Our Democracy Imperiled: ‘Must Read’
Democracy in America is under increasing threat, just as it is in Brazil, India, and many other countries. Voter suppression. Gerrymandering. Shrinkage of responsible mainstream print and electronic news media. Expansion of extremist religio-political media. A Senate that is stacked to favor less populous over more populous states. A faulty electoral college that allowed a …
In October 2019, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) in a renewed effort to extend the District of Columbia school voucher program indefinitely. Begun a dozen years ago during the George W. Bush Administration, the D.C. voucher plan is the only federally funded school voucher program in the country. Feinstein’s ostensible …
Douthat Slams Buttigieg on Abortion Rights
Conservative bloviator Ross Douthat used his September 17 column in The New York Times to slam presidential aspirant Pete Buttigieg for a remark he made on a radio broadcast discussing abortion rights. Buttigieg had evidently noted that the Bible does not condemn abortion and indeed in the Old Testament repeatedly uses the term person (in …
Population Control Needs a Backup Plan
Climate change is real and threatens our whole planet. It is anthropogenic, caused by humans. Media coverage of it is spotty and inadequate. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has advised that we have only a dozen or so years left to get serious about dealing with it. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald J. Trump …
The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money
The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, by Bryan Caplan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018, ISBN 978-0-17465-5). 395 pp. Hardcover, $29.95. This truly awful screed is reviewed here only because it has received peculiarly favorable ratings on Amazon and because it was extruded by, and therefore …
Who Will Pay to Restore Notre-Dame Cathedral?
During “Holy Week” in April 2019, the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, an architectural gem dating back 850 years, was seriously damaged in an apparently accidental fire. Restoring it will cost about a billion dollars. The big question is: Who will pay for the extensive restoration? As the building is technically owned by the French government …
Science, Purpose, Compassion, Humanism, and Our Future
Finding Purpose in a Godless World: Why We Care Even If the Universe Doesn’t, by Ralph Lewis, MD (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2018, ISBN 978-1-63388-385-7). 352 pp., Hardcover, $26.00. At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life, by Guy P. Harrison (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2018, ISBN 978-1-63388-405-2). …
Clergy Sexual Abuse, Coverups, and More
Media coverage of the widespread, longstanding clergy sexual abuse and coverup scandals has been pretty good over the past year, triggered largely by the Pennsylvania grand jury report and similar actions in other states; the disgraces of Cardinals McCarrick and Wuerl in the United States; the civil-court convictions of cardinals in France and Australia; and …
A Foundation of Science Fiction
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee (New York: Dey St. [HarperCollins] 2018, ISBN 978-0-06-257194-6). 533 pp. Hardcover, $28.99. In November 1988, Isaac Asimov asked me to introduce him at a major awards conference and ceremony held jointly at …
Connecting the Dots
Tsunamis of information and misinformation inundate us every day through print, broadcast, and social media, more than anyone can possibly wade through. Dealing with any of it intelligently requires a lot of connecting of dots, with not enough help from the media. Let’s look at a few examples. On January 18, the annual “March for …
An Example for Us All
Divided We Fall: The Secular vs. the Sacred, by Marie Alena Castle (Bloomington: Archway Publishing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-4808-6132-9). 244 pp. Softcover, $17.99. Marie Alena Castle, for decades a tough-as-nails activist in Minnesota for abortion rights and church-state separation, died on May 25, 2018—the very same day, coincidentally, that voters in Ireland approved an abortion-rights referendum …
Arizona’s Big Win for Public Schools, Church-State Separation
On November 6, Arizonans voted sixty-five to thirty-five to crush an effort to expand the state’s tax-credit voucher plan to divert public funds to mostly church-run private schools. That makes it the thirtieth (!) state referendum between 1966 and 2018, from Massachusetts to California and from Florida to Alaska, in which millions of voters have …
Ah, air conditioning. It cools our homes and apartments, offices and factories, shopping malls and restaurants, cars and subway trains. In 2016, there were 1.6 billion air conditioners worldwide, and by 2026, there will be six billion air conditioners and refrigerators and refrigeration units. Demand grows as global climate warms. Right now, over 90 percent …
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018, ISBN 978-1-5011-7551-0). 444 pp. Hardcover, $30.00. (Also available in audio and Kindle versions.) On September 5, The New York Times published an op-ed titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” by an unidentified, but known to …
Our Public Schools Are under Attack
While nine out of ten K–12 students attend our public schools, too few Americans know a lot about those schools. And too few grasp the seriousness of clericalists’ and privatizers’ growing attacks on them. Much of this reflects the poor job that media, print and broadcast, have done in reporting on school matters (aside from …
Betsy DeVos Ramps Up Her War on Public Schools
On May 16, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s utterly unqualified and virulently toxic education secretary, was the featured speaker at the Alfred E. Smith Foundation in New York City, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan in attendance. Her speech was a vicious attack on our public schools and on the provisions in three-fourths of our state constitutions that bar …
Damage Report: Humanae Vitae at Fifty
Humanae Vitae, one of the greatest mistakes of the twentieth century, turns fifty.
Secularism in Africa
What Secularism Means to Africa: What It Has Been, What It Hasn’t Been and What It Could Mean for Human Rights, edited by Jon O’Brien (Washington, D.C., Catholics for Choice, 2017, ISBN 978-0-998416-1-6) 40 pp. Softcover, $15.00. In America today, we struggle nervously against a rising tide of efforts by the “theocrat Right” and their …
Educators vs. Trump/DeVos
Few who know the field support the Trump/DeVos agenda.
Trump vs. Public Schools and Democracy
Trump education policies favor vouchers and charters, further disadvantaging his strongly-rural voter base.
Al Gore’s Good, but Incomplete, Sequel
Tragically, Al Gore’s latest Inconvenient book and film project manages not to mention overpopulation, contraception access, and abortion rights. Why, Al, why?
Two Fiftieth Anniversaries Swallowed by History
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of two important occurrences now largely out of the public eye: New York State’s last Constitutional Convention and subsequent referendum and the outbreak of Nigeria’s civil war.
Trump, DeVos, and the ‘Kuyperizing’ of America
With Donald Trump’s accession to the presidency, his appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary, and his choice of ultraconservative former Indiana governor Mike Pence as his backup, the stage is being set for something we might call the “Kuyperizing” of American education.
Planetary Suicide in Slow Motion
“Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, so large that it is visible from space, is dying.”
Betsy DeVos and Blaming Blaine
“So here we are in early 2017 with a president who never attended or sent his own children to public schools picking as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.”
The National Nightmare Ramps Up
“As President-elect Trump likes to throw around the word loser, let’s list some of the main losers in the Election Day debacle.”
The Pearl-Harboring of American Public Education
“Over three million students now attend charter schools, which are generally rather opaque and rarely answerable to elected public boards.”
Five Stars for Church of Spies? Really?
Despite broad research, a new book makes a dubious effort to exonerate Pope Pius XII’s record in World War II.
“It should be obvious that failure to provide universal access to contraception, legal abortion, good sexuality education, nd decent medical care . . . can only exacerbate the climate-change seamroller.”
And Then There Were None(s)
Reflections on politics and the growing body of research on Nones.
This Crucial Election Year
Climate change, reproductive choice, and saving public education may be the most crucial issues in this election season.
Public Education under Siege, Part 2
“Teachers and their unions are blamed for the real or imagined shortcomings of our schools.”
Public Education under Siege
“American public schools are under attack by a confluence of conservative, Republican, private, profit-seeking, and clericalist private interests.”
Francis, Climate Change, Overpopulation
“While Francis said in January that Catholics do not need to ‘breed like rabbits,’ he refused to back down on the Church’s contraception ban.”
Krauthammer’s Wolf Howl, God’s Bankers, Potiphar’s Wife
Two new books probe the Vatican’s most sensitive mysteries—the church’s finances and clergy sex abuse.
A Fall from Grace
A review of No Longer on Pedestals, by Carol A. Kuhnert.
Is the Wall Crumbling?
If we can no longer rely on the Supreme Court to protect the church-state wall, Americans who care about public education may need to do it themselves.
Abortion Rights: Top Priority Issue
As the world groans under the weight of human numbers, the defense of abortion rights matters more than ever.
Climate Change Is Real and Threatens Us All
A call for concern on climate change and a look at the November election results.
Getting Our Story Straight
A review of Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, by Matthew Stewart.