The Best Of The Dish Today

Apr 16 2014 @ 9:05pm

On another topic, sometimes, you’ve just got to face the music:

As any biologist will tell you, beards are indeed sexy. The question is, does the sexiness of beards depend on the hairiness of the rest of the males in the population? Or is the allure of a beard the same no matter what? To find out, the researchers recruited 36 men who were willing to grow beards. … When facial hair was rare among faces, beards and heavy stubble were rated about 20% more attractive. And when beards were common, clean-shaven faces enjoyed a similar bump, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. The effect on judgment was the same for men and women.

Yes, it was cooler/hotter to have a beard a few years ago. But I think I’ll stick with mine until I hit the Santa look. And Aaron’s is non-negotiable.

Today, I tackled the growing support for the ACA, including my own personal experience. We’ve already received a bunch of emails detailing your experiences – and we’re going to start a new reader thread, “The View From Your Obamacare.” Stay tuned – and email us your stories. I also took on the appalling new book by Jo Becker which purports to describe the marriage equality movement, which began, according to Becker, in 2008 with one Chad Griffin as our Rosa Parks (yes, she actually wrote that and someone actually published it!). Many readers are also piling on. One writes:

I just put the book down. What a useless history and distortion.

I’ve been involved in that battle as a foot soldier for 20 years, but my first memory of marriage equality battle was as a teenager in 1977 when a clerk in Colorado issued a license to a gay couple. What about the intellectual history as you mentioned, and a huge part of? Hawaii was nothing? What, Massachusetts wasn’t a watershed moment? All the anti-gay marriage amendments I fought hard against in 2004 , and galvanized so many, meant nothing? I remember all these very clearly.

We got ‘married’ on February 15th, 2004 during Gavin Newsom’s San Francisco marriages. The same marriages that led to the California supreme court decision, which led to Prop 8, which led to the US Supreme Court decision. How can that be minimized?

It can only be minimized by an author who knows nothing of the history of the movement except the self-serving account of those who jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute and to whom she was given complete access. And an excerpt from this travesty will appear in next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine! I know it can seem self-serving to point out the book’s contempt for those who actually built this movement. But to read Evan Wolfson dismissed as less integral to the struggle than Tom Daley’s boyfriend is simply a disgrace. The book should be withdrawn.

The most popular post of the day was indeed “Jo Becker’s Troubling Travesty Of Gay History,” followed by “The Neocons Lose Their Shit Over Rand Paul.

See you in the morning.

A Poem For Wednesday

Apr 16 2014 @ 8:41pm

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Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

r. erica doyle is the winner of this year’s Norma Farber Award from the Poetry Society of America for a first book of original poetry written by an American and published in a standard edition in 2012. Doyle’s book entitled proxy is powerful and has inspired powerful praise, including the following from Marilyn Nelson, who judged the contest, “Every surprising, beautiful, take-no-prisoners sentence of proxy reminds me how inventive language might expand our experience of our flesh, make it new, deepen our connection to it. . . .” Below is a prose poem from this award-winning book.

An untitled poem from proxy:

If she were any closer, you’d eat her for dinner. As it is, you’re starving. And not. You weather this all with seeming good humor. Write notes to amuse yourself. You have become too earnest, trying so hard to mean something important. Watch the drain and hear your stomach growl. Negroes make me hungry, too, she says. You need an explanation but say nothing to this boastful non sequitur. You want to amuse her with your bones.

(From proxy © 2013 by r. erica doyle. Used by kind permission of Belladonna Press. Photo by Flickr user Greg)

Face Of The Day

Apr 16 2014 @ 8:09pm

Holy Week Celebrated In Larantuka

A Catholic worshipper holds Virgin Mary picture as he prepare for Holy Week celebrations, known as ‘Semana Santa’ on April 16, 2014 in Larantuka, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Easter celebrations in Larantuka started in the 16th century, when Portuguese missionaries entered and acculturated the local people. The ritual appeals to the pilgrims and people from various regions in Indonesia, who come to follow the procession. Holy Week marks the last week of Lent and the beginning of Easter celebrations. Catholics make up approximately 3% per cent of the population of the predominantly Muslim country. By Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Seth Masket reviews many studies on the question:

Your allies may be quick to abandon you during a scandal if you’re expendable (think John Edwards), but if you’re, say, the president, they may be more likely to rally to your side. Scandals may also be more damaging for black candidates (PDF) than for white ones.

Read On

3D Printing Is Building Itself Up

Apr 16 2014 @ 7:16pm

Reason checks in on the growing 3D printing industry:

The latest breakthrough:

For the first time ever, scientists have 3D printed a cancer tumor in order to study how to kill it.

Read On

Sex, Lies, and Text Messages

Apr 16 2014 @ 6:45pm

A new study reveals that people often lie while exchanging sexy texts with their significant others:

“Deception during sexting with committed relationship partners appears to be fairly common,” writes a research team led by Michelle Drouin of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Its study is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Of the 155 participants (average age just under 22), 109 reported they had sent a sexually explicit text message. Among that group, 48 percent admitted lying during sexting with a committed partner. Specifically, 20 percent said they had lied about either what they were wearing or what they were doing, while 28 percent had lied about both. Women were the more frequent liars, texting untruths far more often than men.

Katy Waldman compares these findings to our deceptions in real sex:

Of course, we all lie in person too—is a fake sext any different from a fake orgasm?

Read On

When The Cover Is The Story

Apr 16 2014 @ 6:14pm

Jill Filipovic suggests that the Rolling Stone gaffe that has fact-checkers around the world snickering shows just how much magazine covers still matter:

Some of us still buy print magazines, but ever more of us are reading the articles on tablets or laptops instead. And the volume of accessible content online far exceeds that at your local newsstand or grocery store checkout. And yet, despite such an enormous quantity of high-quality, cover-worthy imagery, the photos on the covers we can actually hold in our hands are what become online content fodder.

That scarcity may actually be the point. There’s not a widely read website in Internet-town that keeps the same photo on the front page for more than a day, let alone a week or a month. Magazine real estate may be rendered more valuable by virtue of the fact that it’s more permanent – if you have a hard copy of a magazine you can store it away without the fear that you might go to read it one day and find an “Error: Page Unknown” message. And although fewer people may purchase a copy of Rolling Stone over the course of a month than click over to the homepage of a popular website, the eyes on a magazine cover may be more valuable than those on a quickly changing web page.

Even if you only look at magazine covers while waiting to check out at Walgreens or getting your nails done, your eyes are settling on a small handful of options, making each of them resonate more strongly than the hundreds of pictures in your 15 open browser tabs.

By the way, Julia Louis-Dreyfus set the record straight via Twitter:

Read On

The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped some 100 teenage girls from a government school in the northeastern state of Borno on Monday. Zack Beauchamp expects the group to hold the girls for ransom:

“Their goal is almost certainly to ransom [the girls],” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation of the Defense of Democracies who follows Boko Haram, told me. ”Otherwise, they have chosen a target that will make everybody hate them. Killing [100] schoolgirls would be a huge PR hit even for some of the rougher jihadist groups.”

Boko Haram has been known to kidnap for money. Since the group launched a full-on uprising against the Nigerian government in 2012, it has kidnapped a number of foreigners in order to raise funds to continue the struggle.

Read On

A Victory For Transgender Indians

Apr 16 2014 @ 5:08pm

Transgenders Welcome SC Verdict, Recognizing Transgenders As Third Gender

In a landmark ruling yesterday, India’s Supreme Court decided that transgender individuals need no longer identify themselves as “male” or “female” on official documents. The court also called for an expansion of rights:

Hijras are deprived of jobs, education and health care; turned away at hospitals, limited by the practice of male and female wards. India had taken steps to ensure their recognition when India’s Election Commission earlier allowed a third gender of “other” on voter registration forms for the national elections now taking place.

But the Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed concern over transgenders being harassed in society and said “it was the right of every human being to choose their gender.” It directed the government to bring them into the mainstream, ordering it to set aside quotas for jobs and education for transgender individuals, bringing them in line with the benefits already afforded other minority groups and lower castes. The court said hijras will be entitled to “all other rights,” including passports, voter cards and driving licenses.

Rama Lakshmi explains how to square this ruling with the decision the court handed down in December, reinstating a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality:

Read On

Moore Award Nominee

Apr 16 2014 @ 4:42pm

“It seems the height of privilege blindness to schoolmarm gays about how to engage their aggressors when Friedersdorf, in point of fact, has no idea what omnipresent psychological torture feels like… I realize I’m coming down rather hard on an ally here, but as an ally, Friedersdorf and those like him need to recognize that their first responsibility is to listen, not to dictate,” – J Bryan Lowder, doubling down on his view that all opponents of marriage equality should shut up and be denied high-profile jobs and endorsing “a little retributive succor, when we can.”

I’d say there are two premises in there that are ludicrous over-reach. All gay people live in a world of “omnipresent psychological torture”? No straight person has any right to an incorrect opinion on this question, and deserve to be written out of the discourse. Unsurprisingly, Lowder then refers to our astonishing progress over the last couple of decades as a “recent miracle.” Miracle? It sure wasn’t that. It was the result of adhering to the norms of open debate, liberal argument in making our case – precisely the approach Lowder thinks is repellent.

Let’s just say that if we had followed Lowder’s illiberal advice, there would be no marriage equality in America and a hell of a lot more “omnipresent psychological torture.”

Mental Health Break

Apr 16 2014 @ 4:20pm

Suburban dog-boarding:

(Hat tip: The Awesomer)

Leonid Ragozin explains why many Ukrainians are disillusioned with both Kiev and Moscow:

Southeast Ukraine may be the world’s most difficult and unwelcoming environment for fomenting a genuine protest—stability tops the list of local values and priorities. Many local residents admire Putin for bringing that to Russia, but what he is now peddling in Ukraine is instability, and that’s a very tough sell. 

Russia’s efforts are getting increasingly counterproductive. In fact, Putin has become the single biggest force helping to patch up the split between Ukraine’s nationalist west and Russophone east. While the West and many Ukrainian politicians continue to alienate Ukrainian Russophones by treating them as if they are an unfortunate historical error, Putin did more than all of them combined to awake many in Ukraine’s east to the fact that their country, however imperfect, is a better place for a Russian speaker than Russia proper is. A recent poll show that a majority of people in Ukraine’s Russophone regions don’t support separation.

Akos Lada and Maria Snegovaya note that the divide between supporters and opponents of the Euromaidan revolution “is becoming more generational than regional”:

Read On

Beard Of The Week

Apr 16 2014 @ 3:42pm

A reader writes:

I’m surprised that Kristofer Hivju, who plays the wildling commander Tormund Giantsbane on Game of Thrones, has not made it into Beard of the Week.

Yes, it has been a lapse. Of all the GoT beards, Hivju’s is easily the Vikingest.

O’Malley’s March To 2016

Apr 16 2014 @ 3:20pm

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley put his signature on the state’s marijuana decriminalization bill on Monday. Katie Zezima sees this as another example of O’Malley “tacking to the left and burnishing his liberal credentials“:

While other potential 2016 candidates on both sides of the aisle have voiced their support for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana (we’re looking at you, Rand Paul), O’Malley is the first who has actually taken any action.

But Waldman doubts that the liberal agenda will decide the 2016 Democratic primary:

The problem is that the liberal scorecard may not be the basis for how primary voters usually make their decisions, especially Democrats.

Read On

Tiptoeing Toward More Sanctions

Apr 16 2014 @ 3:02pm

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Josh Rogin explains why the administration is taking so long to announce new sanctions on Russia in response to its provocations in Ukraine:

There is still some internal disagreement inside the Obama administration over whether to proceed with sanctions against broad sectors of the Russian economy or with more targeted sanctions against Russian politicians, oligarchs, and perhaps some of the institutions those politicians and oligarchs are connected to.  So far, the U.S. has sanctioned 31 Russian individuals and one Russian bank. U.S. officials believe the sanctions against Putin’s business associates have had some effect and could be expanded.

Stefan Wolff sticks up for the cautious approach:

[T]he incremental toughening-up of the West’s responses keeps the door open for diplomatic solutions and has not fallen into the trap of a tit-for-tat escalation, which is difficult to step back from and makes face-saving exits for both Russia and the West ever more difficult while being played out on the back of the people of Ukraine.

Read On

What Does Bud Do To Young Brains?

Apr 16 2014 @ 2:41pm

Jason Koebler highlights a study linking pot to brain abnormalities in young people:

High-resolution MRI scans of the brains of adults between the ages of 18-25 who reported smoking weed at least once a week were structurally different than a control group: They showed greater grey matter density in the left amygdala, an area of the brain associated with addiction and showed alterations in the hypothalamus and subcallosal cortex. The study also notes that marijuana use “may be associated with a disruption of neural organization.” The more weed a person reported smoking, the more altered their brain appeared, according to the Northwestern University and Harvard Medical School study, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The finding already has the study’s authors calling for states to reconsider legalizing the drug. Hans Breiter, the lead author, said he’s “developed a severe worry about whether we should be allowing anybody under age 30 to use pot unless they have a terminal illness and need it for pain.”

Saundra Young gets the response of another researcher:

Read On

Journalist Jo Becker has a new book out on the marriage equality movement. The revolution began, it appears, in 2008. And its Rosa Parks was a man you would be forgiven for knowing nothing about, Chad Griffin. Here’s how the book begins – and I swear I’m not making this up:

This is how a revolution begins. It begins when someone grows tired of standing idly by, waiting for history’s arc to bend toward justice, and instead decides to give it a swift shove. It begins when a black seamstress named Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in the segregated South. And in this story, it begins with a handsome, bespectacled thirty-five-year-old political consultant named Chad Griffin, in a spacious suite at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco on election night 2008.

After that surreal opening, the book descends into more jaw-dropping distortion. For Becker, until the still-obscure Griffin came on the scene, the movement for marriage equality was a cause “that for years had largely languished in obscurity.” I really don’t know how to address that statement, because it is so wrong, so myopic and so ignorant it beggars belief that a respectable journalist could actually put it in print. Obscurity? Is Becker even aware of the history of this struggle at all? Throughout the 1990s, marriage equality had roiled the political landscape, dominated the national debate at times, re-framed and re-branded the entire gay movement, achieved intellectual heft, and key GAY MARRIAGElegal breakthroughs, such as the landmark Hawaii case that vaulted the entire subject from an idea to a reality. The man who actually started that revolution was Dan Foley, a straight man from the ACLU, who filed the key lawsuit. Foley does not make Becker’s index. Why would he? If the revolution only began in 2008, he is irrelevant. The courage and clarity it took to strike that first blow is nothing for Becker compared with that of two straight men, David Boies and Ted Olson, and one gay man, Chad Griffin, who swooped into the movement at the last moment and who were, not accidentally, Becker’s key sources for the entire tall tale.

The intellectual foundation of the movement is also non-existent in Becker’s book – before, wait for it!, Ken Mehlman and Ted Olson brought Republican credibility to the movement. Yes, that’s her claim. My own work – penning the first cover-story on the conservative case for marriage equality in 1989, a subsequent landmark re-imagining of the gay rights movement in 1993, and a best-selling book, Virtually Normal in 1995 – is entirely omitted from the book, along with the critical contributions from other conservatives and libertarians, from Jon Rauch and Bruce Bawer to John Corvino and Dale Carpenter. I suspect even Olson and Mehlman will reject Becker’s ludicrous thesis, if challenged on this point. But for Becker, all of this work contributed nothing but further obscurity. The astonishing achievement of turning what was once deemed a joke into a serious national cause and issue happened in the 1990s and then more emphatically after George W. Bush’s endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004. But for Becker, an obscure late-comer, Griffin, had a “unique ability” to leverage legal cases into a political rallying cry. This is so wrong and so contemptuous of the people who really did do that work I am at a loss for words.

More staggeringly, the critical, indispensable role of Evan Wolfson in pioneering this cause is actually treated with active contempt in the book. He is ludicrously portrayed by Becker as an obstacle to change, a remnant of a previous generation, a man who had led the marriage Senate Panel Holds Hearing on DOMAmovement nowhere. This is where the book becomes truly toxic and morally repellent. I’ve been a part of this movement for twenty-five years, either as an activist speaker/writer or as a close observer on this blog for the last decade and a half. What Becker writes about Evan and the movement is unconscionable, ignorant and profoundly wrong. Evan had the courage to create this movement, and empower it with legal rigor and strategy, when it was far, far less popular than it is now. Without him, quite simply, the movement would not exist for Griffin to now outrageously attempt to claim credit for. Yet this book sweeps Wolfson aside as an actual obstacle to progress because he was concerned that the Prop 8 case was a high-risk high-reward legal strategy that would not be the slam-dunk for national marriage equality that Boies and Olson believed it would be.

And here’s the thing: Evan was right about that. The Prop 8 case succeeded only in striking down California’s ban, and not changing the entire world, and it rested entirely on the legal and intellectual infrastructure Evan and I and others had been building for two decades. If Boies and Olson had been right, we would have federal marriage equality right now. But they weren’t and we don’t. Now I supported the case because I believed that it could add to the educational effort to expose the weakness of the arguments of those opposing equality – and – wh0 knows? – might even end marriage discrimination. But when I say “add”, I mean exactly that. Legal arguments take time to percolate up and about. And the Prop 8 case was deeply dependent on the cases that preceded it. It wasn’t a panacea, and was less potent than the Windsor case in changing America as a whole. So while I’m certainly no opponent of Boies and california-gay-marriage-supreme-court-map_580Olson, and was thrilled to have them on board,  it is simply bizarre to argue, as Becker does, that the marriage equality movement didn’t really exist until they and Griffin allegedly “re-branded” it.

Perhaps the most critical legal events in this long struggle took place in New England. Getting actual marriage equality in one state, Massachusetts – and then exporting it to an entire region – had always been our Holy Grail and was indispensable to our long-term success. There were many architects of that vision – but one stands out to anyone with any knowledge of the matter. That’s Mary Bonauto, the woman who won the right to marry in Vermont in 1997 (only to be foiled by the legislature), and who made marriage in Massachusetts happen. To quote Roberta Kaplan, who argued the Windsor case in front of the Supreme Court, “No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto.” Yet in Becker’s book, she too is shunted aside, and airbrushed out of history. In fact, any figure of any note apart from Boies and Olson and Griffin are excised in this book in Stalinist fashion as if they didn’t exist.

For me, then, the key question about this book is how on earth such a distorted and ahistorical and polemical attack on the architects of the marriage equality movement can have been written. Becker could have presented the material in this book merely as the experience of a few people who came very late to the movement – a small snapshot of the last few years through the eyes of a small group. But she doesn’t. She virtually-normalcredits them with the entire movement, and treats all those before as obstacles to it. That’s such a distortion you have to wonder how it came about.

The answer, I think, is access-journalism. It’s clear from the notes in the book that an overwhelming amount of the material comes from the sources she embedded herself with. Other figures with real knowledge of the movement barely get a phone call. (Wolfson got one peremptory one late in the day; I got none.) In other words, this is access-journalism at its most uncritical and naive worst. There is no indication that Becker has any clue about anything that happened before 2008, and every indication that thereafter, she simply parroted the spin of those she had access to. And so the book is best seen not as as act of journalism, but as a public relations campaign by Boies, Olson and Griffin to claim credit for and even co-opt a movement they had nothing to do with until very recently. It’s telling that the Human Rights Campaign – an organization that opposed aggressive efforts to pioneer marriage equality until the early 2000s – is now sending out emails touting Becker’s book for its preposterous hagiography of its executive director. Money quote about the NYT magazine excerpt:

Read On

Le Pen, Farage, Putin

Apr 16 2014 @ 1:39pm

Timothy Snyder, whose historic analysis of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is worth reading in full, situates Putin’s ideology within the rising tide of far-right nationalism in Europe:

More than anything else, what unites the Russian leadership with the European far Right is a certain basic dishonesty, a lie so fundamental and self-delusive that it has the potential to destroy an entire peaceful order. Even as Russian leaders pour scorn on a Europe they present as a gay fleshpot, Russia’s elite is dependent upon the European Union at every conceivable level. Without European predictability, law and culture, Russians would have nowhere to launder their money, establish their front companies, send their children to school, or spend their vacations. Europe is both the basis of the Russian system and its safety valve.

Likewise, the average Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ in Austria) or Marine Le Pen (Front National in France) voter takes for granted countless elements of peace and prosperity that were achieved as a result of European integration. The archetypical example is the possibility, on 25 May, to use free and fair democratic elections to the European parliament to vote for people who claim to oppose the existence of the European parliament.

In an equally weighty essay, Pádraig Murphy explores the intellectual heritage of Eurasianism:

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Iraq Is Still FUBAR

Apr 16 2014 @ 1:20pm

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Ned Parker previews the April 30th elections:

For months, suicide bombers have been dynamiting themselves in crowded Shiite markets, coffee shops, and funeral tents, while Shiite militias and government security forces have terrorized Sunni communities. The Iraqi state is breaking apart again: from the west in Anbar province, where after weeks of anarchic violence more than 380,000 people have fled their homes; to the east in Diyala province, where tit-for-tat sectarian killings are rampant; to the north in Mosul, where al-Qaeda-linked militants control large swathes of territory; to the south in Basra, home to Iraq’s oil riches, where Shiite militias are once more ascendant; to Iraq’s Kurds, who warn that the country is disintegrating and contemplate full independence from Baghdad.

More than 2,500 Iraqis have been killed since the start of the year, including nearly three hundred in the first ten days of April; in the capital itself, which has become a showcase for the country’s multiplying conflicts and uncontrolled violence, there have been several brazen attacks on government buildings, and a terrifying string of car bombings, including eight on April 9 alone.

It looks like Maliki, who is running for a third term, will remain in power:

With elections now two weeks away the prime minister appears confident.

Read On

Your Merch, Your Ideas, Ctd

Apr 16 2014 @ 1:05pm

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Our updated poll is embedded below (if you are using a mobile phone or tablet, please click here). Based on your votes, we have removed some of the least popular ideas and added in some more. In addition to many of your submitted slogans, we have added a multiple-choice section where you can indicate your preference for various types of merch (totes, dog bowls, hats, etc). The most popular picks will be mulled over by the Dish staff and mix-and-matched with other ideas, and we will have an professional graphic designer whip up the final versions.

If you could take a minute and give us your final input on this poll, even if you’re already filled it out before, we would be most grateful. Just mark “Sweet” if you could see yourself purchasing an item with that slogan or “Lame” if you definitely would not. For the second section, check off as many items as you like – as many items as you could see yourself purchasing at some point. Thanks to everyone for your help; we really appreciate it.