Archives For: The Dish

Mental Health Break

Jul 29 2014 @ 4:20pm

Two of the Internet’s favorite things – cat and parkour – combine to create a heh-worthy parody:

German Lopez voxplains Congress’ plan to fix the VA, which was unveiled yesterday with much bipartisan back-patting:

The bill sets $10 billion for a pilot program that reimburses private care for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or experience long wait times. It also allocates another $5 billion for the VA to hire more doctors and nurses and upgrade medical facilities. And it gives the VA permission to enter into 27 major medical facility leases across the country. The bill also allows the VA secretary to quickly dismiss or demote senior executive employees for misconduct and poor performance, and it forbids the VA from attaching bonus payments to wait time goals. Legislators estimate the bill costs $17 billion. About $12 billion of that is new spending, while $5 billion will be paid for with offsets from the rest of the VA.

The idea is to improve the VA’s ability to see patients in a timely manner within the VA system. If that’s not possible or a patient can’t access a VA facility, a private option is offered as an alternative. In any remaining situations where the VA can’t get patients into care quickly, there will also be less of a financial incentive to manipulate records. And it will be easier for the VA secretary to hold those who continue engaging in fraudulent behavior accountable, even if they hold senior positions.

But Vinik worries that the “fix” might not fix much:

Read On


A new Economist/YouGov poll further illustrates the widening partisan gap on immigration and the isolation of Republicans in particular:

While most say they have at least some sympathy for the children, a majority of Republicans reports little or no sympathy. More than three in four Hispanics say they are sympathetic, and a majority of Hispanics report “a lot” of sympathy for the children. That reflects the large differences in these groups in how they judge the children and their motivations in coming to the United States. Overall the country is closely divided on whether the children now coming to the United States illegally are fleeing unsafe situations in their home country or have safe homes but would just rather live in the United States. Republicans see the children as coming from safe places; Hispanics, and a plurality of the public overall, do not.

This apparent nativist turn augurs poorly for the GOP, Molly Ball believes:

Read On

The View From Your Window

Jul 29 2014 @ 3:35pm


Berlin, Germany, 9 am

The Cost Of Climate Inaction

Jul 29 2014 @ 3:22pm

It’s hefty:

A new report estimates the cost of mitigating the effects of climate change could rise by as much as 40% if action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is delayed 10 years — immediately outweighing any potential savings of a delay. The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. President Barack Obama’s source for advice on economic policy, compared over 100 actions on climate change laid out in 16 studies to extract the average cost of delayed efforts. Released Tuesday, the findings suggests policymakers should immediately confront carbon emissions as a form of “climate insurance.

Rebecca Leber adds:

Putting numbers to the cost of inaction takes aim directly at a classic Republican rebuttalthat it’s better to wait for the so-called “unsettled science” to settle on exact timing and magnitude of global warming’s consequences. “If anything, we understate the cost of delay,” Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman told reporters on a press call Monday.

In response to the NYT’s pro-pot announcement, Nate Silver calculates that around 77 percent of Americans who fit the NYT editorial board’s demographic profile support legalization:

[P]eople with this demographic profile are somewhere around 25 or 30 percentage points more supportive of marijuana legalization than the average American. That implies that back in 2000, when only about 30 percent of Americans supported legalization, perhaps 55 or 60 percent of these people did. The margin of error on this estimate is fairly high — about 10 percent — but not enough to call into question that most people like those on the Times’ editorial board have privately supported legalization for a long time. The question is why it took them so long to take such a stance publicly.

And if you want to know why no one watches Meet The Press, check out their boomer pundit-fest above in which they could find no proponent of legalization at all, along with the familiar condescension and dated “jokes”. Nate’s too right that “there’s a particularly large gap between elite and popular opinion on marijuana policy”:

Read On

The Torturers’ Non-Defense

Jul 29 2014 @ 2:40pm

As we await the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Bush-Cheney torture program, some of those likely to go down in history as war criminals are gearing up for a self-defense. George Tenet, we are told, is among them. Here is how he once defended himself:

Mr. Tenet flashed his anger at these accusations in 2007, when he was asked about the interrogation program during an interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes.” Wagging a finger at the correspondent, Scott Pelley, Mr. Tenet said over and over, “We don’t torture people.”

“No, listen to me. No, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” he went on. “Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of that fact that there was so much we did not know. I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots.”

There are two defenses here: it wasn’t torture (even though it looks like it); and it was justified given the terrible intelligence failures of Tenet’s CIA operatives, who had no idea where the next attack might be coming from. It’s worth recalling in that context the actual words of the UN Convention Against Torture, which was signed by Ronald Reagan and torn to shreds by Dick Cheney. It guts both lines of Tenet’s purported defense. First up, there can be no attempt to craft techniques that are close to torture but designed to slip through a legal loophole. The Treaty’s full title is, for example, “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment“. The definition of torture is this:

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Intimidation and coercion are also expressly forbidden, when implemented and authorized by an officer of state. President Reagan included the broad definition in his signing statement:

The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

In other words, the entire point of the Convention is to prevent any wriggle room around what torture is and to include inhumanity. And if you don’t believe that stretching people till their limbs break, near-drowning them hundreds of times, hounding them day and night with sleep deprivation, or subjecting them to freezing temperatures, mock executions and amount to inhumanity, you are no longer human. In a court of law, Tenet would be out of luck.

Just as important, the context is irrelevant. Tenet’s plea to understand the context he was working in has no place here:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Get that? Read it again.

Ebola Deaths

We’re in the midst of it:

The outbreak is unprecedented both in infection numbers and in geographic scope. And so far, it’s been a long battle that doesn’t appear to be slowing down. The Ebola virus has now hit four countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and recently Nigeria, according to the country’s ministry of health. The virus — which starts off with flu-like symptoms and often ends with horrific hemorrhaging — has infected 1,201 people and killed an estimated 672 since this winter, according to the numbers on July 23 from the World Health Organization.

Dish alum Gwynn Guilford is alarmed by the spread of Ebola to Lagos:

So far, Ebola has been confined to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—war-torn and largely rural west African countries. But Lagos is different; not only is it Africa’s biggest city, with 21 million people. It’s also one of the world’s most densely populated. And perhaps scariest of all, it’s a center for international travel—meaning that if it’s not contained, the virus could easily go global. [Patrick] Sawyer’s was the first-ever recorded case of Ebola in Nigeria, according to the Nigerian Tribune.

So far, the Nigerian government’s efforts to contain it inspire little confidence.

The Bloomberg editors call for a Pan-African response to the outbreak:

Read On

Chart Of The Day

Jul 29 2014 @ 1:58pm

Yesterday, Virginia’s marriage equality ban bit the dust. Burroway charts the progress of the gay rights movement:

Equality Chart

Emma Green explains what makes the VA ruling stand out:

The question of “rights” is exactly what makes this decision significant, said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. Unlike some other cases on same-sex-union laws, Bostic examines whether couples have a fundamental right to marriage. The judges applied strict scrutiny, the highest standard of legal review, under which the government has to show a compelling interest for limiting the plaintiffs’ ability to marry. “This court says very clearly: This is a fundamental right, and the government just didn’t meet their burden of explaining why there should be a [ban on] same-sex marriage,” Gastañaga said.

Dale Carpenter observes that the ruling referred to the ban as a form of “segregation”:

Read On

Josh Rogin and Eli Lake autopsy John Kerry’s failed Gaza ceasefire proposal:

Two Israeli government officials told The Daily Beast that Israel could not agree to the Kerry draft proposal because it felt it would constrain the Israeli Defense Forces from finishing their mission to destroy the tunnels in Gaza. Yet Kerry’s proposal explicitly did not include a call for the IDF to withdraw from Gaza during the ceasefire. What’s more, U.S. officials told the Israeli government that tunnel work would be able to continue during the ceasefire, as it had during the previous short-term pauses in the fighting.

The Israeli government was not confident the IDF would be able to continue tunnel destruction inside Gaza during the ceasefire. The officials in Jerusalem were not willing to commit to any timeline for completing the tunnel mission because they were still discovering the extent of the tunnel network and thought the mission could take as long as three weeks to complete.

Saletan considers that demand a reasonable one, given the extent of Hamas’ tunnel complex:

One possible compromise might be a cease-fire that forbids further IDF movement in Upper Gaza but allows the IDF to continue demolishing Lower Gaza. No more tunnel hunting on the surface, but you can finish imploding the bunkers and passages you’ve already found. Both armies would object, but civilians on each side would be protected. If Hamas refused the deal, the IDF would keep moving through Upper Gaza to hit Lower Gaza. Israel would have to be held accountable, to make sure it respects the distinction and pulls out expeditiously.

In the longer term, each side needs more. Gazans need reconstruction aid, open borders, and autonomy. Israelis need an end to rocket attacks. All of these goals could be served by destroying the tunnels and weakening Hamas.

So what then could possibly explain the foul insults that senior Israeli officials leaked to the press? The proposal was a “strategic terror attack?” Jon Stewart noticed the contempt last night (see above), and he’s not the only one. You’d think the Israelis might have some appreciation for, say, the Iron Dome, which was made possible in part by Obama’s initiative and millions of US aid. But nah. The more US money the Israelis get, the more contempt they exhibit toward the US. Adam Taylor rounds up some of the commentary:

Read On