On Liberty

Here’s a short video I made introducing the ideas of John Stuart Mill culled from his work “On Liberty.” Mill was a big champion of free speech.

I think more people should read this book. You can get it for free here.

Must Read: Krugman on Poverty & Inequality

In I got a good tip from The Atlantic Wire’s email today’s on a good piece in The N.Y. Times:

The fact that “American capitalism as currently constituted is undermining the foundations of middle-class society” shouldn’t be up for argument, Krugman writes. “But it is, of course. Partly this reflects Upton Sinclair’s famous dictum: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it,” Krugman argues. “I’ve noted before that conservatives seem fixated on the notion that poverty is basically the result of character problems among the poor. This may once have had a grain of truth to it, but for the past three decades and more the main obstacle facing the poor has been the lack of jobs paying decent wages. But the myth of the undeserving poor persists, and so does a counterpart myth, that of the deserving rich,” he writes. Americans are wealthy because they made the right choices, the story goes. “But the main thing about this myth is that it misidentifies the winners from growing inequality. White-collar professionals, even if married to each other, are only doing O.K.” It’s the top 0.1 percent that are growing in wealth. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent tweets, “Nice takedown of David Brooks’ latest on inequality from @NYTimeskrugman (without ever mentioning Brooks’ name).”

The full editorial is here.

The Masks We Wear

masksNicholas Gattig wrote a  fascinating article from The Japan Times on how people adopt or expect people of different cultures to behave in a certain way, to don a stereotypical mask.

On the night of April 18, three days after the Boston Marathon bombing, a side-drama to that story unfolded between three men as they criss-crossed the city, a performance staged partly in the theater of culture.

Just before 11 p.m., Danny, a young Chinese man on a work visa in the U.S., was carjacked at gunpoint by the Tsarnaev brothers, two immigrants from the Northern Caucasus. As recounted by Danny to The Boston Globe, the ordeal was a gruesome variant of the ethnic interactions that play out in America every day, with the players assigning and assuming their roles based on stereotypes.

“Maybe you think all white guys look the same,” said the older Tsarnaev, Tamerlan, warning Danny not to remember the brothers’ faces as he was chauffeuring them around Boston.

“Exactly,” lied Danny, who later identified the men to the police.

“You are Chinese,” said Tsarnaev. “I am a Muslim.”

“Chinese are very friendly to Muslims,” Danny said. “We are so friendly to Muslims!”

The exchange is surreal, especially Tsarnaev’s non-sequitur about identity. Islam is a religion, which means being Muslim doesn’t contrast with being Chinese (however friendly disposed, China is home to an estimated 20 million Muslims).

In fact, Tsarnaev imagined himself as a jihadist, a self-image that helped propel him through a heinous crime. In his perverted reading of the faith, killing Americans is a thing Muslims do. The Chinese Danny, in turn, obliged the views of the Chechen with the gun, so he would live to see another day. Both men were staging a performance, projecting identities to each other. Their encounter was a high-stakes version of what since the 1950s has been known as “impression management.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

Justice Served


Yesterday I had jury duty, and while I know most people loathe the hassle I like the whole idea. I wasn’t thrilled that I had to take a 30 bus ride after getting in to Union Station downtown, but the commute wasn’t too bad.

The journey went smoothly. I got to the courthouse without a problem. Outside the criminal court I saw a group, Courtside Prayer. It’s a new ministry that prays for whomever wants it.

holtAt 9:00 prospective jurors were shown a video, a tad dated as it featured NBC’s Lester Holt with a mustache. It looked like the video was from the 1980s. Afterwards we were told that we’d be bused to a courthouse on Harrison.  When we got there the 32 of us went up to the courtroom and swiftly began jury selection. Throughout the judge was swift and got down to business. He was clear and attentive to procedure and the law.

I was one of the first 14 called up and was put on the jury. I was worried that since this was a criminal case, there might be gruesome graphics, but I trusted that I’d be on a case I could handle and I was. The first group was sent into the jury room to wait for them to choose three more jurors and an alternate. By 12:20 pm the judge was explaining the schedule and process. We then had to return by 1:30 from lunch.

The judge kept things moving along and our case was straightforward. The victim had gone to pick up her mother for a 4th of July party at her house. She had an altercation with her stepfather, who eventually hit her repeatedly. During the confusion, the victim said a man from the barbecue behind the apartment burst into the hallway of the building and stopped the fight. At some point the victim’s mother came out too and yelled, “Stop hitting my daughter!” The police were called and took the victim’s story and tried to find the defendant who’d left the scene.

The judge kept everything going at a brisk pace and all the lawyers seemed new to the profession, but the case was pretty simple and they did fine. (I do think they tried to be more dramatic and verbose than needed.) The state called four witnesses and the defense called one.

By probably 3:40 we had the case for deliberation and after two votes and a thorough discussion, we reached our verdict. Guilty as charged. The jurors were conscientious and a good group to work with. We stuck to the facts and invited dissension. While people didn’t want things to drag out, from what I could tell, no one compromised on their duty to be fair. All earned their $17.20 for the day. One man said that was the rate they paid in 1972, when gas cost .36 a gallon. (Most people drove to the courthouse.)

Considering that the incident occurred less than a month ago, it’s possible to get a speedy trial in this county at least. Perhaps domestic violence cases are sped along as the parties are so closely tied.

“Living with the Lord always before them”

“Living with the Lord always before them”: considerations of spiritual guidance offered by Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard

A Facebook posting lead me on a search of essays about how the Jesuits saw Desolation and Consolation. Now I’m reading the


Nestled in Chapter Six of his inspiring book, Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard emphasizes the importance of identifying and emulating the wisdom of true spiritual practitioners (e.g., Billy Graham, Teresa of Calcutta, William Law, Martin Luther, Ignatius of Loyola, as he names a few) who have “walked the walk” of following Christ as Willard asks the provocative question: “How did they come to be able to live with ‘the Lord always before them?'” (1) Willard goes on to assert in his response: “We learn from them how to do that by making them our close companions on the way.” (2) Inspired by Willard’s inclusion of Ignatius of Loyola, in particular, in his list of spiritual practitioners, the work of this essay seeks to explore the spiritual guidance offered by Dallas Willard in the company of Ignatius of Loyola with the assertion they both can serve as viable and relevant companions for contemporary spiritual seekers who desire to engage in the process of spiritual formation and transformation into Christ-likeness. (3)

As guides who are skilled in the art of spiritual formation, both Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard, although centuries apart, can invite us to ponder how God offers grace in abundance, not only as God did for each of them, but as God desires to do for each one of us. Furthermore, since Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard can effectively model for us a significant depth of personal authenticity, we can relate to them as real persons–especially since their writings give evidence that they have pondered life’s challenges in light of their evolving relationship with Christ. For “at the heart of Christianity, the Christian believer confidently expects to find religious experience: an existential encounter in faith with his [or her] God … Moreover, religious experience is not an esoteric event but a dimension of his [or her] ordinary living.” (4)

Since the writers in the Christian tradition generally offer their spiritual guidance primarily through the legacy of their classic spiritual texts, the work of this essay revolves around the textual settings offered by The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola and Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard as a way for us to tap into the rich legacies of both of these spiritual guides. The motivating questions of interest in working with excerpts from their selected texts in the context of spiritual formation can be formulated as follows: First, what is their main message regarding the essence of spiritual formation in each of their texts? Second, how might they offer guidance to contemporary spiritual seekers who desire spiritual formation in Christ? Third, what might be the experience of contemporary spiritual seekers who may look to Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard as spiritual guides through accessing their spiritual texts, The Spiritual Exercises and Renovation of the Heart, respectively? Each of their texts reveals a working document, not simply a text to be read and put aside, particularly since The Spiritual Exercises and Renovation of the Heart are both written in such a way as to invite the reader into a clear response filled with discernment flowing from a desire to embody the teachings of Christ. In particular, their texts have the potential for offering a significant blueprint for guiding spiritual seekers toward fuller and more explicit expression of their spiritual longings. Thus, it may be accurately asserted that Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard have the capacity to be relevant, applicable, inspirational, and devotional as they function as spiritual guides via their classic texts that are intended to be, as Willard effectively asserts, “intensely practical.” (5)


For more click here. Continue reading

John Green on Flags and Helpers

I feel we should focus on the helpers. I trust that we’ll find the terrorists and I trust that justice will be done.

A few weeks ago I saw on Anderson Cooper 360°  a woman whose husband, a prison chief, was murdered. She has a policy of not mentioning the murderer’s name. She doesn’t want to bring him fame. I think that’s an excellent policy. Whoever’s behind this should not get famous or infamous. They should simply be punished.

The Trouble with Law School

The Atlantic has a good story on the high rates of unemployment for law school graduates. It begins:

The barren job market for law school grads has become a familiar reality by now. But here’s something that tends to get lost in the story: The problem isn’t just about no-name law schools churning out JD’s nobody wants to hire. Even graduates at some of the country’s top programs are struggling.

At this point, it seems, there are only a small handful of schools that could reasonably be called safe bets.

The American Bar Association recently released its annual collection of jobs placement data from all 202 accredited law schools, and the big picture was, as expected, dreadful. Nine months after graduation, just 56 percent of the class of 2012 had found stable jobs in law — meaning full-time, long-term employment in a position requiring bar passage, or a judicial clerkship, i.e. the sorts of jobs people go to law school for in the first place. The figure had improved just 1 percent compared to the class of 2011.

Meanwhile, a full 27.7 percent were underemployed, meaning they were either in short-term or part-time jobs, jobless and hunting for work, or enrolled (read: burning cash) in another degree program.

For more

So if you don’t want a lot of debt and no job, try something other than law school.

Remembering Roger Ebert

RogerEbert-thumb-550xauto-34161I really was stunned and saddened to hear that Roger Ebert died. He was such a constant in my media life. I loved his writing and his lively discussions on At the Movies with Gene Siskel and later with Richard Roeper.

For a few years I took Roger’s film class through the University of Chicago’s adult ed program. It was tough to get a seat in the class. The first time I took it we watched Paul Schrader‘s films and Schrader even came to our class to screen Light of Day.

The following semester to cut down on students who would have to be turned away when the class moved from Spertus College to a screening room on Michigan Avenue, Ebert chose to focus on films by French director Robert Bresson. Bresson’s films are tough as he rejects everything Hollywood loves: surprise endings, professional actors, music, you name if it’s in a blockbuster, it’s not an element of a Bresson film. I love a good challenge I signed up again. Even in the smaller new space, the class was full and some were turned away. A lot of the people had been taking the class for 18 years by then and many were knowledgeable film viewers. Ebert never put anyone down or carried himself as if he was smarter or better than us. In fact, several times he’d point out that the only reason he was teaching the course was the roll of a die. Hardly, since he was an expert, but he conducted the class with such respect for all.

roger geneUsually the class followed the films of one director and we were able to see his evolution or what made him tick. I recall taking the Schrader, Bresson, Billie Wilder classes, but I think there were others. I do remember winning the Beat Roger Oscar contest in the class one year. Talk about a fluke. I got 8 or 10 books, one autographed, which I’ll have to dig out.

Beyond the class, Roger’s website and reviews continued me to seek out challenging films, to expand what I watched. Thus I discovered great films, old and new.

I admire how Roger wrote, how he curated outstanding web content on his blog, how he taught me to view films and how he exhibited joy in film. He wasn’t just a public intellect, he was a happy one. How often do we see that? He cared passionately about film, didn’t take himself to seriously, was honest about his likes and dislikes – even his early feelings for Siskel. He lived well. I was always awed by how bravely and openingly he continued to live and work while battling cancer.

It’s sad that he lost that battle, but we were lucky to have him all these years. For a reminder of Ebert’s passion and insight, take a look at the Chicago Tonight video, which you can watch online here.

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Daily Prompt: Quote Me

I usually don’t do the Daily Post Prompts, but this one appealed to me. Yesterday the prompt asked bloggers to share quotations that spoke to them.

The quotation that is foremost in my mind, that I use whenever prompted to add a quote to a profile is Daniel Burnham‘s “Make no little plans, they have no power to stir men’s blood.” I choose to cast aside the possible sexism figuring that Burnham was a product of the 19th century and to uplifted by the exhortation to think and act big, to imagine and shoot for the crazy, the different, and go beyond the ordinary. To think different, as Apple suggests.

From the Bible, I also really like Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

I think this encapsulates a lot, not all, that we’re asked to do in life.

How ’bout you? What quotes inspire you the most?