A few more substantive things

I’m pretty busy with CoyneFest stuff, my upcoming trip to Singapore, Hong Kong and China, and other matters, so substantive posts are going to be scarcer than usual until I return from Asia in mid-November. Let me call your attention today, then, to three things that you might want to read:

1). Over at Heather’s Homilies, Heather Hastie has a long and perspicacious analysis of the second Clinton/Trump debate, and adds a lot of good cat memes deriving from Trump’s “grab the pussy” statement. There is in fact a #pussiesagainsttrump site where you can find lots of LOLz.

2). The Guardian reports that a bunch of protestors in New York besieged the American Museum of Natural History, protesting the “Columbus Day” holiday as favoring the genocide of native Americans, criticizing several of the anthropological exhibits for “colonialism” and “exoticizing” Islam, and demanded the removal of a statue outside the Museum showing Theodore Roosevelt with a Native American and and African American. There’s an argument to be made about the “Columbus Day” holiday, though my own thoughts haven’t gelled on that, but less of an argument for removing that statue. Must we efface all of our history? As the Guardian reports:

“Teddy Roosevelt’s nature was not empty wilderness. It was and is indigenous land,” one reader said as the organizers took turns reading from a speech. “Taken through violence. Just like Columbus who came to enslave. To take their gold and their bodies and their souls.”

That’s a stretch. Here’s the statue. Do you think it should be removed?

1-1281571796-roosevelt-statue-at-natural-history-museum
The video below shows a bit of the protest, which seems to have covered just about every issue going, including the perfidy of Israel and the Black Lives Matter movement:

3). Finally, over at Free Inquiry there’s a meaty published debate (four adjacent back-and-forth articles) between Michael Shermer and Phil Torres on whether terrorism poses an existential threat. Shermer says “no”, and Torres says “yes”.

 

74 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I believe the glorification of Columbus is a relatively recent thing, pushed by the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic organization) back in the 1940s. (Although this is from memory and I might be wrong about the details.)

    • Flemur
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Wiki: “Many Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was first enshrined as a legal holiday in the United States through the lobbying of Angelo Noce, a first generation Italian, in Denver [in 1905].”

      Knights of Columbus came later to make it a federal holiday.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the clarification.

  2. Robert Bray
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Whatever Columbus himself had in mind, once he discovered the ’empty’ New World, his ‘Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella’ certainly had made Spain’s imperative one of conquest and lucre. And these in the enactment required enslavement, first of aboriginals, then Africans.

    As for Roosevelt, he was party to the ‘final solution’ of the Amerindian ‘problem’– reservations in severely restricted areas that were often unlike the many nations’ homeland environments, forcing them into static ways of life that were completely alien to them. Why should he have a statue featuring his ‘manly’ self on horseback above a native American and an Afro-American? He did nothing to help either group’s well-being.

    This is a vexing but still unsettled social sin brought forward from the U. S.’s past into its present. What gave the U. S. government title to all the vast acreage of ‘our’ part of the North American continent? What is our vaunted sovereignty morally–even legally–based on?

    So, yes, I say: down with the statue and no more Columbus Day.

    • mordacious1
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      So, you’re willing to remove all symbols of “native Americans” also. Why should we honor these people? They barged into the Americas, stole the land from the indigenous peoples and replaced their culture with their own.

      Europeans shouldn’t be honored either. They stole the land from the indigenous Neanderthals. Where does this kind of thinking end?

      • Robert Bray
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        It ends with recognition of national guilt; with apologies; and with reparations. While I do not know the anthropology you imply in your remark about one group of aboriginal invaders annihilating another in North America, I take it as the beginning of a reductio ad absurdum on your part. But the ploy doesn’t work: the descendants of the nations driven against their wills onto reservations still live their (many of them) against their wills, and deserve the dignifying acts as noted above.

        • mordacious1
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

          Instead of calling the indigenous people tribes, let’s call them groups. In North America, one group would attack and take land from another group. Whichever group had the numbers and/or were more technologically advanced, would take advantage of a neighbor group. Then, another group came on the scene. This group could cross oceans and had advanced weaponry. This group was able to take advantage of all the other groups it met. It was more successful at doing what every other group was doing. Now, 200 years later, people are upset that one group was more successful. Well, to quote Steve Martin, EXCUUUUUUUSE ME!

          • Robert Bray
            Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            First, sorry about the vagrant ‘their’ that should have been ‘there.’ And then to be shamed by that ineffable thinker Steve Martin. My, how can anyone dare to write another word after that? But, finally, your point of view reduces to might makes right, and with that I shall never agree.

            • mordacious1
              Posted October 14, 2016 at 12:50 am | Permalink

              It has nothing to do with right or wrong. It’s in the past, it’s history…everyone wronged is dead. You cannot change it. I’d like the Germans to get back Konigsberg, but it ain’t gonna happen. People who are conquered have to assimilate, die off or get their revenge. Paying off their ancestors 200 years later is just silly. If the Indians want some payback, they should open a casino.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 14, 2016 at 2:01 am | Permalink

                Well I sure as hell want those Norman bastards who invaded and beat Harold’s brave forces near Hastings almost exactly 950 years ago to pay for it! I visited the battlefield a few months ago and my heart went out to those brave Anglo-Saxons defending their home against the invaders.

                (Now, if I could just be sure which lot I’m descended from…)

                cr

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted October 16, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

                (reached the maximum depth for replying from the web page)
                infiniteimprobabilit :

                RE : [ Norman ] or [ Anglo-Saxons ] With probably similar levels of illegitimacy on both sides.
                (Now, if I could just be sure which lot I’m descended from…)

                Both probably. The Saxons and Angles were Vikings from (IIRC) North Germany and Denmark ; the Normans were 2 generations or so from being Vikings from Sweden or South Norway. They weren’t quite siblings, but probably had somewhat overlapping great-great-ish grand parents.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 16, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

                “‘(Now, if I could just be sure which lot I’m descended from…)’

                Both probably”

                Well, yes. It’s a curious realisation – surveying the battle site and having felt a pang of sympathy for the defenders – to realise that I’m just as likely to be descended from the aggressors or, in fact, from both sides…

                cr

        • mikeyc
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

          Do you see the irony;

          “It ends with recognition of national guilt; with apologies; and with reparations.”

          Followed by the admonition

          “The beginning of a reductio ad absurdum on your part…”

          ?

          • Robert Bray
            Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

            I simply meant that Mr. Mordacious had set in motion a logical recursion that would spiral down to the primordial conflict between Cain and Abel–not a good form of argument, in my estimation. Why is this ironical?

  3. Zado
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I can’t really disagree with the protesters’ objections. Columbus was, in fact, a greedy, genocidal, religious maniac.

    I would just echo Howard Zinn in his introduction to A People’s History of the U.S.: the point of de-mythologizing the conquest of the New World is not to revel in moral outrage over the crimes committed. That can’t help the victims, for they’re long dead and gone. The point is to cast a skeptical light on the notion of “progress” that is often used to justify such history, so that we might not recapitulate it in the future.

    • George Millo
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Was Columbus any worse than the average person in the 15th Century though? I’m not being rhetorical, I genuinely don’t know. I just think it’s important that, in general, we judge people by the standards of their time, not our own.

      • Zado
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        I don’t know about the average person in the 15th century. But there were better people than Columbus, people like Bartolome de Colon, who recognized indigenous peoples as fellow humans, rather than primitive children only fit for slave labor.

        • Luis Servín
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Sorry to nitpick, but if you are referring to the dominican monk his name was “Bartolome de las Casas”, not Bartolomé de Colon.

          • Zado
            Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

            That’s not nitpicking, that’s correcting a real mistake on my part. Yes, I was referring to de las Casas. Thank you.

            To Robert below, I guess we can only expect so much from the Europeans of the 15th century.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          Alas, it was de las Casas who proposed to the Spanish court the importation of African slaves to spare the remainder of the indigenous people of the Caribbean from complete genocide. If I remember correctly, de las Casas lived to repent his suggestion.

      • ploubere
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        He probably was no worse than other explorers, but that is a bar touching the ground. We can certainly understand that civilizations of that time had much less evolved morality, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also recognize the pain and suffering men like Columbus inflicted on others, and stop celebrating them.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        The difficulty with this ethical position on historical questions is that it precludes universals. That is, slavery can never be deemed wrong in and of itself. In the past the western world enslaved other humans and thought it tolerable to do so. According to your view, we in the present ought not judge this wrong by ‘our own’ standards but should see it in light of theirs. Ok, but how distant does that past have to be for slavery to be countenanced as just something ancient that we no longer accept? It is now a bit more than 150 years since the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution forbade slavery. Does this mean that the ‘peculiar institution’ has been morally wrong in this nation only so long as it has been illegal? Or should we go back another generation, to the rise of abolitionism in the 1830s? Or to the northern states that scuttled slavery right after the Revolution?

        So slavery in this nation has been seen by many of its citizens (and practically all of its non-citizens!) as a moral and political wrong for more than two centuries. True, the Founders didn’t have the moxie to rid the entire new nation of chattel slavery when the Constitution was written and ratified. But surely that long a time is sufficient to justify Lincoln’s (universal) statement that ‘if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.’

        • Zado
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          I thought about bringing up the same point: if one thinks ethics are (or at least must be) universal, one must think that ethics span not just contemporary cultures, but cultures of the past as well. Thus, to say that slavery — that is, treating people like livestock — is wrong, is to say that it has always been wrong.

          Personally, I lean towards this view.

        • mikeyc
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          “In the past the western world enslaved other humans and thought it tolerable to do so.”

          Why single out the West? Slavery existed (and was thought tolerable) the world over and still does today…but not in the West.

      • Jeff Lewis
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Well, when Francisco de Bobadilla came to replace Columbus as governor of the Indies, and heard about all the cruelty Columbus had inflicted on the natives and European settlers, he had Columbus arrested and taken back to Spain in shackles. So at least Francisco de Bobadilla thought Columbus had crossed the line of acceptable behavior.

        Here’s an article in the Guardian about some recently rediscovered documents detailing Columbus’s cruelty:
        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/aug/07/books.spain

        And an excerpt from that article:

        “Columbus’ government was characterised by a form of tyranny,” Consuelo Varela, a Spanish historian who has seen the document, told journalists.
        One man caught stealing corn had his nose and ears cut off, was placed in shackles and was then auctioned off as a slave. A woman who dared to suggest that Columbus was of lowly birth was punished by his brother Bartolomé, who had also travelled to the Caribbean. She was stripped naked and paraded around the colony on the back of a mule.

        “Bartolomé ordered that her tongue be cut out,” said Ms Varela. “Christopher congratulated him for defending the family.”

      • Filippo
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        “I just think it’s important that, in general, we judge people by the standards of their time, not our own.”

        Just congenially curious, when did their time end and ours begin?

        There were abolitionists in the U.S. many years prior to the Civil War. Did they unfairly judge slave owners?

        • Doug
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          To expand on Filippo’s comment: The trouble with the phrase “judging people by the standards of their time,” is that it assumes that everyone in a particular time had the same standards. The fact that slavery was legal does not mean that everyone approved of it. Even in George Washington’s day, people were arguing about the morality of it. It is not as though the idea that slavery is wrong had never occurred to anyone.

  4. Dominic
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The statue is I can see, provocative, in the way they are unmounted & supporting him, but I suppose he didn’t design it himself. The statue of Queen Anne in front of St.Paul’s Cathedral is supported by natives of various parts of her burgeoning empire – Britain, Ireland, France and North America (represented by a strange figure with a feathered head)… as far as I know no one has yet demanded its removal – not even the French!

    • Dominic
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      oops – did not realize that would embed – apologies…

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      France?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        Umm, yes, odd. Anne ruled ~300 years after the Hundred Years war when England occupied half of France.

        Still far better than the Roosevelt stachoo. That one just has creepy old guys (and a horse). Anne’s has attractive young ladies sans bras. Classical porn. I know which one I’d rather perve over contemplate.

        cr

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

          (sigh) HTML fail. The penultimate and antepenultimate words were supposed to be struck through. I hate it when that happens.

          cr

        • jeremy pereira
          Posted October 17, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

          Anne ruled ~300 years after the Hundred Years war when England occupied half of France.

          And nearly 200 years after England lost its last major French possession – Calais. I guess we still have the Channel Islands though.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            They can ‘ave the Channel Islands. We’ll just keep the young lady on the stachoo. 🙂

            cr

  5. ploubere
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The statue does present a jarring image. It should probably be treated the same as Civil War statues to Confederate leaders, treated as historical artifacts but not placed in public spaces for glorification. Another statue of Roosevelt simply depicting him as the man he was would be more appropriate.

    • Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      I agree. It reminded me of a scene from Django Unchained where a character sees Django on horseback and says “I ain’t never seen no n—-r on a horse before.”

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 16, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        Coincidentally I was watching that very scene at about the time that you were writing that comment.

    • Carl
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      But the “man as he was” was/is himself disliked if not despised by another group of Americans. His progressive ideology that sacrificed individual liberty to the “will of the majority” is offensive to the anti “regressive” crowd, whether they know that about TR or not.

      The past is something we should spend more time understanding than trying to correct.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        The past is something we should spend more time understanding than trying to correct.

        Bertold Brecht, wasn’t it?
        No, sorry, George Santayana : “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”
        Or if you like to keep your jaw surgeon in steady employment, Vergangenheitsbewältigung

  6. Historian
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    In human history there are countless examples of one group of people conquering another, taking their lands, mass murdering them or enslaving them. Indeed, over the millennia the same piece of land has often been conquered, reconquered, or conquered by a third party. I suspect there are more than a few instances where one indigenous group conquered another. So, how far back do you go to determine the “rightful” owner of a piece of land? The answer to this question would be purely arbitrary. Sometimes, it is better to let things go and simply move on. Otherwise, hate and war can fester for centuries such as the case in Kosovo. Certainly, one should remember and study the past, but obsessing about it is not healthy. Work to improve the lives of people you care about. The latest buzzword, decolonization, is likely to alienate potential allies. The civil rights movement of the 1960s achieved great things because it concentrated on improving the lives of African-Americans through changing hearts and minds of the dominant white population without demonizing it. The civil rights movement was based on the implicit premise that purism was not the way to accomplish its goals.

    Regarding Christopher Columbus, I have no problem with his name removed from a national holiday. We do not need to honor a conqueror who, in his four voyages, never actually landed at what is now the United States.

    • Flemur
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I’d support a Colobus Day.

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        To be celebrated by tree climbing parties across the nation.

  7. Flemur
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Here’s the statue. Do you think it should be removed?

    T.R. was one of the worst Presidents, so I have no problem with removing it.

    “Columbus Day” holiday as favoring the genocide of native Americans,

    Maybe it should be called “Smallpox Day” or “Unfortunate Genetic Homogeneity Day”.

    Just like Columbus who came to enslave.

    Many Amerindian tribes were enthusiastic about enslaving each other.

    • Luis Servín
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Most mayor precolumbian civilizations (Aztec, Maya, Inca) practiced slavery.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted October 16, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        English, French, German, the several groups of Vikings that Infiniteimprobability was hare-splitting over up-thread, Chinese, all the Central Asian nations I’ve ever heard of, pre- and post-Hijira. Every African nation state that I’ve ever heard of. And considering that 17th century England was barely out of the era of formal serfdom, everybody from Tom Pearce’s grey mare to Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. It was certainly one of the things that was in the minds of James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless and associates in 1834.
        Though I’m no anthropologist, I can’t think of a single pre-Enlightenment society that didn’t have formalised chattal slavery. Examples, anyone?

  8. J.Baldwin
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Remove the statue, castigate the man, drop Columbus Day holiday and revile him henceforth.

    Has anybody’s life been improved one whit?

    The degree of concern humans show over the fleeting significance of empty symbols has always baffled me.

    • Carl
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Very good observation.

      • Rita
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Yes!

  9. eric
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    If Neil Armstrong had committed some horrible crime late in life, he still would’ve walked on the moon. And that act, apart from the imagined crime, would’ve been worth recognizing as historical. You do not have to be a role model to have done something important and accomplished some historical act. Likewise, I think its reasonable to recognize that Columbus lead the European expansion into the Americas. He may have done other horrible things, but those don’t somehow make the exploration an unhistorical event.

    Having said that, I’m perfectly fine with the day being used to discuss the non-whitewashed horrible events that that exploration caused, and trying to learn from it so that nobody makes similarly genocidal mistakes out of some harebrained idea of manifest destiny or racial superiority in the future. By all means, use the day to talk about indigenous peoples and the wrongs done to them. The dude still traveled from A to B, causing a chain of momentous, historical consequences.

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      You can recognize that an act is historically significant without honoring the jerk who did it. And it’s not like Columbus even set out to do what he did. He was trying to get to Asia, but was so incompetent he didn’t know the size of the Earth (unlike most educated people of the time), and never realized, even after multiple voyages, that he’d set foot in lands previously unknown to Europeans.

  10. Jeff Lewis
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Regarding Columbus, I just wrote something about that on my own personal site this past Monday (http://www.jefflewis.net/blog/2016/10/why_columbus_shouldnt_be_celeb.html). I absolutely think that he should not be honored with a holiday.

    For one, he was a crank. Most educated people of the time knew that Earth was a globe and had a roughly accurate estimate of the diameter. Columbus went against the standard wisdom and came up with an estimate roughly half the actual size. That’s why nobody wanted to finance him – he vastly underestimated the length of the voyage. Had there not been two continents unknown to Europeans, his voyages would have been a dismal failure, and he may have starved at sea.

    He was so incompetent that he never realized he’d discovered new lands. He went to his dying day thinking he’d landed in India.

    I already described his cruelty in a comment up above. He was arrested and hauled back to Spain in shackles.

    And the results of this contact, albeit mostly through disease, were the deaths of millions upon millions of people, and the collapse of civilizations.

    I see nothing about Christopher Columbus worth honoring or celebrating.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    We are reaching the point where American Indians have almost been effaced from our culture. Better to have a statue that reminds people of past (and present) injustices. At the same time I am not sure what the statue is supposed to be portraying. Googling it, I see the New York Times (10/26/2012) says that the grouping “alludes to Roosevelt’s efforts on behalf of such figures….” It certainly seems progressive for the period. Leave it, and let the generations determine its meaning for themselves.

  12. Walt Jones
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Leave the statue – and keep talking about it. If it weren’t there, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    As for Columbus Day, I support the idea of Explorers Day, which offers the opportunity to discuss the good and bad of our history.

    • Christopher
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Explorers Day would be fine, but let us use it to celebrate real heroes, like the Apollo Astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. They didn’t enslave anyone, they didn’t rape anyone, but they did make a wonderful contribution to the US and the world. It is, however, long past time to stop celebrating Columbus. Stop talking about him? No. We need to continue to recognize his place in history, world and US, but have a clear and honest discussion about him, which must start with his desire to enslave every indigenous person he didn’t rape or kill outright. But as our nation’s children (and adults) are given the impression of some cheery, smiling dope who stumbled on the “New World”, I doubt we are mature enough to have that discussion. Based on many comments on here thus far, it’s clear we’re far from ready, since it seems to be acceptable to say that we needn’t bother being disgusted by slavery since other people did it too.

      As for the statue, I’m of a mind to keep it. TR was far from being our worst president (Coolidge and Hoover come to mind), either in accomplishments (I’m rather fond of the National Parks, which he certainly had a hand in, even if he reasons were a bit askew) or in behavior (we honored the vile Andrew Jackson with the $20, and he was a right bastard). And besides, unlike Columbus, TR actually has a pretty clear place in US history. For one, he actually set foot in North America. Thats my 2 cents, anyway.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins “did make a wonderful contribution to the US and the world.”

        Forgive me for sounding curmudgeonly, but – how? I absolutely don’t want to denigrate them personally – they were highly courageous and skilled personnel. I’m just unsure what contribution the space programme made, either to the US or to the wider world.

        One could equally argue that the test pilots of the Concorde (or, if you prefer, the 747) made a major contribution to the world, for better or worse – but who remembers their names?

        The Apollo astronauts did have the great advantage of ‘exploring’ in a place where there were no existing populations to be impacted. In that respect, I suppose, they most closely resembled Polar explorers.

        cr

        • mordacious1
          Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

          Where would we be without Tang? Disposable diapers?

          Too flippant? Okay, would you include communications/spy/weather satellites in the space program you’re referring to?

          Here’s a more comprehensive list someone put together:
          http://www.ethicalatheist.com/docs/benefits_of_space_program.html

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 13, 2016 at 12:28 am | Permalink

            No, not necessarily. With regard to the Moon program (as opposed to the space program in general) I wouldn’t include low-orbit satellites as a benefit, since they could have been developed entirely independently of the Moon program.

            Turning to that list you linked, that is benefits of the *space* program in general, not the moon shot alone. And many of the items are a little absurd anyway – “Efficient autos and planes benefiting from NASA wind tunnel and aerodynamic expertise.” Really? Is NASA the only organisation with a wind tunnel? How does rocket aerodynamics relate to the low-speed aerodynamics of a car in close proximity to the ground? Formula 1 arguably has far more relevance to that.

            I think you could make a similar list of “Benefits from the arms race”. Or “Benefits from Formula 1”.

            I’m all for NASA diverting some of its surplus funds to develop nice-to-have-but-not-really-relevant-to-space-flight gadgets, by the way.

            cr

            • mordacious1
              Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:53 am | Permalink

              “I’m just unsure what contribution the space programme made, either to the US or to the wider world”.

              I was responding to this comment.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:16 am | Permalink

                Ah, OK. I should have said ‘the Moon program’.

                As for the space program, yes it has had some practical results, though that link you gave oversells them IMO.

                Certainly better off racing Russia to the Moon than trying to nuke each other.

                cr

  13. Posted October 12, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    The Roosevelt statue does not feature an African-American, but rather an African, representing Roosevelt’s collecting trip to Africa (many of the specimens are at the AMNH); I’m not sure if the statue represents an actual person. The Indian, of course, is for Roosevelt’s time out west. He even recruited a number of cowboys and Indians of his acquaintance in to the First Volunteer Cavalry (aka “the Roughriders”). (The preceding sentence is one of the few in which the phrase “cowboys and Indians” is meant to be, and indeed is, literally true!) Many exhibits in the AMNH feature specimens or localities collected by or associated with Roosevelt.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      “The preceding sentence is one of the few in which the phrase “cowboys and Indians” is meant to be, and indeed is, literally true!”

      Although I presume that none of the Roughriders were literally Indians from India! 🙂

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s spelt “Injun”

        😉

        cr

  14. eric
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    On (3), Torres says this in his final response:

    I identify three phenomena— environmental degradation, disruptive technologies, and destructive technologies—that all point toward a future in which the threat of terrorism, especially apocalyptic terrorism, could significantly grow…

    I think he’s really dodging the main question. Sure, terrorism could be an existential threat in a future where technology puts WMD capabilities in the hands of average people for cheap. But that would be because individuals would pose an existential threat in that case, not because there is something specific about terrorism as a strategy that makes it existentially threatening. I think Plaitt makes the more solid point: the strategy of terrorism has been largely ineffective in achieving its desired political outcomes. While its possible that that strategy coupled with futuristic advances could create an existential threat, that outcome would be because of the futuristic advances, not because the strategy of terrorism provides some special existentially-dangerous capability.

    I also disagree with both of them over the ‘one nuke’ example. The death toll would be horrifying, and no doubt it would cause significant geopolitical changes both within countries (in terms of security) and between countries. But existential? I don’t see it. We do in fact have an example of a country being hit with not just one but two nukes. Is Japan existentially gone? Did Japanese culture disappear? No, and no. A single nuke is not an existential threat to a geographically large culture. You want to talk the Yanomano tribe or some other localized culture, then sure. But most modern nation-states and cultures are larger than the few mile radius circle that a nuke wipes out.

  15. Kevin
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Columbus day is a nice fall day to do yard work and spend time with the kids, so I am not complaining.

    Columbus day also reminds me (I live in New Mexico) of what Christianity looks like to the indigenous of the Southwest: crap filled balloons dropped on the heads of people whose culture was wiped from them without hesitation and without permission.

    Columbus day should transform into a day where we see just how sickening proselytization can be. And the song of Columbus day might as well be Midnight Oil’s ‘Bed’s are Burning’….’Let’s give it back’ (at least their culture; too late to give the land back).

    By the way Heather’s post on the Hilary/Trump debate No.2 is amazing. Check it out.

    • Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      To be honest, I am glad that there is no way to give back the Aztec culture to their surviving descendants.

  16. Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I think although Columbus’ voyages were nothing short of disastrous for the populations of the Americas, the real argument for getting rid of his holiday in the US is what Historian said above.

    As for T. Roosevelt – I think one should support a movement to continually update what we say at monuments. I think it is right to remember a president, even a colonialist bigot like he seems to have been. But *update with the latest* from time to time, and tell the viewers when the last update was, so they know it changes. Might even get them to visit the park again. 😉

  17. Posted October 12, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I can understand people condemning Columbus for imperialism, but its hypocritical to make that judgement while remaining in the US.

    If you think the land was stolen, give it back: don’t think getting a hate-on for the dead means you can continue reaping the rewards of their conquest with a clean conscience.

    • Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      I also fail to see any use of this tendency of modern European-Americans to apologize for being alive.

  18. Denise
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Well, which holidays are we 100% good with? There are people with objections to most of them. Some Indians reject Thanksgiving and July 4th as well as Columbus Day. Christmas, Easter? – privilege Christianity. Memorial Day? – celebrates militarism. Martin Luther King Day? – glorifies a radical anti-capitalist.

    We could just reject all the mythologies and have a generic day off work every month or so. Of course, that would offend the Christians, who think we’re making war on them if we don’t all celebrate their holidays.

    • Luis Servín
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      October 29th (National Cat Day) and August 8th (International Cat Day).

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted October 16, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      We could just reject all the mythologies and have a generic day off work every month or so.

      Just to move ground slightly, the wife was just complaining to me about the shortness of weekends.
      When the Trump-weary survivors see fit to elect me Dictator-For-Life, I might be inclined to try a 10-day week of 7 “working days” followed by 3 “personal days”, for 36 weeks a year and some dispersal of intercalary days to make up the solar year – solstices, equinoxes and Glorious Leader’s V-day, for example.
      But I’m willing to listen to other suggestions for calendar reform.

  19. Diane G.
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    sub

  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Well if they removed the statute the professional whiners would just have to find something else to complain about.

    It’s a statue, ffs. Are we going to smash all the statues of Julius Caesar because he subjugated my ancestors?

    cr

  21. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted October 16, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Well if they removed the statute the professional whiners would just have to find something else to complain about.

    The soil ; the weather; the birds. Beer. And I’m not a connais-sewer.


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