Poor People, Rich People, and People Who Hate

A quick cruise through this morning’s Wall Street Journal and New York Times yielded a few remarkably interesting articles:

1. The Journal‘s Jonathan Eig reports on a poverty program in Chicago that uses an incentive program to give low-income people the chance to earn rewards like high-income people who rack up frequent-flier miles or bank points. “For the past year,” Eig writes, “residents in a low-income neighborhood here have been earning rewards for paying their rent, getting their children to school every day and seeking work. At one rewards banquet, more than 150 people gathered in a church basement to celebrate and cash in points for prizes. … ‘It’s like American Idol,’ said Evette Clark, a 39-year-old mother of eight who signed up her whole family for the rewards program.”

The program is run by an outfit called Project Match, which has dispensed $19,000 in cash and prizes in a year and a half. This reminds me of a long-ago Bronx schoolteacher I heard about recently, who paid her students nickels and dimes as they learned to read better; even small prizes had a huge effect.

2. Also in the Journal, an article by Kevin J. Delaney about Google’s efforts to customize a massive 767-200 as its corporate jet. The original contractor, Leslie Jennings, was fired and now he is dishing dirt about the Google Boys’ boyish behavior.

Here’s the money graf:

Mr. Jennings says Messrs. Brin and Page “had some strange requests,” including hammocks hung from the ceiling of the plane. At one point he witnessed a dispute between them over whether Mr. Brin should have a “California king” size bed, he says. Mr. Jennings says Mr. Schmidt stepped in to resolve that by saying, “Sergey, you can have whatever bed you want in your room; Larry, you can have whatever kind of bed you want in your bedroom. Let’s move on.”

3. Last night, a friend was telling me how distraught she was that her son, who is a U.S. commando now fighting in Iraq, seems to have turned virulently anti-Muslim. She said that he has begun talking about Muslims, all of them, as if they needed to be herded up somewhere and done away with. My friend is a loving and tolerant person, and her own son’s newfound hatred was breaking her heart.

I felt for her, but by this morning, I had pretty much put the conversation out of my mind. Then, in this morning’s Times, I saw this startling article by John Kifner about how hate groups are infiltrating the U.S. military:

Recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed “large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists” to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization [the Southern Poverty Law Center] … “We’ve got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad,” the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying. … An article in the National Alliance magazine Resistance urged skinheads to join the Army and insist on being assigned to light infantry units … “Light infantry is your branch of choice because the coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman’s war.”

I don’t mean to conflate this article and my friend’s distress over her son. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Southern Poverty Law Center is making this problem sound far, far worse than it actually is. (Another friend of mine now fighting in Iraq, a 22-year-old woman, has written several times to tell me how awed she is by the collaborative and super-tolerant spirit of her Army colleagues.) And I am sure that every army in history has had at least a few soldiers who hated the enemy for reasons beyond the mission of the war. But this is still a pretty distressing article.


jasonnolan

You folks need a better pinging system, IMHO. How about wordpress? Loved this post, and sent it to my students. Unfortunately, I decided to not use Freakonomics as my text book this fall, but I'll be lecturing from it. Someone should make up a teacher's guide for it, you know.

Nicole T

Jason et al.:
There is a study guide available for both students and teachers. The icon directly to the right of the blog will take you there. Here's where you would end up:
http://www.harperacademic.com/catalog/instructors_guide_xml.asp?isbn=006073132X

technomom

Hmmm.....I sent both my kids to school every day this year, paid my mortgage every month and didn't even have to look for a job because I have one! So, where do I go to get my reward points?

JoAnn

Rich E.

Having served in a light infantry division in the Army I can attest to the great lengths the Army's leadsheip goes to to ensure gangs and hate groups are rooted out of its ranks. From little things like monitoring tattoos to incorporating a robust Eqaul Opportunity organization into operations, the Army strives to ensure its ranks represent and respect the people of the nation it protects, regardless or creed, color or religion.

mathking

I was talking to a friend who is a marine officer with a decade and a half of service, including a couple tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. (And talking to him a couple weeks before this article appeared in the Times.) He said that the creeping of open racism back into the military really worries him. When we were going through the enlistment process, they went to the great lengths Rich E described to make sure that we weren't in gangs or hate groups. My friend is worried now that the pressure to recruit has grown enough that more open racists are slipping through the cracks.

He also pointed out that it is easy to see why anti-Arab racism is growing. It is the same reason there was anti-Vietnamese racism and annit-Japanese racism in past wars. When you get locked into a struggle that is as nasty as this one, it is going to happen. When this trend is coupled with the more racists and members of hate groups getting into the military, it presents a disturbing trend.

The negative effects of this go far beyond "giving training to potential terrorists." (Though this is bad enough.) It also puts our national security at risk when virulent racists in the military are seen as representing the U.S. Furthermore, the racists put our troops at risk, both through dissension in the ranks and by inflaming the Iraqi's against the U.S. military presence.

My friend also thinks the solution is pretty straightforward. Go back to rigorous enforcement of the rules and make examples of some of the violators. The UCMJ is pretty clear on these issues, and the punishments are not trivial.

Read more...

smili

On the first article:
A coworker has a young daughter with whom she struggles to get to focus on schoolwork. She claims to have tried all sorts of things to get her to study. She found monetary incentives are one of the few things her daughter understands. With weekly incentives in place her daughter is now upset when she doesn't get a good grade on the spelling test or math quiz.

jasonnolan

You folks need a better pinging system, IMHO. How about wordpress? Loved this post, and sent it to my students. Unfortunately, I decided to not use Freakonomics as my text book this fall, but I'll be lecturing from it. Someone should make up a teacher's guide for it, you know.

Nicole T

Jason et al.:
There is a study guide available for both students and teachers. The icon directly to the right of the blog will take you there. Here's where you would end up:
http://www.harperacademic.com/catalog/instructors_guide_xml.asp?isbn=006073132X

technomom

Hmmm.....I sent both my kids to school every day this year, paid my mortgage every month and didn't even have to look for a job because I have one! So, where do I go to get my reward points?

JoAnn

Rich E.

Having served in a light infantry division in the Army I can attest to the great lengths the Army's leadsheip goes to to ensure gangs and hate groups are rooted out of its ranks. From little things like monitoring tattoos to incorporating a robust Eqaul Opportunity organization into operations, the Army strives to ensure its ranks represent and respect the people of the nation it protects, regardless or creed, color or religion.

mathking

I was talking to a friend who is a marine officer with a decade and a half of service, including a couple tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. (And talking to him a couple weeks before this article appeared in the Times.) He said that the creeping of open racism back into the military really worries him. When we were going through the enlistment process, they went to the great lengths Rich E described to make sure that we weren't in gangs or hate groups. My friend is worried now that the pressure to recruit has grown enough that more open racists are slipping through the cracks.

He also pointed out that it is easy to see why anti-Arab racism is growing. It is the same reason there was anti-Vietnamese racism and annit-Japanese racism in past wars. When you get locked into a struggle that is as nasty as this one, it is going to happen. When this trend is coupled with the more racists and members of hate groups getting into the military, it presents a disturbing trend.

The negative effects of this go far beyond "giving training to potential terrorists." (Though this is bad enough.) It also puts our national security at risk when virulent racists in the military are seen as representing the U.S. Furthermore, the racists put our troops at risk, both through dissension in the ranks and by inflaming the Iraqi's against the U.S. military presence.

My friend also thinks the solution is pretty straightforward. Go back to rigorous enforcement of the rules and make examples of some of the violators. The UCMJ is pretty clear on these issues, and the punishments are not trivial.

Read more...

smili

On the first article:
A coworker has a young daughter with whom she struggles to get to focus on schoolwork. She claims to have tried all sorts of things to get her to study. She found monetary incentives are one of the few things her daughter understands. With weekly incentives in place her daughter is now upset when she doesn't get a good grade on the spelling test or math quiz.