Century Marks

Century Marks

Fervent prayer

When Congress was bogged down in the debate over raising the debt ceiling, the chaplain of the Senate voiced the concerns of the nation in his daily prayers. Barry C. Black, a longtime navy chaplain and a Seventh-day Adventist minister, urged the Senate to reach a resolution to the stalemate, and his prayers be­came more intense as the debt deadline ap­proached. On one of the last days before an agreement was reached, Black prayed: "Faced with potentially disastrous consequences, give the members of this body the wisdom to work while it is day. For the night comes, when no one can work" (Washington Post, July 31).

Dorothy’s secret

Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement, who is now being considered for canonization, apparently had an abortion early in her life. She was reluctant to talk about it because she didn't want to encourage other women to do what she had done. One woman told Day that she had had an abortion because she knew Day had had one. Even though she was opposed to abortion, Day's criticism of it was muted in light of her own experience (America, July 1).

Repair work

Law students at Harvard, working for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, are offering their services gratis to Bostonians whose houses are being foreclosed. Working with them are Project No One Leaves, a consortium of lawyers and activists, and Boston Community Capital (BCC), a community financial development organization. BCC buys up distressed properties and then sells them back to the original owners at a price just above current market value. Law professor David Grossman, who has a degree from Harvard Divinity School, heads up the Legal Aid Bureau. He says that his efforts at fighting foreclosures stem from a key principle of Jewish ethics—tikkun olam, which refers to the obligation to "repair the world" (Nation, June 15).

Billions upon billions

Scott Russell Sanders asks you to imagine how you'd spend a billion dollars if you kept it under your mattress and didn't earn any interest. If you lived 50 years, you could spend $1.7 million per month or $55,000 per day. If you invested that money instead in U.S. Treasury bonds, at current rates you could spend $110,000 every day without touching the principal. That daily amount is a little more than twice the median annual household income in the U.S. So why do some billionaires want even more? It isn't the money, says Sanders, it's the power they gain through the money (Orion, July/August).

Wages are sin

In the 1970s Kenneth J. Douglas was CEO of Dean Foods, a leading U.S. dairy company. He earned what would be $1 million a year in today's economy and lived well but not ostentatiously. Numerous times he turned down pay raises because he thought they were bad for the morale of the company's workers. Today his successor earns ten times as much in compensation and lives an opulent life. Meanwhile, workers' wages at the company have been sliding. Some analysts observe that the social norms that discouraged big executive wages in the 1970s have changed. Now greed is considered good, and the people at the top believe they deserve what they make. When it comes to wage inequality, the U.S. ranks alongside developing countries—ahead of Uganda and Jamaica but behind Cameroon and the Ivory Coast (Washington Post, June 18).