Oh, Thank You, Donald Trump.

You have done the world a vastly important service, Donald, by letting us know how very, very much remains to be done before women share their half of the sky.

We had become complacent. About the fact that at least a majority of women in the US were sexually molested, many of them beginning when their age was measured in single digits. About the lengthening list of women who tell us that Donald Trump forced himself on them, by unwanted kissing and groping. And men on busses and subways grabbed at them, even exposing themselves. By unwanted propositions, bragging, threats. About the endless unwanted catcalls to every woman on the street.

Conditions for most women in the Western world, particularly the US, are bad, but conditions elsewhere are unforgivable. In much of the world women are viewed as equivalent to livestock, as cheap commodities, to be used, abused, and discarded at the whim of men who are often their inferiors, but imagine they are superior.

We had forgotten about the father who buried his daughter alive because a boy looked at her. We had forgotten about how new brides who displeased their in laws were doused with fuel and set afire in a “kitchen accident”. How women who were criminally violated were murdered by brothers to preserve “honor”. How wives were divorced with a simple proclamation, whereas the unhappy and abused wife had no such option, and would be left penniless and homeless by him. How any male in the family was free to beat any female. About the many places where women owned nothing, and when their husband died they were left destitute, called witches, and shunned. How the kitchen is seen as the only place a woman is allowed to be, even wives of state rulers.

While many young women in the US view virginity as something to be disposed of at the earliest opportunity, they don’t view their bodies as something available to any man who decides he wants it. They don’t want to be drugged at some wild fraternity party and gang-raped. They don’t want to be raped, period, because rape is a violent invasion of a woman’s body, and a woman being raped doesn’t even know if she will also be murdered.

Donald Trump is a disgusting individual with not even vague redeeming values. He’s a liar, a cheat, a philanderer, a foul-mouthed braggart, a tax cheat, and much more. But there are plenty of other men not much better. Men whose income, perhaps, makes them think that they are at humankind’s pinnacle, and therefore they are entitled to take whichever woman they want, and treat her however they want. Men who achieve something, and come to believe they are not required to honor basic human values like honesty, trust, and love.

There are also macho-manly men, whose egos are so fragile they cannot let their wives work, lest they begin to feel even a little bit independent, who would feel betrayed if they earned less than their wives. Too many men believe it is their prerogative to beat their wives to keep them in their place, and even to injure them so badly they are hospitalized.

In some parts of the world the toxic machismo among so many men in the US is seen as tragic, as a terrible flaw that poisons relations between spouses, making divorce much too easy and, with all our guns, tragedy all too common.

The most important part of feminism is the realization that women are every bit as smart and talented as men. Men’s imagined superiority is nonsense. What this means is that, to the extent that women are held back, we are losing the benefit of their abilities. Our world is the lesser for it. Our lives are impoverished because of it.

In too many societies that means nearly half of the benefits they might have, those from women’s talents, are lost completely. How many women are stifled from becoming the scientists, surgeons, artists, composers, states-persons, philosophers, writers, and so on, they might have become? What forces are purposely used to suppress their talents? There are several, including religion, tradition, machismo, and others.

We are moving in the right direction, but far too slowly, and sexual abuse of every sort and pointless attempts to confine and limit women hold back progress for us all.

Will the US Ever Become Civil?

Donald Trump has made this election nasty, but that is only the culmination of eight years of Republican racism, lies, hatred, and boycott of the democratic process. Trump has promoted ignorant rage that may well result in violence from his followers.

Various congellations of gun nuts have promised a revolution if Trump isn’t elected. That promise is wildly impractical at best, but it could result in spilt blood and worsened relationships all over the country. What would government officials do about bands of armed nitwits shooting automatic weapons from pickup trucks? Obviously, they will have to do something, hopefully jailing the rebellious without promoting violence themselves. Hopefully the “patriots” who brandish their machine guns will not be stupid enough to kill anyone. But there are no guarantees where hate and stupidity are mixed with mobs and guns.

Trump himself is a major instigator of violence. Every picture shows him yelling and accusing, looking more and more like Hitler every day. In every instance he rails against those who say things he doesn’t approve of. More and more of his own illegal and immoral actions are exposed. More and more women publicly accuse him of molesting them, and his rabid followers respond by publishing the accuser’s address and phone number, which leads to death threats. They prowl around her home, armed, in their cars. This is a very real and disturbing threat. At least one woman was forced to flee the country with her family.

Other Trump followers have sprayed Nazi graffiti on religious buildings of several types, and even attacked and injured various people who have a vaguely middle eastern appearance.

This is the sort of thing that happened in Germany as Hitler rose to power. No person in the US should ever have to fear for her life because of a raving demagogue.

Trump will claim that he is not the cause of such violence and threats. He never told anyone to attack anyone. If someone gets murdered on the street after he denounced them to the entire nation, it’s not his fault. The comparison to the Philippines’ new criminal president is a natural. Rodrigo Duterte, who is proud of his bad manners and insults, has said that every drug addict should be killed. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Over a thousand have been murdered by vigilantes, but Duterte says he had nothing to do with it.

In 1170 King Henry II in essence killed Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, with the same sort of raving. Nobody is fooled by such ingenuousness, not then, not now.

The US is far too angry and violent, and Trump is responsible for much of it. It will take years and a lot of effort to cool the flames. A good question is whether Trumpsters will even realize or care when their lives improve. Maybe not. Maybe being permanently ignorant, angry, and threatening is more fun. In spite of Trump’s outrages and endless lies they remain faithful to him even as all thinking people flee.

Trump-directed anger is showered on Muslims, Jews, immigrants, and other people perceived as stealing jobs or being terrorists. It makes no difference that their accusations are bogus. Haters will continue to hate regardless of contrary evidence.

Political comments  are particularly toxic on the internet. They are full of four-letter words, ugly accusations, and nasty invective that assumes every person of the other political side is inferior and worse. Much of this is because people are anonymous on the internet, and feel free to behave badly because of it.

You can be certain that a President Trump would isolate himself from the enemies he has created, but Hillary Clinton has always been quite free in welcoming anyone and everyone. She listens, and always has, which will be important as she assumes the mantle of the presidency. She knows that some of Trump’s haters have legitimate economic gripes that must be addressed even if the hater doesn’t understand that his life has improved because of her.

Certainly, political discourse post-Trump must be detoxified and turned in the direction of respectful manners. Good things rarely result from a screaming match.

It will take a long time, and we haven’t even touched on the explosive topic of skin color.

Is There Anything Left of the Republican Party?

9 November 2016, San Francisco

Now that the detestable Donald Trump has at last been slid off the speaker’s platform, we are free to wonder whether it will be possible for the Repubs to regain some semblance of normalcy and decency after eight years of blatant racism and hate. Some say no, that their core no longer exists. Maybe so. We are left to wonder how it was possible for the sensible Republican party platform of the 1950s—which was much like today’s Dem platform—to devolve into the obstructionism, fear, hatred, stupidity, and magical thinking that characterized the Republicans this past decade.

Let the survivalists who are terrified for some reason by the very thought of President Hillary Clinton help the American cause by buying up guns and ammo and dried foodstuffs in weatherproof containers, and retreat to lonely places far away from the rest of us. Let the few remaining real Repubs gird their loins and push the Tea Party nitwits out of the room to commune with the rest of those who reject reality. Let them search for other real conservatives who do not fear reality, who depend on a real world based on science and things that can be proven, such as climate change. Perhaps if that happened Repubs could regroup and devote time to actually governing, rather than making opposition to the president their only political goal.

The first cause the new Republicans should embrace is the wellbeing of all Americans, rather than just the rich. The efficacy of their favored “trickle down” approach has been disproven many times, and is the cause of our worsening inequality. States managed by Republican governors had sharply diminished tax revenue that created the necessity for large budget cuts in things like education, public health, and infrastructure. Any Repubs who still buy into “trickle” should be tossed out on their ears.

The second most important thing Repubs must do is to give up their sacred myth that people are poor because they refuse to work. Sorry folks, people are poor because they can’t earn a decent living, either because they aren’t paid a living wage or there simply isn’t any work. It’s important to understand that all work is worthy work, and the simplest job must be reasonably paid with a living wage. The reason raging Trumpsters have some legitimate gripes is because they can’t find work.

Third is acceptance of the truth that private enterprise is powerful, but it must be regulated and controlled, and it is not the universal economic answer. For many economic needs the most efficient mode is public financing: highways, defense, communications regulation… The prime unaddressed need, of course, is health care. As the only advanced nation without national health care, we spend double what all others pay, and our private insurance industry contributes not one red cent to actual health care. These are indisputable facts. Republicans must stop costing us so much to satisfy their free enterprise fetish.

We have barely recovered from the Great Recession that Obama was faced with on Day 1. Unfortunately, the slow but consistent recovery bypassed too many people, and this must be addressed by finding new ways for people to be employed. Republicans must for a change help this effort, not hinder it.

Some want a guaranteed minimum income, but in my opinion the most important element here is the standard work week. Once it was 72 hours—six 12-hour days including Saturdays. Half a century ago it became 40 hours, which was accomplished without the economic collapse that some predicted. Today, as John Maynard Keynes predicted nearly a century ago, there is no necessity for anyone to work more than about 20 hours. This has come about because of ever-improving efficiency, especially with computers and robots in recent times. The trend will continue. Republicans must help the effort to solve the problem, rather than pretend it’s some bygone year.

Maybe the biggest international problem is our need to prove our machismo by waging pointless wars against small nations. The US has been at war almost constantly since the Revolution, unsuccessfully more often than not. We need to improve the world by quitting that. It would help if some part of the Pentagon budget were switched to something more important, like child welfare.

Climate change is now impossible to deny, with record atmospheric greenhouse gasses, steadily rising temperature, vanishing glaciers, a melting arctic, withering Greenland ice cap, dreadful droughts, massive wildfires, frequent tornados, hurricanes with great flooding, shoreline erosion, and so on. The US has made some attempts to slow these processes, but we are long past the point of no return. All we can do now is hope to ameliorate some of the worst effects and hope we can deal with the rest. Continued Republican denial will cost many lives, in addition to billions of dollars.

There are many other faults that must be corrected before we can call ourselves a modern moral nation. Among these are clawing back the oligarchy-sponsored laws that allow huge corporations to avoid American taxes by setting up an office in some low-tax country and calling it home. Then there are those who ship billions of dollars, legally or not, to offshore places where the only real business is secret banking. If these outrages were ended we would have enough revenue to reform all taxes and live better lives.

Oh yeah, one last thing. If supposedly Christian Repubs want to prove they respect life, they could start with the life that’s already here, for example the 20% of American children who live in poverty and don’t have enough to eat. Everybody agrees that abortion is undesirable. If we want to eliminate it, birth control must be freely available everywhere. Trying to kill Planned Parenthood is nothing less than a cruel policy that will worsen the health of women. I note that a national health care system would make PP redundant and unnecessary.

Republicans must help to make the country what it should be. If they can’t, maybe there really isn’t a Republican Party anymore.

White Guys’ Burden?

Some years ago I was only moderately surprised at learning that virtually every black man in the country has been stopped without cause by the police, sometimes more than once a week.

But the reaction to the revelation of Donald Trump’s gross misogyny threw me aback. Not only were the reactions of women to what he says about women fierce, but one woman who asked for Tweets about their first assault—their first assault—found that millions of women responded within hours. It’s safe to say that assault is the norm. It really is a rape culture. It’s not a figure of speech.

For many it was difficult to determine which was their first. For literally all of them, sexual assault was the norm. It occurred everywhere, at any age, on the street, in subways, in stores, at work, at school… In short, we live in a society where men think that they don’t need to have the permission of a girl or a woman to touch her, to grope her, to beat her, to rape her. They don’t even have to know her. There are endless stories of men drugging women in order to rape them, which sounds to me little different from necrophilia.

College males seem to have grown up expecting to be able to force sex with any woman they choose. Consider the dozens of court cases. Consider the numerous rape reports of women in college. We have lost something important. Aren’t relationships that are interesting and loving worth something anymore?

Are women just too brazen these days? Not at all. These first assaults often occurred at the age of seven or eight, and were perpetrated by old men who were strangers, or others who were family acquaintances.

But no matter the degree of sexual assault, the bodies of women virtually everywhere are being violated, their psyches damaged, their freedoms diminished.

I’m saddened, because I love the beauty of the world. A warm day in spring is sublime. Baby animals are always impossibly cute. Mountains and water make us happy and peaceful. Good food and good company are the epitome of happy living.

I find the beauty of small children wonderful. A third-grade girl breathlessly telling her mother about the important events of the day is utterly charming. The beauty of women is of a different sort, but I am thrilled that little girls can become beautiful women.

But these feelings are tender, and they are crushed by whatever it is that makes men think it’s OK to fondle little girls, or put hands on any part of any woman one wishes. Tender feelings don’t exist under the onslaught of misogyny and coarse talk spewing from Donald Trump’s mouth, which in the meat market that is his tawdry election campaign, becomes permission for other men to behave the same way. And they do.

Trump seems incapable of expressing anything but crude and degrading talk. I doubt he understands anything about love, or anything at all that doesn’t involve some sort of financial conquest for his own profit. He fails completely to understand that other people’s lives are not his oyster, to devour if he wants to.

Nor does he appreciate a cardinal characteristic of beauty: You cannot possess beauty. You can’t even own beauty in a painting, say, because something that is beautiful will always be beautiful in and of itself. You can’t own it; it cannot become part of you. You could perhaps destroy it, and you might buy it, but you cannot possess it. You can’t even possess your wife, even with sex. Any real man knows he shouldn’t even try.

How Can We Say This?

Donald Trump has tried to sell himself as someone who will “make America great again”. The trouble is that the US is already great, not to mention that he has no idea how to do that even if it weren’t. He is quite ignorant about the Constitution and how government works, or doesn’t. He has the attention span of a kindergartener, for a position that requires hours of intense concentration.

The worst thing, though, is that he has encouraged and glorified hate. This has earned him the endorsement of every hate group in the country, the neo-Nazis, the KKK, yahoos who drive pickups with a gun rack and the Confederate flag on a broomstick, the pseudo-brave weekend machine gun warriors, and all the rest, all of them part of a minority white population, all of them racists, all of them intolerant and hateful and not terribly smart or well educated. Trump has shown them their violence is not only acceptable but desirable, which has been responsible for numerous attacks and hate crimes against innocents.

Trump’s attitude toward women has always been atrocious, as is forcefully demonstrated by recently revealed tapes and prior revelations in which he regards all women, even his own daughter, as sex objects available for whatever groping or sexual advances he wishes to make because he’s a big star. That was only a precursor to the arguments Republican presidential candidates had about who had the biggest dick.

He teaches that all immigrants are to be hated as inferior people who steal jobs, as well as hatching terrorist plots. This is a supreme irony in a country composed of 97% immigrants, not to mention that burning and bombing of black Christian churches, Jewish temples, Muslim mosques, and various minority businesses, all done by not-terribly-bright white hate groups, are terrorist plots themselves. 

No, what Trump calls the enemy is not the enemy. Trump himself is the enemy, because he is a self-proclaimed member of the very rich, and what he plans to do because of that can only weaken the country. If in fact he hasn’t squandered the entire fortune gifted to him. He fantasizes that he got this money because of his wonderfulness and brains. The truth is, however, that his money is inherited, and he has lost more than he has gained. If he had put his wealth in a good index fund and skipped all his yuge incredible projects—most of which have failed and gone bankrupt—he would be far richer than he is today.

He promises to do wonderful things for the poor and middle class, but what he has in mind, tax breaks for the rich, actually helps only the rich. Trump will make the rich even richer. He has no interest in the middle class, let alone the poor. What making the rich richer does is to make everyone else poorer, something we’ve had demonstrated many times, including in several Republican states in recent years. Not exactly what he is advertising, is it?

What’s that you say? Trump understands the middle class? Right. Trump is a guy who has always been a millionaire, who has never experienced a single day of deprivation, the kind where there isn’t enough money for food, or for essential medications. He got his start in business with a “little” loan of a million dollars from his father, who was also a despicable creature. Trump hasn’t a clue about how the real world lives, let alone how to manage the needs of a population of 325-million immigrant Americans.

How to Build Affordable City Homes

It’s not so hard, really. It just takes some coordination. There are two elements: city financing with limited ownership, and barebones unfinished construction.

Like many cities, San Francisco already has in place a program that assists people with modest or low income to live in their own apartments. One of its important elements limits the resale price. Buyers cannot expect to profit greatly, as they might on the open market. Nor can they “flip” a unit, because they must personally live in it for several years.

Now imagine some changes to that program. To make a home affordable, the mortgage must cover only the bare bones of construction. The cost of everything else you put on the mortgage, such as appliances, will be tripled. That is because you will pay interest on them, and they will not last for the duration of the thirty year mortgage. The mortgaged apartment must therefore consist of rough plumbing, electric, unpainted drywall, baseboards and sub-flooring. No kitchen cabinets, no bathroom cabinets, toilet, or tub/shower, no appliances. In other words, it’s a pretty naked place that’s not yet livable.

It is this naked construction that the mortgage pays for. Its nudity is what makes it affordable.

Now, the buyer is expected to separately purchase everything else needed besides the mortgage. Because this cost will be considerable, the required mortgage down payment must be minimal or zero, and the buyers must prove they have the necessary savings. The buyer will be approved when a level of savings sufficient to buy what is needed for move-in is achieved.

The city can and should assist in many ways. First, the city must have skilled manager/inspectors for such units. Second, the down payment and finishing cost should be through an agency or bank that can be monitored by the city’s manager/inspectors. Third, the city should have suppliers for every part of finishing at a discounted price.

Buyers have a range of city-approved options for finishing their apartment. If the buyers are skilled, they may be able to do every part of the finishing themselves. This is called sweat equity; the physical work a buyer puts in makes the cost lower. Some buyers will be able to do literally everything. At the opposite end there will be buyers who are not able to perform the necessary work, for various reasons. Therefore, they must use approved craftspersons. This may require them to save additional money to pay for skilled workers.

Manager/inspectors for the program have an important role. They must monitor the buyers’ financial details to assure their ability to carry through their financing. They must consult with the buyers to select everything to finish the apartment, including bathroom and kitchen fixtures, cabinetry, and lighting. They must arrange for the apartment finishing, monitoring the progress and quality of buyer’s work, and scheduling timely construction with approved workers when needed. The completed work must pass construction codes and be of high quality. Besides the benefit of city arranged financing, cost savings are had with high quality construction goods vetted by program officials.

Construction workers are often aware of ways to save money that are not commonly known. In San Francisco, for example, the local recycling agency collects unused paint. The recyclers are able to supply paint in large amounts, tinted to order, and available to residents for free. In other instances, recycled wood flooring from a tear-down may be available only for a brief period. Carpet made from 100% recycled fiber may be available. Like-new used cabinetry, sinks, and appliances, may be available on short notice. The manager/inspector must be able to determine the suitability of such products.

So, the buyers of such units have a number of advantages that will bring the cost of ownership within reach. This will be of great advantage to a city, because it will reduce commute traffic, and make it possible for people who work in the occupations that are needed, such as teachers and sales persons, but do not earn large salaries, to live near their work.

Contrast these apartment units with the sort of units we commonly see in San Francisco. With such units, developers have an incentive to maximize the cost of the apartment. Apartments are always completely finished. Every element of construction is the most expensive available. Plumbing fixtures, for example, are the most recent fashionable types. Countertops are always marble or some other rare stone. The bathroom and kitchen are always finished with fashionable—and expensive—tile. Likewise with shower fixtures, and the toilet. Appliances are top of the line, and often include things like controlled-temperature wine cellars. No expense is spared.

The goal here is to make the unit as costly as possible in order to maximize profit. In San Francisco, the cost of an otherwise unremarkable unit passed a million dollars some time ago, which throws it completely out of the range of the average worker, who is then forced to live at some distance from work and battle a long and unpleasant commute every day.

The program I have imagined, which is already present in parts, would allow people who are locked out of home ownership in expensive markets to live in modest but decent apartments.