In 1982, whites were nearly unanimous in expressing some degree of pride as South Africans (98%), but barely half of blacks (57%) did so. This gap is a stark reminder of how deeply the effects of apartheid were felt. It was not just a question of opposing a white-led government. Among blacks, there was a profound alienation from the state itself.
But the release of Mandela from prison in February 1990 and the early signs of apartheid’s end — such as negotiations between the white-led government and the African National Congress that spring and summer — appeared to close this gap. In the 1990 survey, which was fielded in October and November, 93% of whites and 90% of blacks expressed pride.
Mandela’s legacy may be even more visible in how little white and black South Africans’ patriotism has changed since then. Although his leadership — indeed, any one person’s leadership — could never eliminate racism or racial tensions, whites and blacks continued to express high levels of pride. The transition to a black-led government under Mandela and later Thabo Mbeki did not make white South Africans any less proud to be South African. Blacks too remained similarly proud, despite the disappointments that they have experienced and the challenges they still face.
The green energy business is maturing as major players in the industry begin to see it as sustainable – financially:
[J]ust because the first round of modern environmental spending has been inefficient doesn’t mean the next round must be too. Today, institutions with unsentimental investors are ramping up strategies that could accelerate a shift toward an economy that uses natural resources more efficiently — a shift that will stick to the extent that it proves lucrative. Big electric utilities are buying into the renewable-energy business, often more aggressively than governmental clean-energy mandates require them to do. To be sure, they’re angling to look green, they’re still making most of their power profit from fossil fuel, and often they’re lobbying against tougher renewable-energy policies even as they make those investments. What’s changing, though, is that they’ve decided that renewable energy has grown too big to ignore. Utilities that set investment strategy for decades, not just for months or years, are concluding that the cost of renewable energy has declined to the point that, in some places, it’s competitive with conventional power.
Similarly, the World Bank has said it no longer will bankroll the construction of coal-fired power plants in the developing world except in “rare circumstances.” The bank’s primary mission is to facilitate economic development in poor countries, so it can’t justify purely bleeding-heart initiatives. The new stance is a bet that cleaner energy sources have gotten sufficiently economical to enter the mainstream.
Paul Waldman wonders about the moment when click-bait burnout sets in:
Once you’ve clicked on a few posts that promised to make you cry or change your view of the world forever but didn’t deliver, your default assumption will become that when you see something like that, it means somebody’s trying to get you to be a part of something artificial. It’s one thing to send something truly inspiring or outrageous to your friends or Twitter followers and brighten their day for a moment, but nobody wants to be a tool of someone else’s phony marketing campaign or mean-spirited hoax.
And I think that’s the danger for these ventures. The more conscious people become that by passing something along they’re not so much participants in a beautiful collective celebration of our shared humanity, but are instead part of an intentionally constructed attempt at content viralization, the less they’ll want to be a part of it. Because after all, one of the hallmarks of not just Millennials but the couple of older generations going back at least as far as Generation X is media savvy, or at least the desire for media savvy. We all want to think we’re immune to advertising’s manipulations and we don’t get suckered by even the cleverest marketing campaigns.
Paul Pillar points out the costs to the US of applying sanctions to foreign countries, particularly countries like Iran:
The formidable, fear-inducing enforcement of U.S. sanctions against Iran entails substantial costs for U.S. companies. Not only are these companies excluded from some major opportunities for new business; they have to jump through additional hoops to make sure they do not run afoul of the enforcers in areas where they still are doing business. A Washington Post story concerns how this fear leads American companies to report to government regulators in excruciatingly minute detail anything they do that could conceivably brush up against the sanctions. Citibank, for example, felt it necessary to report that it made four dollars in profit from ATM transactions in Bahrain that involved a joint venture that included two Iranian-owned banks.
It is remarkable that some members of Congress who otherwise do not hesitate to preach that onerous government regulations and the administrative burdens they impose are bad for the American economy are also enthusiastic backers of the sanctions.
Richard Cooper worries that “comic-book movies are all about superior beings dominating everybody else”:
The main problem is force: sheer physical force, which lies at the heart of the superhero myth, something Steven T.Seagle observed nicely in “It’s a Bird…”, his poignant autobiographical graphic novel about his reluctance to write for a Superman comic, in which he points out that Superman triumphs by being able to move faster and hit harder than everyone else: essentially a fascist concept. … Fascism also relies on people who must be crushed. The Batman films — and indeed the entire Batman mythos — are based on the idea that what criminals really need is a damn good thrashing, because it’s the only language these punks understand. The vicarious thrill in seeing Batman yell “Swear to me!” at some pitiful creep who swears to God he doesn’t know anything is for the nasty-minded child in all of us: an innocent pleasure until you start to think about the politics.
This week, two thieves in Mexico made off with a truck full of cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope with medical applications. But it seems they didn’t know what they were dealing with:
While Mexican officials initially feared that the material could have been stolen as part of a plot to build a dirty bomb, the material itself has since been recovered. What hasn’t been found are the two carjackers, but they won’t get far: authorities say the thieves will almost certainly [die] of exposure if they haven’t already … It wasn’t initially clear if the thieves knew what they were stealing. But when a small amount (a few dozen grams) of the cobalt-60 was found removed from its casing, authorities figured the duo had no idea what they had, as a thief deliberately targeting radioactive material probably wouldn’t have exposed himself to a deadly dose of radiation.
Julia Fisher details what that level of radiation exposure does to a human body:
It’s worth recalling the glee with which many hacks determined that the Obama presidency was over before the second term had really kicked in, well, only a month ago. The Healthcare.gov fiasco was Katrina; the Syrian pivot was a disastrous wobble; the Iran negotiations were abject surrender; the economy was going nowhere. And it’s not as if there weren’t good reasons for the punditocracy’s sudden lunge for the presidential jugular. The botched website launch remains a pretty unforgivable product of presidential negligence.
But it’s worth digesting how all these alleged disasters have settled down. Obama’s alleged surrender to Putin on Syria … has led to something no one really believed possible: a potential shut-down of Syria’s WMD potential. What Bush failed to do in Iraq (because Saddam’s WMDs were a fantasy), Obama has almost succeeded in doing in Syria – with Putin’s help. The Iran negotiations – far from being a surrender – have set the stage for a real rapprochement. Les Gelb notes:
The Obama team has won the first round on the six-month agreement with Iran by a knockout. The phony, misleading, and dishonest arguments against the pact just didn’t hold up to the reality of the text. As night follows day, the mob of opponents didn’t consider surrender, not for a second. Instead, they trained their media howitzers on the future, the next and more permanent agreement, you know, the one that has yet to be negotiated.
Even George Will has conceded as much. There is a chance that the Middle East, far from exploding in another spasm, is actually safer today than in recent times. Netanyahu’s worst instincts have been rather coolly checked. The reactionary forces in Iran are on the defensive. Kerry has in no way given up on a two-state solution on his watch. And today, we got a glimpse of a much stronger economy than most were expecting, and the disastrous website … has been patched up as promised (with, of course, some ways to go). Alec McGillis sums it up:
The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October.
Joe Lhota’s prognostications of doom (seen above) are looking ever more unfounded. NYC mayor-elect Bill de Blasio appointed William Bratton as his new police commissioner on Thursday. Bratton, who led the NYPD under Giuliani in the ’90s, was the architect of the very same stop-and-frisk program de Blasio ran against during campaign season. Mychal Denzel Smith is disappointed, but not surprised, at the choice:
While he criticized outgoing commissioner Ray Kelly for the “overuse-and-abuse of stop-and-frisk,” de Blasio has stopped short of calling for an end to the policy altogether. He has been in favor a “mend, don’t end” approach, supporting the reforms as handed down by US district court judge Shira Scheindlin as a result of the Floyd v. City of New York case. His choice of Bratton for police commissioner is consistent with his previously stated positions … The mayor-elect had an opportunity to signal a fundamentally new approach to the way policing would be done in NYC, but chose instead the safe and familiar, which has never benefited the communities that elected him to office. De Blasio has always been the most progressive candidate with a chance of winning, not the most progressive.
Heather Mac Donald declares Bratton’s appointment proof of “the limits that now constrain even the most left-leaning urban politicians”:
Though de Blasio demagogued against the NYPD during the election campaign, his selection of Bratton shows that he understands that his mayoralty will be judged first and foremost on whether he maintains New York’s status as the safest big city in America …
Earlier this week, Suzy Khimm outlined a possible budget deal:
Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan, Congress’s budget leaders, are currently aiming for a deal that would undo somewhere between $60 and $80 billion of sequestration cuts over the next two years, according to Congressional aides and others familiar with the talks. Overall, the deal would raise 2014’s discretionary spending levels from $968 billion to $1 trillion, and Republicans are insisting on additional deficit reduction.
The basic outlines of the deal are still in flux, and those figures could change in the coming days. “The actual numbers are very fluid. I wouldn’t take them as certain by any means,” said one Republican aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
I can buy the idea that Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), who is leading negotiations for House Republicans, will reach a spending deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) I remain skeptical that such a deal can pass the House of Representatives with a majority of Republican votes, and without making outside conservative groups go insane, before the government shutdown deadline of Jan. 15.
What appears to have happened here is that Republican leaders who’d like very much to do something positive gave a sunnier take to outlets such as Politico than was warranted, perhaps in an effort to build momentum toward a deal.
Please take a moment to merge your miscarriage series with the religious corporations thread, because science: Plan B does not cause abortion because it does not prevent implantation. Plan B is progesterone. It does absolutely nothing if you have already ovulated and had the misfortune of having conceived the night before. In fact, as every woman who has had trouble staying pregnant knows, progesterone is what they prescribe, after a few miscarriages, to help a fertilized egg implant and “stick” in the uterus. So it actually HELPS pregnancies become more viable.
But if you already conceived, you are screwed; Plan B actually ups the chances that you will end up with a baby. Plan B only works if you had sex and have not yet ovulated, in which case the hormone surge will push your ovulation a couple weeks into the future, preventing you from releasing that egg down into the fallopian pool of waiting sperm. It in no way whatsoever interrupts an actual pregnancy after the moment of conception. It does not harm a single hair on a blastocyst’s one-celled head.
Indeed, an overwhelming number of studies in the past decade back up the reader’s point that Plan B does not prevent implantation. Last year the NYT did an extensive investigation that showed how all the ambiguity around the issue is traced to the FDA’s dubious labeling of Plan B back in 1999:
Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites. … But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.
It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work.
I wanted to echo the reader whose colitis went into remission after beginning to smoke. I spent my high school and college years attacked by reoccurring flares of colitis. There were days where I had to crawl to the bathroom because I was so weak. On a day I was bloated, in pain, and in bed, an episode of House MD came on where he recommended smoking to a patient with colitis. Unfortunately in my condition I had no access to cigarettes, but I had a friend who smoked weed endlessly. As an evangelical Christian who didn’t drink, smoke, or even go to R-rated movies, the idea of “smoking” was sacrilege – but that was nothing compared to my physical torment, so on the advice of a doctor on TV, I inhaled. It went into remission almost the next day, and I haven’t had a flare since.
Another makes an important distinction:
Your reader with ulcerative colitis tells only half of this mysterious story. Crohn’s disease, the other major type of inflammatory bowel disease – which has very similar symptoms and can be equally debilitating – is exacerbated by smoking. Nobody knows why nicotine affects UC positively and Crohn’s negatively, but it’s being intensively investigated. (For that matter, nobody knows for sure what causes either form of IBD to begin with.)
Note: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a much less serious condition medically but with similar negative effects on quality-of-life. Smoking exacerbates IBS because anything that irritates the bowel can make IBS symptoms worse. Bowel irritation per se does not seem to be involved where IBD is concerned, or it would have a negative effect on both UC and Crohn’s.
The above video of Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens cracking a joke at the expense of sick people makes Kilgore, well, sick:
The robust laughs of Hudgen’s audience when he compared pre-existing condition coverage to an ex post facto request for auto insurance collision coverage after a motorist causes a wreck is about as disgusting as the stupid analogy itself.
This might sound unusually callous, even for a Georgia Republican — or like typical reactionary anti-Obamacare horseshit taken just a bit too far. But it’s actually worse. It’s a symptom of how deep the rot of 47 percenter thinking has crept in the conservative movement.
About fifteen years after most gay men figured it out, Mark Joseph Stern stumbles onto the truth that, with HIV no longer a death sentence in developed countries, the era of simply scaring gay men away from unprotected sex is over. And, unlike so many well-meant public health campaigns, he is prepared to tell the obvious truth:
Bareback sex feels better for both partners. At some point, almost every gay man will learn this fact—so why lie about it?
Indeed. That one fact combined with one other – that middle-class gay men can suppress the virus indefinitely with the cocktail – has to be integrated into a sane, safer sex message. I’ve been banging on about this for years, of course, and there have been initiatives, in San Francisco particularly, where these insights have indeed been integrated into public health campaigns. And they’ve been among the most successful in restraining infection. But Stern goes one step further:
If we don’t give gay men the promise of the reward, a foreseeable end to the hassles of condoms, they’re bound to get frustrated and either slip up or give up. Giving men the goal of a committed relationship—and with it, the perk of unprotected sex—might convert barebacking from a forbidden fruit to a reward worth working toward.
Yes, and no. First off, can we retire the term “barebacking” and simply refer to it as sex without condoms, i.e. the activity formerly known as sex? Stigmatizing latex-free sex as “barebacking” may have had some logic in the plague years, but it can be psychologically toxic today. It renders the most intimate of sexual interactions a pathology, and that can’t be right.
Second, the prize of non-rubbered sex in a monogamous relationship is a little more fraught than Stern makes it out to be. It makes huge sense if both men are HIV-positive. In that case, there is no danger that sex outside the marriage – sometimes lied about, or hidden, or unspoken – can lead to indirect infection, because both men are infected already. But if both men are negative, it puts much more pressure on monogamy and on a marriage than might be wise. One slip and you’re not only betraying your partner, you could also be deeply damaging his health. Although it’s noble as an ideal, the standard here may be simply practically too high, certainly over a lifetime, for most men to achieve. And the consequences of failure can be terrible for a relationship.
I think we should leave it to married couples or committed lovers to figure their way through this – and avoid harshness and easy judgment. We’re all human and in sexual desire, more human and flawed than in most other areas. But, as a practical matter, you don’t have to restrict non-rubbered sex solely to monogamous married couples to have an impact on infection rates.
On December 4th, the lower house of parliament voted [268 to 138] to make prostitution a crime for those who pay for sex, subject to a fine of €1,500 ($2,030) for a first offense and €3,750 thereafter. “I don’t want a society in which women have a price,” said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the women’s minister. She wants nothing less than to “abolish” prostitution in France. With Germany having second thoughts about its decision over a decade ago to liberalize the world’s oldest profession, the French have decided to follow Sweden, Finland and Norway in restricting prostitution. Paying for sex is not now illegal, although brothels, soliciting and pimping are.
The bill must still pass the Senate and be signed by the president before it becomes law, a process that could take several months. Christopher Dickey calls the debate “ferociously ideological in ways that are very French indeed”:
While just about everyone denounces the trafficking of women and men treated as virtual slaves, much of the most passionate debate has focused on the cases of independent sex workers, a relatively small minority, and whether they have the right to use their bodies – and sell their services – as they see fit. The free-wheeling publication Causeur provoked sensational headlines when it issued a manifesto signed by hundreds of self-proclaimed “bastards” – all men – warning the government, “hands off my whore.” “We love liberty, literature and intimacy,” it claimed, “and when the state concerns itself with our asses, all three are in danger. … Against the ‘sexually correct,’ we intend to live like adults.”
But the most intense debate is not so much with or against macho posturing, it is among France’s feminists. The daily Le Monde discerned four or five distinct currents:
Subscriber here, in South Africa for an AIDS conference. It was quiet late last night as Cape Town was soaking in the news of Mandela’s death. I snapped this pic of Greenmarket Square and Table Mountain from my hotel room at 5:40am – the first dawn in South Africa without Nelson Mandela in 95 years.
I want to give more money, but I can’t. I e-mailed a few months back that I want to give more money on a bi-monthly basis or so, but that your current configuration won’t let me, since I’m already a subscriber. You have been on fire lately, so I was ready to slap down another $150, but I can’t. CAN YOU HELP ME GIVE YOU MORE MONEY?
You bet we can. Our core plea to readers like you is to renew your subscription next year at a higher level. What we need is a stable source of income – and the best way to support us structurally is to subscribe as generously as possible. Remember that you can set your own price – and if you want to say thanks for a year of hard work and innovation, just give us more when renewal comes due. The more you give, the more we can do. We have no venture capital, except our readers. And that’s good enough for us. But if you’re as eager as the reader above, an option to help us right now is to purchase a Christmas gift subscription for a friend, a family member or a colleague – for any amount, $19.99 or above. (And remember, gift subs will not auto-renew, so don’t worry about getting charged again next year.) We suggested that option last month and the response was overwhelming:
In fact, that spike was our biggest one since early February, when we rolled out the new site. So a huge thanks to all our gift-giving readers. (And drop us an email if you end up following suit, so we can thank you individually.) Another reader on yesterday’s update:
Reading your end-of-the-year discussion of how the business model has been going, and then getting to the figure of 41,000 of us who have exhausted all of the free reads, I am SO busted. I can say for certain that I look in here many times a day. And true confession, I’ve run out of free on my laptop, iPad, Kindle and phone. I thank you and your staff for the fabulous energy I get here, for the intellectual thoughts, for helping me to broaden myself. I owe more than the money I kicked in.
Sorry it took so long, this is why I finally subscribed: You pay your interns.
Another new subscriber:
Writing to let you know that your final subscription push has supplied the motivation to get this longtime reader to pay my dues. I check your site several times a day, and am always amazed at the range of topics and depth of coverage. I think what most keeps me coming back is the deep connection you and your team seem to have to humanity and the universal experience. You zoom in and zoom out, from window views to global climate change. I don’t always agree with your take on things, but the Dish always gets me thinking – I dig that.
The feeling is mutual. One of the wonderful things about this blog is how much the readers teach us every day about the world. That kind of constant, immediate interaction is unique to the web, and we’re really proud to have found a way to harness it to curate an informed, quirky and human conversation. We try to explore topics sometimes a little too controversial for other sites dependent on corporate advertizing – rape, pot, miscarriage, abortion, circumcision, race, sex and religion. We aim to be as honest and as balanced as we can, while still having a distinctive point of view.
What we’ve got is that rare privilege of a truly independent perch, answerable only to you, our readers. It’s close to unique online, and it’s only made possible by you. If you are part of this conversation and haven’t yet subscribed, we need you. Two minutes: less than $2 a month or less than $20 a year. Ask yourself if what you get out of the Dish is worth that. If it is, please subscribe!
Update from a new subscriber:
My guilt about not subscribing finally overwhelmed me. I have been reading your site nearly every day since 2005 (I think I found you through the once great Oxblog) and I’ve never once emailed you, which makes this “relationship” a bit fraught as I’ve been looking through a one-way mirror in a creepy voyeuristic manner. I feel as though I know so much about you and you’ve never heard of me. I’ve always enjoyed reading your long-form work and I admire your team’s ability to aggregate, two skills that I don’t often find to be symbiotic, but it works with the Dish. In working through my guilt (I was brought up a Catholic) about not subscribing after you’ve given so much to me, I was thinking about the early 2000s when I graduated from college and your blog was a big part of my life.
Okay, okay, for fuck’s sake, I finally subscribed. Happy to do it, too – I enjoy your virtual voice, whether or not I agree with you (I’m a screaming liberal, and remarkably, I usually do agree with you. That’s more a comment on the state of “conservatism” than much else, but still). Cheers. And here’s to a great new year with The Dish.
Rick Doblin, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He received his doctorate in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he wrote his dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana and his Master’s thesis on a survey of oncologists about smoked marijuana vs. the oral THC pill in nausea control for cancer patients. His undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida was a 25-year follow-up to the classic Good Friday Experiment, which evaluated the potential of psychedelic drugs to catalyze religious experiences.
His professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, primarily as prescription medicines but also for personal growth for otherwise healthy people, and eventually to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist. He founded MAPS in 1986, and currently resides in Boston with his wife and three children.
Our extensive coverage of the spiritual and therapeutic benefits of psychedelics is here (or, in chronological order, here).
The part of Healthcare.gov that pays insurers won’t be built by January:
The administration is planning a “workaround” for payments, said Daniel Durham, vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at America’s Health Insurance Plans. Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to “true up” payments, he said ”The intent is to make sure plans get paid on time, which is a good thing,” Durham told Reuters.
The fix puts an additional “burden” on insurance companies, already taxed by having to double-check faulty enrollment data from the HealthCare.gov system. Now, companies need to quickly put together financial management systems to make the payment estimates, so they can be paid beginning in January, he said. ”They have to recognize that plans are already quite stressed and introducing this at the last minute just adds substantial burden for plans to deal with,” Durham said.