HAHAHAHAHAHA: Fair and balanced? More like “wrong and stupid”.

The Pew Charitable Trust did a survey of political and current-event awareness, and found that the best informed group regularly watched “The Daiily Show” and “The Colbert Report” — and that Fox viewers were, on the whole, the least well-informed:

Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgeability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot — with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.

Virtually bringing up the rear were regular watchers of Fox News. Only 1 in 3 could answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly.

This, of course, surprises no one. We’re sure the Right Wing Noise Machine will be along directly to tell us how biased it is to ask people who the Speaker of the House is, the Majority Leader, the Secretary of State, who their governor is, or what type of Muslim, other than Shia, live in Iraq.

As for TDS and Stewart, we quote our longtime associate BC: “I think it’s really funny that they won a Peabody. I think it’s even funnier that they deserved to.”

All you really need to know about Bush’s respect for free speech

From here:

Lawyers for two men charged with illegally ejecting two people from a speech by President Bush in 2005 are arguing that the president’s staff can lawfully remove anyone who expresses points of view different from his.

Lawyers for the two, Michael Casper and Jay Klinkerman, said the men were working as organizers for a public presidential forum on Social Security at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver on March 21, 2005, when they were involved in ejecting two audience members, Alex Young and Leslie Weise.

Mr. Young and Ms. Weise filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court here, saying they were ejected shortly after they had arrived in a car that had an antiwar bumper sticker, although they had done nothing disruptive. The suit charged Mr. Casper and Mr. Klinkerman with violating Mr. Young’s and Ms. Weise’s First Amendment right to free speech.


Makes sense to us

Look, if you think you can’t or won’t do part of a given job because of your religion or whatever, then perhaps you should find another job. This goes for pharmacy techs uncomfortable with birth control or emergency contraception just as it goes for cabbies who won’t carry people carrying alcohol at Minnesota airports. Seriously.

We’re actually shocked that the Amish have apparently gotten some dispensation against having reflecting triangles on their buggies on the grounds of religion; sounds like bullshit to us.

Sony hates you, again

Some new Sony DVDs won’t play in some DVD players. Ever-consumer-friendly Sony has acknowledged the issue, but says, basically, they’re working as intended, and that the only fix is to update your DVD player to work around their new copy protection.

Um, Sony? You really, really suck, and people are getting really, really tired of your bullshit. Someone in some non-entertainment division of Sony — which is to say, a division with better profit numbers — should make clear to the adminosphere there just how much Entertainment’s meddling has cost them in terms of the marketplace. The company that created portable, private music can’t seem to make a decent MP3 deck, and the meddling and copyright-paranoid entertainment division is the biggest part of why. This newest DRM kerfluffle is just more evidence they’re doomed.

Internet Radio is Dead


A panel of judges at the Copyright Royalty Board has denied a request from the NPR and a number of other webcasters to reconsider a March ruling that would force Internet radio services to pay crippling royalties. The panel’s ruling reaffirmed the original CRB decision in every respect, with the exception of how the royalties will be calculated. Instead of charging a royalty for each time a song is heard by a listener online, Internet broadcasters will be able pay royalties based on average listening hours through the end of 2008. Related Stories

The ruling is a huge blow to online broadcasters, and the new royalty structure could knock a large number of them off the ‘Net entirely. Under the previous setup, radio stations would have to pay an annual fee plus 12 percent of their profits to the music industry’s royalty collection organization, SoundExchange. It was a good setup for the webcasters, most of whom are either nonprofits or very small organizations.

National Public Radio spearheaded the appeal, arguing that the CRB’s decision was an “abuse of discretion” and saying that the judges did not consider the ramifications of a new royalty structure. Under the new royalty schedule, NPR will see its costs skyrocket.

This is, of course, exactly what SoundExchange and the RIAA wanted, in collusion no doubt with the National Association of Broadcasters. Can’t compete with a new format? Don’t bother innovating! Just legislate it out of existence!

Here’s a surprise

That abstinence-only education crap the Bushies keep pushing? Turns out it’s useless. (More here.)

According to this study, kids who went through the program were no more or less likely to do anything. Put another way, it would be impossible to tell, based on behavior, whether a student had been through this program or not.

Even more here, which includes this charming bit of spin:

On a call yesterday organized by the Abstinence Clearinghouse, abstinence-only proponents were clearly rocked by the potentially ruinous news in the report. High profile abstinence-only advocate, Robert Rector, led the preemptive damage-control planning. He outlined several strategies the abstinence-only movement could use to rationalize the findings in the report saying, “The other spin I think is very important is not [program] effectiveness, but rather the values that are being taught,” Rector said. Whether or not these programs work is a “bogus issue,” Rector continued.


Why Imus got wacked

Fred Clark points out some interesting commentary on why Don Imus got torpedoed this time, considering how often he’s said utterly obnoxious things before:

[…] he screwed up. He didn’t steal power, he used it. Used it to say just shitty things about people who, in our minds, just didn’t deserve it. He broke the power equation. And when he did, we balked, even if we don’t quite understand why this one got under our skin. The wiring goes both ways. It’s actually heartening, because it confirms one of the admirable things about American society at large:

America loves a rebel.

America loves a bad boy.

But America hates a fucking bully.

Or, as Clark puts it himself:

The gist of what he’s saying echoes something I was taught both in seminary and in the newspaper biz, the shared motto of preachers and journalists: “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That’s what good preachers, and good journalists, do. It makes sense that comics, who sometimes preach and sometimes report the news, would follow this motto as well.

Imus “broke the power equation,” Rogers says. He afflicted the afflicted, which made him a bully instead of a comic. That’s not funny.

“From the best and brightest to dumb and dumber”

Bill Maher on the prevalence of the mediocre in Bush’s administration:

You know how whenever there’s a major Bush administration scandal it always traces back to some incompetent political hack appointment and you think to yourself, “Where are they getting these screw-ups from?” Well, now we know: from Pat Robertson. I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. Take Monica Goodling, who before she resigned last week because of the U.S. attorneys scandal, was the third most powerful official in the Justice Department of the United States. Thirty-three, and though she had never even worked as a prosecutor, she was tasked with overseeing the job performance of all 95 U.S. attorneys. How do you get to be such a top dog at 33? By acing Harvard, or winning scholarship prizes? No, Goodling did her undergraduate work at Messiah College — home of the “Fighting Christies,” who wait-listed me, the bastards — and then went on to attend Pat Robertson’s law school.

I’m not kidding, Pat Robertson, the man who said gay people at DisneyWorld would cause “earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor,” has a law school. It’s called Regent. Regent University School of Law, and it shares a campus with Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network studios. It’s the first time ever that a TV network spun off a law school. […] And what kid wouldn’t want to attend? It’s three years and you only have to read one book. The school says its mission is to create an army of evangelical lawyers, integrating the Bible and public policy, and producing graduates that provide “Christian leadership to change the world.” Presumably from round back to flat.

U.S. News and World Report, which does the definitive ranking of colleges, lists Regent as a tier-four school, which is the lowest score it gives. It’s not a hard school to get into. You have to renounce Satan and draw a pirate on a matchbook. This is for the people who couldn’t get into the University of Phoenix.

[…] Since 2001, 150 graduates of Regent University have been hired by the Bush administration. And people wonder why things are so screwed up. Hell, we probably invaded Iraq because one of these clowns read the map wrong. Forget religion for a second, we’re talking about a top Justice Department official who went to a college founded by a TV host. […]

So there you have it: It turns out that the Justice Department is entirely staffed with Jesus freaks from a televangelist diploma mill in Virginia Beach. Most of them young women with very little knowledge of the law, but a very strong sense of doing what they’re told. Like the Manson family, but with cleaner hair. In 200 years we’ve gone from “We the people” to “Up with people.” From the best and brightest to dumb and dumber.

Christ, we miss you, Hunter

From the Song of the Sausage Creature:

When the Ducati turned up in my driveway, nobody knew what to do with it. I was in New York, covering a polo tournament, and people had threatened my life. My lawyer said I should give myself up and enroll in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Other people said it had something to do with the polo crowd.

The motorcycle business was the last straw. It had to be the work of my enemies, or people who wanted to hurt me. It was the vilest kind of bait, and they knew I would go for it.

Of course. You want to cripple the bastard? Send him a 130-mph cafe-racer. And include some license plates, he’ll think it’s a streetbike. He’s queer for anything fast.

Which is true. I have been a connoisseur of fast motorcycles all my life. I bought a brand-new 650 BSA Lightning when it was billed as “the fastest motorcycle ever tested by Hot Rod magazine.” I have ridden a 500-pound Vincent through traffic on the Ventura Freeway with burning oil on my legs and run the Kawa 750 Triple through Beverly Hills at night with a head full of acid… I have ridden with Sonny Barger and smoked weed in biker bars with Jack Nicholson, Grace Slick, Ron Zigler and my infamous old friend, Ken Kesey, a legendary Cafe Racer.

Some people will tell you that slow is good – and it may be, on some days – but I am here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba….


This bugger digs right in and shoots you straight down the pipe, for good or ill.

On my first take-off, I hit second gear and went through the speed limit on a two-lane blacktop highway full of ranch traffic. By the time I went up to third, I was going 75 and the tach was barely above 4000 rpm….

And that’s when it got its second wind. From 4000 to 6000 in third will take you from 75 mph to 95 in two seconds – and after that, Bubba, you still have fourth, fifth, and sixth. Ho, ho.

I never got to sixth gear, and I didn’t get deep into fifth. This is a shameful admission for a full-bore Cafe Racer, but let me tell you something, old sport: This motorcycle is simply too goddamn fast to ride at speed in any kind of normal road traffic unless you’re ready to go straight down the centerline with your nuts on fire and a silent scream in your throat.


The final measure of any rider’s skill is the inverse ratio of his preferred Traveling Speed to the number of bad scars on his body. It is that simple: If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad rider, you should not ride motorcycles.

The emergence of the superbike has heightened this equation drastically. Motorcycle technology has made such a great leap forward. Take the Ducati. You want optimum cruising speed on this bugger? Try 90mph in fifth at 5500 rpm – and just then, you see a bull moose in the middle of the road. WHACKO. Meet the Sausage Creature.

Or maybe not: The Ducati 900 is so finely engineered and balanced and torqued that you can do 90 mph in fifth through a 35-mph zone and get away with it. The bike is not just fast – it is extremely quick and responsive, and it will do amazing things… It is like riding a Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the take-off runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it. WHAMO! The Sausage Creature strikes again.

There is a fundamental difference, however, between the old Vincents and the new breed of superbikes. If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die. That is why there are not many life members of the Vincent Black Shadow Society. The Vincent was like a bullet that went straight; the Ducati is like the magic bullet in Dallas that went sideways and hit JFK and the Governor of Texas at the same time.

(Via Captain Portland)

Brilliant AND enlightening!

Jeff points us to the law of Conservation of Ninjitsu, which is awesome:

In any martial arts fight, there is only a finite amount of ninjutsu available to each side in a given encounter. As a result, one ninja is a deadly threat, but an army of them are cannon fodder.

This can apply to Elite Adversaries other than ninjas; vampires, for example, are particularly susceptible to Conservation Of Ninjitsu, as are werewolves, Special Forces commandos, and Super Powered Robot Meter Maids. Zombies seem to be exempt from this; they’re mainly dangerous because they travel in packs.

Wow, Florida sucks AGAIN

Orlando is shameful, and Fred makes it very, very clear.

Apparently, it’s now illegal to feed the homeless in Orlando without a permit, and only two such permits will be given to any given group in a year. This is seriously stupid shit, and pretty damn far from anything any normal human would recognize as just, wise, or reasonable. From the story:

Undercover officers filmed the food line, meticulously counting Montanez serving “30 unidentified persons food from a large pot utilizing a ladle,” according to an arrest affidavit.

Police approached Montanez and asked for his identification. They considered issuing him a summons on the misdemeanor count, but when he tossed his ID, police took him into custody, the affidavit says.

Jonathan Giralt, 16, a Boone High School junior who was near Montanez, disagreed with the police account. He and other volunteers said the activist showed his ID and complied with police orders.

“I was like, OK, this guy [Montanez] is going to be arrested for absolutely nothing,” Jonathan said. “It makes me feel unsafe.”

Police also collected a vial of stew as evidence.

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.

ToDo List: 25 Great Beers

Shockingly, we don’t think we’ve had any of these, though Mrs. Heathen noticed Ommegang Hennepin on tap at Kramerbooks in DC last weekend. (We’ve certainly had beers from some of these producers — Dogfish, Rogue, Full Sail, Sam Adams — but not these specific offerings.)

Sure, it’s a little late, but we figure it’s still useful

Check out Popular Mechanics Top 6 Computers of 1982, via BoingBoing.

Best part: even in 1982, PopMech knew DRM was shit:

It used to be that programs were easy to copy and change. But manufacturers began to lose money as many people made copies of software and gave them to their friends. Now, many manufacturers have figured out how to ‘copy-protect’ discs. A copy-protected disc-like a cartridge–can’t be copied or changed. To our mind this is a disaster: Most people learn programming by changing programs to fit their own needs. This capability of customization is what makes computers so attractive. New ways of copy protection will probably be found soon. Until then, a computer owner may have to put up with being ‘locked out’ of his own machine.

For the record, their top 6 were:

  • IBM PC
  • Apple ][
  • Commodore PET
  • TI 99/4A
  • Atari 800
  • Radio Shack TRS-80

Said of the IBM, “If interest holds, could be a contender by year end.” Heh. (Drink, Jeff.)

Dear George: Lee Iacocca thinks you’re a prick

More from BB: Lee’s written a book called Where have all the leaders gone? that appears to be a withering indictment of Bushism:

Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have.

We’re pretty sure destroying evidence is still a crime

Remember how the too-clever-by-half GOP types at the White House were using offsite email accounts for most of their communication to shield them from government oversight?

Well, the first fun bit was that since they weren’t official White House email accounts, they weren’t subject to Executive Privilege protection. But that’s okay, apparently, because — shocker! — it turns out the emails have been lost, presumably in some weird twist of fate, not unlike the 18 minute gap in the Watergate tapes. More here.

Batman is smart

Check out his counsel to Robin over the years:

Robin: “Where’d you get a live fish, Batman?”
Batman: “The true crimefighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt, Robin.”

There’s more, of course. It reminds us of something LawyerHeathen wrote on our dorm wall 15 or so years ago, also a quote from Batman: “It is difficult to think clearly when strapped to a printing press.”


Tapir Massage!

No, really!

(Please, Jesus, don’t let anyone be masturbating to this, okay? It’s a sweet video of a zookeeper scratching a tapir. There’s nothing wacky or weird about it, aside from the sheer existence of the tapir, and we mean no disrespect by that, really.)

Today’s worst thing about contracting


In order to get enough hours most easily, we eat on-site in the cafeteria every day. Even the bad-for-you options like burgers and such are terrible there. Leaving the plant, however, produces only nominally better options, so we stay in. Most days, it’s a cold turkey wrap.

Days like this are simply not possible. Dammit.

Well, damn

The Houck House over at Braes and Gramercy is no more. Expect a classless, absurd, and fundamentally uninteresting minimansion on the property soon. Possibly two, since the developer’s job isn’t done unless the houses are almost touching, right?

Geeky shit you can do with GloboHeathen: HeathenPix!

We here at Amalgamated Heathen are working to provide you with quality timewasting resources. Accordingly, we now introduce — and by “introduce” we mean “notice and then tell you about” — this feed from our Flickr pool, which is comprised entirely of crappy photos we take with our Treo and then email to Flickr after attaching captions we think of as funny. Or something. Anyway, you need a feed-reader to enjoy this properly; the actual HTML link for the same information is here, but that’s not nearly as geeky.

Mostly, we notice we’re taking more of these for some reason — probably the travel — so we thought we’d share more aggressively.

Coming soon: HeathenTwitter!

Dept. of Musical Experiments

If you’re wandering through the DC metro any time soon, pay careful attention to the busking musicians; one of them might be Joshua Bell, gamely playing along with a WaPo writer to see if people would notice a world-class violinist in the subway.

Sadly, the answer was mostly “no.”

In preparing for this event, editors at The Post Magazine discussed how to deal with likely outcomes. The most widely held assumption was that there could well be a problem with crowd control: In a demographic as sophisticated as Washington, the thinking went, several people would surely recognize Bell. Nervous “what-if” scenarios abounded. As people gathered, what if others stopped just to see what the attraction was? Word would spread through the crowd. Cameras would flash. More people flock to the scene; rush-hour pedestrian traffic backs up; tempers flare; the National Guard is called; tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.

As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell, and she didn’t arrive until near the very end. For Stacy Furukawa, a demographer at the Commerce Department, there was no doubt. She doesn’t know much about classical music, but she had been in the audience three weeks earlier, at Bell’s free concert at the Library of Congress. And here he was, the international virtuoso, sawing away, begging for money. She had no idea what the heck was going on, but whatever it was, she wasn’t about to miss it.

There was another guy who clearly knew from classical music, but he didn’t know what Bell looked like, so he didn’t realize he was listening to a guy whose CDs he owned.

In the end, Bell collected $32.17 in bills and change, all tossed into the case for his $4MM Stradivarius. (Bell plays this one.)

Things we don’t understand

In re: hotels…

  1. Why no-frills business hotels invariably have free Internet, but nicer hotels insist on trying to charge?
  2. Similarly, why the quality and variety of the cable package in a given hotel room varies inversely with the hotel’s rack rate or “niceness” factor.

The case study for both of these ideas is pretty simple. We stay in a Holiday Inn Express during the week on the current consulting assignment. It is neither good nor bad. It’s one of those new style hotels with no restaurant or bar, but they do offer a continental breakfast for free in the mornings. There’s a cursory pool and workout area, but that’s it.

Contrast this with the Westin Embassy Row in DC, which is a fancy, high-dollar-ish hotel in the heart of Dupont Circle, which is where Mrs Heathen and I stayed this weekend. This hotel had a nice restaurant, a fancy bar, concierge service, valet parking, minibar, and a delightfully cushy bed.

HOWEVER: at the Holiday Inn, there’s a conventional cable package of some 60 or 70 channels, and free wi-fi; on the first floor, you even have the option of a wired ethernet connection. At the Westin, the TV had 12 to 15 channels, tops, and they wanted $12 a day for Internet connectivity — this on top of a rack rate 2 or 3 times that of the Holiday Inn.

We understand that those who stay at the Westin are necessarily less price-sensitive than those who stay at the business no-frills properties, but at the end of the day that’s really not an excuse. Starwood is opting to attempt to suck more cash from its guests by nickel-and-diming them on services like Internet and, of course, local phone calls ($1.50 each, natch; they’re also free at the Holiday Inn). We certainly liked the hotel amenities the Westin DID offer, but we left there feeling taken advantage of despite the fact that the room itself was paid for in Starwood points by Mrs Heathen’s mother. That’s probably not the kind of response they’re striving for.

WSJ on the “out of the box” experience with a new Vista PC

Walt Mossberg is perhaps the most influential tech columnist around. He’s become less and less impressed with Microsoft for a while now; check this out:

I’m talking about two main problems. One is the plethora of teaser software and advertisements for products that must be cleared and uninstalled to make way for your own stuff. The second is the confusing welter of security programs you have to master and update, even on a virgin machine.

I’m also referring to how slowly a new Windows Vista machine starts and restarts, even if you haven’t yet loaded or launched any of your own software. […]

The problem is a lack of respect for the consumer. The manufacturers don’t act as if the computer belongs to you. They act as if it is a billboard for restricted trial versions of software and ads for Web sites and services that they can sell to third-party companies who want you to buy these products. […]

I also was shocked at how long this machine took to restart and to do a cold start after being completely shut down. Restarting took over three minutes, and a cold start took more than two minutes. That suggests the computer is loading a bunch of stuff I neither know about nor want. By contrast, a brand new Apple MacBook laptop, under the same test conditions, restarted in 34 seconds and did a cold start in 29 seconds.

Perhaps this is why Paul Graham thinks Microsoft is not just doomed, but already dead.

He’s right, of course, but nothing will come of it

Evangelical Christian and CNN contributor Roland Martin has a great deal to say about the myopic and counterintuitive brand of Christianity pushed by most of the American Christian community:

When did it come to the point that being a Christian meant caring about only two issues — abortion and homosexuality?

Ask the nonreligious what being a Christian today means, and based on what we see and read, it’s a good bet they will say that followers of Jesus Christ are preoccupied with those two points.

Poverty? Whatever. Homelessness? An afterthought. A widening gap between the have and have-nots? Immaterial. Divorce? The divorce rate of Christians mirrors the national average, so that’s no big deal.

The point is that being a Christian should be about more than abortion and homosexuality, and it’s high time that those not considered a part of the religious right expose the hypocrisy of our brothers and sisters in Christianity and take back the faith. […]

As a layman studying to receive a master’s in Christian communications, and the husband of an ordained minister, it’s troubling to listen to “Christian radio” and hear the kind of hate spewing out of the mouths of my brothers and sisters in the faith.

In fact, I’ve grown tired of people who pimp God. That’s right; we have a litany of individuals today who are holy, holy, holy, sing hallelujah, talk about how they love the Lord, but when it’s time to walk the walk, somehow the spirit evaporates.

A couple of years ago I took exception to an e-mail blast from the Concerned Women for America. The group was angry that Democrats were blocking certain judges put up for the federal bench by President Bush. It called on Americans to fight Democrats who wanted to keep Christians off the bench.

So I called and sent an e-mail asking, “So, where were you when President Clinton appointed Christian judges to the bench? Were they truly behind Christian judges, or Republican Christian judges?

Surprise, surprise. There was never a response.

The Attorney will LOVE this

Mrs Heathen and I were checking into the Westin on Embassy Row in the District just now, and ran into people from Houston I haven’t seen in 5 or 6 years. Wacky.

(Gar: Nate and Truly.)