I have to object to the [previous] reader’s characterization of the “Christian tendency to turn religious holidays into occasions for inventing impossible narratives (a flying fat man and a giant bunny delivering toys and candy respectively)” I’m sorry, but that is a British/American tendency, not a Christian one. Spain, for one, did not turn either Easter or Christmas into any such thing, nor did any country in its vicinity.
Apparently he’s never heard of caga tió, the gift-shitting Christmas log:
The Tió de Nadal, popularly called Caga tió (“shitting log”), is a character in Catalan mythology relating to a Christmas tradition widespread in Catalonia. The form of the Tió de Nadal found in many Catalan homes during the holiday season is a hollow log of about thirty centimetres length. Recently, the tió has come to stand up on two or four little stick legs with a broad smiling face painted on the higher of the two ends, enhanced by a little red sock hat (a miniature of the traditional Catalan barretina) and often a three-dimensional nose.
Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), one gives the tió a little bit to “eat” every night and usually covers him with a little blanket so that he will not be cold at night.
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.
That’s how, in yesterday’s speech, Obama described America’s growing inequality:
The full speech can be viewed here. Ezra raves, calling it “perhaps the single best economic speech of his presidency”:
That’s in part because it exists for no other reason than to lay out Obama’s view of the economy. His other speeches on the subject have been about passing legislation, defining campaign themes, or positioning himself against Republicans. But Obama’s done running for office. He’s not getting anything through this Congress. And he’s not negotiating with John Boehner. This is just what he thinks.
I’m afraid I wasn’t as blown away, for some of the reasons John Cassidy notes:
In talking about the causes of rising inequality, he made the usual references to global competition and technological change, but without adding anything fresh. In laying out his policy prescriptions, he talked about promoting a “growth agenda,” which also sounded familiar: reforming the corporate tax code, eliminating loopholes, and using some of the money saved to invest in things like infrastructure and scientific research. As he has before, he came out in favor of strengthening the labor laws and raising the minimum wage. (By how much he didn’t say.) He spoke of improving educational standards, making pre-school programs more widely available, and pursuing a trade agenda that “works for the middle class.”
Most of these policies are individually worthwhile. But with the possible exception of a big hike in the minimum wage—a little one wouldn’t have much impact—they are mainly small-bore measures. Even if every one of them were enacted, which isn’t going to happen, it’s by no means clear that they would halt, much less reverse, the over-all trends that Obama highlighted.
Perhaps it’s best to see the speech as an attempt to generate a deeper understanding of the forces driving not a good inequality, but a potentially destructive one, restraining mobility and creating two separate nations out of one. Yglesias heard little in the speech about addressing unemployment:
“Some advocates of war [with Iran] seem gripped by Thirties Envy, a longing for the clarity of the 1930s, when appeasement failed to slake the dictators’ thirst for territorial expansion. But the incantation “Appeasement!” is not an argument. And the word “appeasement” does not usefully describe a sober decision that war is an imprudent and even ultimately ineffective response to the failure of diplomatic and economic pressures to alter a regime’s choices about policies within its borders,” - George F Will.
The context here is that Arkansas is not just a state with a dwindling number of Democrats, it’s also one of the most religious states in the country, and of a particular kind. According to Gallup, Arkansas is tied for the fourth-most-religious state, measured by the proportion of people who say they are “very religious” (only Mississippi, Utah, and Alabama rank higher). And perhaps more importantly, according to the Pew Research Center, Arkansas is tied with Oklahoma for the largest percentage of evangelical Christians of any state, at 53 percent of the population. Arkansas ranks eighth in the frequency of attendance at religious service, seventh in the frequency of prayer, third in the percentage who say religion is very important in their lives, and fifth in the certainty with which people believe in God, with 84 percent saying they believe with “absolute certainty.”
Pryor is trying to have it both ways: the Bible is his guide, but he doesn’t have all the answers, God does, leaving him enough wiggle room to seem bipartisan without actually explaining what his record is and why he has taken the positions he has. Setting aside the essential question that dogs us here—why in an increasingly pluralistic country do only Christian credentials seem to count as essential for holding public office—does Pryor’s ad actually meet a definition of humility? Or is this statement of faith merely a substitute for owning his voting record?
I actually thought it was pretty inoffensive. It doesn’t cross the line into Christianism of right or left, because he leaves space for disagreement on how a Christian might respond to emergent problems in a multi-cultural society. And it may seem a little desperate, but not completely phony to me.
“I would like to know that our national home has clear borders and that we hold the people sacred, not the land. I would like to see a national home that is not maintained by occupying another people. I say this even though it’s not popular: we need an agreement now, before we reach a point of no return from which the two-state solution is not an option any longer,” – Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s Shin Beit until two years ago.
Charles Davis has a thorough takedown of liberal magazines that pay their interns nothing (Harper’s, Salon, The New Republic) or next to nothing (The American Prospect, Washington Monthly). One of the more vivid examples:
In 2011, Democracy Now! asked its $15-a-day employees to work the program’s 15th anniversary gala, a major fundraiser. Interns were asked to “greet and thank guests, check their coats, make sure the event goes smoothly, and help clean up,” according to an email obtained by VICE. “We will provide you with a delicious pizza dinner, but ask that you refrain from eating the catered dinner at the event.” Back then, interns did not have to wait two months to get their $15 stipend, which probably made the Domino’s go down easier. But while entry-level staffers at Democracy Now! are paid less than ever, not all have shared in the sacrifice: [Amy] Goodman made more than $148,000 in 2011, twice what she took home in 2007—and that doesn’t include income from book sales or speaking engagements. Requests for comment were not acknowledged by Democracy Now!.
His broader points:
Money is not an excuse. If you set out believing you are obliged to pay your employees, you find a way to do it. The progressive Utne Reader manages to pay its interns minimum wage. Dissent magazine just started paying their college interns $2,000 a semester, which comes out to about $7.80 cents an hour by my calculations. And the left-wing Truthout.org pays every intern $10 an hour. None of these places are rolling in money. …
Experience is great and can open doors, but unpaid and low-paid internships can also slam doors shut. Failing to pay young journalists a decent wage is effectively a way of saying that those too poor to work for nothing need not apply. That socio-economic filter leads to a pool of journalists—even at good, upstanding progressive publications—that is wealthier and whiter than the public as a whole. And that hurts the final product.
Davis’ journalism has already done some good: “After the publication of this article, Mother Jones announced that it had increased its budget for interns/fellows in 2014,” above minimum wage. For the Dish’s own part, we pay our interns about one-and-a-half times the minimum wage and provide health insurance. And we certainly aren’t rolling in money.
A simple concept – revolutionary in Saudi Arabia. From Keerthik Sasidharan, a review of the movie, Wadjda:
A subtext to the film is the audience’s recognition that Saudi women — behind their abaya — have an inner life, a rich one at that, ones filled with intrigue, song, scandal, love and heartbreak. They aren’t a cipher, insists this film. No different than, say Amos Gitai’s Kadosh , which imagined the lives of some Orthodox Jewish women. Wadjda suggests that Saudi women are exemplary evidence of how humans make do, adjust, play it up, press against and push the boundaries given societal restrictions. More so, for many Arab women, it proffers a sense of continuity, a historical memory of their mothers and grandmothers.
Previous Dish on Wadjdahere and here. Update from a reader:
It’s not just in Saudi Arabia that a girl on a bike means hope. American suffragette Susan B. Anthony wrote:
I just finished all 266 pages of the Deep Dish e-book on your blogging of the Iraq War. Phew! It was exhausting at times but always engaging. It was also a smart idea format-wise, and a commendable exercise overall. As other readers have pointedout, the Andrew Sullivan of the early pages is jarring. But a fair reading of the whole book shows you admirably struggling, thinking and re-assessing far, far more than most political writers on this subject.
If I could request a relevant follow-up, I would like to hear you turn outward and now explain what the hell you think was really going on behind this war. Not why you did or did not support the Iraq War, but what you think was the true impetus of the Bush administration behind this long confusing war. The earlier parts of your book focus on the Bush administration’s incompetence (which was undeniable), but later you refer somewhat to unstated motives: ”It wasn’t about WMDs or Saddam’s threat that motivated this war, we now understand, so much as the capacity to forward station U.S. troops in an oil-rich region and help contain Iran.” (6/11/2008, 12.28 pm)
At the end, I was left unsure whether your support for the war was “wrong” because you ultimately disagreed with the policy, or the execution, or because you felt that real policy objectives were hidden from all of us … and/or that any such unstated policy goals were themselves ultimately wrong. For example, being overconfident as to imposing democracy onto the complexities of Shia-Sunni history is a very valid point but a bit of a distraction if our real goal was to set up military bases in an oil-rich region. Being wrong about Saddam’s threat or the existence of WMD’s is crucial, but not as much if this was more about containing Iran. I understood your evolving personal reaction to unfolding events driven by others (the Bush administration), but I wonder what you now think, with hindsight, really happened.
After so much effort revisiting this, I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought you have answered these questions. But I’ll give you an example. I thought you had an excellent post on June 1, 2006 that rightly puzzled how the obvious incompetence could be ordinarily explained:
The great paradox of Iraq has been there from the start and it still, frankly, confounds me. We were told by the president that the Iraq war was the critical battle in the war on terror, an effort of enormous stakes that we couldn’t possibly lose. And then he went to war with half the troops necessary to win, with no plan for the aftermath, and refused to budge even when this became obvious to anyone with eyes and a brain.
“The delivery of relevant messages and cultivating user engagement are important goals, of course. That is the point of advertising, after all. But it’s equally important that advertising not mislead consumers. By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying, deceptively, that the information comes from a nonbiased source,” – Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the F.T.C.
“The word ‘advertisement’ tells people what is being done to them. The whole point of the word ‘sponsored’ is to avoid calling it what it is,” – Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.
Felix Salmon presents the above chart, showing that the art market is actually remarkably stable, as “the top quintile of art works will always accounts for 90% of the value of the art sold”:
[T]he fact is, statistically speaking, that the distribution of art-market values never really changes at all. What’s true today was true yesterday, and was true a decade ago as well. The only difference is the way in which the art-market caravan has moved on and anointed a new set of art works as being the “masterpieces” worth spending insane amounts of money on.
Similarly, every season there’s breathless coverage of new auction records — a long list of artists, all of whom just saw a work sell for more money than that artist has ever received at auction before. The auction houses love to present those auction records as a sign that the market is particularly healthy. But in fact, it’s more of a sign of how fickle both the auction houses and the art market are. Each season, a new artist is hot, and sells for high prices; the superstars of yesteryear, by contrast, aren’t even accepted for auction at all, much of the time. Today’s masterpiece is tomorrow’s mildly embarrassing reminder of how bad our taste used to be.
Relatedly, Jed Perl fears that the “art world has become a fantasy object for the professional classes”:
To argue that an artist whose work sells for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars is superior to an artist whose work sells for millions is to invite condescension if not outright ridicule. The relationship between culture and commerce is frozen, with commerce invariably the winner.
Chris Beam praises a new Chinese film, A Touch Of Sin:
Critics argue that for all the movie’s negativity, it goes easy on the country’s highest powers. The villains are all rotten individuals: local officials, corrupt businessmen, highway robbers. Blame falls on bad men, not on the system. This notion squares nicely with President Xi Jinping’s recent anti-corruption campaign. The problem, according to this logic, lies in the greed of BMW-driving, Rolex-wearing local officials—not, say, the absence of rule of law, a functioning court system, or political accountability.
But this read doesn’t give Jia enough credit. It’s clear from the film that evil deeds stem at least in part from a crushing system. Dahai reaches for his gun only after trying and failing to petition the central government. Xiaohui snaps not just because his boss is cruel, but because the factory doesn’t have insurance to pay for his friend’s injury.
This isn’t exactly the image of China the Communist Party wants to project. Even though Jia cooperated with censors, agreeing to cut dialogue that was deemed inappropriate, the film’s takeaway—that violence is understandable, if not justified—can’t sit well with a government dealing with the fallout from two recent high-profileattacks. The irony of suppressing A Touch of Sin, of course, is that the movie is about the unintended consequences of suppression.
“The problem of poverty is complicated, different in important respects from in the past, and defies simplistic partisan explanations. The solutions certainly extend beyond the actions of government. Indeed, misguided government policies have done a great deal to perpetuate inter-generational poverty. But it’s hard to argue that politics and government don’t have significant roles to play, direct and indirect, both in putting an end to failed policies and in supporting what works. And certainly the Republican Party has to do better than declaring utter indifference to the poor (which was the approach some otherwise very impressive individuals took in the 2012 presidential race).
Helping those most in need should be considered more than a peripheral virtue; and like Jews and Christians of old, we should all make more room in our moral imaginations for the care of the poor. Certainly if we’re told that God identifies with the least of these, so should we,” – Pete Wehner, Commentary.
Foreigners are well advised to begin with Sie, but they should not be surprised at how quickly Germans may now switch to du. Just after my first lunch with the press spokesman for a big German company, for example, I was surprised to hear, as we said goodbye, “by the way, my name is Thomas.” We’ve been du ever since.
Robert Lane Greene sees Sie going the way of “thou”:
This spreading informality has been slower in Asian languages (which often have more elaborate systems of pronouns and honorifics than the mere formal “you”). But in Europe, the change may be unstoppable. This is a result of the breakdown in respect for traditional authority (elders, the upper classes, the church, etc), which began in the 1960s. But also it is probably accelerated by the more recent breakdown in the distinction between private and public. In age of share-everything social media, when everyone has hundreds of “friends,” it’s little surprise that formality is falling from fashion.
Jathan Sadowski uses flimsy logic in being against kids learning computer programming. Of course, illiteracy is a problem and should be addressed, but nobody is arguing to sacrifice the study of history, music or gym to tackle the problem. Assuming it is a matter of allocating time and resources, I truly believe that most Americans would be better served learning coding basics, in both a practical and educational way, rather than any math beyond basic algebra and geometry.
I’m not sold on the idea that coding should be mandatory in K-12 education, but I do think it is important. Actually, I think it’s important enough that it should be a included in the core curriculum requirements for any college graduate. I say this because, as a recent college grad, an overwhelming percentage of jobs I’m looking to apply for require some coding experience. I’m going back to school next semester to take two coding classes. The hope is my new knowledge will open up job opportunities I might otherwise have missed out on.
I learned some basic coding in Matlab during undergrad, and I thought I would hate it, but it was great.
A victim of both domestic abuse and vengeful former assistants, the British chef Nigella Lawson found herself on trial today for past use of cocaine and pot. It’s a gruesome story, and the tabloid vultures were circling when I was over in London last week. I can’t help but feel for any woman held hostage by a bullying husband. You can read the full story here. Money quote:
In five hours of testimony, she painted a picture of a 10-year marriage to Saatchi that was “difficult at many stages and also deeply happy at some stages”. She said it included moments of “intimate terrorism” and spoke of Saatchi’s “emotional abuse that was very wounding and difficult”, “bullying” and how she believed he had set his lawyers onto her with a simple instruction: “get her”.
Lawson described how Saatchi held her by the throat in a photographed incident at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair, not because he believed she had been taking cocaine but because she remarked she was looking forward to being a grandmother. “He grabbed me by the throat and said ‘I am the only person you should be concerned with. I am the only person who should be giving you pleasure’”.
That’s a rather brilliant description of domestic abuse, isn’t it? “Intimate terrorism.”
American officials plan to present the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with detailed ideas about security arrangements on the West Bank under a possible peace agreement with the Palestinians, senior State Department officials said on Wednesday.
That suggests a newly confident Obama administration willing to knock a few heads (at last) to get a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine. As with the potential Iran detente, such a detailed proposal would call Israel’s bluff about a two-state solution and unite almost all the great powers in favor of a sane, sensible partition instead of Greater Israel’s demographic and democratic suicide. Again, it’s worth looking at the long game here. Obama will likely get nothing out of the Congress but obstruction and nihilism and maybe impeachment in the rest of his term; but he has the ACA under his belt and the Iranian rapprochement abroad to concentrate on. Both, as I’ve argued before, are historic shifts in US policy, domestic and foreign. And both remain potentially huge legacies for the first black president. Do not be surprised if the last meep is on Netanyahu.
(Photo: Nigella Lawson leaves Isleworth Crown Court after giving evidence on December 4, 2013 in Isleworth, England. Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who worked as assistants to Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi, are accused of defrauding them of over 300,000 GBP. By Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.)
This time around they gave another meh performance (NYT) on the Programme for International Student Assessment, a standardized test administered every three years to 15-year-old students around the world:
[Americans] score in the middle of the developed world in reading and science while lagging in math, according to international standardized test results being released on Tuesday. While the performance of American students who took the exams last year differed little from the performance of those tested in 2009, the last time the exams were administered, several comparable countries – including Ireland and Poland – pulled ahead this time. As in previous years, the scores of students in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea put those school systems at the top of the rankings for math, science and reading. Finland, a darling of educators, slid in all subjects but continued to outperform the averages, and the United States.
Joshua Keating is one of many bloggers calling out China for gaming the exam:
The three “countries” at the top of the PISA rankings are in fact cities – Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong – as is No. 6, Macau. These are all big cities with great schools by any standards, but comparing them against large, geographically dispersed countries is a little misleading. Shanghai’s No. 1 spot on the rankings is particularly problematic. Singapore is an independent country, obviously, and Hong Kong and Macau are autonomous regions, but why just Shanghai and not the rest of China?
As Tom Loveless for the Brookings Institution wrote earlier this year, “China has an unusual arrangement with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the organization responsible for PISA. Other provinces took the 2009 PISA test, but the Chinese government only allowed the release of Shanghai’s scores.” As you might imagine, conditions in a global financial capital are somewhat different from the rest of China, a country where 66 percent of children still live in rural areas. … Despite this, we’re likely to see quite a few headlines, as we did in past years, about “Chinese” students outperforming Americans.
An exasperated Rick Hess calls the international tests “a triennial exercise in kabuki theater”:
[T]he whole things provides a depressing excuse for the usual suspects use PISA as an excuse to shill their usual wares. Common Core boosters cheered for that. Dennis van Roekel said it’s all about poverty. Arne Duncan touted the need to embrace Obama administration reforms. Yawn.