Andrew Sullivan's Blog
March 13, 2014
A reader adds an important point to this post:
As someone who is anti-gun (I have actually fired a gun, which made me even more frightened of them than before), I am perplexed by the way the anti-gun argument always seems to center around gun deaths and not gun crimes. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 467,321 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011, which includes the 11,000 or so gun-related homicides. To me, the issue has never been about the fear of death from guns, but the fear of victimization.
Don’t forget the injuries.
Relatively few millennials identify as environmentalists:
The word “environmentalist” typically conjures up images of earnest young idealists gathering petition signatures and chaining themselves to old-growth trees. But [last week’]s study finds that older Americans are more likely to call themselves environmentalists than younger ones.
Environmentalist PR guru David Fenton suggests ways to change this:
I tell clients, “Don’t use the word ‘planet,’ and don’t use the word ‘earth.’ One of the problems we have is that too much of the public thinks that environmentalists are people who care about the environment and not about people. So the environment has become a thing apart. I think that’s why millennials don’t care for the term.
Now in the case of climate — the climate will be fine. The planet will recover. We just won’t be on it. And so this language and these images — “polar bear,” “Planet Earth,” “environment” — they signal the wrong thing to most people, which is that they’re struggling and we don’t care. We have to make the environment and climate be about them and their lives and the economy and justice and all the things that people do care about. And in fact that’s what it’s about, because if we don’t solve climate change, there is going to be a lot of suffering, by average people.
Meanwhile, Scott Clement argues that talking more about climate change would do Democrats some good:
In one study, Stanford’s Bo MacInnis, Jon Krosnick and Ana Villar compared what candidates said (and didn’t say) on climate change in every 2010 congressional and Senate election to how much Democrats won or lost by. In short, they found Democrats who took pro-green stances such as “global warming has been happening” increased their vote margin over Republicans by 3 percent compared with those who didn’t. The impact was much larger — a 9 percent vote-margin swing — when a Republican took a position doubting global warming’s existence or opposing action to address the issue. The analysis controlled for the district or state’s partisan lean in the 2008 election, as well as for whether the candidate was an incumbent.
[Updated with reader-submitted questions that you can vote on below]
Shane Bauer is an investigative journalist and photographer who was one of the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran after being captured on the Iraqi border in 2009. He spent 26 months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, four of them in solitary confinement. Following his release, he wrote a special report for Mother Jones about solitary confinement in America’s prison system (the report also featured the above map). Shane and his fellow former hostages, Sarah Shourd (now his wife) and Josh Fattal, have co-written the memoir, A Sliver of Light, which comes out next week. You can read an excerpt here. The Dish’s ongoing coverage of the trauma of solitary can be found here.
Let us know what you think we should ask Shane via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):
New research delivers some surprising findings. For instance, “the majority of offshoring (57% by cost) was to locations with costs that were the same as or higher than America, such as Canada and Western Europe, rather than to low-cost developing countries (29%)—the ones typically suspected of gobbling up American work”:
By way of explanation, the researchers note that Western Europe and Canada are America’s largest and oldest trading partners, and point to a long history of foreign direct investment by American firms in these regions. Presumably, at least some of this investment and sourcing is reciprocated, though it will fall to future studies to determine how much. Interestingly, mid-cost emerging economies were almost entirely out of the mix, caught in what Mr Sturgeon calls the “middle income trap”—they are neither sufficiently attractive markets in their own right nor sources of cheap labour.
March 12, 2014
Well, here’s an interesting story. A dog-walking service in Missouri just ended their commercial relationship with the Moyers family, because the mom posted a viral photo of a Girl Scout selling cookies outside a marijuana dispensary in Colorado on her Facebook page. The mom thought it was funny; the owners of the dog-walking company, devout Christians, did not:
“[We] were upset by the pic with the Girls Scouts selling cookies outside of a government-funded drug house because they knew a bunch of whacked-out dope fiends would buy a bunch of cookies,” said Tom Ziegler, co-owner of Pack Leader, Plus, told the Moyers in an e-mail. “We think this is appalling and not funny or cute.” And so the Zieglers decided to end their business relationship with the Moyers.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy,” Tom Ziegler tells us. “We don’t tolerate any drug users or people who think drugs are OK. Just like we wouldn’t tolerate child molesters or rapists, we don’t tolerate drugs.” Ziegler further explains that it’s simply his faith and his beliefs, and he won’t bend, not for man or government.
Does this qualify as religious liberty? It sure is sincere. But does a business have a right to withhold services from those whose views – or mere Facebook posts – it finds abhorrent? The implications seem pretty broad to me. A pacifist business could refuse to serve service-members; a Catholic business could refuse to serve the divorced. A Christian business could refuse to serve atheists. We’d be living in a pretty crazy world if this really metastasized, as even Antonin Scalia has noted.
Today, we covered more of the CIA’s campaign to prevent its war crimes from being recorded in the history books for what they were. One key figure is Robert Eatinger, a former lawyer for the torturers who is now the general counsel for the entire CIA. That tells you something. We also explored some of the worst CIA ideas in the past – and boy, there are some doozies. Since the CIA was unable to predict the Arab Spring and caught completely by surprise in Crimea, it’s a fair question to ask why they exist at all. I’m beginning to see the wisdom of John B. Judis.
The first “don’t smoke up and drive” PSA arrived. We surveyed analysis of the latest data on the progress of the ACA; we worried some more about Russia’s designs on Ukraine; and Matt Yglesias got a very natty new suit.
One more thing: marriage equality comes to Britain tonight for some. Money quote from one of the women who will be celebrating (see the photo above):
“I’d been out as lesbian since the early 1970s and it felt like I was becoming a full citizen. It was equality, I never ever expected full equality in my lifetime. I never expected to marry someone I love.”
Neither did I.
See you in the morning.
(Photo: Sue Wilkinson (L) and Celia Kitzinger address the media outside the High Court in central London, 31 July 2006. The British lesbian couple lost a bid to win legal recognition in Britain for their marriage in Canada. After a struggle in the courts, they will be married in Britain tonight. By Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty.)
Josh Keating takes in the effects of the March 2011 meltdown:
About 100,000 people are still living in temporary housing, and Japan has so far built only 3.5 percent of the new houses promised to people in heavily affected prefectures. CBS reports that in Koriyama, a town about 40 miles from the nuclear plant, many parents are still afraid to let their children play outside. There’s also an ongoing debate about whether higher-than-normal rates of thyroid cancer in children are connected to nuclear radiation or simply more rigorous testing.
Then there’s the psychological impact. A Brigham Young University study released last week found that a year after disaster, more than half of the citizens of Hirono, a heavily affected town near the plant, showed “clinically concerning” symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Two-thirds showed symptoms of depression.
Ken Silverstein explains why Japan seems ready to jump back on the nuclear horse while, 35 years after Three Mile Island, the US still won’t:
One factor that’s helped Japan is a new nuclear watchdog. Created in September 2012, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has eliminated the cozy relationships that allowed utility employees to become nuclear regulators and it has stood up to political pressure to turn a blind eye to operational shortcuts. The agency has shown its willingness to exert its influence: It routinely gives updates on the disabled Fukushima nuclear facility, cautioning that it has been leaking contaminated, or radiated, water into the Pacific Ocean. Tokyo Electric Power Co., which had operated the Fukushima facility, is now fully cooperating.
Then there are the economic costs. In May 2012, Japan turned off the last of its 54 nuclear reactors. Altogether, Japan has increased its reliance on imported liquefied natural gas to meet much of its electricity needs at a cost of more than $65 billion, says Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu. And the price of importing fossil fuels is getting even more expensive because of a weak yen.
Dish coverage of Fukushima and related topics here.
(Photo: A woman touches a memorial engraved with the names of the victims at Okawa Elementary School on the three year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, Japan on March 11, 2014. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 18,000 lives and triggered the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. By Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)
Protestors clean their eyes after police fired tear gas during clashes with riot police after the funeral of Berkin Elvan in Istanbul on March 12, 2014. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Ankara and Istanbul on Wednesday as tens of thousands took to the streets to mourn a teenage boy who died from injuries suffered in last year’s anti-government protests. Mira/AFP/Getty Images.
In his Monday column, Brooks lamented what he sees as a turn away from American leadership, and leadership in general, in world affairs:
Political leaders are not at the forefront of history; real power is in the swarm. The ensuing doctrine is certainly not Reaganism — the belief that America should use its power to defeat tyranny and promote democracy. It’s not Kantian, or a belief that the world should be governed by international law. It’s not even realism — the belief that diplomats should play elaborate chess games to balance power and advance national interest. It’s a radical belief that the nature of power — where it comes from and how it can be used — has fundamentally shifted, and the people in the big offices just don’t get it.
It’s frankly naïve to believe that the world’s problems can be conquered through conflict-free cooperation and that the menaces to civilization, whether in the form of Putin or Iran, can be simply not faced. It’s the utopian belief that politics and conflict are optional.
Jesse Walker pounces:
Now, there are several strong arguments to be made against those of us who’d rather see Putin and the mullahs brought down by mass movements of Russians and Iranians rather than by sword-rattling Americans, but You guys think this can be done without conflict is not one of them.
The last big wave of these movements was the Arab Spring, and while people have plenty of complaints about how that went down, I don’t think anyone believes it was conflict-free. Except apparently Brooks, who writes as though conflicts are only conflicts if one side is being directed from the Oval Office.
Chotiner piles on:
Essentially, people today have discarded previous doctrines and theories of global affairs, and now believe in what Brooks calls “naïve” and “conflict free” resolution. You might expect, given the picture Brooks has drawn of foolish utopians running wild, that such lunacy and immaturity would have led to a much more dangerous world. Yet surely Brooks knows that by almost any calculation the world is much, much more peaceful than it was during the 20th century, and certainly during his beloved Cold War.
And Larison delivers the knockout:
If most Americans are more aware of the limits of power generally and U.S. power in particular, I’d say that is a very sensible reaction to more than a decade of overreach and absurd ideological projects, and a very healthy backlash to the delusions of Bush’s Second Inaugural. The U.S. has suffered from an absurd overconfidence in the efficacy of hard power for more than a decade (and really ever since the Gulf War), and Americans have been recoiling from the costs and failures associated with that.
I imagine that many Americans are fatigued by being told constantly how vitally important U.S. “leadership” in the world is, and how imperative it is that the U.S. “act” in response to this or that crisis. That fatigue is bound to be encouraged when Americans justifiably have little confidence in political and media classes that have presided over a series of major debacles since the start of the century. That makes it much easier to dismiss alarmism from politicians and pundits, including overblown claims about “menaces to civilization,” but that is not the same as ignoring real threats.
The use of “wholesome” really nails it:
Update from a reader:
My eight-year-old son came over to watch while I was playing this video. Me, with a lump in my throat. Him: “That’s a cheesy ad.” “Did you think anything was special about it?” ”Nope.” ”What about the families, did you notice anything?” ”Nope.” ”Okay.”
To borrow a phrase, know hope.
Adam Minter points out that the pollution in the South China Sea is complicating the search for the missing plane:
On Saturday, hours after the first news of the plane’s disappearance, the Vietnamese navy reported finding 6 mile (9.7 kilometers) and 9 mile oil slicks (reports about the size vary), raising hopes. On Monday, lab tests revealed that they were diesel fuel characteristic of the ships that ply, and pollute, the South China Sea. In the days since, fishermen and rescue workers have found life rafts, life jackets, a jet’s door and plastic oil barrels each initially suspected as originating from Flight 370, vetted in the news media, and then — perhaps literally — tossed overboard as trash.
The Colorado-based company Digital Globe sells high-resolution satellite imagery and aerial photography. Last year, the company acquired the crowdsourcing application known as Tomnod (“big eye” in Mongolian), boosting the application’s capabilities with stunningly detailed images from its six sophisticated satellites. Anyone can create an account and begin searching through the tiles of imagery. After a brief tutorial, you’re unleashed upon images of the open ocean, where you can tag objects as airplane wreckage, a life raft, or an oil slick. …
You have to worry if this will help or hinder efforts: Will all these amateur eyes just be creating more work for the rescue teams? After several people called a Malaysian paper to say they had “found” bits of the airplane in on Google Maps, Google had to issue a statement reminding users that their satellite imagery is a few months old.
While much has been made of the plane’s two passengers with fake passports, Josephine Wolff explains that most countries don’t check for them:
How two Iranian passengers managed to board a plane using stolen European passports is far from the biggest mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370—in fact, it turns out to be one of the least surprising pieces of the otherwise perplexing and tragic story. Last year, airplane passengers boarded planes more than 1 billion times without their passports being checked against Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, which would have flagged the MH 370 passengers’ documents as stolen, had it been consulted.
It remains unclear whether the two passengers using the stolen passports were in any way connected to the plane’s disappearance, and the ongoing investigation suggests that neither of them had ties to terrorist groups, but that has not stopped Interpol from seizing the opportunity to stress the importance and underutilization of the SLTD database.