Century Marks

Century Marks

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).

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).

Backlash

By some estimates, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) contributed 40 percent of the money raised to combat Proposition 8 in California in 2008. The legislation overturned a California Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. A backlash against the LDS church for its support of Proposition 8 led one LDS leader to claim that Mormons are facing unparalleled religious persecution, and he likened their situation to southern blacks during the civil rights era. In 2009, when the church supported measures in Salt Lake City that prohibited discrimination against gays in housing and employment, conservatives complained it was a public relations stunt in the wake of Proposition 8 backlash (American Scholar, Autumn).

Just ask

Robert Kaplan, who teaches management practice at Harvard Busi­ness School and was a vice president at Goldman Sachs, suggests that more questions need to be asked in the workplace. People think it is a sign of weakness to ask questions, he says, but leadership is a team undertaking. Both managers and employees need to know their strengths and weaknesses. Kaplan recommends that you ask your co-workers what yours are (Chicago Tribune, August 7).

Not injurious to religion

Philip Schwadel, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska, says his research counters the notion that the more education a person has the less religious he or she will be. More education actually correlates with more prayer, Bible reading, volunteerism and church attendance. While having more education doesn't correlate with disaffiliation from religion, it does increase the odds of switching religious affiliation, especially switching into a mainline Protestant denomination (InsideHigherEd.com, August 8).