Mike Kueber's Blog

August 26, 2014

Paul Ryan and the Ice Bucket Challenge

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:45 pm
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Facebook is plastered with posts making fun of Paul Ryan for taking the Ice Bucket Challenge despite previously trying to eliminate federal funding of ALS research. Because Ryan and Romney are two of my favorite politicians, I decided to investigate whether the posters had a point. Not surprisingly, the facts expose the posts are inaccurate and misleading:

  • Inaccurate.  Ryan did not vote to eliminate funding of ALS research. Rather he voted to reduce federal funding for the National Institutes of Health, which resulted in federal funding for ALS research being reduced from $44 million to $39 million.
  • Misleading.  It is not hypocritical for a conservative politicians to decline spending taxpayer money on charitable/altruistic activities while privately spending their personal money on those activities. To the contrary, that is entirely consistent with their personal and political philosophy. Liberal politicians, on the other hand, are noted for their quick willingness to spend taxpayer money on good causes, but exceptionally reluctant to devote their personal assets to those causes.

The happy ending? Thanks to Paul Ryan and other participants, over $30 million has been raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge, more than enough to offset any reductions in federal spending.

p.s., as of August 28, the Challenge has raised almost $100 million.

August 25, 2014

An open letter to Time magazine about its Ferguson coverage

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 10:13 pm
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Dear Time magazine:
Your coverage in this week’s magazine of the Ferguson tragedy was a disgrace.  Although a close reading of the Von Drehle/Altman cover article reveals that the critical facts of the shooting are in dispute, your cover photo depicts the version provided by Dorian Johnson, who you describe as “Brown’s friend,” while failing to note that he was also the alleged accomplice in the earlier robbery.  Perhaps most readers would apply that fact to the kid’s credibility.
Then to fan-the-flames to the “hands up” version of the narrative, you begin the story with a two-page photo of demonstrators with their hands up, and later end the story with a collage of six photos circulating at #HANDSUPDONTSHOOT.  You seem to see this protest almost like a pep rally.
For good measure, you follow-up the Von Drehle/Altman travesty with three opinion pieces from kindred spirits – Rand Paul, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mom).  Are they the best serious thinkers you could find?  Why not include someone with a mind to defend the police under assault?
Just when I was going to through my arms up in disgust with the entire magazine, I got to Joe Klein’s column.  His angle was so different than the other four that you wondered if they were looking at the different worlds.  He quickly eviscerated their version with his lead sentences in the first two paragraphs:
  1.  At first, it seemed a perfect metaphor for 400 years of oppression….
  2. But the perfection of the metaphor is soon blurred by facts.
Those points are so obvious that the obvious question is why did you publish the other four articles in support of the metaphors that are blurred by facts?
Klein’s thoughtful and balanced column concluded with a statement that I agree with totally, but which I haven’t seen elsewhere in connection with the Ferguson tragedy – “Absent a truly candid conversation about the culture that emerged from slavery and segregation, they [problems emanating from a debilitating culture of poverty among the urban underclass] won’t be solved at all.
Hear, hear.

August 24, 2014

Aphorism of the Week #20 – Tolerance – good or bad?

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 4:43 am
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The biggest complaint about politics in Washington is that the two major parties have become polarized and that this polarization has led to incivility and an unwillingness to compromise. Of course, this is not exactly a new development because I remember my ND Senator Byron Dorgan complaining decades ago that Washington needed to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.

As a big advocate of civility and compromise, I am fond of a quote from Robert Kennedy about tolerating the opinion of others:

  • What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

This admonition applies equally well toward conservatives and liberals.

Last week on the Dom Imus talk show, however, I heard a guest speak about tolerance in a negative way. Former SEAL Leif Babin, whose company Echelon Front does motivational work, emphatically declared:

  • It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.”

I can’t recall if Babin was referring to civilian employment, military matters, or foreign policy, but I think he makes a good point. Although you will usually want to tolerate the opinions of others, there are other situations where you, as a leader, will not want to tolerate certain conduct.

All of which brings me to a Facebook discussion I had earlier today after a liberal friend, Ana Alicia Perez, posted her agreement with a news report titled, “St. Louis County Officer Suspended After Bigoted Video Rant.”

Not surprisingly, her mostly liberal friends quickly agreed in condemning the law officer. The following is an example:

  • Lance Stoll This is why I harp on the idea of the Christian Taliban, because that is what is wrong with this country…racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnocentricity and patriotism all wrapped up in the perverse religion of evangelical christianity..this is the fascism we should fear!

Because I thought the commenters were too quick to judgment, just like in the Ferguson shooting, I provided my two cents:

  • Mike Kueber I don’t have the time to listen to the one-hour so-called rant, but I have read the USA Today and HuffPost articles, and they are all deficient in specifying precisely what the guy said that was so inflammatory or incendiary. I didn’t read of anything remotely racist other than him thinking President Obama was from Kenya. And the only thing homophobic related to his disagreement with the Supreme Court over sodomy laws. Sexist? What am I missing? These comments make is sound like we are dealing with a Hitler-esque evil.

Not surprisingly, my post was quickly attacked:

  • Paul Sean Moreno Excuse me Mike he said gays, women, migrant, Obama is an illegal among other things that were hatred not rants. You are missing a mind! Get your head outta of your ass moron!

Some guy tried to defend me:

  • Ellis Artist Paul, should we take your intolerant words and taunting to Mike Kueber as signs that your temperament would cause problems and abuses as a policeman working with others who think differently?

But Paul Sean was of no mind to be tolerant, and instead post four consecutive rants:

  • Paul Sean Moreno Mike you are my moron of the week!
  • Paul Sean Moreno The problem is you don’t think – swallow that!
  • Paul Sean Moreno The only intolerance Ellis is accepting that Mike’s words are acceptable. They are not.
  • Paul Sean Moreno Mine may be not but they are the truth.

So, what does this have to do with tolerance? It seems to me that Paul Sean is intolerant, and I wish Ana Alicia Perez would sanction his intolerance by unfriending him.

August 22, 2014

Political correctness rears its ugly head

Filed under: Culture,Media — Mike Kueber @ 6:50 pm
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Other than Wikipedia, my favorite on-line resource is the Urban Dictionary. This resource provides not only a workable definition, but also does it with it with wit. So when I decided to post another entry in my blog about political correctness, my first step was to refer to the Urban Dictionary for a working definition:

  • Politically correct is a way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining pussies. Ex.: only pathetically weak people that don’t have the balls to say what they feel and mean are politically correct pussies.

David Martin Davies is not especially politically correct. As a talk-show host for Texas Public Radio, he fashions himself a disinterested independent observer, but any discerning listener quickly knows that Davies is as independent as Will Rogers was (or a younger reference, Jon Stewart). Yesterday, however, he posted something on his Facebook wall that reeked of political correctness.

The background for the post was that the Washington Post had included a small item in a column called The Loop about up-and-coming, erstwhile SA mayor Julian Castro making a big splash in DC, and some copy editor had subtitled the item, “Going to need more fajitas.” Apparently, the Post quickly replaced the subtitled on its own volition and apologized to Castro, but that was not enough for hometown booster Davies. He posted the following on his Facebook wall:

  • Washington Post, sure D.C.is going to need more — whatever. Here’s the problem with the headline. It tells us that all you see is a Mexican American. WAPO, you could have written something about a rising star, maybe the next VP? You could have noted his youth. Another HUD Secretary from SA? There are lots of things they could have put in the headline of substance but instead you admitted that all you see is a Mexican American. It’s not about fajitas. It’s about the WAPO’s lack of understanding about where this country is going and which demographic will be leading the way.

Virtually all of Davies’s Facebook friends were similarly outraged by the Post’s racism and insensitivity, so I decided to give an alternative perspective:

  • Obviously, the copy editor was trying to be funny and witty, and sometimes that falls flat. Reminds me of Fuzzy Zoeller making the joke at the Masters’ dinner about Tiger Woods and fried chicken. Apparently, Castro has not indicated whether he was offended. I would be surprised if he was.

After reflecting further on Davies’s post, I realized that Davies was being hypocritical by first denying the importance of Castro’s Hispanicness and later in the same post asserting that Hispanicness is the future of America:

  • The lady doth protest too much, methinks; or being hoist by your own petard :) David Martin Davies, if Julian Castro is so much more than a Mexican American, why did you conclude your argument by pointing out that WAPO’s “lack of understanding about where this country is going and which demographic will be leading the way.” I assume the demographic you are referring to is the exploding number of Mexicans in America. Most reasonable people know that Julian’s claim to fame is his Mexican-American heritage. Furthermore, I don’t think most Mexican-Americans are ashamed to be associated with fajitas, but I could be wrong.

I probably should have stopped with that follow-up comment, but later I got sucked into an attenuated discussion with Vanessa Martinez Campos:

  • Vanessa Martinez Campos – So we can go back to associating black people with foods? How would that play out?
  • Me – Vanessa, every ethnicity is associated with particular foods. As a Norwegian, I am often teased about lefse and lutefisk. As a German, I am often teased about sauerkraut. The problem arises when someone uses that association to “put you in your place.” Arguably, Fuzzy Zoeller did that when he suggested Tiger Woods would be putting fried chicken on the menu for the formal Masters Championship dinner. I don’t think the Washington Post was out-of-line in joking that DC people who want to suck up to the new kid in town should stock up on fajitas.
  • Vanessa Martinez Campos – I took 7 years of German culture, and not once in my life have I ever thought to tease any German about sauerkraut or bratwurst. But, I’m of a race and culture that gets thought less of, stereotyped negatively, and thus knows better than to do that to others.
  • Me - So you think the Washington Post guy was trying to stereotype negatively Julian Castro? I don’t. You seem to think that it is always inappropriate to crack wise about someone being Mexican-American. I think context is important and this brouhaha is an excellent example of being politically correct, with the charge of racism bandied about too casually.

Incidentally, before I used the term, “crack wise,” I turned to the old reliable Urban Dictionary:

  • Crack wise – To be sarcastic and/or engage in witty banter, for the purpose of creating a humorous moment — in particular with mates or friends.

In the politically correct world, where no one is your mate or friend, it is hazardous to crack wise.

August 21, 2014

White cops in black cities

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 6:53 pm
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FiveThirtyEight.com is the name of a website created by Nate Silver. Nate is perhaps the pre-eminent statistics-based analyst in America, and the name of his website is taken from the number of federal legislators (senators and representatives combined).

Yesterday, Nate posted an article related to Ferguson, with its white cops and black population. (The population is almost 70% black, but the cops are only 11% black).  The 538 article described how common it was for large cities to be protected and served by policemen who don’t live in the city, but this was especially the status for white cops and not as much for black or Hispanic cops. For example, in NYC 77% of the black cops and 76% of the Hispanic cops live in the city, but only 45% of the white cops do. In San Antonio, 74% of the Hispanic cops and 57% of the black cops live in the city, but only 44% of the white cops do. According to Silver, cities with largely black populations have the greatest disparity in white cops and non-white cops living in the city they police.

Attorney General Eric Holder, upon his arrival in Ferguson, hinted at this disparity. According to an article in the NY Times:

  • Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Thursday that the unrest the country has witnessed here over the past two weeks was emblematic of deeper problems that exist across the nation, where a corrosive mistrust exists in certain places between the police and the people they are meant to serve.

Common sense says that being policed by out-of-town cops might facilitate mistrust, and the 538 article noted that many cities require their cops to live in town. But such a requirement might be a great, undue burden on our cops. Further, no cop wants to live in a poor part of town, so it seems almost inevitable that cops will be viewed as outsiders when policing in a poor, inner-city area.

But what is the solution?

The San Antonio Express-News recently published an editorial critical of policing in Ferguson and elsewhere:

  • For young black men in particular, encounters with the law seem to be more fraught with peril. Driving or walking while black — or in some parts of the country, Hispanic — is not a myth. And neither is the disproportionate number of young black men arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison. And disproportionately killed by police — four young black men in the last month alone. Ferguson, predominantly black but whose power structure is dominantly white, is just our latest lesson that we are far from post-racial nirvana. Case in point. On Friday, the Ferguson police chief released the name of the officer who shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown, 18. In the same press conference, he said that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm” robbery at a convenience story. One had and has nothing to do with the other.

I commented as follows to the editorial:

  • One (the robbery) had and has nothing to do with the other (the shooting).” How can you say that? Most reasonable people would believe that a person who has committed a strong-arm robbery in the preceding hour would be more likely to act in a way toward a policeman that would justify self-defense. Most of this editorial seems intent on rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem isn’t the police or the Ferguson power structure. If you don’t believe me, ask Detroit, DC, or other urban areas with a black power structure. The problem is the decaying inner city and its residents. You should be focused on ways to fix that.

Incidentally, another article in the NY Times a few days ago partially explained why there were so few black cops in Ferguson – i.e., the city until recently was predominantly white, and it takes time for the changing population to be reflected in long-career positions like law enforcement:

  • Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.


The Triple Package, The Bucket List, and Me

Filed under: Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 12:05 am
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While on my bike ride this afternoon, it dawned on me that the lessons of The Triple Package (Amy Chua’s book) might have some strong applicability to me. As you may recall, the triple package comprises three character traits that, when combined, tend to produce individuals who succeed in America. Those traits – a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control. As I pondered the list, it occurred to me that in my youth, I could have been a poster child for the triple package:

  1. A superiority complex. During my freshman year in college, for a reason I no longer remember I was talking with a high school classmate about me, and she said in high school I had been self-centered or conceited. I don’t recall which term she used. I responded with disbelief and asked why the School Paper’s personality poll had listed a classmate instead of me as the most conceited in high school. She responded sensibly that just because he had been the worst didn’t mean I wasn’t bad, too.
  2. Insecurity. During my high school years, I hated the way I looked and sincerely thought I was one of the two or three ugliest guys in high school. Imagine my surprise when the aforementioned School Paper personality poll listed me as the most handsome guy in high school.
  3. Impulse control. I never had an allowance during high school. My brothers and I were given a calf to sell in the fall and the proceeds had to last us until the next fall. That will inculcate impulse control.

With those three traits engrained in me, you might think I was destined for great things. What the hell happened? Why did I underachieve?

The authors of The Triple Package provide an explanation for my underachievement that I like. According to them, success can be defined in numerous ways, including goodness, religiosity, or self-awareness, but for purposes of the book, they subscribed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., suggestion that success “in its vulgar sense” means “the gaining of money and position.”

Well, I like to think that, as a child of the 60s, I declined to pursue success in its vulgar sense. I distinctly recall on multiple occasions while early career and mid-career advocating against a full-throated quest for money and position. Instead I attempted to create a life that is more consistent with the philosophy described in another book that I recently read – The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly.  As you may recall, Kelly suggested that, for a life to flourish, a person needs to develop four critical facets – body, relationships, intellect, and spirit. Money or position are not on that list.

Looking back, I am satisfied with my work in each of the four items in the bucket, with one glaring exception – my failed marriage. Otherwise, I like where my body, heart, brain, and soul have been.

August 20, 2014

Sunday Book Review #144 – The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts

Filed under: Book reviews,Philosophy,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 4:12 am

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend (Paul Stahl) posted something wise from a guy named Alan W. Watts. Unfortunately, I don’t recall what Watts said in the posting, but his quote prompted me to check out Watts’s classic 1951 book, The Wisdom of Insecurity, which dovetailed nicely with a similar book that I reviewed a few weeks ago, Benefit of Doubt by Gregory Boyd.  Both books examine how man deals with the modern predominance of science at the expense of religion. Boyd’s examination is from the perspective of a serious Christian, while Watts seems to be an agnostic despite his background in Christianity and Zen Buddhism.

The first chapter in The Wisdom of Insecurity contained several passages that reflect Watts’s impressive ability to articulate issues so that you don’t need a doctorate in theology to understand:

  • There is, then, the feeling that we live in a time of unusual insecurity. In the past hundred years so many long-established traditions have broken down – traditions of family and social life, of government, of the economic order, and of religious belief…. To some this is a welcome release from the restraints of moral, social, and spiritual dogma. To others it is a dangerous and terrifying breach with reason and sanity, tending to plunge human life into hopeless chaos.
  • As a matter of fact, our age is no more insecure than any other. Poverty, disease, war, change, and death are nothing new. In the best of times, “security” has never been more than temporary and apparent. But it has been possible to make the insecurity of human life supportable by belief in an unchanging things beyond the reach of calamity – in God, in man’s immortal soul, and in the government of the universe by eternal laws of right.
  • Today such convictions are rare, even in religious circles. There is no level of society, there must be even few individuals, touched by modern education where there is not some trace of the leaven of doubt. It is simply self-evident that during the past century the authority of science has taken the place of the authority of religion in the popular imagination, and that skepticism, at least in spiritual things, has become more general than belief.
  • The decay of belief has come about through the honest doubt, the careful and fearless thinking of highly intelligent men of science and philosophy. Moved by a zeal and reverence for facts, they have tried to see, understand, and face life as it is without wishful thinking. Yet for all that they have done to improve the conditions of life, their picture of the universe seems to leave the individual without ultimate hope.
  • What science has said, in sum, is this: We do not, and in all probability cannot, know whether God exists. Nothing that we do know suggests that he does, and all the arguments which claim to prove his existence are found to be without logical meaning. There is nothing, indeed, to prove that there is no God, but the burden of proof rests with those who propose the idea. If, the scientists would say, you believe in God, you must do so purely on emotional grounds, without any basis in logic or fact. Practically speaking, this may amount to atheism. Theoretically, it is simple agnosticism. For it is the essence of scientific honesty that you do not pretend to know what you do not know, and of the essence of scientific method that you do not employ hypotheses which cannot be tested.
  • [My favorite] – Consequently our age is one of frustration, anxiety, agitation, and addiction to “dope.” Somehow we must grab what we can while we can, and drown out the realization that the whole thing is futile and meaningless. This “dope” we call our high standard of living, a violent and complex stimulation of the senses, which makes them progressively less sensitive and thus in need of yet more violent stimulation. We crave distraction – a panorama of sights, sounds, thrills, and titillations into which as much as possible must be crowded in the shortest possible time. To keep up this “standard” most of us are willing to put up with lives that consist of largely doing jobs that are a bore, earning the means to seek relief from the tedium by intervals of hectic and expensive pleasure.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the book was not as understandable, so I will have to revisit it after I get my theology doctorate.



Saturday Night at the Movies #124 – Far From Heaven

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 4:07 am

Far From Heaven (2002) is an historical drama set in late 50s Hartford, with a quintessential all-American couple (Dennis Quaid as a corporate-guy dad and Julianne Moore as a suburban housewife) who are forced to confront two social issues before their time – homosexuality and racial integration.

I love the early 60s TV show “Mad Men,” and this movie has the same feel, but the similarity ends there. The characters in “Mad Men” have depth and nuance, while the characters here are shallow and simple. Ostensibly, everyone in Hartford is an intolerant bigot except for the enlightened Moore and her black gardener, Dennis Haysbert. And we are supposed to believe they have some chemistry, even a soul mate connection, but that never comes across on the screen. Despite this failing, Moore received an Oscar nomination. Huh?

Incredibly, the Rotten Tomato critics loved the movie at 87% and the audience was almost as favorable at 79%. Not even close, for me. I give it only one and a half stars out of four.

August 19, 2014

Rush to judgment in Ferguson

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 1:42 am
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As a mostly jaded, non-empathetic person, I don’t pay a lot of attention to human-interest stories. That explains why I didn’t initially follow the developments in Ferguson, MO. Then as things spiraled out of control, I played catch-up and read-up on the earlier activities and new developments. Part of my catch-up consisted of reviewing the Facebook wall of Cary Clack.

Cary is a Facebook friend who posts thought-provoking stuff. A couple of years ago, he was a columnist in the Express-News. Like most of the E-N columnists, Cary was a liberal and he provided readers with the African-American perspective on most issues. When Joaquin Castro decided to run for Congress, he lured Cary away from column-writing and into policy-advising. Then, when Joaquin was elected and left SA for DC, Cary stayed home and ran Joaquin’s local office. But that job didn’t last.

A couple of weeks ago, Joaquin’s brother, Julian, gave up his job as SA mayor and took a job as HUD secretary. The SA City Council replaced Julian by selecting Ivy Taylor as interim mayor, the first black mayor in SA history. (The city is only 7% black.) Ivy asked Cary to be her communications person and he accepted.

Multiple jobs haven’t changed Cary. One of his first posts on the subject of Ferguson and Michael Brown, Jr. included a link to a CBS St. Louis article titled, “Michael Brown called quiet, respectful.”  The following paragraphs were gleaned from the article:

  • Big Mike, as some of his friends called Michael Brown Jr., wasn’t the type to fight, family and neighbors said, though he lived in a restless neighborhood where police were on frequent patrol. His parents and neighbors described him as a good-hearted kid with an easy smile who certainly wouldn’t have condoned the violence and looting that spread through his north St. Louis suburb following his death.
  • Brown was an aspiring rapper, though it was more of a hobby. This week, he was supposed to start college in pursuit of a career as a heating and air conditioning engineer. On the day of this death, Brown had walked with another friend to a nearby convenience store. Mull saw them in the street and honked his horn to say to “hi” just minutes before the police officer came by.
  • “He was never a person who liked confrontation,” Mull said. “His smile was going to make you smile.”
  • Neighbors described Brown as quiet and respectful—a “good boy,” who “was never in trouble,” said Sharon Johnson, 58, who lives just a little ways down the street. Johnson said Brown would frequently stop to chat.

A couple of days later, the police released a video that revealed “Big Mike” was not always good-hearted, peaceful, and respectful. In fact, I can only imagine how stupid the reporter who wrote the article feels about saying Brown “wouldn’t have condoned the violence and looting.” Hell, Brown did not even need the cover of a riot to conduct his personal looting of a liquor store.

To Cary’s credit, he posted the Brown video and said:

  • “I won’t be a hypocrite and not post new developments that will be part of the Michael Brown story even when they’re not favorable to Brown. We can’t ask for facts that will help us understand the truth of what happened and then only accept the facts we like. No excuses for his behavior in the store. Still no justification for how he later died.”

Most of the commenter’s to Cary video posting followed Cary’s lead and attempted to downplay its relevance. I took a different tack and responded as follows:

  • Fair & balanced? Hardly. The vast majority of commenters attempt to minimize and marginalize the new evidence – i.e., an unarmed Brown (6’4″ and almost 300 pounds) apparently committed a strong-arm robbery shortly before he encountered the policeman – so that they can hold to their initial narrative. Of course, that always happens when someone rushes to judgment.

It amazes me that, while no one objected to the media portrayal of Brown as a gentle giant who was never in trouble with the law (at least, no trouble since his 18th birthday as any earlier activity would be juvenile-protected), it is suddenly highly objectionable when facts reveal the person to be a thug. While that may not be relevant in a courtroom, it is relevant in the court of public opinion. Furthermore, I think the fact that Brown had committed a felony less than an hour before the shooting is relevant to how he might react to a policeman confronting him on the street.

But, unlike the people of St. Louis who yesterday marched in support of their policeman or the people of Ferguson who rioted and looted in support of Brown, I’m going to try keep an open mind and not rush to judgment.

August 18, 2014

Sunday Book Review #143 – The Triple Package by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 10:11 pm
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I first blogged about The Triple Package several months ago, and finally got around to reading it this past weekend.  As I wrote in my earlier blog post, this book by Amy Chua, the author of parenting book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, continues her defense of un-American traits such as superiority, insecurity, and impulse control. According to Chua and her co-author Jed Rubenefeld, these traits might be un-American in modern times, but they are what made America great in the past and they are what causes the spectacular success of eight groups in modern America – Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles, and Mormons. Conversely, the absence of these traits explains the stubborn lack of achievement in Appalachia and African-American communities.

Significantly, the authors aver that the Triple Package effect is typically most powerful with first- and second-generation immigrants, and then quickly fades in subsequent generations, with Mormons being an exception.  They also argue that most studies that disparage the amount of social mobility in modern America are fundamentally flawed because they fail to consider the amazing mobility of first-generation Americans.

Also, significantly, the authors are concerned that American affluence and deficit spending will result in a nation that feels secure and declines to control its impulses. In that case, all that will remain is the empty swagger of superiority complex. Wowzers!

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