Dynamic range in social media and shovels versus excavators

A developer at today’s Homebrew Website Club mentioned that they didn’t want to have a website built on a particular language because they weren’t familiar with the language and felt uncomfortable trusting their data to it. What if something goes wrong? What if it breaks? How easy will it be to export and move their data over?

Compare this with the average social media user who doesn’t know any code. In their world, they’re making a choice, likely predicated upon social pressures, to post their data, content, and identity on one or more corporately controlled silos. Because of the ease-of-use, the platform is abstracted away from them even further than from the developer’s perspective thus making it even less apparent the level of trust they’re putting into the platform. What is the platform doing with their data? How is what they’re seeing in their feed being manipulated and controlled?

The problems both people are facing are relatively equivalent, just different in their dynamic range. The non-programmer is at an even greater disadvantage however as the silos are moving faster and can do more to take advantage of and manipulate them more seamlessly than the programmer who at least has more potential to learn the unfamiliar language to dig themselves out. This difference is also one of dynamic range as the developer may only need a simple shovel to dig themselves out whereas the non-coder will need a massive excavator, which may be unavailable and still need an operator with knowledge of how to use it.

Featured image: excavator flickr photo by mbecher shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

IndieWebCamp East 2020: Save the Date and Call for Volunteers

Hello IndieWeb friends and family! 

Save the Date

After some back-and-forth, several of us have carved out some time over the weekend of November 14-15 to co-host IndieWebCamp East 2020. We hope you’ll be able to join us.

If you’re interested in a weekend full of IndieWeb related activities, sessions, learning, creating, and coming together in a warm and inviting community of people who care about and help craft the web, please save the date.

As its title indicates, the camp will be organized around Eastern Standard Time in the Americas from the early morning  to the late afternoon over Saturday and Sunday that weekend. Because we’re hosting the camp completely free and online, people of all ability levels and locales across the world are welcome to and encouraged to attend.

We hope folks will help us plan some surrounding social activities on Friday night before camp launches and the evenings of camp, but those details will be announced at a later date and time.

Details relating to (free) tickets and the ability to RSVP will be announced and available shortly. If you comment on this post or like/repost the syndicated copy on Twitter, we’ll be sure to notify you as details progress. You can also optionally sign up for the IndieWeb Newsletter to receive weekly updates that will include information about upcoming camps and events.

If you’ve never attended an IndieWebCamp before, we’ve written up some details about what you can expect at an IndieWebCamp to whet your appetite. You can also browse our archive of past camps with archived session notes, posts, and videos.

Call for Organizers/Volunteers

IndieWebCamps and related events are completely volunteer driven. This means we’ll need your help not only in seeing your bright, shining faces in attendance and actively participating on the days of camp, but in actually putting together and organizing the camp.

If you have some time to volunteer as a co-organizer or an area volunteer, please drop us a note in the comments below or in the IndieWeb Meta Chat Channel.

No prior experience or expertise is necessary. There are many of us around who have put together one or more parts of camp and related events before, and we’re here to help you learn if you need it. There’s also some helpful wiki pages with details. Helping to volunteer can be a great way to give back to the community. It can also be helpful if you’ve wanted to become more involved, but don’t know how. Perhaps if you’ve wanted to begin organizing other events like Homebrew Website Clubs, this could be a great stepping stone.

There are a variety of areas we could use help in as well as ideas for things we could be missing or might also be doing. A diversity and plurality of voices and ideas can help us continue improving our camp experiences. Below are a handful of areas we could use help/volunteers for:


  • General organizing
  • Keynote ideas/invitations
  • Sponsor wrangling
  • Wiki gardening
  • Creating the primary camp landing page: https://2020.indieweb.org/east
  • Accessibility
  • Family friendly planning/programming (Kids track anyone?)
  • Outreach
  • Marketing
  • Surrounding social events / pre-party / etc.
  • Others?

During camp

  • Co-hosts for Zoom rooms to help on the tech side and oversee
  • Code of Conduct point of contact(s)
  • Note taking during camp and sessions
  • Wiki gardening
  • Welcoming newcomers
  • Ideas that may need help/work: Planning Notes and Brainstorming
  • Others?

Remember more hands make light work and the camaraderie and your ideas, inspiration, and effort can make everyone’s experience at camp even better and more fruitful. 

You can start volunteering today, by saving the date and inviting a few friends to join you.

See you soon!

I and everyone else in the IndieWeb community look forward to seeing you at Camp in November or at upcoming events before then!

Domain of One’s Own Meetup (September 2020)

I’ll be hosting a Domain of One’s Own meetup on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at at 9:00 AM Pacific / 12:00 PM Eastern / 6:00 PM CEST. Everyone who is interested in the topic is welcome to attend.

We expect there will be students, teachers, designers, web developers, technologists, and people of all ages and ranges of ability from those just starting out with a domain to those running DoOO programs at colleges or even people running their own hosting companies.

We’ll meet via Zoom for audio/video and will use an Etherpad for real-time chat and note taking for the event

We will 

  • Have discussions about A Domain of One’s Own and the independent web;
  • Get to know others in the space;
  • Find potential collaborators for domains-related projects you’re working on;
  • Explore new and interesting ideas about what one can do or accomplish with a personal domain;
  • Create or update your domain
  • Ask colleagues for help/advice on problems or issues you’re having with your domain;


  • Welcome/Brief introductions
  • Main topic: This summer Reclaim Hosting launched Reclaim Cloud, but for many new and established Domains users, the “cloud” has been a nebulous buzzword with unclear meanings. In this meeting we’ll talk about what it is and why it might be important for gaining greater control over your personal cyberinfrastructure.
  • Group photo for those who wish to participate
  • Demos, questions, problems: 
    Ideally everyone should bring a topic, short demonstration of something they’ve built or gotten working on their website, a question, or problem to discuss with the group. Depending on time and interest, we can try to spend 5-10 minutes discussing and providing feedback on each of these. If questions go over this time limitation, we can extend the conversation in smaller groups as necessary after the meetup.


To RSVP to the meetup, please (optionally) do one of the following:

Future meetups

While the time frame for this meetup may work best for some in the Americas, everyone with interest is most welcome. If there are others in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, or other locales who are interested, do let us know what dates/times might work for you in the future and we can try to organize a time to maximize some attendance there. I’m happy to help anyone who’d like to take the leadership of other time zones or locales to leverage some of the resources of the IndieWeb community to assist in starting future meetings to cover other areas of the world. 

Have a topic idea for discussion at the next session? Drop us a line by adding a comment to this post or one of the syndicated copies, ping me in chat, or track me down on your platform and means of communication of choice.

Invite your friends, colleagues, and students

Know someone who would be interested in joining? Please forward this event, or one of the syndicated copies to them on your platform or modality of choice.

Featured image: Hard Drive Repair flickr photo by wwarby shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Making IndieWeb Friendly WordPress Themes: An IndieWebCamp Popup Session

The IndieWeb WordPress community could use some more theme options.

Let’s get together as a community and host a theme raising (a play on the idea of the old barn raising). We can all work/hack together to make some of the popular WordPress themes more IndieWeb friendly. We’ll discuss methods for adding the necessary Microformats and best ways to indieweb-ify a WordPress theme.

Either bring your own favorite theme or work from one on a list.

All levels are welcome!

Beginners and those without coding experience are welcome/encouraged to attend. We’ll try to help newcomers learn to begin tinkering with some WordPress theme code. If you don’t have a GitHub account yet, you might create one beforehand and we’ll show you how to use it for development, but even without it you can still do a lot with just a text editor.


When: 2020-09-26 9:30 – 11:30 AM (Pacific) / 12:30 – 2:30 PM (Eastern)
Event page: https://events.indieweb.org/2020/09/making-indieweb-friendly-wordpress-themes-8fs9gAVX3OkV
hashtag: for social media and used to create an Etherpad for the session:
Etherpadhttps://etherpad.indieweb.org/WPandMicroformats for note taking during the session
Streaming video/audio platform: Zoom (link to come)
Demos: Yes – when we’re done, show off how well your new hacked theme works on your site.


Newcomers can post a comment on this post below or reply yes via Twitter to https://twitter.com/ChrisAldrich/status/1300562134699393024. Or you can feel free to just show up on the morning of the event.

If you feel able, RSVP at Meetable or post an indie RSVP on your own website.


Bring your own theme or a theme you’d like to make more IndieWeb friendly by adding Microformats v2 support. Ideas for possible themes can be found at https://indieweb.org/WordPress/Development#Themes

(Optional) Create a GitHub account which you can use/learn during the process. Those who don’t want a GitHub account can simply use their text editor of choice to modify the relevant theme files.


We’re always happy to have additional help! If you’d like to volunteer or help organize and run the session, please touch base with Chris Aldrich or David Shanske in the IndieWeb Meta chat room.

I look forward to seeing everyone there!

A note taking problem and a proposed solution


It’s too painful to quickly get frequent notes into note taking and related platforms. Hypothes.is has an open API and a great UI that can be leveraged to simplify note taking processes.

Note taking tools

I’ve been keeping notes in systems like OneNote and Evernote for ages, but for my memory-related research and work in combination with my commonplace book for the last year, I’ve been alternately using TiddlyWiki (with TiddlyBlink) and WordPress (it’s way more than a blog.)

I’ve also dabbled significantly enough with related systems like Roam Research, Obsidian, Org mode/Org Roam, MediaWiki, DocuWiki, and many others to know what I’m looking for.

Many of these, particularly those that can be used alternately as commonplace books and zettelkasten appeal to me greatly when they include the idea of backlinks. (I’ve been using Webmention to leverage that functionality in WordPress settings, and MediaWiki gives it grudgingly with the “what links to this page” basic functionality that can be leveraged into better transclusion if necessary.)

The major problem with most note taking tools

The final remaining problem I’ve found with almost all of these platforms is being able to quickly and easily get data into them so that I can work with or manipulate it. For me the worst part of note taking is the actual taking of notes. Once I’ve got them, I can do some generally useful things with them—it’s literally the physical method of getting data from a web page, book, or other platform into the actual digital notebook that is the most painful, mindless, and useless thing for me.

Evernote and OneNote

Older note taking services like Evernote and OneNote come with browser bookmarklets or mobile share functionality that make taking notes and extracting data from web sources simple and straightforward. Then once the data is in your notebook you can actually do some work with it. Sadly neither of these services has the backlinking functionality that I find has become de rigueur for my note taking or knowledge wrangling needs.


My WordPress solutions are pretty well set since that workflow is entirely web-based and because WordPress has both bookmarklet and Micropub support. There I’m primarily using a variety of feeds and services to format data into a usable form that I can use to ping my Micropub endpoint. The Micropub plugin handles the post and most of the meta data I care about.

It would be great if other web services had support for Micropub this way too, as I could see some massive benefits to MediaWiki, Roam Research, and TiddlyWiki if they had this sort of support. The idea of Micropub has such great potential for great user interfaces. I could also see many of these services modifying projects like Omnibear to extend themselves to create highlighting (quoting) and annotating functionality with a browser extension.

With this said, I’m finding that the user interface piece that I’m missing for almost all of these note taking tools is raw data collection.

I’m not the sort of person whose learning style (or memory) is benefited by writing or typing out notes into my notebooks. I’d far rather just have it magically happen. Even copying and pasting data from a web browser into my digital notebook is a painful and annoying process, especially when you’re reading and collecting/curating as many notes as I tend to. I’d rather be able to highlight, type some thoughts and have it appear in my notebook. This would prevent the flow of my reading, thinking, and short annotations from being subverted by the note collection process.

Different modalities for content consumption and note taking 

Based on my general experience there are only a handful of different spaces where I’m typically making notes.

Reading online

A large portion of my reading these days is done in online settings. From newspapers, magazines, journal articles and more, I’m usually reading them online and taking notes from them there.

.pdf texts

Some texts I want to read (often books and journal articles) only live in .pdf form. While reading them in an app-specific setting has previously been my preference, I’ve taken to reading them from within browsers. I’ll explain why in just a moment, but it has to do with a tool that treats this method the same as the general online modality. I’ll note that most of the .pdf  specific apps have dreadful data export—if any.

Reading e-books (Kindle, e-readers, etc.)

If it’s not online or in .pdf format, I’m usually reading books within a Kindle or other e-reading device. These are usually fairly easy to add highlights, annotations, and notes to. While there are some paid apps that can extract these notes, I don’t find it too difficult to find the raw file and cut and paste the data into my notebook of choice. Once there, going through my notes, reformatting them (if necessary), tagging them and expanding on them is not only relatively straightforward, but it also serves as a simple method for doing a first pass of spaced repetition and review for better long term recall.


Naturally taking notes from live lectures, audiobooks, and other spoken events occurs, but more often in these cases, I’m typically able to type them directly into my notebook of preference or I’m using something like my digital Livescribe pen for notes which get converted by OCR and are easy enough to convert in bulk into a digital notebook. I won’t belabor this part further, though if others have quick methods, I’d love to hear them.

Physical books

While I love a physical book 10x more than the next 100 people, I’ve been trying to stay away from them because I find that though they’re easy to highlight, underline, and annotate the margins, it takes too much time and effort (generally useless for memory purposes for me) to transfer these notes into a digital notebook setting. And after all, it’s the time saving piece I’m after here, so my preference is to read in some digital format if at all possible.

A potential solution for most of these modalities

For several years now, I’ve been enamored of the online Hypothes.is annotation tool. It’s open source, allows me reasonable access to my data from the (free) hosted version, and has a simple, beautiful, and fast process for bookmarking, highlighting, and annotating online texts on desktop and mobile. It works exceptionally well for both web pages and when reading .pdf texts within a browser window.

I’ve used it daily to make several thousand annotations on 800+ online web pages and documents. I’m not sure how I managed without it before. It’s the note taking tool I wished I’d always had. It’s a fun and welcome part of my daily life. It does exactly what I want it to and generally stays out of the way otherwise. I love it and recommend it unreservedly. It’s helped me to think more deeply and interact more directly with countless texts.

When reading on desktop or mobile platforms, it’s very simple to tap a browser extension and have all their functionality immediately available. I can quickly highlight a section of a text and their UI pops open to allow me to annotate, tag it, and publish. I feel like it’s even faster than posting something to Twitter. It is fantastically elegant.

The one problem I have with it is that while it’s great for collecting and aggregating my note data into my Hypothes.is account, there’s not much I can do with it once it’s there. It’s missing the notebook functionality some of these other services provide. I wish I could plug all my annotation and highlight content into spaced repetition systems or move it around and modify it within a notebook where it might be more interactive and cross linked for the long term. Sadly I don’t think that any of this sort of functionality is on Hypothes.is’ roadmap any time soon.

There is some great news however! Hypothes.is is open source and has a reasonable API. This portends some exciting things! This means that any of these wiki, zettelkasten, note taking, or spaced repetition services could leverage the UI for collecting data and pipe it into their interfaces for direct use.

As an example, what if I could quickly tell Obsidian to import all my pre-existing and future Hypothes.is data directly into my Obsidian vault for manipulating as notes? (And wouldn’t you know, the small atomic notes I get by highlighting and annotating are just the sort that one would like in a zettelkasten!) What if I could pick and choose specific course-related data from my reading and note taking in Hypothes.is (perhaps by tag or group) for import into Anki to quickly create some flash cards for spaced repetition review? For me, this combination would be my dream application!

These small pieces, loosely joined can provide some awesome opportunities for knowledge workers, students, researchers, and others. The education focused direction that Hypothes.is, many of these note taking platforms, and spaced repetition systems are all facing positions them to make a super-product that we all want and need.

An experiment

So today, as a somewhat limited experiment, I played around with my Hypothes.is atom feed (https://hypothes.is/stream.atom?user=chrisaldrich, because you know you want to subscribe to this) and piped it into IFTTT. Each post creates a new document in a OneDrive file which I can convert to a markdown .md file that can be picked up by my Obsidian client. While I can’t easily get the tags the way I’d like (because they’re not included in the feed) and the formatting is incredibly close, but not quite there, the result is actually quite nice.

Since I can “drop” all my new notes into a particular folder, I can easily process them all at a later date/time if necessary. In fact, I find that the fact that I might want to revisit all my notes to do quick tweaks or adding links or additional thoughts provides the added benefit of a first round of spaced repetition for the notes I took.

Some notes may end up being deleted or reshuffled, but one thing is clear: I’ve never been able to so simply highlight, annotate, and take notes on documents online and get them into my notebook so quickly. And when I want to do something with them, there they are, already sitting in my notebook for manipulation, cross-linking, spaced repetition, and review.

So if the developers of any of these platforms are paying attention, I (and I’m sure others) really can’t wait for plugin integrations using the full power of the Hypothes.is API that allow us to all leverage Hypothes.is’ user interface to make our workflows seamlessly simple.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia from American Nations by Colin Woodard

I should have posted these almost a year ago when I read Woodard’s awesome book, but here they are now. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It is guaranteed to reframe how you look at the country and help you to better understand what is going on with our current political situation.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Guide to highlight colors

Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Blue–Interesting Quote
Gray–Typography Problem
Red–Example to work through

Highlights: 82; Notes: 5


By the middle of the eighteenth century, eight discrete Euro-American cultures had been established on the southern and eastern rims of North America.

Highlight (yellow) – Introduction

Added on July 29, 2019 2:46 PM

These eleven nations have been hiding in plain sight throughout our history. You see them outlined on linguists’ dialect maps, cultural anthropologists’ maps of material culture regions, cultural geographers’ maps of religious regions, campaign strategists’ maps of political geography, and historians’ maps of the pattern of settlement across the continent.

Highlight (yellow) – Introduction

Added on July 29, 2019 8:48 PM

Kevin Phillips, a Republican Party campaign strategist, identified the distinct boundaries and values of several of these nations in 1969, and used them to accurately prophesy the Reagan Revolution in his Emerging Republican Majority, a politico cult classic.

Highlight (yellow) – Introduction

Added on July 29, 2019 8:53 PM

In 1981 Washington Post editor Joel Garreau wrote The Nine Nations of North America, a best seller that observed that the continent was divided into rival power blocs that corresponded to few national, state, or provincial boundaries. His regional paradigm argued the future would be shaped by the competing, conflicting aspirations of these North American nations. But because his book was ahistorical—a snapshot in time, not an exploration of the past—Garreau couldn’t accurately identify the nations, how they formed, or what their respective aspirations were.

Highlight (yellow) – Introduction

Added on July 29, 2019 8:54 PM

Albion’s Seed

Highlight (green) – Introduction

Added on July 29, 2019 8:59 PM

Champlain’s Dream

Highlight (green) – Introduction

Added on July 29, 2019 8:59 PM

Russell Shorto described the salient characteristics of New Netherland in The Island at the Center of the World in 2004

Highlight (green) – Introduction

Added on July 29, 2019 8:59 PM

Cultural geographers came to similar conclusions decades ago. Wilbur Zelinsky of Pennsylvania State University formulated the key theory in 1973, which he called the Doctrine of First Effective Settlement. “Whenever an empty territory undergoes settlement, or an earlier population is dislodged by invaders, the specific characteristics of the first group able to effect a viable, self-perpetuating society are of crucial significance for the later social and cultural geography of the area, no matter how tiny the initial band of settlers may have been,” Zelinsky wrote. “Thus, in terms of lasting impact, the activities of a few hundred, or even a few score, initial colonizers can mean much more for the cultural geography of a place than the contributions of tens of thousands of new immigrants a few generations later.”

Highlight (yellow) – Introduction

Important thing to consider in combination with Machiavelli
Added on July 29, 2019 9:26PM

CHAPTER 1 – Founding El Norte

In 1610 they built Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors, now the oldest public building in the United States.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 1 – Founding El Norte

Added on July 31, 2019 12:02 AM

CHAPTER 2 – Founding New France

On the island of Montréal, settlers hunted and fished on the seigniors’ reserves, damaged their fences, and threatened their overseers. The obstinacy of the Acadian farmers infuriated an eighteenth-century colonial official. “I really think the Acadians are mad. Do they imagine we wish to make seigniors of them?” he asked. “They seem offended by the fact that we wish to treat them like our peasants.”

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 2 – Founding New France

Added on August 1, 2019 7:05AM

CHAPTER 3 – Founding Tidewater

It was, in essence, a corporate-owned military base, complete with fortifications, martial law, a small elite of officers, and a large contingent of rank-and-file soldiers.2 But the Virginia Company’s plan was based on the faulty assumption that the Indians would be intimidated by English technology, believe their employers were gods, and submit, Aztec-like, to their rule. The Indians, in fact, did none of these things.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 3 – Founding Tidewater

To a great extent this seems to be the modern case worth our military incursions into places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Added on August 1, 2019 7:14AM

Tidewater’s leaders recruited their workforce from the masses of desperate, malnourished laborers who’d been crowding London and other English cities. They offered prospective laborers transportation to Virginia or Maryland and a fifty-acre plot of land free of charge, in exchange for three years’ service as a “white slave” or indentured servant. Most of those who responded were single men aged fifteen to twenty-four. They quickly came to represent the majority of Tidewater’s European population. Scholars estimate indentured servants comprised between 80 and 90 percent of the 150,000 Europeans who emigrated to Tidewater in the seventeenth century. Few survived their period of servitude: the mortality rate was as high as 30 percent a year. Those who did had a reasonable chance of becoming independent farmers, and a few became very rich.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 3 – Founding Tidewater

Added on August 1, 2019 7:21 AM

the threat of violence.16 One might ask how such a tyrannical society could have produced some of the greatest champions of republicanism, such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison. The answer is that Tidewater’s gentry embraced classical republicanism, meaning a republic modeled after those of ancient Greece and Rome. They emulated the learned, slaveholding elite of ancient Athens, basing their enlightened political philosophies around the ancient Latin concept of libertas, or liberty. This was a fundamentally different notion from the Germanic concept of Freiheit, or freedom, which informed the political thought of Yankeedom and the Midlands. Understanding the distinction is essential to comprehending the fundamental disagreements that still plague relations between Tidewater, the Deep South, and New Spain on one hand and Yankeedom and the Midlands on the other.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 3 – Founding Tidewater

Added on August 3, 2019 2:38AM

CHAPTER 4 – Founding Yankeedom

Founding Yankeedom

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 4 – Founding Yankeedom

Added on August 3, 2019 11:15AM

According to a central myth of American history, the founders of Yankeedom were champions of religious freedom fleeing persecution at home. While there is some truth to this in regard to the Pilgrims—a few hundred English Calvinists who settled Cape Cod in 1620—it is entirely false in regard to the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, who would soon bring Plymouth and the other colonies of New England under their control. The Puritans left England en masse in the 1630s—25,000 in just twelve short years—because of their unwillingness to compromise on matters of religious policy. While other colonies welcomed all comers, the Puritans forbade anyone to settle in their colony who failed to pass a test of religious conformity. Dissenters were banished.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 4 – Founding Yankeedom

Added on August 3, 2019 11:18AM

But in other respects, the Puritans created a genuinely revolutionary society. Having secured, through deception, a royal charter for their colony, they were not beholden to feudal nobles (as were early Maryland and New France) or distant corporations (as were Virginia and, later, the Carolinas). New Englanders intended to rule themselves.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 4 – Founding Yankeedom

Added on August 3, 2019 11:20AM

Here were the kernels of the twin political ideologies of America’s imperial age: American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny. The first held that Americans were God’s chosen people, the second that He wished Americans to rule the continent from sea to sea. Both ideas had their origins in Yankee Puritan thought and would be developed and championed by the sons of New England.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 4 – Founding Yankeedom

Added on August 3, 2019 1:13PM

hundreds of Puritans returned home to fight in Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, a military force founded on the radical notion that promotions should be based on proficiency rather than social status.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 4 – Founding Yankeedom

Added on August 3, 2019 1:14PM

CHAPTER 5 – Founding New Netherland

The main road, Breede weg (Broadway), passed through a gate in the wall and continued on past farms, fields, and forests to the village of Haarlem, on the north end of the island. Ferrymen rowed goods and people across the East River to Lange Eylandt and the villages of Breukelen (Brooklyn), Vlissingen (Flushing), Vlacke Bos (Flatbush) and New Utrecht (now a Brooklyn neighborhood) or across the harbor to Hoboken and Staaten Eylandt.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 5 – Founding New Netherland

Added on August 4, 2019 2:33PM

These characteristics—diversity, tolerance, upward mobility, and an overwhelming emphasis on private enterprise—have come to be identified with the United States, but they were really the legacy of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Indeed, many of the historic achievements of the American Revolution were accomplished by the Dutch nearly two centuries before the Battle of Lexington: a successful war of independence against an enormous monarchical empire (the kingdom of Spain), the declaration of an inborn human right to rebel against an oppressive government (the 1581 Act of Abjuration), and the creation of a kingless republic.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 5 – Founding New Netherland

Added on August 4, 2019 2:26PM

CHAPTER 6 – The Colonies’ First Revolt

In court, Puritans faced Anglican juries and were forced to kiss the Bible when swearing their oaths (an “idolatrous” Anglican practice) instead of raising their right hand, as was Puritan custom

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 6 – The Colonies’ First Revolt

Added on August 4, 2019 3:06PM

CHAPTER 7 – Founding the Deep South

Deep Southern society was not only militarized, caste-structured, and deferential to authority, it was also aggressively expansionist.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 7 – Founding the Deep South

Added on August 4, 2019 5:03PM

The philanthropists banned slavery from Georgia, as the presence of slaves was thought to discourage poor whites from hard work, and they limited farms to a maximum size of fifty acres in an attempt to prevent plantations from forming. Georgia’s benefactors even forbade liquor and lawyers, as they thought both eroded moral character.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 7 – Founding the Deep South

Added on August 4, 2019 5:05PM

CHAPTER 8 – Founding the Midlands

The most prototypically American of the nations was one of the last to be founded. From its inception in the 1680s, the Midlands was a tolerant, multicultural, multilingual civilization populated by families of modest means—many of them religious—who desired mostly that their government and leaders leave them in peace.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 8 – Founding the Midlands8

Added on August 4, 2019 5:11PM

Quakers spurned the social conventions of the day, refusing to bow or doff their hats to social superiors or to take part in formal religious services of any sort. They rejected the authority of church hierarchies, held women to be spiritually equal to men, and questioned the legitimacy of slavery. Their leaders strode naked on city streets or, daubed with excrement, into Anglican churches in efforts to provide models of humility;

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 8 – Founding the Midlands

Added on August 4, 2019 5:15PM

Many wealthy Quakers, Penn included, had come to Pennsylvania with slaves, but within a decade, Friends were advising one another that slaveholding violated the Golden Rule. In 1712, the Quaker-run legislature even imposed a prohibitive duty on the import of slaves, but it was overturned by a royal court.

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 8 – Founding the Midlands

Added on August 4, 2019 5:50PM

The Dutch, Swedes, and Finns of the “lower counties” became so desperate for proper government that they broke away to form one of their own, founding the tiny colony of Delaware in 1704

Highlight (yellow) – CHAPTER 8 – Founding the Midlands

Added on August 4, 2019 5:52PM

CHAPTER 9 – Founding Greater Appalachia

But Greater Appalachia started as a civilization without a government. The Borderlanders weren’t really colonists, brought to the New World to provide some lord or shareholding company with the manpower for a specific colonial project. They were immigrants seeking sanctuary from a devastated homeland, refugees who generally arrived without the encouragement or direction of officials, and often against their wishes. Having no desire to bow to “foreign” rule or to give up their ways, the Borderlanders rushed straight to the isolation of the eighteenth-century frontier to found a society that was, for a time, literally beyond the reach of the law, and modeled on the anarchical world they had left behind.

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Living amid constant upheaval, many Borderlanders embraced a Calvinist religious tradition—Presbyterianism—that held that they were God’s chosen people, members of a biblical nation sanctified in blood and watched over by a wrathful Old Testament deity. Suspicious of outside authority of any kind, the Borderlanders valued individual liberty and personal honor above all else, and were happy to take up arms to defend either.

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The Borderlanders arrived in five increasingly massive waves between 1717 and 1776, each a response to a disaster back in the British Isles.

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Rather than trying to produce cash crops for export, the Borderlanders embraced a woodland subsistence economy. They hunted, fished, and practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, moving every few years as the soil became depleted. Life in Britain had taught them not to invest too much time and wealth in fixed property, which was easily destroyed in time of war. Instead, they stored their wealth in a very mobile form: herds of pigs, cattle, and sheep. When they did need cash, they distilled corn into a more portable, storable, and valuable product: whiskey, which would remain the de facto currency of Appalachia for the next two centuries

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Indeed, the Borderlanders’ top priority rarely seemed to be increasing their wealth; rather, it was maximizing their freedom, especially from outside forces.7

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The lucky tenth were usually the heads of “good families,” charismatic figures who commanded loyalty that was more a function of their personalities, character, and horizontal genealogical connections than of any particular policies they supported. They earned social standing from their individual deeds and accomplishments, rather than any sort of inherited station. Borderlanders recognized as “family” individuals out four generations in either direction, effectively creating enormous clans. Intermarriage between first cousins was commonplace, reinforcing the bonds of kinship

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But the Paxton Boys’ actions had revealed fault lines across Pennsylvania and other colonies that would break open during the American Revolution.13

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This crime wave discouraged settlers from accumulating wealth, reinforcing the old Borderlander pattern. “The person who by his honest labour has earned £50 and lays it up for his future occasions

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The cultural divide was even more disruptive in North Carolina, where Tidewater gentry, who effectively controlled the colony’s government, tried to assert jurisdiction over the Borderlanders in the 1760s. The legislature—which gave ten times more representation per capita to the coastal lowlands—imposed a property tax system based on acreage, not property values, effectively shifting the burden from wealthy plantation owners to impoverished Borderlanders. The new royal governor, Sir William Tryon, increased the burden in 1765 in order to build himself a lavish £15,000 palace. Again the backcountry responded with a vigilante movement of “Regulators” who violently seized control of the Appalachian portion of the colony for three years starting in 1768. Beating lawyers, sacking courthouses, and expelling tax collectors, the Regulators remained in power until their army of 2,000 was defeated in a pitched battle with Tidewater militia at Alamance Creek in 1771. Many Regulator leaders took refuge in the deep backcountry of what would one day be called Tennessee

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larger-scale experiment took place farther south in what is now the eastern part of Tennessee and central Kentucky, where several thousand Borderlanders insituted an improvised government deep inside Indian territory. Their new nation, Transylvania, was created in direct violation of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 (which prohibited settlement west of the Appalachians), the legal jurisdictions of North Carolina and Virginia (which then claimed the territory), and His Majesty’s property rights (as the Crown legally controlled all undeeded land on the continent).

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CHAPTER 10 – A Common Struggle

Some of the taxes were designed to effect social change; new fees for the issuance of university diplomas and licenses to practice law were higher than those in Great Britain “to keep mean [lowborn] persons out of those institutions in life which they disgrace.”

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We do much the same thing to African Americans now…
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But the British military commander, Baron Jeffrey Amherst, canceled all gift-giving and made it clear the savages were to obey or be slaughtered. The result was a massive, coordinated 1763 uprising of a dozen major tribes under the Ottawa tribal leader Pontiac aimed at hurting the British and restoring French control of New France. This war—the one that led the Paxton Boys to march on Philadelphia—resulted in Indians killing or capturing 2,000 colonists in the Appalachian sections of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Baron Amherst, seeking to “Extirpate this Execrable Race,” instructed his troops to distribute smallpox-infested blankets to the Indians. Ultimately even biological warfare was unable to bring them to heel, and Amherst was recalled in disgrace

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Holy crap, this is the same Amherst as the college!
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The fifty-six delegates all knew that forging colonial collaboration wasn’t going to be easy, not least because of negative stereotypes associated with one another’s regional cultures.

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Most revealing, the sixth nation was not represented at the Congress at all, though it held perhaps a majority of the population of Pennsylvania and both Carolinas. The colonial assemblies refused to allow Appalachia to participate, depriving the enormous region of any voice at the proceedings.

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CHAPTER 11 – Six Wars of Liberation

What we call the American Revolution did indeed play out very differently in the various nations of the Atlantic seaboard. But there weren’t four neat struggles, one unfolding as the previous one concluded; rather, there were six very different liberation wars, one for each affected nation. Some occurred simultaneously and two involved invasions by one American nation into another.

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For the duration of the war, the tolerance and pluralism of the Midlands was suppressed by occupation forces from neighboring nations.8

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Greater Appalachia—poor, isolated, and not in control of a single colonial government—had the most complicated involvement in the wars of liberation. The Borderlanders seized on the pretext of the “revolution” to assert their independence from outside control, but, as previously mentioned, this took different forms in each region, sometimes in each community

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Though confronted by a common threat, the nations had not been united in the conflict. Each fought its own war of liberation, but most in New Netherland, the Midlands, and southern Appalachia fought on the losing side and were vanquished in 1781. The victors—Yankeedom, Tidewater, the Deep South, and northern Appalachia—would fight over the spoils, including the terms under which they would try to cement their wartime alliance.

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CHAPTER 12 – Independence or Revolution?

But the effort to preserve their separate cultures had produced two unexpected side effects: a loose political alliance with some characteristics of statehood, and a popular movement demanding “democracy,” a prospect the national leaders found quite alarming.

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Between August 1777 and May 1787, Yankee New England faced off against the four Southern states represented by delegates from Tidewater and the Deep South. Over this decade-long time period, not a single delegate from either of these blocs ever voted consistently with a colleague from the other. Delegates from “the middle states” served as the kingmakers, allying with one bloc or the other; traditional scholars have described these middle delegates as acting like swing voters, but a closer examination shows that delegates from New Netherland, the Midlands, and Appalachia tended to stick with their own. In New Jersey, for instance, voting habits in both Congress and the new state assembly were split into a northern New Netherlander bloc and a southern Midlander bloc, each of which had more in common with its cultural kin in New York City or southwestern Pennsylvania than with its “fellow” New Jerseyians. Similarly, even during the war, two parties struggled for control in Pennsylvania, one (the Constitutionalists) supported by the Scots-Irish of Appalachia, the other (the Republicans) by the Quakers and Anglicans in and around Philadelphia; the Appalachian bloc sided without exception with the Yankees, while the Midlands bloc often sided with the Southerners.3

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Regional divisions were so profound that in 1778 British secret agent Paul Wentworth reported there appeared to be not one American republic but three: an “eastern republic of Independents in church and state” (i.e., Yankeedom), a “middle republic of toleration in church and state” (New Netherland and the Midlands), and a “southern . . . mixed government copied nearly from Great Britain” (Tidewater and the Deep South); the differences among them, he argued, were greater than those among the nations of Europe.

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The same families appeared in the colonial assemblies and senior positions generation after generation, particularly in Tidewater and the Deep South, where they openly called themselves aristocrats. In any case, in almost every colony people got to vote only for legislators in the lower house. Governors, councilors, and other high officials were selected by the legislators or the king, to ensure the rabble didn’t put the “wrong sort” into office.6

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Much the same system can still be seen in the electoral college as well as in Alabama for the Governors office.
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As usual, Appalachia was all but closed out of the discussion, with only one representative at the convention (James Wilson of Pennsylvania); that region’s exclusion from the proceedings would prove a curse to the young United States.10

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New Netherlanders refused to vote on it at all until Congress agreed to add thirteen amendments modeled on the civil liberties enumerated in the Articles of Capitulation on the Reduction of New Netherland, which the Dutch had brokered before turning the colony over to England in 1664. The people of New Netherland had lived under the arbitrary rule of distant powers for a very long time and wanted assurances their tolerant approach to religion and freedom of inquiry would not be trampled on by a new empire. Had the Congress not agreed to these demands by passing the Bill of Rights, the United States would probably not have lived to see its tenth birthday

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CHAPTER 13 – Nations in the North

Early Midland emigrants wrote their friends at home that in Ontario “they will find a second edition of Pennsylvania, as it was before the American War.” Tolerant, diverse, and apathetic about the wider world, Ontario’s founding settlers were happy to let imperial officials bother

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CHAPTER 14 – First Secessionists

Outside Tidewater and the Deep South, many were alarmed by a document they regarded as counterrevolutionary, intentionally designed to suppress democracy and to keep power in the hands of regional elites and an emerging class of bankers, financial speculators, and land barons who had little or no allegiance to the continent’s ethnocultural nations. Indeed, the much-celebrated Founding Fathers had made no secret of this having been one of their goals. They praised the unelected Senate because it would “check the impudence of democracy” (Alexander Hamilton), and stop the “turbulence and follies of democracy” (Edmund Randolph), and applauded the enormous federal electoral districts because they would “divide the community,” providing “defense against the inconveniences of democracy” (James Madison).1

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In 1789 Appalachian people were dead set against the creation of a strong, elite-controlled federal government. Many of them feel the same way today.2

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In the dark hours of the wars of liberation, the Continental Congress had no money to pay salaries to their soldiers or to compensate farmers for requisitioned food and livestock. Instead Congress gave all these people government IOUs. This practice continued for years until, under the financial administration of the notoriously unethical banker Robert Morris, the state of Pennsylvania announced it would no longer accept the congressional IOUs as payment for taxes. With no other form of money in circulation in much of the countryside, many poor families had no choice but to sell the notes for whatever they could get, and wealthy speculators purchased them for one-sixth to one-fortieth of their face value. Soon just over 400 individuals held over 96 percent of Pennsylvania’s war debt, and nearly half was controlled by just twenty-eight men, most of whom were Robert Morris’s friends and business partners. Shortly thereafter, Morris and his protégé Alexander Hamilton took control of federal financial policy, rigging it so as to literally turn their friends’ worthless paper into silver and gold. Under Morris and Hamilton, the federal government would buy back the bonds for face value, plus 6 percent interest, paid in precious metals raised by assessing new federal excise taxes designed to fall most heavily on the poor people who’d been forced to take the worthless congressional scrip in the first place

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New Englanders believed that freedom belonged primarily not to the individual but to the community. Unfettered individual pursuit of absolute freedom and property accumulation, they feared, would destroy community ties, create an aristocracy, and enslave the masses, resulting in a tyranny along the lines of the British or the Deep South

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Yankees defended the acts, which were in accord with their concept of communal liberty. All citizens had the right to elect their own representatives, the thinking went, but once they did, they owed them their absolute deference—not just to the laws they passed but to everything they said or did while in office

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CHAPTER 15 – Yankeedom Spreads West

After the revolution, four of the American nations hurdled the Appa lachians and began spreading west across the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. There was very little mixing in their settlement streams, as politics, religion, ethnic prejudice, geography, and agricultural practices kept colonists almost entirely apart in four distinct tiers. Their respective cultural imprints can be seen to this day on maps created by linguists to trace American dialects, by anthropologists codifying material culture, and by political scientists tracking voting behaviors from the early nineteenth century straight through to the early twenty-first. With the exception of the New French enclave in southern Louisiana, the middle third of the continent was divided up among these four rival cultures.

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Connecticut and Vermont sent soldiers to help the settlers repel the attack, resulting in a final “Yankee-Pennamite War” in 1782. In the end Pennsylvania kept jurisdiction, but the settlers retained their land titles.

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On the Yankee frontier, God apparently handed out conflicting instructions. William Miller, a farmer born in Massachusetts and raised on the Vermont frontier, announced that Christ was to return, cleanse, and purify the Earth in 1843. When this failed to occur, he recalculated the date to October 22, 1844, setting his tens of thousands of followers up for an event known as the Great Disappointment. The movement’s adherents still await the second coming, worshipping on Saturdays and emphasizing a diet featuring cold grains and cereals. (They’re now known as the Seventh-Day Adventists and number over a million members.)

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CHAPTER 17 – Appalachia Spreads West

“Hoosier”—a Southern slang term for a frontier hick—was adopted as a badge of honor by the Appalachian people of Indiana.2

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Another described the Butternut as a “long, lank, lean, ignorant animal . . . little in advance of the savage state [and] content to squat in a log-cabin with a large family of ill-fed and illclothed, idle, ignorant children.” One Illinois newspaper deplored “the intellectual, moral, and political darkness which covers the land” in Appalachian-settled areas.4

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CHAPTER 18 – The Deep South Spreads West

They found allies among Appalachian Presbyterians like the influential northern Alabama minister, the Reverend Fred A. Ross. “Man south of the Equator—in Asia, Australia, Oceanica, America, especially Africa—is inferior to his Northern brother,” Ross wrote in his 1857 opus, Slavery Ordained of God. “Slavery is of God, and [should] continue for the good of the slave, the good of the master, the good of the whole American family.”

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CHAPTER 19 – Conquering El Norte

El Norte’s border had become porous to more than goods, however. In the 1820s Mexican authorities were helpless to defend their frontier from waves of illegal immigrants pouring across from the north and east in search of economic opportunity. Texas bore the brunt of this flood of immigration due to its long borders with increasingly populated Louisiana and Arkansas. Under Mexican law, Anglo-Americans were unwelcome, but Texas officials were desperate enough for settlers to look the other way. “I cannot help seeing advantages which . . . would result if we admitted honest, hard working people, regardless of what country they come from . . . even Hell itself,” said San Antonio politico Francisco Ruiz.3

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The Nacogdoches area had been granted to a hotheaded Appalachia-born slave planter, Haden Edwards, who’d tried to rid the area of norteños and squatters alike, to make way for “respectable” Deep Southern planters. When his illegal expropriations led authorities to withdraw his grant in 1826, Edwards declared independence, appointing himself the head of the “Republic of Fredonia.”

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CHAPTER 20 – Founding the Left Coast

In what was one of the largest spontaneous migrations in human history to that point, 300,000 arrived in California in just five years, increasing the new American territory’s non-Indian population twentyfold. Within twenty-four months San Francisco grew from a village of 800 to a city of 20,000.

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While the Yankees failed in their broad mission, they did have a lasting effect on coastal California from Monterey north. The coast blended the moral, intellectual, and utopian impulses of a Yankee elite with the self-sufficient individualism of its Appalachian and immigrant majority. The culture that formed—idealistic but individualistic—was unlike that of the gold-digging lands in the interior but very similar to those in western Oregon and Washington. It would take nearly a century for its people to recognize it, but it was a new regional culture, one that would ally with Yankeedom to change the federation

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CHAPTER 21 – War for the West

“There will be no compromise with Secession if war is forced upon the north,” Confederate secretary of state Richard Lathers warned President Davis. “The first armed demonstration against the integrity of the Union or the dignity of the flag will find these antagonistic partisans enrolled in the same patriotic ranks for the defense of both [and] bring every man at the North, irrespective of his party or sectional affiliations, to the support of the government and the flag of his country.” Davis, confident that the three aforementioned nations would side with the Confederacy in time of war, ignored Lathers’s advice. It would prove one of the worst miscalculations in North American history.9

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CHAPTER 22 – Founding the Far West

The corporate takeover of Nevada’s mines and political system followed a pattern that would continue in the Far West for nearly a century. By early 1864 the Comstock’s surface deposits had run out. When delegates gathered that summer to write Nevada’s first constitution, mining interests introduced a bill that effectively exempted mines from taxation, even though they represented most of the territory’s economic activity. Delegates linked with the mining industry claimed taxes would prompt the corporations to leave the region, imperiling the jobs of their hired miners and, by extension, demand for farm goods, cattle, lumber, and other supplies and services provided by locals. The frightened delegates passed the bill, effectively transferring the tax burden to everyone else in Nevada. It was a ruse that would be repeated again and again across the Far West.3

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As late as the twentieth century one could ship goods from Chicago to Seattle via Helena cheaper than from Chicago to Helena on the very same train. Raw goods could be shipped out of the Far West more cheaply than finished goods, in an intentional scheme concocted by the railroads to prevent manufacturing industries from taking hold in the region and to keep it dependent on the cities of the Left Coast, Yankeedom, the Midlands, and New Netherland.10

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Indeed, the Far West’s hostility to federal power has been the glue that’s held this authority-averse region in an otherwise unlikely alliance with the continent’s most authoritarian nation, with lasting repercussions for North America and the world.

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CHAPTER 23 – Immigration and Identity

A few words on this era of mass immigration. Between 1830 and 1924 some 36 million people emigrated to the United States. They arrived in three distinct waves.

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The third wave, from 1890 to 1924, was the largest of all, with some 18 million new arrivals, mostly from southern and eastern Europe (particularly Italy, Greece, and Poland), three-quarters of whom were either Catholic or Jewish; this wave also included many Chinese and caused some alarm among native-born North Americans who feared these new foreigners would be unable to assimilate to local ways. This third wave was cut short in 1924, when the U.S. Congress imposed quotas designed to protect the federation from the taint of “inferior races,” including Italians, Jews, and immigrants from the Balkans and East Europe. Immigration remained restricted—and heavily biased toward northern Europeans—until the early 1950s.

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Another key point to note is that these “great wave” immigrants didn’t spread out evenly across the federation but rather concentrated in a few locations. Throughout the period, the majority of immigrants lived in New Netherland, the Midlands, and Yankeedom and most of the rest on the Left Coast. They settled in a handful of gateway cities, especially New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. Virtually none of them came to Tidewater, Appalachia, the Deep South, or El Norte. (The Far West, which was still being colonized, attracted only small numbers of immigrants, but they accounted for a significant share of the region’s population—about a quarter in 1870, and almost a fifth in 1910.) New York City alone had more foreign-born residents in 1870 than the entirety of Tidewater, Appalachia, and the Deep South combined.

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It is fruitless to search for the characteristics of an “American” identity, because each nation has its own notion of what being American should mean.

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CHAPTER 24 – Gods and Missions

The southern clergy helped foster a new civil religion in the former Confederacy, a myth scholars have come to call the Lost Cause. Following its credo, whites in the Deep South, Tidewater, and, ultimately, Appalachia came to believe that God had allowed the Confederacy to be bathed in blood, its cities destroyed, and its enemies ruling over it in order to test and sanctify His favored people.

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The response was the creation of a secret society of homicidal vigilantes called the Ku Klux Klan. The original Reconstruction-era Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, and remained almost entirely an Appalachian phenomenon, a warrior order committed to crushing that nation’s enemies.

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As other parts of the United States expanded and developed through the late nineteenth century, Appalachia fell backward, its people caught in a life not much removed from that of their immigrant ancestors in the colonial era.5

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Much of the Yankee elite turned to Unitarianism, an offshoot of the New England church that embraced scientific inquiry and the pursuit of social justice. Under Unitarian president Charles Eliot, Harvard was secularized in the 1870s, while the Yankee-run American Secular Union fought to ban religion from public schools. Midlanders and New Netherlanders—whose societies were founded on religious and cultural pluralism—tended to support such efforts, knowing that if church and state were fused, dissenters would face discrimination.

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Christian fundamentalism appeared in North America in reaction to the liberal theologies that were becoming dominant in the northern nations. It took its name from The Fundamentals, a twelve-volume attack on liberal theology, evolution, atheism, socialism, Mormons, Catholics, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses written by Appalachian Baptist preacher A. C. Dixon. Fundamentalism’s early organizers gathered around the World Christian Fundamentals Association, founded by another Baptist preacher, William Bell Riley, who was born in Appalachian Indiana, raised in Boone County, Kentucky, and exposed to Yankee heresy while the pastor of a Minnesota church. Inspired also by William Jennings Bryan—a Scots-Irish presidential candidate from the (very Appalachian) Egypt District of Illinois—fundamentalist-minded Private Protestants went to war against science and its corrosive theory of evolution.13

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CHAPTER 26 – War, Empire, and the Military

The rise of Adolf Hitler put the Dixie bloc in a potentially awkward position. The Nazis had praised the Deep South’s caste system, which they used as a model for their own race laws. Nazi publications approved of lynching as a natural response to the threat of racial mixing.

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U.S. foreign policy has shown a clear national pattern for the past two centuries. Since 1812, the anti-interventionist, anti-imperial Yankees have squared off against the bellicose, unilateralist hawks in the Deep South and Tidewater. Appalachia, while providing the warriors, is often divided on the wisdom of going to war when there is neither the prospect of territorial aggrandizement nor revenge. The Yankees—idealistic, intellectual, and guided by the Public Protestant mission—have sought foreign policies that would civilize the world and, thus, has often dominated the Foreign Affairs Committees on Capitol Hill. The Dixie-bloc—martial and honor-bound—has generally aimed to dominate the world and has traditionally controlled the federation’s Armed Services Committee.

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CHAPTER 28 – The Struggle for Power II: The Red and the Purple

The goal of the Deep Southern oligarchy has been consistent for over four centuries: to control and maintain a one-party state with a colonialstyle economy based on large-scale agriculture and the extraction of primary resources by a compliant, poorly educated, low-wage workforce with as few labor, workplace safety, health care, and environmental regulations as possible. On being compelled by force of arms to give up their slave workforce, Deep Southerners developed caste and sharecropper systems to meet their labor needs, as well as a system of poll taxes and literacy tests to keep former slaves and white rabble out of the political process. When these systems were challenged by African Americans and the federal government, they rallied poor whites in their nation, in Tidewater, and in Appalachia to their cause through fearmongering: The races would mix. Daughters would be defiled. Yankees would take away their guns and Bibles and convert their children to secular humanism, environmentalism, communism, and homosexuality

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It’s much the same dynamic that Thomas Frank described in What’s the Matter with Kansas? which revealed how the oligarchs of his native state used social and “moral” issues to rally ordinary people to support the architects of their economic destruction. “The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off,” Frank writes: Vote to stop abortion, receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.4

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Sean Wilkinson of Portland, Maine (for creating the maps and patiently revising them);

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E. Digby Baltzell, Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, New York: Free Press, 1979, pp. 94–106.

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12 Noah Feldman, Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005, pp. 52, 115–117, 127–132, 138.

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Getting Started with WordPress, an IndieWebCamp Pop-up Session

Have you been hearing whispers about the #IndieWeb and want to know more?

Did you see Tantek’s call to action at WordCampUS last November, but wondered how to get started?

Do you have a WordPress website where you want to better own and control your own data?

Do you want to use your own website to interact with other websites or even social media silos?

Are you a teacher or student and need a platform you control for communicating on the web while you’re stuck at home? Don’t want to rely on a toxic corporate social media site to do it?

David Shanske and I are hosting an IndieWebCamp pop-up session/workshop for WordPress beginners to learn a bit more about how to add some of the basic IndieWeb building blocks to their websites. 

Whether you’re new to the process or have some questions about how to improve your site, stop by and join us this weekend.

Getting Started with WordPress, an IndieWebCamp Pop-up Session on August 1, 2020 at 9:30 – 11:30am Pacific. Everyone is welcome. RSVP at the event site or by replying on Twitter.

If you don’t already have a domain name or need help getting WordPress set up on a host, stop by one of the Homebrew Website Clubs this week or ask for some help in the IndieWeb chat so you can follow along at the workshop on Saturday.

Little Free Library #8424 is Back in Business

Late this morning I finished building and installing a brand new Little Free Library on Harding Avenue between New York Dr. and Berendo St. in beautiful Northeast Altadena, CA!

Last year, we decommissioned our trusty old library after more than four years of service because one of the doors fell off and it need more significant repairs than we were able to provide. Now, just in time for our fifth anniversary next week on July 28th, we’ve replaced the library with a beautiful new model that should last for the next several years.

Everyone is welcome to come and enjoy the books. Please take the appropriate precautions with physical distancing (one patron at a time please), and follow recommended guidelines for hand-washing.

Currently there are a variety of books: fiction to non-fiction, children’s board books to adult fare; classics to contemporary; and paperbacks to hardcovers. Many are either new or generally very lightly used. Come today to see what we’ve got that may be of interest you. There are even some free erasers for little readers.

And remember our general guidelines: Take a book. Leave a book.

Learning Paths Annotations and Highlights to One’s Website Using ThreadReaderApp

Some small pieces, loosely joined for owning one’s highlights online.

I ran across a Chrome extension for highlights, annotations, and tagging tonight. It’s called Learning Paths. It works roughly as advertised for creating and saving highlights and annotations online. With a social silo log in process (I didn’t see an email login option), you’ve quickly got an account on the service.

You can then use the extension to highlight, tag, and annotate web pages. One can export their data as a .csv file which is nice. They’ve also got an online dashboard which displays all your data and has the ability to see public data from other users as well.

Screencapture of the Learning Paths UI for their Chrome extension

One of the interesting pieces they support is allowing users to tweet a thread from all their highlights of a piece online. Upon seeing this I thought it might make a useful feature for getting data into one’s personal wiki, website, or digital garden, particularly now that  ThreadReaderApp supports posting unrolled Twitter threads to one’s Micropub enabled website

So the workflow goes something like this (with links to examples of my having tried it along the way):

Screencapture example of ThreadReaderApp’s Authored Threads tab interface

While this works relatively well, there are a few drawbacks:

  • The UI for the annotations is a bit flaky at times and in my experience often disappears before you’ve had a chance to save them.
  • The workflow misses out on any of the annotations and tags you might add to each of the highlights (unless you manually add them to the thread, and even then you may run out of space/characters).
  • The appearance of the thread on your site is simply what you get.

While the idea works roughly in practice, it isn’t as optimal as the workflow or data fidelity I’ve found in using more robust tooling like that found in Hypothes.is for which I’ve also built a better UI on my website.

Still others, might appreciate the idea, so have at it! I’d love to see others’ ideas about owning their highlights, annotations, and related data in a place they control.


Theory on Cultural Changes with Respect to Mnemonics and the Ten Commandments in Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and specifically within Judaism

And God spoke:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, or in the waters below.
–Exodus 20:1-4

I have a hypothesis that the admonition in the ten commandments to have no other gods nor to worship idols was the result of a power struggle among early peoples on the border of nomadic lives and settling down into agricultural lifeways. These peoples may likely have been associating their memories not only to standing stones, portable items (the Ark of the Covenant as an example which was historically said to be carried into war), or small idols and graven images.

By removing peoples’ valuable cultural and societal memories over several generations, a ruling priestly class, particularly in a society with not evenly distributed writing and literacy, would have been more easily able to aggregate power within the culture to itself. From a cultural perspective it would also have put an extreme emphasis on writing, literacy, and learning with them. Is this part of an explanation for why Jewish culture still has such an emphasis on these tools thousands of years later?

This obviously needs to be thought out further with supporting evidence from the historical and archaeological record, but on first blush, I feel like the evidence for this hypothesis generally exists.

If I’m right, then these few sentences have had a far more dramatic influence on Western and even human culture than we have previously thought.

Featured Image: The Crusader Bible, MS M.638, fol. 39v, Paris, France, ca. 1244–1254, 390 x 300 mm, via the Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased by J.P. Morgan (1867–1943) in 1916
David’s Greatest Triumph, The Ark Enshrined in Jerusalem, David Blesses Israel
Old Testament Miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions
David retrieves the Ark of the Covenant from Obed-Edom’s house, and a jubilant celebration ensues as the triumphant king, playing upon his harp, leads it into Jerusalem. Once the Ark has come six paces into the city, a sacrifice is made of an ox and a ram. No one is more overjoyed than the king himself, who dances and leaps before the procession. David’s wild behavior embarrasses Michal, who points accusingly at him from her window. But the king is unconcerned, wishing only to give thanks and humble himself before God. (2 Kings 6:12–16)

Posting an event and RSVPing to it at the same time

Yesterday I had created an event post for an upcoming DoOO Meetup I’m hosting and syndicated a copy to Meetable. The sad, but predictable, result was a webmention being displayed on Meetable that duplicated all of the details including all of the invitations. This felt annoying to me, and I simultaneously thought that as the host, I also ought to officially RSVP for the event itself so that it didn’t appear like no one was going. Rather than go to the trouble of creating a stand-alone RSVP reply post, I thought, why not create a two-for-one bargain? So I naïvely added a class="u-in-reply-to" to the Meetable URL in my event and threw on a data tag to the front of the post like so:

<data class="p-rsvp" value="yes">I'll be hosting</data>

And of course, wouldn’t you know: it worked! The duplication of all the data on the syndicated copy disappeared, and in its place a smiling photo of me indicating that I’m attending.

Sadly, I’ve noticed that the WordPress Webmention plugin doesn’t seem to allow me to self-RSVP to my own original post within the same post. I thought I might try forcing it manually only to discover that Telegraph won’t allow the source and target to be the same URL. I also tried mention-tech which will apparently send it and report a success, but my site doesn’t seem to actually receive and display it. I will say this may be the only case I’ve run across in 5 years that I’d want to self-mention the same post and actually display the result.

A Domain of One’s Own Meetup | July 23, 2020

I’ll be hosting a Domain of One’s Own meetup on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at at 10:30 AM Pacific / 1:30 PM Eastern / 7:30 PM CEST. Everyone who is interested in the topic is welcome to attend. We expect there will be students, teachers, designers, web developers, technologists, and people of all ages and ranges of ability from those just starting out with a domain to those running DoOO programs at colleges or even people running their own hosting companies.

We’ll use Zoom for this online meetup (here’s the link to the room which should be active about 15 minutes before we start). We’re planning on using an Etherpad for real-time chat and note taking for the event.

Attendees will be expected to have read and agree to the IndieWeb Code of Conduct which will apply to the meetup.

We will 

  • Have discussions about A Domain of One’s Own and the independent web;
  • Get to know other colleagues in the space;
  • Ask colleagues for help/advice on problems or issues you’re having with your domain;
  • Find potential collaborators for domains-related projects you’re working on;
  • Explore new and interesting ideas about what one can do or accomplish with a personal domain;
  • Create or update your domain


  • Welcome
  • Introductions: short 2 minute introductions of attendees with an optional brief demonstration of something you’ve done on your domain or purpose for which you’re using your domain.
  • Group photo for those who wish to participate
  • Main meetup: Ideally everyone should bring a topic, demonstration, question, or problem to discuss with the group. Depending on time and interest, we can try to spend 5-10 minutes discussing and providing feedback on each of these. If questions go over this time limitation, we can extend the conversation in smaller groups as necessary after the meetup.


To RSVP to the meetup, please do one of the following:

Future meetups

While the time frame for this inaugural meetup may work best for some in the Americas, everyone with interest is most welcome. If there are others in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, or other locales who are interested, do let us know what dates/times might work for you in the future and we can try to organize a time to maximize some attendance there. I’m happy to help anyone who’d like to take the leadership of other time zones or locales to leverage some of the resources of the IndieWeb community to assist in starting future meetings to cover other areas of the world. 

🎉 Invitations 🎉 

Tim Owens, Aaron Davis, Cathie LeBlanc, Kartik Prabhu, Amber Case, Amy Guy, Greg McVerry, William Ian O’Byrne, Jim Groom, Kimberly Hirsh, John Johnston, Robin DeRosaAudrey Watters, Ken Bauer, Will Monroe, Jeremy Dean, Nate Angell, Jon Udell, Adam Procter, Amy Guy, Kris ShafferAnelise H. Shrout, John Johnston,  Mark Grabe, Rick Wysocki, Doug Holton, Jeffrey Keefer, Rayna M. HarrisDavey Moloney, Vicki BoykisJohn Carlos BaezDan ScottTaylor JadinKathleen Fitzpatrick (mb), Blair MacIntyre (mb), Doug Belshaw, Adam ProcterDan Cohen (mb), Dave Cormier, Scott Gruber, Kay Oddone, Kin Lane, Martha Burtis, Lee Skallerup Bessette, Adam Croom, Sean Michael Morris, Jesse Stommel, Cassie Nooyen, Stephen Downes, Ben Werdmüller, Erin Jo Richey, Jack Jamieson, Grant Potter, Ryan Boren (mb), Paul Hibbits, Maha Bali, Alan Levine, John Stewart, Teodora Petkova, Lora Taub-Pervizpour, Clint Lalonde, Clint Lalonde Sonja Burrows, Jonathan Poritz Chris Long, Mo PelzelMichelle S. HagermanAnne-Marie ScottTim Clarke, Amy Collier, Laura PasquiniMartin HawkseyZach WhalenDaniel LyndsTom WoodwardMark A. MatienzoLaura GibbsAutumn CainesChris LottJess ReingoldTerry GreenErin Rose Glass,  Trip KirkpatrickMeredith FierroLauren BrumfieldHelen DeWaardKeegan Long-Wheeler,  Irene Stewart Christina HendricksBill Kronholm, Xinli WangTineke D’HaeseleerMartin Weller Jeremy FeltJane Van Galen, Tanis Morgan, Library Carpentry

Know someone who would be interested in joining? Please forward this event, or one of the syndicated copies (linked below) to them on your platform or modality of choice.

Hashtags: #​phdchat#​DoOO#​edtechchat#​literacies#​higherED#​dh, #​ds106#​educolor#​WPCampus#​openscience#​clmooc#​digped#​altc

Featured image: Hard Drive Repair flickr photo by wwarby shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Getting Started with WordPress, an IndieWebCamp Pop-up Session

I’ll be hosting an introduction to IndieWeb using WordPress and invite everyone to join me via Zoom (link to come).

Saturday, August 1, 2020 9:30 – 11:30am (America/Los_Angeles)

This will be a broad-based introduction to the IndieWeb session specifically focused on using WordPress. Our aim is to help people get set up and running a self-hosted IndieWeb-based website with WordPress though some of our discussion will work for WordPress.com versions as well.

  • Grab a cup of coffee and get an IndieWeb site up and running in just a few hours.
  • Have questions or problems with your current WordPress IndieWeb site? Stop by and get some help.
  • Just figuring out what IndieWeb is about? Much of what we’ll discuss is applicable to other platforms and may be useful to other beginners as well.
  • All levels of experience welcome
  • (Note: for those without a domain registered or web hosting, we may have a brief pre-session to help you out so we can be more productive during the main session.)

  • Notes for the session will take place at: https://etherpad.indieweb.org/WordPressQuickStart
  • Create week: Following the session, we’ll give people a chance to create something for their site to do remote demos.
  • Demos: When we’re done, we’ll have a short online demo session so people can show off the new sites and maybe demo their favorite functionality.

Would you like to volunteer to help manage the session? Add yourself to the list on the IndieWeb wiki or contact the organizers in chat.

Code of Conduct: indieweb.org/code-of-conduct