Jul 24 2014 @ 12:55pm

Ben Crair is troubled by Joseph Rudolph Wood III’s two-hour-long death:

Arizona chose to become just the second state to use the same two drugs that Ohio used for McGuire, despite the apparent problems with that execution. A full picture of Wood’s death has not yet emerged, but the execution dragged on so long that Wood’s lawyers were able to file an appeal in U.S. district court during the procedure. The Arizona Department of Corrections insists nothing went wrong with Wood’s execution. Given the properties of the drugs that were used, it’s less likely that Wood suffered pain than Wilson or Lockett, both of whom were given a paralyzing drug. But lethal injections are supposed to be quick procedures, lasting no more than 10 or 15 minutes. If you start counting from when the drugs began to flow (as opposed to when the executioners first attempt to establish IV access), then Wood’s execution may have been the slowest in U.S. history.

This is, quite simply, barbarism. The guillotine was more merciful. Hartmann passes along the government’s spin:

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Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 24 2014 @ 12:39pm

The in-tray is inundated with your submissions – well over 500 so far. We might close the floodgates later today so we have time to process the Youtubes without hundreds more coming in. So send your top pick to Cover songs that cross genres are especially preferred. On that note:

I’d like to nominate Cake’s cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”:

The way it subverts a ’70s anthem with delightful sarcasm is brilliance!

More submissions after the jump. This genre-bender was especially popular:

The Gourds, an Austin alt country band, covered Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”. I’ve never liked rap or hip hop and these lyrics are offensive. But I love it:

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Is Obamacare In Jeopardy? Ctd

Jul 24 2014 @ 12:19pm

Ezra very much doubts SCOTUS will uphold the decision:

For Halbig to unwind Obamacare the Supreme Court would ultimately have to rule in the plaintiff’s favor. And they’re not going to do that. By the time SCOTUS even could rule on Halbig the law will have been in place for years. The Court simply isn’t going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people due to an uncharitable interpretation of congressional grammar.

For five unelected, Republican-appointed judges to cause that much disruption and pain would put the Court at the center of national politics in 2015 and beyond. It would be a disaster for the institution. Imagine when the first articles come out recounting the story of someone who lost their insurance due to the SCOTUS ruling and then died because they couldn’t afford their diabetes or cancer treatment. Imagine when every single Democrat who had any hand at all in authoring the law says the Court is completely wrong about what the law meant. Imagine when every single Democrat runs against the Court.

Yglesias isn’t so sure:

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The Demographics Of Denialism

Jul 24 2014 @ 12:05pm


Climate-change skepticism appears to be especially common in Anglophone countries:

Not only is the United States clearly the worst in its climate denial, but Great Britain and Australia are second and third worst, respectively. Canada, meanwhile, is the seventh worst. What do these four nations have in common? They all speak the language of Shakespeare.

Chris Mooney speculates:

Why would that be? After all, presumably there is nothing about English, in and of itself, that predisposes you to climate change denial. Words and phrases like “doubt,” “natural causes,” “climate models,” and other skeptic mots are readily available in other languages

One possible answer is that it’s all about the political ideologies prevalent in these four countries. … Indeed, the English-language media in three of these four countries are linked together by a single individual: Rupert Murdoch. An apparent climate skeptic or lukewarmer, Murdoch is the chair of News Corp and 21st Century Fox. (You can watch him express his climate views here.) Some of the media outlets subsumed by the two conglomerates that he heads are responsible for quite a lot of English language climate skepticism and denial.

Meanwhile, a study out of New Zealand suggests that people who live on coastlines also tend to take climate change more seriously than those who live inland:

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Book Club: Good News About Dying

Jul 24 2014 @ 11:42am

A reader gushes:

I feel blindsided by joy and wonder reading Sarah Blackwell’s delightfully accessible book. I montaignehad no idea that this man from half a millennium past would give so many “that’s me” moments. Example: I’ve always felt that my forgetfulness was a plus. Something happens. I let go of it and it recedes to some far back place in my memory, unlikely to reappear. I’ve always referred to it as my Etch-A-Sketch mind. Lift up the plastic. All gone.

The other mindblower for me is allowing for doubt. This is a theme that has been mentioned many times in Dish posts. Its relevance in today’s world can not be overstated. Last year, I had a button-maker friend make me some “allow for doubt” buttons. I would notice many pitying looks when I wore it. I suppose nothing beats certainty.

This book club choice is a home run. It has expanded and reinforced my inquiry of life. Thank you.

A more reluctant fan:

I thought – essays? – on how to live? Heavy sigh. But I found the book at the library and decide that giving Montaigne a go probably wouldn’t kill me. I read the first chapter today while I sat at the pool during my daughter’s swimming lesson. It took me less than 15 minutes and I had time enough left to write a few pages.

It was a surprisingly light read. I was expecting tortured prose and deep, knee-bend navel gazing. But it was on death. An easy one and I was delighted to discover that Montaigne was a normal person for all his wandering in the mental back forty.bookclub-beagle-tr-2

I have been convinced for some time that dying – the actual moments – is not at all what it appears to be and doesn’t need to be prepped for in any specific way (unless that makes a person feel happy or better in some way, though Montaigne‘s suffering over it in his youthful years would seem to suggest otherwise). I feel not vindicated, but reassured, after this first chapter.

I have low expectations for this experience, but I am determined to read a chapter a day. I don’t think he is going to be my bestie in literary terms, but he has made a good first impression.

That struck me also as something that jumped out. Today, we live our lives in terror not simply of death but of dying. In fact, we seem more afraid of dying than death itself. And Montaigne insists this may not be necessary at all. Dying might actually be pleasant. And not because he had confidence in Jesus (although he did have a priest preside over his eventual death at the age of 59). It was because an early near-death experience gave him a whole new take on the subject. On the surface, he was knocked off his horse, lost consciousness, started puking blood and began tearing away at his doublet as if a great weight were on him. But on the inside, all was calm, even light:

It seemed to me that my life was hanging only by the tip of my lips; I closed my eyes in order, it seemed to me, to help push it out, and took pleasure in growing languid and letting myself go. It was an idea that was only floating on the surface of my soul, as delicate and feeble as all the rest, but in truth not only free from distress but mingled with that sweet feeling that people have who let themselves slide into sleep.

In this, as in everything, Montaigne seemed to trust his own nature, to let it be, to have confidence that, beneath the wandering flickers of our minds, something deeper endures, if only we can accept it. It’s that calm acceptance of what is, along with gladness for it, that makes Montaigne almost Taoist at times. P.M. Carpenter joins the conversation:

One non-political passage in Sullivan’s superb survey I identified with rather acutely:

If I were to single out one theme of Montaigne’s work that has stuck with me, it would be [his] staring of death in the face, early and often, and never flinching…. I was lucky in some ways – and obviously highly unlucky in others – that I experienced something like this early in my life as well: the prospect of my own imminent death and the loss of one of my closest friends and soulmates to AIDS. There was Scripture to salve it all; there was friendship to shoulder it all; there was hope to sustain it all. But in the end, I found myself returning to Montaigne’s solid sanity, his puzzlement and joy at life’s burdens and pleasures, his self-obsession that never somehow managed to become narcissism.

In my young and soulfully beautiful wife’s death I never found comfort in Scripture–”mysterious ways” my ass, she died young because we pour tons more cash into weaponry than cancer research–although in our daughter, hope does sustain me. She is my best and dearest friend and she’s as soulfully gorgeous as her mother. The prospect of my own imminent death disturbs me little; I already know its cause–years of self-destructive behavior. This seems only fair. I knew what I was doing and I proceeded to do more of it. I deserve what I get. My wife did not.

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God’s Foreign Policy

Jul 24 2014 @ 11:20am

Christian followers of American Evangeli

Every now and again, the absurd that is familiar can become fresh again. What’s absurd is the lockstep support for anything Israel might do in the United States. It’s the only country which, in a conflict with a US administration, will have Congressional Republicans and Democrats backing a foreign government over their own – and being rewarded for it in terms of money and votes. It’s the only country in which a foreign leader can address the US Congress as a rebuke to the US president – and get a standing ovation. It’s the only foreign country that receives $3 billion in aid and still gets to dress down the US president in the White House itself.

And the most important reason why is Christianism. The commitment of America’s evangelicals to the maximalist claims of Greater Israel has only intensified over the last couple of decades. The leader of this movement is a crackpot – a man who believes that the end-times are imminent, that the anti-Christ will be the head of the EU, and that Russia will invade Israel as a harbinger of the Apocalypse. He was once famous for intensely anti-Catholic bigotry, arguing that “a Godless theology of hate that no one dared try to stop for a thousand years produced a harvest of hate.” He’s bonkers, but he’s fanatically pro-Israel, which is why his annual conference of Christians United For Israel attracts the likes of Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, along with Butters.

Dave Weigel – peace be upon him – attended this year’s conference so you didn’t have to. And, of course, defending the Gaza war was at the top of the agenda this year. Now remember that this is called Christians United For Israel. And the message is clear:

American evangelicals needed to imagine themselves as Israelis, praise the “miracle” of the Iron Dome missile defense system, and understand that the Jews had a biblical mandate to the entire Holy Land. “I’ll bless those that bless you and I’ll curse those that curse you,” said Hagee, quoting from the book of Genesis. “That’s God’s foreign policy statement, and it has not changed.” …

Speaker after speaker gave the evangelicals ammunition for the next time someone criticized the Gaza operation, or shamed Israel over the body count. “Here’s a message for America: Don’t ever turn your back on Israel, because God will turn his back on us,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. “More Germans died in World War II than American soldiers. That didn’t make the Germans right.

My favorite moment from Dave’s account – the testimony of one IDF Sgt Benjamin Anthony. He said what even Butters might blush at saying:

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The View From Your Window

Jul 24 2014 @ 11:02am


Chengdu, China, 7.23 am

Strategic Countertrolling

Jul 24 2014 @ 10:30am

The State Department is hip to the fact that jihadists are using social media to propagandize and recruit supporters, and its $5 million Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications is devoted to fighting back. The trouble, as Jacob Silverman reveals, is that they’re not very good at it:

The way the program works is fairly simple: The State Department’s analysts follow online chatter about the latest ISIL victory or news of a recent al-Shabaab massacre in Kenya, and then they try to insert themselves into the conversation. The idea is less to sway committed terrorists than to persuade fence-sitters not to join up or provide material support.

But State’s messages usually arrive with all the grace of someone’s dad showing up at a college party. The posts tend to be blunt, adversarial, and plagued by poor Photoshop work.

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Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis

Jul 24 2014 @ 10:02am


“While there have been many news reports on the number of people who have been killed (over 500) and wounded (over 3,000) in the Israeli offensive,” Elizabeth Ferris observes, “far larger numbers of people are being forced from their homes”:

In fact, displacement may turn out to be the defining characteristic of this terrible conflict. As the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) spokesperson Chris Gunness said today, “This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict. We are seeing a huge wave of accelerated displacement because of the Israeli ground offensive.” …

People are warned to evacuate by the Israeli forces, but there are not many places to go as Gaza’s borders are all but closed. Some have taken shelter with family or friends, some have even sought protection in a Greek Orthodox Church, but many have turned to U.N. facilities for protection. Yet UNRWA’s facilities are close to capacity and, as numbers increase, conditions are likely to worsen. According to Doctors Without Borders, unhygienic conditions and overcrowding at UNRWA facilities “are extremely worrying.” UNRWA also may not be able to provide the protection which internally displaced persons (IDPs) are seeking. In fact, the agency reports that 64 of its buildings have been damaged in the offensive.

The war will also leave indelible psychological scars, particularly on Gazan children:

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Bad Blood

Jul 24 2014 @ 9:35am

Your blood type, Carl Zimmer explains, may predispose you to certain types of illness:

Doctors first began to notice a link between blood types and different diseases in the middle of the 20th century, and the list has continued to grow. “There are still many associations being found between blood groups and infections, cancers and a range of diseases,” Pamela Greenwell of the University of Westminster tells me.

From Greenwell I learn to my displeasure that blood type A puts me at a higher risk of several types of cancer, such as some forms of pancreatic cancer and leukaemia. I’m also more prone to smallpox infections, heart disease and severe malaria. On the other hand, people with other blood types have to face increased risks of other disorders. People with type O, for example, are more likely to get ulcers and ruptured Achilles tendons.

These links between blood types and diseases have a mysterious arbitrariness about them, and scientists have only begun to work out the reasons behind some of them. For example, Kevin Kain of the University of Toronto and his colleagues have been investigating why people with type O are better protected against severe malaria than people with other blood types. His studies indicate that immune cells have an easier job of recognizing infected blood cells if they’re type O rather than other blood types.