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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  

May 2020

Filling the Leadership Gap


Without his political rallies to pump up his ego, President Trump has resorted to lengthy daily "Press Briefings" in which he endlessly congratulates himself, while elbowing out the scientists on the podium and butting in when they do speak. The dog-and-pony show on April 13 was a jaw-dropping two-hour rant, angry and spiteful about how unappreciated he was after the New York Times reported his failure of leadership, despite briefings and alerts to the danger of the pandemic. His intelli more...

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The Crisis in Leadership

Human beings are herd animals. We are communal, which is key to our survival. But unlike the majority of other sentient animals, the herd instinct is tempered by our capacity for reason. There are human beings who live alone, but this is rare and hermits depend upon good people looking out for them. Herds require leadership: alpha males or females. Anarchists do not survive for long because they have no leadership.

A recent film documented how a sled-team of Huskies survived aban more...

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Too Much Democracy

Our country was designed as a republic, meaning representative government, not a democracy. The few democracies in world history never survived for long. Athens, which invented the system of public voting of all eligible citizens, was soon weakened by some very foolish ventures that seemed popular at the time. Renaissance Venice suffered the same fate, as did Renaissance Poland. Too many cooks, it seems, spoil the broth.

Our founders created a limited Republic, requiring the vote more...

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All Countries Have Underbellies

For the past 10,000 years, since our ancestors gathered into settled communities based on farming and trade, the pecking order of power was: rulers (or one ruler) on top, priests dealing with the gods, soldiers defending the community under the leadership of the ruler, merchants and traders bringing in the money, and laborers doing the heavy work of farming and digging irrigation systems or roads. Below that last group were women and slaves (mostly the same thing). India?s ancient caste system i more...

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The Trumpification of Revenge

Our Judeo-Christian faiths tell us that "vengeance is the Lord's," one of those religious admonitions usually violated more than observed. Jesus enlarged that issue by urging "turning the other cheek," again, a rule rarely obeyed in our long human history.

But in modern Western Civilization, rule of law has replaced personal or clan vendetta. We trust to the courts for redress, and have become accustomed to seeking justice rather than vengeance. However, in some, their "id" (the more...

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December 2019

How Goes it with Women?


Every year, I do a survey of how women are doing around the world. Historically, women have always been at the bottom of the power curve, domestic abuse being one of the main ways of keeping them subservient. Because women are generally smaller and less muscular than men, and because of child bearing, they are more vulnerable physically. The power curve disfavors women.

Religion and ancient traditions have also played a malignant role until changes in the Western world beg more...

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June 2019

Rogues? Gallery for Impeachment


Retired Admiral William McRaven, a man of sterling character, has been making the rounds of interviews to talk about his book, Sea Stories. He has said that the greatest danger that America faces is not the attacks of Russia or China, but the rhetoric of President Trump. Presidents, he said, will come and go, but our institutions remain, the bulwark of our democracy.

From President Thomas Jefferson until now (except for Nixon), presidents have supported the free press as e more...

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The Abortion Hypocrisy


No one should force a pregnant woman to have an abortion, a practice in China years ago to address population explosion (the one-child policy). But forcing a pregnant woman to bear an unwanted child is "involuntary servitude." The key concept here is force. If men and women in a modern society are legally equal citizens, how is it that the radical branch of the Republican Party has been relentlessly trying to eliminate the 1973 law that permits women to make decisions about their own bod more...

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The Russian Bear is Now a Snake

A friend of mine once commented that Russia never changes. The USSR was still an empire; the "great leader" Stalin was the Czar; the Politburo (parliament) were still the nobility; and Marxist/Leninism replaced the Orthodox Church as the state religion. Does that apply today?

Post-Communist Russia is a shrunken empire, but still extends 11 time zones across Asia; Putin?s ambition has given him what looks like lifetime tenure---a Czar; the good old Orthodox Church has been given ba more...

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November 2018

What to Do About Saudi Arabia


Sometimes, one only misses something when it is gone. This is the case with America?s long-standing foreign policy, our policy of responsibility for global prosperity.

At the end of World War II, we were the only nation not devastated by that war. Shortly before our victory, the US convened a global conference of our allies and made an offer that couldn?t be refused. We wanted all of our allies to emancipate their colonies, just as we did with our one colony, the Philippi more...

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The History of the US Justice System


One of the key benefits of a representative governing system is that it provides justice---fairness, something that autocracies do not provide. Populist systems do not provide justice either; they offer the passions of the mob. The American system (derived in part from the British system, part of Anglo-Saxon law that mandates a jury of one?s peers in a criminal case) has always been an evolving institution. We have evolved from exclusively White Male juries to those today that permit wom more...

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September 2018

Too Much Democracy?


Populism around the world is in the process of destroying liberal democracy, replacing it with dictatorships. This is a shock to those of us who believed that the American style of democracy was both wanted and on a roll after the collapse of the USSR. Populism (power to the people) is a revolt against government, the often unwieldy process of participatory governance. That Democracy does not instantly solve all problems has become apparent, and many are looking for a strongman to addre more...

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Why Populism is On The March Everywhere


Recently, I heard a TV discussion between Fareed Zakaria and Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the UK, about the puzzling rise of anti-democratic "populism" around the world.

Populism does not just mean "popular," but is a movement in which the institutions of democracy (press, courts, congress) are declared "corrupt" and the solution is a "strong" leader. Throughout history when legitimate rulers ignore current problem, people could be roused to try another form o more...

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August 2017

Resentment and Torchlight Parades


It was unsettling, to say the least, to see a resurrection of America?s perennial underbelly marching with torches in mid-July. They revived Hitler?s use of torchlight parades by brown-shirted thugs, marching through Germany?s streets terrorizing (or inciting) the public. A new generation of young Nazis is out there again, just as the old generation has died off. What are they so angry about?

When this country was founded, only a minority of our population in 1776 supporte more...

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Constitutional Crises In Our History


Looking through American history since George Washington was elected as our first president in 1789, it appears that every couple of generations (about 40 years) we face some sort of constitutional crisis. That we have survived these crises is a tribute to the strength of our political system.

For our first 40 years, our presidents were all members of the original aristocrats, founding fathers and Virginia landowners for the most part), with two New Englanders (John Adams more...

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Populism Across the Globe



Angry people with grievances are making themselves felt around the world in elections. These are not the historically familiar revolutionaries demanding freedom or hungry mobs torching the palaces of their masters (French, Russian, and Chinese Revolutions). Instead, these are people rejecting the values that shaped the modern Western world, liberal democracy (a system promoting liberty, but with checks and balances). "Power to the People" has a long and ugly history.

more...

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December 2016

Who Are Americans? Multiethnic or Multicultural?

The populist resurgence around the world, including our own country, is about identity crisis. Belonging to a "nation" is only a few centuries old. Before that, people identified with their clan, village, or town. Educated and city people identified with their empire, the oldest form of human civilizational organization. But as empires fell, nation states rose.

The nation states were an improvement in some ways over empires in that more people were involved in governance and share more...

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Populism?s Unanticipated Consequences: Dictatorship


I learned in my college days that when somebody on campus yelled "Power to the People!" that it was time to take cover. I am allergic to mobs, which are what human beings become when they abandon thought.

The Populist movement is not new. Roman senators as early as 60 BC knew they could buy the favor of voters by putting on a great show: a circus, a great feast, and a big parade. What the senators wanted was their votes, after which they need never concern themselves with more...

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Populism Is No Way to Rule.

It is good advice to hide your wallet when you hear "Power to the People." Our founding fathers knew what "populism" could look like, and deliberately designed our government to keep popular passions at bay. We have representative, not direct democracy government; two bodies in Congress: House of Representatives and Senate; presidential vetoes to override Congress; and Supreme Court decisions to protect us from unjust legislation. It is not a perfect system, but it is better than most other syst more...

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