Worth Reading - 2/24

1. Trevin Wax asks whether every action, every decision, every purchase has to be viewed as a political statement.

Remember when you could go to Chick-fil-a or Burger King without feeling like you were making a political point?

Or when you could buy a few things from Walmart, stop in at Whole Foods, and check out the sales at Target without wondering how either your support or boycott would affect public policy?

Or when you could watch an award show on TV or a sports event without hearing political speeches or seeing protests?

A couple weeks ago, I nearly tore my hair out when the news broke that Chili’s had an affiliate who wanted to help diners donate a portion of their meal’s proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Chili’s is where my family eats most often. (Yes, Chili’s—to the jeering of my foodie friends who like to mock!) Thankfully, within just a day or two, Chili’s issued a statement to assure their patrons that the restaurant was not supporting Planned Parenthood and that donations to the abortion giant would not be taking place.

2. David Brooks from the New York Times laments the state of things and notes that reality isn't that great right now, but our perception of it might not be entirely correct, either.

Most of us came of age in the last half of the 20th century and had our perceptions of “normal” formed in that era. It was, all things considered, an unusually happy period. No world wars, no Great Depressions, fewer civil wars, fewer plagues.

It’s looking like we’re not going to get to enjoy one of those times again. The 21st century is looking much nastier and bumpier: rising ethnic nationalism, falling faith in democracy, a dissolving world order.

At the bottom of all this, perhaps, is declining economic growth. As Nicholas Eberstadt points out in his powerful essay “Our Miserable 21st Century,” in the current issue of Commentary, between 1948 and 2000 the U.S. economy grew at a per-capita rate of about 2.3 percent a year.

But then around 2000, something shifted. In this century, per-capita growth has been less than 1 percent a year on average, and even since 2009 it’s been only 1.1 percent a year. If the U.S. had been able to maintain postwar 20th-century growth rates into this century, U.S. per-capita G.D.P. would be over 20 percent higher than it is today.
On a chilly morning in December 1988, computer analyst Jack Barsky embarked on his usual morning commute to his office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, leaving his wife and baby daughter at home in Queens. As he entered the subway, he caught sight of something startling: a daub of red paint on a metal beam. Barsky had looked for it every morning for years; it meant he had a life-changing decision to make, and fast.

Barsky knew the drill. The red paint was a warning that he was in immediate danger, that he should hurry to collect cash and emergency documents from a prearranged drop site. From there, he would cross the border into Canada and contact the Soviet consulate in Toronto. Arrangements would be made for him to leave the country. He would cease to be Jack Barsky. The American identity he had inhabited for a decade would evaporate and he would return to his former life: that of Albrecht Dittrich, a chemist and KGB agent, with a wife and seven-year-old son waiting patiently for him in East Germany.

Barsky thought of his American daughter, Chelsea: could he really leave her? And, if he didn’t, how long could he evade both the KGB and US counterintelligence?

4. The Babylon Bee argues the best way to communicate with people is to call them Nazi's or equate them with Hitler, according to a recent study.

“We found that when one person called the other a Nazi, the subject’s mind was immediately changed, no matter what topic was being discussed, almost every time,” a Purdue rep told reporters. “More respectful tactics like trying to listen to the person’s perspective, using logic, appealing to emotions, pointing out fallacies, or merely agreeing to disagree were almost totally ineffective, but as soon as any of the subjects played the Nazi card, their dialogue partner was almost instantly swayed to their way of thinking.”

“The data is clear: calling someone a Nazi is a persuasive, compelling way to communicate ideas,” he added.

According to university researchers, screaming at the top of your lungs that the person you are conversing with is “literally Hitler” is similarly effective.

5. This was an outstanding sermon by Chuck Quarles at SEBTS: