Like some Doctor Who re-union, here’s Frank Foer, Mike Kinsley, Rick Hertzberg, and yours truly at Wednesday night’s 100th Anniversary dinner in honor of The New Republic. The NYT has a write-up of the event here. It was wonderful to see some old friend and former-friends and also a little unsettling to see so many once-deemed-eternal magazines and newspapers figuring out a way to survive in this new and unforgiving media economy. I really hope TNR endures. These institutions matter. And the web has yet to create their equivalents.
[I]f you are a liberal internationalist, a humanitarian interventionist, you better be out there beating the drum for this reform every day. You better be going on cable news, spending all of your political capital trying to make this happen. You better take to the op/ed pages and Twitter and every other way you have to communicate. And when you do, you better use all of that same moralizing language you do when you’re making your constant calls for war. You better be just as aggressive in suggesting that people who oppose your preferred policy just don’t care about the lives of people who could be saved, as you do when you are advocating for cruise missile strikes. You better follow through.
Because one of the most straightforward, direct, achievable, and cheapest forms of humanitarian intervention is to welcome people with open arms into our country. The fact that this kind of humanitarianism is so rarely considered, when people are looking for ways to save the world with violence, tells you a lot about them and what they really care about.
Line-dancing gets some hip action:
The essayist and critic George Scialabba has produced an absorbing account of his long struggle with severe depression – simply by reproducing selected intake reports and treatment notes from four decades of therapy and medication, adorned only with a very short introduction. It’s a granular, intimate look at what it is like to live with depression, made all the more notable by the place of religious faith in his story. As one psychologist put it, after Scialabba lost his faith as a young man, “the pieces of his life never came back together.” Here’s an excerpt from a 1987 entry from the document:
Mr. Scialabba dates his psychiatric symptoms back to age 17 when he developed incapacitating anxiety when he had any sexual impulse and he would have guilty ruminations that disrupted his usual activities.
Virginia Hughes looks at the science on why people have pets:
If pet-keeping were a purely (or even largely) biologically driven trait, it would be difficult to explain why its popularity has spiked in the last 200 years, and particularly since World War II — a tiny blip on the timeline of human evolution. As a rough marker of this change [psychology professor Harold] Herzog turns to Google Ngram, a tool that tracks the frequency of words published in books. If you put the word “pet” into Google Ngram, you’ll see a sharp rise since about 1960.
Similarly, if pet-keeping were biological you’d expect all human cultures to do it. While it’s true that most human cultures have pets in their home, the way they interact with them is remarkably variable. Herzog cites a study published in 2011 comparing pet-keeping practices in 60 societies around the world. The study found a large variety of species of pets, including some that seem quite odd from a Western perspective: ostriches, tortoises, bears, bats. The most common pet species is the dog, but even then, people are very different in the way they keep dogs.
Of the 60 cultures surveyed, 53 have dogs, but only 22 consider dogs to be pets. Even then, pet dogs are usually used for specific purposes such as hunting or herding. Just seven cultures regularly feed their dogs and let them live inside the house, and only three cultures play with dogs. The study’s general conclusion, as Herzog puts it: “The affection and resources lavished upon pets in the United States and Europe today is a cultural anomaly.”
Meanwhile, Kaleigh Rogers flags research on the role of animals in helping humans overcome addiction:
This is a truly clarifying argument:
The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups. Debating abortion as if it’s a topic to be mulled over and hypothesised on ignores the fact that this is not an abstract, academic issue. It may seem harmless for men like Stanley and O’Neil to debate how and if abortion hurts them; it’s clearly harder for people to see that their words and views might hurt women.
Access to abortion impacts the lives of women, trans and non-binary people every day, and the threat pro-life groups pose to our bodily autonomy is real, not rhetorical. If you don’t believe me, visit any abortion clinic and witness the sustained aggressions of pro-life pickets. In organizing against this event, I did not stifle free speech. As a student, I asserted that it would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman, I objected to men telling me what I should be allowed to do with my own body.
The context for this is the inability of a group called Oxford Students For Life to find a place on campus for a debate on abortion between two men. They were planning an event in Christ Church’s Junior Common Room, a typical place for a small-scale discussion. The group has had similar debates including women in the past. The pro-choice side was represented. But men, it seems, are not allowed to debate abortion at all, according to a fem-left group at my alma mater. Because: men. Even pro-choice men. In a country where pro-choicers greatly outnumber pro-lifers, and where the right to an abortion is deeply rooted in law. And their contempt for even the idea of free debate is palpable:
This Tuesday Oxford Students for Life are putting on a super cute debate with two cis guys on whether people with uteruses deserve to have any choice over their own bodies. We don’t think this is okay so (assuming the event is still going ahead) we thought we should go and say hi! … We are still hoping this gets shut down by the college (Christ Church).
The college canceled the debate in part due to concerns about “physical security” of the students – the danger that the college would be mobbed by protestors, making a debate impossible – and their “mental security” as well. What on earth does “mental security” mean? This apparently:
The latest damning evidence in the Cosby saga is this post-interview AP footage:
Amanda Hess blames the culture of entertainment journalism for allowing the allegations to go under the radar for so long, pointing to that AP interview as a prime example:
Entertainment journalists require access to rich, famous people, and rich, famous people require favorable press. How news organizations and celebrities negotiate that exchange depends on their relative status in the marketplace. When Cosby granted the AP interview at the beginning of the month, he believed that he was powerful enough to demand positive coverage, and ultimately, it appears the AP agreed.
But just ten days after the piece aired, Cosby’s stock had dropped considerably: In that time, Netflix, NBC, and TV Land had all cut ties, meaning that he had fewer friends, less influence, and very little leverage. As the power differential shifted, the AP’s complicity with Cosby in producing the art-related video and scuttling the rest began to pose a reputational risk to the news organization. (The AP notes in the new video that it decided to publish the additional footage in the new context of the “backdrop” of his shuttered business deals.) So: The AP rolled the tape of its interview touching on the rape allegations, and also included the tense off-the-cuff conversation that followed. The postscript contained the interview’s juiciest bits, but it also served as a sly explanation for why the AP failed to release the video earlier: The implication is that Cosby and his people intimidated the AP into silence.
But the video shows that the Associated Press reporter was not eager to approach the topic in the first place, and unwilling to justify his line of questioning when Cosby challenged him.
Bill Wyman also holds the media accountable:
The odd thing about Cosby’s downfall is that nothing had changed in the last decade; there was no suggestion that any of the events described by his new accusers had happened since the first allegations and an accompanying civil case, which was settled. The initial lack of followup by influential outlets created a sort of reverse pack mentality—a reinforcing silence. No one mentioned it, because no one else had.
This was helped along by the feel-good nature of much arts writing: If the point of the story is to promote a comedy appearance, or a new book or other product, a digression into allegations of drugging and sexual assault was buzzkill.
Others reflect on how one should approach Cosby’s work now that he’s widely seen as a rapist. Despite being “100 percent in favor of NBC yanking his sitcom,” Pilot Veruet laments TV Land’s removal of the show that made Cosby famous:
Myron May, the man who shot and wounded three people at the Florida State University library yesterday morning before police killed him, was mentally disturbed:
May’s Facebook page shows he posted mostly Bible verses and links to conspiracy theories about the government reading people’s minds. Records show May was licensed to practice law in Texas and New Mexico. According to a Las Cruces, New Mexico, police report last month, May was a subject of a harassment complaint after a former girlfriend called to report he came to her home uninvited and claimed police were bugging his house and car. Danielle Nixon told police May recently developed “a severe mental disorder.” “Myron began to ramble and handed her a piece to a car and asked her to keep it because this was a camera that police had put in his vehicle,” the report said. The report also said May recently quit his job and was on medication.
In the wake of this latest tragedy, Beth Elderkin wants to talk about how almost all such “active shooters” are male:
He will be a refreshing presence on the campaign trail. He doesn’t talk like a politician. He can be blunt and combative. He has taken strong populist economic stands and was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq. In fact, Webb goes in strong whenever he takes a stand. He’ll certainly be fun to watch during debates (he was a boxer at Annapolis).
You’d have to call him a longshot, of course. But I suspect he’ll be one of those long shots who have the power to shape a campaign with new ideas and sharp arguments. He will certainly cause Clinton some populist agita, should she run.
David Freedlander downplays Webb’s chances:
It has all the trappings of a campaign as vanity project, the type of presidential exploration designed not to excite convention delegates but to boost a candidate’s name ID before cable-TV bookers.
[Re-posted from yesterday]
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