Stuff White People Hate
November 21st, 2014

Here’s Will Oremus at Slate talking about the failure of Google Glass:

So what went wrong? In hindsight, it’s easy to blame Google for tone-deaf marketing. It announced the device with much ballyhoo in 2012, setting off waves of hype, only to keep it largely under wraps for months afterward. When it did release a prototype, it made it available only to app developers and other tech-industry insiders. Surprise: Socially awkward white males turned out not to be the ideal brand ambassadors.

White people are the worst. On the list of things they have to answer for, we can now add the premature death of Google Glass.

‘Interstellar’ Thoughts
November 20th, 2014

I have several of them, but I can’t really figure out how to talk about the movie without spoilers. So I’m going to wait a couple weeks.

But in the meantime: I can’t be the only one who wants a T.A.R.S. action figure for my desk, can I? Whatever else you want to say about Interstellar, I think TARS is easily the best robot in the history of cinema.

Great Moments in Law Enforcement
November 18th, 2014

This video of Officer Darren Wilson was released a few days ago, but it’s worth highlighting for a number of reasons:

* What you see in the 15 second video is a citizen interacting calmly and respectfully with a police officer.

* The police officer, on the other hand, responds with casual profanity, saying, “I’ll lock your ass up.”

* Once again, the civilian acts like a professional and a grown-up while the officer of the law acts like thug with no responsibilities–despite the fact that he’s getting paid for the interaction and is carrying the gun.

* But more importantly, the civilian has a firmer grasp of the applicable laws that the police officer does. The civilian believes he is allowed to videotape the encounter. Officer Wilson claims he is not. Wilson is, as a simple factual matter, incorrect.

* Wilson then arrests the civilian, based on his faulty understanding of the law. When police officers either don’t understand the law or refuse to follow it, they are engaged in legal nullification. What good is it to have a law allowing you to videotape police encounters if the police will lock you up anyway? This is a chilling effect on steroids and it ought to be stamped out vigorously by prosecutors and the courts. (Here is an example of a happy ending: When a cop tells a citizen who is legally recording him “I’ll fucking kill you” and then, when asked his name, replies “Go fuck yourself,” he’s removed from duty. That’s the way it should work. Though he should probably lose his job altogether. One imagines that if a check-out clerk at, say, Target, told a customer, “I’ll fucking kill you” he’d be fired in less than five minutes; no second chances.)

* Click through that link and you then see copies of Wilson’s report of the encounter which is somewhat revisionist.

* So we have a cop talking like a thug, acting on an incorrect understanding of the law, and then lying about it after the fact.

Maybe Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown was justified, maybe it wasn’t. I haven’t followed the case closely enough to have an informed opinion. But it strikes me that he probably shouldn’t have been on the streets carrying a gun in the name of the law in the first place.

You ought to be able to condemn the looting and race-mongering in Ferguson without lining up to take sides with police misconduct. These two things are not incompatible and it is a foolish politics which tries to make them so.

(Though if you had to order them in terms of importance, it’s hard to see how police misconduct isn’t worse–much worse–than looting. Looters are normal citizens whose law-breaking is individual and discrete. Police officers who break the law do so as agents of the state entrusted with the use of deadly force.)

Uber = Evil
November 18th, 2014

Go ahead, Santino. Defend them now.

The best part of this story isn’t that the Uber executive Emil Michael suggests spending one meeeelion dollars on oppo research into the private lives of journalist critical of the company’s business practices. Or that he only wants to hire eight reporter/writers, meaning that they’d be getting $125k a year, which is pretty good pay by media standards.

It isn’t that Uber’s non-apology for Michale’s remarks is really just a complaint that the dinner where he made them was supposed to be off-the-record–though that hadn’t been communicated to all of the attendees.

It isn’t even the revelation that Uber has already dipped into the travel logs of journalists who have used the service.

No, the best part of this story is that Emil Michael, a guy who made his bones with Klout–which might be the biggest joke in the social media sector–“sits on a board that advises the Department of Defense.”

A guy whose credentials are “measure your social media influence!” and “use an app to create a competing taxi service!” has been selected to provide advice to the most powerful military force in the history of the world. Awesome.

I’m sure ISIS must be terrified.

‘Seven Deadly Virtues’ on C-SPAN
November 17th, 2014

In case you missed it last night because you were washing your hair, it’s here.

I haven’t looked at the video yet, but it’s possible that there’s a Matt Labash Easter egg somewhere a little past the half-way mark. I’m just saying.

‘Virtues’ Update
November 13th, 2014

A few things:

1) I highly recommend AEI’s Banter podcast in general, but the episode with Rob Long and James Lileks talking about the book is fantastic. How’s this for a tease: Lileks has, in his house, a place he calls “the closet of mysteries.”

2) In other podcast adventures, I had a fun time with David Madeira the other day; you can listen here.

3) Also, I did a long, rambling interview with Katherine Jean Lopez at National Review Online. It’s not as entertaining as the one for WTE. But I did sneak in Lucille Bluth and Mister Bob Harris.

4) The Seven Deadly Virtues is sold out on Amazon right now, but still available at Barnes and Noble. Amazon should be resupplied shortly. All in all, it’s a high-class problem to have.

TNR on Lena Dunham
November 11th, 2014

It’ll be interesting to see if this James Wolcott blowtorch of a review costs The New Republic more subscribers than its endorsement of the Iraq War. It’s unclear which is more of a betrayal to the left. Sample hotness:

Such is the critical protection racket for the Lena Dunham legend that even Daum’s comparison of her subject to Woody Allen and J. D. Salinger was found not flattering, but mildly deflating. “Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair—To Lena Dunham,” contended a headline at the Indiewire site, assuming a contrarian stance. “Likening the ‘Girls’ Auteur to Allen and Salinger predictably raises hackles,” the subhead read, “but what had they done at her age?” The author, critic, and hackles-tamer Sam Adams, wrote, “It’s worth pointing out that at 28, which is Dunham’s age now, Woody Allen was a successful but not widely known comedy writer and standup comic who had yet to release his first album, and J. D. Salinger was still four years away from publishing The Catcher in the Rye.” The article neglects to note that perhaps the reason Salinger didn’t match Dunham’s precocious output was because his early twenties were interrupted by something known as World War II (it was in all the papers), during which the future novelist was drafted, landed ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day, took part in the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, interrogated prisoners of war as a member of the counter-intelligence division, and bore witness to one of the newly liberated concentration camps, a sub-camp of Dachau; after the war, Salinger entered a mental hospital, suffering from what today would be designated post-traumatic stress disorder. So the guy was busy.

The section on the New York Times’ Dunham obsession–which is largely based on this bit of progressive samizdat–is truly amazing: These tools have been swooning over her since she was a teenager.

For the Clip File
November 11th, 2014

Jonathan Gruber on Obamacare as bamboozlement:

“You can’t do it political, you just literally cannot do it. Transparent financing and also transparent spending. I mean, this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes the bill dies. Okay? So it’s written to do that,” Gruber said. “In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in, you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical to get for the thing to pass. Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

This clip ought to be part of every 2016 Republican campaign ad.