The First, Second and Third Reich

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 1st, 2014

History 101

The Holy Roman Empire was the First German Reich

At the height of the Roman Empire the Mediterranean Sea was a Roman Lake.  For the Romans controlled all the land around the Mediterranean Sea.  As the Roman Empire controlled most of the civilized world.  From Africa to Britain.  From Spain to the Middle East.  And its presence in Europe would shape Europe and the world we know today.  But before the Romans could shape our world the barbarians had to destroy theirs.

The northern frontier of the Roman Empire ran along the Rhine and Danube rivers.  West of the Rhine and south of the Danube was the civilized Roman Empire.  On the other side of those rivers were the Ostrogoths, the Visogoths and the Vandals.  Barbarians.  Germanic people.  Who would sweep down (along with the Huns from Central Asia) and conquer the Western Roman Empire.  With a Germanic chieftain, Odoacer, deposing the last Roman emperor in the West.  Romulus Augustus.

After about 3 centuries Charlemagne, King of the Franks (Germanic tribes in and around modern day France), would unify Western Europe.  In a Christian kingdom.  Pleasing Pope Leo III.  Who went on to crown Charlemagne emperor of the Roman Empire.  But after he died his empire broke apart.  Meanwhile to the east Otto I was unifying the Germanic tribes into a single kingdom.  A German empire that stretched from northern Italy to the North and Baltic seas.  Encompassing a huge swathe of Central Europe (including but not limited to modern day Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France (eastern lands), Italy and Poland).  A Christian empire.  Pleasing Pope John XII.  Who crowned Otto emperor.  And the First Reich (the first German empire) became the Holy Roman Empire.

Winning the Franco-Prussian War ushered in the Second German Reich

The First Reich would last for about 850 years.  Coming to an end in 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, abdicated after fighting and losing to Napoleon.  Who reorganize it into the German Confederation.  And reduced the First Reich to a French satellite.  Up until this time there were two large powers in the Reich vying for power.  Austria in the south.  And Prussia in the north.  Otto von Bismarck was a Prussian.  And Prussia was a militaristic nation.  That believed less in diplomacy and more in power.  And Bismarck would use force to unite the German states into a Prussian-dominated Germany.  While getting rid of its rival.  Austria.

War followed.  The Austro-Prussian War (1866) ended the German Confederation.  Prussia replaced the German Confederation with North German Confederation that excluded Austria.  This confederation included much of the northern lands of the First Reich.  To sooth the feelings between the north (led by Prussia) and the south (led by Austria) Bismarck made the French declare war on Prussia.  And when they did the southern German states sided with Prussia.  The Prussians and Germans moved quickly into northern France.  And after a long siege of Paris the Germans won the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).  They took back a lot of lands lost to France.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  Much to the chagrin of the French.  And unified the German states into a German Empire.  The Second Reich.

The German Empire industrialized.  Greatly increasing its economic and military might.  Shifting the balance of power in Europe.  Germany was now the most powerful nation in Europe.  Which concerned the other powers of Europe.  So they began to enter treaties with each other.  Such that if Germany attacked one nation another nation (or nations) would declare war on Germany.  To provide a deterrent against German aggression.  And rebalance the balance of power in Europe.  But then Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, traveled to Sarajevo.  Where Gavrilo Princip assassinated him.  Pushing the first domino in a sting of dominos to fall as all of Europe honored their treaties.

The Third Reich was the Largest and Shortest-Lived German Reich

Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia.  In support of Austria-Hungary Germany invaded Belgium and Luxembourg on their way to France.  Causing the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany.  In support of Serbia Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary.  Allying with France and the United Kingdom.  The Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia.  Then nation after nation joined a side and entered the war.  Even the United States.  By the time it was all over some 16 million people were dead.  As were the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and German empires.  The map of Europe changed.  And the Second Reich was over.  Having lasted 47 years.  Large chunks of the Second Reich were taken away.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And much of Prussia.  Which was restored to Poland.  Which infuriated a lot of Germans.  Especially one German war veteran in particular.  A corporal.  Adolf Hitler.

World War I ended in an armistice.  Meaning that no one surrendered.  But the American entry into the war pretty much meant that the Germans were going to lose.  All the nations had long grown weary of the war.  But here was a fresh nation that could field fresh troops against Germany.  Which was exhausted.  It had nothing left.  Which gave the Allies the upper hand in the peace that followed.  And it was a bitter peace for the Germans.  Who were singled out as the sole responsible party for the war.  Well, one thing led to another and Adolf Hitler inaugurated the Third Reich.  And he set about retrieving all that lost German territory.  He annexed Austria.  The Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  Then he took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  A country that conveniently ran along the southern border of Poland.  And then he kicked off World War II.

The Third Reich invaded Poland.  Norway.  The Low Countries.  France.  And the Soviet Union (the former Russian Empire).  Reclaiming all lost German lands.  Including Alsace-Lorraine.  And unifying them once again.  Even adding on to them.  Through the use of force.  The Prussian way.  The Third Reich was the largest German Reich yet.  But it was the shortest lived Reich.  Lasting only 12 years.  By the time World War II was over some 70 million people were dead.  Making the Third Reich the bloodiest Reich.  The Allies helped to rebuild West Germany (East Germany was behind the Iron Curtain) to keep her out of the Soviet Sphere.  To give it a thriving free market economy.  And prosperity.  By providing full employment.  Which also helped to prevent gangs of unemployed young men from getting nationalistic fervor.  Again.  West Germany integrated into the west.  Away from the Soviets.  And away from her Prussian past.


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The Shifting Borders of Eastern Europe

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2014

History 101

By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde took all of Kievan Rus

Vladimir Putin took Crimea from Ukraine.  Because he said the people there are more Russian than Ukrainian.  The people there wanted to be a part of Russia instead of Ukraine.  And that the land historically has belonged to Russia.  But that’s not true.  Yes, if you go back in time the land was Russian.  But if you go further back it wasn’t.  In fact the borders of Eastern Europe have changed so much that today’s borders bear little resemblance to what they have been over time.  You can watch 1,000 years of this change play out in a video on (see Watch as 1000 years of European borders change).  We’ll recap some of the changes in century intervals.

In the early 1100s the Western Roman Empire was gone.  In its place was the Holy Roman Empire stretching from central Italy to the North Sea.  Spain was mostly Muslim.  France was taking shape.  The Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) was still in modern day Turkey, Greece and the Balkans.  Going north there was Hungary.  Then Poland.  And Lithuania.  To the east of these countries was the large expanse of Kievan Rus.  Modern day Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.  And the Crimea was held by the Turkic Cumans.  But this land would change hands many times in the centuries to come.

By 1200 the Byzantine Empire moved further north into the Balkans.  While the Muslims moved into Byzantine territory from the south.  Hungary, Poland and Lithuania adjusted their borders slightly.  The Holy Roman Empire pushed further west in Europe.  The Cumans pushed into southern Kievan Rus.  While Kievan Rus moved south between the Black and Caspian seas.  By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde (northwest part of the Mongol Empire) took all of Kievan Rus.  Hungary pushed out her borders while Poland shrank hers.  With East Prussia taking her northern lands.  Lithuania reshaped her borders in part to East Prussia.  The Byzantine Empire was reduced to a small area of the southern Balkans.  The Mongols were in Crimea.

Russia, Prussia and Hungary reduced Poland to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw by 1800

By 1400 the Ottoman Empire had replaced the Byzantines in the Balkans.  Hungary adjusted her borders a little.  East Prussia remained the same.  Poland and Lithuania had joined in a commonwealth and pushed their border south and east.  Into the lands that were once Kievan Rus.  Except for Crimea and the area just north of Crimea.  Pushing the Mongols east.  As the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy pushed down on the Mongols from the north.  By 1500 the Ottoman Empire pushed further into southern Europe.  Into Hungary.  Crimea.  And Poland-Lithuania.  Which pushed north into East Prussia.  While Russia replaced the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy and pushed south into Poland-Lithuania.

By 1600 the Ottoman Empire adjusted her northern borders a little.  Poland replaced the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth.  And pushed her border slightly east into Russia.  Russia pushed her southern border to the Caspian Sea.  Sweden was across the Baltic Sea into modern day Finland and Estonia.  On Russia’s most western border.  By 1700 Hungary had pushed the Ottoman Empire back into the Balkans.  Prussia formed on the Baltic Sea west of Poland.  With East Prussia to the east of Poland on the Baltic Sea.  The Russian Empire pushed west to the Baltic Sea.  Pushing the Swedes out of Estonia and part of Finland.  Russia had also pushed south through Lithuania and pushed deep into Poland.  The Ottoman Empire was still on the northern side of the Black Sea at Russia’s southern border.

By 1800 the Russian Empire had pushed their southern border all the way to the Black Sea.  Pushing the Ottoman Empire back.  The Russians also pushed their southern border further south between the Black and Caspian seas.  They pushed west through modern day Finland to the sea.  They pushed their western border through half of what was Poland.  Hungary pushed north into what was Poland.  Prussia and East Prussia joined together, taking land from Poland on the Baltic Sea.  Russia, Prussia and Hungary left little of Poland.   What was left of her lands became the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.

Vladimir Putin has said one of the Greatest Catastrophes of the 20th Century was the Collapse of the Soviet Union

By 1900 the Ottoman Empire was pushed almost completely out of the Balkans.  Greece and Bulgaria were now on the lands the Ottomans once held.  Russia pushed their southern border between the Black and Caspian seas further into the Ottoman Empire.  Hungary pushed her southern border to Greece and Bulgaria.  And west into Austria (which would later form the Austria-Hungary Empire).  The Germanic states had formed into a greater Germany that stretched from France to Russia.  Absorbing the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.  And even pushing into Russia’s western border.

Then came World War I.  And afterwards the borders of Europe were greatly changed.  The Austria-Hungary Empire was broken into Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  The eastern half (approximately) of the greater Germany was given to a reconstituted Poland.  With East Prussia bordering Poland on the north and separated from Germany (Hitler’s opening shots in World War II was to recover this lost territory).   To the north of Poland and East Prussia were Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  Russia was now the Soviet Union with her western border pushed slightly back from where it was before World War I.  Bordering Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania in the west.  And pushed back out of Finland.  The Soviet southern border between the Black and Caspian seas was pushed back a little.  And Turkey replaced what was left of the Ottoman Empire.

After World War II the Soviet Union pushed her border through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the Baltic Sea.  After the Soviet Union fell Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia restored their borders.  And the former lands of the Kievan Rus are now divided between Russia in the north and east.  Belarus between Poland and Russia.  And Ukraine bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova to the west.  The Black Sea to the south.  And Russia to the east.  With Crimea a part of Ukraine.  Well, until recently, that is.  As Russia has recently annexed Crimea.  And may be looking further west.  For this former KGB officer—Vladimir Putin—has said one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Which he began to put back together with his annexation of Crimea.


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Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 4th, 2014

History 101

Ukraine is a Nation with Farmland so Fertile it earned the Moniker the ‘Breadbasket of Europe’

All roads may have led to Rome.  But all rivers led to Byzantium.  The city Constantine the Great of the Roman Empire turned into Constantinople.  Modern day Istanbul.  The great city on the Bosporus.  One-time trade crossroads of the world.  Where East met West.  And Europe met Asia.  Where goods from the Far East traveling on the Silk Road passed through on their way to Europe.  And where grain grown in the fertile river valleys of Eastern Europe passed through to feed the great empires.

Rivers created civilizations.  For they provided fertile farmland in their valleys.  And the rivers provided avenues for trade.  Which is why our great cities first appeared on rivers.  Like Kiev.  The Ukrainian capital.  On the Dnieper River.  Which flows from Smolensk through Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.  Emptying into the Black Sea.  Along with the Danube.  The Don.  And via a short portage from the Don, trade flowed to the Black Sea on the Volga, too.  (But the waters flowed into the Caspian Sea.)  And across the Black Sea lay Constantinople.  One-time trade crossroads of the world.

Ukraine is a nation with a lot of fertile farmland.  It is so fertile that it earned the moniker the ‘breadbasket of Europe’.  Making Ukraine some very valuable real estate.  Because of their grain production.  And the access the Dnieper River provided.  Opening trade between Scandinavia and the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople.  Providing Ukraine with a lot of north-south movement via the Dnieper.  As well as a lot of east-west movement via land between the Germanic tribes to the west.  And the Turkic people to the east.

To improve Relations with the Rus’ the Byzantine Patriarch converted the Rus’ and the Slavs to Christianity

Kiev was a crossroads.  Varangians (i.e., Vikings) moved south from Scandinavia.  The Greeks from Byzantine moved north.  As they did they bumped into the indigenous Slavs.  And the Khazars (one of those Turkic people).  Kiev was geographically in the Khazar Empire.  But the Varangians ruled Kiev.  As it was on their trade route with the Greeks in Constantinople.  It was the Varangians who ruled Kiev during the Golden Age (11th to early 12th centuries).  Which saw the rise of Kievan Rus’.  Which in time and much change gave us modern day Russia.

As the Rus’ expanded south they encroached on Khazar territory.  The Khazars allied with the Byzantine Empire and fought against the Persians and Arabs.  Who wanted that rich crossroads.  Constantinople.  As did the Rus’.  So there were all kinds of war with all kinds of people.  Which wasn’t good for trade.  So the Byzantines established a division of their empire on the Crimean peninsula on the northern shore of the Black Sea.  Near the mouth of the Dnieper.  The Theme of Cherson.  To ward off those raids by the Rus’.  And to protect the grain coming to Constantinople from the breadbasket of Europe.  The Theme of Cherson became the center of Black Sea commerce.

But to improve relations with the Rus’ the Byzantine Patriarch Photius sent emissaries to convert the Rus’ and the Slavs to Christianity.  In 863 brothers Cyril and Methodius headed north.  They could speak the Slavonic language.  Which was then only a spoken language.  They created an alphabet for them.  The Glagolitic alphabet.  Which became the Cyrillic alphabet.  And gave them a written language.  Translated scripture so they could read it.  And extended the Greek culture of the Byzantine Empire to these lands.  As well as Orthodox Christianity.  Which is why today many of the lands radiating out from the rivers flowing to the Black Sea are Orthodox Christian (Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc.).

Russian Migration into Ukraine helped make her less Ukrainian and more Russian

Kiev was one of the largest cities in the world.  Then came the invasions.  First from the Asian steppes to the east.  The Pechenegs in 968.  And then the Mongols in 1240.  Who completely destroyed Kiev.  Then the Lithuanians from the north (1320s).  Then the Crimean Tatars sacked and burned Kiev (1482).  Then Kiev passed to Poland (1569).  Then the Russians took it over.  In the 18th and 19th centuries the city was full of Russian soldiers.  And ecclesiastical authorities.  From the Russian Orthodox Church.  Making the Ukrainian people more Russian.  Some Ukrainians tried to change that in the 1840s but Russia put a stop to that.

The Russian Empire kept pushing south.  For they wanted a warm-water port.  Which they could have on the Black Sea.  All they had to do was fight through the Ukrainians.  Which they did.  By this time the Muslim Ottoman Turks had long conquered the Christian Byzantine Empire.  Which left the Ottomans open to Russian aggression once the Russians took Ukraine.  Of course, if the Russians conquered the Ottoman Empire that would give Russia open access to the Mediterranean Sea.  Where they could threaten the British Empire holdings.  Also, the Russians could free their fellow Orthodox Christians from Muslim rule.

This aggression exploded into one of the bloodiest wars in history.  The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856).  Much like the American Civil War the technology was well ahead of the tactics.  The Russian Empire took on the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia.  Russia lost.  And she lost what she most coveted.  That warm-water port.  But that didn’t last for long.  Changes elsewhere allowed Russia to reject portions of the peace treaty that ended that war.  And built a navy she operated out of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol (first founded in 1783 by Rear Admiral Thomas Mackenzie then fortified by Catherine the Great in 1784).  On the Crimea peninsula.  And the Russians have been there ever since.

But the beating the Russians took led Tsar Alexander II to free the serfs.  And try to advance the backward Russia to be more like the advanced nations that had beaten her.  But it was too late.  For this marked the beginning of the end for Tsarist Russia.  The war left her in great debt.  So much debt that Russia sold Alaska to the United States.  While creating social unrest that would eventually lead to the October Revolution.  And the Soviet Union.  All the while Russian migration into Ukraine continued.  Making Ukraine less Ukrainian and more Russian.  With the Russian language taking over in Kiev and other large Ukrainian cities.  Pushing the Ukrainian language and culture to the country.  Leading to a divided Ukraine.  Under the boot of the Soviet regime.  Until the collapse of the Soviet Union.  When Ukraine finally got her independence.  Which Russian president and former KGB officer of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin, is now currently taking away.


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The Russian Empire

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2014

History 101

The Europeans built Larger Ships and used Advanced Navigational Skills to sail from Europe to the Far East

The Anatolian peninsula (roughly the area of modern day Turkey) has long been a trade crossroads.  It’s where the Black Sea (and the rivers into Europe and Russia) met the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s where Europe met Asia.  Where East met West.  All important long-distant trade traveled through the Anatolian peninsula.  Right through the Bosporus.  The straits between East and West.

The Greeks, the Persians, the Romans and the Ottoman Turks all coveted this region.  When the Western Roman Empire fell the great Italian city-states rose.  They dominated the Mediterranean.  And the trade through the Bosporus.  Where the Silk Road for centuries brought riches from the Far East into Europe.  The Italian merchant banks controlled that trade.  Until the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) fell to the Ottoman Turks.  Which, lucky for the Europeans, happened at the time of the Renaissance.  Bringing an end to the Middle Ages.  And ushering in the modern era.

It started in Italy.  And then spread into Europe.  A rebirth (hence Renaissance) of all that Greek learning.  Which shifted the trading center from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.  Where the Europeans built larger ships and used advanced navigational skills to sail from Europe to the Far East.  Bypassing the Silk Road.  And the Ottoman Turks in the Anatolian peninsula.  Making the Europeans the new rich traders.  Knowledge and wealth created more ships for trade.  And advanced armies and navies.  Making the Europeans the masters of the world.

Peter the Great pulled Russia out of the Middle Ages by making it more European

While the Mediterranean and European nations were ushering in the modern world not all of Asia followed them.  Russia in particular remained in the Middle Ages.  A vast land full of disparate peoples.  Not a unique and singular Russian people.  Until Ivan the Terrible came along.  The Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547.  Then Tsar of All the Russians.  Ivan the Terrible united Russia by conquering it.  But at a cost.  Continuous wars killed a lot of Russian people.  Which left a lot of farmland fallow.  Giving Russia a chronic problem they would have for centuries.  The struggle to feed themselves.

Tsar Peter the Great (1682 – 1725) modernized Russia.  To be a more modern country like those in Europe.  He even went to Europe incognito to learn as much as he could about advanced European ways.  And had Europeans help him pull Russia out of the Middle Ages.  He made his army to be like European armies.  Learned about shipbuilding.  And built a Russian navy.  Which was a problem as the only access to the sea Russia had was the Arctic Ocean via the White Sea.  Which meant, of course, war and conquest.  He fought the Swedes for access to the Baltic Sea.  And he fought the Ottoman Turks for access to the Black Sea.

The disparate people of Russia were not all that happy with his ideas or the money he spent.  So he brutally suppressed any discontent.  Peter built his navy.  And a new capital on the Baltic Sea.  Saint Petersburg.  A European cultural center.  And the Imperial capital of Russia.  He also attacked the Ottoman Empire.  And lost.  Losing his Black Sea ports.  But Russia would return to fight the Ottoman Turks.  Under Catherine the Great.

The Bolsheviks killed Tsar Nicholas and his Family and ushered in the Oppressive Soviet Union

Catherine the Great ruled during Russia’s Golden Age.  Continuing the work started by Peter the Great to modernize Russia.  Making Russia a great European power.  Through military conquest.  And diplomacy.  She was even an international mediator.  And established the League of Armed Neutrality to protect neutral shipping from British attacks during the American Revolutionary War.

Catherine pushed Russia’s borders out largely at the expense of the Ottoman Empire.  And the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.  These conquests cost, though.  And she turned to the nobility to pay for them.  In return she supported the nobility.  But the wealth she got form the nobility came from the serfs (basically slave laborers) working their land.  Which took a lot of work to pay for her conquests.  Leading to a peasant uprising or two.  But serfdom would continue in Russia.  Tsar Alexander I advanced the status of Russia with his defeat of Napoleon.  They even called him the Savior of Europe.  But serfdom remained as the Industrial Revolution took off in Europe.  Halting the modernization of Russia.

Tsar Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1861.  Ending the landed aristocracy’s monopoly of power.  Serfs left their lands.  And moved into the cities.  Selling their labor.  Industrializing Russia.  Still, their freedom favored the landed aristocracy.  Who were compensated for their serfs’ freedom with a tax paid by the freed serfs.  Which little improved the life of the freed serfs.  And did little to ease the revolutionary fervor long simmering in the Russian people.  Especially those outside the nobility.

When Tsar Nicholas II entered Russia into World War I things did not go well for Russia.  Military losses, food shortages, fuel shortages, inflation and striking factory workers made the nation ripe for revolution.  Tsar Nicholas went off to command the Russian Army personally.  Leaving his wife Alexandra to run the country in his absence.  Who turned to Grigori Rasputin for help.  Which didn’t help quell the revolutionary fervor simmering in the Russian people.  They didn’t like Rasputin.  Or the Tsar.  And made Tsar Nicholas the last emperor of the Russian Empire.  Which the Bolsheviks made permanent.  By killing Nicholas and his entire family.  Which ultimately ushered in the Soviet Union.  One of the most oppressive regimes of all time.


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Constantinople, Byzantine Empire, Ottoman Empire, the New World, Tobacco and Slavery

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 16th, 2013

History 101

With the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 Islam spread Unchecked into Christian Lands

Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire to a place on the Bosporus.  Where the ancient city of Byzantium once sat.  Where Asia met Europe.  Where the Mediterranean Sea met the Black Sea.  And the great rivers beyond.  The Danube.  Dnieper.  And the Don.  Constantine named his new city Constantinople.  And made it a jewel.  With great Christian churches.  To celebrate his new conversion to Christianity.  Which started following the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  Where on the eve of battle Constantine and his soldiers had a vision of the Christian God.  Promising them victory if they placed His symbol on their shields.  Which they did.  And they won.

Constantine spared no expense in his new city.  Which was easy to do because it was a very wealthy city.  For the greatest trade routes went through the Bosporus.  Which is why when the western half of the Roman Empire fell the eastern half, or the Byzantine Empire, carried on for another thousand years.  Give or take.  As it thrived on that trade pouring through it.  Especially from the Far East.  Along the Silk Road.  Which peaked during the Byzantine Empire.  Bringing the exotic goods of the Far East west.  From silk to porcelain to spices.  Which flowed unhindered to Christian Europe while the Christians still controlled the Byzantine Empire.

But all good things must come to an end.  Thanks to the Seljuk Turks.  And the rise of the Ottoman Empire.  Islam had united the Arab people.  And with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453 Islam spread unchecked into Christian lands.  Up through the Balkans into southern Europe.  Lands they would contest for time and again.  Making for some bitter Christian-Muslim animosity that continues into modern times.  But more crucially at the time was the loss of control over that trade from the Far East.  Making those goods not as reasonably priced as they once were.  Which proved to be quite the problem.  As the European Christians had grown quite fond of them.  Luckily for them, they could do something about that.  Thanks to all of those wars they fought with the Muslims.  The Crusades.  Which brought back a lot of Greek books of science that were collecting dust in some of the old great Greek cities all around the Mediterranean.  Founded during the Hellenistic period.  Which came before the Roman Empire.  Thanks to a fellow by the name of Alexander the Great.  Who spread Greek learning throughout the known world after he conquered it.

Christopher Columbus sailed West to establish Far East Trade without going through Muslim-Controlled Constantinople

From those books the Europeans were able to become better sailors.  On ships that could catch the wind and navigate their way great distances.  Portugal and Spain led the way.  Prince Henry (1394-1460), the Navigator, trained navigators in Portugal.  His students pushed further and further down the African coast until Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope (1486).  Vasco de Gama would round the Cape of Good Hope and sail up the eastern coast of Africa all the way to India (1498).  Pedro Álvares Cabral was heading south to round the Cape of Good Hope in (1500).  Swung out too far west.  And ran into Brazil in South America.

Spain then financed the voyages of Christopher Columbus.  Who had read that the earth was round.  And wanted to prove it.  As well as spread Christianity.  Columbus wanted to find a way west to the Far East.  Sure it was just beyond the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.  After a voyage longer than his near mutinous crew expected they finally landed on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas (1492).  Thinking he found an ocean passage to the Far East.  Around the Muslim controlled land route.  He would later understand that he had found the New World.  Which we would be calling Columbia.  Had his dispatches beat a Florentine passenger’s on a Portuguese ship who wrote about what he saw.  Amerigo Vespucci.  Which is why there is not a North Columbia, a Central Columbia and a South Columbia.  Instead, there is a North America, a Central America and a South America.

With Columbus’ success Spain financed others.  Vasco Núñez Balboa.  Who crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached the Pacific Ocean (1513).  Ferdinand Magellan.  Who sailed around South America through the Straits of Magellan and into the Pacific Ocean.  Sailing on to the Far East.  And back home.  Being the first to circumnavigate the globe (1519-1522).  Hernán Cortés.  Who conquered the brutal Aztec regime in Mexico (1521).  Eventually the Spanish would bring great riches of gold and silver back to the Old World.  Meanwhile France financed Jacques Cartier in his attempt to find a Northwest Passage to the Pacific.  Who sailed up the St. Lawrence River to Montreal (1534).  Then Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec (1608).  Where they established a lucrative fur trade with the native Indians.

Cultivating Tobacco took Large Tracts of Farmland which required more Laborers that they had in the Colonies

Queen Elizabeth of England financed Walter Raleigh.  Who explored the coast of North America (1584).  Looking for a place to settle a colony.  On a subsequent voyage he brought 100 settlers with him.  And settled a colony at Roanoke, North Carolina (1585).  Which became the Lost Colony of Roanoke (1591).  The Virginia Company of London, a joint-stock company, would have better luck.  They raised financing by selling stock shares to investors who would share in any profits of the colony.  Christopher Newport led a voyage that established the first permanent English settlement in the New World.  At Jamestown (1607).

Though the Americas were not the Far East it was a vast landmass with inexhaustible resources.  And endless tracts of fertile soil.  The possibilities were endless.  The marriage of John Rolfe to Pocahontas (1614) provided an uneasy peace between the settlers and their Indian neighbors.  Then Rolfe figured out how to cure tobacco (1612).  Something the English began smoking after Columbus observed the Cubans sticking burning rolls of tobacco in a nostril.  The English refined smoking with a pipe.  And they really enjoyed it.  Importing vast quantities from the Spanish colonies in America.  Thanks to Rolfe, though, the English could produce their own tobacco.  Once they worked out a few problems.

Cultivating tobacco took large tracts of farmland.  But to put large tracts of farmland into production you needed laborers.  And in 1612 Virginia there just weren’t a lot of colonists living there yet.  The demand for labor far outstripped the supply.  So they tried to satisfy that demand with indentured servants.  Preferably from Europe.  Even criminals from English jails.  As well as from Africa.  Who worked in bondage during their indentures.  Then went free.  Until around the 1660s.  When things changed.  Starting in the southern colonies.  Where slavery became hereditary.  For Africans, at least.  Like it was in the Old World.  Where peasants and serfs were bonded to the land.  Once a slave.  Always a slave.  And if your parent was a slave so were you.  Like it was in ancient Athens.  At the end of the Western Roman Empire.  And in the Muslim world.

Muslim didn’t only enslave Christians.  They also established slave markets with African slave traders.  Who opened their markets to the Portuguese, the Spanish, the French and the English.  To help them meet that soaring demand for labor during the early days of the New World colonies.  When there were so few colonists.  Who found their way to the New World in the first place because of the Muslim conquest of Constantinople.  Which sent the Europeans to the seas to find a western way to the Far East.  And when they did they discovered the New World.  Creating the largest market ever for African slaves.  And the greatest convulsions in the New World as they struggled to end slavery in the Americas.


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The Ten Year Anniversary of 9/11

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 10th, 2011

Why the Attack on America on 9/11? 

Sunday is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.  Ten years is a long time.  And during those years it’s been safe in the U.S.  Which makes people complacent.  That’s what time does.  People tend to forget.

So what was it?  And why was it?  The attack on America on 9/11? 

The ‘what’ is simple to answer.  A group of Muslim men hijacked four jetliners.  They crashed two into the World Trade Center.  Crashed one into the Pentagon.  And the fourth?  The passengers fought back.  Having learned of the other hijackings.  They attacked the attackers.  Fought.  And died.  Bringing the fourth plane down in a field in the country.  Far from its intended target.  These were the first to fight back in the war on terror.  A war where Americans were dying before 2001.

The ‘why’ is a little more involved.  It’s because of the Jews.  In the Middle East.  Who now live on ancient Jewish land.  Israel.  Land that has changed hands a few times since the time of King David (born 11th Century B.C.).  And King Solomon (born 10th Century BC).  And the people that lived on this land before the Jews returned to their homeland?  Muslims.  Who wrested this land from Christians.  Who got the land when the Roman Empire became Christian.  Who took the land from the Jews.  When the Romans were still pagans.  And on and on it went.  Back in time.  Until you get to King David.  And his conquests to consolidate his kingdom.

Long Story Short, Jews and Muslims hate each other in the Middle East

The Muslims want it back.  Because they conquered that land.  And they believe this makes it their land.  But if they believe that he who conquers the land has claim to the land, they have a problem.  Because the British won that land in World War I.  When they defeated the Ottoman Empire.  A member of the Central Powers.  Who lost the war. 

World War II soon came along.  And the HolocaustAdolf Hitler hated Jews.  Tried to kill them all.  So when Nazi Germany lost the war, displaced Jews who survived the Holocaust went to British Palestine.  To their ancient homeland.  Shortly thereafter they declared themselves the State of Israel.  And asked the Palestinians to kindly leave.  And they did.  Into refugee camps surrounding the new State of Israel.  They lived in refugee camps because the surrounding countries didn’t want to take them in.  So in these camps they stayed.  Where they’ve lived with a simmering hatred since.

Anyway, long story short, Jews and Muslims hate each other in the Middle East.  Israel is a tiny Jewish island in an Arab sea.  The Arabs tried to take this land a few times but were beaten back.  Thanks to an assist from the U.S.  And they lost land to boot.  The Sinai Peninsula.  The West Bank.  The Golan Heights.  And the Muslim Arabs want those lands back, too.

Militant Muslims hate America with every Fiber in their Body

Eventually the Egyptians made peace with Israel.  Anwar Sadat formally recognized the State of Israel.  And fundamentalist Egyptian officers assassinated him because of it.  His successor honored the peace Sadat made.  Hosni Mubarak.  For some 30 years.  Got a lot of U.S. aide for helping America’s most important Middle East ally.  Until he was toppled from power during the Arab Spring.

So there’s some history in the Middle East.  The Muslim Arabs hate the Jews.  And want that land back.  And they hate the Egyptian government who made peace with Israel for all those years.  They hate the British for taking that land from the Ottoman Empire.  And perhaps most of all they hate America.  Who they blame for everything.  Had they not entered World War I, that war may have ended in a draw with no lost of Muslim land.  Had they not entered World War II, Hitler may have won that war.  Or at least killed more Jews.  If the Americans had not ‘bribed’ Sadat with aid he may never have recognize the State of Israel.  And had America not helped Israel during the Arab-Israeli wars, the Arabs may have won those wars.

So do militant Muslims hate America?  With every fiber in their body.  Can we get them to like us?  Not a chance in hell.  You see, defeating us is just step one in their grand plan.  Once upon a time Muslim power controlled the Middle East, North Africa and southern Europe.  And they want to again.  They want to restore the caliphate.  And spread Sharia Law.

Osama bin Laden led the War against America

So the radical Muslims, fundamentalists, Islamists, whatever you want to call them, waged war against the U.S.  Attacking U.S. nationals out of the country.  And planning and conducting attacks inside the country.  Osama bin Laden led the war against America.  With his al Qaeda getting bolder over time.  Leading up to September 11, 2001.

So far every subsequent plan has been foiled.  Or failed.  Like the underwear bomber on that Detroit bound plane.  And the Times Square bomber.  So it’s been relatively safe in America.  But there is unrest in the Middle East.  Which is very ominous.

Representative Democracies rarely break out Amidst Chaos

What happens in Egypt may very well tell us the future of the world.  Will they maintain their peace with Israel?  Or will they drift further into the Iranian orbit?  Further pressuring Israel.  Bordered in the north by Iranian client Hezbollah.  And in the south by Iranian client Hamas.  With an open border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.  It’s getting tense over there (see Israel, Egypt try to stem damage from embassy riot by Diaa Hadid, Associated Press, posted 9/10/2011 on the Toronto Star).

Israel and Egypt’s leadership tried Saturday to limit the damage in ties after protesters stormed Israel’s embassy in Cairo, trashing offices and prompting the evacuation of nearly the entire staff from Egypt in the worst crisis between the countries since their 1979 peace treaty.

The 13-hour rampage deepened Israel’s fears that it is growing increasingly isolated amid the Arab world’s uprisings and, in particular, that Egypt is turning steadily against it after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the authoritarian leader who was a close ally…

Egypt’s new military rulers, in turn, appear caught between preserving key ties with Israel — which bring guarantee them billions in U.S. military aid — and pressure from the Egyptian public. Many Egyptians are demanding an end to what they see as too cosy a relationship under Mubarak, who they feel knuckled under to Israel and the U.S., doing nothing to pressure for concessions to the Palestinians.

The big question is who will succeed Mubarak.  The Muslim Brotherhood?  They have close Iranian ties, too.  So that wouldn’t be good.  But at this time they are probable the largest organized political force in Egypt.  Which carries a lot of weight following a civil war.  I mean, representative democracies rarely break out amidst chaos.  And if it did, it could even be worse.  For a lot of Egyptians don’t like Israel.  Or that peace treaty.  Which means if the people get their way, it could be bad for Jews.  And Christians.

On this Day of Remembrance, we should make sure that those who died did not die in Vain 

We need to be concerned with what’s happening in Egypt.  For if the wrong people get into power there will be no peace for Jews.  Christians.  Or for much of the Western World.

If Iran gains power and influence in the area there will be no peace for Jews.  Christians.  Or for much of the Western World.  This is even a greater concern.  Because they may soon have a nuclear weapon.  If they don’t already.

Ten years is a lot of time.  But we must not become complacent.  And not forget what happened on that day.  Because the threat to America is real.  And it won’t go away with diplomacy.  For you can’t talk sense to people who hijack jetliners full of innocent men, women and children.  To kill innocent men, women and children.

On this day of remembrance, we should make sure that those who died did not die in vain.  As in any war, some may die so that others may live.  So we must honor those who died.  By living.  And being strong.  Strong enough to deter any attack on our soil again.  To protect those they left behind.


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Israel Rejects pre-1967 Borders, Sees it as Surrender

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 21st, 2011

Empires Come and Empires Go

As empires go, few were as great and long lasting as the Roman Empire.  At the height of empire, the Romans ruled most of Briton, Europe, parts of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.  The empire was so vast that the Romans split it in half.  The Western Empire survived about 500 Years.  The Eastern Empire survived about 1,500 years.  The last thousand years of the Eastern Empire, the Byzantine Empire, ruled North Africa and the Middle East.  Including the ancient Jewish homeland.

The Byzantine Empire eventually fell to Muslim invaders.  And the Christian lands of the Roman Empire became Muslim.  Including the Jewish homeland.  The Muslims conquered the previous conquerors.  And to the victors went the spoils.  Parts of the Roman Empire in Spain, North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe became part of a new Muslim Empire (caliphate).  There were about 1,000 years of war that expanded and contracted the empire.  At the tail end of this empire was the Ottoman Empire.  Which World War I ended.  The Ottomans were on the losing side of that war.  The British were on the winning side.  And to the victors went the spoils.  They administered the land called Palestine.  And in exchange for Jewish and Arab support in the war against the Ottomans, the British promised both land carved out of the defeated Ottoman Empire.  In the British Mandate for Palestine, the Jews would get back their Jewish homeland.

It was easier on paper, though.  There were a lot of issues to resolve.  And many of those the Arabs felt were resolved not in their best interests.  And, well, there hasn’t been peace in the Middle East since.

A Peace Settlement or a Surrender Settlement?

The Jews created their Jewish state in 1948.  Covering less than half of the ancient Jewish homeland.  The Kingdom of Israel.  The Six-Day War (1967) pushed those borders further out.  The surrounding Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan and Syria) were massing to invade Israel.  But Israel struck first.  Took out the Egyptian Air Force.  Which gave them air superiority.  That allowed them to push the Arabs back.  And take the Golan Heights from Syria.  The West Bank from Jordan.  And the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.  They still have the Golan Heights and the West Bank.  Which serves as strategic ground against further invasions.  And they’re reluctant to give them up.  For if they do, they will become as vulnerable to attack as they were in 1967. 

In a recent speech, U.S. President Obama called for the Israelis to do just that.  To restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by first going back to the pre-1967 boundaries.  And that the issue of Palestinian refugees (rather, the descendants of the original refugees) will have to be negotiated.   The Israelis do not see this as negotiation.  They see it as surrender.  For the Palestinian refugees want to return to Jewish land.  So the two-state solution will have a Palestinian state and a Jewish/Palestinian state.  Surrounded by enemies that will now be closer.  And with a terrorist organization, Hamas, which has as its primary goal the destruction of Israel, now forming a unity government with Fatah.  The only thing missing from this proposal is a blindfold and cigarette for Israel.

And yet there are those who speak with indignation about the Israelis refusing to negotiate for peace (see Palestinians to proceed with U.N. recognition bid by the Associated Press posted 5/21/2011 on CBS News).

Senior Palestinian officials say that negotiations with Israel have become pointless after Israel’s prime minister rejected President Barack Obama’s call to base Mideast border talks on the pre-1967 war lines…

[Israeli Prime Minster] Netanyahu laid out hardline positions after his meeting with resident Obama at the White House on Friday. He said the 1967 borders were “indefensible,” that the Palestinians could forget about resettling Palestinian refugees in Israel and that [Palestinian President] Abbas would have to choose between peace with Israel and reconciliation with Hamas…

[Aide to Abbas] Erekat said late Friday that Netanyahu’s statements make it clear the Israeli leader is not a partner for peace, suggesting there is no point in returning to negotiations.

“I don’t think we can talk about a peace process with a man who says the 1967 lines are an illusion, that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, undivided, and he does not want a single (Palestinian) refugee to go back,” Erekat said. “What is left to negotiate about?”

This from a government pursuing a unity agreement with Hamas who still fires missiles into Israel.  They must know what they are asking for.  And no doubt do.  Repositioning for the final assault on Israel.  At least that’s what it must look like from the Jewish side.

To the Victors go the Spoils

Just about everyone has fought for the ancient lands of the Kingdom of Israel.  Even before King David‘s time.  Military conquest has been the diplomacy tool of choice forever.  The Jews weren’t happy to see the land wrested from them by the Romans (or the numerous conquerors before the Romans came).  The Romans weren’t happy to see the land taken by the Muslims.  And the Muslims weren’t happy to see that land taken away by the Allies with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. 

There was a lot of map redrawing after World War I.  Including in the Middle East.  Map redrawing often results in civil wars.  And the result of one of these wars was the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.  Which resulted in a refugee problem.  The Jews accepted the displaced Jews into the new Jewish state.  No Arab state wanted the displaced Arabs.  They became a people without a country.  But with a cause.

All these years later there is still no peace.  And people want to right wrongs.  To give land back to the rightful owners.  But their history suffers from tunnel vision.  They see only what they want.  The Arabs want to go back to the height of their military conquest.  Their caliphate.  For that military conquest was good.  But not the ones before.  Or the ones after.  For they agree to the victors go the spoils.  But only when they are the victors.

The problem with going back in time to correct wrongs is that history is full of past wrongs.  So how far back should we go correcting past wrongs?  Back to the original wrong?  To the first time someone took another’s land?  To undo what the Persian Empire did?  Undo what the Egyptians did?  Undo what the Sumerians did?  Undo what Homo sapiens did to the Neanderthals

You can go back forever and find a people that wronged another.  It is our history.  And a violent history at that.  But as we became more civilized we became less violent.  More of us are able to live together.  Peacefully.  And that is the direction we should continue to progress.  We need to stop living in the past.  To stop using that diplomacy tool we call military conquest.  The days of military expansionism are over.  Or should be over.  And you shouldn’t use diplomatic negotiation as a ruse to prepare for a military conquest.  Which it looks like the Palestinian side is doing in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #31: “Islam and guns are a lot alike. And yet when something bad happens, we try to ban one and forgive the other.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 14th, 2010


Yes, people with guns do kill people.  And, yes, extreme Islamic fundamentalist fanatics do kill people.  But guns keep the peace.  As does less fanatical Islam.

Societies have formed militias (armed with guns) to protect themselves from aggressors who did not wish to cohabitate in peace.   Thomas Jefferson used guns to stop the piracy along the Barbary Coast.  The Allies used guns to stop Adolf Hitler.  The NATO nations used guns to balance the Soviet threat in Eastern Europe.  An American led coalition used guns to first prevent Saddam Hussein from invading Saudi Arabia.  They then used guns to force him out of Kuwait.

Islam, and religion in general, provides a code of morality.  Religion can unite an otherwise diverse people.  It is this common faith that lets a diverse people to live together in peace and harmony.


Guns don’t kill people.  And it’s not the bullets, either.  You can place a loaded handgun on a table with the safety off and it won’t do anything.  You can call it a name, sleep with its wife or impregnate its daughter (figuratively, of course) and it will just lay there.  For that gun to do something, a person has to pick it up.  Place their finger on the trigger.  Aim.  And shoot.  Until a person does, a gun will never harm a soul.


You can read about Islam in a book.  You can put that book on a table and it won’t do anything.  You can insult it, profane it and denounce it and it will just lay there.  For this religion to do something, someone has to read the book.  If they cannot read, a person who has read the book has to explain it to the illiterate one.  And then act.  Only when a person makes a conscious choice to commit some action can a religion harm anyone.  And if these people choose peace there will be peace.  If they choose violence there will be violence. 


The Nazis used to shoot undesirables (Jews, gypsies, Slavs, etc.).  They’d make a mother hold a child so one bullet could kill two.  But as the killing increased, bullets just proved to be inefficient.  And costly.  So they developed the extermination camps.  The death chamber.  And Zyklon B.  This poison could be stored and handled safely.  When it was time, a person would open a canister and pour the chemical into the gas chamber.  If left undisturbed in the canisters, Zyklon B never would have harmed a soul.  It only killed when a person placed it in into an environment where it could.


The Kurds are a lot like the Palestinians, only without Jewish neighbors.  After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, everyone in Mesopotamia got a nation-state except the Kurds.  With the new national borders, the nomadic Kurds could no longer move freely through the lands they once did.   And, well, this caused problems.  Conflicts.  And bitter feelings.  The Kurds supported the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war.  Saddam Hussein was not amused.  The Iraqis had stockpiles of chemical weapons.  Hussein decided to use them.  On the Kurdish town of Halabja.  He killed some 5,000 Kurds.  Injured about 10,000 more.  Mostly civilians.  If these weapons were not loaded on aircraft, then flown over and dropped on Halabja, they would not have harmed a soul.  But when orders were given, and carried out, by people, they did.


Yeah, so it’s pretty clear that guns, religion and chemicals are pretty benign when left alone.  Unless a person gets involved, these things just won’t hurt anyone.  It’s the people.  They’re the problem.

There are a lot of gun owners in the United States.  Few use their guns to hurt others, though.  And Muslims tell us their religion is a religion of peace.  Only a small minority perverts it to harm others.  And there’re many national leaders.  Few have committed chemical genocide.  So it’s not all people.  Just some.  That are the problem.

So what, then, makes some people do these things while others do not?  Ideology.  Some people are passionate about their ideology.  And some are so passionate that they do not permit an alternative ideology.  This is when things get dangerous.  Because they kill for their ideology.


The Left wants to take away our guns.  They point to gun violence and say, “See?”  But law-abiding gun owners don’t commit these crimes.  Criminals commit these crimes.  Using guns obtained on the black market.  And denying law-abiding citizens from owning guns won’t shut down the black market.  Just as illegalizing drugs hasn’t made drugs unavailable.  Make something illegal and a thriving black market will develop.  Which will be lucrative for criminals.  So much so that they will use extreme violence to maintain their market share.

Let’s imagine a fictional world where we ban all guns.  Would it be a better, more peaceful world?

On September 11, 2001, Islamic fundamentalists armed with box cutters hijacked 4 commercial jetliners.  Two of these planes crashed into the Twin Towers.  One crashed into the Pentagon.  The passengers on one plane fought back with what weapons they could find.  The plane crashed.  They died.  But they prevented the terrorists from successfully completing their mission.

Since 9/11, some people carry guns on airplanes.  You know why?  Because a gun can stop a passionate ideologue with a box cutter.


Ideology is far more dangerous than guns.  And yet, when something bad happens with a gun the Left wants to enact another level of gun control.  But when a militant Islamic fundamentalist kills Americans, the Left cautions us not to rush to judgment.  Because we may anger the Muslim world.  Who appear only to get angrier however we may try to appease them.  And yet we continue to try.  Even if it compromises our national security.  There comes a point where you have to ask yourself, why?  Why do we adhere to a lose-lose policy?

They don’t like us.  They never will like us.  Trying to make them like us only portrays us as weak.  Which makes them feel more contempt for us.  And emboldens them.  For they respect strength.  And only strength.  Which is something the Left does not understand.  Nor will they ever.  For they think that if you just apologize enough people will like you.

Of course, the Left has no compunction about attacking Christianity.  They have no problem with pornographic films with priests and nuns.  A movie where Jesus Christ has an affair with Mary Magdalene.  Or placing a crucifix in a jar of urine and calling it art.  But they would never, ever, show such disrespect to Islam.  Why?

The Left does not like the Christian Right imposing their values on them.  So they attack Christianity.  And support Islam.  In the name of religious freedom.  Christianity must accommodate Islam.  And we must forgive every transgression of Islam.  Anyone who disagrees is a right-wing extremist.  Intolerant.  And un-American.  The Left couldn’t ask for a better group of people to exploit.


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