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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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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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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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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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December 2016

Darwin Awards



My periodic "Darwin Awards" columns are to nominate those human beings whose existence lowers the global IQ.

Saudi Man Shoots Doctor Who Delivered His Wife?s Baby
This man was not only ungrateful, he was stupid. He was outraged to learn that a male gynecologist had been present at the birth of his wife?s baby. The doctor had seen his wife naked, he sputtered. The Saudi police tracked him down and arrested him, but will the Saudi "justice" system give him a 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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August 2016

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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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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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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It Ain't Necessarily So.

Summertime is here, and I find myself humming the song: "It ain't necessarily so." There are some stupid beliefs out there. As a devout centrist, I may make many of my readers unhappy today. But, I suspect there are many more who share my political position: in the thinking middle.

Left-Wing Baloney
? Black Lives Matter. Believers focus on how many police shootings of Black perpetrators there are. However 6,000 blacks are murdered each year, six times the rate of whites ad more...

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The Winter of Our Discontent?.

Shakespeare?s Richard III (before he became king) mentioned "the winter of our discontent." That certainly describes much of today?s world, with a vague sort of discontent over bad governments, unjust laws, and looking for someone to blame for floods, fires, and famines. Many people complain, but prefer fantasy and demagoguery to sound policies. There are always those who seize the imagination of mobs because they promise them everything.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, 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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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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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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Iran and Saudi Arabia Mix It Up.

In January, active warfare almost erupted when the Saudis decapitated a Shiite cleric, enraging Iran. On the surface, this seemed to be the ongoing hostility between the two major sects of Islam, the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority. Most Arabs and most Muslims around the world are Sunni; most Iranians, with pockets in the Middle East, are Shiite.

This antipathy is often compared with the Protestant-Catholic religious wars---a theological dispute. However, there is little th 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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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

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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Letter to the Editor: Ignoring the Obvious!

December 6, 2015
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Editors:

Ignoring the Obvious!

When a crime is committed and the authorities withhold the names of the perpetrators, you can be certain that it will be Muslims. When armed and trained killers murder people at a Christmas lunch, the motivation is clear: ISIS advice to go after "unbelievers."

After announcing the names of the murderers (American-born son of Pakistani immigrants and his Pakistani wife), more...

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September 2015

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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Stalin Revival In Georgia! How About Hitler?

Putin celebrated Russia's Victory Day this year (May 9), as a holiday commemorating the defeat of Hitler.

When World War II ended, the Russian public was delirious with joy! Russians in the streets embraced Americans and Englishmen and they all got drunk together. But in the years following, Stalin stopped this celebration. He feared that the sight of all the veterans missing limbs and the heroic generals in the parades might remind the public of what this war had cost the Russ 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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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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November 2014

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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The Elephant in the Room: The War Without a Name

As I watched the unfolding drama of an attack on the Canadian Parliament, I immediately suspected that the killer (or killers) were Muslims, probably converts. It took the rest of the day to confirm something that seems to make many in the press uncomfortable. The press, government officials (our own and other democratic leaders), academics, and the "spokesmen" for Islam (a religion that has no official leadership) tap-dance around trying to avoid the word "Muslim." "These violent people are n 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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September 2014

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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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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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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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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Village Justice in India Doesn?t Belong in a Modern Country.


We hear all the time that India is the world?s largest democracy. Certainly by demographics, this is so, but by quality, they are not good enough. However, the good news is that India?s underbelly is no longer hidden; world press has caught up, and decent Middle Class urban Indians are outraged.

India continues to have too many published cases of gang rape and abuse of women. It is good that these are now in the open, but how many thousands more cases never make it to the 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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Do They Need Mosquito Nets or Law and Order?


Despite what we hear about crime, the American crime rate declined during this past decade and few Americans have ever experienced violent crime. The same is true in Western Europe, with the exception, in both societies, of certain inner-city neighborhoods.

In this country, Black and Hispanic gangs fueled by drugs, drug money, and no future, terrorize their neighbors and, often, their schoolmates. The police try, but as in New York, their efforts to stop and search likely 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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“The Religion of Peace” gets Brandeis Support


On just one day, and appearing on just one page of the San Francisco Chronicle (April 10), three articles appeared about bomb blasts perpetrated by Muslim extremists murdering other Muslims.

• Pakistan. The first was in Pakistan (22 killed, 83 grievously wounded by nuts and bolts packed in a carton of fruit). These fanatics particularly like exploding in open marketplaces where they can maximize killing the most women and children. This attack took place in Islamabad, P 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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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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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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Nelson Mandela Soared Above The Real World.


In late December, the remarkable Nelson Mandela died at 95, leaving behind many admirers, but few followers in governance. His funeral brought together world leaders---astonishing, considering that half a century ago, he was imprisoned as a terrorist by the apartheid South African government. But most remarkable was his release from prison, his forgiveness for those who had harmed him, and his leadership as the first Black president of South Africa. He established a model of racial tole more...

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December 2013

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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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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Revisiting American and Global Culture Wars


George Will recently wrote a column about “When liberals became scolds.” He was certainly right about that, when considering such liberals as Amy Goodman and Media Benjamin (the notorious Code Pink). I have never heard either of these women say anything positive about our country. If one were to ask them, I am certain that they would say that they love this country so much that they want it to be better than it is. They seem to think of all their carping as loyal opposition.
more...

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September 2013

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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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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Anthropology Wars Affect Us All.

Anthropology Wars Affect Us All.

Humans have always been curious about the customs of others, as first systematically applied by the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, who traveled the ancient world observing its varied cultures. It is obvious that human cultures differ. We are not just the product of natural instinct; rather, we make survival decisions based on our geography, experience with our neighbors, responses to dangers, and the luck of bad or good leadership.
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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Rape Epidemics May Spell Death Throes for a Culture.


When I first lived in Iran, before the Islamic Revolution, I never felt threatened in the streets. Upper class women went about their errands in Tehran, dressed in the latest Paris fashions of the day, including miniskirts during the 1960s. Other than being pinched in a crowd, the prospect of rape was nil. Lower class women were dressed in chadors (faces visible) and managed to hang on to these unwieldy veils with their teeth, while managing several tots and netted shopping bags. I felt 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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December 2012

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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Sex, Religion, Politics, and Power Make a Powerful Quartet.


I have waited until the salacious reporting on General Patraeus’ fall from grace has died down before I weigh in. It is no secret that the United States has conflicting standards on that most difficult of human issues, sex. On one hand, in the public sphere today, anything goes. But we are still the children of our Puritan beginnings, and remnants of these values remain with us, particularly with our leaders.

• Power. From our beginnings as humans, the relationship 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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How Does Testosterone Fuel Political Rampages?


Riots by the insulted and furious are not exclusive to the Muslim world, although it has become a standard cultural exercise there. I remember the student demonstrations of 1973, furious demonstrations that spread throughout Europe and America. We came to think that “students” owned revolutions; but they are only cannon fodder. I was taking my doctoral oral exams at USC when the proceedings were interrupted by the sound of breaking glass across the campus. For months, I had moved more...

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July 2012

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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November 2011

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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