How Slavery Built America

Saw this one on my Amazon Reading List, downloaded it – and have been reading through it the last week or so on my way to work on the subway.  Historian Edward Baptist’s treatise on how slavery made America has been greeted with both strong objection from the usual suspects as well as hailed for it’s detailed treatment of a complex historical subject, the ramifications of which still impact American Society today. What Baptist documents is what us students of American History have suspected for a very long time, but until this book – no one really documented it and brought it out front.

What Baptist succinctly points our and documents is the “capitalism” which grew this country from it’s founding in the early 1600’s to an industrial powerhouse owes it roots, and its foundation to slavery. Far from the oft repeated “land of economic opportunity”, slavery generated over half of this country’s economic might, and the worth  of slaves alone constituted over 1/6th of the total wealth of the nation prior to 1860. This one smacks the”Southern Myth” regurgitated by conservative right wingers dead between the eyes.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

 

Part of a book review by the NY Times. Follow the link for the whole article.

A Brutal Process

‘The Half Has Never Been Told,’ by Edward E. Baptist

For residents of the world’s pre-­eminent capitalist nation, American historians have produced remarkably few studies of capitalism in the United States. This situation was exacerbated in the 1970s, when economic history began to migrate from history to economics departments, where it too often became an exercise in scouring the past for numerical data to plug into computerized models of the economy. Recently, however, the history of American capitalism has emerged as a thriving cottage industry. This new work portrays capitalism not as a given (something that “came in the first ships,” as the historian Carl Degler once wrote) but as a system that developed over time, has been constantly evolving and penetrates all aspects of society.

Slavery plays a crucial role in this literature. For decades, historians depicted the institution as unprofitable and on its way to extinction before the Civil War (a conflict that was therefore unnecessary). Recently, historians like Sven Beckert, Robin Blackburn and Walter Johnson have emphasized that cotton, the raw material of the early Industrial Revolution, was by far the most important commodity in 19th-century international trade and that capital accumulated through slave labor flowed into the coffers of Northern and British bankers, merchants and manufacturers. And far from being economically backward, slave owners pioneered advances in modern accounting and finance.

Edward E. Baptist situates “The Half Has Never Been Told” squarely within this context. Baptist, who teaches at Cornell University, is the author of a well-­regarded study of slavery in Florida. Now he expands his purview to the entire cotton kingdom, the heartland of 19th-­century American slavery. (Unfortunately, slavery in the Upper South, where cotton was not an economic staple, is barely discussed, even though as late as 1860 more slaves lived in Virginia than any other state.) In keeping with the approach of the new historians of capitalism, the book covers a great deal of ground — not only economic enterprise but religion, ideas of masculinity and gender, and national and Southern politics. Baptist’s work is a valuable addition to the growing literature on slavery and American development.

Where Baptist breaks new ground is in his emphasis on the centrality of the interstate trade in slaves to the regional and national economies and his treatment of the role of extreme violence in the workings of the slave system. After the legal importation of slaves from outside the country ended in 1808, the spread of slavery into the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico would not have been possible without the enormous uprooting of people from Maryland and Virginia. Almost one million slaves, Baptist estimates, were transported to the cotton fields from the Upper South in the decades before the Civil War.

The domestic slave trade was highly organized and economically efficient, relying on such modern technologies as the steamboat, railroad and telegraph. For African-Americans, its results were devastating. Since buyers preferred young workers “with no attachments,” the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children was intrinsic to its operation, not, as many historians have claimed, a regrettable side effect. Baptist shows how slaves struggled to recreate a sense of community in the face of this disaster.

The sellers of slaves, Baptist insists, were not generally paternalistic owners who fell on hard times and parted reluctantly with members of their metaphorical plantation “families,” but entrepreneurs who knew an opportunity for gain when they saw one. As for the slave traders — the middlemen — they excelled at maximizing profits. They not only emphasized the labor abilities of those for sale (reinforced by humiliating public inspections of their bodies), but appealed to buyers’ salacious fantasies. In the 1830s, the term “fancy girl” began to appear in slave-trade notices to describe young women who fetched high prices because of their physical attractiveness. “Slavery’s frontier,” Baptist writes, “was a white man’s sexual playground.”

The cotton kingdom that arose in the Deep South was incredibly brutal. Violence against Native Americans who originally owned the land, competing imperial powers like Spain and Britain and slave rebels solidified American control of the Gulf states. Violence, Baptist contends, explains the remarkable increase of labor productivity on cotton plantations. Without any technological innovations in cotton picking, output per hand rose dramatically between 1800 and 1860. Some economic historians have attributed this to incentives like money payments for good work and the opportunity to rise to skilled positions. Baptist rejects this explanation.

Planters called their method of labor control the “pushing system.” Each slave was assigned a daily picking quota, which increased steadily over time. Baptist, who feels that historians too often employ circumlocutions that obscure the horrors of slavery, prefers to call it “the ‘whipping-machine’ system.” In fact, the word we should really use, he insists, is “torture.” To make slaves work harder and harder, planters utilized not only incessant beating but forms of discipline familiar in our own time — sexual humiliation, bodily mutilation, even waterboarding. In the cotton kingdom, “white people inflicted torture far more often than in almost any human society that ever existed.” When Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans in his Second Inaugural Address of the 250 years of “blood drawn with the lash” that preceded the Civil War, he was making a similar point: Violence did not begin in the United States with the firing on Fort Sumter.

Get No Respect! President Obama’s Credit Card Denied

AmEx’s Exclusive Black Card… Apparently “Leave home without it”

President Obama’s credit card got rejected last month. Here’s what happened next.

Presidents, they’re just like us — their credit cards get declined.

President Obama’s credit card was rejected last month at a restaurant in New York.

“I went to a restaurant up in New York when I was — during the U.N. General Assembly, and my credit card was rejected,” Obama said Friday while signing an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft. “It turned out I guess I don’t use it enough. They were — they thought there was some fraud going on. Fortunately, Michelle had hers.”

And, yes, Obama had to defend himself.

“I was trying to explain to the waitress, you know, I really think that I’ve been paying my bills,” Obama said. “Even I’m affected by this.”

Obama has been concerned about the state of his credit before. In Austin in July, he ordered more than $300 worth of barbecue and realized he didn’t have enough cash. So he pulled out his credit card but asked trip director Marvin Nicholson if it was good before handing it over to the cashier. Nicholson assured Obama that the card – photos show it as a black JP Morgan card – would work, and apparently it did.

Despite this, when Obama went to a boutique grocery store in Minneapolis in June he paid for $82.55 in groceries with cash. At the time, he said he only carried cash and his driver’s license in his wallet.

Cash is king. I imagine there is a bit of a reshuffle going on at JP Morgan who issued the President the black VISA (not AMEX) Card, which looks like this –

And if you have to ask…No, you can’t afford it.

Would seem that if these guys were on top of their game, and doing what they should be doing for this level of customer – they would figure out a way to know it is actually THE President using the card…

Morgan Freeman – The Future of Green

The Thugs of Silicon Valley

Bunch of strange stuff has been going on in High-Tech for the last 5-10 years. I have discussed previously the use of H1 Visa employees from other countries to steal American engineering jobs, paying H1’s  half or less than what a qualified American Engineer would get.  Resulting in several hundred thousand American kids who did the right thing, and got a college education in the Tech field…Being unable to get a job.

Then there was the outright age/salary discrimination against experienced and older workers. Resulting in the strange situation where the very guys who invented much of the current technology in the first place…becoming pariahs in the view of company HR.

If that wasn’t criminal enough, now we find that some of the biggest names in the Tech business have participated in a conspiracy, the result of which is to eliminate the ability of American workers to find a new job.

One of the things Unions did back in the days of the Robber Barrons was to break this sort of “restraint of free trade” up. One of the reasons conservatives are so anxious to destroy unions is they know if Unions move from the manufacturing of physical devices into the High-Tech development world…

Theirr clients won’t be able to get away with this shit.

The Techtopus: How Silicon Valley’s most celebrated CEOs conspired to drive down 100,000 tech engineers’ wages

In early 2005, as demand for Silicon Valley engineers began booming, Apple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and illegal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to artificially push their workers wages lower by agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees, sharing wage scale information, and punishing violators. On February 27, 2005, Bill Campbell, a member of Apple’s board of directors and senior advisor to Google, emailed Jobs to confirm that Eric Schmidt “got directly involved and firmly stopped all efforts to recruit anyone from Apple.”

Later that year, Schmidt instructed his Sr VP for Business Operation Shona Brown to keep the pact a secret and only share information “verbally, since I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?”

These secret conversations and agreements between some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley were first exposed in a Department of Justice antitrust investigation launched by the Obama Administration in 2010. That DOJ suit became the basis of a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of over 100,000 tech employees whose wages were artificially lowered — an estimated $9 billioneffectively stolen by the high-flying companies from their workers to pad company earnings — in the second half of the 2000s. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied attempts by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe to have the lawsuit tossed, and gave final approval for the class action suit to go forward. A jury trial date has been set for May 27 in San Jose, before US District Court judge Lucy Koh, who presided over the Samsung-Apple patent suit.

In a related but separate investigation and ongoing suit, eBay and its former CEO Meg Whitman, now CEO of HP, are being sued by both the federal government and the state of California for arranging a similar, secret wage-theft agreement with Intuit (and possibly Google as well) during the same period.

The secret wage-theft agreements between Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, and Pixar (now owned by Disney) are described in court papers obtained by PandoDaily as “an overarching conspiracy” in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act, and at times it reads like something lifted straight out of the robber baron era that produced those laws. Today’s inequality crisis is America’s worst on record since statistics were first recorded a hundred years ago — the only comparison would be to the era of the railroad tycoons in the late 19th century.

Shortly after sealing the pact with Google, Jobs strong-armed Adobe into joining after he complained to CEO Bruce Chizen that Adobe was recruiting Apple’s employees. Chizen sheepishly responded that he thought only a small class of employees were off-limits:

I thought we agreed not to recruit any senior level employees…. I would propose we keep it that way. Open to discuss. It would be good to agree.

Jobs responded by threatening war:

OK, I’ll tell our recruiters they are free to approach any Adobe employee who is not a Sr. Director or VP. Am I understanding your position correctly?

Adobe’s Chizen immediately backed down:

I’d rather agree NOT to actively solicit any employee from either company…..If you are in agreement, I will let my folks know.

The next day, Chizen let his folks — Adobe’s VP of Human Resources — know that “we are not to solicit ANY Apple employees, and visa versa.” Chizen was worried that if he didn’t agree, Jobs would make Adobe pay:

if I tell Steve [Jobs] it’s open season (other than senior managers), he will deliberately poach Adobe just to prove a point. Knowing Steve, he will go after some of our top Mac talent…and he will do it in a way in which they will be enticed to come (extraordinary packages and Steve wooing). Continue reading

More Baltimore Jail Indictments

This one is going to be a movie. What has been going on in the Baltimore Detention Center – and perhaps other Jails in the State of Maryland is unbelievable. The inmates truly were running the prison…

Not Just “Dark Money”…Dirty Money and Republicans

The bad guy in this case was caught through the efforts of Richard Cordray, who was the Attorney General of Ohio at the time. Cordray’s nomination as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was held up by Republicans for two years…

One had to wonder whether it was in retaliation for catching one of their favorite dirty moneybags.

Thompson’s $1 million in “Getaway money”

The pics below are of fraud artist Bobby Thompson, who ran a fake Veterans Aid Charity – stealing nearly $100 million while giving nothing to the Veterans it was supposed to support. But Mr. Thompson was decidedly generous giving money to Republicans…

This guy is tied to Boehner, Bachmann (who is under investigation for dirty money of her own), and McCain – as well as a numbe of other conservative poliical figures.

Mysterious ‘Mr. X’, Alleged Vets Charity Scammer, To Take the Stand

The public, and a jury, is about to hear for the first time directly from the mysterious mustachioed man and accused con artist known at various times as Bobby Thompson, or “The Commander,” or even just “Mr. X.”

The flamboyant man, whose real name is believed to be John Donald Cody, is expected to take the stand Tuesday morning in a Cleveland courtroom. He is accused of running a bogus U.S. Navy veterans charity for years, using some of the proceeds for political donations to high-ranking politicians including former President George W. Bush and Speaker of the House John Boehner, and eventually vanishing with over $100 million in ill-gotten cash.

Prosecutors say Cody ran the whole scheme using false identities to hide his alleged crimes, and to mask his escape from Florida to Oregon, where he was finally taken into custody last May after what a U.S. Marshal called “one of our most challenging fugitive investigations to date.”

On the stand, Cody is expected for the first time to explain how he came to run the nationwide charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association and, according to his attorney, explain how the charity operation was blessed by the CIA as part of an elaborate plot to court political support.

Thompson schlepping with Karl Rove

 

“He’s legitimately some form of American intelligence,” Cody’s attorney, Joseph Patituce told ABC News previously, adding that his client is “not a kook.”

Cody’s biography appears to offer hints of past work with the intelligence community – he carries a degree from Harvard Law School and was documented to have done a stint in military intelligence. And when he was ultimately identified by U.S. Marshals, it was in part because he had appeared on an FBI most wanted poster in connection to a decades-old charge of espionage.

The trial has been underway for a month, but Cody’s testimony is likely to be the latest dramatic chapter in a saga of intrigue that began to unfold three years ago when questions first surfaced about the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.

Over those years, ABC News chronicled Cody’s curious case – his abrupt disappearance, the manhunt that led to his capture, and the puzzle that surrounded his identity – a mystery made all the more unsettling by his ability to gain access to the White House for an event with President Bush, and to pose for photographs with political leaders including Sen. John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner. Continue reading

History Repeats Itself In Florida’s Juvenile System

Wrote about the vicious Florida Juvenile System of past years a few months ago where Juveniles were abused and killed.

Seem that things haven’t gotten a whole bunch better. When Republicans “privatize” government…

This is what really goes on.

PRISONERS OF PROFIT: Florida’s Lax Oversight Enables Systemic Abuse At Private Youth Prisons

Youth Services International confronted a potentially expensive situation. It was early 2004, only three months into the private prison company’s $9.5 million contract to run Thompson Academy, a juvenile prison in Florida, and already the facility had become a scene of documented violence and neglect.

One guard had fractured an inmate’s elbow after the boy refused instructions to throw away a cup, according to incident reports. Another guard had slammed a boy’s head into the floor after an argument. The prison was infested with ants and cockroaches,toilets were frequently clogged and children reported finding bugsin their meager portions of food.

“From day one, it was hell,” said Jerry Blanton, a former monitor with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, who was then tasked with inspecting Thompson Academy.

Conditions appeared so foul and perilous that he told his supervisors that he “emphatically recommended that the facility be closed,”according to a memo about the discussions.

What happened next speaks to how Youth Services International has managed to forge a lucrative business running private juvenile prisons in Florida and 15 other states even amid mounting evidence of abuse. The company used connections with state officials to complain that Blanton was intimidating staff. Less than a week later, the state removed him as monitor of the facility. Two months after that, he was fired.

Thompson remained open, and Youth Services International retained its contract to operate it. In the nine years since, the company has won an additional eight contracts in Florida, bringing 4,100 more youths through its facilities, according to state records. All the while, complaints of abuse and neglect have remained constant.

Florida leads the nation in placing state prisons in the hands of private, profit-making companies. In recent years, the state has privatized the entirety of its $183 million juvenile commitment system — the nation’s third-largest, trailing only California and Texas. Florida not only relies on private contractors to self-report escapes and incidents of violence and abuse, but the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice routinely awards contracts to private prison operators without scrutinizing their records, a Huffington Post investigation has found.

“We thought DJJ was going to be our biggest ally,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief juvenile public defender in Broward County, who has for years complained to the state about conditions inside two YSI prisons there. “They turned out to be the ally of the corporations, and the ally of the system.”

Florida’s permissive oversight has allowed Youth Services International to essentially game the system since entering the state more than a decade ago. Despite contractual requirements that the company report serious incidents at its facilities, YSI routinely fails to document problems, sanitizes those reports it does submit and pressures inmates to withhold evidence of mistreatment, according to interviews with 14 former YSI employees.

“The state is not doing enough,” said Wanda Williams, a former staffer at YSI’s Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility, who quit in 2010 after growing disgusted with the violence and squalid conditions she saw inside the prison. “Because if they were, that place should have been shut down by now.”

Executives at YSI declined requests for interviews made over the last four months. In an emailed response to questions, Senior Vice President Jesse Williams said the company’s juvenile prisons are some of the best in Florida. He added that the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice rigorously inspects the facilities.

“The DJJ has a very meticulous monitoring system,” he said. “There are numerous announced and unannounced visits to each facility to check for quality assurance and contract compliance, and we do very well in our reviews.”

Williams denied that the company fails to report serious incidents to the state. “Our policy is to report everything,” he said. “In fact, we communicate to our employees that if there are any doubts about whether it is a reportable incident to go ahead and notify DJJ.”

Senior officials at the Department of Juvenile Justice declined interview requests. The agency refused to discuss specific details of HuffPost’s findings, though a spokeswoman issued a statement asserting the department is committed to ensuring that youth in its system “remain safe and are given every opportunity to thrive.” She said contract oversight is one of the agency’s top priorities.

“With 100 percent of the agency’s residential services provided through contractors, the contract selection and renewal process is paramount to our success,” said the spokeswoman, Meghan Speakes Collins, in an email.

Since 2011, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott took office in Florida, the department has “revamped” its review of contractors, she added, by engaging in deeper statistical analysis of trends such as high staff turnover and the number of altercations between staff and youth.

YSI is a subsidiary of a bigger company operating a number of facilities in  predominately Red States. From another investigation of their facilities in Texas

Kirkham goes on to write, quote, “In 2001, an 18-year-old committed to a Texas boot camp operated by one of Slattery’s previous companies, Correctional Services Corp., came down with pneumonia and pleaded to see a doctor as he struggled to breathe. Guards accused the teen of faking it and forced him to do pushups in his own vomit, according to Texas law enforcement reports. After nine days of medical neglect, he died.

That same year, auditors in Maryland found that staff at one of Slattery’s juvenile facilities coaxed inmates to fight on Saturday mornings as a way to settle disputes from earlier in the week. In recent years, the company has failed to report riots, assaults and claims of sexual abuse at its juvenile prisons in Florida, according to a review of state records and accounts from former employees and inmates.

Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s juvenile delinquents are today committed to private facilities, according to the most recent federal data from 2011, up from about 33 percent twelve years earlier.

Over the past two decades, more than 40,000 boys and girls in 16 states have gone through one of Slattery’s prisons, boot camps or detention centers, according to a Huffington Post analysis of juvenile facility data.

Out of more than 300 institutions surveyed, a YSI detention center in Georgia had the highest rate of youth alleging sexual assaults in the country, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A YSI facility in Palm Beach County had the highest rate of reported sexual assaults out of 36 facilities reviewed in Florida, the Bureau of Justice Statistics report found….

 

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