Write Wingers, Ctd

Aug 1 2014 @ 8:09pm

Responding to Adam Kirsch and Adam Bellow on the subject of conservative fiction, Douthat argues provocatively that there aren’t enough bad conservative artists out there:

[T]o be truly great, truly lasting, a novel or any other exercise in storytelling has to transcend cliches and oversimplifications, has to capture something of the deep complexity of human affairs. So at a certain level of seriousness or genius, the problem-or-is-it of conservative underrepresentation in the contemporary arts melts away, because you’re dealing with a range of creators whose talents effectively transcend partisanship and ideological fixations …. It’s that mass-market territory that more often vindicates Jonathan Chait’s powerful argument about the essential liberalism of the culture industry; it’s there that you’ll find the big-business bad guys and multicultural preachiness and paranoid stylings and caricatures of religious conservatives and Ted Mosby-ian sexual assumptions and enviro-propaganda that the right tends, understandably, to react against with anti-Hollywood fury or resigned frustration.

But this suggests a rather strange-sounding riposte to Kirsch’s question, posed after his elevation of writers like Foster Wallace into a kind of conservative literary pantheon. “With all these books to read and admire,” he asks, “why does Adam Bellow continue to believe that conservative writers are a persecuted minority?” Well, one might say, because there aren’t enough mediocre conservative writers and artists at work!

Micah Mattix adds thoughtfully:

Read On

Mission Creep, 1914 Style

Aug 1 2014 @ 7:47pm

Preparations For Remembrance Sunday And Armistice Day

The centennial of the July Crisis that led Europe down the perilous path to World War I has given many historians and scholars of war an occasion to revisit the question of how the European powers managed to blunder into such a bloody fiasco. Stephen Walt asks an equally interesting question: Why on did it take more than four years to correct what was obviously a huge mistake?

Ending the war was difficult because each side’s territorial ambitions and other war aims kept increasing, which made it harder for them to even consider some sort of negotiated settlement. War aims continued to expand in part because each side kept recruiting new allies by promising them territorial gains after the war, which both increased the total number of combatants and widened the geographical scope of the war. Germany promised the Ottoman Empire slices of Russian territory to get it to join the Dual Alliance; in response, London promised several Arab leaders independent kingdoms if they revolted against the Ottomans. The British also bribed Italy to realign by offering it territory along the Adriatic Sea. But all these war-time promises required each side to try to win an even bigger victory, which in turn just spurred their enemies to fight even harder to prevent it.

Read On

The Molecular Metropolis

Aug 1 2014 @ 7:15pm

MIT engineering prof Franz-Josef Ulm came up with an analogy for understanding cities as molecular structures:

With colleagues, Ulm began analyzing cities the way you’d analyze a material, looking at ChicagoILfactors such as the arrangement of buildings, each building’s center of mass, and how they’re ordered around each other. They concluded that cities could be grouped into categories: Boston’s structure, for example, looks a lot like an “amorphous liquid.” Seattle is another liquid, and so is Los Angeles. Chicago, which was designed on a grid, looks like glass, he says; New York resembles a highly ordered crystal. …

So far, Ulm says, the work has two potential applications. First, it could help predict and mitigate urban heat island effects, the fact that cities tend to be several degrees warmer than their surrounding areas—a phenomenon that has a major impact on energy use. (His research on how this relates to structure is currently undergoing peer review.) Second, he says that cities’ molecular order (or disorder) may also affect their vulnerability to the kinds of catastrophic weather events that are becoming more frequent thanks to climate change.

(GIF of a satellite image of Chicago created by designer Troy Hyde for his series Lightscapes, previously featured on the Dish here.)

Catholics And Hobby Lobby

Aug 1 2014 @ 6:47pm

The defense of religious freedom by the Catholic hierarchy is not exactly a universal view among the people the hierarchy are alleged to represent, according to the latest Kaiser poll. Catholics are split down the middle on it – 49 – 47 percent. Black and Hispanic Protestants are opposed to the ruling. It looks, in fact, as if it really has little to do with religious liberty and might just be yet another issue where partisan polarization explains it as well as anything else. And look again at the generation gap. One gets the feeling that the current court is desperately trying to shift things firmly to the right before time takes its inevitable revenge.

The Tallest Slum On Earth, Ctd

Aug 1 2014 @ 6:15pm

Last week, the Venezuelan government began removing hundreds of squatters occupying an unfinished 52-story skyscraper in downtown Caracas. Juan Nagel considers the significance of the move:

Press reports suggest the eviction was done at the behest of the Chinese. Apparently, the VENEZUELA-HOUSING-POVERTY-EVICTION-TOWER OF DAVIDbuilding was being eyed as a future headquarters for the Bank of China, and the Venezuelan government is deeply beholden to Chinese interests, particularly in light of generous loans flowing from Beijing to Caracas. If this is true, one has to wonder why the Chinese picked that tower in particular as headquarters for its many Venezuelan interests. Many office buildings in Venezuela have plenty of room. Companies are leaving the country thanks to severe currency restrictions and a deteriorating business climate, and supply is probably outstripping demand.

The answer is in the symbolism. The Tower [of David] lies at the heart of Caracas’s banking district, and as such it was an eyesore, a blatant reminder of the failed promises of the Bolivarian revolution. The Chinese probably viewed this as unacceptable, and they may have wanted to test the government’s resolve in solving politically sensitive problems such as evicting thousands of squatters — many of them chavista supporters – from the middle of the city. It remains to be seen whether or not they will succeed – so far, only 25 percent of the tower’s inhabitants have left the building.

Previous Dish on the Tower of David here. Photo by Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images.

The Formerly Autistic

Aug 1 2014 @ 5:46pm

Ruth Padawer looks at what we know about them:

The research by [clinical neuropsychologist Deborah] Fein and [researcher Catherine] Lord doesn’t try to determine what causes autism or what exactly makes it go away — only that it sometimes disappears. There do, however, seem to be some clues, like the role of I.Q.:

Read On

Quote For The Day II

Aug 1 2014 @ 5:29pm

“We tortured some folks. Any fair-minded person would call it torture,” – Barack Obama, president of the United States.

Dick Morris Watch

Aug 1 2014 @ 5:11pm

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A reader sounds the alarm:

The Dish’s favorite prognosticator and the namesake of the Dick Morris Award is now going on the road and lecture on financial planning and “market predictions”:

According to a July 30 press release, Morris is working with Retirement Media Inc. “to educate seasoned investors on how to protect their savings with safe alternatives outside of the stock market.” Morris is headlining several events in the next few months where attendees will “hear market predictions from him.” The event’s website includes a video featuring “A Special Message from Dick Morris” in which Morris warns of people preying on “suckers.”

Perhaps he was hired as Retirement Media’s contrarian investor. In other words, whatever Dick Morris advises you to do, do the contrary.

Meanwhile, a great omen for the president today:

So third term?

The Neocons Double Down On Gaza

Aug 1 2014 @ 4:40pm

As the brutality and slaughter in Gaza shocks the global conscience, there are a couple of options for the current American right. One might be to reconsider their lockstep support for anything Israel does, including its settlements, and perhaps observe that occupying Arab land and attempting to wipe out an insurgency tends not to go well for a Western power (see Iraq, etc.). The other is to double down on everything, blame Hamas solely for the staggering suffering in Gaza – and call for yet more bombs, yet more shelling and yet more mass killing. Call the latter the Cheney option. As to the possibility that a campaign that would kill thousands more Gazans might spawn even deeper resistance, and ever more radical successors to Hamas, Continetti dismisses it:

Say Islamic Jihad replaced Hamas tomorrow. Would we be able to tell the difference? How would its rhetoric be more genocidal, its propaganda more manipulative, its aims more maximalist, its tactics more barbaric than what Israel experiences now? Would Islamic Jihad have two Palestinian Mickey Mouses exhorting schoolchildren to kill Jews, rather than one? …

Yes, there would be costs to regime change in the Gaza Strip. But the choice is not between a costly policy and a cost-free one. The choice is between the costs of removing a terrorist group from power and the costs of leaving it injured but able to fight another day. To prevent a fourth war, to bolster ties with the Sunni powers, to improve the chances of a two-state solution, to help the Palestinians, above all to secure Israel, the decision is clear. Destroy Hamas. End the war. Free Gaza.

Free Gaza from its own population? Because do you really think that, after what Israel has done to them, Gazans will choose the IDF over Hamas? It’s as brilliant an idea as re-invading Iraq (which many neocons also support). And it’s staggering to me that in order “to improve the chances of a two-state solution”, countless Gazan children have to die but not a single brick should be removed from the settlements in the West Bank. But the classic neocon view that in all fights, the only option is to up the ammo, seems sadly resurgent. Jonathan Tobin piles on:

Those who claim there is only a political solution to the problem fail to understand that in the absence of a military solution it won’t be possible.

Read On

Mental Health Break

Aug 1 2014 @ 4:20pm

Who knew ping-pong could be this thrilling?