The not-so-subtle equation of America's founding with biblical Christianity has been shown time and again to be historically inaccurate. The founding was a unique combination of biblical teaching and Enlightenment rationalism, and most of the founding fathers, as historian Edwin Gaustad, among many others, has noted, were not orthodox Christians, but instead were primarily products of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, we should recall, has never been much of a friend of biblical Christianity.
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas, no political ally of Neuhaus, extended the point in a recent interview: "Christians' first political responsibility is to be the church, and by being the church they should understand that their first political loyalty is to God, and the God we worship as Christians, in a manner that understands that we are not first and foremost about making democracy work, but about the truthful worship of the true God."
I do a little gardening on the balcony, and although I adore my Sunset Western Garden Book, it's not the world's most useful book for garden trouble-shooting. And I have great need of trouble-shooting: why the hell can't I grow rosemary? What will it take for my mint to stop dying off? Why doesn't my balcony look gorgeous?
Gayla Trail's You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening didn't provide me all the answers I needed, but it made me feel better about the occasional wilting, withering or drooping plant. It's definitely a beginner's primer, but there are parts of gardening where I'm a beginner.
For example, Trail does a great job explaining how one can bypass chemical fertilizers and pest controls without making the organic-gardening process seem overly complicated for the casual chive-grower. She's also a lot more realistic about the constraints many of us urban gardeners face -- like not even having a yard at all. Those of us who occasionally get frustrated at garden features where the subject sighs about the unfairness of only having a tenth of an acre to work on will find something to like in this book.
[S]ome companies have embraced the idea of serving their online audience, others are failing, said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group. Golesworthy is in the firm's Boston office.
"The top companies of the index ... have made a correlation with how you treat a customer online and your bottom line," he said. "Other companies are now struggling to deal with what is expected of them."
Due to the recent swarm of newsmaking data-security breaches, more than 40% of online users are altering their online channel behavior by making fewer online purchases, according to the latest Consumer Internet Barometer survey by The Conference Board.
I am a pretty hardcore e-commerce shopper. You know what I've noticed since the news broke that up to 40 mil credit cards could be affected by a security leak? ("Security Leak Reveals Weaknesses in Credit Card Processing System," Information Week, June 21, 05) Not one of the e-commerce vendors I've patronized in the past year has contacted me to assure me that my data is secure. Nor has any e-commerce vendor I've patronized in the past year contacted me to assure me they're checking to make sure my personal data is secure.
I am thinking that for the right audience, an e-commerce company that stressed it scrupulous commitment to safe data would have a license to print money.
[W]hile Procter is among just a handful of companies introducing downmarket versions of upmarket brands, it has a lot more company when it comes to advertising to a budget-minded nation ...
As Sridhar Balasubramanian, an associate professor of marketing at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, put it, "The premium that consumers were traditionally willing to pay for a brand name is under attack."
So if brands are willing to appeal to budget-minded consumers, it seems like there's a lot of room for Wal-Mart to approach some traditionally upscale brands and make exclusive deals with them. And maybe product availability, not service or experience, will help them woo the affluent consumer.
Or maybe all that lip-flapping about how people want to pay for a shopping experience is a canny reflection of what really gets people to spend. The only constant I've been able to pin down when it comes to retail? Is that it thrives on change.
"Big Ideas, Little Books -- What a Concept!" (NYT, June 24, 05) bemoans the incredible bulk of modern books and introduces the radical notion that compressed books -- be they constrained by subject matter, scope or page count -- can be a rewarding reading experience.
Among the book lines I'm now itching to try out: HarperCollins' Eminent Lives and W.W. Norton's Great Discoveries. But the article gives short shrift -- i.e. doesn't mention at all -- three different lines of compressed books that I've enjoyed tremendously.
You all know how I'm playing oracle with "In the future, people will pay for personalization and service!" and all. It's nice to see I'm not the only one who thinks so:
While many wealthy consumers are indeed cautious with their cash and strongly motivated to get maximum value for the money they spend, when it comes to certain products and categories, that’s not always the case. In fact, wealthy consumers will often pay a premium to enjoy a sense of exclusivity or to gain added convenience.
Oh, the horror of standing on line at the bank--or worse, using one of those yucky ATM machines. Private banking will grow among the wealthy by providing what the super-rich crave: service, security and privacy.
The rich never travel cattle class with their knees tucked under their chins as they munch honey-roasted peanuts. Look for major carriers to offer exclusive flights catering to first-class or business-class passengers.
So we're back to the idea that people will pay with service, and -- here's the new item -- people will pay to get the hell away from other people. I bring all this up now so you can nod knowingly as new services get rolled out, and you can think, "I totally saw this coming."
Computers and the Internet are changing the way people read. Thus far, search engines and hyperlinks, those underlined words or phrases that when clicked take you to a new Web page, have turned the online literary voyage into a kind of U-pick island-hop. Far more is in store.
Now say you're getting divorced. Watch columnist Betsy Hart twirl in new rhetorical circles as she attempts to blame her husband for a divorce she apparently filed for -- while steadfastly maintaining that she is not, repeat, not part of "the divorce culture."