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Herbert L Calhoun "paulocal" RSS Feed (Falls Church, VA USA)
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Black Mass
Black Mass
by Dick Lehr
Edition: Paperback
58 used & new from $4.66

2.0 out of 5 stars The Culture of Crime in the Bulger Brothers' Boston, August 30, 2015
This review is from: Black Mass (Paperback)
This, very much "after-the-fact book," reporting on the criminal tornado called the Bulger brothers crime wave, most reminds me of GW's excursion in a "standoff presidential helicopter" surveying the damage of Katrina. Like Bush Jr, these two "not so intrepid" reporters did all they could to keep their heads down, and their hands clean in the wake of the murderous knee-deep mire that Jimmy and Billy Bulger's crime waves left across the Boston moral landscape.

So they turned this book into a "stand-off reporter's legal brief," a palatable, but clinical back-handed de facto hero story "in waiting." It is seemingly a story specifically designed not to make waves or jar the Boston sensibility too much, but one that would curiously preserve the right to make "Whitey" a bona fide hero later -- if, that is, it turns out that after his capture, he should ever be set free again. Certainly these authors were hedging their bets that he might indeed be set free again someday?

As a result, no one should be surprised that Whitey has endorsed this book; or upset with the fact that these authors interviewed Steve Flemmi's lawyers, the judges, and the spectators on the margins of the courtroom ad nausea, and yet say nothing at all about the dead bodies that are left in Flemmi's and Whitey's wake lining the swamps on the margins of the Boston freeway. These authors thus have proven to be consummate professionals at creating a manuscript that nibbles around the edges but never quite gets to the heart of the Bulger carnage.

Thus, perhaps unwittingly, they have succeed in reducing crime reporting to the fine art of knowing when and where to "pull their punches," when and where to interview already tainted ex-FBI agents; when and where to minimize the vast corrupt system in place from which the Bulger brothers simply picked the already ripen low-hanging fruit. Instead of plumbing the depths of Boston's reservoir of corruption, here they are content with "dotting all of the legal "eyes" and "crossing all of the legal "tees?" That way they can then take a more relaxed clinical approach to interrogating and investigating the court records and interviewing the prisoners locked in cages behind bars, instead of digging into how Boston's own corruption led to the corpses strewn along the marshes lining the Boston freeway. Or, indeed how that fine and cultured city created the likes of Whitey and Billy Bulger in the first place?

Sadly, it is left as an exercise for the reader to conclude that those bodies are in fact not all just souvenirs from the Whitey Bulger category-five crime wave, but are also grim monuments to Boston's culture of crime and corruption. So, I say that these authors have made a fundamental mistake in producing a clinically clean book that ignores how all those dead bodies got there, yet leaves the backdoor open for the Bulger brothers to one day become de facto heroes. No wonder Whitey wanted this version of his story to become the movie script about his life.

But I believe that these authors have assumed erroneously that the dead cannot speak? This is where they have gone wrong. The dead that now line the marshes along the freeways entering Boston, do indeed speak: I can hear them now. (Listen closely and carefully), they say: "In Boston, crime pays, so long as it is tribal and so long as it has the prefix "Whitey" in its name!" And anyone who doubts this can just ask our families. Or, better yet, look at the way the whole Boston moral ecosystem is today? Does anyone remember Charles Stuart?

But in addition to forgetting the families, and forgetting to look objectively at the way Boston morality really is, these authors also forgot one other thing: The crime scene is not just restricted to the marshes bordering the Boston Harbor freeway. The Bulger brothers crime wave IS the new Boston moral ecosystem. The crime scene is all of Boston. It has affected not just the City Government, the FBI, the city police and highway patrolmen, it has also affected everyone and everything else in Boston too, including these authors. Whether they recognize it or not, their own timidity as reporters is an integral reaction to, and thus an integral part of the Bulger crime wave.

This book, soon to be a movie, whose script has already been endorsed by Whitey, is nothing if not a carefully orchestrated social production under the direction of the ethics conducted by Billy and Whitey Bulger. If it were not so, why else would they so carefully tiptoe around every sensitive issue? If it were not so, why else would they not talk about those dead bodies Whitey and Flimmi left lining swamps near the Boston freeways? If it were not so, why would Whitey endorse it? If it were not so, why else would these authors fail to indict the criminal ethos of Boston that both created and allowed the Bulger brothers to thrive, and then run amok?

I lived in Brookline, Ma., on Upton Street while doing a post-doc at MIT, during the academic year of 1991. One day, as I exited the subway station going home for lunch, there was a big commotion in the Strip Mall yards away from the subway stop. When I asked what had happened, I was told that a man had been shot dead trying to rob a bank. Then, as I approached my basement apartment two blocks away, I saw yet another set of police lights flashing with the tale-tell yellow ribbons around one of my neighbors' house. Again, I asked what had happened, but this time no one would answer. However, once inside my apartment, I flipped on the TV and the news was reporting that a Harvard Law Professor had been raped and knifed to death two doors from my apartment? And although I know that these were just two random events, things like that do have a way of leaving a permanent and jaundiced imprint on the mind.

But even before this eventful day of two violent but random crimes, the only two I have witnessed in my life, so near my upper middle-class neighborhood, I had sensed and had already concluded that something was wrong with the Boston DNA. Everyone had a scowl on their faces. Everyone was mad about something, and whatever it was, I was not in on it? There appeared to be an evil vapor in the air. It undoubtedly must have been a part of the mystique of the Bulger ghost that still haunts the ethos of Boston today. And as beautiful and as cultured as Boston is, there is no city in America that scares me more. It is more tense, more racist, more unscaled, and yet, on a per capita basis, as violently criminal as any city in the US. I think twice every time I have to go there.

It thus struck me as odd that even before they were implicitly threatened by those acting on Whitey Bulger's behalf, these authors had already adopted a "prevent defense" for writing this book, one designed more to respect the "criminal ways of Boston" than to get at the unalloyed underlying truth about the nature of crime in that very much troubled city. And who, in the last three decades have been most responsible for shaping those criminal ways? None more so than the infamous Bulger brothers.

There is an evil spell hanging in the air in Boston, and here these authors, wittingly or not, rather than exposing it, have deferred to it. By deferring to the "ways of Boston immorality and crime," and giving the Bulger brothers too much undeserved respect, and too much moral running room -- by giving us here a sanitized version of the Bulger crimes -- they have tipped the scales and their hats in the direction of the existing Boston criminal ecosystem. They too have proven through and through that they are true Bostonians; that they too have been affected by, if not totally socially-adjusted by, Whitey and Billy Bulger's criminal ways of life; they too have drank the macho Southie tribalistic Kool Aid that says that Irish tribalism is more important than morality.

Had I not read and reviewed several other books about both the "high" and "low" criminal careers of the Bulger brothers, books that now allow me to properly assess the devastation of their respective crime waves, I too might have been inclined to give this book a pass and say of it, and of these authors, the same as what other reviewers have said: "a job well done."

However, after having read and reviewed several other books about this Boston criminal tornado, and after my own negative experiences in Boston, it is easy to see that these authors ducked, and took the easy way out. They merely tasted the slurry with the cream on top, not the bitterness beneath, wrought by the Bulger criminal tornado. They are thus wrong in their conclusions: The Bulgier brothers did not just change the FBI and Boston law enforcement departments forever, they also changed the moral ecosystem of Boston forever too.

The movie based on this book will make a lot of money, because I am going to go see it myself. But if it too genuflects and bends in the direction of the two "maestros of Boston crime," as this book does, the moral ethics of James "Whitey" and William Bolger will be the winner of the Academy Awards. This book and that movie, will just help establish Whitey as another morally-damaged, undeserving criminal white folk hero, like Jessie James or Bonnie and Clyde, or General Custer. Let us be clear about one thing: Whitey Bulger is, and always will be, just another two-bit serial killing rat, a Southie thug and nothing more. Two stars


The End Of Physics: The Myth Of A Unified Theory
The End Of Physics: The Myth Of A Unified Theory
by David Lindley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.10
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3.0 out of 5 stars The End of the old Physics, or the Beginning of the New Physics?, August 25, 2015
This is a well-argued but rather pessimistic essay written almost two decades ago by one of the heavyweights in the field of particle physics. It is based on the author's belief that the present search for a unified theory of everything (TOE) -- based mostly on the developments in string theory -- is a misguided effort.

At the time this book went to print in 1992, he believed that string theory and its related mathematical techniques, were all of low predictive power since they relied much too heavily on a suite of untested often ad hoc and speculative semi-deductive techniques of theorizing. These "partial theoretical techniques" seem to bootstrap their way up a never-ending deductive chain completely suspended in the intellectual ether, where he believed that they could never properly under go systematic scientific testing. The most important of these techniques being those that relied heavily on mathematical techniques that predicted symmetry-breaking.

The author argued two decades ago that these techniques were based mostly on mathematical speculation, and thus were of low predictive power. Despite this, they just kept on expanding into an entire family of related symmetries-breaking ideas such as supersymmetry, supergravity, super-force, and superstrings themselves. It was the author's view that they all existed as a result of undue reliance on extra-scientific theorizing, theorizing that in the end he believed would be worthless since they could never be tested with real data?

Yet, since this book went to print, in 1992, the LHC at CERN, using the theories that this author was so pessimistic about, has been able to produce hard and testable evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson particle, a finding that at least goes a long way towards confirming the standard model. It goes without saying that it was based primarily on the techniques the author gauged to be of low predictive power.

Although, in the author' favor, the CERN predictions did not go beyond the standard model to, for instance, predict the W' or Z' gauge bosons. So, at least technically, the author remains right about the lack of scientific verification of models that go beyond the standard model of particle physics. However, given what has been discovered so far, I would not be too sanguine if I were in his position. Three stars


Creation out of Nothing:  A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration
Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration
by Paul Copan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $25.20
48 used & new from $7.88

3.0 out of 5 stars A Bunch of Religious Theories Created out of Nothing?, August 24, 2015
Immediately, the reader will get the impression that this book has been mislabelled. The subtitle is "A biblical, Philosophical and Scientific Exploration" of the theories on the creation out of nothing (creatio ex Nihilo). However, Philosophical and Scientific theories do not enter the discussion until the last three chapters, the last 100 pages of the book. The bulk of the book, five of its eight chapters, 2/3 of its 266 pages -- very much after the fact -- are devoted exclusively to trying to establish a religious argument that justifies and supports a biblical interpretation of the Big Bang Theory.

After reading the book, it would be an understatement to say that the religious energy devoted to this effort has been energy poorly spent, as they all have been maximally confusing and mutually inconsistent -- but curiously always toeing the orthodox religious line.

In fact, after trying vainly to make sense out of all of this religious ambiguity, the reader will surely discover as I did, that there is at least one heavy-hitting high level religious advocate on every side of these discussions, including on the side that warns against trying to coordinate biblical interpretation with scientifically derived facts. Of all the topics that one would think are most critical to religious beliefs -- creation out of nothing -- the reader will also discover that there is no consensus, nor even a minimally consistent biblical view?

In other words, sadly, and after 166 pages, these religious scholars' arguments curiously all remained at right angles to each other? In the end, exactly nothing was resolved!

My own conclusion is that the "religionists way of proof," that is, proof "by the fiat of divine authority," may have inadvertently hoisted them by their own petard, and thus, may have left them hanging in the wind, way out on a slippery slope, one that like one of the roads leading away from Nob Hill in San Francisco, leans steeply and precipitously downwards.

It seems to me that the best of the many religious arguments put forth here, do little more than set up a spurious dichotomy between the cosmological facts of science (i.e., the Big Bang Theory), and the theological affirmation (or is it confirmation?) of it by God through jerry-rigged, and shaky after the fact established scripture-based truths (i.e. by the fiat of divine authority as read in the scripture).

However, having set up this spurious dichotomy, I believe Kwasi Wiredu's and Hans Swartz's warnings about "not too quickly identifying religious interpretations with the temporal scientific beginnings of the universe," is well advised and correlate well with my own views. For doing so, begs the very important question of what happens when the scientific facts and theories change, as invariably they will? Does God's authority then also change? Are scriptual references then to also be updated as was the case with most of this book? If they do, then does this not simply mean that God's authority will always be "playing catch-up" to the latest scientific theories?

Since the idea of scientific proof is just the opposite of religious proof -- that is to say, it does NOT just sit back and defend forever singularly established scientific facts, truths, or theories, but instead, it puts them all through the most rigorous of scientific tests: the test of falsification.

Like religionists, scientists too do start out with but one goal -- but it is the opposite of what religionists start out to do: Scientists try as much as they possibly can, to overthrow and thereby try to falsify their own theories. Only those that survive this most brutal and rigorous process of falsification, will survive as true well-tested theories.

What this means of course is that the Big Bang Theory is itself forever "an open-ended hypothesis" about the nature of creation -- not a once for all times scientific truth. The Big Bang theory therefore must forever be opened to future falsification. So far it survives because it has not yet failed a singular attempt to falsify it. And if in the future it should fail even one attempt at falsification, it will then be declared forever, an invalid theory. And the process simply begins all over again with a new trial hypothesis about the nature of creation.

Therefore, the regionalists must be careful. If they hook their "creationist's wagons" up to the Big Bang Theory, inadvertently they are also hooking it up to the scientific method's mode of falsification. Now, do religionists really want to do that? I don't think so? Three stars


The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation
The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol and Notation
by Alexander Marshack
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Challenge to Archaeological Orthodoxy, August 13, 2015
The topic of this book is the science of the Ishango Bones. With dedication and patience, and wherever it was possible to do so, use of the highest research standards, Mr. Marshack has shown beyond a reasonable scientific doubt that the groupings of markings on the bones of tribesmen of the Central African Congo of 35,000 years ago, is probably the first instance of man engaging in science -- mathematics in particular. Beyond a reasonable doubt, he has shown that these engraved scripted bones, at the very least were the first recorded lunar calculators, used to chart and predict the lunar cycles and all survival activities associated with such cycles.

Many who read and engage in research on the early history of mankind, feel that something is very much amiss in Archaeological theorizing? Even if it is only a deep feeling within their bones, many feel as I do that since the Archaeologists often get the time-scale of fossils wrong by orders of magnitude, and are constantly revising their theories of intellectual and cognitive development in early humans, being caught on their back foot seems more the rule than the exception, more like an occupational hazard of the field? And although errors in time-scale estimates may be due in large part to the porousness and scarcity of fossil finds, errors in theorizing, it seems to me, is wholly a product of lack of imagination. And, as this author argues, an unwillingness to venture too far from the orthodox line.

Perhaps it was my own naïveté that led me to believe that Cognitive Archaeology thus would welcome and embrace the radical new platform for theorizing offered up here by Professor Alexander Marshack. However, the more one examines Marshack's thesis, the more revolutionary and formidable, and thus threatening, it can be seen to be to the established orthodoxy. It would not be an exaggeration to compare its impact on Archaeology to the impact Darwin's theory of Evolution has had on religion. Protectors of the state-sanctioned orthodoxy have circled their wagons to resist any new theoretical encroachments.

Stated as simply as it can be stated, Mr. Marshack has hypothesized that any Archaeological theories of human intellect based on "supposed" changes in brain architecture, unless such changes can be accounted for experimentally, are likely to be wrong. This is true, as he sees it, because the brain architecture of pre-humans and modern man, at least for the last 100,000 years, as far as we can tell, has been essentially the same. So the science being performed by the Ishango tribesmen, and the PhD scientists at the Jet propulsion Laboratory, are different only in degree, not in kind, different only in the content of the data used and problems being solved. The processes used, however more complex for "modern man" than for "primitive man," are still the same as that used by the Ishango Congo African tribesman.

This is certainly true as far as it can be determined through their respective cognitive functioning brain architecture. The author thus argues here, rather convincingly in my view, that since the beginning of time, man's creative thinking has always been both purposeful and time-bound -- directed almost exclusively at the problem of survival for the moment. As a result, while the content of thinking may have changed over various epochs, ecologies and cultures, the process of thinking itself has not.

His crowning point is that, as much as Western man would like for it to be so, "mind development" is not quite the same thing as "brain or architecture development." Like cultural development, mind and intellectual development are almost never "a bolt-out-of-the-blue" - the de fault category when no reasonable explanation is forthcoming -- but like culture, man's intellectual development, such as science, is a continuous, connected, layered accreted process that takes place over long periods of time. It seems that for reasons having to do with modern chauvinism alone, incredibly, no one in Archaeology has ever begun with such an assumption about brain architecture versus the process of human cognitive development, before. I do not believe it would be an exaggeration of the author's point to suggest that almost all of man's development -- in agriculture, in art, in economics, politics, etc. -- is also of the process sort. Ten Stars!


1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Mann, Charles C. (1st (first) Edition) [Paperback(2006)]
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Mann, Charles C. (1st (first) Edition) [Paperback(2006)]
by Charles C. Mann
Edition: Paperback
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book of Answers about American pre-history, August 12, 2015
This book is one of a trilogy of books penned by Charles Mann. They bracket 1492, the fateful year of "discovery." It tells the story of what happened the last year before the European invasion of the Americas. It is a revealing historical research/travel-guide -- overlain with, and guided by, a forensic-like Anthropological debate between two heavyweights in the field, both of whom were in search of the truth of what actually happened before, during and after the conquest of the Americas.

It is a spirited search that literally leaves no stones unturned. It is thus a tribute to the author that the book is an even-handed and balanced report on, about all there is available to report on in the field of research on this issue. It is a report best characterized by the author's flair for getting out of the way of his own story, allowing the narrative to breath, and the data to speak for themselves: And boy what an interesting story they have to tell.

A quick and dirty summary of the book is that the most recently uncovered data, thoroughly massaged with an amazing compliment of modern research tools, concludes that the history we have been "force-fed" since Grade School, and is best represented in Allan Holmburg's Cornell PhD thesis as "Holmburg's Mistake," is simply wrong.

For instance, the Americas were NOT unoccupied virgin lands, but were quite the opposite: well-managed lands cleared of forests and underbrush, populated by estimates of up to 100 million people. The data reviewed here proves that distinct cultures of Indians went back for at least four millennia, and slivers of evidence exists that they may even have gone as far back as 30,000 years ago!

What the European invaders mistook for virgin lands was in fact the mere remnants, the remaining stragglers and the last flickers of a dying people, people who as a result of the mega-deaths caused by exposure to European transported diseases, had simply abandoned the lands and were wandering about trying find their bearings as the forests began to reclaim the land. It was these reclaimed forests and these scattered groups of wandering survivors that the invaders actually saw. In point of fact, before the invasion, the Americas had been well-managed for millennia, by, among other techniques, the continuous use of controlled "slash-and-burn" fires. And although this technique did put more stress on the environment by emitting more carbon into the air, it also renewed the soil.

The Indians were not, as Allan Holmburg's mistaken Cornell Phd thesis implied: "among the most uncultured and most backward peoples to ever walk the face of the earth." In fact, once researchers were able to move beyond the wandering stragglers that the early settlers had confronted, they found that the Indians were a varied group of people who lived and survived in cultures that respected nature as best they could, for at least four millennia. Some succeeded brilliantly at it -- even beyond anything to be seen elsewhere in the rest of the world until at least a millennium or so later. Others failed at it, some damaged the environment, and some didn't survive at all.

As for Holmburg's notion that all Indians were cultural backward, except for a pocket of culture in Renaissance Italy, Europe was still digging its way out of the feudal Dark Ages. England, for instance, even within the monarchy, had not yet invented the bath and personal hygiene, On the other hand, Indians bathed daily and could not stand the stench of the body odor of the invaders. In one of the most colorful examples in the book, a Connecticut tribe so detested engaging up close and personal with the unhygienic invaders, that they traded with them by conveying goods back and forth across the Connecticut River by rope and pulley. To further show their disgust, the Indians across the river laughed and "mooned" the Settlers as a final mocking and derisive insult to end their transactions. Indians were taking daily bathes when Londoners were still throwing garbage into the streets from their windows, creating a cesspool for the breeding and proliferation of rats as well as an incubator for spreading diseases like small pox and the plague. It was England's own lax hygiene habits coupled with its extreme poverty, that were in large part responsible for both the later "white flight" to the "New World" and for the diseases, poverty and rats, they brought along with them.

But beyond hygiene, at least two millennia before Europe was even thought of as being a viable continent, Indians had experimented with, and succeeded at inventing modern forms of civic interactions, such as municipal governments and administrations, including their own forms of representative democracy and socialism. They polities had no poverty or taxes. They lived in literally hundreds of well-run city states, flung across two continents from Canada to Chile.

Under government administration, they built large-scale monolithic monuments and infrastructure projects like dams, viaducts, irrigations waterways, roads and highways, engaged in collective farming, raised animals and plants, successfully bred a wide variety of plants; were the first to produce potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, cassava, bananas, peach trees, maize, tobacco and engaged in both domestic and international trade. The Indians of Peru/Brazil, invented a soil compose that was 880 times as fertile as anything we have yet seen in modern agriculture. This potent form of dirt is a mystery still being studied in universities across the globe. And even though it took them two millennia to understand the full uses of metal, which they smelted but used only for ceremonial purposes; and the wheel, which they used only to make children's toys; and also failed to invent money because they had no need for it, Indian cultures nevertheless did engage in Astronomy, using megaliths like Stonehenge to reckon the stars and the moon; mathematics by inventing the first calendars, and accounting practices. As well, they were the first to invent the zero, and bootstrapped the accounting and the zero into the invention of writing.

At "first contact," new uses of both metal and the wheel were re-introduced to the Americas, and this reintroduction proved to be a game changer. For Indian culture, these new uses were transformative, as it allowed them finally to see the importance of guns, and of even more importance, they could finally replace stone axes for iron ones. Trading with Settlers for metal goods like pots and pans and iron axes was so important that whole Indian communities moved closer to settler communities in order to be first in line to buy the Settlers' metal products. Wars were even instigated among Indians in order to control access to trade with Settlers for metal products with their newer uses.

As for conquest itself, this book clears up many matters previously shrouded in obscurity, or left as a mystery to history. First, while the European gun was frightful, it was not into the late 18th Century before it was as accurate or as lethal as the Indian longbow. Moreover, the two most important allies of European conquest were not the superiority of European soldiers or their guns as we have been repeatedly told, but the much more subtle and silent allies that remained unknown and unknowable to the Europeans at the time: diseases and demography.

The research here shows that European diseases killed and removed Indians from the land so rapidly and in such large numbers that Settlers would take over their camps and villages lock-stock-and-barrel just as quickly as they died. Where upon, unsavory entrepreneurs, sponsoring "pie-in-the-sky come-ons for voyages across the Atlantic to promote imperial expansion, radically increased their promotion ads in order to "con" more and more poor and disgruntled Europeans to move to the Americas. This increase in numbers would eventually possess a quality of its own. For within decades, the increased population helped those with the larger numbers, to commandeer larger and larger swarths of land. Larger numbers alone, invariably translated into both more wealth and more power for those who took over large tracts of land. Unfortunately, those that did so, were almost exclusively the landed gentry, among them being pirates and smugglers, as well as ship-owning and ship-building corporate enterprises. Only rarely did an ordinary immigrant, seeking their "proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," promoted by unsavory ads, end up with large parcels of land. Most ended up as indentured servants.

As but one example of how the phenomenon of catastrophic losses due to diseases worked in wars of conquest, the research here proves that, at a very minimum, it drastically changed the calculus of divide and conquer, and did so decisively in favor of the Settlers, as it made it infinitely easier for decimated tribes, acting out of pure survival desperation, to be willing to side with the Settlers in an effort to outmaneuver and thereby out-survive their tribal enemies.

There also was yet another not quite so silent ally to European conquest. It too was one that saved the North American Settlers from themselves -- i.e., from their own incompetence in survival skills, and their poor ability to wage war, as well from their own well-known laziness and infighting. This ally was a plant, one of the many that Indians had learned to harvest and that quickly became a profitable item of trade between American Settlers and European markets.
That plant was called tobacco. And according to the research reviewed here, at the time that tobacco was being introduced as the saving grace of North America's transatlantic trade (a trade that would eventually become second only to slavery), it was probably more a potent hallucinogen than the equivalent of one of today's more innocent habit-forming "nicotine vehicles" called cigarettes. The point being that only after Catholic Maryland and Protestant Virginia began to export the drug tobacco in large amounts, was the survival of the colonies ensured.

In summary, the author's storyline centers on the academic debate that among many other things, demolished "Holmburg's Mistake." That debate, as it turns out is an academic "battle royal," that will simply titillate the reader to no end. But I would point out that it is a deadly serious debate, the likes of which, we have not seen since Newton and Einstein ideas squared-off in debates over the true nature gravity. And like in that battle, the differences between the sides in this one too lies in academic nuances, not in the main revised storylines. Here, importantly, and to their credit, both sides agree that "Holmburg's Mistake" can no longer stand as acceptable and respectable American History.

Representing one side of this debate is Dr. Betty Meggers of the Smithsonian Institute, who advances the rather contentious notion (that later research simply does not back up): that the Olmecs of Mexica, were the end point of the Native American cultural line, putting the oldest Indian culture back to being no older than about fifteen centuries old.

On the other side of this debate is Dr. Anna Roosevelt, of Yale University, who retraced, and in part, replicated and then went well beyond the research of Dr. Meggers, concluded that the true cultural history of Indians goes back much further, as far back as four millennia, and perhaps as far back as even beyond the era of the oldest city known to man, Sumer.

As a result of Roosevelt's findings, she now believes that if we accept Meggers' rendition of Indian pre-history -- that is, that it began with the Olmecs -- then we will have simply replaced Holmberg's Mistake with a more sophisticated but slightly updated version of it. One that instead of cutting Indian cultural history off at the neck, cuts it off at the knees instead. But perhaps more importantly, she claims that Meggers theories obscure more than they reveal. The very fact that their true cultural history and contribution goes back at least four millennia and possibly as far back as 30,000 years, makes it a second order crime to stop cultural exploration at the Olmecs. In any case, this debate is the headiest one raging across the generations that now exists in academia. Five Stars


ROME FROM ITS ORIGINS TO 2000 AND THE VATICAN (ART-HISTORY-ARCHAEOLOGY)
ROME FROM ITS ORIGINS TO 2000 AND THE VATICAN (ART-HISTORY-ARCHAEOLOGY)
by MONICA CAPUANI
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Mind Trip Through Western History, August 9, 2015
If one has a predilection to first take a "mind trip" before actually visiting a historical city, as I do, he can do no better than read this beautifully rendered book about the history of Rome. I have not been to Rome since my diplomatic days, but what I remember are exquisitely rendered in the glossies of this book (minus all the pigeon droppings and the associated smells). Yet, on a sunny day, Rome is difficult to beat anywhere in the world.

The brief chronology of Roman history from its origin to the year 2000 gives the kind of perspective that old brains that have forgotten most of Roman history, sorely need. It is also helpful that the structures are numbered in the pictures making it easier to identify the unfamiliar ones.

I am unfamiliar with this publisher, but his work should be commended. I highly recommend this book for future travelers to Rome. Four stars.


Empire
Empire
by Michael Hardt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.82
113 used & new from $3.89

5.0 out of 5 stars The New Corporate Capitalist Global World Order, August 9, 2015
This review is from: Empire (Paperback)
This book outlines a scary new paradigm, which effectively upgrades and revises the old imperialist phenomenon once referred to only as "Western Economic Imperialism." This new version 2.0 of the phenomenon of "Western Economic Imperialism," is presented here as a heady, smart, "Marxist tainted," skillfully deployed, clandestine, information run, theoretical paradigm of a new global order. One that hypothesizes that the old familiar notion of imperialism is not so much dead and gone as rendered obsolete and no longer applicable to the capitalists' exigencies and necessities of our post-modern times.

The newer model 2.0 has adapted, evolved, and inexorably morphed from the old limited state-centered modern economic-based capitalist model of production, that once loyally served and was well-integrated into the community within a nation state which it exploited, to today's much broader, much more amorphous, globally de-centered, almost detached, as well as de-cultured but information-based, stand alone post-modern economic, organism. This new organism has no discernible human attachments, and most of all, no return address. Its only known identity is its offshore secret bank account numbers in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland.

This newer, epistemologically more slippery organism leaves the mistaken impression that state-based and citizen-based sovereignty somehow has declined and is withering away? But in fact, as these authors so carefully point out, sovereignty itself has not declined so much as has simply been moved on up to a higher plane into the ether of cyberspace by a new global cabal. And there it has "parked" and then been taken over by a "new much more organized and much more sinister form of management," a form of management that is defined by, and operates under, the new rules of global empire.

In short, the political controls, state functions, regulatory mechanisms and means of capitalist production that used to operate within carefully proscribed and limited territorial and state-centered grids, and more or less under citizen sovereignty, have now moved on to the higher plane where the new corporate rules of supra nationalism and global economic manipulation are invoked, with a vengeance.

These are corporate rules devised by ad hoc coalitions of like-minded capitalist robber barons, having allegiances to no one but themselves and their global enterprises -- such as the race to the bottom of the global labor pool, buying and controlling politicians the world over, despoiling the environment, and maintaining control over the very lucrative international drug trade. In these endeavors, these new managers, unlike their forerunner and model, the managers at the CIA, now have no need to be associated with any known or recognizable state structures. This new amorphous cabal, and their self-defined rules, now constitute a new capitalist entity unto themselves, in the new corporate-run capitalist global world order.

Remember the good old days when the reactionary right had an existential fear of "one world government under UN auspices?" No one could have ever imagined that the flip side of that fear, of that one world coin, would be much worst: that it would involve these same reactionaries colluding with like-minded capitalist industrialists the world over, to produce the much scarier scenario of another one world government: only this time it is a new global world order under a vicious "dog-eat-dog" global capitalist corporate cabal? Five stars


The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity
The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity
by Jill Lepore
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.73
107 used & new from $4.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling the "Fog of the retelling of War", August 4, 2015
In this confusing but still somehow award winning retelling of the War of King Phillip, the author, like the Pilgrims his narrative speaks for, seems in the end to have himself confused "the telling of war," with "the war itself?"

But there is a clear logical way to deconstruct this maximally confusing conflation of the two. It is simply to use Michael Eric Dyson's logical destruction technique of separating the narrative into context, pretext, and subtext.

In King Phillip's War, the context is the reality of the war and its surrounding geopolitics (which, perhaps unconsciously, is missing from this narrative). To wit, the context is the reality of engagement in conquest and resistance all across the globe including in North America at the time, and the savagery on all sides that this entailed.

The pretext is the one-sided retelling by the winning side, i.e., by English writers (including this author) of mostly Indian cruelties and savagery. And then using Indian savagery as a cover-up ruse for the almost irrelevant idea that the English/Americans were actually in search of their own secure more civilized, non-conquest, Christian identity?

What this implies, at least to the casual reader, is that having to stay true to its overall goal of conquest, the English/Americans found themselves engaged in savagery even worse than that of the indians, some of whom were their allies, in any case. In order to "distance" themselves from their own savagery, they projected it back on to the Indians. Couple this with the fact that the English had all but banished the colonists to their own devices, and that many of their compatriots had gone over to the Indian side (but not the reverse), and it is true that they did indeed have an identity problem. But it was not of the sort the author wanted us to believe in: that it was the Indians who were the only savages?

In the end, the subtext of the war -- consciously and purposefully missing from the narrative -- exposes this concern about identity as a not so innocent adolescent ruse used simply to "distance" the English/Americans from their own savagery.

For it is a certainty that the cruelty and savagery used by the English/Americans -- which was always at least equal to, and often worse than that of the Indians -- was committed with only one purpose in mind: to grab Indian lands. This was the only outcome of King Phillip's war. And not just coincidentally, it was also the only outcome of all the other wars of conquest on the North American frontier for the next 100 years.

At the risk of being redundant, it must be said again that the confusion about identity was an irrelevant side issue that had nothing at all to do with the war except to deflect attention away from English/American savagery. In fact, it is this clear "conquest by any means necessary" meta-strategy that justified the continuous land grabs that the English language narratives (and their ruse about identity confusion) were used to cover up American savagery and brutality for the entirety of the period of conquest.

But alas, despite all clever attempts to cover it up, this subtext always lay transparently ready to be read "in between the lines" -- whether in this narrative, or in all the other narratives of the American Wars of North American conquest.

Why else would the English/Americans kill all the men, women, and children, of their own converted Christian English-speaking Indian allies? And then burn to the ground all the "praying towns" that they themselves had establish for their own Indian allies to be civilized by converting them to Christianity? The only answer that makes any sense at all is that the English/Americans were hell-bent on a single-minded goal all along, that of stealing every inch of Indian lands.

Thus, is it not fair to ask: What kind of an identity would result from a race of people who would kill their own recently civilized Christian allies just because they were of another race? It is shades of the American massacre at My Lai in Vietnam 300 years later: where the apparent rule of engagement was to kill everything moving including the men women and children and animals of your own allies so that there are no witnesses to history.

Except in 1676, this was gross literary "overkill" since none of the Indians could read, or had a written language. In fact, they were so awed by the written word that they thought the letters on the page literately spoke!

(A word of warning to the reader: Please read every footnote, for in them lies the truth about what the English/Americans were really up to in King Phillip's war.) Four stars


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