About Dave

Test.

On “Welcome to Earth”

Apparently, for years, people have misremembered Will Smith’s alien-punching “Independence Day” quip as “Welcome ta Urf” and not the clearly enunciated “Welcome to Earth” that one of our most beloved and marketable stars actually delivered.

General consensus: People be racist. And I spend a lot of time on the Internet, so I can confirm that people are pretty racist.

However, I wonder if there’s a less ethnocentric reason for the wide misremembering of the scene. Thinking of it, I remembered Will Smith chomping on a cigar as he punched the alien. With a cigar in your mouth, “Welcome to Earth” would indeed sound more like “Weh-come ta Urf.”

I remembered it wrong. First, Smith punched the alien. Then he said “Welcome to Earth.” THEN he grabbed a cigar (he was just carrying one), put it in his mouth, and said: “Now that’s what I call a close encounter.”

Because humans have evolved to minimize the amount of trauma we remember, we have forgotten that second, clunk-tastic quip. Indeed, many “Welcome ta Urf” memes use the photo of Smith and the cigar, suggesting that people conflate the two lines and their relative use of Smith’s mouth and teeth.

In conclusion, racism is over. Congratulations, everyone!

Hey, why doesn’t the media investigate this Trump guy?

 

Brian Beutler has a little fun with the conservatives who insist that The Media went easy on Donald Trump, knowing that he’d be an easy kill (or something) if he got through the primaries. This is not a fringe group, or some guy on Twitter — it’s a group that includes Sen. Ted Cruz, whom we all expect to run for president until the FEC files a restraining order against him.

In general, campaigns outgun and outpace the press at investigating rival candidates (particularly with respect to archival information that can’t be found online, and that requires expertise to obtain and decipher). They have more resources, no daily print deadlines, and no need to worry about impartiality. For a variety of reasons, the other Republican campaigns and anti-Trump activists did an absolutely abysmal job sifting through his dirty laundry between June 2015 and today. Bad researchers might’ve been part of the problem, but for too long most Republicans mistakenly assumed Trump would collapse on his own—and why bother investigating someone who was sure to implode?

This is all true. Tim Miller, the very smart co-founder of the oppo group America Rising who went on to be Jeb Bush’s game but constantly beleaguered spokesman, has admitted that Bush simply didn’t have the resources to dig into Trump by the time Trump became a threat. Cruz himself openly whiffed on attacking Trump on the theory that his support would collapse and he would reap the benefits. (Cruz’s tendency to delineate his plans while reporters listen is one of the things I like best about him.)

But this gripe is even worse than we’re letting on.

No one’s trying to protect Hillary Clinton. That’s the undercurrent here, and it must be based on zero conversations with political reporters. Washington mostly dreads the Clinton Restoration, with its promises of tightly controlling media teams, jobs for people with long-nursed grudges, and — let’s be honest — none of the cool factor that Barack Obama brought with him.

Reporters did investigate Trump. He launched his bid on June 16, 2015. Within three weeks, before he had fully taken command of the race, the Washington Post was up with a story about undocumented immigrants working on his D.C. hotel. Every story you know about Trump was excavated by journalists, be it the old quotes assembled by Buzzfeed, the old court documents assembled by Wayne Barrett, or the new looks at his business failures reported by my employer and other fine outlets. If voters wanted to read it, the material was there. We could hardly force-feed it to them.

Conservative media outlets failed and want to blame everyone else. Every presidential cycle brings forth new, well-funded (at first) conservative media outlets, often with the promise of hard-hitting news that the MSM (mainstream media) won’t cover. With time (and with exceptions), they eventually regress to the mean and become hot take factories. Nobody told The Daily Signal, The Federalist, The Daily Caller, Bold, Rare, etc that they were banned from investigating Trump’s finances or past statements.

Yet they didn’t do it. To use The Federalist (which I generally like) as an example, Trump coverage usually fit into the the categories of Blaming the Media (“Trump Proves Super PACs Can’t Buy Elections, But Free Media Can“), Insisting That All is Well (“6 Best Things About Paul Ryan Being ‘Not Ready’ To Support Trump“), or keying off of facts reported by the MSM to say that Trump was going down (“If Trump Runs America Like Trump University, His Campaign Promises Are Lies“). Coverage on the right generally debated what was happening, and did not shape it. The old conservative media quandary, of too many wannabe George Will and not enough Bob Woodwards, held up. (Separately, a lot of popular right-wing media figures just kind of rode the wave.)

UPDATE: Some folks point out that I left the Washington Free Beacon off the list. It did have good Trump reporting, though I think of it more as a source of good original Hillary reporting.

When a candidate wins, more resources are used to cover him. Like I said, there has been plenty of gimlet-eyed Trump coverage. That there’s more now does not mean it was lacking before. It meant that there were X reporters in a newsroom, and Y many candidates to cover, and the opportunity cost of digging into a story that might not be about the nominee is high. (I am convinced that one reason for snarky media coverage of Sen. Rand Paul is that big resources were used to profile him, for years, and editors/reporters came to see it as a bigger wasted investment than an igloo colony in Arizona.)

The strangest contradiction of this point was probably the one Fox News viewers saw on Sunday, when my colleague Bob Woodward was chided over the resources the Post was using to crash a book about Trump.

“Are you making an equal effort, because that’s something that we’re hearing from folks, an equal effort on Hillary Clinton?” asked Chris Wallace. “You’ve got 20 people on her?”

Well! Clinton, a political figure since the 1970s, has had quite more than 20 Washington Post reporters look into her background. Several Washington Post reporters, present and past, have written books about her. What does that have to do with the effort (which I’m not part of) to power through and publish a book about Trump, in time for the election?Look at the work of Ros Helderman, who published scoop after scoop about Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, during the period when 1) that story was new and 2) she was the presumed Democratic nominee. Now, Ros is doing more about Trump.

I’m fascinated by the qualms people have about the political media. When it comes to how cable news has covered Trump’s campaign — particularly, the full coverage of his rallies, a privilege awarded to no other candidate — I share those qualms. But enough already with the blame. The Fourth Estate held nothing back.

Stop shaming me for shaming airlines on Twitter

People like to complain about things on the Internet. People also like to complain about the vast amount of Internet devoted to complaining. I rise today to defend an unjustly maligned form of gripe: Twitter-shaming airlines for bad service.

Since Twitter became the main method by which journalists talk to each other, some have spoken out against the microblogging tool as a way to yell at airlines. To wit, just to quote people I know in DC:

And, most relevantly, here is Jack Shafer reacting to my gasket-blowing about a botched American Airlines flight today, which as of this writing might strand me in O’Hare for seven hours and cancel two in-person interviews.

Here, I would refer to the wisdom of Ricky from “Trailer Park Boys.” If you’re inclined to nag someone for using Twitter to talk to an airline, make like a tree and fuck off.

Consider:

1. A problematic flight is a time-suck at every level. If I’m on a work trip, I likely spent a few hours setting up interviews, a rental car, a hotel room, etc. A late flight or blown connection means I erase that work and start over. Emails, phone calls, online wrangling to reshuffle plans. You can see why the person doing all that might also take to social media to say “hey, this is no fun.”

2. Stranded airplane time is arguably the most unproductive time. Trying to do work? You need to hunt for a place to charge your device. Oh, and most planes don’t have places to do that, and neither do (most) airplane restaurants.* No, you’re likely be spending this time in a cramped space, at high risk of proximity to a baby (loud but harmless) or someone who doesn’t want to dirty his hand by using it to block a cough.** You could make a phone call, but you can’t exactly tell people to call you back, because — optimistically — you want to be in the air. Also, how effective are you when your brain is calculating and recalculating whether you can make a connection or land before Hertz shuts down?

The answer is “not very.”

3. Twitter gets results! Honestly, most of Twitter — the part I love most — is bullshit self-promotion and joke-telling. Do you need that in your life? You do not, fun as it is.

Ah, but airline-shaming — airline-shaming is a shotgun wedding of stupid form to beautiful function. As popular as Twitter is, it’s easier to reach a human being at an airline there than it is over the phone. Let’s use the example I’m most familiar with, today’s. I needed to connect in Dallas to a flight to O’Hare, which would connect me to a Sioux City flight. (I note here that I woke up at 4:10 am to do this.) Two stupid events intervened. One: A plastic bag had blown on the plane’s wheels earlier that day, and melted a bit. That took twenty minutes to clear. Two: A plane in O’Hare needed a part, so our (already delayed!) flight was chosen as the vehicle to bring it. Another twenty minutes.

I was supposed to land at 12:41 in pursuit of a 1:34 connection. Good enough! Instead, I spent 40 minutes watching as the arrival time crept just late enough to likely guarantee that I would arrive as the gate closed. (Let’s say 1:24, to be safe.) At 12:05 I tweeted:

Will you slam the doors to my connection and strand me in the airport overnight? Flight 3404 to SUX. This delay is outrageous.

At 12:30, this DM came through:

We’ve alerted ORD of your tight connection. We can’t guarantee that they can hold the connection, but they’re aware. In the event you don’t make it, you’ve been protected on the next flight to SUX, which is at 8:39p.

See? That… technically did not solve my problem at all. But that confirmed my presence on the airline’s radar, and gave me something to point to if I’m screwed again. (A few times I’ve been given airline miles and whatnot to make amends.) In a pre-Twitter world, what would I have had? Maybe, maybe, some ear time with a call center staffer who could not help.

In conclusion, hail Twitter. And fuck O’Hare. I swear if I give myself a 20-minute connection, I sprint across the entire airport. If I have a three-hour connection, I get a two hour 40 minute delay and spring across the entire airport.

*Some appreciation here for Minneapolis, with its identical but convenient bars that plunk down stools right in front of outlets.

**Not to capsize an already-irritating post with something yet more irritating, but if you have an Apple Watch — yes, yes, I know — and do not engage in some light walking or aerobics every hour, you get an alert shaming you to do so. Getting that alert when stuck in a tarmac’d airplane is a special sort of shit-nudge.

Movies of 2015

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
The praise for this movie has reached the rare incandescence granted to the sort of religious texts that start cults, or to the first season of the Sopranos. Goddamn if it ain’t earned. It’s hard to avoid metatextual details here (How, how did George Miller outdo his earlier movies 30 years later?), but the movie stands without them, all unforgettable imagery and eyeball-burning stunts — one long chase scene that never let you stop feeling the stakes. The acid test of a great movie is whether you smile when you remember it. This one passes.
2. Spotlight
Forget what I said about smiling.
3. Amy
TK
4. Mistress America
Noah Baumbach’s work has inspired and frustrated me in equal measure, but Greta Gerwig is the best thing that ever happened to him.
5. Sicario
6. Ex Machina
7. What We Do in the Shadows
8. The Martian
9. It Follows
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron
11. Tangerine
12. Creed
13. The Big Short
14. Ant-Man
15. While We’re Young
16. Straight Outta Compton
17. Brooklyn
18. Love and Mercy
19. The Hateful Eight
20. Trainwreck
21. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
22. Magic Mike XXL
23. Spy
24. Mr. Holmes
25. Steve Jobs
25. Jurassic World
26. Kingsman: The Secret Service
27. Far From the Madding Crowd
28. People Places Things
29. The End of the Tour
30. Paddington
31. Queen of Earth
32. Pitch Perfect 2
33. Spectre
34. Crimson Peak
35. Joy
36. Welcome to Me
37. Jupiter Ascending
38. Truth
39. Maggie
40. Furious 7
41. Tomorrowland
42. Chappie
43. Terminator: Genisys
44. Fantastic Four
45. Fifty Shades of Grey
46. The Human Centipede: Final Sequence
47. Aloha
48. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
If a truly great movie raises your dopamine levels, a truly bad one makes you want to sit down and drink in the sorrows of wasted talent. A murderer’s row of talent is, well, murdered — Adam Scott, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, all subsumed by a dark, homophobic saga of revenge and greed. Like light devoured in a black hole, otherwise wonderful people become grim.

I have opinions about the new ‘Star Wars’

tl;dr It was okay and most people will like it, but it offered virtually none of the fresh ideas and visuals that make sci-fi interesting.

So: “The Force Awakens!” I plunked down my $17 to see this in 3-D, and everything went as well as you could hope, with good friends arriving on time to sit together and two of said friends going in on a large popcorn. But I left in a sour mood, partly because I had to wake at 5 am for a flight, partly because, to paraphrase Brian Wilson, it’s so sad to watch a sweet $200 million squandered on old ideas.

Things Which Were Good

BB-8. It’s cute. Slightly disturbing to see copies of this droid celling in electronics stores for a year, based on the strength of that first trailer, but we all know that “Star Wars” is in large part a toy-flogging record.

The new cast members. We were programmed to like them, of course, in that masterful 18-month ad campaign. (Remember the first cast photo was a black-and-white “candid” of a read? Remember the instant debate and hot-takery, a dark Force nightmare of what Internet was to come?) But I’ll be damned if they didn’t live up to it. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are perfect, like the character traits of Luke Skywalker split into two British people who can actually act. (Okay, Mark Hamill got better over time.) Adam Driver, whose “huh?” factor was apparently a worry for marketers, finds a perfect use of his play-doh looks and oddly threatening shape. Speaking of:

Kylo Ren’s tantrums. Something we hadn’t seen before: A villain with Force powers who, instead of taking defeats in stride, starts flipping out like a kid who got Madden 2K15 instead of 2K16 for Christmas. If the filmmakers were committed to rebooting Darth Vader (and it worked, if the number of kids I see in Kylo Ren masks tells us anything).

That big death scene. An indescribable asshole on Twitter — but I repeat myself — spoiled it for me. That I felt myself getting weepy anyway is a testament to how well it was handled.

The action, in general. To appreciate it I’d point you to a copy of the prequels, which I still refuse to hate. In his dotage, George Lucas was a strange and coma-inclined director, whose idea of an action scene was two people (or one person and a CGI droid) standing in a frame, jumping around each other, as the audiences’ eyes wandered to the obvious green-screen scenery. JJ Abrams, for all his lack of imagination, makes this action move, with characters conquering the frame and skirting what looks to us like actual danger.

Things which are bad

World-building (or lack thereof). Did you want some haggard character to sit down and explain the last 30-odd years since the defeat of the Emperor? No, neither did I. But in the words of Sonny Bunch:

An attentive viewer is left wondering why the victory at the close of “Return of the Jedi” led, 30-odd years later, to a fascist empire that looks to have inherited all of the old toys. Dig around online and you can kind of figure out that the Republic got cocky and disarmed, but there’s no sense of how the First Order arose. Speaking of…

The First Order. Oh, the potential of this idea. The Empire collapses, and a younger, meaner, more capricious fascist force rises. These villains are obviously aware of what brought the Empire low: Boondoggle super-bases that had weaknesses their enemies could exploit and explode. So what do the new villains do? They re-use the resources of the Empire, from troop armor to war ships, and they… build a boondoggle super-base that can be blown up if its weakness is exploited.

Music. If I say “hum ‘Duel of the Fates,’” or maybe more helpfully refer to it as “the Darth Maul song,”

Few people argue that the new movie’s music is memorable; maybe they argue that Williams did something warm and subtle with “Rey’s Theme.” But the dominant argument seems to be that the music is forgettable because it doesn’t have to overcompensate for stupid filler scenes. Eh.

Deux ex machinas (machinae?): Like Ryan Vogt asks, what caused R2D2 to wake up from stasis, other than the fact that the movie was about to end? Like Sonny Bunch asks, how did Rey know what Force suggestion was — not how to do it, but what it was — given that she’s skeptical the Force even exists? There’s a larger metatextual problem here, and it’s that science fiction imagined space travel advancing with much more ease than it imagined communication technology advancing. So, in a galaxy where ships can travel light years in seconds, nobody has the ability to google (or flibbertiwock, or whatever it would be called here).

Nothing new to look at. This was the problem that left me lowering my rating of the film. Even the weaker George Lucas-verse properties put in effort to create weird new worlds. We never saw an undersea Star Wars city until “The Phantom Menace.” We never saw a clone factory until (ugh) “Attack of the Clones.” We never saw a lava planet until the genuinely great final battle of “Revenge of the Sith.”

Abrams’s “Star Wars” just gives us the best of what we saw and liked already — a cynic might think they adapted the toys and playsets that sold the best. If this wasn’t Lucasfilms approved, you’d call it plagiarism.

Ink-Stained Wretches

Truth (James Vanderbilt, 2015) and Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)
As I finish my book about the progressive rock movement — or, more to the point, as I procrastinate by spending 20 minutes writing something else — two nagging demons keep jumping on my shoulder. One says that I need to do a bit more work to get the story right. (That’s for the second draft, asshole.) One whispers the possibility that someone will cover the same subject, and drop it when my book drops, and make me wilt in the shadow.

So: I do not envy James Vanderbilt. Under normal circumstances, in which there are no movies about journalism in theaters, he would have just made a frustratingly bad one. The cruel god of timing cursed him to release that bad movie just weeks before “Spotlight,” probably the best movie of 2015, and one of the best-ever about journalism.

Talking to another friend (a journalist) who sat through both, we found ourselves wondering why Truth‘s story of hubris and failure was so much less compelling than Spotlight‘s story of success. It’s more than the clunky writing or Truth‘s seemingly endless use of slo-mo for effect. It’s that Spotlight is just so much smarter, and finds the darkness, the lack of real satisfaction, even in what seems like success.

It’s a smart movie, is what I’m saying. Truth is most decidedly not. It adapts the memoir of Mary Mapes, the CBS producer who we would remember as the scapegoat of the botched story on George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service, if not for the fact that Dan Rather threw his scalp on top of hers. Cate Blanchett plays Mapes, Robert Redford plays Rather, and both seem to be stretching the thin material into Oscar-shapes. It does not work, because they are trapped in the kind of movie that introduces a heroic veteran with a slow-mo shot of him saluting at a rainy military funeral; the kind of movie where a character warns that “you’ll know it’s bad when they ask to see our source,” then later has a villainous executive ask to see the source, and the same character turn and wryly tell his companion “now it’s bad.”

These are decisions that assume a very stupid audience. Strange, because… who did Vanderbilt think his audience was? The “Rathergate” disaster was compelling enough to inspire a similar story in Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, but the only people who want to revisit it are journalists and partisans who know the basics of the story. They — okay, we — are not permitted to watch a straightforward drama about how ego and speed and outright fraud can throw lives off course. No, no, instead we get Lt. Colonel Roger Charles (Dennis Quaid, who unfortunately is the character I keep citing as example of the cinema sins here) telling a colleague that Mapes wanted to break this story in 2000, but her mother fell ill, and you know, “537 votes in Florida.”

We feel whipsawed between two equally stupid theories. One: The story of George W. Bush skipping out on TANG service was big enough to change the election. Two: The story was true, and repressed by partisans. Both are highly dubious. Add to this a cringe-inducing scene where a reporter on the story, played by Topher Grace, is being escorted out of the CBS News building and rants about how corporations are trying to suppress any news that threatens their power. It’s the sort of thing the whole narrative is implying, and then a character actually vocalizes it, and we shudder at the stupidity.

There is nothing like that in Spotlight. Actually, the only thin criticism it’s received has focused on the lack of character-building. I found that criticism totally misguided. McCarthy’s script perfectly captures how journalists talk, and more specifically how these journalists talk. (I only know one of them, Marty Baron, who hired me at the Washington Post, and anyone who wishes Liev Schreiber’s Baron was more animated or explosive is wishing he got the role wrong.)

Lots of people have heaped praise on the plotting and momentum of this movie. I think the characterization has been underrated. We do not get or need expository scenes of how months of work on the Catholic Church abuse scandal is affecting Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams). We get a scene of her struggling with a dishwasher, and a telling look from her husband when another reporter (Mark Ruffalo) shows up late at night and asks for her. We get that reporter, Mike Rezendes, living in a hovel that he says he can’t really move out of what with the story consuming his time. We get that fact when the Boston Globe’s assistant managing editor (John Slattery) shows up with leftovers, because he knows Rezendes doesn’t have time to cook.

I loved everything about this movie, but what stuck with me was the lack of finality. After Rezendes delivers a copy of the paper with the first (of 600+) Catholic Church expose pieces on the front, he walks past two children who have an appointment with the attorney. They’d been molested two weeks earlier. Two weeks — after we’d seen a lengthy legal fight for documents and a six-week reporting delay due to the 9/11 attacks putting demands on the newsroom. We are told this iteratively, not force-fed. Strangely, it’s Truth that sanctifies the act of journalism and Spotlight that clarifies it.

Correcting the Record

Yesterday, Chuck C. Johnson made me the subject of one of his rambling, fact-challenged assaults on the media. It happens. Unfortunately, in mocking Johnson, I made an error, and I want to correct it here.

Short version: In a post ostensibly about why I was re-hired by The Washington Post, Johnson attempted to explain why I had praised his obsessive reporting in 2013, but become a critic since then.

The real answer is simple: I thought Johnson did some amazing spelunking on stories in early 2013, especially on the resume of key Republican aide making the case for bombing Syria. His obsessive digging produced facts that eluded other reporters. I praised his work, and at the time, the praise was warranted.

Unfortunately, Johnson appeared to take a running leap off the deep end with a run of vicious and false “investigations” — starting with a laughably bogus story about whether the mayor of Newark actually lived there, peaking with the personal harassment of New York Times reporters. (Johnson printed their home addresses out of pique that they mentioned the neighborhood that Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson lived in, an abhorrent act that he actually brags about in this same post, which I’m not linking to.)

That’s my answer: Johnson did some good stuff then turned rotten. Johnson’s alternate answer is that I am “mentally ill.” He sums it up in a sentence that made me laugh out loud. “GotNews.com did some research on Weigel and found a history of mental illness–which makes sense.”

That “research” consists of a link to a story I wrote about my history of depression for Slate, in August 2014, after the suicide of Robin Williams. It’s been shared on Facebook more than a thousand times and shared on Twitter almost as often. Sorry for the brag; it’s just a sign of how far Johnson has tumbled that googling a well-read article is now his “research.” I self-institutionalized in 2002, and have treated my depression ever since. I’m proud of that, not ashamed.

On Twitter, which Johnson has been banned from since May, I chided the “report” and got some friendly responses. I told Becket Adams, a reporter for the Washington Examiner, that Johnson’s exploitation of my depression was strange because, when cornered, he’s accused critics of cruelty to people with disorders.

On his website, Johnson (rightly) points out that I misspelled “Aspergers,” the calls this “malicious falsehood,” as he has “never had” that particular syndrome. My apologies. I was misremembering something else: How Johnson excused the publication of a false and defamatory article by claiming that he is on the autism spectrum and does not get jokes.

That started in January 2014, when Johnson published a strange hit piece on the New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick. After Kirkpatrick published an exhaustive story about the circumstances of the September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Johnson published a story titled “Benghazi reporter Kirkpatrick showed off his naked body at Princeton.” (Please don’t stop to think about what that had to do with Benghazi. You’ll sprain something) Johnson dug up old articles about Kirkpatrick’s participation in a campus streak, and in a nude art project, then claimed that the future Timesman had posed for Playgirl.

It took no time at all to find the source of that last claim — an obviously satirical edition of the Princeton Daily News. Johnson had run satire as a “scoop.” Over e-mail, I asked Johnson how he missed this, and he explained that he simply did not understand some humor. “I am rather notorious for not understanding sarcasm or satire and I am deeply embarrassed by the whole article,” he wrote. (The whole e-mail is up at that Slate link.)

Johnson never wrote for The Daily Caller again. But months later, when the Kirkpatrick debacle or my name came up on Twitter, Johnson had a new reason for his face-plant. Johnson’s Twitter account has been deleted, but Tom Kludt captured a representative tweet from July 2014.

“Weigel posted this story he did on how my autism caused me to miss humor in a parody issue,” Johnson tweeted. “He leaves out apology.”

Later that year, when reporters profiled Johnson’s role as a relentless social media troll, he repeated this detail.

“Johnson told me that he has trouble recognizing satire because he is mildly autistic,” reported Tim Murphy in Mother Jones.

“In interviews and on Twitter, Johnson has attributed some of his lapses to being ‘neuroatypical’—that is, on the autism spectrum,” reported Jacob Silverman in Politico.

“Maybe it’s because of my weird autistic tendencies but I tend to find joining tribes boring,” Johnson told Business Insider.

That was what I was trying to recall, late on a Friday night. I do apologize for referring to Johnson’s self-diagnosed “autism” as “Aspergers,” which is a specific autism spectrum disorder. Yet Johnson did not tell me anything about autism when I wrote my January 2014. For more than a year, he insisted that I had cruelly exploited his autism and failed to apologize for it. Then, when it served him, he decided that “mental illness” was a perfectly good reason to attack someone personally.

I don’t feel attacked, frankly. But I should work on my spelling. It’s important if people are thinking of publishing your work — fortunately, a problem that Johnson no longer has.

Some personal news: Later this month, I’ll be joining the Washington Post as a national political correspondent. I didn’t expect to leave Bloomberg before the 2016 elections, but I’m proud of the Bloomberg Politics launch, and any role I had in expanding the ethos of Josh Tyrangiel’s Businessweek into the rest of Bloomberg’s news operation. General advice: If you get a chance to work for Josh Tyrangiel, take it.

(In)famously, I left the Post in 2010 after a short stint as a blogger/reporter covering “the conservative movement” writ large. I resigned after a successful campaign by The Daily Caller and the Media Research Center to exploit my arrogant and sometimes hateful social media and email snark. This is pretty well covered, and while I don’t regret resigning, I regret the comments.

Oh — one thing, though. In the mists of time, one of the controversial comments has lost all context. When college journalism students talk to me about the scandal (yes, this happens), I often have to correct them about it. It’s that I dismissed supporters of Ron Paul as “Paultards.” Tim Graham, the factotum at the Media Research Center, writes in his spittle-flecked post about my news* that “Weigel’s going to cover the Rand Paul campaign, when he used to refer to the Tea Party as ‘Paultards.'” An angry reader emailed me last night to ask how I could cover Rand Paul: “You’re writing about him while you call people “paultards”?

Anyone armed with Google can learn that I voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 presidential primary. Anyone with access to Twitter can find my personal phone number and email, and ask what I meant — so, thank you to the reader who did.

For anyone else: It’s pretty simple. On September 12, 2009, someone on JournoList started a thread about the day’s massive Tea Party rallies around the country.

“How much of this crowd is just spillover Ron Paul fanatics?” asked on lister. “Having gone to a few Paul events last year, the rhetoric and demographic looks very, very similar to me.”

Another lister, Jon Schmitt, suggested that “more people were there on Saturday than voted for Ron Paul in all the primaries combined.”

I responded (and spelled “Schmitt” wrong):

Just to address Jon Schmidt and this comment: “I think more people were there on Saturday than voted for Ron Paul in all the primaries combined.”

More 1 million people voted for Ron Paul in the GOP primaries. That said, many of those votes were cast in primaries held after the nomination was sewn up. But just in Pennsylvania, Paul polled 129,247 votes against McCain. And that’s more people than showed up on Saturday.

It’s all very amusing to me. Two hundred screaming Ron Paul fanatics couldn’t get their man into the Fox News New Hampshire GOP debate, but Fox News is pumping around the clock to get Paultard Tea Party people on TV.

Just to break that down:

1) I jumped into the thread to defend Ron Paul supporters, and say that someone had underestimated their numbers by a factor of 10.

2) My use of the derisive “Paultard” was intended to refer to how Fox News viewed Ron Paul supporters. I was in Manchester, in 2008, when Ron Paul was denied entry to the final pre-primary debate. This crystallized a lot of the anger of Paul supporters, who had been listening to Fox’s Sean Hannity dismiss Paul, even (or especially) when they swarmed online polls or call-in phone lines to support him.

One night in Manchester, some Ron Paul fans — who had made Murphy’s on Elm Street into their unofficial post-work HQ — spotted Hannity and his crew entering the Radisson, also on Elm Street. They chased him to the doors of the hotel.

So, 20 months later, I remembered how Fox News and Ron Paul supporters were natural enemies. I used the “Paultard” term to distinguish the people who had been hated by Fox in 2008, and loved by Fox when they became Tea Party activists.

Stupid way to put it? The smart way would have been “Ron Paul supporters-cum-Tea Party people.” But I was trying to quickly demonstrate just how loathed these activists were until they linked up with the Tea Party.

*The post, which I won’t link to, also cheap-shots me by illustrating the post with a photo of me doing a TV hit, without makeup, in the sun, my mouth half-open. Why do I look so haggard? Well, that shot is from when I covered the riots in Baltimore, interviewing dozens of people at the scenes of fires and looting, on four hours of sleep. That’s the sort of work I’ve done over the last five years, while Tim Graham has stewed behind a keyboard.

“House of Cards” is Terrible and You’re All Bad People

On the way out of the Senate yesterday, I heard tourists talking about House of Cards, the popular Netflix show that has supplanted The West Wing as the preferred pop culture window into Washington. My chief problem with the show is that it is terrible — clunkily written, drunk on cliches (name a female journalist on the show who doesn’t end up schtupping a powerful man), hammily acted.

Two examples of why I loathe it so.

1) Season two and the first half of season three spend some solid time building up Senator Hector Mendoza, a Latino Republican who is elevated to majority leader over the course of the series. He’s powerful enough to be invited to a quasi-State Dinner where foreign dignitaries recognize that he probably will be elected president soon.

Yet in episode eight, he is written off — literally. President Underwood greets the House and Senate leaders. Mendoza is not there.

“What happened to Hector Mendoza?” Underwood asks viewers, through the fourth wall. “Well, you don’t declare a couple of speeches as income, and — boom! You’re no longer in Congress, and certainly not running for president.”

And that’s it. A scandal never previously mentioned, hinted at, or foreshadowed took out a key antagonist. There’s not even a wink at Underwood or his operatives pulling the strings. It just happened.

2) In that same episode, a novelist named Mickey Doyle, hired to write a campaign memoir of President Underwood is finishing an opening chapter about how, as a young man, he tried to swim from the shore of Charleston to Fort Sumter. The story is fake, but in the House of Cards universe, no journalist ever uncovers a story, so this can slide. No: The problem is that Doyle, a troubled but talented rake, is pounding out some of the shittiest prose this side of a Cliff Bar nutritional panel.

“He’d reached the point of no return,” writes Doyle, narrating as he punches keys. “Turning back was no longer an option.” Later: “One thing can’t be denied, however: What others saw as impossible, he refused to believe as such.”

Several scenes later, Doyle meets with Underwood to deliver some pages. The president reacts as if he was just handed a first draft of The Corrections. Doyle confidently pronounces it “the best thing I’ve written in years.”