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Writers Notebook
In The Jury Box;

By David Eide


"....when you decide a case you bring in all your experience, knowledge, and common are not a robot."
Instruction of a judge to a jury.


We should never lose sight of the fact that in this democracy public officials, whether elected, appointed, or hired work for the people. They must always ask the question, "what good or what bad is this going to produce for the American people?" If they don't address that question the state itself, an inhuman object, begins to dictate the terms and the state wants as much control and power as it can; first on behalf of the people, then on behalf of itself and its historic destiny. It will use individual human beings to do the deed.

Are the decisions going to be on behalf of the people or on behalf of the state?

Outside of personal experience a citizen has a wide range of resources to tap into trying to determine whether his or her needs are being met by the public sector. Driving over a pothole is one experience but so is a state-sponsored military adventure overseas. Reading experts, reading the foreign press, listening to fellow citizens, watching, and sensing are helpful. The analysis is as good as you want it; at whatever level you are prepared for or, more precisely, at the level you believe. Some analysis strains to be art. Much commentary makes assumptions that go unchallenged. One assumption is that without American presence the world would collapse into chaos and would not be able to deal with what emerged. This assumption comes from the experience in WWII where, indeed, the world plunged into chaos, the U.S. was unprepared and order was restored only with a maximum effort by the British, Americans, and Russians primarily. Much of foreign policy has been dictated by the fear that the world could plunge into chaos without American intervention, either economically, politically, or militarily. Another assumption is that the mind can be trained to "know the world" at an extraordinary level through long practice and study. And if not one mind many minds working loosely together under the sponsorship of a government. Another assumption is that states are either ascending, plateauing, or declining. The truth is that if we were able to know at the level that is required to bring order and justice to the world we wouldn't have the problems that exist. There's a failure in our knowing what the world is up to. That's an assumption and it emerges whenever you look at a situation like ISIS or Iraq and try to make sense of it.

I can understand the dilemma President Obama finds himself in. On the one hand his instincts and recent history tell him to be very cautious in this region. Yet, all it will take is one minor terrorist incident in the US to trigger massive pressure to act decisively against this ISIS group.

ISIS is a suicide cult like Jonestown. It is attractive to young people who feel powerless and see an opportunity to seize history by the throat. As Nathan Field in The Arabist says, "For a growing number of young men, Islamic State’s utopianism offers a sense of purpose, meaning and masculinity that they don’t believe they can obtain by playing according to the conventional rules of society." What is the difference between ISIS then and your 60's style commune? Other than the men in communes were trying to transform the lack of masculine models into something not-masculine rather than uber-masculine? Will McCants mentions in the Nov. 16, 2015 Foreign Policy the manual, "Management of Savagery", written soon after the start of the Iraq War. It, "advocates attacking civilians in enemy lands to deter their governments from interfering in jihadi state-building projects or to provoke them into overreacting and thus exhausting themselves." Provoking them to overreacting because the jihadists know their own limitations. "The usual Islamic restrictions on warfare should be suspended, he argues, so the jihadis can fight fire with fire." A group like this depends on a sense of adrenaline that increases with time. However, the adrenaline can also be a cause of steep demoralization if it appears nothing is achieved by attacking the west.

It's the most treacherous area in the world. Who can you trust? Who is really loyal to whom? Who is really supporting the terrorists? This area produced the Hittities, Assyrians, Persians, Akkadians, Elamites, Babylonians, Kassites and have been fighting for three to four thousand years. It either takes enormous arrogance or stupidity to think you can go in and dress it up the way you want to.

The question is always, "what is best for the American people and why?" Is it best to repeat mistakes that have been made just a decade ago when President Bush decided to invade Iraq? It certainly plays into the strategy of these nut cases who need to fuel their adrenaline with fight.

The self-interest of American citizens is self-preservation. There is general agreement that if you attack ISIS, kill Sunni civilians you simply encourage terrorists from different corners of the world to join in the fight or to create as much havoc in the US as they can to divert attention. The reports that some of ISIS funding comes from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy donors in the region tell me that significant players want the fight to continue with or without ISIS. The end result would be more Americans put at risk. We can't kill all of them at one time. Our fear is a few of them who will get to the US and wreak havoc in an American city. That’s a justifiable fear but better handled by intelligence and police agencies.

How can you "defeat" an army that can easily dissolve as an army and become embedded in the citizens of these cities and towns? It reminds me of the final years of the Civil War when Lincoln, Grant and others were very worried that after the war, devoted and battle-hardened confederates would go back home and form guerilla squads to menance the reconstruction project and create instability. Jefferson Davis wanted it to take place. It was the leadership of Robert E. Lee that convinced the rebel soldier to go home and put the war behind them. I don't see that happening with the fanatics. Time is always on their side and they know it. In fact, it may be easier to deal with them if they have a "state" that we can declare war on.

Then again, the Middle-East is becoming a testing ground for American resolve with the whole world watching very carefully. We're either being hung out to dry or will do the wise thing and let the terrorists defeat themselves. They are already divided between a core of true believers, mercenaries and a rag-tag of young people who are enticed with some spending money and a girlfriend. I don't see this organization holding together for that long, especially as they try and produce a phony caliphate in the emptiness of northern Iraq. Destroying the sources of their revenue is half the battle. Once they can't pay their merecenaries or support the infrastructure of some of these towns they've captured support will drop sharply. Our only worry about this group is that they will send soldiers or encourage terrorist’s ala in Paris to strike against the West to provoke the West into either withdrawing and/or committing all-in that will feed the addiction. I think the resolve of the American people to protect itself in a meaningful way is intact. I hope the resolve of the people to have the government act with wisdom and prudence is intact. President Obama has attempted to be prudent and was left with a terrible legacy by the previous administration but I am coming to the conclusion that he's in something beyond his capacity and that we've lost an opportunity to act decisively in the Middle-East. That's one citizen's take on it. And putting a militant idiot in his place is not the answer. The old art of statecraft needs to return that is prepared to deal with whatever shakes out in that region due to its own multiplicity of actions. That carries its own risks as does all out intervention. But intervention sounds like occupation at this point. And it would occur just as our own government is deeply divided. When confidence in leadership has been shaken it's better to pull back and regroup rather than strike wildly and boldly out of panic.

And if the decision is a military one it must be "all-in" or nothing. This is what the battlefield in the last fifteen years has dictated.

It would mean sending in a multi-national army, sweeping the ground of ISIS, letting them fade back into the local populations, establishing a presence in the old ISIS territory and allowing time to rotten the resolve of most of the mercenary soldiers.

There are persuasive arguments that point out if we do nothing, if we wait then this problem will get meatier and much more difficult so that when the crucial US interests are threatened like oil or Israel we will be faced with a greater problem than we have now. This is where the decision on the part of Obama and the administration has to be so crystal clear, so precise, so orientated to a stated objective that we can remove ourselves when the objective has been reached.

Excellent arguments exist saying no real military solution is available in this region unless it's done by Arabs themselves, especially Sunni's. Kai Bird has an persusive essay in the November 19th issue of Foreign Policy about why President Obama is doing the right thing in refusing to listen to militant cries from the Republicans and others. It comes down to the futility of fighting this kind of war in this region and the necessity to tend to the root causes. That's a reasonable way of looking at it but this is not a reasonable area.

They can't be defeated in the sense that there would be no formal-signing-of-surrender-on-the-Missouri moment. They can be profoundly harrassed especially if they have borders, however informal, that they define as their own.

What satisfies the proposition that, "the American people be secure and free of the predations of other people?" It puts more pressure on the intelligence and police communities to do the job of security. And while it seems very menacing to have small squads go out in foreign countries to create havoc eventually the novelty of it will wear off for the murderers. The military option is problematic at this time because we know now that it's either all in or nothing. Either you make a commitment as profound as the one in WWII or don't bother. Short of a massive attack on the west, even larger than 9/11 I don't see that happening.

And one could further speculate that what a huge invasion and multi-national force would, in essence, try to do would be to restructure the whole of that region and have access to every nook and cranny the terrorists can hide in as happened in Japan and Germany after World War II. I don't think that idea would have much support anywhere but it's the logical conclusion to some of the talk I have been hearing. And this citizen did speculate that it was a prime reason why the Bush Administration went into Iraq with the consequences we are all too familiar with.

If the US were to do nothing, in fact, withdraw the military and let the people directly involved solve the conflict between the religious factions and the political power play between Iran and Saudi Arabia what would happen? A citizen needs to ask this question. On the one hand the US is responsible for some of the disintegration that's taken place, on the other a region is responsible for its own well-being. We have proven that we can do little in this area. We have to make it clear that we will intervene if the flow of oil is threatened or if the state of Israel is threatened. We don't interfere with the sectarian conflicts in India or other parts of the world why should we do it in this region? If some sort of seismic shift is occurring in that region why not let the people who speak the language, share the borders, share the religion, share history and culture determine the how and where-to's of that shift? The chief concern is that China will move in and become a power broker in the region, indicating another fall in the dominoes of American hegemony. No one knows that will happen but it makes sense if China is so dependent on Middle-East oil. Maybe they would get a bitter taste of being a "world power," and have second-thoughts about it.

I listen to the debate in the Senate and they talk about "leadership." The opportunity for American leadership in this region collapsed on the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And please read credible reports on the way the Bush Administration politicized some of the intelligence to make their case to invade and hold them accountable.

The immediate concern is Syria and what to do about Assad. And that's a Pandora's box no one in the West seems to want to open. And now with Russia helping him the situation is pretty murky. It adds another complex straw on the camel's back.

It does amaze me from time to time to realize that for all the experts who develop strategy, tactics, policy and commentary so much could go wrong. Starting with the faulty intelligence on Hussein's stockpile of WMD. And as I said at the time if the President doesn't know no one knows. And it's obvious now that President Obama didn't want anything to do with this area for whatever reason. By taking this passive role he is forced to react which is not a good place for a leader to be. He'll always be a step or two behind the deeply involved actors. Saying that doesn't mean it would be best to stitch together a massive military effort to counteract the passivity. I don't see President Obama doing what would need to be done militarily which would be an invasion of Syria, taking down Assad, while pushing from the south through ISIS territory and pinch the army at the border. It's not in Obama's DNA. And that sort of commitment would be quite dangerous with no guarantee of anything. The "can-doism" of Bush is now being counteracted by "can't do nothingism" policy because the Bush policy was so botched.

I don't think ISIS has the ability to take down an organized state. Do I feel threatened here in the SF Bay Area by ISIS? Not really. I'm more terrified of the freeways. Are the American people's interest at stake? How? Why? Where? Oil is hardly mentioned anymore because of our production of oil by fracturing. In fact, I saw where we import more oil from Africa then the Middle-East. Oil is a "world commodity" and it's price does have a large impact on American economy. But that oil in the Middle-East is more important to China, India, and Japan. So, why aren't they defending it?

Most of the credible analysts and commentators think a mixture of containment and reform/diplomacy in, especially, Iraq is what is needed. Is Iraq beyond reforming? And how much can America bend these governments to its will even with some of the incentives the U.S. has? The largest force I've seen discussed is between 10,000 and 15,000.

Long ago analysts’ predicted that the end of the cold war would precipitate a lot of local, ethnic/religious wars in places like Africa, Yugoslavia, the Middle-East and that people would pine one day for the good old days of the cold war. I'm not sure it's at that point but I can see what they were getting at.

It sharpens the necessity to articulate the conduct of America in the world going forward in the 21st century. Isolation is not an answer. Savorism is not an answer. We can't go in and then pull out, we did that. Time is not on our side as free people get distracted, lose interest, move on with more urgent business while those who are passionate about their agenda, like radical islamists, simply wait for an opening.

That's especially true for all those citizens whose wages have fallen or remained stagnant and who drive over pitted, pot-holed roadways, who watch a government that can't govern itself much less a whole crazy region like the Middle-East, and who continually pay an unfair share of taxes. This is the citizen that the Obama administration has to justify itself to as it develops its response to the ISIS threat.

November 21, 2015

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Job creation is one of the central issues in America today. The main political issue is the dominance of money that runs interference between the people and their representatives. This is a perception at any rate and we all know perception is reality when it comes to politics. The key though is to listen to the across-the-board complaint about the influence of money; it comes from the left, right, moderates, rural, urban all sectors, every slice of the pie is upset. Money has played a huge role from the very beginning without question. But there was a greater sense of "nation" all the way through World War II than there is now. Therefore there is less consensus available to have any large public will to rectify it. Writing about it does not change the situation but we say, "until you solve this problem your democracy will be an embarrassment to the future, good luck."

Jobs must be created in areas of need to get the vital notion of upward mobility back into the culture. The lack of jobs brings a predicable series of cultural facts: young kids give up, young girls get pregnant and on welfare, the infrastructure crumbles, the police get tougher, the guy who flashes around a lot of dope cash is far more credible than the "system" and its complicated procedures to determine success or failure. It doesn't matter whether the poor exist in cities and are racial minorities or whether they exist in rural areas and are white, the poor are always plagued by the lack of good jobs in an enviroment already diminishing in hope.

Two central political problems exist for approaching this problem in the election coming up. One is the argument that billions, if not trillions of dollars have gone into poverty programs, support programs and it has not effectively pushed the bottom up toward the middle. And the other is that each ethnic group has its own agenda rather than for "the poor." And it is usually poor whites who go Republican and poor minorities go Democrat and a useless struggle ensues over what sorry program will be eliminated or added, what new tax will be initiated or deleted. These different advocacies have to, eventually, compete with each other and politics ends up deadlocked. If an individual conscience takes on the problem earnestly he ends up burnt-out or joining some dreadful, nihilistic group that wants to destroy everything. The beneficiaries of these politics are those who have the assets to weather every downturn and make out like bandits during upswings. It is a problem beyond the individual and depends on an across the board agreement that a problem exists and that the national will is behind the effort.

Most of the proposals put forward today are earnest pap because none of the proposals take into account how difficult the problem really is. And yet every political type who thinks about it understands that a culture that is classically divided between "rich and poor" has a well-known fate. The rich are protected from having to deal with the problem and the poor eventually get a champion to overturn the system; the system in this case is the one established by the Constitution. This is the stake today.

It's very difficult to sit and come up with some answers. Jobs are an answer but the public sector and private sector have a difficult time creating new and good jobs because they can't control all the forces working on the economy like globalization or technical innovation. The welfare state came in to provide a salve to keep everything moving and making sure America doesn't have streets like Paris before the revolution or Dicken's London.

The best solution to this point is public works programs that give people a living wage but that won't happen until there is a sense of "society" that is not evident at this time. A sense, that is, that the top is connected to the bottom in a signficant way. Intellectual leaders don't dare advance those ideas that would defy or transcend gender, racial, ethnic or religious identity. And political leaders won't promote that idea because they know it's an impossiblity unless you have the political will from a large group like the middle class. There are good ideas about microloans, encouraging entrepenuerism in poor areas, raising minimum wages, subsidizing education and so on. But who believes any of these thing or twenty more things will eradicate poverty or even put a dint into it? Perhaps the issue lacks drama or sexiness but a healthy society doesn't want the real drama of disruption and high social tension and fear prevailing over sense.

Two things have to be in place. On the one hand there has to be new, creative, and imaginative approaches to the whole idea of poverty and upward mobility. It starves for a new angle of attack. Without that happening you have a morass of used up ideas and ennui when it comes to dealing with it. Policy makers have to decide whether they need to infuse poor areas with capital or to find ways and means to pluck out talented, ambitious poor people and lift them on a better platform than being in poor areas. And on the other hand you have to get the middle-class to see how necessary it is, how healthy it is to have this upward mobility from the poor to the middle-class. This is politically difficult when the middle-class feels itself under fire but that is the essential political ingedient . The era of splitting into ethnic groups and carrying these banners for "our group" is on its last legs. That turned off the middle-class, if not scared them from time to time.

When you listen to sincere, well-meaning spokespersons for the ills of urban poverty they always raise the specter of historical racism. And to deny racism, the legacy of slavery, and discrimination is sheer stupidity. The fact of the matter, however, is that there are more poor white people than poor people of color. And why are they poor? Many are living out a legacy of poverty, going back generations. A difficult political question arises then, "If I can't blame my poverty on my race, then what do I blame it on?" And since there is no good answer but a vague reference to "economic forces," the poor whites turn to very reactionary voices in the political arena. This becomes, then, an effective block versus the attempt to devise policy for inner city poverty.

What the poor often need is visible proof that life can move upward.

May 20, 2015

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Democracy works at the local level. As it moves from the local it gets less and less democratic although all kinds of cultural signs reinforce the idea that the whole is a democracy. Habits of democracy are learned at the local level and if they aren't learned there can't be learned anywhere. All life could be said to live locally and it's why you'll never achieve a "world govt" or anything close to it. The local can be dominated by tribalism, religion, creed, race, industry etc. but there is where most people live and work.

Democracy was important as an idea worth struggling with but I had no control over what stage of the system I happened to be born into. It wasn't the beginning, it isn't the end. It is somewhere. If it is unalterably corrupt and too large for the authentic benefits of democracy while the people are totally alienated from it while pursuing their personal goals then time rolls it out. Experience teaches a citizen that he or she will see the gamut of all-in to all-out when it comes to interest in the mature democracy. All I could do is find the ability to remain connected to liberal democratic values and sensibility along with some spiritual values carved from the painful parts of life.

  • Freedom and its reality.
  • Freedom and its great extensions.
  • Freedom and its risks.
  • Freedom and its obligations.

These are a few of the relevant categories to try and define when thinking on democracy.

Theories of society learned in college lose their punch and logic when a person is thrown into the real society and experiences every contradiction possible. He finally comes to the conclusion that theory is exclusion and bread for the conformist. Saying that, we do have the freedom to develop new ideas of how people should live in society. The experiments usually go botch and are abandoned by the future but regardless. More importantly we have the freedom to live out principles, even in large communities. If I am gay I'm not staying in Alabama, I'm heading for San Francisco which exists in the same putative society, under the same Constitution. This is a privileged state and only exists because of the maturity of the democracy, its affluence, and its educational system and so on. It's also apparent that a free society is vulnerable to true believers who can develop a sense of society, gain confidence and initiate dreams of power. Counter ideas are thrown up to meet this challenge and, eventually, the experiment blends in with the on-going culture. It's not pretty but it does exist in the context of the valuable components of due process, due diligence, and transparency, crazy as it appears sometimes. That said why not have new principles of society by persons who are moved to do so? Isn't this the essence of trust that goes to the bottom of whether democracy succeeds or fails? If a clot of people in upper New York live out a new principle of society that leaps out of the region and proves itself out in practice why not? Eventually, as happened to the counter-culture, principles make a way to the regional and state level as in California where they can be adopted and tested out. The good ones can often create aspects of the future.

An original principle of society would have to guarantee that very thing. Since fundamentalism, Marxism, and fascism to take a few examples, cannot do that they are not theories of society. If such a theory is able to convince most people that its view is correct and all experimentation, all variety, all ideas should be cut down before they get started then the whole first principle has been compromised and unable to check the one belief from consuming all. That doesn't stop the true believer from forming a self-conscious community, testing the ideas out and then letting the culture decide whether it's interested in the idea or new model of living.

I would like to believe that an American is that person who can experience the society fully, in all its dimensions and out of that experience create something new, profound, and enriched beyond anyone's imagination.

The test is whether it has fully embraced the complete society which includes religions, histories, ethnicities, regions, documents, examples of a variety of action and so forth.

A theory of the universe plays little or no part in the formation of society. After all if we are cosmic accidents it doesn't answer why we kill, band together, develop "politics" and a structure of law. You could speculate "well, what created the universe created ourselves, therefore these things emerge out of the universe's intention of itself, ergo God." But that would simply reproduce the formulas for conflict that have existed in the past and which the founding fathers guarded against by giving freedom of religion and separation of powers as base bottom principles. Pragmatism always held out as the answer since it said, whatever works to keep things on the up and up, productive, leaning toward the future is the right course. But then, pragmatic answers in one generation may be obsolete in the next because of these sweeping changes people like to talk about. So we are always a guinea pig not really certain that our solutions have any bearing on the future. This is why our secular selves are transitory and exist for the benefit of the now and a very short-term future.

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The beauty and effectiveness of democracy should never be underestimated. The power of people given the ability to rule themselves should not be taken for granted. Democracy is intelligent action that knows the power of opposing views even when it despises the opposing view.

Democracy is always trying to evolve and get to a better place. The fact that the vast majority of people see this in terms of their own economic progress it does make sense that a few step away and see it in a different way.

I felt that if democracy is not a "way of life" then it is superfluous. The fact that millionaires run politics says to the casual person, "you are irrelevant if you aren't a millionaire, don't even try to run for office. Participate only through your vote and your innocuous special interest groups. It doesn't matter if you are angry at the fact or if the fact alienates you to the breaking point. You are irrelevant."

The casual citizen finally devolves to the point of view of, "well, if it doesn't bother the people, why should it bother me? They are the ones who will suffer the consequences."

In the race between cash and ideas, cash will trump mere ideas every time unless you get superb leadership. It's not an automatic process. The populist movement that gains the momentum of truth is the most powerful force in a democracy since the populism, to be successful, must cross many boundaries of the pluralistic culture. For a brief moment idea overcomes cash.

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The tension in a democracy is between the powerful incentive of people to "be all that they can be," and the creation out of them of a powerful state necessary to maintain so that they may be all that they can be.

What real boundary exists in the democracy? Law is the ultimate boundary and people test it all the time. But as far as development I don't see many except for the fact that we are constrained by time and space. We are constrained by ignorance. And most especially we are constrained by fear. So that a free person would do everything in his or her power to overcome those constraints and live along some new horizon.

The skeptical view, even an honest skepticism, can do away with just about anything. It can deny the existence of the physical universe. But it cannot reproduce anything of the rich, profound experiences it tries to eradicate. The dangerous trend is the way people surrender to the inhuman to protect them from a state of powerlessness. But even a small, innocuous inhumanity can addict the person to something vastly inhuman that destroys the sense of individuality without which the democracy is superfluous.

The perfect situation is "a perfect integrity removed from total, collective neurosis."

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The problem I see in American politics is that it is not very distinctive. It is becoming something you constantly see in history; a thing people eventually rebelled against. If that is the case and American democracy is lost in history it will be saved by a few poets and scholars who saw, at some point, the true uniqueness and credit America with things we can hardly speak to today or credit today. "Its success, its hugeness and complexity, its complacency in the people and the arrogance of the leaders, its separation, each generation, each decade from the original point of its development, huge changes in the world all conspired to bring it down. It was, in truth, an oligarchy that had to prove itself to sleepy, distracted people from time to time."

I hope not.

The key in reading a democracy is to look at the people. Are they listless? Are they excited and passionate yet experienced? Are they taking up the cause of democracy which is to produce better and better men and women? Or, are they so exhausted by things that they need violence in their lives and are angry and frustrated at their lives? Are they connected to the organizing principle?

It's an open ended question. True democracy is hard work and takes a large wedge of energy from people for it to be effective.

March 12, 2015

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No one likes government. Two original framers, Madison and Jefferson, didn’t like government. Jefferson hated it and Madison was only into it when he could act as Plato and help create a new system based on his abstract thinking on power and effective justice. Jefferson purely hated government, had a painful public life I believe and is the root source for most of the natural, instinctive distrust of government that the people have.

One excellent benefit from such an idea is that the burden of responsibility for carrying the idea of freedom and liberty goes to the private citizen. From the private citizen allegiance goes out to invest a "thing" with power. The government is the act of disestablishing a terrible burden on the people so that they may live and thrive. But all acts have consequence. “He who will take your burden away will also come later to claim his reward.” And it’s quite easy to see how a guy or group of people in power would see their positions as something other than the simple act of “relieving the people of some of their burdens.”

It sets up a lot of easy corruption.

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The only people who love government are those who are in love with its easy access to capital and law. They want it for themselves and compete with other types who “love” government to see who will possess it.

It does present a dilemma does it not? I don’t love government but I don’t want to dismantle it either.

It’s good government that is the transient prize for a generation of citizens.

  1. Know it as an original meaning
  2. Suffer through the humiliation of its corruption
  3. Get some reasonable understanding of the difference between good and bad government.

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Shouldn’t our “hatred” of government make us bigger, smarter, wiser, and more profoundly attached to the ground of our freedom and liberty? Where’s the proof of that??

Every time someone tries to define America it eludes them. It is not something you define; it is something that plays through and the few objects and words you capture make all the difference in the world. The ways of trying to define the American in my lifetime have all come to grief. They couldn’t hold an ounce of her tonnage. They wanted her riches without the sacrifice. They pass on behind her like an inelegant passing of gas when the drunk people don’t seem to care one way or the other.

Yet, the old beast is wrong often enough.

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On seeing our great cities the founders would have said, “do you use the leverages correctly? Is good produced out of the necessity of having cities like this?”

They would have been dismayed by the types that had formed the political organization early on and which the increase in the city simply amplified. In fact, made realer than real and so grew from those seeds familiar and unfamiliar roots and limbs. The educated types taught how to manipulate the people and their beliefs. The pure thugs among them killed with impunity. Deals were always expected. The very idea of a democratic man or woman became something of an inside joke.

I don’t think they would have been shocked how Europe and America reversed the polarity so to speak. But I think they’d be very concerned about our power and how that secures a better liberal democracy. I don’t think they would have resisted the varieties of expansion the U.S. initiated since 1800.

But they would certainly try to find the key to whether “what they set up” has any meaning left in itself, if it is “relevant,” and how, exactly, do you justify a huge nation state with principles of democracy? Every step is a treacherous one. And if “democracy” has failed then what do we have?

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America is too pessimistic when things are bad and too complacent and blase when things are good. And as in unhappy families the good and bad tend to individual cases. A man in poverty who gets a winning lottery ticket is going to feel a lot more optimistic than a rich man whose portfolio takes a dive whatever the macro environment may be.

America is an idea. It is not a tradition. It is an idea renewed each generation that men and women can rule themselves and can, by ruling themselves, get the full benefit of potential from the myriad communities that make up the whole. It requires, then, a fully developed citizen, non-alienable from his or her potential, a belief in the future, the resources to fend off bad times and prepare for good ones, the intelligent perception of the needs of the citizens, and as short a line from the citizen to those who have temporary power.

The idea begins to break down when ancient conflicts rise up; when the citizen is defined by the nature of class they inhabit by birth, or when old persistent irrationalities make their way into the public culture.

The question to ask if you are pessimistic is, “are they shooting at each other?” No? Then there are pessimisms worse than we know that we have somehow survived. Time likes different cubicles to nest in and out of.

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Time and Money are natural enemies for awhile.

Money manipulates life, Time transforms it.

The manipulations can be very pleasant. We love to surrender to a few of the pleasing manipulations of the day.

January 26, 2015

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