The Best Of The Dish Today

Jul 30 2014 @ 9:15pm

I have only one thing to add to the endless news of Israel’s brutal, unrelenting onslaught in Gaza: and it’s at the very end of a live TV interview Chris Gunness did today. Gunness is the head of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency in Gaza. Israel bombed another of their schools today, killing children sleeping in a place they thought was safe. This seems to me to be the only human response:

I’m trying to restrain my emotions for the sake of intellectual clarity. In that spirit, a reader rightly noted how the US, in Afghanistan, has also killed children in collateral damage. That’s undeniable, and because we do not have video or photographs of the aftermath of drone strikes, we may be, in Gaza, seeing something that we too have done in counter-terrorism, and not fully owned. An independent study – at variance with official statistics – came to the following, harrowing conclusion:

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

I cannot verify this – but I do not dispute the core point it makes. Singling out Israel for blame in atrocities is unfair when the US has done exactly the same – and when the level of sheer annihilation and misery in, say, Syria rivals and easily surpasses the gruesome toll and utter devastation in Gaza. But there are differences as well. The grimmest survey finds that the US killed 176 children over eight years; Israel has now killed over 250 children in a few weeks. And Syria is a full-scale civil war with evenly matched forces. Gaza is utterly at the mercy of Israel, whose Iron Dome has kept civilian Israeli deaths to a bare minimum. So this is truly a Goliath vs David moment in Gaza. And Goliath is still pounding David into the dust.

On another note, another reader noted that my own position on sex and Christianity has a rather orthodox adherent – C.S. Lewis, in fact, in Mere Christianity (Book 3, Part 5):

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.

The “pleasures of power” – what a wonderful phrase. How much more energy do today’s Christians expend excoriating the very human impulse to sex, and how little they spend warning against the entrapments of power?

Four other posts worth revisiting: the gathering punch of Obama’s calm sanctions against Russia; a new thread on whether all kids should get trophies; and why one great place to read is an empty pub – maybe with a talking Kindle Flare.

The most popular post of the day was So It Really Is All About Sex, Then, Rod? followed by The Shifting Israel Debate.

Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 24 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. Gift subscriptions are available here. Dish t-shirts and polos are for sale here (read the full details here). A new subscriber writes:

Hi Andrew. I’m a regular Dish reader but seemed to have resistance to subscribing (to this and other blogs). But tonight I had to sign up, mainly to acknowledge your courageous and constant coverage of the war in Gaza. I am heartsick about this inhuman carnage and can think of nothing to do about it. At least you keep trying to show the pictures – and the excerpt from Tony Judt have been so prescient. Thank you.

See you in the morning.

Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 30 2014 @ 8:37pm

No surprise about this hugely popular choice in the in-tray:

I nominate Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”:

The Leonard Cohen version was beautiful, no doubt, but Buckley’s version made it gorgeous!

How another reader puts it:

It’s a revelatory interpretation that takes a poetic, if unremarkably performed, slow dirge and turns it into a soul-incinerating prayer. It’s an amazing example of a good song finding its most powerful expression in the hands of another artist.

Another notes, “I don’t even think ‘Watchtower’ has a whole book written about it.” Another piles on the praise:

To date, Cohen’s song has been covered over some 2,000 times according to leonardcohen.com. It has been covered professionally by the likes of everyone from Willie Nelson, K.D. Lang, Bono, and Justin Timberlake just to name a few. Buckley voice brings harmony and soars to the hauntingly beautiful words of Cohen. No matter whatever mood I am in, this is one song that’s on all my playlists. It is truly the best cover ever.

But the contest isn’t over yet.

Sullybait Extra

Jul 30 2014 @ 8:31pm

Yes, from an AP story about a botched male genital mutilation:

Axon declined to answer questions about specifics in the suit, including whether the man had a penis when he left the hospital.

The firehose of social media allows both reporters and citizen journalists to reach massive audiences in real time. David Carr weighs the ups and downs of this immediacy when it comes to war reporting:

Bearing witness is the oldest and perhaps most valuable tool in the journalist’s arsenal, but it becomes something different delivered in the crucible of real time, without pause for reflection. It is unedited, distributed rapidly and globally, and immediately responded to by the people formerly known as the audience. It has made for a more visceral, more emotional approach to reporting. War correspondents arriving in a hot zone now provide an on-the-spot moral and physical inventory that seems different from times past. That emotional content, so noticeable when Anderson Cooper was reporting from the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has now become routine, part of the real-time picture all over the web. …

Read On

Working Overtime? Blame The Team

Jul 30 2014 @ 7:42pm

Margaret Talbot has an interesting sidebar to the study on gender and overwork we highlighted a few weeks ago:

[Researcher Kim] Weeden told me, “A lot of times, in the new team-based work environments, it can be hard for bosses to tell who is responsible for what on a project, and so the easiest way for employees to show loyalty and signal productivity is to work long hours.” Employers may be drawing a correct conclusion that time equals worth, or they may be using time as a proxy because it’s hard to evaluate worth otherwise, and because long hours, and constant access through technology, have become values in and of themselves. At the same time, some of those men may be reading mystery novels – or whatever – online.

Drumming Up Support

Jul 30 2014 @ 7:16pm

Drum circles aren’t just for hippies and Burners:

Above all though, the benefits of drumming seem to mostly be psychological and emotional. The Wahlbangers Drum Circle Organization, a group based in Northern California, has been using drumming as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. In 2008, Science Direct Journal published a study titled Drumming Through Trauma: Music Therapy With Post-Traumatic Soldiers. It showed that “a reduction in PTSD symptoms was observed following drumming, especially increased sense of openness, togetherness, belonging, sharing, closeness, connectedness and intimacy, as well as achieving a non-intimidating access to traumatic memories, facilitating an outlet for rage and regaining a sense of self-control.”

(Video: YouTube user MrFasthands65 plays the drums to combat chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP, an autoimmune disorder)

Jordan Weissmann responds to McArdle’s criticisms of his criticisms of Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan:

If your overriding policy goal is to shrink federal spending over time, then yes, drastically redesigning an enormous chunk of the safety net in order to (maybe) move a relatively small group of people who seem to be stuck in intractable poverty toward work might make sense. But if your policy goal is, instead, simply to design a safety net that works for most Americans who come into contact with it, and cost isn’t your No. 1 worry, then burning down and replacing the one we have is just rash. …

To completely redesign programs that already work well (such as food stamps), while forcing every single person who needs a hand through a rough patch to submit to a new and intrusive bureaucratic regime, is simply overkill. Doing so might not even move many people out of poverty and could have any number of unintended consequences. (Would anybody be shocked if having to sign a life contract scared off some poor parents from trying to get benefits that they really needed?) Looking for specific places where the safety net is weak, and then fixing it in a targeted way, is the more responsible choice.

Ross, on the other hand, defends the plan from critics who call it paternalistic:

Read On

Faces Of The Day

Jul 30 2014 @ 6:17pm

Hindu Women Celebrate Teez

Girls with mehandi design their hands during Teej festival celebrations at Dilli Haat in Janakpuri in New Delhi, India on July 30, 2014. Teej is the Hindu festival marked by fasting of women who pray to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati seeking their blessings for marital bliss. It is a three-day festival that occurs on the third day of “Shukla Paksha”, or bright fortnight of the moon, in the Hindu month of Shravana or Sawan, which falls during the Indian monsoon season. By Subrata Biswas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

Boehner’s Border Bill

Jul 30 2014 @ 5:42pm

The House has introduced a bill to deal with the migrant children crisis, offering far less money than the $3.7 billion Obama had requested and focusing mainly on tightening border controls:

The House bill attempts to relieve backlogged immigration courts by allowing those Central American children to be treated as if they were Mexicans, who are screened more quickly by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid oppose changing that provision, arguing it would grant the unaccompanied minors fewer legal protections and that there are other ways of speeding up immigration cases. The Obama Administration supports the policy change.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers broke down the House bill into three pots of funding: border control, temporary housing and foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The majority of the money, $405 million, is set aside to boost the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Another $197 million would be allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with taking care of the migrant children until their family members or guardians can be found while the minors’ immigration cases are handled. There’s also $22 million in funding to hire judges and speed up judicial proceedings, $35 million to send the National Guard to the border and $40 million to support uniting the families in the aforementioned Central American countries. The bill would cover the costs through the end of September.

But with anti-immigration hardliners like Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions pushing for the bill to include language blocking deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), Sargent questions whether even this bill can pass the House:

GOP leaders are resisting the inclusion of such language. But it needs to be stated once again that Cruz, King, and Sessions are not outliers in this debate. Broadly speaking, their position on this crisis — and on immigration in general – is the GOP position writ large.

Read On

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Juan Vidal shares his:

My favorite place to read is in a dark bar mid-day. Although I can read almost anywhere, we’re each allowed our preferences and mine is so. Coffee shops feel pretentious, the gym is freaking weird. Libraries are fine but there’s so much candy and I can’t handle it all calling my name. The last thing I read was The Conversations by Cesar Aira, and I devoured it in this quaint little dive up the road from my house. Aira’s stuff is super meandering and detailed and it requires all of my senses working in unison; the bar is always close to empty when I go, so it’s everything I need.

Bars, especially the ones I read in, are gifts. They’re warm and brooding, and if you go early enough, it can be just you, a bartender, and enough open space to react to plot twists without judgment. All that’s happening is the cleaning and the setting up shop for the lunch crowd. And so I’ll sit with a book. Sometimes I’ll even stand a while, which I did through part of the closing section of Wise Blood.

(Photo by John Stephen Dwyer)