Noise ranks as the number one gripe of restaurant-goers nationally according to a Zagat survey, and it is the complaint submitted to New York City’s 311 hotline with the greatest frequency. (From 2012 to 2013, noise-related calls to 311 increased 16 percent according to noise activist Arlene Bronzaft.) Even if these complaints are just cyclical resurgences of an age-old problem—the ancient Greek colony Sybaris mandated that certain noisy tradesmen (potters, tinsmiths) had to live outside the city walls; Elizabethan men couldn’t beat their wives past 10 p.m.—we seem to be dealing with it differently. From noise-canceling headphones to the popularity of silent retreats, there has never been quite so great a premium placed on silence. And not only do we value it in a general sense, we’re willing to pay for it. Silence has become the ultimate luxury.
A man wears a US President Barack Obama mask during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on March 6, 2014. The annual conference is a meeting of politically conservatives Americans. By Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.
Yesterday the College Board introduced an overhaul of the SAT, with a return to the 1,600-point scoring system, a revamped and now-optional- essay section, and a new emphasis on American “founding documents” as source material. Todd Balf offers a “simplistic example” of a new SAT prompt:
Students would read an excerpt from a 1974 speech by Representative Barbara Jordan of Texas, in which she said the impeachment of Nixon would divide people into two parties. Students would then answer a question like: “What does Jordan mean by the word ‘party’?” and would select from several possible choices. This sort of vocabulary question would replace the more esoteric version on the current SAT. The idea is that the test will emphasize words students should be encountering, like “synthesis,” which can have several meanings depending on their context. Instead of encouraging students to memorize flashcards, the test should promote the idea that they must read widely throughout their high-school years.
Elizabeth Kolbert, who last week panned the current version of the exam, thinks the timing is interesting:
Abby Rapoport thinks political reporters are inventing a GOP establishment-Tea Party divide after Texas’s Tuesday primaries, in which Senator John Cornyn and other establishment figures fought off challenges from the right:
Texas is complicated because there’s no binary opposition between “establishment” candidates and those affiliated with the Tea Party. Should we define “establishment” as Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who has himself a relatively moderate record but has presided over one of the state’s most conservative legislatures? Outside Tea Party groups have tried to topple Straus, yet he also commands support from Tea Party-backed state representatives. Or is the “establishment” closer to Governor Rick Perry, the state’s longest-serving governor, who gave one of the first major speeches at a Tea Party rally in 2009? Or is it David Dewhurst, who hung tight to Perry’s message, passed extreme measures, but then watched his political dreams crumble as Cruz rose to power by accusing Dewhurst of being a moderate?
Benen agrees that the primaries are a contest between the far right and the farther right:
The buffoon from Arizona is one of the most frequent guests on cable news and on the Sunday morning talk shows. He was dead wrong about Iraq, Afghanistan and has never copped to it, clinging to his fantasy that his beloved “surge” made it all worthwhile. It didn’t, as the resilient sectarian warfare in that benighted country demonstrates day after day. He caved to Karl Rove on the torture question in 2006, leaving the CIA program in place. He picked a delusional maniac to be a vice-presidential candidate after close to no vetting whatsoever. He was jumping up and down trying to foment a war with Russia over Georgia in 2008. This week, he was dyspeptically assaulting the president of the United States at a time when, one might imagine, wise souls in Washington might see the benefit in a temporary united front vis-a-vis Putin. He is determined to sabotage any deal with Iran, which would necessitate another war in the Middle East, a war for which there is close to no public support, and which could have incalculable consequences in the region and the world.
A simple question: why does anyone still take him even faintly seriously? Why does David Gregory defer to him? Why does CNN have him on to discuss foreign affairs when he has demonstrated catastrophic judgment time and time again? McCain was on the Sunday morning shows 24 times in 2013 – far more than countless other Washington figures with far better records. The year before, he was invited on 21 times.
In stark contrast, the latest PPP poll in Arizona finds the following results for McCain:
John McCain is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike and has now become the least popular Senator in the country. Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party – he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents, suggesting he could be vulnerable to challenges in both the primary and general elections the next time he’s up.
He is the least popular Senator in the country and the most popular among Beltway hacks and TV producers. That tells you something that … well, you already knew.
Readers continue the thread with many wonderful emails:
I also relate to the brother-in-law who wanted to support his wife but did not stand in church because he doesn’t believe in God. I also attend church with my family during holidays, or Mass when I’m visiting my boyfriend’s family. But I don’t take communion or say anything that indicates I am a believer. Why? It’s not to be contrary; it’s out of respect. These are very real beliefs for these people, and participating to the point of lying is disrespectful to their traditions and faith (not to mention confusing for my family, who have been told and must continue to be told that I do not share their beliefs). Isn’t Revelations 3:15-16 applicable here? ”‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
Another broadens the discussion:
I think there’s something missing in these posts: an accurate label. Personal atheism is an apathetic stance, since it only describes one’s absence of beliefs compared to others’. But what is always referred to as New Atheism can better be described as anti-theism. It’s not just a statement of personal beliefs, but a political stance against religion as the basis for legal or political policy. Of course, being “anti” something carries a stigma (so that anti-abortion becomes pro-life, or anti-gay becomes pro-“religious freedom”). So perhaps New Atheists – or in my term, anti-theists – can call ourselves pro-secular. But somehow, that doesn’t have the same ring. My main point is that it’s a branding issue. How do you oppose conflating religion and politics without denigrating others’ beliefs?
Another notes, “Regarding Thomas Wells’ article, there’s already this term: Apatheism.” Another reader, less concerned about labeling, sees the value in being a gadfly:
I’m probably one of the “New Atheists” Thomas Wells dislikes or one of the dickheads your reader described. The reason why I’m a dickhead atheist relates to when I realized I was an atheist.
Liz Wahl, the RT America host who resigned on air yesterday in protest against the network’s biased coverage of Ukraine, gives Jamie Kirchick an inside look at the network’s editorial agenda:
Wahl, for her part, says that while the Kremlin influence over RT isn’t always overt, that journalists there understand what they have to do to succeed and fall into line accordingly. “I think management is able to manipulate the very young and naïve employees,” she says. “They will find ways to punish you covertly and reward those that do go along with their narrative.” …
Wahl recalls a story she attempted to report about last year’s French intervention in Mali, aimed at repelling an al-Qaeda takeover of the country.
Cohn translates the latest Obamacare tweak, which allows people to keep insurance plans that don’t meet the law’s minimum coverage standards through the end of 2016:
Administration officials argue that this announcement merely changes the duration of the transitionary period, without altering the end result. They make a good case. From the get-go, the law had a “grandfather clause,” allowing people with insurance as of March, 2010, when the Affordable Care Act became law, to hold onto their policies. This decision is similar to expanding that protection—and not to a very large group of people. One estimate, from the Rand Corporation, suggests only a half million people still have the old plans. And as Greg Sargent pointed out on Wednesday, that number will dwindle over time, because the non-group market is so volatile, with people moving in and out as they obtain or drop coverage from employers.
Popova lovedStay, insisting that the book is “more than a must-read — it’s a cultural necessity”:
Hecht argues that, historically, our ideologies around suicide have set us up for “an unwinnable battle”: First, the moralistic doctrines of the major Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam condemned suicide as a sin that “God” forbids, one more offensive than even murder because you were stealing directly from divinity with no time left for repentance — a strategy based on negative reinforcement, which modern psychology has demonstrated time and again is largely ineffective. Then came The Enlightenment, whose secular philosophy championed individual agency and, in rebelling against the blind religiosity of the past, framed suicide as some sort of moral freedom — a toxic proposition Hecht decries as a cultural wrong turn. Reflecting on such attitudes — take, for instance, Patti Smith’s beautiful yet heartbreaking tribute to Virginia Woolf’s suicide — Hecht makes the case, instead, for two of history’s relatively unknown but potent arguments against suicide: That we owe it to society and to our personal communities to stay alive, and that we owe it to our future selves …
The Dish featured the arguments of Stayhere and Hecht’s ideas about atheism here and here, part of a thread asking, “Where are all the female atheists?” Let us know what you think we should ask Jennifer via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):
Yesterday, we learned that the CIA spied on Congress’ investigation of the agency’s torture program. Dan Froomkin puts the revelation in context:
The resistance to oversight about torture mirrors similar problems legislators have experienced when it comes to trying to monitor surveillance programs and other secret activities, with one huge exception: The torture report was championed and endorsed by Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other senior members of that committee. By contrast, Feinstein and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) have emerged as the strongest defenders of surveillance activity, leaving the so-far-losing battle for disclosure to be fought by more rebellious legislators.
Alex Ruthrauff makes the obvious point that the agency must have something to hide:
Agencies that operate in good faith and within the law have no need to obstruct investigations. If you’re doing that, you’re admitting guilt.
In contrast to the media and arts industries, where interns are notoriously underpaid or just go without compensation altogether, those at tech, finance, and consulting companies can get a hefty sum for their summer or semester of work. According to a survey by Glassdoor, Twitter (No. 3 on the list) pays $6,791 per month, Facebook (No. 4) pays $6,213 per month, and Google (No. 9) pays $5,969 per month. …
Perhaps companies feel it’s worth it to pay interns at this level so candidates will compete heavily for the jobs, do real work once they’re at the internship, and potentially be hireable at the end of their stint. But it’s worth noting that the U.S. Census Bureau is currently reporting median U.S. household income at $53,046.
The Dish approach to our own internship program is here.
The most striking aspect of Richard Rodriguez’s latest book, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography, was its attempt to understand 9/11 in an empathetic way. His response to that atrocity was to draw closer to Islam, not to push it as far away as possible. He saw Islam as a desert religion like Christianity and tried to see what had happened to create a monstrous fanaticism of the Taliban and al Qaeda variety, and to look into his own Catholic faith for reasons as well. I was challenged by this, and wanted to talk about it. So here we have the podcast. Richard insists on the connection between Islam and Christianity, perhaps most vividly in the Arabic-rooted Spanish words of his own Catholic grandmother, and the intimacy of inter-religious conflict:
We went on to talk about martyrdom in both Islam and Christianity, and the distinction, important to me, between fundamentalism and faith:
For the full conversation on Deep Dish, click here. If you aren’t a subscriber, click here to sign up for complete access to all things Dish.
[CNN host Kate] Bolduan pressed Ryan on what Congress could do in response to international crisis.
“Well, I think we should move forward on natural gas exports very quickly,” the former GOP vice presidential nominee insisted. “I think we should approve an LNG terminal in the east coast to go to Europe. I think we should approve the Keystone Pipeline. And I think we should show that the U.S. is going to be moving forward on becoming energy independent.”
“Moving forward with the Keystone pipeline!” Bolduan exclaimed. “That development would take years, though, to actually make that happen.”
Ryan argued that the controversial pipeline would be a “signal” to Russia.
Tyler Lopez doubts that the Pope was really endorsing same-sex partnerships in the interview published yesterday:
The pope’s statement could easily be interpreted to mean the extension of legal rights to a caregiver living with a terminally ill loved one. Some civil unions also allow widows who wish to form a new romantic partnership to keep Social Security survivor’s benefits. To give you an idea of how slow things are moving here, this represents progress: Church leaders previously suggested that widows should “have consecrated to God their remaining years in the unmarried state.”
Being exceedingly careful not to issue any errant endorsements of a loving commitment between same-sex partners, the pope only suggests that the Vatican should examine and evaluate the circumstances of governmentally recognized relationships.
Yes, but it’s clear that gay couples could be included in such arrangements … and did you expect an American secular liberal to run the Catholic church anyway? I sure didn’t and wouldn’t want one to. Elizabeth Dias is on a shrewder path. She interprets the statement as another step in Francis’ tone-shifting project:
He also, once again, reminded the world that his papacy seeks to welcome gays, not to judge. It pointed to his desire to see a church of pastors, not of doctrinaires. It was a loud echo of the five most famous words of his papacy so far: “Who am I to judge?” He uttered them in reply to a reporter’s question on gays in an impromptu press conference last July. Even that brief gesture of increased compassion from the Holy See sent shockwaves through global Catholic communities, and it signified the shift in tone that put Francis on the cover of LGBT magazine The Advocate’s as their 2013 Man of the Year.
The dream of chaos inside Russia still animates half the people inside the Beltway. Paula Dobriansky, a big deal ambassador during the Bush administration tells an audience that Putin’s real fear is that the Maidan revolutionary spirit will spread to Moscow. That is obviously what she wants—though why anyone would seek regime disintegration in a state that possesses hundreds of nuclear missiles in not obvious.
Adam Kirsch thinks seeing Russia through a Cold War lens is “making it hard for us to assess the real dimensions of the threat—to take Putin and what he represents entirely seriously”:
If you’d forgotten – or never learned about – how the Clintons think and operate, the last couple of days were a quick Cliff Notes refresher. First up, Hillary was at a fundraiser, and talked about Ukraine. Perhaps trying to impress her audience or perhaps displaying her inner neocon, Clinton morphed – as she did in 2003 – into John McCain:
Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s. All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.
This is about as inflammatory a statement as you can imagine – and one the president has wisely eschewed. But I guess if it’s an indicator of how she thinks about the issue, it’s fair enough. Her instinct is to equate the 2o1os with the 1930s – which is one more indication of how she truly is a classic boomer politician. But, of course, after a flurry of press interest, Clinton then backtracked. Observe the form here – because there is a real possibility we could face years of this:
[Putin's action] is reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930s, when Germany under the Nazis, kept talking about how they had to protect German minorities in Poland and Czechoslovakia and elsewhere throughout Europe. So I just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. I am not making a comparison, but I am recommending that we can perhaps learn from this tactic that has been used before.
To recap: “if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did” is “not making a comparison.” I guess it all depends on what the meaning of the word “comparison” is. Get out your thesauruses – the Clintons are coming back! Carpenter, meanwhile, proffers a much more apposite analogy in history a century ago in America:
Most marriage equality opponents don’t realize that a majority of Americans disagree with them:
What’s going on here? For starters, Americans overall don’t realize how widespread support for same-sex marriage has grown — only 34 percent of the public correctly believe that most of their peers support gay marriage. This is at least partly a function of how rapidly public opinion has shifted. Ten years ago, only 32 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, compared to 53 percent in favor today — a 21-point shift. But same-sex marriage opponents are unique in the depth of their misunderstanding of the issue. Because they skew strongly conservative and deeply religious, this may be a manifestation of what Andrew Sullivan has termed “epistemic closure.” Think of this as an extreme case of confirmation bias — that tendency of people to filter out information that challenges their beliefs and preconceived notions.
Looking at the same poll, Emma Green concludes that the most surprising change over the last decade is that people “have concluded that what happens in other people’s bedrooms is none of their business”: