1. Today is the feast day of hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748). The man died 265 years ago and millions of people are still singing his songs. He wrote “Joy to the World,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and this one — which was also Gandhi’s favorite Christian hymn:
2. Erin Matson took her almost-5-month-old daughter with her for a lobby day in support of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. That bill would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace. Without that legal protection, they may be forced to choose between keeping their pregnancy and keeping their paycheck — without which they may be unable to keep their pregnancy.
I’ve noted before that this bill is supported by the National Women’s Law Center and by just about every feminist or pro-choice group you’ve ever heard of. Oddly it is not supported by any of the “pro-life” groups. Or perhaps not so oddly. It’s tricky trying to interpret a silence, but theirs is a conspicuously loud silence on this issue. It’s a kind of silent scream, you might say. And what it says about the real priorities of those groups is not pretty.
3. “‘Cause it’s weird … and wonderful.” That’s Pastor Phil Wyman explaining why he loves his adopted hometown of Salem, Mass. Benjamin Corey of Formerly Fundie has a long interview with Wyman that’s a fascinating read. I don’t know anything about Wyman or his church, but it seems like if any of us showed up there — evangelical, Pagan, atheist, liberal, right-wing, whatever — he’d cheerfully offer us a cup of cocoa on a cold day. I suspect his theology is, in many ways, very different from my own (“We do dream interpretation,” he says, nonchalantly), but I bet the cocoa is pretty good.
4. Thanks, Alex. I’ll take Religious Tribalism for $400.
“20 years ago, Eric Metaxas knew practically every born again believer in Manhattan. ‘It was like a spiritual ghost town,’ the cultural commentator, thought leader and author recalled.”
What is preening subcultural myopia?
“You’ve won $400!”
5. Speaking of Jeopardy! champions … the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has scored a hit, a palpable hit, against payday lenders. Sleazy Cash America will be paying $19 million in penalties — that’s a $5 million fine, and $14 million in refunds to the people they ripped off. (I’m really, really liking the CFPB, but it needs a better name or nickname.)
6. Julian Borger on “How Iran nuclear deal was clinched to Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire‘”:
When the negotiations inevitably spilled into the weekend, the Intercontinental was double-booked. On one wing of the first floor were the committee rooms set aside for the talks, but the rest was hired out for parties.
On the Saturday night a charity ball was held, the organisers of which decorated the hallway with a full-size hot-air balloon gondola, and hired a country-folk band who became more raucous as the evening wore on. As midnight passed and it was genuinely unclear whether the high-level political capital being spent would pay off or collapse under its own weight, the focus of the diplomats poring over heavy-water reactor designs was constantly assaulted by the strains of “Loch Lomond” and “Ring of Fire.”
7. Regarding the agreement itself, here are some good summaries and evaluations:
• Fred Kaplan: “The agreement makes it impossible for the Iranians to make any further progress toward making a nuclear weapon in the next six months — and, if the talks break down after that, and the Iranians decide at that point to start building a nuclear arsenal, it will take them much longer to do so.”
• Juan Cole: “The decade-long Neoconservative plot to take the United States to war against Iran appears to have been foiled.”
• Gershom Gorenberg: “The Syria agreement was the warm-up act for the interim accord with Iran. … No one can yet be sure that the interim deal will lead to a full agreement to keep Iran from getting a bomb. But the immediate steps promise an improvement in Israeli security.”