Archives For: Updates


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.

Update from a reader:

The North absolutely profited from slavery, but the United States as a whole became a whole lot richer by ending it. This post from Scott Sumner is a good summary for all the reasons why.

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

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.”


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.


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.


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.


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”:

Read On

Email Of The Day

Sep 18 2014 @ 12:40pm


The “newest member of Club Tripod in DC” will cheer you up:

The last few weeks have been so depressing news-wise, I thought I’d pass along something upbeat. Jack came back from Sierra Leone with me two years ago with a limp and arthritis due to an injury that had healed poorly (there’s only one vet in the entire country). When it got worse this summer, I visited an orthopedic surgeon who suggested a range of options, from physical therapy to arthroscopy. She didn’t mention amputation, but when I asked about it, she said that this was the best option, though pet owners tend to react poorly to the suggestion.

It’s been just three weeks since the surgery and she already moves as if her leg were never there. Dogs are amazingly resilient. On our walk this morning, a little boy pointed to her and told his mom to “look at how fast that dog is!”

When people see little Bowie charging like a bullet down the beach after her favorite yellow tennis ball (as seen below), they gawk in wonder:

Read On

The Other NFL Abuse Scandal

Sep 16 2014 @ 5:39pm

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been accused of beating his kid. Amy Davidson runs through what appears to have happened:

This preschooler wasn’t paddled or, as Peterson put it to police, “swatted”; he was whipped with a stick and left with open wounds on his body. It’s also not obvious that Peterson has been at all straightforward. (This is something a jury or judge will work out.) In his statement, Peterson said, “I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen.” This is apparently a reference to the specific wound to the child’s scrotum and a particularly ugly one to the leg. (In another text message, he told the boy’s mother the same thing, adding, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed!” He also wrote that she would probably get “mad at me about his leg. I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch.”) Peterson claimed to the police that he hadn’t noticed that the “tip of the switch and the ridges of the switch were wrapping around” the boy’s thigh.

Amanda Hess, who strongly disapproves of such punishments, notes:

Reactions from around the NFL imply that “love” is a valid reason for beating a child. “I got a ass whippn at 5 with a switch that’s lasted about 40mins and couldn’t sit for 2days. It’s was all love though,” Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett tweeted in Peterson’s defense. Added New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram Jr.: “When I was kid I got so many whoopins I can’t even count! I love both my parents they just wanted me to be the best human possible!”

Khadijah Costley White asks for less emphasis on race:

[I]f you think the media coverage of men like Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson make black people look bad, then just think what it looks like when you defend and justify their abuse. …

Read On

Dissents Of The Day II

Sep 16 2014 @ 1:22pm

The in-tray has been brimming with backlash over my criticism of the president on Iraq. I’m glad to air it – and it’s made me think hard about it again. And this email stung a little – but made me laugh:

[The above] commercial popped into my head after reading you on Obama, and I thought to myself, “I swear it’s Andrew, bless his hysterical heart.”

First big round of dissent here. Another:

I share every one of your concerns regarding Obama‘s initiative against ISIS, and yet there is a word in my thoughts that you, as far as I am aware, haven’t mentioned and that president Obama mentioned only once in his speech and in a passing way: genocide.

By both word and deed, ISIS has unequivocally declared its intent to exterminate any and all non-Sunni (and eventually non-Salafist) persons that it can. ISIS has clearly shown itself committed to a level of atrocity far above any usual sectarian blood-letting. They may well have the capacity to kill in numbers that rival Rwanda, perhaps even the Nazis. This thought disrupts my inclination to stand back. Don’t we suffer remorse over past genocides we failed to act against? Can we do much to stop this one? Probably not. Does that take away the moral burden to try? Probably not.

Another quotes me:

That simple lesson is as follows: American military force to pummel Jihadists from the skies can create as much terror as it foils. Our intervention can actually backfire and make us all less safe. How many Jihadists, for example, did the Iraq War create? Our intervention gave al Qaeda a foothold in Iraq and then, by creating a majority Shi’a state for the first time, helped spawn Sunni support for the Caliphate.

It’s not fair to compare an invasion, followed by nearly a decade of occupation and so-called “nation-building,” to the air campaign and soldier training that Obama is waging against ISIS. For one thing, there’s a great deal of support from Arab nations in the region and moderate Muslims around the world. Yes, we’re doing their dirty work, to some extent. But because that work doesn’t entail our soldiers traipsing through their streets – and since they’ve asked for our help, it’s a totally different dynamic.

Read On

Zoolander Award Nominee

Sep 15 2014 @ 5:43pm

The Zoolander Award for fashion absurdity has introduced Dish readers to everything from erotic Mickey Mouse ears to Holocaust-evoking children’s-wear. Abby Ohlheiser spots a new contender:

“Get it or regret it!” read the description for a “vintage,” one-of-a-kind Kent State sweatshirt that Urban Outfitters briefly offered for just $129. However, the fact that there was just one available for purchase is far from the most regrettable part of the item: the shirt was decorated with a blood spatter-like pattern, reminiscent of the 1970 “Kent State Massacre” that left four people dead. …

As outrage spread, Urban Outfitters issued an apology for the product on Monday morning, claiming that the product was “was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection.” The company added that the bright red stains and holes, which certainly seemed to suggest blood, were simply “discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” The statement added: “We deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively.”

Update from a reader:

I was disheartened to see you jumping onto this pathetic bandwagon. The fact that this became a story, with each outlet attempting to out-outrage the others, shows just how lazy we’ve all gotten. This shirt was a single vintage item that had naturally faded and aged into the (admittedly, very unfortunate) finish shown in the photos. It’s “SOLD OUT” because there was only one of them. That’s how vintage clothing works. This key bit of information was completely missed by nearly everyone who covered this non-story. The Daily Beast went so far as to demand – DEMAND! – that Urban Outfitters tell them “who designed” this item. The answer, of course is: “A few decades of runs through the average American washer and dryer.”

Ashley Southall tells the story of a possibly racist misunderstanding:

The actress, Daniele Watts, who appeared in “Django Unchained” and plays Martin Lawrence’s daughter on the FX show “Partners,” revealed the incident last week in a note on Facebook. She said she was “handcuffed and detained” by the officers “after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place.” … Ms. Watts’s boyfriend, Brian James Lucas, a celebrity raw food chef, said in his account of the incident posted to Facebook on Friday that the officers’ questions indicated that they suspected the couple were a prostitute and her client after observing their different skin colors, his numerous visible tattoos and her shorts. He did not say what questions the police had asked. Mr. Lucas also accused the officers of threatening to call an ambulance and to drug Ms. Watts “for being psychologically unstable.”

Yomi Adegoke contextualizes the incident:

Read On

Abuse In The Public Eye, Ctd

Sep 12 2014 @ 10:27am

A reader broadens the conversation on domestic violence:

I watched with full video of the Ray Rice incident, and one of the first things I noticed is that outside the elevator, when Ray is waiting for his fiancée (now wife) Janay, she walks by and hits him in the face. She definitely did not connect hard, but it is clear she did connect. Then inside the elevator, she attempts to elbow and punch him in the head, and when he retreats, she comes at him with her fists up in a fighting stance. It is only at this point that Ray punches her. You can see the full video here. [Update: Another notes, "It has been reported (ESPN etc.) that Rice spit in Janay’s face twice – before they entered the elevator and right after they entered the elevator, and her physical movements were reactions to both events."]

I am a man and I was once the victim of domestic violence from a woman. She would hit me and take advantage of the fact that I would never hit back.

Read On


Fifty years ago last week, Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act. David Biello assesses what’s happened since:

[M]ost wilderness in the continental U.S. is not untrammeled land. Wilderness areas are often former working landscapes—the Orwellian phrase created by the logging industry to explain away clear cuts—whether they were cleared for logging or farming over the course of the 19th century and early 20th centuries in places like the Adirondacks. The great forest that once covered the eastern U.S. has been re-growing for the last 50 years, even if its primeval quality may be illusory, given the exotic animals and plants that now live there. And, in this era of global warming, even the Artic and other remote spots show signs of human trammeling—whether the leavings are plastic detritus or a changed climate.

How he thinks about the future of the wild:

Read On

The Quality Of Britishness, Ctd

Sep 12 2014 @ 7:32am

A reader quotes a previous one:

“Separation of Scotland has more than political implications. For many of us who do not have any vote in the matter, it carries profound implications about our identity, and what our nationality means.” Yeah, I feel this pain. I’m as Scottish as it gets, and I don’t have a vote in the matter either. I was born in Scotland, hold (only) a UK passport, have lived in England and the US, and now live in Canada. If independence happens, my life is turned upside down. The practical and emotional effects would be unimaginable. Every little page of immigration paperwork, my right to travel freely, my relationship to “home” – whatever that is – all in limbo. If I’m reading the propaganda – sorry, the White Paper – correctly, we will be forcibly repatriated to a new state while living abroad! God help us all.

Expat Scots will suffer as much disruption from this independence experiment as anyone, maybe more. But we do not get a vote. That makes me furious. I mean, 16 and 17 year olds living in Scotland have been franchised especially for this occasion, but I don’t get to play? Am I supposed to hope that they have my best interests at heart?

So I have to sit here, watch, and stew, while the future of my home, my nation and my identity is decided for me. Forgive me, but fuck the whole thing.

Another view:

I’m puzzled by your readers who worry about being unable to feel British if the Scots vote to secede. If, say, France were to leave the EU, does that mean I could no longer feel European?

Read On