Cash as proof of guilt? The DEA thinks so.

Professional poker player David Peat was mugged by the DEA to the tune of about sixty large at the Detroit airport for buying a first class ticket with cash. They say he may get his cash and watch back later.

Someone needs to put the legal smackdown on these thugs. Seizing property without a criminal conviction is theft, plain and simple, and those who engage in it should be held accountable, from the agents doing the seizing to their supervisors to those who made the policy. It’s absurd, grotesque, and unamerican. Cash is not a crime.

Warren Ellis finds the Cool

These photocollages from Sergei Larenkov blend WWII-era black and whites with modern color shots taken from the same perspective in the same place for a ghostly same-place-different-time montage.

It sounds a little weird when described, but just go look. It’s very cool.

Posted in Pix

Dept. of Shit That Annoys Me Today

  1. I love my iPhone, and one thing I love about it is that it can join wifi networks when they’re in range. However, when I’m not at home, I end up having to keep this feature off because most of the wifi I encounter is set up such that the wifi network itself is only quasi-open; you have to open a browser and “log in” to get real access to the outside world. This is only slightly irritating on a laptop, but it’s a utility killer on a phone of any kind — I pull out my phone to check mail, and it’ll take me a minute to discover the “network” I’m on is useless, and that I’ll need to revert to cell. Fuck you, Starbuck’s.

  2. I hate the entire “worse is better” state of affairs with outboard drives. USB 2 “won” by being cheaper (and, as a consequence, slower in practice) than Firewire 400, but the Achilles’ heel is that USB2 wasn’t meant to carry power, so the so-called “bus powered” no-power-plug USB drives frequently require TWO USB ports to function. Maybe this works for people on desktops, but my laptop only has two USB ports, and the Seagate I’m arguing with now seems to need to be plugged directly in, not via a (powered) hub. Goodbye, full-sized keyboard and nice mouse, at least for the next little while. Grrrr. Firewire R00lz.

Yet another reason why being a kid today is better

Compared to the games of today available for kids, Candyland and its ilk sucked balls.

The problem is true interactivity and the influence of chance. Games children play today — especially electronic or video games — tend to reward decision-making and paying attention and decoding the environment of the game. Games like Candyland are 100% games of chance, with no hope of mastery and no reward for paying attention or experimenting.

Super Mario Brothers is a vastly more interesting task, cognitively speaking, than drawing cards and rolling dice.

Comeuppance coming?

Rep. Conyers has issued a new subpoena to Karl Rove in re: the US attorney firings. With Bush in the White House, this was a nonstarter — but the courts have rejected the absolute-immunity argument, and Obama previously called the claim “completely misguided.”

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

Update: Looks like it’s up to Obama.

Libertarian Take on Obama’s Executive Orders

Agitator Radley Balko put it this way: “Holy Crap!” Some excerpts:

[I]n a broad swipe at the Bush administration’s lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s worth emphasizing again here these steps Obama’s taking effectively limit his own power. That’s extraordinary.

Today in Future Tech

Photojournalist David Bergman created a 1,474 megapixel composite image of the Inauguration that you can scroll around and zoom with, a la Blade Runner. It takes a while to load, but it’s amazingly cool once you get it. Check it out.

My final photo is made up of 220 Canon G10 images and the file is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels. It took more than six and a half hours for the Gigapan software to put together all of the images on my Macbook Pro and the completed TIF file is almost 2 gigabytes.

Yeow. It’ll be a while before we’re capturing this kind of data with our point-and-shoots, but that it’s possible now at all is pretty cool.

Posted in Pix

You know this scream

I was sure I’d written before about the Amen Break, a drum break taken from a 1960s group that you’ve heard over and over and over. Actually, it’s this documentary I thought I’d linked — if you haven’t heard it, carve out 20 minutes and listen; it’s worth your time.

Anyway, it turns out that the Wilhelm Scream is sort of the Amen Break of ADR/foley screams, and has appeared in countless fight sequences since its debut in 1951′s “Distant Drums,” including Star Wars. Check it out.

Grrrr

I don’t mind being on hold. I don’t even mind hold music. What drives me bats is having a recording pop in every 30 or 60 seconds to tell me I’m still on hold. Music’s easy to tune out, so you can get work done while you’re waiting; the recording is interruptive enough to shake you out of whatever task you’re doing while on hold, more or less ensuring that you can do nothing other than sit on hold.

Assholes.

And yet more good news

Today, President Obama signed orders closing Gitmo and other extrajudicial CIA prisons.

And if that wasn’t enough, his directives regarding disclosure and transparency are worrying convervatives who think they might enable investigations of Bush-era crimes. Make no mistake; their worry is about disclosure, not about crimes, which is so wrong I’m sort of dizzy just considering it. Incidentally, this shift in policy — to lean towards disclosure, not secrecy — is essentially a return to Clinton-era rules:

[The Bush administration’s 2001 FOIA] directive encouraged federal agencies to reject requests for documents if there was any legal basis to do so, promising that the Justice Department would defend them in court. It was a stark reversal of the policy set eight years earlier, when the Clinton administration told agencies to make records available whenever they could, even if the law provided a reason not to, so long as there was no ”foreseeable harm” from the release.

Still catching up, but if you missed it…

… you should really read these two paragraphs from President Obama’s Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

This is going to make your head hurt

There’s an op-ed today in the NYT that supposes any two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is by default untenable, since both groups have legitimate claims to the land. It’s an even-handed, thoughtful piece about the realities of this aspect of Mid-east politics. Some excerpts:

THE shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which ended with this weekend’s cease-fire, reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes.

But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the desperate diplomacy, there is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions.

It’s a calm call for the participants to please stop being fuckheads and just get along. And the author is Muammar Qaddafi, I shit you not.

(Via Rob.)

A good sign

NYT:

Dennis C. Blair, the retired admiral who is President Obama’s choice as the nation’s top intelligence official, pledged in testimony to be delivered on Thursday that he would require counterterrorism programs to operate “in a manner consistent with our nation’s values, consistent with our Constitution and consistent with the rule of law.”

and more:

“I do not and will not support any surveillance activities that circumvent established processes for their lawful authorization,” he said in the testimony. “I believe in the importance of independent monitoring, including by Congress, to prevent abuses and protect civil liberties.”

In an unusual comment from a man who will head the most secret agencies of government, he said, “There is a need for transparency and accountability in a mission where most work necessarily remains hidden from public view.” He said that if confirmed, he would “communicate frequently and candidly with the oversight committees, and as much as possible with the American people.”

Imagine hearing that — or even the words “rule of law” — from a Bush appointee.

You got one job today, Johnny. Can you not get it right?

You heard right. Chief Justice Roberts bungled the oath.

Granted, this doesn’t actually matter; no oath is required; from Wikipedia:

Article 2 of the the United States Constitution states that the President must take the oath before he enter office. This was superseded by the 20th Amendment[5] which states that the terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January and the terms of their successors shall then begin. This would therefore allow the President to assume the duties of the office without requiring the oath to be administered.

Keep this in mind in the inevitable right-wing chatter about how Obama isn’t “really” the President.

Quickie Inaugural Post #2

After the actual swearing-in ceremony, we left the Mall area for distant Red Line points in search of warmth and food. En route to the bar, we discovered the reason for the occasionally empty bleachers we later saw on the bar TV: DC crowd management was pretty broken, and apparently had last minute changes not documented in any of the publicly available info source.

Consequently, it would not surprise us to learn that some of those bleachers had become inaccessible islands, with their ticket-holders trapped elsewhere with no way to reach their seats. We have several friends who couldn’t get in (we did, though) despite having tickets owing to the enormous crowds and perhaps questionable crowd-routing choices. Granted, there’s not a lot of precedent for 1-2MM extra people in a town this size, but it was still frustrating.

Joe the Plumber: Still an idiot

He says the media shouldn’t be allowed to do reporting on wars. And PJTV is paying him to do exactly that.

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.

I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.

Buh-bye, Bush

The Economist on Bush includes some fantastic lines, including this:

Relentless partisanship led to the politicisation of almost everything Mr Bush did. He used his first televised address to justify putting strict limits on federal funding for stem-cell research, and used the first veto of his presidency to prevent the expansion of that funding. He appointed two “strict constructionist” judges to the Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, turned his back on the Kyoto protocol, dismissed several international treaties, particularly the anti-ballistic-missile treaty, loosened regulations on firearms and campaigned against gay marriage. His energy policy was written by Mr Cheney with the help of a handful of cronies from the energy industry. His lacklustre attorney-general Alberto Gonzales, who was forced to resign in disgrace, was only the most visible of an army of over-promoted, ideologically vetted homunculi.

Stupid Weather Tricks

We’re perfect happy for this guy to do these FOR us so that we can watch from the safety and warmth of Houston, but we’re still glad someone’s doing silly things in absurdly low temperature weather (in this case, -14).

Even better

Apparently, it “aggravated” Cheney that the NYT won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the illegal, warrantless wiretapping his administration pursued.

What a malignant weasel. Once again, Dick, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. I have little hope he’ll ever be tried for his crimes, but it IS nice to consider how many nations are essentially closed to him — i.e., that he’ll have to avoid to keep from being arrested.

It’s that time again

The Buffalo Beast’s 50 Most Loathesome People of 2008 is out. Some highlights:

Antonin Scalia:

it was Scalia’s asinine, compartmentalized semantic parsing on torture that we hoped would give pause to his lionizers. Arguing that torture isn’t “cruel and unusual punishment” because the subject hasn’t been convicted of a crime, so he can’t be “punished,” the so-called Constitutional Originalist puts the framers in the awkward position of saying that it’s wrong to beat up a convicted criminal, but it’s just dandy to kick the shit out of him before he is even charged.

Exhibit A: “Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.”

On Frank “worst impressionist ever” Caliendo:

The retarded man’s Rich Little … His TBS vehicle, “Frank TV,” is the least amusing thing to appear on television since the morning of September 11, 2001.

Sarah Palin:

In the end, Palin had the beneficial effect of splitting her party between her admirers and people who can read.

Rush Limbaugh:

The father of modern stupidity, Limbaugh spins reflexively, never struggling with issues, because he knows his conclusion must favor Republicans, and his only task is finding a way to get there.

Joe Lieberman:

After promising that he was “not going to go to the Republican convention, and spend my time attacking Barack Obama,” Lieberman went to the Republican convention and attacked Barack Obama. But that was just the beginning of his descent into a self-dug hole of betrayal that should have proved inescapable. Lieberman thought it was a good question to ask if Obama was a Marxist. He campaigned not just with McCain, but with Palin and down-ticket Republicans, another thing he said he wouldn’t do. But the most loathsome trait Lieberman exhibits is that most loathsome of all: Smearing dissent as treasonous. The kind of suppressive asshole who would accuse you of helping terrorists by beating him at checkers should not be Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and is not someone worth rewarding for his own dissent.

Rick Warren:

Dubbed “America’s Pastor” by The Nation, he’s duped people from both sides of the political spectrum into thinking he’s the kinder, fatter version of James Dobson. [...] Exhibit A: “God tells us that he created all the land animals on the sixth day of creation, the same day that he created mankind. Man and dinosaurs lived at the same time.” Can you feel the wisdom?

Peggy Noonan:

A Catholic hysteric who should be submitting poems about her kitty cats to online poetry-contest scams, Noonan’s call for “Patriotic Grace,” which is nothing more than a call for liberals to stop picking on Republicans for being wrong all the time, comes a little late, after actively helping the most despicable, character assassination-driven campaigns of her lifetime.

The site’s hammered; you may want to wait a day or so before trying to load it. But don’t miss it; they suggest Cheney be eaten alive by baboons, which is really hard to argue with on any level.