Bitcoin: The Next Internet?

Dec 18 2014 @ 9:02am
by Dish Staff

Tim Lee believes the crypto-currency can thrive as a global payment system, even if it fails as a currency. He compares it to another innovation that proved far more influential than anyone thought it would be:

dish_bitcoinHistory suggests that open platforms like Bitcoin often become fertile soil for innovation. Think about the internet. It didn’t seem like a very practical technology in the 1980s. But it was an open platform that anyone could build on, and in the long run it proved to be really useful. The internet succeeded because Silicon Valley have created applications that harness the internet’s power while shielding users from its complexity. You don’t have to be an expert on the internet’s TCP/IP protocols to check Facebook on your iPhone.

Bitcoin applications can work the same way. There are already some Bitcoin applications that allow customers to make transactions over the Bitcoin network without being exposed to fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin’s currency. That basic model should work for a wide variety of Bitcoin-based services, allowing the Bitcoin payment network to reach a mainstream audience.

Henry Farrell is skeptical, predicting that governments would act quickly to shut down such a system if it seemed to be taking off:

Read On

A Colorful History

Dec 18 2014 @ 8:15am
by Dish Staff

Leann Davis Alspaugh revisits the mauve craze that swept Europe in the mid-19th century:

In the 1850s, the color mauve was discovered by a young chemist who was trying to synthesize Godey's Lady's Book May 1872 Fashion Plateartificial quinine. The residue from one his experiments became the world’s first aniline dye, guaranteed not to fade with time and washing. Queen Victoria wore a mauve gown to her daughter’s wedding, and Empress Eugénie of France cooed that the color matched her eyes—and an epidemic of “mauve measles” swept Europe. As cultural historian Simon Garfield noted in his 2001 book on the history of mauve, the color’s popularity led to burgeoning interest in the practical applications of chemistry and advances in the fields of medicine, weaponry, perfume, and photography. Mauve became indelibly associated with the elaborate, overstuffed décor of the Victorian period; when mauve returned in the 1980s, it was billed as “dusty rose,” a name much more congenial with that era’s other favorite color: hunter green.

(Image: Fig. 3 from a Godey’s Lady’s Book fashion plate, May 1872, via Flickr user clotho98)

What’s On Jeb’s Agenda?

Dec 18 2014 @ 7:32am
by Dish Staff

Ambinder sees an opening:

Bush’s biggest opportunity corresponds to the biggest hole in the GOP platform: its radio silence on practical economic solutions for the middle class, which, it turns out, corresponds to the biggest bread-and-butter concern that Americans repeatedly chastise Washington for not addressing.

If he can move beyond supply-side economics and invent or adopt policies that directly benefit middle class voters who aren’t big savers, if he can speak to their concerns, if he can draw for us a picture for how a governing conservative president might function, then everything I’ve ever said about him — namely, that he’s a Bush and he can’t win the presidency, much less the nomination — goes out the window. If he can square THIS hexagon, and if he can get people to forget that he’s a Bush, he might be able to win both.

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Obama Just Ruined Cuba!

Dec 17 2014 @ 8:32pm
by Will Wilkinson

Not really! Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba (which does not yet include lifting the embargo) is a giant step toward fixing Cuba. Nevertheless, people are already worried that Cuba will no longer remain a zoo of human inmates dwelling in picturesque shabbiness – already complaining about the prospect of Cubans no longer trapped on a prison island, no longer oppressed by a totalitarian regime, and therefore free to buy a Big Mac. Seriously. This is a real thing on Twitter:

Look, I totally understand the sentiment. There is something singular and vivid about a vibrant, tropical ruin frozen in the 1950s. Cuba is a showcase of dilapidated anti-commercial mid-century nostalgia, and I too sort of wish I had gone to see it, just as I wouldn’t mind having seen Soviet Leningrad. Come to think of it, it would be pretty interesting to see the slave ships coming into harbor in prebellum Savannah. What a scene those auctions must have been! But the human part of me, the moral part, as opposed to the aesthetic and amorally curious tourist part, can only regret that slaving Savannah and communist Russia lasted as long as they did, and today I can be nothing but hopeful that something like freedom is finally coming to the Cubans. If it does, and I make it to Havana, and see a McDonald’s, I will walk into that McDonalds, buy a large Diet Coke, and pour a little on the ground in half-sincere mourning for the pretty, impoverished theme park of tyranny I never had the chance to see.

America’s Pro-Torture Cult

Dec 17 2014 @ 7:58pm
by Dish Staff

Ambinder bets that “Cheney would still have us torturing innocents, even today”:

I can only think of Cheney now as the personification of the Cult of Terror, that September 11th, 2001 political construct that gave Americans license to act outside the stream of history instead of at its headwaters, and to suppress dissent in the name of state security. What makes this scarier, even, and why I feel justified in calling it a cult, is that it also suppresses, denigrates, and stigmatizes the moral and political foundations that it seeks to protect. It’s an American cult, because it plays to our own biases about what makes us special. It is not unique or exceptional.

Chait also examines the pro-torture mindset. He contends that “admiration for the methods used by totalitarian states is … embedded in the torture program created by the Bush administration”:

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Faces Of The Day

Dec 17 2014 @ 7:32pm
by Dish Staff

Cuba Releases Alan Gross, Held In Prison For 5 Years

Osvaldo Hernadez, Miguel Saavedra and Carlos Munoz Fontanillehas (L-R) react to the news, outside the Little Havana restaurant Versailles in Miami, that Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison on December 17, 2014. Gross, an American contractor, had spent five years in Cuban jail and reports indicate he is on his way back to the United States. By Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The End of Serial, Part One

Dec 17 2014 @ 6:59pm
by Michelle Dean

Tomorrow morning will see the airing of the very last episode of Serial. At this point everyone’s spilled so much ink on the podcast you might be feeling some fatigue, but I’ll throw my own writing on the subject your way anyway. I’ve been following closely and also doing some reporting on the subreddit that became a sort of second character on the show as things moved along. It has been a strange, sad, and oddly moving to experience and observe this phenomenon. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it all.

I’ll write more in the morning once I’ve heard the episode, but it seemed worth recording my last-Serial-eve feelings of trepidation with you. I am not expecting fireworks tomorrow. I am expecting a whimper.

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by Dish Staff

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

Seth Stoughton wants police training to “emphasize de-escalation and flexible tactics in a way that minimizes the need to rely on force, particularly lethal force”:

Police agencies that have emphasized de-escalation over assertive policing, such as Richmond, California, have seen a substantial decrease in officer uses of force, including lethal force, without seeing an increase in officer fatalities (there is no data on assaults). It is no surprise that the federal Department of Justice reviews de-escalation training (or the lack thereof) when it investigates police agencies for civil rights violations. More comprehensive tactical training would also help prevent unnecessary uses of force. Instead of rushing in to confront someone, officers need to be taught that it is often preferable to take an oblique approach that protects them as they gather information or make contact from a safe distance. Relatedly, as I’ve written elsewhere, a temporary retreat—what officers call a “tactical withdrawal”—can, in the right circumstances, maintain safety while offering alternatives to deadly force.

Officers must also be trained to think beyond the gun-belt.

Read On

by Michelle Dean

Sony has more or less given up on The Interview, it seems, in light of threats from the shadowy collective that’s claimed credit for hacking them. They’re telling theatres they don’t have to run the film. They have done so even though DHS seems not to find the threats particularly credible. A large number of theatres, apparently, have taken them up on the offer. Naturally, this is inspiring consternation.

Judd Apatow is fulminating about the cowardice of the theatres: “Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” I doubt it. Because the problem here is really that the theatres are faced with an anonymous threat everyone knows about. Whatever substance of the threats might or might not have, no one wants to be the movie theatre chain that took the risk in full view of the American public. Post-Aurora, it is regrettably easy to imagine how things might happen, and it would only take one person to cause a serious problem. I bet those theatres feel their hands are tied.

Theirs aren’t the only ones, by the way. All over Twitter I’m suddenly seeing calls to see The Interview as a matter of defending freedom of speech. And you know, I’ve been skeptical of the way that Sony executives have been defending the privacy of their business records in the aftermath of the hack. But I take the point that it’s infuriating to be held hostage to this sort of thing. We don’t yet know whether we’re talking about fourteen-year-olds in someone’s basement or people who are actually dangerous.

I just think that the most infuriating thing of all might be that we’re going to feel the tug of civic obligation to see what looks like a very terrible movie. And all in the name of the First Amendment. That’s #democracy2014 for you.

by Dish Staff

manhattan-crossings.0

This is what Manhattan would look like if everyone had to drive to work:

According to Vancouver highway engineer Matt Taylor, the island would need 48 new bridges that would each have to carry eight lanes of traffic … Taylor arrived at that number by noting that 2,060,000 people commute to Manhattan daily. Under ideal conditions, a single lane can convey about 2,000 vehicles per hour, so to let 2.06 million cars on to the island within a four-hour period, you’d need at least 380 additional bridge lanes — or roughly 48 new eight-lane bridges. Of course, you’d also need somewhere to put all those extra cars. Taylor calculates that they’d require about 24 square miles in total, which is exactly the land area of Manhattan. In other words, you’d need to build a layer of underground parking that takes up the entire borough to fit all the cars driven in by commuters.