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February 05, 2013 1:16 PM Lunch Buffet

By Ed Kilgore

So my wife and I have been gradually viewing episodes of House of Cards, the dark Netflix series starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. I’m avoiding reviews so as not to encounter spoilers, but my reaction has so far has been mixed. I usually give a wide berth to political fiction, in print or on various-sized screens, because (a) it’s usually maddeningly unrealistic in some respect or another, and (b) it’s my day job, and I generally crave respite from politics when I’m not sitting here at the blogging station.

So far, I’ve found House of Cards at least marginally plausible, though the heavy emphasis on intra-Democratic Party tensions makes the raging House GOP almost entirely invisible. And much as I like Spacey, his character’s endless macho posturing and uber-insider ruminations on the mores and folkways of “this town” is annoying and, I hope, off a few decades. It will be interesting to see how the various strands of the plot are pulled together and extended into another season.

Meanwhile, here are some mid-day news-and-views treats:

* House Democrats barbecue Cantor on eve of his Big Rebranding Speech for obstruction of Violence Against Women Act reauthorization.

* Ramesh Ponnuru makes food safety case against plastic bag bans.

* Undeterred by GOP retreat from electoral college rigging initiatives in other states, Pennslyvania GOPers unveil new proposal to award state’s electoral votes by proportion of statewide popular vote.

* TNR’s Jonathan Cohn identifies “gap” in Obamacare provisions affecting availability of subsidies for family coverage.

* Very weird North Korean video shows U.S. cities burning from missile strikes to soundtrack of “We Are the World.”

And in non-political news:

* New study suggests Neanderthals died out much earlier than previously thought: perhaps 50,000 years ago. Unclear how creationists will react.

Back after some chores and nutrition.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • gregor on February 05, 2013 1:27 PM:

    I started House of Cards after just finishing all the previous seasons of Breaking Bad.

    In that context, House of Cards looks like a bunch of nerdy kids trying to emulate the alpha males in the class to sometimes hilarious and mostly boring results.

    You really have to be Chris Matthews' twin brother to want to watch all the episodes.

  • Anonymous on February 05, 2013 1:53 PM:

    I think that the political context of House of Cards makes a lot more sense if we imagine it taking place in the political context of 20 years ago. Entrenched Democrats running Congress as though the Republican Party doesn't exist; a powerful conservative white southern Democrat from South Carolina; a moderate Democratic president who doesn't want to be perceived as too liberal? All of that fits much better into the world of 1993 than the world of 2013. (Coincidentally, the original British series is set in the post-Thatcher world of the early 90s)

    I'd add that, in the Fincher episodes, at least, it's one of the few film/TV productions I've seen that actually looks like it was actually filmed in DC. They even managed to shoot a scene in the DC metro, which I don't think I've ever seen before on TV.

  • Dude on February 05, 2013 1:59 PM:

    I have to admit I binged on House of Cards last weekend. I found it entertaining enough, and while it's far from the best series out there, it exceeded my expectations of what a Netflix series would be like. I'd say it's about one step down from your average Showtime series.

  • mb on February 05, 2013 2:23 PM:

    re: House of Cards

    Overall --pretty good, but I wish Spacey wasn't using that awful fake southern accent.

  • Citizen Alan on February 05, 2013 2:40 PM:

    I haven't seen House of Cards yet, but I wondered how it would translate given the significant differences between the UK circa 1989 and the US of today. In particular, I wondered how the American FU could possibly take over the country when we elect presidents every four years instead of having a Prime Minister who can take over at any time so long as he has the support of the majority of the ruling party. From what I recall of the original, I don't see how much of the plot could work absent a parliamentary democracy.

  • John on February 05, 2013 2:52 PM:

    Citizen Alan - I've been watching it (I've watched the first three episodes, and am wondering the same thing.

    Given that FU is the House Majority Whip in the American version, I'm guessing that they'll have him somehow become Speaker and then take down the President and VP, but that's obviously a far more unusual and unlikely situation than what Urquhart does in the original.

  • max on February 05, 2013 3:24 PM:

    Ramesh Ponnuru makes food safety case against plastic bag bans.

    I'd be perfectly fine with paper and not plastic bags, which Ramesh did not see fit to mention. (Whatever resources are consumed by paper, no animal will choke to death on it, which is the main problem.)

    Undeterred by GOP retreat from electoral college rigging initiatives in other states, Pennslyvania GOPers unveil new proposal to award state’s electoral votes by proportion of statewide popular vote.

    If it passes, We should start campaigning against vote rigging, by introducing bills in Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas and WV. And Arizona and Texas. And Florida. The advantage gained by using proportional representation only in some blue states evaporates if it happens in red states. (In fact, there's a lege session going on in Texas right now!)

    New study suggests Neanderthals died out much earlier than previously thought: perhaps 50,000 years ago. Unclear how creationists will react.

    Apparently, a lot of people really, really hate the idea of being descended from Neadertals. I am not entirely sure why. (For 20 years, the lack of Neadertal mtDNA in modern humans was grand slam proof that humans were not related to those cavemen. Until it turns out that the regular DNA is loaded with Neadertal genes, and everyone is like, 'Well, DNA isn't really dispositive...')

    max
    ['Man or Superman, I suppose.']

  • Dazed and Confused on February 05, 2013 3:44 PM:

    So, the UK version of House of Cards is much more taught and believable. The US version is entertaining by comparison.

    Timing also conspires against them as Homeland, Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire are superior productions.

  • Mitch on February 05, 2013 4:56 PM:

    @max

    Not trying to be pedantic, but I would not say that human DNA is "loaded" with Neanderthal DNA. Neanderthal DNA makes up 1-4% of the DNA of European and Asian folk (including Pacific Islanders & Native Americans with Asia in this, since the cross-breeding occurred long before those populations split), but is not present in most Sub-Saharan African peoples. Of course, Neanderthals evolved and lived primarily in Eurasia, so that makes sense.

    There's also a couple of percent of DNA in certain human populations (mostly some Pacific Islanders and Australian Aborigines), that appears to be from a barely discovered species currently named the Denisovans. We found a few hand bones from the Denisovans, but no full skeletons or skulls have been identified. It was still enough material to allow analysis that determined that the Denisovans were neither Homo sapiens or Homo neanderthalensis, but were closer to Neanderthal than to us.

    Oh, and there is no trace of either Neanderthal or Denisovan heritage in our mitochondrial DNA. Since mitochondria is only passed along the female line, it appears that it was primarily or only male Neanderthals that interbred with H. sapiens. This could be a genetic issue, since hybrids of different species often have gender-based differences/restrictions. It's possible that human males could not breed with neanderthal females or it may have been that the human males did not want to, hahaha.

    In nature hybridization of closely related species is actually rather common, so I can never understand why anyone would doubt that such a thing would have happened with our ancestors. Then again, I cannot understand how anyone can deny evolution, either.

    Sorry for the verbosity, but human evolution is simply one of the most important and fascinating objects of study, and I cannot help but share the little that I have learned about it. I cannot imagine what prehistory must have been like—with at least three distinct, sentient hominid species sharing the mass of Eurasia—but it's certainly more fascinating than any Bronze Age myth I've ever read.

  • Russell Sadler on February 05, 2013 5:34 PM:

    The Oregon Legislature rejected a bill preempting local governments from banning bags last year. For six months we were pummeled by these arguments, written in almost the identical language. All these arguments were discredited after a little bit of research.

    Ponnuru is late coming to the issue and sounds pathetically like a trained parrot. Better more original conservative columnists Bloomberg.

  • Altoon on February 05, 2013 5:39 PM:

    The British House of Cards, which I just watched (so I'll hold off on the Netflix version) is brilliant, with politics at its nasty worst, but unfortunately believable. If the American version disappoints, try the original.

  • Keith M Ellis on February 06, 2013 2:18 AM:

    So does this mean that when I archly say, "you might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment" people will catch the reference?

    Because they usually don't, and that makes me sad.

    (Or does it? Will it instead make me sad when Americans do catch the reference? There goes my "my television taste is superior to yours" cred.)

  • John on February 06, 2013 8:39 AM:

    I always struggle to not talk about politics in the wrong place. Guess i need an escort to stop me!


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