Thursday, April 11, 2024

Stop smartphones and social media from harming children

I write this blog post as a plea, to parents with children and young people who anticipate having children. Smartphones and social media are addictive technologies that are damaging the development of children’s brains.  I beg you to inform yourselves about this topic and take action to address the problem in your homes and schools. Your children’s future may depend on it.

I first became aware of the threat to children from these technologies when I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix four years ago. This documentary explored the dangerous human impact of social networking. The code developers who created social media and related algorithms discuss their creations and regret. The information contained in the documentary caused me to cancel all of my social media accounts. I recommend you watch it.

Recent research by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has brought much more detail to the warnings contained in The Social Dilemma. Haidt is a noted social psychologist, scholar, and author who recently released a new book, “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.”  I recommend you buy Haidt’s book for less than $20 and read it. Share it with friends and family. 

Peggy Noonan, a noted columnist, devoted her column in the Wall Street Journal last Sunday to Haidt’s book in, “Can we save our children from Smartphones?” Please use the hyperlink provided to read Noonan’s column.

Noonan says, “There’s a funny thing that happens in a nation’s thoughts. At some point everyone knows something is true, and talks about it with each other. The truth becomes a cliché before it becomes actionable. Then a person of high respect, a good-faith scholar [Haidt] who respects data, say, comes forward with evidence proving what everyone knows, and it is galvanizing. It hits like a thunderclap, and gives us all permission to know what we know and act on it.” Now is that time.

Haidt was recently interviewed by Barri Weiss about the book on her “Honestly” podcast. I highly recommend this interview as an essential summary of Haidt’s work on this topic.  You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts HERE and Spotify HERE.

The last third of Haidt’s book is dedicated to actions to take control and reverse this dangerous trend in childhood development. There are four major categories of action:

1. No Smartphones before high school. There are many alternatives.
2. No social media before 16
3. Phone-free schools
4. More independence, free play, and responsibility in the real world.

I cannot go into all the details on each of these goals, but you can find them in the book. Also, Haidt has created a web site for adults to organize to achieve these goals at .  

Visit the Anxious Generation site to find answers to your questions and recommendations for parental action in the home, as well as actions to take to demand of your school system that Smartphones be disallowed in schools.

I think this issue may be one of the greatest challenges of our time.  Let’s act.


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Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The Biological and Psychological Foundations of our Division

Our nation is in an intense political and cultural struggle where neither side can emerge as an unequivocal victor. Internal strife leaves us vulnerable to external threats from those aspiring to replace our global dominance. Understanding the deeper underlying forces at work as we grapple with the political tension may help forge a way forward. In my reading and research to understand our division better two books stood out to provide a compelling lens to understand the deepening polarization rooted in the fabric of our minds.

Jonathan Haidt’s, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion provides a study of the profound disparities in the political values of liberal and conservative-leaning individuals. As a summary, I recommend this twenty-minute video TED Talk by Haidt: “The moral roots of liberals and conservatives.”

I previously wrote the blog post, “Isour political division biological?” about Oxford scholar Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. The book offers warnings about the collective potential of the divided brain to destroy civilizations. As a summary, I recommend this twelve-minute animated summary of McGilchrist’s ideas: The Divided Brain.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The opportunity after the Gaza War

The brutal attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, 2023, presents a challenging situation. However, it may have unforeseen consequences, such as weakening Iran's influence, potentially leading to a change in leadership in Gaza, and creating a more favorable political environment for peace and prosperity in the region, including for Palestinians.

Hamas's attack on Israel can be seen as an attempt by Iran, using one of its proxies, to disrupt the progress and success of the Abraham Accords. These Accords offer modernization, economic prosperity, and peace to a region that has been plagued by bitter conflicts with no hope of resolution for decades.

Iran's opposition to the Accords is driven by its desire for regional hegemony. Iran is a theocracy governed by totalitarian mullahs, leading a population of 90 million people with the intent to remove the U.S. presence from the Middle East and dominate its Sunni Muslim neighbors. Their leaders aspire to “restore a sense of “greatness” reminiscent of ancient Persian empires.” Iran uses proxies across the region to pursue its strategic goals with plausible deniability.

Contrary to the outcry from Hamas supporters worldwide and distorted intersectional views on U.S. college campuses, the attack was not about a continuing cycle of violence or a righteous anti-colonial struggle of the oppressed. Its purpose was to prevent the Abraham Accords from uniting Israel and Sunni Muslim states in the Middle East.

Friday, October 27, 2023

A Republican Unity Ticket to Challenge Trump

Former President Donald Trump currently holds a commanding lead as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 Presidential Election. His lead has consistently grown despite facing several indictments. None of his opponents has managed to surpass the 20% mark in national polls or in early caucus/primary states since July. To disrupt this trend and challenge Trump more effectively, a major shift in strategy is required by his challengers.

One potential approach is for the competing candidates to cease vying for second place and instead form a team. This team would identify a president-vice president partnership from within their ranks and select cabinet members from the remaining candidates. The goal would be to work together as a cohesive unit focused on unseating Trump as the primary front-runner.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Red Flag failure - laws mean nothing if not implemented

The 4th of July mass public shooting of parade goers in Illinois is yet one more tragedy sparking calls for new gun control laws.   As in the Buffalo shopping center mass public shooting, this event occurred in a state with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the country.  Only seven states are ranked A- or better, including Illinois and New York, by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  Both states also have Red Flag Laws in place that if properly resourced, prioritized, and enforced could have prevented both events. 

In a previous blog post, “Mourning with Uvalde – what can we do?” this blog recommended several actions for readers and law makers to make changes that could be realistically achieved and might make a difference.   Another blog post, “A victory for respectful bipartisan collaboration,” described some legislative success at the federal level.  One of the outcomes was to support states in creating and implementing Red Flag laws. 

As I have written before, there are now 19 states with Emergency Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws commonly called Red Flag laws. These laws are essential to successful intervention at the intersection of dangerousness and firearm access.   They typically create a process for the removal of guns from the possession of an individual who demonstrates they are dangerous to themselves or others.  Having a Red Flag law in place is essential as a first step in this effort. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

A victory for respectful bipartisan collaboration post Uvalde

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law on June 25, 2022.   It was a major achievement for the Congress to pull together the Bill in a bipartisan manner and approve legislation that may not make anyone at the extremes of the left and right divide happy.  But for the 60+% in the middle, it showed that people of good will, respecting the opinions of others, can get something done to impact a problem of concern to the public.

The law provides support to improve mental health services for communities and schools; expands background checks for those under 21 to include juvenile records; funds assistance to states to implement Red Flag laws; closes the “boyfriend loophole;” clarifies trafficking to include “straw purchases;” and funds school safety programs. 

Credit for the law goes first to Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) who vowed business as usual would not pass muster after the Uvalde mass murder.  She approached Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R) of Kentucky and asked for negotiating partners on the Republican side.  McConnell identified Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) and Senator Thom Tillis (R) of North Carolina.  The two promptly agreed to meet with Sinema the next day along with Senator Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Is our partisan political division biological?

Stephen Stills wrote a song in 1966 for the group Buffalo Springfield titled “For What It’s Worth.”  It became an anti-war protest anthem of sorts in the 1960’s. The song seems more broadly applicable today than in 1966.  Parsing the lyrics:   

There's battle lines bein' drawn.  Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.  A thousand people in the street.  Singin' songs and a-carryin' signs.  Mostly sayin' hooray for our side. 

In the responding chorus, Stills gives good counsel singing, “It’s time we stop children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s goin’ down.”

Western countries are increasingly divided in partisan political animosity that is personal and intense - the U.S. most acutely.   Mutually antagonistic political groupings cast their political identity like an umbrella over personal and professional relationships.  Irrational allegiance to political identity and confirmation bias are at play, not opinion. Shared opinions on specific issues and policies flourish across the dividing lines.  Many people hold political identities that are largely inconsistent with many of their expressed opinions and policy preferences.    Much is written about the divide - when it started; how it gets worse with time; that it may cause the breakup of the U.S. or even a civil war

Both sides of the divide seek to impose their values through control of government, particularly national government, and through cultural and economic entities.   On the one side, the goal is to restore a nostalgic, almost mythical past, and stop change that is often essential to the renewal of institutions and culture.  On the other side, the goal is to transform society to an unattainable political and cultural utopia that necessitates the destruction of the social institutions that bind society and undergird civilization.