The Tallest Slum On Earth, Ctd

Aug 1 2014 @ 6:15pm

Last week, the Venezuelan government began removing hundreds of squatters occupying an unfinished 52-story skyscraper in downtown Caracas. Juan Nagel considers the significance of the move:

Press reports suggest the eviction was done at the behest of the Chinese. Apparently, the VENEZUELA-HOUSING-POVERTY-EVICTION-TOWER OF DAVIDbuilding was being eyed as a future headquarters for the Bank of China, and the Venezuelan government is deeply beholden to Chinese interests, particularly in light of generous loans flowing from Beijing to Caracas. If this is true, one has to wonder why the Chinese picked that tower in particular as headquarters for its many Venezuelan interests. Many office buildings in Venezuela have plenty of room. Companies are leaving the country thanks to severe currency restrictions and a deteriorating business climate, and supply is probably outstripping demand.

The answer is in the symbolism. The Tower [of David] lies at the heart of Caracas’s banking district, and as such it was an eyesore, a blatant reminder of the failed promises of the Bolivarian revolution. The Chinese probably viewed this as unacceptable, and they may have wanted to test the government’s resolve in solving politically sensitive problems such as evicting thousands of squatters — many of them chavista supporters – from the middle of the city. It remains to be seen whether or not they will succeed – so far, only 25 percent of the tower’s inhabitants have left the building.

Previous Dish on the Tower of David here. Photo by Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images.

The Formerly Autistic

Aug 1 2014 @ 5:46pm

Ruth Padawer looks at what we know about them:

The research by [clinical neuropsychologist Deborah] Fein and [researcher Catherine] Lord doesn’t try to determine what causes autism or what exactly makes it go away — only that it sometimes disappears. There do, however, seem to be some clues, like the role of I.Q.:

Read On

Quote For The Day II

Aug 1 2014 @ 5:29pm

“We tortured some folks. Any fair-minded person would call it torture,” – Barack Obama, president of the United States.

Dick Morris Watch

Aug 1 2014 @ 5:11pm

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A reader sounds the alarm:

The Dish’s favorite prognosticator and the namesake of the Dick Morris Award is now going on the road and lecture on financial planning and “market predictions”:

According to a July 30 press release, Morris is working with Retirement Media Inc. “to educate seasoned investors on how to protect their savings with safe alternatives outside of the stock market.” Morris is headlining several events in the next few months where attendees will “hear market predictions from him.” The event’s website includes a video featuring “A Special Message from Dick Morris” in which Morris warns of people preying on “suckers.”

Perhaps he was hired as Retirement Media’s contrarian investor. In other words, whatever Dick Morris advises you to do, do the contrary.

Meanwhile, a great omen for the president today:

The Neocons Double Down On Gaza

Aug 1 2014 @ 4:40pm

As the brutality and slaughter in Gaza shocks the global conscience, there are a couple of options for the current American right. One might be to reconsider their lockstep support for anything Israel does, including its settlements, and perhaps observe that occupying Arab land and attempting to wipe out an insurgency tends not to go well for a Western power (see Iraq, etc.). The other is to double down on everything, blame Hamas solely for the staggering suffering in Gaza – and call for yet more bombs, yet more shelling and yet more mass killing. Call the latter the Cheney option. As to the possibility that a campaign that would kill thousands more Gazans might spawn even deeper resistance, and ever more radical successors to Hamas, Continetti dismisses it:

Say Islamic Jihad replaced Hamas tomorrow. Would we be able to tell the difference? How would its rhetoric be more genocidal, its propaganda more manipulative, its aims more maximalist, its tactics more barbaric than what Israel experiences now? Would Islamic Jihad have two Palestinian Mickey Mouses exhorting schoolchildren to kill Jews, rather than one? …

Yes, there would be costs to regime change in the Gaza Strip. But the choice is not between a costly policy and a cost-free one. The choice is between the costs of removing a terrorist group from power and the costs of leaving it injured but able to fight another day. To prevent a fourth war, to bolster ties with the Sunni powers, to improve the chances of a two-state solution, to help the Palestinians, above all to secure Israel, the decision is clear. Destroy Hamas. End the war. Free Gaza.

Free Gaza from its own population? Because do you really think that, after what Israel has done to them, Gazans will choose the IDF over Hamas? It’s as brilliant an idea as re-invading Iraq (which many neocons also support). And it’s staggering to me that in order “to improve the chances of a two-state solution”, countless Gazan children have to die but not a single brick should be removed from the settlements in the West Bank. But the classic neocon view that in all fights, the only option is to up the ammo, seems sadly resurgent. Jonathan Tobin piles on:

Those who claim there is only a political solution to the problem fail to understand that in the absence of a military solution it won’t be possible.

Read On

Mental Health Break

Aug 1 2014 @ 4:20pm

Who knew ping-pong could be this thrilling?

Getting Thrown Out Of Court

Aug 1 2014 @ 4:00pm

The authors of Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution have dubbed the Roberts Court the “anti-court Court,” because, as David Cole observes, “At every stage, it has favored rules that make it more difficult to pursue justice in the courts”:

It has imposed higher “pleading” standards on complaints, ensuring that more lawsuits can be dismissed by trial judges at the threshold, before plaintiffs are able to obtain discovery from defendants. It has upheld contract provisions that require consumers and employees to pursue remedies against corporations through arbitration favored by employers rather than in court. It has presumptively barred classwide arbitration, even where that means that some forms of illegal conduct will never be remedied. … The Roberts Court has also made it virtually impossible to bring class actions in federal court against employers based on unwritten discriminatory practices (and what employer these days has a written practice of discrimination?). And last term, it declined to hear a challenge to a secret NSA spying program, on the Catch-22 reasoning that plaintiffs had to show that they were actually under surveillance, a showing they could not make precisely because the program was secret.

Because these decisions involve technical questions of civil and criminal procedure, they do not receive the public attention given to the Court’s highly publicized constitutional cases. But they are far more consequential, because they close off the courts to an almost infinite variety of legal wrongs.

A Poem For Friday

Aug 1 2014 @ 3:40pm

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“A Brief Correspondence Course” by Ron Padgett:

When I close a letter
with “Cordially,” I
blush with shame.
It sounds insincere.
But when a letter
comes to me
with that same closing,
I glow with warmth.
I smile, I think
this person is cordial,
although until
a few moments ago
I had never heard
of him. In fact he is
a wild palooka in a half-
lit office, his
hair crazed with
enterprise, large
rubber mice
in the corridor.

Sincerely,
Ron Padgett

(From Collected Poems © 2013 by Ron Padgett. Used by permission of Coffee House Press. Photo by Doeth Gwraig)

Trophy Children, Ctd

Aug 1 2014 @ 3:20pm

A reader sends the above video:

I’m firmly with those who feel that “trophies for everyone” devalues achievement. It also lessens the drive that comes from a “Just Wait ‘Til Next Year” mentality. But don’t take my word. Tanner and Timmy Lupus can demonstrate.

Another argues that the evidence supports the opposite approach:

We probably should be awarding trophies based on effort, not performance. The well-established psychological research of Carol Dweck and others says that kids will continue to work hard if they believe that hard work pays off, but they will give up easily if they have a fixed theory of ability, meaning they think they are either innately good or bad at something. Kids with an fixed theory of ability give up when they encounter obstacles because they assume that they are just innately bad at that particular task. These mentalities persist into adulthood. This is why we should reward kids for their efforts and praise them for trying hard: it will encourage them and helps build resilience.

That doesn’t mean that showing up is trying and therefore trophy-worthy. But it’s unclear to me why the anti-trophy crowd wants to reinforce awards in a manner that we know is bad for kids’ development.

More readers continue the popular discussion:

I find it odd that many of the parents writing in want to celebrate their kids success by taking away the other kids’ trophies.

Read On

Face Of The Day

Aug 1 2014 @ 3:12pm

EL SALVADOR-RELIGION-PARADE-PATRON SAINT

A woman performs during a parade in honor of The Savior of the World, patron saint of San Salvador city, El Salvador on August 1, 2014. By Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images.