.

Osterman struck out 12 batters and walked only three in pitching only the second complete game no-hitter in Olympic history.

The U.S. improved its record in the opening round to 2-0 and continued its dominance of the Olympics. Between them, Jennie Finch (four innings), Monica Abbott (one inning) and Osterman (seven innings) have not surrendered a hit.

Osterman outdueled Australia’s Tanya Harding, who has handed the U.S. program two of its four losses in the games since 1996.

Dear Intarwub

Please get one of these for LawyerHeathen. Last week was his birthday; it’s the least you can do. kthxbi.

More from Frank:

What you see in the picture is actually already on the market – the box with the graph is a pump just like mine, above that is the continuous blood glucose moniter transmitter that talks to the pump. What will make that combination an artificial pancreas is the algorithm that will do all the predicting and deciding. I was on a national JDRF conference call a few months back to discuss that very topic. The current algorithm is getting very, VERY close to actually predicting future blood sugars down to the mg/dl. It is scary good, but not good enough, yet. More testing is required and that takes millions and millions of dollars. Truly dollars well spent, though. The JDRF working hard to get this to market and to get it covered by insurance companies so people can get one.

This is an excellent reason to give money to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We do. So should you.

How We Are Being Screwed

Fred Clark explains the FICO scam for us:

Here’s how the scam works. You’ve got a $10,000 limit on a credit card and you’re carrying $2,500 due to a recent dental procedure. The lender, in the name of reducing risk, abruptly reduces the limit on your card to $4,000, announcing this change on page seven of the nano-type in a booklet mailed with your next monthly bill. Now instead of a 25-percent utilization rate, you’ve got a 63-percent utilization rate (they round up, when convenient), lowering your credit score.

That lower credit score means you no longer “qualify” for your previous rate of 9.9 percent and will now be paying 19.1 percent. Oh, and there’s a one-time fee of $35 dollars, conveniently added to your existing balance, for exceeding 50 percent of your available limit.

Unfortunately for you, these changes in your balance and rate became effective at 9 a.m. on the 15th of the month. Your electronic payment, dutifully set for the previous minimum payment, is credited to your account at 1 p.m. on the 15th. That minimum payment was based on the earlier interest rate, so it’s no longer adequate to cover your newer, higher minimum payment. A $35 late fee is therefore added to your balance and this delinquency is reported to the triumvirate, contributing to the further reduction of your credit scores. Second verse, same as the first.

The entire affair is designed to perpetuate both “bad” credit and high debt. Banks are not your friends. Frankly, no corporation is your friend. Behave accordingly.

Ah, the Mouth of the South

MeFi noticed Jerry Clower today, and has a nice selection of his bits pointed out (at YouTube) for your perusal. If you grew up in the southeast, especially MIssissippi, Clower was inescapable.