Sheep Solves Drone Debate

Sep 2 2014 @ 11:32am
by Alex Pareene

screen-shot-2014-09-02-at-10-37-54-am-e1409669204890Hello, Dish readers. Andrew is recovering from his time on The Playa (I’m told he and Grover Norquist are in adjacent hyperbaric chambers in an unmarked warehouse somewhere in Reston – hopefully one of them will find time to submit a “view from your chamber” photo before the week’s end). I’m Alex Pareene, formerly of Salon and Gawker, currently part of First Look Media, Pierre Omidyar’s well-funded effort to destabilize eastern European states and keep Glenn Greenwald occupied with something other than collecting dogs and arguing with eggs on Twitter.

It has been some time since I’ve blogged, in the traditional sense, so forgive me if I seem a bit rusty. (If I recall correctly, this is when I ask readers to “hit up my tip jar” and/or buy me things on Amazon, right?) Because it is that terrible first day back at work for most of us, I say we ease back into things. We’ll get to police militarization, the sudden media ubiquity of for-some-reason-not-disgraced Bush-era warmongers, and the unsurprising amorality of Andrew Cuomo later. For now, something easier to process: Drones.

Some members of the so-called liberal media say they love drones. Here’s a video (via Motherboard) they hope you don’t watch:

Where do you fall on the drone debate? Make sure to tune in to CNN’s THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER, where today Jake will host a lively debate between Martha Stewart and an angry ram that will settle the issue once and for all.

(Image: A drone critic)

Michael Sam Loses His Spot

Sep 2 2014 @ 11:16am
by Dish Staff

Sam was cut from the Rams over the weekend. Eric Edholm examines the situation:

Sam was unclaimed by the other 31 NFL teams and remains a free agent, with no teams offering a practice squad spot — despite those rosters increasing this season from eight to 10 players per team — with nearly every slot around the league believed to be filled. Does this mean Sam’s NFL shot has passed him by? Not necessarily. He had three sacks in the preseason, none of them gifts, and didn’t play poorly otherwise. Sam put some decent tape out there to be considered. But he is what he is: a left defensive end who likely can’t hold up for three downs in the NFL and has little to no special teams value. Still, there are teams that value pass-rush specialists, and it’s surprising that he hasn’t been brought in, even for a look.

Michelle Garcia blames homophobia:

Did the Rams cut Michael Sam out of sheer homophobia? I doubt it. But it was homophobic reasons that got him to such a precarious position in the first place.

Read On

Photos With Depth

Sep 2 2014 @ 10:56am
by Dish Staff

tautochronos series

Leslie Tane features the delightful work of Michel Lamoller, who “takes multiple photographs of the same place at different times, then prints and layers them, physically carving them into one image, sculpting two-dimensional space into three-dimensions”:

By then photographing the transformed image Lamoller returns the work to two-dimensions, playing with space and volume, echoing the compression of time and place in his work. The deconstructed figures in the resulting photographs are a visual reminder that people are always changing and never fully revealed.

Margaret Rhodes connects the series to Lamoller’s previous projects:

Tautochronos evolved from an earlier series of Lamoller’s, called Layerscapes, that applies the same technique to landscapes and cityscapes. It’s not nearly as personal as Tautochronos, which is dotted with Lamoller’s personal acquaintances (and sometimes shot in their own homes or bedrooms), but both “come from a more personal wish to describe this happening of two things at the same time in one place,” he says. Like much of Lamoller’s work (he’s also created trompe l’oeil collages of banal objects like power outlets), they have a heavy Surrealist slant, and look like x-rays and camouflaged characters all at once.

by Dish Staff

Andrew Heisel read more than 600 Amazon customer reviews of Mein Kampf, and came away disturbed:

Again and again, reviewers praise Hitler as “one of the most powerful men in history,” or “the greatest mover in history.” He was a “man of strong principles, discipline and good organizational skills,” and overcame poverty “to create the worlds largest empire.” Try to set aside your negative feelings for a moment and appreciate the impact: “Greatness is not measured by good or evil. Greatness is. Fascist or not, Hitler was a great leader.” The praise is qualified, but the tribute paid to morality often feels trivial alongside the esteem. Hitler “did some bad things,” one of the above says. Although he “crossed that line and spiraled into madness” and “evil,” says another, he was “wonderful leader.” Few leaders, offers another, have “matched the depth of his dedication, evil though it was.” They see that he’s a “monster” just like many of the other reviewers; they just don’t think it’s worth dwelling on instead of the positive takeaways.

Some would suggest this discourse is the effect of relativism, and there’s some of that in there, but I think, more than that, it is the value-neutral language of enterprise, where what matters most is getting things done—having an impact, being a “mover.” It’s a language that reveres action, power, and profit as goods in themselves and overlooks the ethical failings of those with power. With mere achievement as your focus, you can whittle away the details until Hitler has an affinity with Jesus. It’s the “Great Man Theory” at its most frightful. If you accomplish so much, you become beyond judgment, become simply History.

The Economics Of Superhero Flicks

Sep 2 2014 @ 9:42am
by Dish Staff

Erika Olson recommends Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse’s Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment:

Her statistics-driven approach shows that no matter what facet of the entertainment industry you’re talking about – and no matter how contrary to common sense it may seem – those who make the biggest financial investments in a select few products are actually taking the least risky path to success. Perhaps that’s why 40 (!!!) big-budget superhero movies will be hitting theaters between now and 2020. Or why 1998 was the last year that stand-alone (versus sequel/trilogy/universe) films made up the majority of an annual “top-ten highest-grossing movies” list. In 2011, the entire top 12 were franchise titles.

Now, as Scott Tobias of The Dissolve recently pointed out, it’s not like “blockbuster” always equates to “awful.” But for anyone who still enjoys – or wants to make – an indie or otherwise original film, Elberse’s findings are important to understand.

Kicking The Torture Habit

Sep 2 2014 @ 8:59am
by Dish Staff

In an interview about her new book, Mainstreaming Torture, Rebecca Gordon unpacks the way she uses virtue ethics to show why we should resist the use of torture:

The torture that I am concerned with is institutionalized state torture – the kind of organized, intentional program carried on by governments. It’s not Jack Bauer saving Los Angeles on 24. It’s not some brave person preventing a ticking time-bomb from going off by torturing the one person who can stop it. We must stop thinking of torture as a series of isolated actions taken by heroic individuals in moments of extremity, and begin instead to understand it as a socially embedded practice. A study of past and present torture regimes suggests that institutionalized state torture has its own histories, its own traditions, its own rituals of initiation. It encourages, both in its individual practitioners and in the society that harbors it, a particular set of moral habits, call them virtues or vices as you prefer. …

I think that my approach to the ethical problem of institutionalized state torture is based on a more accurate representation of what torture is. If torture were simply a set of isolated actions, then consequentialist or deontological approaches might be adequate for judging each act. Torture is, in a sense, more than the sum of individual actions, each of which can be assessed de novo, weighed by an ethical calculus of costs and benefits, or through the mental testing of the effects of universalizing a maxim. Actions create habits. We become brave, as Aristotle says, by doing brave acts. And, in the case of allowing other people to be tortured as the price of an illusory guarantee of our own personal survival, we become cowards by doing cowardly ones.

I think that most of the time in real life, people act first and identify their reasons for acting later. If most of the time we act out of habit, shouldn’t those habits be good ones?

Where The Drivers Drive You Away

Sep 2 2014 @ 8:12am
by Dish Staff


Brian Palmer determined the worst places to drive in the US:

No. 5: Baltimore. Baltimoreans just can’t keep from running into each other. They were outside the top 10 in fatalities, DWI deaths, and pedestrian strikes, but their rate of collision couldn’t keep them out of the top five overall.

No. 4: Tampa, Fla. Tampa doesn’t do any single thing terribly, but it is consistently poor:

Read On

by Dish Staff

A new report indicates that science agrees with teenagers everywhere – school should start later:

Seeing the mounting evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics [last week] released a new policy statement recommending that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty, the policy statement says. The conclusions are backed by a technical report [pdf] the academy also released yesterday, “Insufficient Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults: An Update on Causes and Consequences,” which is published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics.

The “research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, lead author of the policy statement, titled “School Start Times for Adolescents.”

The debate over whether to start school later has run for years, but a host of new studies have basically put it to rest. For one thing, biological research shows clearly that circadian rhythms shift during the teen years. Boys and girls naturally stay up later and sleep in later. The trend begins around age 13 or 14 and peaks between 17 and 19. The teens also need more sleep in general, so forcing them to be up early for school cuts into their sleep time as well as their sleep rhythm, making them less ready to learn during those first-period classes.

by Dish Staff


Stephen Mihm studies it at length:

In 2002, two economic historians, Stanley Engerman and Kenneth Sokoloff, published an influential paper that tried to answer a vexing question: why are some countries in the Americas defined by far more extreme and enduring levels of inequality—and by extension, limited social mobility and economic underdevelopment—than others? The answer, they argued, lay in the earliest history of each country’s settlement. The political and social institutions put in place then tended to perpetuate the status quo. …

Harvard economist Nathan Nunn offered a more detailed statistical analysis of this “Engerman-Sokoloff hypothesis” in a paper first published in 2008. His research confirmed that early slave use in the Americas was correlated with poor long-term growth. More specifically, he examined county-level data on slavery and inequality in the United States, and found a robust correlation between past reliance on slave labor and both economic underdevelopment and contemporary inequality. He disagreed with Engerman and Sokoloff’s claim that it was only large-scale plantation slavery that generated these effects; rather, he found, any kind of slavery seemed to have begotten long-term economic woes.

Nunn also offered a more precise explanation for present-day troubles.

Read On

Wining And Opining

Sep 1 2014 @ 8:04pm
by Dish Staff

Charles Simic muses about the best philosophy to take toward wine:

I remember a story about President Nixon habitually guzzling rare vintage Bordeaux during state dinners without sharing it with his guests, having it poured into his glass by a trusted servant from a bottle wrapped in a white napkin to conceal the label. A part of me understands his reluctance to share. As Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.” But when it comes to wine I can’t follow our Lord’s advice. I would die of shame in my own eyes were I to open a long-treasured bottle of wine when there’s no one at home, decant it into a decanter, let it breathe for a while before pouring it into a glass, swirl it a bit and, raising it to the light, gaze at it lovingly, then take that first, never to be forgotten sip. Drink of the best stuff, is my advice, because you never know what tomorrow may bring, and do so in the company of friends.

Simic also links the grape to the birth of philosophy as a discipline:

Read On