Archive for March, 2013

The Civil War anew: U.S. economic slavery 150 years later

The New York Times commemorates the Civil War’s 150th anniversary with an ongoing series called Disunion.  The closed patriarchy of slaveowners clashed with the freedom and opportunity of the West.  The article Mitchel Thompson’s War documents the strong support for the war in the Union Midwest.

Slave ownership made for bad economics …

[F]uture governor Richard Ogilvy told how, as a young laborer in Kentucky, he could charge only $6 a month, lest he lose out to slave labor, which could be rented out at $75 a year.

… and bad culture.

Rev. Charles Beecher  said the question was not “ whether black men are forever to be slaves, but whether the sons of Puritans are to become slaves themselves.”

The country was growing up and recognizing the externalities of an unjust and imbalanced socioeconomic system.

Northwest Illinois farmers’ mantra became “free territories, free homesteads, and protection to free labor.”

Is it any different today as billionaire industrialists have created their own plantations of wealth, often squirreled overseas to save every last penny … where their enterprises are too big to fail … their jobs are guaranteed with golden parachutes … their adverse actions have no consequences?   Their money has bought the political power to increase their holdings at the expense of the rest of the country.  They’ve destroyed the middle class, weakened the social network, gutted job security, increased poverty, and cheapened life for those who are not privileged.

150 years ago:

[A] new Republican Party alliance was struck between Western free farmers and Eastern industrialists.

Where is the alliance, Republican or otherwise, that will break today’s slavery?

When will the technology and innovation industries meet their social obligations and join with the people to make the US great again?

Bad news on climate change

We know global warming has been unprecedented in the past several hundred years. A new report  from Oregon State and Harvard researchers goes much further back, reconstructing temperature over the past 11,300 years, from the time almost of the last ice age.   It’s not a pretty sight.

Current temps (so far) aren’t ahistorical.  It was this warm for a long period that extended from five to ten thousand years ago (the Early Holocene).  What’s shocking is the speed of warming.  The warmup from the ice age to the Early Holocene took about 2,000 years.  Thanks to human industry it just took 50 years with no end in sight.

Commentary in the New York Times is here and here.  The abstract from the research follows.

Surface temperature reconstructions of the past 1500 years suggest that recent warming is unprecedented in that time. Here we provide a broader perspective by reconstructing regional and global temperature anomalies for the past 11,300 years from 73 globally distributed records. Early Holocene (10,000 to 5000 years ago) warmth is followed by ~0.7°C cooling through the middle to late Holocene (<5000 years ago), culminating in the coolest temperatures of the Holocene during the Little Ice Age, about 200 years ago. This cooling is largely associated with ~2°C change in the North Atlantic. Current global temperatures of the past decade have not yet exceeded peak interglacial values but are warmer than during ~75% of the Holocene temperature history. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model projections for 2100 exceed the full distribution of Holocene temperature under all plausible greenhouse gas emission scenarios.


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