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.

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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:

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A Poem For Monday

Sep 1 2014 @ 7:37pm
by Alice Quinn


From the anthology, Tudor Poetry and Prose, which I praised last week, I relish the following passage about lyrics from song-books of the time:

Singing seems to have been almost universal in Elizabeth England. The countryside, the street corner, the cottage, and the tavern rang with ballads, rounds, catches . . . . The craftsman’s shop was ‘a very bird-cage’ says [Thomas] Dekker, and [Thomas] Deloney in his Gentle Craft writes that every journeyman shoemaker had to be able to ‘sound the trumpet, or play upon his flute, and bear his part in a three-man’s song, and readily reckon up his tools in rhyme.’ Among the educated, singing was a necessary social accomplishment. The breeding of a man who could not join in the song after supper, reading his part at sight, was in question.

Songs were also a staple of plays. Here’s one of my favorites by the Restoration poet John Dryden (1631-1700), born after Elizabeth’s reign and so beyond the compass (but not the influence) of the period celebrated in the anthology, appointed Poet Laureate in 1668, and buried in Westminster Abbey near Chaucer in what later became known as Poets’ Corner.

“Song for a Girl,” from Love Triumphant, by John Dryden:

Young I am, and yet unskill’d
How to make a Lover yield:
How to keep, or how to gain,
When to love; and when to feign.

Take me, take me, some of you,
While I yet am Young and True;
E’re I can my Soul disguise;
Heave my Breasts, and roul my Eyes.

Stay not till I learn the way,
How to Lye, and to Betray:
He that has me first, is blest,
For I may deceive the rest.

Cou’d I find a blooming Youth,
Full of Love, and full of Truth,
Brisk, and of a jaunty mean
I shou’d long to be Fifteen.

(Portrait of Dryden by James Maubert, circa 1695 , via Wikimedia Commons)

A Double Negative

Sep 1 2014 @ 6:32pm
by Dish Staff

Ivan Kreilkamp entertainingly tears down the practice of titling polemics “Against [X]“:

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Faces Of The Day

Sep 1 2014 @ 5:55pm
by Dish Staff


Photographer Laura Grabman emails us the background on the above pic:

That party took place exactly 5 years ago, Labor Day weekend on the boardwalk at Coney Island in 2009. I happened to be walking by this group of partiers and I wound up staying for two hours photographing them. By the time I left they were hugging and kissing me goodbye. These people loved the camera and they loved to dance. I took about 300 photographs that day and I really enjoyed how uninhibited they were and how much fun they were having. The late afternoon light was perfect and so was the music.

See more work from the series here. Update from a reader:

I know that guy! His name’s Tony Ferrante, he cuts my hair at New Street Barbershop right near Wall Street. He was on “America’s Got Talent” and every summer he goes to Coney Island every weekend to dance on the boardwalk. He’s like 78 but he still LOVES dancing and is in good shape. There are a couple of videos of him on Youtube, and the audition tape is especially tight. Here he is just chilling on the boardwalk.

I don’t know if he uses e-mail but, the next time I go there, I will show him that he was on the Dish.

(Hat tip: Jenna Garrett)

Confessions Of A BBQ Critic

Sep 1 2014 @ 5:06pm
by Dish Staff

“Since Texas Monthly named me the nation’s first and only full-time barbecue editor in March 2013,” Daniel Vaughn sighs, “my health has been a topic of international discussion”:

My job requires that I travel from one end of the state to the other eating smoked brisket, one of the fattiest cuts on the steer. And I can’t forget to order the pork ribs, sausage, and beef ribs. Of course my diet is going to raise eyebrows. Including those of my doctor. During one of my semiannual visits to see him, when my blood work showed an elevated cholesterol level, he gave me a scrip for statins and a helpful catalog of high-cholesterol foods to avoid. First on the list? Beef brisket. Second? Pork ribs. When I told him about my role as barbecue editor, he just said, “Maybe you could eat a little less brisket.” I promised to focus more on smoked chicken, but the pledge was as empty as the calories in my next order of banana pudding. …

All jokes aside, I do understand the long-term perils of my profession. I’ve taken those statins religiously for several years, and I’m doing my part to keep the antacid market in business. But I’m usually more worried about the acute health concerns I face. I judged the “Anything Goes” category at a cookoff in South Texas and spat out a submission mid-chew that featured some severely undercooked lobster tails. At a barbecue joint in Aubrey, I took a bite of beef rib that I had reasonable suspicion to believe had been tainted with melted plastic wrap. And the most gastrointestinal discomfort I’ve ever had came from the 33 entries of beans I judged in one sitting at an amateur barbecue competition in Dallas.

But my health is my concern. To anyone who asks if I’m worried about an early grave, I just say I’ve pre-humously donated my body to barbecue.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t start hawking cholesterol medication. As one chef put it regarding Paula Deen’s dubious deal with diabetes meds:

Mental Health Break

Sep 1 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

For whether you’re working hard or hardly working this Labor Day:

by Dish Staff

In an interview about his new book, Our Great Big American God, Matthew Paul Turner dissects the problems with an all-too-Americanized God, our habit of “affecting, reimagining, shaping, and changing God’s story”:

God was never meant to be a nationalized deity. The very idea that God would showcase geographical favorites or advance the kingdom of one at the expense of another or several others goes against many of Jesus’s basic teachings. Moreover, our relationship with God has caused a large majority of America’s Christians to posses an elitist attitude or worldview, at times even imperialistic. Rather than humility, mercy, and redemption, God seems to have made us controlling, know-it-alls, materialistic, and far too certain of what God thinks about political, social, and spiritual issues.

Throughout our history we’ve branded God into a deity that works for us, one that mixes well with American values, one that agrees with our wars, and one who not only adheres to our way of life, in many cases, our way of life is God’s ideal, which we often suggest is one of the reasons he blesses us with prosperity. The biggest issue perhaps is that many of us are so comfortable with our American God, so certain of his ways, that to believe that we might be wrong is impossible.

In an excerpt from the book, Turner explores the complex legacy of Jonathan Edwards, the theologian and preacher most famous for his hellfire and brimstone sermon, “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God,” and whom he identifies as one of the key influences on the American understanding of the divine:

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by Dish Staff

Henri Cole cites Rilke’s thoughts on the age-old divide:

Look at the dogs: their confident and admiring attitude is such that some of them appear to have renounced the oldest traditions of dogdom in order to worship our own customs and even our foibles. It is just this which renders them tragic and sublime. Their choice to accept us forces them to dwell, so to speak, at the limits of their real natures, which they continually transcend with their human gazes and melancholy snouts.

But what is the demeanor of cats?—Cats are cats, briefly put, and their world is the world of cats through and through. They look at us, you say? But can you ever really know if they deign to hold your insignificant image for even a moment at the back of their retinas. Fixating on us, might they in fact be magically erasing us from their already full pupils? It is true that some of us let ourselves be taken in by their insistent and electric caresses. But these people should remember the strange, abrupt manner in which their favorite animal, distracted, turns off these effusions, which they’d presumed to be reciprocal. Even the privileged few, allowed close to cats, are rejected and disavowed many times.

Montaigne’s take:

“When I play with my cat”, he wrote, “who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?”

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A Founder Left Behind By The Left

Sep 1 2014 @ 1:24pm
by Dish Staff


Christian Parenti advises liberals to look to Alexander Hamilton for inspiration, not Thomas Jefferson. He especially praises Hamilton for his far-reaching economic insights:

Hamilton was alone among the “founding fathers” in understanding that the world was witnessing two revolutions simultaneously. One was the political transformation, embodied in the rise of republican government. The other was the economic rise of modern capitalism, with its globalizing networks of production, trade, and finance. Hamilton grasped the epochal importance of applied science and machinery as forces of production.

In the face of these changes, Hamilton created (and largely executed) a plan for government-led economic development along lines that would be followed in more recent times by many countries (particularly in East Asia) that have undergone rapid industrialization. His political mission was to create a state that could facilitate, encourage, and guide the process of economic change — a policy also known as dirigisme, although the expression never entered the American political lexicon the way its antonym, laissez-faire, did.

Parenti goes on to suggest how an appreciation of Hamilton might connect with a pressing contemporary issues – climate change:

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