Saturday, December 31, 2016


2016 was a year of learning from the world around us and applying the lessons to our lives. The 2016 presidential election cycle was long, nasty and grueling, and much of our thoughts and actions revolved around this very disturbing process and outcome. For many of us, the election raised many questions about the American democratic process, civic engagement, and the responsibilities of citizens.

What is the role of government? What responsibilities do citizens have if government moves towards authoritarianism and fascism? In London this past summer we experienced an excellent, thought-provoking and painful production of a theatrical adaptation of the novel 1984. Have we arrived at 1984? Is the new post-truth, especially Trump-speak, the same as in 1984? "War is peace," "black is white," "freedom is slavery," and "ignorance is strength" now have such familiar rings. Is the cyber spying practiced by our own intelligence agencies against us the realization of Big Brother? And everything about each of us is harvested every time we make a phone call, get on the internet, click around on Facebook; and then our data are used to sell things to us. What will our world be like in 2020? 

Themes of "the other," including how we view immigrants and people of color were the focus of numerous productions we saw in 2016. Vietgone at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hold These Truths at Portland Center Stage, and How I Learned What I Know at the Portland Playhouse dealt with these issues that have been a focus of the hate and fear made so visible by the Trump campaign. These wonderfully written and powerfully acted plays also put into question the things we think we know, and made us understand that every issue has more than one narrative. The narratives of immigrants from Viet Nam in the 1970’s, Americans of Japanese descent during the 1940’s, and Americans of African descent at all times sometimes confuse and contradict what we think we know, what we know we have learned, what is perhaps post-truth.

In the production of 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, we were confronted with issues of wartime, including the fracturing of families, the displacement of people from their homes, the acceptance of "others" by honest and open-hearted people, and the tragedies of military actions. We saw people portrayed simply as people, and the common ground that was between them was solid enough to walk towards each other. Strangers, friends; friends, strangers. 

We attended 35 theatrical productions during 2016. We enjoyed almost every one, and many provoked long discussions afterwards. Some were simply fun; others were heavy with life’s often painful realities. For us, theater is a mirror, a window, a door and often an invitation to a different dimension. It keeps our minds elastic, it expands our experience, it allows us to share with others. 

We have choices as we travel through life and the world we live on. We can choose to simply be tourists and check off the must-see highlights and day-to-day shoulds on a list, either away from or at home. Or we can immerse ourselves, with every sense attuned, into the cultures, art, architecture, food, customs, language and people of each place we visit, whether it be across the street or across an ocean. When we stay intentionally attuned we are rewarded with so much beauty, so many thoughts, and numerous challenges to our various comfort zones. For us, this is growth. 

We hope to see all of you at the theater in 2017.

Here is our theater list for 2016:
Book of Mormon - Broadway in Portland 
Great Expectations - Portland Center Stage 
Mr. Kolpert - Third Rail 
The Setup - Cygnet Theatre at Shaking the Tree 
Sense and Sensibility - Portland Actor’s Conservancy (Sherry and Sophie) 
Mothers and Sons - Artists Repertory Theater 
Forever - Portland Center Stage 
The Call - Profile Theater 
Fiddler on the Roof - Cleveland High School 
Each and Every Thing - Portland Center Stage 
We are Proud to Present - Artists Repertory Theater 
Nostrana/Devita’s Harp - Jewish Theater Collaborative 
The Pianist of Willesden Lane - Portland Center Stage 
The Wonder of Will (Shakespeare scenes) - Portland State University 
Grand Concourse - Artists Repertory Theater 
The Skin of our Teeth - Artists Repertory Theater 
The Wiz - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
The Yoeman of the Guard - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
Roe - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
The River Bride - Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Sherry) 
Richard II - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
Great Expectations - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
Pensionista - Hotel Miro, Bilbao 
1984 - London Playhouse 
946: the Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips - Shakespeare Globe Theatre (London) 
Little Shop of Horrors - Portland Center Stage 
Hold These Truths - Portland Center Stage 
How I Learned What I Learned - Portland Playhouse 
Vietgone - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
Twelfth Night - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
Timon of Athens - Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
Oregon Trail - Portland Center Stage 
Les Miserables - Cleveland High School 
Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin - Portland Center Stage 
Venus and Adonis - Shaking the Tree Theater 


Thursday, December 29, 2016


Quite simply, I support the decision by the Obama administration to abstain from voting on the UNSC Resolution 2334.

I have written many times about the situation in Israel on this blog. I support Israel; I do not support the actions of the Israeli government under Netanyahu.

I have repeatedly said that because I am not a citizen of Israel, I cannot tell that government what I want them to do. On the other hand, as a citizen of the United States, I can tell my government what I want them to do, and to offer my support for specific policy directions and legislation.

I have, therefore, sent messages to President Obama and Secretary Kerry thanking therm for this decision, and supporting their policy.

I read the resolution; I find it balanced and important.

I read the official statement by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power; it is balanced and an important policy statement.

I watched the entire speech by Secretary Kerry on the subject of Israel and Palestine; it is a powerful and important policy speech and, in my opinion, says things that absolutely needed to be said.

Political analysts, U.S. Presidents-to-be, pundits, officials on all sides and a plethora of political hacks have engaged in the on-going media fire fight over this Obama administration policy choice. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has had public temper tantrums over this development. And yes, there is Twitter. Everyone has an opinion, and that is as it should be.

Only time will tell what the outcome will be in the 50-year and counting conflict in Israel/Palestine (since the 1967 war when the occupation began). I, and many in the world, have grown beyond weary of this conflict. Both sides need to find a resolution, and yet both sides seem incapable or not interested in ending the conflict.

The Obama position is moot in the face of the Trump ascendency. All signs indicate that the Trump administration will support the continuation of settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that Trump and Netanyahu will be perfect partners in continuing the conflict. I hope I'm wrong, but it's a tiny glimmer of hope.


Saturday, December 17, 2016



December 17, 2016

My fellow Americans: I know that for many you these are trying times. We have gone through a very long, frustrating, confusing and often hurtful election process and outcome. The majority of voters, 51.1%, voted for the candidate who lost the election on the basis of the electoral college votes (2). As a result, millions of Americans are in shock, are depressed, have disturbed sleep and anxiety when thinking about the next 4 to 8 years. On the other hand, voters who cast ballots for the now President-elect also have mixed emotions ranging from jubilation to a sense of trepidation among some. 

As a result, the American people are seeking, and need clear and strong leadership now more than ever, to help them cope, put the election into some kind of perspective, ease their troubled minds and plan for the future. 

It is my intent today to be that leader. 

The 2016 Election

First I want to talk about the election, and the various factors that have cast doubt on it’s validity. These factors include:
  • the Electoral College
  • cyber attacks, or hacking, apparently sponsored by Russia
  • an announcement by the Director of the FBI late in the campaign concerning the emails of one candidate while she was Secretary of State
  • fake news on the internet, specifically social media
  • and finally, a consistent pattern of telling lies, validating fake news, and attacking women, immigrants, minorities and other groups of “others” by one of the candidates.

Following my discussion of the above list, I will talk about where we go from here.

The Electoral College - The Constitution established the system of electors in Article II, Section 1 and was amended in Amendment XII (ratified in 1804). The system of electors for the election of president and vice-president was established to ensure that the most populous states did not always dictate the results of elections. This system also theoretically provides some protection against the popular election of a demagogue. 

There have been other elections in which the candidate winning the popular vote did not win the electoral vote, and thus did not become president.  There is a hue and cry from some quarters to abandon the electoral college system and simply select a president and vice-president by popular vote. This would require an amendment to the Constitution ratified by the states, something difficult to achieve, especially in the present political climate.

At this point in the 2016 election, the electors in each state will cast their ballots next week and convey the results to the President of the Senate (the Vice President of the United States) who will open and tally them in front of Congress. If the electors fail to achieve a majority vote for a candidate, the House of Representatives then chooses the president from among the candidates (Amendment XII).  

A small number of electors has asked for a complete report on the Russian cyber attacks before they are required to cast their votes. The outcome of this request is unknown at this time; however, it seems unlikely that anything significant will result from this request. 

It is most likely that the Electoral College will meet in the various states, cast and convey their ballots, and that the now President-elect will be certified to be the next President of the United States. 

Russian cyber attacks - Our intelligence community has concluded that cyber attacks against the Democratic Party were not only carried out by Russian operatives, but that Russian President Putin was directly involved in this action. Intelligence and counter-intelligence activities between nations are part of business as usual; however, when one nation interferes in the elections of another, this activity has risen to an unacceptable level. Many Americans now question the validity of the 2016 election based on the knowledge of the Russian cyber attack. There is no evidence that the Russian attack changed ballots in any state; instead, the publication of Democratic National Committee emails may have influenced the votes of some American voters. 

Would the outcome of the 2016 election have been different absent the Russian cyber attacks? This question has no answer; there is no way to determine how many voter’s minds were changed by this information. We have to accept, therefore, that this information was one more data point for voters to consider, and for the candidates to discuss prior to election day. This does not mean that we have to accept cyber attacks, and the United States will continue to study this incident, take measures to prevent them in the future, and also consider some form of retaliation for them. 

FBI Director’s announcement - Late in the election process, the Director of the FBI informed Congress that the agency had discovered additional emails, related to another investigation, that might have some connection to the investigation of the former Secretary of State’s private email server. This revelation late in the election process provided fuel for attacks by one candidate, and put the other in a defensive position. Shortly before election day, the FBI Director announced that the newly discovered emails had been found to have no influence on the prior FBI decision not to continue the investigation into the emails.  

Many people wonder if the FBI Director’s announcement was a political move designed to harm one candidate and enhance the other. There is no evidence to support this; however, it is likely that it was a political move on the part of the Director to avoid accusations of a cover-up after the election. 

Did the FBI Director’s actions have an affect of the outcome of the election? Again, we have no method to determine this, and we have to accept that it was another data point for voters to consider and candidates to discuss. 

Fake news - Fake news stories have become commonplace on social media and elsewhere on the internet. There is a question about the impacts of fake news stories on people’s opinions and decisions, specifically now following an election. Facebook has recently announced that it is putting in place methods to try to identify fake news, provide warnings to users, and provide ways for users to tag suspected fake news. This will be helpful.

I also think it is important for the federal government to establish rules and regulations to require internet providers and social media sites to monitor and self-regulate news feeds in order to eliminate or minimize fake news on-line. 

Lies, falsehoods and attacks on civil rights by candidates - No individual person is 100% factually correct when they speak, and this includes candidates for political office. However, it has become commonplace for some candidates to very often make statements that are not factually correct, and may often be outright lies. In the 2016 election, the now President-elect was called out very often by impartial fact-checker organizations and journalists for making statements that were absolutely not true. The other candidate had a much smaller number of statements determined to be not factual. 

The pattern of lies by the now President-elect became the norm. It appeared that for some voters, if the candidate said something, it had to be true, or it didn’t matter to them if it wasn’t true. This kind of “post-truth” environment has serious implications for democratic elections. If the truth doesn’t matter, then a candidate can say anything he thinks will help get him elected, whether or not it is truth. 

One of the candidates in 2016, the now President-elect, also used tactics of intimidation, hate and fear to gain support of certain segments of voters. He used name-calling to single out and label specific groups of people. These verbal abuses included code words such as “rapists,” “murderers,” “terrorists,”  “immigrants,” and “Muslims.” He goaded his supporters at rallies to physically attack protesters. He fat-shamed people. He made fun of a journalist with a physical impairment. He labeled his opponent as “crooked” and a criminal, and encouraged chants of “lock her up.” He encouraged the ugliest forms of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-minority hate speech. 

These actions by a candidate for President of the United States are not illegal, although there may be a basis for individuals to bring civil lawsuits against him. But we have to ask, as members of a democratic society, if these kinds of actions and behaviors are acceptable. Do they fall under the concept of free speech, or do they fall outside the norms of this concept? This is a critical question we have to address before the next election.

In conclusion to the above discussion, I have to say that this is the way our democratic system works, including the good, the bad and the ugly. Certainly the framers of our Constitution could not have, in their wildest imaginations, foreseen the internet age and all the other factors of modernity that stretch the limits of democracy. And yet our system has endured for more than two centuries. Will the election of 2016 become the beginning of the end for American democracy? Not very likely. In the minds of many Americans there will be setbacks, while in the minds of others there will be progress. If the losing side is unhappy, there is another election in two years, and another presidential election in four years, and they can change the equation once again.

Where do we go from Here?  

I count myself on the losing side of this presidential election. But I am still here, I am still standing. I will not go away. 

I see many dangers ahead, both perceived and real, under the next administration. The warning signal is as plain as the winning candidate’s tag line: “Make America Great Again.” This desired greatness has nothing to do with jobs or income or health care or education. The numbers for all of these are relatively good; unemployment is at a record low, incomes have been rising, more than 20 million more Americans now have health insurance compared to 8 years ago. No, the greatness that the president-to-be’s supporters aspire to is the perception of a past America, a dominant white and Christian America, an America where the promise and privileges of democracy only apply to whites, particularly white men. This is the real danger.

This perceived great America is also a place where government does not intrude into and interfere with people’s lives and the business of business. As we watch the filling of cabinet and agency director positions for the new administration, we see very clearly that the intent is to deconstruct government. It is apparent that the main qualification sought by the president-to-be is not expertise and experience, but intent to tear down the existing structure and replace it with one that serves special interests. We see unfolding before us very different domestic and foreign policy directions, directions that seem very wrong to so many of us. 

The installation of the new administration a month from now seems to be a juggernaut heading towards us at increasing speed and strength. Will we survive? Can we resist? The answer to both is a resounding yes! It will be hard work. It will at many times be daunting and depressing and seemingly impossible. But together we can resist, and together we can prevail in the end. 

Those of us on the proverbial left side of the political spectrum, and I think an increasing number of those in the center and somewhat to the right, will find that the change from vision to reality of the new administration will increasingly be unacceptable. This does not mean that every initiative of the new administration will be this way; there will certainly be some apparent successes, if even temporary, that will buoy the new administration and it’s supporters. But overall, the new administration is bound to fail in every way that is meaningful for the majority of Americans. And it is these failures that we must collectively take advantage of. 

One problem on the left is that we tend to be fractionalized into single issues. We need to find ways to come together around a single strategy. We cannot afford to continue to be distracted by one political bandwagon after another. We need to be coordinated and smart. We need smart and creative leadership. We need to educate ourselves and others. We need to be able to distinguish truth and fact from post-truth and fakery. We need to build community. 

Here are a few things we can do starting right now:
  • research the process of confirmation hearings that will start in January and understand which Senate committees will have hearings for each nomination;
    • determine which committees, if any, the Senators from your state are on
    • call your Senator’s office often to urge them to ask specific questions, or to vote no on specific confirmations
    • understand that it is extremely rare for presidential nominations to not be confirmed; however, the more truths that are revealed in the process, the more information we have to use in future actions
  • track pending legislation at the federal level in the House and Senate
    • there are numerous on-line sites that track legislation
    • bookmark and visit the websites of your progressive representatives; they post information about pending legislation
    • call or email your representatives to urge them to support, or not support, critical legislation
    • be a resource for your friends and family for this information and actions
  • focus on facts; point out lies (social media is a great place for this)
  • write letters to the editor of local newspapers
  • do all of the above at the state and local level
  • find organizations that work on issues important to you and support and join their efforts
    • be smart about your choices; which issues are most critical, and does the organization have a strategy that builds community and cooperation with people focused on other issues?
  • build community; reach out beyond your comfortable inner circle; meet new people; diversify your sphere of friends and acquaintances; focus on inclusion, understanding, building-up.

Does this sound like a lot of work? Yes. Democracy is not free, it is not easy. We have become too complacent in many ways. And so I’ll end with a song lyric. The song is Pass it On, music by George Kleinsinger, lyrics by Millard Lapell, written as the theme song for the 1964 movie The Inheritance, a documentary about the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. 

Freedom doesn't come like a bird on the wing
It doesn't come down like the summer rain
Freedom, freedom is a hard-won thing
You've got to work for it, fight for it
Day and night for it
And every generation got to win it again
Pass it on to your children, mother
Pass it on to you children, brother
You've got to work for it, fight for it, day and night for it
Pass it on to your children
Pass it on.


  1. Paul of the United States (POTUS). This is the speech I had hoped our President would give. He did, however, say a lot of this in his last press conference, which is very much worth listening to or watching.
  2. Popular votes: Clinton 65,762,564; Trump 62,914,474. Electoral college votes: Trump 306; Clinton 232.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


This is a civic action we can take in regard to the civil war in Syria, and the horrific attacks on Syrian civilians.

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016 (H. R. 5732) passed the House of Representatives, and has now been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Here is a link to the membership of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. If a Senator from your state is on the committee, call her/him and say that you support, and urge the Senator to support passage of the Caesar Bill, HR 5732. 

If you live in a state that does not have a member on the committee, call your senator anyway and ask him/her to encourage their colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee to support the bill. 

The full text of the bill is here. Passage of the bill will result in a variety of sanctions against Syria and it's partners-in-crime Russia and Iran. 

Here is some info about the bill:

Congress finds the following:
(1) Over 14,000,000 Syrians have become refugees or internally displaced persons over the last 5 years.
(2) The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that since 2012, over 60,000 Syrians, including children, have died in Syrian prisons.
(3) In July 2014, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives heard testimony from a former Syrian military photographer, alias “Caesar”, who fled Syria and smuggled out thousands of photos of tortured bodies. In testimony, Caesar said, “I have seen horrendous pictures of bodies of people who had tremendous amounts of torture, deep wounds and burns and strangulation.”.
(4) In a June 16, 2015, hearing of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, testified that there are alarming and grave reports that the Assad regime has been turning chlorine into a chemical weapon, and on June 16, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that he was “absolutely certain” that the Assad regime has used chlorine against his people.
(5) The Assad regime has repeatedly blocked civilian access to or diverted humanitarian assistance, including medical supplies, to besieged and hard-to-reach areas, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

(6) The course of the Syrian transition and its future leadership may depend on what the United States and its partners do now to save Syrian lives, alleviate suffering, and help Syrians determine their own future.
It is the sense of Congress that—
(1) Bashar al-Assad’s murderous actions against the people of Syria have caused the deaths of more than 400,000 civilians, led to the destruction of more than 50 percent of Syria’s critical infrastructure, and forced the displacement of more than 14,000,000 people, precipitating the worst humanitarian crisis in more than 60 years;
(2) international actions to date have been insufficient in protecting vulnerable populations from being attacked by uniformed and irregular forces, including Hezbollah, associated with the Assad regime, on land and from the air, through the use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons, mass starvation campaigns, industrial-scale torture and execution of political dissidents, sniper attacks on pregnant women, and the deliberate targeting of medical facilities, schools, residential areas, and community gathering places, including markets;
(3) Assad’s use of chemical weapons, including chlorine, against the Syrian people violates the Chemical Weapons Convention; and
(4) Assad’s continued claim of leadership and actions in Syria are a rallying point for the extremist ideology of the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations.
It is the policy of the United States that all diplomatic and coercive economic means should be utilized to compel the government of Bashir al-Assad to immediately halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people and actively work towards transition to a democratic government in Syria, existing in peace and security with its neighbors.

Thanks everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


December 11, 2016. The United States of America is in an electoral crisis. The facts:

  • Donald Trump won the electoral votes for President of the United States;
  • Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by >2.5 million;
  • The CIA has concluded that the government of Russia, using cyber attacks, influenced the US election in favor of Donald Trump.
Here is the sequence of events that will take place going forward in this election:
  • December 19, 2016: the Electoral College in each state will meet to officially cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States;
  • December 28, 2016: the votes from each state must be received no later than this date by the President of the Senate (the Vice President) 
  • January 6, 2017: Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes (Congress may pass a law to change this date); the President of the Senate (the Vice President) presides over the vote count, and announces the winner, if any, of the contest for President and Vice President; 
  • January 20, 2017: the President-elect takes the Oath of Office and becomes President of the United States. 
So how do we move forward in this electoral crisis? Do we ignore the facts listed above and blindly follow the prescribed process? Do the facts listed above call the results of this election into question? Does the Constitution provide any direction for this kind of election? Can the election be contested to the point where another election is called for?

These are important questions. We need, no, we deserve clear answers from our leaders. In my humble opinion, President Obama needs to speak to the nation ASAP and answer these questions, no matter how serious the consequences. Our democracy is at risk. 



I distinctly remember hearing President George H. W. Bush announce that the United States had won the Cold War when the Soviet Union collapsed. I turned to my wife and said: "We didn't win the Cold War, the Soviets lost first." What I meant at the time was that both countries had been on a path towards post-industrial status, and in fact, what we see today in late 2016 is the continuing decline of the late, great United States. One chilling demonstration of this is the result of a new study that clearly shows that people born in 1980 have only a 50% chance of making more money than their parents did at the same age, compared to a 92% chance for people born in 1940 (and those born in every decade since has had a smaller chance).

And now Donald Trump. In what I have called his "Cabinet of Deplorables," Trump is assembling a group of government leaders who will take office with the intent of tearing apart the very fabric of our society. They go into office with the goal of rolling back regulations, greasing the skids for corporations and the wealthy to make even more unfettered profits, establishing economic policies that will benefit the wealthy and harm everyone else. Trump will not and cannot save jobs in America. Trump cannot and will not "make America great again;" whatever that means.

Let me be perfectly clear: Donald Trump is a bad, dangerous person. And as President, he will be a total disaster for America and the world. As I have said before, I respect the office of President of the United States; I do not, and will never respect Donald Trump.  I will not look the other way now. I will not pretend that he didn't say so many horrific things as a candidate. I will not put aside my doubts and fears because he is the President-elect, and we citizens must accept that fact. I will not comply, and I will fight him all the way, until his minions have to pry my copy of the Constitution from my cold, dead hands! 

I was mistaken after 11/8 when I blithely stated that Trump had won the election, and that we all needed to accept that fact and figure out how to deal with it. I still think we need to accept that fact, but we also need to come together around one very clear objective: fight Trump and the Trumpsters every inch of the way. Those of us who are opposed to everything Trump stands for, and I believe our numbers will grow as his term plays out, need to be focused and organized. If we continue to be fragmented into single-issue camps, we will be doomed.

I'm seeing a groundswell of political activity in my circle of family and friends. This is encouraging. This activity will continue to build; we must be up-and-running as soon as The DOTUS (The Donald of the United States) takes office next month. I think many people are rolling up their sleeves, and I'm hopeful that we will resist to the greatest extent possible.

I am also looking for national leadership. I am hoping that progressives in government and citizen groups will pull together and develop a clear strategy for fighting back. We cannot afford to be fractionalized.

As we close out 2016, a year that will certainly be prominent in future history books, let us all resolve to work together, fight back, do everything we can to minimize the damage that looms ahead, and strive to make the world a better place for everyone.