Tuesday, November 30, 2010

High School “Drop Out Factories” Are On The Decline Claims Report

ATLANTA – The number of so-called “dropout factory” high schools in the United States has declined since 2002, translating into at least 100,000 more students getting a diploma, a new report shows.
But the report from America’s Promise Alliance to be released Tuesday also said that progress needs to increase fivefold for the country to graduate nine out of 10 students by 2020, a goal of the Obama administration.
States including Tennessee, Texas, New York and Georgia have already figured out tactics that work. But fixing the problem won’t be easy, said report co-author John Bridgeland.
“It’s a targeted problem — we know the schools, we have data on the students and research tells us what works to keep them on track,” said Bridgeland, CEO of education research group Civic Enterprises. “The dropout problem is a fixable problem. We now have the secret sauce to fix it.”
The number of dropout factories — where fewer than 60 percent of students who started as freshmen remain enrolled four years later — fell nationally from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008, the most recent data available. At the same time, the nation’s graduation rate rose from 72 to 75 percent between 2001 and 2008, with more than half of states increasing their graduation rates.
All that while states continue to toughen their curriculums and tests and require students to take more math and science than ever before.
So what’s working?
In Georgia, graduation coaches were placed in high schools to help guide students who were on the verge of dropping out. Tennessee and West Virginia passed laws that take driver’s licenses away from students who drop out. Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama have developed early warning systems that flag students who are struggling in elementary and middle school.
More than 30 states have raised the compulsory attendance age to 17 or 18 as a way to ensure students graduate.
New York City broke giant high schools up into smaller academies, giving students — especially those from high poverty backgrounds who are less likely to finish school — more individual attention.
In Richmond, Ind., the community was outraged when its one high school was named a dropout factory in 2007. The school worked with parents and the county’s leaders to create tutoring programs for struggling students, focus on helping ninth-graders acclimate to high school and push alternative classes such as dual enrollment where students earn both high school and college credit.
Now the graduation rate at Richmond High School is more than 80 percent — up from 53 in 2006 — and more than 75 percent of students attend college.
“It was an all-out effort,” Principal Barb Bergdoll said. “We really had to do a self-evaluation and say, ‘Where do we need to apply some extra effort and make this better for our kids?’”
The country’s lowest-performing schools are getting millions in federal grants to help increase student achievement and increase graduation rates. Of the 700 schools that have received a grant, half are high schools — marking a new focus by federal education officials.
The Education Department recently lifted restrictions on which high schools could get federal grants for low-performing schools, noting that high schools have been the most underserved when it comes to federal money for struggling students.
“In the past, low-performing high schools have been almost totally ignored in most districts’ school turnaround efforts,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
America’s Promise Alliance — the education advocacy organization started by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife — joined with Johns Hopkins University education researcher Robert Balfanz and Bridgeland’s organization to produce the study, a follow-up to Balfanz’s 2007 report that coined the term “dropout factories.”
The study calculates graduation rates by a federally approved formula based on the percentage of students who graduate high school four years after they enter.
It shows that despite the progress, more than 2 million students still attend a high school where they only have a 50-50 chance of graduating. And nearly all high-poverty urban districts have graduation rates that lag behind the national average.
For years, states calculated graduation rates in different ways, making it nearly impossible to compare among them. And many schools didn’t keep proper records of which students dropped out and which simply transferred to another school, creating unreliable statistics.
But by next year, all states will be required to use a uniform calculation based on the number of graduating students compared to the freshmen who started at the school four years earlier — with adjustments made for transfer students. And most states will have a student tracking system that ensures schools know which students are transfers and which are dropouts.
Balfanz said the research points to what works, which means the biggest hurdle now is executing those solutions on a large scale. He said large federal programs like Race to the Top — which gave $4 billion to states willing to adopt innovative programs for schools — and state-developed uniform standards for math and English will help speed up the process.
“This smashes the myth that these schools are unfixable,” Balfanz said of the study. “We know the solutions exist. It’s just getting those solutions to the schools and kids with the intensity and scale required.”

Kardashians Cancel “Predatory” Credit Card

Khloe Kardashian's sisters announced new credit card

The Kardashian sisters are targets of praise and criticism from various media outlets on a daily basis. But early last month, NewsOne Financial Columnist Ryan Mack took the latter approach and wrote an article bashing the sisters for promoting what he labeled as a “predatory” credit card.
After close to a month of criticism on our website and other popular sites like The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast, the Kardashians have canceled their “Kardashian Kard” and the issuing bank, University National out of Minnesota.
Below is an article speaking about the recent cancellation and a link to Ryan Mack’s piece.
California (AP) — “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” may be a hit, but a debit card tied to U.S. reality television family has been canceled.
A Minnesota lender on Monday halted sales of a prepaid debit card featuring an image of the Kardashian sisters, after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the card carried “outrageous” fees that unfairly targeted financially unsophisticated young adults.
University National Bank said the 250 consumers who bought the MasterCard-branded “Kardashian Kard” since its November 9 launch may continue using it for 30 days, and thereafter would receive refunds of balances and up-front fees.
The St. Paul-based company said it was reviewing its agreement with the Kardashians’ company Dash Dolls LLC to ensure that card holders get refunds, and would work to ensure that card holders “experience as little inconvenience as possible.”
Blumenthal had complained on Friday that the debit card burdened fans of Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian’s “lives of luxury and extravagance” with fees that could reach $100 a year, plus fees for ATM withdrawals, cancellations and talking with a phone operator.
According to a letter from the Kardashians’ lawyer released by Blumenthal’s office, the sisters on Monday pulled out of the agreement allowing the bank to use their likenesses on the card.
“The Kardashians have worked extremely long and hard to create a positive public persona that appeals to everyone, particularly young adults,” wrote the lawyer, Dennis Roach.
“Unfortunately, the negative spotlight turned on the Kardashians as a result of the Attorney General’s comments and actions threatens everything for which they have worked.”
A spokesman for Purchase, New York-based MasterCard Inc referred a request for comment to University National.
Prepaid debit cards associated with celebrities “are becoming more and more popular,” said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union in Washington, D.C.
“Tying a card to someone who is famous or wealthy can get more consumers to say, ‘I want to be more like the rich and famous,”‘ she continued. “But prepaid debit cards do not have the same protections that traditional debit cards have, and often have hidden fees that eat away at their value.”
Connecticut voters this month elected Blumenthal, a Democrat, to the U.S. Senate, beginning in January.

House Approves Measure Funding Black Farmers’ Settlement

black farmers

The House today passed a bill authorizing the funding of two massive settlements, one for black farmers discriminated against by the USDA and another for American Indians whose oil, gas and water rights were mismanaged by the U.S. government. The vote was 256 to 152.
The funding will now go to the President's desk for his signature.
The $1.25 billion Pigford II settlement, for black farmers who were denied loans and other assistance in the 1980s and 90s, was settled in court in February. The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement for American Indians was settled last December. They've been attached to numerous bills since and repeatedly failed, largely due to objections from Republicans.
The Senate passed the funding two weeks agoafter Democrats agreed to fund it with cash from other programs, including a food stamp program's surplus and Customs fees.
The bill met vocal opposition from two Republicans the House, Reps. Steve King (IA) and Michele Bachmann (MN), who claimed the settlement was, respectively, "slavery reparations" and "pure and complete fraud." King is a longtime opponent of the settlement and has been speaking out in hearings and on the House floor for months.
John Boyd, the president of the National Black Farmers Association and perhaps the most vocal advocate for the settlements in Congress, told TPM, "It's a very very historic day for black farmers."
"It's a big day for race relations in this country," said Boyd, who drove a tractor through D.C. for several days in September to urge Congress to pass the funding. "We took another step toward bringing this country together."
As for King, Boyd said, "He appears to be very racist."

Why I Love WikiLeaks

For restoring distrust in our most important institutions.

International scandals—such as the one precipitated by this week's WikiLeaks cable dump—serve us by illustrating how our governments work. Better than any civics textbook, revisionist history, political speech, bumper sticker, or five-part investigative series, an international scandal unmasks presidents and kings, military commanders and buck privates, cabinet secretaries and diplomats, corporate leaders and bankers, and arms-makers and arms-merchants as the bunglers, liars, and double-dealers they are.
As WikiLeaks proved last summer, the U.S. military lied about not keeping body counts in Iraq, even though the press asked for the information a million times. Indeed, the history of scandal in America is the history of institutions and individuals routinely surpassing our darkest assumptions of their perfidy.The recent WikiLeaks release, for example, shows the low regard U.S. secretaries of state hold for international treaties that bar spying at the United Nations. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, systematically and serially violated those treaties to gain an incremental upper hand. And they did it in writing! That Clinton now decries Julian Assange's truth-telling an "attack" on America but excuses her cavalier approach to treaty violation tells you all you need to know about U.S. diplomacy.
Whenever scandal rears its head—Charles Rangel's financial dealings, the subprime crash, the Valerie Plame affair, Jack Abramoff and Randy Cunningham's crimes, Bernie Kerik's indiscretions, water-boarding, Ted Stevens' convictions, the presidential pardon of Marc Rich, the guilty pleas of Webster Hubbell, the Monica Lewinski thing, the Iran-contra scandal, the Iran-contra pardons, the savings-and-loan fiasco, BCCI, and so on—we're hammered by how completely base and corrupt our government really is.
We shouldn't be surprised by the recurrence of scandals, but, of course, we always are. Why is that? Is it because when scandal rips up the turf, revealing the vile creepy-crawlies thrashing and scurrying about, we're glad when authority intervenes to quickly tamp the grass back down and re-establish our pastoral innocence with bland assurances that the grubby malfeasants are mere outliers and one-offs who will be punished? Is it because our schooling has left us hopelessly naïve about how the world works? Or do we just fail to pay attention?
Information conduits like Julian Assange shock us out of that complacency. Oh, sure, he's a pompous egomaniac sporting a series of bad haircuts and grandiose tendencies. And he often acts without completely thinking through every repercussion of his actions. But if you want to dismiss him just because he's a seething jerk, there are about 2,000 journalists I'd like you to meet.
The idea of WikiLeaks is scarier than anything the organization has leaked or anything Assange has done because it restores our distrust in the institutions that control our lives. It reminds people that at any given time, a criminal dossier worth exposing is squirreled away in a database someplace in the Pentagon or at Foggy Bottom. Assange's next stop appears to be Wall Street. According to the New York TimesDealBook, WikiLeaks has targeted Bank of America Assange foreshadowed this scoop by tellingComputerworld in 2009 of the five gigabytes of data he'd acquired from a B of A executive's hard drive; this month he told Forbes of an "ecosystem of corruption" he hopes to uncover. Today, he reiterated his intention to take on banks in an interview withTime.
As Assange navigates from military and diplomatic exposés to financial ones this year, his Wall Street targets won't be able to shield their incompetence and misconduct with lip music about how he has damaged national security and violated the Espionage Act of 1917 and deserves capital punishment. But I'm sure they'll invoke trade secrets, copyright, privacy, or whatever other legal window dressing they find convenient. Rather than defending their behavior, they'll imitate Clinton and assail Assange's methods and practices.
As the Economist put it yesterday, "secrecy is necessary for national security and effective diplomacy." But it "is also inevitable that the prerogative of secrecy will be used to hide the misdeeds of the permanent state and its privileged agents."
Assange and WikiLeaks, while not perfect, have punctured the prerogative of secrecy with their recent revelations. The untold story is that while doing the United States' allies, adversaries, and enemies a favor with his leaks, he's doing the United States the biggest favor by holding it accountable. As I.F. Stone put it, "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."

Republican Calls Obama 'Very, Very Urban' On House Floor (VIDEO)

Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, referred to President Obama as "very, very urban," while charging that as a senator he gave special favor to African American farmers who were victims of government discrimination. In case anybody missed his meaning in a speech on the House floor Monday evening, King emphasized the word "urban," drawing the first syllable out.
King is referring to legislation created to settle what is known as the Pigford case.
King noted that "Bobby Scott of Virginia and others" introduced legislation in the House that would expand the government's responsibility in the settlement; Scott is African American.
King then went on: "Figure this out, Madame Speaker: We have a very, very urban Senator, Barack Obama, who has decided he's going to run for president, and what does he do? He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim."

Michael Steele To End RNC Tenure With One Last Demonstration Of Incompetence


Michael Steele's tenure as the chairman of the Republican National Committee has been primarily marked by gaffes and financial mismanagement and scandal and donor mocking and people quitting in disgust and nearconstant calls for him to resign. Democrats are going to miss him when he's gone! And gone he soon shall be, as well. As competitors emerge to challenge Steele for the RNC top spot, their suits are steeled by polling data that supports his ouster.
But, hey, how about one more Steele-related mishap, for auld lang syne? Over at TPM, Ryan J. Reilly notes that Steele is under fire for the money he's lavished on a "longtime assistant":
Critics of RNC Chairman Michael Steele have also focused on a lucrative job given to his longtime aide, Belinda Cook, convention-related gigs given to her family and friends and a variety of large expenses footed by the RNC.
The Washington Times first reported on Cook's salary -- which is nearly three times what her predecessor made -- earlier this month. Over two years ahead of the 2012 convention in Tampa, Steele signed a contract making Cook a "convention liaison" and paying her $15,000 per month.
FEC records show that Cook was also paid $25,000 for "Political Strategy Consulting" back in July. Records reflect thousands of dollars in additional reimbursements made to Cook for travel, food and beverages.
Additionally, Reilly notes that the RNC has already dropped $636,800 on the 2012 Republican National Convention:
That's 18 times the amount spent that was spent in a comparable time frame four years ago, the Washington Post reported, causing more than a few raised eyebrows within the party.
You wouldn't have thought it possible that Steele could make his colleagues' eyebrows raise any higher, but there you go.

Tax Cuts Panel May Handle Jobless Benefits After Senate Blocks Reauthorization


President Obama suggested Tuesday that agroup of congressional leaders he has asked to work out a compromise on expiring tax cuts will also try to work out a compromise on expiring unemployment benefits.
"We discussed working together to keep the government running this year -- and running in a fiscally responsible way," Obama said. "And we discussed unemployment insurance, which expires today. I've asked that Congress act to extend this emergency relief without delay to folks who are facing tough times by no fault of their own."
Obama first asked lawmakers to reauthorize extended unemployment benefits at the beginning of October, but Congress has failed to prevent the benefits from lapsing at least temporarily. Now it looks as though a deal crafted by the four members of Congress tasked with compromising on tax cuts may be the only way to save the jobless aid.
Senate Democrats asked Tuesday afternoon for a yearlong reauthorization of Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs, which together provide up to 73 weeks of benefits beyond the 26 weeks provided by states. Republicans blocked the request, leaving no clear path forward for a reauthorization. (Democrats blocked a counter-request to reauthorize the benefits while offsetting their deficit impact with spending cuts.)
Many observers expect Democrats to attach the benefits to a reauthorization of the expiring tax cuts, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said that he wants the benefits on the table during tax negotiations.
At the meeting between Obama and congressional leaders, Obama raised the issue, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide, and Republicans didn't agree to renew the benefits but didn't rule it out, either. Another Democratic source said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "made a strong appeal for unemployment insurance and the need for Congress to extend the benefits soon."
"We're going to discuss everything and see where we can come out," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Senate Republicans' point man in the negotiations.
If Congress doesn't reauthorize the benefits, the Labor Department estimates that two million long-term unemployed will stop receiving checks by Christmas. Over the summer, Congress let long-term jobless benefits lapse for nearly two months, interrupting aid to 2.5 million people. Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) said Tuesday that a similar interruption is entirely possible.
HuffPost asked Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whom Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tapped to handle the tax negotiations for Democrats, if the group would also handle unemployment benefits. "I hope so," he said.
Asked about when a deal could be reached, he said, "I'd like to be home by Christmas."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats, suggested to HuffPost that Democrats had not quite worked out a solution to the unemployment insurance issue during their weekly caucus lunch on Tuesday. "Well," he said, "it was discussed."

Obama, Republicans Agree To Hold More Meetings On Bush Tax Cuts


WASHINGTON — President Obama and congressional leadership agreed on Tuesday that the best way to resolve differences on the soon-to-be-expired Bush tax cuts would be to hold additional meetings.
In a classic Washington solution to an intractable political standoff, Obama proposed holding meetings with four members -- a Republican and Democrat from both the Senate and the House -- along with his Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Office of Management and Budget chief Jacob Lew.
"The president did suggest that to unlock the tax disagreement that we have that secretary of the Treasury and the director of the OMB would sit down with four of our members, one from each caucus, and begin discussion on how to unlock this disagreement they have over extending all of the current rates," said incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a stakeout following the meeting with the president.
A Democratic aide confirmed the meeting proposal.
Both Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) indicated little to no willingness to move off their perch of opposing any reversion of tax rates (for any income bracket) to pre-Bush levels. They and incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor did, however, stress that the President admitted he had not kept up enough dialogue, to date, with his GOP critics.
"I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding his, perhaps, not having reached out enough to us in the last session and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped we could work together in a [good] fashion for the benefit of the American people given the problems we face," said Cantor.
A senior administration official confirmed to CNN that the president did say he had not done enough outreach to the Republicans during the past two years. Obama, in remarks shortly after the meeting, suggested that he and GOP leaders will hold another discussion at Camp David in the future.
Who the four lawmakers will be in the upcoming tax cut conversations is not immediately known, though Boehner said that Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) would represent House Republicans.
UPDATE: Sen Max Baucus (D-Mont.) who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, will represent Senate Democrats at the tax cut summit, sources tell the Huffington Post.

Unemployment Extension: Dem Senator Says Standoff Could Last Weeks

Unemployment Benefits

A Democratic senator said Tuesday that the congressional standoff over renewing extended unemployment benefits could last several weeks in a repeat of a summer debacle that interrupted benefits for 2.5 million people.
Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) said on a conference call with reporters that he hoped the Senate would approve a year-long reauthorization by "unanimous consent" on Tuesday afternoon. "I hope that our Republican friends won't object to this request and we can get this passed today," he said. "We'll see what happens. I'm just very happy that at least we have a vote today to move it forward."
It only takes one senator to block a unanimous consent request. HuffPost asked Casey what Democrats would do after unanimous consent is denied.
"Well, we'll have to think of another way to get it done. Not just this week and this month, but if it takes longer than that we'll have to stay at it," he said. "You know how long it took us [over the summer] to get unemployment insurance as part of a bigger bill on tax extenders. We had vote after vote on that, they blocked and blocked and blocked. We pulled it out, had a separate vote, they blocked and blocked."
Casey added: "We're used to having a series of votes on this before we get it done."
For nearly two months this summer, Senate Democrats struggled to get 60 votes to break a filibuster by Republicans and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson in order to reauthorize the benefits for just five months. With the newly-seated Republican Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) replacing appointed Democrat Roland Burris, and moderate Republicans signaling they oppose renewing jobless aid for a full year without "paying for it" by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget, Democrats will have an even more difficult time reauthorizing the aid before Christmas.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Sunday that unemployment benefits may be included in a package that also reauthorizes soon-to-expire tax cuts for the rich. Democrats will work on their strategy during a long caucus lunch on Tuesday.
The Labor Department estimates that two million people will be dropped from federal extended benefits programs by December if those programs, which provide up to 73 weeks of benefits beyond 26 weeks of state aid, are not reauthorized.

Russian terrorists from KGB threaten Wikileaks with reprisals for information about KGB crimes in Russia

Publication time: 27 October 2010, 14:06 
The infamous international terrorist network KGB (renamed to camouflage crimes into FSB) responded to recent statements by the leadership of the website Wikileaks which intends in the near future to publish compromising information on Russia.

"A preliminary analysis showed that there was no danger for Russia by the website of Julian Assange", a KGB website, Life News, quoted an expert from the terrorist gang "center of information security of the FSB". - It should be understood that, if desired and under a due a command, Wikileaks could be made inaccessible forever", the Russian terrorist threatened.

The Russian KGB terrorists are in doubt about the value of the materials available on the Wikileaks. "More than 40% of information that is posted there, can be found using modern search engines on the Internet, the terrorist "expert" said to his website. - Labels "Classified" were added in the latest issues of the documents by the authors of the portal, which indicates their potentials of falsifying ", the Russian terrorist claims.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Wikileaks launches a project on Russia and intends to find and publicize information about dirty deeds by the bloody KGB Medvedev-Putin regime in Russia. At the startup of WikiLeaks, its author Julian Assange wrote in a letter to potential investors that "the project will be mainly targeted against despotic regimes in Russia, China and Central Asia", but recently more attention has been focused on the Afghan and Iraq dossier.

At present, the Russian section of the Wikileaks does not contain any important document, Christine Hrafnsson, an aide of the website's founder, said in an interview with the Russian KGB newspaper Kommersant. "We have a lot of time spent working with Afghan and Iraqi papers, but as soon as we deal with them, we will be able to resume our work on other regions. I think that Russian readers are to learn a lot about their own country", Hrafnsson assured.

Website's representatives expect to attract attention of holders of classified information about Russia. Previously, Assange stated that he already has information about dirty deeds by the Russian government, but he did not disclose details. He only said that users in the United States are actively helping in collecting the Russian dossier

Man arrested after ejaculating during TSA pat-down

A 47 year old gay man was arrested at San Francisco International Airport after ejaculating while being patted down by a male TSA agent. Percy Cummings, an interior designer from San Francisco, is being held without bail after the alleged incident, charged with sexually assaulting a Federal agent.

According to Cummings’ partner, Sergio Armani, Cummings has “multiple piercings on his manhood” which were detected during a full body scan. As a result, Cummings was pulled aside for a pat-down. Armani stated that the unidentified TSA agent spent “an inordinate amount of time groping” Cummings, who had apparently become sexually aroused. Cummings, who has a history of sexual dysfunction, ejaculated while the TSA agent’s hand was feeling the piercings. The TSA agent, according to several witnesses, promptly called for back up. Cummings was thrown to the ground and handcuffed.

A TSA spokesperson declined to comment on this specifc case, but said that anyone ejaculating during a pat-down would be subject to arrest.

Celebrating Secession Without the Slaves

Southerners Celebrate The Confederacy With “Secession Balls”
Camille Love, Atlanta’s director of cultural affairs, above, with Yakingma Robinson, an official at the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, which is being refurbished.

ATLANTA — The Civil War, the most wrenching and bloody episode in American history, may not seem like much of a cause for celebration, especially in the South.

Left, Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse--Getty Images; Mathew Brady/The National Archives, via Associated Press
Left, taking in a piece of history at the Gettysburg National Military Park. Right, Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy.
The New York Times
A depiction of the battle at Fort Sumter.
Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times
Students on a field trip to the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum. The 150th anniversary of the war’s start is in 2011.
Monica Almeida/The New York Times
“Slavery is why the South seceded,” said James W. Loewen, a sociologist and author.

And yet, as the 150th anniversary of the four-year conflict gets under way, some groups in the old Confederacyare planning at least a certain amount of hoopla, chiefly around the glory days of secession, when 11 states declared their sovereignty under a banner of states’ rights and broke from the union.
The events include a “secession ball” in the former slave port of Charleston (“a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink,” says the invitation), which will be replicated on a smaller scale in other cities. A parade is being planned in Montgomery, Ala., along with a mock swearing-in of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy.
In addition, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and some of its local chapters are preparing various television commercials that they hope to show next year. “All we wanted was to be left alone to govern ourselves,” says one ad from the group’s Georgia Division.
That some — even now — are honoring secession, with barely a nod to the role of slavery, underscores how divisive a topic the war remains, with Americans continuing to debate its causes, its meaning and its legacy.
“We in the South, who have been kicked around for an awfully long time and are accused of being racist, we would just like the truth to be known,” said Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the Sons, explaining the reason for the television ads. While there were many causes of the war, he said, “our people were only fighting to protect themselves from an invasion and for their independence.”
Not everyone is on board with this program, of course. TheN.A.A.C.P., for one, plans to protest some of these events, saying that celebrating secession is tantamount to celebrating slavery.
“I can only imagine what kind of celebration they would have if they had won,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina N.A.A.C.P.
He said he was dumbfounded by “all of this glamorization and sanitization of what really happened.” When Southerners refer to states’ rights, he said, “they are really talking about their idea of one right — to buy and sell human beings.”
The secession events are among hundreds if not thousands that will unfold over the next four years in honor of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial. From Fort Sumter toAppomattox, historic sites across the South, and some in the North, plan to highlight various aspects of America’s deadliest conflict — and perhaps its least resolved.
Many of the activities are purely historical, and some, like a gathering this month in Gettysburg for the 147th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, will be solemn. At Antietam, on Saturday, the annual memorial will feature 23,000 candles, representing that battle’s casualties.
Some cities and states are promoting their Civil War history with an eye toward attracting tourists. In Atlanta, the Cyclorama, a giant painting-in-the-round that depicts the first day of the Battle of Atlanta, is being “refreshed and rebranded” as part of an overall marketing plan, said Camille Love, the city’s director of cultural affairs.
Commemorating the Civil War has never been easy. The centennial 50 years ago coincided with the civil rights movement, and most of the South was still effectively segregated, making a mockery of any notion that the slaves had truly become free and equal.
Congress had designated an official centennial commission, which lost credibility when it planned to meet in a segregated hotel; this year, Congress has not bothered with an official commission and any master narrative of the war seems elusive.
“We don’t know what to commemorate because we’ve never faced up to the implications of what the thing was really about,” said Andrew Young, a veteran of the civil rights movement and former mayor of Atlanta.
“The easy answer for black folk is that it set us free, but it really didn’t,” Mr. Young added. “We had another 100 years of segregation. We’ve never had our complete reconciliation of the forces that divide us.”
The passion that the Civil War still evokes was evident earlier this year when Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia designated April as Confederate History Month — without mentioning slavery. After a national outcry, he apologized and changed his proclamation to condemn slavery and spell out that slavery had led to war.
The proclamation was urged on him by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which asserts that the Confederacy was a crusade for small government and states’ rights. The sesquicentennial, which coincides now with the rise of the Tea Party movement, is providing a new chance for adherents to promote that view.
Jeff Antley, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust, is organizing the secession ball in Charleston and a 10-day re-enactment of the Confederate encampment at Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the war were fired on April 12, 1861. He said these events were not about modern politics but were meant to honor those South Carolinians who signed the state’s ordinance of secession on Dec. 20, 1860, when it became the first state to dissolve its union with the United States.
“We’re celebrating that those 170 people risked their lives and fortunes to stand for what they believed in, which is self-government,” Mr. Antley said. “Many people in the South still believe that is a just and honorable cause. Do I believe they were right in what they did? Absolutely,” he said, noting that he spoke for himself and not any organization. “There’s no shame or regret over the action those men took.”
Mr. Antley said he was not defending slavery, which he called an abomination. “But defending the South’s right to secede, the soldiers’ right to defend their homes and the right to self-government doesn’t mean your arguments are without weight because of slavery,” he said.
Most historians say it is impossible to carve out slavery from the context of the war. As James W. Loewen, a liberal sociologist and author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” put it: “The North did not go to war to end slavery, it went to war to hold the country together and only gradually did it become anti-slavery — but slavery is why the South seceded.”
In its secession papers, Mississippi, for example, called slavery “the greatest material interest of the world” and said that attempts to stop it would undermine “commerce and civilization.”
The conflict has been playing out in recent decades in disputes over the stories told or not told in museum exhibits and on battlefield plaques.
“These battles of memory are not only academic,” said Mark Potok, the director of intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They are really about present-day attitudes. I don’t think the neo-Confederate movement is growing, but it’s gotten a new shot of life because of the sesquicentennial.