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.

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Back after some chores and nutrition.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.