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"Tradition?? The only good traditions are food traditions. The rest are repressive."

"There are two ways to think. The first is to trust to your ancestors, your religious leaders, or your charismatic professors. The second is to question, to challenge, to explore history for meanings, and to analyze issues. This latter is called Critical Thinking, and it is this that is the mission of my web site. "

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman  

June 2017

How Islamists Select Targets

Every time Islamists select a target, such as the recent attack in Manchester, handwringers come out with the usual nonsense: "These attackers are not acting in the name of Islam," according to mainstream Muslims and well-intentioned journalists. I sympathize with Muslims who quietly practice their faith (or not practice it if they choose), and nice people do not want to tar all Muslims with the same brush. However, Islamists are not outliers, but are ready to die for fundamental demands of th more...

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Where are the University Grownups?



For some years now, we have seen a transformation in university life that does not bode well. These changes are in line with changes in public behavior in our society at large, a general coarsening of language, ideas, and actions.

The university world provides the next leaders, experts, and supposedly informed citizenry. At U. C. Santa Cruz recently, Black students occupied the Administration Building until the university authorities knuckled under to their demand more...

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Where Religious Tolerance is Scorned (Part 3 of 3)

On May 13, my column provided the global history of religious tolerance. On May 20, I charted the history of western religious persecution that led to today?s modern values of tolerance. Today?s column visits the absence of religious tolerance in the Muslim world and among authoritarian states.

The most interesting case is roiling Muslim-majority countries, countries that enjoyed a brief period of modernization that brought with it (temporarily) secular governance downplaying rel more...

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Limits to Tolerance (Part 2 of 3)


On May 13, my column provided the global history of religious tolerance. This column features the history of western religious persecution that led to today's modern values of tolerance.

European religious intolerance dates back to when the Romans made Christianity the state religion. Other faiths were discouraged and some actively persecuted. The arrival of Islam in North Africa and the formerly Christian Holy Land created a conflict that soon became the three-century "C more...

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Religious Tolerance in World History


Among primitive humans, the world was frightening and animated by benign or hostile spirits. Our ancestors feared the power of these unseen forces, believing that sacrifices could calm these spirits. Sacrifices ranged from sharing food (burning foods so that the smoke could reach the deities) or, in dire circumstances, human sacrifices to pacify an angry god or goddess.

As we developed as a species, these nature spirits evolved into a system of many gods and goddess, spel more...

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Religious Tolerance in World History

Among primitive humans, the world was frightening and animated by benign or hostile spirits. Our ancestors feared the power of these unseen forces, believing that sacrifices could calm these spirits. Sacrifices ranged from sharing food (burning foods so that the smoke could reach the deities) or, in dire circumstances, human sacrifices to pacify an angry god or goddess.

As we developed as a species, these nature spirits evolved into a system of many gods and goddess, spelled out more...

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America?s Long Religious Heritage


Unlike the rest of the developed world, which is either tepid on religion or is fiercely secular (France) or actively hostile (China), the United States can still be called a religious country. What is different about our religious history is that we have never had a state religion and we try to protect religious freedom (freedom to practice without government intrusion). Furthermore, our lack of a formal state religion has given rise to some very original new religions, such as Church o more...

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Russia?s New Global Aims


The Cold War is back, but it is a different Cold War because it is a different Russia. It is important to know who the Russians are and what has shaped their worldview, including their sometimes justified suspicion and hostility toward the US.

Some features of Russian government go back to their beginnings as a country in the 10th century. Their geography places them very far north, which means that food, particularly grain harvests, are uncertain. The country has experien more...

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America Has 250 Years of Consistent Foreign Policy


The majority of Americans, furious over the Assad regime using poison gas on his own Syrian people, expressed approval of President Trump?s attack on the Syrian airfield that launched the gas attack. When one sees such horrors, such as when American soldiers first entered the Nazi death camps, the desire for revenge is powerful. But knee-jerk revenge is not policy. What is American policy about assaults on helpless civilians? Do we have a consistent policy? Do we always react by punishin more...

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Closing the American Great Divide


Americans were the closest to being united by a common culture between 1941 and 1965. The post-World War II economy produced an enormous middle class, thanks to being the only country in the world not damaged or destroyed by the war. Manufacturing of everything was flourishing, as were exports and generous support with money and values to the recovery of our former customers and new allies. The only cloud on the horizon was the Cold War and the not small concern about nuclear holocaust s more...

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World Happiness Report


Every year, the UN issues a report on a survey of how countries rank in terms of development and, of all things, happiness. I really do not understand how one can measure happiness, but I do know how one can measure unhappiness. For happiness, I would prefer contentment, which is more measurable.

Nonetheless, the UN does issue this report, defending it as a good measure of a nation's progress, and that using social well-being as a goal drives better public policy. In this more...

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The Trouble With Today?s "Cassandras."


Cassandra dates back to ancient Greek mythology. Cassandra was a princess of Troy who was cursed with the ability to see future disasters but also cursed with never being believed (until too late). This is different from the boy who cried wolf (making up the warning) and then not being believed when the wolf actually appeared.

Two Cassandras have received much critical press in the past few weeks: Iowa Representative Steve King, who tweeted in defense of another Cassandra more...

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Sweden Does Have an Immigrant Problem.


President Trump's recent comment about "Sweden, Sweden is a disaster" met with pushback when he cited a Muslim riot that actually did not happen that weekend. It happened the next week. Wrong details, right issue. This was like his comments about the Bowling Green "Massacre," a massacre that could have been, had it not been foiled by the FBI. He is sometimes on the right track, but with the wrong facts. Sweden is in trouble, despite the protestations of outrage by Swedish officials.
more...

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The Role of Language in Politics


A fascinating issue arose during our recent Presidential election campaign, and continues today. Many good, ordinary people fell in love with the candidate who "talked just like they do." News Hour on PBS found two Texas cafes, one in a small town, the other in Austin. The customers were all Texans, all who apparently loved their state and their country, but their answers to the reporter's questions seemed to come from two different worlds.

The customers in the small town more...

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Two-State Solution Faces Reality


It has been US and UN policy since the founding of Israel and Palestine in 1947 that two states should live side by side in peace. Israel agreed, but the Palestinians rejected the state they had been offered, opting instead for war, with the help of the entire Arab world, to make Palestine a "one-state solution." They lost that first war and then 13 more attempts to destroy Israel.

The definition for insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly hoping for a different outco more...

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Crisis for the Muslim World


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Pajaronian
February 25, 2017

Islam is said to be the World?s fastest growing religion, but it may not be. We are seeing the frantic activity that precedes collapse. In history, religions either evolve or die out.

The elements of decline are threefold:

? Theological
Sharia law stopped evolving in 1200. There was to be no more modification, no more discussion. It was frozen in time. Islam, unlike Chris more...

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Vetting Immigrants and Refugees


Our country has every right to vet the flood of immigrants trying to come to this land. But one size does not fit all. This is why a blanket Muslim ban is without nuance, to say the least! President Trump is not going about this process with subtlety, unlike our current vetting process, one that is the result of continued refining.

It does make sense to sort through the refugees, first admitting those least likely to be a danger to us, and then vetting the rest. The Trump more...

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Ideas That Make People Kill.


Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Europeans engaged in mutual slaughter over religion: the Catholic-Protestant wars. Religion was not the only issue; the birth of nation-states added poisonous nationalism to the fray. The scientific and industrial revolutions added another element. Catholic states were fighting a rear-guard action in defense of the feudal world. The Protestant states, over time, advanced all the ideological changes that we value: participatory governance, religious to more...

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Islam: One Size Does Not Fit All!


Both extreme ends of the political spectrum have a problem with their assessment of Islam, the religion, and Muslims as a global community of people. They are talking over each other, and the most serious consequence was the hasty, ill-considered initiative of President Trump to ban entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Unless Americans of all political stripes understand the real nature of militant Islam, which by its own admission has declared war on the world, even aga more...

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The Arc of History


As a historian, I share with former President Obama the idea that there is such a thing as "the arc of history." What is meant by this is that human beings have very gradually changed over the centuries from small clans and tribes who had to fight tooth and claw to survive to a global society, much of which has common (and largely American) values.

We no longer throw our adolescent girls into a volcano to calm the rage of the volcano god. Most of us no longer regard women more...

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World Law and Reciprocity


After 75 years with a system of global norms that America created, many around the world are challenging these norms. "International laws" are treaties agreed to by nations and "norms" are behaviors believed beneficial to all who practice them. However, global norms and treaties are voided when one side violates the agreements. During World War II, because Germany, the US, and Britain were all signatories to the Geneva Conventions, they all abided by humane rules validated by regular Red more...

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Israel and Its Changing Neighborhood


Nothing is more divisive than discussions of the Israeli/Palestinian century old conflict. The problem with this dispute is that conditions have finally changed in Israel?s neighborhood and in America?s new government.

On one side of the issue is the notion that "International Law" is against Israel?s occupation of "Palestinian lands," a position that pretends that there is really such a thing as "international law." For something to be law, it not only must be agreed by more...

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December 2016

Who Are Americans? Multiethnic or Multicultural?

The populist resurgence around the world, including our own country, is about identity crisis. Belonging to a "nation" is only a few centuries old. Before that, people identified with their clan, village, or town. Educated and city people identified with their empire, the oldest form of human civilizational organization. But as empires fell, nation states rose.

The nation states were an improvement in some ways over empires in that more people were involved in governance and share more...

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Tradition!

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevya, the milkman, a poor Jewish villager trying to survive in Tzarist Russia, is faced by societal changes that he resists with all his might. Tradition is his shield and protection from what he sees as chaos.

Of course, there are limits to how much one can resist the present. Around the world, and even in our own country, there are people who resist the present, or, rather, resist some of the changes of the present. They cherry pick.

The more...

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Populism?s Unanticipated Consequences: Dictatorship


I learned in my college days that when somebody on campus yelled "Power to the People!" that it was time to take cover. I am allergic to mobs, which are what human beings become when they abandon thought.

The Populist movement is not new. Roman senators as early as 60 BC knew they could buy the favor of voters by putting on a great show: a circus, a great feast, and a big parade. What the senators wanted was their votes, after which they need never concern themselves with more...

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How Our "Nation of Immigrants" Works.



We are a nation of immigrants, including even the "Native Americans" who just migrated here from Asia earlier. Human beings are a mobile species, having migrated from Africa to settle every continent 50,000-100,000 years ago. Even these early migrants had trouble with others either already there or coming from elsewhere. How else did the Neanderthals, our cousin species, get wiped out? Our species has always believed that when newcomers arrive, "there goes the neighborhood."
more...

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America?s History of Isolationism or Engagement.

November 11, 1918, was Armistice Day. On that date a century ago, World War I ended with a cease fire. The clear loser, Germany, collapsed in exhaustion after fighting on two fronts: France and Britain on one end and Russia on the other. The war was stalemated until the United States, very late in the war, entered on the side of France and Britain and won it. Although we do not make much of this holiday, it is still terribly important to the British and French, who lost a whole generation of yo more...

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Celebrating Native American Food


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Pajaronian
November 26, 2016

I have never seen a restaurant discussed and condemned on the front page of a newspaper before Saturday, November 4. On that day, Francis Ford Coppola, famous as the movie producer of The Godfather series and a posh winery he opened in Napa, was condemned for daring to open a restaurant featuring Native American foods. How terrible, said the critics, that someone dare to serve ethnic foods without growing up w more...

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Culture Matters Part 2

Last week, I wrote about the cultural chasm in the United States that gave rise to election results that surprised many of us. This time, I am looking at the global culture wars.

Along with cultural differences of class and ethnicity, there are cultural differences in religions: most of these benign, but some really divisive. No one cares about different dietary laws, for example, unless one culture forces the rest to practice them. Orthodox Jews have dietary issues: no pork or sh more...

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E Pluribus Unum?


This Latin slogan describes the intentions of our founding father: that out of many colonies would come one nation. We Americans are very proud of this idea, and many think that we invented it. However, considering that the slogan is Latin, the ancient Romans certainly thought of it, as did others before them.

The small, scattered tribes of Homo Sapiens peopling Africa never looked beyond their tribes, related by blood. But as our ancestors left Africa and peopled the worl more...

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Laina with October Movies


Deepwater Horizon

Catastrophes test human character, ingenuity, and endurance. Nature provides plenty of tests with weather, fire, floods, and earthquakes, all considered by insurance companies as "acts of God." But the most fascinating catastrophes are those arising from the very technologies that demonstrate the brilliance of human ingenuity. We are smart creatures, but we do worry about getting too smug about how smart we are. The earliest warning about this smugness is more...

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It Can?t Happen Here?

e are just two weeks from the US Presidential election, far too late to change minds. However, many level-headed people around the country take comfort in the thought that American government is designed with so many checks and balances that nothing really drastic can happen. Others say that their "change agent," Donald Trump, will just shake up the government a little.

The saving grace in this country is that the president does not have dictatorial powers. No, he cannot single-h more...

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Israel?s Changing Neighborhood


When Israel first became a nation, a unified Muslim world (in particular, Arab world) invaded, hoping to destroy the nascent state. The Arabs did not prevail, but that did not stop them for trying 13 other times since 1947.

In the past 12 months alone, Israel faced 407 terror attacks, including 165 stabbings, 87 attempted stabbings, 107 shootings, 47 vehicular attacks, and one bus bombing. All this is in a country the size of New Jersey!

Today, however, the more...

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Populism Is No Way to Rule.

It is good advice to hide your wallet when you hear "Power to the People." Our founding fathers knew what "populism" could look like, and deliberately designed our government to keep popular passions at bay. We have representative, not direct democracy government; two bodies in Congress: House of Representatives and Senate; presidential vetoes to override Congress; and Supreme Court decisions to protect us from unjust legislation. It is not a perfect system, but it is better than most other syst more...

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Immigrants vs Self-Radicalizing Jihadis



With the latest outrage of terror attacks by two US citizens in New York-New Jersey and Minnesota on September 17, the news media were reporting our leaders? very conflicting viewpoints. The attacks gave fuel to Donald Trump?s notion that terrorists are coming into this country with refugees. "Keep all Muslims out until we know what?s going on!"

The problem with this is that the two terrorists were not "refugees." They were citizens and had spent all their format more...

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September 2016

Is There Global Rule of Law?


During President Obama?s recent visit to Asia, he spoke about Global Norms to students in Laos. He also said that America has been an enormous force for the good in the world, but that we often think that because of our size and clout, we do not need to know much about the rest of the world. Some people will be annoyed by this comment, but I think it is obvious. Only a steady ten percent of the American public has any interest in foreign policy, which is too bad, considering how importan more...

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Why Is Georgetown University Rewriting History?

Cherry-picking is no way to benefit from historic insight. Suddenly, it has become chic to revisit history and try to undo what was done. There is no way we can undo slavery, and this mode of rewriting history is of no benefit to the descendants of a very bad institution.

Georgetown University was financed in 1789 by the sale of slaves owned by the Jesuit fathers. The university wants to find descendants of those slaves and give them special access to attend Georgetown. Put them more...

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The Fuss over Headscarves

When President Ronald Reagan stood at the Berlin wall and said: "Mr. Gorbachev, Take Down This Wall." Some of the President?s advisers were horrified that he said this, considering it very undiplomatic. The President was very lucky---that shortly after his challenge, events converged, resulting in the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the USSR.

The PBS program Frontline recently did an investigative report on Saudi Arabia, not an easy thing to do considering how paranoid and close more...

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Libya as an American Foreign Policy Problem

Libya is a perfect example of why it is so difficult for the US to design a good foreign policy where one-size-fits-all. The lingering ugliness of what happened in Benghazi is just a small part of the problem. The Benghazi issue, as a matter of fact, is more unique to Libya than to other Middle East countries. Analysis of Libya involves the following issues:

What Libya has in common with other Arab countries:

? Islam. Islam itself is not a one-size-fits-all religion more...

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Culture Matters: International (Part 2 of 2)

In the 1990s, Samuel Huntington first wrote an essay, then a book, called The Clash of Civilizations. This influential historian threw down a gauntlet that most liberal and idealistic scholars did not want to pick up. But this work was so important that in history conferences across the country, the book was reviewed and critiqued. He said every border between Islamic countries and non-Islamic neighbors was bloody. This was obvious between the Israelis and Arabs, but we had not realized that it more...

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Culture Matters! Part 1 of 2.

When the Black Lives Matter organization adds the word "also," this removes the idea that only Black Lives matter. Those who say All Lives Matter are diminishing the truth of the racial situation in our country. But perhaps it?s less about race than about culture.

Those of us who find "multiculturalism" charming are right that in cosmopolitan cities around the world, many delightful foods are available and one can hear many languages. However, especially a country as ethnically more...

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Russia's Long Romance with Lying and Deception

A spotlight has been turned on Putin's Russia lately: the probability that his government had hacked the computers of the Democratic National Committee, sitting on them until being released the eve of the Democratic Presidential Convention. Their agent, Julian Asange, the creator of WikiLeaks, a hacking underworld that only hacks the computers of the West, never Russia or China, dumped these e-mails with the seeming intent of assisting the election of Donald Trump. Russia certainly could not ope more...

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Iraq War Revisited with Critical Thinking

A British report released a few weeks ago roundly castigated former Prime Minister Tony Blair for his misguided support of America's war to unseat Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Blair is as much condemned (and loathed) by the British left as former President George Bush is by the American left (and Donald Trump). Both leaders are accused of having "lied" about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. To defend both positions, it is true that these weapons were not found during the invasion. Bu more...

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Beliefs that Kill

What people believe matters. There are some beliefs around the world that result in murder. So many of us are like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who said, when Alice noted "One can?t believe impossible things:" "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I?ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Too many of us believe impossible things.

? Albinos. The people in Malawi, in Africa, believe that Albinos should be abd more...

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Profiling the Muslim Community


What is so dangerous about Donald Trump is that he sometimes, quite by accident, takes a position that has some merit. He recently talked about "profiling the Muslim community," but, as always, with very little supporting data. If he were not so shallow and glib, he might have said: "There is a cult living in the Muslim community that advocates a most violent form of Islam." This is certainly true, but the notion of a blanket profile of all Muslims is a waste of resources because there a more...

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Religion, Sexuality, and Homosexuality


Many well-meaning people believe that the murderous aspects of today?s Muslim true-believers is a perversion of a good religion. To say that there are many Muslims who live peaceful lives is true. But a sizable minority of violent Muslims (Islamists) have Islamic texts to back them up. Islam is a religion, like all other religions, and the behavior of its adherents depends upon how literally they choose to practice their faith. I criticize all "true believers" for their choice of literal more...

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The Mystery of Defunding Israel


When one surveys nasty governance, horrible cultures, and rampant injustice in the world, Israel would not appear on any rational list of offenders. Despite this, the campaign to boycott and defund Israel is mindlessly persistent in universities and among far-left radicals. A few people, one of them an "independent" running for Congress, still embrace the conspiracy theory that 9-11 was not perpetrated by Arabs. They insist that the buildings fell because they had been pre-wired and then more...

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Book Review on Communism's Founding Tyrants

James DeMeo: "The Hidden History of Communism's Founding Tyrants, in their Own Words: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky: Genocide Quotes."
Laina Farhat-Holzman, Reviewer.

Because historic memories in the United States tend to be short, there has been a resurgence of romanticism about Marx and Lenin by those who believe that Stalin's Communism perverted what was intended to be a benign philosophy of creating a just world. Many people on the far left of the political spectrum hol more...

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Saudi Arabia: Our Troubled and Troublesome Ally (Part 2 of 2)


A country as insignificant as Saudi Arabia before oil would have mattered little to the world. In the 1950s, as oil wealth began to pour in, the Saudi princes wanted the same sorts of conspicuous consumption enjoyed by other world millionaires. When they first brought in automobiles (for themselves), the Wahhabi clergy were outraged, considering camels good enough for pious Muslims. Cameras and, later, television, were also on their list of harmful items for Saudi culture.

more...

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Saudi Arabia: Our Troubled and Troublesome Ally (Part 1 of 2)


Saudi Arabia is an excellent example of how complex our alliances can be. I have heard from quite a few people that we should dump them as an ally. In the past, even I have muttered that after 9-11, we invaded the wrong countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) and should have taken down Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Of course we could not do this in a world of complex issues and even more complex relationships. We have needed each other for certain things over the past 60 plus years more...

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What Use Are Good Manners?

Being "polite" is not just a matter of saying please and thank you. Courtesy has always been the lubricant that makes the wheels of society turn smoothly. There is a movement today to conflate honesty with rudeness, mocking the "politically correct." Political correctness is an exaggerated monitoring of words and thoughts that might offend others. The revolt by some against political correctness is that these constraints sometimes muzzle debate. However, the revolt against "political correctness more...

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1400 Years of Inbreeding


Worldwide Muslim marriage practices are now under fire for a spate of genetic problems now in the Western spotlight. The birth defects and anomalies are real and their incidence within Islam is undeniable. The problem is determining if these incidences are all caused by the Muslim preference for first-cousin marriages, a practice forbidden in Judaism and Christianity.

We do not know enough about genetics to determine if this consanguinity is totally to blame, or if there more...

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Four Middle East Water Systems Shape History

Controlling water was one of the first technological efforts at the beginning of what we call "civilization," or city building. Even today, most human beings live on the rims of oceans or on river systems. We need water to drink, for washing ourselves and our goods, but most of all, for agriculture.

Where today Iraq and Iran meet arose the first urban civilization 5,000 years ago, Sumeria. This amazing culture created the first big city-state (Ur), a system of writing, sea-going more...

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Genocide extends back 7,000 years.

Archaeologists have just found a 7,000-year-old Stone Age mass gravesite outside of Frankfurt, Germany! This horrifying find erases what we had always thought about human behavior at the beginnings of agriculture and village life. Genocide has a long human history, but we didn?t know that it was that early in the agricultural revolution when population density could not have been large enough to provide for organized warfare.

This is just one of a number of similar mass graves. T more...

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What is a Patriot?


The first mention of love of country occurred in Rome, under the Republic. The slogan was: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and proper to die for one?s country. The better translation is to give one?s life for one?s country.

During our own country?s birth, during the Revolutionary War, Nathan Hale, an American spy captured by the British, said before his execution: " I regret having but but one life to give for my country."

The definition more...

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Political Parties Are Not Permanent.

That the Republican Party is heading toward a demolition is no surprise by now. This is not the first time a major American political party fell apart. In the 19th century, between the 1830s and 1860, the Whig Party was the political rival to Jefferson?s Democratic Republican (Democrat) Party. The Whigs ran candidates every election, but elected only two to the presidency.

Political parties are not cast in stone; they change over time. The Jeffersonian Democrats began as an elite more...

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Anger is No Substitute for Thinking.


One of the most difficult things about popular democracy is that it requires thought. Not all voters, unfortunately, are capable of it. Throughout the history of our republic, chaotic events have often brought out the worst in us. Whipping Quakers for condemning slavery, witch burnings, the whiskey tax rebellion, lynchings, religious bigotry of all sorts, hatred of immigrants, and communist scares, have darkened our otherwise optimistic history.

We never took time at our more...

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With Women Like These?..

For all the vaunted "sisterhood" among women, we need to be aware that some are not always our friends. On January 17, a woman professor at Egypt's al-Azhar University, opined that "Allah allows Muslims to rape non-Muslim women." One would think that for a Muslim university to admit a woman professor at all is amazingly liberated; however, it is apparent that this woman is in no way a feminist.

Another "champion for women," a female Kuwaiti politician, Salwa al-Mutairi, promoted more...

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Was the Past Really Better?


When we revere the past to the point of worship, we are saying that those who came centuries before us were smarter than we are. As a historian with little romantic illusion about the past, I think that this worship is misplaced. I checked this out with a two-part question on the final exam in the World History class that I taught: A) If you could go back in a time machine to any period in history, which would you select, and why? B) If you could not choose your gender or class, would t more...

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Do You Really Want a Revolution?

Being angry is not the best reason for voting for a "revolution." One might not like aspects of the way our leaders are leading, but trashing the entire institution of governance under law will not achieve a brave new world. It never has.

Many of those with only vague historic knowledge talk boldly about having another American Revolution like the first one. Our founding, however, was not the result of a revolution, but of a revolt by people who wanted all British laws and protect more...

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How Our Presidents Promote Tolerance

The United States was founded just as the European Enlightenment swept through. The Enlightenment occurred after two centuries of religious wars had exhausted not only Europe?s population, but also its intellectuals. Ordinary people were not theologians; they simply retreated to the various sects accepted by their families or rulers. Southern Europeans remained Catholic, while the more economically progressive north (England, Scotland, Scandinavia, and northern Germany) and their rulers favored more...

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The Long Decline of Christians in the Muslim World.

Secular Americans and Europeans are often reluctant to rush to the defense of Christians around the world. Our educations have taught us that the Christian West cruelly colonized the good but downtrodden people of the lesser- developed world. Many of today?s radicalized academics focus on Western racial bigotry; after all, only White people can be evil. They weep for the "underdog," hence the scorn for Israelis, who have the temerity to no longer be underdogs. The "poor Palestinians," no matter more...

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Europe's Good Intentions Hit the Wall of Reality.

Casandras (me included) have been writing for 20 years about Europe's failure to integrate a Muslim immigrant population that resists modern culture. The Islamist terror attacks were alarming enough, but the New Year?s Eve sexual assaults, mobs of "North African" men molesting, raping, and robbing women in Cologne, Hamburg, Sweden, and Finland, have embarrassed governments across Europe. Europe's open door to "refugees" has brought in not only good families capable of integrating, but also hord more...

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Poll Finds Christian-Muslim Divide on Religious Freedom.


The Associated Press put out an article on December 31 on a poll taken in the United States about religious freedom. A vast majority placed a higher priority on preserving the religious freedom of Christians (and Jews) than for other faith groups, ranking Muslims as the least deserving of these protections.

The article seems to be critical of American suspicion of Muslims and belief that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers. " more...

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"Round Up the Usual Suspects!"


The Vichy French police chief in the delightful movie, Casablanca, hid his scorn for his Nazi bosses by "rounding up the usual suspects." The usual suspects were a roster of hapless escapees waiting to leave Casablanca for the United States. This standing joke has surfaced once more in today?s global war with Militant Islam.

Some of the "usual suspects" are real. France has just revoked the passes of 70 workers at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports. These are baggage hand more...

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Darwin Awards for 2015

I issue mock Darwin Awards each year for those so stupid they should be barred from adding to the gene pool.

Education Official Resigns.
At a press conference recently, Vasile Salaru, Romanian Minister of Education, said schools should teach female students how to walk while wearing high heels; dance the tango; be a good host[ess]; and walk with "chest out, bottom out, let the boys faint!" Several student organizations protested his comments and called for his resignation. more...

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December 2015

Laina at the Movies


December 31, 2015

Trumbo

It is amazing that a bio-pic about a screen writer persecuted by the communist witch-hunting UnAmerican Activities Committee in the 1940s to 1950s could be both informative and entertaining. This film was both, and funny in a wry way to boot.

Dalton Trumbo, played wonderfully by Bryan Cranston, was one of the best of Hollywood?s screenwriters was blacklisted along with ten others in 1947 when they refused to name names more...

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The History of How Religions Change.


People on both ends of the political spectrum are stumbling around in their concern about Islam?s future. On the conservative side is the belief that the West is at war with the Muslim world. This is true. The West is responding to Islamic radicalism?s war against not only the West, but against secular Muslims themselves.

On the liberal side is the mistaken view that Islam is just a religion like other religions and given enough time will modernize. Islam is not just a rel more...

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Neither Bigot Not Apologist.

Our country is tied in knots on how to regard Militant Islam. Donald Trump, a bumptious Republican presidential candidate, is gaining traction because he speaks openly about our Muslim problem. However, he is a bully and a demagogue, suggesting we bar all Muslims entering our country from abroad, even our own Muslim servicemen. Will he next suggest deporting all Muslims already here, including citizens, having them join the deported Mexicans, perhaps?

His proposals are obnoxious, more...

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Militant Islam has a Woman Problem.


In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack on America, there was a knee-jerk assumption that Muslims had reasons for hating us. Many left-wing chest-beaters blamed "western colonialism" for creating Muslim hatred; others blamed Israel for daring to occupy "Muslim lands." "What did we do wrong?" they asked.

Scholars revisited the origins of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the godfather of all subsequent Islamist terror groups. This movement began in 1928 when other compar more...

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Are We At War? And With Whom?


Leaders both here and in Europe are reluctant to identify those with whom we are at war. They are not fools, and I do understand their reluctance to say that the West is at war with one billion Muslims. Some demagogues might say that, but that is just as foolish as saying we are at war with Terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy.

We had no problem being at war with Nazism or Communism, without saying that all Germans and all Russians are bad people. But plenty were more...

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Do Refugees Have Responsibilities?


Nobody seems to be asking if refugees themselves have responsibilities to their host country. When people are running for their lives and are welcomed with open arms (as in Germany and Sweden), many are grateful and will eagerly integrate into their new homes. But there are many who will not.

Notice that reporters covering this stressful refugee flood pick and choose whom to interview. On 60 Minutes, I saw interviews with young men who spoke English, one of whom (a teen) h more...

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Is the Paris Massacre a Game Changer?


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Pajaronian
November 21, 2015

Santa Cruz Sentinel and Monterey Herald
November 28,2015

In a multi-pronged attack on Paris, reminiscent of the nightmare attack in Mumbai, India several years ago, a tipping point seems to have arrived. Many assumptions about our enemy have had to be rethought:

First, the Mumbai siege was executed by Al Qaeda under the direction of the Pakistani Intelligence Service. The P more...

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How Can Immigrants Be Absorbed?


Immigration is not new for Europe. The first migrants who arrived from the Middle East (Homo Sapiens) wiped out the Neanderthals, another human species that had lived there for 200,000 years.

Germanic tribes and Huns from Central Asia infiltrated and ultimately destroyed the Western Roman Empire (300-400 AD). The Romans had managed to keep them out for a thousand years, but ultimately collapsed under the crush of their numbers and their military force.

The more...

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Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia: a Primer


A reader once called me a racist in response to an article I wrote criticizing Islamism. I was puzzled because Islam is not a race and criticism of its more poisonous aspects is an attack on an ideology, not individuals.

Today, Muslim activists using their legal arm, CAIR, accuse anybody who criticizes Militant Islam of "Islamophobia," hatred of Muslims. They use this term as the equivalent of the anti-Semitism, or hatred of Jews. However, we need to be clearer in our use more...

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Say Goodbye to Clock Boy!


From the moment the news swept the nation that a 14-year-old Texas Muslim boy, Ahmed Mohamed, had been arrested in school for bringing a suspicious device, I smelled a rat. On the face of this issue, it seemed that a very nice nerdy kid had assembled a Radio Shack digital clock that he brought to school to "impress his teachers." He did not impress his engineering teacher, nor several others to whom he showed his handiwork, but he did at last find a teacher to frighten, one who reacted w more...

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Afghan Problems


With so many urgent events around the world, Afghanistan is not one we wanted to see again. But its problems do not go away, nor can they with Pakistan next door. We are still there, 10,000 to remain, but with an essential task of trying to train a national defense force so that Afghanistan will not revert to its failed Muslim state position under the Taliban.

Training the Afghan army is much like rolling a rock up a hill. Not only are a majority of soldiers illiterate, b more...

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The Saudis Are Not Alone in Religious Stampedes.


When I was a child, my father said: "never chase an ambulance!" He warned that mobs of people can quickly turn lethal, something that he remembered as a child himself when pogroms roiled Russia. I have a life-long horror for crushes of people, and, apparently, with good reason.

In September, Saudi Arabia hosted the annual Hajj, an event that they should have by now learned how to manage. Millions of people descend upon Mecca and reenact a Koranic story about Abraham's conc more...

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The World Has A Strange Fixation on Sex.

Human sexuality has two areas of concern for people who govern: population numbers (Reproduce and Multiply!) and social order (control your women!).

Human sexuality, since the time that men figured out that having babies was not a mystery controlled exclusively by women, has been to make certain that men know which children they father. If a man is to be responsible for protecting, feeding, and leaving a heritage to his offspring, he wants to know that these offspring are his own more...

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Whose Fault is the Immigrant Crisis?



Wouldn't you know that the moment any crisis occurs in the world that the usual commentators would blame the United States? Amy Goodman's recent column blamed the chaos in the Middle East on the US and Europeans sending arms to the region. Others, many on the political left, have blamed the crisis entirely on the disastrous aftermath of our Iraq invasion. However, I have not seen any of these critics pinning blame on the total failure of governance and religion in the Muslim Worl more...

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September 2015

Whose Fault is the Immigrant Crisis?


Wouldn't you know that the moment any crisis occurs in the world that the usual commentators would blame the United States? Amy Goodman's recent column blamed the chaos in the Middle East on the US and Europeans sending arms to the region. Others, many on the political left, have blamed the crisis entirely on the disastrous aftermath of our Iraq invasion. However, I have not seen any of these critics pinning blame on the total failure of governance and religion in the Muslim World itself more...

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Press Coverage Sometimes Skews Needed Information.


Two stories that, thanks to the press and social media, went viral, immediately raised red flags for me. I don?t think "one hand clapping" informs the public on complex issues that deserve more thought.

The first was the coverage of Ahmed Muhamed, the 14-year-old Texas high schooler who brought a home-made digital clock to school to "impress his teachers," he said. The engineering teacher saw it and had no problem with it. Another teacher, however, noted it when its alarm more...

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Refugee Hordes Threaten Europe?s Future.


Europe has a long history of taking in refugees---and of creating them. During the French Revolution, England took in many fleeing the horrors in France. Germany took in Jews fleeing the Soviet Union---to make up for their Nazi period of creating refugees and then murder of Europe?s Jewish population. After World War II, millions of people became refugees, having been bombed out of their cities, including a remnant that survived the death camps.

The United States has a di more...

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Religious fanaticism still defies the Secular State.


While stupid killers around the world go on their endless rounds of murdering people in the name of their medieval religion, others are engaged in the great human enterprise (such as the Pluto flyby) of exploring space.

An international coalition of astronomers is building the largest telescope in the world at the summit of a "sacred" Hawaiian mountain, Mauna Kea. When completed, this 98-foot-aperture telescope will permit more than nine-times the collecting area of the l more...

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The United States of Europe Is Obviously Premature.

Europe is a geographic designation: the westernmost peninsula of the Eurasian continental landmass. For the past 7000 years, it has also been the home of a restless mass of human beings, always on the move, settling and moving on, replacing former residents and coming up with one invention after another, the most important of which, from today?s discussion, came from ancient Greece: participatory government (Athens); Rome: written and progressively enlarging law; and England: that kings are not more...

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Tradition!


Tevye, the father living in revolutionary times of rapid change, struggled with what to do about traditions in the much loved musical, Fiddler on the Roof. This Russian-Jewish story, later a Broadway play and then a movie, played to audiences of many other cultures around the world who understood the issues very well. The 20th century was beset with traditions biting the dust. Children were in rebellion everywhere and parents did not know what to do about it.

My own view o more...

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Are Arabs Losing Interest in the Palestinians?


Amir Taheri, an Iranian journalist whom I once knew as editor of the English language Tehran Journal in 1978 (while the Shah was still there) has lived in exile since the Islamic Revolution and is a hot potato. He often plays loose with facts, writing things that conservatives love to hear, sometimes without substantiation.

His latest column, however, however, makes a certain amount of sense. The Arab world is in such disarray that the Palestinian issue pales in comparison more...

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Tradition!


Tevye, the father living in revolutionary times of rapid change, struggled with what to do about traditions in the much loved musical, Fiddler on the Roof. This Russian-Jewish story, later a Broadway play and then a movie, played to audiences of many other cultures around the world who understood the issues very well. The 20th century was beset with traditions biting the dust. Children were in rebellion everywhere and parents did not know what to do about it.

My own view o more...

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What if the 30-Year Religious Wars Prediction Is Wrong?

Yemen, once a backwater that nobody much cared about, is now a failed state that has inflamed an entire region. The Saudis, who have spent obscene fortunes on defense toys that they have never used are now tentatively using them and are rallying other Sunni Arabs to join them. For all their decades of bluster about Israel, they were never this serious before. This time, they are really frightened and their fear is directed at a rag-tag terrorist group that has taken over the government of Yemen. more...

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Let's Take a Long View of the Iran Deal.


The exhausted negotiators had been at it for 20 months, the last many hours of which were nearly non-stop, with the possibility that this important deal might collapse. The United States, Iran, five members of the UN Security Council, and the EU had labored over this negotiation to convince Iran that it was in its best interest to reduce its nuclear program's potential of developing nuclear weapons. Iran had long (and unconvincingly) claimed its nuclear interests were peaceful only, but more...

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Putin Has His Own Private Assassins

I don?t know how many of you remember the story of the "Sorcerer?s Apprentice," charmingly done in the Disney film Fantasia. Mickey Mouse played the Sorcerer?s apprentice, tasked with sweeping out the house. The lazy rascal found the master?s book and tried his hand at magic, turning the broom into an army of brooms who swept and went to the well, nearly flooding the house and coming close to drowning Mickey until the Sorcerer returned and put things to rights, punishing the foolish apprentice.< more...

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Human Rights Widen In the West, Vanish Elsewhere.

On June 26, the United States extended its freedoms to one more group of fellow citizens, homosexuals, who now have the equality in marriage. Over many centuries before this, homosexual males were jailed, beaten, tortured, and scorned. Female homosexuals were forced into marriage, institutionalized, or shunned.

In Muslim societies, even today, homosexuality is technically forbidden but socially rampant, particularly practiced against boys by those responsible for them (including more...

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History Reveals Presidential Close Calls!


As a historian, I can be pretty dispassionate about reading things that are past and gone. Knowing that President Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and that his wife Edith secretly kept him hidden from October 1919 to April 1920 is certainly alarming, but nothing disastrous seems to have happened. This could not happen today, I hope.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, a weekend when the actions of individuals both in the White House----the cool head of Bobby Kennedy who advised his broth more...

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Defunding Israel but Blind to Islamophobia Ripoffs?

Only in the free Western world can such asymmetrical nonsense take place. Israel, the one western country unfortunately located in the middle of the Muslim world is the focus of accusations of Islamophobia and targeted with boycotts of its industries and products. How ironic. Israel is the one country where Arab citizens can vote, have the highest standard of living, and have any kind of future. Yet young stupid liberals in Europe and the US vent their spleen on Israel and turn a blind eye to th more...

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Asking the Wrong Question Can Lead to War.

The United States has gone to war twice by asking the wrong questions. Fortunately for us, even though we did not "win" either of those wars (in the conventional sense, such as the way we won World Wars I and II), we did not lose them either. No enemy came to our shores and conquered us. But in both of those wars, we made a terrible mess of two countries and suffered a terrible cost of young lives of our own, costs that we are still paying. Those two wars were the Vietnam War and the second Iraq more...

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Europe?s Newest Invasion needs Tough Love.


As Europeans wring their hands over the arrival of desperate boat people swarming from an Africa that seems to be in death throes, Italy is being shamed into rescuing them. How can they not? How can anybody in Europe not be shamed to relive the last time they created refugees when Yugoslavia was in meltdown? Or before that, when Jews had to flee, or when that savior of refugees, America, turned away ships, sending Jews back to the Nazis who then murdered them?

But as a hi more...

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The Nation-State Idea is Not Cast in Stone.


I remember trying to explain to my small children what a "country" is. They understood neighborhood because we could walk around those streets. They even understood city because we could drive around such a recognizable entity. It was a little more difficult to understand state and really difficult to understand country. When they were a little older, they played with geography puzzles and learned to recognize the states that made up "the United States" and later "the world" and eventual more...

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When is "Economic Information" Espionage?


Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has been cooling his heels in an Iranian prison for nine months without charges until now, when we are finally told that he will stand trial for espionage for having "sold economic information" to unnamed Americans. What this information is nobody has been told. What sort of economic information about Iran could there be that could threaten Iran's security, one wonders! I can imagine quite a few things, but cannot imagine that Jason Rezaian cou more...

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"Clash of Traditions" Offer Glimmers of Hope


Samuel D. Huntington warned in his landmark book Clash of Civilizations (1996) that we were headed for stormy times when the largest civilizations would not meet peacefully. His views were met with torrents of argument by most scholars who, upon the end of the Cold War, were convinced that the world had globalized; that the United States and its values had dominated all others, and that there was nothing really left to fight about. War was no longer really conceivable. We had every insti more...

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What's New: Destroying One's Own Religious Treasures


The Pagan world had no problem with incorporating other people's gods. They managed to see comparable qualities and forms of foreign deities (love and war, for example) and never found it necessary to destroy these symbols, with only one exception: the gods of the Phoenicians, who demanded the sacrifice of first-born babies. That was more than Greeks or Romans could tolerate and they wiped out that worship and their worshippers (who were their economic rivals also).

Monoth more...

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Poor Jihadi John: People Picked on Him!


"Jihadi John" has been identified as Mohammad Emwazi, a young immigrant from Kuwait, welcomed and reared as a privileged Englishman with a college degree in computer science from the University of Westminster in London. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

But let us look at the surprise that so many people express that this "nice, gentle boy" should turn into the monster whom we all saw taking pleasure in decapitating people (who had done him no harm) in a most the more...

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What to do with Returning Jihadis?


Parents know that teenagers must make some mistakes in order to learn, and we always hope that the mistakes are small enough not to destroy their lives. For most of us, they are. In my own case, for my daughter, that was so. Hers were small. Not so for my son, whose experiments with drugs killed him.

For the good liberal non-Muslim parents whose children have gone to Yemen to "learn Arabic" and wound up converting to Islam and becoming Muslim, their choices turned deadly. more...

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Annual Darwin Awards


Every year, I gather up notes on people so stupid that they should not add to the human gene pool. Alas, they do, but I would wish they wouldn?t. Some of them are low hanging fruit, very obviously defective, but others really shouldn?t be on this list at all. They ought to know better.

? Boko Haram. Let us start with the low hanging fruit, which usually comes from the Muslim world. Boko Haram means: Western Learning is Forbidden. They believe the world is flat and water more...

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Victimization Has Become Chic---Diluting the Message.

Our country is wallowing in the blame game with endless demonstrations protesting injustice. It is said that Black youth are being unfairly persecuted by police---and too often becoming victims in police shootings. Nobody is protesting the murder of Black youth by Blacks.

That we have had 300 years of injustice to Blacks through slavery and after that Southern Jim Crow and northern inner cities cannot be denied. However, the past fifty years has produced a revolution in race relat more...

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Whose Fault Are the French Jihadi Murders?


After a horror such as the French-born Muslim assassinations of the editors and cartoonists of a national humor magazine who "insulted" Islam, everyone asks: whose fault was this? Were the French intelligence sources inadequate? Did the sarcastic humor of the French journal provoke sensitive Muslims? Were the killers not sufficiently loved by their mothers? The only question not overtly asked was: "Is there something about Islam that promotes murderous rage?" Even without asking this, Mu more...

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Terrorists: "Insult us and we kill you."


We in the Western World think our sacred cows are strong enough to withstand mockery and humor. We do not like it when an artist?s work shows a crucifix in a tube of urine; we write indignant letters to the editor, we boycott art exhibits, we even become amateur art critics, as did former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani, over an exhibit he found offensive. But we do not kill over it.

In Muslim-Majority countries, they do indeed kill, not only over anything deemed "insulting" more...

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It is Not Smart to Take Rule of Law for Granted.


We take "rule of law" as much for granted as we assume that our supermarkets will not run out of food. It is part of modern society that these things work. Most of us drive our cars on the right side of the street, stop at stop signs and traffic lights, and generally drive with consideration of traffic flow and other drivers whether a police car is patrolling or not.

When we are stopped by a highway patrol officer for something we might have done, the exchange is usually more...

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Youth who seek "meaning" find it in bad places.


Intrepid TV journalists have managed to conduct interviews with some of the most puzzling Jihadis flocking to ISIS. It seems inconceivable that a French teen-ager raised as a Catholic in Normandy could choose to join ISIS and decapitate a prisoner on television. But when asked why he does this, he says that he hopes to die and go to heaven. He hates western civilization because it is corrupt, run by Jews, and full of shameless women who dare to show their faces and who do not defer to m more...

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December 2014

Belief and Writing: It Must Be True If It Is Written Down.


Fanatics are not called "true believers" for nothing. Whether the belief is religious or political, somebody?s writings are always the basis for "true belief." Communism originally stemmed from the practices of early Christianity, but with the writings of Marx and Lenin, the basis shifted. Russian communists were fervent believers in the truth of the observations of Marx and Lenin.

The Nazis based their Aryan Superiority ideology on the 19th century anthropologist Arthur d more...

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Europe Rethinks Multiculturalism

Americans, unlike Europeans, have always made room for new citizens from other countries. Since the end of World War II, however, western European countries have been trying to counter their old patterns of bigotry by welcoming all immigrants fleeing horrors in their old countries. The governments of the UK, France, Germany, and Scandinavia have offered social services, welfare, housing, and public schooling for the newcomers.

What they have not done is to make demands on immigra more...

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Some Thoughts on Ferguson

From the beginning of this terrible incident, I saw a few other things not really mentioned in the journalistic frenzy that was heading for a lynching of a cop; this is very popular at the moment---that every time a cop shoots someone, particularly if the cop is white and the victim a Black "youth," the verdict comes in even before the investigation. The police are always guilty.

Are there some racist cops? Absolutely. But does anyone consider how much police forces have been in more...

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Is Iran?s Islamic Revolution Melting?

The Economist had a feature article (Nov. 1) that the steam has gone out of the Ayatollah Khomeini?s Islamic Revolution of 1979. I knew this would happen, but I have been consistently wrong in my optimistic predictions that it would have happened years ago. These new predictions from sources far and wide are giving us all new hope.

It is not exactly easy to get real information out of a buttoned-up country like Iran, but some changes have become obvious. Mosque attendance has drop more...

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The Women?s Revolution Threatens The Old Guard


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Pajaronian
November 29, 2014

Of all the modernizing "revolutions" (Industrial, Religious, Political, Scientific, and even Nuclear), the most destabilizing has been the emancipation of women. Opponents of the female revolution are engaging in a last ditch effort to put that particular genie back in the bottle, but they are losing.

Women have only been emancipated in liberal democracies. In the Western world (and only there), more...

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We Must Put the "Crises of the Moment" in Context.


Critics of President Obama have an easy job. They do not have to make the decisions that will impact long-term American wellbeing. That is his job, and like making sausage, it is not a pretty process. It involves heavy lifting and complex issues.

Two principles have governed American foreign policy for the past two centuries: first, make certain that no one power controls all of Europe or all of Asia. We would be standing alone if such a powerful enemy controlled all other more...

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Debates About "Intrinsic Islam"

Some noisy public debates are going on about the sensitive issue of the "intrinsic" nature of Islam. Two members of the liberal intelligentsia (Bill Maher and Sam Harris), who do not find any religion logical, have dared to say that the well-intentioned mantra that "Islam is a religion of peace" is baloney. Islam, they say, is intrinsically violent. The respected public intellectual Fareed Zakaria chastised Maher and Harris for condemning this huge world-wide religion. Too broad a brush, he said more...

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Does This War Have an End Game?

We are bad at long-term planning. It is not natural for Americans to think much beyond the next business quarter, election, or war strategy. Unlike Europe, we have no long history or artifacts such as cathedrals, nor memories of endless warfare. For this reason, and because we have a president who is by nature allergic to ?stupid conflicts,? an equally allergic public is asking about an end game to this protracted war against terrorism.

The longest-term policy that we once had was more...

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Who?s Counting?

One issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2014, was representative of what is going on globally. ?Hamas kills 18 suspected spies in Gaza;? ?Shiite gunmen kill 70 in attack on Sunni mosque;? ?Nation mourns Flight 17 victims (295 of them); ?Civil War deaths top 191,000 after 3 years of conflict in Syria;? ?Ebola outbreak grows nationally with two new cases? (2,615 cases and 1,427 deaths reported). There is a horrific death toll in South Sudan, where ethnic tribal hatreds are killing a h more...

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What Makes a British Muslim An Executioner?

Are radicalized Muslim youth more dangerous to Europe than to the United States? It is far easier for immigrants to be absorbed in the US, a country created by immigration from its onset, than in Europe. But even in Europe, where immigrants benefit from generous welfare and possible absorption, many of their children are rejecting these values. Why?

The children of Muslim immigrants are becoming radicalized, some of them in groups and others as lone wolves. What they all have in c more...

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Corruption Has Ancient Roots.

Political corruption is as old as civilization (the birth of city-states). It is a big issue in the dysfunction of the entire world today, but there are differences in the way different cultures regard it.

Political corruption is abuse of power by those in trusted authority: people that Plato in his imagined perfect society (The Republic) called ?the guardians.? He, like most great civilizations after ancient Greece, recognized that leadership has responsibility and that rule of more...

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September 2014

Will Islam Address Its Internal Crisis?

Muslims have lived so long with governments they cannot trust that the rumor mill serves as their source of information. Conspiracy theories are the favorite explanations for all the horrors in the world. If you cannot blame Allah, you must find someone you can blame.

The latest conspiracy theory comes out of the Netherlands, where a Muslim woman, Yasmina Haifi, who works in the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, has given us the following: ?The Islamic State isn?t Islamic at more...

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This Is No Longer Your Grandfathers' Army.

If we are talking softly but carrying a big stick, as President Teddy Roosevelt advised, we need a big stick. Americans divide themselves into hawks who believe freedom requires defense and doves who believe that if we are nice, others will be too.

The hawks are certainly right that a nation without a good military is vulnerable to the world's bullies. The majority of Western European countries are doves, a position they are permitted because since the end of World War II, the Un more...

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Conflicting Views of the President's Foreign Policy



Journalists often gang up on our presidents. Dwight Eisenhower was dismissed as an inarticulate golf-playing do-nothing by the political elites of his time. In reality, he adeptly handled the earlier years of the Cold War and set forth policies that saw us through a half century. Lyndon Johnson saddled himself with the Vietnam War and was reviled by journalists, academics, and the young, leaving office as a failure. Today, we realize what an astonishing president he was: an unlik more...

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Ebola Is Just The Tip of an Iceberg.

The news is full of the latest version of an old demon facing humanity: plagues and epidemics. Ebola is a dreadful disease that has crossed over from the ape family and has gone from an infrequent village killer to reaching some overpopulated urban areas and is currently incurable.

As always, the three-minute news bite misses the bigger picture, one with historic roots. The big picture has some unpleasant truths:

? Origin. Almost all endemic diseases affecting huma more...

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Al Qaeda Spawned A Monster Child, The Islamic Caliphate.


Middle East analysts are trying to assess this new beast that has emerged out of Islamist dysfunction: ISIL or, as they like to call themselves, The Islamic State. The borders of this imagined ?state? are vague because this cult does not recognize borders. Their aim is to melt all the boundaries established by the victorious powers of World War I, which dismantled the Ottoman Empire and parceled out the lands to newly minted countries (Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia more...

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Caliphates and Tooth Fairies Are Cousins.


Those Islamists who have announced that they are a new Caliphate must also look under their pillows when they lose a tooth. Maybe they will find a quarter there. The likelihood of the quarter is better than that of a Caliphate. However, they represent pure Islam, tracing their decapitation of non-Muslims to the example of the Prophet himself. Mohammad preached a war of terror, with plenty of examples of it in the Koran.

Caliph is the Arabic word for successor to the Prophe more...

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Proxy Wars Have Unanticipated Consequences


Getting somebody else to fight while you watch is an old idea. ?Let me hold your coat,? says an onlooker in a bar fight. Even better is watching a prizefight in which poor, unfortunate idiots beat each other to a pulp for entertainment and prize money.

World War II was actually the last time that major powers were locked in deadly combat. Since that time, almost all wars have involved proxies: conflicts in which the actual beneficiaries are not doing the fighting. The enti more...

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Can Wars Be Proportional?

If columnist Amy Goodman had covered the carpet-bombing of Germany in World War II, she would have indignantly defended the Nazis. Fortunately for the outcome of that war, the public did not get a play-by-play description from observers who want war to be proportional.

Throughout 10,000 years of human history, wars were never proportional. Winners won. Chivalry plays no role in warfare.

In history, total conquest was used when repeated conflicts between warring par more...

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Prejudice: Is it Culture or Race?


I have been watching the splendid Cosmos, the successor to the original television series by astronomer Carl Sagan in 1980. That visionary astronomer introduced us to the magical world of space, spurring many young people to consider astronomy as a career. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was one of those youngsters, a Black teen from the Bronx, who was invited to spend a day with Sagan. Now Dyson is returning the favor by producing the new Cosmos, embracing a half-century of incredible progress in more...

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Are ISIS and ISIL Based on Religion or Ideology?


When we hear the word ISIS, we usually think of the great Egyptian goddess of antiquity. Today's ISIS is not a goddess, but is a resentful Islamic military cult that has no clue of what it wants, only what it doesn't want. It does not want western civilization, except for its weapons and medicines for their warriors and elderly leaders. Its only policies involve slaughter, amputating the limbs of thieves, and total enslavement of women. They love public whipping and executions, which the more...

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Alliances Have No Longevity in the Middle East.


Not only are borders shifting wildly in today's Middle East reshuffle, but alliances are too. One needs a scorecard to determine who are friends today and enemies tomorrow. This is not a new problem in the Middle East; it is a historic fact of life.

The greatest accomplishment of the Prophet Mohammad was to unify what had been anarchic tribes in the Arab Peninsula. The process of unification was brutal, but there was no other way to do it. Truces were only temporary and su more...

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The Borders in the Middle East are Changing.


A century ago, the First World War broke out and at its conclusion, the political geography of the world changed. The Ottoman Empire fought on the wrong side of that war and it dissolved tumultuously, with all its colonies ?liberated? and the Turks reduced to a new and exclusively Turkish country. At that empire?s height (15th - 20th centuries), it ruled over Arabia, Mesopotamia, the Levant (Syria), Egypt, and across North Africa all the way to the Atlantic. Its European holdings includ more...

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Does Iraq Have a Future?


The blame game is going on about Iraq?s descent into regional warfare. This is a futile exercise unless changes of policy and real geopolitical insight go along with the blame.

The Bush administration is rightly blamed for involving the US in an invasion of the wrong country, using specious excuses. However, that invasion could have done the region good by just removing Saddam Hussein, a very dangerous opportunist who threatened the region. But real blame should fall on th more...

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US Foreign Policy: Does History Repeat Itself? (Part 2 of 2)


Historians compare the onset of World War I exactly a century ago with our own time. At the turn of the 19th century, the world was undergoing extraordinary globalization. The British Empire ruled the seas and conquered and colonized territories too backward and stagnant to protect themselves. The British introduced the concepts of the nation state to India, which had never really been a continent-wide country before. They introduced railroads, uniform law and order, and a unifying langu more...

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An Iranian in Exile Takes On a British MP.


Ever since the Iranian monarchy fell to a radical Islamic revolution, I have chafed over the nonsense that has passed for history. It has become accepted that Shah Mohammad Pahlavi was evil and that the west had sustained him for too long. I also flinch when Iranians insist that their travails were caused by either the British, the Americans, or the Israelis. This is a failure to take responsibility for the nation?s own folly in allowing Islamists to take control.

One such more...

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US Foreign Policy: What Are Our Goals and Priorities? (Part 1 of 2)


The vital national interests of the United States have always included:

? Protect the sovereignty, territory, and population of the US and prevent and deter threats to our homeland, including, today, nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) attacks and terrorism.

? Prevent the emergence of a hostile regional coalition or hegemon, such as the Nazi-Japanese Axis in World War II and the fear of a Soviet-Chinese axis in the Cold War.

? Ensure fr more...

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What is Boko Haram and Why Should We Care?


An army of dirt-ignorant terrorists has been running rampant in Africa for the past few years. They call themselves ?Boko Haram,? which has been liberally translated as ?Foreign Education is Sinful.? But this is as misleading as when the Taliban first appeared on the scene in Afghanistan. Their name was translated as ?students,? a strange term for phenomenally ignorant rote memorizers of the Koran in a language few of them understood.

Boko Haram is just what its words say more...

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What the Map Can Tell You.



I am of a generation that remembered geography as one of my favorite subjects in grade school, a subject no longer taught. We learned to read maps, study globes, and learn about the various cultures of the world. In art class, we drew pictures of the various peoples around the world with distinctive clothes (the Dutch with wooden shoes and pointy caps or the Chinese with silk pajamas and long pigtails). Geography was not just memorizing world capital cities.

Today more...

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Why Are We the World’s Policemen?

Cutting the defense budget in the foolish notion that we should not be the world’s policemen is biting us already. We saved the world from great horrors three times. We ended World War I, which was otherwise bogged down in the worst military slaughters since the American Civil War. Instead of building on this achievement, the American public just wanted to forget all about war and we went isolationist, thus permitting World War I to morph into a much worse World War II, which we could not avoi more...

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“When They Love Their Children….”

Many years ago, Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, was asked when there would be peace with the Arab world. She said: “We will have peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.” We need to look at that astute observation again today because she was right.

A UN observer has released a devastating report on Syria, in which both the government forces and the Islamist insurgents are imprisoning, torturing, raping, and killing children to make a point to more...

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Putin’s Ideological Fantasy of Russian “Spirituality.”

David Brooks had a brilliant column recently on Putin’s historic mission to restore Russia to the world stage, recover what it can of control over what was once the Soviet Union (and before that the Russian Empire), and assert Russia’s moral superiority over the “corrupt secular west.”

I choked over that last one because their moral superiority is a fantasy indeed. Russia’s “moral superiority” rests on three ideas, as written by Putin’s favorite Russian philosopher more...

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The Russian Bear Still Has Teeth Laina Farhat-Holzman


Many of us miss the Cold War, not because it was without violence (there was, but nothing like that of the two World Wars), but because the antagonist was so interesting. As Churchill once said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” But perhaps it is not as mysterious as we thought then. We only need look at its geography and history to see inevitable continuity---an eternal Russia.

Another reason for preferring the Cold War’s Russia to today more...

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The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost in Pakistan.


Muslim governments always blame “foreign meddling” for all their ills The once great Muslim world has been on the skids since 1200, when it encountered three disasters: the Bubonic Plague, the Mongol attacks cutting off old trade routes and killing as many as half the population in Persia and Byzantium, and Muslim clergy blaming lax religious adherence for these disasters. From that time, Muslim intellectual life went dark.

These disasters also opened the door to a ne more...

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Let's Give them a Big Hand: Current Darwin Awards

Periodically, I round up all the most stupid human behaviors that manage to reach the press worldwide. My view is that these individuals are so stupid that they should not contribute to the human gene pool. The fact that they do contribute provides the ongoing fodder for this review.

o Women Driving. The Saudis are notorious for keeping their women from driving automobiles. Their reasons cannot be Koranic, since the Prophet Mohammad did not have automobiles and couldn't forbid more...

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Movies are America’s Soft Power


Movies are an extremely important element of American foreign policy around the world. These movies are not, however, products of the government; they are an extremely lucrative business that just coincidentally has overwhelming influence around the world.

Recently, I heard a discussion about the terrible picture of American life that is sent abroad by our popular culture. The American youth cult has promoted around the world blue jeans, McDonald hamburgers, Coke or Pepsi, more...

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Al Qaeda In Africa Increases Its Violence


Yemen is in the epicenter of Al Qaeda horrors. On December 5, the brazen group took on Yemen’s very Ministry of Defense, right in the heart of the capital, probably the most heavily guarded facility in the country. In what is becoming a familiar two-part attack, they first used a car full of explosives (and a suicidal driver) to blow open the entrance to the compound and then others burst inside to slaughter civilians in the hospital inside. They killed 52 and wounded 167 others.
more...

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Turkey: How to Lose a Democracy

Once more, supporters of “democracy” in the Muslim world do not understand the issue. Majority rule, when there are no institutions to temper it (such as the courts or free press), does not provide a “liberal democracy.” Rather, it offers abuse of power or anarchy.

Turkey, the one seemingly genuine participatory republic, is teetering on the edge of losing it. The European Union, which rides herd on Turkey's evolution toward a European-style democracy, mistakenly regards more...

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December 2013

India and China Are Not in the Same League.


Much of our foreign policy, as well as that of Europe, has to do with the rising powers of India and China. These are two of the most populated countries in the world, and for the past few decades, they have been attempting to catch up with the developed world. China is doing better than India, and it may clarify our policies to understand why.

The late Shah of Iran once made the comment that backward countries must get their economies in line before political liberalizati more...

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Countries Can Be Judged By Their Internments

During the 20th century, a number of nations engaged in expelling populations or interning those deemed “dangerous.” Turkey was the first with the expulsion and internment of their Christian Armenian population, an action that resulted in the first of the century’s genocides. Their World War I ally, Germany, was horrified and told the Turks that this was awful.

Then, Germany did the same in the late 1930s and in the 1940s, where the supposed “resettlement” of Jews deemed more...

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Alarms Bells Are Going Off As Al Qaeda Networks Spread.

As a historian with a long view, I avoid alarming predictions of doom and gloom. Although Militant Islam is very dangerous, I don’t think it has longevity. Wherever Islamists take over, they arouse the intense hatred of their subject people. Muslims in Mali, for example, celebrated when the French Army chased out the jihadis.

It is one thing to fantasize about a restored Islamic Caliphate (religious dictatorship) but quite another to live under it. Like all other meteoric phenom more...

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Can We Legislate Against Sin?

From the beginning of human society, control of behavior was essential to cohesion. You cannot have a community of human beings living in anarchy; they would be at each other's throats. Nor can you have an individual surviving for long in isolation. We are tribal, and need each other to survive.

There are several ways to control behavior: first, training the children with rules, rewards (affection), and punishment; brute force from leaders (or male punishments on women who defy ru more...

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The Politically Correct Only Recognize “Selective Slavery.”


Many years ago, I submitted a paper for a conference on Slavery (World History Association), which was rejected. The problem was that I offered a history of slavery going back to its ancient roots, but the association was only interested in the evils of Black Slavery in the West. This was my first exposure to “selective Slavery.” Then later, serving as the director of the United Nations Association in San Francisco, I questioned the organization’s authorities about enlarging the UN more...

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Why Some Women Love Violence.

There is an old joke (a John Wayne movie?) that tells of why women put up with violent husbands. “How else can I know he loves me?”

In the developed world, wife beating is no longer considered a sign of love; it is bullying, intimidating, and criminal, which means the batterer can go to prison. But in the modern world, where violence against women is no longer tolerated, it is a mystery why some modern women choose to convert to Islam where wife beating is common. Some not onl more...

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Iran Has Reasons for a Deal.

That the sanctions against Iran have brought the economy close to collapse is well known. I heard from one friend recently returned from a visit that some people are buying pistachios by the piece! Probably a joke, but maybe not.

A much more serious issue facing Iran has just emerged, without much world attention. The country is in grave danger of running out of water. Lake Urumia (Orumiye in Persian), the country's largest lake and third largest in the world, is drying up. Half t more...

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The “World Community” Has Double Standards.


The response to Bashar Assad’s use of poison gas lobbed into rebel-held suburbs of Damascus has been fascinating. Finally, somebody is remembering that a treaty was signed by almost every country in the world banning poison gas at the end of World War I. The use of mustard gas in trench warfare decimated a whole generation of young men fighting on both sides of the war. This was the first time that any weapon had been declared unacceptable to human values. Poison gas is an effective ge more...

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We Have Always Had Turncoats.


Why would a citizen of a country that serves them well opt for betrayal? Why would a US army psychiatrist value Militant Islam more than fellow soldiers he felt justified to murder? Why would Somali-American teenagers train to become suicide bombers, first abroad, but hoping to do so in their homeland?

The recent spate of terrorists who want to damage this country and as many of its residents as possible is not new; we need to remember this issue in the past, and how we de more...

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Insane, or just “Intellectually Challenged?”

When criminal perpetrators go to court, lawyers and judges still have problems with the “insanity defense.” The courts in Florida determined that an obviously demented man knew what he was doing when he murdered eight people in the 1970s. They finally got through all the appeals and executed him, to the howls of those who both oppose capital punishment and especially oppose executing the “insane” or, in some cases, the Intellectually Challenged (very low IQ). To some others, the fact th more...

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Democracy Has Strings Attached.


Democracy means “Rule by the people.” First devised by the ancient Athenians, native freeborn men of property could cast votes for issues of importance to their city. Discussions before the vote were carried out in the public marketplace, where all voters could assemble. Over time, however, the system become corrupted and some unfortunate decisions were made (such as going to war against fellow Greeks) that made the democracy collapse.

The Romans modified the Greek sys more...

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Whistle Blowing: One Size Doesn’t Fit All.


Snooping and its variations (government, industrial, commercial) is now a major issue fracturing the already fractured American psyche. This is the new great divide, one that is not clearly black or white, but is complicated by many shades of gray.

• Terrorism. The first divide is over the majority of us who believe that we are in a global war with the latest of totalitarian enemies, Islamism. A minority believe that this is not a war, but rather criminals best handled b more...

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September 2013

The Great Utopias Have a Nightmarish History.

From the time that human beings had the leisure to think, there have always been those who did not like how their cultures were organized. One of the quatrains of Omar Khayyam (the Rubaiyyat) as translated by Edward Fitzgerald, expresses it best:
“Ah Love! Could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits----and then
Re-mould it neared to the Heart's Desire!”

He expresses in this v more...

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Is the US the World's Policeman?

The question comes up in public discussions all the time: Why should we be the world's policemen? Of course we are not the world's policemen, but we do play an enormous role in serving as a de facto government in a world that, without us, would have no governance at all. The opposite of governance is anarchy, a non-system that makes life like that of the European Dark Ages after the fall of Rome. Rome, like the United States, did far more good than harm to the world it governed.

more...

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Moral Foreign Policy May Not Be Prudent Foreign Policy.


We Americans love our democracy. For all of our faults, most of us live in a society governed by rule of law, a society where we can walk the streets of our towns in safety, and where we are equal under the law regardless of gender and race. We are governed.

We do have an underbelly, however. Some of our inner cities house people for whom this is not so. Despite this, our imperfect society is a work in progress, because we do try to make the system better and the system do more...

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Darwin Awards: People Who Should Not Be Part of the Gene Pool

Periodically, I assemble items from around the world in which people make decisions that warrant removal from the gene pool.

•Banning Female Farting in Indonesia

No, this was not a joke. I checked. An Islamic city council in Aceh, Indonesia, has banned female citizens from passing gas loudly. The city’s mayor explained that farting aloud violates the Islamic values of modesty---not all farting, of course, just female farting. The mayor said that farting loud (s more...

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Genetics: Do Persistent Close-Cousin Marriages Have Consequences?


The great scientist Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was the first to systematically explore how heredity plays out. He worked with peas, plants with a variety of inheritable qualities, so that Mendel was able to see the results of certain mating, discovering dominant and recessive genes over many generations of these plants.

Recently, there has been a cosmic leap forward in genetic sciences, thanks to the bold independence of mapping the genomes of a number of creatures, and fin more...

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How Do We Know that Domestic Violence is an “Epidemic?”


The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released a report on an”epidemic” of domestic violence around the world. They say that at least one-third of women are assaulted by a partner at some point in their lives. When I see numbers like this, I wonder how they know this.

According to this report, 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women.
more...

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Europe Has an Ostrich Problem: Denial of Immigrant Violence


Despite the howls of some reactionaries against American immigration reform, it is clear that most people come here to better their lives. They are decent, hard working, and ready to become real Americans, (with the exception of the radicalized few, such as the Somali youths bamboozled into becoming suicide bombers). With exceptions (in Michigan and Minnesota), there are few Muslim ghettos in the US.

Europe's immigration problem is different. Muslim immigrants from some of more...

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The Muslim World Is Facing an Internal Crisis.


Since the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the moribund Muslim World has begun the process that the West faced during the 17th Century “Religious Wars.”

For Islam, the process of secular rule gradually replacing Islamic rule has stopped, and what has emerged instead is a four-part internal war: a suddenly violent eruption of hatred between the Sunnis and Shiites, and another between modernizers and reactionary Islamism. The first blood was let during the Iran-Iraq war (197 more...

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Making Excuses for Jihadis.

With the decline of religious influence on our values, the word “evil” has been largely dropped by the modern educated class. We look to the causes of bad behavior---such as the environment, abuse by parents, or bad wiring in the brain. Bleeding hearts like to think that the malefactor is not responsible, turning him into a “victim” of other forces. One idiotic professor quoted in the recent issue of Rolling Stone, blamed the murderous rampage of the Tsarnaev brothers on “American poli more...

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Egypt’s Problems Go Beyond Morsi.


With all the hand wringing about Egypt’s army abruptly removing an elected president, more serious problems are not getting much attention.

The US had hoped that supporting the (unwelcome) outcome of an election would encourage the Muslim Brotherhood to learn how to govern. However, the Muslim Brotherhood abhors everything that liberal democracy values and they had resurrected the fear of “one man, one vote, one time.”

We Americans often assume that an more...

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Iran Had An Earlier Brush With Democracy--- in 1906.


The years 1905 and 1906 gave rise to two revolutions, Russian and Persian (today’s Iran). Russia’s 1905 revolution was harshly put down by the Tsar, but Iran’s revolution succeeded in removing a bad Shah and opened Iran’s first parliament---temporarily.

Because of Russia’s disastrous performance in World War I, their second run at a revolution succeeded in 1917. Iran had a different outcome. Their 1906 revolution succeeded until 1911, when the Russians, with Bri more...

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Russia is an Enigma Wrapped in a Mystery

Russia never fails to fascinate us. The very scary Cold War has been over for several decades, after a fifty-year period in which the Soviet Union and the United States engaged in a conflict that could have ended in nuclear holocaust. But real friendship has not replaced the hostility either. We have a cold peace.

Nations have long histories. Russia has been shaped by its geography It occupies a huge expanse of the Eurasian plains, from Eastern Europe all the way to the Pacific. I more...

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How Do Religions Modernize?


Religions can modernize. When we explore the history of how human beings coped with fear, disasters both natural and man-made, fertility, and death, we see great changes to the religions of our most ancient ancestors.

• Pantheism. Our ancestors invented systems for coping with existential fears. They saw the divine all around them: initially as forces to be placated, but also to be honored and celebrated. The ancient Greeks, for example, modernized their earlier pantheis more...

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In Defense of Dead White Men

The youth and women’s revolutions of mid 1980s, attacked western civilization, particularly the traditional educational focus on the great figures of Western history. It became chic to call all of our progenitors, the likes of Shakespeare, Socrates, and our Founding Fathers, “Dead White Males.” Academic institutions and the popular media hastened to get on board, deeming Western Civilization overblown in importance (at least) and deserving of obliteration (at best).

The fem more...

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Are We in an Everlasting War?


President Obama recently declared that it was time to end our war on terror. Some consider this stupid because individual terror attacks still go on, but I think the President is right. Unless we plan to invade Pakistan or Saudi Arabia and clean out their Islamists, we no longer have a war in which a country is involved. He did not say that terrorism was over; but these nasty terror cells can be managed by police and FBI and tried as criminals.

President Obama does have a more...

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The Chechens Are a Model of Dysfunction.

Some of us who are geographically impaired have been confusing the Chechens with the Czechs. All they have in common was that both suffered under the rule of the Soviet Union. The Czechs (the former Czechoslovakia) were under Soviet rule from the end of World War II until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The Chechens, however, have been ground under the Russian Empire's heel from 1830, next under Soviet rule (1917), and once again under Russia (1989). They are not a happy people in the best of more...

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“I'll Eat His Liver---But Not With Chianti.”

Who doesn't remember the movie in which Hannibal Lector, the criminally insane psychiatrist, tells his interviewer about the delights of eating someone's liver with “a nice little Chianti.” In our society, his cannibalism is considered a mark of his insanity.

However, The Guardian, a British newspaper, showed a much worse case of cannibalism that cannot be excused by need (famine) or insanity. According to The Guardian, Human Rights Watch has identified a well-known Syrian r more...

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Time for the “Democracy Project” to go!


It is very painful to retire a foreign policy initiative that has been with us since Woodrow Wilson in 1918. Americans have long believed that democracy is exactly what benighted cultures around the world want. We assume that if tyranny could be removed, long suffering people would want to vote for good people to govern them. We assume, wrongly, that everybody wants freedom.

President Wilson promoted World War I as a crusade to make the world safe for democracy. By the end more...

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An Important Iranian Visitor is Coming: The Cyrus Cylinder


We are accustomed to seeing Iranians as revolutionary Shiite Muslims at war with the world, exemplified by Ayatollah Khamenei (and before him, father of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini). Soon-to-be ex-president Mahmud Ahmadinejad has been a mouthpiece for every obnoxious pronouncement such as Holocaust denial, denial that homosexuality exists in Iran, and membership in the cabal of fascist dictatorships, along with North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, just to name a few. (They all ga more...

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The Latest Global Population Numbers Produce Surprises.

Some modern historians have added geography and demography to their historic research, and not a moment too soon. We really cannot understand the psychology and future trajectories of our allies and enemies without considering why they behave as they do and whether they have too many or too few people to thrive, be offensive, or decline.

• Geography. Robert Kaplan tells us in his new book: The Revenge of Geography, that the one given in a country’s history is its geography more...

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Both American Political Parties Have Serious Blindspots.

“Liberals” or “Progressives” care for the weak, persecuted, and downtrodden. Liberals see the world as inevitably progressing, step by step, from a harsh and violent past to a future that they believe will be civilized and caring.

Traditional Conservatives believe that without governance, people are violent, destructive, and dangerous. Their ideology rejects changing something that is working for something that they see as “cloud cuckoo.” They worry about too much unn more...

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Foreign Policy: When Is Humanitarian Intervention in our Interest?

Most American voters don’t care about American foreign policy until something comes to bite them. But every so often, specific groups get involved in seeking intervention for their particular ethnic interests: Armenians wanting condemnation for Turkey who committed a genocide about which, for almost a century now, Turks have refuse to recognize or apologize.

Sometimes groups want to affect American law, such as those with hysterical fear of Chinese immigration, based on a notio more...

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Here Are the Annual Darwin Awards


My annual Darwin Awards are granted to people so stupid that they should not contribute to the human gene pool. There are many candidates this year.

• Somalia. Being at the top of the list for failed states, it is deadly for journalists----and women. In February, one journalist was jailed, as was the woman who had complained to him about being raped by Somali soldiers. They are both accused of “Insulting the Government.” Such a government should have no future.
more...

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We Are Providing the Wrong Cure to Dysfunctional Nations

What groups of human beings believe and how they behave is called their culture. Ant colonies and elephant herds do not seem to have much variation or change in how they behave; they are programmed by nature. Human beings, however, choose their cultures and behavior—and sometimes individuals within these cultures diverge from them. We call this free will, although scientists dispute that we are ever totally free of the cultures in which we are born.

Since the end of World War II more...

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Algeria’s Bloody Siege Shows Al Qaeda Gone Global


In the 1990s, well before the 9/11 attack on America, historian Samuel D. Huntington, in a groundbreaking work called The Clash of Civilizations, noted that throughout the world, every country with Islamic neighbors had “bloody borders.” This book came out at a time that optimists were predicting “the end of history” and, perhaps, the end of war. Huntington was attacked as a pessimist and racist to boot.

Once more, this dazzling scholar proved his critics wrong. He more...

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Europe’s Multicultural Model Is Changing.

Europeans do not have a record of religious tolerance, as can be clearly seen in their history of religious wars (16th - 18th centuries) and their appalling Anti-Semitism for 2,000 years, culminating in the Holocaust.

But in the newly emerging Europe after World War II, Western European countries (Britain, France, Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Germany) were determined to create a new European multiculturalism. First, national barriers were coming down as European elites created th more...

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Sex Crimes Are Part of the War Against Women and Modernity.

Violating women and girls is as old as human existence. Incest taboos in so many cultures is testimony to the problem that even within the family, little girls are preyed upon by fathers, uncles, and brothers.

Even in religions without the familial incest taboo (such as Islam), the pious are told that it is a sin to permit your daughter to have her first menstruation under your roof. She must be married before she becomes a “temptation” to the menfolk.

• Rape more...

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The Dilemma of Changing IQ outcomes


We used to think that IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was something that we were born with. Some of us were bright, some not so bright. Over the decades since IQ was first tested, we can no longer assume that IQ is a fixed genetic talent. IQ can be stimulated to increase or can be damaged into decline (or failure to develop), both the consequences of human behavior.

Although this finding gives us a heads up of what seems to be a evolutionary increase in brain functioning, accor more...

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The Urban-Rural Conflict is Central to Today's Global Dysfunction.


Civilization began with the rise of cities (civilization means city building), some 5,000 years ago. To have such institutions as irrigation systems, professional armies, specialized priesthood, and professional artisans, population concentration is essential. Villages cannot produce such specialization.

Cities have always appealed to the ambitious, who love the colorful energy of city life, and refugees from the no-longer viable countryside. Successful cities attract tale more...

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December 2012

E Pluribus Unum Is a Rare Commodity Today.


E Pluribus Unum is Latin for Out of Many, One. It is the motto of the United States, formed when thirteen colonies decided to form one nation in 1776. But even in this country, when most of the population was essentially one ethnicity (British) and spoke English, we did not always act like one. We split into two over an unresolved issue of slavery, which resulted in the Civil War, with the worst death toll of any American war even today. But the war ended with the states once more unite more...

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Peace On Earth Is a Real Challenge.

American foreign policy has almost always been bipartisan. Responsible Democrats and Republicans faced the contentious Cold War together for half a century, successfully, as the outcome illustrated. But foreign policy is always the most difficult of issues for the American public to fully understand. It is difficult to deal with countries that we really cannot like, but must deal with anyway.

o Europe. Despite the efforts of elite Europeans to create something like a United State more...

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Peace On Earth Is a Real Challenge.

American foreign policy has almost always been bipartisan. Responsible Democrats and Republicans faced the contentious Cold War together for half a century, successfully, as the outcome illustrated. But foreign policy is always the most difficult of issues for the American public to fully understand. It is difficult to deal with countries that we really cannot like, but must deal with anyway.

o Europe. Despite the efforts of elite Europeans to create something like a United State more...

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What Can a Husband Do About a Disobedient Wife?


A month ago, an Iraqi woman was found on a roadside, beaten to death. A sign was pinned on her: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” There was immediate hand-wringing from good-hearted people, led by the Islamic American legal propagandists (CAIR), pointing to one more hate crime against American Muslims.

Because there have been very few American Muslims murdered by American thugs, my antennae went up. In short order, the police in El Cajon announced that the mu more...

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Should National Defense be "Proportional?"


Media coverage of the Israeli/Hamas conflict has promoted the idea that Israel’s response to months-long missile attacks on Israel is “disproportionate” because so few Israelis have died compared with the number of Gazan deaths. This outrage comes from people who should know better, such intellectual elites as Amy Goodman, whose syndicated column appears in the Sentinel; the British Economist magazine, and National Geographics.

Amy Goodman is the darling of the poli more...

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The Russians Are Looking Like Their Old Selves Again.


Russia before the Communist Revolution in 1917 had conflicting cultural characteristics: a relatively small educated class and aristocracy undergoing a European-style renaissance; and the vast peasant and village population, dirt-poor, superstitious, and ignorant. Geography plays a role in shaping a culture. Russia’s vast size and wide-open plains left it vulnerable to invasions by such brutes as the Mongols and later the Nazis. Violence, characterized by the whip (the Russian knout, a more...

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Morphing to Murder


It is a mystery how decent, ordinary people can become murdering savages. Most human beings on a daily level just struggle to keep their families fed and are usually benign to their neighbors. But throughout history, perfectly ordinary people have been turned into rampaging mobs. Furthermore, clearly psychotic leaders can enchant otherwise rational people into following them. I have never understood the appeal of psychotics (such as Hitler) or fanatics (such as Osama bin Laden); but then more...

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The Real Benghazi Problem Is Not Being Addressed.

What happened or did not happen when our consulate in Benghazi was attacked has become a contentious and partisan issue. This horrible attack on a diplomatic urban outpost is not the first in our dealings with the Muslim world. The international standards that foreign diplomats must be protected by the host country have been violated a number of times since the 19th century, not only for American but also to British diplomats, and only in Muslim countries.

The British Embassy was more...

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Why the Taliban Shot a Teenage Girl


The Pakistani Taliban roused the ire around the world with their latest horror, an attempted assassination on a teenage girl for promoted educating girls. They recently beheaded a 7-year-old girl and nobody noticed. But this time, mobs of Pakistanis demonstrated in support of the girl and in criticism of the Taliban. Is this issue about the status of women or is there more to it?

When, on 9/11/2001, President Bush was asked why these Islamists hate us, his answer was: “ more...

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The President and Challenger Tangle on Foreign Policy


We have just had a debate between President Obama and Governor Romney on Foreign Policy. Since only about 10 percent of the public understands or even cares about foreign policy, it is difficult to assess how this will affect the election. But since I am a foreign policy wonk, I do care.

When President Obama had his first security briefing when he was sworn into office, his hair began to turn to gray. Presidents learn things then that they really couldn’t know while they more...

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The Sad Tale of Three Misled Young People Unfolds


Most of us who are conscientious about rearing our children try to let them learn from small mistakes or small bad choices. However, it is difficult to know if a mistake is small or not, or if it will blight their lives forever. Three young people in the news have made large mistakes, and one of them died as a result.

The three are: Rachel Corrie, John Walker Lindh, and Pfc. Bradley Manning, all of whom were undone by fanatical attachment to extremist ideologies. Their mi more...

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The Saudis Have A “Modest Proposal” for Women

In 1951, Philip Wylie, an American social critic, wrote a novel called The Disappearance. In this fantasy, something happens in the cosmos, a spasm of some sort, that resulted in the disappearance of each gender from the other, both living in parallel worlds. It is always fascinating to contemplate how men and women would manage alone, a fantasy as old as ancient Greece, whose mythology included the Amazons, a tribe of women warriors who managed very well without men.

Men withou more...

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September 2012

Are Israel and the US Really Locking Horns Over Iran?


Foreign policy issues should not be a factor in election campaigns; we need to tell the world that we are united on issues beyond domestic politics. However, it is too difficult for presidential campaigns to resist stirring things up. Mitt Romney did this in unwise remarks about US policy during the orchestrated riots in Libya and Egypt.

Today, a hot issue is Iran, which has lied, cheated, and continued to work toward producing a nuclear capability that frightens its nei more...

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The Fog of War is Nothing to the Fog of the Muslim World.

The Arab Spring came and quickly left, followed by what we call “young democracies,” the results of “elections.” Why did we think that these elections would produce the modern, western values of tolerant and participatory governance? In every political revolution, intellectuals do the first heavy lifting, only to be replaced (and killed) by something akin to totalitarianism. Every revolution “eats its children,” and this was so in Iran, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, and will be when the o more...

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When is Cultural Criticism “Racism?”


Mitt Romney is a diplomatic disaster, but I do want to defend one comment he made on his summer travels that has been unjustly attacked. He commented on the cultural differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians that account for their economic disparities. He was immediately called a “racist” by the Palestinians, a cry launched at any who dare do cultural criticism.

A distinguished historian, Tom Holland, just produced a documentary on “The Untold Story of Is more...

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Who is attacking Science?

The world we now live in is largely the product of science. Thanks to science we have doubled our life spans over just one century: the result of clean water, antibiotics, birth control, and the medical care that keeps women in childbirth (and their babies) alive. We have become so accustomed to this that many people do not even think about such a wonder.

Instead, far too many people are ignorant of how science works, convinced that science is in competition with religion. Thes more...

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Egypt Has Post-Election Blues.


A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture on Egypt’s “Arab Spring” and their recent round of elections. The speaker was optimistic about this process, and noted a number of “accomplishments” that Egyptians should regard with pride:

• A tyrannical dictator removed
• A relatively free and fair election held
• A member of the Muslim Brotherhood elected (Accomplishment?)
• The military promise to yield to civilian rule
• Treaty more...

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Can There Be A World Without History? Militant Islamists Think So.


Since the end of World War II, we have not seen deliberate assaults on historic landmarks that we see today. Both sides wantonly destroyed cities with their great historic architecture, but history was not their real target.

History is the target today. The Afghan's Taliban government deliberately blew up statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan because “they weren't Muslim.” In the Middle East, Africa, and Pakistan, Islamists are targeting churches for destruction, something more...

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Why Do We Give a Pass to Evil?

I recently wrote an editorial about Genocide, with its long trek through history—but one of my colleagues noted that I had not mentioned the USSR, one of the worst human rights offenders ever. My friend, Swedish human rights attorney Bertil Haggman, compiled the violent death statistics of the USSR from 1917 to 1982: The Communist Genocide (in Swedish), ten years before the demise of the Soviet Union. Haggman estimated about 104 million dead in his 1982 book; now the numbers are known to be cl more...

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Religion Has Two Faces: Benevolent and Malevolent.

Militant atheists believe that religion is entirely negative, stupid, and harmful to human beings. Religious historians believe that without religion, a civilization has no moral guidance and no sense of community. Some of today’s extremist religious sects are growing because modernization has produced such existential pain for them. A key sticking point for many, of course, is the emancipation of women. With freedom for women, they ask, what will happen to families?

We have al more...

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Facts Have Nothing to Do With Righteous Belief!


Our society is in the throes of irrational movements on both ends of the political spectrum. The far right attack science and the far left deny the dangers of Militant Islam. Lewis Carroll made fun of this sort of mindset in Alice In Wonderland:

“Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said 'one can't believe impossible things.'

'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. more...

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How Do We Stop a Genocide?


In Syria, armed thugs (with tanks) went house-to-house in a village and murdered all inhabitants, down to babies with pacifiers in their mouths. In history, this sort of pogrom happened (minus the tanks) in many wars of antiquity (revisit The Trojan War), in which the victors killed every male down to babies and hauled all females into slavery.

During the Middle Ages, a Crusade was declared against two dissident religious groups in southern France, the Albigensians and Cat more...

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Does Equality Mean “The Same?”


“All Men are created equal,” said Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. We Americans, who are the first to try to live by this idea, have had nothing but trouble with it. The very idea is fraught with problems. If it means that God has created all men (never mind women or slaves) equally, how can we explain babies born with dreadful defects that prevent them from ever being “equal” to the able bodied? And if we look around at the distribution of mental, p more...

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Can We Rescue Our Democracy?


Sometimes transformations take place under the radar. We do not see that a real change has happened until the tipping point suddenly makes it apparent. We are living at such a time now. Our Democracy is at a low ebb-but there is light out there.

Participatory government (democracy or republic) has always been difficult by its very nature. To function at its optimum, there must be a good constitution that sets forth rules, elected officials who believe in a process charact more...

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Now the Pentagon is Being Muzzled for Being “Critical of Islam.”


The Pentagon is where military preparedness is fostered. In our system of government, the military is subordinated to civilian control, which is as it should be. They are not, as in so many countries, our bosses who maintain that position through fear. However, there are factions in this country that would like to see the military defanged, and, if possible, disbanded.

How convenient it would be for Anarchists, Islamists, and any nation states that would like to see us ren more...

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Sometimes Inaction Against Bad Guys Has Dangerous Consequences.


The most difficult political-military situation a nation must face is when to take action against a threat. Too much force can be overkill. However, if a great power hesitates, this can be perceived as weakness, or can give an enemy an exaggerated belief in his own power.

The United States has always tried to avoid looking like a bully (even when we are one), unlike such powers as Russia, which has never worried about being a bully and even uses this perception to get its more...

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What Is Making Population Numbers Crash?


The UN Population Agency reports that Europe’s fertility rate may have plummeted to the point of no return. Certain countries (Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece) have fertility rates in the single digits that by the end of this century could spell doom. This applies to Japan as well, and threatens the modern and developed parts of China and India. In 1980, China’s median age was 22; today it is 34.5. Not enough young to support the old. The same is happening in India’s more...

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Is There a Legal Problem with “Hate Crimes?”

The definition of “hate crime” is one of those overkill legislative initiatives with unforeseen consequences. It is noble to recognize that some people commit crimes out of hate, but a murder is a murder, and this should be enough.

How can we possibly know a criminal’s inner thoughts (his hatred for his victim); furthermore, even if we can know this for certain, what difference does it make to the victim? The hatred of the murderer should only reflect upon the ultimate sent more...

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Should the New York Security Police Be Called Off?

Several reporters have received the Pulitzer Prize for journalism for their investigation of the New York Police Department “spying” on Muslim communities. These reporters claim Muslims are being “unfairly profiled” and their privacy violated. Should we make the police stop their spying? Do we want no profiling at all, in the name of “fairness?”

The first duty of all government is to protect people from violence and criminal activity. Most of us, even those champions more...

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The European Uprisings of 1848 Reverberate in Today’s Arab Spring

Americans are accustomed to thinking that our 1776 revolution was the model for all others. This may account for the wacky optimism of Western journalists cheering on the street demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. They assumed these demonstrations would truly give rise to American style democracy. They now see that this is not so.

Those of us who were less enthusiastic can justify our pessimism by noting what’s going on in Libya (revenge and lawlessness) and in Syria, more...

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Fear and Loathing or Analysis and Perspective?

There are two ways to analyze the violent eruption of global terrorist attacks that have marked the past three decades: analyze the nature of the threat and the culture supporting it, or blame it all on the evils of Western colonialism and American militarism. The latter analysis is the choice of the “politically correct,” who say that terrorism is as rampant in the West as it is in the Muslim world. A truth check, however, will tell us that for every Western terrorist (such as Timothy McVei more...

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Why Do Shiite and Sunni Muslims Hate Each Other?

Whenever I do a public lecture, questions come up about the Shiites and Sunnis. People read about their mutual hatreds and daily assaults on each other in Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world, but really do not know how these groups differ and why they are so violent.

All religions eventually fracture into competing sects with very different interpretations of their common faith. We are well acquainted with this process in the deadly Protestant-Catholic wars, and those of us old more...

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What Has Become of Academic Critical Thinking?

When I was in college, I could not tell you how my professors might vote. They were, as were my elementary and high school teachers, resolutely apolitical. We were taught to think, debate, and even act out in mock political conventions and model United Nations conferences.

This is no longer so in many American and European universities. Despite the avowed liberal values of support for the underdog, rights of women and minorities, and distaste for violence, there is an almost univ more...

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The Clash of Civilizations Has New Venues


When historian Samuel Huntington wrote Clash of Civilizations in 1997, our already politically-correct culture found him over the top at best, and bigoted at worst. Academics around the world weighed in at conferences and in reviews of this book, many of them uncomfortable over his picture of Islam.

Huntington recognized that the end of the Cold War did not mean the end of conflict in the world. The newest variety would be more difficult in some ways than that between the more...

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France Dropped the Ball with their Murderous Jihadi.

In a violent French shootout on March 22, Mohamed Merah, killer of four men and three children in Toulouse, was shot while shooting his way out of his hideout. The standoff riveted the world, which was precisely what Merah had intended. Now comes the exploration over how such a thing happened.

What we know.

Mohamed Merah was born in Toulouse France, to an Algerian mother. He became a petty criminal in his adolescence, rather common in the Muslim immigrant districts more...

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There Are No Easy Answers for US Policy in Syria

It is distressing to see Syrian people-ordinary civilians-hunkering down in bunkers without sufficient food, water, or medicine. Syrians look at us on screen and wonder why nobody is helping them. Why are we not?

Arab dictatorships have similarities. Syria has been run by a father and son, the Assads, for the past half century. Tunisia, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt were others. They all began as secular dictatorships; Islam did not have the pride of place it enjoyed in the past.
more...

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More Electoral Fraud in Egypt? What a Surprise.


In our enthusiasm for the Arab Spring and its promise of democracy, we now watch elections and parliaments in Egypt and Tunisia with some concern. How did we get so much wrong?

First, we never talked about “liberal” democracy, the system used in the West that provides checks and balances and protects against abuse of power. We just talked about elections, and they have indeed had those.

All Egyptian players have a stake in the outcome. The military esta more...

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Denial is not a river in Egypt.


Although this headline is a joke, the facts on the ground are not. Fareed Zakaria, usually a sound commentator on world affairs, chastised the pessimists who see no democracy for the Arab Spring. He noted how slowly the revolutions of America and France bore fruit. However, liberal democracy only comes from countries with a 2500-year-old western heritage—or those that have adopted these values (Japan, South Korea). Whatever fruit Egypt will bear will not be liberal democracy, no matter more...

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The UN Finally Identifies “Harmful Customs.”

Anthropologists have taught us not to judge other cultures, but to recognize that no matter how strange, the custom served a reasonable function. Until now, UN agencies appeared to buy in to that notion, but at last, even they see the folly of this position.

As the Karzai government in Afghanistan attempts to “dialogue” with the Taliban leadership, we are reminded that both the Taliban and the Afghan government stem from the largest Afghan tribe: the Pashtun. These fierce warr more...

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Koran Burning Spurs Obnoxious Protests.


I was appalled to hear an American general abjectly apologize for the burning of some “religious materials” at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He apologized to President Karzai, and then to the “noble people of Afghanistan” (when do we ever say something like “noble people”), painfully in regret over the “unintended” offense.

If the general thought that this apology might protect American and NATO servicemen from attack, he was sadly misinformed. They a more...

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How Is Citizenship Determined Around the World?

There are many ways of acquiring citizenship in the modern world. This concept, being a citizen of a country, is relatively new; in the past, in nation states with a king, one was a subject—and that usually depended upon birth. Refugees could and did come to some: many Continental Europeans fled to England, escaping the persecution of revolutions. In those days (late 18th century), they were permitted to remain as subjects. Voting rights was a much later proposition.

Today, mo more...

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Time to Revisit the Abused “L” Word, “L” for “Liberal.”


The term “liberal” has become a very bad word in some circles. Many conservatives today do not see Liberal as just another political viewpoint, but as an evil philosophy. Simultaneously, many who call themselves “liberal” today seem to have forgotten what liberal really means. We all need to revisit this important concept.

“Liberal” derives from the mid-19th century concern with “liberty.” The British liberals stood for freeing much the economy from govern more...

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What Is America’s “Worldview?”


How we vote, behave, and think is based on our view of the world. Whether consciously or not, we all have beliefs about human nature, and these views shape us. These worldviews are the product of our various religions and the experiences of our European, Asian, or African ancestors. They fall into the following categories:

• Man is basically evil (sinful), and must be restrained by firm governance;
• Man is born innocent and good, and learns evil from society; more...

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Religious Intolerance is the World's Normal. Can it Be Fixed?



The West has brought an amazing baby into the world: religious tolerance. The lesser developed world is still enmeshed in the ancient notion that there is only one religion and that all others must be not only avoided, but wiped out if possible. Religious fanaticism is an ancient human horror.

Tolerance does not necessarily mean love, but means that we can live and let live) with people who worship differently (within limits) or are female or homosexual. This to more...

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Democracy Can Have a Dark Underbelly


As much as I love democracy, Western Liberal Democracy, this institution has a dark side. There are problems with our own American democracy; even more troubling are democracies such as that of Russia, and worse, democracy in the Muslim world. Why is democracy so under assault?

Liberal Democracy is a system in which people do have choices, but there are also rules that keep the “people’s will” from becoming tyranny. Voting is the last step of building a democracy, w more...

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Attacking the British Embassy is an Iranian Rite of Passage.


On December 1, Iranian thugs attacked the British Embassy in Tehran in hours-long violence. This recalled the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in 1979, holding American diplomats hostage for 444 days. When the 1979 assault happened, right after the Iranian Revolution, the Revolutionary Government initially denied complicity (which may have been true). However, in short order, the Ayatollah decided to take credit for this act.

This time, the Iranian press claimed tha more...

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What Happens When People Suddenly Have Choices?


The very notion that people have choices in their lives is so new that much of world is still reeling from this idea. For the millennia since the emergence of homo sapiens, choices have been limited. Survival depended upon families, tribes, and later kingdoms, where individual choice was inconceivable, except for the leader, whether father, clan chief, or king. Bad decisions could bring disaster on them all, and leaders were always challenged by others who would then make decisions. Dict more...

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Arab Spring Is a Conflict between Religion and Nationalism.


The enthusiasm for the Arab Spring and its birth of democracy in the Middle East gives me heartburn. What we hoped is not what we got. Now, as disillusion sets in, not only ours, but also that of the young demonstrators (particularly young women) who shed their own blood in Tahrir Square and Tunisia, we need to see what the optimists missed.

We have again mistaken voting for democracy. Although people who have never had choices love to vote, they really do not like choices more...

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December 2011

Immigrants and refugees: Is There Room at the Inn?


At Christmas, we hear once again about refugees---this time the family of Joseph, Mary, and the soon-to-be born Baby Jesus. It is a touching story—and timelessly evocative of so many millions of people who have had to flee for their lives from persecution.

The 20th century has been a time of the largest dislocation of people in history. World Wars I and II uprooted millions, all seeking sanctuary in the West. However, there was no rush of refugees to the Middle East or more...

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US Law is Wrestling with Complexities of Antiterrorism

n Boston, a trial is underway. Prosecutors say that Tarek Mahanna, a 29-year-old US-born Egyptian, is a terrorist. His attorneys claim he was merely exercising First Amendment rights. The outcome of the trial will have important legal implications.

Under American law, the police cannot arrest someone for what he thinks or says, but only after a crime has been committed. This, unfortunately, is why so many battered women who depend on a restraining order to keep a batterer at bay more...

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TV Humor and Soaps Are Potent Tools For Democracy.


One of the most devastating tools against tyranny is humor. Dictators cannot stand being laughed at; they work hard at being feared. On a bitter cold New Year’s Eve of 1989, the long-time dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, summoned his people to the square below his palace to deliver a speech. The crowd shuffled and seethed with anger over their short rations, lack of fuel, and daily insults while Ceausescu and his nasty wife lived in an obscenely lavish palace. As he continued to more...

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Was the Israeli and Hamas Prisoner Exchange a Good Deal?


A young Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was snatched by Hamas raiders across the Israeli border in 2006. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, not a combatant who had been at war with Hamas. They kept him alive for five years, hoping to exchange this him for one thousand violent Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

In October, the exchange was made—to the mixed joy and anguish of Israel—joy for bringing home one of their own and anguish over those they were rel more...

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Do We Have an Epidemic of Sexual Abuse?

The modern world appears awash in sexual abuse and misbehavior. Over the past decade, we see grownup men (coaches and priests, both revered in society) who cannot resist sexually abusing children; those are the worst of the worst. But other misbehavers are lechers who cannot resist groping women, exchanging job promises for sex, or keeping young women captive for years to use them sexually. Are we losing our values, or is this not an epidemic at all, but the last flush of bad human behavior that more...

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Power to the People! Round Up the Usual Suspects!


Whenever you hear “Power to the People,” check youry wallet. At college, I remember the silly panty raids of an earlier generation who just let off steam and did something mildly outrageous. Today's “People Power” is not as innocent.

Democracy today is not having a good run. Although citizens vote for their representatives and leaders, many feel somehow disenfranchised. The problem is almost universal, except for Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland, in more...

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Global Violence Declines---Except in the Middle East--Part 2.

As mentioned in Part 1 of our two-part look at the decline of violence in the world, daily violence has been on the increase in one region of the world, the Muslim Middle East. But even here, the numbers are terrible when compared with the rest of the world, but not when compared with the history of the region itself.

Violence in the daily life of people in the Middle East, once dictators are removed, is no different than the violence of daily life in Europe from the fall of more...

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Is Human Violence Really on the Wane? Part 1 of 2

Despite rampant pessimism at the moment, history can show us that life has never been better. The majority of today's humans have more to eat, better health, more stable governance, and much less violence than ever before. Violence needs to be seen in context.

Several authors (The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined and A History of Violence: From the end of the Middle Ages to the Present) insist that violence has decline---even in the face of the horrific 20th more...

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Community: Is Letting the Penniless Sick Die an Option?

Humans do not do well without community. Even religious hermits could not have survived without food and the support of community.

We are not flock animals, guided only by instinct; we are willful individuals with a range of choices in our behavior. Community, however, requires control of behaviors. We learn these rules, which are rewarded or punished by our leadership.

In the simpler culture of family and clans, authority was usually accorded to the strongest memb more...

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What are the Best and Worst Countries for Women? (Part 2)


Last week, I addressed a major issue for most of the world’s women: marriage. This time, there are other issues equally important: women getting a fair justice system, access to health services, education, economics, and political participation. Newsweek (September 26, ) did an enormous service by providing in-depth articles (“The Global Women’s Progress Report”) and some very revealing charts show the best places to be a woman and the worst. There was also a searing article on more...

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How Goes It With Marriage Around the World?(Part 1)


This is a two-part series on how women are faring worldwide. Marriage is part I, and four other major concerns are part 2, next week.

Americans are great romantics about marriage. In the traditional past, women were property and were disposed of in marriage as best suited their relatives and clans. But in the past 400 years, Europeans (and American colonists) began to accept a young couple marrying out of mutual affection. Of course, we are talking about people with some f more...

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September 2011

U.N. “Anti-Racism” Conference Attacks “Islamophobia”


Ten years ago, a UN conference in Durban, South Africa, featured “racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance.” The conference was a hate fest with only two targets: Israel and “Western Imperialism.” It was so ugly that most Western ambassadors walked out, past banners that equated Israelis with Nazis and much worse: posters illustrating the Koranic claim that Jews are descendants of pigs and apes.

Durban II, held in Geneva in 2009, keynoted that famously “toler more...

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How Did the Media Cover 9/11?


Ten years after the most horrific foreign attack on America (the British in I812 and the Japanese in 1941), we are looking back to see how this attack affected our national character. Considering the horrific nature of 9/11, we responded with astonishing nobility and some expected missteps. We are a nation that habitually underestimates an enemy-and then overestimates this same enemy. It takes a while to get it right.

Watching how people in New York, especially the first r more...

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Let Us Put the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 In Context.


Ten years ago, Al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington (and more if they could have pulled it off). How could we not see this coming? And are we lulling ourselves into sleep again?

o Failed Awareness. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, no other credible enemy appeared on the horizon. To us, an enemy was a superpower with nuclear weapons. Not even China appeared to be a viable menace to us-at least, not for a long time.

Some of us, however, were more...

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Does Free Speech Include Hacking and Mayhem?


We do not say often enough that freedom without responsibility is anarchy. This is exactly what we are witnessing in Europe and closer to home: the controversy about our Bay Area Rapid transit system, BART, pulling the plug on cell phones to preempt a dangerous riot.

A few weeks ago, BART security officers shot a transient who had advanced threateningly on them. Whether their action was warranted or not belongs in the realm of law enforcement investigation, not on mob rule more...

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All the News That’s Fit To Print?

We treasure our freedom of speech, which is the very first amendment in our constitution. We consider the press to be an arm of our democracy, with its primary responsibility to be the watchdog over government power and its possible abuse. When investigative journalism works as it should, we all benefit from governance in which officials cannot get away with corruption for long. Not all get caught, but enough do to serve as a warning to the rest.

Look at Afghanistan, where the gov more...

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Do We Know What Makes People Evil?


What could make a nice Middle Class Norwegian murder 74 people because he hated his government? Or make an American Baptist college student convert to Islam and murder soldiers at an Arkansas recruitment center? Does human evil come from our genes (nature) or from our upbringing (nurture)? The debate is unresolved.

Genetic advocates can show that certain things in brain chemistry can create impulsiveness, hot temper, and sometimes inability to empathize with the pains of more...

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We Need Perspective On Norway’s Terror Attack


Watching the terror attack on Norway on TV on July 22, I immediately thought---as did most journalists watching---that Norway had finally fallen victim to the long anticipated Islamist attack. Islamists have threatened Norway, Denmark, and Sweden that they will get righteous punishment for a culture that “insults” Islam.

Learning that the killer was Norwegian, I wondered if he were a Muslim convert. Scandinavian countries go out of their way to avoid identifying crim more...

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Some People Choose Bad Bedfellows for Their Summer Vacation

It may become a Rite of Summer: dedicated dissidents trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza with a flotilla of ships. Gazans themselves are not asking for such aid, claiming that they are not lacking daily necessities, so that is not the issue. Egypt has opened their port near Gaza to permit all legitimate aid to be brought in. Israel has never cut off humanitarian aid, and for the past year have been permitting more material to enter Gaza.

According to Juliane Von Mittelstae more...

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More Humans Can Read, But What Are They Reading?

The “Sky Is Falling” crowd says that too many Americans no longer read. I am not convinced—nor do I believe that we read less than our grandparents did. Let’s look at the history of writing (and reading), a history much older than we used to think.

A major invention that separated homo sapiens from our primate ancestors was writing. There is increasing evidence that our Stone Age ancestors were communicating with something akin to readable writing systems on stone and po more...

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Heavy Lies the Saudi Head That Wears the Crown.

Although the King of Saudi Arabia does not wear a crown, his head is heavy. His country has problems that may bode ill for the survival of the Saudi royals.

I have written before about cultures that embrace patterns that do not have long survival value. Arabia has many such patterns, starting with the unyielding form of Islam that was part of the deal that won the country’s rule for the Ibn Sauds. Nothing is more at war with the currents of modernity than Salafi Islam (Wahhabi more...

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How Do We (and Afghanistan) Negotiate with the Taliban?


It is a matter of doctrine that if the conflicts in Afghanistan (and Pakistan?) are to be resolved, military force alone cannot do it. Our planners are trying to separate the Taliban from Al Qaeda, as though they are really different. I do not believe they have ever been different in philosophy or tactics.

On June 29, the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, was on fire, after being attacked by nine Taliban (or Haqqani Gang) suicide bombers. Only one was an actual more...

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Some Democracies Are Not Wonderful.


I recently heard an idealist complaining that President Obama was not enthusiastically supporting the “democracy movement” in the Arab world. He could not understand why we were intervening (tepidly) in Libya, but not in Yemen or Syria. To this idealist, democracy is something we profess to promote—so why aren’t we?

The trouble with this view is that there are two kinds of democracy: liberal and illiberal. Liberal democracy has imbedded in it a number of essenti more...

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Is Turkey Still A Secular Muslim Model?

Until now, Turkey has modeled how an Islamic state can modernize and democratize. When the Ottoman Empire crumbled after World War I, the Turks retreated to what they considered their original homeland in Anatolia, once the homeland of the Byzantine Christian Roman Empire until the Ottomans conquered it in 1453. Constantinople was renamed Istanbul.

Under cover of World War I, the Turkish military carried out the century’s first ethnic cleansing, a deliberate massacre of the Chr more...

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For Girls, Idealism Can Be Deadly.


President Kennedy urged American youth to consider a stint in the Peace Corps where they could help the world's poor and spread American values. Thousands have heeded this call, and for many, their time abroad was a valuable learning experience. But for many others, mostly young women, there was a big problem that was swept under the carpet until now: rape.

The idea that women and men are equally human and entitled to equal opportunities and dignity is very new. The Unit more...

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Sometimes Marriage and Childbirth Customs Have Serious Consequences.

Anthropologists have been telling us for the past century that traditions and cultures have survival value for their people. We have been carefully taught not to criticize another culture because there is no single way to be human. Today, however, we see cultural practices around the world utterly disconnected from “survival value.” People persist in certain behaviors because they believe they are sacrosanct parts of either their religion or traditions.

• Africa. One is ha more...

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There Are Consequences For Lying


Brain scientists tell us that when brains are scanned to see which areas light up, brains scan differently when told a known lie or truth. Even without brain scans, it should be obvious that those who live where truthfulness is promoted live in a community of trust. Those who are accustomed to living in a culture where lying is part of survival are resigned to it, but not happy.

Trust and truth go hand in hand. As children, we either learn to trust our parents and their tr more...

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Iran, Like Some Here, Also Believes In Apocalyptic Myths.


We live in a time of strange beliefs. The latest comes from Iran. Although a country with skyscrapers, metro subways, and nuclear aspirations, their leaders believe in sorcery. The conflict between obnoxious President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Khamenei has now produced a spate of arrests; 25 people, associated with Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff, Mashaei, have been accused of being “magicians who evoke djinns” (evil spirits)-yes, like the ones who come more...

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Europe Has Immigration Problems on Steroids!


For all the problems we think we have with immigration, Europe’s problems far exceed ours. The US has always had a history of panic about new and alien groups pouring into our country (Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and now Hispanics). But all of these groups came here to become American; they integrated and contributed. By and large, the same is true of Muslim immigrants to the US today—particularly Iranians and Afghans. In Europe, however, many in the flood more...

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After Arab Spring, Then What?


I was in College (UCLA) during Prague Spring, the peaceful demonstrations by the Czechs against their Soviet occupation. We cheered them on—and then saw how the Russians dealt with it—tanks and executions. The West looked the other way and the rebellion was crushed.

Now we have seen another round of “springs,” this time roiling the Muslim Arab world. Iran (non-Arab) was the first to stage such youth-based protests against their fraudulent election in 2009. It was more...

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What is the future of religion around the world?


The United States is, and has long been, a religious country, sometimes to the point of obsession. Our safety net is having no officially recognized state religion; we have instead vigorous competition among faiths so that no one can dominate.

Around the world there seems to be an explosion of Islam, thanks to rampant population growth and prison conversion. But demographers already note that fertility rates around the world have peaked and are in decline. Muslim countrie more...

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Does the Bin Laden Decapitated Snake Still Have Life?


Was the killing of Osama Bin Laden “justice,” as President Obama has said, or was it “vengeance,” as both critics and admirers claim? Justice, technically, could have been served by putting that monster on trial—or a succession of trials everywhere he had ordered mass murders (Kenya, Yemen, Bali, Mumbai, London, Spain, and the United States). Taking him out, the way we did, where he was confined to the house just like his women, could be said to be vengeance, but I don’t thi more...

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Beware of Robot Hummingbirds and Other Spying Creatures



I hate to see reality impinge on the colorful world of conspiracy theories—but here it is. DARPA, the Research & Development branch of the US Department of Defense, is working on a robot hummingbird that flies and looks like the lively little bird itself—but is intended to spy on human activities. It is not yet ready to deploy, but it reminds me that the Pentagon is not the only institution thinking about such things. Nor are such inventions only used in warfare. They could more...

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American Foreign Policies Cannot Always Be Consistent.


All dictators are not alike. Former US Ambassador to the UN, Jean Kirkpatrick, noted that because of the Cold War, the US supported some authoritarians, but not totalitarians. Authoritarians control their countries with armed force; they are often thugs. But totalitarians mess with their subjects' minds, imprisoning and executing people for wrong thoughts (or religions). A thug really does less long-term damage than an ideologue.

Dictatorships that are at least competent more...

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How Do We Deal With “Sticks and Stones?”

In our present day culture, we have been taught (usually at mother’s knee) that “sticks and stones may break your bones but names can never harm you.” Annoying as it is to have people call you names, it does not warrant punching them in the face. But this is not so elsewhere, not did it used to be so in our own civilization’s past. What we are talking about here is “the honor culture.”

Until the middle of the 19th century, gentlemen fought duels of honor. That by ser more...

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In a Democracy, Some Decisions Are Agonizing.


For most of human existence, leaders and priests made decisions and ordinary people either obeyed or suffered the consequences. For almost everyone, tradition left a very small range of independent decisions.

Today, certainly in the developed world, we all have to confront decisions every day, and for our elected leaders, the process is often difficult. The following is a small list of terrible decisions facing both democracies and autocracies today.

• T more...

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Is Peace Breaking Out in the Middle East?


We keep hearing that peace in the Middle East only requires a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. The outbreak of what is being called “the Arab Spring” has proven this notion wrong. None of the Muslim countries currently in ferment give a hoot about the Palestinians and Israelis; they want to get out from under dictatorial regimes that have held them in thrall for decades

They want “freedom” and “dignity.” modernity, prosperity, and the decent li more...

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Why Is There Hysteria Over Radical Islam Hearings?


Congressman Peter King's hearings on the alarming radicalization of young Muslims has met a firestorm of criticism. I would agree with some critics that these hearings should explore all domestic terrorism rather than just Islamist, including domestic fascist and armed racist cults. However, we cannot pretend that there is no Muslim problem.

Two important Muslim witnesses at the hearings include Dr. Zhudi Jasser and Asra Nomani. Jasser is founder of the American Islamic more...

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Tyrants have a long history.


Shakespeare said “Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown” Henry IV, Part Two. Throughout most of human history, kings ruled. They were thought to be annointed by God (or the gods), and were to be obeyed by all their subjects. But in some of the more advanced societies, kings were not all-powerful; there were exceptions.

Chinese culture demanded obedience to a king unless the king’s “mandate of heaven” was revoked. People could recognize that heaven no longer ble more...

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How Goes It With Women Around the World?

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 5, 2011

International Women's Day is coming up on March 8. Regarding women as human beings, equal in rights and dignity with men, is the boldest revolutionary change for mankind and is only a product of modern Western civilization. This view is not universal. Much of the world sees women as property to be disposed of as the men see fit. As my late mother-in-law once noted, it is better to be lucky than good.
more...

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Iran Is Closer To Imploding

Although Iran is an Islamic dictatorship that controls its news, certain things are leaking out. The revolts in the Arab world are making them very nervous.

• Disloyal Opposition. The opposition leaders during the disputed 2009 presidential election did not mean to undo the Islamic Revolution. The millions who voted for the opposition just wanted a better and less pious president. However, after the government set goons on the peaceful demonstrators in the streets, the world wi more...

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Why Egypt and Not Iran?

We have just witnessed a modern popular change of government---a revolution of sorts. Most Egyptians appear to have agreed on one thing: to end of the rule of Hosni Mubarak. Tunisians in the streets rid themselves of their long-time dictator a couple of weeks earlier. Everybody in the Middle East is watching and waiting to see which other autocracies crumble. Iranians are watching too---their Islamic dictatorship with alarm and the public with bitterness that their 2009 attempt failed.
< more...

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How Goes Democracy Around the World?

Democracy Project. The United States has long had a “democracy project.” After World War I, President Woodrow Wilson tried to establish an organization that would midwife newly freed colonies into democracies. He was instrumental in establishing the first “World Government,” the League of Nations, but a key Senator prevented the US from joining. That organization without us had even less teeth than today's United Nations.

At the end of World War II, the US has once more p more...

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Can “Power to the People” Get Egyptians Democracy?


Reporters standing amidst the throngs in Independence Square in Cairo seem to be carried away by the excitement of this demonstration of popular will. I do not share their enthusiasm; I fear human beings in mobs. Nice, ordinary people can be transformed by group-think (and a handful of manipulators) into deadly and destructive monsters. It takes only moments to go from a peaceful demonstration to organized burning, looting, and murder. But so far, this “revolution” has been remarkab more...

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Tunisia Is Not the Model For Other Arab World “Revolutions”

Tunisia, one of the more stable dictatorships in the Arab world, has erupted into what looks like a revolution. While this may remind us of the failed revolution last summer in Iran, the Tunisian dictator and his wife have left the country after a 23-year run. In Iran, the dictators are still there—barely holding on.

What makes this particular revolution significant is that it is not happening in a vacuum. Tunisia is a small country (10.6 million) in North Africa, close to south more...

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Can National Cultures Really Change?


One of the best geo-political analysts and forecasters around is George Friedman, head of STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasts), whose services are used by people responsible for foreign policy making. His team travels, talks to important decision makers, and watches unfolding events from the perspective of history.

Does history really repeat itself? Friedman thinks it does. “The geopolitical is about the intersection of geography and politics. It assumes that the political lif more...

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Why Do We Hate Government?

Democrats and Republicans have different ideas (in theory) of what government should do. Both believe that, as our founding father James Madison noted, if men were angels, they would need no government. But since they are not, they need government to control the unangelic among us---and government needs to control itself as well. Government is not given a free hand to rule. In our system, we have multiple checks and balances so that no one sector of government can become a dictatorship of unlimi more...

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A Few Surprises Are Happening in Afghanistan!


Although it seems like pushing a rock up a hill, our Afghan War may be coming to an end. We certainly want out of a war that seems to have no way of declaring victory—but we have been in that position in every war we have fought after World War II, the last war we definitively won. War is changing, just as social mores are changing.

Although Afghanistan seems to be the end of the world where civilization scarcely reaches, there are a few hopeful signs of change.
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What Is “American Exceptionalism?”

Most Americans believe in “American Exceptionalism,” even when they have never heard the term. This means that the history of the United States is unlike that of most of the world; we have neither hereditary nobility, king or dictator, nor a state-supported ethnic or religious identity.

One becomes American by birth or by choice (immigrants)—with identical rights. Our constitution is very much alive—changing as conditions in our world change, providing an adaptability ve more...

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December 2010

What Is “American Exceptionalism?”

Most Americans believe in “American Exceptionalism,” even when they have never heard the term. This means that the history of the United States is unlike that of most of the world; we have neither hereditary nobility, king or dictator, nor a state-supported ethnic or religious identity.

One becomes American by birth or by choice (immigrants)—with identical rights. Our constitution is very much alive—changing as conditions in our world change, providing an adaptability ve more...

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Being Nice Hasn’t Protected Sweden.

• The Grinch Steals Christmas.

Sweden, a country that has prided itself on its good sense, openness, decency, and neutrality has suddenly encountered the unexpected: the terror war coming home to them. Fortunately, the suicide bomber who wanted to blow up Swedes doing their Christmas shopping was incompetent—and he succeeded only in blowing up himself. You can be sure that the Swedes are now revisiting their practices regarding Islamist immigrants, as have all other European more...

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How Fragile is Civilization and How Thoughtless is Anarchy!


We in the developed world live in a civilization that would make our ancestors giddy. We have rule of law, participatory government, literacy, property rights and contracts, and live with possessions never dreamed of by the most lavish emperors of the past. But the most important thing that characterizes our civilization is a culture of trust. We trust that we do not have to fear our neighbors, that the market always has food, that there is a system of law enforcement that works quite we more...

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What is National Security?


The first duty of a government is to keep its citizens (or subjects) safe. Safe from what? We live in such relative safety that most of us have forgotten what the world was like for our ancestors—and what it is like for too many people around the globe today.

Many governments in history that kept their subjects safe were dictatorial and monstrous. Yet the devil they knew (the local tax collector or executioner) were better than the other devil they remembered all too we more...

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What Can We Do About Fear of Flying?

Whenever I fly, I get patted down because my titanium hip replacement sets off the alarm. I am used to it—and try to be good humored—as do the earnest agents who know how silly this is (considering that I am not a 15-30-year-old man nor a woman wearing a burqa).

Scanners are now in many airports—and they will both reduce the time spent in security lines and make it much less of a nuisance to taking off shoes, belts, and other things that could mask on-board weapons or explo more...

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Time for a National Dialogue on Crime?


No matter what we do, our prisons seem to get more and more crowded. Judges are often given no choice in the sentencing for certain crimes, and the crimes we list on the books keep growing. Just as we need to redo the nation’s infrastructure each half-century, we need to redo our justice system.

Definitions. Crimes are actions by a person to deliberately harm another or others: physical violence (assaults, rapes, murders), property harms (theft, holdups, home invasions more...

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Sometimes Important News Hides in the Back Pages.


Iran’s Problems.
The latest news from Iran: sanctions are really starting to bite. The government has suspended subsidies for food and fuel—which will not please the masses used to the largesse of bread and circuses (stoning women for adultery). People may put up with bad justice systems—but do not take kindly to losing subsidies considered entitlements.

In addition, the internal stresses in Iran’s government are difficult to confirm. Iran has such a lo more...

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Let’s Round Up The Usual Suspects


Norgrove Rescue.
A young British woman, Linda Norgrove, who was working in Afghanistan as an aid worker, was kidnapped in September. Her Afghan colleagues taken with her had been released by the Taliban, but she was still being held. An American special operations force tried to rescue her—but during their attack, there was an explosion and she (and her kidnappers) were killed.

How was this covered in the press? There were headlines saying “U.S. rescue force m more...

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Is the West Really Islamophobic—Or Under Attack?

An AP article on October 5/6 ran with a headline: “5 Germans killed in Pakistan with Europe on Alert.” Had the Nazi party revived? Reading further, the article said: “An American missile strike killed five German militants Monday in the rugged Pakistan border area where a cell of Germans and Britons at the heart of the U.S. terror alert for Europe---a plot U.S. officials link to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden—were believed in hiding.”

This long paragraph never mention more...

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Some People Have to Lie to Survive.


From the beginning of time, human beings have learned that telling the truth is not always the best policy. Courtiers learned not to tell truth to a king; workers had to lie to their bosses; women feared speaking the truth to a husband, as did children to their parents. Telling the truth, a value of modern Western life, is a luxury born of a society that punishes lies, not truth. And yes, our politicians are still learning this.

A recent movie, Easy A, tells the story of a more...

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Why Are We No Longer On The Same Page?

I remember when more Americans shared core values than had contentious differences. We have always had both Republicans and Democrats who valued fiscal prudence and self-reliance and both believed in the value of government. Both shared the values of a society of law and order, of vigorous but courteous debate, and of winning or losing an argument with grace. The losers in a national election still treated the president of the winning party with respect, and worked with him even while disagree more...

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Iran’s Islamic Justice Is a Message to the World

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, convicted in 2006 for having an “illicit relationship” with two men after her husband was murdered (by someone) the year before has become a cause célèbre in the western world.

This woman was accused, arrested, tortured for a confession, and was scheduled to be stoned to death for adultery this summer. However, the outcry from the US and Europe got her a little extra time. The Iranian Islamic government, very annoyed at the uproar, then decided t more...

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“The Sky Is Falling” Is Alive and Well—Again.


We are already past the millennium year 2000 (or was it actually 2001 that began the century) and the sky didn’t fall. Now what? Are we ready to recognize the new millennium as the beginning of something or will we still cling to knee-jerk pessimism?

In the year 1000, Europe panicked about the “end of times” that would probably cast them all into hellfire and damnation. The year 1,000 came and went, but the skies never opened. With a little ingenuity, the forecast more...

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Take Another Look at Tony Blair—Who Maybe Got It Right.

History does not necessarily validate contemporary assessments of famous politicians. Tony Blair, one of the most popular British Prime Ministers ever, left office under a cloud of opprobrium, not only by his own countrymen, but American progressives as well. He was condemned for having supported the war in Iraq (the 2003 war) and was dubbed “George Bush’s Poodle.” This is a sad end to what was a dazzling career—but maybe it is not the last word.

In Philadelphia (September more...

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September 2010

What “World Opinion” Are We Talking About?

Printed in Family Security Matters 9/24 and Santa Cruz Sentinel 9/25/10.

The UN’s opening session was September 21 this year and Iran’s president Ahmadinejad entertained us again at the opening. This is also a good time to review the UN’s concept of “world opinion.” The General Assembly seems only interested in Israel’s sins, while all other issues are neglected. There is malfeasance here.

Last summer in Lahor, Pakistan, gunmen stormed a hospital and sho more...

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Laina At the Movies, September, 2010


The American.
It is unusual to see George Clooney in a film that is better shown in an art house than a multiplex—but this one really fits both venues. Furthermore, Clooney’s performance could well win an Oscar. He appears in every frame—and without much dialogue—his face reveals a most painful inner struggle.

The story is that Clooney has been a government (US?) assassin for many years. As the story opens, he is pursued in Sweden by assassins from the oth more...

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Did We Have Guns of August Again?



There must be something about late summer that turns some countries belligerent. World War I began in August, 1914 and World War II started September 1, 1939. In September of 1806, Prussia and Russia declared war on Napoleon. All through the Middle Ages, wars also began in the fall, as did the famous war between England and France, ending in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 (see Shakespeare’s Henry V). Just a coincidence or is there a historic reason for this?

more...

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Sticks and Stones Go Big Time.


An idiot preacher with a congregation of maybe 50 people threatens to burn 200 Korans on 9/11 and the world goes mad! This incident shows us the downside of 24/7 news coverage. In Pakistan, a country that can afford to make nuclear weapons but not educate its young, is all up in arms when hearing that somebody is going to burn Korans. The usual rent-a mobs riot and burn American flags (and of course, this does not offend us, does it?) And one loudmouth grabs the microphone to announce more...

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A Venetian Tradition Bites the Dust—a Woman Gondolier!


On 9/11, our country was attacked by a sect particularly offended by the equality of men and women (an abomination in suicide/murderer Atta’s eyes). It is appropriate, then, to celebrate one of the most amazing revolutions in history—that women are not property but are persons. This revolution still horrifies many of the world’s more benighted cultures, as we know from their words and actions. See Time Magazine’s August 9 cover showing a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears wer more...

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Is There Any Hope for Afghanistan?

Imagine a country where:
• Five minutes out of the capital you need armed guards to travel.
• Without a national army or police, where only tribes and warlords control each region or fight with each other.
• The vast majority are not only illiterate, but are locked in a dreadful marriage of vengeful tribal law and an unenlightened Islam.
• That cannot defend itself from any its neighbors or from any great power that wants something there.
• T more...

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Germany Has Had a Curious Century of Islamic Relations.


Germans have been living in northern Europe for several thousand years. The Romans knew them as enemies at first, and later as applicants to be part of the Roman Empire. But Germany as a nation-state is new—1871—and as such, has scrambled to catch up with much older nation states of England and France.

Germany was late in empire building too—unlike Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands. Part of the injured pride that spurred Hitler’s World War II was the lus more...

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Religious Toleration Has Never Been Absolute.


The First Amendment of the US Constitution requires: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

There is no quarrel that Americans have the right to have their own religion (and that the government will not select an official one) and that they ma more...

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How About a Mosque at Ground Zero?


The proposal to build a large Islamic Cultural Center that includes a mosque two blocks from the ruins of the World Trade Center (ground zero of the Islamist attack) is very divisive. Is this a test of American tolerance, as Newsweek Editor Fareed Zakaria claims? Or is this the same as if the Japanese wanted to build a theme park at Honolulu?

Ground Zero’s National Importance. Just a visit to Ground Zero (which I have done) evokes enormous sadness and anger. For the Wor more...

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When is Freedom of Speech Incitement to Kill?

We all know that freedom of speech has one commonly accepted exception: when someone falsely yells “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Obviously this action will result in injury or death.

But another issue that faces us today is the very fuzzy line between free speech and incitement to violence. Such a case is roiling the Canadians today with a case in Toronto, reported on by the Toronto National Post (May 1, 2010). This story illustrates the painful nature of what to do with incit more...

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When is IQ a Major Security Issue?

August 7, 2010

Katie Baker (August 2 Newsweek) cites a new study that theorizes that constant endemic diseases can stunt brain (and body) development in children. This explains the lowest IQ scores in the world in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Mozambique, and Gabon. But these are not the only countries with bad numbers. The disease exposure for children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and village India are equally bad—and it is possible that not only disease, but other factors—incest more...

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Is Guatemala A Toxic Place for Women?


About 15 years ago, when I was running the UN Association in San Francisco, I was asked by women immigration lawyers to address their legal society to convince the male lawyers that women could qualify as a category suffering state persecution. This would make them eligible for US immigration—but there was fear that such eligibility would become a flood. The women lawyers were already on board, but their colleagues were not.

At that time, there was a notorious case in Ca more...

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Why Do Dead Ideas Continue to Haunt Us?


In New Orleans, there is a belief in the “undead”—zombies—who will not stay buried after they have died. This is definitely not a good thing to believers in Voodoo. However, in various places around the world, we are still seeing what we thought were dead ideas coming back to ruin a new generation of lives. There are three zombies out there: Marxism/Maoism, Nazism, and the cult of Militant Islamism.

Marxism/Maoism. Apparently there are people who didn’t hear th more...

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Are We Going to Need More Immigrants?

Immigration history in the US has always followed predictable trajectories. People around the world have periodically flooded in when there were jobs for them—or a future for them. They were needed—but simultaneously hated by the already integrated working class who feared labor competition.

The Players. Our first large-scale group of migrants were African---not voluntary immigrants, but slaves. Their history is a separate category.

In the mid-19th century, Germ more...

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Does Enlightened Self-Interest Rule the World?


Our founding fathers were influenced by the European Enlightenment, a movement reacting to two centuries of Catholic/Protestant religious wars, which ultimately disgusted intellectuals. Religion was the glue that had held Europe together from the fall of Rome to the end of the religious wars. But in its absence, what would be the new glue?

Jefferson took apart his Bible, discarded the “superstitious parts,” and rebound the remaining slim volume. He liked the moral tea more...

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What Are The Good Old Days?

In final exams given to my World History classes, the last question was: “If you had a time machine, which culture in the past would you choose to live in—and why would you choose it?” Then came part 2: “ If you had to gamble on being female rather than male, slave rather than upper class, would you still choose that culture?”

They all got it. The good old days were not good for everyone, and those cultures that had the largest number of unfortunate people were the ver more...

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Europe has an Identity Crisis.

There is an old Persian tale about a man who went up to a palace gate, banging on it and demanding entrance. The guard asked what he wanted. “I want to stay at this inn!” he said. “This is not an Inn,” said the guard. “It is a palace of the Shah.”

“Who lived there before him?” asked the man. “His father,” said the guard. “And before that?” “His grandfather and great-grandfather.”

“This sounds like an inn to me! People coming and going. more...

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Let’s Have Another Look at the “Humanitarian” Flotilla

A supposedly humanitarian flotilla that set out in June to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas in Gaza can be looked at a number of ways. The event was not what it seemed in the first 24 hours, when the world press was treated to conflicting video tapes from both sides. What really went on?

The Players.
• The Israelis have grown increasingly sour over events in Gaza, a region once occupied by Egypt and later by the PLO. When the Israelis, under world (and domestic) pre more...

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Some Bedfellows are Incomprehensible

There is an Arab adage: “The Enemy of my Enemy is My Friend.” Unfortunately, this is not always so. The enemy of your enemy may be your enemy too! It makes no sense to me that the University world has demonized Israel in favor of the most repressive of Islamic “friends.”

Since the 1970s, the most radical-left factions of activists in universities have been bedfellows of the most radical-right, socially benighted groups. I recently watched a German film: The Baader-Meinh more...

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What is a Circassian and Why Should We Care?

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Ask anybody about genocides—the deliberate attempt to wipe out—in whole or in part—an entire people, and they will come up with a depressing list. In the past century alone, we had an enormous part of the Armenian population of Ottoman Turkey, six million European Jews, and former Yugoslavian Bosnian Muslims murdered at the hands of the Turks, Nazis, and Serbs, respectively. Tutsis were murdered by Hutus in Rwanda and the people of Darfur province more...

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Why is Sex Such a Global Problem?


For a biological system programmed for species survival, humans have manage to turn sex into a hideous institution for exercising power over others. This perversion of sex is used by some men to exert control over women, girls, and boys. What should be a partnership between mates, as in the rest of nature, is too often a bludgeon for abuse of power.

Of course, some men have grievances too, claiming that beautiful women (or any women) deliberately drive them wild with desir more...

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Can We Ever Force Peace on Combatants?



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Historically there are two ways to end war: one side triumphs and the other side surrenders—or they forge an armistice or truce. A third way to end war is for a third party to impose a resolution on the parties. This can work only if both parties know they have been defeated and have no other option.

In ancient Greece and Rome, when conflicts reached the point of all-out war, the winning side would seize loot as reparations, kil more...

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Good Old “May Day” Comes Back From the Dead


On May Day in Santa Cruz, California, what was promoted as a college block party turned out instead to be a rampage of destruction led by a few black-clad, masked anarchist thugs. The undermanned police force was caught with their guard down, and small businesses suffered thousands of dollars of destruction. This time, there were no deaths, but the next time there may be.

In Athens, also on May Day, peaceful demonstrators marched to protest against capitalism and the econ more...

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Annual Darwin Awards?


Darwin Awards usually refer to those whose decisions are so stupid that they remove themselves from the gene pool by dying. My annual survey uses a slightly different definition: those whose decisions are so flawed that the consequences of their actions reduce the global IQ.

Religious Wisdom. A senior Iranian cleric, the ever dazzling Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who leads Friday prayers at Tehran University, knows whom to blame when Tehran has a huge earthquake. This cit more...

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What Can These Women Be Thinking?


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April 20, 2010

Since 1985, more than 250 women, Tamil, Chechen, Indian, and Muslim, have become suicide bombers.

An unsettling new trend is emerging: conversion of Western women to Islam and their recruitment into Islam’s most murderous cults. How can such a misogynistic movement seduce women?

Recently two American women were picked up on terror charges: one the petite blonde known as “Jihad Jane” and the ot more...

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What Makes President Karzai Tick?



One of the most difficult issues for foreign policy is to understand the default nature of a culture. By this, I mean, what are the normal values that people in a particular culture have, values inculcated by parents, community, and history? Human beings are certainly capable of sometimes radical change under the right circumstances—but over the long haul, we all revert to what feels natural and right.

Americans are always taken aback when a person from another c more...

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How Was the “Christmas Bomber” Radicalized?


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National Public Radio (NPR) has been doing a fascinating series on how the young Nigerian wanabe bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was radicalized. Much of what they have provided resonates with the research I did for my book, God’s Law or Man’s Law, published just before 9/11/2001. I tracked fanatical and violent religious movements around the world that appeared threatening to all secular governance. Although there are fanatics in every more...

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Tea Party Buffs and the Far Left are Buddies.



Recently, I heard an interview with ultra-conservative former congressman Dick Armey. He apparently thinks that Social Security, Medicare, and other social services should be voluntary, which would, of course, gut them. But the real surprise came when he was asked if there is anybody on the left that he admires and he named Ron Dellums, a former congressman and current mayor of Oakland. Dellums is about as far on the political left (and ineffectual) as one can get. Why should Arm more...

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Was There an Original Human Religion?



Who would have thought as recently as the 1970s that we would be paying attention to an institution as old as religion—and for the modern world, one that was obsolete? But here we are in 2010 with religious issues—some of them deadly—in the daily news.

The Faith Instinct—How Religion Evolved and Why it Endures, by Nicholas Wade, makes a case that religion not only has an evolutionary (survival) basis, but also all of today’s religions have evolved out of more...

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Whose Ally is Turkey Today?

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In my college Sociology text (decades ago), was a surprising survey asking who would American fathers most object to their daughters marrying. At the top of the list came Turks—yet few of these fathers had ever met one. This reflected a fear so old that it was buried deeply in the western memory bank.

In 1452, the Ottoman Turks conquered the old Byzantine Empire, that eastern part of the Roman Empire that had been a great power for a thousand more...

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Greece is in the Grip of Denial.


Greece is on the verge of bankruptcy and the rest of the European Union is much alarmed. The very currency of the EU, the Euro, is endangered by this and Germany, an economic giant in Europe, may have to bail Greece out to prevent a cascade of disasters.

Not only is Greece is in trouble, but so are Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Suddenly, all of the optimistic predictions about the European community overtaking us and making the Euro replace the dollar as the world’s major more...

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Who Is “An Enemy of God?”


There is some very strange language coming out of Iran today. Unarmed Demonstrators) are being arrested, summarily tried, and executed. Their crime: they are “Enemies of God.” This now accompanies the earlier stupid crime designation: “a polluter of earth.” No, this is not an ecological crime; it is a crime against the government that considers any backtalk pollution. But enemy of God implies that the great ayatollah and the country’s illegitimately-elected president are eith more...

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Europe is Having an Important Burqa Debate.


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Europe, with a seemingly large immigrant Muslim population—and not a well integrated one at that—is having open discussion on what to do about women wearing total face-obscuring garments. It is one thing to wear a headscarf, which bothers secularists, but another thing altogether to have women wearing the Arab niqab or Afghan burqa. Why should this be such an issue?

Reciprocity has not been mentioned. If a European woman travels to more...

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Why Do Small Businesses Get So Little Respect?


A reader responding to my recent column on poisonous ideologies (Fascism, Communism, and Militant Islam) asked why I didn’t include capitalism. My response was that capitalism has raised more people out of poverty than any ideology ever, and does not depend upon brainwashing. I suggested he read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic, which traced the evolution of American capitalism. This ethic was the first ideology to validate work—that work is not an evil, but is a good thing—both more...

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Does Bad Childrearing Produce Terrorists?

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There is a long tradition on blaming mothers for creating criminal children. We hear about neglect, abuse, and ignorance—and, of course, bearing children out of wedlock. However, childrearing since the 20th century has improved markedly in the Western world and continues to occupy an important place in the minds of most parents.

But another sort of childrearing is under the microscope today: the traditional childrearing practices in the Musli more...

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October 2009

Can Too Much Freedom Destroy Democracy?


We have just gone through a summer of obnoxious free speech—which the First Amendment of our Constitution is designed to protect. But there is one caveat in our protection of free speech: it must not pose a public danger (rousing a mob to violence, encouraging assassination of public officials, or falsely shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater).

I would say we are getting close to that caveat—and have been teetering on this brink for some time.

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Is There Any Hope for Afghanistan?




Imagine a country where:
• Five minutes out of the capital you need armed guards to travel.
• Without a national army or police, where only tribes and warlords control each region or fight with each other.
• The vast majority are not only illiterate, but are locked in a dreadful marriage of vengeful tribal law and an unenlightened Islam.
• That cannot defend itself from any its neighbors or from any great power that wants somethi more...

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July 2009

The Iranian Revolution May Be In Phase Two


It is not easy to track the progress of the current Iranian Revolution, considering the blocking efforts of the Islamic Revolutionary government. However, people still come and go, and once out of Iran, talk. This includes analysts—several of the best of them, Iranian-born (Karim Sadjatpour and Trita Parsi), have been in Iran recently and have many contacts there.

President Obama correctly noted that “the dust has not settled” in the aftermath of the contentious (and more...

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Why is War Always “Disproportionate”?


Warfare has never been a ballet of equality between combatants. When World War II began, the Nazis, Japan, and even Italy, disproportionately attacked and bombed weak countries that had done nothing to them. Civilians were targeted and the Axis’ occupations were brutal.

But by late 1944, the tide had turned. The United States and Great Britain were disproportionately powerful in the air, encountering little opposition from the Nazis. The US dropped two atomic bombs o more...

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