The Best Of The Dish Today

Jul 21 2014 @ 9:15pm

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

If you believe, as most Republicans still seem to do, that the most important boon for the economy and the deficit would be further tax cuts, then surely Kansas’ recent, radical experiment in slashing tax rates should merit a view. The result, it now appears, is that tax revenues in Kansas have collapsed:

From June, 2013 to June, 2014, all Kansas tax revenue plunged by 11 percent. Individual income taxes fell from $2.9 billion to $2.2 billion and all income tax collections plummeted from $3.3 billion to $2.6 billion, a drop of more than 20 percent.

Did growth rebound? Nah: “Since the first round of tax cuts, job growth in Kansas has lagged the U.S. economy. So have personal incomes.” Now take a look at California, that big tax-and-spend liberal state. In 2013, they went in the opposite direction and raised taxes considerably on sales and high incomes. Many predicted disaster. The result?

Last year California added 410,418 jobs, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2012, significantly better than the 1.8 percent national increase in jobs. California is home to 12 percent of Americans, but last year it accounted for 17.5 percent of new jobs, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

Obviously, there are other factors involved in both cases, and you should read the links to see the qualifications. But they are qualifications. We’ve know for a long time that cutting taxes does not help the government’s bottom line and has very limited potential for job growth given the historically low rates of tax in the US right now. But we didn’t know that tax increases could coexist with quite robust job growth and fiscal health. Count this as one more piece of evidence that re-thinking Republican economics on reformocon lines is a necessary but not sufficient initiative to alter GOP dogma.

Today, we covered the ever-more-sobering news out of Ukraine and Gaza – in particular Putin’s dead end and Netanyahu’s Gaza strategy (if you can call it that). And if you weren’t depressed enough, here’s a look at the fate of Iraq’s beleaguered Christians. To balance this a bit, check out pheromone dating rituals and an ode to the pit-bull as the archetypal American dog.

The most popular post of the day was “The Oldest Depiction Of Sex On Record” on the Ron Jeremys of ancient Egypt, followed by Holding Corpses Hostage. Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails, including this back and forth sparked by a reader upset with his situation under Obamacare.

39 more readers became subscribers today (a much bigger Monday total than usual, probably due to our Gaza coverage and Ukraine coverage). You can join those new subscribers here - and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish - for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here.

See you in the morning.

(Photo: Family members of Major Tsafrir Bar-Or mourn and cry during his funeral on July 21, 2014 in Holon, Israel. By Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

The View From Your Window

Jul 21 2014 @ 8:34pm

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Rockport, Massachusetts, 7 pm

Last week, Maggie Koerth-Baker warned that chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease that’s not typically fatal but currently has no cure, is inevitably making its way to the US:

The virus has been known since the 1950s, but because it was largely non-lethal and largely confined to developing countries in Africa and Asia, the Western medical establishment didn’t much care about it until 10 years ago. That’s when chikungunya showed up on the French-controlled island of La Réunion, in the Indian Ocean, where it infected 40 percent of the population. Since then, it’s exploded in parts of Asia where it hadn’t been seen in decades (and other parts where it hadn’t been seen at all), reached Australia and Taiwan, and made landfall in Italy and France. And all of that was before the outbreak in the Caribbean.

So what changed? The sudden spread of chikungunya seems to be related to two things. First, the virus itself mutated. The strain that’s spreading around the world is different from the one that hung around sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, it’s much more efficient at replicating itself in the guts of mosquitoes. That seems to have increased both its ability to move into new places and its ability to be carried by different species of mosquito.

That same day, the CDC announced the first locally acquired case of the virus in Florida. Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart explains why medical entomologists (like her wife Cassandra) are freaking out:

Read On

Face Of The Day

Jul 21 2014 @ 7:47pm

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A security serviceman wearing military fatigues stands during a press conference held by self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the pro-Russian separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, on July 19, 2014. By Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty.

Poseur Alert

Jul 21 2014 @ 7:25pm

‘”The Mockingbird Next Door’ conjured mostly sad images in my mind. Ms. Lee has a regular booth at McDonald’s, where she goes for coffee. She eats takeout salads from Burger King on movie night. When she fishes, she uses wieners for bait. She feeds the town ducks daily, with seed corn from a plastic Cool Whip Free container, calling “Woo-hoo-HOO! Woo-hoo-HOO!” Somehow learning all this is worse than it would be to learn that she steals money from a local orphanage,” – Dwight Garner, NYT.

(Hat tip: the wonderful Michelle Dean)

A small but telling story in the Baltimore Sun reveals how an American couple and their kids, after losing their jobs, have decided to relocate to Israel. Except they’re not relocating to Israel – but to a settler outpost near Jerusalem in the occupied territories. But neither the couple nor the reporter notice this rather pertinent fact:

The Brenners acknowledge the controversy surrounding moves such as theirs, part of a larger movement that many view as a stumbling block to peace in the region. But they say peace is also part of their dream. “We understand that there are other people living in Israel. … We want to live in peace,” David Brenner said. “My wife and I pray for a time when the Jewish people and Arabs and Christians will be able to live peacefully side by side.”

Notice “other people living in Israel” means others living in the occupied territories. Greater Israel already exists. And always will.

Superhero Social Justice

Jul 21 2014 @ 6:42pm

Kevin O’Keeffe relays the big news out of the comic book world:

Continuing the trend of diversifying their lineup of heroes, Marvel announced on last [week's] episode of The Colbert Report that the next Captain America will be Sam Wilson – currently known as The Falcon. … It’s the second big change for Marvel’s Avengers this week. On Tuesday, the women of The View announced that the next Thor would be a woman. Like with Thor, the new Captain America isn’t an off-shoot series – this is the primary Captain America, and the first black Captain America to officially hold the title.

Freddie sighs at those he believes are confusing symbolic firsts for real progress:

The glee with which these changes have been met, contrasted with the bleak state of structural change and economic justice, will tell you pretty much all you need to know about a certain strain of contemporary American liberalism. We’re mere weeks away from a Supreme Court decision where an alliance of religious crazies and corporatists was able to remove a legal provision requiring employers to pay for emergency contraception, but don’t worry, ladies! You too can now be portrayed as a heavily-sanitized version of a minor god from a long-dead pantheon. Black Americans continue to lag national averages in a vast number of metrics that depict quality of life, and in some of them have actually lost ground, but never fear. The guy portrayed punching people while wearing red white and blue spandex will now be black.

Lighten up, Freddie. Progress comes in all forms, big and small. And it’s often the small cultural changes, added together, that have the most lasting impact. Ta-Nehisi put it best, in a post written four years ago, reacting to the news that Captain America was headed to the big screen:

One thing that makes me sad–I wish they’d been ballsy and made Captain America black. … The subtle power of a black Captain America–in the age of a black president–really could be awesome.

Also awesome:

So far, the Hollywood version of Captain America hasn’t made the same move as Marvel, but here’s hoping. Meanwhile, Danny Fingeroth explains the business logic behind these sort of decisions:

Read On

The View From Your Obamacare, Ctd

Jul 21 2014 @ 6:16pm

A reader has a jaded view:

It’s nice to see some of the stories you post about how much the ACA has helped people. The President Obama Visits Boston To Talk About Health Carestories where people mourn for those who refuse it and need it are sad. Allow me to present you with a third type, the people who aren’t eligible due to system bugs.

Yep. Jack and shit for my family. I tried to sign up, since my wife and kids’ coverage ended in May and the ACA won’t cover them. We aren’t rich. We’re lower-middle class, according to the federal poverty line, but out of red state Medicaid income levels. I tried the site – nothing but errors. I spent an hour or more on the phone and neither the persons I spoke to or their supervisors understand why they can’t process it for us. I could call my senator or congressman, but I doubt Lindsey Graham or Trey “Benghazi” Gowdy will investigate.

I’m disabled and currently get Medicare. Prior to May, my wife, two small kids and I all received Medicaid.

Read On

Retroactive Reform

Jul 21 2014 @ 5:43pm

On July 18, the US Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to retroactively apply new sentencing guidelines and allow almost 50,000 federal drug-offense prisoners the possibility of shorter sentences. Dara Lind provides background, including the Obama administration’s role, or lack thereof:

The US Sentencing Commission is independent of the Obama administration. In fact, the Department of Justice originally wanted the Sentencing Commission to approve a much more limited plan — one that would only let about 20,000 prisoners apply for shorter sentences. This week, reports surfaced that Department of Justice officials had been meeting privately with the Sentencing Commission, and had softened its position a little: it now wanted something that would affect about 40,000 prisoners. It’s not clear if the plan the Sentencing Commission approved today is the one the DoJ was lobbying for in private, or a different one.

Chris Geidner passes along Holder’s response to the new development:

Read On

Ivan Katchanovski predicts that attempts “to solve the conflict in Donbas by force will lead to mounting casualties among civilians, Ukrainian forces and armed separatists”:

Even a military defeat of separatists is unlikely to end the conflict because it reflects significant regional divisions since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, including a history of separatism in Crimea and Donbas. And Russia, with significant military, political, and economic leverage over Ukraine, is there to stay.

An internationally mediated negotiated settlement — which would include international investigations of the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane and other mass killings — could preserve Donbas as a part of Ukraine. An example of one such peaceful resolution of an armed conflict between separatists and the central government is in Macedonia, in the former Yugoslavia. A negotiated settlement can also stop an escalation of the civil war in Ukraine and the growing conflict between the West and Russia. But such a peaceful resolution in Ukraine is not very likely to happen.

Maxim Eristavi’s report suggests that fighting won’t stop anytime soon:

On Friday, Putin called again for peace talks—but nobody in Kyiv is listening at the moment.

Read On