The Golden Era of Radio

Aug 27 2014 @ 1:04pm
by Bill McKibben


I may have mentioned that must of this week is being spent cleaning. That means I’ve had my earbuds in for several hours at a time. And that means, in turn, I’ve been reflecting on just what a golden age of radio, or at least of words spoken magically through the ether, we are lucky enough to live in.

Almost no one ever covers radio, though its reach is astonishing: All Things Considered beats the network tv newscasts (in more ways than one). But ATC and Morning Edition are smooth and dependable but rarely intriguing, provocative, sublime. Those adjectives are better reserved for the various podcasts that have grown up in the wake of This American Life. There’s only one Ira Glass, but there are other wonderful and quirky voices, many of them at the moment allied together in the Radiotopia collective, a kind of Justice League for smart documentarians and sound artists sponsored by the wonderful Public Radio Exchange, one more brainchild of Jay Allison who is the man behind much of the great radio that ever gets made. All seven of the podcasts in the series will draw you in and make you forget you’re washing windows; one of the newest and most intriguing voices belongs to Benjamen Walker, whose Theory of Everything evolved from a show he did on WFMU for years. He specializes in a kind of shaggy dog storytelling that lingers in one’s ear.

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Let Someone Else Defeat ISIS

Aug 27 2014 @ 12:45pm
by Jonah Shepp

Doug Bandow wants us to stand back and let regional actors take care of the Islamic State, which threatens them much more directly than it threatens us:

Rather than turn ISIL into a military priority and take America into war against the group, Washington should organize an Islamic coalition against the Islamic State. Even Gen. Dempsey called for a regional effort to “squeeze ISIS from multiple directions,” but that actually requires Washington to do less militarily. ISIL’s rise has set in motion the very forces necessary for its defeat. Rather than hinder creation of a coalition by taking charge militarily, Washington should encourage it by stepping back. The U.S. already has gone to war twice in Iraq. There’s no reason to believe that the third time will be the charm.

And indeed, that seems to be (NYT) what the administration is trying to do, although Syria is not on its list of potential coalition members:

As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

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Death To Monarchs

Aug 27 2014 @ 12:18pm
by Sue Halpern

By all accounts, the 21st century has not been kind to monarch butterflies in North America. The orange-and-black creatures, who make a remarkable 3500 mile migration from Canada, through the United States, to the Transvolcanic Mountains of Mexico where they spend the winter, have seen a 90 percent decline in population. There are many causes, but all of them have to do in some way or other with habitat loss, both here and in Mexico. A particularly virulent culprit is the herbicide Roundup, which farmers spray on their fields to curtail weeds, and which has had the unintended consequence of wiping out the milkweed monarch need to survive. As Chris Clark explains it:

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by Dish Staff

Vauhini Vara contends that Burger King flirting with Canadian citizenship is about more than taxes:

If being based in Canada is more favorable, from a tax perspective, one might expect Tim Hortons to have a lower effective tax rate than Burger King. But, in fact, the individual companies have similar effective tax rates, of about twenty-seven per cent. Also, the tax inversions that the government is trying to avoid tend to involve large companies acquiring much smaller foreign ones, largely for the tax benefit of moving their headquarters. But while Americans might assume that Burger King is much larger than Tim Hortons, it’s not. Before news of the talks emerged, Tim Hortons was worth about eight billion dollars and Burger King around nine billion dollars; the combined company will do a significant portion of its business in Canada.

Jordan Weissmann differs:

[T]he idea that Burger King won’t really get any tax advantages out of relocating to Canada, where the corporate rate is about 15 percent compared with 35 percent in the U.S., seems transparently untrue.

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Climate Trial-Ballooning

Aug 27 2014 @ 11:37am
by Bill McKibben


The NYT is out with a story today that the Obama administration is “devising” a politically ingenious strategy to get around the fact that no Senate in the foreseeable future will ever muster a 2/3 vote to approve an actual treaty on global warming. The story really isn’t newseveryone has known this for years, though the Times adds a little more detail about how such a scheme might work:

American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.

Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.

If this sounds dubious to you, it will also sound dubious to those countries being hit hardest by climate change. At this point, however, the desperation of the rest of the world for any kind of leadership from the U.S. might convince them to cobble something together, especially since the French, who will have leadership of key negotiations in Paris in 2015, seem inclined to go along (they’re desperate not to come up empty, like the Danes after the Copenhagen climate fiasco):

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Breaking: Weed Smokers Less Violent

Aug 27 2014 @ 11:19am
by Dish Staff

Who’da thunk it?

Past research has indicated that couples who abuse substances are at a greater risk for divorce, in part because substance abuse often leads to an increase in domestic violence. However, new research has found that when it comes to marijuana use, the opposite effect occurs: couples who frequently use marijuana are actually at a lower risk of partner violence.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown parses this research:

Obviously this doesn’t mean marijuana makes people less violent per se—maybe the types prone to pot-smoking are just inherently less violent individuals; or perhaps the types prone to partner violence are categorically less drawn to the drug. But it is interesting to contrast these stats with numbers on alcohol, which has frequently been linked to increased incidences of partner violence.

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by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Lena Dunham was an anxious child:

My parents are getting worried. It’s hard enough to have a child, much less a child who demands to inspect our groceries and medicines for evidence that their protective seals have been tampered with. I have only the vaguest memory of a life before fear. Every morning when I wake up, there is one blissful second before I look around the room and remember my many terrors. I wonder if this is what it will always be like, forever, and I try to remember moments I felt safe: In bed next to my mother one Sunday morning. Playing with my friend Isabel’s puppy. Getting picked up from a sleepover just before bedtime.

One night, my father becomes so frustrated by my behavior that he takes a walk and doesn’t come back for three hours. While he’s gone, I start to plan our life without him. …

In our first session, Lisa sits on the floor with me, her legs tucked under her like she’s just a friend who has come by to hang out. She looks like the mom on a television show, with big curly hair and a silky blouse. She asks me how old I am, and I respond by asking her how old she is—after all, we’re sitting on the floor together. “Thirty-four,” she says. My mother was thirty-six when I was born. Lisa is different from my mother in lots of ways, starting with her clothes: a suit, sheer tights, and black high heels. Different from my mother, who looks like her normal self when she dresses as a witch for Halloween.

Lisa lets me ask her whatever I want. She has two daughters. She lives uptown. She’s Jewish. Her middle name is Robin, and her favorite food is cereal. By the time I leave, I think that she can fix me.

The difference between Dunham’s childhood fears and everyone else’s is, in part, that hers were met with old-time New York therapy sessions out of a New Yorker cartoon and are… now featured in the New Yorker.

Which brings us to another issue, namely the anxieties Dunham herself inspires in a certain segment of the population. That segment being, I suppose, those who feel that all of life’s unfairnesses can be summed up in the fact of Dunham’s success. It’s a bit like how, for committed anti-Semites, every last one of the world’s problems can be blamed on Jews, with the crucial difference being that Dunham has – as far as I can tell – shrewdly incorporated these perceptions into her act. Many before her have passively resigned themselves to being the face of ‘privilege'; Dunham’s innovation is to not merely own it (as someone like Gwyneth Paltrow does) but go with it.

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Is ISIS A Threat To Us? Ctd

Aug 27 2014 @ 10:29am
by Dish Staff

Daniel Berman considers Obama’s assessment of the threat ISIS poses, and his response to it, pretty much spot-on:

Obama’s remarks express a sense of proportion missing from alarmist claims that ISIS is on the verge of taking over Iraq or establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Contrary to these absurd warnings, ISIS is, as the President noted, engaged in a “regional power struggle” one in which its support is capped by its Sunni sectarian nature, which limits its maximum appeal to the 20% of Iraqis who are Sunni. Furthermore, Obama is correct to note that ISIS is far less of a direct threat to the United States than it is to Iran, Damascus, and Riyadh, and by extension Moscow. All have a much greater strategic interest in preventing a collapse of the Iraqi state, and all will therefore intervene directly to prevent such an eventuality, provided the United States does not do it for them. That said, if the United States is willing to pay the financial and military burden of stopping ISIS, Tehran and Moscow will be overjoyed, though that pleasure will not stop them from attempting to extract a political payment for allowing the US to do their own work for them. Obama appears determined to ensure that the US will not be left alone for the bill for what is in reality a geopolitical public service for the region.

Jack Shafer chastises most of his colleagues in the American press for taking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s war rhetoric as gospel and accordingly overhyping that threat:

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Walter Bernstein, Still Kicking

Aug 27 2014 @ 10:03am
by Bill McKibben and Sue Halpern

Okay, admittedly, we can put a headline like that our post because we know Walter Bernstein, and chances are, so do you. Remember “You Were There?” (Probably not, you’re too young). Remember “Fail Safe?” “The Magnificent Seven?” Bernstein, who just turned 95, wrote the screenplays for all of them. How old is 95 in film years? Movies were just starting to talk when he would ditch school in Brooklyn to watch them.

Bernstein’s best known, though, for not working, at least under his own name: he was one of the many in Hollywood blacklisted during the 1950s for supposed communist ties. According to a remarkable encomium in Variety (the kind of thing that for once was published before someone dies, not after), his crimes included “supporting the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and advocating for the Russian War Relief Fund.” He spent those years trying to find work under pseudonyms, and he later wrote a memoir (“Inside Out”) and a great screenplay for “The Front”–which starred a then little known Brooklyn movie buff that other Brooklynite, Woody Allen.

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NSA Overshare

Aug 27 2014 @ 9:28am
by Sue Halpern

Back in March, in his virtual appearance at a TED conference in Vancouver, Edward Snowden said that the most shocking revelations from the documents he’d taken from the NSA were yet to come. On Monday, Ryan Gallagher and the team at First Look Media made good on that claim. Since at least 2010 and most likely before that, the NSA has been sharing 850 billion surveillance records with a dozen other government agencies including the DEA and the FBI through a Google-like search engine called ICREACH. When an FBI agent enters a scrap of information like a phone number, for example, the ICREACH search engine sends back everything in the NSA archives associated with that number–private chats, phone logs, photos and so on. According to the Intercept report, “Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.” While the database for ICREACH is, in theory, restricted to material obtained from foreign surveillance operations, in practice many of those operations have netted information on American citizens with no ties to terrorism:

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