Smart takes
March 17, 2014
Facebook/The Veronica Mars Movie

This weekend, Veronica Mars fans were delighted by the release of the long-awaited film sequel, which was partially funded through a Kickstarter campaign to the tune of $5.7 million last year. But now that the excitement of a new Veronica Mars adventure has worn off, critics can start evaluating the content of the film — and NPR's Linda Holmes has a particularly thoughtful critique of the movie's troubling philosophy on relationships. (Spoilers for the Veronica Mars movie to follow.)

The Veronica Mars movie offers a textbook example of what Holmes dubs "The Bad Caterpillar Theory": The idea that a "mean, jealous, possessive, violent, angry, emotionally unavailable," guy will evolve into a noble, trustworthy, good-hearted man if the female protagonist simply waits long enough. In this case, Veronica's boyfriend of nearly a decade is pushed aside in favor of Logan Echolls, a bad boy with a heart of gold:

By the time the movie starts, Logan has emerged as the Butterfly to a degree that's almost comical. He no longer has any flaws whatsoever; he shows up in Navy whites that weirdly look like they're too big for him, but the message is clear: he's all grown up. There's effectively no edge left to the character at all, and although the movie co-opts the language of addiction and recovery to have Veronica talk about the relationship as an addiction, there's no indication that any of it is actually bad for her or that she's even legitimately conflicted about it. He's transparently innocent of the crime she's trying to get him off the hook for, he's in the Navy ... he's basically been transformed into a cartoon prince.

At last, her patience, her faith, her unwillingness to give up has paid off. The Butterfly has arrived.

So of course she has to dump her nice, generous, supportive, unexciting boyfriend. Of course she does. [NPR]

Read the rest of this thoughtful article at NPR. Scott Meslow

a yuuuuge problem
12:08 p.m. ET
Charlie Leight/Getty Images

Donald Trump says he'll drop out of the Republican race if his poll numbers get too low, a prospect which so far is not on the horizon. On the ground, too, Trump is still pulling in big crowds. But in caucus states like Iowa, high poll and rally numbers won't necessarily translate to actual Election Day support.

An informal survey of Trump backers at a recent Iowa rally found that only one in ten had participated in a caucus before, and the rest seemed unenthusiastic about the prospect of comparatively complicated participation in the political process on a cold Iowa night in February. As one attendee put it while refusing to pledge that she'd caucus, "I have never been to anything like that."

True to style, Trump's campaign appears unconcerned. Said adviser John Hulsizer Jr., "We’re thinking this is going to be a historical caucus and I think you’re gong to see some phenomenal numbers turn out." Bonnie Kristian

This just in
11:47 a.m. ET
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Just a few months ago, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, 25, became a hero after he and two other men successfully thwarted a terror attack on a French train. But last night, Stone himself became a victim of an attack. Stone was "repeatedly stabbed" in Sacramento, Calif. late Wednesday night, CBS News reports. Local Sacramento news station KCRA reports that "a fight in the street allegedly led to Stone being stabbed multiple times in the torso." He is currently in critical condition and is expected to live.

Stone had returned to Sacramento after his trip last week to Umpqua Community College, where a shooting killed nine. His efforts tackling the armed terror suspect on the Paris-bound train in August earned him an Airman's Medal and a Purple Heart, as well as a meeting at the White House with President Obama. Becca Stanek

11:45 a.m. ET

On the campaign trail in Iowa on Wednesday, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton compared the National Rifle Association (NRA), the most prominent gun rights advocacy group in America, to "the Iranians or the communists." Her comment begins at the 29:33 mark in this video:

Now the real answer to [the problem of gun violence] is for gun owners to form a different organization that supports the Second Amendment — that supports their rights to own guns, use guns, go hunting, go target shooting — but stands against the absolutism of the NRA. You know, the NRA's position reminds me of negotiating with the Iranians or the communists. You know, there's no possible discussion.

Clinton also argued in Wednesday's talk that the NRA dupes some gun owners into being "really upset all the time so they can keep collecting their money."

Aside from the obvious potential for offense to gun owners, Clinton's comparison is dubious in light of the many compromises made by the Iranian government in the recent nuclear deal. Bonnie Kristian

tricks of the trade
11:32 a.m. ET
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Everyone loves a good story — especially if it's also a good scandal. For Steve Bannon, the successful executive chairman of the right-wing publication Breitbart News, it's all about reaching "everybody" — even, and sometimes especially, the left.

The strategy, reported by Bloomberg, involves digging up "rigorous, fact-based indictments against major politicians" and then gaining the attention of "mainstream media outlets conservatives typically despise to disseminate those findings to the broadest audience." The most recent example of this strategy was the book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Business Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, published by Peter Schweizer, the president of the nonprofit Government Accountability Institute (GAI) — the group masterminding this media takeover, which was co-founded by Bannon.

The book got on the radar of many mainstream reporters, and the strategy ended up being so successful that it was in part, or maybe even primarily, responsible for the souring public perception of Clinton over the spring and summer:

The reason GAI [will spend months on a story] is because it's the secret to how conservatives can hack the mainstream media. [Writer Wynton] Hall has distilled this, too, into a slogan: "Anchor left, pivot right." It means that "weaponizing" a story onto the front page of The New York Times ("the Left") is infinitely more valuable than publishing it on "We don't look at the mainstream media as enemies because we don't want our work to be trapped in the conservative ecosystem," says Hall. […]

Once that work has permeated the mainstream — once it's found "a host body," in David Brock's phrase — then comes the "pivot." Heroes and villains emerge and become grist for a juicy Breitbart News narrative. "With Clinton Cash, we never really broke a story," says Bannon, "but you go [to] and we've got 20 things, we're linking to everybody else's stuff, we're aggregating, we'll pull stuff from the Left. It's a rolling phenomenon. Huge traffic. Everybody's invested." [Bloomberg]

Sneaky, genius, or both? Read the entire story over at Bloomberg. Jeva Lange

feel the bern
9:49 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders might be the most left-leaning candidate in the presidential race, but, according to the socialist senator, he's attracting some fans from the right. In an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe Thursday, the Vermont senator addressed his "crossover" with GOP voters.

"There are more than a few Republicans for Bernie Sanders out there," he said. "Don't be surprised if we do well with a number of Republicans."

Sanders acknowledged that while there are certainly some "strong differences" of opinion between him and many Republicans — especially when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage — he pointed out that there are definitely areas in which they share common ground.

"But you know, Republicans have to send their kids to college," Sanders said, referring to his proposal to offer free tuition at colleges and universities. "Working-class Republicans can't afford to do that. Working-class Republicans have seen their factories shut down and moved to China. Working-class Republicans are equally disgusted about a campaign-finance system which allows billionaires now to buy elections."

Strange as Sanders' claim may seem, he has attracted the Republican vote before. The Washington Post reports that in his 2012 Senate race for reelection in Vermont, Sanders beat his Republican opponent with 71 percent of the vote. Becca Stanek

Amazon vs the world
9:09 a.m. ET

Amazon is getting into the "real reindeer antler coat rack" and "banana nut bread scented candle" business — which could be good news for crafty people everywhere, but very scary news for Etsy, the web's reigning handmade craft store.

Handmade at Amazon, which launched Thursday, sells homemade, handmade, and independent goods, and vendors are vetted to determine if they're "handmade enough" to be included on the site. While Etsy used to be the obvious choice for sellers wanting to make a living off of, say, necklaces shaped like states, Amazon's clout assures hundreds of millions more customers to vendors. Additionally, Amazon is able to absorb stock to its fulfillment centers — so, tantalizingly, some of its handmade goods can be shipped in two days via Prime. To top it off, Handmade at Amazon's site even looks suspiciously like Etsy.

The categories offered on Handmade at Amazon are currently limited to home, jewelry, artwork, stationery/party supplies, kitchen/dining, and baby. That being said, one should never put it past Amazon to do what Amazon does best — expand. Jeva Lange

interesting choice of words
8:37 a.m. ET

With the first black president well into his second term in office, media mogul and Fox News Channel owner Rupert Murdoch tweeted a call for "a real black president" Wednesday night. The candidate for that position, according to Murdoch? Ben Carson.

Murdoch tweeted:

Murdoch's comment followed a string of other tweets from the last few days expressing his support for Carson and promoting the retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate's appearance on The Kelly File. He was swiftly met with backlash.

Murdoch then tried to chalk up his comment — which CNN reports some saw as "questioning Obama's race and identity" — to "minority community disappointment with POTUS" mentioned in the recent New York magazine column, "Has Barack Obama Done Enough for African-Americans?"

Murdoch apologized Thursday morning. Becca Stanek

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