Let the Half-Wit Out for a Walk

“Baseball is for watching. From April to October I watch the Red Sox every night. (Other sports fill the darker months.) I do not write; I do not work at all. After supper I become the American male — but I think I do something else. Try to forgive my comparisons, but before Yeats went to sleep every night he read an American Western. When Eliot was done with poetry and editing, he read a mystery book. Everyone who concentrates all day, in the evening needs to let the half-wit out for a walk. Sometimes it is Zane Grey, sometimes Agatha Christie, sometimes the Red Sox.”

—Donald Hall, Essays After Eighty

Sunday 2.3.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Why Can’t Rich People Save Winter?

“With the outlook for winter so dim, it is surprising, shocking even, that the ski industry and the alpine 1 percent it serves have not led the charge to slow climate change — if not to keep the climate safe for their progeny, then at least to save the snow outside their resorts and chalets. Instead, they have largely kept silent or, at most, pursued anemic, low-impact ‘sustainability’ and ‘awareness’ campaigns that give the appearance of advocacy but have done little to accomplish what the winter sports world, and the world at large, needs: rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

2. In the Pale of Winter, Trump’s Tan Remains a State Secret

“The official line from the White House, as with other matters surrounding the president’s physical health and appearance, is that Mr. Trump’s glow is the result of ‘good genes,’ according to a senior administration official who would speak only on the condition of anonymity.”

3. Overlooked

“These remarkable black men and women never received obituaries in The New York Times — until now. We’re adding their stories to our project about prominent people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper.”

4. Murderer, Esq.

“Even as Mr. Reilly makes it his life’s work to advance the cause, he finds himself illustrating its limits. That’s both because his crime was so severe and because he is not satisfied merely to be housed or employed. He craves elite credentials and recognition, like advanced degrees and fellowships, and wants to work on cutting-edge legal issues.”

5. Taunting the Networks, an App Streams Free TV.

“Why is he doing this? The answer is partly principle, and partly intellectual mischief.”

6. When the Suffrage Movement Sold Out to White Supremacy

“The ratification of the 19th Amendment set off celebratory parades all across the country. But confetti was still rustling in the streets when black women across the South learned that the segregationist electoral systems would override the promise of voting rights by obstructing their attempts to register.”

7. Instagram’s Sneakiness Makes Super Bowl Ads Look Quaint

“There is something hollow and dystopian about opening an app to see people you like and instead seeing people you like try to sell products to you.”

8. The Luckiest Sports Fans, Ranked

“A ranking of the best two-decade runs that any pro sports fans have had since World War II, based on both statistical and subjective factors.”

9. Let Children Get Bored Again

“Once you’ve truly settled into the anesthetizing effects of boredom, you find yourself en route to discovery. With monotony, small differences begin to emerge, between those trees, those sweaters.”

10. What Is the Blood of a Poor Person Worth?

“Blood products made up 1.9 percent of all American exports in 2016, more than soybeans, more than computers.”

11. My Mother Was a Betting Woman

“While racetrack gambling and Catholic church bingo nights were legal, informal lottery betting — a practice created by and largely practiced by African-Americans — was illegal. None of this hypocrisy was lost on my mother. ‘We already know that when white folks want to do something bad enough,’ she said, ‘they can just create a law to get away with it.’”

12. The Real Legacy of the 1970s

“Then along came Ronald Reagan. The great secret to his success was not his uncomplicated optimism or his instinct for seizing a moment. It was that he freed people of the responsibility of introspection, released them from the guilt in which liberalism seemed to want to make them wallow.”

13. How Silicon Valley Puts the ‘Con’ in Consent

“The average person would have to spend 76 working days reading all of the digital privacy policies they agree to in the span of a year.”

14. One Way to Make College Meaningful

“Universities have always been hybrid creatures, serving many masters at once: social norms, the market, churches and the exacting standards of disciplinary research, to name four. But the fantasy of the university as a disinterested sphere of pure knowledge is just that. This is not so much to attack the liberal arts as it is to point out that to link them purposefully with life and career goals is not at all to alter the way they have long functioned.”

15. What Science Can Learn From Religion

“It is hubristic to assume that religious thinkers who have grappled for centuries with the workings of the human mind have never discovered anything of interest to scientists studying human behavior.”

16. At the Border, Nuance Is Held in Check.

“Based on these movies and shows, which coincide with the current political debate over a wall between Mexico and the United States, Americans might think nothing but death unfolds on the border. Violence, after all, sells, much as sex does. It’s hard to find the vitality and color of life on the border amid all the onscreen gunfire and despair. It takes some digging to find alternatives to Hollywood’s view.”

17. Frida Kahlo Was a Painter, a Brand Builder, a Survivor. And So Much More.

“By the time she died at the age of 47 in 1954, she left behind a public persona that is still being mined well into the 21st century; today she has more than 800,000 Instagram followers.”

18. The ‘Winter Friday’ Off Is Now a Thing

“Scientific studies conducted in recent years conclude that a four-day week helped employees be more productive and happy at work.”

19. The Queen of Change

“The book’s enduring success — over 4 million copies have been sold since its publication in 1992 — have made its author, a shy Midwesterner who had a bit of early fame in the 1970s for practicing lively New Journalism at the Washington Post and Rolling Stone, among other publications, and for being married, briefly, to Martin Scorsese, with whom she has a daughter, Domenica — an unlikely celebrity. With its gentle affirmations, inspirational quotes, fill-in-the-blank lists and tasks — write yourself a thank-you letter, describe yourself at 80, for example — The Artist’s Way proposes an egalitarian view of creativity: Everyone’s got it.”

20. Marlon James: By the Book

“Here’s the funny thing about so-called genre books: Nobody has ever had to teach a crime writer about cultural appropriation or representation of other people. That’s an affliction that affects only literary novelists. And scoff at chick lit all you want, but it is the only genre where women work.”

21. An Anti-Facebook Manifesto, by an Early Facebook Investor

“Maybe the more frightening dystopia is the one no one warned you about, the one you wake up one morning to realize you’re living inside.”

22. Does ‘Creative’ Work Free You From Drudgery, or Just Security?

“For the privilege of doing ‘creative’ work, we are asked to accept conditions of financial anxiety and precariousness that in previous times were unthinkable to the gainfully employed. ‘Creative’ puts lipstick — or, more precisely, a pair of Warby Parker eyeglasses and a sleeve tattoo — on a pig. It dresses up a ruptured social compact, the raw deal of the gig economy, as bohemian freedom.”

23. How to Win an Argument

“Ultimately, you don’t really convince people — people convince themselves. You just give them the means to do that.”

24. How Iran’s Greatest Director Makes Art of Moral Ambiguity

“The taste of love and the taste of hate are everywhere the same.”

25. Will Sports Betting Transform How Games Are Watched, and Even Played?

“In the middle of the 20th century, television began reframing the way we experience sports. It gave us replays and extended timeouts, pushed World Series games into prime time, scrambled conference affiliations. Through national telecasts and highlights and, later, superstations and cable networks, fans grew intimate with teams many hundreds of miles away. Now gambling is poised to unleash changes just as transformative, and they may come fast.”

Things and Their Meanings

“The trouble with him was that he was not able to imagine. He was quick and ready in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in their meanings. Fifty degrees below zero meant 80 degrees of frost. Such facts told him that it was cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to consider his weaknesses as a creature affected by temperature. Nor did he think about man’s general weakness, able to live only within narrow limits of heat and cold. From there, it did not lead him to thoughts of heaven and the meaning of a man’s life. 50 degrees below zero meant a bite of frost that hurt and that must be guarded against by the use of mittens, ear coverings, warm moccasins, and thick socks. 50 degrees below zero was to him nothing more than 50 degrees below zero. That it should be more important than that was a thought that never entered his head.”

—Jack London, “To Build a Fire” (1908)

Sunday 1.27.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The Real Wall Isn’t at the Border

“Not long from now, it won’t make sense to think of the border as a line, a wall or even any kind of imposing vertical structure. Tearing down, or refusing to fund, border walls won’t get anyone very far in the broader pursuit of global justice. The borders of the future won’t be as easy to spot, build or demolish as the wall that Mr. Trump is proposing. That’s because they aren’t just going up around countries — they’re going up around us. And they’re taking away our freedom.”

2. Washington State Weighs New Option After Death

“A bill before the Washington State Legislature would make this state the first in the nation — and probably the world, legal experts said — to explicitly allow human remains to be disposed of and reduced to soil through composting, or what the bill calls recomposition.”

3. Speaking Black Dialect in Courtrooms Can Have Striking Consequences

“Researchers played audio recordings of a series of sentences spoken in African-American English and asked 27 stenographers who work in courthouses in Philadelphia to transcribe them. On average, the reporters made errors in two out of every five sentences, according to the study.”

4. Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?

“In the new work culture, enduring or even merely liking one’s job is not enough. Workers should love what they do, and then promote that love on social media, thus fusing their identities to that of their employers.”

5. Dark-Sky Tourism

“Ninety-nine percent of the U.S. population lives under light-polluted skies.”

6. A Frat Boy and a Gentleman

“It’s wrong to assume that every all-male group is toxic. I found many fraternities offering a comforting family away from home, a safe space for guys who worried that it would be hard to be themselves or find friends in college.”

7. You’re Using Your iPhone Wrong

“To be a minimalist smartphone user means that you deploy this device for a small number of features that do things you value (and that the phone does particularly well), and then outside of these activities, put it away. This approach dethrones this gadget from a position of constant companion down to a luxury object, like a fancy bike or a high-end blender, that gives you great pleasure when you use it but doesn’t dominate your entire day.”

8. Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Reconciliation Fantasies?

“They symbolize a style of American storytelling in which the wheels of interracial friendship are greased by employment, in which prolonged exposure to the black half of the duo enhances the humanity of his white, frequently racist counterpart. All the optimism of racial progress — from desegregation to integration to equality to something like true companionship — is stipulated by terms of service.”

9. Car Wash, a Raunchy 1970s Comedy Brimming With Meta and Mayhem

“The contradictions between their labor and our leisure are manifest in the irresistible title song. Punctuated by the exhortation ‘work and work and work,’ the song by the soul group Rose Royce explains that while the Dee-Luxe is ‘no place to be if you plan on being a star’ (never mind that at least in the final credits just about everyone gets to be one), it’s ‘better than digging a ditch’ (what isn’t?) and ‘the boss don’t mind if you act the fool’ (of course not). Heard over the radio, the tune sets the Dee-Luxe employees bopping while they work in a speeded-up version of the Funky Robot dance. Has a $3-an-hour job ever been more fun?”

10. What Adam Conover Can’t Travel Without

“We dispel that image by sharing what flying really looked like back then. In the ’60s planes flew a little lower than they do now. In the ’30s and the ’40s, they flew much lower to the ground. It was a horrible experience. There was a lot more turbulence and it was a lot more dangerous. People were much more likely to die in a plane crash. But the cabins were also full of the smell of cigarette smoke and fuel fumes because they weren’t as good at separating the fuel fumes. The main reason that barf bags are on planes today is because the cabins were constantly full of the smell of jet fuel and cigarette smoke, and there was so much more turbulence, so people were just constantly throwing up.”

11. A New History of Native Americans

“White Americans have long defined the past through narratives of frontier freedoms. Recently, however, historians have moved away from such self-justifying accounts, and a growing field has made the experiences of indigenous displacement, survival and resurgence a new pathway for understanding the nation’s history. Celebratory accounts of European settlement and expansion have increasingly passed into an antiquarian realm, succeeded by studies of settler colonialism that approach the past more comparatively as well as more cautiously.”

12. Need a New Self-Help Guru? Try Aristotle

“An Aristotelian life is not solely about bearing the inevitable, but about identifying the particular talents or natural proclivities that each of us has, and then pursuing a path, consistently and deliberately, over the course of a life.”

13. Mama Was a Numbers Runner

“Especially exhilarating is her history of lotteries. All 13 original colonies ran them and used the proceeds to fund capital improvements. But by 1860, most states had become suspicious of lotteries and had outlawed them precisely because of the egalitarian nature of luck — a poor black person could win one. Denmark Vesey, Davis tells us, was one such example. He used his winnings from a 1799 lottery to buy his freedom; later he founded the African Methodist Church in Charleston and led a famous rebellion against slaveholders in 1822. Lotteries, then, had the potential to upend the systems the states ran on — no wonder they were outlawed for so long. (States did not begin to reintroduce legal lotteries until 1964.)”

14. Is Being a ‘Minority’ Really Just a Matter of Numbers?

“In the United States, you’re either straight and white (and so on), or you’re in the minority. In fact, you are a minority. And that can be awkward.”

15. How to Become Less Angry

“Beware the myth of catharsis: Smashing things won’t help. Despite the popularity of so-called rage rooms, where customers pay to bash televisions with a bat or shatter dishware, research shows that such expressions of anger tend to increase anger. Nor can you rely on pharmacology; in fact, anger is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and Tafrate knows of no clinical drug trials for treating anger akin to diagnosable problems like anxiety and depression.”

Sunday 1.20.2019 New York Times Digest


1. How Tech Companies Manipulate Our Personal Data

“Surveillance capitalism depends on the constant gathering of ‘behavioral surplus,’ or the data exhaust that we produce as part of the normal course of web browsing, app use and digital consumption. All of it is potentially revealing, allowing companies to make sophisticated inferences about who we are, what we want and what we’re likely to do.”

2. The N.F.L.’s Obesity Scourge

“Blocking for a $25-million-a-year quarterback, it turns out, can put linemen in the high-risk category for many of the ailments health experts readily encourage people to avoid.”

3. How Sticky Gloves Have Changed Football

“The grippy polymer used on the new generation of gloves, said to be developed first by a Canadian wide receiver and a chemist in a Pakistan laboratory in 1999, is about 20 percent stickier than a human hand.”

4. Hollywood’s Mountain, Now a Molehill

“Netflix, which occupies a rented office tower six blocks from Paramount headquarters, has been swallowing the entertainment business whole. This year, the streaming service will pump out about 90 movies, including documentaries. To compare, the five conventional studios left standing — Paramount, Universal, Sony, Disney and Warner Bros. — will make about that many combined. Paramount is set to contribute 13.”

5. How to Think About the Costs of Climate Change

“Many of the big economic questions in coming decades will come down to just how extreme the weather will be, and how to value the future versus the present.”

6. The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class

“The British political class has offered to the world an astounding spectacle of mendacious, intellectually limited hustlers.”

7. An Adjunct Instructor’s Final Syllabus

“They will experience the short story as a brief immersion in the lives and experiences of others — a vehicle for insight. Students may come to understand, for example, why a 39-year-old woman, graduate degree in hand and reasonably attractive, would allow herself to be seduced by a potbellied has-been 20 years her senior, a scholar-cum-novelist who, after buying her a number of drinks at a conference, persuaded her to relocate from a reasonable metropolitan area to a splotch on the prairie, only to reunite, two and a half weeks after her arrival, with an almost-ex-wife he had somehow neglected to mention.”

8. In Search of Non-Toxic Manhood

“In the actual history of the human race ‘traditional masculinity’ as a single coherent category simply does not exist.”

9. You Have to Look Really Closely

“Up close we can see that in Mr. Opdyke’s fevered vision, the forests are aflame, smoke billowing up from one card into the next, while an orange grove is decimated by freeze. (‘Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.’) A steamboat lolling up the Mississippi is being swallowed up whole by some sort of invasive new species: a mega-faunapus, if you will. The shimmering wheat fields are desiccated, the once proud threshing machines abandoned. A plague of locusts swells out over another tranche of cards. Giant tornadoes churn through entire sections of the grid up to the left. Frogs are falling out of the sky to the right. Monarch butterflies flit and flutter, probably the last of their kind.”

10. A Woman’s Rights

“More and more laws are treating a fetus as a person, and a woman as less of one.”

11. Do You Take This Robot…

“In a world where sex toys that respond and give feedback and artificial-intelligence-powered sex robots are inching toward the mainstream, are digisexuals a fringe group, destined to remain buried in the sexual underground? Or, in a culture permeated with online pornography, sexting and Tinder swiping, isn’t everyone a closet digisexual?”

12. Why Do We Hurt Robots?

“While human antagonism toward robots has different forms and motivations, it often resembles the ways that humans hurt each other. Robot abuse, she said, might stem from the tribal psychology of insiders and outsiders.”

13. New & Noteworthy

“A professor of media theory, Rushkoff files field notes from the war between man and machine, arguing gloomily that technology is currently winning, quickly chipping away at our humanity.”

14. Double Exposure

“Why did a man whose life and work were knitted into the civil rights movement feed information to J. Edgar Hoover?”

15. Behind the Guitar Heroes

“He came up with something simpler, eliminating fine woodworking and its sculptural glued-on neck; his neck was bolted on and easily replaceable, for a guitar that could be manufactured, affordable and practical. ‘This was the leap from classical design to modernism; from the age of walnut to the age of celluloid; from the America of brick-and-iron cities to the America of stucco-and-glass suburbs.’”

16. All the President’s Memes

“It’s impossible to overstate how peculiar it is that the most powerful man in the world, who will turn 73 in June, posts memes.”

17. How Secrecy Fuels Facebook Paranoia

“When platforms become entrenched and harder for users to leave, the secrets they keep are reflected back to them as resentments.”

18. Letter of Recommendation: Rides to the Airport

“In modern friendship, riding in a car with someone represents a significant form of intimacy, one almost equivalent to lying on the couch in contented silence. It’s an intimacy built through comfort, proximity and aimlessness. And the airport ride is the ultimate gesture of selflessness: an act of service with little reward for the giver. So that has always been my standard of knowing you have found a place in a new town: having someone whom you’d call to grab you from the airport with little promised in return, besides a beer or two.”

19. How to Wear Camouflage

“No whites anywhere but in the snow.”

20. Is Ancient DNA Research Revealing New Truths — or Falling Into Old Traps?

“When we thought of populations as stationary and largely stable, we assumed that whatever evolutionary progress they made, from toolmaking to agriculture, reflected either a native innovation or the incorporation of some adjacent group’s avant-garde practice. Now it seemed as though culture was less about the invention and spread of new ideas and more about the mass movements of particular peoples — and the resulting integration, outcompetition or extermination of the communities they overran.”

Sunday 1.13.19 New York Times Digest


1. How We Apologize Now

“It has become the medium of choice for celebrity mass communication.”

2. George the Snail, Believed to Be the Last of His Species, Dies at 14 in Hawaii

“George himself was a thumbnail-size whorl of dark brown and tan. He looked like a swirled scoop of mocha fudge.”

3. Female Ranchers Are Reclaiming the American West

“As mechanization and technology transform the ranching industry, making the job of cowboy less about physical strength — though female ranchers have that in spades — and more about business, animal husbandry and the environment, women have reclaimed their connection to the land.”

4. More Start-Ups Have an Unfamiliar Message for Venture Capitalists: Get Lost

“The V.C. business model, on which much of the modern tech industry was built, is simple: Start-ups raise piles of money from investors, and then use the cash to grow aggressively — faster than the competition, faster than regulators, faster than most normal businesses would consider sane. Larger and larger rounds of funding follow.”

5. Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?

“Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.”

6. Tucker Carlson Versus Conservatism

“If there is to be a healthy American right, after Donald Trump or ever, this is the argument that conservatives should be having. And it is especially an argument that Fox News should be highlighting, since Fox is frequently responsible for stoking populism but keeping it vacuous or racialized, evading the debates the right really needs.”

7. Millennial, Book and Candle

“It’s not enough just to read anymore. It’s not even enough to post your reading on Instagram anymore. Today, you have to create an atmosphere to show just how analog and sensual you’re being. That often involves … a candle.”

8. Past Tensio

“I think we’d all be better readers if we realized that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around.”

9. Why Do We Obsess Over What’s ‘Relatable’?

“The French critic and philosopher René Girard suggested that all desire is mimetic, that we like things simply because we observe other people — our friends, Rihanna — liking those same things, too. The California rock star and lay philosopher David Lee Roth touched on a similar idea when he suggested that music critics enjoy Elvis Costello ‘because they all look like Costello.’ He wasn’t exactly wrong. Even the critics who turned up their nose at the bombast of Van Halen in favor of the bookish pop-rock of Armed Forces weren’t exactly innocent of such blinkered, ego-driven pathology. Relatability is a desire for a connection to the world, to want what we see in others — especially if what we see in others is ourselves.”

10. How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

“For decades, natural selection — the fact that creatures with the most advantageous traits have the best chance of surviving and multiplying — has been considered the unequivocal centerpiece of evolutionary theory. But these biologists believe that there are other forces at work, modes of evolution that are much more mischievous and discursive than natural selection. It’s not enough to consider how an animal’s habitat and lifestyle determine the size and keenness of its eyes or the number and complexity of its neural circuits; we must also question how an animal’s eyes and brain shape its perceptions of reality and how its unique way of experiencing the world can, over time, profoundly alter both its physical form and its behavior. There are really two environments governing the evolution of sentient creatures: an external one, which they inhabit, and an internal one, which they construct.”

Sunday 1.6.2019 New York Times Digest

1. The Genius of Insomnia

“Lean in to insomnia and you can discern the varied granular textures of the dark. Tune in and your ears can feast on a strange nocturnal orchestration: animal, atmospheric, hydraulic, electric.”

2. The Plot to Pump in Prison

“The United States has one of the lowest breast-feeding rates of any industrialized nation. One reason is that, unlike every other developed country, the government doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. Once back at work, many women find that their employers make it virtually impossible to pump.”

3. Distillers Dream of a ‘Napa-fication’ of Kentucky

“Americans aren’t just buying more whiskey, and paying more for each bottle. They’re buying into an entire ‘bourbon experience,’ from whiskey-themed boutique hotels in downtown Louisville to trendy restaurants with ‘curated’ whiskey lists to fleets of tour buses carting bachelorette parties and corporate retreats from distillery to distillery.”

4. Who’s Really Getting Ripped Off by $35 Sage?

“Cultural appropriation, it’s big business.”

5. Must Writers Be Moral? Their Contracts May Require It

“This past year, regular contributors to Condé Nast magazines started spotting a new paragraph in their yearly contracts. It’s a doozy. If, in the company’s ‘sole judgment,’ the clause states, the writer ‘becomes the subject of public disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals,’ Condé Nast can terminate the agreement. In other words, a writer need not have done anything wrong; she need only become scandalous. In the age of the Twitter mob, that could mean simply writing or saying something that offends some group of strident tweeters.”

6. Middle-Class Shame Will Decide Where America Is Headed

“What I have called the ‘middle precariat’ vote — or what could be called the anxiety vote — gave us this president, and now it has also given us a Democratic House. It is a powerful force.”

7. A Psychotherapist’s Plea to Louis C.K.

“Speaking to your real experience is the only way for your true feelings to emerge.”

8. Hollywood’s Obsession With Cartels

“The cartel operative — be he a kingpin or a hit man or a small-time drug dealer — has become the dominant image of Latino people in American television and cinema. He’s of course also the dominant image of Latino people in the discourse of the president of the United States.”

9. How the Dispute Over Runaway Slaves Helped Fuel the Civil War

“Pro-slavery Southerners insisted that the federal government was obliged to capture slaves who had escaped to free states and return them to their masters, and thus vindicate the masters’ absolute property rights in humans. Antislavery Northerners, denying that obligation and those supposed rights, saw the fugitives as heroic refugees from bondage, and resisted federal interference fiercely and sometimes violently.”

10. A Book That Will Make You Terrified of Your Own House

“We spend upward of 90 percent of our time indoors. Luckily, most of our co-habitators are either benign or actually beneficial in some way, like the house spiders that keep down indoor populations of flies or mosquitoes that can carry disease. But because we’ve become so hyper about making our surroundings as pristine as possible — sealing off our homes from the outdoors and using pesticides and antimicrobials with a vengeance — we’ve tipped the scales away from those harmless or helpful bugs, in favor of some of the bad guys.”

11. One of America’s Most Vital Exports, Education, Never Goes Abroad, but It Still Faces Threats

“Over the past decade, the explosion in the number of international students has turned education, almost by stealth, into one of the most vital American exports. The idea that a student taking classes in Iowa City or Ann Arbor can be counted as an export might seem strange. In economic terms, however, the student’s situation is not so different from, say, a Japanese company buying American soybeans: Foreign money flows into the United States from abroad — except that in this case, the product doesn’t leave the country.”