Why were the Franks so successful in projecting power?

Why were the Franks so successful in projecting power?

Per Byzantine sources the Franks were, as late as 550, a relatively minor Germanic Tribe living in Gaul. Yet within 300 years Frankish Tribes had basically set the foundation for every major Pre-Modern European Power (German City States, HRE, France, Spain, England).

So why were the Franks so successful in land power projection?


These people didn't come out of the wilderness, but from Roman-Iron age Germany. They were a powerful tribe which controlled the lower Rhine, (so were the Saxons). This period of Germany is called the Jastorf period and they traded with the Roman Empire and Scythians. Before they were dependable allies of the Roman Empire, they were pirating the coasts of Gaul and Britain along with Frisii and Saxons. They occupied Batavia which was an ideal location for their pirating. It was also adjacent to the most distant, penetrable Roman border. Saxons pushed them from this location into Gaul. Due to their location, they were the first tribe to successfully settle in the late Roman Empire, a trend which others would follow. This was not totally accidental, the best a Germanic ruler could hope for was to enter into the service of the Empire. This began their relationship with the Roman Empire. They were Foederati in Northern Gaul, and by the fall of the Roman Empire, a few were Magister Millitum. They moved to the lower Somme, with their capitol at Tournai, and this became the base of their expansion. It was ideally located, and they continued to have the ocean at their back as they grew. The Battle of Catulian Plains was pivotal for the Salian Franks. I haven't studied it much because of its enigma, but it seems to have determined the pecking order for Western Europe.

They were already a prestigious Germanic people, and to add to this, they were the only Barbarians in Gaul to convert to Catholicism. (A few other Alans may have been.) So they assumed the legacy of the Roman Empire, and then the new Roman faith. They had a string of victories in the name of Catholicism. Dagobert's daughter married Aethelbert of Kent, which initiated the conversion of the Anglo Saxons. Their success was under the Catholic auspices. When it came time to manage their kingdom, Merovingians could not. The church took advantage of this and moved into governance. They don't appear to have had their own realistic goals. They had a job to do, they did it, and that was it. They were great "Magister Militum" and nothing more. Whatever Charlemagne is credited for, he didn't create a lasting kingdom. The question is therefore, why did Catholicism prevail over Arianism? Arianism was the tool of the Byzantine court. It was because of the Huns, Lombards, and other impediments to the Eastern Empire before and after it reconquered Italy. With all these setbacks in the East, the Franks and their new faith could grow.


I suspect that it isn't that the Franks were that successful in projecting power as it is that the people who were successful in projecting power happened to be the Franks. Kind of like the lottery; someone will win, and the identity of the winner is more important than the specific forces that caused those numbers to bubble to the top of the pile at the exact instant of the drawing.

I'll assert without evidence that human organization tends to oligopoly - an even balance of power is unnatural, and once you cross a certain boundary the balance of forces shift in favor of gaining even more power. (difficult for a coalition of 25% power to contest with a coalition of 75% power). Someone was going to win, and it just happened to be the Franks.

Geography, population, culture, climate, all play a part, as do things that are more difficult to measure (relative strength and charisma of leaders at inflection points, etc.). It is somewhat useful to study those factors, but in no way can you develop a useful model for prediction or even for analysis. There is too much (literal) chaos to permit modelling.

I acknowledge in advance that this is a bad answer because it provides no sources and doesn't fully answer the question. I thought about it and decided that it was worth posting.


I consider it a result of what I call the "oyster" phenomenon. (Oysters produce pearls because of the irritation provided by sand.)

The Franks in France were the largest standing force in western Europe; other tribes existed, but were weaker. Because of their relative strength they became stronger and turned the tables on others, instead of crumbling under the various pressures, the strongest of which came from the Moors to the south. This strength was because they were a Germanic tribe that had merged with the Latinized Gauls, and had the combined advantages of both German "freshness" and Roman civilization. This relationship went all the way back to the 5th century, that is, about three centuries.

They were fortunate to have leaders such as Charles Martel, and his grandson, Charlemagne. The process began when the Moors invaded Spain, then France, and were defeated at Tours by Martel, who counterattacked, and drove the Moors out of France and back into Spain. Later, Charlemagne's (French) empire was the target of Saxon raids, so he retaliated by invading and occupying most of what later became "West" Germany.

Finally, French projection of power into England resulted from the raids of the Norsemen, who went to Normandy, and from there to England after intermarrying with the French.


They weren't afraid to try

It really is that simple. Having read the answers so far, I feel that in some ways the point is being missed. There is a fundamental human interaction that I'll paraphrase this way: if you walk into a room and act like you are in charge, you are until someone proves that you are not. I don't know if I have any Frankish ancestors, mostly my line comes from Danes, Yorkshiremen, Germans, Hungarians, Serbs, and we think a bit of Swiss. But that little point boils down to:

  • If you try, you may succeed
  • If you never try you'll never succeed.

It seems to have worked as a philosophy for the Franks and their successors the Normans. (I mean, really? The Normans took over the Kingdom of Naples and the two Sicilies?)

I don't think it is all that complicated. Atilla the Hun, one can argue, succeeded under a very similar philosophy, and look at how well he did.


Grand Coulee Dam: History and purpose

Grand Coulee (map) is the largest dam in the Columbia River Basin and one of the largest in the world. Everything about the dam is large: it is 550 feet (167.6 meters) tall, measured from its foundation in solid granite, or approximately 350 feet (106.7 meters) from the downstream river surface to the top of the dam. It is 5,223 feet (1,592 meters) long, or 57 feet short of a mile.

(Read the March 2016 Smithsonian article on the 75th anniversary of the dam's completion.)

For a time, Grand Coulee Dam was the largest concrete structure ever built, but today that distinction goes to the Three Gorges Dam in China, completed in 2009. It is roughly three times the size of Grand Coulee. Grand Coulee is 450-500 feet thick at its base and 30 feet thick at the top, and it contains 11,975,521 cubic yards (9,155,944 cubic meters) of concrete, three times as much as Hoover Dam.

The dam has four power plants. The two original power plants, the first of which began producing power in 1941, are called the Left Power Plant and the Right Power Plant, following the standard naming protocol of facing downriver. The two power plants, each of which houses nine large generators, are split by the spillway, which is 1,300 feet wide and covers an area of 13.26 acres. According to the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam, the Left Powerhouse has three generators with a total capacity of 3 megawatts to provide power at the dam site, plus nine generators rated at 125 megawatts each. The Right Powerhouse has nine generators rated at 125 megawatts apiece. The original 18 generators began operating between 1941 and 1950. The Third Power Plant contains three generators rated at 600 megawatts apiece and three rated at 805 megawatts. These first of these six generators began operating in 1975, and the sixth in 1980. The John W. Keys Pump-Generator Plant, which is located on the left bank of the river just upstream from the dam, contains 12 pumps that lift water up the hillside to a canal that flows into Banks Lake, the 27-mile-long reservoir for the Columbia Basin Project. Six of the pumps can be reversed to generate about 50 megawatts each with water flowing back down from Banks Lake.

Individual penstocks carry water to each generator at Grand Coulee. The largest of these, at the Third Power Plant, are 40 feet in diameter and carry up to 35,000 cubic feet per second of water, or more than twice the average annual flow of the Colorado River. The dam complex includes three switchyards to transmit electricity into the regional power grid.

The total generating capacity is 6,809 megawatts and its average annual energy output is about 2,300 megawatts, or enough power to continuously supply the needs of two cities the size of Seattle.

Grand Coulee is located at river mile 596.6 in central Washington about 90 miles northwest of Spokane near the place where an ice floe dammed the river during the last Ice Age. The ice forced the river to rise from its historic channel and flow to the south, where it carved a giant canyon — the Grand Coulee. Eventually the ice retreated, and the river returned to its old channel

Grand Coulee impounds a reservoir, Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, named for the president who authorized construction of the dam, which began in 1933 (see construction photos). Lake Roosevelt backs up the river almost to the Canadian border, a distance of 151 miles.

Hydropower accounts for 79.7 percent of Grand Coulee’s authorized purposes, the others being irrigation and flood control. While hydropower is the primary purpose of the dam today, the public desire for irrigation was the driving force behind its construction. One of the first, if not the first, published reports of a proposal to irrigate the Columbia Plateau with water from the Columbia River was in 1892, when the Coulee City News and The Spokesman-Review reported on a scheme by a man named Laughlin McLean to build a 1,000-foot-tall dam to divert the entire flow of the Columbia back into the Grand Coulee he also earlier proposed a 95-mile canal across the Columbia Plateau from a diversion point somewhere farther upriver. These appear to be the first publicly discussed proposals for the dam that would be Grand Coulee, but they were just the ideas of a dreamer at the time.

The idea of a big dam at the Grand Coulee didn’t resonate with the public until 1918. That year Rufus Woods, the visionary publisher of the Wenatchee World newspaper, began advocating for a dam that would provide irrigation water to the Columbia Plateau. It was a crusade for Woods, a natural-born promoter, and from the beginning he had influential allies, including attorneys Billy Clapp and James O’Sullivan, both of nearby Ephrata. While no one person can be considered the “father” of the dam, these three men were among its earliest, most active and enthusiastic promoters. Clapp is credited with suggesting, in 1917, that if nature once blocked the Columbia with an ice dam that forced water into the now-dry Grand Coulee, man could do the same with concrete. O’Sullivan liked the idea and soon began writing articles about such a dam, and Woods published them in his newspaper.

There were two schools of thought at the time about how the Columbia Plateau might be irrigated: pumping water up from the river or diverting it from farther upstream and bringing it to the area in canals. Neither idea prevailed, but each had staunch advocates. The federal Reclamation Service and the state of Washington had spent thousands of dollars looking for ways to provide irrigation a 1914 bond measure that would have paid for irrigating a portion of the area had failed.

O’Sullivan, Woods, Clapp and many other local people favored pumping water from behind a dam influential business leaders in Spokane, home of the privately owned Washington Water Power Company, which owned its own hydroelectric dams, favored canals that would divert water from the Pend Oreille River in northeastern Washington. Soon, the battle was joined between the “pumpers” and the “ditchers.”

Pumpers like O’Sullivan saw potential benefits in hydropower. “The revenue from the sale of electric energy alone would surely pay all the upkeep, interest on the investment and provide a sinking fund for the liquidation of the cost of the project itself,” he wrote in a 1918 article in the World.

The pumpers distrusted the ditchers, whose backers were the big business and power interests in Spokane, including Washington Water Power, Spokane’s biggest employer at the time. The ditchers wanted to irrigate the Columbia Basin with water from the Pend Oreille River. The canal would begin at Albeni Falls and run downhill, through tunnels where necessary, to the Ritzville area. The pumpers saw this as another attempt by arrogant Spokanites to control all of eastern Washington

Washington Governor Ernest Lister was a “ditcher.” In a speech in November 1918, he commented that “at least 50,000 families could be accommodated on the lands mentioned in the project.” Lister died in office in 1919, and the acting governor, Louis F. Hart, did not feel so strongly about the gravity project. This was a blow to the ditchers.

Washington Water Power tried to kill the pumping project by proposing to build its own dam at Kettle Falls. In 1922 the Federal Power Commission granted a preliminary permit. If the dam had been built, it would have limited the size of the dam at Grand Coulee 110 miles downriver, effectively killing the pumping proposal. The dam at Coulee had to be high enough to make pumping feasible. In response to Water Power’s ploy, Woods editorialized that the Spokane utility was a “soulless corporation.”

A variety of studies were conducted in the 1920s some supported the canal plan and others the dam. Lobbying was fierce, as supporters of the two proposals sought to win members of Congress to their sides. There were public events — pro-canal or pro-dam rallies — and quieter behind-the-scenes lobbying. The Bureau of Reclamation, envisioning success with Hoover Dam, was partial to big irrigation projects. O’Sullivan personally lobbied Arthur Powell Davis, the Commissioner of Reclamation, to support the dam. Senators Wesley Jones and Clarence Dill of Washington persuaded President Hoover in 1929 to support a $600,000 study of Columbia River hydropower potential by the Corps of Engineers. The study by Major John S. Butler of the Seattle district of the Corps, completed in 1932, recommended a series of 10 dams on the river, including one at Grand Coulee and others in British Columbia. Called the “308 Report” for the number assigned to it by the House of Representatives, it supported a dam over a canal to provide irrigation water. The pumpers were pleased.

Roosevelt was elected president the same year the 308 Report was issued, and with the nation reeling from the Depression dams on the Columbia offered promise of employment as well as hydropower and irrigation. Roosevelt initially balked at the $450 million cost estimate for Grand Coulee (it was more than the Panama Canal, he argued, and would produce more power and potentially irrigate more than was needed at the time). But he had promised Dill before the election that he would build it if he won. Western support was critical to his victory, and now Dill — one of those supporters — pressed the president to follow through. Roosevelt responded that he would support a low dam — 150 feet tall from bedrock instead of 550 feet as proposed — that could be raised later, if necessary. Dill, shocked, countered with a proposal for $100 million Roosevelt compromised at $63 million, and that was the deal. So construction began in 1933 on a low dam with a foundation large enough to eventually support a high dam. By 1935, the plans were upgraded and the high dam was under construction.

Roosevelt, a master politician, had found a way to mollify critics who said the dam would be too big and too expensive by beginning construction with a modest amount of money on a comparatively modest structure. The power generated by a high dam, eight times more than the low dam, would be used, he believed. Importantly, net revenues from power sales also would repay the cost of the project, and thus the $63 million was an allotment for a federal project, and it was understood the amount would be repaid. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies supported the concept of multiple purposes dams — dams that generate power and also provide water for irrigation, recreation and flood control. A low dam built solely for power did not fit the paradigm, but a multi-purpose high dam at Grand Coulee did.

Washington Governor Clarence Martin supported the high dam, and he reluctantly agreed that it should be a federal project, even though supporters like Woods and his Republican colleagues choked on the idea of a Democratic administration taking over “their” dam as a federal project. The Washington State Columbia Basin Commission, created for the purpose of directing state construction of the dam, whether a low dam or high dam, acquiesced to the federal takeover after finding itself hamstrung with state law requirements for such an undertaking and its own infighting. Woods objected to the federal takeover, too, but he had to accept the inevitable. After negotiating with the Department of the Interior the commission agreed to federal construction while salvaging consultation rights and permission to keep commission representatives at the construction site.

The federal project not only conformed with New Deal principles, it also conformed with Interior Secretary Harold Ickes’s intentions that public relief projects should help the national recovery and create a valuable product able to pay for itself. Grand Coulee met all of the tests.

After seven years of construction the dam began operation on March 22, 1941, when its first large generator began producing power. Its completion at the beginning of World War II quieted its many critics, who had derided it as a colossal dam in the near-wilderness of a remote state, and whose only customers, according to one detractor in Congress, would be “sage brush and jackrabbits.” While it is true Grand Coulee contributed energy to the war effort by helping to power the Army’s nuclear facility at Hanford and the region's aircraft and aluminum industries, its impact was overrated at the time, according to historian Paul Pitzer, who has written extensively about the dam. Bureau of Reclamation publicists and patriotic news reporters, among others, hailed Grand Coulee Dam as almost single-handedly winning World War II for the allies.

In 1948, for example, Vice Presidential candidate Earl Warren remarked: “Probably Hitler would have beaten us in atom bomb development if it had not been for the hydroelectric development of the Columbia, making possible the big Hanford project which brought forth the bomb.” Pitzer comments in his book, Grand Coulee: Harnessing a Dream:

“Grand Coulee Dam's contribution augmented those of Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority dams and other hydro and non-hydroelectric projects nationally. Grand Coulee allowed the government to produce aluminum and run Hanford while not disturbing the day-to-day lives of most Americans. The government could have diverted power from domestic uses but Grand Coulee, among other projects, made this unnecessary. Except for inconveniencing the civilian population, little would have changed had Grand Coulee not existed during World War II."

Today, Grand Coulee continues to be the big workhorse of the Federal Columbia River Power System its outflow affects generation at all of the Columbia River dams downstream. All six generators at the Third Power Plant are being refurbished and their worn components are being replaced. The Bureau awarded a $100 million contract to refurbish three of the generators to the Austrian engineering firm Andritz. All are expected to be returned to service by December 2020. Following that, the three remaining generators will be modernized, a project that will begin in 2024 or 2025 and cost an anticipated $500 million. Meanwhile, the John W. Keys III pumping plant also is being modernized. The plant provides irrigation water to Banks Lake and the Columbia Basin Project and hydropower when the turbines are reversed and water is released from the lake. The modernization project is planned for completion in 2024.

Looking back from the vantage of the 21st century, it is tempting to see the long battle for the construction of Grand Coulee in the light of our present environmental concerns -- the river-warming effect of climate change, blocked passage to historic spawning and rearing areas for the signature fish of the Columbia River, salmon and steelhead -- and wonder why, and how, such a gigantic concrete plug ever could have been put in the river. It was well understood at the time that the dam would wipe out the salmon and steelhead runs to the upper Columbia that numbered an estimated 2 million annually (see Chapter 3, Page 82 of this report), and there was a determined effort to preserve them after their passage was blocked in the late 1930s as the dam rose. But when construction began in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, the promise of reclamation and hydropower, not to mention jobs, won the debate. The benefits of reclamation, Pitzer writes, "were viewed as positive conservation measures in their day."

And so, with that context, it is easier to understand the stirring endorsement Rufus Woods gave the dam, and the people who built it, in his speech to the graduating class of Grand Coulee High School in 1942, a year after the great dam's turbines began spinning electricity across the Northwest:

"So here it stands, a monument to the idea and the power of an idea a monument to organization, a monument to cooperation a monument to opposition a monument to the United States Army Engineers a monument to the United States Bureau of Reclamation a monument to the magic spirit of willing men which accomplishes more than the might of money or the marvels of machinery a monument to the brains, the intellect of great engineers -- and you, class of 1942, could you come back here a thousand years hence, or could your spirit hover around this place ten thousand years hence, you would hear the sojourners talking as they behold this 'slab of concrete,' and you would hear them say, 'Here in 1942, indeed there once lived a great people."


The Depressive and the Psychopath

Five years ago today, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered their classmates and teachers at Columbine High School. Most Americans have reached one of two wrong conclusions about why they did it. The first conclusion is that the pair of supposed “Trench Coat Mafia outcasts” were taking revenge against the bullies who had made school miserable for them. The second conclusion is that the massacre was inexplicable: We can never understand what drove them to such horrific violence.

But the FBI and its team of psychiatrists and psychologists have reached an entirely different conclusion. They believe they know why Harris and Klebold killed, and their explanation is both more reassuring and more troubling than our misguided conclusions. Three months after the massacre, the FBI convened a summit in Leesburg, Virginia, that included world-renowned mental health experts, including Michigan State University psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg, as well as Supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier, the FBI’s lead Columbine investigator and a clinical psychologist. Fuselier and Ochberg share their conclusions publicly here for the first time.

The first steps to understanding Columbine, they say, are to forget the popular narrative about the jocks, Goths, and Trenchcoat Mafia—click here to read more about Columbine’s myths—and to abandon the core idea that Columbine was simply a school shooting. We can’t understand why they did it until we understand what they were doing.

School shooters tend to act impulsively and attack the targets of their rage: students and faculty. But Harris and Klebold planned for a year and dreamed much bigger. The school served as means to a grander end, to terrorize the entire nation by attacking a symbol of American life. Their slaughter was aimed at students and teachers, but it was not motivated by resentment of them in particular. Students and teachers were just convenient quarry, what Timothy McVeigh described as “collateral damage.”

The killers, in fact, laughed at petty school shooters. They bragged about dwarfing the carnage of the Oklahoma City bombing and originally scheduled their bloody performance for its anniversary. Klebold boasted on video about inflicting “the most deaths in U.S. history.” Columbine was intended not primarily as a shooting at all, but as a bombing on a massive scale. If they hadn’t been so bad at wiring the timers, the propane bombs they set in the cafeteria would have wiped out 600 people. After those bombs went off, they planned to gun down fleeing survivors. An explosive third act would follow, when their cars, packed with still more bombs, would rip through still more crowds, presumably of survivors, rescue workers, and reporters. The climax would be captured on live television. It wasn’t just “fame” they were after—Agent Fuselier bristles at that trivializing term—they were gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale of an Attila the Hun. Their vision was to create a nightmare so devastating and apocalyptic that the entire world would shudder at their power.

Harris and Klebold would have been dismayed that Columbine was dubbed the “worst school shooting in American history.” They set their sights on eclipsing the world’s greatest mass murderers, but the media never saw past the choice of venue. The school setting drove analysis in precisely the wrong direction.

Fuselier and Ochberg say that if you want to understand “the killers,” quit asking what drove them. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were radically different individuals, with vastly different motives and opposite mental conditions. Klebold is easier to comprehend, a more familiar type. He was hotheaded, but depressive and suicidal. He blamed himself for his problems.

Harris is the challenge. He was sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as “nice.” But Harris was cold, calculating, and homicidal. “Klebold was hurting inside while Harris wanted to hurt people,” Fuselier says. Harris was not merely a troubled kid, the psychiatrists say, he was a psychopath.

In popular usage, almost any crazy killer is a “psychopath.” But in psychiatry, it’s a very specific mental condition that rarely involves killing, or even psychosis. “Psychopaths are not disoriented or out of touch with reality, nor do they experience the delusions, hallucinations, or intense subjective distress that characterize most other mental disorders,” writes Dr. Robert Hare, in Without Conscience, the seminal book on the condition. (Hare is also one of the psychologists consulted by the FBI about Columbine and by Slate for this story.*) “Unlike psychotic individuals, psychopaths are rational and aware of what they are doing and why. Their behavior is the result of choice, freely exercised.” Diagnosing Harris as a psychopath represents neither a legal defense, nor a moral excuse. But it illuminates a great deal about the thought process that drove him to mass murder.

Diagnosing him as a psychopath was not a simple matter. Harris opened his private journal with the sentence, “I hate the f—ing world.” And when the media studied Harris, they focused on his hatred—hatred that supposedly led him to revenge. It’s easy to get lost in the hate, which screamed out relentlessly from Harris’ Web site:

It rages on for page after page and is repeated in his journal and in the videos he and Klebold made. But Fuselier recognized a far more revealing emotion bursting through, both fueling and overshadowing the hate. What the boy was really expressing was contempt.

He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he’s not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority. It may look like hate, but “It’s more about demeaning other people,” says Hare.

A second confirmation of the diagnosis was Harris’ perpetual deceitfulness. “I lie a lot,” Eric wrote to his journal. “Almost constantly, and to everybody, just to keep my own ass out of the water. Let’s see, what are some of the big lies I told? Yeah I stopped smoking. For doing it, not for getting caught. No I haven’t been making more bombs. No I wouldn’t do that. And countless other ones.”

Harris claimed to lie to protect himself, but that appears to be something of a lie as well. He lied for pleasure, Fuselier says. “Duping delight”—psychologist Paul Ekman’s term—represents a key characteristic of the psychopathic profile.

Harris married his deceitfulness with a total lack of remorse or empathy—another distinctive quality of the psychopath. Fuselier was finally convinced of his diagnosis when he read Harris’ response to being punished after being caught breaking into a van. Klebold and Harris had avoided prosecution for the robbery by participating in a “diversion program” that involved counseling and community service. Both killers feigned regret to obtain an early release, but Harris had relished the opportunity to perform. He wrote an ingratiating letter to his victim offering empathy, rather than just apologies. Fuselier remembers that it was packed with statements like Jeez, I understand now how you feel and I understand what this did to you.

“But he wrote that strictly for effect,” Fuselier said. “That was complete manipulation. At almost the exact same time, he wrote down his real feelings in his journal: ’Isn’t America supposed to be the land of the free? How come, if I’m free, I can’t deprive a stupid f—ing dumbshit from his possessions if he leaves them sitting in the front seat of his f—ing van out in plain sight and in the middle of f—ing nowhere on a Frif—ingday night. NATURAL SELECTION. F—er should be shot.’

Harris’ pattern of grandiosity, glibness, contempt, lack of empathy, and superiority read like the bullet points on Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist and convinced Fuselier and the other leading psychiatrists close to the case that Harris was a psychopath.

It begins to explain Harris’ unbelievably callous behavior: his ability to shoot his classmates, then stop to taunt them while they writhed in pain, then finish them off. Because psychopaths are guided by such a different thought process than non-psychopathic humans, we tend to find their behavior inexplicable. But they’re actually much easier to predict than the rest of us once you understand them. Psychopaths follow much stricter behavior patterns than the rest of us because they are unfettered by conscience, living solely for their own aggrandizement. (The difference is so striking that Fuselier trains hostage negotiators to identify psychopaths during a standoff, and immediately reverse tactics if they think they’re facing one. It’s like flipping a switch between two alternate brain-mechanisms.)

None of his victims means anything to the psychopath. He recognizes other people only as means to obtain what he desires. Not only does he feel no guilt for destroying their lives, he doesn’t grasp what they feel. The truly hard-core psychopath doesn’t quite comprehend emotions like love or hate or fear, because he has never experienced them directly.

“Because of their inability to appreciate the feelings of others, some psychopaths are capable of behavior that normal people find not only horrific but baffling,” Hare writes. “For example, they can torture and mutilate their victims with about the same sense of concern that we feel when we carve a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.”

The diagnosis transformed their understanding of the partnership. Despite earlier reports about Harris and Klebold being equal partners, the psychiatrists now believe firmly that Harris was the mastermind and driving force. The partnership did enable Harris to stray from typical psychopathic behavior in one way. He restrained himself. Usually psychopathic killers crave the stimulation of violence. That is why they are often serial killers—murdering regularly to feed their addiction. But Harris managed to stay (mostly) out of trouble for the year that he and Klebold planned the attack. Ochberg theorizes that the two killers complemented each other. Cool, calculating Harris calmed down Klebold when he got hot-tempered. At the same time, Klebold’s fits of rage served as the stimulation Harris needed.

The psychiatrists can’t help speculating what might have happened if Columbine had never happened. Klebold, they agree, would never have pulled off Columbine without Harris. He might have gotten caught for some petty crime, gotten help in the process, and conceivably could have gone on to live a normal life.

Their view of Harris is more reassuring, in a certain way. Harris was not a wayward boy who could have been rescued. Harris, they believe, was irretrievable. He was a brilliant killer without a conscience, searching for the most diabolical scheme imaginable. If he had lived to adulthood and developed his murderous skills for many more years, there is no telling what he could have done. His death at Columbine may have stopped him from doing something even worse.

* Correction, April 20, 2004:The article originally identified Dr. Robert Hare as a psychiatrist. He is a psychologist.


Activity 1. Listening to the Fireside Chats

Students listen to the First Fireside Chat. They can access the text and a link to an audio clip of the First Fireside Chat (link from History Matters, an EDSITEment-reviewed website) or by way of the Study Activity.

After listening to a portion of the speech, they will work together to determine the main points that FDR is making. They should focus on:

  • The key elements of the bank holiday he has announced.
  • Specific examples of how he explains the banking system.
  • Examples of simple, yet powerful imagery and language that he employs.
  • The overall effectiveness of the speech.
  • Why they believe this speech would have been so effective in 1933.

Students then will read the Second Fireside Chat to get a sense of how different it is to read the speech, rather than to listen to FDR's words. First, they should work collaboratively to understand the major issues that FDR is addressing in this speech. They can make a chart of the principle contents—what are the different programs that he is proposing? Then, they should comment on those parts of the speech that they believe would have been more effective in a radio broadcast -- to a 1933 audience. (They will be asked to base their analyses on their own experience with Fireside Chat 1.)

Students will then debate which format they think would have been more effective in 1933—and why. In addition, they can make connections to their own experiences listening to political speeches in their lifetime.


3. Albert Einstein

Despite being known as a true genius in the present day, this intellectual didn&rsquot have a great start (to say he was running behind is an understatement). As a kid, he didn&rsquot begin to speak a word until he was 4 years old. A few years later, his elementary school teachers considered him lazy because he would ask abstract questions that made no sense to others.

He kept on anyway, eventually formulating the theory of relativity -- something most of us still can&rsquot understand today.


12 things you need to know about Anne Frank and her diary

The diary of Anne Frank (1929–45), written while she and her family were in hiding in Amsterdam during the Second World War to escape from the Nazis, is one of the most famous – and bestselling – books of all time. But how much do you know about the famous diary? Historian Zoe Waxman shares 12 fascinating facts…

This competition is now closed

Published: March 9, 2020 at 2:35 pm

Here, Zoe Waxman, senior research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, shares 12 interesting facts about Anne Frank and her diary…

Anne Frank’s diary is (arguably) the most famous diary of all time

Anne Frank’s diary, originally written in Dutch and published in 1947 in Holland as Het Achterhuis: Dagboekbrieven 12 Juni 1942–1 Augustus 1944 (The Secret Annexe: Diary-Letters 12 June 1942–1 August 1944), had an initial print run of only 1,500 copies, but has since become something of a phenomenon. It has been translated into more than 60 languages – from Albanian to Welsh – including Farsi, Arabic, Sinhalese and Esperanto. In 2009 it was added to the Unesco Memory of the World Register.

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam – Anne’s hiding place during the Second World War – is also the most visited site in the Netherlands, and Anne now even has her own unofficial Facebook page. Children from all around the world continue to write letters to Anne as if she were their friend. She has remained irrevocably the eternal child.

Anne’s sister, Margot Betti Frank, also wrote a diary

Anneliese Marie Frank, known as ‘Anne’ to her friends and family, was born in Frankfurt-am-Main on 12 June 1929. She was the second and youngest child of an assimilated Jewish family. Her sister, Margot Betti Frank, who was three years older than Anne, also wrote a diary – although it has never been found.

Margot was the more studious sister. Anne, while intelligent, was often distracted by talking to her friends during school.

Anne Frank received her diary as a 13th birthday present

Anne chose her own diary – an autograph book bound with white and red checked cloth, and closed with a small lock – as a present for her 13th birthday. This birthday, on Friday 12 June 1942, was the last before she and her family went into hiding. To mark the occasion, Anne’s mother, Edith, made cookies for Anne to share with her friends at school. Anne also enjoyed a party with a strawberry pie and a room decorated with flowers.

Anne’s first entries describe how her family were segregated and discriminated against. Anne addressed many of her entries to an imaginary girl friend, ‘Dear Kitty’ or ‘Dearest Kitty’.

Anne Frank and her family went into hiding after her sister was summoned to a German work camp

After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Anne’s family decided to escape to Amsterdam, in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, to flee the rapidly escalating anti-Semitism in Germany. Anne and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam on 6 July 1942, the day after Anne’s elder sister, Margot, received a call-up for a German work camp. Anne’s parents, Otto and Edith, had already planned to go into hiding with their daughters on 16 July, and had been arranging a secret hiding place. They went into hiding earlier than planned following Margot’s call-up, seeking refuge in the house behind Otto’s office on Prinsengracht 263 and leaving behind Anne’s beloved cat named Moortje.

Four other Jews lived in the secret annex alongside the Frank family

The Franks were soon joined by four other Jews: Hermann and Auguste van Pels with their son Peter (the boy Anne was to fall in love with), and for a time, Fritz Pfeffer, a German dentist. Anne’s diary describes in great detail the tension between the eight individuals, who had to stay indoors at all times and remain quiet so as not to arouse the suspicion of staff working in the warehouse downstairs. The entrance to the annex was concealed behind a moveable bookcase.

Anne Frank spent a total of two years and 35 days in hiding

During that time she was unable to see the sky, could not feel the rain or sun, walk on grass, or even walk for any length of time. Anne focused on studying and reading books on European history and literature. She also spent time on her appearance: curling her dark hair and manicuring her nails. She made lists of the toiletries she dreamt one day of buying, including: “lipstick, eyebrow pencil, bath salts, bath powder, eau-de-Cologne, soap, powder puff” (Wednesday 7 October 1942).

Anne wanted to become a famous writer

While in hiding Anne hoped that she would one day be able to return to school and she dreamt of spending a year in Paris and another in London. She wanted to study the history of art and become fluent in different languages while seeing “beautiful dresses” and “doing all kind of exciting things”. Ultimately she wanted to become “a journalist, and later on a famous writer” (Thursday 11 May 1944).

With no friends to confide in, Anne used the diary to express her fear, bordedom, and the struggles she faced growing up. On 16 March 1944, she wrote: “The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I’d absolutely suffocate.” In addition to her diary, Anne wrote short stories and collated her favourite sentences by other writers in a notebook.

Anne rewrote her diary after listening to a BBC broadcast

On 28 March 1944, Anne and her family listened to a BBC programme broadcast illegally by Radio Oranje (the voice of the Dutch government-in-exile). Gerrit Bolkestein, the Dutch minister of education, art and science, who was exiled in London, stated that after the war he wished to collect eyewitness accounts of the experiences of the Dutch people under the German occupation. Anne immediately began rewriting and editing her diary with the view to future publication, calling it The Secret Annex. She did this at the same time as keeping her original, more private diary.

The Franks were discovered just two months after the Allied landings in Normandy

By listening daily to the broadcasts of Radio Oranje and the BBC, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was able to follow the progress of the Allied forces. He had a small map of Normandy that he marked with little red pins. On Tuesday 6 June 1944, Anne excitedly wrote: “Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation?” Tragically, it was not to be. Two months after the Allied landings in Normandy, the police discovered the Franks’ hiding place.

Anne Frank’s diary was rescued by Miep Gies, her father’s friend and secretary

On 4 August 1944, everyone in the annex was arrested. On 4 August 1944, three days after Anne’s final diary entry, the Gestapo arrested Anne together with her family and the other people they were hiding with. They were betrayed by an anonymous source who had reported their existence to the German authorities. Otto’s secretary, Miep Gies, who had helped the Franks go into hiding and visited them frequently, retrieved Anne’s diary from the annex, hoping to one day to return it to her.

The exact date of Anne Frank’s death is unknown

Anne was first sent to Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. More people were murdered at Auschwitz than at any other camp – at least 1.1 million men, women and children perished there, 90 per cent of them Jews.

Anne and her sister Margot survived Auschwitz only to be sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There the two girls died of typhus shortly before the camp was liberated by the British Army on 15 April 1945. The exact date of their deaths is unknown. Margot was 19 years old and Anne was just 15.

Anne Frank’s father was initially unsure about publishing her story

Anne’s father, Otto, was the only person from the secret annex to survive. He returned to Amsterdam following the liberation of Auschwitz, learning en route of his wife’s death. In July 1945 he met one of the Brilleslijper sisters, who had been at Bergen-Belsen with Anne and Margot. From her, he learned that his daughters were dead.

Miep Gies passed on Anne’s diary to Otto Frank in July 1945. Otto later recalled: “I began to read slowly, only a few pages each day, more would have been impossible, as I was overwhelmed by painful memories. For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

After initially feeling uncertain about publishing Anne’s diary, he finally decided to fulfill his daughter’s wish. The diary of Anne Frank was first published in the Netherlands on 25 June 1947.

Zoe Waxman is a senior research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the author of Pocket Giants: Anne Frank (The History Press, 2015), a biography of Anne Frank.

This article was first published on History Extra in March 2016


How the Panama Canal helped make the U.S. a world power

Considered one of the wonders of the modern world, the Panama Canal opened for business 100 years ago this Friday, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and providing a new route for international trade and military transport.

At the time it was built, the canal was an engineering marvel, relying on a series of locks that lift ships – and their thousands of pounds of cargo – above mountains.

But thousands of workers died during its construction, and its history has seen no shortage of controversy, including a contentious transference of authority from the US to Panama in the 1970s.

Work recently began on a substantial expansion effort that will allow the canal to accommodate modern cargo needs.

PBS NewsHour recently interviewed several regional experts to discuss the canal’s first 100 years, and to get a sense of what’s ahead.

Ovidio Diaz-Espino grew up in Panama and trained as a lawyer. He is the author of How Wall Street Created a Nation: J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal.

Richard Feinberg is a professor of International Political Economy at the University of California, San Diego, and a nonresident Senior Fellow with the Latin America Initiative of the Bookings Institution. He served as special assistant to President Clinton and senior director of the National Security Council’s Office of Inter-American Affairs.

Julie Greene is a professor of History at the University of Maryland, specializing in United States labor and working-class history, and co-directs the University’s Center for the History of the New America. She is the author of The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal, and serves as President of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Noel Maurer is an associate professor of business administration at Harvard University, and the author of The Big Ditch: How America Took, Built, Ran, and Ultimately Gave Away the Panama Canal.

Orlando Pérez is Associate Dean, School of Humanities & Social Sciences at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Political Culture in Panama: Democracy after Invasion, and a member of the Scientific Support Group for the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University.

Steam shovels load rocks blasted away onto twin tracks that remove the earth from the Panama Canal bed circa 1908. It took the United States 10 years to build the canal at a cost of $375 million (which equals about $8.6 billion today). Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images

PBS NewsHour: Why did the U.S. build the Panama Canal?

Richard Feinberg: This is about Teddy Roosevelt, the great nationalist, the imperialist. The canal is built in the early part of the 20th century, right after the US-Spanish war. It was when the US was sowing its oats. They had expanded their power over Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Caribbean, but also the Philippines, so the US is becoming a Pacific power, and the Panama Canal was about linking our growing Pacific power to more traditional Atlantic relationships. It was linked to the idea of the rise of the US as a global power, with both commercial and military potential.

Ovidio Diaz-Espino: The US for the first time was going to be able to gain control of both oceans. That was critical in times of war. There was no air power, so the way you fought an enemy was through the sea. World power was consistent with maritime power. Americans knew they needed this to move ships from east to west quickly. If they did that, they would control power because they would control the oceans. The Canal was a geopolitical strategy to make the United States the most powerful nation on earth.

Also, the economic impact was massive. Now you could unite the trade between the two oceans. Starting in the 1890s, and until WWI, global trade was just as significant as it is now, so it was important to have a commute route across the continent. This is why Wall Street was very supportive and helped fund it.

Julie Greene:
In part, the Canal was central to the US vision of itself as a beneficent power in the world. As the US was emerging as a global power, it was important to distinguish themselves from the old powers of Europe, which they saw as more crassly seeking power and control and colonialism. The US wanted to frame a vision of itself as more selfless, more a help to the world, more advancing civilization. Of course there’s the other side to that: often the US was, despite its self-image, imposing its power. In Panama, it asserted its power over the republic and dominated the county’s history for 100 years. But nonetheless the canal has remained central to American national identity, in part because it’s seen to exemplify that beneficent self-image.

The SS Ancon, the first Ship to pass through the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914. Photo by Getty Images

PBS NewsHour: What did it take to get the Panama Canal built? What was the cost of this project?

Julie Greene: It was in incredible project, the largest public construction project in US history. The engineering, technical, medical, and scientific challenges were incredible, first having to get disease under control and then figure out whether it should be a sea-level or a lock canal. It was 40 miles long and literally cut through the continental divide, so it was extremely difficult.

Orlando Pérez: The idea of an interoceanic canal dates back to the Spanish colonial period. The French attempted to do this and failed. After that failure, the US came in. The American ingenuity was of building, rather than a sea level canal, a lock canal. The way the terrain is, a sea-level canal would flood, it was prone to landslides and the terrain was not stable enough. You had to accommodate different levels. It was lower on one side than on the other side, with mountains in between. The systems of locks is what made it possible.

Noel Maurer: A key thing the US did, was they used railroads to truck out the dirt. The French were piling it up, which led to landslides. Also, when it rained, the dirt would turn to puddles, which attracted mosquitos, which meant malaria rips through your workforce. The US established medical innovations to control malaria and yellow fever.

Ovidio Diaz-Espino: The construction itself was so significant that at one point one-third of the city of Pittsburgh was working to build the canal. Every lock of the canal, and there are four, has more steel, more concrete, and took more work than the Empire State Building. Something like six Empire State Building constructions are here. There was massive steel, provided by US Steel. Massive concrete provided by Portland Cement. GE had to invent new type of machineries to be able to move the ships, these huge tankards that only had a few inches on either side needed to be controlled. Railroad had to be developed with minute precision. Dredging techniques used to dredge the Port of New York had to be much more precise.

With such a massive body of work it probably employed one-third of Central America and the Caribbean, and the US was heavily influenced by it and by the money that was flowing through Wall Street, the banks, the insurance companies.

Richard Feinberg: Congress was raising questions of, “Do we need this, is it worth it?” So in 1906 when it was under construction, Teddy Roosevelt travelled down, the first time a sitting US president ever left the continental United States while in office. He staged a successful PR stunt: he sat in a big earth moving machine wearing a Panama hat, made a speech that America could and needed to do this, and when he returned to the US the Senate supported its construction.

Julie Greene: But on top of that had to do with the human challenges involved. The chief engineer said at one point that the real challenge of this canal, and what allowed the US to succeed, was in figuring out how to manage and discipline the humans. “That was my contribution,” he said. By that, he meant they had to build a whole society: a police force, dorms, cafeterias, a judicial system. Forty-five thousand women and men, mostly men, came from dozens of different countries, and then thousands of women and children came to be with their menfolk. To create a world for them and then to keep it orderly was a challenge.

PBS NewsHour: What was the human toll?

Julie Greene: The United States built the Canal between 1904 and 1914, picking up the ball from the disastrous efforts by the French. The loss of life during the French era was much greater because disease was more widespread. The US managed to get yellow fever completely under control, and malaria largely under control. By the official US statistics, the mortality rate was about 10,000 people, maybe a little less. But it’s hard to gauge: one historian who looked more closely argued that the death rate was probably 15,000 – or 1/10 of all men who worked on the project.

Richard Feinberg: Panama had not existed before this. There were some independence movements which the US decided to support, creating a new country in order to construct this canal. So Panamanians who welcomed independence welcomed the canal. But the canal was built mostly by foreign workers. They imported tens of thousands of Caribbean workers, many of whom died from disease or accidents.

Ovidio Diaz-Espino: 27,000 people died building the Panama Canal during those two periods. Can you imagine an infrastructure project today that cost 27,000 lives?

PBS NewsHour: What were some of the controversies surrounding its construction? How was it seen on the ground in Panama and by its neighbors?

Julie Greene: The chief engineer had extensive powers thanks to an executive order. Anyone in the Canal Zone not productive could be deported. Many were. Workers who refused to show up would be, if not deported, sentenced to jail time. They had a massive police force, and did not allow strikes. Workers who might try to organize could be and were quickly deported. In the end, this kind of careful system of rules and regulations allowed order.

The US relied on a vast system of racial and ethnic segregation, the Gold and Silver Rolls. American, white workers were paid in gold, and they had better housing and conditions. Most workers of African descent in the Caribbean were on “silver rolls.” They lived in hovels and ate outside or under porches during the torrential rainfalls. It’s not surprising they’d rely on segregation, but the demographics of the Canal Zone weren’t black and white. Thousands of Spaniards came in and found that they were referred to as the “semi-white Europeans,” and excluded from the white hotels and cafeterias. They were pretty ticked off, and built up a vast network of anarchist politics and would go on strike even though they weren’t allowed to. So the US found it constantly had to manage problems resulting from its own policies.

Noel Maurer: Bringing in all these black laborers created a bit of a stink in Panama, and contributed to racial tensions that lasted a long time. A big chunk of the country today is descended from those workers, creating tensions.

Orlando Pérez: For Panamanian nationals at the time, this was the accomplishment of their dreams, to position Panama at the heart of a global commercial enterprise or system, to use the geographic location of Panama to its commercial advantage. Geography has always determined Panamanian politics and the economy. The problem was how that accomplishment came about, which was essentially by subordinating a chunk of their territory to an extraterritorial power, through a treaty that no Panamanians signed. The payment [to Panamanians] was substantial, but it wasn’t anywhere near the benefits that the US would accrue. So the Panamanians started with the great hope that it would place Panama at the center of world commerce, but also resenting that they achieved this victory at the cost of ceding sovereignty over the Canal itself.

PBS NewsHour: In 1977, President Carter signed a treaty with General Omar Torrijos, then Commander of the Panamanian National Guard, ceding control of the Canal to Panama beginning in 1999. What impact did this shift in authority have?

Ovidio Diaz-Espino: The Canal was administered exclusively by Americans for the interest of American military and geopolitical concerns. Panamanians felt they were not benefitting from the canal. And there was a fence. As a child growing up, I could not go into the Canal Zone because I was Panamanian. It was pure American land. This was the most valuable piece of land in the country, and it was being exploited by somebody else. There was a lot of conflict leading to massacres, students killed by soldiers because they tried to raise a Panamanian flag at the Canal. It was an unstable situation.

Richard Feinberg: I wasn’t in the Clinton administration during the handover but I was part of the negotiations leading up to it, and I was also in the Carter administration for the treaty. The treaty was a huge political debate. Reagan enhanced his reputation as a strong nationalist by opposing the treaties, and it cost Carter dearly, in terms of creating a narrative that he was somehow retreating from American power abroad, which was later compounded by crises in Iran and elsewhere. But it was extremely important for relations with Panama and Latin America.

Noel Maurer: By the time the treaty came along, the US benefits from the Canal were almost gone. This wasn’t charity, it wasn’t Carter being nice to the Latin Americans. This was strategy. By the 1970s, American farmers shipping food to Asia could railroad to Seattle and ship from there because railroad costs was much cheaper post-WWII. Militarily, the Canal turned out to be strategically useless, and totally indefensible. Truman tried to hand it over the UN. It was losing money under Johnson. The only reason for the political opposition to the Carter treaties was that it was a symbol of American national pride, especially after Vietnam.

Ovidio Diaz-Espino: The political consequence in Panama was felt immediately. Within two years, the Canal Zone came down. The Americans were still managing it, and the military bases were still here, so the security was still in the hands of the Americans, but it was now Panamanian land. That defused a lot of tensions not just in Panama but throughout Latin America, as it had been the poster child of American colonialism in Latin America.

Orlando Pérez: The Panamanians have done a marvelous job at running it. It’s efficient and profitable. It’s run independent of the Panamanian government. There have been very few reported or alleged cases of corruption within management. It’s a very efficient, moneymaking enterprise, and I think everyone that looks at how Panamanians have handled the management, creating an authority for it, they wish the national government was run as efficiently and effectively as that.

Ovidio Diaz-Espino: Beginning in 1999, the effect for Panama has been massive. It was as if we suddenly discovered oil, except it’s a more stable commodity than oil, and it will become even more stable as there is more dependence on the Canal as a result of the expected growth in global trade between Asia and America. And it’s not just the revenues, but everything around it: 3 major ports creating thousands of jobs. A whole industry devoted to shipping services as a result. Sixty percent of all world cargo has a Panamanian flag. There’s a burgeoning residential market in the former Canal Zone, and a huge part around the canal is this untouched rainforest, a watershed, so it’s becoming is a hotbed of ecotourism. Now they’re planning for cruise ships to drop off in Panama City. This is all because of the canal.

And there’s something more important, which I call the peace element. The canal gives us something no neighbor has, and that’s political stability. The neutrality clause in the Torrijos-Carter treaty says that the US has the right to intervene in Panamanian internal affairs if the security of the canal is ever threatened. Why is there no corruption, why does the canal operate with the precision of a Swiss watch factory? Because Americans always have their eyes on it. You know it’s not going to be ruined.

Construction underway on new locks in the Panama Canal in 2011. Photo by Juan Jose Rodriguez/AFP/Getty Images

PBS NewsHour: Expansion of the Panama Canal is due to begin soon. What should we know about this project?

Richard Feinberg: It’s a modernization. As container ships have gotten bigger and bigger, the canal needs to be larger. There’s no doubt that commercially the expansion is important and it will pay off over time with the increased traffic that will result, as more and bigger ships pass through.

Julie Greene: It’s a huge undertaking being run efficiently. It’s behind schedule, but that’s not surprising. What they’re doing is building another set of lock basins, and they’ve designed it in a very green, environmental way. Instead of using fresh water every time the locks have to be filled, because that would have been stressful on water supply, they devised an engineering system that allows them to recycle the water.

There are nonetheless challenges even though green ideals were in mind. For ships to go through quickly, that will put pressure on the Gatun Lake and hurt its environment a bit, so there’s some debating going on as to whether they should slow down the speed to protect the lake.

Orlando Pérez: The expansion project has generated a huge amount of employment, and has been the catalyst for high economic growth. Some Panamanians see a problem with this growth, that it’s not well shared across the nation. Panama is still a dual economy. Economic growth is centered mostly in the urban areas, tied to commercial enterprises, tied to tourism and to the Canal. But if you go to rural areas, poverty is much higher.

Julie Greene: Certainly it’s an important part of the US political economy, and will be more so with the expansion once it’s complete in 2015. In fact lots of changes are happening across the US as different port cities prepare for the larger ships that will be able to come through.

Ovidio Diaz-Espino: The expansion is important for Panama, but it’s much more important for the United States. I can’t imagine how much is being invested in the US. No port was ready to take those ships, so every major port has to expand. So New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Miami, Galveston, New Orleans, all have to do major dredging. Then you need to expand the highways, and you’ll need more container space locally. The expense is massive, and all are racing to prepare. The delay in finishing the project means the US has more time to get ready.

The other thing is that it is going to change patterns of trade. Right now, most Asia-US trade comes through Long Beach. That will change. Most trade by water will go to southern and northeastern ports. That has implications for railroad companies, truck companies, and entire cities. Joe Biden said this may make inflation go down, which will make the US more competitive in its exports to China.

These interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Left: The first P&O Orient liner Oriana returns to Southampton after her maiden voyage to the Panama Canal in 1961. She was the largest vessel to pass through the canal since the German liner Bremen in 1939. Photo by Central Press/Getty Images


Why Was Augustus So Successful in Creating the Roman Empire?

"In my sixth and seventh consulships [28-27 BC], after I had extinguished civil wars, and at a time when with universal consent I was in complete control of affairs, I transferred the republic from my power to the dominion of the senate and people of Rome. After this time I excelled all in influence [auctoritas], although I possessed no more official power [potestas] than others who were my colleagues in the several magistracies." (Res Gestae Divi Augusti 34.1-3)[[1]]

It is with these words that Augustus not only describes, but also justifies his unique political position. Although it is easy to see through his transparent veil, it is also easy to see how the above statement embodies both the subtly and political delicacy used by Rome's first emperor. His political power is masqueraded as personal auctoritas his power achieved through his military supremacy passed off as rule by universal consent. To use a historical cliché, Augustus was the archetypal "master of spin".

With the gift of hindsight, even the staunchest of revisionists can acknowledge that the reign of Augustus was a clear turning point in European History. Whether or not this change was a steady evolutionary measure or a rapid revolutionary one is subject to much scrutiny. Certainly when looking at the Senate, the sheer tact of Augustus made the transition from oligarchy to autocracy seem almost seamless to his political contemporaries.[[2]] This was not to say that senators were none the wiser the position of Augustus during the early principate developed much more organically than one could have expected. Consider the situation as thus: after the war against Antony came to a close, Augustus (or as he was known then, Octavian) was at the head of Rome's empire: he had, at his disposal, over five hundred thousand legionaries [[3]] (many of whom defected from Antony to Octavian after Actium) as well as a recently seized Ptolemaic treasury. As Tacitus puts it, "Opposition did not exist".[[4]]

With this in mind, it seems strange that Octavian developed his power base in such a piecemeal manner. Why was there such a need for subtly? If being brought up during the time of the Late Republic had taught Octavian anything, it was that overt displays of autocracy generally fed the resentment of the Senate. One only has to examine the fate of Caesar to be aware of this. However, if Octavian followed the mould of Sulla and retired directly after the civil wars, Rome would most definitely become re-enveloped by hostilities.[[5]] In the eyes of Octavian, the only way to acquire a stable, but autocratic Rome was to employ a piecemeal strategy.

This desire for subtle, gradual change is mirrored in the fact that he spent the following eight years after Actium acquiring the powers associated with the Principate. As soon as the Actium campaign came to a close, his powers of a triumvir were replaced with consecutive consulships up until 23 BC. While in this position, Octavian was voted censorial powers in 29 BC, and set about restoring order.[[6]] For a time, this worked well for Octavian. It was a flawed agreement however rivals in the military could still be a potential threat. This was ultimately proven through the military successes of M. Lincinius Crassus, who, during a campaign in Thrace in 31 BC, won a pretext for the spolia opima.[[7]] Although awarded a triumph, Crassus was not granted the award as it overshadowed the achievements of Octavian. Realising the need to keep individuals in check, Octavian set about reforming his position this was achieved in 27 BC through the medium of the so-called First Settlement.

According to Suetonius the build-up to the settlement happened as thus:

"He then actually summoned. the Senate to his house and gave them a faithful account of the military and financial state of the Empire."[[8]]

And then, in a great display of political tact, he resigned. Naturally the Senate implored Octavian to stay in office by offering him a new set of powers. With apparent reluctance, Octavian accepted the following: Proconsulular imperium (the legitimate right to command legions) in most militarised provinces - Gaul, Spain and Syria - which was to be reviewed every ten years a continuation of his consecutive consulships, thus placing himself in a position similar to that of Pompey during 59-48 BC and he was also awarded the honorific title of Augustus, a title held by all Augustus' successors.[[9]]

The powers Augustus acquired at the First Settlement seemed to be a permanent arrangement in the creation of Imperial Rome. However, as with his previous political arrangements, there were still flaws to be found. In 24 BC for instance, the acting governor of Macedonia, Marcus Primus, illegally went to war against the neighbouring kingdom of Thrace a clear indication that Augustus lacked legitimate authority in certain provinces, and thus unable to stop maverick generals.[[10]] There was an attempt on Augustus? life by the Republican senators, Fannius Caepio and Varro Murena as a result of various Senators' disgruntlement with his consecutive consulships the power only made one consulship available per annum.[[11]] In accordance with these apparent flaws, Augustus sought a second settlement in 23 BC.

Augustus gave up the consulship and instead was awarded tribunicia potestas (tribunician powers) for life by the senate a position that gave him civil authority, but at the same time freed up one of the consulships. To maintain authority in all militarised provinces, Augustus was awarded imperium maius.[[12]] This enabled him to override the imperium of any provincial governor and potentially have military authority in any province however, Augustus only really intervened with senatorial provinces on a few occasions.[[13]]

With such care and effort put in this acquisition of power, it seems that Augustus had reached state of political perfection not only would he hold these powers until his long life came to an end, but his successor would also. Thus in 23 BC, Augustus made the principate a permanent establishment the rule of the autocrat ended only at death.

At this point, it seems only necessary to ask why was there such little resistance from the Senatorial body? Under Augustan Rome, politically active senators were presented with two options: open resistance or becoming obsequious in manner.[[14]] Those assigned to the former became political nonentities, or, as we saw with Caepio and Murena, were executed. The fact of the matter was thus: the main body of the senate owed their careers to Augustus, and there was nothing that could be done about it as Tacitus would want us to believe, Augustus' grip on the senate was too strong. For instance, when Octavian returned to Rome after the civil wars had been extinguished, his censorial powers made it possible for him to purge the Senate of any potential resistance in his regime.[[15]] The reason for such a rash act was due to the number of senators appointed by Octavian's rival triumvir the presence of senators that did not side with him during the Actium campaigns was also an adequate reason for an assessment. Thus in 29 BC, Octavian removed 190 potential threats to his administration. In later years, three more efforts were made to rid the senate of undesirables: in 18 BC, 11 BC and AD 4.[[16]] Furthermore, senators were also powerless militarily the nature of the First and Second Settlements took all forms of military authority away from them. It would seem that open resistance was not an option in the Senate.

If assigned to the second option, political advancement was almost guaranteed, although it was Augustus' policy to allow the senate to, within reason, speak freely about their grievances, most senators acknowledged the fact that there was a direct correlation between an elevated currsus honourum and being on the same wave length as the emperor. Senators were indebted to Augustus in other ways: namely financially. In 12 BC, the property qualification for the Senate was raised from 400, 000 sesterces to one million.[[17]] Those whose fell below this property qualification were either propped up by Augustus' vast treasury, or, if deemed undesirable, ejected from the Senate. This less-than-subtle capping of the Senate's power had its limitations: there were many indirect ways in which Senators still held the trappings of power.

As with most ancient states, religion within the Roman sphere was heavily entwined with her political institutions this was, as we shall see, particularly the case during the Late Republican era, for although Rome's temples had long since been emptied of all religious fervour, religion was rarely far from the dealings of this far from secular state. Rome, at this time, had few full-time priests most were important people, namely senators, for whom a priesthood was one of many duties. The result of this monopoly on both the government and the state religion was simple: religion could be manipulated (normally in the form of poor omens) to suit the ambitious careers of senators. A classic, and almost typical, example of this religious manipulation occurred in 59 BC, when Julius Caesar's co-consul, M Calpurnius tried to block his colleague's legislation under the premise of an unfavourable religious environment in this case, in the form of inauspicious omens, of which he found many.[[18]] Keeping in mind that this was just one of many (seemingly easy) ways in which religion could be manipulated, it is no surprise that there was much competition for membership of Rome's four main priesthoods.[[19]]

Under Augustus, the theological influence that the Senate held was capped in another subtle, but home-hitting way. As early as 29 BC Augustus, or Octavian as he was then known, initiated a program of religious renewal. As well as famously restoring 82 temples [[20]] among other buildings, this also entailed reviewing the membership of various priesthoods and re-establishing cults and priesthoods that had long since been lost to the sands of time.[[21]] This meant that under Augustus, the various priesthoods acted more in conjunction, creating an impressive outward appearance but obscuring the fact that responsibilities and influence now only existed in prayer alone.[[22]] It was this control of the Senate that created sufficient conditions for Augustus' unopposed political freedom in the capital the diminished power of the Senate acted as a springboard for the excesses of his successors.

Although diminished in power, Augustus did still respect the Senate, and regularly consulted the body: in administration the Senate had still had authority over non-military provinces in jurisdiction law courts were manned by both the Princeps and Senate and in legislation, the Senate's consuls had the right to propose laws.[[23]] Although the partnership between Princeps and Senate was clearly an unequal one, the respect mustered up by Augustus' advisory body was great enough for him to be awarded the honorific title of pater patriaein (Father of the Fatherland) in 2 BC[[24]] - a clear indication that there was some truth behind Augustus' boast of excelling "all in authority"[[25]]

I have, however, not mentioned the most definitive reason for the senatorial indifference: the Roman military machine. The fact that throughout the duration of his reign Augustus had complete military authority made any form of senatorial resistance impossible. How did Augustus keep control of such a large body of troops? After Actium, it was Octavian's main priority to reduce the size of the Roman army from 500,000 (over fifty legions) to 300,000 (28 legions - the standard number of legions for much of Augustus' reign)[[26]]. This would enable two things: legionaries of dubious loyalties would now be disarmed, and fewer inactive troops with a pretext for mutiny. Those dismissed settled in veteran colonies which were, of course, funded by Augustus' vast Ptolemaic treasure.[[27]] The Emperor also dictated the pay of the legions: once again, Augustus' personal fortune paved the way for this.[[28]]

Discipline was another issue addressed. Suetonius for example, speaks of many harsh punitive measured introduced Augustus.[[29]] In order to secure further loyalty, the princeps changed the oath military allegiance to refer to himself rather than the previous practice of referring to Rome. Although not an expansionist in nature, Augustus created an army stable and disciplined enough for his successors to expand the Empire. One must also keep in mind that due to the nature of the 23 BC settlement, this elite fighting force was controlled by Augustus and/or his subordinates, and there was virtually no chance of his opponents commanding this force.

There was however, another element of military force that allowed Augustus to stay in power: the Praetorian Guard. These were an elite unit of imperial soldier whose work was dedicated to protecting the Emperor and his immediate family. Divided into nine cohorts - composed of 9,000 men - and under the command of an equestrian prefect (chosen by Augustus himself), these were the only military units that could be stationed below the Rubicon.[[30]] Unlike their legionary counterparts, the Guard rarely took to the field, and their pay was superior. With the Guard under his control, Augustus had the ability to emit authority over both the urban populace, and the Senate.[[31]]

Keeping control of the masses was rarely carried out through oppressive military action in the words of Juvenal, control mainly kept with the use of "bread and races".[[32]] The nature of Augustus' vast treasury and centralised government enabled him provide the population with Annona rations (corn dole)[[33]] : during a particularly bad famine in 22 BC grain was supplied at a ". very cheap rate sometimes he provided it for free. "[[34]] Augustus was also able to fund games and largesse: "None of Augustus' predecessors had provided such splendid shows. His awards of largesse to the people were frequent. "[[35]]

Augustus' centralised government initiated various building programs designed to appease the urban poor most notable of which were the three aqueducts built under the supervision of Marcus Agrippa, and after his death, under the eyes of three curators of the water supply (all of which were well established patricians at the height of their careers). Once built, the aqueducts were thoroughly maintained and monitored: according to Dio, Agrippa had a troop of 240 trained slaves to repair them and to cut off people who have tapped the water supply illegally.[[36]] Because water was now so readily available, Augustus was in a position to order the construction of the Baths of Agrippa: Rome's first large-scale public baths. Appeasing the masses in Rome eventually became another mandate for power it became an Imperial modus operandi of gaining popularity, and it was often improved upon by the excesses of Augustus' successors.

Clearly Augustus was as successful a politician as anybody could get: he created long lasting institutions maintained complete control of the Roman army held dominance order, but at the same time respected, the Senate and with centralised government and excessive wealth, he was able to extract loyalty from the people and establish an institution that would be fundamentally altered only with the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine.


Here are the 12 women who changed the world

1. Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Portrait of Jane Austen circa 1790

The OG rom-com queen, Jane Austen defined an entire literary genre with her shrewd social observations and wit. Born into a family of eight children in England, Austen started writing her now classic novels, such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, in her teens.

Her novels are funny, endearing, and questioned women’s roles within society. Austen had to hide her identity as the author of some of the most popular novels of her day and it wasn’t until her death that her brother, Henry, revealed to the public that she was the real author. Her literary influence remains and the themes and lessons from her novels still hold up today.

2. Anne Frank (1929 – 1945)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

A 12 year old Anne Frank doing her homework

The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most honest, powerful and poignant accounts of World War II and was written by a German teenage girl. The Franks were a Jewish family living in Germany, then Austria throughout Hitler’s rise to power and during World War II. The family hid in a secret annex with four other people throughout the war but were discovered and sent to concentration camps in 1944. Out of the Frank family, only Anne’s father survived, and he made the decision to publish Anne’s diary.

The Diary of Anne Frank has been translated into almost 70 languages and is an intimate portrayal of one of the most inhumane moments in history and is able to educate us on the universal human qualities of emotion, passion, love, hope, desire, fear and strength.

3. Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou is one of the most influential women in American history and was a poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, whose award-winning memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.

Angelou had a difficult childhood. As a black woman growing up in Stamps, Arkansas, Maya experienced racial prejudices and discrimination all throughout her life. At the age of seven, Angelou was assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend, who was then killed by her uncles as revenge. The incident traumatised Angelou to the point that she became a virtual mute for many years.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as well as her other works have been one of the loudest voices in the civil rights movement, and explore subjects such as identity, rape, racism, and literacy, and illustrate how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma.

4. Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603)

“Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.”

The Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I painted in 1588

Elizabeth called herself ‘The Virgin Queen’ because she chose to marry her country instead of a man. It might seem like ancient history now, but Queen Elizabeth I is one of the most successful monarchs in British history, and under her, England became a major European power in politics, commerce and the arts.

Elizabeth had a rocky road to the throne and technically should never have been allowed to reign, both because she was a woman and because her mother was Anne Boleyn, the much-hated ex-wife of Henry VIII.

However, Elizabeth I proved all the naysayers wrong and has become one of the greatest female leaders. Known for her intelligence, cunning and hot-temper, ‘The Virgin Queen’ was one truly one of the great women in history.

5. Catherine the Great (1729 – 1796)

“Power without a nation's confidence is nothing.”

Portrait of Catherine the Great painted in 1780

Catherine the Great is one of the world’s great historical figures and the Prussian-born Queen is one of the more ruthless women to make this list.

Stuck in a loveless marriage to the King of Russia, Catherine orchestrated a coup to overthrow her wildly unpopular husband Peter III, and then named herself Empress of the Russian Empire in 1762.

Catherine is credited for modernising Russia and established the first state-funded school for girls, reeled back the power of the church within the state and encouraged the development of the economy, trade and the arts.

She is also known for her healthy sexual appetite, having numerous lovers right up until her death who she would often gift with an abundance of jewels and titles before sending them on their way to make room for their replacement. Now there’s a woman who knows what she wants.

6. Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883)

“Truth is powerful and it prevails.”

Sojourner Truth is one of the most inspirational black women in America’s history and her words belong to one of the most famous speeches by any woman. An African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist, Truth delivered a now famous speech at the Ohio Women’s Right’s Convention in Akron, 1851, that has come to be known as “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Truth was separated from her family at the age of nine and was subsequently sold for auction as a slave along with a flock of sheep for $100. In 1829, Truth escaped to freedom with her infant daughter Sophia, but her other two children had to be left behind.

Truth began to advocate for the rights of women and African Americans in the late 1840’s and was known for giving passionate speeches about women’s rights, prison reform and universal suffrage. Truth, who died in Michigan in 1883, is known as one of the foremost leaders of the abolition movement and one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights.

7. Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free. so other people would be also free.”

Rosa Parks was on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, when the bus driver asked her to stand up and give her seat to a white man. Parks, a black seamstress, refused and in doing so sparked an entire civil rights movement in America.

Born in 1913, Parks moved to Alabama at age 11, and attended a laboratory school at the Alabama State Teachers’ College for Negroes, until she had to leave in 11 th grade to care for her ill grandmother.

Before 1955, Parks was a member of Montgomery’s African-American community and in 1943 joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, where she became chapter secretary.

In 1955, Alabama was still governed by segregation laws and had a policy for municipal buses where white citizens only were allowed to sit in the front, and black men and women had to sit in the back. On December 1 st , there were no more seats left in the white section, so the bus conductor told the four black riders to stand and give the white man a whole row. Three obeyed, Parks did not.

Parks was subsequently arrested, and her actions sparked a wave of protests across America. When she died at the age of 92 on October 24, 2005, she became the first woman in the nation’s history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.

8. Malala Yousafzai (1997 - Present)

“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”

Malala Yousafzai displays her medal and diploma during the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in 2014

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan on July 12, 1997. Yousafzai’s father was a teacher and ran an all-girls school in her village, however when the Taliban took over her town they enforced a ban on all girls going to school. In 2012, at the age of 15, Malala publicly spoke out on women’s rights to education and as a result, a gunman boarded her school bus and shot the young activist in the head.

Yousafzai moved to the UK where she has become a fierce presence on the world stage and became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, at 17 years old. Malala is currently studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford.

9. Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Polish-born Marie Curie was a pioneering physicist and scientist, who coined the term radioactivity, discovered two new elements (radium and polonium) and developed a portable x-ray machine.

Currie was the first person (not woman) who has won two separate Noble Prizes, one for physics and another for chemistry, and to this day Curie is the only person, regardless of gender, to receive Noble prizes for two different sciences.

Currie faced near constant adversity and discrimination throughout her career, as science and physics was such a male-dominated field, but despite this, her research remains relevant and has influenced the world of science to this day.

10. Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852)

“That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal as time will show.”

An Alfred Edward Chalon watercolor of Ada Lovelace painted in 1840

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and the world’s first computer programmer. Lovelace was born into privilege as the daughter of a famously unstable romantic poet, Lord Byron (who left her family when Ada was just 2 months old) and Lady Wentworth.

Ada was a charming woman of society who was friends with people such as Charles Dickens, but she is most famous for being the first person ever to publish an algorithm intended for a computer, her genius being years ahead of her time.

Lovelace died of cancer at 36, and it took nearly a century after her death for people to appreciate her notes on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which became recognised as the first description for computer and software, ever.

11. Edith Cowan (1861 – 1932)

"Women are very desirous of their being placed on absolutely equal terms with men. We ask for neither more nor less than that.”

Her face is on our $50 dollar note and she has a University named after her in Western Australia, but what you may not know is that Edith Cowan was Australia’s first ever female member of parliament and a fierce women’s rights activist.

Edith’s childhood was traumatic, to say the least. Her mother died while giving birth when Cowan was just seven years old, and her father was accused and then convicted of murdering his second wife when she was 15 and was subsequently executed.

From a young age Edith was a pioneer for women’s rights, and her election to parliament at 59 in 1921, was both unexpected and controversial.

During her time in parliament Cowan pushed through legislation which allowed women to be involved in the legal profession, promoted migrant welfare and sex education in schools and placed mothers on equal position with fathers when their children died without having made a will.

Edith died at age 70, but her legacy remains to this day.

12. Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1939)

“Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

Amelia Earhart stands in front of her bi-plane called 'Friendship' in Newfoundland on June 14, 1928

Amelia Earhart was the definition of a rule breaker. An American aviator who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first person ever to fly solo from Hawaii to the US, Amelia was a pioneering aviator and a true female trailblazer.

Earhart refused to be boxed in by her gender from a young age, born in Kansas in 1897 Amelia played basketball growing up, took auto repair courses and briefly attended college. In 1920, Earhart began flying lessons and quickly became determined to receive her pilot's license, passing her flight test in December 1921.

Earhart set multiple aviation records, but it was her attempt at being the first person to circumnavigate the globe which led to her disappearance and presumed death. In July 1937, Earhart disappeared somewhere over the Pacific, and was declared dead in absentia in 1939. Her plane wreckage has never been found and to this day, her disappearance remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the twentieth century.


The Myth of the Model Minority

Mali Keo fled Cambodia with her husband and four children in 1992. Several years later, she was still haunted by searing memories of "the killing fields," the forced-labor camps where millions of Cambodians died, victims of Communist despot Pol Pot's quest for a perfect agrarian society. Because of the brutal beatings she suffered at the hands of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, she was still wracked with physical pain as well. Traumatized and ailing, uneducated, unskilled, and speaking very little English, Mali Keo (a pseudonym assigned by researchers) could barely support her children after her husband abandoned the family.

And now she may not even have public assistance to fall back on, because the1996 welfare-reform act cut off most federal benefits to immigrants andsubsequent amendments have not entirely restored them. In what was supposed to bethe land of her salvation, Mali Keo today is severely impoverished. Living in ahard-pressed neighborhood of Philadelphia, she struggles with only mixed successto keep her children out of trouble and in school.

The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), an advocacy group inWashington, estimates that more than 2.2 million Southeast Asians now live in theUnited States. They are the largest group of refugees in the country and thefastest-growing minority. Yet for most policy makers, the plight of the many MaliKeos has been overshadowed by the well-known success of the Asian immigrants whocame before and engendered the myth of the "model minority." Indeed,conservatives have exploited this racial stereotype -- arguing that Asians farewell in the United States because of their strong "family values" and work ethic.These values, they say, and not government assistance, are what all minoritiesneed in order to get ahead.

Paradoxically, Southeast Asians -- supposedly part of the model minority --may be suffering most from the resulting public policies. They have been left inthe hands of underfunded community-assistance programs and government agenciesthat, in one example of well-intentioned incompetence, churn out forms in Khmerand Lao for often illiterate populations. But fueled by outrage over bad servicesand a fraying social safety-net, Southeast Asian immigrants have started toembrace that most American of activities, political protest -- by pushing forresearch on their communities, advocating for their rights, and harnessing theirpolitical power.

The model-minority myth has persisted in large part becausepolitical conservatives are so attached to it. "Asian Americans have become thedarlings of the right," said Frank Wu, a law professor at Howard University andthe author of Yellow: Race beyond Black and White. "The model-minority myth and its depiction of Asian-American success tells a reassuring story about our society working."

The flip side is also appealing to the right. Because Asian Americans'success stems from their strong families and their dedication to education andhard work, conservatives say, then the poverty of Latinos and African Americansmust be explained by their own "values": They are poor because of theirnonmarrying, school-skipping, and generally lazy and irresponsible behavior,which government handouts only encourage.

The model-minority myth's "racist love," as author Frank Chin terms it, tookhold at a sensitive point in U.S. history: after the 1965 Watts riots and theimmigration reforms of that year, which selectively allowed large numbers ofeducated immigrants into the United States. Highly skilled South and East Asiannurses, doctors, and engineers from countries like India and China began pouringinto the United States just as racial tensions were at a fever pitch.

Shortly thereafter, articles like "Success Story of One Minority in the U.S.,"published by U.S. News & World Report in 1966, trumpeted: "At a time when it is being proposed that hundreds of billions be spent to uplift Negroes and other minorities, the nation's 300,000 Chinese Americans are moving ahead on their own, with no help from anyone else." Newsweek in 1971 had Asian Americans "outwhiting the whites." And Fortune in 1986 dubbed them a "superminority." As Wu caricatures the model-minority myth in his book:

Asian Americans vindicate the American Dream. . They areliving proof of the power of the free market and the absence of racialdiscrimination. Their good fortune flows from individual self-reliance andcommunity self-sufficiency, not civil-rights activism or government welfarebenefits.

A closer look at the data paints another picture, however. If Asian-Americanhouseholds earn more than whites, statistics suggest, it's not because theirindividual earnings are higher but because Asian Americans live in largerhouseholds, with more working adults. In fact, a recent University of Hawaiistudy found that "most Asian Americans are overeducated compared to whites forthe incomes they earn" -- evidence that suggests not "family values" but marketdiscrimination.

What most dramatically skews the data, though, is the fact that about half thepopulation of Asian (or, more precisely, Asian-Pacific Islander) Americans ismade up of the highly educated immigrants who began arriving with their familiesin the 1960s. The plight of refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, who makeup less than 14 percent of Asian Americans, gets lost in the averaging. Yet theserefugees, who started arriving in the United States after 1975, differ markedlyfrom the professional-class Chinese and Indian immigrants who started coming 10years earlier. The Southeast Asians were fleeing wartime persecution and had fewresources. And those disadvantages have had devastating effects on their lives inthe United States. The most recent census data available show that 47 percent ofCambodians, 66 percent of Hmong (an ethnic group that lived in the mountains ofLaos), 67 percent of Laotians, and 34 percent of Vietnamese were impoverished in1990 -- compared with 10 percent of all Americans and 14 percent of all AsianAmericans. Significantly, poverty rates among Southeast Asian Americans were muchhigher than those of even the "nonmodel" minorities: 21 percent of AfricanAmericans and 23 percent of Latinos were poor.

Yet despite the clear inaccuracies created by lumping populations together,the federal government still groups Southeast Asian refugees under the overbroadcategory of "Asian" for research and funding purposes. "We've labored under theshadow of this model myth for so long," said KaYing Yang, SEARAC's executivedirector. "There's so little research on us, or we're lumped in with all otherAsians, so people don't know the specific needs and contributions of ourcommunities."

To get a sense of those needs, one has to go back to the beginning ofthe Southeast Asian refugees' story and the circumstances that forced theirmigration. In 1975, the fall of Saigon sent shock waves throughout SoutheastAsia, as communist insurgents toppled U.S.-supported governments in Vietnam andCambodia. In Laos, where the CIA had trained and funded the Hmong to fightLaotian and Vietnamese communists as U.S. proxies, the communists who took overvowed to purge the country of ethnic Hmong and punish all others who had workedwith the U.S. government.

The first refugees to leave Southeast Asia tended to be the most educatedand urban, English-speakers with close connections to the U.S. government. One ofthem was a man who wishes to be identified by the pseudonym John Askulraskul. Hespent two years in a Laotian re-education camp -- punishment for his ability tospeak English, his having been educated, and, most of all, his status as a formeremployee of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

"They tried to brainwash you, to subdue you psychologically, to work you todeath on two bowls of rice a day," Askulraskul told me recently.

After being released, he decided to flee the country. He, his sister, and hiseldest daughter, five and a half years old, slipped into the Mekong River with afew others. Clinging to an inflated garbage bag, Askulraskul swam alongside theirboat out of fear that his weight would sink it.

After they arrived on the shores of Thailand, Askulraskul and his daughterwere placed in a refugee camp, where they waited to be reunited with his wife andhis two other daughters.

"My wife tried to escape with two small children. But my daughters couldn'tmake it" -- he paused, drawing a ragged breath -- "because the boat sank."

Askulraskul's wife was swept back to Laos, where she was arrested and placedin jail for a month. She succeeded in her next escape attempt, rejoining hersuddenly diminished family.

Eventually, with the help of his former boss at USAID, they moved toConnecticut, where Askulraskul found work helping to resettle other refugees. Hiswife, who had been an elementary-school teacher, took up teaching English as asecond language (ESL) to Laotian refugee children. His daughter adjusted quicklyand went to school without incident.

Askulraskul now manages a project that provides services for at-risk SoutheastAsian children and their families. "The job I am doing now is not only a job," hesaid. "It is part of my life and my sacrifice. My daughter is 29 now, and I knowraising kids in America is not easy. I cannot save everybody, but there is stillsomething I can do."

Like others among the first wave of refugees, Askulraskul considers himselfone of the lucky ones. His education, U.S. ties, and English-language ability --everything that set off the tragic chain of events that culminated in hisdaughters' deaths -- proved enormously helpful once he was in the United States.

But the majority of refugees from Southeast Asia had no such advantages.Subsequent waves frequently hailed from rural areas and lacked both financialresources and formal schooling. Their psychological scars were even deeper thanthe first group's, from their longer years in squalid refugee camps or thekilling fields. The ethnic Chinese who began arriving from Vietnam had facedharsh discrimination as well, and the Amerasians -- the children of Vietnamesewomen and U.S. soldiers -- had lived for years as pariahs.

Once here, these refugees often found themselves trapped in poverty, providinglow-cost labor, and receiving no health or other benefits, while their lack ofschooling made decent jobs almost impossible to come by. In 1990, two-thirds ofCambodian, Laotian, and Hmong adults in America had less than a high-schooleducation -- compared with 14 percent of whites, 25 percent of African Americans,45 percent of Latinos, and 15 percent of the general Asian-American population.Before the welfare-reform law cut many of them off, nearly 30 percent ofSoutheast Asian Americans were on welfare -- the highest participation rate ofany ethnic group. And having such meager incomes, they usually lived in the worstneighborhoods, with the attendant crime, gang problems, and poor schools.

But shouldn't the touted Asian dedication to schooling have overcome thesedisadvantages, lifting the refugees' children out of poverty and keeping them offthe streets? Unfortunately, it didn't. "There is still a high number of dropoutsfor Southeast Asians," Yang said. "And if they do graduate, there is a low numbergoing on to higher education."

Their parents' difficulty in navigating American school systems maycontribute to the problem. "The parents' lack of education leads to a lack ofrole models and guidance. Without those things, youth can turn to delinquentbehavior and in some very extreme cases, gangs, instead of devoting themselves to education," said Narin Sihavong, director of SEARAC's Successful New AmericansProject, which interviewed Mali Keo. "This underscores the need for SoutheastAsian school administrators or counselors who can be role models, ease thecultural barrier, and serve as a bridge to their parents."

"Sometimes families have to choose between education and employment,especially when money is tight," said Porthira Chimm, a former SEARAC projectdirector. "And unfortunately, immediate money concerns often win out."

The picture that emerges -- of high welfare participation and dropout rates,low levels of education and income -- is startlingly similar to the situation ofthe poorest members of "nonmodel" minority groups. Southeast Asians, Latinos, andAfrican Americans also have in common significant numbers of single-parentfamilies. Largely as a result of the killing fields, nearly a quarter ofCambodian households are headed by single women. Other Southeast Asian familieshave similar stories. Sihavong's mother, for example, raised him and his fivesiblings on her own while his father was imprisoned in a Laotian re-educationcamp.

No matter how "traditional" Southeast Asians may be, they sharethe fate of other people of color when they are denied access to good education,safe neighborhoods, and jobs that provide a living wage and benefits. But for thesake of preserving the model-minority myth, conservative policy makers havelargely ignored the needs of Southeast Asian communities.

One such need is for psychological care. Wartime trauma and "lack of Englishproficiency, acculturative stress, prejudice, discrimination, and racial hatecrimes" place Southeast Asians "at risk for emotional and behavioral problems,"according to the U.S. surgeon general's 2001 report on race and mental health.One random sample of Cambodian adults found that 45 percent had post-traumaticstress disorder and 51 percent suffered from depression.

John Askulraskul's past reflects trauma as well, but his education,English-language ability, and U.S. connections helped level the playing field.Less fortunate refugees need literacy training and language assistance. They alsoneed social supports like welfare and strong community-assistance groups. Butmisled by the model-minority myth, many government agencies seem to be unawarethat Southeast Asians require their services, and officials have done little tofind these needy refugees or accommodate them. Considering that nearly two-thirdsof Southeast Asians say they do not speak English very well and more than 50percent live in linguistically isolated ethnic enclaves, the lack of outreach andtranslators effectively denies them many public services.

The problem extends beyond antipoverty programs, as Mali Keo's storyillustrates. After her husband left her, she formed a relationship with anotherman and had two more children. But he beat the family for years, until she askedan organization that served Cambodian refugees to help her file a restrainingorder. If she had known that a shelter was available, she told her interviewer,even one without Khmer-speaking counselors, she would have escaped much earlier.

Where the government hasn't turned a blind eye, it has oftenwielded an iron fist. The welfare-reform law of 1996, which cut off welfare, SSI,and food-stamp benefits for most noncitizens -- even those who are legalpermanent residents -- sent Southeast Asian communities into an uproar. Severalelderly Hmong in California committed suicide, fearing that they would becomeburdens to their families. Meanwhile, the lack of literacy programs prevented(and still does prevent) many refugees from passing the written test that wouldgain them citizenship and the right to public assistance.

"We achieved welfare reform on the backs of newcomers," Frank Wu said."People said that 'outsiders' don't have a claim to the body politic, and evenliberals say we should care for 'our own' first." Few seemed to ask the questionposed by sociologist Donald Hernandez: "What responsibility do we have to ensurea basic standard of living for immigrants who have fled their countries as aresult of the American government's economic, military, and political involvementthere?"

But welfare reform also had a second effect. "It was such a shockingevent, it completely galvanized the Southeast Asian community," said KarenNarasaki, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American LegalConsortium. "In different Asian cultures, you have 'the crab who crawls out ofthe bucket gets pulled back' [and] 'the nail that sticks out gets pounded down.'But in the United States, 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease,' and people had tolearn that."

The learning process has been a difficult one. At first, because of theirpast negative experiences with the United States and their homeland governments,many Southeast Asians feared political involvement. Many saw themselves asnoncitizens and second-class "outsiders" with a precarious standing in the UnitedStates. But as they have grown more familiar with this country, even noncitizenshave started to think of themselves less as refugees in a temporary home and moreas "new Americans" who are entitled to shape their destinies through politicalengagement.

The energy for this new activism grew out of the mutual-assistance associations(MAAs) that have taken root in various Southeast Asian communities. Primarilystaffed by people like Askulraskul -- the more successful members of the ethnicgroups they serve -- MAAs form the backbone of support for Southeast Asians,providing, among many other things, child care, job training, school liaisons,and assistance with navigating government bureaucracies.

But the MAAs are facing problems of their own. The funding they used to getfrom the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement is dwindling. In 1996 new federalguidelines mandated that these funds go exclusively to organizations serving themost recent refugees. (In response, several Southeast Asian MAAs have tried tostay afloat by offering their services to newer refugees from places likeEthiopia and Iraq.) As for outside funding, only 0.3 percent of all philanthropicaid goes to groups that work specifically with Asian-American populations, according to the 1998 edition of Foundation Giving. "A lot of people in philanthropy think [that Asians] are doing so well, they don't need help," Narasaki said.

Despite these problems, MAAs and national advocacy organizations like SEARAChave won limited restorations of benefits and food stamps for immigrants. And asignificant victory came in 2000, when legislation sponsored by Minnesota SenatorPaul Wellstone was adopted: It will allow Hmong veterans -- or their widows --from America's "secret war" in Laos to take the U.S. citizenship test in Hmong,with a translator.

One key to the MAAs' success is their networking with other minority-advocacygroups, says Sandy Dang, executive director of Asian American LEAD, anorganization based in Washington, that provides a range of services forVietnamese Americans, including ESL classes, youth mentoring, and parent-supportgroups.

When Dang founded the organization, she didn't know how to write grantproposals, so she asked the director of a nearby youth center for Latin Americansto provide guidance. "The Latino organizations have a lot of empathy for peoplestarting out," she said. "They understand the refugee-immigrant experience.

"Disadvantaged people share a lot in common," Dang continued, "and we have tohelp each other. People who are empowered in this country like to play us offeach other, like with the model-minority myth. They need the poor anddisadvantaged to fight each other. Because if we unite, we can make it difficultfor them."

Southeast Asians are disproving the model-minority myth not just with theirdifficult lives but with their growing insistence that it takes more than"traditional values" and "personal responsibility" to survive in this country. Ittakes social supports and participation in the legacy of civil rights activism aswell.

The refugees and their children are forging their identities as new Americansand are starting to emerge as a political force. At first, Yang said, "we had notime to think about anything else but our communities -- and no one was thinkingabout us. But now we know that what we were grappling with [affects both] me andmy neighbor, who might be poor black, Latino, or Asian. We are no longerrefugees, we are Americans. And we know what being 'successful' is: It's beingsomeone who is truly aware of the meaning of freedom to speak out."

Check out the Politics of Family special page, with links, articles and web-exclusive features!