Tuesday, August 24, 2010

High tech under the sea

Telecommunications has lost its technology luster. The telecommunications industry seems to have commoditized itself overnight, although its been a few years since the industry was in growth mode. I went looking for some scrap of the past to show us when communication over great distance was really fresh and exciting.

Three years before South Carolina committed treasonous acts that pitched America into the Civil War, Frank Leslie published the most high-tech illustration ever seen. Leslie was a cutting-edge engraver, illustrator and newspaper owner. In 1858, he published this map of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable.

Click image to see full size

Leslie indulged a bit of exuberance here. There were five attempts to lay transatlantic telegraph cables beginning in 1857 before permanent connections were established in 1866. The first transatlantic connection was completed on August 5, 1858, by Atlantic Telegraph Company, led by Cyrus West Field.

It lasted three weeks.


BONUS: How many Frank Leslie's were there? Were they all the same gender? This piece at American Heritage is highly entertaining, especially for those who think the 19th century was all about Victorian  propriety, and shy & retiring women.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Legacy nation

These ruminations on Andrew Jackson caused your favorite 3-pound pundit to wonder about the unintended irony of some American place names. Jackson is famous for his nullification smackdown. He's also infamous for the Trail of Tears. If the reader will bear with a nerdy level of introductory detail, your patience will be rewarded with permanent knowledge. This stuff will never, ever change. All data presented here was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and accessorized using Wikipedia.

There are 3,141 counties in America. "County" includes county-level government entities called parishes, boroughs (Alaska) or some cities (e.g. Baltimore City). The names of America's counties are in many cases unsurprising. The interesting thing about county names is that whomever chose them couldn't ignore implications for posterity. For example, the five most frequently occurring names are:

Washington - 31
Franklin - 26
Jefferson - 26
Jackson - 24
Lincoln - 24

Other presidential names appear outside of the top-5, for example, 12 counties are named "Polk". (I didn't check every county for the possibility of coincidental naming, but, for example, most counties named "Jackson" are named for Andrew Jackson).

County names include a fair representation of military figures. Some of the most popular are:

Wayne - 16
Grant - 15
Greene - 14
Perry - 10
Knox - 9
Pulaski - 7
Custer - 6
Decatur - 5

The same caution on unchecked possible coincidental naming applies here. I've left the injustice of Custer outnumbering Decatur unchallenged (please feel free to chime in). One the one hand, we've got a velvet-clad glory hound, on the other, we've got America's first post-revolution military hero, whose exploits would make a movie every bit as good as Master and Commander.

Many of the oldest counties, like other place-names on the eastern seaboard, evoke the homelands of our founding English cultures or they honor period royalty. For example:

Essex - 5
Kent - 5
York - 5
Middlesex - 4
Suffolk - 3
Bristol - 3

"King" appears in three other county names and "Prince" appears in five.

Names used for three or more counties account for 41% of all county names. There are 1,386 counties (44%) with unique names. Some counties were named by folks with perhaps less appreciation of their historic opportunity, or perhaps they were in a hurry, or thought commodities would forever rule, or maybe they just preferred small words, to wit:

Carbon - 4
Iron - 4
Mineral - 4
Cedar - 3
Bay - 2

"Coal" and "Petroleum" were each used only once. Oddly enough, Coal County is in Oklahoma and not West Virginia. Petroleum County isn't found in Pennsylvannia, Louisiana, or Texas, but rather in Montana.

"Liberty" appears as only four county names although "Columbia" appears eight times and we might construe similar meaning or intent. Pre-colonial or pre-territorial explorers were given short-shrift. Hernado de Soto inspired four county names, one of which is Hernando County, Florida. "La Salle" appears just twice. That puts their legacy on a similar plane as Jefferson Davis, since two counties are named "Jefferson Davis" and two others (in Texas and Georgia) are named "Jeff Davis". Are four counties named for Jefferson Davis worse than six named for Custer? You bet!

County names also provide an interesting counterpoint to belief that America is a "Christian country". Indeed, if the Founder's intent (despite constitutional absence of a state religion) was to create a "Christian country", you'd think those who followed would have honored such legacy with a spate of county names drawn from  Christian tradition. Oddly, only three counties are named "Christian", in Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri. There is no "Bible County" and no counties are named for Abraham, Moses or Jesus. There are, however, counties named "Deaf Smith", "Beaverhead", "Glasscock" and "Jim Hogg". The latter was a 19th century populist governor of Texas. He had his own unique take on names.

The most common county names derived from Christian tradition are:

St. Clair - 4
Christian - 3
St. Louis - 3
St. Charles - 2
St. Joseph - 2
Trinity - 2

There are 16 other counties named for saints, plus Assumption and Ascension Parishes, which totals 34 counties (1%) named from Christian tradition, most likely by Catholic missionaries. As I recall, the Founders were largely Protestants who looked askance on Catholicism.

How does representation of Christian tradition in county names compare to traditions of people who weren't English royalty, Presidents, military leaders, explorers, governors or treasonous secessionists? Such people were known by many names. They were widely regarded, at the time, as the antithesis of "Christian". We'll do a another top-5 list, this time in reverse order:

Chippewa - 3
Cheyenne - 3
Ottawa - 4
Delaware - 6
Cherokee - 8

Tribal names, place names and other words of native peoples were used to name approximately 312 American counties*. The most popular native name for a county is Cherokee. "Cherokee County" is found in Georgia, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma. It's safe to say that county names representing native American tradition outnumber those expressing Christian tradition by a 9:1 ratio.

Cherokee is also tied with 11 other names, including "Boone", as the 44th most popular county name overall. An ironic and permanent legacy for a displaced, vanquished people.

Remember Jim Hogg? He was born in Cherokee County, Texas. He named his daughter "Ima", although this picture shows she didn't look like the phonetic interpretation of Ima Hogg.

 Circa 1900

The legend that Jim had another daughter named "Ura" is, sadly, pure myth.

* The list of all county names was reviewed for native American names, marked & tallied. County names that may be translations of native words weren't included. A few erroneous inclusions may have occurred.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Grinch who trashed marriage

A sixteen year old boy begins a sexual relationship with his twenty-four year old teacher. He marries her three years later. As an adult he routinely lies about their early relationship, telling all who’d listen that they met when he was eighteen.

The boy becomes an educated man over fifteen years of marriage. He embarks on a risky, high-profile career. Then he meets someone else. He's now thirty-four years old. Instead of a wife eight years his senior, his new love is eight years younger than he. He asks this new woman to marry him after knowing her for just a few weeks, and before even telling his wife. Her notice arrives as divorce papers, served to her in a hospital bed, where she's  recuperating after cancer surgery. Cancer and divorce will leave her destitute.

The man discovers a confidant and professional ally in his second wife. She is a friend, advisor and coach all in one loyal spouse. His vaulting ambition is finally realized during their marriage. He achieves national fame and influence but his own hubris ultimately poisons the well of good fortune. He loses his job, is nearly bankrupted, suffers clinical depression and wallows in public displays of self-destructive behavior. She sticks with him through the worst of times and provides a modifying influence, laying the groundwork for his resurrection.

Then he meets someone else. This time it's a woman twenty-three years his junior. After eighteen-years of marriage he tells his second wife it's over – by telephone. She had been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He behaves badly in the otherwise uncontested divorce proceedings. She remains loyal after the dust settles,  maintaining her silence about a very public figure.

Until now.

If this man was less known, our morality tale wouldn’t compel much consideration. Many middle-aged men have been known to treat their wives as disposable commodities. If this man were an ordinary politician the story would still suffer a dearth of uniqueness. However, the man in this story is an out-spoken, conservative defender of family values. He’s been a national champion of the conservative cause for three decades, a strident voice defending the sanctity of marriage.

And now he wants to be President of the United States.


Read the in-depth profile in Esquire.

Watch Colbert go to town.

In the field, 1864

In the Field, September 20, 1864
I am happy to know that the wicked prosper not, and that the traitorous schemes of our political antagonists, the enemies of our country and our cause, are in a fair way to come to naught.
How sublimely ridiculous has been the performance of the whole farce -- the terrific splutter and fizzle at Chicago -- the high horse which they rode after "little Mac" was announced as the nominee of the party, and their subsequent great trepidation and disgust upon the receipt of the letter of acceptance of the little saint! I have always thought that the true and loyal men of the North would prove sufficient in the contests between parties, where the questions at issue are of so great and vital importance, involving, as they do, the principles upon which our government is based, and we exist as a free people, independent and united; besides the consideration of the great problem of humanity and morality which is now being solved, and which is to affect the whole human race, and influence the destiny of coming generations.
When I read the proceedings of the Chicago Convention, during its organization and continuance, crouching as I was behind a friendly heap of dirt, which only protected me from the balls of the sharp-shooters -- amid the roar of cannon, the bursting of bombs, the screeching of shell, and hurtling balls and hissing of bullets -- tons of iron and lead being pitched about in a most promiscuous and careless manner -- my heart almost failed me. I was fain to give up in despair and disgust. Then, in a day or two we got more particular accounts -- the speeches, platform, and nominations --  and my blood boiled in my fierce wrath and impotent rage!
I have no doubt but I made some wicked and foolish remarks and resolves, but I finally cooled off a little, and took a more extensive and reasonable view of the matter. I thought of the character of the men engaged, compared them with many others enlisted in the good cause and true party; compared platforms & c., and came to the conclusion that the thing wouldn't work. The people wouldn't swallow it, and although the party might cause us much trouble and sorrow, yet the mass of the people would, all in good time, show the true mettle and come to time.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." We must use every means of an honorable character to controvert and overthrow the designs of our enemies. Grant and Sherman are great generals; Farragut is king of his craft or art -- yet, would they make good presidents? It demands different qualities to constitute a soldier and a statesman and ruler of a nation; much besides scientific knowledge, or the great qualities even of patriotism, determination, and strong will.
Please excuse this hastily written letter; it is after tattoo, and I am sleepy.
I remain your affectionate cousin,
C. C. Cone

The strong heart of Charles Cone almost failed him. Not because of the the roar of cannon, the bursting of bombs, the screeching of shell, and hurtling balls and hissing of bullets -- tons of iron and lead being pitched about in a most promiscuous and careless manner but because he's reading an account of the Chicago convention, while crouched behind a "friendly heap of dirt", in the middle of a battle.

He was fain to give up in despair and disgust not because he was in mortal danger, but because he was disgusted by the thought of the little general as a presidential candidate. He's more concerned with great problem of humanity and morality which is now being solved, and which is to affect the whole human race than with his own life. He's funny and articulate, too. Could there be any worse epithet for a general than "little saint"?

There is so much period context packed into this letter I almost don't where to begin:

A) He writes better than a lot of modern college graduates.
B) How many people today would be more worried about political process in a calm situation, let alone while they're being shot at?
C) So much for Johnny Reb's unique courage.
D) We make too few such men in modern America.

Charles C. Cone was appointed first lieutenant, Company I, in the 8th U.S. Colored Troops in late 1863. The son of a wealthy attorney in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, he had first enlisted in 1861. He was wounded in in the Battle of Olustee in Florida, in February 1864. Nine days after writing the letter, he was severely wounded at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm.

Lieutenant Cone died on October 23, 1864.

He was nineteen years old.


 Click here for source and original comment.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Who has $250,000?

Higher education is an inherently unfair market. Elite private universities practice hereditary privilege while the state colleges and universities, home to three-quarters of America's undergraduates, suffer a dearth of resources. American higher education perpetuates a system of inherited wealth and power while ensuring that the middle class must struggle just to stay in place.TheRaven proposed a simple policy fix that would level the playing field. The idea is so hot that it will never see the light of day.

Accepting higher education as it is, a quest for education attainment really turns on value concepts for the overwhelming majority of parents and aspiring students. Where are the colleges and universities that haven't consigned their "star" professors to research roles (with graduate students handling teaching duties)? An undergraduate degree at an elite private university can top $250,000. This price is completely out of reach for most Americans. Best education for lowest price is the name of the game.

Two veteran instructors tackle quality and cost issues in a new book titled Higher Education? They wrote an insider look and were recently interviewed by theAtlantic. They generally damn the Ivy League as a collection of over-priced education brands. Responding to a comment from yours truly, one of the authors (Claudia Driefus) had this to say:

If we had a child looking at schools now, we'd look first to the value state universities--of which Virginia has several. In our book, "Higher Education?" we have a chapter, "Schools We Like," based on some of own visits and research. It's an impressionistic list--but parents might find some "out of the box" ideas there. A condensation of that chapter appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and is also on our blog, www.highereducationquestionmark.com

I popped on over to the author's blog and found an interesting list with a few surprises and confirmation of what may be the best unknown higher education option in America, a genuine honors university hiding in a state system. The President of this university has been at the helm for the past 18 years. U.S. News & World Report named him one of America's Best Leaders in 2008 and Time magazine named him one of America's 10 Best College Presidents in 2009. His academic and professional achievements defy summarization. He also appeared in a documentary film titled 4 Little Girls.

This university enrolls almost 10,000 undergraduates and close to 3,000 graduate students. There are 480 full-time and 250 part time faculty teaching in 42 majors, 41 minors and 17 certificate programs in the physical and biological sciences, social and behavioral sciences, engineering, mathematics, information technology, humanities and visual and performing arts.

Top-quartile average SAT score is 1,362 and more than 40% of undergraduates are minorities. Resident tuition and fees are $8,872 and 72% of freshman live on campus. U.S. News & World Report named this school the #1 “Up and Coming” university in the nation and fourth among all colleges and universities in the nation for commitment to undergraduate teaching.

Not only do these two people provide strong endorsement from experience but our authors had this to say about UMBC:

University of Maryland-Baltimore County. The Meyerhoff Scholars Program has greatly increased the number of African-Americans in the biological sciences and engineering. In addition, although the university is a research institution focused on science and engineering, undergraduate instruction in the liberal arts is not an afterthought. President Freeman A. Hrabowski sets a tone at the top that says teaching undergraduates is important, and the faculty knows he means it. Of all the research universities we’ve visited, it is the place that has most capably connected research with undergraduate education.

The excerpt from Higher Education? that was published in the Chronicle can be found here.

UPDATE 8/19/10: The concept of higher education as value investing is catching on. The author of a new book called Debt Free U, in an interview with the NY Times, says: "Attending an in-state public institution is the easiest and most powerful way to reduce the cost of college".

The Lie that will not Die

We mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 246 days.

While April 12, 1861 saw the initiation of a shooting war accruing from hostility that had simmered for decades. Tension between North and South reached the boiling point almost 30 years before the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter. Andrew Jackson's smackdown of nullification and almost three decades of ensuing compromises and appeasements couldn't prevent the inevitable cataclysm for one and only one reason.

Slavery caused the war.

Governor McDonnell's proclamation of Virginia's "Confederate History Month" four months ago set off a firestorm and a well-earned Presidential rebuke. McDonnell forgot to mention why the war was fought as he eagerly pandered to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other denialists. Realizing that Virginia's black voters outnumber her white idiots, a chastened McDonnell issued an apology. Analysis of his law school thesis reveals that McDonnell is a Christian extremist, a misogynist and likely a bigot. His apology is therefore a fraud.

Which brings up a question regarding big states of denial. Could any denialism top McDonnell's unpardonable proclamation? Only if proclaimed by the Texas State Legislature.

Texas elected officials saw fit to enshrine the lie that will not die by proclaiming "April is the month in which the Confederate States of  America began and ended a four-year struggle for states' rights, individual freedom, and local government control...".

Did they really say "individual freedom"?

Texas brushed off slavery with liberal use of legislated ignorance: "the morally abhorrent practice of slavery has in the minds of many Texans become the prime motivation of Southern soldiers, despite the fact that 98 percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave and never fought to defend slavery; and WHEREAS, Politically correct revisionists would have Texas children believe that their Confederate ancestors fought for slavery when in fact most Texans joined the Confederate armed forces to defend their homes, their families, and their proud heritage as Texans..."


Because only 2% of fighting Texans - over 2,100 men - were slave owners, Texas can disavow slavery as the cause of the war? The founding documents of the Confederacy explicitly cite the preservation of slavery as raison d'ĂȘtre. Texas was an acknowledged, belligerent member of the Confederacy. Therefore, Texas has ownership of slavery as the cause of the war. Notions of "proud heritage" in context of the Civil War are simply execrable.

Andy Hall, guest blogger at theAtlantic and purveyor of the insightful Dead Confederates, provides expert analysis of a deeper lie. The two-percent figure is an exercise in profound ignorance. Andy is a Civil War scholar with a Texan's intolerance for bullshit. His guest post on theAtlantic explains why slavery is the only root-cause of 600,000 Americans killed in a titanic struggle that redefined war itself.

Hop on over, give it a read and introduce yourself. You can mention TheRaven, they know me there.

Lunacy in better focus

Glenn Beck's use of the racially coded phrase "Planet of the Apes"  in yet another of his idiotic rants caused the TheRaven to ponder his target audience.

Congressmen Bob Inglis' remarkable interview with Mother Jones revealed a genuine conservative's perspective on the Tea Party. Inglis is the real deal. He's about as far from liberal as you can be without crossing the line on delusionalism. He offers a compelling case for the Tea Party as a collection of crack-brained wing-nuts.

The very next day another piece has fallen into place. This post on AlterNet is reporting that a Massive Censorship at Digg has been uncovered. Digg is the leading social media website.As reported on AlterNet:

"A group of nearly one hundred conservatives have banded together on a Yahoo Group called Digg Patriots, and a companion site at coRanks to issue bury orders and discuss strategies to censor Digg and other social media websites. Digg Patriots was founded on 21 May 2009. This group is the heart of a complicated web on various networks, including Twitter, Propeller, StumbleUpon, YouTube, and Facebook, all dedicated to ramming an extreme right wing viewpoint down the throats of those communities and censoring opposing viewpoints. 

This includes such means as cyber stalking, bullying, and terror, as exposed on YouTube yesterday (something not one of the Digg Patriots group condemned).  Not surprisingly, there is also a heavy contingent active on the ultraconservative FreeRepublic.There are a few differences of opinion within Digg Patriots, although for the most part, they are extremely similar in perspective.
  • They hate Obama. 
  • They hate progressives. 
  • They hate the UN, diplomacy, and peace/disarmament efforts. 
  • They hate reforms of health care, Wall St., and immigration. 
  • They hate science, in fact many are creationists, and some even blog about it.
  • They hate the secular nature of our nation. 
  • They hate environmental protection, requiring polluters to be responsible for their own cleanup, and especially hate climate efforts. 
  • They hate unions and any attempt to level the playing field to give all Americans economic opportunities. 
  • They hate the government, except the military-industrial complex. 
  • They hate abortion rights. 
  • They hate public schools and really hate higher education. 
  • They hate anyone in the media except far right personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin. 
  • They hate anyone who doesn’t think Obama is a secret islamist and/or marxist who was born in Kenya. 
  • They just love to hate.
Although this is a fringe group of Teabagging wingnuts, many well established figures in the Digg community are also present..."

The only thing worse than wing-nuts is well-organized wing-nuts. A tip of the hat to the folks at Digg who ferreted out this nonsense and put a stop to it.


UPDATE 1: TheAtlantic discusses an idea that may seem radical to right-wing extremists: we are each entitled to our own set of opinions, but we aren't entitled to our own set of facts. Abandonment of truth in the Internet age is yet another manifestation of the Law of Unintended Consequences. The Atlantic piece opens with Alternet's discovery of Tea Party trolls carrying on like Grant's wolves. Read all about it, here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Conservative politician vindicates TheRaven

Perhaps you thought TheRaven had too much fun at the expense of all those sincere Tea Party folks.

Perhaps you don't agree that Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, Inhofe, et al lead the risible class or that their followers are even more contemptible.

Well, guess what?

A republican congressman from South Carolina now understands. This fellow has a 93% approval rating from the American Conservative Union and he recently lost a primary to a Tea Party candidate. In fact, he got thumped. The final tally ran more than 2:1 in favor of his opponent.

Meet Bob Inglis, a soon to be unemployed, conservative Christian, Republican congressman.

Congressman Inglis unburdens himself in this interview published by Mother Jones. The interview confirms of our worst fears about the Tea Party. If you thought the Tea Party was just innocent silliness, please, don't read any further.

"They (campaign doners) were upset with me" Inglis recalls.

"They are all Glenn Beck watchers

About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, They say, 

"Bob, what don't you get?"

"Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn the U.S. into a Muslim nation.'

Inglis didn't know how to respond.

Give Inglis credit for decency. He had previously encouraged constituents to cease watching Glenn Beck. He also called on Joe Wilson to apologize for his unseemly outburst at the President. He's a Christian who actually practices the teachings of Christ. He notes that calling Obama a socialist would violate the 9th commandment.

While he was campaigning, Inglis says, tea party activists and conservative voters kept pushing him to describe Obama as a "socialist." But, he says, "It's a dangerous strategy to build conservatism on information and policies that are not credible...This guy is no socialist.

The Tea Party demographic skews toward older, white voters. One-third of South Carolinians aged 65 or older didn't complete high school vs. 22% who have attained higher education. Sixteen percent of South Carolina's 45-64 age group (one in every six people) also didn't complete high school. South Carolina is not a well-educated state. (Click here for charts covering all age groups)

If the Tea Party attracts a disproportionate number of credulous, uneducated people, we'd expect to hear some really strange myths and superstitions. What did Bob Inglis, the "firebrand conservative", hear from voters?

Shortly before the runoff primary election, Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here's what took place:
I sat down, and they said "on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks."
I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I'm trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative.
So they said, "You don't know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don't know this?!"
And I said, "Please forgive me. I'm just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

Has Inglis seen the light?

Inglis has criticized Republican House leaders for acquiescing to a poisonous, tea party-driven "demagoguery" that he believes will undermine the GOP's long-term credibility. And he's freely recounting his frustrating interactions with tea party types, while noting that Republican leaders are pushing rhetoric tainted with racism, that conservative activists are dabbling in anti-Semitic conspiracy theory nonsense, and that Sarah Palin celebrates ignorance.

You might be thinking that Inglis is just another politician who lost and this is nothing but sour grapes. Perhaps, but his conservatism is genuine and his story has the ring of truth.

"I hated Bill Clinton. I wanted to destroy him. Then I had six years out (after leaving Congress in 1999) to look back on that, and now I would confess it as a sin. It is just wrong to want to destroy another human being and to spend so much time and effort trying to destroy Bill Clinton—some of it with really suspect information."

Even though Inglis had previously won six congressional elections since 1992, perhaps his story is pertinent only to South Carolina.

"We're being driven as herd by these hot microphones—which are like flame throwers—that are causing people to run with fear and panic, and Republican members of Congress are afraid of being run over by that stampeding crowd." 

Inglis says that it's hard for Republicans in Congress to "summon the courage" to say no to Beck, Limbaugh, and the tea party wing. "When we start just delivering rhetoric and more misinformation...we're failing the conservative movement," he says. "We're failing the country." 

Yet, he notes, Boehner and House minority whip Eric Cantor have one primary strategic calculation: Play to the tea party crowd. "It's a dangerous strategy," he contends, "to build conservatism on information and policies that are not credible."

Republican weakness in the face of mass ignorance shows that political machines can't learn new tricks. The Democrat party followed an old playbook by nominating Al Gore in 2000. Bill Bradley would have been the inspired choice. Eight subsequent years cause anyone who remembers Bradley to wonder what could have happened if the Dems had a clue. The Democrat party subsequently doubled down with John Kerry, a politician even more lacking in personality, charisma and credibility than Al Gore. The Democrats co-own the 43rd President. It took an unknown outsider to turn the Democrat machine in a new direction.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. Instead of feeble Democrat attempts at the moral high-ground we have the Republican party drowning in its own quicksand. Decades of cynical appeal to so-called values created an environment ripe for takeover by media demagogues. Having traded away legitimate positions for swift-boat style politics, the Republicans are now in no position to appeal to reason over racism, ignorance and hate.

Can it get worse?

Inglis points out that some conservatives believe that any issue affecting the Earth is "the province of God and will not be affected by human activity. If you talk about the challenge of sustainability of the Earth's systems, it's an affront to that theological view."

A lot worse.


UPDATE: 8/26/10 - Timothy Egan weighs in at the New York Times with a pitch-perfect critique of American ignorance. Early in the 21st century, we're reliving the 19th. A growing number of people who think for a living are climbing on TheRaven's bandwagon, for a War on Stupid.

Political performance artist

Country of the credulous?

Glenn Beck again invokes not-so-subtle racism directed at the President.We've caught Beck at the antebellum game of southern aristocrats. Beck urges his audience to study history. He's apparently confident that most will instead stick with People magazine and the National Enquirer.

Beck runs a clip of the President's recent address to the AFL-CIO. The President thanks union members for their work keeping special interests in check. Beck then throws a tantrum, marches up to the video screen, points to "AFL-CIO" in the backdrop and screams...

The AFL-CIO is a "special interest"? It's very important to note that Beck is using "special interest" in a pejorative context. He impugns current and retired AFL-CIO members as participants in special interest privilege.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is the largest federation of labor unions in the United States. It consists of 56 national and international unions, which represent more than 11 million workers, or roughly 8% of the U.S. workforce. The AFL-CIO also represents a wide swath of occupations, including: nurses; airline pilots, federal government workers; transit workers; postal workers; construction trades; fire fighters; miners; utility workers; merchant marine; police; longshoremen; and, others.

Bearing in mind that Beck's audience skews to an older, whiter, more blue-collar demographic, his slam of the AFL-CIO is more surprising than his racist rant at an 11 year old girl. Perhaps it's not as shocking as his history of on-air abuse, including cruelty towards a woman who had recently miscarried, but given that the Alliance for Retired Americans is an AFL-CIO affiliate claiming 3 million members, Beck's outburst potentially enraged far more than the 11 million people who are currently active union members.

How can Beck get away with an attack on his own audience? The video clip is mercifully short. The next thing he says reveals a game older than nullification:

"Planet of the Apes" is a not-so-veiled reference to the President's skin color. It also invokes 19th century hate speech, when blacks were commonly referred to as apes or monkeys. Beck used the AFL-CIO slam to set-up his real message, a racial taunt designed to resonate with his core audience.

Beck knows his audience will understand "Planet of the Apes". He's counting on them not to comprehend his cynical reuse of the slave master's manipulation of public opinion.

Antebellum aristocracy feared two things: (1) loss of slavery; (2) empowerment of the white underclass. Slavery, and only slavery, was the primary cause of Civil War. The slave-holding class effectively disenfranchised poor whites and owned a hugely disproportionate share of southern wealth, since slaves as an asset class exceeded the combined worth of all railroads and manufacturing businesses in America. Poor whites were kept in line by: (1) obsequence to aristocracy (inherited from their English Borderlands forebears); (2) a sense of racial superiority imparted to them by slave-owners.

Beck is repeating the cornerstone of the Great Southern Lie. TheRaven wonders, once again, if Beck hasn't gone too far. Unions have served to promote racial equality. Some of the individual unions and occupations slammed by Beck are well-integrated (police; postal workers) or known for disproportionately large minority representation (Federal government). Beck says that Obama's praise of the AFL-CIO makes him think that he woke up on the Plant of the Apes. If Beck isn't brought to heel by millions of outraged AFL-CIO members, the alternative conclusion is that we're living in a country of the credulous.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Unskilled labor!

This post provides additional visual evidence from a time when America needed to quickly ramp up a big high-tech workforce. We turned to a largely unskilled group of citizens to fill the need. The prior post has related commentary.

Prior post presented images taken in Nashville. This post has two from Nashville and photos taken in six other cities.

Welcome to America, 1942-1943

Click any image to see it full size
Vultee Aircraft - Nashville, Tn. - 1942

 A.C. Gilbert Company, New Haven, Ct. - Feb 1942

"Stephanie Cewe's skill with this electric screwdriver has been turned to the aid of Uncle Sam's war machine. Stephanie used to assemble toy locomotives; today, she uses the same screwdriver to assemble parachute flare casings." Photo by Howard Hollem, Office of War Information.

 Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, Ca. - Oct 1942

"Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods." Alfred Palmer, Office of War Information.
Click any image to see it full size
Corpus Christi, Texas. - Aug 1942
"Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis, senior supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department of the Naval Air Base, talking with one of the men." Howard Hollem.

Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, California - Oct 1942.

"Women are trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail in Douglas Aircraft Co. plants." Alfred Palmer for the Office of War Information.

 Heil & Co., Milwaukee, Wis. Feb 1943

"Agnes Cliemka, age 23, husband may be going into the service any day. Agnes used to work in a department store. Checking fuel hose on gasoline trailer before it is turned over to the Air Force." Howard Hollem.

Chain Belt Company, Milwaukee, Wis. - Feb 1943

"Mrs. Mary Betchner measuring 105mm howitzers at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, plant of the Chain Belt Company. Her son is in the Army; her husband and daughter are in war work." Howard Hollem for the Office of War Information.
Click any image to see it full size
 North American Aviation, Inglewood, Ca -1942

Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation. "The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action." Alfred Palmer for the Office of War Information. 

Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, Ca. - Oct 1942

"Girl riveting machine operator at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant joins sections of wing ribs to reinforce the inner wing assemblies of B-17F heavy bombers." Alfred Palmer for the Office of War Information.

 Consolidated Aircraft, Fort Worth, Tx - Oct 1942

Riveter at work on a bomber. Howard Hollem.

Consolidated Aircraft, Fort Worth, Tx.- Oct 1942

Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes. Howard Hollem, Office of War Information.
Click any image to see it full size
Vultee Aircraft, Nashville, Tn. - Feb 1943

Readying a "Vengeance" dive bomber for landing gear installation. Alfred Palmer. 

 Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, Ca. - Oct 1942 

Engine installers. Alfred Palmer.

Images without captions: Library of Congress
Images with captions: Shorpy

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Unskilled labor?

The immigration debate shouldn't even be a discussion. This is America, immigration is what we do. TheRaven previously explained immigration as both a moral cause and a saving grace with a look at the  unpleasant demographic alternative called "Europe". This post looks at anti-immigrant hysteria from a different angle.

There's a persistent myth that immigrants can't be trained for new vocations. The Right assumes that adults from low-tech environments lack the background necessary to acquire high-tech skills. Such assumptions are proclaimed as fact and spewed at a credulous, white audience. America's history refutes this notion several times over. This post provides only one example, in only one city, with a series of images obtained from the Library of Congress.

Three generations ago, America turned to its largest pool of unskilled people to fill a massive need for high-tech manufacturing labor. Recruiting an enormous army & navy while also embarking on an unprecedented surge in military manufacturing caused social norms to be tossed aside. The vast majority of this new manufacturing army had never held a wrench, power tool or had previously seen the inside of a factory, let alone operate hydraulic presses or master difficult skills such as welding. Most women who manned our factories during WW2 had zero prior experience with any manufacturing process, tool or concept because they were previously "housewives".

Welcome to Nashville, 1942.

Vultee Aircraft (California) bought Stinson Aircraft Corp. in 1940. Vultee paid $2.3 million for Stinson and got a recently completed, $2 million factory in the deal. A Time magazine report on the transaction noted Tennessee's "plentiful labor" and speculated that Vultee might expand the Stinson workforce ten-times over, to 7,000 employees. Time didn't mention that such expansion would depend heavily on a female work force.
These photos were taken for the Army in August 1942 and February 1943. While these photos appear to be staged, the women were genuine workers.
Click any image in post to view full size
Click any image in post to view full size
Click any image in post to view full size
The wartime economy caused the US female manufacturing workforce to roughly quadruple in just a few years. The Arsenal of Democracy legacy was built in large part by "a bunch of housewives", some of whom began their wartime employment with fewer job skills than less educated immigrants possess today.

Vultee went through several changes in ownership and was acquired by Vought in 2003. The original Vultee plant has grown to 2.1 million square feet. Aircraft components have been produced for over 70 years at 1431 Vultee Boulevard, Nashville, Tennessee. The legacy of a quickly-skilled workforce that made a big contribution lives on in Nashville, but not in the hearts or minds of Right-wing demagogues.

All photos: Library of Congress

Developing nation

To get where you're going, it's helpful to know where you've been. Anti-immigrant, anti-reform invective is a rehash of 19th century racism and ignorance. Besides concocting myths such as "anchor babies", the Right has construed poverty as a disease associated with brown skin. Worse, they've construed immigrant poverty as a permanent condition. America's history of  absorbing successive waves of immigrants makes this notion risible, yet it refuses to die.

Ben Franklin worried about Germans. Hordes of white newcomers were ghettoized in the mid-19th century (they were Irish). The process would be repeated with Italians. Eastern Europeans were considered both foreign and inferior. Bigots were convinced that Cubans were a pox on a blighted city named Miami. Instead, they saved it. Vietnamese and Laotian immigrants provided a nativist crisis in the 1970s & 1980s. Said crisis hasn't been heard from in the past quarter-century. Which brings us to the current crop of short immigrants with large families and little formal education, who hail from depressed economies with high unemployment, speak a foreign language and worship a"foreign power".The invective wouldn't be so pathetic if it weren't so damn old.

Worst of all, the "modern" Right pays no attention to our record of home-grown poverty and internal mass migration. To this day, skin color provides no immunity from poverty in America. Not so long ago, poverty was simply color-blind. America was largely a "developing nation" well into the 20th century. Impoverished white people moved from Oklahoma to California for exactly the same reasons that impoverished brown people cross our southern borders today.

This post presents nine photos borrowed from Shorpy. Eight were taken by Dorothea Lange, who worked for the Farm Security Administration. Her work is a color-blind chronicle of misery, poverty and despair.
Click any image in this post to view full size
August 17, 1936. Blythe, California. "Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. The official at the border inspection service said that on this day, 23 carloads and truckloads of migrant families out of the drought counties of Oklahoma and Arkansas had passed through from Arizona entering California." Dorothea Lange for the Resettlement Administration.
August 1936. "People living in miserable poverty. Elm Grove, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma." Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration.
November 1936. "Daughter of migrant Tennessee coal miner. Living in American River camp near Sacramento, California." Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration.
February 1939. Calipatria, Imperial Valley. Farm Security Administration emergency migratory labor camp. Daughter of ex-tenant farmers on thirds and fourths in cotton. Had fifty dollars when set out. Went to Phoenix, picked cotton, pulled bolls, made eighty cents a day. Stayed until school closed. Went to Idaho, picked peas until August. Left McCall with forty dollars "in hand." Went to Cedar City and Parowan, Utah, a distance of 700 miles. Picked peas through September. Went to Hollister, California. Picked peas through October. Left Hollister for Calipatria for early peas which froze. Now receiving Farm Security Administration food grant and waiting for work to begin. "Back in Oklahoma, we are sinking. You work your head off for a crop and then see it burn up. You live in debts that you can never get out of. This isn't a good life, but I say that it's a better life than it was." Photo and caption by Dorothea Lange.
June 1938. Nettie Featherston, laborer's wife with three children near Childress, Texas. "I just prayed and prayed and prayed all the time that God would take care of us and not let my children starve." Photo and caption by Dorothea Lange.
Oregon, August 1939. "Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note Social Security number tattooed on his arm." (Shorpy scholarship/detective work: a public records search shows that 535-07-5248 belonged to Thomas Cave, born July 1912, died in 1980 in Portland. Which would make him 27 years old when this picture was taken.) Dorothea Lange.
"Destitute pea pickers living in tent in migrant camp. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two." Nipomo, California. February 1936. Photograph by Dorothea Lange. The anonymous subject of this famous Depression-era portrait known as "Migrant Mother" came forward in the late 1970s and was revealed to be Florence Owens Thompson . She died in 1983.
August 1939. Agricultural migrants. "Family who traveled by freight train. Toppenish, Washington. Yakima Valley." Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration.
October 1938. Farm wife and baby waiting in the car while her husband attends the auction. Oskaloosa, Kansas. Photograph by John Vachon.

All photos & captions sourced from Shorpy.

Wikipedia has a decent post on the Farm Security Administration. The Wikipedia post has links to FSA photographers. Lange is probably the best known. The FSA ran an extensive photography program which can be accessed at the Library of Congress.

Once upon a time, in Charleston II

This post provides and addendum to the prior one with another look at St. Michaels church, 140 years before I visited.

Photo: Shorpy
Charleston, SC