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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

You're my...Brady

He may have beat the Bears, but, well... I don't think they'll be making any videos like this about Urlacher.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Best. Man. Ever.

The Atlantic recently came out with a list of their 100 most influential figures in American history. Here’s a quick look at the top 10 and the short blurb that accompanied each:
1. Abraham Lincoln. He saved the Union, freed the slaves, and presided over America’s second founding.

2. George Washington. He made the United States possible—not only by defeating a king, but by declining to become one himself.

3. Thomas Jefferson. The author of the five most important words in American history: “All men are created equal.”

4. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and then he proved it.

5. Alexander Hamilton. Soldier, banker, and political scientist, he set in motion an agrarian nation’s transformation into an industrial power.

6. Benjamin Franklin. The Founder-of-all-trades—scientist, printer, writer, diplomat, inventor, and more; like his country, he contained multitudes.

7. John Marshall. The defining chief justice, he established the Supreme Court as the equal of the other two federal branches.

8. Martin Luther King Jr. His dream of racial equality is still elusive, but no one did more to make it real.

9. Thomas Edison. It wasn’t just the lightbulb; the Wizard of Menlo Park was the most prolific inventor in American history.

10. Woodrow Wilson. He made the world safe for U.S. interventionism, if not for democracy.
While this list could provide enough fodder for a century-long debate, what I’m most interested in is their choice for the #1 slot.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Lincoln. I live in Illinois, where Honest Abe comes in second place to no one, maybe not even Jesus. And I surely appreciate all he did for this country at the most challenging point in its history.

But when we’re talking top dog, I’m all about George Washington. Not just number one on the list of most influential Americans, but among most significant political leaders anywhere. Possibly even number one among every human being. Ever.

Before you write me off as nuts, look at it this way. The history of world governments and leaders is one long tale of seizing power and not letting go, either by keeping it in the hands of cronies or heirs. No truly powerful nation ever went more than a generation or two without developing an elite monopoly or a bloody coup.

Then came the American Revolution—certainly a defining moment in history where a pool of remarkable talent, intelligence and leadership kicked out an empire and began a wave of modern democracy that’s still spreading today.

But talented groups of men have overthrown governments before; the key here was that once this elite group obtained power, they handed much of it to one man, to do what he wished. (Sure, there were checks and balances written in the liner notes, but historically speaking, truly powerful figures can easily override checks and balances, often permanently.)

So what did Washington do with this power? Were he like every other military and political leader in world history, he would have consolidated it, wiped out his enemies and assured fortune for himself and his family for generations.

Instead, the near-unanimously elected Washington served out his first term, easily won a second, and then, after eight successful, popular, glorious years…he quit.

Think about that for a moment. His people wanted to crown him king, and instead he voluntarily returned to civilian life, allowing America to choose another leader, one he would recognize, respect and support.

When else has a strong, popular leader (and a general to boot) of a potential world power refused the crown and passed the torch with no blood, no pressure, no turmoil? By my count: never. Not once. Not even close.

What Washington did was no less than completely break the cycle of power that had run unabated for millennia, and set the world on a new path. He took power out of those who seized it and gave it back to the masses. He set a precedent so remarkable, modern civilization is forever in his debt.

Today, America is the most powerful nation in history. And as the globe continues to democratize step by step, we must appreciate how different the world would be had Washington given in to the same pressure that plagued every leader the came before him.

What a badass.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Feeding the hate

(updated below)

I happened across this Dennis Prager column through a link on Andrew Sullivan's blog. In a nutshell, Prager is outraged that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, is requesting that he swear his oath of office on a Koran rather than the Christian Bible.

Seems like a perfectly reasonable request, but Prager disagrees: "He should not be allowed to do so — not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization."

It just gets worse from there, and isn't really worth responding to. A simple reading of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is enough to render it absurd:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Case closed: I'd say that being required to swear on a Bible to the exclusion of all other books counts as a religious test.

I then got to reading the comments, just to find out what people were saying about such a stupid column. Most of you probably haven't spent much time in the comment sections of conservatives blogs and don't know how bad it gets. Here's a nice sampling of some common views on a member of the Muslim faith being elected to Congress. Each paragraph is from a different person:
Congratulations Minnesota. You sent a filthy animal to congress, and now look whats going on. Did he state during his campaign that, if elected, he would take his oath on the murdering handbook instead of the bible? If so, the people who voted this America hating dog in to office, are themselves America hating dogs!


Muslims are not to be trusted. A quick look across the pond to Europe shows that they refuse assimilate and actively seek to make the country that they infest like the one they left!...I think that the nicest thing that we could do for muslims in America, especially in light of the poor six imams on US Airways, is to return them to the Land of Allah ASAP. Preferably before Christmas would be a nice present


the lunatics in Minnesota will be pleased that their Muslim representative will take his oath of office on a book that teaches Muslims to revere their Prophet who enjoyed kiddy sex and promoted sexual slavery...May the people of Minnesota who voted for the Muslim lose what they don't deserve to have. And may the rest of us live in liberty.


While I do not expect he will, I would not be surprised to see Mr. Ellison push for the Islamicization of this country. By himself he won't be able to impose Sharia law, but he might get some terrorist groups off of watch lists and the like.


The abhorrent ideology that is Mohammedanism is a plainly false religion, but falsity doesn't keep Mormons out of Congress, so we have no choice but to permit him to serve. But what committee assignments will the party in power permit this dissembler? We'll see.


How can any American, including Mr. Ellison, think that using the Koran in any form or fashion within our halls of government is acceptable. The words contained in this book call for the death of America as a nation and of all American infidels. Is it not just plain, common horse sense? Have we lost our ability to see our enemies, hear our enemies, and acknowledge that they are dead serious. Using the Koran in this way is just another chip out of America and I bet islamic radicals everywhere are cheering us on, to our own self destruction.


The people who elected this Muslim to congress should be ashamed, and likely will be.


The election of Mr Ellison is only the latest proof of our desire for national suicide. Minnesota 5th district is about as far along the left you can get without running into a picture of Lenin...Let Ellison swear upon his koran, which calls for the death of all of us "pigs and monkeys" Let you gas-filled liberals cheer him on. Swim in the delights of diversity, till you drown. We'll bury you, alongside the army of the religion of peace. You'll be the first to go, because you will not defend yourselves,indeed you think the islamofacists are correct.


Ellison is a typical low-life hatemonger who has found protection under a 'religion' so he can spew his hate and violitile words under the cloak of 'religion'.


That Minnesota should be the first state to elect an avowed enemy to our way of life is no surprise at all. It must be driving voters in Massachusetts crazy that didn't win that run-off.


Referring to my subject of "Golden Girls" - I seem to recall that Rose, the really stupid one, came from Minnesota, and openly reflected the stupidity of the average Minnesotan. The writers of the show must have known something, even back then.
This sort of thing is not uncommon; some blogs are almost entirely dedicated to hating Islam and Muslims in general. (Google "little green footballs" for a taste — I won't link there.)

I'm pretty nearly a free speech absolutist, so I would never dispute people's right to say these things. But what I'd like to know is in what way this kind of talk, which reaches millions of people every day through right-wing blogs and conservative talk radio, is functionally different than the Nazi propaganda used to demonize Jews in the lead-up to the Holocaust. Propaganda willingly distributed by the German media, for which people were tried as war criminals.

Gordon, you're the Nazi expert. What do you think?


Wow. I don't know whether to feel foolish for taking a guy like Prager as a reliable source or outraged that someone would gin up a controversy like this out of nothing. How about both?
But Prager's column is based on one other glaring error: the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives never includes a religious book. The Office of the House Clerk confirmed to ThinkProgress that the swearing-in ceremony consists only of the Members raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution. The Clerk spokesperson said neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, had ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony. (Occassionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops with their hand on a Bible.)


It seems like a few people have gotten the wrong impression about this, so I just wanted to clear it up. I didn't go around to a bunch of blogs searching for inflammatory quotes about Muslims. I just compiled a list of some of the more extreme examples (and there were many more) as I read through the comments of Prager's column.

These quotes aren't from bloggers, they're from commenters. They're not from some random KKK hate site, they're from one of the most-visited conservative sites on the Web, and and you can find countless other comments just like them on most other mainstream conservative blogs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Super soviet radioactive sushi posion spy murder!

Have you been following this Alexander Litvinenko story? Former soviet security officer, defected to Britain, pissed off Putin—and more recently, killed off with poison in his sushi.

As a specialist in fighting organized crime in late-nineties Russia, Litvinenko had made more than his share of enemies. He wrote a book called “Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within,” in which he alleged that Russian Federal Security Service agents coordinated a series of 1999 apartment bombings that killed more than 300 people. (The government blamed it on—surprise!—the Chechens.)

He was also thought to be close with outspoken journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead last month in Moscow. (He recently spoke of investigating her murder.)

After his death in London a few days ago, tests revealed a "major dose" of a radioactive element in his bloodstream. High-level British officials are claiming foul play on behalf of high-level Russian officials.

On his deathbed, Litvinenko accused fan-favorite Russian President Putin of involvement in his death. Putin’s calling “bullshit” on that one.

So why am I writing about this today? Because it represents a shaky and potentially deteriorating state of diplomacy between Russia and Britain? To speak out against Moscow’s poor track record with dissenters?

Nope. I just think this ranks among the coolest stories of the year. It’s got everything: espionage, murder, investigation, poison, radiation, sushi and potential involvement from the highest levels of two of the most powerful governments in the world.

Just goes to prove a belief I’ve long held: reality is far more interesting that fiction. You just can’t make this stuff up!

Buck adds:

Oh, and it doesn't end there. Litvinenko was buddies with exiled Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, a longtime foe of Putin. Berezovsky's London offices have been sealed off after traces of the radioactive substance that killed Litvinenko were found there.

Hey, don't say we didn't warn you.
Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.