Thursday, December 10, 2009

Global Warming Exists

Global Warming is one of those hot-button issues that's highly politicized, controversial and somewhat arcane, due to the highly technical nature of the information. This is compounded by the fact that very there's a great deal of money that stands in opposition to the Science; Exxon can't afford for Global Warming to be a Scientific fact any more than Philip Morris could afford for cigarettes to cause cancer. In both cases, the companies funded 'research' that challenges the conclusions of objective scientists in order to create doubt in the public's mind on sound Science. George Monbiot at The Gaurdian shows the conflict of interest (emphasis added);

The website, using data found in the company's official documents, lists 124 organisations that have taken money from the company or work closely with those that have. These organisations take a consistent line on climate change: that the science is contradictory, the scientists are split, environmentalists are charlatans, liars or lunatics, and if governments took action to prevent global warming, they would be endangering the global economy for no good reason. The findings these organisations dislike are labelled "junk science". The findings they welcome are labelled "sound science".

Among the organisations that have been funded by Exxon are such well-known websites and lobby groups as TechCentralStation, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Some of those on the list have names that make them look like grassroots citizens' organisations or academic bodies: the Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, for example. One or two of them, such as the Congress of Racial Equality, are citizens' organisations or academic bodies, but the line they take on climate change is very much like that of the other sponsored groups. While all these groups are based in America, their publications are read and cited, and their staff are interviewed and quoted, all over the world.

By funding a large number of organisations, Exxon helps to create the impression that doubt about climate change is widespread. For those who do not understand that scientific findings cannot be trusted if they have not appeared in peer-reviewed journals, the names of these institutes help to suggest that serious researchers are challenging the consensus.

Of course, without proper education about the peer-review process and the scientific basis of climate change, this strategy has proven quite effective (as it has in the past with other issues). So how can you decide (objectively) for yourself? Fortunately, the information you need to understand the issue is freely available online and ready for private use. I'll try to make the case here with the evidence easily available.

First, let's establish that our Earth is warming; NASA First Goddard Institute for Space Study's direct surface temperature analysis shows a steady increase of one degree Celsius from 1880 to 2000 (usisng Radiosondes). Satellite temperature measurements arrive at the same conclusion (from 1982 on), as do the direct surface temperature analysis at the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia. From here, we need to use more abstract methods of temperature measurement, because we didn't measure temperature in a verifiable way before 1880. Using dendrochronology, the study of the rings in trees to verify temperatures, we can get accurate temperature readings for up to 26,000 years ago. We also get accurate temperatures from the last five centuries by drilling bore holes and analyzing the results. The temperature rise is also concluded by indirect analysis; for instance, glaciers melting, sea ice melting, permafrost melting, sea levels rising, sediments and other proxy reconstructions. Yes, there has been melting in past centuries, but it's always been almost trivial compared to the extreme melting of today.

So, we've established that the earth is warming. How do we know that's it man-made though? After all, climate goes through highs and lows naturally- there's a cyclical process that repeats. The cycles that are often cited (but seldom understood) by climate skeptics are called Milankovitch cycles, after the Serbian climatologist. These cycles are caused by slight changes in Earth's tilt and orbit. Wikipedia summarizes it well;
"The Earth's axis completes one full cycle of precession approximately every 26,000 years. At the same time, the elliptical orbit rotates, more slowly, leading to a 23,000-year cycle between the seasons and the orbit. In addition, the angle between Earth's rotational axis and the normal to the plane of its orbit moves from 22.1 degrees to 24.5 degrees and back again on a 41,000-year cycle. Currently, this angle is 23.44 degrees and is decreasing."
The temperature change predictions derives from these cycles are fairly exact, and they aren't anywhere near the temperature changes we're seeing in terms of speed and intensity. So why the difference? The claims that in the Middle Ages, warming was just as extreme are patently false, as are claims that we're 'recovering' from a 'little ice age' (I specifically address these because they're such common falsehoods among climate change deniers). So we have an observation; the climate is becoming warmer more rapidly than we can naturally account for. Scientifically, we'll need a hypothesis to explain the observation, then experiment to test the hypothesis.

We have the benefit of hindsight; a hypothesis has already been proposed. Certain gases, referred to as 'greenhouse gases', absorb infrared radiation. These differ from gases like nitrogen and oxygen that make up most of our atmosphere because those gases reflect, rather than absorb, that radiation. So what happens when that radiation gets absorbed? As I'm sure you've guessed, the temperature rises. We can confirm the correlation (but not the causation) of greenhouse gas levels to temperature changes through ice core data and construct a history of the temperatures relating to green house gases. However, it is true that greenhouse gas levels rise and fall naturally; over a 400,000 year period CO2 levels rose over 100ppm (100 carbon atoms, in parts per million atoms). Unfortunately, we've had that same rise (100ppm) in just the last 150 of our history!

So, we have the hypothesis (greenhouse emissions cause the earth to warm), but how do we test? Well. in addition to testing the radiation absorption in terms of heath in an artificial atmosphere with the same particle count of greenhouse gases as our atmosphere, we can use complex calculations of prediction called Climate models that predict what changes our climate is going to experience. Among the predictions that have been made using the models (all of these are confirmed in the links provided); warming trends in the Arctic have been predicted and demonstrated, sharp and short cooling occurs after a volcano erupts were predicted by our Climate models and is now confirmed thanks to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, current levels of greenhouse gases cause an imbalance of incoming sunlight and outgoing radiation (the radiation has been proven to be spent warming the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere), the ocean's surface temperature rose as predicted by the Climate models, surface warming is accompanies by stratosphere cooling as predicted, and the lower mid and upper- troposphere's temperature has risen as predicted.

So, we've established that the Earth's temperature is growing faster than ever before, that it's not a naturally occurring Milankovitch cycle, that the Greenhouse gas rises correlate with temperature rises, that Greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation (causing temperature rises) at predictable levels over time and that we can predict the warming that occurs as a result. The effects of the rise in temperatures are also widely debated (again, by Exxon shills and honest scientists), but the information here demonstrates the reality of the change itself and it's cause.

For more information, I recommend these resources;

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Disproportionate response to American deaths from the right

We went into Afghanistan because of a group of terrorists who killed 6,000 Americans on 9/11. We’ve spent 493,800,000,000 dollars on vengeance for these 6,000 people. Last year alone, 44,000 Americans died of lack of health care. Given that these deaths occur every year and we obviously don’t spend a proportionate amount of cash on them, how can we make sense of this? Is it possible that Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain, who both advocate increased spending for the war in Afghanistan, don’t know about this disparity? More likely, they understand that the 44,000 Americans who die every year aren’t “real” Americans like the ones who died in the attack on the World Trade building. They are a lesser, lower class of American who are barely tolerated and constantly under attack by the wealthy. In America, you can kill as many Americans as you want— just as long as they’re poor.

Of course, they're another aspect to this social issue- the money. Joe Lieberman receives money from both the health care industry and the military industrial complex, as does John McCain. They're perfectly aware of how this effects their legislative capabilities- no doubt they rationalize it to themselves as a necessary evil, something that they must do in order to keep their positions. This kind of 'vote for money' trade system works without deviation in American politics. Take, for example, the amendment to the military budget that Al Franken proposed- it limits the ability of groups taking US money to have employees sign contracts that, say, take away legal recourse for being raped. Of course, this means that KBR, previously Halliburton and a huge government funds recipient with a massive lobby, would have to pay financial restitution. 30 Republicans happily sold their vote, even on this blatant issue, and are surprised that the public's opinion is against them.

If we continue to allow the scare tactics of chicken hawk warmongers to control us, we'll slowly be robbed of not only our money, but our rights and means of survival as well. Our social spending policy should be to use our tax dollars in the way that does the most good per dollar- and war is certainly not that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Free Market for individuals, Government aid for corporations

We hear propaganda about personal responsibility and the effectiveness of the free market constantly, but that standard is only applied to the poor. For instance; welfare, foodstamps, rehabilitation centers, leniency on crimes involving theft and free medical care are all examples of things that conservatives decry as government interference in the free market. The Feds, they say, take their money in the form of taxes and unfairly redistribute it into social spending. Why, then, is this argument not applied to all other forms of government spending? If the free market is better for rewarding efficiency, then government subsidies to corporations are decreasing the efficiency that conservatives say will be brought to the people by less government. Of course, this obviously isn't the case; the government subsidies allow those corporations to thrive.

One of the best examples of this is the existence of corporations themselves. An LLC (which stands for "Limited Liability Company") is given special government considerations, both legally and financially. No owners can be sued for actions taken by the company, nor can they be prosecuted for criminal acts that the management is responsible for in an effort to inflate prices. On the surface, these investors are detached from the immoral behavior under a guise of ignorance. What can they do about the decisions of management? They control only the capital supply, not the procedure or the operational day-to-day, so how could they be held responsible for firing labor organizers, dumping chemicals or hazardous working conditions for their workers? Of course, this a flimsy, thinly veiled excuse that's easily dismissed simply by seeing the shareholders take action whenever these things are absent; if a Chief of Operations doesn't stop his employees from Unionizing, or pushes too hard on safety or environmental standards, he is easily replaced (and well compensated to ensure loyalty to 'the company', which means not the employees of the company but rather those that make money from the work of the employees).

Another example are the subsidies that large corporations, exclusively owned by the wealthy elite, receiving not only friendly contracts, but subsidies and grants that amount to money being taken from the taxpayer and given freely to military contractors, agricultural lobbies, health care institutions and others in the guise of aiding struggling Americans. Again, this disguise is transparent when you consider that the money spent on these subsidies could go directly to infrastructure, education or general welfare spending rather than being drained through the corporate sifter and the money pocketed by the already wealthy.

Perhaps the most stark illustration are the recent bailouts and low interest rates for large banks. Rather than the owners of these institutions having their property devalued, the tax payer is penalized and the debts of the wealthy covered. Indeed, the government now lends money with no interest rate to large banks, which in turn charges high interest rates to those it re-lends the money to, allowing the rich owners of Goldman Sachs to post record profits while 49 million Americans go hungry.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Capital is not the best motivator

One of the most basic assumptions that we use as a foundation of our society is that positive incentives are necessary for the continuation and propagation of our society. These incentives, almost always in the form of capital, inspire us (or so we're lead to believe) and lead us to innovation.

This line of reasoning allows us to continue our institutionalized policy of 'social Darwinism'. The phrase "survival of the fittest" was coined by Herbert Spencer (rather than Charles Darwin to whom the phrase is often attributed) to explain the self-regulation and sustainability of society. It was Spencer's thought that a potential gain in capital was sufficient motivation for members of society to innovate, advancing society as a whole. At the core of 'social Dawinism' is the belief that the struggle for natural resources (or fiat capital backed by production that utilizes those resources) will force the 'better' humans to succeed while leaving the 'inferior' humans behind. This 'natural' class structure (according to the theory) become more pure the less regulated the distribution of resources is. In other words, without a government welfare state, the best and brightest will eventually come to own the vast majority of the capital we have and distribute it according to their own innovation, while all others will be left with less capital but incentive to do better to gain more. Natural competition between people for this capital leads to better practices, the 'social Darwinists' (who we now call libertarians) argued.

The problem with this is that we know (and have known for some time) that personal gain is not necessarily a good motivational tool. For instance, in this study (published in 1987), we have the following information;

In one study, girls in the fifth and sixth grades tutored younger children much less effectively if they were promised free movie tickets for teaching well. The study, by James Gabarino, now president of Chicago's Erikson Institute for Advanced Studies in Child Development, showed that tutors working for the reward took longer to communicate ideas, got frustrated more easily, and did a poorer job in the end than those who were not rewarded.


The recognition that rewards can have counter-productive effects is based on a variety of studies, which have come up with such findings as these: Young children who are rewarded for drawing are less likely to draw on their own that are children who draw just for the fun of it. Teenagers offered rewards for playing word games enjoy the games less and do not do as well as those who play with no rewards. Employees who are praised for meeting a manager's expectations suffer a drop in motivation.

This leads to interesting conclusions;

Such findings call into question the widespread belief that money is an effective and even necessary way to motivate people. They also challenge the behaviorist assumption that any activity is more likely to occur if it is rewarded. Amabile says her research “definitely refutes the notion that creativity can be operantly conditioned.”

So, if capital is not a sufficient motivator to accomplish things (and it's particularly poor motivation, if not counter productive, in the realm of creativity and innovation), why do we use it as a competitional tool rather than simply as a means to perform the task?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blackwater, goddamn (also Xe Services LLC)

If you've read any of my other posts it won't surprise you to discover that the concept of a private company with carte blanch to kill whoever they want so long as the government in the region is too weak to prosecute is pretty abhorrent to me. Blackwater (or Xe, as it's now called) is a particularly abusive organization with regards to human rights violations and extreme incompetance.

I bring this up because I was looking into the infamous Fallujah incident. Blackwater, in it's infinite wisdom,
ignored multiple warnings about the dangers of traveling through Fallujah, cut essential personnel from the mission, and failed to supply its team with armored vehicles, machine guns, sufficient threat intelligence, or even maps of the area. Blackwater’s own employees described its conduct as “flat out a sloppy … operation” and a “ship about to sink.” Another Blackwater employee stated: “Why were they sent into the hottest zone in Iraq in unarmored, underpowered vehicles to protect a truck? They had no way to protect their flanks because they only had four guys.” Even the internal review conducted by Blackwater at the direction of Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, found that the team ambushed in Fallujah “[h]ad no time to perform proper mission planning” and “[w]as without proper maps of the city.”
Four of thier own men died, and because of thier own negligence (House Oversight Committe report). Now, the deaths of four Americans left many people outraged, but upon some cursory research, I found another House Oversight document. This one was an examination of Blackwater as a whole in Iraq.

It found that Blackwater "left 11 Iraqi civilians dead and 14 wounded" on one occasion, and on another shot a man whose "brothers reported to the State Department that their brother, a father of six, was "killed as an innocent person standing on the side of the street." According to an internal State Department document, the personnel who fired the shots initially failed to report the shooting and sought to cover it up".

There are so many things in this report that it's hard to chose highlights, but among others there's this;
In recent days, U.S. military commanders havereported that Blackwater guards "have very quick trigger frngers," "shoot first and ask questions later," and "act like cowboys." A senior U.S. military official has asserted that the impact of Blackwater's actions on Iraqi attitudes toward U.S. forces "is going to hurt us badly" and "may be worse than Abu Ghraib."
As well as this;

The Blackwater and State Department records reveal that Blackwater's use of force in Iraq is frequent and extensive, resulting in significant casualties and property damage. Blackwater is legally and contractually bound to only engage in defensive uses of force to prevent "imminent and grave danger" to themselves or others.2t In practice, however, the vast majority of Blackwater weapons discharges are preemptive, with Blackwater forces firing first at a vehicle or suspicious individual prior to receiving any fire.
Blackwater isn't even being regulated by the State Department. The committee found that "even in cases involving the death of Iraqis, it appears that the State Department's primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to "put the matter behind us," rather than to insist upon accountability or to investigate Blackwater personnel for potential criminal liability"

Read the full report, it's only 15 pages long and it's chock-full of disgusting abuses by these guys.

Friday, June 19, 2009

5 Reasons Chavez is so Hostile to the US

Hugo Chavez just came out to publicly support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian elections, even though a toddler could see why the reported election results are falsified. This leads to the inevitable question of why. The answer is that the state of Iran, under Ahmadinejad, is an ally of Venezuela and right now Venezuela can't afford to lose any allies. Chavez broke the cardinal rule of South American heads of state and disrespected the right to unlimited private property through nationalization of the oil industry. If you've read or heard about this, you're probably confused as to why Chavez takes such an antagonistic stance against the US Government, and in particular the conservative administration of George Bush. What is kept under suspicious silence, however, are the very good reasons for his mistrust of American with regards to left leaning administrations. Let me give you just five examples (although the examples are quite literally too prodigious to enumarate in full). I'll list them chronologically

1954 Guatemalan coup- After winning the Presidency of Guatemala in the second election ever to sport universal sufferage in Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz siezed land from corporations. This land was prime for farming, but it was left completely unused in the hopes that the land itself would one day become more valuable and be able to be resold. Árbenz gave the land to Guatemalan peasants, at which point the CIA decided that Guzman was a communist, and needed to die. Operation PBSUCCESS was enacted to train 400 men to start a revolution in Guatemala. The coup succeeded, a non-democratic government was installed and Árbenz was exiled.

1964 Brazilian coup- João Goulart was the democratically elected Vice-President of Brazil until the President stepped down and he was elevated into the office. His reforms were deemed "too socialist" and Lyndon B. Johnson authorized Operation Brother Sam, which provided the coup with ammunition, gasoline and plane fuel. The coup succeeded, and plunged Brazil into a military dictatorship, rather than a constitutional democracy, until 1985, 21 years later.

1973 Chilean coup- Salvador Allende was the first democratically elected Marxist in the Americas. He pushed for Marxist reforms and was unapologetic in his support for Communism. While you may disagree with his beliefs, he was elected by a majority of Chilean citizens. Although US involvment in this coup is still classified, the Clinton administration declassified documents describing the insertion of CIA operatives into Chile with the goal of destabilizing the Marxist movement there. It's not a stretch to assume US involvment of the coup and Allende's murder, especially as 2 years before Nixon attempted to instigate a coup when Allende took office in 1970 (under the name Project FUBELT). General Augusto Pinochet assumed power after Allende, and established a military dictatorship that lasted until 1990.

4) 1976 Argentinian coup- Isabel Perón was the first female head of state in a democratically elected government in the west. As the Vice President in Argentina, she ascended to the presidency when the current president, her husband, died of heart complications. A military junta was installed with the help and approval of US interests. The Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger, said of the Junta, "Whatever chance they have, they will need a little encouragement" and "because I do want to encourage them. I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States". The Junta lasted until 1983.

5) The School of the Americas- Perhaps the most striking example is the School of the Americas, what is now known as
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). This facility is located in Georgia and they focus on training South American natives into military personnel that specialize in overthrowing left leaning regimes. Among the alumnus you can count some of Augusto Pinochet's officers, the military dictators that overthrew the democratically elected Isabel Perón, the now-imprisoned military dictator Manuel Noriega, Hugo Banzer the military dictator from Bolivia and the international terrorist (not to mention ex-CIA operative) Luis Posada Carriles.

So, it's easy to see after even the most cursory look into the history of South America, why Chavez is defensive to a fault when dealing with America and desperate enough to ally himself with unsavory (though impotent in South America) nationstates for solidarity and protection.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Native American society was much better than it's European counterpart

The title of this post is pretty self explanatory, but it's also pretty subjective. First, let's define "better" in this context. I don't mean to say that the Natives of America were smarter or more scientifically advanced; quite the opposite. What I'm talking about is the standard of living of the average member of society, as well as the equality of it's citizens (with regards to gender and race). At the point during which the cultural exchange first began between Europe and America (16th century or so), European society was ingrained with an ultra-regressive mentality that included extreme sexism, racism (though in a different manner than 19th century American slavery), classism and extreme religious xenophobia. I'd like to compare and contrast those features with certain Native American cultures to illustrate how horrific the genocide against them was; it's honestly like watching a pulp serial villain ravage an entire continent of cultures.

Before I proceed, I want to be sure I'm not guilty of lumping all of the Natives into the same boat; there were over 150 Native Nations and over 175 Native Languages. Not all of these cultures are going to share traits. On some rare occasions, Natives of the American continent were guilty of atrocities like human sacrifice and slave labor (Aztec society in particular). Because of the diversity in cultures, when I say "Native American", what I mean are Native American cultures from the North and South East areas of modern day United States. Most of these cultures share certain characteristics that the European culture shed a good deal of blood to acquire. The first of these traits is religious tolerance, and it doesn't take very much explanation. Native American religions are not and have never been evangelical; this leads to the conclusion that such religious practice was not forced onto others, as it was in Europe. No Inquisitions, no Crusades, no genocides.

Native American class structure was drastically different as well; rather than a hierarchical system that was based off of feudalism, the class structure was based on group agriculture and tribal hunting and gathering. Although positions of authority existed (Chiefs, etc) they were more positions of arbitration (with regards to which resources are applied where) than positions of ownership; for instance, where a King would own all property on his Kingdom and could tax accordingly, a Chief would own very little (if anything) of his Chiefdom and simply arbitrate the distribution of resource to ensure the community as a whole thrived. Where a King would trade with neighboring kingdoms for personal profit, and tax trading between his denizens and neighboring nations through tariffs, the Chief would initiate and negotiate trade for the benefit of the entire community.

Racism was nearly non-existent in Native American society. Indeed, when Jamestown colonists began dying by the truck load during the Starving Times, many defected to live with the Natives rather than continue to live a harrowing existence for the profit of the Virginia Company. "Race" was not established as a societal construct in Native American culture, whereas within European society, it was already strongly established and used as a basis for cultural assessment. I could elaborate quite a bit about the racism in 16th century Europe, but I don't think anyone needs an explanation of that racism or why the Native American's alternative is superior.

Perhaps the most poignant difference between the two societies is their treatment of gender roles. This includes both male/female relations and homo/heterosexual interactions. I'm not going to imply or suggest that the Native Americans had no sense of gender roles; men were expected to hunt and women expected to gather. This wasn't set in stone, however, and anyone breaking gender norms was labeled a niizh manidoowag, or "Two Spirit" roughly translated (Europeans called such Natives "berdaches", a highly offensive term). It's clear that the Natives had a much more embrasive view of these members of society and often had four or five "gender roles", rather than the European roles which include Male and Female (with anyone not conforming to these norms being executed). It's clear that this threatened the European culture and was one of the first things that America targetted in it's attempt to assimilate or destroy all Native American culture (such as the Dawes Act which required Natives to declare a "head of household" and assemble in a European nuclear family, with a male as the sole property owner and the superior to his wife).

Put in the most general terms, Native Americans were much more flexible with thier social norms than the Europeans. Though they were systematically eradicated (by European use of superior scientific knowledge in the fields of warfare and naval navigation), Natives were much better suited for the average member of society to avoid exploitation and have a high standard of living. Modern day racism, classism, sexism and homophobia would be non-existant if not for the genocide committed against the Natives of this continent.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why don't we ever talk about the origins of racism?

We speak a great deal about racism and "slavery" in grammar school, but that's just about the end of our society's education on race relations (excepting the elite who attend college, about 1 out of every 300, and even then a smaller number of them attend classes that deal with race relations). Rarely, however, do our discussions include specifics on either treatment (beyond "whips and chains", which of course are the most palpable and least horrific of the treatment of Africans by slavers) or the origins of the racism that allowed whites in America to stomach the inhumanity.

In order to better educate ourselves, we need to go back to the roots (no pun intended) of slave use in the American colonies. Since Jamestown is the first permanent English colony, we'll use that as an example. The Jamestown colonists were beholden to investors; namely, the Virginia Company of London. These investors expected significant returns in a very short period of time (considering that the trip took around 140 days, and they were starving even as the investors demanded a return). Now, the settlers didn't have much time to try to pay their investors as their Fort Burned to the ground and the winter of 1609 killed 154 of the 214 colonists. So, after relying on 'trade' with Native Americans (largely charity on the part of the natives), John Rolfe (who later married Pocahontas) began to plant and farm tobacco. He was hugely successful in this endeavor and obtained capital so early that it's still alive today in many of Virginia's "First Families". Finally, the investors saw not only a return, but opportunity for further investment. 1617 is largely regarded as the year that the colony became profitable, exporting around 50,000 pounds of tobacco to England. Of course, this growth was completely unsustainable; there simply weren't enough colonists. Like any good capitalists (though the term would not be coined until later in 1792 by Arthur Young), the investors took the next logical step and began to exploit everyone they could in the form of slavery.

Of course, when we use the term "slavery" here, we don't mean the same brutal conditions and inhumane treatment as we do when we use the term to refer to African slavery (that we don't have a name for this specific genocide speaks volumes about how society's elites want us to treat it, as if it didn't happen). What we mean is closer to the concept of serfdom, or indentured servitude. I don't mean to write an apology to serfdom or indentured servitude, but the reality of the service is the difference between being worked to death, and being able to own property. Now, even with indentured servants sent over from England the number required to keep increasing crop output was much higher than was realistic. The colonists tried enslaving the local natives, but they took sick very easily and, with their knowledge of the local terrain, they easily escaped at every opportunity. The answer presented itself in 1619; African slaves. In addition to already being exposed to European germs and diseases around 1/3 of all slaves brought across the Atlantic died en route, ensuring that only the heartiest survived (this also had the added 'benefit' of putting the Africans in such a bewildered, shocked and traumatized mindset that they couldn't resist their enslavement and those that could had no where to go in the brutal and foreign conditions of Virginia in the winter).

Let's fast forward 31 years, to 1650; the African slaves and the majority of the indentured servants in 1620 have earned their freedom. This shows, at the very least, that the institutionalized racism of later years was not in effect at the beginning of the colonies, leading to the conclusion that such an institution is not in any way 'natural', but rather entirely manufactured.

It wasn't until Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 that those in power saw the need to seperate white and black servants and slaves. In fact, before Bacon's Rebellion both white and black slaves got along--there was still racism, but the overriding sense of superiority that existed in whites from the 18th century on was nonexistent. The rebellion is often taught today as a product of aggression between the Native Americans and the settlers (which it was) but teachers neglect to mention that, firstly, the settlers on the outskirts of the colony (the ones who interacted with the natives) were the poor; the rich could afford to live closer to the coast, with the poor as a sort of buffer between them and the natives. They also seem to conveniently forget that economic disparity between the classes was also a major factor (perhaps the most significant one) in instigating rebellion. After the rebellion was narrowly put down (they got as far as burning the capital building and the Governor's mansion), the elite new they needed a new way to control the poor, and keep them from banding together again. A comprehensive plan to enact and excite racism was put into place.

Such concerns, however, were mitigated by intervening circumstances. In the years following Bacon's Rebellion, the distinction between indentured servitude and slavery grew into a pronounced difference. Indenture became less attractive as a source of labor because servants now lived long enough to claim land - as the rebellion had demonstrated violently - and improved economic conditions in Britain reduced the supply of workers willing to come to America and increased the price of their contracts. Africans continued to be readily available, and because many were not Christian, they could be enslaved and regulated in a manner that indentures could not. Virginia enacted a series of laws, constituting a formal slave code that removed many of the rights slaves had previously enjoyed and added further restrictions to slavery including anti-miscegenation statutes. Previously one of several labor sources, slaves became Virginia's primary workforce for its plantations, and slavery an integral institution within its society.

Knowing that they needed some way to keep the poor from rebelling again, this new found race division still casts a looming shadow over the populace and, in fact, still redirects ire away from the wealthy elite and keeps lower class citizens at each other's throats rather than that of the monied interests. This all leads to the answer to my question; we aren't educated about the origin of racism because that education would also require an honest look at how capital is distributed, how it was initially acquired and it would eventually lead us to ask the question-"Why do we allow capital that was aquired by immoral means to remain in the hands of the decendants of these criminals when they've done nothing to deserve it any more than you or I have?"