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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.


When I started this column a few days before the election this was my opening line. “I hear the huge sigh of relief throughout the world.” I suppose I should take out ‘relief’ and put in ‘panic’.

There are some significant points: Trump's victory was razor-thin and he lost the popular vote. Perhaps the key to his victory was the entrance of Jill Stein into the campaign who took enough votes away from Clinton in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin especially to throw the election Trump's way. The post-election has revealed the polarities that will continue for the next four years at least. This was, in essense, an anti-immigrant, anti-globalization vote. But the pro-immigrant, pro-globalization position is still very strong. I hope someone in his "inner circle" reminds Trump that high tariffs, trade restriction and eventually "trade wars," resulted in the last Great Depression. I have my doubts. How many in his cadre of counselors have felt the sting of that Depression? My parents felt the sting of it but I doubt if Trump's parents did.

It's also true that the Millenials have moved into the center as the Baby-Boomers slow and go.

I would ignore most of the things said at this juncture. People feel extreme loss on one hand and extreme empowerment on the other. This is a reversal of polarity we saw with Reagan in 1980. I think the Trump Era, if that's what it is, will be quite different even though the 'ages' are similar.

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It's imperative that people who believe their values are being assaulted double-down and strengthen those values be they civil rights, women's rights, environmentalism, etc. This will be one side of the polarity, necessary but limited in its ability to come up with new forms of democracy, new forms of political imagination.

I don't believe Trump is an American version of Hitler but I do believe he's going to produce a more authoritarian regime than we are used to. Most of Trump, to this point, smells of fakery writ large. However, like most reasonable people I'm burnt out by this election cycle and need two months to repair.

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Some brief points based on the public Trump who has been around for many decades:

How long will it take before large groups of people who voted for Trump ardently wish they could turn the clock back and put Hillary in the White House?

How long will it take before Trump acts on his “enemies list” or it’s discovered he’s siphoning public money into his private business?

How long will it take before he gets weary of this job and want to quit or destroy it and go home?

How long will it take before the Republican Congress seizes effective power because the decisions are too complex, too fast in coming for Trump and his team?

How long will it take before he embarrasses himself, the office of President, and America itself?

To be fair we ask these questions:

How long will it be before he shocks everyone with his ability as a leader?

How long will it be before the economy begins to boom again as it did in the 80’s and 90’s?

How long will it be before ISIS is thrown back against itself by aggressive force by the US and allies?

These aren’t predictions so much as impressions coming off what Trump has revealed of himself the past thirty years. He has proven to be a con man but he has proven that he can get things done as well. Is he ready for the natural resistances that will come his way? Everything he says and does says no.

He appears to be a hard worker. He appears to inspire loyalty from people and is loyal to others. His sense of “perfection” makes him very fragile.

He is way over his head. That puts all the pressure on those who he has beside him. Are they competant and knowledgable? Are they experienced? At this point it's too early to tell. The signs don't look that optimistic. But, the key will be how Trump governs. How does he take the advice from the extreme right and moderate conservative and make decisions based on his own judgement? And will his judgement be able to filter out the prejudices of those around him?

Trump hasn’t established his credibility. He hasn’t proven anything to anyone. No one knows how he will govern. Perhaps even he doesn’t know how he’ll govern. People should be skeptical but they shouldn’t be frightened. Fright is exactly what power wants. Free people don’t get frightened. They get smart and adaptable.

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At this point it’s difficult to know whether Trump will be another Reagan or a Citizen Kane type figure. Reagan, too, said things that worried people. He spoke to his base but operated from the pragmatic center. On the other hand, Trump is known to go rogue. We just don’t know at this point. He may get very timid once he makes his first mistake. He could get bored and wander way off while letting his surrogates do all the decision-making. He could respond reasonably well to some problems. One thing that Reagan was attacked for was the presumption that he couldn’t deal with complex issues. He didn’t have the sublime about him that allowed for many shades of grey in policy decisions. What Reagan did was lead which is what people want now. Whether Trump is up for that is impossible to know. I’m skeptical because I doubt he can get everything done that he says he’s going to get done. He also lies and exaggerates like a spoiled child and after a while people are going to stop listening to him.

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The most significant political acts were the destruction of the House of Bush and House of Clinton. This permits new blood to come rushing in based either on the surge of Trump or the surge of resistance he is going to encounter. A lot of things will go down in the next few years. To maintain the status quo, especially in elite institutions is going to be hazardous. The only thing that will settle the country down is an infusion of upward mobility, esp. with African-Americans and these “working class whites.”

I don’t think Trump appreciates yet how conforming and restrictive the Presidency is if we are to believe the testimony of the few who have been in the Oval Office. He will have to discipline his wild energies that were evident on the campaign trail and be a “president.” Trump is comfortable with power, that’s his milieu. He is used to making decisions. But he lacks a great deal of the self-discipline necessary to govern successfully. Putting his personal business on par with being President is equal to Bill Clinton's putting sex (of a sort) equal to his Presidency. Both are classic ways the self sabatoges it's ability to "rule."

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It’s stupid to try and destroy his legitimacy as I’ve heard among liberal commentators or, even, the protests before he’s inaugurated. For one thing, people are absolutely wrought out and sick of politics and they will take a breather for two months. It’s much more effective to wait until Trump starts to govern to make any protest. The hyperbolic response to Trump doesn’t help one bit and will blunt the real resistance that should take place after he's sworn in.

Obviously if Trump goons start roaming the streets with baseball bats looking for Muslims then we know we’re in for a long ride and will have to intervene. I don’t think it will get that bad but you never know.

We know there is a law of "unintended consequences." Trump could be seen, eventually, as the best thing to happen to liberal movements.

One unintended consequence that I see, immediately, is that the nation has been put on alert. No one is taking anything for granted. There is enough energy to have populist resistance, in the healthy democratic sense, to thresholds that Trump might cross. Had Hillary been elected complacency would have kicked in sooner than later. She would have thrown enough bits of meat out to the people to keep them quiet and satisfied.

Because Trump is a “populist” he will be attentive to the populist reaction to what he does. That will provide one check against any outrage.

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Trump, for better or worse, has created an “existential moment,” one that will be invented and reinvented more than a few times as he tries to grapple with a world much larger, much more complex and intelligent than he is. It’s a scary thought but it’s one that has a few opportunities.

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Of course, elites are made to be pulled down. In fact, if a generation is not successful in pulling down the elite they are considered a failure. The baby-boomers were successful in pulling down the elites created out of the experience of WWII. They have created an elite in their turn and it has reached its apex with this election. The elites of the baby-boomers took the reasonable values of their day such as civil rights, women’s rights, environmentalism and institutionalized them. The Democratic party became dependent on the institutions which became more and more corrupt and, as is widely reported, didn’t pay attention to significant portions of the culture, some of whom were in the infamous “white working class.” The lack of attention, intentional or not, has finally erupted and created the conditions for a new reckoning almost literally overnight. The elites kept that hierarchy going because they successfully put silo’s around a variety of human attributes like race, gender, class, region, religion. These could be the victims of the last twenty-four hours.

Generations pull down elites because they have an aversion toward aristocracy.

It reminds me that most of this election was a referendum on the baby-boom generation, perhaps its apex, it’s final stamp in the post-60’s world. I’m sure you had a similar effect after the Civil War into the 20th century. Trump, Hillary, and Sanders all represented flows from that period of time, from that particular generation.

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The Trump line was either going to inherit wealth or had a typical nihilistic party-now edge to it, doing the wild things that were done at that time, not particularly concerned about Vietnam or civil rights, rebelling against their inheritance by mixing it up with the proles while having the security of that inheritance in the back of their minds. The ones I knew were charming and always had the good looking women. But, when you scratched the surface you usually found some petty crime, some unbelievable and adolescent action like shop lifting or selling pot. These guys eventually went into the establishment, parlayed the inheritance and spent the rest of their lives trying to live a meaningful, happy life. Many failed.

Hillary represents that part of the generation that took on and supported the three dominant social forms of the time: civil rights for blacks and other minorities, freedom for women, protection of the environment. These were the political/social imperatives of the baby-boom generation. The first resistance came with Reagan as the Trump types combined with the older generation (who had been quite shocked by the 60’s) to produce Reagan. However, the social values were still carried by a great number of those baby-boom generation who were now in the middle-class, were professionals and so on.

Bernie Sanders represented that part of the generation that went back to the university or held out in college towns like Berkeley and Madison and wanted a wholesale change in the structure of corporate America and American capitalism. For that group, the culture that emerged out of capitalism was not a valid one, only a pretense to make sure the status quo in power kept their power. These three trends meandered through the 80’s, 90’s, and first dozen or so years of this century. Their final articulate moment is this election. The Hillary side, the ideal side lost out. That’s what I saw in their faces election night: loss. It’s an interesting, sad process to observe.

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A large culture filled with people who constantly have to fight for their freedom, for their beliefs, is always in ferment. Perhaps Trump signals that a new liberal democratic center needs to be built to prevent the extremes from pulling everything down or exhausting the culture. The shifting demographics, the new disruptive technologies, the new sorts of migration create vitality, create necessary energy for a huge nation-state like this. And even if I don’t create the change I benefit because I can hit off the vitality created, I can make that my own. So culture is vital in that sense but the structure of governance is much more conservative and so any elite that arises must conform to the structure or lose its status as an elite.

To be effective the ferment needs to be creative and fresh. I don’t see any evidence of that among the fermented today. It puts an old man to sleep. A lot of it is a result of the fabricated identities that proliferate today; the identity silos that have been effective in the past but sound a pretty dull note now.

To have a successful society you need the critical mass in it to have a comprehensive view. That is, the ability to know the whole as it actually is, as it lives its daily life, as it is oppressed by problems, in every region, in city, suburb, and rural. Both the citizens and the representatives who emerge from the citizens should have this view. In the absence of this view you have partisan experts and advocacy groups who are hardly reliable and are easily manipulated for political reasons. If I can see that pain exists in both the urban African-American community and the lower middle-class, working white community then I need to comprehend both and design policies that help inject vitality in those areas. Vitality that translates into upward mobility. And it is stasis that creates most of the social problems today including the fetishes of race, gender, ethnicity, fanaticism, cultism and the rest.

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You can’t make a big circle around a group of people and make them the scapegoats for everything bad in your history. Academics, media, politicians even stripped the poorer whites of their humanity, intellectually, and said in effect, “we will let history roll over you.”

An acquaintance of mine spent time in prison. He told me he was recruited by a white power group and had friendly relations with a Hispanic gang. “I was told by a guard not to get between these groups or something bad would happen. Prison is divided between black, brown, and white and they fight all the time.” People are reduced by powerlessness to these ancient identities and if this is now the model for American culture then we are going to live in a nightmare. Affluence and upward mobility changes people, usually for the better and this is the decisive fact.

What is needed is a new form of politics that emerges out of a fully comprehensive view of the nation, from coast to inland, from suburb, urban, to rural, through all the ethnic identities, the genders, all the generational cohorts. And, as well, a fresh notion of common humanity. To get such a view would be a huge expansion of the knowledge base and a widening of experience. Without that view we are doomed to silo’s of predetermined identities in a zero sum game that will collapse democracy on itself.

The culture has "failed." The political culture has failed to produce a better citizen, failed to produce a culture of beauty and intelligence. Failed to produce a politics that works. And the blame has to be at the feet of the academic, media, entertainment, half the political and some of the business elites. Fifty years is a very long time to hold on to a set of assumptions and simply pit people against each other and drive vicious hatred into groups and use them as scapegoats. And both the left and right have done this and should be punished for it by removing their privileges as elites.

What is a free, liberal democratic citizen? What is America? Open question. But it does include a great deal of "growth and development" towards a more comprehensive view and experience of the nation-state.

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Trump has at least done three positive things: he took down the House of Bush, the House of Clinton and he has created enormous political energy. There is now a positive and negative pole in this nation and many will play their roles on either side of the polarity. But those who will create the future will be running between the poles and creating the energy necessary to build something new.

There is an office. It is large. If Trump goes into that office and let’s himself grow out, humbly, into its spaces then the spirits of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy will concur and you may have a decent shot of a decent run. If, however, Trump goes into that office and shrinks it down to the size of his enlarged head then those same spirits will leave him to his own diminution and everyone will suffer.

The old polarities all play their roles expertly. The new will come from perceptive types who can intelligently pass through the polarities and generate new forms of political energy and imagination. We look for these and only these.

It’s very telling that the Clinton support came overwhelmingly along the strips of east and west coast, east of the Appalachian Mt.s and west of the Sierra/Cascade range. Two things are immediately obvious. The coasts benefit from globalization because they are open to the trading routes from the Pacific Rim and Mediterranean region. While both thin strips along east and west coast have some rich agricultural areas both are dominated by urban centers from Seattle to San Diego along the west and from Boston to Savannah in the east. It is a pattern that is reminiscent of China’s “deep divide” between the coastal regions and the interior of that country.

November 12, 2016

The Big Dog

The election is winding down and unless people have been lying to the pollsters it looks like a Hillary Clinton victory. I'm not ecstatic about it but I am not anxious or despondent about it as I would be if Trump were elected. She will have difficulties and will realize, at some point, the difference between being an executive leader and being a powerful bureaucrat. "And the House of Clinton did replace the House of Bush and there was turmoil and wrath in the land." President Obama, the only president I truly felt a connection with, will be an asterisk between the Houses that will dominate the new form of Monarchy. We hope not but the democracy seems rather bankrupt and lazy at this moment. Perhaps the turmoil of the next four years will shake something loose in America, a few good seeds, and we will be launched into a new trajectory. In other words, this election seems an ending rather than a beginning and every scrap will be a battle zone. Some good reforms will get done, the world will hold its breath a few times. Authentic leadership will try and heal the division, especially between the races and genders. America is going down a very difficult road that looks more like post-Civil War Reconstruction than anything else. That's the penalty for not growing up and getting some wisdom in the body politic relying on the expertise of others to tell us what to do. We hardly trust our own experience in the world or our own selves for that matter.

I put my faith in the American future for a variety of reasons. First of all, it's proved me wrong on more than one occasion. The post-60's period was dreadful and apocalyptic and yet the country dug out of that and flourished under Reagan and Bill Clinton. Secondly, it is still on its upward path, one that is a dangerous and exhilarating ride where it won't be able to rely solely on its wild energy but have to develop forms of intelligence and wisdom. Thirdly, it is in a far greater position to move into the future than old countries. America is like the Internet. It simply builds out and then learns the lessons. The old world(s) are heavy with religious and ideological stoppers.

America has to get used to the fact that the "big dog" is always the hated dog. It has to grow up and learn things. As a matter of fact, it has done just that in the last four decades. Despite the Trump eruption many more types of people, not in the Beltway, understand America's geopolitical and historic position.

Democracy Can Be Repressive

From one view democracy is a terrible repression, as bad as the old king rule in the past. It is a repression shared among many pluralities but can get hot like a virus and pull everything down it happens not to like. But, from another view democracy is absolutely liberating because there is no real ceiling for the person to stop at except death. Who prevents me, after all, to drop out and go on a five year reading program to expand my resources? Who prevents me from living by the ocean on the cheap so I can compose poetry? And, later in life, novels? Who? The president can't send out his goons looking for library rats or beach poets and throw them into the army to go fight in Iraq. Perhaps it's been discussed at the White House but someone, somewhere nixed the idea on the basis that there are too many of these types and the govt. resources are running out.

A democracy is about expansion, depth, freedom but it has to fight through so much. All the frustrated agents of a democracy group together to form obstacles. It's part of the fun I suppose. "We have been appointed by the agents of democracy to make sure you don't think outside the box!"

The Big Dog Needs New Ideas

The election renews some thinking about the U.S. and how it needs to develop new sorts of resources to enter this new phase of development. The key is the critical mass of people who must grow up in a manner of speaking and take on a larger knowledge base. Otherwise the U.S. could fall back into the old world road of small groups controlling everything, cutting the masses away, setting up centuries of abuse and conflict. It's the critical mass of people, not the elites, who need to know the world, need to know the very society they live in, in its totality, rather than as the fragmented, frightened, and frightful thing it appears to be, especially through the media.

One can say this until they are blue in the face but it needs to be said.

There is the need to develop an idea of sacrifice that will promote a cultural vision into the 21st century, something like the changing of the fuel system. A collective vision that can "fail" only to be taken up by the next generation and carried forward.

Those caught in the old world or an old phase of American development are usually manipulated and conned until they are sick of it all and put a large “Do Not Disturb” sign on their citizenship. Not too healthy in a liberal democracy.

The "Left"

I wrote in 2007 that the “left is bankrupt at a time when it is needed.” They did not do what you are supposed to do when out of power. That is, get humble, understand, learn, develop better forms of communication, etc etc. They got stuck on their radical critique and it did them in. Race and gender determinism, which at one time were effective critiques, have lost their mojo. And it's the bankruptcy of the intellectuals that has led to "celebrity worship" extreme emotional responses like fundamentalism, and the "authority of pop culture."

Positives Worth Thinking About

What is it that makes America unique or what are the attributes that I love about America and will concentrate on in the next phase?

  • The base in the Constitution. No matter how many ways it can be interpreted, the mind must always go back to the enlightenment. Enlightenment is the key to the American mind.
  • Innovation, inventive spirit.
  • It embraces the future.
  • It takes on challenges.
  • It contains multitudes that one is both part of and free of.
  • It requires hard work to keep integrity and requires that one man be both spiritual and secular.
  • It is not "anti-literary" but it is "anti-tradition" -- ie. that tradition that does not include it in it. It's view is the wise one: Tradition is there to learn, we will learn but we will develop our own traditions out of our experience as people.
  • One can travel the whole spectrum and come back alive; more experienced and intelligent.

Regional difference is certainly there. Take a guy in Alabama and put in the SF Bay Area and he would be rather shocked and out of place. Vice versa. Yet, the Alabaman can partake of the energies of the Bay Area or the few things that "make him better," and vice versa. And the Alabaman and SF'er are connected together by the federal system. The federal system is dependent on the citizens to watch it and to make it accountable. It leads out into the greater world beyond mere politics where the citizen must know something or have excellent experience of something. That something being a bit of the global resource. That leads to history and to the natural world that stops at the edge of space. And then out into space, which has become a tangible object we can experience in ways never before because we've penetrated it and we know that for 360 degrees out, for trillions of light years is nothing but hostile space. And yet, we have the intuition that many Earth's exist in the universe and so we push the envelope back and dream and are certain something of our destiny is there.

A Little Healthy Ingenuity Goes A Long Way

The genius of American democracy will allow for the movement upward of smart, savvy people from whatever background. If the whites and non-whites begin to fight over power, there will be problems.

There will be problems one way or the other. The problems are dampened when there are checks and balances and people, generally, get what they want or feel life is sufficient for them.

I don't think jingoism and fear-mongering are the way to go.

This overview of the political crisis by Professor Goldhammer of Harvard is an excellent summation.

A solid democracy has its own virtue that people learn because it is a benefit to learn. Smart people are smart people no matter what color, religion, class, or gender they belong to.

That will be a long, slow social process that will eventually startle the world with its healthy ingenuity.

October 28, 2016

"America went irrational and is paying the price for it now. It went nuts because it didn’t have the wherewithal to understand aspects of the world and was offended by how much power that which they were ignorant of had on them. The irrationality is profound. You never see it halting in good sense and challenging itself. You never see it accept its opposite. You never see the temperament and structure of reason. It’s rather crazy in that sense. It will not destroy itself through the craziness but it will pass on its problems to the future who will not like their predecessors and throw them over the edge of the earth.

If the people are crazy it makes the politicians look sane. You want the sane and rational people to impose their will on the insane politicians I would think."

Journal entry December 5, 2010

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The election winds down. The predicable downfall of Trump has been nearly contrived by the candidate himself which makes one pause about his motives to begin with.

And does the press understand how manipulated it is by Trump? The man is a narcissist and wants attention at every moment. He has now manipulated things to the point that the moment Hillary is declared the victor all attention and suspense will swing Trump's way about how he deals with the loss. And when the press gets tired of Trump or he slips off the stage to figure out his next move do you think the press will start zeroing in on Hillary's legal and ethical problems?

The form of politics takes shape in the mind of the young in the guise of the personalities of the times. In my case it was the idealists and their assassins; those were the polarities that established the form of politics. The idealists understood the privileged state of the United States and stretched the mind in figuring out what to do next- what next great progress can take place, leveraged by our great privilege? That is the question the idealist asks. Then there are the assassins who are usually twisted into the ground by hopelessness and re-emerge angry at everyone and everything. Everything that is constructed, that is growing, that is healthy, that is successful and so forth. That is the assassin.

Praise the idealist (who are few) and fear the assassins (who are many).

You are idealistic only once in life.

Then comes the curious turning toward power; economic power, personal power, political power.

You begin to see the world in terms of obstruction and opportunity. You head towards opportunity and fight obstruction.

You join with like-minded persons in their similar quest, compete and bond after a period of initiation.

The world moves merrily onward. The degree you scoff at or encourage idealism tells a great deal about the nature of the process you went through.

Hillary and Trump are the exhaustion of the Kennedy and Reagan Era's. They will be the models for a generation. Or will they? Will the American political imagination permit such a thing?

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We have absolutely no power over anyone. We can censure behavior, we can vote for A over B, we can invest in 1 rather than 2 we can buy X over Z. We have some power over our relations- the perception of the relation.

We have some power over our desires. For instance, deciding to stay in the region and be as good a father as I could be over and against the choice of leaving the region and going to one that could have supported my career.

For instance, deciding to take the course of knowledge and knowing things over and against the course of consuming objects of pleasure.

The decision to empty content into any form that would take it rather than taking the available form and emptying content through it.

Certainly this has been a conflict: In youth, the exposure to globalism and the confederation of minds who look down on the petty world and its conflicts. That was a very strong form at the time. On the other hand, a feeling that the most significant challenge for the American today is to deal with the dilemma of America's possible decline into a morass of problems from which it will not emerge. So, allegiance to the nation-state; therefore, the world connected back to the nation-state system.

The globalist view is relatively painless and easy. It exists in a vacuum so that great gusts of ideology come sucking through it. Where, in reality, the nation-state system survives- it prevails. And American society could be heading downward if the state were to weaken. Whereas the globalist view is a plaything of the privileged on the one hand and an escape for the desperate on the other.

We need intellectuals who know how things work. Who know how the daily life of their own society is conditioned and what it aspires for.

Whatever purpose America may or may not have in the larger scheme of things it certainly has one supreme purpose: to survive with its liberal, democratic tradition intact. So, please define for me what a "liberal democracy" means?

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It is superstition that the deft manipulate for political ends. That summarizes my view of mass thought in the culture. The form of mass religious superstition and mass political superstition or, at least, secular superstition is exactly the same although the content is different. And the superstition is always looking for victims to burn.

Rather than being smug about this one should strive for the comprehensive and wise or, at least, illuminated view the ground of which is love of truth, knowledge, free inquiry and the other attributes that are constantly being thwarted by the slide of the mind back into the density of old ages past.

People and/or citizens who do not cultivate the sources of a free society are lassoed by the power mad.

Freedom consists of two things. The ability to exercise the will, the ability to develop the good that results from the exercise of will.

In a huge society such as this don’t be shocked if its “political ideas” are very irrational with the merest thread of thought covering up the nudity of the true interest.

Ah, people soon tired of the irrational and push on. Every generation concocts its own superstition that weights down the next generation. The baby-boom is no different.

Politics is a series of disgusting falls until the mind escapes with whatever good sense is left in it.

The wing nuts contribute to this disgust but so does the middle which is several layers of corruption from the serious to the benign.

So I always kept two things in mind: What is the free, liberal democratic citizen? And, what keeps the system of governance going so that the free, liberal democratic citizen can keep progressing, growing and developing?

It was not a function of truth but a function of survival of what maintains a free and progressing state of affairs. Or, at least the bud of it somewhere. It may emerge from the seeds of truth but then has to be judged or assessed based on its full flowering, bugs, dirt and all.

The human frame contains beauty and the discovery of the spirit in a man; the protection and flourishing of each. That is one of the functions of being a free man and it is dependent on, if not good governance then non-catastrophic governance. In other words, the obligation of vigilance on the part of the free citizen.

October 20, 2016

Both parties, not to mention political candidates running for President, are empty. The political era is exhausted and empty. Nothing new has emerged. It is the old bashing the old. The healthiest thing a mind can do is pull out, in the nick of time, and look around for the beginnings of new political imagination. It won’t come from the establishment that stamps itself everywhere it can and can only be met with feeble and ridiculous anti-establishment stamps that make money for a few.

On the one hand there is a Queen-in-waiting, the daughter/wife of old King Bill and she has been thoroughly prepared through the corridors of power, taught the language of power, and simply waits her coronation which she expects after the pro forma confirmation in November. The corridors of power are prepared for her and the glasses raised that day will not be with hands soiled by labor or minds worried about mortgage payments and jobs. On the other hand, there is the bored, ugly-spirited billionaire tired of his jet, tired of his Barbie dolls, tired of his golf courses, tired even of his perfect children so to get a re-boot on his adrenaline fix decides to run for President untried and unfit.

This is why one makes the statement, “the political life is bankrupt.”

The machinery of government is not quite automatic but it has its own self-interest to do manageably well whatever the politics may be. It has obligations and the vast bureaucracy is there is ensure those obligations are met and as long as they are met there is only mild protests about government, most of them emotional based on the sentiment, "I'm not happy and someone is to be blamed!"

The politicians stage a grand play of defending and attacking various positions depending on how they read their crowd, be it local or national but the machinery grinds onward. The checks are written, the laws are enforced or threatened to be enforced, orders are given out and followed, papers are shuffled from one end to another, e-mails are sent, faxes whir, information is doled out per request, tours are granted, visits are made to offices as they have been from the beginning, as they will to the end.

Sometimes the money stops, sometimes the money flows.

Unless we are prepared to say that time stops with us, that we are the perfect ones, that we have fulfilled all the aspirations, all the destinies of nature then we are the ones that need to be broken in order for new aspirations, new perfections, new destinies to arise. There is a lot of good in the present but it doesn’t help us think “as if….” The good in the present allows us a little perch from which we can see where we’ve come from and where we are. The simple good doesn’t have the adrenaline or momentum to create something new or burst forth with new imaginations and new minds.

So much of politics is a prediction of a future that never shows up. It will be better in some places, worse in others. It will be down for some, up for others. There is always vitality, always degradation. Pessimism is countered by another look. Optimism is countered by intelligent doubt. All conflict in politics is unified in the perfect citizen who then uses transcendent judgement to decide who is fit and who is not.

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America should be fully embraced. And yet, what is it we fully embrace? What is it as something that moves through one? A beautiful and haunting stroll through the woods. As a place that lives in the eyes of the stranger.

Why would anyone get involved in political neurosis unless they, themselves, were neurotic? In other words, in a politics that cannot work, will never work at least in solving real problems and simply makes the empty self feel real once every couple of years? The good get swirled around and stand down after awhile as the neurotic carry on their antics.

America permits the astounding spirit and is not impaired with resistance.

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It's been a mystery to me why modern, democratic men and women think they can escape the "lessons of the past," meaning a total ignorance of the past and that their youthful personality will, of itself, solve the eternal dilemmas. In my experience it's been lack of interest in the past, effusive and wide experience, almost relish in breaking taboo, then a desperate struggle to stay alive, to stay afloat and a necessity to find guidance in the past. Not to copy the past, not to surrender to the past or take on its problems but to find some guidance for the untamed energies of the free democratic modern person with a large set of leverages in front of them. I fully defined the "past" as beginning with the Civil War. But then augmented that with "all the past," most of which is not useful to the modern person. But, the kernals are useful and priceless. They are not givens.

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I have seen no one who has mastered the systems, political, social, economic being the main ones. Therefore, there are elements of these systems that are unknown. Even the greatest thinkers come up very short in explaining the systems as well as demonstrating the way a change in one part of one system will affect the other systems and how those effects will, in turn effect the other systems on and on. Therefore no one knows how the systems work well enough to say, this fix or that fix will solve everything. We fall back on experience and what works but even there what works is sometimes a mask for something that does not work. Regardless, if it is true that the greatest minds cannot fully understand these systems to the extent that one change will do substantial good then how is any system trusted? And if a thinker comes along and says, "I have figured out how it all works, just do this and this and that," who is to trust the thinker? The systems are so complex they encourage one of two very bad attitudes in a democracy; either an ideological fanaticism or a paranoia that swears it all off as the work of the devil be it a democrat or republican.

On one level people are very smart about their self-interest but very dumb about the "wellness of the systems," not through any fault of their own but because the complexity is too great. As a result bad leadership comes to dominate. That is, leaders that know how to manipulate the ignorance and fears of the people without understanding the systems well enough to fix things.

This will have consequence down the line. As long as we remain a pragmatic society and people are alert to their own self-interest the thing seems to roll onward. But it will roll until it is exhausted. And that will be a very difficult day.

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I think politics existed before human beings exited "nature" in a manner of speaking. Whenever there is competition there is politics even within small tribes of like-minded cavemen. Larger towns came into being because it became clear that such an arrangement would benefit some of the people. And politics has been at it ever since balancing or trying to balance out who gets the benefits, who doesn't and what redress the ones who don't have, if any. In the process of making life "easier" surplus is created, including the surplus of ideas; ideas to improve every aspect of life which became a feature of all units from the beginning. There was, as well, treachery, cunning, greed, murder at the points where power conferred special privileges to some in the tribe. Busy trying to maintain power the problems of the people were often neglected. Sometimes the neglect came about because "power" had to differentiate itself from the "rest" and what better way than to simply ignore their plight and then come down hard when they complain?

So, what happens when you reverse that, if you do in a democracy? What if the neglected people become the rulers and out of them emerges people to represent them in the day to day business of government which is now defined as "to maintain benefits for the majority of people?" And does this happen if there are new forms of rule, unofficial, off the books let us say that understand that the people can be ignored only if they are maintained with a decent life? The "rule" being about maintaining the priviledge of the rulers as is done in every system, every era, and every epoch. The effect being less improvement for the people, less opportunity for their children and a slow diminishing of the whole. This is the case as long as you don't have the ability to change the representation or the laws or root out corruption and that only takes place when the people invest something of themselves into the system. That is the key to self-rule without which the whole is slowly diminished by the ineptness, corruption, and self-interest of the "rulers."

But what would be the ideal if the people ideally ruled? What would it be like if representative democracy worked at its very optimum? Is that possible to know?

September 6, 2016

We have trivial politics today, small politics, small, sometimes ridiculous visions.

The conventions revealed several important points: regardless who gets elected there will be a political crisis. A fundamental change has to take place in the electorate.

There are two key things to think about: 1- how to repair the system of governance and, connected, 2- how to "unify" the country enough to make that system of governance responsive. These are the questions that have to be addressed by citizens who take these things seriously because they read history, they know what happens when the system of governance gets corrupted and the body politic fractures apart. Nothing gets done, esp. in the mid and far future and what does get done is usually cronyism of a sort as favored constituents are given out some largesse to keep them happy.

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Trump is a warning shot that the American electorate is willing to offer up a "tyrant" or "dictator" if things get bad enough for them. And "bad" includes, "things are bad because people don't think the way we do anymore."

The Republicans don't have a clue because they are "reactionary," and the Democrats fly the same freak flag they've flown for the past 40 years. It doesn't work. It's not unifying. Things don't change, they ossilate. We sometimes have a hard time picturing what politicians mean when they use the word, "change." Things inch forward only to remain the same. An infusion of totally new ideas and concepts about society, technology, identity, jobs and so on would initiate changes but only if the current crop of tired politicians are moved out for fresh blood. That dynamic challenge to the system is what is needed rather than the tired old blood trying to keep the heart beating on stale rhetoric. We don't see it happening this cycle but one thing leads to another.

The Kennedy Era and Reagan Era's have collided and zeroed each other out. What we are left with is a gaseous nebula that needs to find its gravitational center.

What is needed is the astonishing idea(s) that will release the political imagination from the hooks of the Democratic party and the reactionaries of the Republican party.

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The things I agree with Trump, after his convention, include the need to break up the stale, entitled bureaucracy behind the beltway and the need for America to start "thinking big, thinking large." Trump is not the person to do these things as he would replace the establishment with no-nothing crack pots and his "big idea" would be to transform America into a giant casino and golf course with giant neon signs and giant breasts. America would be transformed into Potterville. "It already is," says the laughing cynic. Nonetheless, the sense of America shrinking in its scope and accepting its lesser expectations is something that I agree has been happening.

The things I agree with Clinton and the Democrats is the need to change the fuel system and to rebuild the educational system from the bottom up.

The tragedy of this failed political era is that two communities are crying out for help; one is the African-American urban community and the other is the lower working-class white community but they are divided by political affiliation and will zero each out in the political game and you'll end up with more social decay.

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The Democrats have more heft, more credible people, they are shaped by the social movements of the past 50 years and are trying to conserve all of that. But one asks the question to them: "Do your efforts over 50 years make you brittle and unable to bend and change? What possible vector can emerge out of you?"

We have a political crisis because if this were a normal moment Hillary would have a 12 point lead over Trump and that would leap up to a 20 point lead after the convention. The fact that they are practically even says something quite disturbing about the quality of the Democratic nominee. It also says something about the body politic who seem to nullify every Trump mistake in order to make their vilification of the system fait a'compli.

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President Obama gave an extraordinary speech and said all the right things. The highlight for me was when he extolled the virtues of self-government. "We are not ruled," he emphasized. But I also wanted to rush the stage and confront him at that moment. "If that is true then why is it the government is run by a few families as in the ancient days?" It's the political families like the Bush's, Kennedy's and Clinton's, along with wealthy families like the Koch's, as well as the families on Wall Street who have started banks and control enormous capital reserves who have overwhelming control over the direction of the political life. And it's not going to change because America is too big to change, too powerful and important to change. It can't go back, it must maintain itself as a huge superpower and that is its fate until the end of its run. Conscious of this I would call our period of time "the tragic phase of our development."

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Democracy is a local event. It's not meant for huge nation-states. At that level we ask a simple but profound question, "are the stakes too high for a democracy?" They are certainly high enough to require the best sort of leadership. What are the alternatives for a mature nation-state system? One is "sliding backwards into decline," the other is, "staying the course," so that our power can be projected out into the world.

Certain changes can take place but they always come with unintended consequences. Focus on one group and its needs and most certainly you will discover another group whose needs are not being met. Focus on that group and you have the same outcome. And, in fact, this is what national politics has become, doling out treasure to a variety of groups to keep them relatively happy. It's as old as Adam. Well, the first large political groupings after Adam at any rate.

That doesn't mean that the people are "powerless," because they can live, join, buy as they please to form new types of social associations the state can't do anything about. A society of free men and women is always the advance guard in the nation-state system. That concepts of freedom clash is reasonable to expect. That concepts of freedom want to destroy other concepts is not reasonable to expect.

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Some questions after the convention:

"If these lists of issues you raise haven't been solved in the last eight years, the last 25 years how are they going to be solved today?"

"If you soak the rich to give to the poor don't the rich finally figure it out and move on or get around the burden? And then who is holding the bag?"

"Why does the sentimentality in politics resemble a high school play with young people who don't have, as yet, authentic emotions?"

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The Democrats will try to "unify" the country by isolating Trump from all but his staunchest supporters. It could work but it could backfire as well. You don't want a demon to transform into an angel and sweep away all the people with his "goodness." That is, if he stops being Trump which is impossible for a guy like himself. The conduct of his life set him up for a huge humiliation and it will be fait a’compli by early November.

August 2, 2016

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I was about to pencil in Hillary as the next President when a little crazy man bounced up and down on my shoulder, “anything can happen!” The nut-man was stoked. He loves all the uncertainty because it conforms to the madman's point of view. His zeitgeist.

If she pulls it off she will find out what the old adage, “watch out for what you wish for,” means. There’s little doubt that time has passed the Clinton’s by but their supporters are wild to get a female in there.

There's no reason why a female can't run a large democracy, esp. in liberal democracies. Women have led Britain, Israel, India, and currently Germany and Brazil. The old monarchies alternated between Kings and Queens. Electing a woman President will be a novelty that will wear off quickly and Hillary will be able to do as much for women as President Obama did for African-Americans. A large part of the population will refuse to recognize her. Her political enemies will have wide spaces to block her at every chance. She will drop a few goodies in the hands of specific constituencies that won't help them one iota. And the corrupt Beltway will fully absorb her and get everything wanted by "moneyed interests." Senator Sanders has it right. Until you clear up the bad money in the Beltway there's nothing that can be done for the people. It won't matter what she says, what she initiates; it will all be shadow play. Bill will create problems for her because it will become unclear, after a while, who is really running things. Sexist as that sounds it will invariably come up. We will see Hillary transformed into an old woman. We will have what the Elizabethans used to contemptuously say about Elizabeth toward the end, "an old woman's government."

It’s still better than the conman.

But then why these two at a crucial moment where instability is going to be the rule until the Brexit mistake is countered not to mention all the palatable dissatisfaction in America?

This election does have a 1980 feel to it. Jimmy Carter was so much more appealing than Ronald Reagan in qualities you want to see in an executive. He was more intelligent, more conscientious, had moral courage, and had one-term as President under his belt. Reagan scared a lot of people because of his hostility toward the Soviet Union and his support from those groups that had resisted the previous reform period of time. But there was a simmering anger in those years. The post-Vietnam/Watergate period was ungovernable because no one wanted to cooperate, the economy was down, and the mood was surly. The Actor won out because he simply appeared more presidential, that is, as a leader. Leadership qualities are number one in an election year like 1980 or 2016. The negative ratings of both candidates don't allow the trust necessary for leadership. A good citizen cringes every time they speak.

I have no faith in either person or either party and will spend the campaign thinking on a very basic theme. Why has American culture produced these two regrettable candidates, at this particular time? I don't have the answers. I just know something is wrong..

The strange thing is that if Trump had shown any inkling of "growth and development," over the past year, any submission to that necessary, "tough learning curve," and humbled at the possible task ahead of him he could probably win the election. He seems to get worse rather than better, regressive rather than progressive, ignorant rather than smart. He's a lost cause for his followers who still believe in him I suppose. And who are his followers? Are they the same people who get caught up in cons, who give over millions of dollars to phony TV preachers, who are ticked off because they showed up and the world didn't conform to their beliefs? Hard to say.

Things have been shaken. Trump and Sanders deserve some credit for defying the establishment; an establishment that mired the U.S. in a decade's long war and missed the clues to head off the financial meltdown. Not to mention their inability to reinitiate effective and real “upward mobility” in the culture. And now the establishment is rebelling as witness the sit-down in Congress of Democrats over gun control. Even the establishment despises itself.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Question: "Can a people hypnotized by celebrity exercise the prime value of self-rule in a democracy?"

It's more that "celebrity" gives a person a huge head start in the political game. And is the assumption, "well, she has gotten a name so she must be good?" true? Shouldn’t the first obligation of “self-rule” be the ability to see through the fabrication of celebrity and “name”?

Once the concept and practical details of self-rule are meaningless to the people then the democracy is no more. It will become a corrupt control state not worth defending. But as the people seethe until it is destroyed, they themselves decay and corrupt so when the time comes to "change regimes," there is no one who knows how to do anything, lead anything and the wrack and ruin continues. Look into the middle-east for that sort of model.

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Race and ethnicity is the last stinger left from the infamous "60's." Integration is much more valuable than fragmentation. You can't argue against racial politics because people are free to choose their associations as they see fit. But it's also true that racial politics see's "race" as a "destiny", something so divisive and, dare we say it, un-American that we cringe every time we're reminded of it here in the 21st century. Social cohesion is possible only through mutual respect and understanding. Yet, the arguments put forward by African-Americans about their treatment, even now, are compelling.

It’s not an iron law of nature but usually when people are vitally pursuing their own happiness and achieving a bit of it they are very tolerant of other people who may not be like them. This, again, is why "upward mobility" is such an important concept. That is the key domestic item for the next few election cycles.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Every great civilization I'm aware of has been a large agglomeration of races, ethnicities, languages, regions and so on. It tends to the centralization of wealth and power as we've seen in America but has enough self-connection and well-being in it that it hangs together.

One of the great ages of English speaking peoples occurred during the reign of Elizabeth I. A woman ruled them and the men wrote poetry. Of course, the second act in history is usually farce as Hillary is not Elizabeth and if Shakespeare’s, Jonson’s, Spencer’s, and Marlowe’s are around they are fully hidden by the gargantuan bear and bait rings that the people clamor for.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm beginning to believe that Trump has only two alternatives. Either one of his trusted kids gets a hold of him and tells him the vector he’s on is going to be humiliating for the family, devastating for the brand, destructive to the Republican Party or that he needs to chalk up his bizarre words to being a newbie on the political stage. "This is a vicious profession, I didn't know it was so horrible," he would say at a press conference. "I was naive and then started punching back when it looked like they were all after me. I apologize to those people who I offended, it's my fault and I am ready to move on." Or, Trump will indeed see the reality of politics and see the reality of problems he faces all over the world and realize that the whole trip was some adolescent boredom thing so announces his withdrawal from the race and pledges his delegates to Mr. or Mrs. X. It's not out of the question. Or there is a concerted effort to block his nomination at the convention. I seriously doubt the first case, the last two seem within possibility.

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A Few Certainties:

  • The people are at war with the establishment because they want reforms all up and down the line.
  • One thing that Hillary and Trump have in common and the one item one of them will bring to the White House is a long and savage enemies list.
  • A Hillary Clinton Presidency would be a sedate, boring, and futile one (after the obligatory celebrations and heaping mounds of bs) given the amount of opposition she would have and her lack of leadership. The inside game she would play would simply continue this useless round of promises never really kept.
  • A Trump Presidency would be bizarre and catastrophic in ways we can't even imagine at this point. America's enemies, even soft enemies are salivating at the possibilities of a Trump Presidency.
  • Just when it seems hopeless something always Happens. It hasn't yet.
  • Each candidate is going to bash the other until the other is a bloody pulp without a shred of credibility, the winner facing a culture where half the people will not believe in the authenticity of the president. How are they going to rule? How are they going convince the people to go in the direction they want them to go?

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Generational cycles are always going to reveal the repetitions that are fodder for politicians and marketers alike. Maturity is that one privilege able to see the whole, to see the cycle’s as they have played out. The generation I was part of was able to establish values out of the tumultuous conflicts of that time. One was the value and inviolability of civil rights, especially for African-Americans, two was the need to husband and protect the environment, and third was for the equal treatment of women and belief that females could make their way as free agents. These are now established values in the larger culture proved out by the wholesale rejection of Trump who embodies the anti- to these values. And it will be up to his followers as to what side of history they want to be on. The fierce emotions created by Trump is testament to the edge we are on; moving from one age into another. And those values will make it into the next one.

"The system is rigged." That is the major source of discontent people have with the establishment. How did the common people come to such a Marxian perception? The systems are always rigged. They have to be to survive and as long as everyone plays their part very little changes. In a gargantuan system though, only the ones deeply invested in it play their part. The rest are gestating in various forms of protest, including a kind of self-strangulation for the futility of doing anything effective in the system. Elected ones or those with the ambition to be elected can't compete for needed campaign money and so the elite types (who are busily consolidating power and/or wealth) come along and offer up largess for access. And that access, through a representative or Senator is access to just about everything that government touches. It is the way of all systems, at all times.

Of course the "rigging" only works if the politician takes the money and wins over a majority of his or her constituency. The citizens need to have an almost irrational aversion to this sort of corruption. The citizens must insist that the representatives scope of understanding and political imagination is with the people. There has to be some proof or test of this.

For a more comprehensive view of the "rigging" check out this by Sergi Halimi in Le Monde Diplomatique.

The election of Trump would bring on a sense of despair about the future of the US. The election of Hillary would create a sense of “normalcy” at a time when normalcy is discredited and seen as a mask for elite privilege. The American people deserve more. Or do they?

It would be fun and worthwhile to speculate on what could happen. We could be witnessing a classic collapse of a political party in order to have a one-party dominance to get needed reforms that the people want. They want reform of the political system, economic system, justice system, and our relations with the rest of the world. The political gods have chosen Trump to be the unwitting intigator in this reform period as he hands the election to Hillary on a gold-plated dish from Trump Towers. The reformist time will stretch across a few decades, embed themselves in the minds of most citizens and then begin to putrefy. The broken Republicans will reform themselves over time and wait until the right moment (as in a period of economic hardship) then whoosh in with their re-made selves. But first, to paraphrase Christ, “take out the junk in your own selves before you turn and judge the junk of anyone else.”

One of two scenarios appears likely for the US in the coming century. It will either produce a strong middle class that will be able to bend wealth to its needs while not needing or wanting to compete with wealth on a one on one basis, but as a class since no liberal democracy can exist without a strong middle class. One that is diverse and pulling up the poor who actively want to get into the middle, thus strengthening it more. This means good jobs, good schools, good neighborhoods, lower taxes and an across the board acceptance of middle class values that ends with good families producing good persons. Or it will be pulled apart by divisions, racial and others where each politicized racial group (including a diminishing white population) will be fighting for a diminishing resource base so any kind of progress will be frozen in its tracks. Diminishing resources will be allocated between racial groups and the country will be holding on to its power with less and less citizens who buy into the system and resemble most old cultures where more and more of the poor and even working poor will be cut away and participate in the affairs of society in a pro forma way, sometimes in a nasty way. Personally I go with the first scenario which means that you have to replace racial identity with middle class values.

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Anyone interested in the democracy at this stage should pay attention to the quality of the infrastructure of governance. And that would go from the federal level, the state level, the county and city/town level. In other words, wherever there is law and administration of law. How healthy is it? How corrupt is it? Does it rid itself of the corruption or is it brought low by it? What is the quality of leadership? What is the quality of the people? I can see where pessimism gets the upper hand but these questions are beyond pessimism and optimism. It's way beyond that time. Both are political postures of no good to anyone.

Politics is a ceaseless struggle of opposites that inches things up a bit but does not perform what the extremist wants which is total transformation. Bit by bit the thing is transformed by intelligent, patient people. That is the difference between the mature democracies and the struggling ones. In the absence of liberal democratic politics is the cult. Democracy depends on the intelligence of the people and the trust between the people and the institutions. Whether that describes America or not it's too late to quibble. The hour is getting late.

June 11, 2016

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