From my last posting about Egypt, last summer:
One way or another, they aren't likely to get to 130 million.
For West Coast programs that can afford the steep airfare, the best bet is to cast their nets even further west into the Pacific. Hawaii produced five NFL linemen, and tiny American Samoa (population: 67,190) produced six. Those who can't afford the flights to paradise may want to check closer to home in Salt Lake City, a metro area that produced five NFL linemen -- including former Oregon great Haloti Ngata. Like Ngata, three of the other future NFL linemen who grew up in Utah are of Polynesian descent. Salt Lake City has a high Polynesian population because the Mormon church does extensive missionary work in the Pacific islands, and many families have relocated from the islands to Salt Lake City, where the church is headquartered.
SI VAULT: How Samoa became Eden for recruiters
Anthropology may help explain why so many good linemen developed in certain areas. Many of the linemen from west of the Rockies are of Polynesian descent. Polynesian cultures tend to produce large men capable of generating massive amounts of force. And with good reason. "Big, fast males sound like what ought to come out of centuries or millennia of social systems where there is direct male-to-male violence, but not where there are standoff weapons used in war like bows and arrows," University of Utah anthropology professor Henry Harpending wrote in an e-mail. "There was certainly this kind of violence on Polynesian islands, which were demographic pressure cookers."
Harpending is one of the authors of The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, which argues that, contrary to popular belief, the advent of advanced societies didn't stop human evolution but actually kicked it into a higher gear. In a phone interview, Harpending called the development of the Polynesian islands "a unique experiment in human history."
"They were fighting for land," Harpending said. "There just wasn't enough arable land in most places. The records and the archaeology both show that there was just a lot of warfare, violence, turnover of chiefs."
Harpending wrote that it might be more difficult to explain the anthropological reasons for the explosion of players in the South without knowing more specifics about their ancestries. Most would be classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as black, and Harpending said most black Americans are descended from ancestors who lived in the tropical regions of central Africa. He wrote that throughout history, most violence in those areas tended to be "hand-to-hand," which would have produced large, fast, muscular males through natural selection. Like the Polynesians, ancient people in central Africa never favored the bow-and-arrow as a hunting or warfare tool. Harpending said archaeological evidence from central Africa shows the ancient residents preferred spears and bludgeoning instruments. In other words, the biggest and strongest would have survived the fighting to reproduce. "Bows and arrows kept the distance between people," Harpending said. "It decreased the premium on being big and strong
Martin Peretz Is Not Sorry. About Anything. by Stephen Rodrick in the NYT
Peretz in Exile by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in New York
This Peretz-Kirchick fiasco reminds me of one of the stranger stories of the 2000 election: Al Gore's claim that, when he was an undergraduate at Harvard, he and his wife inspired the bestselling 1970 novel Love Story. It was made into a huge hit movie starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in, according to Gore, the Al and Tipper roles.
In fact Love Story's author, Erich Segal, a Harvard professor of Greek and Latin literature, said that his hero Oliver, "the tough, macho guy who's a poet at heart," was not inspired by Gore, but by Gore's roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, the college football player who went on to win an Oscar in The Fugitive. According to Segal, only a bit of Oliver's character—the family baggage of being intimidated by a famous, domineering father—was drawn from the son of Senator Albert Gore Sr.
Yet, the former Vice President's assumption that Professor Segal must have been fascinated by his undergraduate self is understandable. Because at about the same time, another Harvard professor, Martin Peretz, was beginning a lifelong infatuation with Gore.
It all started in 1965 when Al was a 17-year-old freshman and Marty his 26-year-old political science professor. Bob Zelnick, Gore's biographer, wrote:
"Perhaps the most significant friendship Gore formed at Harvard was with his resident instructor, Martin Peretz …"
Of course, the depths of Peretz's passion can be exaggerated. After all, as late as 1968, Gore didn't make Peretz's all time Top Three list, according to radical muckraker Alexander Cockburn's book Al Gore: A User's Manual:
Still, Peretz's feelings for Gore have certainly been enduring. In 2006, he endorsed Gore for President (for the third time, after 1988 and 2000), writing:
"Let me tell you a few words about the question as to whether Al Gore has changed. Actually, to me he is essentially the same young man I met in a Harvard freshman seminar 41 years ago…"
Ronald Reagan as Dad, a Sunny Stranger
Now, on the occasion of what would have been the former president’s 100th birthday, his youngest son, Ron Reagan, has written a deeply felt memoir — a memoir that underscores the bafflement his own children often felt about their father, a man the younger Mr. Reagan describes as an inscrutable, “paradoxical character,” “warm yet remote,” “affable as they come” but with “virtually no close friends besides his wife,” a man who “thrived on public display yet remained intensely private.”
“His children, if they were being honest,” Mr. Reagan writes in “My Father at 100,” “would agree that he was as strange a fellow as any of us had ever met. Not darkly strange, mind you. In fact, he was so naturally sunny, so utterly without guile, so devoid of cynicism or pettiness as to create for himself a whole new category of strangeness. ... The author says that he never felt that his father didn’t love or care for him but that he often seemed to be “wandering somewhere in his own head.”
“Occasionally,” Mr. Reagan writes, “he seemed to need reminding about basic aspects of my life — like birthdays, who my friends were or how I was doing in school. I could share an hour of warm camaraderie with Dad, then once I’d walked out the door, get the uncanny feeling I’d disappeared into the wings of his mind’s stage, like a character no longer necessary to the ongoing story line.”
Us v. Them: Good News from the Ancients
By Carlin Romano
"Us against them" seems a staple of human psychology ... Looking through a recent New York Times, you couldn't help thinking that the notion merits a separate daily section to organize stories efficiently: North Korean vs. South Korean, North Ivorian vs. South Ivorian (those hard geographical divisions help), e-book reader vs. traditional book lover, New York Giant vs. Dallas Cowboy, boomer vs. Gen X'er, man vs. woman.
Are we just boringly binary?
And why, as both Rodney King and distinguished science writer David Berreby asked, for different reasons, can't we all get along?Back in 2005, Berreby tried to open our eyes on the subject with his noncontentiously titled Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind (Little, Brown and Co.). We can't help being tribal thinkers, Berreby explained, because organizing other humans into kinds is "an absolute requirement for being human." It is, he wrote, "the mind's guide for understanding anyone we do not know personally, for seeing our place in the human world, and for judging our actions." There is "apparently no people known to history or anthropology that lacks a distinction between 'us' and 'others,'" and particularly others who don't rise to our level.
Our categories for humans, Berreby elaborated, "serve so many different needs, there is no single recipe for making one." Categories for other people "can't be understood objectively." We fashion them in classic pragmatic style to suit our purposes in solving problems,
... particularly that of generalizing about people we know by only a feature or two. We make these categories—often out of strong emotional need. We don't discover them. American suburbanites need "soccer moms," Southern kids need "Nascar dads," Yemenites need neither.
... "The issue," Berreby observed, "is not what human kinds are in the world, but what they are in the mind—not how we tell Tamils and Seventh-day Adventists and fans of Manchester United from their fellow human beings, but why we want to."
True enough. The problem remains that this habit of hostility to the "Other" seems inescapable, even if it's not hard-wired into us. We've been talking like Tarzan since the ancient Greeks. Me Athenian, you barbarian. Me Roman, you Carthaginian loser. Me Greek, you dumb Egyptian animal worshiper. Me better, you worse.
Again, as with Berreby's study, a book can help us if not save us—a small tool to pry the fetishisms of "Us vs. Them" from our minds.
Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, by Erich S. Gruen, out this month from Princeton University Press, like all excellent scholarship massages the mind in useful new directions. Gruen, a Berkeley professor emeritus of history and classics, wields his command of ancient sources to shake a widely shared historical belief—that ancient Greeks and Romans exuded condescension and hostility toward what European intellectuals call the "Other." For those Greeks and Romans, that largely meant peoples such as the Persians, Egyptians, and Jews. Even if Gruen doesn't wholly convince on every ground that Greeks and Romans operated like Obamas in togas, regularly reaching out to potential enemies, his careful readings of Aeschylus, Herodotus, Tacitus, and others introduce us to a kinder, gentler ancient world. His analysis confirms how even back then, tossing people into a category and then hating them en masse was a choice, not an evolutionary necessity.
Gruen doesn't deny the transhistorical phenomenon of "Us vs. Them" itself. "The denigration," he writes at the outset, "even demonization of the 'Other' in order to declare superiority or to construct a contrasting national identity is all too familiar." What bothers him is the degree to which analysis of "such self-fashioning through disparagement of alien societies" has become "a staple of academic analysis for more than three decades" (he respectfully mentions Edward Said's Orientalism and the progeny it sparked), rendering the factual phenomenon under examination too unquestioned.
As a result, Gruen reports, works of classical scholarship such as François Hartog's The Mirror of Herodotus (University of California Press, 1988) and Edith Hall's Inventing the Barbarian (Oxford University Press, 1989) leave us with the firm understanding that "negative images, misrepresentations, and stereotypes permitted ancients to invent the 'Other,' thereby justifying marginalization, subordination, and exclusion." A natural conclusion when it comes to "Us vs. Them," Gruen writes, is that "the ancients are thus to blame."
Far from rejecting evidence for the standard view, Gruen helpfully sums it up: "Jewish writers excoriated Egyptians for zoolatry and shunned admixture with Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, and Philistines. ... The Romans scattered their biases widely with negative pronouncements on easterners and westerners alike. They dismissed Greeks as lightweights ...
Gruen's mission, however, is to unpack the contrary story, far less told: "that Greeks, Romans, and Jews (who provide us with almost all the relevant extant texts) had far more mixed, nuanced, and complex opinions about other peoples."
His examples span the ancient Mediterranean and beyond. In his opening chapters, he concentrates on four pieces of evidence—Aeschylus's Persae, Herodotus's treatment of the Persians, Xenophon's Cyropaedia, and our knowledge of Alexander's cooperation with the Persians—using them to reject the "prevailing scholarly consensus" that Greeks held a consistently negative image of Persians. ... Gruen says his aim is to show that "the descriptions and conceptualizations, far from establishing simplistic stereotypes, display subtle characterizations that resist reductive placement into negative (or, for that matter, positive) categories."
Rather, his point is that the ancients, like us, enjoyed options in how they categorized others, drew upon others, and defined them in the process of shaping their own cultures. They sometimes chose—more often than one realized before reading Gruen's book—to do so in a spirit of admiration and respect. Contrary to much received opinion, we have some classical role models in resisting "Us vs. Them."A simple line, in Obama's Tucson memorial speech, captured the existentialist antidote to that ugly psychological strain.
"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world," the president said, "but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."
We also get to decide how we categorize one another. And who we include in "us." If we included everyone, what might follow from that?
I've been reading a 2010 book on education policy by Linda Darling-Hammond, who holds a named chair in Stanford's education department. The book is The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.
A few choice items, from just skipping around:
From page 4:Meanwhile, knowledge is expanding at a breathtaking pace . . . [I]n the three years from 1999 to 2002, the amount of new information produced nearly equaled the amount produced in the entire history of the world previously. The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years, and it is predicted to double every 72 hours by 2010.
Dig that last sentence! 72 hours .... She has a citation to a 2002 source for that. Could she mean 720 hours?
On page 11, there's a bar chart of PISA scores across the four subject areas, with -- just like Peter Brimelow has written -- the white scores represented by a black bar and the black scores (yes, "black," not "African-American") represented by a white bar. (Hispanics are gray, and there are variously crosshatched patterns for Asians, multiracial, and OECD average.)
From page 25:
The failure of many states to invest adequately in the education of low-income children and new immigrants, to provide them with effective teachers and the necessary curriculum and learning materials, results in growing numbers leaving school without the skills needed to become a part of the economy. While the highest-achieving nations are making steep, strategically smart investments in education, the United States is squandering much of its human capital.
Better that the last half of that last sentence said "the United States is importing poverty and loading itself down with students who first need to learn English before they can learn anything else."
From page 60:
Thus, tracking persists in the face of growing evidence that it does not substantially benefit high achievers and tends to put low achievers at a serious disadvantage, in part because of these long-standing beliefs about the role of schools in selection, and in part because good teaching is a scarce resource and thus must be allocated.
The first part of that sounds unbelievable to me (at least for the high achievers), and I note that nothing by Charles Murray or Heather Mac Donald appears in either the references or index (and immigration doesn't appear in the index). But I noticed that among the long list of her own publications in the references is something that appeared in the Huffington Post during the 2008 campaign, a plug for Wonderboy (here).
Gail Collins: Have you noticed that all the recent presidents could only accomplish a political agenda that belonged to the other side? Bill Clinton got welfare reform and George W. Bush got prescription drugs for Medicare. I’ve always expected that in his third year, Obama would wind up pushing for something like controlling pension costs for school janitors, and there he was, talking about capping spending....
David Brooks: That is a first class observation. It’s true that presidents in recent years have only succeeded by coopting the other party’s issues. Their own party goes along for partisan reasons and the other party goes along grudgingly for substantive reasons. Maybe there is some wisdom in this.
The truth is that a vast number of survivors walked home from Soviet camps in the 1940s and 1950s, including a distant in-law of mine. He had been an Italian soldier posted to fight General Patton’s invading American army. When Mussolini was overthrown, peace was declared and he deserted. But the occupying Germans rounded him up and sent him to the Eastern Front, where the Soviets captured him. When the war ended, the camp commandant opened the gate and gestured in Italy’s general direction. It took him two years to trudge home.
The claim that America’s K-12 system is inferior to that of other industrial nations is another myth whose purpose is to divert the attention of the American public from the real reasons for the offshoring of U.S. industry. Much has been made of the fact that, according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the U.S. ranks 12th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics. But the countries at the top of the list in 2009 -- Korea, Finland, Hong-Kong China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand and Japan -- tend to be small or homogeneous or both.
The overall PISA scores of American students are lowered by the poor results for blacks and Latinos, who make up 35 percent of America’s K-12 student population. Asian-American students have an average score of 541, similar to those of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. The non-Hispanic white American student average of 525 is comparable to the averages of Canada (524), New Zealand (521), and Australia (515). In contrast, the average PISA readings score of Latino students is 446 and black students is 441.
Unlike Asian immigrants, many of whom are college-educated professionals, Latino immigrants tend to be less educated than the American average. And both Latinos and blacks are disproportionately poor. ... America’s public school system works quite well, for non-poor native students. It is overwhelmed by a disproportionately black poor population, which suffers the legacy of centuries of discrimination, and a disproportionately unskilled and illiterate foreign-born population. Instead of scapegoating America’s K-12 schools, we need to combat family poverty directly, by means of job creation programs and a living wage, while admitting fewer poorly educated immigrants.
... But American CEOs who offshore production have no right to complain that too few Americans are going into science and engineering. Why should young Americans commit career suicide by entering occupations that are going to be offshored?
American multinationals are not shutting factories in the U.S. and transferring production to China because of China’s superior innovation culture or superior educational achievements. Nor are low Chinese wages the major factor.
For the most part, multinationals are pressured or bribed by the Chinese dictatorship into producing in China. In some cases, U.S. multinationals are told they must produce inside China in order to have access to China's large and growing consumer market. In other cases, multinationals are bribed to relocate production to China by enormous subsidies from the Chinese government.
... Why has the Obama administration in general, unlike some members of Congress, shown such a lack of urgency in addressing the issue of China’s currency tariff (itself only one of many instruments of Chinese economic nationalism)? One answer is suggested by a recent Financial Times article by Alan Beattie: "While the drive for currency legislation is noisy and conducted by practiced lobbyists in industries in steel and textiles that have canvassed for protection against exports, many US multinationals are far more interested in investing in China than exporting there." (emphasis added).
It’s a sad reflection on America’s corporate leaders that instead of being honest with their fellow Americans about the true reasons for offshoring, they tend to blame America first, peddling the insulting story that we Americans are not innovative or educated enough to compete with a poor, dictatorial nation like China. The blame-America-first story is peddled as well by American politicians who receive corporate campaign donations and, after retirement, lucrative corporate board memberships, pundits who get paid on the corporate speaking circuit and academic economists with big corporate consulting contracts. These co-opted opinion leaders join the executives of U.S.-based multinationals in trying to divert the attention of the American people from the mercantilist industrial policies of countries like China that do not practice America’s version of free-market capitalism and have no intention of doing so.
... Innovation and education are red herrings, tossed out to distract the American public from the real problem. If we were serious about competing with China, we would copy their tactics. ...
But the U.S. could emulate China by telling corporations that if they want access to America’s consumers they must produce at least a portion of the goods sold in the American market within America's borders and employ American workers.
... The country wants a more precise vision of what a thriving America is going to look like in the 21st century... To thrive, America will have to be the crossroads nation where global talent congregates and collaborates.
Parents in middle-class nations around the world should want to send their kids to American colleges.
... Entrepreneurs from Israel to Indonesia should be visiting venture-capital firms in San Francisco or capital markets in New York.
In this century, economic competition between countries is ... more like the competition between elite universities ...
The new sort of competition is all about charisma....
The nation with the most diverse creative hot spots will dominate the century.
... Finally, the government has to work aggressively to reduce the human capital inequalities that open up in an innovation economy. That means early and constant interventions so everybody has a chance to participate.
President Obama exists because his father was drawn to study in the United States. Obama embodies America’s nascent role as the crossroads nation. Let’s see if he can describe the next phase of American greatness.
Three days before Christmas, President Obama gathered his economic team in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room to review themes for his State of the Union address. The edge-of-the-cliff crisis he inherited had passed, but with more than 14 million Americans still out of work, he was looking for bold ways to bring down unemployment. The ideas presented to him, though, seemed familiar and uninspired. “You know, guys,” he said, according to someone in the room, “I’ve told you before, I want you to come to me with ideas that excite me.” Nothing he was hearing excited him.
Obama should declare victory in the half-century old War on Discrimination—which Ed Rubenstein of VDARE.COM recently estimated costs 8 percent of a year’s GDP, or over a trillion dollars. ... Hiring legally unprotected whites is dangerous because that accumulates statistical evidence of disparate impact discrimination. But hiring legally protected minorities is a legal minefield because of the potential costs of discrimination lawsuits if they don’t work out and have to be let go. (A friend who owns a small business explains: “If I can’t afford to fire them, I can’t afford to hire them.”
Not surprisingly, firms have been slow to hire American citizens, who can get them in trouble with the Feds. Employers have been using the recession to outsource work to Asia or to hire illegal immigrants off the books. It makes more sense to work a few official employees long and hard than to hire many.
To rectify this, Obama could announce that his election as President shows that the civil rights war is over and it’s time to reap the peace dividend: the federal government can dramatically cut back its persecutions of employers for hiring the wrong people.
Nothing the President could do with a stroke of his pen would do more to cut unemployment by making it legally safer to hire Americans than Obama announcing that, between now and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in 2014, he will lay off most of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission bureaucrats and other federal racial inquisitors.
And the business climate would be immediately improved by Obama abolishing the EEOC’s innumerate “Four Fifths Rule.”
Similarly, Obama could order the Justice Department to switch sides in the Bush Administration’s egregious Vulcan Society disparate impact lawsuit.
For Obama, Getting Message Out Online is a Challenge
Truly taking the presidency online would not only enable Mr. Obama to get his message to some voters without passing through the traditional news media.
Mr. Obama is probably the most talented writer to occupy the office in the television age; his political career was made possible, in large part, by the candid memoir he wrote as a younger man.
So it is hard to understand why the president hasn’t tried to use that talent the way Mr. Kennedy capitalized on his personal charm. You can easily imagine Mr. Obama sitting in front of a keyboard at the end of a long day, briefly reflecting on the oddity of a personal encounter or on the meaning of some overlooked event, or perhaps describing what it is like to stand in the well of Congress and deliver the State of the Union address. It could be that in order to expand the reach and persuasiveness of the modern presidency, Mr. Obama simply needs to be his online self — not so much a blogger as a memoirist-in-chief, walking us through history in real time.
Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan, has been called the “Facebook president” for posting his own frequent meditations for a country of 44 million Internet users.