Category: General

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
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ThankYouService“Thank you for your service,” they say, as they shake our hands and pat our backs.

We smile and thank them for their gratitude and try to think of something else to talk about. These encounters with strangers happen from time to time, though always on Veteran’s Day. It’s the one time we can count on civilians—a group from which we came but can never fully return—to think about us.

On Veteran’s Day, they think of the men and women who march in the VFW parades. They think of their grandfathers, the gregarious World War II sailors, eager to share sea stories, and their uncles, stolid Vietnam-era airmen reticent to talk about the war. They think of the aunt who served in the Persian Gulf and the neighbor’s son who recently shipped off to Afghanistan.

They think of us when they see us in airport terminals, young soldiers and marines, giving our teary-eyed parents a welcome-home embrace as we return from recruit training. They think of us when they see us on airport tarmacs, older soldiers and marines, kissing our runny-nosed kids goodbye as we leave for missions of peace-keeping or war-making.

They think of us as we are in the movies: marching off to war with stoic resolve and assaulting beachheads with quiet determination. They think of us aligned on parade grounds, weapons and uniforms sparkling in the sun, postures the very picture of discipline.

They think that military service is about combat and heroism and uncommon acts of valor.

But there are things a veteran knows.
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 10, 2014
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hip-throwToday marks the 239th birthday of the finest fighting force in the history of the world.

The Marine Corps Birthday makes me nostalgic for the good ol’ days of . . . well, okay, maybe good is too strong a word. In fact, I can’t say that I miss being on active duty (15 years was more than enough). But I do miss being with my fellow Marines.

To give you an idea of what the life of a Marine is like (and why I don’t miss it), here is a blog entry I wrote in 2004 that outlines a typical day in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program:
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, October 31, 2014
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man_thinking_numbersIs the murder rate in the U.S. increasing or decreasing? What percentage of teen girls will give birth this year? What percentage of Americans are Christian or Muslim? What percentage are immigrants?

If you guess wrong, you’re not alone. A new global survey, building on work in the UK last year for the Royal Statistical Society, finds that most people in the countries surveyed were wildly wrong. For instance, Americans guess wrong on each of the following questions:

• What Percentage of Girls Age 15-19 Give Birth Each Year? (Avg. guess: 24 percent; Actual: 3 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Muslim? (Avg. guess: 15 percent; Actual: 1 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Christian? (Avg. guess: 56 percent; Actual: 78 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Immigrants? (Avg. guess: 32 percent; Actual: 13 percent)

• What Percentage of People Voted in the Last Major Election? (Avg. guess: 57 percent; Actual: 67 percent)

• What Percentage of People Are Unemployed and Looking For Work? (Avg. guess: 32 percent; Actual: 6 percent)

While these examples may seem relatively trivial, they highlight that when it comes to numbers that shape policy and politics, many Americans are extremely confused. Ideally, before making a decision about how to vote or stressing about the latest health threat, we’d research the numbers to develop an informed decision. But the number of issues we face each day often prevents us from doing more than making a “best guess.”

Fortunately, there are ways we can hone our skills at guessing and estimation — guesstimation — that will help us minimize our innumeracy. Here are a few tips for making better guesses about numbers related to politics, policy, and demographics:
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Rome Office director Kishore Jayabalan presents PoveryCure at the Sorrento "Liberty Camp"

Rome Office director Kishore Jayabalan presents PoveryCure at the Sorrento “Liberty Camp”

On October 8-9, the director of Acton’s Rome office, Kishore Jayabalan, and its operations manager, Michael Severance, traveled to southern Italy to present PovertyCure and The Call of the Entrepreneur, the original and latest of the Institute’s popular educational  DVD films.

About thirty university students and young business professionals gathered near the resort town of Sorrento to attend a week-long “Liberty Camp”, organized by Glenn Cripe of the Phoenix-based Language of Liberty Institute and co-sponsored by the Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation whose founder, Jacek Spendel, is a two-time Acton University alumnus. Liberty Camp is a traveling educational course, recruiting participants mainly from Eastern and Central European youth. The classical liberal curriculum in conducted entirely in English and focuses seminars on the foundations of economic and political liberty.

Countries represented at the Liberty Camp in Sorrento included the Ukraine, Albania, Poland, Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
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Image source: Marie Claire

Image source: Marie Claire

Marie Claire’s latest feature on inspirational women is misleading.

The article by Elizabeth Griffin is titled “These Remarkable Women Are Fighting ISIS. It’s Time You Know Who They Are” — and the women profiled are indeed remarkable. Even if, like me, you generally oppose women serving in combat roles, you have to admire their courage in fighting the evil that is ISIS.

But what is misleading it the claim that they are women. Of the 13 females in the photo essay, two are young girls. As the feature notes,
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Jerry-Seinfeld-Clio-Speech-2-700x450Out of all the passages in the Bible, I suspect the advertiser’s least favorite verse is Isaiah 55:2: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?”

Advertising — like most other forms of marketing — can serve a noble and necessary function. But even most ad executives will admit that much of what they do is intended to fuel our desire to spend money on things we don’t really need and which cannot satisfy us.

Yet even knowing this truth we seem to never tire of hearing about the latest and greatest products and services. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. . . Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? (v. 1:8,10).

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is neither a preacher nor a prophet. But when the advertising industry recently gave him their highest award, he satirically skewered advertising-fueled materialism in a manner that is almost Biblical.

university-analysis-1To be a Christian requires, at a minimum, that a person subscribe to certain beliefs (such as that Jesus is God). For an organization to be labeled Christian would therefore imply that the members (or at least the leaders) also subscribe to certain beliefs. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) is, as the name implies, a Christian organization, so it isn’t surprising that it requires it leaders to subscribe to Christian beliefs.

Sadly, it’s also not surprising that some people are offended a Christian organization would expect its leaders to be Christians. That’s why it is not altogether unexpected (though still disconcerting) that California State University schools has “derecognized” IVCF. As Ed Stetzer says,
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juvi“Inmates are still people, and therefore need to be treated as such, with all the challenges and potential that face all human persons,” says Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor. “One of the things it means to treat someone with the dignity they deserve as a human being is to not subject them to conditions where the threat of rape is rampant.”

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported on one of the most overlooked threats to prisoner dignity — sexual victimization by correctional authorities. One of the most surprising findings was that more than half (54 percent) of all substantiated incidents of staff sexual misconduct and a quarter (26 percent) of all incidents of staff sexual harassment were committed by female staff. The problem is even more pronounced at juvenile detention centers where, as Josh Voorhees points out, nine out of every 10 reporters of sexual abuse are males victimized by female staffers:
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confused_customerA new report by the Pew Research Center finds that about one-in-ten Americans describe themselves as libertarian — and yet hold views that do not differ much from those of the overall public. As Pew’s Jocelyn Kiley says, “Self-described libertarians tend to be modestly more supportive of some libertarian positions, but few of them hold consistent libertarian opinions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues.”

Overall, 11 percent of Americans describe themselves as libertarian and have a general idea about what the term means. Another 3 percent who described themselves as libertarians were unable to choose the correct term that applied to “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government” (choices were: libertarian, progressive, authoritarian, Unitarian, or communist). Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones confused: only 57 percent of those polled were able to choose the correct term; 1 in 5 thought the term applied to “progressive” and 6 percent thought the answer was “communist”(!).

Almost twice as many men as women self-identify as libertarian (15 percent of men and 7 percent of women). The percentage of Whites and Hispanics who self-describe as libertarian is almost identical (12 and 11 percent, respectively), while only 3 percent black Americans refer to themselves using that term. Libertarians are also more likely to consider themselves political Independents (14 percent) than either Republican (12 percent) or Democrat (6 percent).

The beliefs held by these self-described libertarians were somewhat surprising.
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“They say they want justice for Mike Brown,” says Mumtaz Lalani, an store owner in Ferguson, Missouri, “Is this justice? I don’t understand. What justice is this?

Lalani was referring to the looters who, on Saturday, robbed his store and attempted to burn it down.

The events in Ferguson are heartbreaking, but they will soon be all-but-forgotten. Within a few weeks the media—and the public’s limited attention—will move on to another story. Within a few months the criminal justice system will determine who is most responsible for the tragic death—whether it was Mike Brown or the officer who pulled the trigger. But the impact on Ferguson of the looting and riots will likely last for decades. And if other cities are any indication, Ferguson may never recover. As Fred Siegel explains,
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