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"Tradition?? The only good traditions are food traditions. The rest are repressive."

"There are two ways to think. The first is to trust to your ancestors, your religious leaders, or your charismatic professors. The second is to question, to challenge, to explore history for meanings, and to analyze issues. This latter is called Critical Thinking, and it is this that is the mission of my web site. "

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman  

October 2017

Vietnam Revisited


The latest Ken Burns documentary, Vietnam, should have been as widely watched as his Civil War documentary. Many people, however, including some of my friends who were in college then, and others, working class and patriotic, have found it too painful to watch. I am sorry that they missed this, because it was an extremely fair revisit that would have been impossible to make short of 50 years passage of time.

The series was punctuated by the popular music of the period and more...

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August 2017

Iran's Simmering Rebellion

Misaugh Parsa, a Dartmouth professor, has published a fascinating book, Democracy In Iran: Why it Failed and How it Might Succeed (2016). He sought answers to why countries such as Taiwan and South Korea, both military dictatorships, accepted representative democracy in the late 20th century, while Iran's many attempts at democratization always failed. This comparison is interesting because all three of these countries once enjoyed a comparable level of economic development. Taiwan and South Kor more...

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Where Religious Tolerance is Scorned (Part 3 of 3)

On May 13, my column provided the global history of religious tolerance. On May 20, I charted the history of western religious persecution that led to today?s modern values of tolerance. Today?s column visits the absence of religious tolerance in the Muslim world and among authoritarian states.

The most interesting case is roiling Muslim-majority countries, countries that enjoyed a brief period of modernization that brought with it (temporarily) secular governance downplaying rel more...

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May 2016

Saudi Arabia: Our Troubled and Troublesome Ally (Part 2 of 2)


A country as insignificant as Saudi Arabia before oil would have mattered little to the world. In the 1950s, as oil wealth began to pour in, the Saudi princes wanted the same sorts of conspicuous consumption enjoyed by other world millionaires. When they first brought in automobiles (for themselves), the Wahhabi clergy were outraged, considering camels good enough for pious Muslims. Cameras and, later, television, were also on their list of harmful items for Saudi culture.

more...

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May 2015

Europe?s Newest Invasion needs Tough Love.


As Europeans wring their hands over the arrival of desperate boat people swarming from an Africa that seems to be in death throes, Italy is being shamed into rescuing them. How can they not? How can anybody in Europe not be shamed to relive the last time they created refugees when Yugoslavia was in meltdown? Or before that, when Jews had to flee, or when that savior of refugees, America, turned away ships, sending Jews back to the Nazis who then murdered them?

But as a hi more...

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September 2014

Ebola Is Just The Tip of an Iceberg.

The news is full of the latest version of an old demon facing humanity: plagues and epidemics. Ebola is a dreadful disease that has crossed over from the ape family and has gone from an infrequent village killer to reaching some overpopulated urban areas and is currently incurable.

As always, the three-minute news bite misses the bigger picture, one with historic roots. The big picture has some unpleasant truths:

? Origin. Almost all endemic diseases affecting huma more...

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Is Militant Islam Facing an Endgame?

Many intellectuals believe that the political right-wing is “demonizing” Islam. This is a conundrum, because it appears that Islam is demonizing itself. How peaceful is a religion when it is obviously going through a fever fueled by resentment, fear of modernity, and a phase of religiosity that is as much at war with its own people as it is against the rest of the world?

Religions are like rivers: there is upstream, downstream, rapids, still waters, and a delta where the relig more...

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