Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Challenging Authority

Ever since Ancient Greece and Rome — perhaps Akkadian times, too, with the poetry of Enheduanna, the poet-daughter of Sargon the Great — authority has been blessed by challengers.

Even the name, Gadfly, originated with Socrates who corrupted the youth of Athens. Then, the playwright, Aristophanes, added that literary discipline to the compendium of satire.

Satire more recently crossed the Channel to Ireland and Britain with Jonathan Swift, and then in England (and the world) with Punch magazine. Political cartoons found a niche, and reached their height by making fun of JMW Turner, the pre-Impressionist British artist. Now, political cartoons appear on the editorial pages of many newspapers on both sides of the Pond.

GADFLY started recently in the US in the time of the Iraq War when the infamous liar called Curveball told Dick Cheney what he wanted to hear regarding weapons of mass destruction. As an add on, the (Vice) president told us that Saddam Hussein was friends with Al Qaeda. Neither was true.

A series of Letters to the Editor from Milanville followed, and soon after, The GADFLY column appeared in three different local newspapers in the Delaware Valley. Dick Cheney continued to supply raw material for GADFLY, and Donald Rumsfeld added a few select gems. More recently, GADFLY started its own blog:  gadflysmiling.blogspot.com.  

By the time The Donald assumed the Presidency, GADFLY held over 150 column with no end in sight, most of them as relevant as ever. GADFLY plans to continue to teach using the Socratic method of questioning, but has no plans to partake of hemlock

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Walls and Fences

The Gadfly Research & Revelry Gang (GRR) has heard that the White House is composing a Tweet to announce a new position: a Retroactive Poet Laureate and will name Robert Frost to the post. It seems President Trump read the last line of Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, [“Good fences make good neighbors”] and decided that Frost would be the first Ex Post Facto Poet Laureate.

Never mind that Mending Wall starts with “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and a little further asks “What am I walling in or walling out?” Frost answers the question with, “My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines.”

But, President Trump is better known for creating his alternative facts than in reading a poem from beginning to end.

Neither is The Donald known to be a student of history. But someone ought to remind him that the Mexican-American war was about as shameful as the Vietnam or Iraq Wars. We literally stole one-third of the territory of Mexico. President James Polk invoked the principle of Manifest Destiny, as if taking anyone else's land could ever be a principle of anything but robbery. Then, to show that it was just a real estate deal, he signed peace treaty with a Mexican name, Guadalupe Hidalgo, and paid Mexico $15 million. $15 million even then was a fire (arms) sale for the entire US SouthWest — most of Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. Texas was another whole story. It was a deal to make Trump proud.

The only ones to benefit from walls and fences seem to be the satirists and the poets. 

A recent Letter to the Editor expands the topic a little:
Asylum or Sanctuary?
The first a legal status derived
from working judges.  The second,
history and hallowed ground to set rules.

Let The Donald fire me.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Donald Trump — For All the Wrong Reasons

Only a few reasons are out there when it comes to why Donald Trump does anything. Pretty women, fame, and fortune seem to top the short list. Some say there are few if any others, but if we look at the international scene, he is ahead of even progressive Democrats. 

First, he made friends with Vladimir Putin (formerly of the KGB). Was it to end the Cold War? A Trump Tower in Moscow as an International Conference Center is more likely. The two leaders would prefer Peace Treaty conferences moved from Geneva to Moscow, each for their own reasons. Putin would like to restore Russia to its leadership role under the Czars. Trump would just like to shake things up, add to his rent rolls, and provide a venue for a formal Peace Treaty with North Korea and a subsequent Nobel Peace Prize for himself. Trump a Peace Laureate?

He’s been working on it. He has already held talks with Kim Jong Un on turning the Cease Fire of 1953 into a real Peace Treaty. To show that he means it, he has unilaterally cancelled the annual War Games the US has been holding with (not against) the South Korean military. Kim Jong Un has already said he would dismantle his nuclear works once a formal Peace Treaty is signed with the US. The best the two sides have been able to achieve since the 1953 Cease Fire has been a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, is all for rapprochement. In the Inter-Korean summit Talks of April 2018 he and Kim signed the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity, and Unification of the Korean Peninsula. So who is against a Permanent Peace Treaty? Maybe only John Bolton (of the white mustache), the perennial war hawk.

For Trump, a Nobel Peace Prize would also add a cool $1 million to his coffers. And, who knows of the unexpected opportunities that may come up. The last model Peace Treaty was signed between Tibet and China in 821 CE (AD). In the Treaty, the Kings were given all due respect — the Kings were referred to as the Great King of China and the Great King of Tibet, the Miraculous Divine Lord. Such titles would surely suit The Donald. 

All well and good, but Trump may have painted himself into a corner with his Border Wall to keep illegal immigrants out. The Gadfly Revelry & Research Team met to discuss the matter, and found a way out for one who can change his mind when it suits him.

US Law states that any immigrant with a green card or any other color may appeal for Sanctuary. Indeed, many of the immigrants from Central America — Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and others — have come to the US to escape danger, persecution or deep poverty. The Pilgrims,four centuries ago, came for religious freedom.

The R&R Team suggests that Donald just re-purpose the Wall. He can start by renaming it the Diego Rivera Wall in memory of the early 20th century Mexican muralist. Anyone who worked with such large scale frescoes would surely be attractive to Trump who was an artist in his own right. [The Art of the Deal.] 

In fact, such a tradition already exists in Honesdale PA. the county seat of conservative Wayne County.  The Great Wall of Honesdale displays large format paintings and attracts many artists.  

So, for the right reasons or wrong, if Donald Trump can bring Peace, end the Cold War, reunite North and South Korea, and welcome immigrants (artists and others) we can give him credit for such worthy achievements. The Donald will have made America Great again.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Model Peace Treaty

A Model Peace Treaty

In these days of “Shock & Awe” bombing of the capital of a country (Baghdad) by another country across the sea (the US);  the bombing by pilotless drones, based on rumor;  and the assassination of the leader of one country (Gaddafi of Libya) by a consortium of military appointees (NATO) — the World is in desperate need of a Model Peace Treaty. 

As it happens, in 821 CE, the Kingdoms of China and Tibet were wise enough to offer civilization such a Model Peace Treaty that would last for 10,000 years.

First, they were respectful, addressing each other by their proper tiles: “The Great King of Tibet, the Miraculous Divine Lord, and the Great King of China, Hwang-ti”. They seemed to know that we might need such a treaty or two in the 21st century, and so engraved a stone pillar in both languages at the Cathedral at Lhasa, “to inform future ages and generations that they extend their benevolence impartially with the single desire of acting for the peace and benefit of all their subjects. They agree on the high purpose of ensuring lasting good, and have made this great treaty to live in peace and share the blessings of happiness for 10,000 years.”

The Great Kings also instructed that messengers be sent to exchange messages of friendship regarding the harmonious relationship between the two Kings. The envoys were instructed to treat each other with honor and respect.

They also had expectations that the people of both Tibet and China would follow the example of their leaders, that “the very word ‘enemy’ shall not be spoken.”

Surely, there are leaders of nations today who are more interested in respect and in their legacy than in ordinary money, perhaps in 10,000 years of Peace.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Holy Land – The No-State Solution

This essay originally was written 6/10/09
Hereafter, it will be called the Holy Land, not Palestine, not Israel. The name change is necessary to bring about the only possible solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict – the No-State Solution.
Before there were Jews and Muslims, before there was a Yahweh, the Near East was well settled by different peoples. The Sumerians, having migrated from Central Asia, settled in Mesopotamia. Bedouins from the desert were accepted into their midst. Earlier, population centers had developed at Catal Huyuk in central Anatolia (Turkey) and at Jericho in the Levant some 9,000 years ago. Different races (by skull type) apparently got along together. On the Mediterranean coast only a little later, cities developed at Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre. Many people and many peoples cultivated crops and herded animals in the Near East . They became craftsmen using materials found in the earth. Trade existed from earliest times in the Neolithic — obsidian and pottery are but two examples.
In these ancient times, most folks worshipped many gods: Utu (Samas) the sun god, Nanna (Sin) the moon god, Ea the god of sweet water, Enlil the god of air and wind, Ninhursag (Nintu) the goddess of the earth, and scores more. You could call upon Innana the goddess of love, but after Sumerian times, it was a little trickier as she became Istar, who was in charge of both love and war. Perhaps that’s when Nanshe the goddess of morality stepped up to keep some balance among mortals.
Around 1900 BCE, a Semite named Abram, who lived in the city of Ur on the Euphrates, had a vision and made a covenant with a God who said He was in charge of everything. Abe changed his name from Abram to Abraham and set off for Canaan on the Western Sea. Abraham had some major doubt when this new God asked him to sacrifice his #2 son, Isaac. When the request was rescinded at the last moment, Abraham kept his half of the deal. God, over the following generations performed a few tricks (miracles) to convince the skeptical who still had favorites among the other gods. Soon, or maybe not so soon, monotheism among the Semites became established. There followed a few centuries of wandering around the Near East – once a nomad it’s hard to cleanse your blood of the inclination – before three major branches of monotheism grew: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The denominations of each will wait till later in our discussion.
Today, there is great animosity between Jews and Muslims, especially between Israelis and Arabs. Some pundits say the conflict has always existed and never will be resolved. But, past history tells us otherwise and professional seers say the future isn’t writ is stone. Here’s the story.
At the western end of the Mediterranean, the Moors converted to Islam and established their rule in southern Spain. In Andalusia, the city of Cordoba became the pre-eminent center of intellectual activity: science, medicine, mathematics, literature, and philosophy. Scholars were attracted from the entire world of the time. Jews were tolerated and even served in high posts in government. Some change occurred from one caliphate to the next, but Islamic rule began in the 8th century and lasted almost 800 years. The great Jewish philosopher-physician-rabbi Maimonides lived under Islamic rule in Spain, Morocco, and Egypt during this time (12th century).
At the eastern end of the Mediterranean, Jews and Muslims had lived together peaceably in the Levant for centuries. When Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade and his forces captured Jerusalem (1099), Jews and Muslims were slaughtered with equal fervor. Fighting over political and economic power makes for strange friends and enemies – strange to us today.
Let us go back further to Sumerian times in Mesopotamia – many Bedouins from the Arabian desert settled in and around the Sumerian city-states of the Fertile Crescent and a few integrated with the urban populations. By 2300 BCE, Sargon, a descendant of these nomadic tribes, took power and embarked on a series of military adventures by which he established the Akkad empire. War became an established way of doing business thereafter. Before Akkad rule, the city-states – Ur, Uruk, Kish, Babylon, Larsa, Eridu, and others – were each ruled by a king. But one city, Nippur, was considered neutral ground. It was a holy city under the protection of the great god Enlil and respected by all. When kings of different cities would send their ministers to Nippur to confer (or confront), they were not allowed to bring warriors with weapons. Agreement was easier without spears and swords for distraction. Archeologists have found many documents in clay (hard copy, then) stamped with seals of several cities in common agreement.
Nippur is a fine model for a no-state solution for Israel and Palestine. Jews and Muslims can start integrating the cities one after another: Jericho, Jerusalem, Gaza, Askalon, and Hebron – all the oldest cities first. They would live side by side and even welcome Christians and Pagans. Integration of the countryside would follow in short order. Arabs and Jews working in the olive groves and raising figs and pomegranates – the deserts would bloom. Muslims and Jews have a common tradition. They both speak of Abraham as their common Patriarch. Their dietary habits are similar to this day. In the Levant, many Israeli Jews speak Arabic and Israeli Arabs all speak Hebrew. We know opposites attract and can expect there to be a few who fall in love and marry. The Holy Land will be the new land of man & womankind. The Holy Land currency will be written in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, just as it was in the early 20th century. The tradition of Isaiah will attract diplomats, negotiators, and conciliators. Enemies here and there around the world will become only adversaries, and then it’s just a short thought to collaboration. Jerusalem, in the spirit of Solomon, will be the place for resolving world conflicts peacefully. What work could be more holy?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Our Origins in Ancient History

Jews and Palestinians are both Semitic people — originally from the Arabian (not necessarily the Saudi Arabian) desert.

In the 5th to 3rd millennia BCE, the Sumerians migrated from Central Asia to the Mesopotamian Valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers where they became farmers and herders. Between farming and trading, the Sumerians became prosperous and built towns and cities.

Some of the nomads from the nearby dessert became attracted to the life in the settlements and were welcomed, even as the Semites and the Sumerians exhibited different physiognomies. 

The centuries went by — the Sumerian Early Dynastic time from 3,000 BCE to mid-millennium, the Akkad period of Empire, the invasion of the  barbaric Gutian mountain tribes and dark times,  and then the Third Dynasty of Ur resurgence. It was 2,000 BCE, the time that Abraham lived — a thousand years into the Bronze Age. Religion had been polytheistic among the people in all the cities: Shamash, the sun god;  Enlil , god of wind and storm;  Inanna, goddess of love;   Ea, god of sweet water;  and a patron god of each city-state. People liked the idea of choice, and they especially liked the stories about the relations between the gods.

At the time of Ur III, God revealed Himself to Abraham (then called Abram) as the one true God and promised a land for his descendants. The story went through Moses and the Ten Commandments, Jesus and the New Testament, the Prophet and Islam. The bottom line is that Abraham was and is the Patriarch of both Jews and Muslims, both having been desert nomads and of Semitic origin.

So why are the Jews and Arabs forever fighting with each other? As Rabih Alaneddine, the Lebanese writer told us, “At the heart of most antagonisms are irreconcilable similarities.”

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


North Korea, as everyone knows, is secretive. So, we have to depend on the US corporate press for our truth & perception of the young and crazy leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. But there are other sources of information such as South Korea and logic as taught by Aristotle in Ancient Greece. It is also generally known that Kim likes VSOP French Brandy and pretty, young women, one of whom is his wife. How crazy is that?

But, if Kim Jong Un is not so young and crazy, why is he suddenly testing new and long-range ballistic missiles to carry his nuclear warheads — 27 more tests at last count in 2017? So far, they might reach only to Hawaii or Alaska, though not to Hollywood or San Diego. It could not be because of the joint US-South Korea war games, which are now annual affairs. Nor could it be that the US withdrew from the Agreed Framework by which the two countries were to normalize their relations in exchange for North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. That withdrawal took place in 2003 coinciding with the Shock & Awe bombing of Iraq.  

So why has Kim Jong Un pressed the Panic Button concluding with a missile test that flew 2300 miles over the Pacific in September 2017? Let’s look at the back story of the bombing and invasion of Iraq based on information given by the CIA informant, Curveball. Saddam was captured in 2006 and ended up being hanged in 2006. A second backstory concerns NATO warplanes forcing Qaddafi of Libya into the hands of the Benghazians and an even more horrible fate in 2011.

Now for the Timing. In late 2016, North Korean cyber experts hacked into South Korean military computers and down-loaded a ton of documents [ok, so it was only 235 gigabytes] that included the details of US plans to assassinate Kim Jong UN and attack North Korea. The story came from the BBC who got it from the Defense Committee of the South Korean National Assembly, not from Kim’s barber.

So, Kim is young and wears a non-conformist hair style, but he is not so crazy. He is just wants a credible deterrent — maybe a missile that can reach the White House or Trump Tower. Alternately, we could sign a peace treaty with North Korea, ending the Korean War. China would be happy to act as a guarantor.