Given the overwhelming evidence, both from politicians and the public, that isolationism in America today is virtually nonexistent, why do so many high-profile commentators and politicians depict it as a grave threat? One clue lies in a word that these Cassandras use as a virtual synonym for isolationism: “retreat.” If the subtitle of Bret Stephens’s forthcoming book is The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, its title is America in Retreat. In their op-ed warning of a new “cycle of American isolationism,” Lieberman and Kyl employ variations of “retreat” or “retrench” six times.
But “isolationism” and “retreat” are entirely different things. Isolationism has a fixed meaning: avoiding contact with other nations. Retreat, by contrast, only gains meaning relatively. The mere fact that a country is retreating tells you nothing about the extent of its interactions overseas. You need to know the position it is retreating from. Herein lies the rub. In general, the isolationism-slayers are far more comfortable bemoaning American retreat than defending the military frontiers from which America is retreating. That’s because those frontiers, which reached their apex under George W. Bush, were both historically unprecedented and historically calamitous.
I had to do a double-take on this story, which hasn’t gotten much press stateside:
The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment, [Israeli] President Reuven Rivlin said at the opening session on Sunday of a conference on From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other … Rivlin wondered aloud whether Jews and Arabs had abandoned the secret of dialogue. With regard to Jews he said: “I’m not asking if they’ve forgotten how to be Jews, but if they’ve forgotten how to be decent human beings. Have they forgotten how to converse?”
The remarks were given at a conference called “From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other.” There was criticism of Palestinians too – and defenses of Israelis. But to hear this kind of talk from the president of the country is quite striking. If a Jewish American had used that language, the obloquy would be as intense as it would be overwhelming. If a non-Jewish American had said that, she’d be immediately denounced as a rabid anti-Semite. Which just goes to show that Israel has a far more robust culture of open debate than the US – and that the deeply troubling descent of Israel into the worst forms of tribalism and bigotry is not a fantasy made up by Max Blumenthal.
One other recommendation: gamer Dish readers take apart all you’ve heard about Gamergate. It’s a truly amazing study on what the collective Dish mind can do on a subject that the media seems to have fumbled badly. One thing that makes the Dish unique is this kind of reader input and nuance. It takes work and real art to curate and edit the in-tray the way Bodenner does. Help pay him and all our staff by, you know, subscribing, if you haven’t already. It takes a couple of minutes and only $1.99 a month.
Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 22 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here. Dish t-shirts are for sale here, including the new “Know Dope” shirts, which are detailed here and modeled by the reader seen above. Another writes:
OK, you guys are now 3 for 3. Several years ago you ran a view from a building I worked in 30 years ago (in Fairbanks, AK, of all places, and a minor campus building at that). Later you ran a view from a hotel I had stayed in recently. But on Sunday, you ran a view of a building that I lived in for a year, 40+ years ago (center left, on the corner just across the street).
And in none of those cases did I recognize the view before looking at the caption. How embarrassing.
As a bonus, here’s a view OF the window of my daughter’s college dorm room. (We have no idea who sent it in, but apparently the VFYW phenomenon is affecting a second generation, too.) And you also once ran a view from my office window, but I sent that in. Thanks from a long-time reader, two-year subscriber.
And other quotes from a variety of gay and lesbian writers:
Philip Kennicott looks back with ambivalence at the classic gay literature – think Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, Andre Gide, and Thomas Mann, among others – that shaped the way he came to terms with his own sexuality. While certain novels allowed him to understand he wasn’t alone, the “pleasure of finding new access to these worlds was almost always punctured by the bleakness of the books themselves”:
It is painful to read the bulk of this early canon, and it will only become more and more painful, as gay subcultures dissolve, and the bourgeois respectability that so many of these authors abandoned yet craved becomes the norm. In Genet, marriage between two men was the ultimate profanation, one of the strongest inversions of value the author could muster to scandalize his audience and delight his rebellious readers. The image of same-sex marriage was purely explosive, a strategy for blasting apart the hypocrisy and pretentions of traditional morality. Today, it is becoming commonplace.
Derek Thompson blames the media for overhyping – and thereby exacerbating – Ebola panic in the US:
For the last two weeks, the American Ebola panic has been relentlessly overstated. When Gallup asked Americans if they were worried about contracting the Ebola virus, just 23 percent said yes in a October 11-12 poll, days after Thomas Duncan was the first person to die in America from the disease. That was up just one percentage point (well within the margin of error) from a similar survey administered one week earlier. Just 16 percent told Gallup that they actually thought someone in their family would likely get the virus, up just two percentage points from a week earlier.
One in six people thinking they’re about to die from Ebola is a serious matter. But you can get about approximately 20 percent of Americans to say all sorts of crazy things in anonymous polls.
Waldman takes on another trope of Ebolisis – that in the words of Republican Congressman Tim Murphy, “we have to be right 100 percent of the time, and Ebola only has to get in once.” It’s the viral equivalent of the one percent doctrine:
Elizabeth Nolan Brown asks whether it’s really necessary for strippers to have occupational licenses:
Dancers and managers at a Washington state strip club are now suing to stop their county from releasing their names, photos, and other identifying information to a man who has filed a public records request for it. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma [last] Tuesday, says the Pierce County Auditor’s Office received a request from David A. Van Vleet for copies of all adult entertainment licenses on file for Dreamgirls at Fox’s. Why does this man want identifying info on current and former dancers at the Tacoma-based strip club? Nobody knows. (I reached out to Van Vleet yesterday but haven’t heard back.) But because strippers in most areas of Washington must obtain an “entertainer’s license”, their identities are a matter of public record.
Attorney Gilbert H. Levy acknowledged that the information was technically fair game under the state Public Records Act, but said the privacy and safety interests of strip club workers necessitates keeping their real names and identities confidential. “It’s a unique occupation and it’s a controversial occupation,” Levy told CBS Seattle. “Some people like nude dancers, and other people for religious or for other philosophical reasons don’t. There’s some stigma attached to the occupation, and most dancers for personal privacy reasons and safety reasons, don’t want the customers to know who they are outside of the club.”
In other words, it’s entirely likely the person who wants this information is a crazy stalker or an anti-sex nutjob. Maybe merely a blackmailer or a 4chan-er. At any rate, it’s hard to imagine many non-nefarious reasons for requesting personal information on a wide swath of individuals in a sensitive job.
Nate Cohn declares that “this is a great election. It’s way better than 2012. All around, it might be the best general election in a decade.”
There are a dozen competitive and close Senate contests and, for good measure, there are another dozen competitive governors’ contests. Better still, these close Senate races add up to something meaningful and important: control of the Senate.
Amanda Taub highlights the work data journos at The Guardian have been doing with Wikileaks’ Iraq War logs. Each red dot on the above map – the screenshot seen above only shows one corner of Baghdad, but the project covers the whole country – represents one of some 60,000 combat-related fatal incidents (mostly IEDs) between 2004 and 2009, representing more than 100,000 deaths. And that’s not even the whole story, as Taub points out:
[T]he true extent of the violence is much worse: the map likely only shows a small fraction of the attacks from that period. The database the map is drawn from does not include deaths from criminal activity, or those that were initiated by Coalition or Iraqi forces. And many deaths may not have been officially tallied. That means that the real total is almost certainly much higher. But even seeing the number of attacks recorded here shows how devastating this war has been to Baghdad’s civilians, who must now face even more attacks.
Part of the liberal line in the political battle over Ebola is that we’d be much better placed to respond to the crisis if only Congressional Republicans would stop stonewalling the confirmation of Obama’s nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy to the post of surgeon general, which has been empty for over a year. But Mike Stobbe doubts this would really make much difference, considering how the role of the surgeon general has changed over time from front-lines crusader against disease to mere public health advocate:
[I]t was in the 1960s, during the Democratic presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, that things really started to go downhill for the surgeon general. Administration officials were pushing to enact Great Society programs, and increasingly viewed the surgeon general and his troops as foot-draggers reluctant to take on the new initiatives—especially Medicare and Medicaid. … Dr. Luther Terry became renowned in 1964 for releasing a report that finally convinced many Americans of the deadliness of cigarette smoking, but he was shown the door a year later, after only one term. By 1968, the HEW Secretary had stripped away the surgeon general’s administrative powers and redistributed them to others.
Since then, the surgeon general has been little more than a health educator—“a pathetic shadow of authority who traveled around the country lecturing high school students on the hazards of smoking,” as the political scientist Eric Redman once wrote.
McArdle takes a broader view, noting that “this is not your grandfather’s public health system”:
Public health experts were, in a way, too successful;
Freddie considers the limits of art criticism in the Internet age, “a vast explosion in the analysis and examination of the art around us”:
These efforts to cast the brute emotional power of art into the conventions of thinking are necessary, natural, and fun. But they can result in, for example, the deep hatred for ambiguity in art, the effort to tease out of every creator what really happened. More, so many takes on art today, straining for political relevance, misunderstand that it is precisely the ability of art to express the indefensible and the disturbing that lends it enduring power.
If you are yet another person online to point out that the lyrics of “Run For Your Life” off of Rubber Soul are disturbing and misogynist, you are yet another to fail to understand that John Lennon didn’t kill anybody. He wrote a song about his impulses to kill — his scary, ugly, unmentionable impulse to kill, driven by the frightening irrationality at the heart of love and desire. He put those impulses into his art because that is where they could be acknowledged without danger. His music was where the unforgivable monster of his feelings could live and do no harm.