By Lisa Wade, PhD.
There is a winding line of counties stretching from Louisiana to South Carolina, a set of states that largely voted for McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. The map below shows how counties voted in blue and red and you can clearly see this interesting pattern.
These counties went overwhelmingly for Obama in part because there is large black population. Often called the “Black Belt,” these counties more so than the surrounding ones were at one time home to cotton plantations and, after slavery was ended, many of the freed slaves stayed. This image nicely demonstrates the relationship between the blue counties and cotton production in 1860:
But why was there cotton production there and not elsewhere? The answer to this question is a geological one and it takes us all the way back to 65 million years ago when the seas were higher and much of the southern United States was under water. This image illustrates the shape of the land mass during that time:
Jeff Fecke at Alas a Blog discusses it this way:
Along the ancient coastline, life thrived, as usually does. It especially thrived in the delta region, the Bay of Tennessee, if you will. Here life reproduced, ate, excreted, lived, and died. On the shallow ocean floor, organic debris settled, slowly building a rich layer of nutritious debris. Eventually, the debris would rise as the sea departed, becoming a thick, rich layer of soil that ran from Louisiana to South Carolina.
65 million years later, European settlers in America would discover this soil, which was perfect for growing cotton.
So there you have it: the relationship between today’s political map, the economy, and geological time.
I have borrowed the information and images below from Jeff Fecke at Alas A Blog. His discussion, if you’re interested, is more in depth.
remember the first day of freshman year of college when we were nothing but a name and a dot on the map at the front of the hall?
remember when we did
not cry when our parents left us in those rooms too cramped for all of our expectations (and, perhaps, naïveté)?
remember the first time we met and you told me that you were still open, but you were pretty sure
you’d declare a major in philosophy or english because
you wept the first time you read perks of being a wallflower
and we shared a sacred and unquenchable lust for bad science fiction
remember how hopeful we were –
that this school would
allow us to “find ourselves,”
“change the world,”
and other slogans we
recited from all the view books
the ones we stitched to our throats
when they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up
so when you changed your major to econ,
so when you pledged that fraternity,
so when you replaced t-shirt with j-crew,
so when you accepted that ‘prestigious’ position at an investment bank
and expected me to be proud of you because you were going to ‘dismantle the system from within’
because you were different from ‘them’
i couldn’t help but wonder at what point
we become the tucked in shirt, the
wallet in pocket, the 9-5
we grew up fearing
you, whose love of learning stuck longer than the stickers your teachers adorned your homework with
you, who couldn’t fall asleep after reading marx in debate camp because things finally made sense again
you, who came to this university with a spirit unable to be disciplined
what happened to you?
you who sacrificed dream for diploma,
revolution for resume,
in that factory that produces profit out of potential prophet
where change falls from hearts into pockets
don’t give a fuck bout teaching you to stop it
'cuz gotta make that endowment rocket!
‘liberal arts college degree’ becomes a fancy way of saying
‘can spend 8 hours designing power point slides’
‘can forget all promises for promotion’
'can quote classic literature at business dinners to seduce the clients'
so what if i told you that they lied to us about what we’d be taught?
would you believe me?
so what if the best way to dominate a world is to pretend that you are saving it?
so what if this education was really about making you so ignorant that you forgot how to think for yourself?
you, the twenty something year old
idealist gone corporate in your
first suit throwing your theory at a Wall that will swallow you up and spit you back on the Street discharged like the cold hard cash
of an ATM machine your heart beat reduced
to a series of transactions
when you hugged me goodbye i almost expected you to ask me for a receipt:
proof of purchase for a friendship you
consumed when it made cents for your
career trajectory. sorry i did not make
the cut for the walking resume
you mistake as a body
I want to believe you because I want to believe in the power of a creativity undisciplined: that time we read our first book, saw our first eclipse, saw her smile. The joy and chaos of it all.
So what if it’s just chaos?
That space and time before friendship got postponed by deadlines
future segregated into interviews and internships
So what if we are really insignificant like the dot on the map from freshman year?
Why does it matter? What if we are nothing? What if that is beautiful?
What if we cried when our parents left us but didn’t tell each other?
What if I am crying because you are leaving me but will not tell you because I do not have the market value to make you listen
that I think you are worth more than any salary increase they will give you, that your mind cannot be transcribed on a spreadsheet of numbers, that I am waiting here for you, broke, but not broken,
remembering what you could have done
24%. Nearly a quarter of people whose deepest hope isn’t a vacation home or a third car or a business of their own. But just to not spend their life worrying about how much they owe someone else.
And how much of that debt is for things we’ve been told were necessary- student loans, auto loans because public transit isn’t an option, credit cards and medical expenses because they can’t afford health insurance. Yeah, I’m sure some of it is on other things, less necessary things, but so much of our culture is bent on tying people down to as much debt as it possibly can.
On the left we have the lyrics from Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. On the right we rape survivors participating in Project Unbreakable, showing the various things that were said to them by their rapist.
for people who are like “but it’s just a song…”
Supreme Court Preview 2013-2014
On Monday, September 16, 2013, ACS hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club where a diverse group of experts offered their insight on the Supreme Court Term that begins October 7. They discussed key cases on the Court’s docket and suggested areas to follow as the Term unfolds.
Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
Pamela Harris, Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center (moderator)
Randy Barnett, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory, Georgetown University Law Center; Director, Georgetown Center for the Constitution
Joshua Civin, Counsel to the Director of Litigation, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Andrew Pincus, Partner, Mayer Brown LLP; Co-Founder and Co-Director, Yale Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic
David Strauss, Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School; Editor, Supreme Court Review
The average lifespan of constitutions around the world since 1789 is 17 years, Stanford Law School professor and ACS Board member Pamela Karlan told an audience during a debate on constitutional interpretation, in celebration of the U.S. Constitution’s 223rd anniversary. Our constitution has endured as long as it has because our interpretational methods are adaptable to changes in cultural norms, she explained during the event, which was centered on Keeping Faith with the Constitution, the book she coauthored with Goodwin Liu and Christopher Schroeder. The book was first published by ACS last year and republished this summer by Oxford University Press with a new chapter on the First Amendment. Debating Karlan was Georgetown University law professor and Federalist Society member Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz. Senior Editor Dahlia Lithwick, who moderated the panel, said in re-reading Keeping Faith, she “came away with the stunning, chilling feeling that, man, the Constitution is cool.”
A few retweets from the Everyday Sexism twitter page, a project that aims to highlight the daily slights that women and girls suffer.
Human mental bandwidth is finite. You’ve probably experienced this before (though maybe not in those terms): When you’re lost in concentration trying to solve a problem like a broken computer, you’re more likely to neglect other tasks, things like remembering to take the dog for a walk, or picking your kid up from school. This is why people who use cell phones behind the wheel actually perform worse as drivers. It’s why air traffic controllers focused on averting a mid-air collision are less likely to pay attention to other planes in the sky.
We only have so much cognitive capacity to spread around. It’s a scarce resource.
This understanding of the brain’s bandwidth could fundamentally change the way we think about poverty. Researchers publishing some groundbreaking findings today in the journalScience have concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time.
The finding further undercuts the theory that poor people, through inherent weakness, are responsible for their own poverty – or that they ought to be able to lift themselves out of it with enough effort. This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.