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.
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 ownwriting 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.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier today, Will pondered the roots of American support for torture. Keating suspects more gory details would change minds:
Whether you use the word or not, Americans are OK with torture because they believe it’s effective at gaining information that couldn’t be obtained by any other means. The fact that the Senate report knocked down that argument doesn’t seem to have gotten much traction.
If not torture, what do Americans oppose? Things start to change when you get really specific. A recent post on the Washington Post’s Post Everything site by three political scientists notes that when you ask specifically about techniques like “waterboarding,” “sexual humiliation,” and “exposure to extreme heat/cold,” most Americans do oppose them. They’re less bothered by “stress positions” or “sleep deprivation,” which I would imagine is a function of the fact that people don’t understand what they are.
In a recent meditation on the language of consent, which featured in one of the Dish’s roundups on the UVA rape debacle last week, Susan Dominus searched for a “linguistic rip cord” to help young women reject unwanted sex “without the mundane familiarity of ‘no’ or the intensity demanded in ‘Get off or I’ll scream'”:
One phrase that might work is “red zone” — as in, “Hey, we’re in a red zone,” or “This is starting to feel too red zone.” Descriptive and matter-of-fact, it would not implicitly assign aggressor and victim, but would flatly convey that danger — emotional, possibly legal — lay ahead. Such a phrase could serve as a linguistic proxy for confronting or demanding, both options that can seem impossible in the moment. “We’re in a red zone” — the person who utters that is not a supplicant (“Please stop”); or an accuser (“I told you to stop!”). Many young women are uncomfortable in either of those roles; I know I was.
In an ideal world, clear consent will always precede sex, and young women (and men) who do find themselves in a tricky situation will express their discomfort firmly. But in the imperfect world in which we live, new language — if not red zone, then some other phrase that could take off with the universality of slang — might fill a silence.
Binyamin Appelbaum looks into the causes of the decline in America’s male work force:
Working, in America, is in decline. The share of prime-age men — those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. … Many men, in particular, have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working. These changes include the availability of federal disability benefits; the decline of marriage, which means fewer men provide for children; and the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment. …
The resulting absence of millions of potential workers has serious consequences not just for the men and their families but for the nation as a whole. A smaller work force is likely to lead to a slower-growing economy, and will leave a smaller share of the population to cover the cost of government, even as a larger share seeks help. “They’re not working, because it’s not paying them enough to work,” said Alan B. Krueger, a leading labor economist and a professor at Princeton. “And that means the economy is going to be smaller than it otherwise would be.”
At the same time, Amanda Cox points out, many older men are postponing retirement:
I didn’t know what Elf on a Shelf was until maybe last week, and when I found out, I didn’t like it one bit. The little guy’s a spy! A spy! A gentle playtime introduction to the idea of a pervasive but ultimately benevolent surveillance state. No good! Bad for the children!
For some, the Elf on the Shelf doll, with its doe-eyed gaze and cherubic face, has become a whimsical holiday tradition — one that helpfully reminds children to stay out of trouble in the lead-up to Christmas.
For others — like, say, digital technology professor Laura Pinto — the Elf on the Shelf is “a capillary form of power that normalizes the voluntary surrender of privacy, teaching young people to blindly accept panoptic surveillance and” [deep breath] “reify hegemonic power.”
I mean, obvs, right?
The latter perspective is detailed in “Who’s the Boss,” a paper published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in which Pinto and co-author Selena Nemorin argue that the popular seasonal doll is preparing a generation of children to uncritically accept “increasingly intrusive (albeit whimsically packaged) modes of surveillance.”
Exactly. You might not cotton to Pinto’s academic argot, but she’s got the right idea. If you didn’t know, the way the Elf on the Shelf works, according to the massively popular accompanying story book, is that this creepy elf is Santa’s intelligence agent lurking in your house, keeping tabs on whether the kids are naughty or nice and reporting back to the jolly old goat. The kids aren’t supposed to touch the elf, a misdeed that might disqualify them from getting presents from Santa. And parents jerk the kids around by moving the elf from room to room so that the kids can’t ever be sure where it is.