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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  

February 2020

Book Review: Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig: A Very Stable Genius:

A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America
Reviewer: Laina Farhat-Holzman

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has unleashed a flood of books about him. His rise to this position is unprecedented, considering his lack of political experience, his dismissal of norms of behavior observed by his predecessors, and his ignorance of issues that other presidents have mastered, or at least have advisors who can help him.

His political riva more...


September 2019

Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution:

Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution:John Paul Stevens: Little, Brown and Company, 2014
Reviewer: Laina Farhat-Holzman

John Paul Stevens, one of our most distinguished Supreme Court justices, who died recently, has left us a pattern of what such a justice should be. He was a Republican, appointed by a Republican president, who became over his long tenure a justice with no obvious bias. He was much admired, and the current court would greatly benef more...


August 2018

James Comey: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership

Flatiron Books, NY, 2018
Reviewer: Laina Farhat-Holzman

I took this book along on a family reunion, a week spent in the Sonoma wine country, eight of us, educated professionals and four very bright grandchildren. I wound up reading sections of this remarkable book to them all, and digested their comments. We were all enlightened by Comey?s account.

Over the past several months, watching TV interviews and reading some less than enthusiastic reviews, I more...


James R. Clapper: Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence, Viking Press, 2018.

For a first-hand account by somebody whose entire almost life (he is over 80) was spent in the Intelligence community, it would be difficult to find a better guide. This memoire covers the successes and failures of an institution designed to protect us from external forces meaning us harm. Clapper is honest to a fault, considered blunt and fearless in speaking truth to power (see some of his Congressional hearings) and yet the first to acknowledge that the human beings in Intelligence ca more...


Michael V Hayden: The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies

Penguin Press, NY 2018., Random House, 2018.

Reviewer: Laina Farhat-Holzman

The unexpected election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016 has spurred a library of new books explaining to the public how America?s most important institutions work and why we have them. This particular president has little patience for institutions that may constrain his authority, which differs from the norms followed by most of our former presidents, regardless of political part more...


Jon Meacham, The Soul of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels,

Random House, 2018.
Reviewer: Laina Farhat-Holzman

Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize winning presidential biographer, had already written books about George Herbert Walker Bush, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and books about the Founding Fathers, the relationship between FDR and Winston Churchill, and the Civil Rights movement. The election of a most unusual president, Donald J. Trump, in 2016, spurred him to give us a perspective on the American presidencies, the best and more...


Michael McFaul: From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin?s Russia.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
Reviewer: Laina Farhat-Holzman

For those of you who keep up with TV news, Michael McFaul is the go-to person for insight into Russia. He served as American Ambassador from 2008-2010 during the Obama presidency, a somewhat rare appointment of an academic expert rather than political appointee. But he was not new to the White House, having been an advisor to George Bush?s administration before being tapped by Obama.

It more...


December 2016

Darwin Awards

My periodic "Darwin Awards" columns are to nominate those human beings whose existence lowers the global IQ.

Saudi Man Shoots Doctor Who Delivered His Wife?s Baby
This man was not only ungrateful, he was stupid. He was outraged to learn that a male gynecologist had been present at the birth of his wife?s baby. The doctor had seen his wife naked, he sputtered. The Saudi police tracked him down and arrested him, but will the Saudi "justice" system give him a more...


June 2012

Laina with June Movies

The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the cheekiest comedians in England, a land of cheeky comedians. His outrageous Borat had him pretending to be a journalist from Kazakhstan who traveled through America to report on America’s great culture. Cohen remained in character the whole time, with his documentary crew, interviewing unsuspecting Americans (making them look like fools). His interviews neatly revealed racist views, know-nothings, and born-again Christians, as more...


January 2011

Laina At the Movies, December, 2010

Client 9

This fascinating documentary is as emotionally involving as most fiction (at least for me.) It is the story of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. As New York’s Attorney General, he was one of the brightest, most upright, and unflagging prosecutors of mal-doers that New York has ever had. He went after Wall Street big shots who played dangerous games with the nation’s economy; the very lucrative escort business (very expensive prostitution); and corruption by pol more...


September 2001

Janus Blindsided: The Islamic Revolution

Comparative Civilizations Review, No. 45, Fall 2001

I. Introduction
The Islamic Revolution of Iran has had spillover effect throughout the Middle East and the world. In the intervening two decades since that cataclysm, many scholars have attempted to analyze the causes and to speculate why a modernizing revolution turned into a backward march. Although scholars generally agree on the basic events of the monarchy's collapse, there is no agreement on the causes and more...