The South and Slavery

It is not uncommon to hear in the south that the Civil War was not really or primarily about slavery.

Hmm…Let’s look at this a little closer.  ht Barefoot Bum

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union. (1861)

It is OK to be ignorant as long as it is based on religion.

Sorry, I know this is not true of all religious people, but this article is truly sad.

In an unusual last-minute edit that has drawn flak from the White House and science educators, a federal advisory committee omitted data on Americans’ knowledge of evolution and the big bang from a key report. The data shows that Americans are far less likely than the rest of the world to accept that humans evolved from earlier species and that the universe began with a big bang.

They’re not surprising findings, but the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation (NSF), says it chose to leave the section out of the 2010 edition of the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators because the survey questions used to measure knowledge of the two topics force respondents to choose between factual knowledge and religious beliefs.

[emphasis mine]

Evolution is a fact. It is a fact that the universe started more than 12 billion years ago in what we call the big bang. Our scientific knowledge, including our technology and medicine, are tied to how well our citizens are educated in science. The same exact scientific method that leads to advances in technology and medicine lead us to our knowledge of our evolutionary past. Why are so many still stuck trying to reconcile some creation myths written three to four thousand years ago?

Signs of the times

ht Greg Laden

NCLB and the problem with data

The dirty dark secret of NCLB is that we may know how to identify the worst performing schools, but no one (yet) knows how to turn them around in any consistent and reliable way. And I mean no one. Not the Gates Foundation to date. Not most charter programs. No one.

Sara Mosle paraphrasing former NCLB supporter and statistician Diane Ravitch.

Stop the presses! People misunderstand what the government spends on welfare!

Here is an analysis and a pie graph showing what we spend in different areas of the federal budget. I am amazed at how misinformed so many people are concerning welfare spending. Polls show that people believe that welfare spending is a much larger proportion of our budget than it is. The spending on the cliched “lazy, drug using, and booze swilling” poor people amounts to about 8% of our budget. Even assuming that poor people waste or misuse some of the welfare they receive, the significant portion is still spent on cheap food staples, crappy emergency room medical care, and substandard, vermin and crime infested housing in the poor inner cities and rural communities. In other words, poor people, with very little help from us, are just trying to survive. Capitalism always produces a subclass of poor; calling them lazy (and as a corollary, the non-poor virtuous) is just a game to justify leaving them there.

The “poor are lazy” is a cultural meme that has existed since people first formed cities thousands of years ago. Another meme is the notion that the poor should be our hardest working, most virtuous and temperate citizens and when they are not they are vilified. The cruel irony is that while a huge proportion of our fellow citizens are the direct beneficiaries of specific policies (welfare, New Deal, higher taxes for the rich, unionism, increased job safety and regulation) that brought them into the middle class, too many increasingly want to shut down the very programs (now labeled socialistic) that helped them. This effectively closes the door on those left behind (the minorities and the rural poor).  However, the financial meltdown of the last few years has given lie to both the notion that an unregulated “free” market economy will always lead to a “rational” and fair distribution of wealth or that the wealthy capitalist class has anyone’s interest at heart but their own.


Ayn Rand on Wikiality. Stephen Colbert’s Hilarious Wikipedia like site.

Stephen Colbert has a wikipedia type site.  Hilarious!

Here is his take on the queen of greedy, selfish, whiny honorable free-market capitalism. Although it is satire (but not as much you might think) it astutely outlines Rand’s  crap she just makes up to justify her many psychotic preferences philosophy which is still widely influential in conservative free market economic circles.

H/T Barefoot bum

Racheting Diet, Day 5, 232.5 Target 232.5, Rule 1

Back to target weight, but still employing rule 1 (which puts a real, but very limited restriction on calories.) Using just rule 1 might allow me to lose about a half a pound per day. I have to stick to this rule until I drop below 232.5 (which creates a new target weight.)