In the land of no accountability

I’ve long been shocked by how often right wing media pundits manage to be catastrophically wrong, over and over, and yet never get called on it. Bill Kristol is a great example (see link), but he’s absolutely not the only one.

How is it that you can go on TV and be recorded saying things that are, over and over, proved to be completely incorrect? More amazing: they presumably get PAID to do this. I mean, that’s something else again, isn’t it? Media organs other than Fox, even are bringing the idiot architects of the Iraq invasion back on the air to discuss what’s going on there today. It’s amazing.

No less a jackhole than Ari Fleischer has taken to Twitter lately to complain about Obama’s handling of Iraq, which takes balls the size of Yankee Stadium; without Fleischer and his boss cheerleading an all-too-compliant press into invading Iraq, we wouldn’t be facing the prospect of a failed state there.

People other than Media Matters really need to stomp on these fuckers, and demand they answer for their past lies, prevarications, and wrongheaded predictions before giving them a platform for MORE bullshit. Isn’t that the base mission of media in a free society? Why, exactly, should we listen to these fuckers again?

Brilliant Legal Letters, Past and Present

Yesterday, this delightful example of the form crossed my desk; I think my favorite quote is “So like your client, the facts of the claim won’t quite fly,” but you should read the whole thing despite the gross hosting site and admittedly-douchey defendant. Being an asshole doesn’t mean you’re always wrong (thank god).

Sure, it’s not up there with the Cleveland Browns letter, but it’s a solid effort.

When I showed this to Senior Heathen legal correspondent Triple-F, he was greatly amused, but complained that HE never gets to write such letters. How soon he forgets! Just over a decade ago (!), he had occasion to ghost a delightful bit of legal correspondence after the band for his first wedding (summer, 2002) didn’t show, and yours truly called them out on the web site for the affair. The band took exception to this bit of truth (and the fact that Googling their name led directly to it; go me!), and sent me the following bit of ill-advised (and grammatically challenged) saber rattling when they discovered the site a year and a half later (winter, 2004):


My name is D___ and I am the contact person for [band name].

The reason we did not show up for the wedding you are referring to is because A___, of _____ Entertainment, did not inform [band] of the engagement.

We did not receive a contract or no from of agreement for the engagement prior to the date.

Further more, what you are doing, and I am aware of others who have done the same, is slander and I am asking you to either print the truth or retract all of your statement concerning this event from your website.

Our attorneys are informed of your actions, along with others, and we are in the process of dealing with these issues on a one-by-one basis.

This is notice to you from [band name].

And now, Triple-F’s brilliant reply:


I’m sorry you’re unhappy with the events documented on the wedding site. Unfortunately, since the site documents the events of July 13, 2002, accurately, we will not be making the changes you have requested.

You seem to be laboring under a number of misconceptions regarding this situation. I’ve spoken with the [wedding site] “legal department” — you may recall that both the groom and the father of the bride are attorneys — and they’ve provided me with a few points you may wish to consider.

First, even if there were a cause of action here — which there is not — it would be libel, not slander.

Second, even if you had a case for libel — which you do not — the statue of limitations for libel as set in the Mississippi Code is one (1) year from the date of publication. The post-wedding changes to the site went up the week after the wedding, i.e. during the summer of 2002. July 2002 was 18 months ago.

Third, even if it were libel and the clock hadn’t run out, truth is an absolute defense to libel action. Absolutely nothing said on the site regarding [booking agent] or [band] is untrue. I was there, as were several hundred other people (many of them also members of the Mississippi Bar). There is therefore no shortage of witnesses willing to testify under oath to the fact that [band] did not show up.

Fourth — perhaps best of all — the contract for the performance at this wedding at the Country Club of Jackson on July 13, 2002, was signed by one D______ [i.e., the author of the above complaint mail]. The groom and father-of-the-bride still have said contract, which sort of makes it hard for you to maintain that you knew nothing of the obligation.

Fifth, as a direct result of that contract, you and [booker] have already been sued in this matter, and the liquidated damages, as provided in the contract written by the band’s management for failure to perform, have been paid (in September, 2002, if my records are accurate). The father of the bride handled this suit, and you corresponded with him during that time frame.

Sixth, if you wish to pursue this matter any further, we will not only request sanctions under Rule 11 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure but will also request sanctions under Mississippi Code Annotated sec. 11-55-1 et seq. (Litigation Accountability Act), damages for malicious prosecution, abuse of process and defamation.

If any of this is unclear, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with [Triple F] (the groom and, as I mentioned above, an attorney in Jackson). He will reiterate all the points contained herein, I’m sure, since I consulted with him before writing this reply. In the future, we suggest that you remember that the best way to avoid bad publicity is to meet your contractual obligations in the first place.

Fortunately, Triple-F had a much better replacement wedding last year. Everyone showed up. It was awesome. ;)

More on the loss of network neutrality

Seriously, read this.

Without network neutrality, Tumblr could cut a deal with your ISP — let’s say it’s Comcast — and its blogs would load really quickly while that home server blog might take minutes to load pictures. It might not even load at all. You can see why people in the freedom-of-speech obsessed United States might not be happy with chucking network neutrality. It privileges some speech over others, based on financial resources.

And more:

This is the first step toward a world where corporate monopolies on content start affecting not just what you can see and read online — but also how you gain access to it. The signal will be out there, but your ISP just won’t deliver it to you.

An internet without network neutrality will look a lot like television does now. You’ll depend entirely on your cable company to get broadcasts, and they will only deliver their handpicked channels in their cable packages. There will probably be a little room for the web equivalent of public access television, but it will be so underfunded and slow to load that almost nobody will see it.

It used to be that when a show couldn’t make it on broadcast television, we would watch it online. That’s how amazing stuff like Dr. Horrible made it into the world. But without net neutrality, we lose that option too. If a company doesn’t have the money or legal acumen to get its content included in ISP packages, you will never see its programming. You’ll never have those shows; you’ll never have those apps; and you’ll never know what you’re missing.

Call your congresspeople. Make noise. This is a big deal.

“Did you ever call? I waited for your call.”

Late Night with David Letterman, October 6, 1983.

You’ll know the song, but as of this moment it hasn’t get been named “So. Central Rain”.

I’m pretty sure I remember watching this the next day, after school, from a VHS videotape. I was 13 years old. Letterman was 36, or 8 years younger than I am now.

Today, April 3, 2014, David Letterman has announced he’ll be retiring next year; he’ll turn 68 that year, which seems impossible, but there it is. He started with a morning show in 1980, which approximately nobody watched except me — I remember faking sick to go home and do so, so bored was I with the 5th grade.

Late Night came in 1982; the clip above is from a show still finding its feet in a timeslot when most decent folks were asleep, and in a world where recording television was still novel, and yet somehow it became the model for a new kind of late night show.

He left NBC, famously, after he was passed over for the Tonight Show in 1992, and began his current run at CBS the next year. His retirement plan suggests he’ll mark 22 years at CBS before packing it in.

The best lede in the history of journalism, bar none

Seriously, beat this, from the Atlantic’s new feature on fraternities:

Oe warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.

You’d think that “journalists” would have at least SOME shame about these things

NBC ran a report about how your devices would get OWNED immediately by evil Russian hackers the minute you turn them on in Sochi.

Turns out, not so much. It’s basically the exploding truck all over again. As noted in the TechDirt takedown:

  • The reporter was in Moscow, not Sochi.
  • The problem was sketchy web sites the reporter sought out, not the connection in the Moscow coffee shop, and so are equally dangerous regardless of where you are — Moscow or Minneapolis.
  • The hack required the reporter to CHOOSE TO DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL MALWARE (yes, it said it was an AV tool, but that man in the van won’t really give you candy, either).
  • The malware would only install if the reporter TURNED OFF SAFETY FEATURES that are left on by default.

Nice job. NBC are, of course, doubling down and insisting their story is genuine and correct, because they are generally craven and ignorant.

More at the well-regarded Errata Security.

Dept. of Obsolete Plots, and the People Who Inspired Them

Back when I was a wee Heathen in the 1970s, World War II wasn’t ancient history. Nazis were still pretty reliable go-to villains, even 30 years after their surrender (e.g.).

Rarer but still somewhat common was the trope of the “isolated Japanese soldier, lost on an island or in the wilderness, who still believes the war is on.” I saw this more than a few times — I remember an episode of Gilligan’s Island originally broadcast in 1965, but also one from the Six Million Dollar Man in 1975, and another from the 1979 show Salvage 1.

The reason this trop was so popular is simple: it was grounded in the real. Holdouts were discovered as late as 1974, nearly 30 years after the end of the war.

One of the last of those men, Lt. Hiroo Onoda, famously refused to believe the war was over until his former commander flew there from Japan to issue orders personally.

Onoda died last week at the age of 91.

Why Jon Stewart is a goddamn treasure

Because he does things like this when his colleagues leave for greener pastures.

Jon Oliver — who famously took over the desk this summer — is getting his own show on HBO. Stewart is clearly proud and happy, and wanted to give him a bit of a send-off on-air. He also wanted it to be a surprise, though, so he wrote and rehearsed a completely false bit that required Oliver as the correspondent, and then broke character about a minute into it to shift into a really glorious sendoff compilation.

It seems pretty clear that Stewart’s a swell guy, and that the team at TDS have real affection for one another. It shows through the comedy, and probably fuels their success to no small degree.

I’m not really one for celeb pieces, but…

…this Clooney piece in Esquire is a goddamn delight. A bit:

Being Clooney, he does not only write to Brad Pitt, however. He also writes as Brad Pitt. A few years ago, he even had some stationery made up with Brad Pitt’s letterhead. Then he found a book about acting and accents and sent it to Meryl Streep, with an accompanying note. It said, “Dear Meryl, this book really helped me with my accent for Troy. I hope it helps you too.” He signed it “Brad Pitt.” Then he sent another letter to Don Cheadle on “Pitt’s” stationery. As long as Cheadle has been acting, he has dreamt of playing Miles Davis. So the letter informed Cheadle that Pitt’s production company had acquired the rights to Davis’s life story. The letter said that Pitt wanted him to star in it.

As Charlie Parker.

In Which Laurie Anderson Breaks Your Heart

Her remembrance of Lou Reed in the current Rolling Stone is tender, beautiful, and heartbreaking.

As it turned out, Lou and I didn’t live far from each other in New York, and after the festival Lou suggested getting together. I think he liked it when I said, “Yes! Absolutely! I’m on tour, but when I get back – let’s see, about four months from now – let’s definitely get together.” This went on for a while, and finally he asked if I wanted to go to the Audio Engineering Society Convention. I said I was going anyway and would meet him in Microphones. The AES Convention is the greatest and biggest place to geek out on new equipment, and we spent a happy afternoon looking at amps and cables and shop-talking electronics. I had no idea this was meant to be a date, but when we went for coffee after that, he said, “Would you like to see a movie?” Sure. “And then after that, dinner?” OK. “And then we can take a walk?” “Um . . .” From then on we were never really apart.

Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking). We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other.


Like many couples, we each constructed ways to be – strategies, and sometimes compromises, that would enable us to be part of a pair. Sometimes we lost a bit more than we were able to give, or gave up way too much, or felt abandoned. Sometimes we got really angry. But even when I was mad, I was never bored. We learned to forgive each other. And somehow, for 21 years, we tangled our minds and hearts together.

Seven Minutes of Christian Paranoia

Phil Phillips and Gary Greenwald were key parts of the “toys are satanic devices for corrupting your children” hysteria in the 1980s. IO9 has a 7 minute supercut of them becoming more and more unhinged about Yoda, GI Joe, the Smurfs, He-Man, and (obviously) Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s bananapants and delightful.

Today in hilarious things to complain about

Apparently, Frank Sinatra’s widow is upset that Mia Farrow suggested it was possible that Ol’ Blue Eyes fathered her son Ronan.

Generally speaking, it’s kind of skeevy to suggest that the father of record (Woody) is not someone’s father, and that a man married to someone else at the time IS, at least without some sort of obvious evidence.

Let’s go to the tape:


Yup. TOTALLY Woody’s kid, and not Frank’s. I’m SURE of it.

That about covers it: Jon Stewart sums up Fox News

And I get that Fox opposes a Syria peace plan because its modus operandi is to foment dissent in the form of a relentless and irrational contrarianism to Barack Obama and all things Democratic to advance its ultimate objective of creating a deliberately misinformed body politic whose fear, anger, mistrust and discontent is the manna upon which it sustains its parasitic succubus-like existence.

Form here, about 8 minutes in.

HOWTO: Recognize Different Painters

This is sort of brilliant. Examples are included, but the captions are awesome.

  • “If the images have a dark background and everyone has tortured expressions on their faces, it’s Titian.”
  • “If the paintings have tons of little people in them but otherwise seem normal, it’s Bruegel.”
  • “If the paintings have lots of little people in them but also have a ton of crazy bullshit, it’s Bosch.”
  • “If everyone looks like hobos illuminated only by a dim streetlamp, it’s Rembrandt. “

25 years sounds so . . . respectable

The Onion turns 25 today, which is sort of amazing.

The first Heathen link there? Amazingly, from January of 2001, it was to this horribly prescient story: “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over’.”

“My fellow Americans,” Bush said, “at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us.”

Bush swore to do “everything in [his] power” to undo the damage wrought by Clinton’s two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.


On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.

Again, from January of 2001. Almost not funny, huh?

Oh, Suck, we miss you

The best site on the then-young Internet of the late 1990s was, undeniably, Full of snark and verve and piss and vinegar, the single column of text on that proto-blog pulled no punches. So enamored was I of their wit that, frequently, I’d copy bits into a text file to save for posterity.

Here is one such bit, now almost old enough to drive, from a file that came up in an unrelated search on my laptop today:

When children have no access to narrative except through the unfettered imaginations of account executives and copywriters, they become even more attuned than their elders to the machinations of the culture around them. We’ve set the stage for a generation that will never ever feel betrayed by sell-out because the sale is all they know. The good news? A 2010 Rage Against the Machine comeback tour is unlikely.

Suck, 11 August 1997, which is (astonishingly) still online

Sadly, well, it turns out they were wrong:

The Rage Against the Machine Reunion Tour was a concert tour by Rage Against the Machine from 2007 to 2011. It was the first tour for the band since they broke up in 2000.


Returning to Reza Aslan and Jesus

Here’s how you know who Fox is, and what’s wrong with the “normal” media:

The Daily Show also interviewed Aslan about his book, and the discussion was deep, wide-ranging, and substantive. The Daily Show. On Comedy Central, which is not, as you probably know, a news station.

Stay with it; Aslan gets the “extended web interview” treatment to allow for a deeper conversation about the history of Christianity, about the historical Jesus, about his place in his time, etc. It’s fascinating.

This is not funny. Watch it anyway.

Stephen Colbert eulogizes his mother, who died last week at 92.

It may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish — it only magnifies! — the enormity of the room whose door has now quietly shut.

If your eyes are dry, I’m not sure I wanna know you.

Colbert, like us here at Heathen, has long been a fan and supporter of that “Kickstarter of philanthropy,” Donors Choose. DC is our “go-to” gift of choice for the severalness of folks in our lives who quite honestly don’t need another gee-gaw to commemorate another trip around the sun. It might be nice, gentle Heathen, to drop a little money in their bucket in honor of the late Mrs Colbert, seeing as how she clearly did a damned fine job with her boy Stephen.


We’ve joked for years that the NSA was reading your mail, but it turns out they really are — and your providers are helping them.

PRISM is complete bullshit, and must stop.

The Times today, in reaction, echoes something I said after Bush’s power grabs: no Executive ever gave up power. Bush did lasting damage that subsequent presidents won’t undo:

“The administration has now lost all credibility,” the Times’ editors write. “Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the 9/11 attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.”

More from The Verge; providers allowing the NSA unfettered and direct back-end access without proper warrants (the only court oversight is, of course, a secret court) include Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Google, and Skype. AOL, too, which is kind of adorable. Dropbox is said to be joining the program soon.

These companies, when asked for comment today, are denying their participation — but one would do well to recall that even Senators could not discuss the program before due to legal prohibitions. It’s entirely possible that the PR flacks speaking for Microsoft, Apple, etc., either don’t know, or are legally enjoined for speaking truthfully. (It’s certainly well-known that PR folks can live without souls, so this is hardly surprising.)

In Case You Missed It

Saturday was the acknowledged swan song for SNL favorite Bill Hader, who got a great send-off via his Stefon character wedding (“This wedding had everything — German Smurfs, human fire hydrants, Furkles, Black George Washington, puppets in disguise, HoboCops, Jewpids, infamous gay running back Blowjay Simpson, Gizblow the coked-up Gremlin, a screaming geisha, Hannukah cartoon character Menorah the Explorer, DJ Baby Bok Choy, Ben Affleck…“) but what got less press was that Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen are also almost certainly leaving.

The final sketch on Saturday was a return of Armisen’s “Ian Rubbish” punk character, together with his ersatz band — most of which were also making their exits. Sudeikis played drums and Hader played bass; only second guitarist Taran Killam is expected back for the 39th season.

The tune, a lovely happy little number (all punk trappings aside) grew in charm as special guests joined the band on stage — first Armisen’s Portlandia partner and Sleater-Kinney vet Carrie Brownstein, then the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones, then Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis and KIM FUCKING GORDON, and finally Aimee Mann and Michael Penn.

It was lovely. Watch here if you have a couple minutes, and note the inscription on Armisen’s guitar strap — which to my mind kind of settles the question of Armisen’s intentions.

Finally, an asshole served in full

Bitter, dejected, and fundamentally unsuccessful writer Robert Clark Young has had a pretty bad couple of weeks, and it couldn’t happen to a better asshole.

Young came to my attention first several years ago when he was instrumental in the derailing of a friend of mine’s career over false allegations that my friend stole work from another author. Brad had written an award-winning book, and was set to begin a tenure-track career at Mississippi State when this whole thing hit. Despite clear evidence he intended no wrongdoing and no small amount of support from the actual literary community, his book was pulped and his job offer rescinded. Watching this happen to a very talented friend was really, really awful. (The book was eventually republished — which tells you all you need to know about the plagiarism allegations — and you should read it, because it’s fantastic.)

Young was off my radar for a few years, until this spring. Remember that scandal about female writers having their articles on Wikipedia moved out of the “American Novelists” category and into the “American Women Novelists” category? The writer Amanda Filipacchi wrote about it for the New York Times, which shed a great deal of light on the normally fairly obscure process of Wikipedia editing. She had her article at Wikipedia vandalized and trivialized for her trouble — largely by a pseudonymous editor named “Qworty”.

It turns out Qworty had a host of “revenge edits” to his credit, frequently sliming writers he, for some reason, didn’t care for — including literary giant Barry Hannah, a mentor of Vice’s. When taken in toto, it became clear that the “list of writers Qworty hates” was overwhelming similar to the list of writers Robert Clark Young is known for hating. Imagine that.

The first link contains Salon’s rundown of the whole affair. The second is a drier but no less interesting discussion at a sort of ombudsman site about Wikipedia itself. Read both, and join me in the schadenfreude. Young has no job offer to rescind or recent book to pulp or awards to withdraw, so we’ll just have to content ourselves with the public shaming of a deeply creepy and vindictive jackass.

I’ll take it.