Thursday, December 8, 2016

How Our “Nation of Immigrants” Works.

Laina Farhat-Holzman
December 10, 2016

We are a nation of immigrants, including even the “Native Americans” who just migrated here from Asia earlier. Human beings are a mobile species, having migrated from Africa to settle every continent 50,000-100,000 years ago. Even these early migrants had trouble with others either already there or coming from elsewhere. How else did the Neanderthals, our cousin species, get wiped out? Our species has always believed that when newcomers arrive, “there goes the neighborhood.”

Our own country's absorption of immigrants is a new model for the world.
Most came seeking a better life. Others came involuntarily, as slaves, or as starvelings taking any work they could find (the railroad building Irish, Chinese, and former Black slaves). We could not have built this country without them.

Each group of desperate immigrants was greeted with hostility by earlier arrivals, declaring migrants would ruin the culture, bring crime and disease, and be incapable of integrating.  These fears proved wrong. Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews, Lebanese, Norwegians and Swedes, Chinese, and Japanese all settled in, went to public schools and colleges, and brought with them cultural gifts (food and arts) that enriches our lives today.

These people wanted to integrate (exceptions: the Amish and militant Islamists), and some within the first generation of arrival (Jews) excelled in every sort of occupation: doctors, lawyers, scientists, actors and artists, as well as distinguished service in the military and Supreme Court. Many of these people arrived with nothing but the shirts on their backs and had only known brutal exclusion, from which they fled.

Our “melting pot” only works when all these immigrants share a common creed: belief in the Constitution, belief that everybody should be treated equally under the law, and belief in service for the common good. Such service includes voting and accepting gracefully winning or losing. The only acceptable ideology for us is that of democratic and participatory governance and rule of law. It unites, not divides.

I happened to watch President Obama's final opportunity during his presidency to award our highest civilian honors (Presidential Medal of Freedom) to 21 Americans. The recipients all sat on the stage together, a range of color, age, height (very tall to very short), gender, and ancestry. This diversity was not the result of a quota system; no “identity politics” here; it was a display of excellence! The medal recognizes “especially meritorious contributions to our national interests and culture.”

In the cinema, America's great gift to the world, Obama honored Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, and Cicely Tyson (Black and female). Two of our greatest basketball players were honored, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabar, both African-American and one a convert to Islam. Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross represented music. Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, comedian Ellen DeGeneres (gay), and beloved Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully, were all honored. President Obama noted that all these people helped push America forward and inspired millions around the world.

Also honored were Richard Garwin (physicist), Frank Gehry (architect), Margaret H. Hamilton (mathematician and computer scientist), Maya Lin (designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial), Lorne Michaels (producer of Saturday Night Live), Newton Minow (former Federal communications chairman), and Eduardo Padron (president of Miami Dade College). Posthumous awards honored American Indian advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

The best tribute to the diversity of America is seen in the unity of excellence. Every one of these people served our society, making it the wonder of the world. There were no exceptions here, no tribes unwilling to recognize others, no ideologies other than devotion to the United States.

Those few thugs who shout at and beat up people they think are immigrants are just throwbacks to the first Homo Sapiens who wiped out the Neanderthals. What is new in the world is the unity, despite origin, gender, or sexuality, that makes us the amazing country that we are.

Tribalism is a throwback to our most primitive instincts. Love of country is a much nobler quality. E Pluribus Unum.  All of us matter.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ninash Foundation Appeal to the Compassionate Members of the (ISCSC)

This Holiday Season (2016) coincides with the 20th Anniversary of the Ninash Foundation (, a 501©(3)  not-for-profit charity that built its first school for 50 female and minority children of India in 1996. Today the foundation has 7 schools in the remote parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat educating more than 1800 underprivileged children. More than 100 of these children are going to colleges of their choice where they are getting their degrees in medicine, engineering, business, secretarial profession, etc.  It is all because of your donations that support this very noble effort.

Ninash Foundation
The first Indo-International Culture School was established in 1996 with 50 female and minority children (formerly called untouchables) in a one-room school-house.

Below are some of the projects that need to be funded during the next year at the seven schools. Please open your hearts and pockets to contribute to one or more of these projects by visiting the Ninash Foundation website at and pay through PayPal or send a check to The Ninash Foundation, 17 Center Street, Oneonta, New York13820.

Ninash Foundation
The first Indo-International Culture School was established in 1996 with 50 female and minority children (formerly called untouchables) in a one-room school-house.

List of projects and estimated budget for each:.

1.     Playground set (Cost: $1000)
2.     White boards for each classroom notebooks (Cost $500 per school)
3.     Tee shirts and shoes for each child and teacher (Cost: $500 per school)
4      Solar panels (Cost: $7000 for each school)
5.     Generator for electricity for the school (Cost: $5000 for each school)
6.     State of the art WIFI/Internet (Cost: $500 for a year)
7.     Rain Harvesting Material, pond, pipes, roofs, gutters etc.  (Cost; $4000 per school)
8.     College scholarships for children, who after graduation would like to go to college
        (Cost per student per year $650 times 4=$2500 for four years)
9.     Art lessons for the children and community (Cost to hire an Art Teacher= $3000 a year)
10.   State of the art smart classrooms (Cost: $3000 for each school)
11.   New Computers (Cost: $400 per computer times 20=$8000)
12.   A New School building for 250 tribal Children of Sagbara, Gujarat (Cost: $80,000)
13.   Toilets for 80 families (Cost: $500 times 80= $40,000)

I hope to hear from you soon!

With kind regards,

Dr. Ashok Kumar Malhotra, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor
Founder/Chair Yoga Society (
Founder, The Ninash Foundation (
Hillary Clinton/Obama Delegate: Democratic Convention 2008
Distinguished Alumni Award University of Hawaii
Distinguished Alumni Award East West Center
Nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

Laina At the Movies

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
November, 2016


This fascinating film is the true story of a libel law suit in Britain that had important consequences.  Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) in her book on Holocaust deniers condemned the work of David Irving, a self-trained World War II historian whose passion for defending Adolph Hitler made him a prominent Holocaust denier. He claimed that there never were death camps and crematoria, and further claimed that holocaust survivors were frauds in the pay of Israel to make money.

Unlike America's similarity to British law (from which our system derived), the British law regarding libel has permitted many well-heeled people to haul authors into court demanding damages. In the United States, free speech laws are far more defended, as one interesting case shows.

An American author, Rachel Ehrenfeld, who runs a think tank in New York, wrote a book called Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed, and How to Stop It (2003). The book accused a wealthy Saudi businessman of funding al-Qaida. This man, Khalid bin Mahfouz, sued her in a British court and because she didn't show up in court, he won huge damages and the demand that her book not be sold in the UK and all extant copies must be destroyed. His huge fortune intimidated her from lawyering up in a British court.

Ehrenfeld was astonished.  She does not live in England and the book was not published there, so she wondered why Mahfuz did not sue her in an American court where she could defend the truth of her book. He did not do so because the UK has now become the refuge of rascals who have created an industry attacking free speech. This is called Libel Tourism.

Happily, Ehrenfeld was able to solicit the help of the New York State Legislature, which took up her defense and passed a bill called the Libel Terrorism Protection Act (Rachel's Law). The US Congress took up the issue and passed the “Speech Act,” which passed the House and Senate unanimously, and President Obama signed it (2010). It prevents US courts from enforcing British libel rulings.

Denial follows the case in which another American author (Lipstadt) was sued by the notorious David Irving who made a living out of writing World War II history that presented a defense of Hitler and the Nazis. He claimed Lipstadt's book defamed him and he wanted damages and destruction of her book. The burden of proof, unlike that in the US, was on her to prove that he deliberately falsified and lied. British law permits people to have genuine beliefs, even when obnoxious. She would have to prove that his falsifications were deliberate.

Her British legal team (with the wonderful Tom Wilkinson playing Richard Rampton, her attorney) did not want her to take the stand nor could she bring in any holocaust survivors. The team had seen how the theatrical David Irving (Timothy Spall) has humiliated other holocaust survivors in other court challenges.

The film is marvelous. It is enlightening to see how a crack team of British lawyers can thread their way around a well-intentioned law with very bad consequences.  Justice is not served by this law, but this team played it very cleverly. Irving, like other narcissists and bullies, could be played by a wily attorney.  Deborah Lipstadt was well served.

Doctor Strange
I wouldn't think of missing a movie that has Benedict Cumberbatch in it, but I do regret seeing this one. The story is a comic book fantasy, which would be all right with me, except that this one removed my normal defenses.

The story is that a brilliant neurosurgeon, arrogant and very rich, Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) stupidly drives his sports car so fast that he loses control of it. He awakens in the emergency room, finding that all the bones in his hands (as well as other parts of his body) have been broken. Although he slowly heals, his hands are not healed enough for the delicate surgery that he performed as a neurosurgeon.

After exhausting all the miracles of western medicine, he sets out for the mysterious east, where he hopes to find another sort of wisdom that could heal him. He arrives in Katmandu, a crowded city that does not have even a safe water supply. My credibility flagged; this is no place to get healed. But then he finds a mysterious portal where a woman of several hundred years of age (played by the marvelous Tilda Swinton, completely bald, introduces him to a hidden world of magic and cosmic conflict where he is transformed from surgeon to superhero.

From that point on, the film becomes a whirling nightmare of psychedelic special effects that made me dizzy, missing entirely the delight that people report from an LSD trip.
There will be enthusiastic admirers of this film, but most will be decades my junior. I was not pleased.

Movies have been obsessed with the fear (and sometimes fascinating possibilities) of our first galactic visitors. There have been many movies for almost a century now that regard such visitors as menacing, the assumption being that with their technological genius at space travel, they would be as scornful of us as the Conquistadors were of the Native Americans.

Over the past half- century, we have also had a few movies about aliens arriving to save us from ourselves, unify us and, warn us to stop those actions that threaten the destruction of our planet.
The most difficult part of making such a movie is imagining what other sentient beings might look like, usually assuming some sort of variation on the human being. Star Trek did this, providing characters who were obviously human but had surface differences: wrinkled foreheads, strange colors, etc.

Arrival is the best film I have ever seen dealing with an alien visit, in this case, space ships looking like whales, twelve of them, hovering over 12 different countries of the world. When they do not immediately show aggression, each of the involved countries tries to figure out how to communicate with these obviously non-human arrivals. With their obvious technological skill, we know that they must be rational. The military and their governments are in charge of this project, concerned that there might be aggressive motivation from which they would have to defend the planet.

The US military, to their great credit, demonstrate their excellence in putting together two teams assigned to break the communications code. One, Linguistics Professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams), with astonishing courage, takes on the communications project by trying to establish symbolic means, written languages, to begin the contact. The second team is headed by a mathematician, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who approaches the project also using symbolic language, numbers. Forest Whitaker plays the very wise army colonel who heads the entire effort and who, with great tact and empathy, encourages and protects the two academic team leaders.

Being something of a linguist myself, I did have a great laugh when linguist Louise Banks demonstrates the ambiguity of translations by asking the literal translation of the word “war” in ancient Sanskrit. The literal definition is “desire for more cattle.” Indeed, that was probably the origin of war, along with “desire for the other tribe's women.” War's origins were much more humble than what we think of today.

A subtext in this film is the difficulty of linguistic comprehension between and among human beings themselves.  It is not only the aliens with whom we need to communicate.
This film is fascinating, beautifully executed, and moving. I will go back to see it again. For execution of this remarkable movie and the acting (particularly that of the wonderful Amy Adams), I see Academy Awards consideration.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
How can you go wrong with a film based on the writing of J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) that takes us back to a time 70 years before Harry Potter's school days at Hogwarts? I was prepared to be enchanted.

Alas, I was not. There were plenty of imaginative creatures who get loose from a satchel, lots of witches and wizards making things explode, and the usually excellent Eddie Redmayne, a wonderful character actor, in this film mumbles without moving his lips, leaving me without a clue of what he said.
I think this film is too scary for young children, and too noisy for a nap for grownups.

Rules Don't Apply
A film about the infamous Howard Hughes should be interesting if one looks at both his genius and his madness. In this film, however, Howard Hughes is played by Warren Beatty as an opportunity to play a very crazy guy. The film also offered a number of cameo roles to some of Hollywood's most famous stars, which seemed very generous of them in this rather awful movie.

The film follows the careers of two young people who share religiosity, an aspiring actress, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and Hughes chauffeur Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich). They are obviously made for each other, but cannot pursue their passions because Marla is one of many young women under contract to Howard Hughes and Frank is forbidden to have any relationship with this girl. What belongs to Hughes belongs to Hughes!

I did not find any of these characters interesting enough to care about. And I found it incredible that a virginal girl who had never touched alcohol could get drunk and seduce the repulsive Hughes, getting pregnant from this single contact as well.  Baloney! No real motivation for this nonsense.
Beatty is on the list for best actors this year.  Bah, Humbug.

Finally, a movie to delight after a season of pretty sad fare. I had flashbacks of my favorite film, Casablanca, in this World War II thriller starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Pitt plays Max Vatan, a Canadian intelligence officer working for the British is parachuted into Morocco where he is to meet with a French agent, Marianne Beausejour, where they are to pose as a married couple of Vichi French supporters of the Third Reich. Their assignment is a dangerous one, the assassination of a Nazi ambassador and a ballroom full of locals.

Their pretense at being a married couple becomes real when they fall in love and return to London, marry, and have a baby girl. Then suspicion falls on Marianne; is she a Nazi spy? If she is, her husband must kill her.  Herein lies the rest of the story: Max's  mad attempt to get at the truth.
This was a very well written film, and the actors had chemistry. I am so happy that some old fashioned movie making still exists.  Not everything has to be “edgy.”

Many young people who see this film will be amazed that at one time, not that long ago, it was against the law in a number of states for people of different races to marry. This film is the story of one such couple, Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), who lived in Virginia and were arrested  for living together as married, even with a legal marriage license from another state. Virginia was not having it! They would not have to face a prison term if they moved out of Virginia. They did, had three children, but Mildred desperately missed her close-knit family and hated living in a city, missing the life in the countryside.

When they tried to return to Virginia, they were once more arrested, and this  time, the ACLU took up a law suit that went quickly to the Supreme Court. The Court, in a landmark ruling, ended miscegenation laws in all these states, making it American law that people may marry whom they please. (Of course, this was long before same sex marriages were even considered, but the law paved the way.)

The acting of Edgerton and Negga was lovely, endearing, and believable. Richard Loving was a believable working class White man, a careful bricklayer, whose only sin was loving his Black wife and children. Negga was a simple wife and mother, delicate and seemingly frail, who had a spine of steel. She was the one  brave enough to understand the consequences of suing the state of Virginia and perhaps creating new law.

It is a lovely film, with only the complaint that it was longer than needed. A little more cutting would have been welcome.

America's History of Isolationism or Engagement.

Laina Farhat-Holzman
December 3, 2016

November 11, 1918, was Armistice Day. On that date a century ago, World  War I ended with a cease fire. The clear loser, Germany, collapsed in exhaustion after fighting on two fronts: France and Britain on one end and Russia on the other. The war was stalemated until the United States, very late in the war, entered on the side of France and Britain and won it. Although we do not make much of this holiday, it is still terribly important to the British and French, who lost a whole generation of young men before the war ended.

And how did it end? Britain and France punished Germany, demanding huge reparations. Germans were beggared and bitter, until the Nazi party, led by an demagogue, Adolph Hitler, won by a plurality in a democratic election, after which there were no more elections until 1945, when Germany was in ruins. One man, one vote, one time, is not a formula for happiness.

World War I also ended with the collapse of three old empires, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Turk. Russia's Empire was replaced by a new empire, the USSR, which quickly absorbed most of the ethnic colonies that enjoyed a brief independence after the fall of the Russian Empire.

The Ottoman collapse gave rise to a new country, Turkey, which had cleansed itself largely of its Christian populations (Greeks and Armenians). Its former Muslim colonies, most of them Arab, struggled with self-rule, which they did very badly. They tried monarchy, dictatorships, and one (Lebanon) tried a multi-ethnic election system which also failed to work because one sect cheated.

The European countries spawned by the death of the three empires did try democratic elections, but most failed to survive, and were swallowed up by the Nazis or the USSR on the eve of World War II.

The United States, the winner of World War I, tried, under President Woodrow Wilson, to promote a vision of a world “safe for democracy” and governed by a system of laws accepted by every country, laws that would replace warfare. Unfortunately, Wilson's vision was denied by a growing desire of the American public to withdraw from the expense and bother of being the world's cop. Our withdrawal from this responsibility left a vacuum, one filled by much more evil visions.

World War I gave birth to World War II, an even more violent World War, that ended with only two great powers: the US, undamaged by that war, and the very damaged Soviet Union, which quickly swallowed up whole swaths of Europe and eyed the rest of the world hungrily. Because the US did not withdraw from its global responsibility, the USSR not only failed to conquer the world, but ultimately collapsed, leaving us the single superpower in the world.

Today, however, there are voices among us urging that we just withdraw from the job of world cop.  Why spend our tax money?  Why not just let the uglies, who have risen from desert sands, fight it out, or the once-more awakened Russia chop off pieces of their neighbors who were once their colonies?

Taking the long view of American history, we have been an inspiration for many and fear by tyrants that our kind of democracy might be contagious. We were isolationists between 1830-1865, primarily because the Northern senators did not want slavery extended to the Caribbean (which the Southern senators wanted). Until the issue of slavery was resolved, we had few international aspirations. This ended early in the 20th century when President Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Prize for mediating a peace treaty for ending the Russo-Japanese war.

With the exception of the years between World Wars I and II, when we were again isolationist, we have been the world's most essential player. Our labors have guaranteed that the world became a better place, a world largely governed by global norms, rule of law, and the rise of more people out of poverty than ever before in history.

Will we be short-sighed again and withdraw from our global responsibilities? Who might replace us as the world's champion of rule of law?

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


Bertill Haggman
November 30, 2016

During the Great Northern War (1700 – 1721) Sweden was allied to the Crimean Khanate and Devlet Geray, Khan of Budjak, of Crimea, Nogay and Circassia.

Budjak is now part of independent Ukraine, subdivided into two cities and nine administrative districts (raions) of the Odessa Oblast. The main ethnic groups today are Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Russians and Moldovans. Earlier the Nogay Tatars also lived in Budjak.

The Nogay horde was a confederation of 18 Turkic and Mongol tribes that ha migrated west from the Pontic-Caspian steppe. The Nogay were divided in Budjak (from the River Danube to the River Dniestr), Yedisans (from the River Dniestr to the River Bug), Janboyluk (from the River Bug to Crimea) and the Yedikul (north of Crimea and Kuban).
It should be remembered that both Charles XII and the Ukrainian Head of State Ivan Mazepa and his successor Pylyp Orlyk from 1707 to 1714 sought alliances against Russia with also Bashkirs, the Don Cossacks and Circassians.

Saturday, December 3, 2016