“Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst … Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. … So, I was dead wrong about Nelson Mandela, a great man and fine example to others, not least the current occupant of the White House. After 95 momentous years on Earth, may Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela rest in peace,” – Deroy Murdock, National Review.
There’s an app for that:
German police have developed a smartphone app that allows them to identify far-right rock songs by playing just a brief sample. … The interior ministers of the country’s 16 regional states will meet this week to discuss a new method dubbed “Nazi Shazam,” in reference to the mobile phone-based music identification service Shazam, which can identify music bands and song titles from a short sample picked up via the phone’s microphone. The new software would let police quickly identify neo-Nazi rock music.
“The whole situation sounds pretty insane to an outsider,” Victoria Turk says, “but apparently far-right music is a big problem in Germany, where it’s considered a ‘gateway drug’ into the neo-Nazi scene”:
The Guardian reported that in 2004, far-right groups even tried to recruit young members by handing out CD compilations in schools. That sort of action is illegal in Germany, where neo-Nazi groups are outlawed and the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors is tasked with examining and indexing media – including films, games, music, and websites – that may be harmful to young people. Just last year, the board indexed 79 songs for being too racist or neo-Nazi-ish, which means that under-18s can’t buy them. It’s also illegal to make those songs accessible to under-18s, hence the need to track music being played where young people might be present. With the app, a police officer’s smartphone microphone could detect the illegal track and help launch a quick investigation.
Alex Madrigal worries how similar technologies could be used in the US:
“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.
A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule,” – Pope Francis.
Rick Santorum, a Catholic fighting against universal healthcare, compares the Affordable Care Act with … apartheid:
[Mandela] was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives — and Obamacare is front and center in that.
I just don’t know what to say about that. I really don’t. Except that Santorum’s mind is simply unhinged, and that the reflexive need to describe anything that this president has done as pure evil has become a kind of sickness of the mind and soul on the right. It has abandoned any connection to the real world. It lives in a narcissistic, warped, ideological echo-chamber of victimhood and utter obliviousness to the real tragedies of human history.
(Photo: Former US Republican Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013. By Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.)
David Kenner contends that the president’s foreign policy is best understood as a drive toward nonproliferation:
Obama’s non-proliferation agenda got off to a fast start in its first year, as the administration negotiated the New START treaty; held the Nuclear Security Summit, which included delegations from 47 countries across the world; and released a new Nuclear Posture Review, which called for reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy. In some of the global hotspots that concerned the United States, the focus on nuclear non-proliferation also took precedence over concerns about human rights or democracy promotion.
In Russia, Obama prioritized non-proliferation over concerns about Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on his domestic political opponents. “The nuclear issue is really important to his background,” Michael McFaul, the current U.S. ambassador to Moscow, told Mann for The Obamians. “He thinks you need a New START treaty, no matter whether the Russians are a democracy or an autocracy, because these are dangerous weapons and we’ve got to control them-and in a way, that’s a legacy from this 1980s era.” …
With the wind at the back of the president’s nuclear agenda, the stakes could extend far beyond Damascus or Tehran. The one notable exception to Obama’s non-proliferation agenda — so far – has been Israel, where this administration’s refusal to push for nuclear disarmament has led to charges of hypocrisy among both Arabs and Iranians.
Zachary Keck adds that it looks as though, despite some scary cases, nukes are not spreading very quickly:
[T]here has been an undeniable decline in the number of states interested in acquiring nuclear weapons.
Planet Money had t-shirts made so they could better understand where such clothing comes from:
The Planet Money men’s T-shirt was made in Bangladesh, by workers who make about $3 a day, with overtime. The Planet Money women’s T-shirt was made in Colombia, by workers who make roughly $13 a day, without overtime… With a long tradition of apparel manufacturing and better technology, the Colombians can make T-shirts much, much faster than the Bangladeshis can. In Bangladesh, on one sewing line for our T-shirt, 32 people can make about 80 shirts per hour. One sewing line in Colombia has eight people and can make about 140 T-shirts per hour. The two lines aren’t perfectly parallel — the Bangladeshi workers are completing a few more details of the shirt than the Colombians are. But the difference is striking nevertheless.
Yet Colombian manufacturers are losing business. Why? Labor costs, mainly:
Colombia’s economy has been growing like crazy for the past decade, and wages have been rising. That’s good for the country as a whole, but it may wind up driving away the T-shirt industry. ”There is a saying that is going to sound horrible,” Crystal’s CEO, Luis Restrepo, told me. “Our industry follows poverty.” It’s an industry “on roller skates,” he said, rolling from Latin America to China, to Bangladesh — wherever costs are lowest.
Haley Bobseine documents their plight, which includes horrific threats from both sides of the civil war:
As the violence in Syria continues unabated, many have retreated into their ethnic and religious communities for protection. Unlike other minority groups — such as Christians, Kurds, and Alawites — sexual minorities, notably gay men, do not enjoy the protection of any political, ethnic, or religious institutions. For gay Syrians, nowhere is safe: Across the country, they have been the target of attack by pro-regime militants and armed Islamist militias alike — at times because of their sexual preference; at other times simply because they are perceived as weak and easy to extort in the midst of a chaotic war …
NASA’s Tom Wagner has a good primer:
The upshot? Earth is already seeing some abrupt changes, like the fast retreat of summer Arctic sea ice. There’s also a real risk that other rapid and drastic shifts could soon follow if the Earth keeps warming — including widespread plant and animal extinctions and the creation of large “dead zones” in the ocean. But other apocalyptic scenarios once thought plausible “are now considered unlikely to occur this century.” That includes shifts in Atlantic ocean circulation patterns that could radically alter Europe’s climate, as hyped in the disaster flick “The Day After Tomorrow.” Also unlikely this century: Collapsing ice sheets in West Antarctica that would push sea levels up very quickly, as well as sudden methane eruptions from the Arctic that could heat the planet drastically. Those problems are left to future generations.
The problem is that many in the West see “balance of power” and “spheres of influence” as antiquated and less-than-legitimate concepts and therefore largely ignore them. Rather than viewing international politics as driven by competing interests, they see it as driven by the process of ever more countries adopting Western-style democracy. Accordingly Western leaders assume that East European states integrating with the West is a natural process in the post-Cold War world and that anything running counter to this integration is a perversion of that process. This disregard for traditional power politics and the assumption that European integration is a natural development are significant blind spots for Western leaders. And these blind spots hamper their ability to realize the very worthy goals of European integration and democratization.
Larison argues that Western analysts have the opposite problem:
This may apply in some cases, but my impression is that American and European advocates for the eastward expansion of Western institutions and alliances are only too happy to see everything in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in terms of balance of power and spheres of influence. Many Westerners may ridicule the concepts by name, but they think in these terms just as much as anyone else. If that were not the case, there would not have been so many overwrought Western reactions to Ukraine’s decision.
If Ukraine turns down a deal with the EU that wouldn’t have given it very much in the near term, many Westerners treat this as an extremely meaningful event rather than the perpetuation of the status quo that it actually is. As Western institutions seek to expand their sphere of influence, Westerners are annoyed that there is any resistance to this, and they complain about Russian efforts to retain influence with lectures about the obsolescence of spheres of influence.
Tim Snyder zooms out and suggests that “the desire of so many to be able to have normal lives in a normal country is opposed by two fantasies, one of them now exhausted and the other extremely dangerous”:
Emily Bazelon thinks American parents and educators could learn a thing or two from an outdoor school in Switzerland for children ages four to seven, profiled in the new documentary School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten:
It’s autumn. A few kids splash through a muddy creek. One boy falls down in the water, gets up, squawks, keeps going. A larger group sits and jumps in a makeshift-looking tent that consists of a tarp hung over a pole, with low walls made from stacked branches. A teacher tootles on a recorder. Later, the teacher describes the daily routine: Singing, story time, eating, and “then the children can play where they want in the forest.” … This is so intuitive to me, given my own kids’ need to move their bodies every other minute, that begging for more outside time is my main refrain at my 10-year-old’s school. I’m mystified by the Atlanta superintendent who said, in scrapping recess, “We are intent on improving academic performance. You don’t do that by having kids hanging on the monkey bars.” Actually, yes you do.
Rupert Neate talked to an educator in Germany, which has 1,500 such schools, about safety concerns:
A reader writes:
I have mixed feelings on the bankruptcy situation in Detroit. On the one hand, I don’t want retired public workers to be thrust into poverty because their pension vanished or was severely cut. On the other hand, it has always bothered me when some retiring public employees were able to game the system by working tons of overtime the last three years on the job to up the salary on which their pension was then based. I also feel for the current residents of Detroit who are currently paying the pensions for a pool of retired public works that is vastly disproportional to the current size of the city.
In the end, it will all depend on how humanely and rationally the cuts to the pensions are made. Go back and recalculate the pensions based on non-overtime and bonus pay. Figure out a minimum pension amount for everybody and then apply a percentage cut on pension amounts over the newly set minimum. I’d even say they should reduce the pension amounts less than other kinds of debt, but there will have to be some cuts, especially for those who are living well on the defaulting city’s dime.
A critic of the cuts points out:
Your post didn’t mention the big, glaring issue behind these pension cuts:
It was a veritable blizzard of epiphanies today. George Will returned to Toryism in opposing the reflexive rush to war against Iran; the former head of Shin Beit argued powerfully that the occupation of the West Bank was a far more existential threat to Israel than Iran; Pete Wehner urged conservatives to care about poverty and inequality (but he has always believed that); Americans expressed the view in record numbers that the US should mind its own business in world affairs; readers revisited my calamitous misjudgment in Iraq. All in all, that’s quite a shift from 2003, isn’t it?
I didn’t quite expect a thread on lying to your kids to end up with a “shitting log“, but that’s Dish readers for you. The Face of the Day should easily win the year’s award for best in blog 2013. And liberal magazines were caught with their exploitative pants down.
See you in the morning.
(Photo: A newscaster broadcasts from under the marquee at the historic Apollo Theater, which announces the death of former South African President and civil rights champion Nelson Mandela, on December 5, 2013 in the Harlem neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York, United States. By Andrew Burton/Getty Images.)
[Re-posted from earlier today]
It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, Patrick was busy cramming LLCs for Dummies, as we jumped off the cliff to independence. This will be the last update this year – completing a promise I made to readers of maximal transparency about this experiment – before we hit the acid test of annual renewals next month.
When asked what our goal was for 2013, for want of any better measurement, I suggested our editorial budget at our last corporate home, The Daily Beast. That was $900K in 2012. Well, we’re now at $818K – still agonizingly short of our goal, but plenty good enough to survive for now. I haven’t taken any profits or salary this year to make sure we have a sturdy fiscal ballast for whatever comes (or doesn’t) on renewal day next January 2. We’ve also added staff we didn’t have at the Beast – a technology wizard (former intern Chas Danner aka Special Teams) and a general manager for the whole enterprise (Brian Senecal) – and for the kind of posts on culture, religion, philosophy and art that are rare on the web but integral in my view to any civilized conversation. Almost everyone on the team started out as an intern; and everyone has health insurance from the internship on.
I can honestly say I’ve never worked with a more talented and decent crew of colleagues and friends than I do now. In our little boat on a very choppy media sea, we’ve been remarkably happy this past year. We’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and we’ve worked our guts out, as I’m sure you can see. Putting out this blog every day, while also finding a way to add Deep Dish, has not been not easy, even though my brilliant young team make it seem so.
You’ve also come through for us throughout the year after a spectacular start, for which we’re immensely grateful. Here’s the month by month revenue chart from March onward:
You can see the late surge, which we really need to continue if we want to make our goal. But we now have a total of 32,100 subscribers – a pretty staggering number in just one year with no business department and no marketing. If we can achieve a solid rate of renewals next month, we’ll be able to plan and budget in a way we haven’t been able to in this first ice-breaking, nerve-wracking year.
But this last update of 2013 is really about those of you who have read the Dish regularly all year and have yet to get around to subscribing. We know these are tough times, and we know procrastination runs deep in human nature. But our readers are our only revenue source – in stark contrast with almost every other site on the web. That keeps us honest and prevents us from sinking to the desperation of “sponsored content” or the page-view seeking gimmicks you see in so many other places. If you want this model to succeed, we need all of you. And we need you now.
So take a moment if you haven’t subscribed yet, get that credit card out of your wallet, and join the experiment. 41,000 of you have used every one of your free read-ons – which means you really are a Dishhead (sorry, you’re busted) but haven’t yet actually put your money where your eyeballs are. We need you; and, more to the point, we want you to be fully part of this, to join the 32,000 others who have made this year (and the next) possible.
It takes a couple of minutes and costs only $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. Click here to subscribe. And have a great Christmas season from all of us to all of you.
Most of America’s silent films have disappeared:
A new study unveiled by The Library of Congress notes that a scant 14 percent of the feature films produced and distributed in the U.S. from 1912-29 exist in their original 35mm format. That’s only 1,575 of the 11,000 or so features made during this nascent era of cinema, according to “The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912-1929,” the first comprehensive report of its kind. Meanwhile, 5 percent (or 562 films) of those that have survived in their original 35mm format are incomplete, and 11 percent of the films that are complete (1,174) only exist as foreign versions or in lower-quality formats.
Mills looked at energy consumption within the cannabis industry, and found that indoor pot production uses about $6 billion worth of energy annually, or enough electricity to power two million average-sized homes. That accounts for one percent of total national energy usage, and spews as much greenhouse gases as three million cars.
But LEDs could be changing that:
“It is another validator of the new ‘normal’ of this technology and its use,” said Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution. ”Some 87 countries are using military robotics of some sort, so why should we be stunned that the organization they are members of and supply its forces would use them too?”
“Drones are a technology that are here to stay,” said Singer. “There are so many ‘debates’ now where the people call themselves ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ drone, which is like being pro or anti computers, quaint but irrelevant. Its all about how you use the technology, not the widget itself.”
The drones are unarmed, but Adam Clark Estes calls the move “a bit of an about face”:
A DNA analysis of a 400,000-year-old femur from the Sima de los Huesos excavation site in northern Spain revealed an evolutionary surprise. Carl Zimmer explains (NYT) :
In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years. The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found. The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years.
Joseph Stromberg runs through various theories:
There’s evidence that FDA-approved diet drugs actually work, so why don’t physicians prescribe them very often? The answer may have to do with our complicated views about obesity:
Obesity is potentially, in part, a neurological disease. Jeffrey Flier, an endocrinologist and dean of Harvard Medical School, has shown, like others, that repeatedly eating more calories than you burn can damage the hypothalamus, an area of the brain involved in eating and satiety. In other words, Big Gulps, Cinnabons, and Whoppers have altered our brains such that many people—particularly those with a genetic predisposition to obesity—find fattening foods all but impossible to resist once they’ve eaten enough of them. Louis J. Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, explained to me, “With so much calorie-dense food available, the hypothalamic neurons get overloaded and the brain can’t tell how much body fat is already stored. The response is to try to store more fat. So there’s very strong scientific evidence that obesity is not about people lacking willpower.”
But this message has not found its way into society, where obese people are still often considered self-indulgent and lazy, and face widespread discrimination.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” – Nelson Mandela, proof that the final form of love is forgiveness.
It is rare that one soul can impact all of ours – and make us more patient, more powerful and more human. Mandela was such a soul. And he will never leave us.
Update from a reader:
Nelson Mandela is the greatest public figure of my lifetime – greater than FDR, Churchill, JFK, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Upon hearing of Mandela’s death my memory instantly went to his speech to the Irish Parliament and subsequently to the Irish people whose history is also filled with oppression and sadness:
It could have been that our own hearts turned to stone. It could have been that we inscribed vengeance on our banners of battle and resolved to meet brutality with brutality. But we understood that oppression dehumanizes the oppressor as it hurts the oppressed. We understood that to emulate the barbarity of the tyrant would also transform us into savages. We knew that we would sully and degrade our cause if we allowed that it should, at any stage, borrow anything from the practices of the oppressor.
Words every leader should contemplate.
(Photo, with the original caption: Nelson Mandela (3rd From Right), Leader Of The African National Congress And Other Militants Charged With Treason By The South-African Union Walked To The Room Where Their Trial Was Being Held In 1956. By Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images.)
This Congress has been among the least productive ever:
Why this has happened:
Polarization is important but I would argue that it should take a back seat to another explanation: inter-chamber disagreement. Research has shown that House and Senate ideological differences are probably the most important indicators of gridlock. Even in instances of unified congressional control policy differences between the chambers can significant increase gridlock. In Binder’s book, Stalemate, she illustrates that bipartisan context is the largest substantive indicator of gridlock and productivity – outperforming both polarization and traditional divided government. The further the chambers are from one another, the more difficult it is for Congress to pass bills.
The state level is a very different story: