Snowpocalypse Now

Jan 27 2015 @ 12:39am

The historic storm is peaking. So far four governors have declared states of emergency, more than 7,000 flights have been cancelled, and road travel is banned in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and NYC, where the entire public transit system has shut down – a first for a snow-related event in the city. Eric Holthaus checks in on the dire forecasts, which all seem to agree that New England is going to get the worst of it:

In an epic and at times even giddy technical forecast discussion, the NWS office in Boston warned of an “unprecedented” storm. The storm’s central pressure will explosively deepen on Tuesday, at a rate twice that of a “bomb” cyclone. Invoking the technical term for rapid strengthening of these kinds of storms, the NWS forecaster exclaimed, “it’s bombogenesis, baby!” The NWS Boston office also alternately referred to the storm as “historic” and “crippling.” For New England, there may be two separate intense snowfall bands, one in Western Connecticut and one just south of Boston. Exactly where those bands end up will determine which areas receive the most snowfall, but isolated totals exceeding three feet won’t be surprising.

He also notes concerns that the storm could permanently alter the Massachusetts coastline, “boosted by about three feet of storm surge and 20-foot waves.” Whether it ends up a blizzard for the history books or not, don’t let Harry Enten hear you calling it “Winter Storm Juno” – part of The Weather Channel’s storm branding scheme:

A lot of other weather outlets don’t approve of the Weather Channel’s policy. In fact, the National Weather Service and the Weather Channel’s chief private competitor, AccuWeather, appear to hate it. AccuWeather’s founder and president, Joel Myers, has said, “The Weather Channel has confused media spin with science and public safety and is doing a disservice to the field of meteorology and public service.”

Previous Dish on the controversial subject here. But “Juno” doesn’t seem to be sticking:

So over to you, :

Read On

The Best Of The Dish Today

Jan 26 2015 @ 9:15pm

To give you an idea of how far Netanyahu, Boehner and the pro-Israel right have now gone in their campaign to torpedo the critical talks with Iran, I give you two pillars of the US-Israel relationship. It’s one thing for the Clintons’ former ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, to say this:

Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign … Unfortunately, the US relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours.

It’s quite another for Michael Oren, Netanyahu‘s former ambassador to the US, to urge the prime minister to reverse course:

The behavior over the last few days created the impression of a cynical political move, and it could hurt our attempts to act against Iran. It’s advisable to cancel the speech to Congress so as not to cause a rift with the American government. Much responsibility and reasoned political behavior are needed to guard interests in the White House.”

Today, the former Israeli intelligence chief, Amos Yadlin, concluded:

I think it’s a political game, I think that makes the prime minister irresponsible.

And I hope you’re sitting down because Abe Foxman of the ADL actually chimed in as well:

This looks like a political challenge to the White House and/or a campaign effort in Israel … I certainly support the sanctions if the deal doesn’t come through but having said that, the invitation and acceptance is ill-advised for either side. It is too important an issue to politicize it.

I wonder if this could actually be part of a more general recognition of how deeply dysfunctional the US-Israel relationship has become or a moment when the pathologically pro-Israel evangelical right and neocons actually over-play their hand. Any sane lobby would wait to see if the talks with Iran can conclude with a deal – still unknowable – and then tear it apart; instead the presumption of the Israeli government that the US is simply required to follow whatever foreign policy Israel wants is driving them all into a ditch.

Remember the way in which Netanyahu lectured – yes, lectured – the president in the Oval Office in a way no other foreign leader would in front of the world press. Remember the dozens of times various neoconservatives or Republican evangelicals have gone to Israel to defend it against pressure from Obama on West Bank settlements. Remember when Republican presidential candidates, like Mike Huckabee, actually celebrate the opening of new settlements, directly against the policy of both this president and the last. This is new and it is toxic.

My hope is that this stunt either actually hurts Netanyahu in the election; or if he wins, and Obama secures an Iran deal, it allows Obama to publicly lay out the US government’s map of what a two-state solution must look like, and to reconsider the UN Security Council veto. No Wile. E. Coyote has tried to bring down Obama as doggedly as Netanyahu has. He even had a cartoon bomb at one point. Which is why a meep meep, if it ever comes, will be one of the very best. And saved till last.

Today, on the Dish, I reviewed where the Republicans are as we face the new political year; we surveyed the unlikely prospects of Chris Christie, the tragic death of Sky Mall in-flight magazine and whether Chandler on Friends was homophobic (lighten up). Plus: an atheist’s view of a week of the Dish; and a classic window view … from Ecuador.

The most popular post of the day was The GOP’s New Year; followed by The Meaning of ’90s Sitcoms, Ctd.

And a reader writes:

We’re now far beyond-the-fact, but we thought you’d enjoy seeing this pic from two devoted readers nonetheless: father surprises son with Dish tee; son surprises father with Dish mug – neither saw it coming. A nice little O. Henry, cross-generational touch to holidays.


We only have a handful of mugs left, so get one here before they’re all gone. You can still get your Dish t-shirt here.

See you in the morning.

Can You Teach Funny?

Jan 26 2015 @ 8:35pm

In an essay examining different answers to the question, Saul Austerlitz cracks open one book that says yes:

Mel Helitzer’s Comedy Writing Secrets (1987; updated 2005) suggests a worldwide conspiracy on the part of successful comedians: “Out of fear that discovery of their superficial tricks will be evaluated rather than laughed at, many famous humorists have sponsored an insupportable fiction that comedians must be born funny … Hogwash!” Helitzer lays out a step-by-step program to sharpening and perfecting comedy routines, from the power of POW (plays on words) to the theory of THREES (target, hostility, realism; exaggeration, emotion, surprise).

Comedy Writing Secrets is a workbook, complete with exercises, suggested routines to complete, and wildly dubious statistics. (Are double entendres really 40 percent of all cliché-related humor? How could this possibly be calculated?) Helitzer’s take on comedy occasionally feels fusty and misguided. Referring to Richard Pryor’s audience as “mostly young black militants” is both odd and entirely wrong. Quoting your own jokes alongside the likes of Steve Martin and Steven Wright seems, shall we say, aspirational. But some of the book provides suitable advice for the up-and-coming comic. Helitzer breaks down a haiku-like Mitch Hedberg joke by offering a series of slightly longer, and distinctly less funny, variations on Hedberg’s “I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it” to illustrate his credo that “less is better.”

Face Of The Day

Jan 26 2015 @ 8:00pm

The Way We Lie Now

Jan 26 2015 @ 7:13pm

Clancy Martin praises Dallas G. Denery’s The Devil Wins for being the first systematic history of Western thought about lying, noting that one of the book’s more intriguing arguments is that “our Western understanding of deception has undergone a radical change from Augustine’s time to Rousseau’s”:

For Augustine, lying is always wrong and is an expression of our fallen state; for Rousseau, “the occasional lie” can be justified because we have been forced into deception by our decadent society. “If there is a before and an after in the history of lying, then Rousseau’s Discourses may well mark the moment when the one becomes the other,” Denery writes. “With Rousseau, deception and lying become natural problems, problems with natural causes and, hopefully, natural solutions.”

Indeed, Rousseau proposes some solutions in Émile, his treatise on the education of children, when he insists that—contrary to the notions of his own day, but in agreement with psychological research in the 21st century—most children lie because they are coerced into doing so by their own parents. I have called these “broken-cookie-jar lies”: What kind of deceptive behavior is a parent engaging in when he or she asks a young child, caught with a cookie in hand and a broken jar on the floor: “Now, who is responsible for that?”

The Most Quoted Experts

Jan 26 2015 @ 6:29pm


Justin Wolfers charts the recent dominance of economists:

There’s an old Bob Dylan song that goes “there’s no success like failure,” and it’s a lesson that’s been central to the rise of the economics profession. Each economic calamity since the Great Depression — stagflation in the 1970s, the double-dip recession in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the 1991 downturn — has served to boost the stock of economists. The long Clinton boom that pushed unemployment down to 3.8 percent was good news for nearly all Americans, except economists, who saw their prominence plummet. Fortunately, the last financial crisis fixed that.

Today, the profession is so ubiquitous that if you are running a government agency, a think tank, a media outlet or a major corporation, and don’t have your own pet economist on the payroll, you’re the exception.

The Expiration Date On That URL

Jan 26 2015 @ 5:53pm

Jill Lepore discovers that the “average life of a Web page is about a hundred days”:

No one believes any longer, if anyone ever did, that “if it’s on the Web it must be true,” but a lot of people do believe that if it’s on the Web it will stay on the Web. Chances are, though, that it actually won’t.

In 2006, David Cameron gave a speech in which he said that Google was democratizing the world, because “making more information available to more people” was providing “the power for anyone to hold to account those who in the past might have had a monopoly of power.” Seven years later, Britain’s Conservative Party scrubbed from its Web site ten years’ worth of Tory speeches, including that one. Last year, BuzzFeed deleted more than four thousand of its staff writers’ early posts, apparently because, as time passed, they looked stupider and stupider. Social media, public records, junk: in the end, everything goes.

Which is why the Wayback Machine exists:

Read On

What’s In A Political Slogan?

Jan 26 2015 @ 5:22pm


Election guru Larry Sabato finds that slogans are often “simplistic and manufactured, but the best ones fire up the troops and live on in history.” His unsolicited advice for Hillary and Jeb:

The last time she ran for president, then-Sen. Clinton used “The Strength and Experience to Bring Real Change.” That was workmanlike—and boring. At least for the ’16 Democratic contest, she’d be better off with “Let’s Make History Again” coupled with the Helen Reddy tune “I Am Woman.” Don’t forget, about 57 percent of Democratic presidential primary voters are women.

Read On

This Extraordinary Pope, Ctd

Jan 26 2015 @ 4:44pm

A reader puts it well:

It seems to me that this is pretty big Pope news; he had a private audience with a transgender man and his fiancee. It’s inconceivable that such a meeting would have occurred with either of the two previous Popes. Which is a pretty sad indictment of them, in that Jesus clearly would have had such a meeting.

Mental Health Break

Jan 26 2015 @ 4:20pm

Moving forward, backwards: