by Freddie deBoer


Though the left is often seen as home to only pacifists and those who see the hand of imperialism in all proposed military action, there is also a healthy strain of messianic militarism on our side. I regularly engage with lefties who believe we should be “doing something” for the people of Syria, although what that something entails is not consistent or clear. In this telling, the Syrian uprising is a legitimate revolutionary force, the Islamists among them a small corruption that doesn’t jeopardize a post-Assad future, and the situation such that the United States could deploy military power in a way that increases stability and humanitarian outcomes rather than degrades them. These lefties believe in revolution, and they want the United States to be a revolutionary power.

Well, I would simply start by asking: is the United States military in the habit of supporting revolutionaries? What about the history of this country compels you to think that it has the capacity to support revolution, or any interest in doing so? If the United States goes to war, it doesn’t go with some hypothetical benevolent military machine. It goes to war with its actual existing military machine, under the auspices of the same-old warmongering politicians and officials, and with the same old military leadership. We don’t have some spare revolutionary force lying around. So: do you want to break bread with those people? Do you want to give your support to them? Do you want them to do what they do? Because that is a necessary precondition of getting involved. The neocons who want us to get into every war are not suddenly going to throw up their hands and say “we’re sitting this one out, the lefties have got it.” You are free to say that you don’t want to get involved with Bill Kristol and his cronies. But they will most certainly get involved in your war.

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“No. No. No.” Ctd

Aug 19 2014 @ 12:25pm
by Dish Staff

A reader writes:

That email is such a compelling, extraordinarily well-written, and utterly heartbreaking account of a truly sadistic and unspeakably selfish rape. I find myself completely ashamed that I share similar chromosomal make-up with someone capable of such an act. This account should be required reading for all men, and not merely because it’s always good to remember that sexual assault creates far more damage – lasting damage – than just the violent act itself, but also as a broader reminder that empathy is one of the most important values that anyone can have and demonstrate in all aspects of our lives.

The disgusting selfishness displayed by this woman’s rapist, and the total lack of empathy for the feelings and well-being of another human being is truly chilling. And the planning that took place to execute this violent assault. So many opportunities to take a step back from the precipice. So many opportunities to listen to the inner voice that says “No. This will hurt someone.” And yet.

We must do better. We fathers of sons must do better.

Another gut-wrenching story:

I wanted to write to tell you that rarely have I been moved – rocked may be a better word – by something on your blog more than that story of a woman’s rape and its aftermath. Considering all of the subjects you deal with on a daily basis and how long I’ve been reading the Dish, that’s saying something. It’s also saying something because I’m a man, and yet much of what she wrote rings very true for me. Let me explain.

When I was in my late 20s, I learned that the woman I planned to marry had also been raped while in college, also while studying abroad.

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by Matthew Sitman

Tea Partyjpg

Last week Sarah Posner expanded on Ed Kilgore’s argument that the efforts of the Christian right are a big reason for the rise of libertarianism in the United States – and why Robert Draper’s NYT Magazine story on libertarian politics was off the mark:

I do think that non-religious libertarians played a role in elevating some of the Tea Party agenda to the fore of the Republican Party. But Kilgore is right that the Christian right — a movement very much at home in the Tea Party movement, and one which would take up a good deal of space in a Venn diagram of the coalition — made that libertarian-ish conservatism an ideology that could find a comfortable and uncontroversial place in a political party whose electoral fortunes hinge on holding together a coalition of religious conservatives and anti-regulation free marketers.

An essential dogma of the religious right is that government should provide minimal services for and impose minimal demands on the citizenry. Sound familiar? But the reason isn’t, as popular libertarian dogma would have it, because the government should keep its nose out of your business. Dating back to conservative Christian red scares, anti-union and anti-New Deal ideology, and to Christian Reconstructionist framing of the proper role of government in relation to the church, the family, and the individual, these principles emerge from the idea that the secular state is the enemy of a proper Christian ordering of markets, social norms, and family and religious life.

The thrust of Posner’s piece is to express doubts about “the so-called ‘libertarian moment’ that we may or may not be witnessing,” viewing it not as the emergence of anything new, but rather a sleight of hand concealing the religious right’s grip on the Republican Party. Move along everybody, the theocrats are still running the show, is what she and Kilgore seem to be saying. The Tea Party, don’t you know, has more conservative Christians than real libertarians among its ranks. That’s true but beside the point – it only shows that the Republican Party might fail to exploit the emerging libertarian sensibility, especially among younger voters, that Draper describes. And it has absolutely nothing to do with where this sensibility comes from and what issues are driving it.

Posner is right that, historically, the Christian affinity for some libertarian ideas has not been about a principled defense of freedom, but rather anxiety over the government supposedly imposing secular values on ordinary, God-fearing Americans. The rhetoric of limited government really has been used to advance the agenda of the religious right. But what does that have to do with millenials who are fine with pot and gay people and tired of the wars that have marked so much of their lives? Here’s an important passage from early in Draper’s story:

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Calling Out Catcalls

Aug 19 2014 @ 11:48am
by Dish Staff


YouGov’s Peter Moore presents a new survey:

[A]ccording to a large majority of the public, it is never appropriate (72%) to catcall. 18% say that it’s sometimes appropriate, while 2% think that it’s always appropriate. Men (22%) were only marginally more likely than women (18%) to say that it is ‘sometimes’ or ‘always’ appropriate. Asked whether catcalls are compliments or not, most Americans (55%) say that they [constitute] harassment, 24% aren’t sure while only 20% think that they are ‘compliments’.

As seen in the chart above, the relationship between age and catcall-attitudes may come as a surprise:

The question of whether or not catcalls are harassment or complimentary reveals a significant generation divide. Under-30s are the least likely group to say that catcalls constitute harassment (45%), and are the most likely to say that catcalls are complimentary (31%).

In another study released this year, 57% of women indicated they had suffered street harassment and 23% reported they had been “purposely touched or brushed up against in an unwanted, sexual way” while in public. Bryn Donovan recently collected some catcall horror stories:

One woman was harassed right after having her dog put down after his battle with cancer.

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by Freddie deBoer

Michael B. Kelley thinks he might be! Such a fine line between espionage mastermind and espionage incompetent. Kelley does a deep dive into Snowden’s interviews and, with the help of some very, very willful reading and powerful cognitive dissonance, concludes that Snowden has distributed essential intelligence to those commies in Russia and China.

Well, actually, that’s not quite true. Kelley admits that he doesn’t know whether Snowden has done any such thing. He just waits until the long piece’s third-to-last paragraph to make that admission. “Fifteen months after his epic heist, we still don’t know if Snowden was telling the truth when he said he destroyed the tier 3 documents between June 12 (the SCMP leak) and June 23 (the flight to Moscow).” I would call that a fairly important qualifier! I think you’ve buried your lede here, Michael. I mean, if you’re writing a piece about how you think somebody leaked something, but you have a paragraph where you admit that you have no evidence that he in fact leaked that something, you might want to put that up near the top. Just a thought.

Kelley is part of the professional Edward Snowden skepticism circuit, which has kept a lot of “National Security Experts” gainfully employed. (Stimulus!) But Kelley isn’t a part of the knuckle-dragging, “hang his lifeless carcass from the Pentagon flagpole” school of anti-Snowden rhetoric. Instead, he’s part of another class of Snowden critics, the Snowden concern trolls. It’s carrying water for the national security state, just for the sophisticates. In this genre, you cast your aspersions on Snowden, intimate he’s a Russian or Chinese spy, or that he’s been duped by Russian or Chinese spies, or that he’s so deluded he doesn’t know he’s fallen into the trap of the Russians or Chinese. But you do it all while hemming and hawing and giving a little sugar to the people who don’t think we should have a limitless domestic surveillance system. You undermine him and what he’s done, but you do it with a veneer of journalistic objectivity.

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No One’s Watching The Skies

Aug 19 2014 @ 11:01am
by Dish Staff

Mark Jacobson mulls over the decline of UFO culture:

It is true that very little beyond a shadow of a doubt forensic proof of alien presence has come to light over the years, but there are a number of subsidiary reasons for the seeming twilight of the UFO moment. With voracious proliferation of vampires, New World Order conspiracies, and the unprecedented rise of evangelical Christianity, the simple flying disc from far, far away has become a quaint, almost nostalgic specter. The saucer may have been the post-war generation’s signifier of the strange, but even versions of the unknown outlive their usefulness.

The end of the era may have commenced with William Gibson’s Neuromancer, which located the drama of the unknown inside the claustrophobic cyberspace accessible to the common keyboardist. Instead of the far-flung wonder to the universe, much of what falls under the rubric of contemporary ufology has become deeply interiorized, resigned to the viscous psych-sexual abduction phenomena described and popularized by people like Budd Hopkins, Whitley Strieber, and John Mack.

Update from a reader:

While it may seem as if the UFO community is dying, there’s still a lot of interest in UFOs. I write for the weird news section of HuffPost, which does a lot of UFO stories. In fact, HuffPost is the only major news website with its own full-time UFO reporter, Lee Speigel. Those stories attract a lot of attention, and Lee gets a lot of deserved credit for focusing on the science and not the “woo woo” part of the UFO community.

by Dish Staff

The Economist blames Americans’ easy access to guns:

Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.

The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British police officer was killed by a firearm on duty was in 2012, in a brutal case in Manchester. … In America, by contrast, it is hardly surprising that cops resort to their weapons more frequently. In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers.

What A (Hemingway) Man Wants

Aug 19 2014 @ 9:55am
by Dish Staff

TNR recently pulled this review by Max Eastman of Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon by from their archives, which purportedly causes Hemingway to track Eastman down in his New York City office and show him just what was under shirt. You can see why:

Why then does our iron advocate of straight talk about what things are, our full-sized man, our ferocious realist, go blind and wrap himself up in clouds of juvenile romanticism the moment he crosses the border on his way to a Spanish bullfight? It is of course a commonplace that Hemingway lacks the serene confidence that he is a full-sized man. Most of us too delicately organized babies who grow up to be artists suffer at times from that small inward doubt. But some circumstance seems to have laid upon Hemingway a continual sense of the obligation to put forth evidences of red-blooded masculinity. It must be made obvious not only in the swing of the big shoulders and the clothes he puts on, but in the stride of his prose style and the emotions he permits to come to the surface there. This trait of his character has been strong enough to form the nucleus of a new flavor in English literature, and it has moreover begotten a veritable school of fiction-writersa literary style, you might say, of wearing false hair on the chestbut, nevertheless, I think it is inadequate to explain the ecstatic adulation with which Hemingway approaches everything connected with the killing of bulls in the bull ring.

Reviewing The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2: 1923-25, Edward Mendelson offers related insights into Papa’s psyche:

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by Freddie deBoer

A reader shares some very typical sentiments in a criticism of my piece yesterday on the “why do you single Israel out?” narrative:

I’m a Jewish American who is not at all afraid to criticize Israel, particularly with respect to its settlements in the West Bank. As I mention to friends whenever Israel is being discussed, there are plenty of Israelis who completely disagree with the Netanyahu administration and many current policies of the Israeli government, so no reason we in the U.S. can’t do the same.

That said, deBoer’s argument is wanting on several fronts, two of which I will address here because they are the most egregious, and interrelated in many ways. First, deBoer makes no mention whatsoever of anything that Hamas may have done to provoke the recent violence, as if the entire situation is 100% the fault of Israel. I sometimes disagree with Andrew about Israel, but I respect his opinion and am open to be persuaded by his arguments because he always makes clear that he condemns what Hamas (or others) have done, and explains that he understands the larger historical context that Israel (and Jews) operate under, even if he disagrees with their conclusions. I see no similar effort by deBoer, and if the effort is to persuade someone with his writing, it causes me to completely tune him out, because he gives the impression that he only sees this conflict from one perspective, i.e., Israel=bad/evil, Hamas=oppressed/innocent.

This is a very common rhetorical ploy: why do you not mention Hamas’s problems when you mention Israel’s? Well, first, that’s the very argument of my post: that we bear responsibility for Israel’s actions because we enable them to a degree that is completely unprecedented in American history, and so we are responsible for them. That simply is not true of Hamas. Not remotely. Second, the idea that we should always take pains to achieve balance in our criticism of Israel– a kind of “one for you, and one for me,” reciprocal approach”– is fundamentally misguided, because it misrepresents the reality of official support for Israel and for Hamas. Support for Israel is as close to unanimous in national American politics as you can get, despite the fact that public polling shows a great deal of criticism from America’s people. Essentially all of our legislature and our executive will support Israel’s actions literally without exception. In this recent conflict, the vast majority of those killed have been civilians, by absolutely anyone’s reckoning, including within the Israel media. Hundreds of children have been killed. That has not changed the elite political consensus one iota. Meanwhile, the number of American politicians who support Hamas is exactly zero. Such a person does not exist in our Congress. So who exactly am I supposed to be scolding for supporting Hamas? Why would I bother to criticize the side that has no establishment political support whatsoever, when the other side has slaughtered hundreds of children and lost no face with America’s political class? This emailer is operating under a broken understanding of political responsibility:

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Aug 19 2014 @ 9:06am
by Dish Staff


Bryan Appleyard isn’t convinced by Arthur I. Miller’s Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science Is Redefining Contemporary Art, a book based on dozens of interviews with “science-influenced artists and musicians” that heralds “the onset of a new ‘third culture’ in which art and science will, somehow, embrace.” Why he’s skeptical of what Miller calls “art-sci”:

Perhaps the problem is that the very idea of some kind of art-science union is incoherent. Art and science are not separated by misunderstandings or ignorance, they are separated by definition. Art engages with the complexity of human experience, more precisely with that it feels like to be human; science explores the material world in a manner that necessarily ignores all such considerations. In the book the problem with this discontinuity is repeatedly made apparent by scientists who know perfectly well that art cannot impinge in any way on what they do, however enthusiastic certain artists may be. A deal between the two – Miller’s Third Culture – is, therefore, likely to be more of an annexation than a partnership.

The one exception to this might be said to be neuroscience.

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