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.

Red Cardinals v Blue Pope

Red Cardinals v Blue Pope

Gay Francis - the Blue Pope v Red CardinalsIs the Catholic Church at risk of a Red Cardinals v Blue Pope showdown? Is it succumbing to the wave of global political polarization typified by today’s United States? Maybe.

Traditionalists are upset with progressive Pope Francis, who now faces a conservative backlash from Cardinals who believe he has gone too far, too fast. This certainly calls to mind the current political situation in the United States. Here we see a large, conservative religious population engaging in political warfare against a liberal secular society growing in power and prominence. In their view, religion is being forced to the sidelines of public life, in favor of a morality with which they have little in common.

The Catholic Church is one institution that has been resistant to the secularization of society. Is the tide becoming too powerful. Is a pending Red Cardinals v Blue Pope showdown the beginning of the end of Papal authority?

What is the answer to the conundrum of polarization? How can we, in the post-modern democratic world, integrate the interests of spiritual and secular folks alike? Can we bridge the gap between religion and science? Can we strike a balance between religious freedom and freedom from religion?

Science and ReligionReaders of this blog understand my goal in addressing such topics and raising such questions. It is to reach across the divides that separate us, to build bridges that can move us forward together. We must pursue elevated discussion between those with divergent viewpoints.

In pursuit of that goal, please share this post using the social media links below. And join in on the discussion by commenting on this blog or in my Facebook group. Let us know if you think the Red Cardinals v Blue Pope movement is destined to gain traction and share your thoughts on how to reverse this trend in society and politics.

Is the Denali change Black or White?

Is the Denali change Black or White?

I graduated from High School in Alaska, in the shadow of Mount McKinley. We routinely referred to it as Denali and if I recall correctly my younger sister attended Denali elementary (I was already in Jr. High when we moved there).
Anyway, the POTUS has decided to act – and I’m here curious not so much about how you feel about the name change itself – as I assume a huge majority of Americans probably would support it, as I do, but rather about the way it happened.
To me this is important, because as much as I’m a progressive on many, many issues, our Constitution is our national covenant, and the success of our country has been the creation of a framework that worships freedom, rightly so, but freedom through cooperative obedience to agreed upon standards.
Below is the justification of the POTUS making the change. Do you agree / disagree with this justification, from a legal / legislative perspective? Why?
From the article:
The state of Alaska has had a standing request to change the name dating back to 1975, when the legislature passed a resolution and then-Gov. Jay Hammond made a request to the federal government. But those efforts and legislation in Congress have been stymied by members of Ohio’s congressional delegation.
It was unclear whether Ohio leaders or others would mount an effort to block the change. There was no immediate response to inquiries seeking comment from House Speaker John Boehner and other Ohio lawmakers.
The White House cited Jewell’s authority to change the name, and Jewell issued a secretarial order officially changing it to Denali. The Interior Department said the U.S. Board on Geographic Names had been deferring to Congress since 1977, and cited a 1947 law that allows the Interior Department to change names unilaterally when the board fails to act “within a reasonable time.” The board shares responsibility with the Interior Department for naming such landmarks.
Not Neutral on Sweden

Not Neutral on Sweden

Carl_Larsson_Christmas_Morning_1894Two and one half years in Sweden, living with my aunt and uncle and attending 4-6th grade had a profound impact on my life. These are identity forming years, in which we begin to perceive the values held by our families, our tribes, our nations, at an intellectual level. This period was all the more profound for me, having landed in Sweden as a result of domestic kidnapping (see The People of the Sign). Given that I was a focal point of a contentious divorce proceeding that wound its way to the Supreme court of Sweden it isn’t surprising that I adopted neutral Sweden’s version of socialist nationalism over that of the individualistic and very competitive United States, where I had been kidnapped from, or my native Canada.

Swedish IdentitySwedish society in the late 60’s and early 70’s reflected the best that Socialism had to offer: universal employment, universal education, universal access to health care, tolerance, justice, and a causal reduction in extremes of poverty and wealth. Sweden was a world leader in equality, freedom and international humanitarianism. It was easy to root for Sweden in World cup hockey, Soccer and the Olympics – especially when its major competitors were often totalitarian regimes from within the Soviet Union. I was very proud to identify with their Neutral stance, neither for nor against the West or the East

Sweden's Summer Solstice CrisisThere have always been accusations of hypocrisy against Sweden, whose neutral position has roots in WWII when it opted not to become an enemy of Hitler’s Germany. These could be brushed off fairly easily, since no nation can lay claim to a perfect pedigree, and the tiny population did what it felt it needed to survive.  It’s decision gave it a head start in economic terms, once the war ended, empowering its meteoric rise after the war. Sweden’s population when I lived there hovered around 8 Million, but it had international stature that easily exceeded that of nations 10 times its size, and a reputation as a champion of human rights that was in a league of its own.

I used to defend her, always. Then I became more neutral. These days her neutrality rings so hollow that I can no longer be nuetral on Sweden.

Tel_Aviv_university_students_support_IDF_and_Israel_against_Gaza_Flotilla_3Sweden’s activism in Middle East politics is clearly wrongheaded and hypocritical and her decision to support Islamic countries in opposition to Israel has removed all doubt that she has lost her way. What began as neutrality towards Nazi Germany, which was the primary driver of the Holocaust has morphed, over time, into a malfunctioning moral compass that today welcomes any Trojan Horse that knows how to ring a Swedish doorbell. Sweden now routinely welcomes and protects hate preachers & jihadists in its continued efforts to convince the world that it is non-judgmental. After standing by while millions of Jews were murdered in WWII Sweden proceeded to lay down a long track record of opposing Israel’s right to protect itself from terrorism. There is nothing neutral about her activism against the lone Jewish State on the planet in favor of those who have turned a desire to destroy Israel into a political cause. Launching the ship Marianne from Gothenburg to break the Gaza Blockade, the so-called “Freedom Flotilla III” is just the latest example in an ongoing campaign.

humans_respect_humans_by_rbeloniojr-d4y9ceuIn pulling a random Virtues Card to conclude with, Respect came up.  “Respect is an attitude of honoring ourselves and others as people of value. We care for each person’s dignity. Everyone has the right to expect respect.” That pretty much calls Sweden’s bluff. Its pretense at respecting everyone has enabled her to hypocritically pick and choose which aggression to turn a blind eye to, a mask to hide behind while interfering in the self-defense of a nation even smaller than her. In the past Sweden leveraged its Geographic isolation to avoid dangerous confrontation, with great success. Her respect-less international meddling will certainly result a continued loss of respect for her as well.


Sweden’s Political Crossroads

Sweden’s Political Crossroads

Wallstrom on Women It’s been almost six months since Sweden’s decision to recognize a Palestinian State. My blog on that topic highlighted the double standard being employed to bolster that decision. I stated “Regardless of intent, I believe the acceptance of, and open practice of double standards and false equivalencies on the International stage is destined to make matters worse, leading to more, not less, war and bloodshed.  Swedes don’t like to think of themselves this way, but sometimes the truth hurts.”

Thankfully, I suppose, double standards and false equivalencies (which, by the way, is how I believe we can identify hypocrisy) tend to eventually become clear, even to the hypocrites themselves, in this case, Sweden’s leaders. Truth, Lies or just hypocrisy?One can only hope that Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, who was recently blocked from speaking at an Arab League meeting and who is now being denouced across the world of Islam as “an enemy of the Prophet”. Ms. Wallström, countered, before Swedish Parliament recently, that she had no intention of criticizing Islam.

Why then the outrage? Read all about it here, including how Veronica Nordlund, from the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s press service, apparently was unaware that Saudi Arabia abstained from signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it violates Sharia Law. The chickens are coming home to roost, on Sweden’s hypocritical stance, as the article outlines.

Will she retract her criticism of Saudi flogging and misogyny, and announce that it was never her intention to offend the great Saudi nation or its culture? In that case, she will have dealt a devastating blow to Sweden’s claim to be a “moral superpower” and to a foreign policy based on human rights and feminism.

Or will she stand by her words and accept that Sweden — and any other country in Europe that claims to stand for humanistic values and the primacy of human rights — is in for a debacle that may well be more severe than what Denmark experienced during the Muhammad cartoon crisis in 2005/2006?

Perhaps perversely, the random virtues card I pulled to conclude here was Flexibility. Not, frankly, what I was hoping for. But here goes…

“Flexibility is the ability to adapt and change amid the fluctuating circumstances of life. We go with the flow, seeing the choices, challenges and opportunities in all that happens. We do not insist on our own way.” All of this would seem to support Sweden’s stance, but wait, there’s more.  “When the unexpected comes, we rise to the challenge with resilience and confidence. We are willing to change unproductive habits… The winds of change may bend us but they only make us stronger. We are willing to grow.”

The first affirmation is “I adapt when change is called for”.

Wallstrom flexibilityIt turns out, this virtue may be just what Sweden needs. Will the country be able to change its course – that of accommodation and even praise for that which, if properly understood, is actually antithetical to their stated values? Can Sweden admit that it has been hypocritical, and rebound from that, with a genuine change? Can Sweden be that flexible? It will be interesting to watch.

Pi Day

Pi Day

Pi Picture croppedSeth Godin brought Pi Day to my inbox this morning. He alerted me to the fact that pi’s opening digits, 3.1415, match up with the calendar today. Take a moment to read his excellent brief statement about it, so I don’t have to repeat what he said, but rather can add my own take on Pi to the equation. Carpe Diem style.

As the Founder of Something Or Other Publishing (SOOP) I immediately emailed SOOP’s Authors encouraging them to Carpe their own Diem – to do the imaginable, one day at a time, vs. listening to the critics in our head that tell us something isn’t possible. Then it struck me. Pi Day isn’t a day that comes once a year.  It’s a day that only comes once every hundred years.

At least by the roman calendar, and by the month/day/year convention. (If we use the day/month/year convention there’s no Pi Day at all). Here’s a definition of Pi. “A name given to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter. That means, for any circle, you can divide the circumference (the distance around the circle) by the diameter and always get exactly the same number.” For me it always brings to mind David Bowie’s epic early song, the Width of a Circle from “The Man who Sold the World”

Aztec Calendar MayanThe calendar is a big deal to me. I’m a believer in Revelation. On the site devoted to my book, The People of the Sign, I used the calendar date of 9/11 to write about the Divine Calendar – the one mentioned in the book of Genesis, which claims that God established time, and that He did so by organizing the sun, moon, earth and even the stars in such a way as to create a gigantic universal clock. A clock so powerful it could not only predict the future, but be used as a lens to make sense of today, in that light.

Einstein God's ThoughtsPi Day highlights a very important element in my personal search. Many who accept Revelation reject Science. This is a huge mistake. Einstein is arguably the worlds most famous scientist, and he famously stated “I want to know God’s thoughts – the rest are details”.  In my view, his contribution to understanding Time was one of his greatest. He also wrote “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

My blog today is to appeal to my Scientific minded friends to reflect on the unquantifiable mystery of a simple circle, and the mix of knowledge and imagination needed to create great things. And while my Religious minded friends understand that God created man to know Him and to worship Him, they may not have understood that Science is simply one way in which many seek to do exactly that. Whether they recognize it or not at this point.

In time they will.

Davinci's ManIn the meantime, what is the width of your Circle? I like to use the Virtues to measure mine. That’s why I conclude each of my blogs with one.

For those who want to know the Science behind my use of Virtues Cards in blogging, I always pull the card after completing the blog, using the Virtue to reflect upon what I wrote. I love the serendipity of seeing what emerges. Today I was very pleased that it was Devotion.

“Devotion is commitment to something we care about deeply. It is a passionate focus on our life’s purpose… What is my ‘yes’? What calls me so strongly that I cannot resist, knowing that it is truly mine to do?” The card features the quote “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground”.



Is Madison Ferguson?

Is Madison Ferguson?

Matt Kenny Tony RobinsonAs a citizen of Madison I’m both saddened and hopeful.  Saddened by the tragic loss of Tony Robinson – a young man whose life was taken by bullets fired by Police Officer Matt Kenny, while he was unarmed.  And saddened by what is brought to mind by the understandable and justified angry reactions of so many citizens who see the similarities between this event and that of Ferguson – which is that there have been uncountable similar events – and much worse – throughout our nation’s history.  But I’m also hopeful because of Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and the way he has approached this tragic shooting. His first act was to express compassion and humility, publicly asking for forgiveness, before all the facts were known.Family Virtues

I’m also hopeful because of the results of the Essential Family Virtues Program which my family has launched in our Southwest part of Madison, collaboratively with parents from the Madison Community Montessori School, and elsewhere, and the Virtues Project / Virtues Village, and others.

I’m encouraged by Mallory Shotwell, our first teacher who was inspired during that first year to launch the Madison Community Discourse, now also in its second year.  She focused on love last year, and this year chose Courage. And I’m excited about the possibility of further collaboration with the East Madison Community Center, Madison Community Discoursewhere we held a virtues workshop, after which they expressed interest in establishing a similar program on the East side of town.

Do these hopeful but tiny initiatives represent unwarranted optimism on my part? Will Madison turn into another Ferguson?

It’s always darkest before dawn. My heart is broken, along with Tony Robinson’s family and the communities within Madison that are most affected. But I’m encouraged and hopeful by the reactions of so many in Madison – those hurt and angry, and those touched who wish to be helpful.  Darkest before DawnAcross various ethnic and economic lines here in Madison I can think of noone who will be reacting with anything but concern and a willingness to strengthen bonds and build bridges, to further the hard work that is necessary to continue the progress made by this great country, going back to the civil war, and beyond. My family and I focus on building a hope of the future into our children, the belief that they can and will make a difference. And that this difference will be in peaceful virtuous cooperation with everyone else with whom we share the planet.

The virtue card I drew to end with was Confidence.  This confirms what I’m trying so ineffectively to convey here, in the wake of tragedy. I’ll let the card speak for me, to conclude the post.

“Confidence is having faith in ourselves and in life… We trust that we have the strength to cope with whatever happens… When we are confident in others, we believe in them, and rely on them… With confidence, we cast off self-limiting beliefs and doubts. We offer our gifts as a worthy contribution. When opportunity comes, we step up to it. We just say ‘yes’.” Children are our future