The Locker Room

December 11, 2008

News of the news

Posted by Becki Gray at 5:00 PM

Looks like another bad news day for the news business.  Reuters reports that Newsweek magazine is cutting more staff and going to a slimmer publication.  The Winston Salem Journal reports it is firing 12 employees due to low revenue.  National Public Radio announced that it s cutting 64 jobs and two programs.  John Gapper, in a Financial Times column today poses the question, who will morn local newspapers?

We can still depend on Carolina Journal for full and in-depth reporting and insightful and thoughtful editorial perspectives, both on line and a print edition.  Now that's good news!


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re: Tackling Some Civil War Myths

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 4:07 PM

This is not meant to be an apology for any region.  History is a complicated discipline, and the facts and events leading to the American Civil War reveal a complex time.  Below are some of my thoughts to show that the war was about more than slavery.

1) I learned long ago that to say something is “clear” is treading on dangerous ground and typically reveals only one person’s or a certain school’s interpretation (it’s something I tell my students to avoid when writing).  Put forth the argument and let the reader decide.

2) the states-rights argument is an American federal concept.  Yes, slaveowners used it to protect slavery.  Abolitionists, too, used states’ rights arguments to nullify national laws dealing with slavery.  Federalists and New Englanders used it during the War of 1812 to protect their economic interests.  Throughout the early republic and antebellum eras, Americans used federal arguments to protect their interests.  Southerners didn’t concoct this idea in 1861.  And after the war, the U.S. did change from an “are” to an “is.”  Make of that what you will.

3) I have long been familiar with the secession articles, and I actually did follow the link so that I could read them again (just to be sure).  In them, the states offer various reasons for secession.  The South Carolina convention is cited most often to prove that the South fought only to preserve slavery. That convention did indeed argue to preserve slavery.  But South Carolina was one state out of eleven that seceded from the Union.  Notice how some states use the term “anti-slavery” and others don’t.  Notice how some of the upper South states never mention slavery.  (It must also be remembered that five slave states remained in the Union during the war).  To understand the times in which the conventions occurred, one must understand what contemporaries meant by “anti-slavery” and “abolition.”  If the North fought to end slavery, did it fight for the equality of all human beings or to eliminate obstacles to a free-labor system?  To be anti-slavery and be a humanitarian are two different things.  Among many antebellum works, Hinton Helper’s Impending Crisis of the South reveals that the two aren’t synonyms.  The New York City draft riots also reveal this.

4) in many ways, the Civil War occurred between people who interpreted the Constitution differently and offered different definitions of what it meant to be American.  George Washington was on the Confederate seal, for instance.  Both sides also claimed to be heirs of the Founders' intent.  The Confederate Constitution, Southerners believed, perfected the United States Constitution and clarified previously muddied concepts.  For instance, the Preamble includes such language: “We the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government. . . .”  And, “This Constitution. . . shall be the supreme law of the land. . . anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”  The CSA Constitution outlawed the slave trade and left it the states to determine that fate of slavery within their borders (as it had been done in the New England during the antebellum era). 

Asking why the North and Unionists fought is a good question indeed.  Some abolitionists believed the war was a “purifying act of God.”   Others such as Andrew Johnson and Parson Brownlow, a Knoxville Whig and later Reconstruction governor of TN, believed that all questions must be secondary to whether the Union was to be preserved (Brownlow and his political allies were in no way champions of African American civil rights).  Others believed that America must put down the rebellion for national pride and a show of national strength. Some believed Southern interests prevented a growing economy.  Others believed the war offered an opportunity to ensure that America achieved its predestined mission.  A Brooklyn minister, Samuel Spears trumpeted from the pulpit one 1863 Sunday morning: “The United States must connect the destinies of Christianity and civilization on this continent with one permanent, indivisible, powerful, progressive nationality. . .  the nation was made for growth, for increase in population, for the organization and addition of new States that glitter on its flag.”

5) I have difficulty accepting the theory that puts forth mystical aspects of the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln fulfilling prophecy and saving America.  To be honest, giving messianic status to any politician alarms me, for it discourages questioning his or her actions.   Also, too much information is missing between 1776 and 1861 for me to accept the mystical argument (Seemingly no one mentions U.S. history during the Articles of Confederation either).  Sherman once commented that the romance of war is moonshine and that war is hell.  What had to be done had to be done.  Fifteen years later he talked about the war in spiritual terms.  Yes, the Lost Cause argument was formed during the 1890s (in great part accepted by Northerners to finally heal a wounded nation).  But many glorified the Northern cause during the latter part of the 19th century.  Much scholarship has been done on the former.  Little has been studied about the latter.

And lastly, I find little evidence that the Founders were unanimous.  Even among those who attended the constitutional convention, were divided into what scholars compartmentalize into three schools (monarchists, nationalists, federalists).   All three had different interpretations of government’s role. 


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Why the left despises equality under the law

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 3:35 PM

This quote from Ludwig von Mises' The Anti-Capitalist Mentality explains why progressives, socialists and fascists (socialists of the right) all despise, at least in practice if not rhetorically, the concept of equality under the law. Progressive taxation, bailouts of industries and other spread-the-wealth-schemes, racial quotas and other kinds of preferences in the law, are all deviations from this principle. Of course, in the United State this concept is rooted in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The suffering from frustrated ambition is peculiar to people living in a society of equality under the law. It is not caused by equality under the law, but by the fact that in a society of equality under the law the inequality of men with regard to intellectual abilities, will power and application become visible. The gulf between what a man is and what he achieves and what he thinks of his own abilities and achievements is pitilessly revealed. Daydreams of a "fair" world which would treat him according to his "real worth" are the refuge of all those plagued by a lack of self-knowledge.

(Thanks to a student of mine for calling my attention to this quote in a recent term paper.) 

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All in coiffed fun

Posted by Paul Chesser at 1:52 PM

The Onion's "Man on the Street" interview feature caught a certain former NC senator commenting on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest earlier this week.

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Re: Tackling Some Civil War Myths

Posted by Eric Root at 1:37 PM

Mitch and Troy make great points and arguments.  I agree in part and dissent in part.

 To Mitch's argument:  Stephens does count in his interpretation of the Confederacy being its first elected VP, just as much as Cheney counts in his official rhetoric as to the policy of the US Government today.  My point was the to use the late Stephens as to somehow  downplay the reason for the War is disingenuous and incomplete (I think you agreed with that part).  The Lost Cause thesis was crafted after the South's defeat.

To Troy:  I am not sure slavery being the primary cause (if you are saying this) is reductionist.  If you read the secessionist articles I linked originally, it is clear that slavery was a central reason for secession.  And even if you believe in the States' Rights argument, the question remains:  states rights in defense of what? People like Calhoun, Dew, and many others in Virginia and Kentucky--where the final emancipation debates were held before the war--make it clear that states rights was tied particularly, but not exclusively, to slavery and the protection of the peculiar institution.  In these instances, the clarion call to secession and war is clear and almost without exception noted by those who wanted to keep their ownership in human beings.

But the question why the North fought is a valid one.  Is the notion of Founding important here?  Was the Founding the only one at the time (nay, in history) created not be at open or secret war with the rights of mankind?  This question answered in the affirmative does not negate the dedication to the idea of human equality (rightly understood) when  considering the practical problems confronted with a freed race. If the Declaration is false, then there is no reason to emancipate; but if the Declaration is true, then emancipation becomes a moral and political necessity. 

The question is if Jefferson was right in his Notes and other private correspondence?  Even he as a slaveowner understood its corrupting influences; even he understood--along with most all other Founders (Madison, Washington, Monroe, Adams, with JQA, etc)--that is was an "evil" and contrary to the "Founding".  The North, through Lincoln's statesmanship (but even through those "sons of the Fathers who came before him), was dedicated to the Ancient Faith of the Declaration and the Constitution which is informed by it.  The South went as Jefferson feared it would go, and was perhaps corrupted by the institution which was a private teacher of despotism (as Jefferson noted in Query 18). 

You are correct that some things were hammered out later.  But as to the meaning of the Founding, the Founders were pretty much unanimous.  In this way, the Founders were pretty much Lockean, and Aristotelian; they rejected the politics of Hobbes and Machiavelli without exception.  If slavery is a good, and not wrong (and clearly the South generally changed on this between 1776 and 1850--from necessary evil to positive good), then nothing is wrong.  

There is no evidence, public or private, that the Founders believed the Founding was an affirmation of the natural human inferiority of one race.  The Confederacy was founded in explicit opposition to that idea.

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Seven is enough for McCrory

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:34 PM

After seven terms as mayor and what will end up being 20 years in elected office, Pat McCrory will leave Charlotte's government when his mayoral term ends after the 2009 election.

One of his biggest fans responds here.

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Another government transparency effort attracts attention

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:29 PM

The latest effort to shine a light on the state's budget and spending is called Citizens Informed.

Director Laurie Onorio has secured support for her efforts from the John Locke Foundation, which is also pushing for increased government budget transparency.

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Evil corruption or just "A good, old-fashioned, crook?

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 1:24 PM

Jonah Goldberg provides this analysis of the Blagojevich affair on National Review Online's The Corner.  

The Blithesome Banality of Blago's Blunders

The word "evil" has been used twice today in the Corner to describe Blago's crimes. I'm not really disputing the use of the word. But that's not really the word that comes to my mind. Evil is too dark, too serious, too smart for what we're talking about. I agree with Kathryn that there's something almost wholesome or nostalgic about Blogo's criminal misdeeds. He wasn't found opening an umbrella in parts of his anatomy for money on the internet, or giving cash to terrorists who were going to have Santas wear suicide-padding at department stores around the country. He didn't check interns for a hernia without permission or spy for the Norks. He's just a crook. A good, old-fashioned, crook. I know I'm supposed to be outraged, and in a certain sense I am. If he's guilty of all that's alleged, I hope they throw him in the stoney lonesome until the Chicago Cubs win the World Series or 2025, whichever comes second. But in another sense, this is just plain enjoyable. It's like when you watch "Cops" and the idiot burglar tries to hide beside a tree in the dark, even though he's wearing light-up sneakers. It's like when Dan Rather dares the world to prove he's a clueless ass-clown. It's just good stuff. There's no tragedy here. No wasted potential. No undeserving victims. No profound and complicated symbolic issues (I somewhat doubt the Serbian-American lobby is going to cry racism). This is the sort of criminality we want the Feds to find, particularly in Chicago. Everyone gets what they deserve — at least so far — and all of the guilty parties are all the more deserving of punishment because they don't quite understand what the big deal is. I love it.

HT to Peter Schramm at the Ashbrook Center blog 


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re: Tackling Some Civil War Myths

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 12:20 AM

Too many times, the war's causes are reduced to an either-or fallacy: it was fought as a defense for slavery or as a defense of states' rights.   Within this fallacy many present the argument of Southern exceptionalism--the argument that the South twisted constitutional interpretations and deviated from the Founders' intent.  (A strong case for Northern exceptionalism can be made; after all, the "market revolution," government subsidies, and the antebellum social changes and their effects occurred on a greater scale in the northern states than in southern ones.)

Notice that all the causes deal essentially with why the South fought the war.  For a more complete understanding of the war's causes, one should also ask why the North fought the war and remember that the widespread anti-slavery movement and the less prevalent abolitionist movement had two entirely different goals for the nation, for slavery, and for the relationship between whites and blacks. 

In the end, some things that were never agreed upon during the ratification process were hammered out on the battlefield, and the United States stopped being an "are" and became and "is." 

(There is much more that can be written, but I'll stop here).

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A Blagojevich parody from Matthew Continetti

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 11:33 AM

Fans of Carolina Journal's monthly parodies — you know, the made-up stories on page 28 — might like this one from the Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti, a former John Locke Foundation Headliner.

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Good news and bad news

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 11:08 AM

The good news we learn from USA Today is that North Carolina's 179 public corruption convictions from 1998 to 2007 help the state rank outside the top tier of states with high *"per capita" government corruption problems. 

The bad news? If Jim Black, Meg Scott Phipps, and Frank Ballance aren't enough to place us in the top 10, how bad must governments be in the rest of the country?

Lord Acton looks like wiser by the day. 

HT: Paul Chesser

*I'm not sure this is the best way to gauge a state's level of corruption. One could argue that a corrupt state House speaker in a state of 9 million people does more damage and offers more evidence of corruption than two corrupt city councillors in a Western state with fewer than 1 million residents.

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Barone scours turnout stats

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:17 AM

You might remember that Michael Barone said a couple of months ago that he would "really like to know" turnout numbers for the 2008 election as he gauged the likelihood that Barack Obama or John McCain would win the presidential race.

Now that Obama has won and Barone has access to more detailed turnout statistics, he offers his analysis here.

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Dissecting the problems with North Carolina's probation system

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:02 AM

If you've been following the News & Observer's series on North Carolina's probation system, you might be interested in a recent segment on that topic from Carolina Journal Radio. 

Click this link to hear a recent program featuring:

  • John Hood's take on Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue
  • Cal Thomas' assessment of the American political scene
  • Bob Beckel's and Marc Rotterman's reactions to the election results
  • George Keiser of the National Institute of Corrections' assessment of the N.C. probation system
  • Michael Sanera's critique of a proposed Chatham County land-use policy

If you want to hear only Keiser, that segment starts slightly more than halfway through the show.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:51 AM

Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features a report on a plan — now dropped — that would have forced taxpayers to pick up more of the tab for running the N.C. Zoo.

John Hood's Daily Journal focuses on the power of ideas to influence political debates.


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The Christmas Bailout

Posted by Becki Gray at 05:40 AM

As the automakers bailout bill goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration today, JLF friend and former Headliner speaker Dan Henninger, deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page warns us that Christmas itself may be next in line for a bailout.  Read his delightful column here.

Re-visit his JLF appearance here.


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