Taxing Our Way To Equality

Jul 25 2014 @ 11:17am


Zachary Goldfarb presents the findings of a Tax Policy Center analysis showing that by one measure, income inequality has declined appreciably in the Obama era:

Today, the average after-tax income of a member of the top 1 percent of earners is $1.12 million. The average after-tax income of someone in the bottom 20 percent is $13,300. That means the average person at the top takes home 84 times the income that the average person in the bottom takes home. Now, consider what it would be like if none of President Obama’s tax policy changes had happened: not the upper-income tax hikes negotiated at the beginning of last year, not the upper-income tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act, not the low-income tax credits enacted in the 2009 stimulus and later renewed.

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Violence Triumphs Over Pluralism

Jul 25 2014 @ 10:56am

That’s the essence of Shadi Hamid’s take on the aftermath of the Arab uprisings and the rise of armed Islamist groups throughout the Middle East:

The July 3, 2013 coup in Egypt has had a chilling effect beyond the country’s borders, strengthening one particular narrative among both regimes and their opposition: that the only currency worth caring about is force. With the relative decline (for now) of the Muslim Brotherhood and other mainstream Islamist groups that had made their peace with parliamentary politics, radicals and extremists have quickly moved to fill the vacuum. They do not counsel patience. They tell followers and fence-sitters that there is little need to wait 20, 30, or 80 years for the Islamic State, or something like it. The Islamic State can be realized now through brute, unyielding violence. Within the varied, often fractious world of political Islam, the radicals remain a minority, but their numbers belie an outsized influence.

We might not like to admit it, but violence can, and often does, “work” in today’s Middle East. This is not just a reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but also to less extreme militant groups that control territory throughout Syria, providing security and social services to local populations. From Libya to Palestine to parts of the Egyptian Sinai, armed—and increasingly hard-line—Islamist groups are making significant inroads.

William Dalrymple argues that the rise of ISIS and its persecution of Christians bode ill for secularism in the Arab world:

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The Able-Bodied Actor’s Handicap

Jul 25 2014 @ 10:34am

Christopher Shinn, a playwright who underwent a below-the-knee amputation in his late 30s, discusses the limited depth that able-bodied performers bring to disabled characters and why actors with disabilities don’t get cast in these roles instead:

Able-bodied actors can listen to the disabled, can do research, can use imagination and empathy to create believable characters. But they can’t draw on their direct experience. That means that audiences will be able to “enjoy” them without really confronting disability’s deepest implications for human life. Often, one fears, that’s the point: Pop culture’s more interested in disability as a metaphor than in disability as something that happens to real people.

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Jacob Siegel casts doubt on ISIS’s ability to extend the reach of its “caliphate” beyond Iraq, given that its Sunni rebel allies there don’t share its objective of world conquest:

There is a paradox to ISIS’s power. The caliphate has grown to rival al Qaeda for prestige in the global jihad movement but it becomes clearer with every day that, within Iraq, the Islamic State doesn’t extend very far outside of Mosul. As an attacking force, ISIS might be the most powerful army in Iraq, able to ambush the army in lightning assaults that have either scattered or slaughtered government and militia soldiers. But the skills and composition that have led to ISIS successes on the battlefield haven’t set them up to rule in any more than a handful of cities. They are too small to impose their authority over extended territory. For that they rely on their allies, using them until the day they are no longer needed, just as they, in turn, are being used.

ISIS’s victories and social media theatrics have won it a flock of Internet supporters and death-seeking recruits, but most of its potential followers in Iraq aren’t looking online to choose a cause, they take orders from tribal leaders or other local authorities.

Likewise, Yezid Sayigh contends that “in fact ISIS is following a well-worn path for taking power and consolidating it in the limited geographical space of a single nation-state where its true social base lies”:

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The View From Your Window

Jul 25 2014 @ 9:35am


Davao, Philippines, 6 pm

Superhero Social Justice, Ctd

Jul 25 2014 @ 9:05am

In the wake of the announcement of a female Thor, Noah Berlatsky considers the female comic-book readership:

Lots of women do read comics in general, and superhero comics in particular. That fact should be self evident enough by now, given the way the Internet has given voice to many female fans of the genre. And yet sexism in the comics world persists. The effort to firmly debunk gendered stereotypes about who enjoys comics and who doesn’t would seem to benefit from hard statistics about just how many women are reading. Those statistics are surprisingly difficult to come by—but the ones that are available suggest that comics, and superhero comics, historically did appeal to both genders and very well could again.

Because of low critical standing or low readership or some combination of both, good data about comics readership over the years is rare. We do know that comics were much, much more popular during the 1940s, when superheroes first burst on the scene, than they are today. Comics then were more like film or television—a mass entertainment option, rather than a niche one. A Market Research Company of America report from 1944 found that 95 percent of all boys and 91 percent of all girls between six and 11 read comics; 87 percent of boys and 81 percent of girls between 12 and 17, and 41 percent of men and 28 percent of women between 18 and 30. Comics scholar Trina Robbins told me that The Newsdealer, a magazine for newsstand owners, actually published figures suggesting that girls at the time read more comics than boys.

Previous Dish on superhero diversity here.

No Country For Young Women

Jul 25 2014 @ 8:35am

U.S. Agents Take Undocumented Immigrants Into Custody Near Tex-Mex Border

Among the many horrors that the Central American refugee children are fleeing, Mónica Ramírez and Anne Ream focus on the epidemic of sexual violence, which is often ignored, or even committed, by the police:

One key factor driving this crisis is the well-documented and widespread sexual and gender-related violence in Latin America. In a 2014 report conducted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 70 percent of children interviewed cited domestic violence as well as violence at the hands of gangs, cartels, or “state actors” (such as police), as reasons for fleeing homes in Mexico and Central America. Sexual violence has become so widespread in Guatemala in recent years that in 2009 Doctors Without Borders launched its first Latin American mission dedicated to treating rape and abuse victims. And gender-based violence is now the second highest cause of death for women of reproductive age in Honduras. …

Anti-violence advocates on the ground say that two factors drive the high incidence of sexual and gender-related violence in the region: a lack of awareness about the nature of gender-based violence, which has historically been downplayed or normalized, and the absence of official efforts and channels that might encourage reporting of such crimes. The fact that law enforcement and judicial systems are most often dominated by men who are disinclined to pursue sexual violence or trafficking cases, and may in fact be implicated in such violence themselves, further exacerbates the crisis.

Previous Dish on the chaos in Central America here and the child migrant crisis here.

(Photo: An undocumented immigrant sits after being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents some 60 miles north of the U.S. Mexico border on July 23, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas. She said she was from Guatemala, one of a group of immigrants Customs and Border Protection agents caught moving north through dense brushland in Brooks County. By John Moore/Getty Images)

Creepy Ad Watch

Jul 25 2014 @ 8:01am


A reader flags it:

I received my August Bon Appetit magazine and as usual, eagerly sat down to read it as soon as it was delivered. I was dumbfounded when I came across this advertisement. To me, it seems like an overt case of ethnic stereotyping. I can understand the use of a traditional “yiayia” figure to advertise Greek food products, but to also have her include arranged marriage and exorcism on her to-do list seems outrageous. And oh yes, there are others ads in a similar vein – apparently in one, the yiayia calls her granddaughter a “prostitute.”

When I went to Athenos website and Facebook page, I am clearly not the only person who is offended by these ads. Athenos’ explanation (and boilerplate response to Facebook posts) is that they “didn’t intend to offend anyone” and were trying for a lighthearted approach, using a character “set in the old ways.” Apparently that means the traditional yiayia is a disapproving grump, putting her seal of approval only on the Athenos food items. As one of the Facebook commenters (with a Greek surname) said: “The only thing my yiayia would force anyone to do is eat a big plate of food.” I don’t know what is more offensive to me – the ad campaign, or Athenos’ dismissive “we didn’t mean to be offensive” responses.

A reader writes:

As a general proposition, I’m against the adoption of a two-tiered medical system. The best doctors will gravitate toward the concierge system, leaving the worst doctors to treat the masses. This is just another example of the widening split in this country between the haves and have-nots.

Another sighs:

It always makes my brain break when I read people who obviously don’t know much about the medical industry suggest things like “AMA guidelines” to deal with specialists who require cash payments. First, the AMA is not an oversight body. It’s a voluntary lobbying association representing solely the most conservative physicians, with a heavy focus on pure internal medicine – unspecialized physicians who only see adults.

Read On

The Best Of The Dish Today

Jul 24 2014 @ 9:15pm

A reader highlighted the gallows humor at the Onion, which is on a roll. One story seems particularly pertinent today:

Not enough time was given, it appears, in the case of the UN school, filled with civilian refugees, which was hit today, killing sixteen. The NYT is still saying that the carnage may have been Hamas’ fault. The Guardian reports instead:

The Israeli military first claimed, in a text sent to journalists, that the school could have been hit by Hamas missiles that fell short. Later, a series of tweets from the Israel Defence Forces appeared to confirm the deaths were the result of an Israeli strike. “Today Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun. The IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire. Last night, we told Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA’s shelter in Beit Hanoun btw 10am & 2pm. UNRWA & Red Cross got the message. Hamas prevented civilians from evacuating the area during the window that we gave them.”

An official at the school says they asked for more time to evacuate when the shelling started:

“We spent much of the day trying to negotiate or to coordinate a window so that civilians, including our staff, could leave. That was never granted … and the consequences of that appear to be tragic.” Gunness said the Israeli military were supplied with coordinates of UN schools where those displaced were sheltering. UN sources told the Guardian a call was placed to the Israeli military at 10.55am requesting permission to evacuate but their call was not returned.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has achieved one of his core aims – to weaken the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank so the project of Greater Israel can proceed with its usual, criminal relentlessness. He’d already done that by rewarding Abbas for his moderation by humiliating him with more and more settlements. Now he has cemented that achievement:

Hamas — which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and is considered a terrorist organization by much of the West — is being hailed in the West Bank as the champion of armed resistance, while Mr. Abbas, who leads the alternative camp advocating a negotiated peace deal with Israel, is being excoriated for having failed to achieve a Palestinian state after 20 years of intermittent and fruitless Israeli-Palestinian talks.

And the mass killing of children – financed by you and me – continues.

Today, we grappled with American “Christian” support for “smashing the skulls” and “breaking the spines” of Hamas; I lamented Hillary Clinton’s constant case of the blah blah blahs; we wondered why denialism of climate change is largely restricted to English-speaking countries; and our cover song contest came up with some new entrants.

The most popular post of the day was The Astonishing Actual History Of The Gay Rights Movement – which is enjoying quite a life in social media; followed by God’s Foreign Policy.

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. 20 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 for a friend whose birthday is coming up.

See you in the morning.