Century Marks

Century Marks

Birds of a feather

In his 2008 book The Big Sort Bill Bishop documented how transient Americans are increasingly choosing to live in politically like-minded neighborhoods. While not shocking, the consequence of this is that people are less inclined to encounter others with opposing points of view, and when they do they seem very alien and even threatening. This movement toward homogenous neighborhoods is making it easier for parties to gerrymander congressional districts, which merely exacerbates the problem. Primaries become the real battleground in many districts, and independent voters end up being the losers ("The Cook Report," NationalJournal, August 5).

Things done and undone

In a representative sample of Americans, researchers discovered that regrets over inaction were more severe and lasted longer than regrets about actions. Regrets more often than not had to do with situations which couldn't be fixed. Loves lost and unfulfilling relationships were the most common regrets, followed by family matters. Women had more regrets related to romance than men, while men had more regrets about work than women. People with higher levels of education tended to have more career-related regrets (Mike Morrison and Neal Roese, Social Psychological and Personality Science, March 14).

Hating Abe

In the history of Abraham Lincoln haters, Pink Parker of Troy, Alabama, must be near the top. When he returned from serving in the Confederate army, he discovered his house burned, his slaves freed and his livestock gone. Each year on the anniversary of Lincoln's death he would march around town in his Sunday clothes, wearing a badge celebrating the "death of Old Abe Lincoln." He offered the town a large granite monument with the inscription, "Erected by Pink Parker in honor of John Wilkes Booth for killing old Abe Lincoln." The town declined, so Parker put it in his own front yard, where it became a tourist attraction (David W. Blight in The Global Lincoln, edited by Richard Carwardine and Jay Sexton, Oxford University Press).

Real amateurs

Teams from Yale and Princeton met to play football for the first time in the fall of 1873, and the contest became an enduring rivalry. They had no uniforms and little equipment. They used ad hoc rules agreed upon the year before. No one had thought to bring a football, so the game was delayed an hour and a half until one was found (Steven J. Overman, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Sport, Mercer University Press).

Are we safe yet?

In all the talk about raising the debt ceiling, three figures have not gotten much attention: $5.9 trillion spent on defense and nuclear weapons activities since 2000, not counting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; $1.36 trillion spent on these two wars; and $636 billion spent on Homeland Security through a number of agencies. That comes close to a total of $8 trillion spent in the past decade for defense. Since 2000 the Pentagon budget has increased 44 percent (adjusted for inflation). "Has your money, funneled into the vast and shadowy world of military and national security spending, made you safer?" asks Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project (CommonDreams.org, August 16).