Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Seeking Truth?

We all should be seeking truth, but we don’t. Truth is frequently disturbing, and we go into self-deception. Instead of seeking the truth, we seek out others who bolster our self-deception. Today, Sr. Eileen White, who coordinates the panel of From a Faith Perspective writers I serve with, published an excellent Christian perspective on self-deception about January 6th coverage.

If you or someone you know refuses to watch the hearings and avoids the news summaries, this brief article gives a gentle nudge toward seeking the truth.


Sr. White urges us to question our beliefs. What’s real and true can stand scrutiny. Lies and deception can’t. Receiving information and seeing things that are discordant with our beliefs takes strength. Discernment takes work. Being cynical and saying, “what is truth?” is a dodge that perpetuates self-deception.

Not Credible

I am struck at how the news of Ukraine is being distorted in the Russian media in an effort to keep the Russian in the street from knowing of the atrocities being committed against Ukraine. Why should I be surprised? Russia has been fraught with propaganda for most of my life.

It is a way of life in authoritarian countries to publicly parrot and defend the party line and keep one’s personal assessment of the truth strictly private. “I have an opinion, but I don’t agree with it.” is a Russian joke that plays upon the state-enforced duplicity.

In China, it is also unsafe to be candid in criticism of the ruling party. As one Chinese national put it, “One never knows when the wind will change.” It may be OK to express dissent today, but your words once uttered may return later to haunt you.

While we find such fears foreign to us in America, legislators in Florida and Texas are actively working to suppress all sorts of views and information. Yes, it can happen here. With that in mind, read the following:

We are only as good as the information we get. Only as grounded, as enlightened, as capable of forming rational opinions about our political leaders and making intelligent decisions about our lives. If we’re fed lies, we’re lost. If we subsist on fiction, we dwell in a fantasyland. [Read more …]

Frank Bruni, NYT

Conflict Entrepreneurs

“Let’s you and him fight!”

That’s the mantra. Some people enjoy the drama they cause by triggering a confrontation and fueling the configuration. It’s akin to being an arsonist – a social arsonist. The result can be devastating to any community of shared interest.

Karen Tibbals names this destructive game in her current blog post:

I’m seeing a lot of this in the political mail I get from the GOP. Half truths and outright lies are employed to fuel outrage and villify the motives of the Democrats and all those who criticize Republicans.

It’s particularly distressing that these tactics attack proposals and policies that have socially desirable reforms such as stopping tax fraud and closing loopholes. The GOP attack on reforms that would allow the IRS to spot high dollar tax evasion and enforce the law earned three Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s fact-checkers.

“Disinformation is how you transform democracy. This is death by a thousand cuts.”

– Maria Ressa, journalist & 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner

Nonetheless, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), restates the falsehood in his current email blast, the theme of which is to denigrate Democrats and exalt Republicans as virtuous defenders of truth, freedom, and the American way. Never mind the GOP’s determined efforts to stonewall voting rights or the investigation of the instigators of the January 6th insurrection.


The GOP’s Moment of Truth

Sometimes things have to go very wrong before they come back right. I hope we have reached the moment when rational Republicans decide to sink the extremist wing of their party instead of riding it to power and scuttling the democracy they have sworn to serve virtually every time they were installed in an official position.

Heather Cox Richardson gives an excellent summary of what is now going public about GOP loyalists having a moment of truth, an opportunity to change course and purge their party of its cancerous extremism.


HCR’s article has links to other current articles. If you have strong feelings about democracy, now would be an excellent time to make them clear to the Republican elected officials in your district.

And vote your conscience at this and every election going forward.

Vaccine Hesitant?

This NYT article analyzes social research on why people are hesitant about vaccines and how the rest of us can help them choose to get vaccinated. In addition, it lets you examine information specific to your locale.

Getting everyone vaccinated in the United States has become much harder now that demand for the Covid-19 vaccine is flagging. America’s vaccination strategy needs to change to address this, and it starts with understanding the specific reasons people have not been vaccinated yet.

The conventional approach to understanding whether someone will get vaccinated is asking people how likely they are to get the vaccine and then building a demographic profile based on their answers: Black, white, Latinx, Republican, Democrat. But this process isn’t enough: Just knowing that Republicans are less likely to get vaccinated doesn’t tell us how to get them vaccinated. It’s more important to understand why people are still holding out, where those people live and how to reach them

read more…

… by Their Fruits

For years I’ve said that Americans are being played. The GOP convention presentations performances were worthy of P. T. Barnum: a circus of deceptions.

The Democrats focused on character: positively for Biden and negatively for Trump. The Republicans? They presented political drama with the sole purpose of reshaping our perception of reality. It was an epic of gaslighting. They ignored the crucial threat of climate change, and denied bungling the US COVID-19 response. With nobody to blame but themselves, they instead spoke as if the pandemic was already history.

As has become a pattern for President Trump, the GOP presented themselves as the future solution to a problem they have created: violent protests. Since the Nixon Administration, the criminal justice system has been the primary way that the GOP addresses the persistent problems of inequality and poverty – beat it down.

Numerous journalists and news commentators have documented how the facts don’t support the GOP rhetoric. Robert Reich and Nicholas Kristoff’s opinions are below. I’ve saved the best for last – Don’t miss Doug Muder’s brilliant analysis revealing the four big lies hidden in the many little ones that are so very obvious.

The Facts

Trump’s Record for lack of character.

Trump’s character, actually his lack of it, is clear to all except the more ardent followers. There have been almost daily revelations. Many would have been terminally scandelous in other times. McSweeney’s is a satire site. Yet the list their editors published appears to be a straight-up and credible catalog of #45’s venality. 

Years ago I challenged DJT’s followers on Facebook to contribute something, anything, they could think of that would qualify as an act of Trump altruism or selflessness in service of the public good. I have yet to receive an item. One MAGA woman said she was much too busy to enumerate them, but she was sure there were many. I did, eventually, learn of one on my own — he donates his salary of $200,000 a year as President to charity, according to the White House. We’ll let that be and not speculate on his motives. Also, we won’t calculate any offset for the emoluments and collateral revenue his properties accrue, or the compensation his family accepts. The cost of accommodating his Secret Service entourage at his Mar-a-Lago property already about equals his total pay to date. I don’t have the tab for Bedminster.

At the convention, followers sought to persuade us that the private Donald Trump was a caring and compassionate person. We are not to believe what we see in public to be truly representative of the inner man it seems.

Not surprisingly, there was no convention discussion of honesty or truthfulness. The Washington Post’s tally of false or misleading statements (“lies” to speak plainly) has passed 20,000. Have you ever heard him admit to any error or personal failing? He is big on blaming anyone but himself.

His accomplishments? Many of those listed by right-wing conservatives are regarded as grievous mistakes by those concerned about peace, integrity, equality, and stewardship.

Prior to his election in 2016 most of the leading newspapers in the US published editorials saying Trump was unqualified. He was not presidential material they argued. Many of his latterday followers at the time agreed as the Lincoln Project demonstrates. Even ex-members of his own administration agree.

Four Big Lies Concealed by all the Obvious Smaller Ones.

Doug Muder crafted a brilliant example of critical thinking and analysis that is rich in factual support and draws on many sources to validate the assertions he makes. If you are interested in seeing how Americans are being played, this post analyzes how our perception is manipulated, read it carefully,  Compare it for style and content with the opinions you see from right-leaning media. We’ll see what plays out over the next weeks of the campaign.

A group of guys I meet with every two weeks has read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder. All of them are serious people (Insurance Executive, College President, Clinical Psychologist, Landscape Architect [Viet Nam Memorial], and a Merrill Lynch executive.) Their consensus is shared alarm and fear for America. None of us are sure that DJT won’t steal the election, though we are all committed to preventing that. We know that 40%, the Trumpists, will vote Republican without thinking or even considering anything but the propaganda from GOP and Fox. The question is, how many more low information voters will be taken in?  And how many will be too confused orcomplacent to vote.

It’s not hyperbole to say that democracy is at risk.

Ungrounded opinion

Most critical thinkers recognize that opinions from this man have little to do with fact, wisdom, or analytical thinking. Most of the time you would do better deciding something with the flip of a coin than with reliance upon His Nibs. You can’t be sure if he’s lying, misinformed, or making it up for appearance sake. But you can be sure that he will take no responsibility for adverse outcomes.

No, we don’t really care if you disagree, but we do care if you start meddling and bullying better informed people.

My son’s experience provides two examples of what thoughtful, wise people are doing. His eldest returns to Tufts this fall. The president of Tufts is a medical doctor. The school has a complex and detailed strategy for COVID-19. It includes contagion control measures that limit the mixing of different groups of students, extensive testing and tracking for the outbreaks that will surely occurr, and contingency plans for controlling them.

My son is himself the head of a private high school with 125 students. They will be opening in the fall, and he has a complex and nuanced plan that is based upon contagion control measures, a four tiered contingency plan, and testing and monitoring.

So if these schools can do it, why can’t all schools? Here’s what investigative reporter Judd Legum says.

With confirmed coronavirus cases rising in dozens of states, school districts now have to decide whether to reopen schools in the fall. Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts announced on Monday that they would only offer remote instruction in the fall. The two school districts, which together enroll about 825,000 students, issued a joint statement explaining the decision:

…One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.

…This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff, who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August. It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand.

Both districts hope to reopen their physical campuses sometime in the 2020-21 academic year. But, as they alluded to in their statement, the impact of the continued closure of schools could be severe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) detailed some of the consequences:

The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.

Quoted from “Popular Information

The problem with His Nibs ungrounded opinion is that our children become pawns in this lethal test of wills. It looks like the hidden agenda in this political game is Betsy DeVoss’ desire to fund “faith based” schools with vouchers, thus fostering the teaching of religious dogma and pseudo-science like creationism.

New Books!

I’ve recently published two new books. Escape is a collection of short fiction in the crime and humor genres. Credible? explores how readers in the 21st century can know what’s real and true in media. Both may be purchased at a discount from the list price by visiting

(Click Here for Lulu)

Credible? — Recognize the authentic…

Cover of Credible? book.

This book, Credible?, asserts that anyone can tell what’s authentic simply by close inspection of the content and knowing the source. These pages are chock full of practical insights and tools to sharpen your ability to sniff out media that distorts reality. These ideas are neither obscure or difficult to master, and none require research or fact-checking.

When it comes to discerning truth, our credulity is a factor. To be truly street-wise about media, a person must also be aware of their internalized values, beliefs, and personality traits. Drawing upon the insights of Jung and general psychology, the authors point the way to self-awareness that reveals hidden biases and our human tendency to be less skeptical about information that bolsters what we believe. These same insights also reveal how we unintentionally tune out information that might change our attitudes and opinions.

(Click Here for Lulu)

Escape Anthology

Tropical islands, small towns, and busy airports hold allure as getaways. But the promise of simple pleasures can hide unexpected perils.

An elderly widow responds to a frightening robocall. The ensuing conflict to recover her lost savings ensnares her son and his family in an epic fight for financial survival.

A casual happy-hour encounter turns embarrassingly intimate for a weary business traveler.

A prosecutor battles a jailed drug dealer’s desperate efforts to get free with murderous consequences.

An independent trucker down on his luck finds his guardian angel in the unlikely guise of a Harley-riding drifter.

A curious pothole appears in an old man’s driveway and grows relentlessly through the summer afternoon becoming sinister as darkness approaches.

(Click Here for Lulu)

Fury and Rage

The passion and reach of what has come to be called incorrectly the “populist movement” has political columnists speculating and advancing theories, but none have really come up with a satisfying answer. I see three patterns emerging: the first is economic, the second is cultural, and the third is political.

In the US real income for the middle class has been flat for 30 years. Although a person may have received pay raises and seen his income appear to rise over those 30 years, the buying power of the dollars shrunk at the same time completely cancelling out the gains. Before the housing bubble burst, people saw the value of their home increase, and believed they were getting richer, but that too was an illusion.

The second pattern is social, and very delicate to talk about. Americans have been proud to think of themselves as a melting pot of cultures. Successive waves of European immigrants arrived and were assimilated. Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans  worked to blend in. In my generation I have many friends whose parents were immigrants and were discouraged from speaking their parents native language because their parents considered it an advantage to speak American English with no accent.  Part of embracing the American opportunity was to act and be Americanized.

Of course there are notable exceptions. Hassidic Jews, Mennonites, Amish and other religious minorities have preserved customs of dress and lifestyles from another era and country.  They are few and are fully accepted. Across America there are other racial ethnicities  that often cluster in neighborhoods and preserve their culture. Sikhs, Muslims, Vietnamese, Chinese often gather preserving their cultures through neighborhood stores and restaurants that cater to their “old world” tastes and preferences. African Americans, long segregated by either law or prejudice, also have distinct speech patterns and culture that distinguish them as a sub-culture.

In recent years many Americans, especially progressives, have acknowledged that “white privilege” operates to give unequal advantage to those who are white and fully assimilated in the social and economic networks of the white middle class. White privilege conflicts with the fundamental American principle of equal opportunity – no minority should enjoy an advantage because of ethnicity, any more than they should suffer discrimination.

There is a long unexamined assumption that others would assimilate and embrace the Judeo-Christian, white, middle class culture.  But the white middle class is actually now faced with blending itself into the melting pot as our nation goes forward in its diversity.

To really get what this is about consider the article below which describes the crisis of national identity being faced by Denmark. Like us Denmark is a democracy where the majority rules. What happens when an influx of immigrants is perceived to be overwhelming the native Danish culture and traditions?

‘I’ve Become a Racist’: Migrant Wave Unleashes Danish Tensions over Identity.

Here in the US, there is a similar tension that finds expression in celebrating Donald Trump’s disregard for political correctness.

The third pattern is political as evidenced by the support for Sen. Bernie Sanders and also for Donald Trump at the opposite end of the conservative – progressive spectrum. It’s a rebellion against career politicians and the anti-populist relationship between moneyed commercial entities and individuals. Democracy is under siege and the attackers are embedded in the very institutions sworn to defend it.

These three patterns, economic stagnation, social melding, and political elitism, fuel the passions that divide us in the 2016 election campaign. For many Americans there is a seething rage that has burned a long, long time. They don’t understand how each pattern developed, most could not even articulate what the patterns are, but they hold the political establishment responsible. The career politicians, the Washington elite, seem to defend and perpetuate it.

Donald Trump, an outsider, promotes himself as the only one who can fix it.  The seething rage his followers feel is blind to his utter lack of experience, knowledge, integrity, and even honesty. They ignore all evidence of his turpitude because he “tells it like it is.” And Trump amplifies that sentiment proclaiming himself their voice.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, could not be any more completely an insider.  She has become the symbol of the political status quo – a lightning rod for “populist” rage.

She won’t easily change that meme. She dedicated herself to a life of public service in college and her career choices have all been stepping stones. She hasn’t shied away from controversy and she fights tirelessly to achieve her goals. She has championed many great causes and accomplished much good.

She has also made enemies and been the target of withering partisan conservative attacks in recent years. The GOP has spent hundreds of millions of both taxpayer and partisan money to destroy her and failed. She’s battle scarred but undaunted.

Neither Trump nor Clinton can totally fix it and unify America. Trump has no prospect whatever.  If he wins, career politicians on both sides of the aisle will constrain him and in his ignorance an avalanche of domestic and foreign crises will inundate him.  The lack of foresight and poor judgment that led to his colossal bankruptcies will be disastrous in the White House.

Clinton has at least some chance of making progress with unification. She knows all the players in Washington, and her time as Secretary of State has given her the necessary relationships   worldwide to steer the ship of state. (It’s no surprise that our foreign enemies support her opponent!)

Fury is not blind. It’s similar in passion to rage, but it is focused on an objective. We see fury in a mother bear protecting her cub from danger. Fury dissipates when its object is dispatched. An enraged child may destroy his own toys and injure himself.  Hillary’s challenge will be to convert the seething rage of the “populists” into a fury that can be channeled for constructive change in Washington.

The Democratic convention was inspiring and perfectly staged. It presented a grand vision for America and called us to be “stronger together.”  By contrast the GOP convention presented a succession of speakers the evoked fear and hate and called for circling the wagons. Both conventions had an fiery undercurrent of revolution.

Revolutions driven by rage destroy the established order without a plan for the new order.  Like the riots in Plainfield, Newark and LA years ago, they leave the community in ruins after an orgy of violence and fire. From the ashes something monstrous and repressive usually arises.

A revolution fueled by fury and directed with vision  doesn’t wreck and burn the community. Fury is not wild and blind. Once the old order threat is dispatched, fury dissipates and nurture prevails.

In the weeks of campaigning ahead Hillary Clinton will prevail if she can keep and amplify the vision articulated at the convention converting blind rage to focused fury.