Homer, that famous Greek poet, is still revered these thousands of years later because, among other reasons, he was a great story teller.  In his epic poem, Iliad, he tells of the great warrior, Achilles, who won absolutely every battle he fought, no matter how great the odds were against him, no matter the power of his opposition.  He had, however, one secret weakness.  If you could hit him in the back of his leg, just below the calf, you could bring him down.  Sure enough, after Achilles fights and kills the great Trojan warrior, Hector, he is laid low by an arrow in the leg shot from the bow of the cowardly Paris.  His death is now immortalized in the common phrase “Achilles heel”, which means a secret weakness in an otherwise powerful person or organization.

The United States was formed as a government commonly referred to as a representative democracy.  The term “democracy” means literally rule by the people, and it contrasts with such forms of rule as monarchy (rule by one), oligarchy (rule by a few), plutocracy (rule by the rich), aristocracy (rule by the presumably best), and others, among which my personal favorite is kleptocracy, which means rule by thieves, people who rule for their own personal gain while disregarding the interests of the people they are supposed to govern.

Democracy has not always been admired.  Plato called it the worst form of government.  Churchill called democracy “the worst form of government except for all the others.”  George Bernard Shaw said democracy was “a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”  Mencken called democracy “the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”  And someone once said that democracy is a terrible form of government and should be replaced as soon as someone finds a better one.

Our founders were acutely aware of the criticisms, and their genius lay in the fact that they created what has been described as “the great experiment”.  Those great men attempted to build, and in many ways succeeded in building, a government based on the will of the people but so structured that it would avoid or even eliminate the natural tendency of such governments to devolve into tyranny.  The main devices proposed by those great men to defeat that ugly prospect were a bevy of checks and balances, each meant to prevent the acquisition of unquestioned power by an influential few.  The greatest of these checks and balances is the division of the government into three separate units:  the legislative to create laws, the executive to enforce those laws, and the judicial to impartially determine the validity of those laws and the propriety of their execution.

The great American experiment has, however, an Achilles heel.  We are, today, in the midst of the single greatest attack on the American experiment this country has ever seen, and that attack is precisely upon those checks and balances meant to make the experiment work.  The president has shown ignorant and sociopathic disdain for not only the legislative and judicial branches of government but even for the checks and balances built into his own executive branch.  His very presence in the position of president is a threat to democracy.  But he is not alone in this attack.  Legislators are now bent on destroying the impartiality of the judicial branch by appointing people whose main qualification for the judiciary is their willingness to adopt the views of those in power in the legislature.  The recent appointment of Justice Gorsuch is only one example of this perversion.  Perhaps more importantly, legislatures are more and more limiting public access to their deliberations.  What the Republicans did in creating their horrendous health care proposal is only one example of this, and Democrats are not immune to the same failing.

If we are to save the American experiment, we have to face a few things.  First of all, we voted in a person completely unfit for the office of president.  That office requires a person who understands and honors the distribution of power among the three branches of government.  Trump is not just ignorant of that fact; he detests it.  Given even a fraction of a chance, he will destroy that distribution, and that will effectively end the experiment.

Second, and absolutely most important, we, the people, have to give up our hostility to those with views opposed to our own.  The tone of MSNBC is just as inimical to democracy as the tone of FOX news.  We can not afford political discourse based on ridicule and scorn.  We cannot afford to respond to the serious efforts of those with divergent views by laughter and satire.  We need, we desperately need, we will not continue as a democracy unless we are willing, to listen, to appreciate, to honor and to compromise.  The know-it-all superciliousness of the Clinton Democrats is just as annoying, and every bit as dangerous, as the secretive power mongering of the Trumpian Republicans.

It may be true that socialized medicine is the only way to provide to our citizens their right to basic medical care.  If the American experiment is to continue, however, we cannot get there by edict.  To preserve the great gains that experiment has achieved, and to fulfill the great promises it suggests, we must develop our solutions in mutual accord.  In the American vision, all true and valuable change must be incremental.  If we do not do that, if we continue to try to rule by power, the inevitable result is tyranny.  There are those who feel we have already crossed that line, that we are now essentially ruled by a wealthy few.  That is not true.  Lincoln was right.  You can’t fool all the people all the time.  The American experiment is still alive, and it is those people who will decide its fate.  You are one of those people.  Your failure to honor opposing views is America’s Achilles heel.  It is in your hands.














































At the beginning of the American Revolution, that patriot and author Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet laying out in no-nonsense form the basic reasons why Americans had to leave British rule and become a country of their own.  He entitled it Common Sense.  It was just that, a plain and simple and sensible explanation.  It had an enormous impact on the revolutionary spirit, precisely because it was so plain and clear.

Today the American Congress is faced with an issue of huge magnitude — health care.  The president is meaningless to the task before the Congress.  It is our elected representatives who have to figure this out.  Sad to say, so far that struggle has been muddied by considering political issues and the interests of the wealthy.  What those representatives, Democrat and Republican alike, have to do, if they are to come to a just and reasonable program, is to put all that aside and look at the matter from a common-sense point of view.

From that common-sense point of view, the main issues are really quite simple.  First, every American deserves basic health care at an affordable price.  Second, the system as it exists is providing that basic care, but it is doing so at ridiculously high prices.  Every American who has a serious health problem but no insurance can get care at any emergency room, and that makes the care outlandishly expensive.  Second, we have allowed some in the medical system to charge outrageous prices for their services.  This is particularly true of the drug providers, the providers of medical products, and the executives running medical systems.  Thirdly, the cost of administering health care in America is higher than any other country with health care, and it is astoundingly wasteful.

The problem fairly dictates its own answer.  First, provide insurance for everyone.  Second, demand that the medical industry slash its costs.  Third, eliminate the useless parts of the administration of health care.  That is all easy to say, but one might assume, as Trump apparently discovered recently, that it is complicated.  Well, it is, but drastic steps are needed, and private interests have to be put aside to accomplish those steps.

Number One.  Mandate basic health coverage for all Americans.  Do it through private insurance or do it through government, but do it.  For those of you who think that limits your freedom, think it out a bit — the present system is killing your pocket book, and that isn’t helping your freedom much.  Yes, we will have to subsidize the poor, and yes, we will suffer some limits on our own care.  No matter how you cut that, though, it beats the hell out of what we are doing to this nation and to its people today.

Number Two.  Negotiate the price of drugs, medical products and the cost of medical systems.  Negotiate as a group.  No drug should cost ten times in America what it costs elsewhere.  No MRI machine should carry a price that is not negotiated.  No administrator should be paid twenty million dollars a year.  Period.

Number Three.  Eliminate subrogation.  I am quite sure that there are many, many ways to slash the cost of administration of medical services, but the big one is to eliminate the overlapping coverage for which we are all paying today.  Remove medical expense as an item of coverage from every other kind of insurance — liability, auto, homeowners, products liability, medical negligence — any of the several kinds of insurance that now charge for coverage of the exact same bills as our health care.

If we do all this, many people are going to scream bloody murder.  The drug companies, the medical product manufacturers, the executives at Humana and Aurora and elsewhere, the trial lawyers (of whom I happen to be one).  But they will all holler for the same reason — they will be losing the money that has made our present system so crazily, and unjustifiably, expensive.  Medical care will not work in America until we cut — no, slash — its present costs.  If we do this, it will be a piece of cake to provide basic health care to every American.

We will, of course, have to do something for the wealthy.  They will need to have their boobs bolstered and their wrinkles removed.  Allow those who need Cadillac coverage to go pay for it themselves.  This is, after all, America.  You should be able to do what you want.  You just don’t have the right to hurt the rest of us by doing so.  That, it seems to me, is the very minimum meaning of the ideal that begot America.  All human beings have inalienable rights.  Basic health care is essential to the first right, the right to life.  We can all have that.  We just need to use some common sense.
















The idea of people willing to slaughter thousands of innocent victims supposedly in the name of religious beliefs was thrust upon the American public on 9/11.  We bound those horrible wounds and took the painful steps necessary to reduce the risk of further damage.  All that we did and do was and is necessary and effective.

There was, however, one step that could have been taken but that was rejected, ridiculed and condemned by the Bush/Cheney people.  The people around Bush adamantly insisted that we were wasting our time trying to understand why these young people were committing themselves to these radical groups.  They were evidently convinced that all we needed to do was kill them all off and the problem would go away.

That approach has clearly not worked.  Groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS have flourished and grown despite the many billions of dollars we have spent trying to eradicate them.  To this day people from all over the world are committing themselves to these groups and either physically joining them or adopting their sick views and carrying out the slaughter of innocents throughout the world.

It is far past time to take two steps the are absolutely necessary if this cancer is ever to be removed from the global community.  First, we need to stop honoring these people with the designation of “terrorists.”  That term suggests that these people are part of a legitimate, or at least semi-legitimate, political body.  They are not.  The groups promoting these horrendous acts are criminals.  They have no allegiance to God or to any religion supporting that God.  They do nothing but besmirch the religion of Islam and the God whom true Muslims worship.  There is utterly no justification for the violence they seduce young people into committing.  They are criminals.  They need to be hunted down and eradicated.

It is the second step that we have failed to consider and that we desperately need to work on.  The mindless and abhorrent violence promoted by this group of criminals continues only because they are able, through an aggressive advertising campaign, to seduce young people around the world to join their ranks.  The world needs to respond to that campaign by addressing the concerns of the young people vulnerable to the proddings of these criminals.  We need to listen to their concerns.  We need to give them a voice in our own communities so that they will recognize that they have a legitimate place among us.

How is that best done?  I have no idea, but there are those in government who do, and those experts need their information acknowledged and disseminated.  It is quite likely that those young people presently feel alienated from our western communities, and so they fall willingly into the hands of these execrable criminals with their patter of false religion.

This is not an easy issue, by any means.  It will, however, never go away unless we are able to give the young a real and serious welcome into our communities.  The Bush/Cheney refusal to even consider the motives and concerns of these young people is an utter failure, and the Trump approach of isolating us from the world is even worse.  We need to reach out, and any more delay in doing so will guarantee that the criminal slaughters will continue.





















In one of the most touching scenes from Downtown Abbey, the lord of the estate is talking with his groundskeeper.   The lord asks him how long he has been there, and the groundskeeper says he has been there all his life and that he, like his father before him, was a steward of the estate, protecting it for future occupants.  The lord agrees and says that he, too, is not really an owner but he is rather a steward of the estate for those who will come after him.

We are all that.  We plant trees, not for our own use only, but for the generations to come.  We build or buy homes, we build savings, we spend substantial sums for the education of our children, not merely for our own purposes, but so that we may create a better world for those who will come after us.

Recently the virus of pure self-interest has crept into our character as a nation.  It is not merely the super rich spending money for the sole purpose of protecting and growing their own fortunes.  It seems that a tone of selfishness has crept into the very culture itself, showing itself in business practices and local politics and even personal dealings.  It is a disease, and it is eating at the very fundament of America, the commitment to the inalienable rights of all human beings.

Today Donald Trump has shown himself the epitome, the pure distillation, of the worldview of selfishness.  Prior to today, he had endorsed a health bill that would strip millions of people of health care while adding millions of dollars to Trump’s coffers.  He had also endorsed a tax proposal that would strip away the safety net prior administrations had provided for the poor among us and that would give all the savings to himself and others of his ilk.

Today, however, Trump dragged all Americans into the unforgivable abandonment of the American ideal.  Today Donald Trump announced that, contrary to every nation in the world except for Nicaragua and Libya, The United States will now withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  With the whole world fighting the dreadfully real threat of environmental disaster, Donald Trump decided that it would be more profitable for him to reject any effort to save the environment.  He is even actually fighting the installation of green energy machines in Scotland on the grounds that it would hurt his golf business.

I have been ashamed that we have an ignorant, self-absorbed sexual predator for a president.  I am no longer just ashamed.  I am outraged.  This is not who we are.  The people of the United States are, as a whole, as a culture, as a moral character, loving, caring, hard-working people concerned not just for themselves but for the world they will hand off to others.  Trump doesn’t care if he leaves the world uninhabitable.  Americans do care, and he is thumbing his nose at all of us.

He may not have committed a crime.  He may not have committed an impeachable offense.  He has, however, torn the very fabric of the United States.  By whatever legal means there are available to us, he has to go.