Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses
in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his
day job where he works the education beat
and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.
Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from
orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest.
Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will
process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.
Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out
the on-line journal of
Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe
and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.
Shoutin' across the Pacific
Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
Friday, January 31, 2003 Image Interp 101
Basra, in southern Iraq:
There are three airfields in this image: Basra/International (a "dual use" airport), Maqal (a "civil" airport), and Shaibah (a military airfield). 20 points for finding the international airport, 20 points for finding Maqal, and 20 points for finding Shaibah, and 30 points for finding the secret SAM/missile base. One point for each oil pipeline you can identify, up to 10 points. Click on the image to zoom in.
update Can't resist one more, visible band image near Basra of bubblin' crude. Oil, that is. Black Gold. Texas Tea. This is going to make a spectacular night image if our guys don't seize it before the bad guys blow it.
The letter, which was initiated by Mr Aznar although its execution was shared with Mr Blair, prompted angry responses around key EU capitals, including Brussels .
"This is absolutely unnecessary," said one EU diplomat. "It is divisive. [Blair and Aznar] who have been tipped as future presidents of Europe should be more in touch with the mainstream of public opinion and other governments."
Officials in Brussels were horrified at this latest outbreak of disarray in EU ranks just days after foreign ministers agreed a policy of demanding that Iraq disarm, backing the UN route and supporting weapons inspectors.
Moral bankruptcy, economic stagnation, pain, satire, sad dispirited street performing mimes... all of it reeks of France... or the EU. Or just reeks. God I wishthis would happen.
Thoughts on Rumsfeld Some folks apparently don't like Rumsfeld's style. It's true he seems to be a bear to work for, because unlike many in government he knows what he wants and expects his orders to be followed. He was absolutely intolerant of sloppy thinking. But in the time I worked with him (two stints of several weeks each) I found he was tough but fair.
As readers know, I'm skeptical about the need for this war. I think there are other lower risk ways to get rid of Saddam than traditional, full blown military invasion and occupation. The risk of the war, especially in destabilizing the region (ok - let's say "further destabilizing") seems to be a powerful argument, and I think there are other covert methods of dealing with the WMD threat. The one thing that makes me nervous is that I trust Don Rumsfeld, and obviously he has a lot of information that I don't. If he says it is the war is necessary to protect this country, I'm inclined to believe him and trust the alternatives aren't workable for some reason.
Attention Media Moguls And I know you read this blog religiously. I have some ideas on monitoring the progress of the war in near real time. If it lasts for more than a few hours, that is. Cost $400-$500K to mobilize and run, but could provide some pretty cool graphics and data to fact check our friends in the government (not that they would mislead us for anything other than tactical reasons). Serious inquiries here.
Wednesday, January 29, 2003 I'm Out Of Here. If the weather permits, I'll be leaving for a Liberty Fund conference tomorrow. So there'll be no blogging, no e-mails answered or anything until Monday, maybe Tuesday, from me.
Memo To The New York Times. The Post and Courier shows how it's done. Warning: this is pro wrestling related. But it shows what a good reporter can do if he takes his subject -- in this case, Ed Farhat -- seriously.
Not So Full House. Judging from his program notes this morning, Neal Boortz fell for an Internet spoof. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are not enrolling in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study nanotechnology.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003 Unskeptical Inquirer. Despite my secular, skeptical leanings I've never been a big fan of the Skeptical Inquirer or CSICOP. I figure once you read one article debunking claims of alien abduction or Bigfoot or the Shroud of Turin you've pretty much read them all. And the magazine and the organization are pretty incestuous. Its list of the most outstanding skeptics of the 20th century was pretty predictable, for instance. Funny how so many of them have ties to the magazine, the organization or to top leaders of CSICOP.
I don't see how you can compile a list of the 20th century's greatest skeptics without including Ludwig von Mises, who pointed out the inherent flaws in socialism at a time when almost every other intellectual saw planned economies as superior to the market. But the Skeptical Inquirer did.
The main problem is that while the members of that organization and the readers of that magazine love to laugh at the rubes who believe in God or who are convinced that acupuncture can heal cancer, they are very blind to their own beliefs of faith.
Just take a look at this "review" of Bjorn Lomborg's book. We are told that it was a big success because Lomborg presented an attractive story to the media. We are told he's not really an expert in environmental science. And we are told that "serious" scientists have blasted the book. But there's absolutely no attempt to deal with what Lomborg actually said.
There's no attempt to weigh the evidence he presents, maybe because that evidence is so solid.
Rare And Rarer. Here's a piece I did that appeared today on access to abortion in north Georgia. I didn't write the headline.
It's probably a bit slanted towards the anti-abortion side. That's really a result of trying to localize the story. There just aren't a lot of pro-choice types in Whitfield County. Well, there's no organized pro-choice presence comparable to the anti-abotion type.
Affirmative Action, Lake Woebegone-Style. If this article is accurate, Paul Robeson Jr. called for spending "hundreds of billions of dollars" to raise the incomes of every American who makes less than the median income. Think about it.
Sunday, January 26, 2003 New York Times Treadin' On My Territory. Today's edition has an obit of Eddie (The Sheik) Farhat.
The Times got a few things wrong. The Sheik never "held something known as the National Wrestling Association's Heavyweight Championship Detroit Division." He was a multi-time United States Heavyweight champion. (He also owned the belt.) And besides it was the National Wrestling Alliance.
He was far from the first great heel in the business.And I doubt they actually spoke to Dory Funk, who died more than 30 years ago. The writer probably spoke to his son, former NWA world champion Dory Funk Jr. And as I mentioned in my own obit, Farhat continued to wrestle the occasional match into the 1990s. He didn't stop in 1980, as the Times reports.
Saturday, January 25, 2003 Note that the pigs do not so much fly as plummet...
Whoa! Stephen Den Beste and The Guardian are in absolute agreement!
At least about the value to consumers of PCs to Apples and VHS to Beta. It's all about network effect. Consumers don't give a tinker's damn (always liked that phrase) about the nuances of technological performance margins... their judgment of value lies in whether or not they can use the thing. So maybe, at one time... a while ago, you could make the argument that the Mac was better designed and performed functions more quickly, intuitively and straight-forwardly out of the box than the PC ever could assuming you could get it configured correctly.
However when those intuitive functions boil down to a word processor and a spreadsheet and not much else ... and the possibility of future support or upgrades is all dependent on the fortunes of one notoriously near-bankrupt company, you start thinking about hedging your bets on the PC. And when you do that along with 92% of other consumers it creates a snowball of hardware and software innovation and development that the other side can simply never match.
And what applicable lesson can we draw from this regarding Iraq? Well, I'm reaching here, but it seems Colin Powell's latest statement outlining who *will* support a US attack is a direct appeal to network effect. There is a "new" Europe and America will be focusing her money and future ties on them. America is the Microsoft of the world. And if Germany and France want to play the development game they'll find their long-term prospects as limited as the Mac OS and Linux in the consumer market.
Wednesday, January 22, 2003 War with Iraq: Bad idea, Bad timing. So why do it? A few months ago, I posted a few points on why we should not go to conventional war (ie invade, depose the regime, install a new government) with Iraq, but concluded that because the President had basically staked US credibility on it, we should probably go ahead, because the risks of not doing it outweighed the considerable logic behind not doing it. Given the events since then, I've changed my mind - this thing is a bad idea. Opposing this thing is hard - I've been to Iraq, and can say without hesitation that Saddam's bunch is an evil a group as you will find, and getting rid of him should have been done a long time ago. Besides, the "peace" movement makes it hard to oppose the war and appear to "agree" with them, just because they are mostly idiots who could care less about the war, but just want to oppose Bush and the US. But there are other ways to deal with this, and the reasons for war in ths usual sense do not rise to the level required for such an endeavor.
I'm going to try to post a few thoughts on this over the next couple of days, on the following topics:
1) WMD's and you.
2) Regime change: why war to do it?
3) The US is Crazy.
4) One World: the UN
5) You've herded the cats in the pen, Now What?
6) The Elephant in the living room.
WMD's and you In the recent rhetoric leading up to the war with Iraq, a couple of things trouble me. One is the definition of WMD - take chemical weapons, for example. They can be quite deadly. But they are also notoriously unreliable, and difficult to deploy effectively in a military context. They are a bit better from a terror standpoint or anti-civilian role (such as putting down rebellion), but still difficult to deploy in a manner that will cause mass casualties. Bio is a different animal (pun intended), but still not nearly as effective as a nuke. They also have the potential to bite back. If using these agents was as easy as the current public discussions might lead you to believe, it would have happened more often by now. They are a concern, but I feel their impact and effects are exaggerated. Using the current US definition, every WalMart is a WMD Depot for an individual with the right knowledge and training.
With respect to Iraq, in order to present a credible threat to US interests they must demonstrate both capability and intent. I don't see much of either. OK, so he gassed a few villagers and used chemicals against Iran, so you could (as the administration does) argue that implies intent, but the former couldn't effectively fight back, and the latter would have been partying in Baghdad in a few days if he hadn't.. Our (US and EU) police forces routinely use bullets and gasses that are prohibited for military use, so we might want to tread lightly here in our rhetoric if we are to maintain even a remote fig leaf of credibility. (Many of these treaties, such as using expanding bullets, are stupid, but that's not the point here.) US hypocrisy on various issues like this is going to bite us in the butt - that's my third post in this series. The facts are that Iraq has limited tactical capability to deploy chemical and perhaps biological weapons, but no strategic capability other than via terrorist action. That fact includes probably 80% of the worlds nations, including some other pretty unsavory and unstable characters. Saddam is evil, but not crazy: I seriously doubt that he would use these agents or allow others to use them in anything other than regime threatening circumstances, due to the potential backlash. We would nuke him, literally, and he knows it.
So I don't think WMD's in and of themselves are a valid argument for the war. He apparently doesn't have anything seriously worthy of the name (the Israelis and the first gulf war took care of the nukes), and what he does have he can't effectively deploy for technical and political reasons. Next up: regime change. Isn't there an easier way?
Sucky Sucky. I'm a bit pressed for time now, and I just skimmed this article. But the author's thesis seems to be that Virginia Postrel made Reason into a respectable magazine. But then Nick Gillespie came along and changed all that. But he couldn't help himself because he's from New Jersey.
Actually, it's a very good article, even if it did get a few things wrong.
Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey. A poster of the cover of the Abbey Road album has been altered to remove the cigarette in Paul McCartney's hand, and the album cover itself may be changed in future reisues.
I have the greatest respect for anyone who serves in the Military in any role - from E1 to O9. But I get nervous about overly patriotic stuff like this, especially just before a war that probably isn't justified or (more importantly) very smart.
RIP. The Sheik, one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling in the 1960s and early 1970s, has passed away. His real name was Eddie Farhat, and he started out as The Sheik of Araby in the early 1950s. But it was after shortening his nom de ring in the early 1960s that he really hit his stride.
He'd come to the ring all bug-eyed and muttering something that the announcers said was Arabic but which sounded like gibberish to me. He'd throw a rug down and make an elaborate ceremony of bowing and praying towards Mecca. Sometimes he'd have a slave girl dressed in harem garb that he'd push around.
He was a limited worker in the ring. A typical Sheik match lasted just three or four minutes and ended with him getting disqualified for pulling out one of the dreaded foreign objects and leaving the hero in a pool of blood.
Farhat was legitimately of Arab descent, though a devout Catholic, not Muslim. But he apparently didn't speak Arabic, at least not very well. I later found out that what sounded like gibberish to me was just that.
He bought the Detroit promotion in the mid-1960s and sold out arenas there and in Toronto numerous times. But like most wrestler-promoters, he kept himself on top too long, burned out the audience with the same matches and the promotion was out of business by the late 1970s. Farhat continued to wrestle the occasional match up until the early 1990s, especially in Japan where'd accompany his (legit) nephew Sabu.
Update: For those of you who never saw the Sheik and those who may have forgotten about him, here's some photos of him in action.
Friday, January 17, 2003 Teacher Salaries For reference, here's what teachers are paid in Georgia. According to the State of Georgia's DOE site, the average for all teachers (which includes administrative staff such as principals and staff in the board offices - anyone with "certification") is $42,141. The state value doesn't include the local supplement, but in most cases that's pretty small - about $800 a year. A PDF file of the salary schedule is located here. A starting teacher in Georgia with a Bachelors degree and certification (a "T-4") makes $29, 259 (not even my average monthly income in a good year). A T-4 just barely reaches the "average" salary - with over 19 years, a T-4 makes $42,735 . A "T-5", someone with certification and a masters degree, reaches the "average" after 10 years. Only T-7's (PhD) make well over the average, starting at $42K and moving up to $61K after 20 years. Another problem area is the coaching staff - in a high school, coaches get "supplements" that can be pretty significant.
So if I read the table Charles linked to correctly, the average NEA staffer in Georgia makes as much as a high school teacher with a PhD and 17 years experience, which is probably the upper 95%tile of teacher salaries.
The average high school teacher is grossly underpaid, given the difficulty of doing the job right. The average NEA staffer is grossly overpaid, considering their largely negative impact on education.
Thursday, January 16, 2003 NEA Salaries. Thanks to Domenic Anghelone for bringing this site to my attention. as some of you may remember, I've been thinking about becoming a teacher, but based upon these salaries, maybe I should do my part to educate America's youth as a member of the union staff.
The Taxman. Here's a piece I did on Gov. Sonny Perdue's first budget proposal. In just three days in office, he's proposed the largest tax hike in Georgia history and backtracked on his pledge to let voters decide what the state flag will look like. Can you say "No Republican realignment?"
Citizen Informants. The Tennessee dog-shooting case seems to have dropped off the national media radar, but the Tennessean is all over it.
There's plenty of blame to go around here, starting with the woman who made the initial call reporting the money flying from the car. She said the station wagon zoomed past her at "110 miles per hour." Yet the police reports of the incident don't mention the driver was speeding when they spotted him. The speed limit on the intersate is 70 mph. The officers involved now say that the driver was doing 86 mph, almost 30 miles an hour slower than the caller reported. And the Smoak family denies even that.
Yesterday, Pamela Smoak, his wife, said she was lying in the back seat on the drive from Nashville. She believes her husband was not speeding for one reason.
''I drive a 1994 Mercury Sable station wagon that's had to have a new motor and work on the transmission. The car's old, for goodness' sake,'' she said during a phone interview.
From the caller's initial misinformation, an addtitional layer of erroneous facts seemed to get added each time the alert was forwarded to another officer. By the time it reached the officers that made the stop, they believed they were pulling over a car connected to a recent armed robbery. Most of their actions in that stop seem justified in that light, though not the shooting of the dog, nor their reported rudeness to the family even after the true facts of the case were discovered.
BTW, the woman who made the initial call says she regrets nothing. Indeed, she still seems to think the Smoak family did something wrong.
'I think it's odd that the flying car, the money and the wallet belonged to the same people.''
Wednesday, January 15, 2003 They're Gonna Put Me In The Movies. Okay, TV. Maybe. I spent most of yesterday afternoon trailing a crew from Telemundo around Dalton. Today, they returned the favor and came by the newsroom to film an interview with the editor of our Spanish-language sister paper. If you watch the shows I mention, you may see me in the background. I'll be the short gringo who looks like he could use a good night's sleep.
I guess Martin Scorsese's historical revisionism needs to be pointed out, although the only people I've seen arguing for the movie as a serious piece of history have been some of the usual suspects over at LewRockwell.Com.
I haven't followed Scorsese's interviews publicizing the film that closely. But I haven't heard him making Oliver Stone-like remarks about how his film if the full truth and the only truth. Still, few Americans know anything about this part of American history, and they might mistake Scorsese's fiction for fact.
Saturday, January 11, 2003 Talk About Lazy Reporting. The AP's Richard Ostling talks to a Catholic and two Protestants and based on their statements tells us that all the world's religions, except the Raelians, oppose human cloning.
Maybe Ostling should have talked to some Buddhists or Hindus and asked what they thought of cloning. Maybe he'd have some understanding of why Singapore and China are making major pushes in this area.
Ostling gives us eaxctly one partial sentence from one Jewish group's statement on cloning as evidence that religion opposes cloning. Maybe he actually should have talked to some rabbis. He would have found many have a much more complex and nuanced view of the matter.
I know for a fact he could have found some liberal Protestant ministers and theologians who don't believe that cloning is wrong, at least not always. They may be in a minority, but shouldn't the fact that a vocal minority exists be noted in any story that makes such a sweeping claim.
What do Muslims think of cloning? I really don't know. But if you're going to make a definitive statement about what all the world's religions say about anything, wouldn't you want to talk to a few prominent Muslim leaders?
A Bit Late. Here's the story I did on Zell Miller's decision not to seek re-election. I think Ken Ellinger is right that Miller's promise not to endorse or campaign for any candidate for his seat is a slap in the face to Democrats. And I didn't see anyone else make that connection.
We Be Jammin' Fox News is making a big deal about Iraq buying a bunch of GPS jammers from Russia. The main concern of the warheads (retired military officers Fox uses as analysts who, IMUHO, don't seem to contribute much insight in to what's going on) seems to be centering on JDAM's - GPS guided bombs. But there is another, as yet unmentioned problem: Land Navigation. It used to be that Land Navigation was a much respected art, but from what I've heard it isn't practiced nearly enough. The Army is increasingly dependent on GPS for navigation, especially in the relatively featureless desert. Take out GPS, and you'll have a bunch of guys wandering around lost in the shifting sands. Not Good.
That said, I'm a bit skeptical as to the impact these will have on military units, for a variety of technical reasons.
Some have also tried to make news out of the fact that a Russian company sold them this, but I don't think much of that fact. Our companies sell lots of potential adversaries lots of stuff they probably shouldn't, and now that Russia is emerging as a more capitalist and freeer society than we are (check out their income tax rates), the Kremlin doesn't have veto power any more. Heck, Hughes has been helping China build better ICBM's for years.
Thursday, January 09, 2003 'splain to me again . . . Just what the difference between a Democrat and Republican is?
What is the first bill introduced for consideration by our new GA 12th district representative, a Republican? Tax cuts? Less regulation? Smaller government? Of course not! - It's a bill to give Farmers another 2+billion dollars in releif! . After the 2001 Farm bill and all of the last 50 years of agriculture legislation, why not just go ahead and fire up the collectives, nationalize agriculture, and have high school students do "public service" in the fields at harvest time?
Don't get me wrong - there are many farmers in my family, so I know what that life entails, and you are to some extent at the whim of the weather. But that's the risk you take, and in a free market there are winners and loosers. Unfortunately, our agriculture system has become so screwed up and entangled with government intervention it bears no resemblance to a free market.
Any car people out there? Thanks to a dog who didn't have enough sense to stay out of traffic in the early morning hours, I need a new radiator and pump for my car. Right now, it's at a mechanic that my mom uses for her oil changes and regular servicing. He's honestand seems competent. He says he could fix it. I could also take it to the local dealership. They, presumably, would know Hondas much better, due to specialization. Or I could take it to a pro shop recommended by my insurance company. Any idea what the best alternative is?
Tuesday, January 07, 2003 Liberal Racism. Michael Moore says that if there'd been some black folks on those planes on 9-11, the hijackers would never have taken over. Black men, you know, are really good at that violence stuff. Even the Independent is forced to throw up its hands at that line of thinking:
God save us from such stupid white men, especially now, when in the US and the UK, black people's lives are being ripped to shreds by drugs, lawlessness, fear and frightful violence plus the endless circle of racism, exclusion and incarceration. This is not awesome, Mr Moore; it is a calamity, for descendants of slaves unimaginably more so.
The Bitter Part of Discretion Charles' post below about Dixie Outfitters touches on an interesting problem in not only the educational system, but in our wider society. My wife is a high school science teacher (and department head, "master teacher", mentor, teacher of the year, NASA honoree, widely admired, and I'm not biased a bit . . .). One of her biggest complaints is that teachers and administrators have no virtually discretion when it comes rules. The bottom line is that if you make even trivial decisions regarding a student that is not backed up by a regulation that is uniformly, blindly applied to all students, you risk being sued. That's why we have stupid "zero tolerance" rules that get kids suspended for having Tylenol or nail clippers. The rules become upper limits to behavior, and the kids learn to look for loopholes - and they get good at it.
This isn't just a problem in the educational system. The power of an individual to do what seems best in a given situation has been greatly constrained by the fear of legal action in the form of civil lawsuits or infringing on some trivial guberment regulation. My fear here is that we are creating a system similar to what was had in the old Soviet Union: that you have to violate laws and regulations every day just to survive. That breeds an arbitrary system of enforcement where government and the legal system is not a last resort to ensure a fair society, but a tool to be used to inflict harm on opponents.
Monday, January 06, 2003 Dixie Dispute. If you haven't heard of Dixie Outfitters, you likely don't live in the South. Many school districts are banning its clothes because they feature the Southern Cross.
I think the flag banners are being more than a bit hysterical here. But the kids who wear these things, their parents and the Sons of Confederate Veterans types are missing the real issue. The public schools are about control. Twenty-five years ago when I was in school, we had our own dress code. A boy's hair couldn't touch his collar in back, touch his earlobes on the sides or fall past his eyebrows in front. You tell me what the heck that had to do with making sure we got an education.
There were also unspoken rules. I saw plenty of boys and girls sent home, not because they violated some written rule, but because their clothes didn't meet some teacher or principal's sense of proper dress. Okay, the kid in my eighth-grade class who wore that t-shirt with an iron on of the famous poster of Cheryl Tiegs in a bikini probably was causing a distrubance. But most of the time these decisions had nothing to do with education and everything to do with control. And the very sort of people who are protesting today's schools banning Confederate embelms are the very same sort of people who fought for those old dress codes and thought they were appropriate.
That doesn't mean it's right to treat their children or grandchildren this way. But life isn't fair. And until more people realize that state education is always going to lead to these sorts of disputes, we are going to have battles like these. Battles that arouse a lot of pasison , but are ultimately about trivial issues. By the time I got to high school, the rules on haircuts were waived, and I grew my hair past my collar, my earlobes and my eyebrows. Man, do I cringe when I see pictures of myself then.
Sunday, January 05, 2003 Black And, Well, Not Black. Here's a fascinating story on the tensions between black Americans and immigrants from Africa.
The distraught mother came to Sirad Ismail's office wringing her hands with worry.
Her 16-year-old son had grown impossible to control, the woman said. He no longer showed respect for his elders. He wore trousers that sagged off his hips. He smoked marijuana and walked with a slouch. Lately, he had even become violent toward them, striking them with his fists.
"Can you help us?" she pleaded. "We want to send him back to Africa."
Ismail, a Somali social worker who has counseled dozens of African immigrant families in Pierce and King counties, has heard the story before. It is far too common, she says.
After years of looking forward to America as the promised land, Ismail said, many African parents are dismayed to see their children merging into what they perceive as the culture of black American poverty.
Seeing that as a certain path to failure, many Africans are doing their best to keep their children from becoming "black."
"We are not African Americans. We are Somalis," Ismail said. "We have the same skin color with African Americans, but nothing else together."
Friday, January 03, 2003 The Real Regular Guy. Don't know how it works in North Carolina, but in Georgia, a real regular guy would dress up to make an important announcement in public, like, say, he was running for president. He'd put on his Sunday suit, as we like to say, for a big event. A faux regular guy would make the announcement in shirtsleeves and jeans.
Jews and Chinese Food. No, it's not the set-up for a joke. Here's an intereting article on how American Jews developed a love for Chinese food.
when I first came to Dalton, I discovered that the town now has several Mexican restaurants, a couple fo which are really pretty good. But I didn't notice many Mexicans in them. I asked some one who wroks for our sister Spanish-language paper about that, and he said they I should go to one of Dalton's Chinese restaruants if I wanted to see Mexicans eat. Apart from the religious stuff, the analysis of this article sounds rather like his explanation for why area Mexicans love Chinese.
Wednesday, January 01, 2003 Headin' South. We all know that the South is different from the rest of the U.S. Southern speech, Southern customs, Southern food are all different from other parts of the country. It's been that way since Colonial days.
But where exactly is the South. Where does Dixie end and the rest of the nation begin. Well, one obvious answer is that the South is composed of those 11 states that formed the Confederate States of America. But that leaves out some states generally though of as Southern, namely Kentucky. And if President Lincoln hadn't stationed troops there, Maryland may well have joined the CSA. Is Maryland really part of the South?
The government offers little help. It says the Southeast is made up of Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. That's fine, but Virginia and West Virginia are lumped in with the Middle Atlantic states. And its Soutwest designation includes states as differnt as Arkansas and Arizona, as well as Texas and Oklahoma.
So here's what I did on my day off. I came up with a 16-part measure of Southernness and ranked all 48 contiguous states on it. The measures included whether slavery was legal in that state in 1860, did the state join the CSA (bonus points if it joined before the CSA started the Civil War by firing on Ft. Sumter), did it go for Strom Thurmond in 1948, Barry Goldwater in 1964 or George Wallace in 1968, does it have a law on the books banning sodomy (bonus point if that law bans heterosexual sodomy as well as homosexual), is it covered by the voting Rights Act of 1965, did it put respond to the civil rights movement by putting a Confederate flag over its capital, did it have a law banning interracial marriage on the books in 1967 when the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional, was hookworm ever a major health porblem, is it on the list of states that distributors of adult videos won't ship to, etc.
I know that some people may have chosen different standards. And there are problems with the ones I did choose. Take for instance, the point I awarded for voting for George Wallace in 1968. I gave a point only if Wallace got the most votes. That was just five states. But Wallace came within a whisker of winning two other states in 1968. And I could have also given points for the primaries that he won in 1972, which would have changed things a bit, but I didn't.
Similarly, there are several states where adult video distributors won't ship to certain zip codes. If you live in Tennessee, but outside the metro Nashville area, you may have a difficult time getting videos. But I counted only states where the entire state is off limits. I figure that if they are afraid to ship to your big cities for fear of prosecution, you must be dang Southern.
So how did the states stack up.
Tied for the top spot were Alabama and Mississippi. It wasn't even close. They had perfect scores. Congratulations.
Lousiana, Georgia and South Carolina tied for third. Georgia could have had this spot all to itself, but a couple of years ago, the state Supreme Court tossed out its sodomy law. I thought about negating that decision and giving it back its two points because the law wasn't overturned by the legislature. But that would have opened up a whole can of worms. Besides it still wasn't even close to the top two, so there was no reason to play favorites here.
North Carolina came in at 6. Again, the Tarheel State could have joined Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina in that tie for third. But only parts of North Carolina were covered by the Voting Rights Act, not the entire state, so I decided not to award it that point. And that made the difference. Sorry, North Carolina, better luck next time.
Florida and Virginia were tied for seventh place. Virginia may have been the capital of the Confederacy, but it has fallen hard.
Tennessee, Texas and Arkansas were tied for ninth.
And that's really all the states that I would count as Southern. No other state got more than a few points.
The most surprising part of my study is that Utah (?) is more Southern, by my measures than West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma or Missouri. Though none are really that Southern.