Smart people saying smart things

David Roberts: “Get the lead out: Have we already forgotten this lesson?

The elimination of lead from gasoline is a paradigmatic triumph of American environmentalism. A danger to health was discovered by scientists. Public-health advocates and greens pushed and pushed for decades, often futilely, to get the government to take action. When EPA finally cranked up efforts to do something about it, the agency was viciously attacked. Industry shills said it was an agenda to control Americans’ lives, driven by scientists who wanted research money and a cabal of extreme environmentalists. They said there were no viable alternatives to lead and the regulations would raise gas prices and destroy the economy. They paid their own scientists to produce counter-evidence. They flooded politicians with money. Over time, EPA weathered the assault and put standards into place — a “phasedown” program in 1973, followed by stronger standards in 1982, 1985, and 1995.

Since then, scientists have discovered that lead is far more harmful than originally suspected. Implementing the standards was cheaper than anyone, even advocates, had projected, and the effects greater and more beneficial. Now lead has been removed from gasoline virtually worldwide.

Charlie Pierce: “The Religious Frenzy of a Court You Can’t Believe In

What exactly are these people praying for? Are they praying for a return to the way things were? For the denial of health insurance due to whatever the whimsical opinions of corporate bureaucrats determine to be a pre-existing condition? For the right to be thrown into an overpriced, endlessly gouging “marketplace” the moment when you turn 25, and you’re burdened anyway with usurious student loans? Are they praying that the law be upheld? That the central place the insurance industry holds the way we do health care in this country be guaranteed in what looks like perpetuity, with the government’s power behind it?

… One consequence of the very weird debate we’ve been having about contraception, and its place in the overall scheme of things in the ACA, has been to inject the always ameliorating element of religious frenzy into what already was a debate so carried off by emotion that it had departed the actual reality of the law two years ago.

… What the injection of religion into this controversy accomplished, and it was neatly done, was to remove the opposition to the ACA from the realm of secular politics so as to enable it to continue in the face of a decision that upheld the law. That’s the outcome for which those people are praying. They are praying for the religious immortality of their political positions.

Timothy Noah: “Language Cop: ‘Christian’

Christians aren’t some twee boutique demographic. Christians represent the majority. About 78 percent of Americans self-identify as Christian, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. What NPR and Fox and Sony mean when they say “Christian” is “Christian right” or “Christian conservatives,” terms that adherents don’t like because they think they’re pejorative. “Fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are imperfect substitutes because a.) the two categories, though they overlap a lot, aren’t precisely the same; and b.) some of these folks consider themselves political liberals. (The worldly Cold War liberal Reinhold Niebuhr called himself an evangelical Protestant.)

What conservative Christians really like to be called is “Christians.” Hence “Christian rock” and “Christian college” and now “Christian film.” This strikes me as terribly presumptuous. Bruce Springsteen was raised Catholic but he doesn’t perform anything these folks would accept as Christian rock. Wesleyan was founded by Methodists and named after John Wesley but evangelicals would never call it a Christian university. “Christian” has become a euphemism for “acceptable to the type of Christian (in most instances Protestant) who frowns on homosexuality and wishes Saul Alinsky had minded his own business.”

Stephen M. Walt: “Top 10 Lessons of the Iraq War

Lesson #10: Rethink U.S. grand strategy, not just tactics or methods.

Because it is not clear if any U.S. approach would have succeeded at an acceptable cost, the real lesson of Iraq is not to do stupid things like this again.

  • Keulan

    I like what Timothy Noah said in that article, but it’s not the only misuse of the word “Christian” I’ve seen. Too often in America, people use “Christian” to mean that someone is a good, moral person. Clearly you don’t have to be a Christian to be moral, as demonstrated by the many non-Christians who are decent human beings and the terrible people like Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich who are Christians. Of course I know there are many good people who are Christians, but my point is I’m tired of the word being used in the place of “good” or “moral.”

  • Anonymous

    terrible people like Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich who are Christians

    For fine examples of terrible Christians, one can choose from a large selection of truly evil men.  Such as Eric Rudolph, Terry Nichols, Matthew Hale, Fred Phelps, [insert name of Catholic priest molester here] … some really bad dudes.

    And all you can come up with are a couple of bozo politicians and a sexist talk show host?

  • JessicaR

    I know it’s best to ignore you but yes, Limbaugh, Santourum, and Gingrich are terrible people and that’s one of the milder things you can say about them. They willfully spread lies, they smear innocent people, they scapegoat vulnerable minority groups to stir up resentment, and they believe they have an in born right to every privilige and right this country offers and the rest can go fuck themselves.

    Santorum and Gingrich are not fringe canidates we heard the last of in Iowa, Santorum continues to nip at Romney’s heels, and Gingrich is clearly angling himself to be Santorum’s VP pick if Santorum gets the nomination, their misogyny and bigotry could have, and already is having, serious consequences. And if Limbaugh is just some talk show host, why did none of the GOP openly, loudly, and clearly denounce him. They didn’t dare because they know he serves as mouthpiece and king maker for the party faithful.

  • Anonymous

    I get your point here, but I think you’re definitely minimizing the importance of these three examples.

    Rush Limbaugh isn’t just a sexist talk show host; he’s also a de facto leader, aunursa, and he got that way because he echoes what many conservatives feel in their heart of hearts. He wields such power that becoming an elected politician would be a definite downgrade. The speaker of the house can’t oppose him in even the most indirect of ways without the hammer of the lord obliterating him.

    Gingrich and Santorum were both, at one point, considered at least possibilities to be elected President of the United States despite their barbarous and conservative views on, oh, just to pick a commonality, women. Isn’t Santorum still beating Romney in some places?

    EDIT: Why does disquus sometimes hate paragraph breaks, too?

  • Anonymous

    re: the Timothy Noah piece — You also see that in the subset of “Bible-believing” or “Bible-based” churches.  As in, “1st Ave. Community Church — a Bible based church.”

    The last time I looked, I’m willing to bet that all Christian churches are Bible-based.  You may not like how they interpret the Bible; you may not like what translation they use; you may not like a lot of things about those “other” churches, but you can’t claim they aren’t Bible based.

    It especially irks me because the Episcopal church, along with other churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary, probably uses more of the Bible on any given Sunday than any of those “Bible based” churches do.  

  • Matri

    The only thing the Republicans-affiliated churches use the Bible for is to thump everybody else with using out-of-context passages and nit-picked interpretations.

  • Anonymous

    Industry shills said it was an agenda to control Americans’ lives, driven by scientists who wanted research money and a cabal of extreme environmentalists. They said there were no viable alternatives to lead and the regulations would raise gas prices and destroy the economy.

    Ah, shit.

    Thanks, David Roberts. 
    Anyone want to guess how many weeks it’ll be before we see the headline “GOP Leaders Call For Reinsertion of Lead Into Gasoline”?

    I say ten – you’ve got to give the Town Hall cranks time to slap together a conspiracy theory.

  • Anonymous

    Really? That is how you choose to describe these men? Rush Limbaugh has a following of millions that he regularly lies to and stirs up. Santorum and Newt are running for President on a platform of destruction and ego.

    And you blow these people off? Sweet Celestia of Equestria…

  • Anonymous

    I can understand wanting to focus on the more-bad. I mean, to the best of my knowledge, Santorum, Gingrich, and Limbaugh haven’t actually killed anyone (leaving aside the little-death-by-fractions theory for now, because while I think it applies, it also makes us all murderers to some extent, and that’s not relevant to the issue). So you could want to leap at that, especially if the less-bad people have common cause with you on some issue, or like to claim they do. There’s the attack-feeling of “you’re just zooming in on these people to smack all of us”.

    But I think it’s not that we think they’re worse, or that Keulan thinks they’re worse – because it is absolutely right and fair for me to put words in Keulan’s mouth (just like I put words in aunursa’s mouth in that last paragraph, I’m putting words in everyone’s mouth today). They’re just more relevant. Scott Roeder murdered George Tiller in cold blood… and he’s now in prison, for fifty years without the possibility of parole. Newt Gingrich is a blowhard whose bad policies would hurt millions, but is not a murderer, a batterer, a burglar, or any such brutal criminal… but he’s a Presidential candidate, albeit mostly a failed one at this point, who might actually get a chance to put those bad policies into motion. (Again, small. Failed.) We focus on what we see, and especially those we see with power! …and, personally, I see them as pretty bad guys, who have a lot of power and misuse it.

    …while I approve of swearing by Celestia, why does nobody swear by Luna? It’s not like Celestia’s the only alicorn-god out there, just the… most… prominent and powerful… okay so that goes against my entire argument right there. I have to wonder if in two hundred years time in Equestria, whether there’ll be demoninations that give Luna equal time and are looked down on, like those Catholics who are looked down on as Mary-worshippers. Probably not. Not only is friendship magic, but the show provides an interesting view of “there’s no real church when you can actually just go up and ask your god what she thinks of things”.

    Back! On! Topic! Yes, lead in petrol (and latches on refrigerators, from Balloon Juice) make for more history that can make rude gestures in front of the far right’s blinded eyes, and those blinded eyes show quite clearly in the next link. What with Fred’s frequent mentions of Christian music, and Christian music that some Christians think is unChristian, the bit about Bruce Springsteen not being “Christian music” reminds me of a favourite band. I really like Anberlin, y’see, have since a friend started listening to my playlist and said “hey this song here is really good” and I said “I don’t know why that’s on there or where I got it from oh hey it is really good”. They’re on a label that has a “Christian rock” reputation, but the band members (including the lead singer, amusingly named Stephen Christian) have been sort of pushing back against being called a Christian band, because of their ideas that… well, a band’s a band, and music’s music. A SONG CANNOT RECEIVE CHRIST AS ITS LORD AND SAVIOUR, IT LACKS THE ABILITY.

    Not to say that the music can’t have a message – “The Feel Good Drag” is essentially “I’m in a cheating relationship, that’s probably a bad thing, no one cheat on your significant other, okay?” – but I, Anberlin, Stephen King, and very possibly Bruce Springsteen agree that the music/story has to come first, or at least equal first. Otherwise it’s a Chick tract.

    I must admit, I haven’t listened to much Springsteen. I really should and I know I really should, but whenever I think “country/blues/folk/gospel!”, I get sucked into a Johnny Cash black hole and there’s no getting past that event horizon.

  • Anonymous

    “the real lesson of Iraq is not to do stupid things like this again.”Sadly this was also the real lesson of Vietnam. I’ve got a horrible feeling that it’ll be the real lesson of Iran too.

  • tiredofit

    While I agree with just about everything the smart people say above, Roberts has a timeline issue with the EPA.  Since it was only created in 1970 I’d say having gasoline lead phaseout in place by 1973 is a pretty quick change for that agency.  The government as a whole was unresponsive, but the EPA — once instituted — did OK.

  • tiredofit

    I think Limbaugh and Gingrich qualify as bad dudes.  Look at what each have done to their families, and the long-term damage to millions based on their political activities.  And if you think Limbaugh is only sexist you obviously never listened to him.

    I think of Santorum as a useful idiot for the bad people more than a bad person himself.

  • Anonymous

    I’m reminded of the anecdote someone posted on the old site about their father going into a “Christian” music shop and asking if they had a recording of Handel’s Messiah, to be told, no, they only stocked Christian music. These people’s definition of Christian appears to be “not most Christians”.

    [wanders off humming, "And he shall reign for ever and ever..."]

  • tiredofit

    We should use leaded gasoline to run home generators to power our incandescent light bulbs!

  • Tonio

    (roll eyes) Another response whose goal is to defend the reputation conservatism. I don’t consider Limbaugh to be either Christian or conservative. He sympathizes with both groups but his rhetoric has little to do with theology or political philosophy. Like his other radio colleagues, he’s a demagogue playing to the resentments of people who want to preserve social privilege based on gender and ethnicity and religious affiliation.

  • gocart mozart

    Well you can’t very well consider yourself a persecuted minority if you are 78% of the population can you.  Where’s the fun in that?

  • Tonio

     

    Too often in America, people use “Christian” to mean that someone is a good, moral person.

    That’s true in some cases. But many others are using the word as a euphemism for jingoism or ethnocentrism.

  • Andrew Galley

    I think the Bruce Sprinsteen point is not only well-taken but could be expanded ad infinitum. “Do you like Christian music?” Oh, hell, yeah, I love U2, and Mumford & Sons, and Sufjan Stevens and Evanescence (;_; shut up! we all have our guilty pleasures)…

    But that’s not what they mean…

  • Tricksterson

    “Christian!” 

    “I do not think that means what you think it means.”

  • Tonio

    Or as Bob Rivers and his team once rewrote it, “And we shall complain for ever and ever…”

    That poster’s point about the Christian store reminded me of how the “inspirational” book stands in some drugstores have many works pushing gender essentialism. From what I’ve seen, these stands are usually near the prescription counter. I have a theory as to why this is, but I’d like to hear some alternative theories from the rest of you before I post mine.

  • Anonymous

    Sauron is just misunderstood, it’s the Orcs who are the real bad guys.

  • Lori

     

    I think of Santorum as a useful idiot for the bad people more than a bad person himself. 

    You’ve either missed a lot of Santorum’s views or your definition of “bad guy” is quite different than mine.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    They also banned the use of lead in paint, as well; as I recall one of the potential hazards was that babies would eat the paint on wooden cribs and ingest the lead. I don’t know if anyone has ever done before and after toxicity levels, though?

  • Hawker40

    That would be me, under the name Hawker Hurricane.

    (Did you ever sing along at a concert?  People stare at you.)

  • Anonymous

    Santorum uses a soft, gentle tone and sweater vests to approximate the avuncular image of Mr. Rogers, while having the morals and values of Vlad the Impaler. It might work if you didn’t know anything about him and only watched news coverage of him with the sound kept off.

  • rizzo

    Things we screwed up in Iraq #11:  YOU CAN’T IMPOSE DEMOCRACY!!!!

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    ‘Twould be relevant if that had been our actual intent.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Dubya Bush cottoned onto that reason quickly enough, especially after the cringily-bad “he was gonna kill my daddy” bit he tried on.

  • Anonymous

    “…while I approve of swearing by Celestia, why does nobody swear by Luna? It’s not like Celestia’s the only alicorn-god out there, just the… most… prominent and powerful… okay so that goes against my entire argument right there. I have to wonder if in two hundred years time in Equestria, whether there’ll be demoninations that give Luna equal time and are looked down on, like those Catholics who are looked down on as Mary-worshippers. Probably not. Not only is friendship magic, but the show provides an interesting view of ‘there’s no real church when you can actually just go up and ask your god what she thinks of things’.”

    Well; I always try to put Luna first (see my post in this thread: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/03/26/do-you-like-the-things-that-life-is-showing-you/#disqus_thread Warning: Harsh language), although I don’t always remember to do so. (Moon Goddess forgive me!) But, yeah! It would be nice to be able to go straight to your God(esses) and ask for and (hopefully) receive a clear answer to a theological or doctrinal question/issue instead of having to parse stuff from badly deteriorated, incomplete, mistranslated or just-plain-ambiguous documents.

  • MaryKaye

    I don’t know if having the gods answer questions straightforwardly would really be a good thing.  Roleplaying’s not exactly evidence, but when we’ve tried this in roleplaying campaigns it’s not been good for the humans involved.  The PC party leader of our current campaign has actually banned use of _Commune_ except to answer questions of cold mundane fact (“where did they put the body?”) because she saw first-hand what having an answer from the gods did to her peoples’ initiative and optimism.  (She is neither devout nor good, but on this point I can’t fault her argument.)

    Thinking about it further, one thing I’m pretty sure of is that the universe is bigger than will fit in my head, so any understanding of it I have will necessarily be incomplete, and if I want my world to make sense to me I will inevitably have some not-quite-true simplifications papering over the things I can’t grasp.  I don’t think it would be a kindness to destroy all of those, forcing me to live in a world I can’t make sense of at all.  And (due to the finiteness of my head) there’s no way a god could give me answers that were true, complete, and fully understandable to me on some of the big questions.  Particularly “Why–?”

    I don’t think I have ever seen a story which featured a god who was (a) benevolent, (b) omniscient, and (c) informative.  As a storyteller at heart I always suspect that if you can’t make a story out of it, it’s not a state humans are meant to be in.

  • RevSpitz13

    Scott Roeder did not murdere babykilling abortionist George Tiller in cold blood; George Tiller murdered helpless babies in cold blood and Scott Roeder stopped him from murdering any more innocent children. Scott Roeder deserves a medal

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The thing that’s so infuriatingly frustrating, however, is when adherents to a faith (religious or spiritual) insist on belief without proof (i.e. faith) as the preconditon for getting any more information.

    This is not the way the world should work!

    Things that happen should obtrude themselves on your notice whether you want them to or not, and this certainly includes meddling entities claimed to not be sensible by ordinary means.

  • P J Evans

    Not on this blog.

  • P J Evans

    I’m not sure if the gods answer ever questions in straightforward ways, but they do answer them – it’s just that people tend not to like the answers they get. (“Sometimes, the answer is ‘no’.”)

  • hf

     It’s not like Celestia’s the only alicorn-god out there,

    I’m no expert, but aren’t all the ponies minor deities? They should at least count as nature spirits if they help change the seasons.

  • Anonymous

    “Scott Roeder did not murdere babykilling abortionist George Tiller in cold blood(…)”

    A Kansas jury apparently disagreed: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/29/scott-roeder-guilty-kille_n_442037.html

  • Anonymous

     Did you ever sing along at a concert?  People stare at you.

    I try not to “sing” in public, for the good of all. But a friend sings in a choir which gives an annual performance of Messiah specifically designed for everybody to sing along with. It’s fantastic (I mime)!

  • The Lodger

    …the “inspirational” book stands in some drugstores have many works pushing gender essentialism. From what I’ve seen, these stands are usually near the prescription counter. I have a theory as to why this is, but I’d like to hear some alternative theories from the rest of you before I post mine.

    Because that way, they’re easier to find than the other emetics.

  • Anonymous

    Get out.


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