Nightcap

  1. To love is no easy task (America is just fine) Rachel Vorona Cote, New Republic
  2. Chronic vomiting (medical marijuana) Christopher Andrews, OUPblog
  3. The Neanderthal renaissance Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Aeon
  4. A mild defense of Andrew Johnson (the American president) RealClearHistory

Nightcap

  1. South America’s other ‘Easter Island’ Christopher Baker, BBC
  2. The narrative of homophobia in Africa Nsubuga Ssemugooma, Africa is a Country
  3. Young Murray Rothbard: an autobiography Murray Rothbard, Mises Institute
  4. Rebuilding a fragile political order Nathaniel Peters, Law & Liberty

Nightcap

  1. Marx and the morality of capitalism Virgil Storr, Liberty Matters
  2. Adam Smith’s two economies Chris Dillow, Stumbling & Mumbling
  3. 2002 essay on Columbus and the New World Charles Mann, the Atlantic
  4. Polish plans for an American military base, pros and cons Michael Kofman, War on the Rocks

Nightcap

  1. Why a State typically promotes its own official language Pierre Lemieux, EconLog
  2. Foreign languages and self-delusion in America Jacques Delacroix, NOL
  3. Islam’s new ‘Native Informants’ Nesrine Malik, NY Review of Books
  4. The khipu code: the knotty mystery of the Inkas’ 3D records Manuel Medrano, Aeon

Cave Paintings and Elementary Science

This is a travel story of sorts, of travel through time, to an extent. Be patient.

Directly to the west of Marseille, the second largest city in France are a series of beautiful, narrow coves, like fjords, situated in a sort of desert. They are called “calanques” in French. They are accessible only by sea or through a long walk on hot rocky ground. Although they constitute a separate world, the calanques are close to Marseille, as the crow flies. They used to be a major fishing resource for the city. You can be sure they were never forgotten during the 2600 years of the city’s existence. Also, the city was founded by Greeks and thus, it always had a literate population, one that kept records.

Marseille and its environs are where SCUBA was invented, the first practical solution to the problem of men breathing underwater. Accordingly, the calanques were always and thoroughly explored after 1950. In 1985, one of the co-inventors of SCUBA discovered a deep cave in one of the calanques. He couldn’t resist temptation and swam into it until he reached a large emerging room. I mean a cave where he could stand and breathe regular air. His name was Cosquer.

Cosquer visited there several times without saying a word about his discovery. Soon, he observed dozens of beautiful paintings belonging to two distinct periods on the upper walls of his cave. The art of the first period was mostly hand imprints or stencils. The art of the second, distinct period, comprised 170-plus beautiful animals including many horses, ibex and others mammals, also fish, seals and other sea creatures. Archaeologists think the painting of the first period were done about in about 25 000 BC, those of the latter period date back to about 18 000 BC, they believe.

Today, the entrance to the cave is about 125 feet below sea level. We know that paleolithic men did not have SCUBA. They simply walked into the cave for their own reasons, with their own purposes in mind. Thus, the sea level was at least 125 feet lower then than it is today. The people of Marseille never saw the cave. They would have written about it. There would be records. They would not have forgotten it. They simply did not know of its existence during the past 2600 years.

Sometimes in the past 20 000 years, the sea rose 125 feet or more. That’s an amplitude several times greater than any of the direst predictions of the official United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the next century. The IPCC squarely blames a future ocean rise (one that has not been observed at all, yet) on abnormal emission of several gases, especially CO2 . These abnormal emissions in turn, the IPCC affirms are traceable to human activities such as driving cars and producing many useful things by burning fossil fuels.

It seems to me that basic good science requires that causal analysis begin with a baseline. In this case, it would mean something like this: In the absence of any burning of fossil fuels, the ocean rose 125 feet sometimes during the past 20,000 years. Let’s see if we can find evidence of the ocean rising above and beyond this order of magnitude since humanity began burning fossil fuels in large quantities, about 150 years ago.

The conclusion will likely be that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Hence, fossil fuel emissions are probably irrelevant to this particular issue. (This leaves open the possibility that such emissions are odious for some other reason. I mean that CO2 is plant food. Too much CO2 may promote weed growth in our fields and gardens. )

The ocean is not currently rising and if it is, the existence of the Cosquer cave suggests that it’s rising to a tiny degree. Let’s keep things in perspective. Let’s discard openly and loudly every part of the building of a complex hypothesis that does not work. Those who don’t take these obvious cleansing measures simply have a lot of explaining to do. They should not be allowed to wrap themselves in the mantle of science while violating Science 101 principles.

One of the conceits of the Warmist movement is that you don’t have a right to an opinion unless you possess a doctorate in Atmospheric science. By this dictate, anybody who has to keep a job, raise children, or pay a mortgage is out of the discussion. This is the typical posturing of intellectual totalitarianism. Note what’s missing in the story above: It says nothing about what did cause the ocean to rise between 18 000 B. C. and today. It’s enough to know that whatever it was, it was not the massive burning of fossil fuels. The story is complete as is. Don’t quit your job and apply to graduate school!

Strange Historical Facts

Not long thereafter, they erected the first sawmill in what was to become the state of Washington on a site by the lower falls of the Deschutes River. Much of the capital for erecting the mill apparently came from George W. Bush, Washington’s first black resident. The cut of this mill, it has been claimed, was marketed through the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Nisqually and found its way to Victoria and the Hawaiian Islands. The first shipment was supposedly made on the Hudson’s Bay Company steamer Beaver in 1848.

Um, wow. I don’t know where to begin. This excerpt comes from page 25 of a 1977 book by historian Thomas R Cox titled Mills and Markets: A History of the Pacific Coast Lumber Industry to 1900. Aside from the interesting anecdote quoted above, it’s not very good. I picked it up because of the possibilities associated with such a subject, but instead of a theoretical narrative on globalization, identity, state-building, and property rights, it is a book that reads a lot like the excerpt I quoted above (the local history aspect I have enjoyed, though; local history is one of my secret pleasures, the kind of stuff that never makes it into grand theoretical treatises but always lights up my brain because of the fact that places I know and places I have lived are the focus of the narrative).

I blame it on the year it was published, of course. 1977 was at the height of the Cold War, which means that scholarly inquiry was inevitably going to be policed by ideologues, and also that works appraising global or regional scales and scopes just weren’t doable. For instance, there was virtually no mention of Natives in the book. (See archaeologist Kent Lightfoot’s excellent, highly-recommended work – start here and here – for more on how this is changing.)

Archaeology is Cool

I spend my summers homeless and sneaking from one spot on campus to another to avoid security. This will be my last year as undergraduate but, if my luck holds on just a little longer, I will be able to graduate with no debt. What I have done this summer to pass the time that is not spent working or doing homework is begin a little pet research project that has been a long time coming.

Do you all remember that movie The Gods Must be Crazy? Me neither, but I hear it was a big hit. It was about a “Bushman” from the Kalahari region who encounters a Coke bottle falling from sky and gets caught up in the nasty war between SWAPO and South Africa. Anyway, the portrayal of the “Bushman” caught a lot of flack from anthropologists in some quarters. There is good reason for this flack, and I can assure you that it is not just another attempt to force Political Correctness onto everybody. Land policies and other government programs have removed many “Bushmen” from their homes, and the justifications for such policies is often that the “Bushmen” have no concept of private property rights, or that they have no conception of history. They are the Indians of the New World. Anyway, a lot of new archaeological evidence has lent credence to the anthropologists who have claimed that the image of the “Bushman” as a primitive hunter-gatherer is a myth created by anthropologists themselves. Robert Gordon writes the following: Continue reading