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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 2017

What do you know about Montenegro?

Montenegro was in the news in late May and early June, but it is doubtful that the vast majority of Americans know anything about this country. For those of you who do try to follow important world events, it might be helpful to know where and what kind of a place it is.

I first learned about Montenegro when I read: The New Class, by Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslav communist and once best friend of Marshall Tito, the country?s long-time dictator. Djilas, born in the backwater province more...

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April 2016

Four Middle East Water Systems Shape History

Controlling water was one of the first technological efforts at the beginning of what we call "civilization," or city building. Even today, most human beings live on the rims of oceans or on river systems. We need water to drink, for washing ourselves and our goods, but most of all, for agriculture.

Where today Iraq and Iran meet arose the first urban civilization 5,000 years ago, Sumeria. This amazing culture created the first big city-state (Ur), a system of writing, sea-going more...

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October 2015

The World Has A Strange Fixation on Sex.

Human sexuality has two areas of concern for people who govern: population numbers (Reproduce and Multiply!) and social order (control your women!).

Human sexuality, since the time that men figured out that having babies was not a mystery controlled exclusively by women, has been to make certain that men know which children they father. If a man is to be responsible for protecting, feeding, and leaving a heritage to his offspring, he wants to know that these offspring are his own more...

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February 2015

Human Trafficking Numbers Are Spun From Fantasy.


The subject of Human Trafficking is appearing in the press this month largely because of the Foreign Policy Association?s "Great Decisions Program." Sixty Minutes ran one dispiriting feature of a human rights official in Northern India trying to get enforcement from indifferent police to raid a prostitution ring. It seems that the reluctant police warned the fathers in advance, fathers who were the pimps selling their own daughters.

Years ago, a reporter in Lagos, Nigeri more...

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November 2014

Russia's Short-term and Long-term Prognosis

If the thugs in ISIS were not so busy decapitating people, we might have been paying more attention to a longer-term hostile force, Russia. Russia has been an important target of Western attention since the 19th century, when this once backward, frozen backwater came to life and proceeded to conquer and colonize all the countries across Central Asia (the old Silk Route), ending on China's border on the Pacific Ocean. They controlled 11 time zones and warranted watching.

Russia wa more...

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December 2013

Countries Can Be Judged By Their Internments

During the 20th century, a number of nations engaged in expelling populations or interning those deemed “dangerous.” Turkey was the first with the expulsion and internment of their Christian Armenian population, an action that resulted in the first of the century’s genocides. Their World War I ally, Germany, was horrified and told the Turks that this was awful.

Then, Germany did the same in the late 1930s and in the 1940s, where the supposed “resettlement” of Jews deemed more...

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May 2012

What Is Making Population Numbers Crash?


The UN Population Agency reports that Europe’s fertility rate may have plummeted to the point of no return. Certain countries (Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece) have fertility rates in the single digits that by the end of this century could spell doom. This applies to Japan as well, and threatens the modern and developed parts of China and India. In 1980, China’s median age was 22; today it is 34.5. Not enough young to support the old. The same is happening in India’s more...

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Denial is not a river in Egypt.


Although this headline is a joke, the facts on the ground are not. Fareed Zakaria, usually a sound commentator on world affairs, chastised the pessimists who see no democracy for the Arab Spring. He noted how slowly the revolutions of America and France bore fruit. However, liberal democracy only comes from countries with a 2500-year-old western heritage—or those that have adopted these values (Japan, South Korea). Whatever fruit Egypt will bear will not be liberal democracy, no matter more...

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June 2011

Sometimes Marriage and Childbirth Customs Have Serious Consequences.

Anthropologists have been telling us for the past century that traditions and cultures have survival value for their people. We have been carefully taught not to criticize another culture because there is no single way to be human. Today, however, we see cultural practices around the world utterly disconnected from “survival value.” People persist in certain behaviors because they believe they are sacrosanct parts of either their religion or traditions.

• Africa. One is ha more...

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Why Egypt and Not Iran?

We have just witnessed a modern popular change of government---a revolution of sorts. Most Egyptians appear to have agreed on one thing: to end of the rule of Hosni Mubarak. Tunisians in the streets rid themselves of their long-time dictator a couple of weeks earlier. Everybody in the Middle East is watching and waiting to see which other autocracies crumble. Iranians are watching too---their Islamic dictatorship with alarm and the public with bitterness that their 2009 attempt failed.
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October 2010

“The Sky Is Falling” Is Alive and Well—Again.


We are already past the millennium year 2000 (or was it actually 2001 that began the century) and the sky didn’t fall. Now what? Are we ready to recognize the new millennium as the beginning of something or will we still cling to knee-jerk pessimism?

In the year 1000, Europe panicked about the “end of times” that would probably cast them all into hellfire and damnation. The year 1,000 came and went, but the skies never opened. With a little ingenuity, the forecast more...

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July 2010

Are We Going to Need More Immigrants?

Immigration history in the US has always followed predictable trajectories. People around the world have periodically flooded in when there were jobs for them—or a future for them. They were needed—but simultaneously hated by the already integrated working class who feared labor competition.

The Players. Our first large-scale group of migrants were African---not voluntary immigrants, but slaves. Their history is a separate category.

In the mid-19th century, Germ more...

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Europe has an Identity Crisis.

There is an old Persian tale about a man who went up to a palace gate, banging on it and demanding entrance. The guard asked what he wanted. “I want to stay at this inn!” he said. “This is not an Inn,” said the guard. “It is a palace of the Shah.”

“Who lived there before him?” asked the man. “His father,” said the guard. “And before that?” “His grandfather and great-grandfather.”

“This sounds like an inn to me! People coming and going. more...

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Europe is Having an Important Burqa Debate.


Register Pajaronian

Europe, with a seemingly large immigrant Muslim population—and not a well integrated one at that—is having open discussion on what to do about women wearing total face-obscuring garments. It is one thing to wear a headscarf, which bothers secularists, but another thing altogether to have women wearing the Arab niqab or Afghan burqa. Why should this be such an issue?

Reciprocity has not been mentioned. If a European woman travels to more...

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