Mental Health Break

Jul 24 2014 @ 4:20pm

My alma mater – yes, Oxford University can be pretty gay sometimes – channels Shakira for charity:

Sick Of Not Knowing

Jul 24 2014 @ 3:57pm

Seth Mnookin tells the harrowing story of a couple whose son was the first person ever to be diagnosed with his severe genetic condition:

When Bertrand was a newborn, Matt joked to friends that he would be so relaxed as a parent that he wouldn’t care which technical field his son chose to pursue for his Ph.D. In May of 2009, the Mights closed Bertrand’s college savings accounts so that they could use the money for medical care. That fall, Bertrand was rushed to the emergency room after suffering a series of life-threatening seizures. When the technicians tried to start an I.V., they found Bertrand’s veins so scarred from months of blood draws that they were unable to insert a needle. Later that evening, when Cristina was alone with Matt, she broke down in tears. “What have we done to our child?” she said. “How many things can we put him through?” As one obscure genetic condition after another was ruled out, the Mights began to wonder whether they would ever learn the cause of their son’s agony. What if Bertrand was suffering from a disorder that was not just extremely rare but entirely unknown to science?

But they weren’t alone:

Thirteen months after Bertrand Might became the first NGLY1 patient in the world, the Mights had helped identify nine more cases. “There were more kids—it wasn’t just our son,” Cristina told me one afternoon in her kitchen. “There are parents like us, who have been lost and confused and jerked around.” Matt nodded. “Even if Bertrand dies, there are kids out there that are just like him,” he said.

Dissents Of The Day, Ctd

Jul 24 2014 @ 3:23pm

A reader scratches her head:

Wait, what? Am I missing something? You wrote:

What I’m saying is that it is not self-evident that an abortion has the same moral weight as a root canal. They may be equally legal, but they are not self-evidently equally moral. It is reasonable to treat it differently as a medical procedure for those reasons alone.

As others have repeatedly pointed out to you, no one advancing “admitting privilege” laws claims they’re doing so because of the “moral weight” of abortion. They say it’s about health and safety. Why is it wrong to take action to expose the falseness of this position? If it’s valid to “treat [abortion] differently as a medical procedure” because of its moral weight, then the advocates of these laws should stand on that terra firma.

It’s clearly a way to provide some sort of speed bump before human life is taken. Yes, you can argue that it’s disingenuous in its aims. And I take that point. But the proposed remedy is also a little disingenuous – dentists are not going to be forced to recite the same precautions that an abortionist does. The proposal is primarily a rhetorical point to argue that these delaying procedures for abortions should be removed entirely. What I objected to – and all this sturm and drang comes from two sentences – was the assumption that abortion should never be treated as different from other medical procedures. And although I can full sympathize with my readers’ frustration and anger, I find the easy and glib equation of abortion with a visit to the dentist – which is the rhetorical force of Marcotte’s argument – the kind of absolutist position I’d rather avoid. And look: we didn’t have to air the idea at all. But we did so fully, with a caveat from me so that readers would not infer that I have no moral qualms about abortion, when I very much do. Another reader nods:

How does one read this: “Want to force abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges? Well, dentists will have to meet the same standards before they can drill a tooth,” and come up with a comment like yours without deliberate obtuseness? What does making abortion providers having to meet higher medical requirements have to do with a moral issue regarding abortion?

Then you go on to defend your comment with this:

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The Next Places To Legalize

Jul 24 2014 @ 2:57pm

OR Tax Revenue

The Beaver State is likely to be among them:

New Approach Oregon’s petition to make marijuana legal for adults has qualified for the ballot this coming November, Huffington Post reports. More than 87,000 valid signatures were collected for the petition, which allows adults age 21 and older in Oregon to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana privately and one ounce in public and would have the marijuana market regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Any sales taxes collected would be distributed to schools, law enforcement, and drug prevention programs.

It is very likely that this initiative will pass in November, with a recent poll stating that 57% of Oregon’s likely voters support recreational marijuana use.

Jon Walker passes along the above graphic, which estimates the amount of tax revenue Oregon could collect:

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Egypt’s Stake In A Gaza Truce

Jul 24 2014 @ 2:41pm

Lina Khatib scrutinizes Egyptian leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s eagerness to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, which she suspects has as much to do with political strategy as humanitarian concerns:

The Egyptian president needs to demonstrate to his own people that he is indeed a leader with clout. He also wishes to assert himself in the international arena. … For Sisi, in addition to strengthening his position within Egypt and confirming the narrative of a “strong Egypt” externally, the initiative would give him the upper hand vis-à-vis Hamas. Further down the line, this would give Egypt greater control over its border with Gaza as well as increase the legitimacy of its measures against Islamist groups within Egypt, particularly Hamas’ ally the Muslim Brotherhood.

The success of the Gaza initiative would also grant Sisi a platform to engage in brokering other deals in the future, such as in context of the Syria and Iraq crises, that would continue to affirm Egypt’s reclamation of its regional leadership. As such, Sisi is heavily invested in the Hamas-Israel deal and cannot afford to see it fail.

The Economist asserts that “Egypt nowadays is simply not well placed to broker peace”:

Since Egypt’s army, then headed by Mr Sisi, ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in a coup in July 2013, official policy towards Hamas has hardened.

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Russian Exports

The Bloomberg editors condemn European states for dithering over Russian sanctions:

It’s true that sanctions alone may not persuade Putin to end his support of separatists in Ukraine. But there’s a chance they might — and even if they don’t, they’re still worthwhile. One thing sanctions can do — and there is some evidence they are hurting Russia’s economy already — is deter future behavior. If Putin has unleashed a nationalist hunger to restore Russian dominance that he has lost either the will or the ability to control, all the more reason to cut off the arms and money that fuel further adventures, in Ukraine or elsewhere.

Steve LeVine suggests targeting Gazprom could be effective:

Some analysts think that Putin is awaiting a sign of greater Western toughness in reaction to the crash of Malaysia Airlines 17 before deciding what he does next in Ukraine. “If Europe is only going to wag its finger—if he can get away with this kind of crisis—he will be encouraged to destabilize Ukraine even more,” Itzhak Brudny, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Quartz. Targeting Gazprom—or even hinting that such a move is on the table—could be the best way to display that toughness.

Danny Vinik demonstrates Russia’s reliance on energy exports with the above chart:

This is a double-edged sword: The dependence gives the world significant leverage to inflict economic damage on the Kremlin, but Europe’s reliance on Russian energy exports puts their economies at risk if they follow through on that threat.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton Book Presentation

I’ve tried to avoid the Clinton book tour bullshit this past month or so. Not good for my blood pressure. When I checked in occasionally, it was to discover that nothing much has changed. The Clintons are still self-pitying money-grubbers – $12 million in speaking fees since she left the State Department? – and now their offspring, exploiting her nepotistic advantage with all the scrupulous ethics of her parents, is continuing the grift. If you ask of Clinton what she’s fighting for, what she believes in, if you want to get her to disagree with you on something, good luck. Any actual politics right now would tarnish the inevitability of a resume-led coronation. That the resume has little of any substance in her four years as secretary of state does not concern her. She was making “hard choices”, and if we cannot appreciate that, tant pis.

I’d like to find a reason to believe she’s a political force who stands for something in an era when there is a real appetite for serious change. She could, after all, decide to campaign vociferously in favor of the ACA this summer and fall (universal healthcare is, after all, one of her positions), but that might siphon money away from her foundation and candidacy. She could get out there and start framing a foreign policy vision. But, again, too risky. I see nothing that suggests a real passion for getting on with the fight – just the usual presumptions of a super-elite, super-rich and super-cocooned politician of the gilded age.

So I did watch the Daily Show interview last week, and was not surprised. As in most of her softball media appearances, she was both unctuous and vapid. But even I was aghast at the sheer emptiness and datedness of her one attempt to articulate a future for American foreign policy. She actually said that our main problem is that we haven’t been celebrating America enough, that we “have not been telling our story very well” and that if we just “get back to telling” that story about how America stands for freedom and opportunity, we can rebuild our diminished international stature. One obvious retort: wasn’t she, as secretary of state, you know, responsible for telling that tale – so isn’t she actually criticizing herself?

Next up: could she say something more vacuous and anodyne? Or something more out of tune with a post-Iraq, post-torture, post- Afghanistan world? Peter Beinart had the same reaction: “As a vision for America’s relations with the world,” he wrote, “this isn’t just unconvincing. It’s downright disturbing”:

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How The Dutch Mourn

Jul 24 2014 @ 1:20pm


Russell Shorto admires it:

The Dutch are strikingly different from Americans in their gut reactions to things. When hit with a national shock, Americans will almost instinctively reach for ideology or ideals. People saw 9/11 as an assault on “freedom.” The Dutch have an innate distrust of ideology. You could relate that to World War II and their experience under Nazism, but it goes much farther back. It has something to do with being a small country surrounded by larger countries that have had long histories of asserting themselves.

It also stems from the fact that Dutch society grew not out of war against a human foe but out of the struggle against nature. Living in low lands on a vast river delta, the Dutch came together to battle water. Building dams and dikes and canals was more practical than ideological. For better or worse, the Dutch are more comfortable with meetings and remembrances than with calls to arms.

(Photo: A person holds a white rose during a silent march in memory of the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, on July 23, 2014 in Amsterdam. By John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)


Jul 24 2014 @ 12:55pm

Ben Crair is troubled by Joseph Rudolph Wood III’s two-hour-long death:

Arizona chose to become just the second state to use the same two drugs that Ohio used for McGuire, despite the apparent problems with that execution. A full picture of Wood’s death has not yet emerged, but the execution dragged on so long that Wood’s lawyers were able to file an appeal in U.S. district court during the procedure. The Arizona Department of Corrections insists nothing went wrong with Wood’s execution. Given the properties of the drugs that were used, it’s less likely that Wood suffered pain than Wilson or Lockett, both of whom were given a paralyzing drug. But lethal injections are supposed to be quick procedures, lasting no more than 10 or 15 minutes. If you start counting from when the drugs began to flow (as opposed to when the executioners first attempt to establish IV access), then Wood’s execution may have been the slowest in U.S. history.

This is, quite simply, barbarism. The guillotine was more merciful. Hartmann passes along the government’s spin:

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Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 24 2014 @ 12:39pm

The in-tray is inundated with your submissions – over 800 so far. We might close the floodgates later today so we have time to process the Youtubes without hundreds more coming in. So send your top pick to Cover songs that cross genres are especially preferred. On that note:

I’d like to nominate Cake’s cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”:

The way it subverts a ’70s anthem with delightful sarcasm is brilliance!

More submissions after the jump. This genre-bender was especially popular:

The Gourds, an Austin alt country band, covered Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”. I’ve never liked rap or hip hop and these lyrics are offensive. But I love it:

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