Questioning assumptions, left and right - We lead off with a pair of recent books, one striving desperately to undermine our confidence, and the other trying just as hard to snap us out of our fu...
23 hours ago
In the final years of the 18th century and throughout the first two decades of the 19th century, the United States was drawn into multiple, semi-undeclared military conflicts with these Barbary Pirates. The first such Barbary War was conducted by the Jefferson administration against Karamanli’s Tripoli between 1801 and 1805, supported by congressional acts that stopped short of declaring war but authorized activities such as seizing ships and supplies. The Second Barbary War (1815) was fought by the Madison administration (with more overt congressional sanction) a decade later against Algiers, which had sided with England during the recently concluded War of 1812 and was continuing to harass American shipping.
The specific causes and histories of each Barbary War, and of the conflicts that led up to and followed them, were various and complex. Yet from the earliest such conflicts the U.S. government had made one thing very explicit and clear: the battles were not in any way between religions or civilizations. In 1796, the Washington administration sent his old Army colleague David Humphreys and other ambassadors to North Africa to negotiate a treaty with the Barbary States; the resulting document came to be known as the Treaty of Tripoli, and was sent to the Senate by new President John Adams and unanimously ratified in the summer of 1797.
That treaty opened with a clear statement of the goal, “a firm and perpetual Peace and friendship” between the nations. And in Article 11, it addressed directly the issue of religion:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Those interruptions, when they arose a few years later, had no more to do with religion or a clash of civilizations than did these late 18th century issues.
The evolving U.S. relationship with the Barbary States didn’t just affect our foreign policy. During the Revolution, the North African nation of Morocco was the first in the world to recognize the new United States (in 1777); the two nations would subsequently sign a Treaty of Friendship in 1786, with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson signing for the United States. Thanks to this enduring relationship, when a number of Moroccan Muslims—“Moors,” as they were known in the language of era—sought to flee the rising power and brutality of the Barbary States, they chose America as their destination. Many of these refugees settled in Charleston, South Carolina, helping comprise the state’s burgeoning Moorish community that would become the subject of one of South Carolina’s first post-Constitution laws, the Moors Sundry Act of 1790.
There are no easy answers to the international issues and conflicts facing the United States and our allies in 2015, nor simple solutions for the communities of refugees fleeing those conflicts. Yet as our histories illustrate, any answers that include either a “war with Islam” or a refusal to accept such refugees in the United States will represent a significant and troubling break from some of our foundational moments and ideals.
So on Monday he's saying he'd "strongly consider" shutting down mosques. And then just a day later he's saying he'd "absolutely" close them down. With his Muslim ID card and database, Wednesday he said he wouldn't rule out creating such a system. By the end of the day he was telling NBC News he would "absolutely" create such a system.
Remember when Cain was peddling the 9/9/9 tax plan that turned out to come from Sim City?
Well Carson's statement about the pyramids being used to store grain is actually true in Civilization II where building the Pyramids wonder gives you a granary in every city.
The GOP frontrunner's theory that archaeologists are wrong and that the Egyptian pyramids were really built by the biblical figure Joseph to store grain wasn't created in a vacuum. In the fringier corners of the Internet, variations of the pyramids-as-grain-storage argument has spawned entire blogs and a 30-minute documentary.
Carson -- who is continuing to defend beliefs that were surfaced this week in video of a 1998 commencement address by the acclaimed neurosurgeon -- joins the ranks of pyramids truthers who believe that, warned by God of an oncoming famine, Joseph built grain storage units that exist today in the form of the ancient pyramids. ...
According to [Richard] Flower, the theory gained traction in Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, written in the 6th century, where the bishop wrote about a “city in which Joseph built granaries from squared stones and rubble with marvellous workmanship."
“He made them larger at the base and very much smaller at the top so that wheat could be thrown in there through a tiny hole. These granaries are still visible even today,” Gregory wrote at the time,...
GOP frontrunner Ben Carson, in a 1998 commencement address, floated his own personal theory that the pyramids in Egypt were built by Joseph -- the biblical patriarch known for his coat of many colors -- to store grain, Buzzfeed reported.
In the speech -- given at Andrews University, a school with ties to Carson's Seventh-day Adventist faith -- the neurosurgeon shot down claim that aliens had built the pyramids. But he also disagreed with the archaeological consensus that the pyramids were constructed as tombs for the pharaohs.
“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said. “Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”
In the video surfaced by Buzzfeed Wednesday, Carson goes on to lay out his argument that the pyramids were constructed for grain storage.
“And when you look at the way that the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they’d have to be that way for various reasons," Carson said. "And various of scientists have said, ‘well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how-’ you know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.”
If you remember the plot of Mel Brooks' classic movie, The Producers, the idea was that the scammers set out to produce the worst possible play imaginable to be certain it would close after one night. Yet, they made it so bad it broke through the membrane of awful into the sublime. And they were screwed. Which brings us to the Ben Carson campaign. There is a lot of evidence, coming from a variety of angles, that Carson for President is actually a direct mail scam. Or at least that it started that way. ...
Hucksters and cheats can be found everywhere. But particularly on the right there is a significant layer of people in the business of fleecing outraged and/or low-information conservatives of their money. Some of it you see with those advertisements for buying gold on Fox News. Another is supplements! Supplements, supplements, supplements - a topic we'll get back to, given Carson's controversial relationship with supplement maker Mannatech. But the big thing on the right are various fundraising groups that exist largely to fundraise. So for instance, you'll have Americans Against RINOs which sends out a ton of direct mail, raises lots of money from conservatives who've just had it up to here with RINOs like Boehner and McCain and McConnell selling the country out to Obama. But instead of that money going to fight the RINOs, most of the money goes back into raising more money.
So where's the money going? Well, the direct mail business is very lucrative. And usually you'll find that Americans Against RINOs has a tight relationship with AAR Direct Mail Inc which is making a pretty penny servicing Americans Against RINOs. You get the idea. Obviously there are crooked charities that run this way. But it's a prevalent model on the right.
And Ben Carson's campaign look a bit similar. Ed Kilgore looked at some of the details here. David Graham has more here at The Altantic. ...
There are other versions of this story. Like why is Mike Huckabee running for President? Because he thinks he's going to be president? Or because of the next Fox News gig or to draw a check or just to keep the name out there for the next promotion deal for Golds R' Us or your home bunker and survival kit? There was some hint of this with the Gingrich campaign in 2012 before he improbably took off for his run as the anti-Romney.
In any case, as I said, whatever role Carson did or didn't have with Mannatech, that's a bit of a tell for me since, as I said, 'supplements' are an endemic part of the wingnut fleecing industry.