A Poem For Thursday

Dec 18 2014 @ 3:00pm
by Alice Quinn

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“The Afternoon According to Saint Matthew” by Mary Ruefle:

There’s the black truck
with orange flames
on its hood. There’s the girl
in the pink pajamas. There’s her sister
in a bumblebee suit.
They are playing with dirt.
When they find bugs
they scream
but no one hears them.
Their minds are growing though.
In the late afternoon light
they scoop the dirt into tin cans
so they can bury it
in the backyard.
I think we have a case
of two women grinding at the mill—
one will be taken and one
will be left,
but it’s way too early
to tell.

(From Trances of the Blast © 2013 by Mary Ruefle. Used by permission of Wave Books. Photo by David Poe)

Terrorstan

Dec 18 2014 @ 2:42pm
by Dish Staff

bialik-datalab-peshawar

Before Tuesday’s horrific attack on an army school, Carl Bialik grimly notes, Pakistan’s terrorism problem was on a downward trend, from utterly horrifying to just god-awful:

More than 3,000 Pakistani civilians died in terrorist attacks in both 2012 and 2013, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which monitors violence in the region. This year, through Sunday, 1,595 civilians had died, including 26 this month. Twenty-six is a horrific total for most countries in a year — 20 more than the number killed in all of 2013 in the U.S., which has roughly 75 percent more residents than Pakistan. But it’s also a monthly rate of about 58 civilians, the fewest killed in a month in Pakistan since 56 civilians died in August 2007. Tuesday’s attack reversed that modest progress; December now is the deadliest month since February.

So how did Pakistan become so unmanageably violent? In part, Matthew Green blames the government’s longstanding policy of cultivating ties with some militants in order to fight others:

Read On

Dissent Of The Day

Dec 18 2014 @ 2:17pm
by Will Wilkinson

A reader rebuts me:

Wilkinson’s argument amounts to saying that a president with personal connections in government (via a dynasty for example) would be a good counter to overly independent, unaccountable bureaucracies such as the CIA. The Bush dynasty is the perfect example of the reverse. George HW Bush was the director of the CIA. Before Dick Cheney was George W. Bush’s vice-president and man behind the curtain, he worked in the White House under Nixon and was GWHB’s Secretary of Defense. Does Wilkinson think that Dubya’s personal connections made the CIA more accountable? Probably not. And Dubya would be one more personal connection between Jeb and war crimes. All that would make torture and CIA unaccountability more likely, not less.

Read On

But How Will It Play In Miami?

Dec 18 2014 @ 2:02pm
by Dish Staff

Cuba Support

The supposedly implacable, politically powerful bloc of Cuban exile voters in southern Florida has long been one of the obstacles to a rapprochement with Cuba, but Annie Lowrey points out that this bloc isn’t as solidly Republican or pro-embargo as it used to be:

Is there a chance that President Obama’s policy might swing some Cuban-Americans back towards the Republican Party? Certainly, and we won’t know for sure until we get new polling data, likely in a number of weeks. But it is worth noting that those younger Cuban-Americans tend to be much more supportive of diplomatic normalization than their older counterparts. A recent Florida International University poll found that 90 percent of young Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County — 90 percent! — favor having diplomatic relations with Havana. A similar proportion support lifting the travel ban, and just more than 60 percent of young Cuban-Americans support ending the embargo.

Nate Cohn looks at some other evidence that Cuba just isn’t that much of a political flashpoint in Florida anymore:

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Losing Your Faith In Santa

Dec 18 2014 @ 1:37pm
by Dish Staff

When did you stop believing in Santa Claus? Email us your tales of childhood disillusionment and we’ll post the most interesting ones. To start us off, here’s a handful of stories from Dish staffers. Managing editor Chas:

Through a stroke of creative genius, my parents delayed my realization about Santa by at least a few years. When I was 4 or 5, they forged a letter from Santa in which they not only thanked chas-santamy sister and me for leaving some food, pizza, for the reindeer, but they actually printed, in pizza sauce, a single hoof print on the letter. This became irrefutable evidence of the existence of Santa and his reindeer, which I held tight to for years as more and more classmates and friends learned the truth and attempted to convince me. I remember actually citing the letter in one particularly contentious debate around the lunch table in 4th grade. Finally, as with many, it was my own snooping around for presents that finally exposed the lie. I found a Sega Genesis box with a price tag in my parent’s closet, and then on Christmas morning it was one of the gifts I’d received from Santa.

Thinking back I think the hoof print was actually from one of our cats, so how I mistook it for a hoof I have no idea. Also, you’d think the similar handwriting would be a dead-giveaway too.

Dishtern Phoebe:

As a child – not sure how old – I was at a Christmas party for my father’s work, and I confessed to the Santa that I was Jewish. The man in the Santa suit, a colleague of my father’s, told me not to worry – he was Jewish, too.

Associate editor Tracy:

As a four-year-old, I had the bright idea of asking Santa to sign the note I left out with his milk and cookies. So with my parents’ help, I drafted an entreaty along these lines:

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by Dish Staff

James Poniewozik wants the film made available on demand – now:

Maybe Sony is waiting to see if it can put the film in theaters later; maybe it’s afraid of further cyber repercussions. But if this is an issue of principle, then act like it. Americans have broadband, big-screen TVs, and plenty of free time around Christmas. Give us the chance to make our own statement, if we so choose, to show that we don’t want bullies squelching our expression.

Artists and audiences lost an unprecedented battle here. But we can still win the war, even if we have to do it in our living rooms.

Aisha Harris agrees:

Read On

The End of Serial, Part Two

Dec 18 2014 @ 12:47pm
by Michelle Dean

Adnan Syed

Well, it’s over. And naturally, in the way of Serial, my view on it is an internally incoherent, conflicted mess.

I suppose if you are afraid of spoilers you’d better stop reading here, though I’ve always thought the idea of being “spoiled” maps awkwardly onto non-fiction.

But I can’t write about Serial without calling today’s episode “meandering.” Over close to an hour, Koenig wandered through new interviews that didn’t resolve any questions, dropped a quick serial killer theory into the mix and digressed for quite awhile about AT&T billing practices. And then she came to a careful, qualified and ultimately inconclusive, er, conclusion:

If you asked me to swear that Adnan Syed is innocent, I couldn’t do it. I nurse doubt. I don’t like that I do, but I do. I mean most of the time I think he didn’t do it.

My first thought was that a lot of people are going to write editorials about how unsatisfactory an ending this was. That was a theme of Serial commentary for the beginning: people were begging for the catharsis of a good ending. They were maybe begging for it a little too hard, myself included. Some people wanted a good story; others wanted good reporting. I tend to agree with the Texas Monthly‘s Pamela Colloff, who I interviewed for the Guardian last week about Serial. I think it’s better to have some idea where you’re going with a story, as a reporter, before you put it in front of the public.

But overnight I got to thinking about the analogy people sometimes draw between Serial and the Paradise Lost documentaries about the West Memphis Three. It’s certainly true that the first of those did more or less what Serial did. Gathering a great deal of information about an unsatisfying case up in its arms and then dumping it onto the screen, the documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky simply sowed doubt. In fact, the first two documentaries point the finger at what was ultimately determined to be the wrong alternative suspect, if anything. They were just as digressive and speculative as Serial. And yet: those documentaries did ultimately lead to the West Memphis Three getting out of prison.

Though even now, after their release, it’s still not clear who murdered the three children in Robin Hood Hills. And even though it pretty clearly wasn’t Damien Echols, Jesse Miskelley, and Jason Baldwin, technically, on paper, they haven’t been exonerated. They entered an Alford plea, which is something of a declaration of stalemate where the truth is concerned. So even the catharsis of that ending was a little false, a little ersatz.

A lot about innocence and guilt is about gut feeling. Jurors vote based on gut feelings. And at least Koenig’s honest about what’s animating hers:

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Jeb’s Electability Argument

Dec 18 2014 @ 12:30pm
by Dish Staff

Jeb Bush Favorables

Kilgore finds it wanting:

[D]espite his name ID, his resume, and his “centrist” positions on at least some subjects, this on-paper “winner” is not very popular with the general electorate. In two solid years of being pitted against Hillary Clinton in polls, Bush has not led a single one, and trails her in the latest RealClearPolitics average by over 9%. That’s a poorer margin than for Ryan (6%), Christie (7%), and Huckabee (8%), and about the same as for Paul. Ted Cruz is the only regularly polled putative GOP candidate running significantly worse than Bush against HRC (an RCP average gap of 13%), and that’s largely because he’s far less well-known.

Hillary may currently beat him in the polls, but Frum insists that Jeb entering the race is bad news for her:

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by Will Wilkinson

Michelle’s post on the the difficulty of teaching rape law in this, the age of the “trigger warning,” put me in mind of my graying Gen-Xer suspicions that kids these days are entitled precious overdramatic snowflakes too poignantly damaged by their not-very-harsh lives to conduct adult conversations about adult topics, and that this triggering business is bosh.

Trauma is all-too-real, and experiences that throw those who have been traumatized back into painful memories of their trauma are all-too-real. But how common is it, really? How important is it, really, to avoid triggering events? Is not being reminded of a trauma others cannot be reasonably expected to know anything about the sort of thing to which we might be morally entitled? Does anyone have a right not to be triggered, such that we’re all obligated not to do it? Is there any science about this that might help answer these question? It turns out there is! And because it confirms my biases I am eager to share it with you.

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The View From Your Window

Dec 18 2014 @ 11:40am

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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 10.25 am