I think it safe, and sad, to say that we have only begun to hear stories about sexual misconduct, and even assault, by people in various positions of power.  At the moment they seem to involve primarily men in politics and in the media, but this is a watershed event, and it will no doubt spread to positions of power in industry, commerce, finance, and perhaps even medicine and education.

At least one central question begs answering:  why?  Why would anyone, having achieved major success in an area as public as politics or the media put it all at risk for the sake of a sexual thrill?  The answer:  because they could.  In the traditional albeit weird sexual mores of America, it was more or less assumed that men demanded and got sex because of their positions.   People talked casually of women “sleeping their way to the top.”  People joked about the cutting room couch.  It is hard to find a woman who has not, at some time in her life, been either harassed or actually assaulted on a sexual basis.  In sum, sexual harassment was actually a part of our culture, and, in large part, it went unpunished because it went unreported.  Women, out of fear or humiliation, chose to suffer the attacks and indignities in silence.  And so it went on until the recent allegations and revelations about Donald Trump encouraged a host of women to speak publicly about their own struggles with people of power.

Two things are true.  One, we are at a much-needed moment of fundamental cultural change.   The time when women can and will take a deservedly equal place in politics and industry is here.  The glass ceiling is gone.  The halls of Congress and the positions of power in industry and finance an others will, at long last, be shared equally with men and women.

Two, if these allegations continue and multiply, the battle to resolve them will play out in courtrooms and in the media for years to come.  It will do little for the participants except continue to feed the “breaking news” lust of the media.  It will cost time and money, and it will accomplish little to add to the cultural change mentioned above.

Here is a suggestion, and it is precisely that, and I beg you, dear reader, to post your feelings on the matter here.  It is that we use the device of truth and reconciliation.

When apartheid was finally torn down in South Africa, the South Africans came up with a way to resolve the horrendous misdeeds that people had been guilty of during apartheid.  The gist of the system was that a person could be reconciled to the community if he or she would come forth and, in public, admit and describe his or her misdeeds.  Except for the most grievous misconduct, all those misdeeds were then forgiven, and no further punishment was imposed.

What seems to be happening at the moment is that anyone accused of sexual misconduct is being removed from office or position.  One assumes that, where possible, lawsuits will follow, and, where it is not possible, those accused of misconduct will experience what amounts to blackballing, and they will disappear from public view.

Would it not be more efficient and effective and even more humane to install some kind of process of truth and reconciliation for people in these various positions of power?  Could we not have some forum where men (and perhaps even women) could come forth and admit and describe their various sexual misdeeds, their abuse of their positions of power to take advantage of other people?  And, except perhaps for cases of actual sexual assault, could we not then reconcile those people to the community and allow them to continue their work in some fashion?

Perhaps this would not be sufficient to support the cultural change.  Perhaps this system of truth and reconciliation would itself be abused and even perverted.  It may, however, have a chance to address this question and more quickly and effectively make this cultural change a permanent fixture of our society.

What do you think?

































Most of us have a set attitude about the doings in Washington.  The Congress is a mystery to us, and the president — well, presidents come and go, and they do what they do, and I have to get to work this morning, and tonight I’ll be tired and …. yadda yadda yadda.  So we don’t read the bills that are proposed, and we don’t call our Congress people and basically we live our lives and, at most, complain to our friends about those bums in Washington and that’s it.

This time it’s different.  This time Congress is proposing to change the face of America.  This time Congress is proposing to formalize an American commitment to creating a permanent overclass of the extremely wealthy at the expense of all the rest.  With that, we threaten to, in effect, abandon the American dream and, much more insidious, to start the abandonment of the American ideal of the inalienable rights of every human being.

That sounds fairly drastic and fairly pessimistic.  It is, and I devoutly hope that I am totally wrong.  But here is the question:  what do you know about it?  Have you read the bill?  Well, I haven’t either, and I am not sure I have even the ability to understand it.  We do, however, have an unbiased analysis of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office, and I have read that.  You should too.  It is found at http://www.cbo.gov/publication/53348.  The report determines that, for those earning under $100,000, taxes will go up by 2027, and for those above $100,000, taxes will stay down.  In addition, the tax bill will increase the national debt by about 1.5 trillion dollars.  Also, since the individual mandate is removed from the Affordable Care Act, health care premiums will rise substantially for all who have health insurance of any kind.  In addition, the estate tax will be removed for the approximately 11,000 families whose net estates exceed $10,000,000.  So, for instance, if Trump’s estimate of his net worth is to be believed, his heirs will escape an estate tax of approximately one billion dollars.  That means that the estates of the very most wealthy will be allowed to continue to increase.

How does that change the face of democracy?  Well, there are only so many real dollars in any economy.  If that money gets concentrated in a small group, the rest of the group will, to put this conservatively, have limited access to that part of the economy.  There is a name for this:  plutocracy.

So this time there is the threat of a massive change in the American way of life, and so this time you really need to know.  You really need to read the objective analyses of this proposed tax plan, and, if you don’t like, you really need to tell your Congress people to vote it down.  At the very least, you really need to get informed so you understand where we are going.  We still have a democracy, and that means that you still have the right to participate.  More than ever, that old saw applies:  use it or lose it.





















Last year a video and audio recording caught Donald Trump bragging about his ability to sexually assault women.  He then announced on television that he had said it and that he was sorry.  Recently, however, he announced that the recording was not “authentic.”  When asked about this contradiction, his press person, Sarah Sanders, said that he was really complaining about the incident not being properly reported.  When asked which reports she was referring to, she said, “The ones he is complaining about.”

Recently, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the tax plan proposed by Republicans would increase the national debt by at least 1.4 trillion dollars.  When informed of that fact, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah replied, “I think they’re wrong.”  He offered no explanation for his opinion.

I could go on, but here is the point.  Discourse, basic speech, true communication between humans, is meant to contain an implied promise.  When I say to my wife, “I am going to the store,” I am impliedly promising her that what I say is true.  When I say to my boss, “I have added five more customers,” I am impliedly promising that boss that I have in fact added customers to the business.

There is, however, another form of speech, which classically goes by the name of “rhetoric.”  That kind of speech mimics true discourse.  In fact, it actually relies on people believing that it is true discourse.  But it differs from true discourse in that it does not contain that implied promise of honesty, that implied assertion that what is being said is true.  So, for instance, when we negotiate with each other, we often say things that are not true.  When we are selling a car, we might say, “I won’t take a dime less than five thousand dollars.”  The other person knows that is not true, and proves it by saying, “I won’t give you more than four thousand dollars.”  The whole world knows that car is going to get sold for forty-five hundred dollars.

Most of the time, we can easily tell the difference between rhetoric and true discourse, and we accommodate that difference.  We listen to the puffery of car dealers and real estate agents, and we try to translate that puffery into what is really meant, and everybody knows this is happening, and there are no hard feelings.

There is, however, one area in which the abandonment of true discourse can do some very serious damage, and that is in the political arena.  There is, of course, the puffery of the campaign.  “A chicken in every pot” is an old political cliché for outlandish campaign claims.  Once the election is over, however, we get down to the brass tacks of how to run our country in accord with our founding ideals.

We have succeeded as a nation precisely because we have had politicians who were willing to engage their opponents in true discourse.  Through honest negotiation and discourse, politicians were able to enact programs that provided a fair standard of living for the vast majority of Americans.  It was even by the acceptance of true discourse that we began to face the uglier facets of American life — poverty, discrimination, corporate malfeasance, etc.  It is hard to forget that awful moment when Robert Kennedy informed a crowd consisting mostly of African-Americans that Martin Luther King had been assassinated.  Its poignancy lies precisely in the honesty of his discourse with his audience.

It is this commitment to true discourse that has been totally abandoned in recent times and that is most painfully absent from today’s political discourse.  At the present moment, this is most obvious in discussions of the Republican tax plan.  Nothing could be clearer than that the intent of this plan is to provide greater, and longer lasting, wealth to the already wealthy.  The elimination of the estate tax alone makes that undeniable.  Yet its proponents continue to refer to it as a tax relief plan for the middle class.  When faced with undeniable calculations to the contrary, they either deny it without argument, as Senator Hatch did, or, much worse, they produce pseudo-arguments to support it.

In doing so, these politicians completely, and permanently, throw out the commitment to honesty that is implied in true discourse, and with it they threaten to throw out the possibility of continuing the representative democracy upon which this country was built.  What that means for the future of this country is unknown.  Tyranny?  Revolution? Civil War?  All of those are too far in the future to predict.  One thing sure:  democracy can only succeed when those representing it do so honestly, and it is that honesty which is being totally abandoned.
































It is nothing new that public figures are being condemned for illegal acts.  Hugely popular figures have been brought down with violations like tax evasion and bribery and fraud of various kinds.  Most recently, however, public figures are being spotlighted for conduct that, while clearly illegal, has been a tolerated feature of our culture for a very long time.  The image of the “ladies’ man” and “the wolf” have been grudgingly accepted even if studiously avoided.  Sexual assault has always been forbidden, but the definition of what constitutes sexual assault as a prosecutable crime has not always been clear.

The recent revelations regarding sexual misconduct by public figures is a watershed moment precisely because it is a full frontal attack on this cultural tolerance of much sexually oriented conduct.  Grabbing a person’s behind is now being called the crime that it is.  Talk, from Trump’s bragging about outright sexual assault to verbal harassment by a boss, is now no longer acceptable as “locker room talk” or even “boys will be boys.”

All of this is a welcome change in our culture.  However, it creates a real problem for women.  Just as men, particularly in white collar settings, dress and groom to enhance their professional appeal, so women have the right and desire to dress and groom in such a way to use their appearance to take their rightful place in their chosen profession.  The tough question for women, however, is how to do that without playing on their sexual attractiveness to men.

The whole idea of female attractiveness has been at least subliminally sexual.  Why, for instance, does a woman use lipstick if not to attract men to her lips?  Why does female clothing include the feature of plunging necklines, a feature almost totally absent from the clothing of men?  Why does female dress uncover their legs while male dress rarely does (and, frankly, rarely should)?

The problem for women is this:  their attractiveness, in an era of zero cultural tolerance for improper sexual advances, may cause men to exclude women from the kind of personal contact that creates opportunities for advancement in the world of business.  Those Friday night dinner-and-drinks, those golf outings, those sporting events, where the members get to know each other and bond with each other, are all critical events in the advancement in various businesses.  Women want to be a part of all that, but men might very well decide to exclude them for fear of getting into situations where they could be accused of improper conduct or speech.

Here is the point.  Cultural changes are incremental for a reason.  One change in a cultural outlook affects the entire cultural worldview of a group.  What we are really witnessing here is a fundamental sea change in our culture’s subtle, almost subliminal view of women as somehow inferior.  It is, in its own way, the same kind of change that our culture has had to make about people of color.  That change had its sea change moment with the abolition of slavery, but that happened over 150 years ago, and we have yet to rid ourselves of that prejudice.

The rights of women have been greatly improved by the wholesale condemnation of sexual harassment and assault.  The change in attitude, as needed as it is, will take far more time.






















The last time a tax reform plan was being done, Ronald Reagan had his aide David Stockman go to Congress to explain how the new plan would work.  Mr. Stockman announced to Congress that the plan was, in essence, to reduce taxes and increase spending, mostly on the military.  This, Mr. Stockman said, would help us reduce the national debt.  Then-Senator Mark Benson, at that hearing, pointed out to Mr. Stockman that his claim was ridiculous.  “What you are offering us,” Senator Benson said, “is a credit card economy.  That doesn’t work for families, and it won’t work for our government.”

Years later, Mr. Stockman admitted that what Senator Benson had said was true, that the whole thing was a lie, and recently Mr. Stockman denounced the present attempts to do exactly the same thing as a step toward disaster.  Among other things, Stockman predicts that, if the Republicans’ present proposal is enacted, the stock market will drop by forty percent.

Despite all the sales rhetoric of those pushing the present proposal, the figures clearly establish that the tax relief being provided is almost exclusively for the top one half of one percent of Americans.  Nothing makes that clearer than the proposed elimination of the estate tax, which will benefit only a few thousand of the very richest Americans (including the Trump family, which stands to gain more than one billion dollars).  We desperately need to take the blinders off and discuss our tax program in a rational fashion.  We can do that by setting forth what our goals are, and then fashioning a tax plan that will accomplish those goals.

So here is what we want.  We want to reduce our national debt.  We want to create jobs that pay a living wage.  We want to have good roads, good schools and good medical coverage.  We want to pay a reasonable amount for a reasonable defense program.  Finally, we understand that good government costs money.  It costs money to run our national parks, and we want to preserve those parks.  It costs money to have good schools, and we want to have good schools. And for all that good government requires, we want to pay our fair share.

To accomplish all of this, I suggest the following.  First, simplify taxes by reducing the number of tax brackets and eliminating deductions.  Second, raise the standard deduction to benefit families.  Third, eliminate the various loopholes akin to the so-called carried interest deduction and those rules allowing the maintenance of wealth off shore.  Eliminate all of them.  Finally, provide a tax credit for those who create jobs paying a living wage.  Key the credit to the amount paid for these new jobs.  Instead of relying on a promise from the wealthy to create new jobs, this will reward the wealthy for the fact of having created new jobs.  Keep the estate tax, with a deductible equivalent to the value of a small business or farm operation.

Eyes open here.  The present tax proposal is a method of rewarding those who make large campaign contributions.  That has to end, or America as we know it will end.  And it will not end in subservient peonage.  It will end as it began, with revolution.





















Some years hence, historians will wonder how the American people could possibly have elected such an incompetent boob as Trump to the presidency.  The plainest surface reason is that they simply could not stomach the arrogance and pretensions of Hillary Clinton.  There is, however, a deeper reason, one that is far more difficult to parse.  They voted for Trump because he told them what they wanted to hear — better health care, lower taxes, better jobs, even better schools.  Of course he lied about all of that, as those who voted for him are quickly coming to realize.  The point is that he said it, and that the Democrats did not.  The other thing historians will long ponder is how such an intelligent human being as Hillary Clinton could be so woefully inept in sending, or rather not sending, a message to the voters.

Now Republicans are handing the Democrats a second chance by offering an awful health plan and an even more awful tax plan while threatening to gut entitlement programs and ruin American efforts at advancing global trade and reducing global warming.  Yet Democrats are threatening to muff the chance by spending all their time howling at Trump’s blunderings and generally replacing the Republicans as the party of no.  Where, for instance, is the Democrat plan to make plainly needed corrections and improvements to Obamacare?  Where is the Democrat plan to repair our tax laws, to strike down loopholes, simplify and rebalance the progressive nature of the income tax, reduce the national debt, etc.?  Answer:  nowhere.

The American voter — north, south, east and west — is waiting to hear that government is really for all the people and not just for the rich and powerful.  In my humble opinion, the Democratic party has to shout from the rooftops the positive message of what it has always stood for.  First and foremost, it stands for the rights of the average Joe and Josephine.  It stands for the right to a living wage, and it stands for the right of that average worker to organize and collectively bargain for that wage.  It stands for the right to competent health care at an affordable price.

More generally, the Democratic party stands for the right to vote, and the right to have that vote count just as much as any other vote.  It therefore stoutly opposes gerrymandering and voter suppression laws.  It stands for equal rights for all human beings, and therefore it condemns Trump’s casual endorsement of sexual predation, and it condemns the silence of Republicans on sexual predators like Roy Moore.  It stands for safety in the workplace, and so opposes the loosening of workplace safety rules.  It stands for equal education opportunities for all, and so opposes the tearing apart of the public school system by Betsy DeVos.  It stands for protection against financial vultures, and so opposes the free rein being given to Wall Street by the secretary of the treasury.  It stands for a preservation of the American atmosphere and landscape, and so violently opposes the selling of public lands and the refusal of Republicans to stop Trump’s destruction of any steps to save the environment.

In a word, the Democratic party stands, or ought to stand, for stewardship.  This is neither our economy nor our environment.  It is a world we hold in trust for our fellow human beings and for those who will come after us.  It is, unquestionably, a changing world, but our obligation is to manage those changes for the benefit of all the people and for all the coming generations.

The Democratic party.  Wait a second, that’s me.  And you.  If you want this, say it loud and clear.























Before the last election, I canvassed in a fairly rural area of my state.  The people I talked to were, in the main, working folks with families.  They owned modest homes, drove modest cars, held modest paying jobs.  What, by their votes, they asked of their government was equally modest.  They didn’t want handouts.  They wanted opportunities.  They wanted the opportunity to provide health care to their families at a price they could afford.  They wanted an opportunity to have sufficient net income to support the needs of their families.  They wanted a government that would be careful with their money in improving the country for them and, most of all, for the children they were working so hard to raise.

The Democrats, by and large, did not offer this.  Stop and think, for example, if you can name one policy Hillary Clinton announced that would do any of these things.  On the other hand, think of the many promises that Donald Trump made, promises backed up by the legislators running for office:  health care for all at a reasonable price, a significant tax cut for the middle class, a significant increase in well-paying jobs, and many more.

So, shocked as the press was at the outcome, it now, in hindsight, is all to clear why folks who had in the past routinely voted Democrat should deliver the executive and legislative branches of our government over to the Republicans.

Now, however, is the time of reckoning.  Whatever may have been their promises, what has the present legislative and executive branch delivered?  Three things stand out.  First, the majority in the legislature offered a health plan that would reduce the number of Americans with health insurance, a plan that would, for those who were able to get insurance, have raised the cost of that insurance.  That result was averted by a razor-thin margin.

Second, the majority offered, and are now considering, a tax plan that would raise taxes on a significant portion of the middle class, give an enormous tax break to the wealthiest among us, and, to pay for the resultant loss of federal income, would both raise the national debt and slash benefits for Medicare and Social Security.

Third, the present administration withdrew from the Paris Accord on climate (thus making the United States the only country in the world not participating in this effort), slashed safety regulations for the workplace, reduced or eliminated banking and investment regulations and significantly reduced the nation’s commitments to public education.

I make a simple point here.  We voted for the present legislature and executive administration.  This is our government.  Whether we are Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Socialist, it is we who accept and live with the results of our elections.  What should be most profoundly disturbing for all of us is that what the present legislature and the present executive branch is doing is precisely the opposite of what they promised to do.  Those folks I talked to, who wanted so little, and who were promised all they wanted and more, are being cynically betrayed, and there are remarkably few people in the legislature, and none at all in the executive branch, who have the courage to admit it.  Just imagine if those who won office a year ago had presented the health plan and the tax plan they now support to the voters before the election.

This is all no longer a matter of Democrat or Republican.  This is about the American commitment to fundamental fairness.  What we need, what we demand, is an honest commitment from those who run for office to provide what they promise.  Those honest, hard-working people I canvassed were absolutely right about what they were asking for.  It is time to find people who will do what they promise.