Site News
April 15th, 2015


Yes, I know.

We’re getting very close, though. Comments are fixed! The new header will be attractive and lovely!

And by the by, you’re going to love the book.

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Nixon in a Pantsuit
April 15th, 2015


I’m inclined to think that the Hillary-Nixon parallels are even better than people assume. She’s secretive; she’s ambitious; she’s been around public life for forever; she’s not an innately gifted politician; she’s making one last-gasp run at the Oval Office, which she’s obviously coveted her entire life. But perhaps most importantly, she’s tough like Nixon. And I mean that in the best possible sense.

Galley Friend J.S. points us to this smart blog post exploring the likenesses at length. My favorite passage comes at the end:

I think the biggest thing with Nixon is he could plausibly argue that he was right all along. In 1964 Goldwater ran on the slogan, “In your heart you know he right.” By 1968 most people had figured that out and could see it on their TV. Nixon did not have to make the same pitch because it was manifest. Voting for Nixon was, to a small degree, about normal people regaining control of their country.

Hillary, in contrast, has always been wrong. The one and only thing she has gotten right in 40 years is that Obama was not ready for the job. That’s the one thing she can’t say in this campaign.

I’m not sure this is right, or fair to either Hillary or Obama. (She’s gotten a few other things right–marrying Bill!–and Obama would say that his presidency has turned out to be consequential in exactly the ways he had hoped, even if the rest of America doesn’t like the outcomes.) But it’s funny anyway.

Exit question: One of the things Republicans may underestimate about Hillary is this: If you went to your garden-variety Republican voter and told them that a Democrat was going to win the White House in 2016, but that they got to help choose which national Democrat it was, wouldn’t Hillary be at the top of their list? Wouldn’t Republicans vastly prefer Hillary to O’Malley, or Warren, or Harry Reid, or just about every other high-profile Democrat?

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Free Advice for Jim Webb
April 14th, 2015


He’s going to need a campaign theme song. And the obvious choice is the Ruby Friedman cover of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.”

That would be epic.

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The Netflix ‘Daredevil’ Is Astonishingly Good
April 12th, 2015


I’m only a few episodes in, but the Netflix Daredevil is an amazing piece of work. It’s instantly my second-favorite cinematic depiction of a superhero and if there’s any justice in the world, it’ll be a big hit. A few thoughts, in no specific order:

* It’s really dark. Literally. You almost have to watch it with the lights out if you have an LCD or LED screen; it rewards people with plasma because it’s shot with so much black.

* It’s also dark in the narrative sense.

* At times it feels like an R-rated version of an early Law & Order episode.

* From the beginning, Daredevil was conceived as Marvel’s answer to Batman. In the hands of different writers, that parallel has been sometimes more, and sometimes less, explicit. The Netflix Daredevil might as well be Matt Murdock: Year One.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the second episode contains my favorite line of Batman dialogue ever to make the screen. Murdock (who doesn’t even have the Daredevil monicker yet) has taken a Chechen gangster prisoner on the roof of a building. The guy is part of a human trafficking ring which has recently abducted a 7-year-old boy and is about to sell him into (heavily implied) sexual slavery. Murdock beats the living crap out of him in the course of an interrogation, including sliding a knife behind the guy’s eyeball. Makes the Batman-Joker interrogation room scene look like patty-cake.

Anyway, the Chechen guy eventually breaks (which of course would never happen in the real world because torture never, ever leads to good information!) and Murdock hauls him over to the edge of the roof, gets up into his face and whispers to him:

“This is important. Shhhh. . . Shhhhh . . . Listen—I need you to know why I’m hurting you. It’s not just the boy. I’m doing this because I enjoy it.”

And this plays even more badass than it sounds.

* In general, Charlie Cox’s Murdock is great. The perfect combination of charming, cunning, self-righteous, and slightly smug. Very much the Daredevil of the comics.

* The writers have made important changes to Jack Murdock, but I like them.

* The Catholic humor is great.

* The combat stuff is brutal. Really brutal. There’s a scene in episode 1.2 that’s an obvious homage to Old Boy.

I’ll have more thoughts as I get deeper into the series. But you should run, not walk, to this thing.

7 comments


Great Moments in Law Enforcement: North Charleston Edition
April 10th, 2015


The shooting of Walter Scott by police officer Michael Slager is being well chewed over. (So much so that the New York Times devoted half of it’s above-the-fold front page to it yesterday. Which seems like reasonable news judgment only if you’re working from a pretty ugly agenda.)

What strikes me about this shooting is that from an institutional perspective, the worst part of it isn’t the actual shooting. It’s the planting of evidence and attempted cover-up.

I’m willing to believe that cops can make honest, but terrible, errors in judgment when it comes to lethal force. (This case seems not to be one them, mind you.) You can see how, when confronted with split-second, life-and-death decisions, even good cops can make the wrong call.

But then Slager goes from killing a man to calmly planting evidence and then making a radio call lying about what just happened.

This proves that the shooting isn’t just bad judgment and an illegal use of deadly force, but an act of corruption. And public corruption is like plagiarism and adultery–almost nobody does it just once. (Slager’s speed and relative calmness also suggest that he’s used to not being strictly truthful.)

If I was the DA, seeing Slager plant evidence and lie about this murder would make me open up every case he’s ever been involved in. And it would make me very interested in what other officers in the department knew about Slager and what they did (or didn’t do) over the years in regards to him. Did they try to get rid of him? Did they turn a blind eye? Did that aid and abet?

But then, as Connor Friedersdorf has written, union policies make it hard for management to get rid of bad cops even if they want to.

Exit question: If Rand Paul was serious about criminal justice reform, then instead of making ludicrous statements about repealing any laws that create a disparate impact, he’s start with reforming police unions and then work his way up the chain from there. Because that’s where criminal justice reform has to start: You clean up law enforcement first, then work on prosecutorial mismanagement, and then you look at the actual laws on the books once they’re being properly and judiciously enforced.

But of course, Rand Paul doesn’t really mean “criminal justice reform” when he talks like that. What he really means is “weed!”

That said, is there any reason that the serious candidates couldn’t make criminal justice reform a component of their pitches, starting with police unions? Conservatives are for law and order, but they’re also distrustful of the government and especially public-sector unions. I suspect we may have reached a point where it’s safe to treat police unions the way they do teacher’s unions.

(Which, by the by, might be better than they deserve. Bad teachers don’t actually kill people.)

 

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Site News
April 10th, 2015


You probably noticed the mild redesign, which is still in progress. (No, that header image is not going to stay like that. Yes, I think it’s kind of creepy too.)

But this is a convenient time to remind you to pre-order The Dadly Virtues. It’s great. I promise.

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Apple Watch Reviews
April 8th, 2015


The reviews on the Apple Watch are just one more reminder that the Jobsian era of Apple is long, long gone. If the reviews are any indication, the Watch is a beta product that’s been given wide release:

* Manjoo says the Watch, unlike the iPhone or iPad, is not for “tech novices.” “There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use. ”

* “The Uber app didn’t load for me, the Twitter app is confusing and the app for Starwood hotels mysteriously deleted itself and then hung up on loading when I reinstalled it.”

* “The truth is, navigation is a big Watch weakness. There aren’t any visual clues that more options are waiting if you force-press, or that anything will happen when you turn the knob. You eventually learn, but only by trial and error. And every time you force-press or turn the knob and nothing happens, you feel like a dolt.”

John Gruber has more.

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Only in New York, Kids
April 8th, 2015


This interview with Liz Smith might be the most charming thing I’ve read in weeks. It’s so rare to see a person who’s entirely original.

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