Photo: Wikimedia CommonsI recently picked up a copy of George R. Stewart's Names on the Land. It's a fascinating account of the naming of America: How we got places like Mugfuzzle Flats, Coeur d'Alene, and Fort Worth, and (to put it in unsufferable press release-ese) what that says about us.
Among other things, we learn that the Senate debate over the naming of West Virgina briefly devolved into a discussion of whether Queen Elizabeth was, in fact, a virgin. And that before Congress settled on "Nevada" (over the superior and geographically relevant "Washoe"), there was a proposal to name it "Bullion," after its only notable export.
The big revelation, though, is that despite all appearances to the contrary, "Oregon" is actually a misspelling of "Wisconsin." Or rather, it's a corruption of the original French corruption of the original Native American word. A somewhat erroneous 17th-century French explorer suggested that the Wisconsin River might lead all the way to the Pacific Ocean, so when the Americans finally got around to the Pacific Northwest, it seemed like a logical name. Here's the process, according to Stewart:
The new face of terror? (Photo: Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)Let's get right to it:
New Jersey's sterling reputation is under attack! Republican Gov. Chris Christie, floated by some conservatives as a possible 2012 candidate, has become the unlikely target of the anti-Sharia fringe after appointing Sohail Mohammed, a known Muslim, to the state superior court. Right-wing blogger Pamela Geller summed things up nicely: "Governor Christie looked and sounded like he could be presidential. He's not. He's in bed with the enemy. All the other stuff doesn't matter if you don't have your freedom."
Also in bed with the enemy, apparently, is Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), whose upcoming hearings on the "radicalization" of the American Muslim community came under fire this week—from the right. Steve Emerson, of the totally legit-sounding Investigative Project on Terrorism, alleged that King had "caved in to the demands of radical Islamists" by neglecting to invite him to testify. I detailed King's own history of radicalism here.
Remember that whole to-do about the proposed Islamic community center in Manhattan? It turns out the entire anti-mosque advertising campaign was paid for by one (1) New York hedge-fund manager, Robert Mercer, possibly under the pretense of demonstrating to political power brokers that he was willing spend tons money if necessary, on the totally unrelated issue of high-frequency trading.
Texas is facing a $27 billion budget deficit, so naturally the state legislature is hard at working on the political equivalent of hitting "refresh" on your Facebook feed all day: State Rep. Leo Berman (author of his state's birther bill) has introduced legislation to ban Sharia law from being used in Texas courts. Far-right activists believe Sharia could subject citizens to extremely harsh punishments for dubious infractions—and isn't that what the state's criminal justice system is for?
Meanwhile, in Indiana, a similar proposal has been shelved—for the time being. State Rep. (and Elvis impersonator) Bruce Borders, who had previously floated the ban to send the message "that Indiana does not recognize Sharia law, or Muslim law," told the Terre HauteTribune-Star, that he has not actually introduced any such legislation yet.
And finally, the Village Voice reports that the NYPD has been requiring its officers to watch a film called The Third Jihad as part of their counter-terrorism training. Per the Voice: "The favorite image in The Third Jihad—shown over and over—is an enormous black-and-white Islamic flag flying over the White House." At one point the narrator warns that "One of their primary tactics is deception." I mean, just look at Chris Christie.
When it comes to matters of national security, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has never been accused of holding back. So when the political world suffered a collective freak-out over leaked diplomatic cables late last year, King, the top Republican on the House homeland security committee, naturally led the charge. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, King warned that WikiLeaks' release of the classified documents amounted to supporting terrorism.
But according to experts in counterterrorism law, if the tough-on-terror policies King trumpets today had taken effect a few decades earlier, King himself might have been subject to prosecution. Over parts of three decades, from his days as an aspiring politician in Long Island through his early years in Congress, King was one of the nation's most outspoken supporters of the Irish Republican Army and a prolific fundraiser for the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NorAid), allegedly the IRA's American fundraising arm. The IRA waged a paramilitary campaign against the British presence in Northern Ireland for decades before peace accords were signed in 1998. Part of that effort included bombings and shootings that resulted in civilian deaths in England and Northern Ireland. During the period of King's involvement, the US government accused both NorAid and the IRA of links to terrorism.
Federal laws signed by President Bill Clinton and bolstered by the USA PATRIOT Act make it a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to provide resources, training, or expert advice—so-called "material support"—to any group that's been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department.
One day after conservative icon Grover Norquist was outed as a Jihadi stooge (the beard was a tipoff), AFP reports that the anti-sharia blogosphere is up in arms over the latest, greatest threat to Western Civilization: Bruce Wayne. Wait, what?
In the December issues of DC Comics Detective Comics Annual and Batman Annual, the caped crusader has set up Batman Incorporated and wants to install a superhero in cities around the world to fight crime.*
The hero he picks in France is called Nightrunner, the alter ego of a 22-year-old from Clichy-sous-Bois, a tough Paris suburb where urban unrest sparked riots in immigrant districts across France in 2005.
Nightrunner, known to his family and tax collector as "Bilal Asselah," is an expert in parkour, which is awesome. He's also a Muslim who hails from Algeria, which seems to be what conservatives are really upset about. Big Hollywood's Warner Todd Huston, for instance, called the comic, "PCism at its worst." He added: "France is a proud nation. Yet DC Comics has made a foreigner the 'French savior.' This will not sit well with many Frenchmen, for sure."
US comic book creator Bosch Fawstin, who wrote on his blog that "DC Comics has submitted to Islam," is coming up with his own antidote.
"If you're as sick and tired of this IslamiCrap as I am, be on the lookout for my upcoming graphic novel, The Infidel, which features Pigman, an ex-Muslim superhero who is the jihadist's worst nightmare," he blogged.
Pigmen aside, I'd just add that Nightrunner's debut is actually the second Muslim superhero controversy in the last year: Last fall, the New York Post slammed President Obama for praising a cartoon featuring 99 Muslim superheroes who each embody a virtue of Allah**. Looks like Captain Planet is finally off the hook.
It's never a good sign when you find yourself longing for the halcyon days of George W. Bush. But after a year in which right-wing activists and politicians identified America's greatest threats as mosques and infants, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit nostalgic for the man who responded to the 9/11 attacks by emphasizing that "Islam is a religion of peace."
So, is America Islamophobic? It depends. For the overwhelming majority of Muslims, America's still a pretty sweet place to work and pray (just watch out for these fellas). And as conservatives like Jeff Jacoby are quick to point out, when it comes to reported hate crimes, Jewish Americans still have it worse. Much, much worse. But with precious few exceptions, anti-Semitism is confined to the paranoid fringe; you'd never see a slew of presidential candidates line up to, say, protest the construction of a synogogue.
2010 was the year Islamic fearmongering officially went mainstream. Here's a quick look back at how the heck it happened. Enjoy.