Smart people saying smart things

Juan Cole: “When Politicians promise ‘Lower Taxes’ they are promising Collapsed Bridges”

The next time you hear politicians campaigning on “lower taxes,” you should realize two things.

First, they don’t intend to lower your taxes, which are probably mostly Social Security. In fact, they might like effectively to raise those taxes by extending the retirement age. They mean they intend to lower taxes for rich people and corporations.

Second, what they really mean is that they intend to deny you basic social services of the sort government provides through your taxes, such as upkeep of roads and bridges. They want to allow the trucking and other corporations who use those resources to escape paying for them (most road degradation is caused by trucks), and pass the cost on to you, either in the form of tolls or of deteriorating infrastructure. I.e., when they campaign on lower taxes they are actually promising you that your bridges will collapse.

Abigail Rine: “Why Some Evangelicals Are Trying to Stop Obsessing Over Premarital Sex”

If this collection of voices is any indication, the traditional battle lines of the abstinence culture war are beginning to blur. A revisionist evangelical view of sexuality appears to be emerging, one that doesn’t revolve around that ultimate youth-group quandary — how far is too far? Although each of these post-purity perspectives diverges from the current evangelical narrative to varying degrees, the common thread among them seems to be a desire for a more holistic sexual ethic, one that remains thoroughly Christian while shifting away from the metaphor of purity to concepts of sexual health and wholeness. What is still unclear is whether these revisions will gain traction within evangelicalism or remain confined to progressive inlets of the evangelical subculture.

Darren Sherkat: “Suspect ‘Science'”

When we talk about [Mark] Regnerus, I completely dismiss the study. It’s over. He has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better. Some of them think that he’s also stupid and an ideologue. I know better. I know that he’s a smart guy and that he did this on purpose, and that it was bad.

William Lloyd Garrison on willful ignorance, 1853

Those who do wrong ignorantly, do not willingly continue in it, when they find they are in the wrong. Ignorance is not an evidence of guilt certainly. It is only an evidence of a want of light. They who are only ignorant, will never rage, and rave, and threaten, and foam, when the light comes; but being interested and walking in the light, will always present a manly front, and be willing to be taught and be willing to be told they are in the wrong.

Take the case of slavery: How has the anti-slavery cause been received? Not argumentatively, not by reason, not by entering the free arena of fair discussion and comparing notes; the arguments have been rotten eggs, and brickbats and calumny, and in the southern portion of the country, a spirit of murder, and threats to cut out the tongues of those who spoke against them. What has this indicated on the part of the nation? What but conscious guilt? Not ignorance, not that they had not the light. They had the light and rejected it.

How has this Woman’s Rights movement been treated in this country, on the right hand and on the left? This nation ridicules and derides this movement, and spits upon it, as fit only to be cast out and trampled underfoot. This is not ignorance. They all know the truth. It is the natural outbreak of tyranny. It is because the tyrants and usurpers are alarmed. They have been and are called to judgment, and they dread the examination and exposure of their position and character.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni: “There Is More Than One Christian View on Homosexuality”

It is said that the abolitionists found that their religious arguments against slavery tended to be less convincing to most people than the religious arguments of those who justified slavery, simply because of the way most people read their Bibles, taking only a proof-text approach. I think we face a similar situation today in taking a religious position on the question of homosexuality. Many people read the Bible in a mechanical way as though it’s a list of rules, like a traffic manual, with every single verse having the same importance and without consideration of the times, cultures, and conditions in which various passages were written. We need to help people understand more about biblical interpretation, translations, and so on. And we need to examine the principles of Scripture rather than pulling out individual verses without regard to context.


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  • smrnda

    Being disabled has always prevented me from this, as well as understanding that I’d be labeled a parasite the moment I couldn’t make it into work. I really don’t see a difference between ‘kill the disabled’ and ‘let them die.’

  • Lori

    I refuse to believe that any creature that makes it impossible for me to breath is the most awesome being in the universe.

  • smrnda

    Interesting. I wonder if this guy is an AI produced by analyzing libertarian talking points.

  • Related, signing a 1099-MISC is a good way to find yourself being paid a lot less than minimum wage on the grounds that as an independent contractor, you could just work more than 80 hours a week…

  • smrnda

    My deal was a combination of several independent contractor jobs, accompanied by me being unable to work and disabled, and various deductions not being worth as much as I thought they would be (my medical expenses didn’t quite reach the point where they’d get me a tax break, and I also had other issues in that I’d worked for non US entities, thus complicating my taxes.)

    I’m sure some right-winger will point to my case as the IRS letting a ‘deadbeat’ get through, but it’s more like ‘wow, filing quarterly works until you can’t work in the last quarter of the year!’

    All said, the lesson learned was that no work as an independent contractor is worth the hassle. If anyone wants to classify you as a 1099, tell them piss off.

  • smrnda

    They should just say they’re aristocrats battling progress.

  • guest

    I was just speaking about Adam Smith at a conference this weekend–it amazes me how the Wealth of Nations, which is based on and argues for economic positions that would now be considered shockingly progressive, has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and appropriated by the neoliberal right. Someone flat-out asked me during the Q&A how this could have happened, and I really couldn’t give a solid answer–but I do sort-of have a guess now. Smith wrote that one government was wrong once in one situation about one thing, and that’s somehow come to mean that he wrote that all government is wrong about everything all the time.

    The US government did operate on a (truly) Smithian model before the Revolutionary War (and possibly for a little while after)–have a look at this:

  • smrnda

    I find many of these people are lacking in concrete specifics. It’s being in an echo chamber where nobody demands sound arguments that makes them feel entitled to spout ignorance.

  • smrnda

    Good point. Regrettably, evidence doesn’t work on these people. I’m only hoping their contempt for the rest of humanity eventually makes them unpopular enough that they’ll have no clout.

  • smrnda

    The problem is the demands of the current generation are so modest – something better than minimum wage and health insurance. If this is snotty entitlement, then snotty entitlement is a good thing.

    Another lesson learned – when a privileged person complains about people with attitudes of ‘entitlement,’ they mean people who are sick of getting pissed and shat on for the privileged person’s convenience.

  • I assume you refer to allergies. I suffer from those as well (though not to cat dander), so I can relate. But, you can always enjoy the feline species through lolcat memes. You gotta admit, those can be pretty awesome.

  • He does have a point. The supply-siders were so convinced that if taxes were drastically cut, it would repurpose those funds for all kinds of entrepreneurial activity that the resulting economic growth would swamp the loss of revenue from the tax cuts.

    To make that kind of economic doctrine work on the budgeting side, the size of government necessarily needs to be limited, which the pro-military anti-Communist types Reagan surrounded himself with did not want.

    Reagan’s biggest gamble was that the USA could afford a spending race with the Soviets based on the fact that about 25%+ of the Soviet GDP went into the military, while about 10% of the USA’s GDP went into same.

    It could have gone very wrong if the Soviets had simply refused to even begin joining in and Reagan had doubled down on the spending to try and provoke them.

  • Your point, while valid, is an oversimplification.

    Yes, the priorities of the federal and state governments are often misdirected.

    But this argument is not an excuse to insist that all taxes are wrong and that they should not be paid. It is also not going to mean the private sector will come along and miraculously make it all better, the “Probability Broach” notwithstanding.

  • I remember “whole language” being A Thing for a while, and then being quietly dropped by about 1992 or 1993.

  • It would explain the similarities to the way the US Constitution is fetishized as a kind of immovable document.

  • mattmcirvin

    It becomes really, really clear in the way it manifests in the rhetoric of the right-wing type of space fans (whose attitudes more or less originated in Southern California defense-contractor culture, transmitted via science-fiction fandom). They’ll tell you the reason we don’t have colonies in the asteroid belt today is that the layabout masses ate up all the funds through the welfare state.

  • FearlessSon

    Which is really a pity, because I consider the space program one of the better examples of government spending which grew the economy. The micro-transistor breakthrough alone revolutionized the computer industry and set the stage for its rapid consumption and development.

    But even before it lost a lot of funding, NASA was still only a tiny fraction of the national budget.

    Incidentally, my father considered the space race one of the few “positive” ways that the Cold War expressed itself. It was international competition, to be sure, but far better that countries compete to top each other in scientific achievements as opposed to bullets and bombs. (Granted, the only major difference between a space rocket and a ballistic missile is what payload it is carrying and where it is targeted.)

  • FearlessSon

    He does have a point. The supply-siders were so convinced that if taxes were drastically cut, it would repurpose those funds for all kinds of entrepreneurial activity that the resulting economic growth would swamp the loss of revenue from the tax cuts.

    True, the original intent of the tax cuts for big businesses would be to enable those businesses to pour more of their money into R&D, which would open new opportunities for the market and provide more jobs and more income as it expanded into those new frontiers. I can see the nobility in that idea. However, for most companies, now unburdened by taxes, the easiest way to innovate was to find another, smaller, company who was working on some great new idea and buy them out. Which many companies did, over and over again, as the then-bigger companies got even bigger and took over more. Some companies of similar size ended up merging together so they would not be crushed under the advancing tide of buyouts, furthering the consolidation. A lot of people made a lot of money selling companies during that time, creating new millionaires.

    For a lot of people, the ideas seemed to be working, and the economy started booming, and people were building up stores of private wealth. Unfortunately, the boom slowed as companies ran out of other companies to acquire and the few big companies remaining had less incentive than before to actually innovate, which was one of the few ways small companies used to make it big. Lots of people got laid off during this consolidation, due to becoming redundant in a post-merger company, we hit a bit of a slump at the end of the eighties, and we start to see the crack that would later grow into a gulf of major wealth disparity.

  • FearlessSon

    My issue with it is that the priorities of the government, however misguided, are often preferable to the priorities of the market, which can be absolutely vile at times.

  • guest

    Sorry, I should have written ‘US economy’ rather than ‘US government’, that would have been clearer.

  • FearlessSon

    Altemeyer said much the same in his analysis of the Tea Party. To quote his summarizing point:

    It seemed as if the demonstrators had read the research findings on authoritarianism and then said, “Let‟s go out and prove that all those things are true.” Whatever else the Tea Party movement has accomplished, it has certainly made the research on authoritarianism look good.

  • dpolicar

    Yes, precisely.

    I often summarize this by saying that the market is the most efficient device we’ve ever built for consuming resources to produce commodities for consumers. Whether I endorse this depends rather a lot on whether the people and things I care about are consumers or resources.

  • Jamoche

    In my experience the techy internet libertarians are the ones who aren’t making the 100K salaries but are convinced they ought to be.

  • themunck

    K is west and W is east? Where’s the logic in that? oO

  • MarkTemporis

    At least he was right about the cats.

  • MarkTemporis

    When you think about it, the one huge computer connected to lots of dumb terminals is pretty socialist itself.

  • FearlessSon

    The fact that they resort to filibustering at the national level, pressing legislation that they have no hope of passing, and ignoring legislation they do not like, is the evidence we have that their influence is slipping.

    This congress is the “do nothing” congress precisely because they lack the influence to actually get anything done. Their inaction, or delaying action, is the most that they can do, and the only source of national leverage they have left.

    The push to enact new voting restrictions which disenfranchise ethnic and income groups and make voting more difficult for them is evidence enough that they believe that they can no longer win alone by convincing people of the rightness of their ideas.

    In other words, their self destructive inability to reconcile ideology with reality is causing them to slide into powerlessness, though they scratch and cling in futile desperation.

  • FearlessSon

    I am guessing that they use Smith’s writings like they use the Bible: by finding a verse that supports their position and wielding it like a cudgel to clobber their debate opponents by repeatedly hammering on it as an argument to authority. They do not care what the rest of the writing says, and know that most people are not going to bother looking it up, especially if they already like the conclusion so why bother verifying or analyzing context?

  • FearlessSon

    Phonics never worked for me.

    In fact, I thought for my first couple of years of grade school that I must be retarded, because I was so far behind in reading. My third grade teacher though, she was something else. She figured out exactly what I needed. She instructed my parents to have me read Tintin comics to them, and every time I ran into a word I did not know, she said “Don’t ask him to sound it out, just tell him what the word is.”

    And true enough, I would remember a word after a reminder or two and by running into it the third time would have it memorized.

    This did run me into a few problems later in elementary, since I was by then reading well above my grade level, and knew a lot of words by use and meaning, but did not know how to pronounce them.

  • Chris Hadrick

    the priorities of the market are the priorities of people.

  • Chris Hadrick

    David Stockman’s new book really takes the whole supply side fantasy to task.

  • Lori

    Yes, I am very allergic to cats. I like a good LOLcat, but not quite enough to declare cats the most awesome beings in the universe :)

  • guest

    It does seem that way…the frustrating thing to me is that out of five volumes they only seem to know two sentences! To be fair, though, the Wealth of Nations is a slog to get through, only something like three people in my audience had actually read it.

  • konrad_arflane

    And the priorities of government aren’t?

  • Chris Hadrick

    is that a joke?

  • the shepard

    plus, we’ll be in real trouble when the reapers come if we don’t start preparing now.

  • the shepard

    the priorities of the market are the priorities of the marketers.

  • In that respect, “look and say” seemed to work for you.

    The point of all this is that contrary to the one-size-fits-all mentality endorsed by a lot of right-wing back-to-basics folks speaking of education, the strategy that works best is a cirriculum that handles the majority of children but leaves ample room for a teacher to adjust as needed for individual children who are outliers or who have difficulty coping.

    Of course, this also means smaller class sizes are an absolute must, in addition to better-trained and better-paid teachers.

  • the shepard

    mr. rogers was, as far ass i have been able to tell, as close to an actual saint as any of us are likely to get.

  • P J Evans

    The ‘cold war’ had been going on a long time before Reagan became president. And that spending race pretty much bankrupted both countries.

  • K and W are the letters you get if you add a dash to the end of the morse representations of ‘A’ and ‘N’. Before the civilian networks were allocated, the US had already claimed ‘A’ and ‘N’ for Army and Navy. It was considered desirable at the time for the civilian networks to start with the same morse sequence as the military ones (However, when they standardized callsigns internationally, the US lost ‘A’ to Germany, but kept W, N, and part of K) (ETA: Got this the wrong way around. Germany lost A to the US in 1927). Before the panama canal, civilian ships in the atlantic used ‘K’ and in the pacific used ‘W’, on the basis that ‘W’ made sense for ‘west’. So they reversed the convention for land-based transmitters on the notion that it was a good idea to be able to tell whether or not you were listening to a boat based on the callsign.

    I don’t know if it’s apocryphal or not, but I’ve heard it suggested that the standardization of callsigns in 1912 was motivated by the belief that there was some kind of confusion about who was talking to who in the radio communications during the Titanic disaster.

  • Incidentally, I’ve heard it claimed that back in the days of dumb
    terminals and one computer per large institution, techies were more
    often socialists.

    Wouldn’t surprise me. There was a period where pretty much all of academia was pretty heavily socialist.

  • konrad_arflane

    No. Both governments and markets are made up of people. Thus, saying that “the priorities of the market are the priorities of people” doesn’t address FearlessSon’s point with any particular cogency.

    The difference between markets and governments is whose priorities are given the most weight, not whether those priorities belong to people or not.

    ETA: Well, *ideally* that’s the difference. In practice, they tend to be a lot more similar than the above would suggest.

  • You know, mass disenfranchisement was a key plank of the perpetual Republican government of America 2014. (-_-)

  • Chris Hadrick

    No, and my statement wasn’t a Randian market as God thing either. If Mcdonalds makes some sandwich that no one likes they can’t just keep putting it on the menu or they’ll go out of business. That actually happened does anyone remember that? they made this “adult” fancy hamburger or something. Point is people can not by stuff from them if they don’t want but you can’t not pay your taxes if you don’t want. I didn’t want the McIraq camel meat burger but I have to pay for it every year.

    markets can make horrible things to, trick people into buying other than what they paid for, overcharge due to yadda yadda yadda

  • Unregulated markets do stuff like this, Chris:

    Note that at the time, the company could not legally be held liable for the deaths of those children. They weren’t losing any money, and neither were other companies who, likewise, weren’t bothering to test their products.

  • I should probably clarify: teaching nothing but phonics is not so great. What seems to work best in a classroom is a mix.

    One of the problems of “whole language” was that its proponents told school boards to throw out their old textbooks and go only with the new teaching fad. I read that quite a few teachers ended up disobeying this, and even rescuing their old books from trash bins.

  • Chris Hadrick

    I said in the second paragraph that there are other problems with the market. the point wasn’t that markets are great it was that they are subject to the customers choices in a far more direct way than govt is.

  • Which is why mass consumer outrage has totally harmed Monsanto’s business and caused them to do a complete 180 on all their policies.

  • themunck

    *tentatively* I…suppose that makes a certain kind of sense, if you squint at it from the right direction…wait, how does one lose ‘part’ of a callsign letter?