Saturday, December 3, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

Legitimacy of Law Enforcement and Those Who Are Governed

Lynn Rhodes, Chief (Ret) California State Parks; Vice President, International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC)

In order to have stable civilization, to govern and be governed there must be a sense of legitimacy and trust by those who are governed. One consideration of use-of-power is not only perceived but actual legitimacy by policing forces. Police authority must have legitimacy and be a compliment to society and in place to protect (society). Increased awareness in the United States, enhanced by the pervasiveness of social media, has illuminated the disparity in which policing is undertaken and the sense of legitimacy by those governed. Police departments nationwide are reacting to impressions or mis-impressions they say are stigmatizing them as out of touch and anti-protection. They are often now characterized as carrying out the law (a judicial role), and prematurely so, as opposed to enforcing the law (fairly and without bias) for public protection and security.

Social order is not possible without a sense of real legitimacy, compliance and cooperation with the laws. For the greater good, society has allowed itself to be policed by consent. In the U.S. this condition is being more openly questioned and challenged.

Factors influencing public trust and the role of policing must be better understood by law enforcement agencies and the public partnership involved. Many agencies are now trying to reframe their roles as guardians as opposed to being known as police. A guardian is an ally, someone that watches, protects and takes appropriate action.  Discretion and trust is fundamental and essential to their role. But making a wholesale transition to an active role as guardian from that of police will not be done quickly. It will require institutionalizing new learning, training and partnerships.

In ancient societies, there was no official law enforcement function and very little, if any, attempt at organization. Instead, individuals, families and clans took it upon themselves to take revenge against those who may have inured or offended them. The idea of crime prevention was almost non-existent in the early history of law enforcement and criminology. Worldwide, civilizations throughout the ages have contributed significantly in the development of criminal justice in society as early as 8000-4000 BC in the middle east, through the rise of the Roman Republic, to Robert Peel’s 9 principles of policing in London, and how we have evolved to the current time.

Legitimacy of policing forces and permission to conduct policing services is an issue front and center for today’s free societies.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Culture Matters Part 1

Laina Farhat-Holzman
November 12, 2016

In August, I wrote several columns on how culture matters, both domestically and internationally. I have long doubted that the issue is as much racial differences as it is the practices and values of various cultures. Our recent election was a perfect demonstration of a cultural clash that shocked the world.

The US is going through the same conflict that we are seeing around the world: democratic institutions are losing the support that they have had for a long time. We know from history that when people stop believing in the laws, agencies, and protections that make self-government work, governments either fall or go dictatorial. Those of us who have always believed, as I have, that government is not the problem, but that the character of our representatives is, did not realize how widespread the anger against all of our government institutions was.

We see in our country and all over the world “culture shock,” a fear among ordinary people that their culture is changing in ways that leave them feeling alienated. Since the end of World War II, we have gone through a culture change that is unprecedented in its speed. Laws and attitudes that have been with us for centuries are suddenly being challenged and transformed.

The values that characterize the modern world include some incendiary issues: equality of women, demands for racial and religious equality, total freedom of speech that has brought vulgarity into our arts and daily discourse, science that challenges old truths including religions (brain science, robotics, ecology, medicine, technologies), and constant lecturing from the elites and educated that make the less educated angry.

Those of us on the educated and liberal side politically have trampled and insulted the values of many people we neither meet nor know. But we have heard from them in this election. They did not support Donald Trump because he was loved by all Republicans, but because he made many of them feel that they were being heard. He used language, epithets, and manners that boosted their own self-regard, language that they were never allowed to use in polite society.
Many serious Republicans did not vote for him, considering him an unqualified loose cannon, but many did vote for him only because they want to guarantee that the Supreme Court can be turned very conservative for a whole generation. Republicans believe in incremental social change, and not the sort of almost uncontrollable changes that roil ordinary lives. They may have a point.

Remember, however, that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, although losing the Electoral College, an institution that gives more voting power to small states and rural towns. Our founders feared direct democracy, setting up institutions to prevent mob rule (or popular voting majorities). There is some wisdom in this.

Abroad, Europe is going through the same kind of crisis. The EU has tried to act as a super-government, enforcing their ideas of a modern society on the unwilling and conservative classes that still make up national populations. The elites believe that it is Europe's duty to take in as many refugees fleeing wars and persecution as can arrive. I admire their generosity of spirit, but the burden of supporting this horde and trying to absorb them is on ordinary Europeans. The immigrants from the Muslim world are not only difficult to integrate into a modern western society, but many come with views and intentions that threaten their host countries. Europe's EU is starting to fall apart, certainly with the exit of the British, angry at the dictation of the EU and their own elites.

The danger of this alienation is that the global rule of law that the United States promoted and protected since the end of World War II is now in meltdown. Dictatorships are being favored once more, in Russia, Turkey, Poland, the Philippines, apparently with popular enthusiasm. But since all of their free press is being suppressed, how do we know?

President Trump is in for a steep learning curve. With luck, a meltdown of both political parties may give birth to a new centrist party that unites us once more.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

47rd ISCSC Conference June 30 to July 3rd 2017

47rd ISCSC International Conference
Marconi Conference Center, Marshall, California, U.S.A.
June 30 to July 3rd 2017

Marconi Conference Center is part of the California State Park System located in Marshall, California U.S.A. approximately 90 minutes northwest of San Francisco.
Please see the map on the ISCSC website:
Marconi Conference Center Website:

The 62-acre Marconi Conference Center State Historic Park in scenic West Marin County is located along the east shore of Tomales Bay near the quaint community of Marshall. The location provides dramatic views of the bay and the lush inland hills of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

Rich with the history of the ancient coastal Miwok people, and the 1912 American Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, the historical significance of the property was recognized with the classification of the facility as a State Historic Park in 1991.

We have a great package for this year’s conference! Conference Registration includes a one-year membership to the ISCSC for new and any renewing members! All lodging and meals for the conference are provided on-site.

Attendees are to make their own conference registration and lodging arrangements directly with the ISCSC before the deadline of April 25, 2017 by using a link which will soon be placed on the ISCSC website.  Lodging fee includes accommodations, all meals, and tax, for all 3 nights.  Rates are the equivalent of: $245 Single; $165 Double or $135 Triple per person, per day. Meals begin with dinner on the arrival date and end with lunch on departure date. Lodging/meal package reservations will be for the entire 3 days.  It will be important to use the on-line link via the ISCSC website to make your room/meal reservation which must be paid in advance. It is part of our conference package and ensures the agreed upon rates. Attempting to make individual reservations through the Marconi Conference Center, even if available, will result in much higher costs to participants and are not part of our conference package and activities.

Registration cost is $275. Conference registration is separate from the lodging and meal package. Conference Registration includes conference attendance, welcome reception on June 30th, invitation to submit abstracts for conference presentation, necessary technical amenities for the presentation and a complimentary year-long membership in the ISCSC with its many benefits of professional affiliation, subscription to the organization’s acclaimed journal, Comparative Civilizations Review, and, last-but-not-least, fun raffle prizes.

Attendees will most likely fly directly to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). From there, transportation to Marconi Conference Center can easily be accomplished via rental car or a shuttle service called Marin Door to Door: or telephone at +1-415-457-2717. Marin Door to Door will take you directly to the Marconi Conference Center for $115 each way. If more than one person is traveling in your group, the second person is only charged $12.00. It is beneficial to book more than one person for the shuttle ride for cost-savings. Booking the shuttle should be done at least 48 hours in advance.

Please visit the ISCSC and Marconi Conference Center for additional trip planning references, local sites of interest, and detailed information about the lodging and dining facilities. If you have any questions, please contact Vice President, Lynn Rhodes, 831-600-5209 or or Executive Director Peter Hecht 917-494-8936 or

E Pluribus Unum?

Laina Farhat-Holzman
November 5, 2016

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

The small, scattered tribes of Homo Sapiens peopling Africa never looked beyond their tribes, related by blood. But as our ancestors left Africa and peopled the world (the only species to do this on their own-(rats and cockroaches depended on us to go global), the clans grew larger and stronger clans absorbed weaker ones.

Out of ancient Rome came the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women. The early Romans were poor and hungry and their women often died during childbirth. They invaded a neighbor's territory, conquered and killed the men, and carried off the women to become their wives. The Romans continued to absorb all their neighbors on the Italian peninsula and gave them Roman citizenship. The Roman Empire began this way. They went beyond Italy to rule territory from the British Isles, all across North Africa, the Middle East, and as far as the borders of Persia. For centuries to come, more people lived in prosperity under Roman rule than could have as struggling independent states.

China had a similar trajectory. The ancient Chinese hosted five kingdoms that fought incessantly until one finally conquered them all. This was the first Chinese Empire, a political success for centuries.

From the first empires after the agricultural revolution (Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria, Persia), history was a cavalcade of empires that, when they overreached and collapsed, disintegrated into warlordism, famine, and death, until another warrior tribe created a new empire.

For human beings, empires, not independent states, have been the predominant global model. Centralized governments survive for centuries, periodically collapsing into anarchy until the next empire emerged. We are so used to thinking about sovereign nation states that we forget how new this concept is and how difficult it is for most of them to survive.

The horrors of two world wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) illustrated just how weak most nation states were. Neighborhood bullies, throwbacks to savage tribes, easily created new empires that they believed would endure. The Nazis and Japanese did not count on two other empires of sorts, the Russians (involuntary empire) and the Americans (voluntary empire) wiping them out. The Russians aspired to enlarging their already enormous empire by absorbing formerly independent European states (Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine) that they ruled with an iron hand.

The United States envisioned another sort of empire: one of free nation states agreeing to a set of global legal principles. Over a period of 70 years, during which we came close to nuclear war with the USSR, we prevailed, making us the single largest superpower. Over that time, our influence and economic system lifted millions of people out of dire poverty and inspired many to attempt to become modern nation states.

History shows us that huge empires ultimately collapse because the cost of sustaining peace and order becomes more than its citizens want to pay. We are seeing this phenomenon today, with state after state (particularly in the Middle East) collapsing into anarchy and one wanabe super-state, the European Union, well intentioned but under-engineered, unraveling.

The world came close, under American tutelage, to creating a global society, a super-empire. It is in trouble right now, but historically, unity out of diversity (e pluribus unum) comes back. An invasion from Mars could unify us smartly, but short of that, global warfare will remind us how bad tribalism can be.

We are living through a period of increasing anarchy: some of it generated by neofascist militant Islam, which has a talent for destruction but no talent for governance; and other wanabe super-states, such as China and Russia, imagining that their visions are better than ours. People vote with their feet. Our vision is obviously better. Ask China's and Russia's neighbors.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Laina At the Movies

October, 2016

Deepwater Horizon

Catastrophes test human character, ingenuity, and endurance. Nature provides plenty of tests with weather, fire, floods, and earthquakes, all considered by insurance companies as “acts of God.” But the most fascinating catastrophes are those arising from the very technologies that demonstrate the brilliance of human ingenuity. We are smart creatures, but we do worry about getting too smug about how smart we are. The earliest warning about this smugness is Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, the namesake being a scientist who tried to design the perfect man, a creature made from some diversely gathered human parts. Robert Louis Stevenson added to this genre with his book: Dr. Jeykel and Mr. Hyde, in which a drug permitted a good man to become completely evil. It was a conscience killer. And then Poe's Poisoned Garden illustrated how very bad the good intentions of a scientist can be.

Deepwater Horizon dramatizes a horrible disaster that destroyed an amazingly brilliant structure, an oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. No matter how remarkable the technology, we learn, human agency can make it fail. Carelessness, error, failure to heed warnings about technological weak spots and corporate penny pinching can undo the best of technologies. We get all of these in this film.

As always, the courage, professionalism, and general decency of the crew  aboard this platform make one proud to be a fellow citizen of these people.

The film is technically amazing in revealing both the technology and the failure of the oil industry, and the cost of failure in deaths and ecological damage. The cast of the film was excellent, with performances by Mark Wahlberg, Caleb Holloway, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, all of them heroic, and John Malkovich as a devious employee of British Petroleum.

Queen of Katwe
This Disney film claims to be an “uplifting” view of Africa, which is a real stretch!
The story is very uplifting: that a 10-year-old slum girl-child could learn to play chess and become a world chess champion is certainly uplifting. That the film shows how Africa is not as bad as we thought is not true.
The film opens with a panorama of an enormous slum in Kampala, Uganda (once Big Daddy Amin's country), a slum that looks as bad as the slums of India. These slums are a regular feature of every African city: unpaved, no plumbing, and dangerous. The film carefully avoids another reality in Africa, the sexual predators who ruin every young girl (and boy) not protected by someone.
This true story, however, is uplifting and depends on sheer good luck. A ten-year-old girl who helps her mother at the street market hears that there is a chess club where soup is served. Always hungry, this child of five youngsters of a widowed mother, joins the chess club and surprises everyone by being a chess prodigy. Against all odds, she becomes an international phenomenon and raises her family out of dire poverty.
The child, Phiona (played by Madina Nalwanga) is a new actress; the film features two other leads, both of them African with world acclaim: Lupita Nyonglo (Kenyan) who plays the determined mother desperate to keep her children safe and alive, and David Oyelowo (British Nigerian) who plays the gentle chess coach and Christian missionary who really cares about his slum children chess players.
The one good thing one can say about Uganda's always corrupt government is that there are a few people who manage to scrape up the money to offer these chess clubs to inner city children and pay for them to compete in meets.
The other good thing (which is never discussed) is that chess, the etiquette of this game (politeness), and concern for underprivileged children are not native to Uganda. They are the remnant of British colonialism. The other unaddressed issue is that this child's family and the chess coach are Christian, not Muslim. They both embrace western values. A talented girl child who is African Muslim wouldn't have a chance that this child had.
One thing that emerges from this story: talent and sheer intelligence have no skin color or geography; they are distributed among all human beings.  What differs is culture and history. Those gifts require extraordinary good luck to
Girl on the Train

I expected a good thriller when I went to see this film.  I found instead the most dreary exploration of the lives of three women, one of them a drunk, who are all connected to a very evil husband. All of the characters were repugnant, the story overwrought, and the mystery not particularly gratifying.  Can you tell I hated this movie?

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

This is one case where the sequel was even better than the original. Tom Cruise (who wears his years amazingly well) plays Jack Reacher, a former military investigator who had left that world to become a homeless wanderer who runs into a situation that gets his attention. A rural sheriff was running a human trafficking ring that Reacher dismantles, calling it in to his old friend, Colonel Bob Moorcroft. Moorcroft tells him that a woman Major, Susan Turner, who had been on his team investigating the murder of two soldiers in Afghanistan, has been accused by Reacher's old enemy, Colonel Sam Morgan, of committing espionage. Reacher's friend, Moorcroft, is murdered, implicating Reacher and Turner.

Reacher springs Turner from lockup and the two make a run for it, hoping to clear their names.
What makes this film a superior thriller is that the characters are sympathetic, the possibility of some military in Afghanistan engaged in some very lucrative smuggling is believable, and the stakes for Reacher are even more urgent when a teen-age girl turns up who may be a child fathered by Reacher 16 years ago, one he knew nothing about. She too is on the run with Reacher and Turner.
The movie was well timed, the issues seemed important enough, and it was an excellent example of a well-designed thriller.


I had read this Dan Brown book several years ago and uncharacteristically completely forgot it. The theme was that a passionate population explosion activist gave up when his idea of putting contraceptives in the water supply was rejected. He then decided to release a virus that would accomplish the same end: eradicate half of the world's population. This fanatic really believed that he would be saving the world.
The hero of all of Dan Brown's books, Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia and terrible visions, not knowing how he got there. A doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) rescues him from the hospital when it looks as if some villains are after him, and they race across Europe and Istanbul to thwart the release of the plague virus.
Inferno references the great medieval poem by Dante, Inferno, a detailed vision of Hell. This work influenced generations of artists and really gave a very frightening vision of what life after death in Hell might involve.

While I find Dante's vision tiresome, it was fun, as usual, to have this travelogue following the puzzles hidden in the painting. The World Health Organization is also involved in this chase, but it is difficult to know who might be a friend or a foe.
One interesting actor to watch is Irrfan Khan, who reminds me of Peter Lorre, with a woebegone face and sad eyes.

The movie is essentially silly, but still entertaining to see on a rainy afternoon. I like the idea of the contraceptives in the water supply better.

It Can't Happen Here?

Laina Farhat-Holzman
October 22, 2016

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

The saving grace in this country is that the president does not have dictatorial powers. No, he cannot single-handedly change laws, imprison his political opponents, shut down the “lying press,” or replace judges he does not like. And thank goodness for this! He really cannot do what he says he will, nor can he make America “great again.”

But there are things that he could do that would be very dangerous, if not irreversible. His inclination is to void a number of the international treaties that this country has endorsed: the Climate Treaty that was signed by China and India; or the treaty with Iran, that could result in an instant ramp-up of nuclear weapons. All international leaders who are our NATO allies panic at the thought of a Trump presidency. They can see the end of America projecting its power to ensure global rule of law. On the domestic level, he could try to void Obama Care, not just improve it, throwing millions of Americans out of health insurance.

Other once-democracies around the world offer examples of what can happen that is not reversible.

o     Zimbabwe. This African country was once a British colony, Rhodesia, which was a breadbasket of bountiful agriculture that fed much of Africa. When it won its independence and was renamed Zimbabwe, a national pro-independence leader, Joseph Mugabe, was elected president in 1980. That hero turned quickly into monster, where, now in his 90s, he continues to “win” elections. Dissidents are murdered.

The horror of his governance is that despite his promise to treat white and black citizens equally, he drove out the white farmers, breaking up their holdings and giving them to political cronies with no experience in farming. The result has been years of famine and a once-solid economy in shambles.
In 2001, foreign reserves of money had run out and serious food shortages began. Western donors cut aid and the World Bank and IMF cut the country off. After Parliament passed a law limiting media freedom the EU imposed sanction. In a recent “election,” the opposition candidate was jailed, just as Trump would like to do to Hillary Clinton.

The US now labels Zimbabwe one of the world's six “outposts of tyranny.” This has not deterred the African Union in 2015 from choosing Mugabe as chairman of that union. Today, there are riots and demonstrations in the streets demanding Mugabe's ouster. The population is desperate and miserable, with no chance of throwing this “president for life” out of office.

o     Philippines. This once colony of the United States did not even have to fight for their independence. The US promised it during World War II and kept their word. The country has struggled with corrupt governance and for a period during the Cold War had a President for Life (Fernando Marcos) who was ultimately dethroned by a popular revolt. Since then, elections have brought to power leaders with good intentions (and one popular actor) who were not strong enough to prevail over their country's poisonously corrupt culture.

A new election has brought them a very scary monster, Rodrigo Duterte, who has a Trump-like tendency to say vulgar and insulting things---some aimed at our own president----and then have to tread them back. He has a thuggish face which telegraphs his character. Nearly 1800 people have been murdered (drug users, he says) in extrajudicial executions.

He thinks he can get our goat by threatening to drop our bilateral defense treaties and turn to China instead.  I really hope he does. China will then be faced with trying to control two thugs, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and what looks like another elected “president for life,” Rodrigo Duterte. And yes, the ignorant populist mobs there love him. Elections matter.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or