An Anti-Jihadist Dilemma

Oct 1 2014 @ 10:25am

Colum Lynch and Elias Groll point out an inherent danger in Obama’s effort to cut off ISIS’s supply of foreign fighters, warning that illiberal regimes will likely use it as an excuse to further stifle dissent:

[At last week's UN Security Council session], the Obama administration pushed through a measure that requires member states to prevent their citizens from traveling abroad to participate in or finance acts of terrorism. It was unanimously approved by the assembled world powers, but the vote wasn’t the clear-cut win for American diplomacy that it may appear to be.

Instead, the measure, in a textbook example of the dangers of unintended consequences, could end up giving China and similarly repressive states such as Russia and Middle Eastern monarchies powerful new tools for cracking down on separatist groups branded as terrorists. The resolution, which is legally binding, is so sweeping and vague that it effectively leaves it to each country to decide who to target, and how, because there is no internationally agreed upon definition of terrorism. For instance, the resolution requires that law enforcement agents prevent people from traveling if they have “credible information that provides reasonable grounds” for suspecting they might commit terrorist attacks during their travels. The standard of proof required to ban travel is likely to vary sharply in democratic and autocratic countries, opening the door to potential abuse of, for example, political opposition groups and ethnic minorities.

Akil Awan asks how countries whose citizens travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS should best deal with them when they return home. Every option, he finds, has limitations and downsides:

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Ebola Makes It To America

Oct 1 2014 @ 9:41am

Ebola Quiz

A man who flew from Liberia to Dallas has been diagnosed with ebola. Kent Sepkowitz examines the precautions we’d taken:

The Dallas case is breaking some of our ironclad assumptions. The CDC has a well-considered algorithm that places those returning from the three endemic West Africa countries—Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia—into a measure of extra vigilance if and only if the person has had exposure to a known case of Ebola. Per the press conference, the Dallas case had no such exposure. He was not a health-care worker treating patients, nor was he from a family battling active disease. Of course, more facts may emerge that contradict today’s story—but today’s facts, if they hold up, mean that yesterday’s assumptions are no longer correct. Liberia may indeed be enough of a hotbed of Ebola that anyone arriving from the area will need to be considered for extra vigilance.

Ezra recommends taking the quiz above and calming down:

On average, Guinea spends $32 on health care per-person, per-year. Liberia spends $65. Nigeria spends $94. The United States spends $8,895.

That money buys trained health workers, disease investigators, isolation wards, fever screening, protective gear, and much more. That money buys advanced hospitals all across the country, and labs that can quickly test for the disease, and the ability to do contact tracing and follow-up visits on a tremendous scale. That money also buys public-health officials with long experience combatting infectious diseases — both here and in other countries.

Susannah Locke imagines best and worst case scenarios:

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Not So Fast With The Nudging

Oct 1 2014 @ 8:59am

Jeremy Waldron expresses his worries about the vision laid out in Cass Sunstein’s Why Nudge?: The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism:

Every day we are bombarded with offers whose choice architecture is manipulated, not necessarily in our favor. The latest deal from the phone company is designed to bamboozle us, and we may well want such blandishments regulated. But it is not clear whether the regulators themselves are trustworthy. Governments don’t just make mistakes; they sometimes set out deliberately to mislead us. The mendacity of elected officials is legendary and claims on our trust and credulity have often been squandered. It is against this background that we have to consider how nudging might be abused.

There are deeper questions, too, than these issues of trust and competence.

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Making Cents Of Hong Kong

Oct 1 2014 @ 8:13am

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.09.12 AM

While the ongoing protests are primarily about political freedoms, Matt O’Brien observes that the island has “already seen what being subsumed by the mainland means economically. And it’s had enough of that”:

It’s true that China’s growth has been good for Hong Kong’s—especially their retailers—but it hasn’t been as good for their relative standard of living. Not only have the richest mainlanders caught, or even surpassed, them, but now those Chinese are pushing up their cost-of-living and snatching up everything from their stores. That’s why Hong Kongers say the mainlanders are “locusts” who come in, take everything, and then leave—and with bad manners, too. Indeed, it set off a social media firestorm this year when a mainland parent was caught letting their two year-old urinate in one of Hong Kong’s streets. In other words, it’s the same old story of old money versus the nouveau riche.

But Yglesias attributes Hong Kong’s recent economic slump, which may also play a part in driving the protest movement, to the absence of these rich mainlanders:

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The Natural Gas Hype, Ctd

Oct 1 2014 @ 7:27am

A reader writes:

Good piece overall, but I want to point out this sentence: “Brooks Miner adds that ‘natural gas does have a dark side: It is composed primarily of methane, which has a much stronger climate-warming effect than carbon dioxide.'” That’s misleading without context. Methane is, indeed, a potent GHG. But it only has this impact if it is allowed to escape, unburned, directly to the atmosphere. If it is burned completely, it becomes CO2 and water like any other fuel. So the global warming impact of used methane is equal only to its carbon content (which is lower, per unit of energy, than petroleum). It is only leaked methane that has this “dark side” – and since we should be economically averse to wasting fuel through leakage anyway, it’s only a problem when something goes wrong.

The other thing to note is that leaked methane will only circulate for a few decades because it will naturally combust in the atmosphere and degrade to CO2. So while its immediate impact is high, it won’t have the same centuries-long effects as a commensurate amount of carbon emission.

Another goes into greater detail and more:

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The Best Of The Dish Today

Sep 30 2014 @ 9:00pm
by Dish Staff

Andrew couldn’t do the BOTDT this evening because he’s giving a speech on “The Future Of The Media” at Claremont McKenna College. But there is plenty of Andrew elsewhere on the Dish today; he wondered whether new PrEP drugs will finally bridge the deep divides between HIV-positive and -negative men; he compared the British and American systems of war authorization; he posed questions over sexual fluidity; and his jaw dropped a little over Kevin D. Williamson’s draconian views on abortion, with reader input here. Breaking ebola news here. And don’t miss this kickass video of breakdancing Orthodox Jews.

Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. And you can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. Below, a few readers respond to our latest window contest, whose photo came from the Dish’s own Chas Danner, taken on his honeymoon. The first reader:

You are much smarter and better educated than I am, but no post makes me feel more intellectually vacant than The View From Your Window Contest.

Another fan:

I’ve been following your weekly contest for about a year. Your readers are incredible. If the CIA would hire some of these people, we’d find these ISIS assholes in a few hours. OR, maybe some of these people do work for the CIA and are spending their time on this contest instead of finding ISIS.

If you participate in the weekly contest and haven’t yet subscribed to the Dish, you can do so here. For years, the contest has been the most time-intensive post we put out each week, often taking up to five hours for Dish editor Chris, and now his contest successor Chas, to read through, compile, edit, and illustrate the hundreds of entries sent each week. So if you value all the hard work they do, consider subscribing for as little as $1.99 a month, or less than 50 cents a contest. And if you love the contest enough to spread the word to others, gift subscriptions are available here.

A big thanks to the 17 readers who subscribed today. Your daily dose of Dish resumes in the morning.

(Original dog video at the top of the post here)

App Of The Day

Sep 30 2014 @ 8:34pm

Claire Cain Miller has details:

Enter a San Francisco start-up called Shyp, which [expanded] to New York [yesterday]. For a small fee, it fetches, boxes and mails parcels for you. The other week, I had a get-well package to mail to my cousin. I opened the app, snapped a photo of the items I wanted to send and entered her address. Fifteen minutes later, someone was at my door — and that was it. No boxes, no tape, no weighing, no buying stamps, no standing in line. …

Technology has conditioned us to expect ease, efficiency and speed in almost everything we do. Once it came from sewing machines and dishwashers, later from Google and Kayak, and most recently from start-ups that provide on-demand services like Uber for cars, Instacart for groceries and Munchery for dinner. The post office, with its slow-moving lines and cumbersome packing supplies, offers exactly the opposite.

Update from a reader:

It is amazing to me that people know so little about Post Office services. You can pick up a box (or boxes); keep them at home; put the stuff you are sending in said box; go to and click on “ship a package”. Fill out the info; print the label; pay the cost with a credit card or Paypal and either drop in a Post Office or give it to your carrier. You never have to leave home and the cost is the Post Office cost not an inflated app cost. I send all my packages this way. Maybe they should call it a “Post Office app” so people will use it!

Readers comment on these controversial tweets from NRO’s Kevin Williamson:

In this country, even the most vile criminals are entitled to lethal injection. Why hanging? Is that not how the theocracy in Iran hands out its moral judgments?​


I consider myself strongly pro-choice, but I do have to give Williamson props for at least being logically consistent in his beliefs, which is more than I can say for 99% of pro-lifers. If one makes the assertion that a fetus has the same right to life as any human being, it logically follows that the termination of that fetus should be treated under the law like every other homicide. And, under current law, this would mean that a woman who paid a doctor to perform an abortion would be participating in a “murder for hire”, which in many states is a capital offense.

Punishing only doctors is a tacit admission that a fetus IS different in some respects from living, breathing human beings. But, of course, nothing would turn this country more in a pro-choice direction than deciding to punish women in this manner. Which is why it will never happen, and why the pro-life rhetoric regarding personhood will never match up with reality.

Another digs into Williamson’s past:

Here’s his typical pattern.

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The View From Your Window

Sep 30 2014 @ 7:14pm


Segovia, Spain, 3 pm

Nature Is Free

Sep 30 2014 @ 6:45pm

Well, that’s not quite right. But as of next month, the journal’s sister publication Nature Communications will be. In light of the news, The Economist deems the rise of open-access academic publishing “unstoppable”:

All seven of Britain’s research councils, for example, now require that the results of the work they pay for are open-access in some way. So does the Wellcome Trust, a British charity whose medical-research budget exceeds that of many scientifically successful countries. And by 2016 every penny of public money given to British universities by the government will carry the same requirement.

Elsewhere, the story is the same.

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