Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 23 2014 @ 6:02pm

A reader throws down the gauntlet in our new contest (guidelines here): “For me, Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” takes the cake.” He has a point:

Songwriter Trent Reznor’s quote is worth reading:

I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure

It really builds and builds …

America Locks Up Too Many People

Jul 23 2014 @ 5:46pm

And Emily Badger finds little reason to believe it makes us safer:

[T]he Sentencing Project points out that declining violent crime rates in New York and New Jersey have actually outpaced the national trend, even as these states have reduced their prison populations through changing law enforcement and sentencing policies.

We certainly can’t take these three charts and conclude that reducing prison populations reduces crime. But these trends do make it harder to argue the opposite — particularly in the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. As the Sentencing Project puts it, “in the era of mass incarceration, there is a growing consensus that current levels of incarceration place the nation well past the point of diminishing returns in crime control.”

Reihan agrees the US uses incarceration too much. But he also wonders if other countries rely too little on it:

Read On

Growing Up On The Big Screen, Ctd

Jul 23 2014 @ 5:14pm

After enjoying almost uniformly positive reviews, Linklater’s new movie Boyhood is starting to attract some negative attention. Christopher Orr is restrained in his criticism:

[I]f there’s a critique to be made of Linklater’s film, it is that it has a great deal more to say—or at least more interesting things to say—about grownups than about growing up. Remarkable as Mason Jr.’s physical transformation may be, socially and psychologically he’s not all that different at 18 from at six: a taller, more articulate version of the dreamy, aimless boy whose teacher complained that he spent his time “staring out the window all day,” but one whose life has developed in a relatively straight line—insofar, of course, as it’s had the opportunity to develop at all. Moreover, it is obviously a tricky thing to cast an actor so young and commit to his development over the next dozen years, and [actor Ellar] Coltrane never quite develops the gravitational pull to tether the movie. Yes, his character is meant to be an unfocused youth, but occasionally his comes across as merely an unfocused performance.

A much harsher Mark Judge finds that the “endless, enervating, boring” movie lacks spiritual depth, scoffing that it could be titled I Became a Teenaged Hipster. He psychoanalyzes the rave reviewers:

I think what we have here is an example of the Sideways syndrome.

Read On

In a lengthy narrative piece, Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon chronicle John Kerry’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and how the talks finally broke down. (Believe it or not, TNR decided to publish an account of the entire thing that blames everything on the Palestinians.) In their account, everything fell apart when Abbas made good on his threat to seek membership in 15 UN conventions, and went ahead with a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, after Netanyahu was unable or unwilling to meet Palestinian conditions for resuming negotiations. Toward the end of the piece, the authors wonder what comes next:

The Palestinians may resume their quest for full-fledged U.N. membership this fall. In Israel, there are almost as many plans as people: Lieberman, the foreign minister, wants his country to make peace directly with the Arab League; Bennett, whose party is JORDAN-US-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-DIPLOMACYnow polling just behind Likud, is advocating partial Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Livni has spoken about unilateral steps that would forfeit Israeli claims to West Bank territory outside the settlement blocs and freeze building in those areas. In the United States, top Middle East voices are urging Kerry to bypass Abbas and Netanyahu and put forward his own detailed peace plan. …

There’s no shortage of ideas, in other words. And some of themparticularly that lastmay bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to a deal than Kerry got this time. But few of the people we spoke to expected progress any time soon. With Netanyahu entrenched, Abbas on his way out, settlements and rocket ranges expanding, and the populations increasingly hardline, we seem to have reached the end of an era in the peace process. And no one harbors much hope for what comes next. “I see it from a mathematical point of view,” said Avi Dichter, the former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency. “The American effort will always be multiplied by the amount of trust between the two leaders. So if Kerry’s pressure represents the number five, and then Obama’s help brings the American effort to ten, it really doesn’t matter. You’re still multiplying it by zero. The final result will always be zero.”

Martin Longman quibbles with how the piece blames the failure of the talks solely on the Palestinians:

The way this reporting is constructed, it makes it look like there is all this flurry of activity on the American and Israeli sides which is just cut off at the knees by an impatient Abbas. I don’t doubt the basic reporting here, but I think it doesn’t take into enough account the degree to which Netanyahu was either delaying with a purpose or simply incapable of delivering.

Read On

Mental Health Break

Jul 23 2014 @ 4:20pm

A reader serves up the first candidate for our “Best Cover Song Ever” contest:

With all the anxiety and tumult in the news, I figure we need a good metal song for some catharsis. Better yet, a metal song play with a bit fey musical instrument! I therefore nominate Rob Scallon’s ukelele cover of “War Ensemble” by thrash metal legends Slayer.

Our selection committee is giving more weight to covers that blend genres like that. Email your submissions to contest@andrewsullivan.com.

Noam Sheizaf engages Israeli incredulity at why Gazans support Hamas, and explains why it’s not beyond the pale for them to do so:

The people of Gaza support Hamas in its war against Israel because they perceive it to be part of their war of independence. … Israelis, both left and right, are wrong to assume that Hamas is a dictatorship fighting Israel against its people’s will. Hamas is Shujaya neighborhood of Gaza full of dead bodiesindeed a dictatorship, and there are many Palestinians who would gladly see it fall, but not at this moment in time. Right now I have no doubt that most Palestinians support the attacks on IDF soldiers entering Gaza; they support kidnapping as means to release their prisoners (whom they see as prisoners of war) and the unpleasant fact is that most of them, I believe, support firing rockets at Israel.

“If we had planes and tanks to fight the IDF, we wouldn’t need to fire rockets,” is a sentence I have heard more than once. As an Israeli, it is unpleasant for me to hear, but one needs to at least try and understand what lies behind such a position. What is certain is that bombing Gaza will not change their minds. On the contrary.

Meanwhile, Francesca Albanese wonders why the Hamas 10-year peace proposal has been greeted with deafening international silence. And Jamelle Bouie demolishes Thane Rosenbaum’s WSJ op-ed, which rehashes the argument that Gazan civilians are legitimate targets because they voted for Hamas and harbor militants in their homes and neighborhoods:

For comparison’s sake, here’s Osama Bin Laden attempt to justify the Sept. 11 attacks:

Read On

Chart Of The Day

Jul 23 2014 @ 3:37pm

Ukraine Opinion

Americans remain opposed to getting involved militarily in Ukraine:

Public support for the various measures the US could take are actually relatively unchanged from when they were first asked in March 2014, when respondents were provided with a similar question that did not reference the shooting down of MH17 or the possibility of airstrikes on separatists. 40% of Americans supported economic sanctions then, compared to 42% now, though support for diplomatic negotiations with Russia has dropped from 44% to 33%.

Convert, Submit, Or Die, Ctd

Jul 23 2014 @ 3:21pm

In light of the persecution of Iraqi Christians by ISIS, Dougherty argues that the US has a serious moral obligation to help:

[T]he U.S. should look for ways to provide direct monetary and diplomatic assistance to neighboring states in the region where persecuted Iraqis are seeking refuge, perhaps even going so far as to directly assist in the emerging centers of authority in Kurdistan, where some refugees have sought protection from ISIS, and which continues to prove itself capable of maintaining some order and security. Although I’m generally inclined toward a more restrictive position on immigration, the U.S. should, as a matter of practice, be especially generous in granting refugee status to the collateral victims of the war we started in Iraq. It should even offer some refugees of ISIS persecution the material resources to emigrate to America if they so desire.

The dream of transforming Iraq into an incubator of Arab liberalism has turned into a nightmare for religious minorities. America’s intervention in Iraq, and its support of Syrian and Libyan rebels, have created a disastrous disorder in which Islamist threats thrive. Mosul was a home for Christians for as long as Christianity existed. Not anymore. Now, the U.S. cannot restore these people to their homes, nor reverse the desecration of Christian shrines. But our diplomatic, financial, and moral energies should be used to protect them from any further harm.

Meanwhile, a few readers consider why Americans are relatively quiet over the plight of Iraqi Christians:

Read On

Israel’s Self-Defense Plea

Jul 23 2014 @ 3:05pm

Amos Guiora defends the bombing of Gaza on traditional lines, stressing that “Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens harmed by Hamas’s decision to endanger its own population”:

While the number of Palestinian casualties suggests both a disproportionate operational response and an exaggerated application of self-defense, the reality is simultaneously nuanced and obvious. Nuanced because limits must be imposed; otherwise, the nation state violates the essence of international law. Obvious, because the nation-state’s primary obligation is to protect its civilian population. Israel has the right to self-defense in accordance with commonly accepted principles of international law. Application of that right, in the context of Hamas’s actions, requires recognizing two realities: the price paid by innocent Palestinians as a result of human shielding and the clearly foreseeable deaths of numerous Israelis if tunnels are not destroyed. While the loss of innocent life is always tragic, aggressive self-defense is the essence of operational counterterrorism.

Spot the euphemism: “aggressive self-defense.” Just war theory allows for no such thing. Defense is defensive, not aggressive. Pre-emptive slaughter as a means to deter future attacks doesn’t hack it. And defense should be proportionate to the actual threat to Israel not the potential one. Or as George Bisharat puts it: “All nations have a right of self-defense, including Israel. But that right may be exercised lawfully only in limited circumstances. Israel cannot validly claim self-defense in its recent onslaught against Gaza for two main reasons”:

First, despite its 2005 withdrawal of ground forces and settlers from Gaza, Israel still exercises effective control over the region by controlling its airspace, coast and territorial waters, land borders (with Egypt), electromagnetic fields, electricity and fuel supply. Accordingly, Israel remains an occupying power under international law, bound to protect the occupied civilian population. Israel can use force to defend itself, but no more than is necessary to quell disturbances. Hence this is not a war – rather, it is a top military power unleashing massive firepower against a penned and occupied Palestinian population.

Second, self-defense cannot be claimed by a state that initiates violence, as Israel did in its crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, arresting more than 400, searching 2,200 homes and other sites, and killing at least nine Palestinians. There is no evidence that the terrible murders of three Israeli youths that Israel claimed as justification for the crackdown were anything other than private criminal acts that do not trigger a nation’s right of self-defense (were an American citizen, or even a Drug Enforcement Administration agent killed by drug traffickers on our border with Mexico, that would not entitle us to bomb Mexico City).

And that, in a nutshell, is Waldman’s answer for why Israel is losing the PR war:

Read On

It’s Time For A Contest!

Jul 23 2014 @ 2:45pm

It’s been a while since we had a full-fledged Dish reader bonanza, and, if you’re like me, one mental health break a day is not quite hacking it this July, given the depressing news out of Gaza and Ukraine. So here’s an idea: nominate your favorite ever cover version of a previous hit song. The cover should supplant the original in its arrangement or performance or ingenuity. And it shouldn’t be too obscure. Bodenner offered up the following as a starter:

I’m pondering mine .. and trying mightily not to be a self-parody. You can all do much better – email your Youtubes with “Cover Contest” in the header to this address: contest@andrewsullivan.com