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Did the American patriots learn their concept of liberty from the Indians?

by Crowhill on 16 September 2016

I’ve just finished 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. If you’re at all interested in anthropology, archeology or history, I highly recommend it. (The book also touches on other very interesting subjects.)

The main takeaway from the book is the growing evidence that the pre-Columbus Americas were vastly more populated than we used to think, and that diseases brought over from Europe wiped out huge numbers of people. (I’ve often wondered if anything could have practically been done to prevent that, and … I don’t think so. It seems to have been one of those sadly inevitable catastrophes.)

One possible implication of this idea that America was very well populated before Columbus is what it says about wildlife. We’re often told that the country was teeming with buffalo, passenger pigeons and so on before the evil white man came. That might be completely wrong. The Indians kept those species in check. When the Indian population collapsed, there was nothing to prevent a population boom among several other species.

So the plains full of buffalo and the sky full of pigeons was not the status quo ante for the Americas. It was a weird fluke because all the hunters were gone.

The book is full of information about the amazing civilizations in central and south America, and while that was interesting, it wasn’t my favorite part. I was more intrigued by the idea that most of the American landscape was actually fashioned by the Indians. Even the holy, pristine, nature temple of the Amazon. It’s not “as nature intended it.” It’s as man intended it.

America wasn’t a wilderness. It was a garden — where, by the time of serious European settlement, the millions of busy gardeners had just recently been wiped out.

The most intriguing suggestion in the book is that a lot of what we regard as quintessentially American ideas (and problems) might have been learned from the Indians. For example, the league of five nations in the New England area may have contributed to the notions of freedom and independence that sparked the revolution. On the other hand, the Indians in the south may have contributed to that region’s extreme views regarding slavery. (There wasn’t one Indian culture.)

I’m not saying this guy is right in everything he asserts, by the way, but his ideas are worth considering.

(And speaking of the achievements of the Indians, this: 6,000-year-old fabric reveals Peruvians were dyeing textiles with indigo long before Egyptians And yes, of course I know that “Indians” is a fraught term. Get over it.)

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-16  ::  Crowhill

I predict another stumble

by Crowhill on 15 September 2016

I suspect that Hillary will push herself too hard to try to overcome the impression that she’s sick and weak, and it will backfire on her. She’ll have another episode of some sort. I’m not wishing that on her. I hope she gets better. I’m just predicting this based on my perception of her hubris and drive.

12 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-15  ::  Crowhill

More of the same on approaching things sideways

by Crowhill on 15 September 2016

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. The way to find out what’s really going on is to read about a topic when people aren’t arguing about it.

For example, folk will argue about scientific objectivity, and how rational people are only interested in following the facts, and all that jazz, but when you read about real conflicts over real issues you see how incredibly petty people can be, and what a “scientific consensus” actually means. (Hint: not much, most of the time.)

1491 has some enlightening accounts of various controversies in the study of humans in the Americas. It’s obvious the “scientific consensus” often has more similarity with the movie Mean Girls than with people who only want to follow facts and evidence.

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-15  ::  Crowhill

Check out my latest project

by Crowhill on 14 September 2016

Kiplinger Alerts

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-14  ::  Crowhill

A politician who doesn’t know much about business, …

by Crowhill on 14 September 2016

… or a businessman who doesn’t know much about politics.

Dave and I were chatting about the upcoming election last night and that was suggested as a rough summary of our choices.

What’s interesting is that the media are essentially all political snobs. They think the world revolves around politics and political issues. So in their mind, anybody who doesn’t know all the inside baseball stuff about Washington, and who doesn’t play the right political games and use the right political speech, is automatically a rube. And clearly “not qualified” for office.

People outside the Beltway don’t care about that stuff. They can’t name all the federal agencies — and would be shocked to know how many there are.

There are lots of weird things going on in this election, but one of them seems to be the empowerment of the outside Washington contingent, and I think that is directly attributable to the Internet.

News and information about politics used to be filtered through the political snobs in D.C. That’s not the case any more. Some of that is good — getting an outside perspective and breaking the monopoly of that crowd — but some of it is bad — allowing crazies with keyboards to have an outsized effect on the national mood.

I think there’s little question that Trump wouldn’t be where he is without Drudge and other websites.

The country is caught in the middle of this transition — from politics filtered through the Tim Russerts of the world (may he rest in peace), and politics filtered through your crazy Facebook feed.

10 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-14  ::  Crowhill

The left tells us we need a “conversation about race”

by Crowhill on 13 September 2016

Until anyone says something about race that they don’t like.

2 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-13  ::  Crowhill

The good and the bad on Hillary Clinton

by Crowhill on 13 September 2016

Hillary Clinton seems to illicit one of two responses: she’s amazingly wonderful, or she’s the devil.

I don’t think she’s the devil, but I would also like to point out that having good qualities doesn’t exempt her from that charge. I imagine the devil also has good qualities, like lots of energy, initiative, organization skills, etc.

Of course I’m joking.

I actually think Hillary is a basically well-meaning but deeply deceived person with some very serious character flaws, among which are greed, suspicion, paranoia, pride and a nasty temper.

On the greed side I would point to her cattle trades, the Clinton Foundation, and stuff like that. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but she puts her own finances ahead of integrity or duty. As do most politicians, of course.

In my mind, suspicion and paranoia usually go together. She showed these in her secret health care panel, in setting up her own email server, and recently in hiding her health issues. Even her allies refer to her “unhealthy penchant for privacy.”

Her pride is evident in the way she bristles when anyone questions her, and looks down on people who disagree with her. But it’s much worse than that. It’s widely reported that people are afraid to tell her things. Even something as simple as recommending that she drink more water. That is a very disturbing problem.

Her nasty temper is also well documented, and there may still be lamp marks on the White House walls to prove it.

Still, nobody is all bad. She’s either the most fantastic liar in the world, or some genuine humanity peaks out from time to time, as in this answer to a rabbi’s question.

That cut humanized her for me. It reminds me that beneath all the political calculations and conniving and Washington B.S., there was a time when she had a soul and it still troubles her.

1 comment  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-13  ::  Crowhill

Does Facebook attract lunacy, cause it, or both?

by Crowhill on 13 September 2016

Maybe this is just my impression, and maybe it’s my own fault. Facebook apparently adjusts your newsfeed based on your own behavior, so it’s possible that somehow I’m communicating to Mr. Algorithm that I enjoy reading crazy stuff.

But it sure seems as if Facebook is getting nuttier, angrier, more strident and more partisan by the day. Otherwise reasonable people leap to conclusions, assume the worst, assign bad motives, psychoanalyze, stamp their little feet and toss up their hands in disgust when somebody doesn’t immediately like and affirm the crazy crap they say.

There was a time — maybe a couple years ago — when it was possible — difficult, but possible — to carry on an intelligent conversation on Facebook. That time seems to have past. We’ve entered the Age of Hysteria. We’re hair-triggered to take offense, to define ourselves by which side of the latest hot issue (gossip, slander, or outright lie) is “trending” (whatever that really means), and we find it acceptable for people to act like complete idiots.

5 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-13  ::  Crowhill

How does Clinton’s “deplorable” comment compare to Romney’s 47% comment?

by Crowhill on 11 September 2016

20 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-11  ::  Crowhill

Good article on the death penalty

by Crowhill on 8 September 2016

It’s not particularly well written, in my opinion, but it makes some good points.

We Need the Death Penalty for Jacob Wetterling’s Killer

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2016-09-08  ::  Crowhill

2016-09-02 :: Crowhill // General
Education or indoctrination?
2016-08-31 :: Crowhill // General
Does God really value human life?
2016-08-30 :: Crowhill // General
No, monogamy is not “natural”