Monday, September 22, 2014

This is a good video on how scientific consensus is challenged in the media.



This video compares the techniques once used to fight the scientific evidence that smoking is unhealthy with those now used to fight the scientific evidence that emissions of greenhouse gases are causing global warming and specific climate changes in many regions.

Of course, some people must be opposing the scientific consensus out of their beliefs that the science is wrong, but doesn't it seem likely that there is money buying the campaigns? Doesn't it seem likely that if companies and people who fund the effort to discredit science would lose money if people believe the science, that their motivation is not altruistic?

Policies should be based on prudent use of the best knowledge available, and the consensus of the scientific community based on peer reviewed research is very credible knowledge.

We can choose the cultural heritage we live by!



My niece's parents immigrated from China to the United States, choosing to assume U.S. nationality. My niece chose to adopt the cultural heritage of western medicine, became a doctor and an internist, and now practices at Mass General Hospital and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

My nephew's parents immigrated from Gujarat to the USA, also choosing to assume U.S. nationality. My nephew chose to adopt the cultural heritage of American law, graduated from law school and learned the practice of law in a series of increasingly responsible positions. He was recently nominated by President Obama to be a federal judge.

One of my oldest friends was born into a Jewish family, but chose to convert to Christianity as a young man. He went to divinity school and became a Presbyterian minister. He became a recognized expert on the liturgy of his denomination, and recently retired a much loved pastor of a large Presbyterian church.

Another of my oldest friends, also brought up Jewish, became an anti-war activist as a young man. That led him to a lifetime career as a peace activist, working primarily within the American Friends Service Committee -- an organization with a deep Quaker heritage.

I am so proud of these members of my family and friends who have chosen such wonderful heritages to adopt and master.

We may choose to adopt and master a heritage peculiar to the ethnic group to which our ancestors belonged, but we may choose from a much wider range of the heritage of all mankind.

As an American I have inherited the particularly American heritage of a country that had legal slavery for nearly a century, and Jim Crow laws long after. I have inherited my country's heritage in which Indians were moved from their ancestral lands and confined to reservations if they did not adopt a European-American way of life. I have inherited the national heritage of Chinese exclusion laws and gathering of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. I reject the heritage of racism. We may and should all choose to reject cultural heritage that does not stand up to ethical standards, but we may also choose simply not to adopt practices from our ethnic ancestors or from the nations we choose as our own. President George H. W. Bush had every right not to eat broccoli simply because he didn't want to.

Check out my recent guest shot an Antiquities NOW.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Country versus Nation

There has been a fierce debate about whether nations are necessarily diminished by the absence of statehood, and about the thin line between honourable patriotism and xenophobic nationalism.
"Scotland independence vote exposes the established order", Financial Times, 9/18/14
Where do you come from? I could answer "the United States of America" or "I am an American". There is a difference. The first statement says something about the country of which I am a citizen, the second about the culture I share with others of my nationality. How is it that we choose to be part of a national culture? Did the majority of voters in Scotland choose to be "British" or did they choose to be "Scots living in Great Britain"?

The History Book Club to which I belong recently discussed a history of Poland, during which we considered the fact that Poland, which had once been the largest country in Europe, ceased to exist as a state by the end of the 18th century; for many decades a stateless people, the Polish kept their desire for a state of their own alive. Now they have one. I recently read a memoir of the Civil War, and that book also raises the issue of the nation versus the state. (See my post on the book.) I am now reading The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds; President Wilson brought the issue of statehood to ethnic nations to the peace conference ending World War I and the book deals with nations and states explicitly. It occurs to me to post on the topic of the nation state in this blog.

There seem to be two different kinds of nationalisms:
  • Civic nationalism: Membership of the civic nation is considered voluntary, characterized by the "will to live together". Civic-nationalist states are often characterized by adoption of the jus soli (law of the soil) for granting citizenship in the country, deeming all persons born within the integral territory of the state citizens and members of the nation, regardless of their parents' origin. 
  • Ethnic nationalism: The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that "nations are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry".
A state is an organized community living under one government. States may be sovereign. The term state is also applied to federated states that are members of a federal union, which is the sovereign state. 

Nation State: A state is a political and geopolitical entity, while a nation is a cultural and ethnic one. The term "nation state" implies that the two coincide, but "nation state" formation can take place at different times in different parts of the world, and has become the dominant form of world organization.

The Evolution of the United States of America.

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were passed in 1777 and created the United States of America as a federal union of sovereign states. Thus 13 former colonies of the British empire declared themselves to be sovereign states and confederated in a perpetual union for mutual defense, to secure their liberties and for their mutual and general welfare. 

I suggest that at this time in U.S. history, the people of the states were not at all sure that they formed a single ethnic nation. They shared a history as colonies of the British Empire and a common language. They did not share a common ethnic history in that there had been colonies founded by countries other than England in North America and ethnic groups from those colonies had been incorporated into the British colonies such as ethnic Dutch in New York and ethnic French in Canada (which the Articles explicitly allowed to enter the Union). Moreover, the cultures in the different colonies had evolved over more than a  century under different circumstances. They did not share the same religion; Virginia in 1777 continued to have the Anglican Church as its established religion. Moreover
Congregationalists and Anglicans who, before 1776, had received public financial support, called their state benefactors "nursing fathers" (Isaiah 49:23). After independence they urged the state governments, as "nursing fathers," to continue succoring them. Knowing that in the egalitarian, post-independence era, the public would no longer permit single denominations to monopolize state support, legislators devised "general assessment schemes." Religious taxes were laid on all citizens, each of whom was given the option of designating his share to the church of his choice. Such laws took effect in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire and were passed but not implemented in Maryland and Georgia.
The Constitution was written in recognition that the government of the Confederation could not achieve its purposes, especially those of mutual defense and securing liberties of citizens, and that a more powerful central government was required. However, the ratification of the Constitution involved the agreement to amend the draft which was done in 1789. The 9th and 10th amendments secured to the people and to the states the rights that were not explicitly granted to the federal government.

I suggest that many in the United States of America prior to the Civil War continued to view it as a federation of independent states, in part because they did not see themselves as a single nation. The nullification crisis during the Jackson administration indicates that the government of South Carolina thought the state had the right to opt out of federal laws. In the secessions of 1861, seven states declared themselves Republics and then joined in the Confederated States of America, again implying that their leaders believed that their states had the rights of sovereign states. Indeed, until the Civil War the "Unites States of America" was a plural, and only after did people say "the United States is" rather than "the United States are".

The United States has been described as "a nation of immigrants". As the son of immigrant parents, I know from personal experience that immigrants are part of a "civic nation" in the sense that they have voluntarily chosen to live under the laws of the United States of America and to live together with other citizens of this country in spite of the fact that they have different backgrounds than the majority of their fellow citizens. The USA has also been termed a "melting pot" in the sense that people of many ethnic ancestries have come to share many aspects of the same culture.
“We have come to realize in modern times that the ‘melting pot’ need not mean the end of particular ethnic identities or traditions”
John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants
I think Kennedy's insight is correct. My enthusiasm for Irish folk music may not be shared by my Hispanic friends, nor need I share the enthusiasm of Argentine Americans for the Tango. Yet I think the state depends on a willingness to share a respect for values such as those for liberty and democracy, and for the Constitution and laws of our state.

I also know that even though the son of immigrants, I am culturally a Yank. I have been quickly recognized as such in many countries by many different people. I remember especially an occasion on my first visit to Ireland listening to an account of a phone conversation of my aunt's. (Incidentally, her son has been mistaken for me in a black and white photo.) My aunt was asked "Who was that Yank I saw you with downtown this afternoon." My aunt answered, "That was my nephew. Why did you not come up to be introduced?" Response: "I couldn't as I was a block away." I was recognized at a distance, with my Irish aunt as an American. I stand and walk like a Yank, I talk like a Yank, and I dress like a Yank, because I am one.

I went to school in the United States of America, and schooling is a powerful means of aculturation. The friends of my age for many years were also Americans and I learned our culture from them; indeed, moving from Boston to Los Angeles in the 3rd grade, I discovered that Boston culture did not sit well with the LA kids, and I would have to acquire the LA accent and my friends tastes in clothes. I have lived through countless hours of American media. I may have had immigrant parents, I may have lived abroad for years and traveled to some 50 countries, but people still have no difficulty telling that I am a Yank/Gringo/Estadounidense.

Today I think the United States of America is indeed a nation state, in which most of its citizens are ethnic Americans, albeit many with pride in aspects of their special ethnic heritage from other peoples, and some as members of our nationality by choice.

Elsewhere

The interest in the ethnically-based nation state apparently developed largely in the 19th century. That was the time of the unification of Germany and Italy as states of people sharing a common language and cultural heritage. It also seems to have been common in the wave of revolutions that swept Europe in 1848, eventually affecting some 50 countries.

Nationalism and the nation states had a rebirth in World War I, in part as a result of Woodrow Wilson's 14 points. I find it interesting that Wilson was a southerner, born before the Civil War. (He remembered seeing Robert E. Lee as a child. His father served as a Confederate chaplain in the Civil War.)  His family held slaves, and must have been affected by their emancipation. He saw the destruction of the cities in which he lived as they were conquered by Union troops, and lived in the south through the reconstruction. Were his views on the rights of conquered people to determine their own fate derived from his childhood experiences? Did he see the forced conversion of a people who conceived themselves as a separate nation into members of the nation state of the United States of America as comparable to the history of the Polish, Belgians and others whose fate he championed? Perhaps.

Of course, World War I also saw the fall of the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires and the creation of a number of nation states from those empires. The situation seems similar to the earlier fall of the Spanish empire, the creation of many states from former colonies, and the search for a national identity in those states.

There seem to be many ways to assemble people into "nations" if we look at history. Thus, it appears that people who define themselves as English, Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish also have chosen to consider themselves a British nation. The United States of America continues to mold a nation of Americans from people of many historical ethnic backgrounds. Israel saw Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi and other smaller communities of Jews -- all originally speaking different languages and having lived in many different countries -- define themselves as Israelis and learn a common language. In the same general geographic area, Arabs living in several countries, largely sharing the same Muslim religion, but denied citizenship in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan define themselves as Palestinians. In Mexico, the descendants of indigenous Indian tribes, Spanish colonizers, African slaves, and immigrants from many countries have been forming an ethnic Mexican people for many years. (Certainly Mexican culture is easily distinguished from that of other former Spanish colonies in the Americas such as Costa Rican or Argentinian culture.)

Perhaps China and India are more like the multi-ethnic empires of the past. Their huge populations include people of many ethnic backgrounds. Those countries strive to build a civic nationalism, and may well be on their way to their own form of ethnic nationalism. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, ethnic Russians were found in Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as other Republics formed from the former USSR. We are watching a historic process of sorting out of the consequences of that fact. Yugoslavia discovered that the southern Slavs did not all regard themselves as members of a single Yugoslav ethnic nation, and the country broke into smaller more ethnically individual countries.

I suppose that the difference drawn between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism is taxonomic but that real nations have aspects of both civic and ethnic nationalism in their makeup. Perhaps it is an indication that I am a Yank, but I like the idea of a nation that is united by an allegiance to a common form of government and common laws, and by respect for common values such as democracy and liberty, that still allows and values cultural diversity. How much more interesting is a country with a variety of food cultures and music cultures? How much more effective in a globalized economy is a country with people who speak other languages and understand other cultures? In a world of constant change, is it not useful to have people with different ethnic heritages who can suggest new ways of doing things?

Of course, history suggests that nationalism can be a source of conflict. In some countries, nationalism became (and perhaps still is) so ethnocentric that it denigrates other peoples and justifies aggression and wars of conquest. How do we build the defenses of peace in the minds of men of all nations? I suspect that aggression is not a necessary attribute of nationalism, and that a healthy nationalism can be achieved without jingoism, without an aggressive stance. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Today is U.S. Constitution Day



Economic Conditions Driving Political Squabbling


GDP versus Median Income in the United States
Source
The basic message of this graph is that the median household income in 2011 was the same as that in 1989 -- the folk in the middle had seen no improvement in their incomes in 22 years. This was in spite of the fact that the per capita production of goods and services had increased by almost 35 percent in that period. (Growth looked better from 1992 to 2007, but then came the Great Recession.)

So where did all the extra money go? Basically it went to the people with incomes above the median, and the people who took the biggest chunk of the increase in production were the top one percent of households, as shown in the following graph.
Source
And this is what John Cassidy says about the situation in an article in The New Yorker:
The political implications of these figures are, surely, pretty obvious. When spending power is rising broadly, benefitting most social, geographic, and income groups, it is much easier to get rival political parties and factions to coƶperate. Consensus politics can thrive, as they did in the postwar era. But when most people’s incomes are stagnating, and have been for decades, politics become darker and more fractious. 
With fewer gains to go around, distributional squabbles intensify—not just among various income groups but also among different social classes and ethnic groups. (As the Census Bureau data show, income disparities are still highly correlated with race.) Meanwhile, those lucky folks at the top of the income distribution, where almost all of the incremental income has accumulated over the past couple of decades, have a big incentive to get more involved politically: to prevent the adoption of redistributive policies. 
To oversimplify a bit, income stagnation paired with rising inequality is a recipe for political polarization and, under the American system of divided powers, political gridlock, which is what we have. Based on the latest Census Bureau figures, there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.

What were the 10 greatest innovations ever



Braden Kelley, who shared this image, gave his ideas on the top 10 innovations of all time. I suppose I should leave out the use of tools and the management of fire as innovations that may have predated Homo sapiens. So lets see what I come up with:

  1. Agriculture / domestication of food plants
  2. Domestication of animals
  3. Clothing and shoes
  4. Buildings
  5. Pottery and glass
  6. Metal tools
  7. Markets
  8. Government
  9. Boats
  10. Money

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

While we worry about Ebola, some good news!


New UN data show that child death rates are falling faster than ever. But overall progress is still short of meeting the global target of reducing the number of deaths in children under five by two-thirds (67%) between 1990 and 2015.

Source: Levels & trends in child mortality - report 2014: goo.gl/qYIYf4

Downsizing empire -- Scotland next?

Was Convergence a Bubble that has Popped?



I quote from the lead article in The Economist this week (from which the graph is taken):
"When adjusted for living costs, output per person in the emerging world almost doubled between 2000 and 2009; the average annual rate of growth over that decade was 7.6%, 4.5 percentage points higher than the rate seen in rich countries.......This burst of growth struck an extraordinary blow against deprivation. The share of the developing world’s population living on less than $1.25 a day (the international definition of poverty) has fallen from 30% in 2000 to below 10%, according to an estimate by the Centre for Global Development, based on new data published by the World Bank in April....... 
"Since 2008 growth rates across the emerging world have slipped back toward those in advanced economies. When the new ICP estimates are applied, the average GDP per head in the emerging world, measured on a purchasing-power-parity (PPP) basis, grew just 2.6 percentage points faster than American GDP in 2013. If China is excluded from the calculations the difference is just 1.1 percentage points."
Note that the graph above is not the rate of growth of GDP per person (PPP), but rather the rate at which the GDP per capita is catching up with that of the USA. The developing countries apparently started converging economically more rapidly with the United States (and other rich countries) in 2000 and the rate of convergence increased until 2008. Since 2008, the rate of convergence has decreased year after year for developing countries with the exception of China.

Even China has a much less rapid convergence than was the case in 2008. but it continues to grow relatively rapidly. Who knows what the future will bring. "Prediction is difficult, especially about the future". One prediction is safe -- far too many people in the world will continue in extreme poverty and far too many will continue almost as poor as those in extreme poverty!


A graph that tells the story of gun violence.


An article in The Economist discusses the rate of homicides in the United States. It points out that the murder rate in the USA is higher than that in other developed nations, nearly three times that in Canada, and that two-thirds of U.S. murders are done with guns.

"Three-quarters of all victims and nearly 90% of perpetrators are male. Black Americans are only 13% of the population, but over 50% of murder victims. Among black men between 20 and 24, the murder rate is over 100 per 100,000 (see chart)."

The data support our intuition that easy availability of guns probably increases the murder rate, and that there are social factors that influence who gets murdered. I doubt that black men want to get murdered, but they are put in danger of being murdered far more often than others in out society.

There seems to be interest in preventing violence against women, even though men are more likely to be murdered than women. But the difference in the rates of white men, white women and black women being murdered are small as compared with the huge increase in murder rate of black men.

Perhaps we should be looking more carefully at violence against black men, and seeking ways to reduce that violence.

I suspect we all know why black men are faced with so much violence. The problem is, we don't know how to quickly overcome centuries of racism directed at them.

So true!



The Civil War As Seen by a Foot Soldier in the West


Source
I just finished reading The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War 1861-1865 by Leander Stillwell. I read the Gutenburg Project version of the book, which I recommend as easy to read and well illustrated. Here is my post on the first part of the book.

Leander Stillwell in 1863 and later in life
Stillwell joined the army at age 18 in January of 1862 and ended the war as a First Lieutenant in September 1865. Most of the time he served as a non-commissioned officer. He was in the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, April 1862), one of the great battles of the war. He was in the thick of battle on the first day, but his unit was held in reserve on the second day. His regiment was present at the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi (mid 1863), but its duty was to guard the railroad which was the vital supply line for the Union army and he did not participate in direct combat. He was at the taking of Little Rock, Arkansas in  September 1863, but skillful leadership on the part of the Union general managed that without a major battle. And, he was within hearing of the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee (December 1864) but stationed at Murfreesboro, a fort where his regiment was again guarding the railroad; in that location he was involved in a major firefight in which many of his unit were captured. He describes another firefight during his time at Murfreesboro when he was nearly killed twice, but survived unwounded.  There were a couple of other skirmishes mentioned in the book, but his regiment with a nominal strength of 800 to 900 men (many more counting replacements)  had only 37 men killed in battle during more than 3 and 1/2 years of war. (The fighting in other theaters of the war was of course, much more lethal.)

Thus Stillwell's war was spent primarily in camp, in training, and in duty guarding things critical to the war effort. Reading the book it is pretty clear that he envied the men who fought in more of the larger battles, but that he recognized that his duty was to serve wherever the army sent him at whatever duty it assigned. Most of that duty must have been pretty boring. The hopes for adventure that the 18 year old recruit set off with were pretty quickly dashed, and the man became resigned to a long hard war.

A major impression left by the book is that life in the army was really hard, even when not in battle. The food was very simple -- beans, dried peas, hardtack, salt pork and bacon seemed to provide most of the diet -- with very little fresh food other than what the solder might pick from the forest or obtain foraging while on march.  Soldiers basically had to cook their own food, and until they learned how to do so, the results were not only ugly, but unhealthy. Uniforms were poorly fitted, as were shoes. A lot of the marching was apparently done thorough mud or water, and the soldiers would carry their shoes and go barefoot. There was a lot of marching, and at first the officers did not know how to give rest breaks during the long marches, The soldiers often slept in tents, sometimes what in my youth we called pup tents, and had a single blanket to sleep with; some of the cold nights of winter, when on guard duty and denied a fire, must have been very uncomfortable indeed. The sanitation in camps was often bad, and disease struck often, even after the soldiers learned to prepare their food more safely. Stillwell himself came down with malaria and later with what he called rheumatism (but which I suspect was a complication of the malaria) and was seriously ill for months -- including a bout in the field hospital.

A couple of times in the book the author talks about the motivation of the troops. He only mentions the preservation of the Union, and does not mention the ending of slavery as an institution and the emancipation of slaves; indeed, he seems to share the prejudice of the time. It seems however, that what he means by the preservation of the union is the survival of a nation with no king and no aristocracy, one where there is little discrimination by rank and where men of ability can rise in the world.

The 61st Illinois Volunteer Regiment in which Stillwell served seems from the book to have been quite egalitarian. The men had been recruited from a relatively small area of south-western Illinois, and each knew others from home. There seems to have been a relatively informal relationship between ranks, and a relatively pragmatic approach to the work at hand. Certainly Stillwell was able to rise quickly, with five promotions in 3 and 1/2 years. While the original senior officers of the regiment were selected for their political prominence, they were older and found the life very difficult, resigning eventually. Stillwell comments favorably on the West Point trained officers with prior wartime experience, on immigrants serving as officers who had served in European armies, and on officers who had risen in rank due as they learned their jobs and performed them well. He also mentions that later in life, as a judge from Kansas, he was able to fairly easily get to meet President Arthur, and to meet and spend some time with General Sherman, who what then the Chief of Staff of the Army.

I quote here a long passage from Chapter 24:
I suppose, in reminiscences of this nature, one should give his impressions, or views, in relation to that much talked about subject,—"Courage in battle." Now, in what I have to say on that head, I can speak advisedly mainly for myself only. I think that the principal thing that held me to the work was simply pride; and am of the opinion that it was the same thing with most of the common soldiers. A prominent American functionary some years ago said something about our people being "too proud to fight." With the soldiers of the Civil War it was exactly the reverse,—they were "too proud to run";—unless it was manifest that the situation was hopeless, and that for the time being nothing else could be done. And, in the latter case, when the whole line goes back, there is no personal odium attaching to any one individual; they are all in the same boat. The idea of the influence of pride is well illustrated by an old-time war story, as follows: A soldier on the firing line happened to notice a terribly affrighted rabbit running to the rear at the top of its speed. "Go it, cotton-tail!" yelled the soldier. "I'd run too if I had no more reputation to lose than you have." 
It is true that in the first stages of the war the fighting qualities of American soldiers did not appear in altogether a favorable light. But at that time the fact is that the volunteer armies on both sides were not much better than mere armed mobs, and without discipline or cohesion. But those conditions didn't last long,—and there was never but one Bull Run. 
Enoch Wallace was home on recruiting service some weeks in the fall of 1862, and when he rejoined the regiment he told me something my father said in a conversation that occurred between the two. They were talking about the war, battles, and topics of that sort, and in the course of their talk Enoch told me that my father said that while he hoped his boy would come through the war all right, yet he would rather "Leander should be killed dead, while standing up and fighting like a man, than that he should run, and disgrace the family." I have no thought from the nature of the conversation as told to me by Enoch that my father made this remark with any intention of its being repeated to me. It was sudden and spontaneous, and just the way the old backwoodsman felt. But I never forgot it, and it helped me several times. For, to be perfectly frank about it, and tell the plain truth, I will set it down here that, so far as I was concerned, away down in the bottom of my heart I just secretly dreaded a battle. But we were soldiers, and it was our business to fight when the time came, so the only thing to then do was to summon up our pride and resolution, and face the ordeal with all the fortitude we could command. And while I admit the existence of this feeling of dread before the fight, yet it is also true that when it was on, and one was in the thick of it, with the smell of gun-powder permeating his whole system, then a signal change comes over a man. He is seized with a furious desire to kill. There are his foes, right in plain view, give it to 'em, d—— 'em!—and for the time being he becomes almost oblivious to the sense of danger. 
And while it was only human nature to dread a battle,—and I think it would be mere affectation to deny it, yet I also know that we common soldiers strongly felt that when fighting did break loose close at hand, or within the general scope of our operations, then we ought to be in it, with the others, and doing our part. That was what we were there for, and somehow a soldier didn't feel just right for fighting to be going on all round him, or in his vicinity, and he doing nothing but lying back somewhere, eating government rations. 
But, all things considered, the best definition of true courage I have ever read is that given by Gen. Sherman in his Memoirs, as follows: 
"I would define true courage," (he says,) "to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it." (Sherman's Memoirs, revised edition, Vol. 2, p. 395.) But, I will further say, in this connection, that, in my opinion, much depends, sometimes, especially at a critical moment, on the commander of the men who is right on the ground, or close at hand. This is shown by the result attained by Gen. Milroy in the incident I have previously mentioned. And, on a larger scale, the inspiring conduct of Gen. Sheridan at the battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, is probably the most striking example in modern history of what a brave and resolute leader of men can accomplish under circumstances when apparently all is lost. And, on the other hand, I think there is no doubt that the battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, on August 10, 1861, was a Union victory up to the time of the death of Gen. Lyon, and would have remained such if the officer who succeeded Lyon had possessed the nerve of his fallen chief. But he didn't, and so he marched our troops off the field, retreated from a beaten enemy, and hence Wilson's Creek figures in history as a Confederate victory. (See "The Lyon Campaign," by Eugene F. Ware, pp. 324-339.) I have read somewhere this saying of Bonaparte's: "An army of deer commanded by a lion is better than an army of lions commanded by a deer." While that statement is only figurative in its nature, it is, however, a strong epigrammatic expression of the fact that the commander of soldiers in battle should be, above all other things, a forcible, determined, and brave man.
I liked this book very much. Indeed, I think I would have liked Leander Stillwell. He was clearly a simple man, one of considerable intelligence, much respected by his peers, who did his duty and took what came his way without complaint. In this book he writes of a few really good meals with the gusto that indicates he enjoyed them, but without complaining that they were so few in nearly four years. He writes well, and kept my interest throughout. He has a folksy humor, and frequently drew a smile. Yet he could also write about scenes of devastation, conveying the horror without excess.

I leave you sharing one of the many quotations Stillwell provided in his book:
"False as a war bulletin"
Napoleon

Monday, September 15, 2014

Foreign Students in the USA


This map from a report by the Brookings Institution shows the hometowns of international students studying at U.S. schools on F-1 visas, which are the most common visas for foreign students. The size of each circle shows the number of students from that city who came to the United States to study from 2008 to 2012. The cities that sent the most students were Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hyderabad and Riyadh, in that order. The U.S. schools that accepted the most students were the University of Southern California, Columbia University, and the University of Illinois. 
Thanks to The Washington Post for this map and data.

The International Institute for Education (IIE) Open Doors report discovered 819,000 foreign students in the USA for the 2012-2013 school year. They contributed $24.7 billion to the U.S. economy. Most of the foreign students attend one of a few hundred U.S. colleges and universities, while the rest are scattered among thousands of other institutions of higher education.

Be nice to your local foreign student. These folk are likely to be the leaders of their countries in the future. If their experience in the USA is good, it will affect their view of this country for the rest of their lives. So too, if the experience is bad, it will leave a bad image for decades. The opinion of the USA that these people bring home with them will affect U.S. foreign affairs and U.S. foreign commerce in an a world growing smaller every day.