Campaign 2020

Evangelicals, Donald J. Trump, and the Making of the Tribune in Chief

This piece was originally published with the History News Network on April 19, 2020, and can be read in its original format here:

A look at the history of Evangelicalism helps to explain the appeal of Donald Trump as a leader outside any establishment, in his blunt speaking style, and in his lack of deference for high learning. For many voters, these count for more than questions about his own religious commitments. Critics of President Trump could learn from his appeal and speak out more plainly about the power of privilege in contemporary society. Schooling on his style could be done without the ridiculing, but with more connecting to average citizens.

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What's DAT?, What’s DAT?—Deficit Attention Tweets

The Many Stories of DAT

Attention becomes more important when there is more to pay attention to.  The information explosion of the modern world has put attention front and center as the gatekeeper of a flood of information, misinformation, and different interpretations about all those facts and claims.  Even the simple acronym, DAT, used on this page for Deficit Attention Tweets, points to oceans of input on many fronts. Continue reading

What's DAT?

Attention, Our Effective Intelligence

Everyone has their own particular brain capacity.  From an early age, we are good at some things rather than others, and attracted to particular fields.  Do you like detail work or big pictures?  Are you good with numbers or with words?  You probably had a favorite subject in school; and if you are lucky, when a first job did not suit you, you found one that did—one that well suited your native capacities.  Psychologists measure our brain capacities with numbers, our IQ or intelligence quotient, which puts a big emphasis on logical reasoning abilities.  But our full capacities are a whole congress of talents for figuring things out, from mathematical puzzles and chess moves to basketball plays and social interaction.  In the whole theater of life, some steps are smarter than others.

Education is the widely recognized setting for upping our intelligence game, with more knowledge and more skills; classrooms are important for learning all kinds of things from better writing to the subtleties of mitosis or financial accounting.  Education is a great social step for sharpening our native intellectual capacities.  But there is another personal step that anyone can take without spending a dime on tuition.  Pay attention.  Yes, paying attention is like pressing the power button on our brains.  Imagine a powerful computer that’s turned off; now imagine a powerful brain with great capacities but no attention: powered off.  Attention is effective intelligence.  No matter your native endowments, add the sharp focus of attention to any project large or small, with interests fired up and mind drilling down on every implication and detail, and you’ve got intelligence to the max.  Find what captures your attention, and you’ll find yourself capturing more of the world.

What's DAT?

What’s DAT?—Introducing Deficit Attention Tweets

This is a page for brief comments on the changing role of attention in American culture.  See my essay “Contesting the Human Normal,”, for more on the emergence of the Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis, revised in the psychiatric profession as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in 1987, and for an overview of debates about how to deal with these tendencies to distraction.

What’s DAT offers short accounts of what Americans have been paying attention to and what is being ignored.  Does attention follow love or hate, the important or the exciting?  Have our capacities for attention changed as our lives have changed in speed of travel and communication, where we live, how we work, and how we play?  Does attention support our thoughts or our feelings?  Can others control your attention, or are you in charge?  What other parts of life attract or distract for this vital gatekeeper of the human mind?

Campaign 2016

Constant Growth: The Elephant (and the Donkey) in the Living Room

A shorter version of this essay was published as “An Economy That Grows Anger,” in the Huffington Post, September 24, 2016,

On this web page, scroll down to see a revised version of this essay, expanded with more economic data and historical examples, and published as  “Both Parties Back Economic Growth–But Are They Wrong?” in History News Network, October 2, 2016,

We’ve got a well-informed Democrat defending a crazy system and a crazy-sounding Republican brashly calling for undisclosed changes. The elephant (and the donkey) in the living room—the unasked question for both Republicans and Democrats—is whether constant growth can be sustained? In medicine, that’s called cancer….

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the United States of Distracted Attention

ADHD: Contesting the Human Normal

An earlier version published as “There’s a Way to Lower the Incidence of ADHD. We Should Try It.” History News Network (January 31, 2016),

With some cultural changes reducing the enormity of distractions, prevention can become a realistic part of the response to ADHD, and an upgrade on living for everyone else too. After all, prevention is easier and more effective than cure, and then we can reserve use of pharmaceutical remedies for severe cases. Continue reading

US in the Middle East / Middle East in the US

More Than Two Choices in the War on Terror

First published in the DeLand Beacon newspaper in central Florida, November 6, 2001

We are moving beyond shock and into a period of forceful action in response to the horrible terrorism of Sept. 11 and subsequent acts of bioterrorism.  Most Americans feel an urgency to do the right thing.

We keep hearing that there are only two choices: side with terrorists or with a policy of military retaliation.  Is our imagination limited to that stark contrast?  If we keep talking war and making war, that will encourage terrorist responses. But if we treat this as a campaign of intelligence operations to identify and arrest the leaders, of activities to reduce our military footprint and foster good will, and of publicity to discredit terrorist actions in embarrassing and lurid detail, we have a better chance of stopping the support for terrorism before it is fanned into murderous passion.  Read whole essay here….

Campaign 2000

VP candidates set the tone;Bush, Gore should listen to Dad and Uncle Joe

October 2000

Watching the vice-presidential debates brought, the embarrassing  suggestion that maybe Richard Cheney and Joseph Lieberman have more presidential timber than the tops of their tickets. Maybe this election has kangaroo pairs, as an old saying goes, with the back legs stronger than the front.

Most observers were surprised when the two men around the table with Bernard Shaw acted so civil and even friendly with each other. They broke the pattern of vice-presidential contenders venting the campaign’s aggressions.

Cheney and Lieberman talked out the issues, framed their disagreements succinctly, and even seemed to enjoy each other. Central casting could not have picked better characters than Cheney as a dad and Lieberman as a kindly uncle.

George W. Bush and Al Gore have displayed very little of these dignities in their campaigning, especially in the first debate.

More on the Vice Presidential candidates can be found here.