Face Of The Day

Jul 23 2014 @ 8:07pm

House Financial Services Cmte Holds Hearing On Impact Of Dodd-Frank Act

Former House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on July 23, 2014. Frank testified during the committee’s hearing on “Assessing the Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act Four Years Later.’ By Win McNamee/Getty Images. Dish coverage of the anniversary here. Watch Barney address critics of the law in our Ask Anything series.

The Aftershocks Of Russian Decline

Jul 23 2014 @ 7:42pm

Josh Well tries to make sense of Putin’s appeal within Russia. During his travels there, Well detected “an undercurrent of aggrievement; a sense of having to restart after seven decades of the Soviet State, having to retrace steps back to the path the rest of the world had been on—and then struggle to catch up; a feeling that the chance for Russia to remake itself had been hampered by the hegemony of the West; a knowledge that the county was less than it could be, should be”:

That’s a feeling a great number of Americans can relate to: not only the frustration with growing inequality, but the sense that our country is also somehow becoming smaller than it should be. Here, when our sense of self is threatened, we turn to historical mythology that buttresses our belief in who we are: The American Dream, our forefathers wrestling with what that would be, the presidents who, through our beloved democracy, shaped how we understand it now—FDR, JFK, Reagan. We look for the next in that mold.

But Russians don’t have that history.

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Reminding us that the US subsidizes Israel to the tune of over $3 billion a year, Jesse Walker scrutinizes the case for this assistance and finds it lacking:

You hear two sets of arguments for the aid packages. The first is the one you’d expect: With some exceptions, which we’ll note in a moment, people who back Israeli policy tend to want America to fund it. The second comes from the folks who feel the aid gives Washington leverage that it can use to work for peace. America’s checks do give D.C. a greater ability to insert itself into the conflict, a fact that has led a number of Israel’s supporters as well as its critics to call for ending American aid. (Needless to say, that doesn’t mean they’d want the money to stop while the war is in progress.) Despite that power, Washington’s ability to tamp down the tensions has been, shall we say, rather limited. As my colleague Shikha Dalmia wrote a few years ago, “If money could buy peace, Israelis and Palestinians would now be holding hands and singing kumbaya.” Instead we’ve been subsidizing war.

We also pay for the clean-up afterward, David Corn adds, pointing to the $47 million humanitarian aid package the State Department announced on Monday:

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Father Time’s Racial Bias

Jul 23 2014 @ 6:45pm

Tom Jacobs highlights new (but not the first) research showing that African-Americans “age” faster than those of other races:

“On average, the biological age for blacks was 53.16 years,” compared to 49.84 years for whites, the researchers report. After controlling for socioeconomic status and health behaviors (they note that obesity rates are higher for blacks than whites, and excess weight can “contribute to progressive breakdowns in biological tissues and systems”), this gap shrank somewhat, but was still pronounced: 52.72 years for blacks, compared to 49.89 years for whites.

Previous researchers have pointed to the corrosive influence of racism as a possible explanation for the poorer health of blacks in America. A small study released in January found blacks who had experienced racism and come to accept (even unconsciously) the concept of racial inferiority had shorter leukocyte telomeres—a different biomarker of aging.

Levine and Crimmins did not attempt to measure negative health effects of racism, but their results are consistent with the theory.

The final results of Indonesia’s presidential election came in yesterday, and Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo won with 53 percent of the vote. All is not yet settled, however, as his opponent Prabowo Subianto intends to challenge the election in court:

A case would test the institutions of Indonesia’s young democracy, especially the Constitutional Court. Set up after the fall of Suharto, its reputation suffered a severe blow earlier this year when Akil Mochtar, its former chief justice, was imprisoned for life after being convicted of graft—for rigging rulings in disputed local elections. His successor, Hamdan Zoelva, used to belong to one of the six parties that backed Mr Prabowo. Their association makes many Jokowi supporters uneasy.

Still, it is hard to see how a challenge could succeed. The court would have to find evidence that more than 4m votes had been tampered with to overturn Jokowi’s victory. Some irregularities in the counting process have come to light, but Mr Prabowo has produced no evidence of fraud on the scale he alleges. And while the court may have the final say on the election, the political mood already seems to be turning Jokowi’s way.

Assuming Prabowo’s challenge fails, Jokowi will become the first Indonesian president not plucked from the country’s political or military elite. Yenni Kwok calls his election the start of a new chapter in Indonesian history:

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Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 23 2014 @ 6:02pm

A reader throws down the gauntlet in our new contest (guidelines here): “For me, Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” takes the cake.” He has a point:

Songwriter Trent Reznor’s quote is worth reading:

I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure

It really builds and builds …

America Puts Away Too Many People

Jul 23 2014 @ 5:46pm

And Emily Badger finds little reason to believe it makes us safer:

[T]he Sentencing Project points out that declining violent crime rates in New York and New Jersey have actually outpaced the national trend, even as these states have reduced their prison populations through changing law enforcement and sentencing policies.

We certainly can’t take these three charts and conclude that reducing prison populations reduces crime. But these trends do make it harder to argue the opposite — particularly in the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. As the Sentencing Project puts it, “in the era of mass incarceration, there is a growing consensus that current levels of incarceration place the nation well past the point of diminishing returns in crime control.”

Reihan agrees the US uses incarceration too much. But he also wonders if other countries rely too little on it:

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Growing Up On The Big Screen, Ctd

Jul 23 2014 @ 5:14pm

After enjoying almost uniformly positive reviews, Linklater’s new movie Boyhood is starting to attract some negative attention. Christopher Orr is restrained in his criticism:

[I]f there’s a critique to be made of Linklater’s film, it is that it has a great deal more to say—or at least more interesting things to say—about grownups than about growing up. Remarkable as Mason Jr.’s physical transformation may be, socially and psychologically he’s not all that different at 18 from at six: a taller, more articulate version of the dreamy, aimless boy whose teacher complained that he spent his time “staring out the window all day,” but one whose life has developed in a relatively straight line—insofar, of course, as it’s had the opportunity to develop at all. Moreover, it is obviously a tricky thing to cast an actor so young and commit to his development over the next dozen years, and [actor Ellar] Coltrane never quite develops the gravitational pull to tether the movie. Yes, his character is meant to be an unfocused youth, but occasionally his comes across as merely an unfocused performance.

A much harsher Mark Judge finds that the “endless, enervating, boring” movie lacks spiritual depth, scoffing that it could be titled I Became a Teenaged Hipster. He psychoanalyzes the rave reviewers:

I think what we have here is an example of the Sideways syndrome.

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In a lengthy narrative piece, Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon chronicle John Kerry’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and how the talks finally broke down. (Believe it or not, TNR decided to publish an account of the entire thing that blames everything on the Palestinians.) In their account, everything fell apart when Abbas made good on his threat to seek membership in 15 UN conventions, and went ahead with a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, after Netanyahu was unable or unwilling to meet Palestinian conditions for resuming negotiations. Toward the end of the piece, the authors wonder what comes next:

The Palestinians may resume their quest for full-fledged U.N. membership this fall. In Israel, there are almost as many plans as people: Lieberman, the foreign minister, wants his country to make peace directly with the Arab League; Bennett, whose party is JORDAN-US-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-DIPLOMACYnow polling just behind Likud, is advocating partial Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Livni has spoken about unilateral steps that would forfeit Israeli claims to West Bank territory outside the settlement blocs and freeze building in those areas. In the United States, top Middle East voices are urging Kerry to bypass Abbas and Netanyahu and put forward his own detailed peace plan. …

There’s no shortage of ideas, in other words. And some of themparticularly that lastmay bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to a deal than Kerry got this time. But few of the people we spoke to expected progress any time soon. With Netanyahu entrenched, Abbas on his way out, settlements and rocket ranges expanding, and the populations increasingly hardline, we seem to have reached the end of an era in the peace process. And no one harbors much hope for what comes next. “I see it from a mathematical point of view,” said Avi Dichter, the former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency. “The American effort will always be multiplied by the amount of trust between the two leaders. So if Kerry’s pressure represents the number five, and then Obama’s help brings the American effort to ten, it really doesn’t matter. You’re still multiplying it by zero. The final result will always be zero.”

Martin Longman quibbles with how the piece blames the failure of the talks solely on the Palestinians:

The way this reporting is constructed, it makes it look like there is all this flurry of activity on the American and Israeli sides which is just cut off at the knees by an impatient Abbas. I don’t doubt the basic reporting here, but I think it doesn’t take into enough account the degree to which Netanyahu was either delaying with a purpose or simply incapable of delivering.

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Mental Health Break

Jul 23 2014 @ 4:20pm

A reader serves up the first candidate for our “Best Cover Song Ever” contest:

With all the anxiety and tumult in the news, I figure we need a good metal song for some catharsis. Better yet, a metal song play with a bit fey musical instrument! I therefore nominate Rob Scallon’s ukelele cover of “War Ensemble” by thrash metal legends Slayer.

Our selection committee is giving more weight to covers that blend genres like that. Email your submissions to contest@andrewsullivan.com.