Some brief links on the Becker book. Ronan Farrow had a terrific interview with Becker today – tough but fair. Check it out. Lisa Keen has a superb takedown, as does Kevin Jennings. Petrelis piles on to HRC’s spin. I think it’s safe to say that there have been episodes of the 700 Cub that have gotten a better reception in the gay community.
Holly Allen extols the virtues of sleeping in separate beds:
Sharing a bed is good for sleeping together, but not actually sleeping together. We all know the importance of sleep, so why then do we still choose to share our beds with the kickers, the snorers, and the human furnaces that we love?
“Man since time immemorial has made preparation for sleep, either laying an animal pelt on the ground or using plant matter as some sort of mattress,” according to sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley. “Originally we all slept together on the ground, mainly because we had nowhere else, but also for warmth and security.”
Warmth and security? We have flannel pajamas and deadbolts now.
There have been times throughout the history of slumber that couples did not share a bed. Ancient Romans retreated to their separate quarters in the evening. On TheDick Van Dyke Show, Laura and Rob Petrie turned in to their separate beds, and I bet they slept great.
I read your snippet on the effects of blue light with interest, as my partner has Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. We have a whole system in place at the house for the timing of optimal lighting. This includes blue LEDs pointed at him during the day and software applications to reduce blue lights on all the media screens at night. F.lux reduces blue light in your computer/iDevice screen according to your time zone, while Twilight for Android does the same thing for your mobile. So when I’m reading the Dish late at night, I now don’t have to worry that it’s corrupting my circadian rhythm as well as my mind.
Four-hundred-and-fifty years ago today, in a village in the West Midlands, the greatest imaginative intelligence evolved by our species was born. Lawrence Olivier called Shakespeare “the nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God”. John Dryden wrote that, of all the poets, “he had the largest and most comprehensive soul”. Thomas Carlyle asserted, “I know not such a power of vision, such a faculty of thought, if we take all the characters of it, in any other man.” For Harold Bloom, “Bardolatry, the worship of Shakespeare, ought to be even more a secular religion than it already is. The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually.”
With an artist’s gift for “aesthetic force” and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives, which seem like the blink of a cosmic eye against the timescales of these ancient organisms — organisms that have unflinchingly witnessed all of our own tragedies and triumphs, our wars and our revolutions, our holocausts and our renaissances, and have remained anchored to existence more firmly than we can ever hope to be. And yet a great many of these species are on the verge of extinction, in no small part due to human activity, raising the question of how our seemingly ephemeral presence in the ecosystem can have such deep and long-term impact on organisms far older and far more naturally resilient than us. …
From a broken arm in remote Sri Lanka to a heart-wrenching breakup to a well-timed sip of whisky at polar explorer Shackleton’s grave, her personal stories imbue the universality of the deeper issues she explores with an inviting dose of humanity — a gentle reminder that life, for us as much as for those ancient organisms, is often about withstanding the uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unwelcome curveballs the universe throws our way, and that resilience comes from the dignity and humility of that withstanding.
The Dish has highlighted Sussman’s work over the years.
A girl embraces a cross at symbolical cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic on April 23, 2014. Activists placed 107 meter tall wooden crosses each carrying the name of a victim of Ukraine’s Maidan protests. By Matej Divizna/Getty Images.
As Obama begins an East Asian tour, Keating asks whether the much-touted “pivot to Asia” is a real thing:
[T]here doesn’t seem to be much evidence that the administration is spending more of its energy on Asia, or less of it on the Middle East, than it did previously. As Gideon Rachman argues, the fact that the pivot hasn’t been much in evidence doesn’t mean that the idea wasn’t a sound one. The Pacific is an area of growing strategic and economic importance and the U.S. position still carries a significant amount of weight there.
But the fact is that more attention tends to be paid to the places where things are blowing up on a regular basis. Thankfully, despite tensions running high on the Korean peninsula and the East China Sea, Asia is not yet that place. But it means that the region is often going to be pushed to the back-burner when more obvious crises present themselves
Dan Blumenthal thinks the pivot was a bad idea from the get-go:
Yes, Asia is of emerging consequence in world affairs. All post-Cold War presidents have recognized this. And China has had the potential to pose the greatest challenge to the United States since it became the prime actor in world affairs. Without a doubt, Asia needs more U.S. attention and resources. But the United States is a global superpower with vital interests in several interlinked regions. There can be no Asia policy without a global strategy.
“At the hospital they gave me Xanax for anxiety. Xanax doesn’t get rid of your anxiety. Xanax tells you not to feel it for awhile until it stops working and you take the next pill. The beauty of psilocybin is: it’s not medication. You’re not taking it and it solves your problem. You take it and you solve your problem yourself,” – a patient with acute anxiety, after treatment with the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms.”
Russians are turning away from the bottle, at least relatively:
[When Dmitry] Medvedev handed the presidency back to Putin in 2012, his anti-alcohol campaign had quietly produced marked improvements in Russian health. Consumption of all types of alcohol had dropped from 18 liters per capita to 15. Suicides, homicides, and—most telling—alcohol-poisoning deaths occurred less frequently. In 2011, “only” 11,700 Russians died from alcohol poisoning, quite a drop from the average of 36,000 a year during Putin’s first eight years (2000–08) but still some 50 times higher than the rate in Europe and North America. The same year, combined life expectancy for men and women surpassed 70 years (64.3 for men, 76.1 for women) for the first time since 1986, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign.
Jack Shafer criticizes the gag order (seen above) that James Clapper recently placed on the entire intel community:
The nation’s top spy has prohibited all of his spies from talking with reporters about “intelligence-related information” unless officially authorized to speak. … Directive 119 increases the insularity of the national security state, making the public less safe, not more. Until this directive was issued, intelligence community employees could provide subtext and context for the stories produced by the national security press without breaking the law. Starting now, every news story about the national security establishment that rates disfavor with the national security establishment — no matter how innocuous — will rate a full-bore investigation of sources by authorities.
Tina Nguyen has more on how far the order extends:
Theo Hobsons wonders if atheists can offer a satisfying approach to ethics, arguing that “when God is rejected, the stakes are gulpingly high; the entire moral tradition of the West is put in question.” That dubious line of reasoning brings to mind a study Tom Jacobs recently flagged, which found that “the way Americans view non-believers remains extremely negative”:
After reading a description of someone committing an immoral act, participants in five experiments “readily and intuitively assumed that the person was an atheist,” University of Kentucky psychologist Will Gervais reports in the online journal PLoS One. “Even atheist participants judged immoral acts as more representative of atheists than of other groups.”
The findings suggest our instinctive belief that moral behavior is dependent upon God—as ethical arbiter and/or assigner of divine punishment—creates a belief system strong enough to override evidence to the contrary. It leads people many to look at non-believers and reflexively assume the worst.
My old friend and former colleague in the intern pit, Jake Weisberg, sent out an email the other day. He was pitching Slate‘s new subscription push: Slate+. But the reason the email caught my eye was the following paragraph:
We face one major impediment to future success: we’re too dependent on advertising. Don’t get me wrong — we love our sponsors. But we’ve long recognized that we’d be a healthier and more secure magazine if — like many of our favorite ancestors in the print world — we got a meaningful share of our revenue from readers as well as advertisers. The catch for Slate is that we don’t want to put up a paywall, which would shrink our big audience and make the site more of a hassle to access.
One other option would be a pay-meter, like the Dish’s, but they’re going the TPM route of a VIP membership of $50 a year or $5 a month, with some exclusive features for subscribers:
You’ll get Slate articles without pagination, Slate podcasts without ads, first-crack at tickets and discounts to our many live events, a special Members-only section of the site with extra content, privileged status for your comments, and more.
My own view is that pay-meters for repeat readers is a better way to do this. Yes, they do reduce traffic a bit. Our unique visitors now average around 800,000 a month compared with around a million with no meter. But we still have surges. Last October we were back up at 1.2 million and in February, more than 2 million unique visitors. My take-away is that the immense benefits of close to 30,000 subscribers, and freedom from intense advertizing pressure, far outweigh any minor downsides in pageviews. But every site is different, and what works here may not work for Slate.
And Jake’s point about being too dependent on advertising is the critical one. Editors who only have to please advertisers will make different choices than those who have to please advertisers and subscribers. If you want to assign one reason for the scourge of sponsored content, it is that when you have no source of income except ads, the advertisers have you over a barrel. So what Jake is proposing – and what Josh at TPM has also done (yes, I know their backing of sponsored content messes things up) – is the only real way to get out of these woods.
I guess we’re in some competition. But I think the general benefits to online journalism of a more robust subscription model are enormous and vital. And the one thing you can actually do to stop the rot is to subscribe to the sites you love and believe in. So, if you haven’t already, subscribe to the Dish here, to TPM here, and to Slatehere. It matters.
Pro-Russian forces in the eastern Ukrainian city have abducted American reporter Simon Ostrovsky (whose latest Vice dispatch from Slovyansk is above):
Ostrovsky, a veteran reporter for a number of outlets, had been filing regular video reports from the region for Vice, including the one above on Ukrainian forces’ botched attempts to retake Slovyansk, which was posted on Sunday. This just the latest is a series of attacks on the press by pro-Russian forces in the area, including the arrest of journalist and activist Irma Krat. [Ostrovsky's cameraman Frederick] Paxton himself was beaten by a pro-Russian crowd last week. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple cases of journalists being “assaulted, detained, or obstructed from reporting” in Russian-controlled Crimea.
It seems the insurgents have no plans to release him anytime soon:
“He’s with us. He’s fine,” [the group's spokeswoman] Stella Khorosheva told The Associated Press, adding, “(We) need to be careful because this is not the first time we’re dealing with spies.” Khorosheva also told The Daily Beast that Ostrovsky is being held according to the “laws of war” because “he was not reporting in a correct way.”
Without saying so explicitly, [the ruling] appeared to give its approval to ballot initiatives designed to roll back affirmative action in other areas as well, such as hiring employees, awarding contracts—and ending racial segregation. In effect—and, in the case of the Court’s conservatives, surely in intention, too—the justices on the majority suggested that if voters in individual states want to throw out laws designed to counter America’s long history of racial discrimination, that’s fine by them, and perfectly constitutional.
Bazelon is disturbed by what she sees as Roberts’ blindness to the enduring problem of racism in America:
I still think there is a difference between a local ordinance that bans busing or fair housing, which aim for equal treatment, and a ballot initiative that takes away a preference based on race. That’s how I made my peace with the outcome today. But I had my doubts when I got to a telling exchange between Roberts and Sotomayor. It’s over the basic underlying question that is nowhere resolved in this case: Whether affirmative action—or any awareness of race—is still needed or valid. …
Corn stover, or the stuff left over when a corn crop is harvested, has become a popular source of biofuel, partly because it doesn’t affect the food supply the way that corn or sugar-based ethanol does. Unfortunately, this type of fuel may actually have a bigger carbon footprint than gasoline:
It used to be that the stalks, leaves, and detrital cobs would be left on fields to prevent soil erosion and to allow the next crop to feast on the organic goodness of its late brethren. Increasingly, though, these leftovers are being sent to cellulosic ethanol biorefineries. Millions of gallons of biofuels are expected to be produced from such waste this year — a figure could rise to more than 10 billion gallons in 2022 to satisfy federal requirements.
But a new study suggests this approach may be worse for the climate, at least in the short term, than drilling for oil and burning the refined gasoline. The benefits of cellulosic biofuel made from corn waste improve over the longer term, but the study, published online Sunday in Nature Climate Change, suggests that the fuel could never hit the benchmark set in the 2007 U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, which requires that cellulosic ethanol be 60 percent better for the climate than traditional gasoline.
Chris Hayes compares the fight against fossil fuels to the abolitionist movement. He states plainly that “there is absolutely no conceivable moral comparison between the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans and the burning of carbon to power our devices.” But he sees economic parallels:
[I]n the decades before the Civil War, the economic value of slavery explodes. It becomes the central economic institution and source of wealth for a region experiencing a boom that succeeded in raising per capita income and concentrating wealth ever more tightly in the hands of the Southern planter class. During this same period, the rhetoric of the planter class evolves from an ambivalence about slavery to a full-throated, aggressive celebration of it. As slavery becomes more valuable, the slave states find ever more fulsome ways of praising, justifying and celebrating it. Slavery increasingly moves from an economic institution to a cultural one; it becomes a matter of identity, of symbolism—indeed, in the hands of the most monstrously adept apologists, a thing of beauty.
And yet, at the very same time, casting a shadow over it all is the growing power of the abolition movement in the North and the dawning awareness that any day might be slavery’s last. So that, on the eve of the war, slavery had never been more lucrative or more threatened. That also happens to be true of fossil fuel extraction today. …
[T]he parallel I want to highlight is between the opponents of slavery and the opponents of fossil fuels. Because the abolitionists were ultimately successful, it’s all too easy to lose sight of just how radical their demand was at the time: that some of the wealthiest people in the country would have to give up their wealth. That liquidation of private wealth is the only precedent for what today’s climate justice movement is rightly demanding: that trillions of dollars of fossil fuel stay in the ground. It is an audacious demand, and those making it should be clear-eyed about just what they’re asking. They should also recognize that, like the abolitionists of yore, their task may be as much instigation and disruption as it is persuasion.
He goes on to argue that avoiding “planetary disaster will mean forcing fossil fuel companies to give up at least $10 trillion in wealth.” Barro sees “reason for somewhat less despair than Mr. Hayes shows, because there are crucial political and economic differences between abolition and carbon limitations”:
Conservatives have long had an easy framework for their economic ideas: The free market cures all. Liberals, instead of nebulously arguing that they’re fighting for the middle class, now have a touchstone that clearly argues they’re fighting against the otherwise inevitable rise of the Hiltons.
Capital will change the political conversation in a more subtle way as well, by focusing it on wealth, not income. Discussions about income can become very muddy, in part because Americans don’t like to begrudge a well-earned payday, and in part because it can be tricky to decide what should count as income. If you start adding health insurance and government transfers such as food stamps into the equation, as some do, the top 1 percent don’t dominate quite so severely.
Wealth is a different story. Americans don’t like the idea of aristocrats—there’s a reason campaigning politicians bring up family farms and steel mills, not Shelter Island vacation homes, when they run for office. Moreover, you can’t save food stamps or a health plan, and because wealth only includes what you can save, it’s a measure of who wins in the economy over the long term.
Robert M. Solow supports Piketty’s proposal for a global wealth tax:
David Corn, who dug up the video footage above, notes:
These days, Paul, who is stuck in a civil war within the GOP over foreign policy issues, is trying to Reaganize himself and demonstrate that he’s not outside the Republican mainstream. (His Senate office did not respond to requests for comment.) But not long ago, Reagan was a foil for Paul, who routinely pointed out that the GOP’s most revered figure actually had been a letdown. It’s no surprise that denigrating Ronald Reagan—and commending Jimmy Carter—is no longer common for Paul. Such libertarian straight talk would hardly help him become one of the successors to the last Republican president who retains heroic stature within the party Paul wants to win over.
For me, though, these clips make Paul’s candidacy more appealing, not less. What the GOP needs is an honest, stringent account of how it has ended up where it is – a party that has piled on more debt than was once thought imaginable and until recently, has done nothing much to curtail federal spending. Reagan was a great president in many ways, as Paul says explicitly in these clips.
But Reagan introduced something truly poisonous into American conservatism.