by Alex Pareene

SLUG: ME-Ammo DATE: August 23, 2007 CREDIT: James M. Threshe

Let’s talk about “officer-involved shootings.” That is the formal term, used by seemingly all American local news broadcasts, for when a cop shoots someone. Instead of saying “‘Cops’ crew member killed by police officer,” the headline is, “‘Cops’ crew-member killed after officer-involved shooting.” (It just sort of happened, after that shooting.) There is also “police involved shooting,” a term I first noticed being used by the local New York evening news team last May.

These terms are terrible and journalists should not use them. They are cop-speak. Local news reporters love nothing more than adopting cop-speak, because local news is built on manufacturing fear of crime and venerating of police officers, but both of these terms fail the crucial test of actually being coherent explanations of what happened. Of course police would invent an obfuscatory euphemism for when they shoot people – they would be fools not to try to come up with a nice way of saying “we killed someone” – but the press’ job is supposed to be to translate those euphemisms into plain English.

“Officer-involved shooting” absolves the person who actually pulled the trigger of responsibility, turning the shooting into an apparently inevitable act. The officer was just involved! As Natasha Lennard at Vice News puts it:

The phrase “police-involved shooting” is a careful construction, which, like the criminal justice system more broadly, tends to point blame away from cops. It is code for “the cops shot someone.”

To a reporter, “officer-involved shooting” should sound as grating to the ear as “bear-involved large mammal attack.”

Read On

The Death Rattle Of Islamism?

Sep 2 2014 @ 8:04pm
by Jonah Shepp

Graeme Wood isn’t the first writer to touch on the significance of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s declaration of a “caliphate”, but his substantial exploration of the meaning of the term gets to why it’s so weird that Baghdadi has chosen it to describe his so-called Islamic State when other radical Islamist groups have steered clear of such declarations:

Mostly … caliphate declarations have been rare because they are outrageously out of sync with history. The word conjures the majesty of bygone eras and of states that straddle continents. For a wandering group of hunted men like Al Qaeda to declare a caliphate would have been Pythonesque in its deluded grandeur, as if a few dozen Neo-Nazis or Italian fascists declared themselves the Holy Roman Empire or dressed up like Augustus Caesar. “Anybody who actively wishes to reestablish a caliphate must be deeply committed to a backward-looking view of Islam,” says [University of Chicago historian Fred] Donner. “The caliphate hasn’t been a functioning institution for over a thousand years.”

And it isn’t now, either. The designation of the ISIS “caliphate” still smacks of delusional grandiosity more than anything else. There is no downplaying its brutality or denying that it would do great violence to the West if given the chance, but the Islamic State is no superpower: more than anything else, its sudden rise owes mainly to the fact that Syria and Iraq are fragile states, and its savagery has alerted the sleepwalking states of the Arab world to the threat of jihadism like never before. The enemies it is making on all sides, especially among other Muslims, would seem to suggest that ISIS may burn out nearly as quickly as it caught fire. Could the madness of ISIS be the final fever of a dying ideology?

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The Game Of Life

Sep 2 2014 @ 7:39pm
by Dish Staff

Simon Parkin appreciates Spermania, a video game in which “players assume the role of a plucky sperm that must navigate the kinks and curves of an undulating fallopian tube,” as a “good joke that’s well told.” He describes how the game’s creators at the Ramallah-based PinchPoint, Inc. had to overcome the barrenness of the gaming industry in Palestine:

PinchPoint is, according to the company’s co-founder and C.E.O., Khaled Abu Al Kheir, the first venture-capital-backed Palestinian video-game studio. Despite recent efforts to grow the I.T. sector in the Palestinian territories with incubators, accelerators, and venture-capital firms, there are only a handful of video-game developers in the area. Partly, this is due to the unique challenges of establishing a startup in a turbulent region. “Local events here definitely affect our focus and stress us out,” Basel Nasr, one of the game’s developers, told me. “We have no airport or control over our land borders, so travel costs extra time and money. This makes it more challenging to plan overseas trips, as well as to connect with foreign video-game studios around the world in order to learn and share our experiences.” Likewise, the lack of a vibrant industry in the region makes expanding the studio a tremendous challenge. “There’s an almost non-existent talent pool in Palestine for video-game development,” Kheir said.

As for whether the game has proven controversial in Palestine:

Contrary to the team members’ expectations, most of their friends and families supported Spermania’s subject matter. “The theme itself might be a bit controversial,” [developer Basel] Nasr, who designed the game’s cartoonish aesthetic, said. “But the art style gives the game a light and humorous feel. Most people laugh about the idea, and we haven’t received any threats. My two sons, who are five and two, enjoy the game, although they don’t know what it’s really about.”

Face Of The Day

Sep 2 2014 @ 7:15pm
by Dish Staff

AFGHANISTAN-SOCIETY

An Afghan girl look through the door of her house in an old section of Kabul on September 2, 2014. Afghanistan’s economy has improved significantly since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 largely because of the infusion of international assistance. Despite significant improvement in the last decade, the country is still extremely poor and remains highly dependent on foreign aid. By Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images.

Eric Cantor Cashes In

Sep 2 2014 @ 6:48pm
by Dish Staff

He’s got a plum job at Moelis, an investment bank:

Since he was elected Majority Leader in 2011, Cantor earned $193,400 a year, around $20,000 more annually than a rank-and-file member. But as Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Moelis, he will receive a $1.4 million signing bonus, $1.6 million in incentive compensation next year and a $400,000 base salary — plus reimbursement for the reasonable cost of a New York City apartment for his first 12 months, and a hotel equivalent rate thereafter.

Annie Lowrey talks about the move with Dennis Kelleher, “a former corporate lawyer and longtime Senate staffer who now heads the nonprofit Better Markets, the banking lobby’s lonely public-interest opposition in Washington.” How Kelleher understands the hire:

“Wall Street is after what it’s always buying in Washington: access, influence, and unfair advantage. And Cantor is a big catch for anybody who wants access.

Read On

by Dish Staff

In response to this post, a reader writes:

Domestic cats are very diffident companions indeed, but they are still the most popular pet in the world. Probably because they require less maintenance than dogs both psychically and physically. This makes them one of the most successful mammalian species on Earth in terms of population. They are thought to be the only animal to self domesticate. As a predator small enough to be prey they scoped the opportunity represented by humans early on and some of the Felis genus threw in their lot with us. Some behaviorists have said that cats hang around humans simply because we have better food and we share it.

Some see total opportunism in all a cat’s actions. Manipulations masked as affection so we give them what they want. It is a highly successful strategy. They probably work and/or sacrifice the least for their standard of living than any other creature on Earth. The best last word on cats was summed up by a refrigerator magnet that said “Dogs have Owners, Cats have Staff”. Cats are wired differently than dogs for sure but, in spite of their obvious temperamental differences, are also known to defend a human when retreat would be the wiser course. Maybe they value us for something more than the obvious food, warmth and safety we offer after all.

To underscore that point, the reader sends the above video of a badass cat confronting a despicable dog. Another cat lover:

Rilke was describing a cat that was also an outside hunter. Those who have indoor cats enjoy a completely different experience. I’ve shared the last 25 years of my life with two separate felines.

Read On

Blue Suede Yarmulke

Sep 2 2014 @ 5:47pm
by Dish Staff

J.J. Goldberg recalls something he learned about Elvis during a tour of Graceland back in the mid-’90s:

The very last display case, before you left the building to roam the grounds, featured the things Elvis was wearing the night he died. Included were his religious paraphernalia, which he “always wore,” the docent told me: a cross and a Chai pendant (visible [here]). Curiouser and curiouser.

When I got back to my hotel I called Memphis blues historian Robert Gordon, whom I knew vaguely, to find out what the heck this was all about. He said there were stories about Elvis having had some Jewish ancestry, but I would do well to call disc jockey George Klein, the elder statesman of Memphis rock ’n’ roll. It seems Klein had been lifelong friends with Elvis, starting in junior high. He was a member of the Memphis Mafia, the gang of childhood buddies who surrounded Elvis, traveled and partied with him and handled his affairs on the road.

I got Klein on the phone right away. He couldn’t have been nicer. He explained to me that Elvis’s great-great-grandmother had been Jewish and Elvis was very proud of it. Oh, I said, you mean his father’s father’s …

“No,” Klein said. “His mother’s mother’s mother’s mother.”

“So Elvis was —“

He cut me off. “You said it, bubba, not me.”

Read On

Syria’s War At Israel’s Door

Sep 2 2014 @ 5:09pm
by Jonah Shepp

The Syrian civil war took an interesting turn late last week as fighters from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra overran the Quneitra checkpoint between Syria proper and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and captured or surrounded dozens of UN peacekeepers from Fiji and the Philippines. Juan Cole finds precisely none of this surprising:

The London-based Al-`Arabi al-Jadid reports that Israeli Gen. Aviv Kochavi, now head of the Northern Command but until recently chief of military intelligence, has for two years been warning that the Syrian civil war could spill over onto Israel. Haaretz has also shown alarm at the developments. Not only is the Succor Front consolidating its hold on Golan, but the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) is alleged to be infiltrating Syrian villages near Israel in the north. The Syrian army, once responsible for Israel-Syria border security, has “evaporated” after losing battles with the militants. The likelihood that Israel could in the long run be completely insulated from a raging civil war right next door, which has displaced 3 million abroad and more millions internally, was always low. The view that it is good for Israel when the Arabs fight one another is a glib and superficial piece of cynicism challenged by seasoned observers such as Gen. Kochavi.

One of the many side effects of Israel’s regional isolation is that it tends to treat conflicts in and among its neighbors as the Arabs’ problems and pay them relatively little mind, compared to the interest one might expect a country to take in violence so close to its borders. This isolation emerges from the intractability of the conflict and, to my mind, represents a noteworthy obstacle to regional peace.

Read On

by Jonah Shepp

The war between Ukraine and Russia continues to escalate as heads of NATO member states arrive in Wales for a summit on the crisis. Russia has announced (NYT) that it is revising its military strategy in response to what it sees as belligerent behavior on the part of NATO, including the prospect of expanding the alliance to include Ukraine. Of course, Putin doesn’t help matters by telling European officials that he could “take Kiev in two weeks”, as he apparently did in a recent phone conversation with José Manuel Barroso. Marc Champion takes him seriously:

Earlier this year it was only those on the lunatic nationalist fringe in Moscow who talked about taking Kiev. Now it’s Putin. This is part of a disturbing pattern. For a long time, only ultranationalists talked about a place called Novorossiya, or New Russia. In April, Putin took that up, and by June the separatists in Ukraine had merged their self-proclaimed republics to found Novorossiya. So what are the Russian lunatics talking about now? Ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians in Novorossiya, and attacking Poland and the Baltic states.

I have no idea where Putin is going with this, and I think it’s wiser not to speculate too much, but he seems to be in the thrall of an ideology that lends itself to the logic of imperial aggression, as do his soaring poll numbers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to escalate. On the other hand, as John Mearsheimer puts it in an essay (paywalled) on the origins of the Ukraine crisis, Putin’s belligerence didn’t come from nowhere:

Read On

Mental Health Break

Sep 2 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

An artful rumination on the end of summer:

AUGUST is the last of a three-part series by filmmaker Mark Mazur. The first two parts were JUNE and JULY.