Ashley Madison
August 27th, 2015


So Ashley Madison was just a bunch of guys in a big, virtual sausage party? Anyone who has ever played World of Warcraft will be totally shocked by this.

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How Journalism Gets Done at Vox
August 27th, 2015


Like everyone else, I watched the Vox-Ezra Klein-Torbjorn Tannsjo-Brian Leiter fight yesterday. And truth be told, I don’t really have a dog in the fight. Vox.com is Vox.com, of course. But I don’t know Tannsjo at all and only know Leiter by reputation. (A friend of mine quipped, “They have to be like the Babe Ruth of assholes at Vox to out-asshole Leiter.”)

Also, I spend a lot of time on both sides of the editing/writing fence. I’ve had pieces get turned down, or spiked after acceptance. And I’ve had to do the rejection and spiking. This is all totally part of the writing life and part of being a professional is making your peace with this as part of the business.

What people who haven’t edited before may not understand is that the reasons for rejecting a piece can range from the straight-forward to the deeply complex. For instance, it could just be that the editor doesn’t like the piece. Or it could be that the editor likes the piece, but had previously rejected a similar piece by a long-time contributor, and doesn’t want to rub that other writer the wrong way. It could be that the editor likes the piece, but doesn’t have space to run it in a timely fashion. Or it could even be that the editor likes the piece, but thinks it would fit better at another publication.

There are hundreds of institutional, temporal, logistical, and relational considerations that go into these decisions, most of which the writer is never aware and which are too complicated and/or confidential to be explained. Which is why, to my mind, the ideal rejection is just explaining that the piece “isn’t quite right,” thanking the writer for the submission, and, if you have any good ideas on where the piece might find a home, then pointing the writer in the direction of another publication.

Again, I’ve been on both sides of those kinds of exchanges and if they follow that form, then both parties should be able to walk away happy.

All of that said, what’s offensive about the Vox situation isn’t that the site says they’re uncomfortable running a piece that implicitly questions the wisdom/morality of abortion and contraception. I don’t think that’s anything we didn’t know about the seriousness of the people at VOXDOTCOM already. (And on this score, I don’t think Ezra Klein’s explainer/non-apology really helped: Hey! We almost hired two pro-life people once!)

No, the really bad part is that Tannsjo hadn’t just submitted a piece on spec. Vox went to him and commissioned the piece. And then, when they didn’t like it, they did . . . nothing. They just sat on it.

That’s bad.

The writer/editor compact has two parts. The first is that writers should live with editorial decisions and be okay with them. But the second is that editors should deal with writers promptly, transparently, and courteously.

If you solicit a piece from someone, you owe them a great deal. They’ve just done a bunch of work for you, for free. You’re not obligated to publish them. But if you decide not to publish them, you’re obligated to let them know that fact immediately. You should apologize for the situation not working out. You should pay them a kill fee. And if you want to remain on good terms, you might help them find a different home for the piece.

You don’t just try to pocket-veto the piece and then, when pressed, send an email to the writer making it sound like it’s their fault for writing such an offensive, deviationist essay.

That’s the part of this episode which reveals things we didn’t already know about Vox.

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Who did you like at the debate?
August 7th, 2015


I did a short debate round-up here last night, where I looked the three strategically significant outcomes. And I think that two of them are actually quite important to the trajectory of the election: Trump put out in public that he is open to a third-party challenge and Rubio proved that he’s figured out how to square his immigration circle.

But away from the important strategic stuff, I was struck by how different the candidates’ personalities came across. I don’t expect this to be decisive, or even very important, to the overall trajectory of the face. But it struck me as interesting nonetheless.

In this way, the guy who made the biggest impression on me was Ben Carson. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone running for president who came across as that fundamentally decent and good. Everyone always talks about politicians who you would want to have a beer with, or would want to have as a neighbor. Carson was so kind and gentle and yet somehow normal that neither of those classifications seem remotely adequate. He’s the guy you’d want as your best friend. He’s the guy that, if your daughter’s life was at stake, you’d trust to save her.

Ben Carson is never going to be president, but he’s one of the best conservative evangelists I’ve ever seen and if he wanted to, I bet he could mint more converts to conservatism than most Republican presidents.

At the other end of the spectrum was Rand Paul. People always said that Ron Paul was, deep down, a sweetheart. I think that mostly came across in his political life: He was like a daffy, slightly cracked uncle who, nonetheless, really wanted the best for you.

At least last night, Rand Paul came across as an enormous jerk: callow, self-important, argumentative, and weird. Easily the least likable human being in either debate, which is saying something. But I’d go a little further, even: Possibly the least presidential guy in either debate. Certainly in the bottom three with Graham and Gilmore. Forget being the guy you want to have a beer with–Rand was the guy you wanted to throw your beer at.

Not that likability is everything. But all things equal, it helps. For instance, if Ted Cruz was as likable as Mike Huckabee, I’d give him even-money to be the nominee. I remain pretty convinced that Cruz’s pitch of being the only guy in the field who will always be honest and who will never duck an ideological fight will prove enormously appealing. If he had Huck’s way about him, he’d have a chance to be Reagan.

You know who else wasn’t super likable? Jeb. At some point people are going to start wondering why this guy is supposed to be the front runner. And someone might even say at one of the debates, “Look, governor, all due respect: But if your last name was Jones there’s zero chance you’d be up on this stage.”

Fwiw, if I had to put $5 right now on who the last three guys standing will be, I’d bet Rubio-Walker-Cruz. But I wouldn’t put much more than $5 on that line.

Update, 8/10: These post-debate numbers for Rand Paul are brutal. And people really did love Carson. So it wasn’t just me.

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My Lego Heel Turn
August 5th, 2015


I come right out and say that AFOLs are like Bronies . . .

But there it is.

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Tom Cruise = Awesome
July 31st, 2015


It’s unfortunate that my little ode to Tom Cruise had to run during Santino’s confinement, because he would be all over it. Possibly even in agreementI’mRonBurgundy?

 

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Great Moments in Law Enforcement
July 27th, 2015


An Iraq vet finds himself on the business end of an unwarranted raid by the Fairfax, Virginia police. The worst part of the story is when he goes to talk to the police brass afterward and asks why the cops didn’t consult with the apartment complex’s security department before breaking down a door, pointing weapons at an innocent civilian, and then handcuffing him:

I noted that the officers could have sought information from the apartment complex’s security guard that would have resolved the matter without violence. But he played down the importance of such information: “It doesn’t matter whatsoever what was said or not said at the security booth.”

 

The best part is the kicker:

Rhoads, the Fairfax County police lieutenant, was upfront about this mind-set. He explained that it was standard procedure to point guns at suspects in many cases to protect the lives of police officers. Their firearm rules were different from mine; they aimed not to kill but to intimidate. According to reporting by The Washington Post, those rules are established in police training, which often emphasizes a violent response over deescalation. Recruits spend an average of eight hours learning how to neutralize tense situations; they spend more than seven times as many hours at the weapons range.

Of course, officers’ safety is vital, and they’re entitled to defend themselves and the communities they serve. But they’re failing to see the connection between their aggressive postures and the hostility they’ve encountered in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and other communities. When you level assault rifles at protesters, you create animosity. When you kill an unarmed man on his own property while his hands are raised — as Fairfax County police did in 2013 — you sow distrust. And when you threaten to Taser a woman during a routine traffic stop (as happened to 28-year-old Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail this month), you cultivate a fear of police. This makes policing more dangerous for everyone.

I understood the risks of war when I enlisted as an infantryman. Police officers should understand the risks in their jobs when they enroll in the academy, as well. That means knowing that personal safety can’t always come first. That is why it’s service. That’s why it’s sacrifice.

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“40 to 50 Percent of Everyone in America Is Gay”
July 23rd, 2015


(According to a bunch of people at the San Diego Pride Parade.)

You have to watch this video, courtesy of Galley Friend J.E. It might be the finest entry of the progressive-on-the-street genre.

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The Case Against Twitter
July 21st, 2015


She doesn’t mean to be doing it, but Valentina Palladino makes a pretty good case against Twitter in the course of explaining why she thinks Android is better than iPhone:

I would probably tweet more if I had the Twitter widget, too. Currently, by the time I open the Twitter app and scroll through my most recent updates, I’ve either forgotten what I wanted to tweet about or overthought the verbiage of my 140 characters. There also isn’t a Twitter widget for the notification window in iOS, making it nearly impossible to get a full snapshot of your feed’s activity.

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