Facts, Rationality, and Respect

To the Editor,

During a thirty plus year career teaching in higher education, I have engaged in numerous dialogues with students and colleagues as part of learning and problem-solving processes. This experience suggests that successful dialogue relies on three critical principles. First, parties to the discussion must agree on a common set of facts before any evaluation or analysis can begin. Without this, there is simply no basis for mutual understanding or reaching a common conclusion. Second, the examination of the facts must be guided by rational analysis and critical thinking in a give and take process. Without this, no realistic conclusion can be reached. Lastly, the entire discussion process must be characterized by respect for the ideas and thoughts of all participants. Without respect, conflict rather than compromise is likely. Although this process did not always result in agreement, it always provided learning and insight.

This reason-based model is not confined to academic contexts. It can help improve decision-making and problem-solving in most contexts, including policy making in government. Trump and his minions, however, have gone through the looking glass, turning the model inside out so that Republican political discussion often resembles drug-induced hallucinations rather than the sober deliberations of serious politicians. Trump Republicans do not seek agreement on proven fact; instead, they cite “alternate facts” or deny the obvious through outright lies. Trump himself is an inveterate liar so that it is impossible to separate truth from lies in his statements. His “Big Lie” regarding non-existent election fraud is the most egregious prevarication ever perpetrated by an American politician. The lie was and continues to be repeated and supported by Trump minions on Fox News who, as recent evidence indicates, knew the falsity of the claims. The ludicrous Marjorie Taylor Greene among others continues to promulgate the lie while promoting a parade of preposterous claims such as “Jewish space lasers” causing California wildfires. Tucker Carlson devoted several days of his show claiming to show that Trump supporters on Jan. 6th were merely “peaceful protesters,” expecting his viewers to ignore the violent facts of the day. Lies and false narratives have become Republican standard operating procedure used to distort and deny facts, replacing it with an engineered false reality. Goebbels would admire the effort.

 Republican reality distortion has been uncritically accepted by the Trump base who are awash in untruths and delusional internet conspiracy theories. Their buy-in to preposterous theories and outright lies clearly indicates a lack of rationality and critical thinking. As I have stated, they are more akin to a tribe than independent members of a democratic electorate. Their support for Trump is accompanied by a disdain and lack of respect for political opponents as is typified by their rude descriptions of President Biden.

Our democratic system relies on bargaining and compromise to create policy and legislation, but the rational model underlies the bargaining process. Effective bargaining can operate only in a context that accepts fact-based reality. Political groups may have different values and disagree on what constitutes effective policy but the dialogue necessary for an effective compromise must be driven by reality, rational discussion and mutual respect. If one group persistently distorts facts to suit their advantage, dialogue has no basis. If one group persistently promotes irrational and unproven explanations, rational consideration is destroyed. If one group persistently disrespects its opponents, compromise will be replaced with confrontation. Trump Republicans characterize all these dysfunctions. In plain words, they are a threat to democracy not only in terms of potentially violent acts as exemplified by the Jan. 6th insurrection, but also through an insidious, slow-moving process that destroys the ability of government to govern. As government action becomes ever more feckless, citizens will lose confidence in the process and seek out alternative systems. This will mark the end of American democracy.

Robert D. Russell, Ph.D.

Harrisburg, Pa.


Alas and alack, you have accurately captured the state of things.

You have our sincere sympathy. This must be terribly disturbing for you, having spent a lifetime in a more or less rational environment.

We, on the other hand, were blessed right out of high school with a stint in the U.S. Army. Lesson number one: banish all thoughts of rationality from your mind—they will only get you in trouble. A round of blue collar jobs followed: driving trucks, assembling parts in factories, &c.

The job that best prepared us for this moment, though, was being part of an electrical resistance survey team in the Great Basin: walk across the high desert with five gallons of salt water on your back. Stop every two thousand feet, pour a little water into the ground, bury a piece of aluminum foil, connect a wire to it. Wait for the walkie talkie to tell you walk on and do it again. Samuel Beckett would have loved it.

For all their flaws [a list will be made available upon request], we can see how institutions of higher learning might be seen to represent one of the highest pinnacles of human civilization. Capitalist ideology, however, has deemed them—and just about every other entity that is not a profit-making corporation—superfluous. If they stand in the way of profit, they are expendable. You were fortunate to have lived in a golden age.

To preserve its hegemony, capitalist ideology has found it necessary to enlist, encourage, and empower every gullible hooligan it can. True, this strategy is destroying the habitat of the goose that’s been laying golden eggs since we gave up hunting and gathering. That’s irrelevant, though. The important thing is next quarter’s profits.

The Editor


GOP Says Presidents Are Above the Law

Dear Sir:

In a letter to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the Republican Chairs of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Administration Committees wrote; “You are reportedly about to engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority: the indictment of a former President of the United States and current declared candidate for that office.” They also wrote that his actions would “unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election.”

According to these Republicans Donald Trump, as well as every other current and future president, cannot be indicted for crimes they may have committed even after leaving office. Since they provide no exemptions in their letter, this immunity would apply to any and all past and future crimes that a former president may commit. Ignore the fact that there is nothing in the Constitution that provides for such immunity to any president or former president.

Simply because no past president has ever been indicted should not prevent any current past president from being indicted for crimes that they may have committed or will commit in the future. If former President Clinton or Obama evade taxes, should they not be prosecuted just like any other citizen? The only consideration for investigating and indicating a former president or candidate for president should be the facts and the evidence. Simply because there is no precedent for indicating a former president or presidential candidate should have no bearing on applying equal justice for all.

As I recall, many of the same Republicans who claim that Mr. Trump should be immune from indictment because he is a current presidential candidate, or as a former president, are the same people who were calling for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, to be “locked up.” Forget an indictment, trial and conviction, go directly to jail. And, that Mr. Trump on Fox Business on October 8, 2020 called for former President Obama to be indicted. I do not recall Republicans claiming that indicting Obama would be an “unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority,” or calling for Ms. Clinton to be “locked up as ”interfering with the course of the 2016 election.” What hypocrisy.

Rich DiPentima


Portsmouth, N.H.


If we were a few decades younger, we’d be tempted to run for President. Permanent exemption from all prosecution? Sign us up!

That wouldn’t actually work for us, of course. If we were in the Oval Office, the ACLU membership card in our editorial wallet would nullify that ad hoc provision of the law, as interpreted by today’s GOP.

Thinking about this reminds us of something: So-and-So’s Law…? We can’t put our finger on it. If anyone can point us to the original, we’d be grateful. Here it is, as best we can recall. “In this country, we have two classes of people: there are those who are protected but unrestrained, and those who are restrained but unprotected.”

The Editor


Celebrating Susan Condodemetraky

Dear Editor:

The Laconia Daily Sun obituary on March 29 so well celebrates the life of Susan Condodemetraky of Belmont. What an incredible and responsible life she led! I didn’t realize her devotion to learning the languages of others: Thai, French, Spanish, German, Laotian, Cambodian, world-travelers that she and family were.

With local activist friends Chet and Martha, Medora, others in the Clamshell Alliance, she advocated for safe energy, rather than corporate-pushed nuclear energy plants [such as] our local one being in Seabrook. Now Seabrook is less well-known as a town is it is a nuclear plant.

Now we know, from the Ukrainian experience with Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, that the radioactivity of such a plant makes it a war-time danger. Ukraine and Europe (really all of us) must hold our breaths (literally), waiting to see if Zaporizhzhia can be safe while fought over. Its six reactors’ cooling systems need electricity for continuous cooling. Now electricity for Zaporizhzhia has become intermittent. When the Ukrainian nuclear plant Chernobyl melted down in April, 1986, its radiation swirled around the planet, even being detected in Northern Vermont.

Susan understood and cared about so much. Bless her kind soul and may she still look out for us all in her spirit-life.

Lynn Rudmin Chong

Sanbornton, N.H.


Your letter intrigued us—we had to look at the obituary to which you referred. Quite a life, indeed—even before it began: “Her parents immigrated from Austria in 1939 to escape Nazi occupied Vienna, leaving with just the clothes on their backs.”

The Editor


Rate Hikes and Inflation

To the editors:

The Federal Reserve has raised the federal funds rate eight times in 2022 & 2023—so far. They claim that this has been done to quell inflation. But inflation persists—we have hardly seen any stemming of inflation during the 15 months of rate hikes, and no reason to believe that the rate hikes have had any dampening effect on inflation.

Inflation is caused by demand exceeding supply. Our current inflationary cycle is caused by the severe shortages on the supply side: supply chain disruptions due to Covid, the war in Ukraine, and climate change disruptions, as well as slight increases in demand due to low interest rates.

One definition of insanity is: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If eight large increases in the federal funds rate does as little as it has to lower demand and halt and reverse inflation, isn’t that a perfect example of insanity? Isn’t continuing the rate hikes clearly stubborn adherence to a misguided theory?

Instead, the rapid, large, increases in the federal funds rate has caught some banks off-guard, a few catastrophically so, so that some have failed and others are teetering on the brink.

The government should stop the ineffective raising of the federal funds rate, as well as put in place controls and oversight to prevent further repetitions of irresponsible bank behavior. Failure to do so hurts us all.

Paul Cully

Dover, N.H.


No one will ever mistake us for economists, but it is our policy never to let our own ignorance dissuade us from an argument.

It appears to us that inflation peaked nine months ago, at 9 percent. Now it’s down to 6, a reduction of about one-third. So, the Fed has not been entirely ineffectual.

You cite supply chain disruptions caused by Covid, the war in Ukraine, and climate change as causes of inflation. We can’t argue with any of that.

What about corporate greed, though? Robert Reich and others have pointed out that profits these days are, quite literally, out of control. We don’t know what the Fed can do about that, though.

Congress, if it represented the people and had any gumption, would tax the living bejeezus out of our corporate overlords, and use the proceeds to provide working people with a panoply of exotic luxuries such as guaranteed health care, affordable child care, and free or heavily-subsidized tuition.

As we said, you should take the above—except maybe that last sentence—with a grain of salt.

This much we’re sure of: when the Fed jacks up rates, it raises the cost of living for ordinary borrowers. Meanwhile the fat cats go about their business as usual.

Or, as Billie Holiday put it,

“Them that’s got shall get

“Them that’s not shall lose,

“So the Bible says and it still is news.”

The Editor


Trump Threatens Death and Destruction

Dear Editor:

Over the past week, as former President Trump’s legal jeopardy has increased, his rhetoric and behavior have become even more dangerous and menacing. The risk he represents to our democracy is greater now than it was before, or on, January 6, 2021.

Last week Mr. Trump, while attacking Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, suggested that his possible indictment would result in “death and destruction.” Mr. Trump also posted a picture of himself holding a baseball bat next to a photo of Mr. Bragg with his hands up.

In probably his most violent insurrectionist behavior to date, at a rally in Waco, Texas—the location of the Branch Davidian disaster in 1993 which gave birth to the modern anti-government militia movement—Mr. Trump paid homage to the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrectionists. At that rally, Mr. Trump stood on stage with his hand over his heart while loudspeakers played, not the national anthem, but a song recorded by January 6th insurrectionists. All the while footage from the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol played on a screen behind him. If that is not a dog whistle call to violence, I do not know what is.

As an American and a retired military officer I am greatly offended, concerned, and angry that a former president would place the national security and safety of our Republic at such grave risk. This behavior is un-American and is a disgrace to our Constitution, the rule of law and the Office of the President of the United States. If Mr. Trump continues on this path his prediction of “death and destruction” will take place and our nation will be torn even further apart and people will die. And of course the winners of this will not be Mr. Trump or his followers, but our adversaries in Russia and China who welcome America being destroyed from within.

Rich DiPentima, LTC, USAFR, Ret.

Portsmouth, N.H.


When you put it like this you make it seem that #45 is doing rather poorly at upholding the dignity of his former office. But, that’s on him, not you.

The Editor


Don’t Feed the Trumpster Fire

Dear Editor,

Since trump [sic, passim] announced, erroneously, that he would be indicted last Tuesday, news media have been speculating breathlessly.

Newsflash: trump thrives on media attention. As long a people talk about him and think about him, he has influence. When the media report on what he says, on what he posts on his blog, and speculates on what he may or may not say, on what he may or may not do, trump gets attention that empowers his influence. Media attention fuels a trumpster fire that few can resist looking at.

Responsible reporters and pundits who want this alleged criminal to be accountable through our system of justice must stop speculating on his every word and action, and let the system do its function in the dispassionate, objective way it is designed to work.

Bruce Joffe

Piedmont, Calif.


But…but…there’s profit to be made!

The Editor


Ewing Solves School Shooting Problem

To the Editor:

It’s long past time that we stopped enticing deranged people to shoot children in schools. School “Gun Free Zones” make sick, evil people confident they can get the revenge and/or fame they crave.

Politicians, celebrities, banks, government buildings, etc. are protected by trained armed people. I’d rather we protected school children. The only way to protect them is with responsible, trained, armed people embedded in the schools.

Unfortunately Democrat politicians are more interested in ideologically driven anti-gun laws, which only harass law-abiding citizens, than in actually saving children’s lives.

Anti-gun laws don’t stop criminals. If outlawing guns worked, then Chicago and California would be our safest city and state. If universal background checks would reduce school shootings, advocates would present a long list of shootings that they would have prevented. They can’t.

Even if we took all guns away from people, guns would easily flow into our country via Biden’s open border. Bad people do bad things; let’s deter them from attacking schools.

Most murderers have either a history of violence or mental illness or both; they shouldn’t have access to guns. Parents, mental health professionals, and police must treat this seriously and realistically; they must ensure that all violent people, including youths, are put on the NCIC database so at least they can’t purchase guns legally.

Finally, officials and the media must stop giving these deranged people the fame they crave; their names should never be disclosed.

Anti-gun laws are intended to make naive people believe useful action will be taken. But children will continue to be killed until our society understands, as undesirable as it seems to some, the necessity of protecting schools with responsible, trained, armed, and embedded protectors.

Don Ewing

Meredith, N.H.


You write, “If outlawing guns worked, then Chicago and California would be our safest city and state,” implying that California is unsafe, despite restrictive gun laws. What? Do you think we don’t have access to The Google? The CDC says only six states, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut, have lower rates of gun deaths.

Now let’s look at Tennessee. According to the Sevier County, Sheriff’s Office, “Tennessee does not require a permit to carry a firearm, whether openly or concealed. If you want to carry a gun openly or concealed in public in Tennessee, you don’t need a permit. As of July 1, 2021, Tennessee is a permit-less carry state.”

Only nine states have higher rates of gun deaths than Tennessee, again according to the CDC.

And, according to news reports, some of the adults at the Covenant School in Nashville, site of the recent school shooting, were, in fact, armed.

As for the dreaded City of Chicago, your knee-jerk recitation of that hackneyed old stereotype sparked our curiosity.

A Brookings Institute study of gun violence says “increases in gun homicides are largely concentrated in disinvested and structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods that had high rates of gun violence to begin with.” You can imagine our surprise.

“In Chicago, for instance, gun homicides in 2019 and 2020 were concentrated in neighborhoods far from the city center that have long suffered from severe disinvestment as a result of white flight, and are now centers of concentrated poverty with predominantly Black residents.” Well, well.

Break out of your Fox News mindset and you might see opportunities, rather than doom: “reactive approaches for policing the symptoms of segregation and disinvestment distract from the deeply rooted need to invest in the community infrastructure that keeps neighborhoods safe, such as quality housing, youth workforce development and employment programs, green space, and civic and community-based organizations. Luckily, the influx of federal resources flowing into communities from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act offers an unprecedent opportunity to properly invest in disinvested communities and advance the community-based safety alternatives proven to promote a more holistic, life-affirming vision of safety.”

The Editor


What’s God Got to Do With It?

Dear Editor,

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the Trump indictment has “irreparably harmed” the country. What on earth is he talking about?

Prosecution of misdemeanor or felony crime is harmful, illegal, unconstitutional, wrong?

The answer to his befuddling statement is found in a message on a popular T-shirt: “Trust God. Not government.”

McCarthy is trafficking in the popular libertarian philosophy, which is also the evangelical church argument, that government is evil. The fundamentalist church and its anti-civic bedfellows, patriotic libertarian Republicans, are the only forces for good on earth.

The problem with this is that our patriotic ancestors in 1776 were not fighting against government and law, they were fighting against “King’s government” and “King’s law.” And those bad laws of King George III are listed in painful detail in the Declaration of Independence.

Our ancestors wanted “People’s government,” and “People’s law.” When laws are made by the people, they are blessed by God, and people have respect for them.

McCarthy is trying to use our ignorance of history to return the nation to British-style autocratic government in the form of Donald Trump, himself, or a new Republican leader in 2024.

I get it. And now you get it too.

Kimball Shinkoskey

Woods Cross, Utah


“Our patriotic ancestors in 1776” didn’t trust the people. Only white men with property got to vote. The rabble were expected to defer to the judgment of their betters. Some of them may have been God-botherers, but they gave Him no place in our government.

The Editor

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