Remember David Frum?

He’s the principled conservative who, after watching the GOP decide to oppose HCR at all costs, posted a pretty accurate “I told you so” on his site a few days ago.

Frum was, at that time, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He’s since been dismissed. Cause and effect is left as an exercise to the reader.

This is wrong.

Apparently, Ann Coulter has been basically threatened with arrest unless she tones down her act for an appearance in Canada.

Our Republic has a tendency towards noisey, content-free discourse nowadays, but (as Chomsky points out in the linked story) the US remains essentially unique in our nearly absolutist approach to free expression. This is a big deal, and it may be the most important freedom we have. I loathe Coulter and just about everything she stands for, but her views are protected speech, and she should be able to spew her vile invective without fear of arrest.

Of course, I’d prefer it if there were no market for her idiocy, but I’m not about to support censorship because I don’t like her politics.

Scalzi on Health Care

His thoughts are pretty spot on, I think. A bit:

Basically, I find what passes for Democratic legislative strategy absolutely appalling. Decades from now, when they make the ponderous Oscar-bait movie about the struggle for health care (with Jaden Smith as Obama and two-time Academy Award winner Snooki as Speaker Pelosi), it will make for exciting twists and turns in the plot, but out here in the real world, you shouldn’t have to let your organization get the crap beat out of it in order to motivate those in it to do the thing everybody knows it wants to get done. What the Democrats have managed to do with health care isn’t a Pyrrhic victory — I’ll get to that in a moment — but it surely was taking the long way around: over the river, through the woods, down into the landfill, into the abattoir, across a field of rabid, angry badgers. Next time, guys, make it easier on yourselves.

That said, the Democrats were magnificently fortunate that, as incompetent as they are, they are ever-so-slightly less incompetent than the GOP, which by any realistic standard has been handed one of the largest legislative defeats in decades. The GOP was not simply opposed to health care, it was opposed to it in shrill, angry, apocalyptic terms, and saw it not as legislation, or in terms of whether or not health care reform was needed or desirable for Americans, but purely as political strategy, in terms of whether or not it could kneecap Obama and bring itself back into the majority. As such there was no real political or moral philosophy to the GOP’s action, it was all short-term tactics, i.e., take an idea a majority of people like (health care reform), lie about its particulars long enough and in a dramatic enough fashion to lower the popularity of the idea, and then bellow in angry tones about how the president and the Democrats are ignoring the will of the people. Then publicly align the party with the loudest and most ignorant segment of your supporters, who are in part loud because you’ve encouraged them to scream, and ignorant because you and your allies in the media have been feeding them bad information. Whip it all up until health care becomes the single most important issue for both political parties — an all-in, must win, absolutely cannot lose issue.

If you visit, you can see the empty place on the wall where the Vermeer used to hang

On March 19, 1990, a rather daring and amazing art theft happened at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The take, now estimated at half a billion, has never been recovered, nor have the perpetrators ever been caught.

The rather curious conditions of Gardner’s will, however, insist that the museum be left in the precise configuration she chose; there were to be no new acquisitions, and no rotation of the art. Consequently, not only have the missing pieces not been replaced with other art; said pieces were also not even insured because, well, the trustees wouldn’t have been able to hang them.

This is awesome

Widely blogged, I got it at Merlin’s place. It’s from an interview with Choire Sicha and Paul Ford, on the occasion of the latter leaving Harper’s this week, originally published here:

Choire: What is your favorite Alex Chilton video, song or tale?

Paul: My favorite tale is from Our Band Could Be Your Life, when he shut down Gibby Haynes’s rampage through the Netherlands:

Moments later a man entered the dressing room and asked if he could borrow a guitar. “BORROW A GUITAR??!!! WELL, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!! [Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers] screamed, eyes flashing in delirious anticpation of forthcoming violence. But the man was totally unfazed.

“I’m Alex Chilton,” the man answered calmly.

Haynes was flabbergasted. After a long pause, he methodically opened the remaining guitar cases one by one and gestured at them as if to say, “Take anything you want.”

Alex Chilton, 1950 – 2010

Icon Alex Chilton — how cool do you have to be to get the Replacements to name a song after you? — died today in New Orleans, they say of a heart attack. He was 59.

I need some time to digest this, but Chilton’s music with Big Star and others defines the Heathen college experience as much as any artist other than U2 or the Velvet Underground. Mark Linkous I’ll miss. Barry Hannah, too. But Chilton, man. Damn.

“Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of / Would you be an outlaw for my love?”

(It occurs to me that many may not know that Chilton also was a Box Top, and sang The Letter, a song that every single one of you know.)

Somehow, I missed this

On 19 January, Brit band The Heavy was on Letterman. They blew the roof off; normally staid Letterman was so excited that he told them to “go again! go again!”, and so they did.

How You Like Me Now?

Don’t miss this. For SRS. It’s James Brown meets hip-hop meets R&B meets, I dunno, the growl and smash of Zeppelin. TOP NOTCH, as a friend of mine used to say.

(Via MeFi, which also links the official video. MeFi also points out why you know this song already. Them kids is goin’ places.)

Old, Drunk, and On Fire — Redux

Anything worth doing is worth doing again. I present the following for your amusement. Many of you are in these pictures, but (to a first approximation) none of you are with the right boyfriends or girlfriends. Except Eric and Lindsey, God bless ’em. Anyway, what follows is more or less the text of the original photodocumentation of this party from spring of 2000. Back then, there were no Flickr; we rolled our own and we liked it, so these were on the unfortunately defunct site. Since a server crash took it down, they’ve been tragically offline . . . until now!

In Which We Review Photo-Graphs Taken at Birthday Festivities in March, 2000.

Some time ago, I turned 30. (March, 2000.)

What follows is something like a photographic record. These shots were taken by my brother, who was apparently flummoxed slightly by his new camera; they’re a bit hot in places. Additionally, the photolab transfer to lo-res .jpg files didn’t do them any favors. Even so, however, here they are.

They are in no particular order. Though it should be rather clear which are early and which are drunker (er, later) in in the evening.

UPDATE – 2003

Yeah, now I’m even older, but in reformatting these pages for use on the new server, it occurs to me that a monstrous number of these pictures are, well, waaaay out of date. Certain people have gently pointed out that, well, their sister is my girlfriend now, and she even lives with me and stuff, and why is that other girl in my 30th birthday pictures?

The answer, gentle reader, is that Erin wasn’t even AT my 30th birthday party. So there. I mean, there was an Erin, but not THE Erin.

Also, I intend to keep these pictures up long enough for them to be embarrassing to certain children whose parents are shown here (when you’re old enough to read the Internet, kids, give Uncle Chet a call and he’ll tell you stories about your parents; Eva, Matilde, and Hadley, I’m talking to YOU).


Now I’m even older than I was when I commented in 2003, but I’m not sure I’ll cop to wiser. Anyway, these pix have been forgotten for years, but looking at ’em now made me smile enough that I wanted to put them back online. But the bit about your kids calling me for an explanation in a few years? That’s still TOTALLY on, except now we have to add Gwen, Carl, and Layla to the list.

I’m a lucky, lucky boy. Cheers, friends.

It’s my birthday

Today, I’m 40. Which means ten years ago, this happened:


A somewhat more modest festival is planned for this evening. If you know where I live, odds are you’re welcome.

The Catastrophic Theatre Will Destroy You

The next show, Wallace Shawn’s “Our Late Night,” opens on March 19 (special opening night performance, $50) and continues Wednesdays through Saturdays through April 3. All tickets after March 19 are pay-what-you-can.

The Catastrophic Gala is April 24, with special guest Jim Parsons. See you there.

Once again, the Onion rules.

Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text:

WASHINGTON—Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten about, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next. Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

“Why won’t it just tell me what it’s about?” said Boston resident Charlyne Thomson, who was bombarded with the overwhelming mass of black text late Monday afternoon. “There are no bullet points, no highlighted parts. I’ve looked everywhere—there’s nothing here but words.”

Go read all of it.

Apparently, Edison was a dick

Check it out:

You a big fan of aggressive IP enforcement? Like to think a well-litigated market is a healthy market? Hate those little entrepreneurial nuisances like “competition from emerging media?”

Well, then, you would have loved the early 20th century.

Because you had to get Thomas Edison’s permission to make any movie. Then you had to pay him.

Read the whole thing.

Brutal? Yes. But also very, very true.

In response to the bruhaha at the Washington Post, which included such erudite complaints as

One called me to complain about “promoting a faggot lifestyle.” Another complained about the photo in an e-mail to the two Post reporters who wrote Thursday’s story about the licenses: “That kind of stuff makes normal people want to throw up. People have kids who are being exposed to this crap. I will be glad when your rag goes out of business. Real men marry women.”

one blogger has this to say:

Your kids are not to blame for your politics. Your kids are not to blame for your decisions. Your kids are not to blame for any way in which you choose to live your life. Your kids are your kids, and they’re people, and I know this is me saying this, childless whore, etc. And I’m not saying having children can’t inform your worldview. I’m saying own your worldview as YOURS, instead of hiding behind your children’s blankies and pretending you can’t help yourself.

Jesus H. Gentle Cycle Christ, I hate this. Like, how are we to suppose this works, that you used to be a fair and decent person but then you had a kid and decided, “You know, white sheets look fucking good on me now!” You had a kid and then went, “Hmm, suddenly ladies kissing each other is just not on!” Bullshit. You always felt this way, and now you can justify it with somebody who is more into playing with blocks or reading comic books than realizing his parents are total assholes.

Problem is, he won’t always be too into his own stuff to notice yours. So won’t it be fun for junior to read someday that you used to be a good person and now you suck, and he was the line between before and after? And not only do you suck, but you’re such a stupendous pussy that you can’t even give yourself credit for the decision to suck, you’ve got to shove it off on him? Isn’t that charming? Do these people listen to themselves?

You wanna be a bigot? You wanna hate gay people? You wanna wax redneck in the pages of the Post about faggot lifestyles and shoving things down people’s throats? YOU DO THAT THEN. You just go do it. You go and do that all on your own, slick. You go and do that because YOU want to do it, you stupid motherfucker. You go and do that because you’ve taken a good long hard look in the mirror and decided that writing pissy letters to the paper about how you don’t like reality anymore is the best way to spend your time. You do that because being a bigot is what you want to be.

Leave your children out of it.

(Via TBogg.)

Some days, Fred Clark is too awesome for words


One reason for the current non-debate over health care reform is that the Republicans and Democrats are playing different games. Democrats, and President Barack Obama especially, are playing Jeopardy. Republicans are playing Family Feud.

On Jeopardy, facts matter. On Family Feud, all you need to know is what 100 morons might’ve told some pollster.


At the recent health care reform “summit,” Republican leaders made it clear that they’re not interested in playing Jeopardy. That would be a losing proposition against President Ken Jennings. Obama was eager to show that he really does have the right answers — cost containment, near-universal coverage, lower premiums, better quality care, deficit reduction. All of that is well covered in the plan he’s pushing and any attempt to challenge him on the facts would be doomed.

So the GOP has decided to play a different game — to switch from Jeopardy to Family Feud. That way it’s not about the facts, or about what works, or about the actual effect of actual policies on actual people. In the subjective guessing-game of Family Feud, none of that matters. Family Feud is all about perceptions — about what those hundred people surveyed think or guess or dimly remember having heard something about.

And the Republican Party — with tons of financial support from their allies in the health insurance lobby — have been working very hard for many years now to make sure that those hundred people surveyed have a distorted, confused and mostly ass-backwards perception of the facts.

This is how you play Family Feud politics:

Step One: Redefine the facts. If a policy works, claim it doesn’t. If it will lower premiums, say it will raise them. If it would reduce the deficit, claim it will bankrupt the country. Obfuscate. Distract. Confuse. Lie. Lie some more. Throw random nonsense at the wall — death panels! — and see if any of it sticks. Don’t be troubled by contradiction or worried about consistency. It’s perfectly fine to simultaneously propose eliminating Medicare while posing as its defender. That’s absurd and confusing, but confusion is the whole point here. Confusion is good. If those hundred people surveyed aren’t completely confused, then you haven’t succeeded in rigging the game.

Step Two: Poll, poll and poll. Hire Frank Luntz. Poll some more. This is all you can afford care about. Family Feud politics isn’t about ideology, principle, values, good government, effectiveness, solutions, reality, facts, science or truth. It’s about perception and the shaping of that perception by any means necessary. Obsessively polling and recalibrating the message and then re-polling is the only way to be sure that you’re shaping perception in a winning way. Keep this up until the polls show that the confusion and disinformation sown in Step One have taken root among the hundred people surveyed.

Step Three: Cite the polling data. Call it that: polling data. The word “data” there makes it sound kind of like you give a damn about facts or reality or truth-telling. You don’t — you mustn’t if you intend to win this game — but you need to sound like you do. Argue that the polling data proves that the right answer is unpopular and therefore wrong. Argue that the facts are contrary to the will of the people. Argue that it would be undemocratic, tyrannical even, to insist on the right answer when the majority clearly disagrees. If you do this properly, you can congratulate yourself for being a champion of the very people you’re screwing over and even get some of them to thank you for robbing them blind.

That old “gaming sucks on Macs” thing? Yeah, about to be obsolete

Valve’s uberpopular Steam game distribution and library system is coming to the Mac, along with the much ballyhooed Portal 2. The system will allow you to play the PC or Mac version of any Steam game you own.

It’s difficult to overstate how significant this is for gaming:

Valve has stopped with the teasing and has officially announced that its online gaming service Steam is coming to the Mac. As a bonus, the company also plans to make the Mac a “tier-1” platform, promising simultaneous release of games on Mac OS X, Windows, and Xbox 360.

Valve has developed a Mac-native version of its Source engine, using the cross-platform OpenGL. “We looked at a variety of methods to get our games onto the Mac and in the end decided to go with native versions rather than emulation,” John Cook, Director of Steam Development, said in a statement. “The inclusion of WebKit into Steam, and of OpenGL into Source gives us a lot of flexibility in how we move these technologies forward.”

Beginning in April, Mac users will be able to access games via Steam, including Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Portal, and the Half-Life series. The Mac Steam client is based on the latest version for Windows that is currently in beta, which is where the first hints of Mac OS X compatibility were discovered.

Huge. Huge. Huge.