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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  

December 2018

Can There Be a Centrist Party?

The political pendulum in this country has now swung to two extremes, making it very difficult for a sensible person to select a party that is a big, tolerant tent. Once long ago, the Republicans were such a party and for the same length of time, the Democrats were also a big tent. Today, both parties are struggling for survival and both are being deserted by people in the sensible middle.

A good friend of mine, has stated the problem well:
"Centrist? God, I hope so. The ex more...

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March 2018

Two Books Explore "What Ifs" in History


The extraordinary closeness of our 2016 presidential election is getting plenty of attention. Very few political analysts at the time predicted that Hillary Clinton could lose the election. Even Donald Trump didn?t really believe that he would win, which was obvious in the choice of a modest venue for the election night party. Analysts are just beginning to explore the "what ifs" of this moment in history.

What if they overlooked the rising tide of people left jobless by more...

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Thirteen Russians Indicted for Election Meddling



For several years now, we have heard about Information Warfare, a new way of fighting enemy countries. This method is as much of an "equalizer" as was the invention of firearms in the late middle age, which gave even a weak man lethality equivalent to a talented swordsman. Keen observers have always warned us that great new inventions can have terrible consequences. Although it is wonderful to have information so available to everyone, regardless of power and wealth, it is not wo more...

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In a Democracy, Character Matters.


This column is not just launching an attack on President Trump, although his character does matter. Rather, it explores the overall issue of good character and the role it plays in the survival of a democracy. Since John F. Kennedy's influential book Profiles in Courage, there has been little attention to what good character is and how essential it is in keeping us a good country.

Good character could be defined as behavior that promotes "doing the right thing," even when more...

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October 2017

Leaving the Union: Pros and Cons

If American foreign policy were based on our own historic experience, we must oppose secession movements. We would not like to see Spain lose part of its country to a province leaving them for independence (Catalonia) or the Kurds leaving Iraq. But does our own experience with the American slave-states trying to leave the union really compare with that of the two current potential breakaway states? And have we forgotten that we seceded from England?

Our southern states declared t more...

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September 2017

Identity Politics?


We have heard the term "identity politics" a great deal during the last presidential election campaign. Hillary Clinton. in almost every speech, listed the identities of every possible group that needed to be defended against the attacks of Candidate Trump. She and the Democrats would protect Gays, Blacks, Transgendered people, Muslims, women, Hispanics, the deaf, the handicapped, and seniors. This was a demonstration of her care for people who needed protection, government protection if more...

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Liberal or Illiberal Democracies, What Are They?


My vigilant husband has called my attention to my use of the term "Liberal Democracy." Many readers, even when college educated, are not familiar with that term. The word "liberal" suggests a political position, such as left-leaning. So in this column, and in future ones, when I use the term Liberal Democracy, I will spell out what it really means.

Liberal in this case means Liberty, or freedom. That freedom is provided by a division of power in the government (President, more...

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The Arc of History


As a historian, I share with former President Obama the idea that there is such a thing as "the arc of history." What is meant by this is that human beings have very gradually changed over the centuries from small clans and tribes who had to fight tooth and claw to survive to a global society, much of which has common (and largely American) values.

We no longer throw our adolescent girls into a volcano to calm the rage of the volcano god. Most of us no longer regard women more...

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November 2016

Culture Matters Part 1


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 kn more...

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June 2016

Letters to Editors: Primary Elections and Slavery Statistics

San Francisco Chronicle
June 2, 2016

Editor:

Slavery Statistics
The report that 18.35 million people in India alone comprise 40 percent of global slavery figures of 45.8 million (Walk Free Foundation) only counts unpaid or ill-paid labor as slavery. What about the status of wives in the 167 countries cited? If a wife is property of her husband, cannot leave the house without permission and a chaperone, may be beaten for "disobedience," cannot refuse se more...

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What is a Patriot?


The first mention of love of country occurred in Rome, under the Republic. The slogan was: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (It is sweet and proper to die for one?s country. The better translation is to give one?s life for one?s country.

During our own country?s birth, during the Revolutionary War, Nathan Hale, an American spy captured by the British, said before his execution: " I regret having but but one life to give for my country."

The definition more...

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Do You Really Want a Revolution?

Being angry is not the best reason for voting for a "revolution." One might not like aspects of the way our leaders are leading, but trashing the entire institution of governance under law will not achieve a brave new world. It never has.

Many of those with only vague historic knowledge talk boldly about having another American Revolution like the first one. Our founding, however, was not the result of a revolution, but of a revolt by people who wanted all British laws and protect more...

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