Category: General

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,

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:

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.

“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,

Stephen Dubner, one-half of the Freakonomics team, knows that tackling big issues can big problems, and that’s often why big issues (think: poverty) don’t get solved. Dubner’s thought? Think small. Don’t try to solve everything; solve one thing.

It’s much less complicated, you’ll have easier access to the data that you’ll need. Most importantly, you will preserve one of your most precious resources: optimism.

He gives details in the following short video.

bad-books-illustra_1671130cIt’s August. Still plenty of time to tackle that summer reading list. The good folks at Intercollegiate Review want to make sure that you don’t waste any time on junk – after all, life is too short for bad wine or bad books. Of course, you are free to debate any of their choices but in most cases, wretched is wretched.

Here are a few of their “bad” picks and the thinking behind their choice.

  • Alfred Kinsey, et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)
    So mesmerized were Americans by the authority of Science, with a capital S, that it took forty years for anyone to wonder how data is gathered on the sexual responses of children as young as five. A pervert’s attempt to demonstrate that perversion is “statistically” normal.
  • Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Our Selves (1976)
    Or, Our Bodies, Our Liberal Selves. A textbook example of the modern impulse to elevate the body and its urges, libidinal and otherwise, above soul and spirit.