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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  

July 2020

Earning Their Spurs


At the annual Al Smith fundraising dinner in New York in October 2019, former secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, joked about his experience in the Trump administration:

"I?m not just an overrated general. I am the greatest, the world?s most overrated?I would just tell you too that I?m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So I guess I?m the Meryl Streep of generals?And frankly that sounds pretty good to me. more...

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That Which You Sow?


Actions have consequences. We all know this, something that good parentis teach children. In a recent column of mine, I referred to Darwin Awards: a mocking catalog of actions that have disastrous consequences, mainly removing the perpetrator from the gene pool.

Donald Trump has a serious problem: he wants to win reelection from a voter pool that has shrunk from its high of 49 percent. Polling, even that done by his propaganda organ, Fox News, is showing numbers well under more...

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"Incredible," and "Unbelievable," Indeed.

Words are a funny thing; they sometimes morph from one meaning to its opposite over time, as we can see today. President Trump?s limited vocabulary favors "incredible" and "unbelievable" every time he means "wonderful." Knowing how untrue most of his utterances are, I always take his "unbelievable" and "Incredible" literally: "not believable" and "not credible."

Among things not believable and not credible are his promotion of conspiracy theories: that the Coronavirus was created more...

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Pandemic Playbook for Dictators


From the early 20th century until now, leaders of democracies have been confronted with deadly epidemics. The US had Yellow Fever, Cholera, and the 1918 great Spanish Flu. (This is the one that President Trump stubbornly miscalls the 1917 flu.)

Every president took these epidemics seriously, and followed the best advice of health services to mitigate the damage. They cared about human life. That is what leaders do, don?t they?
Today?s pandemic is giving us a differe more...

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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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New Attention to Ethics

In this glaringly unethical presidency, the issue of ethics and violation of ethics is front and center in the news. Ethics have to do with doing the right thing. All ethical government officials take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. The Constitution makes clear that those with power must not abuse that power for personal gain, the definition of political corruption. The Constitution?s remedy for removing an official for abuse of power (corruption) is impeachment. When such removal involv more...

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"Believing" Can Be Deadly


Human beings, unlike most lower species, are not governed much by instinct. The birds that return to Capistrano each year do not have travel choices. Monarch butterflies are programmed with two destinations: winter and summer groves, thousands of miles apart.

Religious systems fall into the category of "beliefs," that is: accepting by tradition certain ideas that cannot be confirmed by reason alone. But even religions hold each believer capable of rational thought: doing r more...

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Rolling Back Regulations

We regularly hear about President Trump?s latest "rollbacks" to regulations, the primary excuse being that regulations, particularly Obama ones, "overreached." The real reason, it appears, is that President Trump cannot bear comparisons between Obama?s presidency and his. But he sometimes has other motives. As Nancy Pelosi warned, "in the Trump White House, all roads lead to Putin."

Early in Trump?s presidency, I recall his amazing comment about asbestos, and his scorn for regulat 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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If Right Doesn?t Matter?

In an impassioned conclusion to the Senate Impeachment Trial, Representative Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor against President Trump, got the Senate?s attention. "If right doesn?t matter, we?re lost." You know you can?t trust the president will do what?s right for this country," he said, "You can trust he will do what?s right for Donald Trump. He?ll do it now. He?s done it before. He?ll do it for the next several months., he?ll do it in the election if he?s allowed to. This is why if you find h more...

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If Right Doesn?t Matter?


In an impassioned conclusion to the Senate Impeachment Trial, Representative Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor against President Trump, got the Senate?s attention. "If right doesn?t matter, we?re lost." You know you can?t trust the president will do what?s right for this country," he said, "You can trust he will do what?s right for Donald Trump. He?ll do it now. He?s done it before. He?ll do it for the next several months., he?ll do it in the election if he?s allowed to. This is why if yo more...

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Why We Need Russia Experts



Our president claims repeatedly at his rallies that "I know more about war than my generals," more about windmills, more about toilets, more about intelligence than my Intel community, more about foreign policy (befriending authoritarian leaders), more about economics (give big tax cuts to the rich), and more about global warming (a hoax) than thousands of scientists.

His go-to for truth are Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia?s Crown Prince. Putin smiles as Trump carr more...

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November 2019

Putin?s Puffy Puppet


The case that our president is under the malign influence of Vladimir Putin is solid. We have seen it demonstrated in public, when he publicly declared that he believed Putin rather than his unanimous Intelligence agencies; in meetings with Putin and phone conversations without note takers or witnesses; and in Presidential mandates that sidestep Congressional oversight. But there is more.

Other Trump actions, even before his election, demonstrated his unhealthy taste for d more...

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All Roads Lead to Putin


House speaker Nancy Pelosi noted recently that in the Trump Whitehouse, all roads lead to Putin. This is, of course, one of the elements in the Trump impeachment investigation: if our President is in the thrall of a "foreign prince" (founding fathers warning), accepting gifts or bribes, or violating the constitution to the benefit of such foreign prince, he must be impeached and removed from office.

From the 2016 election campaign to this moment, Trump has shown a peculia more...

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The Imagined "Deep State"


Throughout the ages, paranoid people have believed that whoever governs them has many secrets, most aimed at harming the mass of subjects. Demagogues have always been able to plug in on this suspicion of government, and our time is no different.

Although we are a republic electing our presidents for finite terms of office (maximum of eight year), most of our other elected officials (House of Representatives Senators, and state governors) have no term limits, and can be re more...

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Disrespect for Truth



We already know that President Trump has no respect for truth. He lies every time he speaks, and what we need is a running banner on the television screen that truth-checks as he speaks.

As annoying as this is, the disrespect for truth has gone beyond this one man. Around the world, particularly in the more traditional (lesser-developed) countries with more than 50 percent illiteracy, there is little acceptance of facts as a source of truth. Dictators and authorita more...

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September 2019

When Foreign Policy Gets It Wrong: Afghanistan



How the United States deals with the rest of the world is determined by our foreign policy. Centuries before we became a country, foreign policy was the business of kings, who had relationships with other kings, and diplomats who were dispatched abroad with the dual purpose of representing their kings and collecting data on the foreign country (spying).

A diplomat representing England?s Queen Elizabeth I, was in France where he witnessed an organized slaughter of F more...

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Disrespect for Truth



We already know that President Trump has no respect for truth. He lies every time he speaks, and what we need is a running banner on the television screen that truth-checks as he speaks.

As annoying as this is, the disrespect for truth has gone beyond this one man. Around the world, particularly in the more traditional (lesser-developed) countries with more than 50 percent illiteracy, there is little acceptance of facts as a source of truth. Dictators and authorita more...

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Sticks and Stones: Words Matter


"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." This saying was aimed at children, to arm them against verbal bullies. It is also linked to our First Amendment, freedom of speech, even when people to say things that we hate, but protect their right to say them.

Such freedom, however, ends with speech that can endanger life: falsely crying "fire" in a crowded theater, or urging riot in the public square. "Let?s go kill the?.aristocrats" during the Fr more...

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The Element of Trust

One of the most important elements in having participatory democracy, as well as flourishing capitalism, is trust. Trust is so embedded in our lives that we scarcely ever think about it.

We use trust every day. We trust that other drivers are obeying the same laws and rules of the road that we are. Of course, driving requires both trust and caution. Some people do not obey the rules, and we must look out for them, although they are comparatively rare.

When we shop f more...

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Putin?s Game Plan


Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, an enemy with nukes they were ready to use. They held captive a huge empire, part of which was a continuation of their 19th century occupation of the Muslim Silk Road states in Central Asia and across Siberia to the Pacific. The other part was taken at the end of World War II: most of eastern Europe, because their troops had "liberated" them.

In the almost half century of the Cold War, the United States and western Europe were able to more...

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Our Security Clearance Gap


We recently learned that President Trump insisted that his son- in-law and daughter, both of them senior advisors in the White House, be given security clearances despite denial by the Intelligence Services. This raised a red flag with Trump?s former chief of Staff and chief White House lawyer, both of whom kept memos of this decision.

Our presidents do have the right to award security clearances to any members of their staffs and cabinet, but this president lied that he i more...

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The Rebirth of Fascism

Two political systems were born early in the 20th century: Fascism and Communism. They behaved as enemies throughout the century, although they shared a common goal: defeat of liberal democracies. In retrospect, however, they shared more qualities than differences.

To discuss these movements, definitions are needed. Liberal democracies (United States, Britain, France) had political systems that provided for regular changes of leadership through elections; equal power among head of more...

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The Function of Impeachments


One of our country?s most distinguished magazines, The Atlantic Monthly, founded in 1857, was non-partisan, dedicated to impartial liberty, and to wage war against despotism in every form. They so rarely weighed in on presidents that they counted only three times: Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, and Hillary Clinton.

Their endorsement of Clinton was not support of her as much as it was alarm over Donald Trump, whom they saw as "spectacularly unfit for office." "His affect 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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Coincidence or Collusion?

My head reels to learn the FBI is exploring if our president is a willing agent of a foreign country? Surely this can?t be true, can it? Are we seeing a coincidence: that President Trump just happens to believe the same things that Vladimir Putin does? Or do the Russians have something secret and embarrassing over him?

Until the Mueller report is released, we cannot know for certain which of these scenarios is credible. Many in Trump?s base are prepared to believe anything he says more...

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