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"A revolution but half-accomplished"

[ 36 ] December 12, 2007 |

Reading part of an econ dissertation linked by Yglesias, I’m reminded Carl Schurz’s famous description of Reconstruction. In her project, University of Michigan graduate student Melinda Miller examines the post-civil war economic status of Cherokee freedmen and measures it against the livelihoods of emancipated slaves throughout the rest of the former Confederacy:

The Cherokee Nation, located in what is now the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, permitted the enslavement of people of African descent. After joining the Confederacy in 1861, the Cherokee Nation was forced during post-war negotiations to allow its former slaves to claim and improve any unused land in the Nation’s public domain. To examine this unique population of former slaves, I have digitized the entirety of the 1860 Cherokee Nation Slave Schedules and a 60 percent sample of the 1880 Cherokee Census. I find the racial gap in land ownership, farm size, and investment in long-term capital projects [was] smaller in the Cherokee Nation than in the southern United States.

The whole paper (available as a PDF here) is quite interesting. She notes, for example, that the more stable patterns of Cherokee land tenure allowed its freedmen to invest in agricultural projects — like fruit orchards — that were extremely lucrative compared with corn or cotton. More than half of all Cherokee freedmen earned income from fruit cultivation, whereas less than three percent of Southern blacks found themselves in a position to do so.

For a historian, though, the larger question remains whether the results of this “exogamous exogenous variation” among the Cherokee could have been duplicated throughout the rest of the South. I don’t think it could have been. There’s no question that any morally just outcome to the Civil War would have included massive agrarian reform, including the total liquidation of the plantation economy and the redistribution of the region’s land without regard to race or previous condition of servitude. The Southern Homestead Act of 1866 made some effort in this direction and — had it been applied to more than five states, and had it actually hacked apart the viable plantations lands that were largely restored to their previous owners — it might have worked some of the effects that Miller finds among the Cherokee.

But very little decent land was actually conveyed to freedmen and poor whites, and after a decade the law was repealed — offering another piece of evidence to opponents of Reconstruction, who yowled constantly about the foolishness of government action on behalf of the oppressed. By that time, in any case, Northern Republicans and “New South” Democrats — most of whom were former Whigs and racial moderates — had reached an agreement that the reconstruction of the South did not require political, economic and social liberty for blacks. Within a decade, those moderates were forced aside by even more reactionary elements who reintroduced herrenvolk order throughout the South. If emancipated slaves had actually been offered a fair opportunity after the war to own the lands they’d worked for generations, the white reconquest would arguably have been bloodier than it actually turned out to be. That would certainly have been a war worth fighting, but it wasn’t a war that Northern whites were prepared to endorse.

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Do They Still Believe This Crap?

[ 18 ] December 12, 2007 |

Bush vetoed S-Chip today. Again. As in, for the second time. Why? Well, here’s what White House Spokesperson Dana Perino had to say:

“This Congress failed to send the president legislation that puts children first, and instead they sent for a second time one that would allow adults onto the program, expand to higher incomes, and raise taxes.”

Right. Because a bill that expands to provide healthcare to more children doesn’t put children first? As a law school professor would say, that certainly doesn’t pass the laugh test.

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Put Your Makeup On, Fix Your Hair Up Pretty…

[ 6 ] December 12, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

“We can play some blackjack, go to Morton’s, get a steak. That way the wedding won’t be a total loss!”

Off to beautiful, tasteful Atlantic City for some guy’s bachelor party, and then to D.C. for the Sacred Event. I’ll be around, but blogging will be a touch lights…

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Women…Wearing Pants!

[ 10 ] December 12, 2007 |

More sexist trivia at the Washington Post. In fairness, the Givhan/Milbank clown show doesn’t just apply to Clinton. Somerby — who also correctly points out “the rule of this upper-class clan: Big Dem women are really men. And Big Dem men are just women,” sums up the Post’s coverage of several candidates:

1. An insipid attempt at psycho-biography, written by one of the world’s dumbest people.
2. A piece called “How He’s Running.” (According to Kornblut, who writes today’s piece, “Edwards is running as ‘the son of a millworker.’”)
3. A piece called “How He Looks” (Robin Givhan).
4. A piece called “How He Talks” (Dana Milbank).

If you love the competence of President Bush, you’ll like this method of evaluating candidates.

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Uh, I Hate To Tell You This, But…

[ 0 ] December 12, 2007 |

I enjoyed this from the National Review‘s endorsement of Mitt Romney:

Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.

Yes, try to imagine a world in which a Republican administration substantially increased government spending, spent spectacular amounts of money to invade a country that posed no threat to the United States, packed the federal courts with statist reactionaries, and repeatedly supported arbitrary executive power. That kind of Republican Party sure would be useless!

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Sexism Of The Day

[ 5 ] December 12, 2007 |

Apparently those crazy women actually spend money when they’re engaged in corruption, whereas men engaged in corruption mostly just, you know, give the money they skim to starving Albanian orhpans and stuff. No man whole stole taxpayer money would buy, say, a “Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode.” It makes perfect sense! (Via MY.)

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Who Cares?

[ 51 ] December 12, 2007 |

Writing about the “is sexual orientation genetic or is it a choice?” pointless dichotomy, M. Leblanc makes a point that isn’t made often enough:

Arguing that things are out of someone’s control, and thus beyond criticism or bigotry, is a seductive tactic because it mirrors the arguments that are used against race discrimination. But the problem is, it’s the wrong metric.

“Choice” or “environment” is the wrong way to determine what reasons are good reasons to hate others. Discriminating against or hating someone for being fat or gay makes you an asshole because there’s nothing wrong with being fat or gay. Not because it’s not a choice.

Right. From a liberal standpoint, the correct answer to the question of whether sexual orientation is voluntary or not is “who the hell cares?” To argue that gays and lesbians “have no choice” or whatever is to implicitly accept the frame of bigots; the underlying assumption seems to be that if people did choose to have sex people of the same gender then legal discrimination would be perfectly acceptable. But such discrimination should be opposed because it’s completely irrational. Whether someone has a strong genetic predisposition towards homosexuality or not shouldn’t affect whether the rights of gays and lesbians are protected.

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Bill Clinton Faces the Robot Menace

[ 9 ] December 12, 2007 |

Elementary chaos theory predicts that robots will eventually rise up and heckle their masters.

So this is really not surprising:

A University of Iowa professor dressed as a robot interrupted Bill Clinton at a campaign stop here late Monday, screaming for an apology before security escorted him from the building.

The professor, Kembrew McLeod, stood on a chair and screamed several statements, including: “Robots of the world want you to apologize.”

The audience erupted into loud boos.

McLeod, before security officers could reach him, tossed hundreds of cards into the audience of about 400 people in protest of statements the former president made in 1992 of Sister Souljah, a member of the musical group Public Enemy.

“I like to talk in a way that, you know, will draw attention to these serious issues,” McLeod said after the event. “And maybe the way that I draw attention to them is an absurd way but it was the only way that I could draw attention to the particular issue of Sister Souljah, which is an issue that’s been swept under the carpet.”

McCleod’s manifesto makes the uncontroversial observation that Clinton’s attack on Sister Souljah was an episode of bullshit campaign theater intended to draw racist white voters back to the Democratic side of the ledger. Far from being “swept under the carpet,” though, this point has been made about ten thousand times since 1992. And so like Siva, I can’t really fathom the purpose here, especially when there are at least a dozen worthier reasons to pester Clinton. If he’d had turned race-baiting into an everyday preoccupation over the next eight years, we might have an argument. As it turns out, the 1990s were a decidedly mixed bag for African Americans, and Clinton’s record on civil rights — limited in part by six years of reactionary, blow-job obsessed congressional opposition — appears strong only by comparison to the presidents bracketing him. Still, as Siva points out, if Clinton is going to apologize for anything, the Rwandan genocide would be a better place to start.

(Interestingly, I attended college with Kembrew McLeod in the early 1990s. His pranks back then were much more entertaining. The unsuccessful run for student body president, for example, was brilliant….)

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Are You Serious?

[ 0 ] December 12, 2007 |

So, I was all ready to write a serious post today applauding the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) for making the new, reduced crack sentencing guidelines retroactive. Between this and the Gall/Kimbrough decisions yesterday, it’s been an encouraging week for those of us who care about fairness in the criminal justice system. Serious stuff, indeed.

But then, after 9 hours of studying for my Fed Courts exam, I stumbled upon this gem: Just in time to stuff your daughter’s stocking, WalMart is selling these. In the juniors department.

Right. Who needs credit cards (and the financial independence they presumably stand for) when you’ve got a vagina?

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[ 3 ] December 11, 2007 |

The good news is that I have accepted offer on a co-op that I fell in love with immediately upon seeing it. The bad news is the immense blizzard of paperwork that is required for the approval process. At any rate, one of the documents required is a brief letter from the bank certifying that I have accounts, for how long, etc. The cost of this service? 30 dollars. I mean, it’s a great racket; what are you going to do, walk away from the purchase? Take your money elsewhere (assuming you can find one that forgoes this level of extortion) and have to deal with changing your direct deposit, lose the advantage of having had stable accounts, etc. ?

See also: the fees required to send out standardized test scores.

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[ 1 ] December 11, 2007 |

SEIU tells union-bustin’ Chris Lehane that his services will no longer be necessary. Good. Now if only Democratic candidates will follow their lead…

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My Job Search

[ 0 ] December 11, 2007 |

Like Don Douglas, Robert Maranto, and so many other conservatives in academia, I too have suffered the heartbreak of discrimination in the job market. Prior to settling at the University of Kentucky, I was turned down for roughly 140 jobs over a three year period, my status as an angry left-wing polemicist notwithstanding. The following is a partial list, with suspected discriminatory reasons for non-employment:

University of Memphis (insufficient rhythm), University of Richmond (confessed that I bet on Syracuse in 1991 NCAA Tournament), University of Minnesota-Duluth (mocked snow in my cover letter), SUNY-Albany (not Albanian), Temple (couldn’t find Philadelphia on a map), Albright (too right wing), Georgia State University (too left wing), Austin College (thought it was “Boston” and expressed admiration for the clam chowder), UC-Berkeley (Ha!), Arkansas-Little Rock (favored school desegregation), NYU (there’s a “New” York?), Wabash (sang six lines of “Wabash Cannonball” during phone interview), Wake Forest (discriminated against because I’m gay), Vermont (anti-separatist attitude), Middlebury (discriminated against because I’m straight), American (anti-American attitudes), Elon (lost all the applications except mine, and still didn’t hire me [true story!]), Texas Tech (Texas has tech?), Swarthmore (discriminated against because I’m a lesbian), Wesleyan (discriminated against because I’m not sufficiently lesbian), SUNY-New Paltz (thought it was in New Mexico), Babson College (discriminated against because I’m pro-victory), Texas Christian (anti-Christian attitudes), Drew University (discriminated against because I’m pro-defeat), University of Georgia (allergic to dogs), Agnes Scott College (who was Agnes Scott?), Appalachian State University (declared in phone interview that they’d never beat a real football team) , Furman (asked if the school was named after Mark Fuhrman), Hamline (too transgendered), Kent State (made crack in phone interview about being tougher on students than the Ohio National Guard), Yeshiva (too Palestinian), Occidental (not Palestinian enough), George Washington (suspect views on American Revolution), University of Northern Iowa (insufficient enthusiasm for corn), Case Western Reserve University, Georgia Southern (too transgendered), Wisconsin-Madison (not transgendered enough), Puget Sound (called Tacoma “the asshole of western Washington), CUNY-Queens College (not bisexual enough), Kansas State (kept asking if Danny Manning frequented campus), Wayne State (made seemingly solid assumption that institution was named after Wayne Newton), Assumption (too bisexual), University of Illinois-Chicago (too white), Seattle University (not white enough), Rollins College (kept asking when I would get to meet Henry), Naval Postgraduate School (at the time, insufficiently anti-Air Force), UC-Santa Cruz (too pro-Governator), San Diego State (explained that I really wanted the job so I could wear shorts and a t-shirt every day), SMU (expressed too much support for death penalty… in football), Eastern Michigan (kept getting them confused with Central and Western Michigan), UW-Tacoma (too Republican), Ohio University (let JRD write a letter of recommendation for me), Canisius College (dissertation topic ran counter to the teachings of St. Canisius), Johns Hopkins (asked what the deal was with the multiple johns), Hood College (asked if they were afraid of being sunk by Bismarck College), Portland State University (insufficiently pro-heroin), Tufts (they were holding out for a better blogger), Hobart and William Smith (not Republican enough), Bucknell (kept expressing my admiration for Ithaca), Marietta (kept insisting that they should have held out for “Lockheed-Martin-Marietta”), Adrian College (not Methodist enough), Hawaii-Pacific (shouldn’t have told them that my dissertation was titled “Was Higgins REALLY Robin Masters?”), University of Guam (couldn’t bring self to actually send in completed application), Penn (kept calling Benjamin Franklin a lecher), SUNY-Geneseo (told them “9/11 Changed Everything” was dissertation title), Dickinson (over-praised US News and World Report), Vermont (not socialist enough), Georgia State (too socialist), Kansas State (kept asking why an institution named “Kansas State” was located in Manhattan), Northern Illinois (told department I thought Robert Zemeckis was over-rated), UMASS-Amherst (not anti-Confederate enough), James Madison at MSU (said in cover letter that John Jay and Alexander Hamilton were the “real Federalists”), CUNY-Brooklyn (tried to conduct entire interview in what I then believed was a “Brooklyn” accent), Hofstra (too many drugs), UC-Boulder (not enough drugs), Georgia (too anti-Confederate), Colorado State (expressed too much admiration for Fat Tire Brewery), George Washington (oh, I thought you said Gorge, Washington), Sacramento State (insufficiently pro-Governator), Penn State Erie Behrend College (kept asking “when do I meet Joe Paterno?”), Western Washington (asked “isn’t this just Eugene-North?”), Clemson (not pro-treason enough), West Florida (opined that they’d never be as good as South Florida), Maryville (too pro-treason), Rowan University (tried to conduct interview in what I then believed was a “Joisey” accent), York College of Pennsylvania (expressed pro-Athenian attitudes during interview), Alabama (kept asking when I got to meet Bear Bryant), UN-Reno (in interview, focused too much on the question of whether or not Reno really was “the biggest little city on earth”), George Mason (wrote “I mean, it’s not like the basketball team will ever reach the Final Four” in cover letter) , Canisius (not Catholic enough), Georgia Southern (too Canadian), St. John Fisher College (too Mormon), Trent University (not Canadian enough), and Utah Valley State College (not Mormon enough).

I think that my biggest problem was that so many of these schools discriminated on the basis of competence…

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