Slave_Market-Atlanta_Georgia_1864

In his new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, Edward E. Baptist details how “the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich.” Excerpt from the book here. Yglesias puts Baptist’s approach in context, explaining that he is countering “a tradition which views slavery as a kind of archaic institution … a New World form of feudalism that was doomed by the growing tide of industrialization”:

First, he shows that the slave economy was as modern as any other aspect of the mid-19th Century. There were, for example, slave-backed mortgages and other sophisticated financial products. So the genre of social history which pits old-timey southern agrarianism against modernizing northern industrialism is simply mistaken — major proprietors on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line participated in the rise of modern financial institutions.

Second, he argues that the slave economy’s success was critical to the larger success of what we call the Industrial Revolution. This is commonly portrayed as a question of technology — spinning jenny, mechanical loom, etc. — but developing the modern textile industry also required an enormous amount of fiber as inputs. All that technology would have run into fundamental ecological limits if you’d tried to fuel the factories with British wool. There isn’t nearly enough space for all the sheep.

Riding to the rescue was American cotton. In the 70 years between the adoption of the Constitution and the outbreak of the Civil War, US production rose 2,000-fold from 1.2 million pounds to 2.1 billion pounds.

(Photo of a slave market in Atlanta, Georgia, 1864, via Wikimedia Commons)

Cartoonist and 2014 MacArthur fellow Alison Bechdel may be best known for her eponymous sexism screening tool, but Alyssa Rosenberg believes more people should be familiar with comic strip that put her on the map:

“Dykes to Watch Out For” dives deep into a fictional lesbian community, considering the impact of transgender politics, marriage and even the death of independent bookstores on her characters. Pop culture as a whole has had an unfortunate tendency, upon telling the stories of white, affluent gay men (and, less often, lipstick lesbians), to consider its task of diversification complete. “Dykes to Watch Out For,” which ran from 1983 to 2008, when Bechdel put it on hiatus, is a testament to just how much material other projects and other media have left on the table.

Her characters were multi-generational, multiracial and in all sorts of relationships, including marriages to gay men and house-sharing arrangements. They also ranged up and down the class spectrum: Mo Testa, the main character, started out as a bookstore clerk and ended up as a reference librarian, Toni Ortiz was a certified public accountant and several other characters were academics.

I always enjoyed the strip – a dykey Doonesbury that also managed to convey the complexity and nuance of lesbian life. Tim Teeman takes the opportunity to revisit a 2012 conversation he had with Bechdel about “Dykes”:

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Alexandra Sowa McPartland describes a crisis in the medical profession:

Doctors commit suicide at a rate more than twice the national average. Every year approximately 400 physicians take their own lives. That is roughly one per day, or the equivalent of two entire graduating medical classes each year.

As a recent graduate of an internal-medicine residency, I know that physician depression and suicide are not routinely discussed in medical school or training. Significant time is given in medical education on how to recognize depression and suicidal thoughts in patients, but never once did I hear of my own increased risk of suicide.

One might expect that older physicians, after years in an emotionally and often physically taxing profession, bear the burden of an increased suicide risk. But it is really a phenomenon of young physicians. Suicide accounts for 26 percent of deaths among physicians aged 25 to 39, as compared to 11 percent of deaths in the same age group in the general population.

Mental Health Break

Sep 18 2014 @ 4:20pm

This program break brought to you by Mike Myers’ Scottish dad:

Whither Now, Ukraine?

Sep 18 2014 @ 4:00pm

Michael Weiss’s overview of the situation in Ukraine today touches on several salient topics—corruption, nationalism, the economy, Russia—and is worth a full read. Here, he addresses the law the Ukrainian parliament passed this week granting a measure of autonomy to the country’s eastern regions:

There are already signs that Ukraine and Russia will interpret it differently. The Russian Foreign Ministry, for instance, said in a statement that the law grants the “development in certain regional districts of cross-border cooperation designed to deepen good-neighborly relations with the Russian Federation’s administrative and territorial units,” which is a pretty way of describing a breakaway autonomous zone removed in all but name from the central authority in Kiev. … For their part, the Ukrainians who elected Poroshenko largely on his campaign promise to ensure the territorial integrity of their country fear that this deal is another kind of sellout: the de facto ceding of the Donbass to Russia, or the perpetuation of an occupation in all but name. This is why protests objecting to the special status law have recently erupted outside the Rada.

“The mood at the ministry, specifically with the new foreign minister and his team, is to get it over with,” a Ukrainian diplomat told me, referring to a then-nascent cease-fire agreement. “There is one fear that we will have a new Transnistria. The other is that [the war] goes on indefinitely. The first is more awful.”

Alexander Motyl, however, argues that a frozen conflict “will actually be to Ukraine’s benefit”:

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The Racial Divide On Spanking Kids

Sep 18 2014 @ 3:40pm

In the wake of the Adrian Peterson case, various threads are emerging. Josh Voorhees investigates the race angle:

The perception that black parents are more likely to employ corporal punishment than their nonblack counterparts is borne out by academic research. In one study that examined 20,000 kindergartners and their parents, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that 89 percent of black parents had spanked their children, compared with 79 percent of white parents, 80 percent of Hispanic parents, and 73 percent of Asian parents. There is no single reason why blacks are more likely to turn to the rod for discipline, but the numbers are correlated with factors that include socio-economic status, religious upbringing, and even the heartbreaking feeling that, as it’s often put, “I’d rather my child get a beating from me than from police.”

Still, it’s important to note that while black parents might be more likely to spank their kids, they’re not alone in raising a hand to administer punishment—the rates for white, Hispanic, and Asian parents in that University of Texas study are all above 70 percent.

Michael Eric Dyson had a deeply moving piece today – on the roots of such violence in the slavery era. I learned a lot. Money quote:

The lash of the plantation overseer fell heavily on children to whip them into fear of white authority. Terror in the field often gave way to parents beating black children in the shack, or at times in the presence of the slave owner in forced cooperation to break a rebellious child’s spirit. Black parents beat their children to keep them from misbehaving in the eyes of whites who had the power to send black youth to their deaths for the slightest offense. Today, many black parents fear that a loose tongue or flash of temper could get their child killed by a trigger-happy cop. They would rather beat their offspring than bury them.

But the rates are not that much higher than for whites. Maybe it’s another function of the greater levels of and tolerance for physical violence in Jacksonian America. Aaron Blake has some data to back that up:

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Ramesh Ponnuru makes plain how they have and haven’t shifted:

On same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, public attitudes have, in fact, changed. A majority has gone from opposing to supporting both of them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that opposing them is going to hurt Republicans: It depends on, among other things, whether there’s a large pool of voters who would be open to Republican candidates if only they supported gay marriage. It does, however, mean that Republicans are going to talk less about these issues.

On the other hand, the public has not shifted on abortion, which has been a politically important social issue for much longer than same-sex marriage or legal pot have been. When pollsters for CBS ask people whether abortion should be “generally available,” or Gallup asks whether it should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” the answers look nearly identical to what they were a decade ago. The same is true when Gallup asks whether people consider themselves “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”

Isn’t it obvious why? Marriage equality and legal cannabis cannot plausibly be described as harming anyone. They’re both classically libertarian, live-and-let-live initiatives. But abortion touches on something very different. Many people believe (and I am one of them) that abortion doesn’t just affect another human life, but ends it. The individual liberty argument – so potent with marriage and cannabis – is checked by a legitimate concern for the unborn child. That’s why the younger generation is close to unanimous on cannabis and marriage but still divided over abortion. Kevin Williamson is in agreement:

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A Lesbian Genius To Watch Out For

Sep 18 2014 @ 3:02pm

After the travesty of Jo Becker’s alleged history of the marriage equality movement, and after Chad Griffin’s PR attempt to portray himself as Rosa Parks, and after Ted Olson and David Boies’ grandiloquent credit-hogging in their recent book, it comes as something of a massive relief to see one of the true architects of marriage equality finally getting her due. Mary Bonauto was fighting for gay marriage rights as a lawyer and organizer when very few others were. She started at the state level – because that’s where civil marriage is rooted in American politics and law. And she critically understood that it was vital to get a foothold somewhere, to prove we were not just fringe weirdos, and she saw Massachusetts and New England as the most favorable terrain.

And they were. One aspect of marriage equality in America that is sometimes missed is the role New England played. The gay and lesbian community in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s was remarkably advanced and organized. It was a community I was immensely lucky to grow up in. The self-confidence and self-esteem that this community helped spawn in its members broke through the fear and doubt and squabbling that cursed us elsewhere. It was a gay community big enough to make a splash, but small enough not to splinter. And Mary was a central component of that with her remarkably successful group, Gay And Lesbian Advocates And Defenders.

Let’s be clear: there would be no national surge in support of marriage equality without ten years of civil marriage equality in one state, and then several others. There would be none without Mary Bonauto.

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Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

Sep 18 2014 @ 2:40pm

A classic Dish thread continues:

I used to think people were saying they need to “make a piss stop” when going to the restroom at work, instead of pitt stop. One day I earnestly asked a female colleague, “Are they saying ‘piss stop’ or is it ‘pitt stop’??” And so she spit out her water and broke out on laughter, and then, you know how a woman will look at you like you’ve totally lost your mind again. But I really didn’t know.

Another eggcorn:

From a student paper, several years back: “It’s a doggie-dog world.”

Another:

My wife had, for the past 20+ years, always said “connipshit” instead of “conniption.” I finally made her repeat it to me after she said it two-three times in a day and verified she thought the word was “connipshit.” But I can’t say I blame her; people in a conniption are usually in a connipshit as well.

Another:

I recently wrote an email to a client where I said that allowing something to happen would set a “very bad president.” (For the record, it was not a Freudian slip; I’m an Obama supporter.)

That’s actually a malapropism, which many readers are still confusing for an eggcorn (though often the distinction can be tricky). Here’s Wiki again:

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn.

Or:

I had a friend in college that swore up and down that it was a “greatfruit”. But in his defense, they are nothing like a grape and they are pretty great.

Another:

My wife likes to tell how when she was younger and watched Star Wars, they said the Jedi used a “Life Saver” instead of a Light Saber. They were trying to save people, after all.

And here’s a “gem of an eggcorn from my father, a reporter at a local newspaper”:

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An ISIS Plot Down Under?

Sep 18 2014 @ 2:20pm

Australian police today arrested 15 people in connection with a terror plot, allegedly ordered by an Australian member of ISIS, to behead random citizens on video in the manner of Foley, Sotloff, and Haines. Some 800 police officers reportedly took part in the raid, the largest anti-terrorist operation in the country’s history:

Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a former Kings Cross bouncer and part-time actor, is understood to have made the instruction to kidnap people in Brisbane and Sydney and have them executed on camera. That video was then to be sent back to IS’s media unit, where it would be publicly released. Omarjan Azari, 22, from the western Sydney suburb of Guildford, was one of 15 people detained during the operation in Sydney and is accused of conspiring with Baryalei and others to act in preparation or plan a terrorist act or acts, court documents show. Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Allnutt told Sydney’s Central Local Court the alleged offence was “clearly designed to shock, horrify and terrify the community”.

Ishaan Tharoor puts the news in context:

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