Listening For The Voice Of God

Dec 18 2014 @ 8:00pm
by Dish Staff

In an interview about his new book, A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock’n’Roll, David Zahl notices that many of the artists he profiles – who range from ABBA to Morrissey to Axl Rose – “point to some sense of strength being found in weakness, of inspiration being bound up with suffering rather than apart from it.” Still, he’s wary of the didactic approach Christians too often bring to their cultural commentary:

That phrase “Christian approach” often implies that religious people should approach things with trepidation and/or suspicion, and measure them against the standard of our religion. There seems to be an agenda, sometimes an unspoken or unconscious one, that culture is valuable only insofar as we can harness it in some way. But I’m convinced that, to quote someone I admire, “any goodness, beauty, truthfulness, or enlivening candor we have the wit to discern is something for which we have God to thank.” That is, that it’s already been harnessed. So this isn’t a Christian “take” on secular music, at least as I see it. The artists I wrote about are the ones that have spoken and continue to speak to me rather than vice versa; I talk more about what I’ve learned from them than how their work filters through a religious framework. I gave myself plenty of room to explore, though, so who knows (“preacher brain” is not the easiest thing to shut off). Again from the introduction:

“It wasn’t that I set out to write about the intersection of Christianity and culture; it was simply that music was the most honest language available to me—the lingua franca of my inner life, my immediate vocabulary for understanding what was happening to me. In fact, so immersed in it was I, that to avoid pop culture would have been to embrace precisely the kind of phoniness that permeates so much religious ‘engagement’ with it these days.”

Why Not Open Up To Cuba?

Dec 18 2014 @ 7:14pm
by Dish Staff

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Aaron Blake flags one argument that won’t get much traction – that Cuba is a genuine national security threat:

Despite Cuba’s proximity to the United States (about 90 miles from Florida) and its alliance with other antagonistic countries like North Korea and Russia, Americans have grown progressively less and less concerned that the island country actually poses a threat to the United States. A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this year, in fact, showed that just 5 percent of people viewed Cuba as a “very serious threat” and 21 percent said it was a “moderately serious threat.” Another 72 percent said it wasn’t a threat at all or “just a slight threat.” Back in 1983, two-thirds of Americans viewed Cuba as at least a “moderately serious threat,” but that numbers has fallen steadily since then.

Zack Beauchamp notes that another favorite talking point of anti-Cuba hardliners – calling the country a state sponsor of terrorism – is a bit outdated:

The US government designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982, which imposed financial penalties on the Cuban government. At the time, the US accused Cuba of supporting the Spanish Basque terrorist group ETA and the FARC militants in Colombia. Though the US continues to label Cuba a terrorism sponsor, that’s just transparently untrue. According to the State Department‘s most recent annual review of terrorism worldwide, “there was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

Read On

Face Of The Day

Dec 18 2014 @ 6:42pm
by Dish Staff

Bird Feeding

A Mynah bird feeds its young in Sydney, Australia on December 18, 2014. By Guillaume Gros/GG.

Getting High For Two

Dec 18 2014 @ 5:55pm
by Dish Staff

Libby Copeland tells the story of Tamara Loertscher, “a woman arrested for drug use even though she says she stopped when she realized she was pregnant, brought to court and twice refused lawyers (even though her fetus was given one), and then sent to jail for 17 days, where she was placed in solitary confinement, denied prenatal care even as she began cramping, and not given her thyroid medication for two days, according to the woman and her lawyers”:

[Y]ou can’t consider Wisconsin’s punitive approach to pregnant women—which purports to protect “unborn children”—without first considering how the state has failed to promote actual family values.

Read On

by Dish Staff

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Erik Voeten notes that, in one respect, Cuba isn’t the only country that’s been internationally isolated by the US embargo:

The United Nations General Assembly has voted since 1992 on an annual resolution on the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” In 1992, with the Cold War just ending, fewer than 50 percent of all member states voted in favor of the resolution (more than half abstained). The graph above shows how quickly any semblance of support for the embargo evaporated. In its latest iteration only Israel joined the Americans in voting against the resolution, although, to its credit, the United States did get the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau to abstain.

U.N. General Assembly resolutions have mostly symbolic value as they do not create binding legal obligations. Yet, U.S. isolation probably undermined the effectiveness of the embargo.

Juan Carlos Hidalgo applauds Obama’s decision to re-establish relations:

Read On

Sony And The First Amendment, Ctd

Dec 18 2014 @ 4:41pm
by Michelle Dean

US-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-IT-SONY-POLITICS

I got a little unlucky with the timing of yesterday’s post about Sony, which went up right before we learned that Sony was pulling The Interview from release. And also before we learned that federal officials believe North Korea really is behind the hacks. My frustration with James Franco movies seems rather less funny in retrospect. In any event I guess I don’t have to worry about being forced to watch it, since apparently it won’t even appear on VOD at this moment.

I’ve been trying to muster up some fire to write about how chilling this all is for people who want to write outré speech. I wish I could write something incandescent about how unjust it is to suppress a film – even one that I’m about as allergic to as a person could be – over physical threats and privacy violations. But I haven’t been able to. I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted just contemplating how we’re going to describe this one in the history books. (“Seth Rogen, a Hollywood star of Canadian extraction…” “And then Aaron Sorkin, who was not a journalist but who wrote a fictional show about journalism, which he said was more journalistic than journalism…”)

Suffice it to say, it’s all terrible, though honestly this incident doesn’t seem half as bad to me as other events in this proto-dystopia we call America in late 2014.

(Photo: Workers remove a poster-banner for The Interview from a billboard in Hollywood, California, on December 18, 2014, a day after Sony announced it was canceling the movie’s Christmas release due to a terrorist threat. By Michael Thurston/AFP/Getty Images)

Mental Health Break

Dec 18 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

Behold, the rainbow-slinky master:

Yglesias Award Nominee

Dec 18 2014 @ 4:05pm
by Dish Staff

“It’s been a half century now. Unless and until someone can show me something besides political talking points to the contrary, the embargo was simply not working. The Castros remain in power and the government has not significantly changed. And as we have repeatedly demonstrated in our negotiations regarding sanctions and punishment of other nations such as Iran, Iraq or Russia, sanctions and embargoes do not work unless you can get significant buy-in from your allies. Nobody is joining us on this. Canadians regularly vacation in Cuba. Nearly every other western nation trades with them. We simply don’t have any backup here,” – Jazz Shaw, Hot Air.

Obama Just Ruined Cuba! Ctd

Dec 18 2014 @ 3:38pm
by Will Wilkinson

Shep Smith seems to think so:

Responding to that clip, Allahpundit finds that notion entirely fatuous:

This is exactly what it sounds like, a guy seemingly willing to trade away greater prosperity for Cubans if it means Americanizing the island in return for preserving the quaint, simple culture that decades of authoritarianism and economic retardation have produced. It’s basically the “noble savage” view of economics. What doth it profit a Cuban to gain a middle-American depot for cheap building materials if he lose his cheap-rum-making soul? Where are we going to go to watch people riding around in 60-year-old Studebakers now?

Ryan Kearney accuses those afraid of “spoiling” Cuba of fetishizing poverty:

When Americans daydream about visiting Cuba before it’s “spoiled,” they’re implying that the island today is some kind of paradise. I have been there. It is not a paradise.

Read On

The Outrage Manufacturing Process

Dec 18 2014 @ 3:20pm
by Michelle Dean

Slate has a big package today about “The Year In Outrage.” It’s thought-provoking, worth your time and effort.

I’d rather talk about it laterally, though, than re-litigate old social media controversies. There’s plenty enough of the latter in the Slate thing. Let’s, instead, consider the outrage manufacturing process, which I think is more complicated than usually described. You can do it half by accident. You know, by joking on Twitter.

For example: Last night I was reading Twitter when a link came into my feed. It was to an Los Angeles Review of Books essay about Joan Didion. I clicked.

The first sentence of the piece was a run-on sentence. Then it made proud reference to the author’s attendance at literary parties. I persevered. I was then rewarded with this paragraph:

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I hope I don’t seem too outraged to you when I say that this is not a good paragraph about Joan Didion. It tells you nothing about Didion. It also doesn’t tell you much about the writer, Emmett Rensin, other than his lack of apparent shame. It would be a pretty embarrassing paragraph to record in your private journal. But there it was, published by the Los Angeles Review of Books. The Los Angeles Review of Books is edited. An editor read this paragraph, and published it.

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