Florida Gutter Birds!

Florida Gutter Birds!

Florida Bald Eagles in SewerTwitter lit up when two bald eagles fighting over Florida fell down the drain.  Both sides of the recent political battle in the US interpreted this to their advantage. Trump was alternately taking our nation down – or rescuing it from – the sewer. If a bald eagle had fought a hawk or dove the analogy might fly, pun intended, but that’s not what happened.
Both were bald eagles – symbolic of our Nation. Both landed in the Gutter, and fell down the drain. And it happened because they were fighting.
It matters not which one was on top, or if the gutter was on the left or the right side of the road. In fact, Right and Left are relative, depending on if you’re facing East, West, North or South on that road. We need to find a way to acknowledge that both visions have merit, and that a compromise is needed, in which both sides work together, harmoniously.
Trump was elected, in my opinion, because even though Obama had a 55% approval rating, more people, at this moment in time, think Trump will lead in the way necessary over the next four years than think Hillary will. Tomorrow their opinions may change, but the election is over.
Republicans certainly don’t all agree with Trump on any given issue. But if they do agree on anything, it’s that they don’t like the direction Obama was taking the country. Republican control of the Presidency, the Senate and Congress means that most, if not all, of Obama’s major initiatives, will be rolled back. They believe Trump understands the average Joe, or traditional majority, if you will, and they want Trump to tackle Washington bureaucracy, corruption, and dismantle big government.  This is true, even though Obama’s approval rating is high.
A reverse in direction like this is the nature of the American system, one of the least horrible on the planet. Whether that is the reason for recent protests / riots and the fear-mongering of the left about Trump’s fear-mongering on the right, the bald eagles of the Democratic and Republican party are in a knock-down drag-out fight, and it doesn’t look like it’s over.
1431875_89afdcb6So, the question is, how far down the drain will the two eagles go, and can we stop long enough to chart a course that leverages the strength and orientation of both the Left and Right Wings of the American Eagle? 
The final popular vote tally will mark this election as one of the closest in American history. Sadly, with the exception of the civil war period, it’s probably fair to say that we have never been more divided.

Will Trump do a better job than Obama did at bringing the country together? While the jury is out, those who are openly opposing Trump before he even takes office have already delivered a verdict.

But having won a democratic election, doesn’t he deserve a chance?

The outgoing president seems to think so, and hopefully those who threw their support so wholeheartedly behind Obama can continue to follow his lead, under a new leader.
High Minded Leaders

High Minded Leaders

I’m sorry, but I’m appalled by the reactions of many of our political leaders to the growing turmoil caused by belligerent militant bad actors on the global scene. Innocent men, women and children are being slaughtered, and in the US and elsewhere leaders seem consumed by petty partisan politics.  What am I getting at with the title High Minded Leaders?

The phrase is inspired by a little known book written 150 years ago by a visionary spiritual leader. It is appropriately titled “The Secret of Divine Civilization” and its author, Abdu’l Baha, outlined a clear, practical solution to how a modern head of state should approach the issues we now face.

 “In like manner, the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited, for if the preparations for war and the military forces of any nation should be allowed to increase, they will arouse the suspicion of others. The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government. Should this greatest of all remedies be applied to the sick body of the world, it will assuredly recover from its ills and will remain eternally safe and secure.”

How do we apply this? Being an American, I’ll highlight that the US President is also our Commander in Chief, with a solemn duty to protect those who have elected him according to sound principles of national security. Yet as we are descending into the most perilous crisis the world has ever faced, this article challenges the content of our President’s recent speeches and pronouncements. High Minded Leaders?This is not intended to single out this US President, but he, along with all other global leaders, are accountable to sound principles. We can ask whether key policies and actions in recent years align with the above quote, to educate ourselves, wherever we live, before we head back to the voting booth.

ISIS Claimed Territories (Chinese)1) Regardless of how America got there, Iraq had been stabilized after the removal of it’s brutal oppressive dictator, but was allowed to descend into ISIS driven chaos by the premature withdrawal of US and allied forces, which were maintaining order, with the help of local enforcement.
2) Russia’s leader violated an international agreement it signed with Ukraine, executed in alignment with the above quote – i.e. for the reduction of (nuclear) armaments, and the other signatories (the US and the UK) did not come anywhere near taking the actions prescribed by the quote.
3) The US drew a red line against another brutal oppressor, Syria’s Assad, who used chemical weapons against his own people, against the Geneva accord. The red line was in alignment with Abdu’l Baha’s outline, the subsequent failure to enforce it is, in this authors opinion, a major contributor to a further descent into chaos that has since resulted.

Iran Nuclear Agreement4) The US and others struck a deal intended to renew Iran’s commitment to the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty. Instead, it rewards a brutal terrorism sponsoring regime for its violations and agrees to allow increased Armaments, the opposite of, in this author’s opinion, Abdu’l Baha’s prescription.

This is NOT about being a Monday morning quarterback, or about criticizing a sitting President. It’s about education and trying make better forward-looking decisions going forward. You can, and should, check my track record – as I’ve been discussing this situation and warning of deterioration for years. This recent post provides a summary, with links to other posts further back in time. My main purpose today is to challenge those of us electing leaders to evaluate what may be wrongheaded ideas about virtues we hold dear, such as peace and love. Abdu’l Baha’s message highlights how even those with peace and love in their hearts – those who might qualify as what he called “high minded sovereigns” – must agree to confront those bent on murder and mayhem.

Stopping Evil HitlerHowever important it is to have love and understanding in our hearts, this visionary spiritual leader had the foresight to outline what tough love in international relations looks like. And then to emphasize how critically important it is to resolve, with every power at our disposal, to destroy rogue governments. If we are unwilling we, according to the quote, have no right to expect peace.

How did we get here?

Many nations and institutions, backed by well-meaning but naive and, frankly, foolish people, have been enabling and even encouraging our descent into this weak and unstable global situation, in which terrorists, murderous fanatics, despots and bully-governments can wreak havoc. Thankfully, the sheer intensity of the current “chickens-coming-home-to-roost” situation, with attacks in Paris being the most striking recent example, is helping people to wake up and shake off the hypocritical thinking that has fettered them with the shackles of self-deceit.

World PeaceAn understanding of Abdu’l Baha’s book would, in my opinion, represent a major shift towards a balanced view of justice – that would put the world back on the path to peace, as outlined in The Secret of Divine Civilization.

Hypocrisy? What Hypocrisy?

Hypocrisy? What Hypocrisy?

HypocrisyWhat is Hypocrisy? The various dictionaries offer definitions such as: “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform”. The focus of attention usually trends in this direction “especially:  the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion “.

Note that these are skewed against those who claim to adhere to standards, particularly moral ones. Perhaps that is because religion tends to call out very high, generally unattainable ideals. This has led to a systemic problem. It is increasingly difficult to find a non-hypocritical “true North” in a post-modern, post-religious age when even claiming a desire to adhere to standards, particularly moral ones, exposes people to the label of hypocrisy. The label is typically applied by those who have proven their supposed lack of hypocrisy by adopting amoral stances, outside the above “especially” focus. Far from indemnifying such attackers this approach is an indictment. Thus I prefer the second definition offered by Dictionary.com: “a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude”.

Guilty as ChargedI’ve long been an outsider, judged by such publicly approved attitudes. At first this was due to circumstances beyond my control, then by choice. Normal is relative. It depends on where you live. Even the worst criminals on the planet justify their deeds. I’ve spent decades trying to unmask any and all hypocrisy, in myself and within approved and desirable segments of society. A better answer to the question What is Hypocrisy? is the intent of this blog. It is a thorny issue which is quite challenging to address, as you’ll see clearly in a moment.

To properly understand it we need a good test case. The aggregation of religious, social, economic, legal and just about any other kind of history you can name has produced what I believe to be the perfect case study. It is the current situation in what is called the “Holy Land” the center of Middle East conflict, the flame causing the pot of Islamic Jihad to boil, the issue at the center of what seems to be an emerging global crisis that threatens to suck us inexorably into a third world war. I’m talking about the issue of Palestinian Statehood. There is no better question available today, on which to test our ability to apply standards of truth and fairness, than this one. Would we be part of a fair and impartial jury, if one could be constructed, to resolve this conundrum?

mother_palestine__netanyacula_by_latuff2The title of a recent article in the New York Post: “The Myth at the Heart of the Palestinian’s dilemma” sums it up. Popular sentiment, and publicly approved attitudes increasingly embrace the myth that Israel is the cause of Palestinian misery and their failure to obtain statehood, including the false facts and outright lies incorporated within it. The article presents, for example, that many leaders and influencers are increasingly adopting the narrative around the existence, past or present, of a Palestinian State – which is patently false.

This quote in the article jumped out at me “Many of those “peace-processers” — the NGO workers and the diplomats in pursuit of book deals or their Nobel Prizes — mean well.” This simple statement illustrates the point about adopting a publicly approved attitude. They have done so. But the adoption of the attitude is not the pretense, not where the hypocrisy lies. Most are no doubt sincere in adopting it.

Martin Luther King Injustice AnywhereNo, the hypocrisy lies in the publicly approved attitude itself. How does wholesale hypocrisy happen? How do we become systemically hypocritical, to the point where honest brokers are crucified by popular demand? I have a clear answer, but first, let me address the issue of Palestinian Statehood.

My children are currently 4 and 7 year olds who, not surprisingly, occasionally fight. Their squabbles often ignite at the island in our kitchen at which they usually eat breakfast and lunch. There are three high swiveling bar stools, but the children usually decide to sit next to each other, vs. having a chair between them. Let this island stand as a metaphor for the Holy Land, and the children and their choice of proximity stand for the Jews and the Palestinians.

If my 7 year old daughter grabs the green bowl her 4 year old brother quickly screams “I wanted the green bowl” and proceeds to lunge for it. My daughter has been known to respond by  swiveling the back of her chair to her brother, declaring “You’re in jail”. Howls of emotional pain erupt from inside this prison. Pushing and/or banging of the backs of chairs against the edge of the counter can quickly erupt, and given the fragile nature of small fingers, and the relative height of the chairs, adult intervention is called for. It is necessary to protect the innocent and/or not so innocent alike, not to mention to keep our household on schedule. Even if deadly force is not being used, trips to the emergency room can be quite disruptive to the whole family.

Squabbling ChildrenOur approach is often to treat both parties as equally guilty. But, as loving parents teaching kindness, respect, fairness and most importantly, truthfulness and exercise of sound judgment, sometimes we have to take a side in a given altercation. In the case of the Holy Land, the Jews ended up with the green cup. The League of Nations unanimously awarded ALL of Palestine to the Jews.

This, of course, encouraged Jews to continue their ongoing settlement in the recently liberated territory. When the United Nations later amended this, the Jews accepted a reduction in territory and proceeded to establish a Jewish State called Israel. No amount of Palestinian protest can, or should, change that. The Palestinians, however, rejected the arrangement. They have endorsed a path of violence to get their way. No amount of “well-meaning” to the contrary can alter these facts. And I submit that most of the world today is practicing systemic hypocrisy against the nation of Israel.

Hypocrisy, False Equivalency, Double StandardBy what standard or definition?

It could be maintained that the Torah is the foundation stone of the Jewish state. In the book of Deuteronomy chapter 25:13 we read the following: Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.” The next verse says don’t even have them in your house. Later books call the practice an abomination. What does this have to do with hypocrisy?

Simply this. A false scale can be used to skew justice and truth – and it represents the warped equilibrium which underlies hypocrisy. To straighten that which is bent, let’s examine the different ways in which the scale gets warped. There are two different types of false weights in our bags.

The first is a double standard. We generally know what this is, but it’s important in this blog to define it. It is applying a different measure to two things that are the same. In this context it is holding Israel to a higher standard than that to which we hold the Palestinians (or Iranians, or Syrians, or Turks, or the US for that matter). And yet this is done all the time, in which every supposed excess Israel commits in self-defense is put on the gold-scale, whereas horrific and systemic human rights abuses by others are glossed over. But as egregious as the double standards are, which are applied to Israel, the second type of scale-warp is much, much weightier, in terms of its ongoing impact.

The second type of hypocrisy that tips the scales is a mirror image of a double standard. It is treating two things that are different as though they are the same – called a false equivalency. Comparing the history of the origins of the State of Israel, whose rights under the League of Nations and the United Nations Mandates were being systematically undermined by the British, to the Palestinians today, is one example. The struggle of the Jews to establish a state and the means to protect themselves from their aggressive neighbors has little, if anything, in common with the various intifadas, much less with Hamas. Treating Palestinian aggression and Israeli self-defense as equal or asking both sides to “stop the incitement” is another example. At the level of governments and the United Nations it is pretending that there is a Palestinian State. This is why I earlier called Sweden’s “recognition” of a Palestinian State out as completely hypocritical. By allowing such a move and even worse, supporting it, one begins to turn truth and judgment upside down. If this kind of delusional fraud is not counteracted systemic hypocrisy and the martyrdom of innocents is an inevitable result.

Fair Just ObjectiveI encourage you to begin evaluating issues using this simple, but effective tool. Unless we throw out our bag of diverse weights fair and honest judgment will elude us. And lest anyone think this is a trivial point, or a matter of semantics, let me move forward in time from the words of Moses to quote his successor. In Matthew 24:51 Jesus addresses any servant found unfaithful at His return, promising to  “cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites”.

As for me and mine, we will continue to work hard to identify any diverse weights and measures and to banish them from our house.




The Secret of Divine Civilization

The Secret of Divine Civilization

Syrian RefugeesThis blog is dedicated to the millions of dead and suffering souls in places like Syria and the countries struggling with the assimilation of millions of global refugees. In the case of refugees from Islamic nations this is a mixed bag comprised of the gentle and Jihadists, terrorists and terrified, further complicating matters.

Syria has a rich history. Its capital, Damascus, is among the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. In that sense Syria is symbolic of the state of the world. It now lies in ruins, and with Russia moving in through a door left open by the current US administration, which protests their entrance, Syria may well become the Next Sarejevo. And if Syria does not turn out to be the tinder-keg that sets off WWIII there are plenty of other candidates of equal volatility.

I’ve blogged about Syria, Sweden, Russia, Israel, human rights, religious freedom, the Iran deal, and more. Such key data points form a fact pattern to help us understand why the world is in this state of disarray, but this question remains.

One small step How on earth, more than 50 years after Armstrong took one small step to prove that man can, in fact, ascend to heaven, did we arrive here? Why do we today experience horror we thought we, as a species, had grown out of? As an American citizen, I’ll focus on how I believe the US has contributed to the current situation.

After having done much to lead humanity forward, in the last decade we have abdicated the role of global policeman that was (for better or worse, rightly or wrongly) forced upon us after a long and protracted cold war. Let’s quickly review the recent history that brought us, as a species, to this moment.

The nation that won a space race with the Soviet Union, the United States, did so because of its ability to assimilate refugees and visionaries from around the planet. We represent all people and tongues, and the race to the moon represented our parent’s positive aspirations, their altruistic vision, and their willingness to let personal history, culture and language become a secondary identity in favor of being a citizen of States that had voluntarily united. Saluting the FlagWe were a “company of nations” working together in peace and harmony for the betterment of mankind. My forthcoming book, The Rod of Iron, will explain how this fulfills aspirations dating back to the City of Bab-El (Gate of God). The voluntary assembly of these States is in stark contrast to “Unions” built by military force and intimidation. But in the last decade, after having won both the space race and the cold war the United States is in retreat. We lead from behind while bullies exploit openings presented by explosive rivalries emerging in a super-heated state after centuries of forced repression by global dictatorships.

What is the path to Peace and how can we walk it? To provide a focal point in answering the question of how to achieve a real and lasting peace, I’d like to introduce you to Abdu’l Baha, a relatively unknown religious leader, who published an astonishing little book in 1875, at the close of the Age of Enlightenment. It is boldly but in my opinion appropriately titled The Secret of Divine Civilization. One passage that has recently illuminated my understanding is this amazingly prescient quote, which seems to foretell the sequential geopolitical challenges the modern world has since faced. It provides a clear and unmistakable answer to the question that opened this paragraph.

“True civilization will unfurl its banner in the midmost heart of the world whenever a certain number of its distinguished and high-minded sovereigns—the shining exemplars of devotion and determination—shall, for the good and happiness of all mankind, arise, with firm resolve and clear vision, to establish the Cause of Universal Peace. They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking—the real source of the peace and well-being of all the world—should be regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth. All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant. In this all-embracing Pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and all international agreements and obligations ascertained. In like manner, the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited, for if the preparations for war and the military forces of any nation should be allowed to increase, they will arouse the suspicion of others. The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government. Should this greatest of all remedies be applied to the sick body of the world, it will assuredly recover from its ills and will remain eternally safe and secure.”

Swords into PlowsharesAbdu’l Baha’s words predated and predicted the rise of the League of Nations, which the world was finally ready for in the wake of a horrific world war. President Woodrow Wilson is considered its architect, yet despite his proposal being wildly popular in the US he ended up leaving office before it could be assembled, and ultimately the US never joined.  Thus it failed to meet essential criteria outlined by Abdu’l Baha, which inevitably led to a second, even worse, global war. WWII, fueled by aberrant ideologies, featured the unbelievable atrocity known as the holocaust. So extreme was the revulsion to these events that an idea, again introduced by a US president during the war, was quickly implemented in its wake. That idea was the United Nations, of which the United States was a charter member, and it came closer to the ideal espoused by Abdu’l Baha, 70 years earlier.

And yet the United Nations became corrupted by nations that have since joined with the agenda of using it to destroy the very people whose suffering inspired its creation, the Jews. And the selfish and self-serving aspirations of key member states have enabled this evil corruption, as they use the United Nations as a political cover for violating the very principles upon which it was founded, principles outlined by Abdu’l Baha, in the above quote.

Another key signpost Abdu’l Baha’s quote appears to foreshadow was the establishment of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Rather than the crucible of war, the backdrop for its creation was the US success referenced above, the moon landing. It doesn’t cover all armaments, and is in other ways not comprehensive, which means it also falls short of Abdu’l Baha’s standard.  Nonetheless, since nuclear weapons are so exceedingly powerful, and because the treaty achieved such near universal adoption, it can serve as an example of how the criteria set out by Abdu’l Baha might work, if followed. The Chemical Weapons Convention, for example, can be considered a direct descendant of this amazing achievement, expanding its scope. The adoption of the NPT provides clear examples of how following his advice can lead to peace and help us see why we ignore his advice at our own peril. He states emphatically that if/when a nation violates a treaty limiting armaments the rest of the world should be united in its resolve to confront the bully. Here is the specific quote, written down 100 years in advance of the treaty which it seems to foretell:
“if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government.”

We can use this framework to answer questions like: Should the President of the United States have backed off his Chemical Weapons “Red Line” in Syria?” Is there a connection between the way in which Russia, which signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, was largely unopposed in its recent incursion into Ukraine and ended up entrenched in Syria, supporting the regime that used them? Is this not directly due to how the US, rather than enforcing the Chemical Weapons Convention, deferred to Russia to handle the Chemical Weapons violation? Students of Geopolitical history and Realpolitik will not have any difficulty tracing the chess moves that led to this.


Call it what it is!

Meanwhile, the primary violator of the NPT itself, Iran, now has, in effect, a treaty with the same nation that historically has led the world towards peace, in accordance with the principles outlined by Abdu’l Baha. And that same treaty undermines the United Nations provisions that limit its armaments.

What a tangled web we have now woven. When it comes to peace, leading from behind is bad enough. Leading in the wrong direction is another thing entirely. Sadly, it seems, we are destined, in coming years, to reap consequences that will be catastrophic. And at this point in history, unfortunately, the only path forward appears to be through the crucible of another global conflagration.

Only then, apparently, will the nations understand The Secret of Divine Civilization, unveiled by Abdu’l Baha, in 1875.