As I listen to or view news reports and read newspaper articles, essays and books, I can often distinguish between those who are committed to respectful conversation from those with whom they disagree and those who will have none of that. From time to time, I will share some thoughts on what I hear and read. I welcome your comments on my musings.


We have traversed the foothills, but the climb of the Himalayas now begins, to paraphrase one TV pundit’s reflections on the recent budget deal that prevented a government shutdown.

That arduous climb appears to start with one element of common ground – Any attempt to bring about long-term budget deficit reduction will require that politicians on both sides of the aisle address the big ticket items of entitlements, tax structure and military spending. But how does one proceed beyond this modest point of agreement? To date, only a representative of one side of the aisle, Republican Paul Ryan, has put forth a comprehensive proposal that addresses the contentious particulars.


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I am delighted that shortly after I launched my web site, two friends, one in Minneapolis and one in a suburb of Chicago, responded with possible interest in establishing local Conversation Circles (two down, many more to go).

This initial expression of interest prompts me to say more about what I have in mind, especially since one of the major purposes of my web site is to foster the establishment of numerous Conversation Circles. 

At first, I envisioned asking interested persons to formally “register” their Circles on my web site, and then “require” them to report on the logistics and results of their Circles. But I soon came to my senses. Busy people don’t need one more thing to do. Establishing such formal expectations might prove to be disincentives for participation.

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It is generally agreed that the tax cut legislation of December 2010 reflected compromises on both sides of the political aisle. Were such compromises warranted? 

It depends on your view of the political process. There are those who hold to unyielding fixed positions and will not entertain the possibility of making “mutual concessions” (the dictionary definition of “compromise”). Politics is viewed as an all or nothing enterprise. If that is your view of politics, then compromise is a bad idea. 

But there is an alternative view of politics for which compromise is a good idea. That view was captured by President Obama in his comments after the December 2010 tax cut legislation: “compromise means yielding on something each of us cares about to move forward on something all of us care about.” The key word here is “yielding.”


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