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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 2018

The American Presidency in History

A packed auditorium listened to the April 30 presentation of the Leon Panetta Lecture Series: "The American Presidency and the American Dream --- The Role of Leadership." The Panettas invited two heroes of the press: Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, whose stellar work brought down the corrupt Nixon presidency. The third guest was Reince Priebus, the longest-serving chair of the Republican Party and briefly President Trump?s White House Chief of Staff.

Leon Panetta is a great exam more...

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Doing the Right Thing has Costs!


John F. Kennedy?s Profiles in Courage provided us with the biographies of men who defied political currents and made decisions that were right, but cost them dearly. One of the most dangerous political acts was Abraham Lincoln?s push for the abolition of Black slavery. He paid with his life.

Today, all sorts of norms of decency are being violated, from the presidency down. Officials lie, casually violate their own professed beliefs, and fight off any press attempts to get 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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Our Better Angels



Abraham Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address, on Monday, March 4, 1861, delivered a speech as he was sworn in to office. His election created a huge crisis in which the Southern States created a Confederacy, a rival nation, and declared war. The issue was supposedly "States' Rights," but the rights that the Confederacy demanded were the rights of White people to enslave Black people.

From its beginnings, the United States wrestled with this issue. How could we be more...

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July 2017

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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February 2016

How Our Presidents Promote Tolerance

The United States was founded just as the European Enlightenment swept through. The Enlightenment occurred after two centuries of religious wars had exhausted not only Europe?s population, but also its intellectuals. Ordinary people were not theologians; they simply retreated to the various sects accepted by their families or rulers. Southern Europeans remained Catholic, while the more economically progressive north (England, Scotland, Scandinavia, and northern Germany) and their rulers favored more...

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