Losing Your Faith In Santa, Ctd

Dec 22 2014 @ 5:45pm

Readers continue the popular thread:

I remember the moment I knew for a fact that Santa wasn’t real. All my life, Santa used different wrapping paper than my mom. Gifts from my parents were in one style and Santa’s gifts looked completely different. One July, when I was 11 or 12, I was helping my mom clean out the garage and I came across Santa’s wrapping paper. I was old enough that I had a good idea that Santa wasn’t real, but I remember the look my mom and I exchanged. Mom said, “Well, that’s that. Don’t tell your little sister.” And I didn’t.

The next Christmas, when Santa used the special paper again, I felt like I was in on some big secret. I knew the truth! My sister figured it out logically a year later. She was 8. I am clearly the slow one of the family.

Another’s reason for disbelief was pretty simple:

Santa had the same handwriting as my parents.

Another reader:

I had been suspecting Santa was a myth for a few years, but when I was 10 I cornered my dad because he somehow couldn’t lie to me when asked a straight question. (As an 8 year old who had just i-want-to-believefinished D.A.R.E., I caught him burning incense and smoking, I thought, a cigarette. Being the smart ass I was, I asked, “are you smoking marijuana?” His answer was, “Yes, don’t tell your mother.” I didn’t.)

I asked him if Santa was real, and he told me no – it was him and my mom. To this day he says my face dropped, my heart broke, and that he’s always regretted telling me. I remember it differently. I remember being glad he told me the honest truth and didn’t keep lying to me like all the other adults. Of course I WANTED Santa to be real, I still do! That’d be awesome! But I had already found their stash of presents and he was just confirming what I already knew.

Another confesses:

I should probably keep this to myself, but what the Hell:

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Beth Daley recently reported on prenatal screening errors:

Two recent industry-funded studies show that test results indicating a fetus is at high risk for a chromosomal condition can be a false alarm half of the time. And the rate of false alarms goes up the more rare the condition, such as Trisomy 13, which almost always causes death.

Companies selling the most popular of these screens do not make it clear enough to patients and doctors that the results of their tests are not reliable enough to make a diagnosis. … Now, evidence is building that some women are terminating pregnancies based on the screening tests alone. A recent study by another California-based testing company, Natera Inc., which offers a screen called Panorama, found that 6.2 percent of women who received test results showing their fetus at high risk for a chromosomal condition terminated pregnancies without getting a diagnostic test such as an amniocentesis.

Libby Copeland summarizes Daley’s findings:

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Mental Health Break

Dec 22 2014 @ 4:20pm

Even cows get jazzed for Christmas:

And Everybody Hates The Gays

Dec 22 2014 @ 3:44pm

Earlier this month, 26 men were arrested at a Cairo bath house. Scott Long attended the first day of their trial:

The lawyers still hadn’t seen the prosecutors’ or police reports, so we don’t know definitely what the charges are. It seems likely, though, that 21 men were customers at the bathhouse; they will be charged with the “habitual practice of debauchery” (article 9c of Law 10/1061), or homosexual conduct, facing up to three years in prison. The owner and staff probably make up the other five prisoners. They’re likely to be tried for some combination of:

  • keeping a residence for purposes of debauchery (article 9a, three years),
  • or facilitating the practice of debauchery (article 9b, three years),
  • or profiting from the practice of debauchery (article 11, two years),
  • or “working or residing in premises used for debauchery” (article 13: one year).

That could add up nine years in prison. Contrary to [Egyptian journalist] Mona Iraqi’s lies, there was no mention of “sex trafficking.”

Shortly after the arrests, Brian Whitaker compared this latest incident with “a similar crackdown by the Mubarak regime around 2001″:

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Excuse Me, Mr Coates

Dec 22 2014 @ 2:30pm

Some apologies for getting around to this so late. The torture report came out shortly after Ta-Nehisi’s excoriation of TNR as some kind of “neo-Dixiecrat” rag which had the equivalent of a “Whites Only” sign on it, and, well, first things first. Then I wasn’t blogging last week. So please don’t consider my recent silence some kind of tacit concession to TNC’s incendiary and hurtful critique. Au contraire.

A few brief points about his general argument. From the intensity of his rhetoric, you might infer that Ta-Nehisi was writing about National Review, an opponent of civil rights laws, or even about a neo-Confederate rag, as opposed to The New Republic, a longtime champion of the civil rights movement. But it appears he sees no difference. You’d think he were writing about a magazine filled with bigoted white Southerners, as opposed to an overwhelmingly Jewish set of writers and editors engaged in a long and internecine debate about what it means to be liberal. And the racial politics of TNR from the 1970s through the 1990s cannot be understood without grappling with the bitter and intense struggle between Jewish and African-American civil rights activists in the late 1960s and beyond. Surely Ta-Nehisi knows this. Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 1.29.49 PMHe grew up in this atmosphere. Maybe he believes TNR’s deviations from the Black Power party line were even worse because of its proclaimed liberalism. But he should at least diagnose it with a modicum of the sophistication he usually applies to American racial history.

As for the case that there was a “Whites Only” sign on the door: Has Ta-Nehisi really never read the extraordinary coverage of black history, literature, intellectual life, and poetry that TNR routinely published? Leon’s back-of-the-book was filled with such essays and reviews. Has it even occurred to him either that the campaign for welfare reform in the front of the book, for example, was conceived by liberals who believed the existing system was hurting black America? That it was a good faith effort precisely to care about an underclass “beyond the barrier”? You can debate its effectiveness and rationale. (President Obama, for the record, has said it was one subject on which he had changed his mind. Is he a neo-Dixiecrat as well?) But to assume that it was not done in good faith – or fueled by cheap racism – is not an argument. It’s just a smear.

Did we fail to find and nurture and promote African-American staffers? We did – along with almost every other magazine and newspaper at the time. I regret this. I tried – but obviously not hard enough. I’m no believer in affirmative action, but I’m a deep believer in the importance of differing life experiences to inform a magazine’s coverage of the world. And I tried mightily hard to find young black writers to contribute to the magazine. Did we fail because we were racists? I’ll leave that up to others to judge. But did we try to include black writers and intellectuals in the magazine’s discourse? Of course we did.

Which brings me to the issue we published on Race & IQ, of which I remain deeply proud and which has been distorted over time to appear as something I don’t recognize at all. Some of this may simply be bad memory or insufficient research (the issue is not online). Ta-Nehisi, for example, hasn’t actually read the issue he excoriates in the two decades since it was published. He is writing about his “feelings” about his memories, which he is perfectly entitled to do. But allow me to explain, with the full issue in my hands, why I think his account is flawed.

The current story-line would lead you to believe that TNR published “The Bell Curve.” But of course we didn’t. It was published by the Free Press, with a huge publicity and marketing budget. TNR wasn’t even the first magazine to weigh in on the controversy. The New York Times Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 1.47.24 PMMagazine had Charles Murray on its front cover before our issue came out – “The Most Dangerous Intellectual In America” – making the book even more of a hot topic. Every editor of every paper and magazine had to make a call about how to deal with the book. And as the editor of one of the country’s primary journals of opinion, which had already published Murray many times, I decided we should tackle it head on. We should air its most controversial argument and expose it to scrutiny and criticism. These were not, after all, marginal authors. One was a celebrated Harvard professor; the other was, at the time, the most influential social scientist in America. In my view, ducking this issue was not an option and even seemed cowardly. And I had read the entire book in great detail in manuscript to determine if there was a smidgen of eugenics in it, something that I, as a Catholic, find repellent in every way. This was my job as an editor. It passed my own test. Maybe I was wrong. But it was an honest call and one with which (unlike some others) I remain comfortable with today.

And look: I completely respect those who believed that the right approach was to ignore the book entirely and treat it as a pariah text; or to publish only definitive, devastating take-downs. But I hope that an issue-long, 28-page debate on the subject can also be seen as a legitimate alternative option, especially if you’re on the liberal part of the left. Several quick books were published on exactly that model – and no one is accusing those editors of favoring white supremacy. TNR, moreover, had a long history of this kind of diversity. It published, for example, Robert Bork’s early and famous critique of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, while simultaneously supporting its passage.

And Dish readers know how comfortable I found myself in that liberal tradition. Airing taboo stuff and examining and critiquing it has been a running feature of this blog from its beginnings. It is an axiom of mine that anything can be examined and debated – and that the role of journalism is not to police the culture but to engage in it forthrightly and honestly. Again: I respect those who believe the role of a magazine is to bless certain opinions and to stigmatize others, to indicate what is a socially acceptable opinion and what is not. It’s just not the way I have ever rolled on anything. So I responded to the race and IQ controversy exactly as I would any other: put it all on the table and let the facts and arguments take us where they may. In fact, I couldn’t understand why those who loathed the book didn’t leap at the chance to debunk it. If it were so transparently dreck, why not go in for the kill?

As it was, several leading black writers and intellectuals, with ties to the magazine, were eager to. Among them: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Glenn Loury, and Randy Kennedy. They were among the finest African-American minds of the era; and they did not hold back. Henry Louis Gates Jr analogized Murray to a slavery-defender:

By making the enslaved a character fit only for slavery, they excuse themselves for refusing to make the slave a free man.

Hugh Pearson wrote:

Murray and Herrnstein sound like two people who have found a way for racists to rationalize their racism without losing sleep over it. One could call what they are facilitating Racist Chic.

Glenn Loury wrote:

Read On

Reflecting on the senseless murder of two officers, a reader passes along the disgusting video above:

I follow my local precinct on twitter, to get neighborhood news. And a week or so before the murders, they posted a link to a video with protestors chanting for cops to be killed. I think it was going around in police circles.

I think we have to understand the police response in this context. They felt very much under attack by the mayor, who didn’t have their back against the protestors. And they saw this video, and many of them said someone was going to kill a cop. And then someone killed two cops.

My sympathies are very much with the protestors, in general (although not these protestors). When I saw the video, I thought the cops were being hysterical. I thought, of course no one is going to do anything to the cops, no one ever does anything to the cops. And I was totally wrong.

Read On

The Biggest State To Ban Fracking

Dec 22 2014 @ 1:29pm

New York’s ban was announced last week:

At a cabinet meeting Wednesday morning, acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker released the results of a years-long study into the public health implications of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Zucker said the benefits of tapping natural gas deposits in western New York did not outweigh the potential risk to public health.

Jay Michaelson reads through that report:

[T]he shortest summary of A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development (PDF) is: We don’t know if it’s safe or not.

Read On

12.20.14

Those are tough statistics to absorb:

A majority of Americans think that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half of the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. By a margin of almost 2 to 1 — 59 percent to 31 percent — those interviewed said that they support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying that they produced valuable intelligence. In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

This is neoconservatism’s biggest victory since the invasion of Iraq. It means, first of all, a culture immune to fact. The Senate Report concludes from a mountain of CIA documents that no good intelligence was procured through torture – and yet by 2 – 1, Americans prefer to believe a fantasy, peddled only by the torturers themselves. The only fantasy many are prepared to abandon is that the CIA’s program was not somehow “torture”. For that admission, those of us who have tried to exhume and explain the grisly facts can receive some credit. But that credit is instantly wiped out by the fact that even when it is torture, most Americans support it.

In this struggle, we always knew we could never undo the horrors of the past. What we were trying to do was to expose a criminal conspiracy at the heart of the American government to subvert the law and adopt the tactics of totalitarian states toward prisoners – in order to prevent any of it ever happening again. We achieved the one at the expense of the other. No one can seriously doubt that there was a conspiracy, that it involved the knowing subversion of the rule of law, that it committed acts of absolute evil, and that it sunk America’s international reputation to unprecedented lows. Yet a majority of Americans endorse all of it. Because 9/11.

And the staggering levels of support for torture by Christians merely reveals that very few of them are Christians at all. Torture is not a gray area for Christians. It is the darkest stain there is. And the fact that 65 percent of white Catholics back torture tells you a lot about the terribly weak leadership of the bishops on this core and central issue. They were more interested in how to stop women getting contraceptives than standing up and being counted on torture.

Several factors play into this: the shameless and relentless campaign by the torturers to insist they did nothing wrong and even, against all the evidence, “saved lives”; the impact of CIA-blessed popular culture fantasies like “24” or “Zero Dark Thirty” which made torture seem heroic; the fathomless pragmatism of president Obama, utterly in hock to the CIA; the bureaucratic skills and sabotaging of the report by John Brennan; the broader polarization that meant that if one political party endorsed war crimes as a policy, roughly half the population would fall in line; the paranoia and panic that Bush and Cheney spread after 9/11; and the underlying American propensity for rationalizing revenge and violence, especially against anyone with dark skin and a funny name.

As an immigrant to America, this is a bit of a gut-check, to say the least. A reader channels some of what I’m feeling:

I’m a naturalized US citizen, as is my wife and kids. My wife and I were born and raised in Ireland, our kids born in London but we moved to US when they were very young. Even before this thoroughly depressing week of news on torture and politics in general, both my kids (now in college) made uncoordinated separate comments that they are now not sure if they see any future in staying in the US. My son has even opted to go to college in Canada, he feels so strongly about it.

As I read more and more of your coverage on the torture debate and the denials, it is starting to feel like I have been thrown into a dark dank pit and left to rot.

We’ve chosen this country at a moment when it has chosen to embrace torture as an instrument of policy. And that all but inverts the meaning of America.

Read On

ISIS Suffers A Defeat

Dec 22 2014 @ 11:45am

IRAQ-CONFLICT-KURDS

The Kurds have beat them back:

Kurdish forces in northern Iraq celebrated their biggest victory yet over ISIS on Friday after breaking, with U.S. air support, the lengthy jihadi siege of Mount Sinjar and freeing hundreds of trapped members of the Yazidi religious sect. The Kurds claimed at least 100 Islamic militants were killed in the two-day battle to lift the siege. The victory by about 8,000 Peshmerga fighters will boost the Kurds’ confidence in their efforts to roll back the territorial gains made in northern Iraq by the fighters for the so-called Islamic State.

But the fighting isn’t over:

While Kurdish fighters in Iraq have pushed deeper into the town of Sinjar, held by ISIS group, they are facing stiff resistance from the Sunni militants who captured it in August, the Associated Press reported. One of the fighters, Bakhil Elias, described the overnight clashes which continued till Monday as “fierce” and that ISIS militants are using snipers.

Dexter Filkins puts the news in context:

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For Richer, For Poorer

Dec 22 2014 @ 11:14am

Philip Cohen explains the impact of the recession on US marriages:

In the case of divorce, the pattern is counter-intuitive. Although economic hardship and insecurity adds stress to relationships and increases the risk of divorce, the overall divorce rate usually drops when unemployment rates rise. Researchers believe that, like births, people postpone divorces during economic crises because of the costs of divorcing—not just legal fees, but also housing transitions (which were especially difficult in the Great Recession) and employment disruptions. My own research found that there was a sharp drop in the divorce rate in 2009 that can reasonably be attributed to the recession. But, as is suspected will be the case with births, there appears to have been a divorce-rate rebound in the years that followed.

Meanwhile, Andrew Gelman flags a “recent research report from M.V. Lee Badgett and Christy Mallory,” indicating that divorce is less of a threat to same-sex couples:

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