Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Offending History

Some well-meaning state senators from the People's Republic of Maryland raised the political correctness flag again earlier this month. It seems they have issues with the names of two mountains in Western Maryland, about 150 west of their homes in and around Baltimore. Their proposal, outlined in Senate Joint Resolution 3, calls for the creation of a commission to rename Negro Mountain and Polish Mountain.
This calls to mind an early cartography lesson that OTR knows has made the rounds for generations. It seems the junior mapmaker was out in the field one day with a local expert preparing a map. As a series of ridges filled the vista, the mapmaker asked the expert for the name of the third ridge. "That's Peaked Mountain," he said. A few months later, the mapmaker returned with the finished product and asked the expert to check out their good work. When the expert looked a bit confounded, the mapmakers asked if there was a problem.

"Sure is." said the expert, "What's this here Pickett Mountain?"

"But you told me Pickett Mountain, and here it is in my notes."

On seeing the notebook, the expert replied, "That ain't it." "I said Peaked, as in P-E-A-K-E-D." "Sounds just like it's spelled, 'Pick-et' "

Even the best research deserves the proper context. That said, we can explore the topic at hand.

Both mountain names date from the 18th century. Negro Mountain was named during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) to honor a free black man. According to most documents, his name was Nemesis. He was the body servant to Thomas Cresap, Maryland's famous western frontiersman and Indian fighter. Nemesis was a giant of a man--referred to as Goliath in some documents--who fought valiantly beside Cresap in many skirmishes. The night before he died, Nemesis shared a premonition of his death with Cresap who then gave him the option of avoiding the fight. Nemesis declined the offer and was killed in an ambush on a ridge and buried there in what is now Garrett County. Cresap' was so moved by his loyal man's ultimate sacrifice that he wrote letters to colonial newspapers informing them that he had named the ridge Negro Mountain to honor his friend and fellow-frontiersman.

Changing a geographic place name in the United States is not as simple as it may sound. The final word on such names and changes rests with the Department of the Interior's Board on Geographic Names. The board itself is a rather fascinating little niche in our vast federal government and well worth exploring on its own. In the specific case of Negro Mountain, OTR expects the board will find insufficient evidence to overturn a name that has withstood the test for over two centuries. Though some may find the word "Negro" to be offensive, it is far from becoming the next "n" word in our vocabulary. After all, the U.S. Bureau of the Census maintains the term "Negro" to identify a racial class. Furthermore, the term is retained in a number of names, including the United Negro College Fund, and there are others, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People being one, that would seem far more offensive. On the other hand, OTR would not object to Nemesis Mountain as an alternative name as long as its memorial nature could be explained at every opportunity both on the ground and in the history books.

Renaming Polish Mountain is another issue entirely. Documentation to date tells us that this mountain's name first appeared on a map around 1790. No Polish family ever explored the mountain or settled there or tilled the rocky soil. No Polish hero died there fighting Indians. In fact, the name has nothing whatsoever to do with ethnicity or country of origin. As is characteristic of many of the mountain tops--Big Glassy Mountain in North Carolina, White Top in Virginia, to name two-- in the Appalachian's formations, Polish Mountain has extensive rock outcrops at its summit. From a distance, with the morning sun at a frontiersman's back, those rocks could seem to shine...as if they were polished. Indeed, that 1790s map labels the ridge, "Polished Mountain." Over time and history, the "ed" fell away to leave future generations with the current name. It is a common occurrence in the world of geography.

So we are left with Polish (with a short "o") Mountain and a group of six Maryland state senators who should be embarrassed for not doing better research before raising a "much ado about nothing" issue. This is a perfect expression of OTR's belief that meanings reside in people and not in words. One man's offense is another man's pride and joy. If there is a problem and we wish to know who owns it, we often have no further to look than in the bathroom mirror. And before we bring our problems to others, we had better understand the backstory before we ass-u-me the worst.

Photo: A real Polish mountain, in fact, the highest.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hidden Dimensions And The Muslim Brotherhood

What would one think of an organization with the following credo:

Allah is our objective; the Quran is our constitution;, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.

Two remarkably contrasting assessments of threats posed by the Muslim Brotherhood are in today's news. On the domestic front, Power Line's Scott Johnson explores the Capital Hill testimony of James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and Leon Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. And William Katz, blogging at Urgent Agenda, reports on an investigation of Youssef al-Qaradawi from the well-respected German newspaper, Der Spiegel. Though not an official, Al-Qaradawi is a long-standing and respected intellectual presence in the MB.

After reading both posts and their associated links, OTR has only one word to describe the Muslim Brotherhood: interesting. Any organization perceived this broadly bears additional study and careful watching, especially in light of "the Islamic principle of Taqiyya, or misrepresentation to achieve a goal," mentioned in the Katz post. Whatever its intention, OTR expects we'll be hearing more about the MB for a long time.

Photo: Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Michael Ledeen: The Spooks' Black Thursday

This Pajamas Media post is a tad unsettling. It does not portray the intelligence community OTR knew a generation ago. Perhaps the term, "government intelligence," is an oxymoron after all. News coverage of events in Egypt tell us we'll know the quality--or lack thereof--of our assessments by early tomorrow. That's when demonstrators and the Egypt military are expected to take this chess match into the endgame.

Internet 101: Basic Sexting For Republicans

You would expect by now that any man who thinks with his brain understands the working of the Internet and World Wide Web. Yesterday, New York Republican Congressman Christopher Lee exposed himself as completely ignorant of the consequences of risky behavior in cyberspace. Now, as ex-Congressman Lee, OTR suggests that he write a basic Internet manual for all the computer Luddites on the Hill. The first lesson should focus on the simple fact that anything posted on the Internet has the potential to become public information. It's an essential lesson and one that could save the party of God, Mother, the flag, apple pie and family values from future ridicule.

For all the details of this real life tragicomedy, here is your link to the Gawker article. Hat tip to Gateway Pundit.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NAACP Ignores Progressive Lynching Of Clarence Thomas

Last Thursday, February 3, OTR commented on a late January event where "progressives" outside a conservative strategy conference in California called for, among other things, stringing up Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. The justice is a conservative who happens to be black. The Daily Caller, a breaking news website in Washington, asked the NAACP for comment on the video tape of the offensive suggestions. Although the organization condemned the "discourse," a spokesman refused to comment on the video itself.

If readers had any doubts that the NAACP was firmly--and apparently happily--enslaved on the Democrat Party plantation, this position should erase them permanently. How very sad this is for a once-proud and effective organization.

For more backstory and commentary, here are links to related posts at Power Line and Pajamas Media.

For liberal readers who may question the motives of The Daily Caller, be aware that it has no ideological perspective. The Caller broke the story about the Republican National Committee staffer and a $2000 reimbursement for expenses at a Hollywood bondage club specializing in lesbian sex on stage. The Caller also published emails from the Journolist story.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Who's On First?: Kennewick Man Meets The Beauty Of Xiaohe

OTR has never had much use for superlatives including the terms "first people" and "Native American." He was trained by the first generation of students of Carl Sauer and the Berkeley School of cultural geography where the study of origins, diffusion, and landscape reigned. There was nothing static about places studied under such a lens. Waves of settlement, often over thousands of years, modified landscapes. The people, objects, structures and sites in each wave left rich resources for study by anthropologists and archaeologists. The Sauer School took information from these and other fields to define places throughout the world. Also, by studying the diffusion of cultural items, geographers traced peoples and cultures to their supposed points of origin.

In this day and age of political correctness, being declared the "first culture" has its advantages, often dispensed in the form of privilege, property and money. When the declaration is by law, the limitations of such thinking becomes very evident. The best example in the United States is the term, "Native American." It is purely a legal term. If your tribe is recognized by the federal government, you are a "Native American." If your tribe does not meet the criteria for recognition, you will be forced to settle for the term, American Indian. All Native Americans are Indians, but not all Indians are Native Americans. The "natives" get the privilege, property, and money. The Indians may have the genes, but they don't get the recognition. So confusing. And what happens when those waves of settlement produce something that doesn't fit the legal model? OTR thinks the same question emerges when cultural geographers run out of evidence. Is this really the original? Could there be earlier waves lost to catastrophe?

These questions arose in 1996 with the discovery of Kennewick Man, a prehistoric skeleton found on the banks of the Columbia River. There was no controversy at first, but one soon emerged when scientists revealed this 9500 year old skeleton was not genetically related to any Native American tribes. In fact, he is more genetically associated with the ancestors of the Ainu people of northern Japan. The tribes saw this as a serious threat to their nativity claim and began a protracted legal battle for the skeleton and a quick ceremonial burial. It didn't happen, as Kennewick Man remains the property of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The value of being first isn't confined to the shore of the Columbia River, the United States or even the Western Hemisphere. It seems the same thinking surrounding Kennewick Man has now forced the Beauty of Xiaohe out of an exhibit making its rounds in the United States. Beauty was buried in Xinjiang province in western China about 4000 years ago. Today, that province is filled with oil and a strong separatist sentiment. The fact that Beauty has distinctive Caucasian features emphasizing the Western origins of Xinjiang isn't helping the situation. The Chinese government wants no part of that Western linkage to show. This is a case where millions of barrels of oil trump diversity and the truth.

OTR wonders how many more model breaking surprises await us as we play this and similar games of who's on first. While identity politics has been lucrative for Native American tribes, good fortune has come at a cost, often to the traditional culture it was designed to preserve. He thinks we could build more beneficial political constructs out of our academic models. The pursuit of honesty would be a good start. As for the argument about "firsts," OTR recalls walking the streets of Old Oraibi, a village on the Hopi Indian Reservation in northern Arizona. People in Old Oraibi have been doing that for almost a thousand years. The folks on Charlotte Street in St. Augustine - "our nation's oldest city" - don't like it one bit. And Old Oraibi is a relatively new town when you examine settlement history in the Western Hemisphere.

American Exceptionalism: A Centennial

Today marks the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan. Love him or hate him, one has to admit that Reagan was an exceptional force in shaping the American experience in the last half of the 20th century.

Read more at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library website.

Photo: Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Incompetent Obamunist Ambassador Consumes Herself

Expect this news to be ignored or buried on page 23 by the liberal, mainstream media.

Gotterdammerung, the twilight of the gods. My, my, how this reminds me of the last years of my public service employment, working for "aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating" management. As a practitioner of the middle way, OTR knows that such management is doomed to self-destruction. Unfortunately, in a bureaucratic workplace, the destruction is a slow rot that always takes many competent victims down with it. In the same manner, recovery out of the ashes left by these sad tyrants is a long-term process.

Today, we read of Cynthia Stroum, a wealthy Obama contributor and money bundler from Seattle. For her loyalty, the Obama administration awarded her with the ambassadorship in Luxembourg. There's nothing unusual about this appointment. Historically, ambassadors have been loyal, influential, and generally wealthy supporters of the president. In fact, many ambassadors in the early days of the republic funded embassy operations and staffing with their own money. What is significant about Stroum's "reign"in the Luxembourg embassy is the speed in which she rendered the operation into a "state of dysfunction." Fox News has the story here. The Office of Inspector General's report, with a few redactions, is available here.

Stroum's indifference to rules, regulations, common etiquette and the trust of American taxpayers--Republicans have appointed their share of disappointments-- is symptomatic of this administration's poor to nonexistent vetting of its appointees. Makes one wonder if those in charge are merely careless or couldn't care less about their actions.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Progressive" Hatred Sponsored By Common Cause

In favor of lynching Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife? How about deporting Justice Samuel Alito to Sicily? Up for revolution now, just like in Egypt?

Common Cause sponsored a rally in Rancho Mirage, California, on January 30 where supporters called for the above actions. OTR bets you never heard about this leftist hatred and violence on the nation's mainstream liberal media.

Jim Hoft's post at Gateway Pundit has the full story.