by Matthew Sitman

After asking readers about the novels, poems, and short stories that have meant the most to them, the response has been so affirming – at a time when we all wonder about the future of reading, writing, and publishing, it’s to be reminded of why any of this matters at all. Many more of you have been in touch with us since Monday, for which I’m grateful. One reader writes:

For me, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities has been that understanding, consoling companion you wrote of. I came across it fresh out of high school, and I remember feeling like these little prose poems were systematically presenting all my own faults and shitty tendencies to me – but so beautifully and carefully articulated that I couldn’t help feeling proud of identifying with them. It followed me through university, across a couple continents, and it’s rare now that I go more than a month without opening the copy beside my bed, seeking comfort in its perfectly precise bittersweetness. The book opens (sort of) by evoking, then puncturing, the same nostalgic feeling I now often try to get out of rereading it:Invisible Cities

The special quality of this city for the man who arrives there on a September evening, when days are growing shorter and the multicolored lamps are lighted all at once at the doors of the food stalls and from a terrace a woman’s voice cries ooh!, is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time.

And it ends with what still probably amounts to the full extent of my theology:

The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.

Thanks for giving the good stuff space!

Another writes:

Read On

by Dish Staff

Ferguson is exploring outfitting its officers with dash and body cameras. Sara Libby points out a problem San Diego has had with its body cams:

Here in San Diego, our scandal-plagued police department has begun outfitting some officers with body cameras, and the City Council has approved a plan to roll out hundreds more. Officers wearing the cameras were present during at least two shootings earlier this year. Yet we’re still not any closer to knowing what happened in those chaotic moments—whether the perpetrators can be easily identified, what kind of interactions the officers had with those present, nothing.

That’s because the department claims the footage, which is captured by devices financed by city taxpayers and worn by officers on the public payroll, aren’t public records. Our newsroom’s request for footage from the shootings under the California Public Records Act was denied. Once footage becomes part of an investigation, the department says it doesn’t have to release them. SDPD also said during the pilot phase of the camera program that it doesn’t even have to release footage from the cameras after an investigation wraps.

Kriston Capps sees limits to what police cameras can accomplish in Ferguson:

Read On

by Dish Staff

Refugees Fleeing ISIS Offensive Pour Into Kurdistan

Saletan chronicles how the limited intervention in Iraq has already outgrown its original parameters:

In his weekly address on Aug. 9, Obama added a third mission to the military agenda: “We will protect our citizens. We will work with the international community to address this humanitarian crisis. We’ll help prevent these terrorists from having a permanent safe haven from which to attack America.” He repeated that point in a press conference: “We will continue to provide military assistance and advice to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces as they battle these terrorists, so that the terrorists cannot establish a permanent safe haven.” That’s a huge undertaking. Any land controlled by ISIS can be construed as a safe haven. Does Obama plan to drive ISIS out of places such as Fallujah, which it held for months while the United States looked on? Does he plan to push ISIS all the way back to Syria?

Obama hasn’t forgotten all the principles that limited his commitment. He continues to insist that the solution to Iraq’s crisis is political, that Iraqis must achieve that solution themselves, and that putting U.S. troops on the ground creates a dangerous rationale for additional deployments to protect them. But 12 days into the military campaign, he’s showing signs of slippage. He’d better watch himself.

Larison stresses that mission creep is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to such interventions:

Once a president has committed to using force in a foreign conflict, all of the effective political pressure is on the side of escalation.

Read On

Grand Jury, Limited Justice?

Aug 20 2014 @ 4:43pm
by Dish Staff

Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, may be facing a grand jury. Jonathan Cohn explains:

Here’s how the process will work, according to criminal law experts based or practicing in Missouri. The grand jury, which consists of twelve people plucked from the local population, will sit around a table in a deliberation room somewhere in the county courthouse building. It’s the prosecutor’s show: He will present the case, starting with an overview and then bringing forward evidence. But it’s not like a trial. There will be no attorney for the other side, no judge, not even a bailiff. For most of the time, they will be alone except for the prosecutor and, on occasion, a witness who will be providing testimony.

The idea behind a grand jury is that it serves as the people’s voicein effect, a democratic check on the enormous power of prosecutors to bring charges and force people into trials. A grand jury can be a truly deliberative body if it wants. Members can ask for witnesses to appear and testifyand ask those witnesses questions directly. Grand juries can also control their proceedings, deciding how much evidence to hear and when, finally, to vote on charges. In Missouri, it takes at least nine jurors to deliver an indictment, which is known as a “true bill.” Any less and the jury reaches a verdict of “no true bill,” which means no indictments.

Amanda Taub interviews former federal prosecutor Alex Little on what a grand jury will mean for this case:

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Mental Health Break

Aug 20 2014 @ 4:20pm
by Dish Staff

Eat your heart out, dog park:

Fark Self-Censorship

Aug 20 2014 @ 4:01pm
by Dish Staff

Amanda Hess has limited expectations for a new misogyny ban at Fark:

Policing misogyny is fabulous in theory. In practice, it’s a bitch. [Drew] Curtis notes that Fark’s commenters often appear to be engaging in an extreme “parody” of sexism, using a pastiche of satirical cultural references. (Fark contributors favor the SNL line “Jane, you ignorant slut” and callbacks to Blazing Saddles’ rape jokes.) Where is the line between pointed social commentary and vile misogyny? “On SNL and in a comedy movie … the context is clear,” Curtis continues. “On the Internet, it’s impossible to know the difference between a person with hateful views and a person lampooning hateful views to make a point. The [moderators] try to be reasonable, and context often matters. We will try and determine what you meant, but that’s not always a pass.” He added: “I recommend that when encountering grey areas, instead of trying to figure out where the actual line is, the best strategy would be to stay out of the grey area entirely.”

Telling members of an anonymous Internet message board to stop hating women is, unfortunately, a monumental ask. But instructing posters to refrain from pushing the boundaries of acceptable human discourse—to avoid a “grey area” just in case—is an irresistible provocation. The gray area between vile offensiveness and dark humor is where Fark’s commenter community thrives.

Jason Koebler is more optimistic:

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The View From Your Window

Aug 20 2014 @ 3:37pm
by Dish Staff


Jersey City, New Jersey, 8.15 am

The Slums Of The Future

Aug 20 2014 @ 3:22pm
by Dish Staff

Prachi Vidwans explains why we should worry about them:

If it seems like conflict over slums is mounting, that’s because it is: The urbanization of the world is accelerating. In 1950, just 29 percent of the world’s population lived in cities; back then, that was roughly 742 million people. Today, more than half of the world’s people — more than 3.5 billion — are citydwellers. That may sound like a dramatic shift, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Roughly 70 million people move into cities every year, and the vast majority of them usually end up in illegal or informal urban settlements. According to U.N. estimates, by 2050, a third of the world’s population will live not just in cities, but in slums.

The growth of slums is a bit like climate change: We know it’s happening. We know it’s important. But no one, so far, seems to have much of a response. Policymakers tend to view slums as a necessary evil, a problem best contained through coercion or ad hoc responses. Experts point out, however, that there is a rational way to deal with the coming surge of urbanization: Plan for it. If cities are prepared to anticipate and acknowledge the inevitable influx of urban migrants, slums might not be slums.

by Dish Staff

St Louis

Yglesias digs up an illuminating set of maps:

In May of 2014, researchers from Washington University in St Louis and St Louis University put together a long report on racial health disparities in the St Louis area. It’s largely a deep dive into the socioeconomic roots of these disparities, and includes this map highlighting the pattern of segregation by race and income levels in both the City and County of St Louis. On the left is the distribution of the African American population in the city and county, and on the right is the distribution of poverty

Philip Bump examines the racial disparities in St. Louis:

Read On

Perfectionist Parenting

Aug 20 2014 @ 2:42pm
by Dish Staff

Jesse Singal flags new sociological findings about the pressure on mothers and fathers to be “super-parent[s]“:

It’s almost as though when you tell parents that they need to be able to perfectly juggle work and child-rearing, but don’t give them the assistance basically every other rich developed country does, this leads to mental-health issues. Almost.

Jessica Grose concurs:

Of course, this is a very small study, and we can’t draw any sweeping conclusions from it. It doesn’t mean that these women would not be depressed if they breast-fed easily or if they had ample maternity leaves or if they had better family support. But certainly these things are not helping them feel like their best selves. I am a broken record these days in my exhortations to lay off judging new moms and to give them some goddamn maternity leave. So I’m glad that [Carrie] Wendel-Hummell did this study, and that we hear more and more voices of new moms who are struggling. The louder we are, the likelier we are to see some actual cultural and political change.