Posts Tagged Religion

I CAN ONLY CRINGE WHEN I THINK OF DONALD J. TRUMP REPRESENTING AMERICA ON THE WORLD STAGE!

The adventures and misadventures of Mr. Know-it-All are well known, both at home and abroad!  Donald’s outrageous personal behavior, and his emotional instability, are quite self-evident.  In other words, as Andy Borowitz recently suggested, Donald Trump is even unqualified to run an Arby’s fast-food restaurant!

Whenever I know that Donald Trump will be representing America—whether it be in a one-to-one meeting with a head-of-state, or representing our country in an International Forum—I can only wonder how he will embarrass us this time?   Donald seems quite capable of taking this personal art form, to even newer and newer heights!

Mr. Trump shamelessly exalts in the trappings of his Office; but, he shows little interest in the dedication and realities that it requires.  He constantly complains about what he inherited: the terrible economy; the awful Affordable health Care System; the War in the Middle East, etc.  None of that is true; however, in his delusional state, he appears intent on lowering our expectations.  But Donald, you shouldn’t worry.  We haven’t expected much rational thought, from the White House, ever since you took over!

With regard to Foreign Affairs, our most important geopolitical relationship is the Atlantic Alliance, established after World War II.  It is basically a Trade and Defense Pact, with Canada and most Europe nations as our partners.  Donald Trump doesn’t seem to realize its value,; however, and he appears to send out mixed signals as to whether he supports it or not.

Two weeks ago, Donald apparently flubbed an opportunity to build a relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel when they met at the White House.  She is the most experienced leader within the Atlantic Alliance.  According to one of her aides, Mr. Trump was: ill-prepared, disengaged; and his only contribution to the discussion was to claim that Germany owed the U. S. for under-funding its Defense needs.  At the following joint press conference, Donald Trump was surely, rude, and he even refused the traditional handshake.

A couple of months ago, at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump complained about last November’s Election, and then he praised Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor, whom he just fired.  And then yesterday, during a joint press conference with King Abdullah of Jordon, he once again blamed President Barack Obama for the apparent use of Sarin gas in Syria.

Trump has a reputation for being a schoolyard bully: claiming credit for events that he had no part in; shifting blame, rather than acknowledging his own guilt; and blatantly and endlessly attacking the less powerful.  He even seems to have no qualms about publicly washing his own dirty linen—complaining, whining and boorish behavior—in front of other world leaders.  Donald, that’s not Leadership: that’s merely irrational behavior!

NOTE: Welcome to my readers from Qatar.

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WILL DONALD TRUMP ROLL-OUT HIS FIVE-YEAR PLAN SOON?

The controlling manner with which Donald Trump seems intent on forcing his ideas into all segments of the American Economy, at least to me, is reminiscent of the old Soviet Five-Year Plans.  Who knew better than the apparatchiks, in Moscow, the number, size and cut of women’s brassieres that would be needed in Vladivostok, several years hence?  Surely, their Command Economy knew better than that Capitalist “Invisible hand of the Markets.”

Just like the micromanagers in the Kremlin, or their counterparts at Beijing’s Central Party Committee, Donald Trump has been using old-fashioned jaw-boning:  letting corporate CEOs what how he expects them to manage their companies; apparently offering tax incentives and promises to de-regulate, but only time will tell if it is working.

Surely, when GM committed to attend, Ford showed-up, as well.  He started going through the Industries, one-by-one, and then the Unions.  But, will smiles and small talk really convert to obedience?  I doubt it!  So far, all D. J. Trump has accomplished is more photo-ops.

Now, let’s get back to the Real World.  If a corporate CEO makes a dumb business decision at the “suggestion” of the President, he or she could be sued by the company’s shareholders.  And, assuming that the Board of Directors approved it, they would also be included in that suit!  Until we have a Dictatorship, following instructions of the Tenant in The Oval Office doesn’t qualify as a rational business decision.

I have written about my supermarket before; but, the same goes for all, except the very smallest, businesses.  Their computer systems, tied to the cash registers, keep track of their sales on a daily, even hourly, basis.

Inventories—by individual locations—are automatically reported to the Regional or Home Office.  When required, inventories would automatically be replenished, with shipments from the appropriate warehouses.  That even goes for women’s brassieres.

America  doesn’t need the slight-of-hand of Donald Trump to keep individual companies, their industries or the overall Economy humming along.  And, in case corporate leadership cowers to Mr. Trump’s browbeating, and indulges his ideas, there is still a Court of Law to bring him back down to earth.  And Donald, lest you forget, Micromanagement, like Command Economies have never worked efficiently!

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WHY DID PRESIDENT HOLLANDE INVOKE THE TREATY OF LISBON—AND NOT NATO?

Following the recent ISIS attacks on Paris, French President Francois Hollande invoked the Mutual Defense provision of the European’s Union’s Treaty of Lisbon, rather than Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Charter.  He was calling on France’s European allies to stand with France against the “Islamic” State.

The oddity of that choice was because the E. U. is basically a trade pact which has morphed into a quasi-governmental union; however, NATO has always been specifically a military mutual defense pact.  Various reasons have been suggested as to why President Hollande chose the Treaty option, which had never been used before.

Might there have been some mistrust regarding Turkey, which is a member of NATO, but not of the E. U?  In recent months, the relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Vladimir Putin, of Russia, has been quite strained.  Also, Istanbul’s recent downing of a Russian bomber, which allegedly invaded its air space, has certainly made a bad situation that much worse.  Might the animosity between the two nations have stifled common sense?

Invoking the NATO Charter would actually be superfluous, however, since both the France and the U. S. are already engaged in northern Syria.  France only joined after the November 13 attacks; but, the participation of other European nations would demonstrate unity against ISIS.

It is important to point out that calling on NATO—which has quite a similar membership to the E. U, plus the inclusion of the U. S. and Canada—would not be received well by Russia.  President Vladimir Putin believes that the defense pact has been trying to break-up his relationship with the former Soviet republics, many of which have already joined NATO.

Lastly, some national security analysts believe that President Barack Obama might have tried to dissuade Hollande from calling-up NATO in order to keep the Syrian situation in somewhat of a gray area—between peace and all-out war.  And, given the proximity of both Russian and Iranian forces, that certainly would be a valid concern.

To an extent, I believe that the actual rationale might be somewhat “all-of-the-above”. Following the Paris Attacks and the drowning of the Russian passenger airplane over the Sinai, Paris and Moscow seemed to be leaning toward working together, focused on forming a coalition to eradicate the “Islamic” State.  But, Turkey’s downing of the Russian bomber seemed to have caused Putin to back away.

Many of the participants in the Syrian conflict will be represented in Paris this week for the Climate Change talks.  A basic framework might be discussed in order for:  the Europeans to consider how working together against ISIS in Syria might also reduce the refugee problem back home; Russia might form a closer relationship with the West, especially in reducing some of the sanctions that are devastating its economy; and the U. S. needs to form a closer relationship with Moscow in order to make peace a possibly, as well as for the political situation back home.

There are also some longer-term problems that will need to be addressed, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations: Syrian President Bashar Assad needs to realize that he must go into exile, perhaps in Iran; a Kurdish homeland needs to be established; and regional Islamic countries, both in the Middle East and North Africa, need to find a way for Sunnis and Shias, as well as other peoples, to live together in peace.

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GOP JUST FEEDS THE JIHADIST FRENZY WITH ITS IDEOLOGICAL DIATRIBE BY ASSERTING THAT ANYTHING EVIL MUST BE PREFACED WITH “ISLAMO” OR “ISLAMIC”

Since the “Islamic” State first hit most radar screens as a major threat, let’s say around June of 2014, many Republicans have demanded that any IS threats or terrorist acts must be condemned, with the inclusion of some tie-in to Islam.  Many of the same politicians have also been stirring-up their “Right”-Wing Base even longer by also waging a campaign against Sharia (Islamic) Law—even introducing laws at the local level—to “protect America”.

But, such Why Worry about Facts politicians have not, as yet, pointed out where Sharia Law exists in the U. S, or has even been proposed into law.  Once again, they are rabble-rousing against threats that are omni-absent.  Instead of accomplishing their supposed purpose, however, they are really spewing hate for their own political gain.  But, America loses!

This is all so much Code for “We’re Christians, and ‘they’ are not like us”.  The overwhelming number of Muslims in the world—by a wide, wide margin—are hard-working, law-abiding people who merely wish to live in peace, and establish a decent life for their families.  They are no different than most:  Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahai’s; Agnostics, Atheists, and a host of other religions, that perhaps are lesser-known, but of no lesser importance or spirituality than any other.  And that also includes most Christians, as well!

But, more specifically, what are the “Rightists” in America doing when they suggest that Islam (itself) is synonymous with:  terrorism; being anti-Christian; warmongering and evil?  They immediately raise the U. S. to be National Enemy #1 for IS.  The fact that it has not, as yet, struck on our soil to the extent that it has done TWICE in Paris, doesn’t cause it to lower its sights.  Also, this merely creates an adversarial image toward all Americans, among Jihadists group cells (IS or not) around the world and, perhaps by affiliation, even some of our Allies.

Since the Terrorist Attacks on 9/11, fourteen years ago, there have been a multitude of American White Supremacists attacks on peaceful Muslims, their mosques and community centers, and their homes, right here in the U. S. A.  Such White Supremacists actions, however, have been going on in America for decades:  numerous lynchings of blacks in the South; the Oklahoma City Bombing; deadly gay-bashing over the past several decades; the recent murder of nine church-goers in Charleston, SC, and many, many more. Would as many recent murders and terrorist attacks—and not just toward Muslims—have happened had there not been such an environment of hate speech spewing from the GOP?

And what about the many Jihadists that such inflammatory commentaries, both here and throughout the developed world, have indirectly sent to Syria to join the “Happening”.  Many of the young people from Europe, Canada, Australia, America, India and other countries, were not necessarily fervent Muslims—and some were not even Muslims, at all.  They were young people, enjoying “the good life”; but, maybe they knew something was lacking—such as an insufficient education, job skills, income, self-satisfaction, etc? They were ripe to listen to devious web propagandists, and they just ran off to Syria to join what they thought was just a modern “Jihadist Woodstock”.  Little did they know…

NOTE: There has been some confusion as to the different names used for “Islamic” State. (I add the quotes since it actually represents a hijacking of Islam.) “ISIS” stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “ISIL” refers to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a French term, which for a long time has referred to the area around the Eastern Mediterranean as “the Levant”. And “Daesh” is merely the Arabic acronym for ISIL. I have found that many people merely use “IS” for simplicity.

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WHAT CAN WE DO TO EASE THE PAIN AND SUFFERING THAT IS GOING ON ALL AROUND US? AND CAN WE, IN FACT, REALLY HELP?

My Daughter gave me the idea for this blog post when she Emailed that question to me.  Think about it:  an earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal; mudslides in Colombia; “boat people” risking their lives to escape Myanmar and North Africa; teenage girls taken captive in Nigeria and sectarian genocide throughout the Middle East.  The complexities of these various and different problems each has its own causes and effects.

Just a few of the underlying problems, with each daunting in their own right, are as follows:

1. A great deal of these problems, such as the internecine hatred among peoples–based mostly on ethnic, religious or tribal differences–goes back centuries, or perhaps even millennia.  In some cases, like the Sunni-Shia schism, some actually believe that it is documented in the holy scriptures.  Nonsense!

2. In countries such as Nepal, the effected areas can be extremely remote and lacking the necessary infrastructure (highways, bridges, tunnels and airports), either to get aid workers and supplies in, or to evacuate refugees and the injured.

3. Poor countries often lack the functioning government and financial resources to provide the required assistance.  Also, their standard-of-living is often quite low, to begin with.

4. Rampant corruption is often the biggest problem underlying any potential solutions.  In fact, money truly does make the third world go ‘round.  Sure, we also have it in the West too;  but, it is generally more subtle and buried behind layers of cover-up.  Even the local chapters of international relief organizations, such as the Red Cross, are often not trusted by the local population.

Outside nations and corporations do not have the best records in helping, due to numerous examples of past greed or inept behavior.  Consider the following:

1. Colonial powers in the past have conquered or partnered with primitive countries, propped-up the corrupt elements of the local society in leadership positions, and stole much of their precious assets (oil, ivory, rubber, gold, diamonds, etc.), paying very little in return.

2. The American Invasion of Iraq, in 2003,broke the fragile balance-of-power between secular Iraq and Shia Iran.  The resultant sectarian violence gave birth to the Islamic State, among other Jihadist groups.  And George, you never got that coveted oil!

3. In South America, United Fruit (an American company) wrecked havoc on countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, etc.  It robbed them of their banana crops, established criminals as government leaders, and earned it the reputation of being the Father of the (term) “Banana Republic”!

Back in the late 1960s, I can recall driving through rural areas of (South) Vietnam. There were just fields and fields of terraced rice paddies, with the farmers working knee-deep on their mud-soaked land. Rather than tractors, water buffalo were their beasts of burden.

I remember thinking at the time that Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) was as distant in mind as it was in physical distance.  The politicians in the Capital apparently knew nothing of the rural people–nor did they care.  And the Vietnamese peasants, in-turn, didn’t feel any allegiance to, or expect any assistance from, the national government.

Currently, I don’t believe that that relationship has changed at all–and regardless of the country.  In many cases, whatever contributions a government makes to their nation’s infrastructure, economic well-being and security, often stops once you travel outside the immediate capital region.  And some leaders don’t even dare drive outside their local comfort zones.

Some in the West, especially during a slowly recovering economy, question why funds and aid are being sent overseas when they could be better used to re-build parts of their own countries.  Many Conservative governments use that ploy; however, they just want to reduce spending.  Period!  So, keeping the money at home appears to just be a ruse.  In every society, those who have more should share with those who have less.  Just remember that a great deal of our economic well-being is merely due to the luck-of-the-draw!

Consider Sandtown-Winchester, the area of West Baltimore, Md. where Freddie Gray lived and died–thus sparking the recent riots.  That neighborhood is the worst of the worst.  And yet, the area’s problems go back generations, centuries even, and the locals haven’t seen any state or federal aid.  Just think:  Annapolis, the state capital, is just a half-hour away, and Washington barely an hour.  To me, this looks like rural Vietnam back in the 60s, the people living outside in Nepal or the Yazidis fleeing religious persecution in Syria.  Nothing ever seems to have changed–or it would have!

So, if help from within is often ineffective, and foreign nations and corporations often place their own interests first, what is the solution?  In many cases, the people who truly can make a difference leave–the country, or the local area.  The “Brain Drain”!  And that is unfortunate; because, the success stories, which are often few and far between, can be doubly important.  Besides having the capacity to better understand what needs to be done and potentially correct the situation, they also demonstrate that people can prosper and grow successfully in that local area.  The people there are not dumb or lazy, they just need a leg-up.

Here are some possible solutions–at least to a partial extent:

1. Outside countries can offer assistance; however, it must be done in a totally hands-off manner and through the democratically elected process.  Such aid could be administered like start-up funding for young businesses:  require a needs and analysis plan; provide incremental allocations; verifying progress and requiring an adequate accounting.

2. Consider contributing to well-known international relief agencies, such as: the International Red Cross/Crescent, U.N. agencies; Doctors without Borders; etc.   Generally, they have their team on the ground, know what has to be done and negate the opportunity for corruption.

3.  Research transparent private foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  It partners with local organizations, and often targets well-defined needs.  It requires proper accountability.

Any realistic advancement or corrective process must come from within, whether it be another country, a region or an American Inner-City.  Guidance and funding will only work if the locals are involved, and the help is to be accepted and trusted.  Granted,  many of the problems noted above are daunting; however, with each and every “baby step” taken, the problems just shrink that much more.  There is no other option!

 

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WHAT I BELIEVE CHRISTMAS SHOULD REALLY MEAN

The Holiday Season is a time of year when many people get wrapped-up in shopping, office parties, decorating the house inside and out, wondering who you DO and DO NOT have to invite (if you are entertaining), etc.  To a great extent, at least for many, it is a time to be outlandish–to show-off.  And then, you are completely exhausted and start to suffer through Holiday Withdrawal.

Last year, I included “The Gift of the Magi”, by O. Henry, first published in 1906, in this Blog.  It is an ironic story about a young, newly married couple.  Each wanted to surprise the other with a Christmas gift, however money was extremely tight.  It is the first of twenty classic Christmas stories, linked as follows: http://osr.org/christmas/20-famous-christmas-stories/.

There was also a very touching story recently in the NY Times; which, I believe also conveys what the true reason for this Holiday Season should be.  The Holidays (all of them) should be about the positive aspects of what you have and what you can do for others, and not the commercial side of life.  The Times story, “An Extra Angel on Top of the Tree”, is linked as follows: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/14/fashion/modern-love-an-extra-angel-on-top-of-the-tree.html?emc=eta1&_r=0&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Style&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=article.

NOTE: A special thanks to my Daughter for Emailing the Times story to me.  I subscribe to the Times On-Line and had immediately deleted the story when it was Emailed to me, thinking that they were trying to sell me something.  But, when I read it, I wanted to share it with my readers.

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WHY MUST ISRAEL CONTINUE TO BE A “JEWISH STATE”?

There is an interesting Op-Ed in the Washington Post, “An Israel equal to all, Jewish or not”, by Patricia Marks Greenfield, a Psychology Professor at UCLA, which is linked as follows:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/an-israel-equal-for-all-jewish-or-not/2014/09/26/83151758-3a05-11e4-9c9f-ebb47272e40e_story.html.  In it, Prodfessor Geenfield calls for equal rights for all and a Single-State, rather than a Two-State, Solution to the on-going Israeli-Palestinian dilemma.

As long as Israel is controlled by the Conservative elements of its Society, both Politically and Spiritually, it will always advertise the “Jewish State” theme.  For instance, it is my understanding that a couple cannot even marry in Israel unless each can prove their “Jewishness”.  So, they have to travel to another county, marry, and then return to Israel, where their union would then be recognized.  How utterly stupid is that?

Maintaining the Jewish theme (requirement even) might have been appropriate during the early stages of the State, or perhaps in small villages and kibbutzim; but, as a State grows, and evolves into a modern one, it must expand its way of thinking–both Politically and Religiously.  History shows that you cannot have freedom for the Jews within the State, but not for others?  Didn’t we learn that in Germany in the 1930s?

Such religious, ethnic and tribal factions seem to separate society virtually everywhere in the Middle East.  Indirectly that has caused the rise to power of various Strongmen Dictators, such as Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak.  And then when they are deposed, all Hell breaks loose.  Perhaps, that’s what we are seeing today.

I definitely agree with Professor Greenfield in that, 66 years after its birth, Israel must transform itself into a truly Modern State. Oddly enough, it has done just that, Economically and Technologically; so, why not Societally?  Throughout its history, Israel has benefitted from German, Russian and other Caucasian Immigrants.  But, has it really tried to develop the talents of native Arabs and Ethiopian Immigrants?  Remember: it’s not 1948 anymore.

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