Search the Site

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.