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America’s Enemies Already Knew

December 12, 2014

Wolf Blitzer asked Senator Feinstein whether she’d feel guilty if the enhanced interrogation report led to American deaths. Many Republicans have made the same point: our enemies will now torture and kill our soldiers.

Their assumption is wrong. Our enemies already know we tortured their men. It’s a poorly kept secret, and our enemies don’t trust American democracy so much that they won’t accept clams of torture without proof. The report doesn’t reveal the truth to our enemies but rather to us: to the American people who still doubted the government of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln would torture.

Torture

December 10, 2014

Every tyrant throughout all history could argue that torture prevented war, stopped terrorism, or otherwise saved lives. That’s not the point.

None of us is safe under a regime that uses enhanced interrogation — under a government that tortures.

The Walking Dead: A Tour of Prehistory

December 9, 2014

The Walking Dead offers some good prehistory. In the show’s post-apocalyptic world, humanity returns to the key life stages of our prehistoric past: [SPOILER ALERT for Seasons 1-5!] Read more…

Cheddar Man’s Family

December 7, 2014

Scientists call Britain’s oldest complete skeleton “Cheddar Man.” He lived around 7150 B.C.E., when forest covered Britain and antelope roamed, along with wild horses. Cheddar Man’s people were hunter-gatherers, and they ate the antelope and horses — along with each other, most likely. Butcher marks on his skeleton suggest someone carved him up, possibly after murdering him. Read more…

How Disobedient Confederate Generals Saved America

November 4, 2014

The South didn’t have to surrender in 1865, at the end of the U.S. Civil War. Its armies had lost, but Confederate soldiers could’ve taken to the hills and forests to fight a guerrilla war. Southern generals had plenty of role models — including the American guerrillas who’d frustrated the British during the Revolution. Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered his generals to do the same. Had they obeyed, the Civil War might have dragged on for years, darkening America’s character. Guerrilla combat often degenerates into terrorism, with both sides targeting civilians and killing for revenge. Democracy itself could’ve suffered. The Confederacy might even have won, since many in the exhausted North already wanted to give up in 1865. (Imagine the 20th Century without a unified America to oppose totalitarianism.) Read more…

History of the Fortune Cookie

November 3, 2014

The first record of fortune cookies comes from Japan in the early 1800’s, not from China, according to Rude Dude’s Book of Food, by Tim Myers. The Japanese flavored their treats with ginger and miso — not exactly the cookies we know — but they did squeeze written fortunes into the crease. The owner of San Francisco’s famous Japanese Tea Garden, Makoto Hagiwara, apparently introduced the concoction to America. Both Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans saw an opportunity, and soon both community’s shops and restaurants offered fortune cookies. Neither culture had a major dessert tradition, so fortune cookies helped feed the American sweet tooth, particularly as they evolved from the Japanese ginger and miso treat into the cookies we know today. Read more…

Polynesian Canoes Reached the Americas

October 31, 2014

Research on sweet potatoes suggests the Polynesians reached the New World centuries before Columbus. Read more…

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