Sunday, August 30, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Countries with the greatest GDPs

Thanks to Syed Asad.

Our Kids -- Thoughts About Robert Putnam's Book

I just read Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam. Robert Putnam is a very distinguished public intellectual. In this book he shows a great deal of evidence that the college graduates in America are bringing up their children to be as well educated and well off as they are themselves. While once people with a high school education or less were giving their kids better opportunities that they themselves had, this is no longer true. The increasing disparity between the kids of the college educated and the kids of the high school educated is of great concern to Putnam. The book convinces me that it should also be of concern to any American with an ounce of moral character.

The book includes a chapter on Port Clinton where Putnam graduated from high school in the 1950s. It then has chapters on families, parenting, schooling and community; each of these chapters focuses on a specific place: Bend (Oregon), Atlanta, Orange County (California), and Philadelphia. A final substantive chapter is titled "What is to be Done".

Chapters tend to have narrative sections based on extensive interviews that were carried out as part of the research. The authors interview young people and their parents, where one set of parents in each location had college educations and the other set had high school or less. Interviews include African Americans and Hispanic Americans as well as whites. The chapters also have analytic sections, drawing on a wealth of statistical data.

The American Dream

The myth of America, "the American Dream", is that America is the land of opportunity. We think that any American can become president because Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln rose from poverty to do so, because Jack Kennedy did so even though he was Roman Catholic, because Barack Obama did so even though his father was a black Kenyan. Similarly, we think that any child can grow up in America to be rich -- look at Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Bill Gates, all of whom were rich beyond most dreams of avarice and far, far richer than their parents.

Putnam points out that in fact the Adams, Harrison, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Bush families demonstrate that someone from the family of a president is far more likely to be president than someone who grew up in a powerless family. Similarly, the child of a family of great wealth is far more likely in America to grow up to have great wealth than is the child born in poverty. Indeed, relative mobility in America has been much like that in other developed countries.

What has been true through much of history is that the rapid development of America has meant that most American parents could reasonably expect their children to be better educated, more affluent, healthier, longer lived, and more influential than the parents were themselves. A rising tide lifts all boats!

The Dream Is Gone

The book advances the thesis that the children of upper class kids in America (typically defined in the book as the children of parents with college degrees) are now likely to do better than their parents; however, the children of lower class parents (typically defined as having high school education or less) are likely to be stuck in the same situation or worse than their parents. Putnam advances evidence to show that upper class parents use different parenting approaches than do lower class parents, that upper class parents tend to stay together to raise their kids while lower class fathers are more often not involved, that upper class families live in safer neighborhoods than do lower class families, all of which help make upper class kids more able to reach the upper classes themselves.

In discussing K-12 schools, Putnam indicates that input indicators such as per child funding and class size do not differ between schools in educated neighborhoods and those in uneducated neighborhoods; the very different outcomes from schools drawing from families with well educated parents versus those with poorly educated parents is the culture of the students themselves. Neighborhoods are increasingly segregated by class, and kids in I-23 usually go to neighborhood schools. The upper class kids are more motivated to learn and more docile in the classroom. Thus it is culture that counts. Moreover, classes full of upper class kids tend to be easier to teach and more rewarding to teachers than classes full of lower class kids. Since schools get equal financial inputs, schools in upper class neighborhoods tend to be more successful in teaching the kids that they receive. Indeed, teachers prefer to deal with docile, motivated upper class kids, and so the schools in richer neighborhoods are likely to recruit better, more experienced teachers.

The book also suggests that upper class neighborhoods are better places to raise kids in the sense that they are less violent and less troubled by drugs. Children growing up in neighborhoods ruled by street gangs are subject to more stress, and that stress has serious negative consequences.

This situation is relatively new. Neighborhoods today are far more segregated by the income and education of their residents than they were in the past. Due to the shipment of jobs overseas and the loss of income from unionized factory work people with little education who once would have had factory jobs with union wages and protection, now no longer do. Thus those without college educations tend to be poor and trapped in their situations. The kids who don't go beyond high school tend to have children earlier, have less stable marital relationships, more money troubles, and indeed more children than do college graduates of the same age.

The increasing separation of affluent from poor neighborhoods means that poor whites, poor blacks, and poor Hispanics are the members of the lower class. Putnam suggests that racism is no longer the problem as much as it once was, and today there are well educated blacks and Hispanics who raise their kids much as do well educated whites, and whose kids have about the same chance of themselves becoming well educated, parents in stable marriages as do the children of well educated whites.

I would note however that poverty is twice as prevalent among Hispanic/Latino populations and more than twice as common among African American and Indian populations than among white populations. Perhaps we need to focus more on the black, Indian and Hispanic populations' kids than Putnam would suggest.

The Internet

The book tends to pay little attention to the Internet and the social networking that it enables. I am in an unusual situation in that my parents were both immigrants to the USA and none of my maternal nor paternal cousins lives in this country. (My inlaws do live here, and I am in touch with them via the Internet.) I am in touch with cousins in England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Sweden via the Internet; for example, a cousin's widow and I were able to participate early this year in a project of a young cousin who is in college in Scotland via the Internet.

Similarly, I am fairly active on the Internet with my local community. For example, I used the Internet to keep up with the plans to change use of two local schools last spring, went to a community meeting about those plans that I learned about via the Internet, and sent email messages to my county council members requesting their help on the matter -- emails that were answered.

I belong to a local book club which meets once a month. While only a dozen or so member of the club show up at the monthly meetings, I send information about the books we read to about 100 via email each month, and correspond with several each month via the club listserve. There is a club blog where I post summaries of the club discussions, and those are being downloaded a couple of hundred times per month.

Thus, it is my experience that Internet mediated social networking has implications for the problems that Robert Putnam has identified.

I Focus on Culture and Cultural Change

I note that Asian Americans seem to still live the American dream. I also note that the well educated American family is different culturally than the families of Americans where the parents never went as beyond high school. I suggest that there are two subcultures, rather distinct, within the larger U.S. culture -- a culture of the upper middle class and a culture of the lower class. Both subcultures have the same federal government institutions, both have access to pretty much the same media, but in other ways the two subcultures have institutions that function in quite different ways.

Perhaps, then we should look at the cultural difference between suburban America and slum America. If the solution to the crisis in the American dream is too change the culture of the lower classes in the country, it will be hard and a long process. Cultural change is not easy to accomplish.

Putnam suggests that the change in these subcultures in American have occurred over time. When he graduated from high school in 1959 in the small town of Port Clinton, Ohio, neighborhoods were not nearly so segregated as they are today. The United States then had the strongest economy in the world and globalization had not begun the process of shifting manufacturing jobs out of the USA. Kids whose parents were college professors and kids whose parents were high-school-grad factory workers might well live close to one another, attend the same schools and belong to the same teams and clubs. This was before illegal drug use was common and drug dealers were common sights in poor neighborhoods. The research cited in the book focuses on the last 35 years, and suggests that the negative trends in the subculture of the poor were working during much or most of that period. Now families are less stable, gangs are more common, drugs are more available and more widely used, fathers are more often in jail in the lower class neighborhoods. The neighborhoods in which the college grads live have been much less damaged.

Source: Wikipedia "Income inequality in the United States"
Source: Wikipedia "Income inequality in the United States"
The top graph shows that we are in a new "Guilded Age": the portion of national income obtained by the very rich has reached levels now that are comparable to those reached before the Great Depression or the end of the Guilded Age. That portion had gone steadily downward from the stock market crash in 1929 until the mid 1970s, but rose again in the period covered by Robert Putnam's analysis.

The lower graph showed that the top fifth of Americans by income did significantly better economically after 1979 than did the the lower four quintiles. Wikipedia reports:
The income growth of the average American family closely matched that of economic productivity until some time in the 1970s. While it began to stagnate, productivity has continued to climb. According to the 2014 Global Wage Report by the International Labor Organization, the widening disparity between wages and productivity is evidence that there has been a significant shift of GDP share going from labor to capital, and this trend is playing a significant role in growing inequality.
I suggest that the high and increasing return to higher education is strongly related to the growth of income of the fifth quintile of income, and the low rate of economic progress of the working class is due to the low growth of incomes in the three lower quintiles.

The Prescription

Putnam offers a number of suggestions that might improve life chances for poor kids. Some of these seem past due for implementation in the USA. For example, we have far too many men in jail, facing long sentences for relatively minor crimes; sentences should be shorter and greater efforts should be made to reintegrate the sentenced people into their homes and communities after they serve their sentences. Similarly, many countries (and virtually all developed countries) offer more generous leave for new parents than does the United States; improving leave policies for new parents seems a useful approach to improving parenting. Offering long term contraception for at risk teens in order to prevent kids too young to provide child care and in need of time to develop their own economic potential from having babies as teenagers.

However, I doubt that Putnam's approach will work very well. It fails to deal with the underlying economic issues that created the underclass culture. My reading of history also suggests that it takes a major disruption to break the political power of the very rich, and today the very rich Americans are richer than ever, have more political power than usual, and don't seem disposed to do much for the underclass.

The book does not talk much about individual talent and potential. I suspect that in each socio-economic class there are kids born more and less gifted. However, the talents of the poor are not being adequately recognized and developed in the subculture of poverty. How much does the nation lose if a Lincoln or Jackson fails to develop because he comes from poorly educated parents and grows up in a bad neighborhood, attending schools that teach badly? A new Henry Ford or Thomas Edison? What if we miss the next Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez? I think it important not only that kids be given a fighting chance to do better than their parents, but that the nation be given a fighting chance to develop the best minds and characters in each generation, no matter how poor the parents of those kids.

Final Comments

I recommend this book highly. Robert Putnam seems to have described a serious social problem in the United States, one that has not had nearly enough attention.

I guess I am a policy wonk, and I found the sections of the chapters presenting statistical evidence from national studies to be very good -- detailed information, well sources, presented succinctly.

I also found the ethnographic material helpful. I am a 1955 high school graduate with three university degrees, so I found the material about Putnam's school companions and the recently college educated folk to be relatively familiar (although those discussions provided me some fresh insights to the families of my more affluent nieces and nephews). However, I found the materials on the high school educated moms and dads and their kids very helpful in trying to understand the problems that they face and how they try to deal with those problems.

Remember the Know Nothing Party? Looks like they are back.

Would you say that you trust, don’t trust, or are unsure about scientists as a source of information about [vaccines/climate change]?

Trust in Scientists by Issue and State

Chris Mooney, in a new article, provides the graphs above noting?
As you can see, while traditional Republicans and Tea Party supporters in these locations trust scientists considerably more on vaccines than they do on climate change, they also trust them on both issues considerably less than Democrats do. 
“The vaccine results were something new, and what was unexpected there was that they followed a very similar pattern to climate change,” says Hamilton. He acknowledges that conducting the survey in two U.S. states is not the same as conducting a nationally representative survey. But he adds that finding a similar result in two quite different parts of the U.S. represents “a fairly broad replication.”
This is quite worrying to me. It is a study done in only two states, but it suggests that only half of Tea Party supporters trust scientists on the findings relating to climate change, and only a small fraction trust scientists on vaccines. Tea Party voters tend to have significant weight in selection of Representatives to Congress from "safe" Republican districts. Thus there is a wing of the members of the lower Chamber of the Congress that don't trust the consensus of scientists on two important issues (and perhaps more issues that were not subjects of this study). Moreover, the Democrats tend to trust scientific consensus more than Republicans, but Republicans are in the majority in both chambers of the Congress.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Circles in Los Angeles When the Movie Business was LA's Major Business

Don Factor (son of Max) and I -- with a couple of friends -- produced the first edition of Nomad magazine in 1959.

Don Factor produced the movie That Cold Day in the Park. Luana Anders acted in the movie.

Luana was a friend from high school; we graduated in the same class.

Luana, began her career as an actor immediately after high school, but like many young actors had to take non-acting jobs to make ends meet. She was a messenger. She also attended the acting classes given by Jeff Cory. She convinced a fellow messenger to attend with her. He was Jack Nicholson.

Luana and Jack acted together in Easy Rider. Also in Easy Rider was Dennis Hopper.

Dennis Hopper acted in Blue Velvet with Dean Stockwell. The two became best friends.

Dean was my next door neighbor for some six or seven years when we were kids. We were friends at the time.

Anthony Linick was also involved in the production of the first issue of Nomad with Don and me. He has been a friend of mine since childhood. He also knew Luana in high school and was in the same graduating class.

Anthony's father was head of the script department for MGM. Dean was on contract with MGM when I knew him.

Anthony's grandfather, who had been the owner of a string of movie theaters, was a friend of Louis B. Mayer. My uncle and aunt worked for Mayer's daughter and her husband, William Goetz, a movie producer and studio executive.

Anthony's stepfather, Ingolf Dahl, was a well known musician who occasionally worked as a studio musician (e.g. he ghosted Schroeder playing the Pathetique Sonata in the Peanuts cartoon). I knew Ingolf quite well; he took a group including Anthony, me and some of our friends mountain climbing and camping from 1949 to 1955.

Ingolf was a friend of Sol Babitz, who among other things was the first violinist for Fox Studios. I knew Sol slightly, introduced by Ingolf. I attended some of the funtions Sol organized.

Sol was the father of Eve Babitz. I met her a few times at functions arranged by her father, when she was a young girl. She later became a reporter for Rolling Stone.

Eve Babitz appeared on the film, The Cool School, about the Los Angeles art scene. Also appearing in the film were Don Factor, Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell.

I could go on and talk about the links through my Dad, who for a while was the office manager for the Screen Actors Guild (under George Murphy and Ronald Reagan) or those via my mother's employer, Shepard Mitchell, named partner is a law firm that was deeply involved in the movie industry, or my friend in the college days, Paul Glass, whose father was production manager at Fox studios. But you get the point. I lived in Los Angeles from 1945 to 1959, and at that time it was much smaller and making movies was a big part of what went on there. Not only did people you came into contact with work in the movie industry, but people you knew in one place came to meet people you know in another place due to their common links to the movies.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lets do something about student debt

Source: The Economist
I quote from an article in The Economist:
Student debt in America now totals $1.2 trillion, up more than threefold over the past decade. On August 10th Hillary Clinton announced a $350 billion plan to reduce this sum. It would increase federal subsidies granted to state-school students, and help existing borrowers refinance their liabilities. New loan originations have decreased every year since 2010, and default rates have stabilised.
I started at a campus of the University of California in 1955 when it was essentially free. I completed my last degree at another campus 20 years later, when fees were still quite low. I worked during college, and got a couple of scholarships, but I finished each stretch in residence on campus with more money than I started. I didn't have any student debt. There was nothing wrong with a university system that made that possible then, and I don't see why a system that at least makes higher education more affordable is not possible now. Lets reduce student debt, especially for majors where the earning potential does not justify the debt. 

Caesarian sections can save lives, but also waste lives and money

Source: The Economist
There are many things that can be said about this data. Perhaps the first is that maternal mortality is unconscionably high in the developing world. In many rich countries it ranges from 1 to 10 per 100,000 live births; in poor countries it tends to range from 100 to 1000 per 100,000 live births. The maternal mortality in Chad is 1000 times higher than that which is attainable.

Note that the lowest maternal mortality is achieved with about one in five births by Caeserean section. Yet there are countries with higher maternal mortality rates that see half of all births by Caeserian. Now I don't really want to intervene if private patients and their ethical doctors choose to have an unnecessary Caeserian, pay the costs, and accept the added risk. I do object to policies that encourage families to choose a more expensive, higher risk procedure, and I do object to physicians finding financial incentives to encourage patients to have unneeded surgery.

Base Historical Stories on Evidence, not current Ideology

The Economist published an essay this week titled "The Unquiet Past". It suggests that Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, is seeking to change the perception of electorate of the World War II history of their country. Speaking of the "Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" concept advanced by his country in World War II:
Mr Abe believes that Japan’s pursuit of fukoku kyohei was essentially right then and still is today, and that its resumption is the key to making Japan what some would call a “normal” nation again. It is what Mr Abe chooses to call “the post-war” which is the shameful historical exception, with its reliance on American tutelage and a constitution that clips Japan’s wings abroad.
The article begins describing the Yasukuni Shrine that commemorates 2,466,532 Japanese who died in wars following the Meiji Restoration. They are termed imperial protectors, their names inscribed in the "Book of Souls".
But in 1978 the priests of Yasukuni surreptitiously enshrined 14 political and military leaders, including General Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister, who had been found guilty by the Tokyo War Crimes Trial of planning or prosecuting the military aggression of the 1930s and 1940s. All 14 had either been executed by Japan’s new American overlords or died in prison.
Emperors Hirohito and Akihito thereafter stopped attending ceremonies at the shrine as did other national leaders. Shinzo Abe, however, does attend the festivals there honoring the Japanese leaders executed for war crimes as well as other persons more appropriate for his salute.

The article also notes that it was Chiang Kai-shek, and his Kuomintang (KMT) that led the Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion of China, while the Communists were less involved in that resistance, secure in their redoubts in the interior. After the Communist victory over the KMT, the official history of the war tended to ignore the sacrifices of Chiang and the KMT. Now, however, people in regions of China that bore the heavy brunt of the Japanese attack and that tied up Japan's military (so that it could not be used in other theaters) are beginning to claim credit for their regions' sacrifices and successes.

Of course, the revision of official history is not new. Recently in the news some have sought to remind the German speaking people of the debt that they owe to other Europeans for the Holocaust and German/Austrian aggression in two World Wars. In the United States, as Confederate flags continue to be flown in the South, many seek to remind those venerating the Stars and Bars that the Confederacy was founded on the principal that African-Americans were inferior to European Americans and that it sought to make the institution of chattel slavery permanent in the Confederacy; indeed, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in a war in which those who fought under the Stars and Bars were doing so to keep other people enslaved.

History Should Be Based on Evidence, Not Emotion

Of course, Historians have changed the dominant interpretation of past epochs. However, professional historians are continuing to mine original sources, publishing their findings in peer reviewed journals and well sourced books. The body of evidence -- including factual evidence -- on many historical epochs continues to increase in volume and improve in quality.

I expect that historians will have increasing difficulty challenging existing paradigms without adducing new and important evidence to support novel assertions.

When politicians and government officials offer new views of history, they should be tested against the prevailing historical ideas and especially against the evidence. Substitution of ideology for knowledge is not a good way to make successful policies.

Of course, policy makers views should be based more widely on knowledge. It appears that both the Japanese and Chinese governments have gotten their economics wrong in the recent past. Economists too are building impressive edifices of factual evidence, and are increasingly defending their ideas with such evidence.

One hopes the two governments are drawing on expert sociological knowledge, the Chinese to project the implications of the one child policy that their country followed, and the Japanese to project the implications of an aging population increasingly supported by a smaller workforce. Again, sociologists are strengthening their field by gathering and organizing factual evidence, and supporting theses with evidence.

When I think of the region of the world from Syria to Pakistan, I can only wonder at its complexity and at the willingness of Americans to intervene in the region with very little understanding of the history, culture or religion of the region. The willingness to intervene seems to continue as does much of the ignorance. Of course, there are many in America who have lifetimes of experience in these countries, having immigrated from them; unfortunately, those sometimes most willing to speak from such knowledge to power only do so to advance their own interests. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A thought about Annual Performance Reviews

My doubts about APRs began when someone I had not seen for two years, who lived and worked on a different continent than I did, wrote my APR. He wasn't my supervisor, nor was I told that he would write the thing.

I suspect that one thing the APRs achieve is to train people over the years to improve the appearance of their APRs.

I hated writing the things, and disagree with the practice on principle. I can not imagine that there has ever been a valid study that indicated that they improved organizational performance.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Where you stand sometimes depends on where you sit: Slave owners profited greatly from their slaves.

It seems that historians now generally agree that the Confederacy was formed to protect the institution of slaver, and thus that slavery was the cause of the American Civil War. I beg to disagree. I think had plantation owners, who dominated the political institutions of the American South, been offered an alternative in which the institution of slavery was abolished but their wealth and income were enhanced, they would have jumped at that alternative. It was argued at the time that the slaves were from an inferior race and that they required the supervision of their owners; does anyone really believe that the institution of slavery was operated and managed for the benefit of the slaves?

A great deal of the wealth of the plantation class was in the form of the slaves that they owned. I understand, however, that like rational capitalists the plantation owners tended to use the slaves as collateral and to borrow against them. The income for the plantation owner generated by the slave would serve to pay the interest on the loans and eventually to pay off the principle amount. If, as happened, slaves were to be emancipated without reimbursement, not only would the owner lose wealth, but would also be left with a debt suddenly without capital and lacking the source of income to pay the interest and principle.

With the invention of the cotton gin at the end of the 18th century, the labor intensive job of removing the seeds from the cotton was inexpensively automated, and costs for the production of cotton fiber was greatly reduced. The alluvial soils in much of the American south together with the climate provided very good growing conditions for cotton. The industrial revolution, which mechanized cotton spinning and weaving, greatly decreased the cost of production of cotton cloth from cotton fiber as well as increasing the amount of cotton cloth that could be produced. Thus the southern United States with its use of slave labor, with the cotton gin, and with an abundance of land close to ports suitable for growing cotton increased cotton production rapidly. The demand kept pace with the increased supply as the mills in England and the northern United States produced more and more cotton cloth, and the railroads and steam ships sold the low cost cloth around the would in increasing amounts.

Cotton was King! Planters got rich! The money flowed in! How would the planters not like the institution of slavery which produced this bounty. However, when slavery was abolished, the planters continued to own the land, and they continued to extract wealth and income by institutionalizing sharecropping and tenant farming. Of course, the sharecroppers and tenants had little power and continued in poverty.

So was the southern support for slavery due to a love of the institution of chattel slavery, or to a love of the economic benefits it brought to the ruling elite. One notes that when slavery proved uneconomical in the north, it was quickly abolished in the northern states. One also notes that cotton producers have not been slow to adopt labor saving mechanization when that was financially advantageous and economically possible.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Institutional Change and the Reconstruction

I have been reading A Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner, and have posted this and this as I read.

The Civil War was very destructive, especially to the southern United States. The war decided that the United States was one nation -- indivisible. It resulted in abolition of slavery in the states in revolt during the war, and abolition of slavery for the entire nation through the 13th amendment to the Constitution immediately after the war. Thus a major focus of the Reconstruction was the reconstruction of political institutions after the war, reconstruction of economic institutions, especially those disrupted by the abolition of slavery, and reconstruction of the institutions of citizenship for to deal with the large number of former slaves who had been freed.
  • Political Institutions: the discussion focuses on who should vote. Should former slaves have the vote? How about Rebel leaders? When should voting rights be restored to the former Confederate states? How would it be decided if the voting had been fair and whether to seat those elected/
  • Economic Institutions: The key issue was how to institutionalize the work of the former slaves. If plantation agriculture was to continue, how would one institutionalize the interface that connected labor to the plantations? How many small farms for black families would be established and how would the relevant economic institutions be organized.
  • Citizenship Institutions: How would citizenship related institutions be restructured to allow former slaves to have citizenship rights and responsibilities? 
The choice of political institutions was influenced of course by the racism common in the southern and northern states. but also be the desire of the Republicans dominating the federal government to institutionalize a system that would keep their party in power.

The freed slaves seemed to have wanted their own small farms that would have focused on subsistence production for the family plus some product for the market; this of course was a radical change from the plantation system of the deep south, a change that the blacks and their allies turned out not to have the power to obtain. Still it was a model that had been used by Sherman during the war (40 acres and a mule) and was a model used in the Homestead Act for the settlement of lands newly taken by the USA.

Since the plantation system survived, how would plantations recruit labor? Various options were tried. The principle one used for many years turned out to be sharecropping. Tenant farming (by black families of land owned by whites also emerged in the post-war south. However, there was also a mechanism used in which blacks were convicted of minor crimes, and then their labor sold to plantations in "work gangs" by officials of the government. The normal hiring institutions that had been assumed to be the outcome by northerners seem to have been little used.

Blacks were given citizenship as a birthright, and had rights to freedom, marriage, to testify in courts, to make contracts, and to own property, etc. It turned out that eventually the right to vote by blacks and to hold political office were initally denied in the south (and sometimes in the north), and were among the most controversial issues of the post-war period.

Beyond the Institutions Described Above

Today we understand that a culture includes many institutions, that the institutions influence one another, and some of the institutions that are less discussed in the book may have been quite important in the Reconstruction period.

Southern Black Culture

Blacks, whose marriages had not been respected in slavery, were very concerned with marriage institutions; as they had often been torn away from children in slavery, in freedom that wanted to institutionalize their rights to bring up their children. 

Former slaves quickly institutionalized their own churches and their own religious institutions, albeit ones that seem to us now to have been modeled after white churches and institutions with which they had been familiar.

Blacks had learned the value of education, and wanted schools. Barred from integrated schools, they quickly created black educational institutions. I assume that the first historically black colleges and universities came to be in this period, as well as adult literacy classes and schools for black children.

So too, blacks quickly developed communal organizations such as clubs, civic action groups, etc.. Recalling that Alexis De Tocqueville was struck by the number and importance of communal organizations in America, it is perhaps not surprising that many of the black institutions seem to have been strongly influenced in form and function by those in white communities.

White Southern Culture

I am no expert, but white southerners seemed more likely (than were blacks) to keep somewhat modified institutions that already existed, perhaps because they had more political and economic power with which to defend those institutions. One obvious exception is the KKK, which was developed to use force to reject black demands for improved status. As stated above, white plantation owners and managers ultimately substituted sharecropping, tenant farming, and use of prisoners for slave labor. thereby achieving high levels of production and export. (Eventually, mechanization would reduce labor needs for cotton farming and other forms of extensive agriculture.)

Northern Institutions

I recall that new institutions were being created in the north as well in the post war period. The transcontinental railroad and telegraph, supported in part by the national government through land grants are an obvious example. In education, the federal government again used land grants to establish a national system of land grant colleges. In the area of science and technology, a national system of agricultural field stations was created, linked to the land grant colleges and universities; the National Academy of Sciences was created.

Of course, the federal government innovated greatly during the Civil War. The military size was increased hugely. Institutions were created to support the soldiers, and in the aftermath of the war a system of National cemeteries was created.

A national currency replaced the many bank issued currencies, and a system of national banks was created. Federal bonds were issued to obtain money, and for the first time some were issued in small denominations for less than wealthy buyers. Wikipedia states:
Republicans enacted their legislation. At the same time they passed new taxes to pay for part of the war, and issued large amounts of bonds to pay for the most of the rest. (The remainder can be charged to inflation.) They wrote an elaborate program of economic modernization that had the dual purpose of winning the war and permanently transforming the economy. The key policy-maker in Congress was Thaddeus Stevens, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He took charge of major legislation that funded the war effort and revolutionized the nation's economic policies regarding tariffs, bonds, income and excise taxes, national banks, suppression of money issued by state banks, greenback currency, and western railroad land grants.
The industrial advantages of the North over the South helped secure a Northern victory in the American Civil War (1861–1865). The Northern victory sealed the destiny of the nation and its economic system. The slave-labor system was abolished; the world price of cotton plunged, making the large southern cotton plantations much less profitable. Northern industry, which had expanded rapidly before and during the war, surged ahead. Industrialists came to dominate many aspects of the nation's life, including social and political affairs.
Temporary measures of the federal government suggested that it might be able to more fully impose federal rules on states in the future. These included the Freedmens Bureau, and the creation of 5 military districts covering most of the Confederate states and installing governors of these districts appointed by the federal government.

This is only a partial listing of institutional changes that might be considered part of the post Civil War Reconstruction.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Guns, Capitalism, and Revolutions in the Americas

I just watched an interesting talk by Brian DeLay on guns and gun powder in the U.S. Civil War, Haitian Independence and the wars of Latin American independence from Spain in the early 19th century.

Delay pointed out that the revolutionaries in what became the United States did not have sufficient guns and powder at the beginning of the Revolutionary War to successfully win independence. The best estimate was 150,000 weapons in private hands (those households that had a gun, almost always had only one); powder was similarly in short supply. Most of these were not military weapons, and most households would not donate them to the revolutionary troops. There were perhaps 300 gun makers in the American British colonies, and they were largely craftsmen working alone to produce hand made weapons. (DeLay did not mention that much of the private stock of weapons and gunpowder must have been in the hands of loyalists. The Battle of Lexington and Concord occurred when British troops from Boston marched to secure the weapons and powder in the local armory.)

DeLay also pointed out that the imperial powers blocked the production of arms and powder in their colonies. At the beginning of the Revolution, the British blocked the sale of gunpowder to Americans. DeLay also underlined the difficulties of obtaining guns and gunpowder commercially, since mercantile trading networks were based on mutual trust among the traders. Not only would Americans need to find traders in continental Europe who would sell them guns and gunpowder, they had to pay for what they bought. This in turn meant establishing networks that would allow sales of US products (lumber, fish, rice, indigo, etc.) in Europe (other than in Britain). Robert Morris managed this for the Continental Congress early in the war, but the British found out what was happening and used diplomatic pressure and a naval blockade to stop the traffic.

Fortunately, the French came to the aid of the revolutionaries with large loans (essentially without collateral), weapons, and importantly gunpowder. (DeLay did not mention that due to the work of Chemist Antoine_Lavoisier, the French made better gunpowder than did the English at that time, giving the revolutionaries an advantage over their British enemies in gunnery. Probably the only American scientist of the time of comparable importance to Benjamin Franklin was Benjamin Thompson, later titled Lord Rumford, who was a loyalist. Thompson served with the British in the Revolutionary war, helped improve gunpowder, and emigrated from the Americas to Europe at the end of the war.)

After the Revolutionary War, the newly created United States gave high priority to its domestic weapons industry. The Sprinfield Armory was founded in 1777 to support the revolutionary armies. The  Harpers Ferry Armory went into production as a government armory in 1802  The armories sought to develop local industries manufacturing weapons in their neighborhoods. The Dupont Gunpowder Mill was founded in 1802 by a former student of Lavoisier.

The Haitian Revolution (1791 to 1894) led to a demand for weapons and gunpowder from the Haitian revolutionaries. American traders were well situated geographically to supply that demand, and had the means to do so. American ships brought weapons and powder into Haiti for the revolutionaries, and it was estimated that there were 100,000 muskets in the hands of Haitian revolutionaries by the end of the war. While the tropical diseases were perhaps even more dangerous to the French regular troops in Haiti, the weapons in the hands of insurgents were also a significant factor according to DeLay. Sales were on commercial terms, and must have been appreciated by American commercial interests.

In the early 19th century, taking advantage of the weakness of the Spanish government, revolutions broke out all over Spanish colonial America. All of the revolutionary movements needed guns and gunpowder, and nowhere in Spanish America were production facilities available to supply the needed war materials. Naturally, representatives of many of the revolutionary forces showed up in American cities looking to buy weapons and powder. They did so at commercial prices, without government loans, often discounting paper from their revolutionary governments or offering commercial deals such as contracts for railroads. When the revolutions eventually succeeded, many of the U.S. merchants did very well indeed on their ventures.

DeLay did not emphasize the point, but it is clear that the new nation of the United States did well for itself by developing a weapons industry. Moreover, the Springfield and Harpers Ferry Armories played important roles in the development of industrial manufacturing in the United States.

I posted earlier on the Harpers Ferry Armory here and here.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Disinterested, evidence based policy decisions and emotional needs for action

I find myself worrying about the chasm between the way policy should be made and the bases of policy support by the public.

An example in the Bush administration's war decisions. 9/11 was a shock widely shared by the American public. The public after 9/11 would support almost any action to get back at the terrorists who planned the action. The Bush administration, as far as we can tell, made the right decision that Al Qaeda was responsible, and supported those in revolt against the Taliban in Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban was sheltering Al Qaeda leadership. With the Taliban overthrown, the Al Qaeda leadership was in danger from American retaliation in the east of Afghanistan.

At that point, the Bush administration appears to have misused its intelligence assets and used spurious analysis to argue that Iraqi political leaders had also supported Al Qaeda, were implicated in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, and had stock piles of weapons of mass destruction; all of these charges eventually proved false. However, the public and the Congress, still emotionally driven by anger after the 9/11 attacks, approved of a war on Iraq to be conducted in parallel with the action in Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden got away in Afghanistan, the U.S. quickly conquered the Iraqi army and eliminated Baath party members from the Iraqi government and military, and then chose to embark on long and costly military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

More American lives were lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts than were lost in the Twin Towers, thousands more Americans were wounded and/or disabled, and huge numbers spent years of their lives in the war zones away from families and friends. The casualties among Iraqis and Afghans dwarf the America casualties. The cost of the wars have still to be fully counted, but appear to be more than a trillion dollars. Perhaps most important, a large region of the world -- never too stable to begin with -- is now far less stable than it might have been.

My guess is that the Bush administration did not do due diligence in thinking through the causes of 9/11, nor the alternatives available to it, nor the effects of the actions it chose. However, those actions were easy to sell to the American public at the time that they were taken because the public was acting on the basis of emotion and not reason.

Policy should, I believe, be based on a reasoned judgement as to what is best for the nation. Emotional response to current events on the part of the policy makers tends to get in the way of good policy decision making. The public is more prone to emotional response to riveting events, especially those driven home by vivid media coverage, but public intellectuals should strive to keep a dispassionate, evidence based assessment of the situation before the public. Walter Cronkite, the most trusted newsman in America in his time, did yeoman work of that kind anchoring the news around Viet Nam and the Kennedy Assassination.

Good policy making involves drawing on people who have knowledge about the issues and peoples to be affected, and in situations such as planning wars in Iraq and Afghanistan requires reaching out to people outside of the normal framework; there were people in the USA, and indeed in government, who had expert knowledge about these countries, but they were not in the cabinet or the cadre of political appointees in the State Department, Defense Department, nor the Treasury Department. Good policy making would seem to require the president and his key advisers to be able to rise above their emotional responses to immediate events in order to look carefully at evidence and dispassionately consider alternative scenarios and their probabilities. It requires being able to consult with leaders of allies and consider carefully the views of leaders of other countries.

Those who don't know history may repeat it

In the presidential election of 1912, progressive Republican incumbent William Howard Taft sought reelection. Former progressive Republican president Teddy Roosevelt, dissatisfied with Taft's performance, ran for the Bull Moose Party. The split between the Republicans allowed Woodrow Wilson, who also ran as a progressive, to win the presidency for the Democrats.

In his second term. Wilson reluctantly led the country into World War I, but at the end of that war led in the creation of the League of Nations, an international organization conceptualized to help prevent world war. War had become too terrible to countenance.

Republicans controlled the White House from 1923 to 1933, the Senate from 1919 to 1931 and the House of Representatives from 1917 to 1933. Conservatives in the Congress voted against the Treaty of Versailles (which formally ended World War I) and voted against the United States joining the League of Nations.

What Difference Did it Make?

Understanding what would have been had history been different is always dangerous. The State Department writes:
Most historians hold that the League operated much less effectively without U.S. participation than it would have otherwise. However, even while rejecting membership, the Republican Presidents of the period, and their foreign policy architects, agreed with many of its goals. To the extent that Congress allowed, the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administrations associated the United States with League efforts on several issues. Constant suspicion in Congress, however, that steady U.S. cooperation with the League would lead to de facto membership prevented a close relationship between Washington and Geneva. Additionally, growing disillusionment with the Treaty of Versailles diminished support for the League in the United States and the international community. Wilson’s insistence that the Covenant be linked to the Treaty was a blunder; over time, the Treaty was discredited as unenforceable, short-sighted, or too extreme in its provisions, and the League’s failure either to enforce or revise it only reinforced U.S. congressional opposition to working with the League under any circumstances.
The isolationism that dominated legislative thinking for much of the time between the wars seems now to have failed to recognize the international role that would be thrust upon the United States and to have contributed to the buildup towards World War II.

It is very important for members of Congress to recognize that they may be wrong in their beliefs and to grant respect to the executive branch views. This is perhaps especially important during the long election season, now at least two years, in which politicians are prone to make statements for political benefit that might not be in the country's best interest.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Debt as a Percentage of GDP

United States Debt as a Percentage of GDP (1940-2012)

Of course the federal debt increased as a percentage of GDP during World War II, and we as a nation paid off the dept after the war. There was a fairly long run with the debt at some thirty percent of GDP. Along came the Reagan revolution and the debt increased. Clinton enjoyed the end of the Cold War and was able to balance the budget as the economy continued to grow; thus he saw a decline of federal debt as a percentage of GDP. Bush II's administration saw two long wars that we are still paying for, and the beginning of the Great Recession. The policies that successfully pulled our economy back and restored employment increased the debt to GDP ratio.

Monday, August 03, 2015

New Economic Institutionalization in the South After the Civil War

This is a continuation, following my previous post on A Short History of Reconstruction, Updated Edition by Eric Foner. Here I deal with Chapter 4 of the book which is titled "The Ambiguities of Free Labor".

With the abolition of slavery, the plantation economic system of the southern United States -- which had been based on slave labor, and which confounded race with social and economic status -- had to be rebuilt on a new foundation. We living today have seen how long it took Japan to develop its version of capitalism and more recently how different countries with their different cultures responded to the fall of Communism. The Russian experience seeking to find a new economic model to replace Russian Communism alone helps us to recognize the replacement of one set of economic institutions by another can be a long and difficult process!

The Republicans seemed so blinded by their "free labor" ideology that they completely underestimated the difficulty in getting plantation agriculture of the pre-war south converted into an economic system that depended on a labor market in post-war America. Foner points out that the outcome of such an institutional makeover is more easily seen retrospectively than during its course, and may differ from place to place (and from crop to crop). Sharecropping by black families on small parcels was the dominant outcome after a few years, with whites owning the land. The contracts between share cropper and land owner specified the crop to be grown and the share given to each party at the end of the growing season.

From our modern perspective, the assumption that white owners and black farm workers would quickly establish a mutual concern for the productivity of the land seems naive. We of course benefit from centuries of labor management and labor owner disputes, some so grave as to lead to violence. That the former slave owners (who had seen hundreds of thousands of armed former slaves in the Union army) and the former slaves (who had been almost uniformly the victims of coercive physical violence perpetrated by slave masters under the direction of plantation owners) would easily see a common interest is naive. To the normal disagreements between capital and labor over the share each would receive of the profits of the enterprise, was added the concern of the former slaves for the freedom of themselves and their families -- freedom that they linked to the control of land and the removal of coercive control of their labor by plantation owners. Plantation owners, once fearful of slave revolts, were in the post-war world surprised by the desire of former slaves for improved status and fearful that the black workforce would not provide the labor needed to run the economy.

Foner writes that late in the war and soon after the war, a significant amount of land was distributed to former slaves. The land had been confiscated from rebels or abandoned; it was seen as needed by the freedmen to feed themselves and their families and begin them on the course towards development of a free labor system. Soon after the war, however, the federal government confiscated most of this land from its freedmen owners and gave it to the former plantation owners. I don't understand the concept of property that would allow the government to give and then take away, without cause.

Coincidentally, two economists famous for their controlled studies of development projects have concluded that a model does seem to work. Their six country study (see also the discussion in The Economist) focused on poverty alleviation projects that included a variety of inputs: "a productive asset grant, training and support, life skills coaching, temporary cash consumption support, and typically access to savings accounts and health information or services." Inputs were continued for at least two years, and evaluated after three years. The approach worked, albeit with modest benefits in terms of increased capital, income and standards of living for the poor targets. It seems very unlikely that the Freedman's Bureau was in any position to provide support of this intensity to the millions of freed slaves/

Source: "U. S. Slavery"
Cotton has been grown in the southern United States for centuries; there a warm and relatively wet climate combined with rich soils of the coastal plains to provide a suitable growing environment, and there the raw cotton could be relatively easily transported to ocean ports to be shipped to the mills in the north and in England.

Clearly cotton was king before the Civil War. With the invention of the cotton gin at the end of the 18th century the hugely labor intensive task of removing the seeds from the valuable cotton fibers was replaced by a relatively simple mechanical process. Suddenly cheep cotton from the more mechanized cotton plantations in the U.S. south fed the efficient mills of the industrial revolution in England and the northern United States to create a super product -- low-cost, high quality cotton cloth -- sold via the trading networks that were established (especially by colonial Britain) throughout the world. Here are data on U.S. cotton exports in the latter half of the 19th century:
  • in 1860 cotton goods were the #1 export of the USA with a value of 58 million 1914 US$
  • in 1880 they were the #3 export with a value of 97 million 1914 US$
  • in 2000 they were the #7 export with a value of 196 million 1914 US$
  • in 1929 they were the #4 export with a value of 364 million 1914 US$
The United States is still the worlds leading exporter of cotton. 

I wonder if the need for a product of substantial worth in the south and of tariff income from cotton exports played a role in the decision of the federal government to give the land that been in cotton production back into the hands of plantation owners/ After all, those wealthy property owners would be likely to seek the profits from the commercial product. If so, then government acceptance and support for the share cropping system that devoted a great deal of the labor of the former slaves to producing cotton rather than subsistence crops seems reasonable.

Author Foner notes (in the following chapter of the book) that many influential people in the north also wanted cotton production to return to the south to produce inexpensive cotton in large amounts. Northern mills were dependent on cotton inputs, there was a shipping industry largely run from the north that had been employed transporting cotton, and there were of course related financial interests that would be endangered by mill closures and loss of shipping routes. Moreover, there were debts due from southern borrowers and government income that would be lost if the tariffs from cotton exports were to be lost. Thus northern interests were allied with southern interests in resuming cotton production, and that implied plantation production in 1865.

This map is from "37 maps that explain the American Civil War"; the source also provided this text:
The Civil War freed the slaves, and Reconstruction temporarily granted them basic political rights. But the settlement of the war made no provision for land reform or economic redistribution. The federally owned land of the West was secured for free (largely white) owner-operated farms, but the basic underpinnings of the Southern plantation economy were left intact. Newly freed slaves owned no land or farm equipment, and had little in the way of formal education. With Southern governments from the 1870s onward uninterested in providing any of those things, most of the rural black population was forced into a particularly unremunerative form of tenant farming known as sharecropping. In exchange for land to till, seeds to plant, and basic equipment, the sharecropper would do all the work and hand a large share of the proceeds over to the landowner. Discriminatory enforcement of laws against "vagrancy," barriers to education and the professions, and discrimination on railroads and other public accommodations made it exceptionally difficult for sharecroppers to move from job to job or bargain for better conditions.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Nabila Dali - Berber & Celtic Influences

Birds of Paradise

The Birds-of-Paradise Project reveals the astounding beauty of 39 of the most exquisitely specialized animals on earth. After 8 years and 18 expeditions to New Guinea, Australia, and nearby islands, Cornell Lab scientist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photojournalist Tim Laman succeeded in capturing images of all 39 species in the bird-of-paradise family for the first time ever. This trailer gives a sense of their monumental undertaking and the spectacular footage that resulted. Filmed by Tim Laman, Ed Scholes, and Eric Liner. Also be on the lookout for the Cornell Lab's and National Geographic's gorgeous coffee-table book (, a major exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (, a TV documentary (, articles in Living Bird ( and National Geographic magazines, and a North American lecture tour (

Saturday, August 01, 2015

How Brazil Got the 2016 Summer Olympics

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are too be held in Rio de Janeiro. There have been reports of terrible pollution in the waters of Guanabara Bay where some of the water sports are to take place, and of fears that the high levels of street crime may spill over to harm the games. Brazil is going through a period of drought and one of economic recession, both of which may complicate its job of hosting the games.

Recently the President of Brazil made a public announcement, seeking to minimize the dangers of holding the games in Brazil (translation mine):
Dilma mimimized the concerns with the security in the host city, where assaults and lost bullets from the crossfire between drug trafficers and police take victims every day........
Considering the climate of mistrust including corruption scandals that shake the country, Dilma drew a parallel between Brazil and the athletes who overcome adversity with hard work and effort.
The Selection Process

Rio was one of seven cities that submitted bids to host the games. The International Olympic Committee evaluated each city's offering. A grade of 6 or above was judged to be adequate to accept the bid from the city. The results of the evaluations were:

Tokyo (Japan)  8.3
Madrid (Spain)  8.1
Chicago (USA) 7.0
Doha (Qatar)  6.9
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) 6.4
Prague (Czech Republic)  5.3
Baku (Azerbaijan)  4,3

Thus the fifth ranked application, and the lowest of the applications thought to be acceptable by the International Olympic Committee's evaluation team was selected.

The actual selection was made by three rounds of voting of 98 of the 99 eligible voting country delegations. Only four countries received votes: the USA was the first rejected, then Japan, then Spain, leaving Brazil the winner.

Bloomberg reported:
The Brazilian city, which proposed investments of $11.1 billion in preparation for the games, got 66 votes in the final round today, while Madrid received 32 in balloting by the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen. Tokyo and Chicago lost in earlier rounds. 
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who led the Rio delegation, applied his strategy of promoting ties among Southern Hemisphere countries to back his bid. Lula, 63, visited eight countries since April to court developing nations’ support. U.S. President Barack Obama made an in-person pitch for Chicago, his adopted hometown, which was the first city eliminated........
Rio’s campaign was boosted by the presence in Copenhagen of Lula and Central Bank Governor Henrique Meirelles.
The Brazilian president has been promoting Rio’s bid since last year, when he traveled to Beijing for the opening of the 2008 Games. After attending the Group of 20 meeting in April in London, he was the only leader of the four bidding countries to tour the Olympic Park for the 2012 Games.
Billionaire Eike Batista made the Olympics bid part of his quest to become Brazil’s champion of infrastructure development. His EBX Brasil SA group said it donated 23 million reais ($12.8 million) to Rio’s campaign -- about a quarter of the 102 million reais that Brazil’s Olympic Committee invested in the competition with four other company donors.
Behind the Scenes

Given the scandal surrounding FIFA and international soccer, one may be excused for suspecting that the true story behind the choice of Rio de Janeiro to host the Olympic Games may be more complex than that presented by Bloomberg's report. The FIFA scandal suggests money payments might lubricate that international voting process. I don't doubt that gifts to delegates and those who instruct delegates might in some cases be used, but I suspect that diplomatic efforts invisible to the public also may play a role.

The 2014 Winter Olympics are described is follows in Wikipedia:
The lead-up to these Games was marked by several major controversies, including allegations that corruption among officials led to the aforementioned cost overruns, concerns for the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) athletes and spectators due to the effects of recently passed legislation, protests by ethnic Circassian activists over the site of Sochi (where they believe a genocide took place), and threats by jihadist groups tied to the insurgency in the North Caucasus.
Now Bejing has been chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in spite of the fact that it has no history of snow falls, and is planning to hold the games on artificial snow.

I quote from a Wikipedia entry relative to the 2002 Winter Olympics:
The 2002 Olympic Winter Games bid scandal was a scandal involving allegations of bribery used to win the rights to host the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. Prior to its successful bid in 1995, the city had attempted four times to secure the games; failing each time. In 1998 members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were accused of taking bribes from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) during the bidding process. The allegations resulted in the expulsion of several IOC members, and the adoption of new IOC rules. Legal charges were brought against the leaders of Salt Lake's bid committee by the United States Department of Justice, of which all parties were later acquitted. Investigations were also launched into prior bidding process by other cities, finding that members of the IOC received gifts during the bidding process for both the 1998 Winter Olympics and 2000 Summer Olympics.
How is it that seemingly inappropriate venues are selected for the Olympic Games? Are bribes involved, and if so, are they the major factor determining the selection? I suspect that diplomatic channels are used by governments to understand the details of each selection process (and intelligence agencies and methods?). Governments have varying degrees of influence over the voters in the final selection process, and the more coercive the government, the greater that influence my be. Do governments make deals among themselves, trading the votes that they influence?

A UNESCO Example

I closely followed the election of a new Director General for UNESCO in 2009, creating a blog to share the material I was finding. Two Brazilians were initially considered very strong candidates for the position:
  • Marcio Barbosa, the then Deputy Director General of UNESCO, who had headed the Brazilian Space Agency, and
  • Cristovam Buarque, a member of the Brazilian Senate, former Brazilian Minister of Education, with a distinguished academic career.
In fact, the Government of Brazil chose not to submit a nomination for either of these men.

It was reported that Brazil in fact supported the candidacy of the Egyptian candidate for the position. He was a long time minister in the Mubarak government, and thought to be a close associate of President Mubarak's wife. The Egyptian was the early leader in the voting, but lost due to opposition raised by a number of serious charges posted against him during the race. It was suggested that there was president-to-president contact made between Egypt and Brazil resulting in Brazil's support for the Egyptian candidate for the UNESCO job, and Egyptian support for Brazil to host the 2015 Summer Olympics. A secret diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks provides some background.