Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Makin' us crazy

Thanks to commenter ksix in comments to the post below for alerting us to this piece by Lori Wallach: "SOTU, TPP, TAFTA -- WTF?"
Did you notice the two rabid skunks President Obama unleashed at the State of the Union picnic?

Creating American jobs! Rebuilding American manufacturing! Boosting American exports! Promoting innovation! Ensuring strong health and environmental protections! Completing an 11-nation NAFTA-style "free trade" agreement (FTA) called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - aka NAFTA with Vietnam? Launch of "free trade" negotiations with Europe long-demanded by multinational corporations to eliminate vital consumer protections - the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)?

Two of these things are not like the others. Indeed, TPP and TAFTA would gut many of the most worthy goals included in Obama's SOTU address if the American public and Congress let them come to fruition.

These trade agreements are a nightmare for Americans, but apparently they're not interesting enough for our news media to discuss. Of course, there is no controversy over this kind of thing for ordinary Americans - I doubt you will find less than 80% agreement that we should be making it harder, not easier, to export American jobs. Unfortunately, the balance is pretty much the reverse on Capitol Hill.

On things like reproductive rights and medical insurance and even Social Security, the media likes to pretend we are "a divided nation" and it's all just too controversial, but even most Republicans don't dissent from the liberal view on these issues - 80% of Americans do not want Social Security or Medicare cuts, and most want a better medical insurance system than what we have now. Single-payer would have been an easy sell if anyone had bothered to discuss it, but our leaders went out of their way (and yes, I definitely mean Obama, the point man on all of this), to make sure that didn't happen. Even abortion is far less controversial than we're led to believe, with 70% of the public saying they don't want Roe v. Wade overturned.

Where all of the issues are concerned, from reproductive rights to the Citizens United decision to voter registration to jobs to climate change, we can argue some about which is the biggest, most important issue, but it has to be understood that none of that matters as long as we don't have democracy. The public has been pretty clear about what it wants, and the Hill has been pretty clear that it doesn't care what we want. If we can't figure out how to turn back into a democracy, this train is going to run right over us.

* * * * *

"Mississippi Officially Ratifies 13th Amendment Banning Slavery - 148 Years Later."

Chris Hedges on human trafficking and Profiting From Human Misery: "The for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in Washington and state capitals have successfully blocked immigration reform, have prevented a challenge to our draconian drug laws and are pushing through tougher detention policies. Locking up more and more human beings is the bedrock of the industry's profits. These corporations are the engines behind the explosion of our prison system. They are the reason we have spent $300 billion on new prisons since 1980. They are also the reason serious reform is impossible." It's about corporate profits, not justice, and very definitely not about public safety.

The Second-Mortgage Shell Game: "A year later, it's clear that the settlement hasn't worked as planned. Banks have dragged their feet in modifying first mortgages, much less agreeing to forgive part of the principal on homes that are underwater. In fact, the deal contained a few flaws. It has allowed banks to push homeowners into short sales, an alternative to foreclosure whereby the distressed homeowner sells the property for less than the debt that is owed. Not all short sales are bad - some homeowners are happy to walk away with the debt cleared - but as a matter of social policy, the program has failed to keep people in their homes. A lesser-known but equally grave problem is that banks have been given a backdoor mechanism to continue foreclosures at the same pace as before." (via)

You notice you haven't heard anything about south-of-the-border gulags? Tomgram: Greg Grandin, Why Latin America Didn't Join Washington's Counterterrorism Posse: "Lula stalled for years on the initiative, but it seems that the State Department didn't realize he was doing so until April 2008, when one of its diplomats wrote a memo calling Brazil's supposed interest in reforming its legal code to suit Washington a 'smokescreen.' The Brazilian government, another Wikileaked cable complained, was afraid that a more expansive definition of terrorism would be used to target 'members of what they consider to be legitimate social movements fighting for a more just society.' Apparently, there was no way to 'write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions' of Lula's left-wing social base." Ironic, isn't it? Remember "South America, where life is cheap"? Apparently it's worth more there than it is in the "free world".

"Tom Friedman Explains The Problem With The Economy" - I hear it's something to do with "uncertainty".

And here's CBS reinterpreting Atrios to mean all you spendthrift people need to save more. Which would be good if you had any money to save, hm? But I don't think that's what Atrios meant.

Digby: "Finally, the press corps steps up and demands transparency from the administration." You have to click on this one, and you'll still think it's The Onion.

Stuart Zechman really tore into the ideological centrism in Michael Scherer's "objective" article on Obama's State of the Union address.

"Work is Becoming More Like Prison As Some Workers Forced to Wear Electronic Bands That Track Everything They Do (Including Bathroom Breaks)"

This is a teaser for Rachel Maddow's Iraq war special based on Hubris. It's well worth watching that video for the background on what makes it so timely. The actual special - a horrible flashback - is here. But at least it was on the TV, all at once, where people would see it.

A pop quiz from Glenn Greenwald: Guess the speaker.

Jonathan Schwarz recalls the funniest thing Jonathan Chait ever wrote. (And here I'd forgotten that I'd even commented on that one, way back when.)

The United States redrawn as Fifty States with Equal Population

I took this poll but I declare it a push poll - those aren't the choices.

The foodie comment
The fashionista approach
The Sun: "Topless protesters 'celebrate' Pope's resignation in Paris"
But more seriously, if you can stand Facebook, there's this: "When Singer Sinead O'Connor tore a picture of the Pope on SNL, Americans were never told why.....In Ireland, they knew." A horror story then, but all the more chilling as you realize what's going on in "the free world" today. This is the image you should have in your mind when you hear right-wing pundits talk about relying on "charity".

"How one man's lies almost destroyed the comics industry [...] Though Wertham claimed his evidence came from thousands of case studies, it turns out that he was lying. A new investigation of Wertham's papers by University of Illinois information studies professor Carol Tilley has revealed that the psychologist fabricated, exaggerated, and selectively edited his data to bolster his argument that comics caused antisocial behavior. Here is what Tilley discovered, and why it still matters today."

John Scalzi has decided to serialize his upcoming novel, The Human Division, in DRM-free e-format before the print edition comes out.

Louis C.K. with some American history. ("This might just be the best use of a Jay Leno appearance I've ever seen.")


  1. [Indent]>>>[2:52] Louis C.K.: And, by the way, white people have our own thing, the stuff we went through...

    Jay Leno: Sure, sure.

    C.K.: ...that hurt us, that we have to cope with. Like when they took our slaves away...<<<[End indent]

    [Indent]>>>Americans Interpret Their Civil War (© 1962, 1954 by Princeton University Press)
    Thomas J. Pressly

    Chapter 1 "The War of Rebellion"

    2. On behalf of the Union, 1865 to the 1880's

    [p. 73] ...H.E. Von Holst was to many Americans in the 1870s and 1880s the outstanding representative of the emerging school of trained historians. He enjoyed great prestige in an age which was beginning to have a tremendous respect for German scholarship... Von Holst came to the United States shortly after the close of the war in the 1860's and remained for a few years. He took part in American politics in New York City as a Republican campaign orator in the election of 1868. Opinions on the Civil War current in the North at that time had fitted in precisely with his predilections in favor of a strong national government and in opposition to the [p. 74] institution of slavery....

    Von Holst viewed the entire course of United States history from the end of the Revolution to the outbreak of the Civil War as essentially a great moral struggle between absolute good and absolute evil. Good was represented by the principles of nationality and freedom, whereas evil was linked with state sovereignty and slavery. The history of the United States was the conflict between these opposing set of principles intensified between agriculture and manufacturing...; virtue had ultimately triumphed.

    Just as there were irreconcilable differences between good and evil, so, in Von Holst's History, there was an irrepressible conflict between North and South; and he seems to have gone a step beyond Lincoln and Seward in the belief that war was the only solution to the conflict. The only important way in which Von Holst differed from the traditional Unionist interpretation of the war's causes was that he made little mention of a "conspiracy" of Southerners in bringing on secession and war....


    1. [Indent]>>> Chapter 2 "The War Between the States"

      1. Confederate Viewpoints, 1861 to 1865

      [Though their leading figures each offered one of four different justifications for their actions, Southerners united to support the Confederacy against the Union.]

      [1] [p. 82] To the more ardent of Southern secessionists - [Robert Barnwell] Rhett [of South Carolina], and Edmund Ruffin and Robert Pryor of Virginia - the outbreak of the war was welcome, for it put to rest talk of reconstruction of the old Union....

      To such "fire-eaters" state secession had been merely the preliminary step toward founding an independent Southern nation which would differ in important respects from the old Union. Rhett, for example, believed and hoped that a Southern nation based on cotton, free trade, and slavery would be formed. He was an ardent defender of slavery as a positive good, and he desired the permanent [p. 83] exclusion of nonslaveholding states from this new country.... [According to Alexander Stephens of Georgia, who served as Confederacy's vice-president, Thomas] [p. 49] Jefferson's ideas "were fundamentally wrong. They rested on the idea of the equality of the races.... Our new government is founded on exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- the subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition."

      [2] [p. 84] In sharp contrast to the extremists of the Rhett type were the men from the border slaveholding states whose views were predominantly moderate....Of particular significance was the position of John Bell of Tennessee... In 1860, as the presidential candidate of the Constitutional Union Party... he won votes in both North and South and carried the three border slaveholding states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

      ...A conservative Whig who owned many slaves, Bell nonetheless had been condemned by Southerners before 1860 because of his lukewarm attitude in defense of slavery and of "Southern Rights."

      ...Bell was just as critical of what he regarded as the "coercion" of states by the federal government as he was of state secession. Lincoln's call for troops after the fall of Sumter seemed to Bell to portend such coercion, and he was disturbed by it.... [p. 85] Bell advocated a policy of defending the South, all the South, against the "unnecessary, aggressive, cruel, unjust, and wanton war which is being forced upon us";...

      [3] Another moderate from a border state was Robert E. Lee, who in his long career as an Army officer, had taken little part in political affairs. As with many men of the border states, it is difficult to characterize Lee's position accurately. He was a slave holder but... he had sent to Liberia those of his slaves who desired to go.... "In this enlightened age," Lee wrote to his wife in 1856, "there are few, I believe, but will acknowledge, that slavery is a moral and political evil in any country." But slavery was a greater evil to the white race, in his opinion, than to the black....


    2. [Indent]>>> Lee was opposed to the Southern extremists in the secession crisis, criticizing the "selfish, dictatorial bearing" of the cotton states, he explicitly stated his belief that the Constitution was not a "compact" between states, that it was intended to be perpetual, and that secession, as he phrased it, was "nothing but revolution." [p. 86] "I must confess," he was quoted as saying even after the Virginia Convention had voted to withdraw from the Union, "that I am one of those dull creatures that cannot see the good of secession." Yet he frequently declared his primary loyalty was to Virginia, and that he would defend any state if "her rights were invaded"; when Virginia seceded he resigned without hesitation from the United States Army....

      [4] [p. 87] Most of the people of the Confederate States, however, were neither "fire-eaters" nor moderates of the border slaveholding states. More representative of the entire body of Confederate supporters than Rhett, Bell, or Lee was Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. Davis was the proponent of Southern nationalism and had been one of the leading advocates of Southern interests in Washington in the 1850s. He was a slaveholder who defended slavery as a positive good, and had consistently maintained that Congress could not prohibit slavery in the territories....

      Almost from the beginning of the old Union, he said, [p. 88] those states sought control of the common government in order to further their own interests at the expense of the Southern states. By means of tariffs and bounties, the Northern states had endeavoured to enrich the manufacturing and shipping classes of their section at the expense of the agricultural South; in addition, for many years they had attempted to make the Southern slave system insecure. Property in slaves, declared Davis, was recognized and protected in the Constitution, and he defended the institution of slavery as one under which "brutal savages" had been elevated, under the supervision of a "superior race," into "docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers."

      ...The Northern states, he said, had prohibited slavery and sold their slaves to the South not because of humanitarian considerations but because this was in their own interest when their climate and soil proved unsuitable to slavery.

      ... The Confederate President described and justified secession as a conservative movement and a legal one based upon the clear historical right of sovereign states. The Constitution of 1787, he insisted, was a compact between independent states which had never relinquished their sovereignty; the Southern states, in seceding, were thus simply resuming their place as sovereigns by the exercise of an ancient, well-established right. Unlike Rhett and the radicals, Davis emphasized that the Southern movement was not a revolution; it sought not to change but to preserve the laws and the Constitution of the old Union, from which the Yankees had departed.


    3. [Indent]>>> 2. Confederate Viewpoints, 1865 to the 1880's

      [p. 118] Almost as fundamental in the thinking of former Confederates as the contention that secession was constitutional and was approved by most Southerners, was the insistence that the war was not caused by a conflict between North and South over the morality of the institution of slavery....

      This did not mean that Confederates sympathizers ceased to defend the institution of slavery. Although they accepted the [p. 119] fact that slavery was legally abolished once and for all, they vigorously justified the institution as it had existed in the ante-bellum South....

      [p. 120] Not slavery but the North's unjustifiable assaults upon the Southern states had caused secession and war, in the view of the Confederates.... [I]n their view, the primary reason for the North's hostility to the Southern states lay in the fact that the Northern and Southern states had differing, antagonistic, and competing ways of life.

      The Southern way of life was generally defined by former Confederates in terms of an agricultural economy, locally controlled, and conservative in its social and political customs.... It was conservative in its concept of constitutional liberty, centering on the sovereignty of states and opposed both to national centralization and to extreme doctrines of the "natural rights" of individuals. It was conservative also, they stated in aristocratic principle, opposing mere majority rule, opposing what former Confederate Secretary of State R.M.T. Hunter called the "despotic majority of numbers" in the North.

      D.H. Hill, A.T. Bledsoe, and R.L. Dabney took the lead in describing the antagonism between Southern "conservatism" and Northern "radicalism." The North, they declared, had abandoned the system of government prescribed by the Constitution and had adopted radical, democratic, European "isms," based upon principles of equal rights for all individuals and rule by the majority. These doctrines had stemmed from the French Revolution; they were held, implied General Jubal Early, by the men who had crucified Jesus Christ. Against Northern Jacobinism the Confederacy had fought the whole world's battle...


    4. [Indent]>>> Chapter 4 "The Civil War-- Irrepressible Conflict"

      1. New Viewpoints with the War Generation

      [p. 151] By the 1880's, there was an ever expanding basis in political, social, and economic developments for the formulation of new points of view toward the Civil War....

      One of the most important developments was the removal of the last federal troops from the Southern states in 1877 by the Hayes administration; signifying as it did the formal abandonment of a policy which had aroused violent antagonism in the South (and which had seemed to Southerners [p. 152] proof of the soundness of their suspicions and fears in 1861), the removal of troops prepared the way for the development of more cordial intersectional relations. The removal of Northern military control was interpreted by many Southerners as a partial vindication of the state sovereignty principles for which they had long contended, and as an indication that the Union was now established upon its prewar principles

      Each judicial decision that the federal government was one of limited powers, declared A.M. Keiley of Virginia in 1879, was a "wreath laid on the graves of Confederate soldiers": a common reaction among Southerners to the ending of Reconstruction was expressed by Senator John T. Morgan of Alabama (a former officer in the Confederate Army) when he declared in 1877 that the South, with "home rule" restored to her, was now content and the American people were again one people.

      Moreover, the restoration to Southerners of control over their local governments meant that the "Negro question" was to be left in the hands of Southern whites. This fact reflected the increasing measure of agreement between Southern and Northern whites on the role of the Negro, agreement made possible primarily by a reversal of the Northern attitudes toward the Negro which had prevailed in the Reconstruction period.

      Disillusioned after a decade of attempts to impose the a solution to this question upon the South from the outside, the majority of Northerners apparently were willing by the end of Reconstruction, to permit Southern whites to handle the problem by themselves. This new Northern approach received legal sanction in a series of decisions by the Supreme Court which, in effect, left the question of Negro segregation in the hands of white Southerners.


  2. [Indent]>>> 2. James Ford Rhodes and the New Generation

    [p. 166] The writings, beginning in the 1890's, of such individuals of the new generation as James Ford Rhodes, Frederick Jackson Turner, Woodrow Wilson, and Edward Channing mark a new era in the interpretation of the Civil War. These men differed in their points of view but each of them explained the coming of war in a manner and spirit which were distinctly different from those formerly prevailing in either the North or the South.

    [p. 169] [James Ford Rhodes'] father, Daniel P. Rhodes, close friend and strong admirer of Stephan A. Douglas, possessed such strong Democratic Party sentiments that they caused, during the war, a temporary delay in the marriage of his daughter to a young man by the name of Marcus Alonzo Hanna, whose Cleveland family was outspokenly Republican.

    [p. 170] ... It has been suggested that the necessity as a boy to reconcile the Democratic opinions upheld so strongly in his home and the predominantly Republican viewpoints of his school served to promote fairness in the mind of Rhodes...

    Rhodes background... included success in business. Daniel P. Rhodes had been a pioneer in the coal mining industry of Ohio, and by the time of the Civil War was a wealthy man, "one of the most substantial and influential citizens of Cleveland."

    Although James Ford Rhodes desired to be a writer, he entered business in response to his father's wishes; only after a successful career in the coal and iron industry had rendered him financially independent did he, in 1885, quit business to devote his entire time to the study and writing of history. (This was in striking contrast to his brother-in-law Hanna, a member of the same firm as Rhodes, who successfully pursued his own avocation, politics [in roles as a U.S. Senator and as President McKinley's Karl Rove], while remaining in business.)

    Rhodes lived in the upper middle class, late nineteenth century Victorian world of confidence [p.171] in business, of security, of optimism, and of faith in progress. The significance of this business background lies in the fact as has been suggested, that some business groups, North and South, were markedly receptive to the sentiments of sectional reconciliation after the war....


    1. [Indent]>>> The first volumes of Rhodes' History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 appeared in 1893... [T]he most striking feature which pervaded it [was that] throughout, the opinions of Rhodes on the causes and nature of the Civil War were grounded on the conviction that in history, as he phrased it, "all the right is never on one [p. 172] side and all the wrong on the other."

      ...The primary, and indeed practically the sole cause of the Civil War, in the view of Rhodes, was the institution of slavery; on the subject Rhodes' opinions were, in some respects, not markedly different from those traditional in his section.... [T]he South, he insisted, fought to extend slavery-- an institution condemned by ethics, Christianity, and science...

      [p. 174] Proceeding beyond the simple assertion that slavery caused the war to the more complex question of the responsibility for slavery, he found the influence of inanimate forces. Cotton had fostered slavery, and the invention of the cotton gin had made slavery profitable in the nineteenth century, thus bringing to nought moral and humane expectations of its destruction.... Thus, the ultimate "blame" for the continuance of slavery, for the irrepressible conflict, and for the war growing out of this conflict, was placed not upon evil Southerners but upon the cotton plant and the cotton gin.

      Moreover, if any personal or sectional blame were to be assessed for slavery, Rhodes insisted that England and the Northern states should not cast stones at the South, since both of them had been involved in establishing the institution in the South.

      [p. 175] With personal blame for slavery largely removed, ante-bellum Southern society was now praised on the grounds that it had been more "hospitable" than the North, and individual Southerners were acclaimed even for their conduct during the war!... The battles of the war were now depicted as struggles of courageous men with glory enough to spare for each side....

      [p. 176] Rhodes had opposed suffrage for Negroes during Reconstruction, and he shared the feeling dominant in his section by the end of the nineteenth century that the Southern whites should be in control of race relations in their states. Just as he made a distinction between slavery and individual slaveholders, so he differentiated slavery and what he called the "Negro question" or the "race question"-- and in each case the distinction made possible a revision of traditional points of view.

      Human slavery involved a question of morals, and he was unyielding in his opposition to this institution; but the "Negro question" was one involving race, and here his sympathy was with Southern whites. The North, he wrote in 1893, had been wrong at the close of the war in thinking that the Negro question was settled...


    2. [p. 177] This point of view led to a reinterpretation of the actions of the national government in the Reconstruction period... Rhodes felt these actions had been decidedly mistaken. "No large policy in our country," he wrote, "has ever been so conspicuous a failure as that of forcing negro suffrage upon the South," and he criticized Charles Sumner, leader of congressional Reconstruction, on the ground that he showed no appreciation of "the great fact of race."

      Reconstruction as a whole represented to Rhodes "the oppression of the South by the North," and he hailed the abandonment of that policy as a "triumph of Southern intelligence and character." It was not strange that David Y. Thomas of Kentucky, who had previously declared that only a Southerner could write the history of Reconstruction, retracted his statement upon the appearance of Rhodes' volumes on the period...

      (p. 179) It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Rhodes and his History to his generation of historians in the United States. Rhodes was unknown as a historian, for the good reason he had written very little history, until the first two volumes of his History were published in 1893... Within a remarkably short time, however, Rhodes was recognized as one of the country's leading scholars; soon he was elected president of the American Historical Association, was asked to write the volume on the United States in the Cambridge Modern History, lectured at Oxford on the Civil War, and received numerous personal honors from scholarly organizations.

  3. Ahhhhh... cmike, there's this free software out there on the Internet, called "bloggong software". I like Word Press, but there are others.

  4. Wow. If facts mattered Steven Brill's 11 cyber page report would be a blockbuster of a news story.[LINK] The introductory three minute thirty-eight second video posted with the main article link is easier to get to at the bottom of the page here. [LINK]

    That said, when Brill commiserates with what the insurance companies are paying, I don't think he's quite getting the concept that there's a "markup" for these costs built into the premiums insurance companies are receiving.