In The Jury Box;
By David Eide
"....when you decide a case you bring in all your experience, knowledge, and common sense...you are not a robot."
Instruction of a judge to a jury.
Impressions of Obama Election
I always chuckled when I heard the conservatives refer to Obama as, "the most liberal member of Congress..." Obama is a liberal in the classic sense of being rooted in the Enlightenment rather than in Marxism as the old liberals were after '68 or so. Obama represents to me a man who reflected on that storied period of time and lifted out the nuggets that were there and let everything else fall by the wayside. He represents the best of the Kennedy- era which was crushed out by the radicalism on campus, Reaganism, fundamentalism, the legacy of drugs, and the assassinations among other things.
But he added into it the stability and need for responsibility that represented the 80's and 90's. And we know now that it's much more disastrous to have a responsible citizenry dependent on an irresponsible class of elites and power brokers than the other way around.
His liberalism is the type that carries a long uncontented platform ready to be filled with vision and good, rational ideas.
It is not filled with the predictable response that marked earlier forms of "liberalism."
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It's impossible to know how the Obama election is going to effect race. At a certain level the races will have to speak with each other. It would be wonderful if the dialog was between blacks and Republicans but I suspect it will be between upper middle-class blacks and upper middle-class white Democrats. What Obama needs to worry about is if there is so much black solidarity that the whites begin seeing themselves as "victims." Believe it or not that does happen; it happened in the late 70's and resulted in Reagan. The test will be if it is perceived that the election was about "the further advancement of black people," or about "recovering the economy for the middle-class." It will be the latter in my estimation.
If, for instance, the lower middle, working class whites that turned the tide for Obama start seeing blacks advancing while they remain static they will turn very red very quickly. If "racialism" starts to dominate the culture look for a big turning if not in 2010 then 2012. I don't think it will happen because I think a terrific effort will be made in the red states to educate them about the stupidity of racial prejudice, the types of self-discipline needed to develop tolerance for the "other," and a general moving on toward the interior of the 21st century. Perhaps there will be a renewed pride in difference and plurality rather than fear of it.
His policies will improve the lot of poor blacks as long as those same policies improve the lot of all the poor. And his policies will be classic liberalism by pumping the bottom and middle so there is growth of the poor to the middle, an expansion of the middle in ways we haven't seen since the post WWII era, a new loyalty among the middle-class to Obama-type government. As long as healthy growth results there is no going back. Invariably that process corrupts, programs for progress become hand-outs that need more and more money from the newly empowered middle-class and, eventually, the Republicans present a leader to take the loyalty away from the connection with the poor and link it up with wealth.
It's not rocket science.
The Obama victory is a win-win all around the culture. First, it puts a young, vital leader at the center of power who operates from both confidence and intelligence. This at a time when the establishment has botched things as bad as can be botched. His election enhances the democracy in one fell swoop.
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It's always about the middle-class.
Wealth has become discredited even though they will not become less wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.
If Obama succeeds you should see slow, healthy growth in the economy based on the building of real goods and services.
That is, if he avoids plunging us into a major depression or some type of economy we've never experienced before by making a few key dumb decisions. And at this stage we highly doubt that.
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President-elect Obama has one flaw that I can see and it hasn't been tested yet. He is highly intelligent and he is able to put in front of him many scenarios from which he develops his strategy. He did it flawlessly with both Hillary and McCain. But as President he could very well run into something that will knock this structure for a loop, some event that has no scenario yet, and in the process of dealing with it lose his calm confidence and is stripped of all his learned responses.
He will be aided by some of the people he's surrounded himself with and his uncanny ability to reach a nearly egoless state to allow the truth of others to penetrate his mind and make it part of his calculus.
It's stupid for Obama followers to "lower expectations," at this stage of the game.
We should expect a "post-racial culture," a new set of loyalties, esp. from the middle-class, a dedicated effort to improve education, change the fuel systems, and renovate our role in the world. These are my expectations and I won't lower them one iota.
History rarely travels in the straight line those caught up in it want it to. History is created not in the euphoria but in the disillusionment. That is where the rubber meets the highway and history veers off in a direction no one suspected.
I thank god I spent most of my youth in multicultural cities along the west coast! I hope the red states learn and grow in the next four years. That is a far better road to take than one of being rolled over by history.
Everything I see, hear, and read about Obama makes me think he's a genuine leader; he respects language, thinking, reflecting and all things that very few presidents have had since Kennedy. Clinton was a smart charlatan and the others were boobs in their own way.
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Fears and crude mass thinking enter the picture. It proves my thesis that true vision has collapsed in this liberal democracy and people inhale the adrenaline of their first youth, their first bursting of the bubble when the world is starkly real, history is starkly real, death is realer than real and we are called on to understand it and work in it.
That, however, is the base, not the apex.
In a mature state one experiences joyful prudence.
When a charismatic and popular hero is elected President there is a struggle over the direction of the Republic. But, in the democracy a thousand new directions are lit up by free men and women.
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A free man fears no one or no group. He doesn't allow himself to get pinned in by the shadows of others.
As a citizen I can only try and keep tabs on the Republic. But as a free man in a democracy I set out to do all I can do to fulfill whatever potential the spirits of life have lodged in me.
In a way, I always have democracy and the republic in front of me. I see them. They are seeds that transmute into odd and monstrous shapes.
November 21, 2008
A nation grew up tonight. It proved to itself it wants to survive and build a future worth transmitting through the 21st century. It grew up by saying, "all those caught in the culture wars of the Kennedy/Reagan era's, let go."
History is moving onward with a young, vital leader. Rejoice! Study! Engage and carry through. Those who should be humbled have been humbled; those who should be empowered have been empowered. They are not pulling each other apart
but will connect and where they connect a new direction will be found.
November 4, 2008
Impressions of The Economic Mess and the Future
This economic mess leaves us with nothing but questions. Here are some I would address to the economy and those who built the system that is now in critical care and who will try to build it over again.
1- Where will the trust come from? As anyone, even a writer who has a little shoeshine stand to pay some bills will tell you, in business, "trust is everything." When the trust is gone all value disappears. And all that wants to add to the value vanishes. So where will the trust be restored in a system that has now failed so dramatically? If the people who built it, protected it, benefited from it could not forestall the collapse who can? And if no one can then why would I invest in it? If the market is telling me that a stock is trading at 25 p/e what can that tell me but that the skewered system has applied a formula to a stock, a company, that has no proven value in anything but the skewered market? This is going to be more than a normal hesitancy because the "value" that is falling has been building for 25 years with hardly a blip. It's grown through the S and L crisis, the 500 + drop in the market, the Gulf War, the small recession of 91-93, the dot.com bomb, 9/11, on up to the present crisis. We are using an informative guess to toss in the possibility that the baby-boom cohort, the computer revolution, and the globalization/fall of communism have contributed mightily to the off-the-chart growth in markets, income, job growth etc etc the past 25 years. Which leads to the second question:
2- What is going to stimulate new wealth? Governments around the world are intervening in order to save the system but there is a huge difference between saving the system and getting healthy growth into the system. Again, we'll take an educated guess and say that after the poor economy of the late 70's/early 80's several factors came in, most of them alluded to above: baby boom cohort started to feel its economic oats at the beginning of their most productive economic cycle, computer/internet revolutions, a leveling off of oil prices, cuts in the interest rates, a wholesale change of loyalty from the public to the private sector. It produced a great deal of success but was destined to collapse as was the Reagan Revolution and the Republicans with it. Where is the next computer-type revolution? The computer industry is now a mature one. In 1982 few people or businesses had them. Now most of the homes and offices, even in developing countries are filled with them. Rather than new wealth the computer will simply and importantly sustain whatever growth emerges out of the crisis. But it won't provide the adrenaline that drives new wealth and the recapitalization of the globe. What will stimulate new wealth to take the cap off of a semi-nationalized global economy?
3- What will be the anomaly to strike the heart of the wounded beast? Any system, no matter how intelligent, blows up. A few tiles fall off, the o-ring is defective, a perfect storm of vibrations catches the building or bridge and down it all comes. The modern global economy is unprecedented. No one is certain how it works. Fixes only come in the aftermath of its breakdown. The hole in the machine is somewhere no one has figured out because it won't be discovered until there is a compelling reason to discover it; as when widespread panic plays havoc with the financial system. The experts, public and private, believe they have discovered it but it could be they have simply discovered one level of a larger problem. What will "blow up" as a result of the complete derangement of the financial system? It may be a few circles from where the stone first landed.
This is certain: Goodby to the last 25 years of unprecedented growth. Hello crunch time. Hello bitter political schisms. Hello big government. Hello, "you can't have a pony this year," from investment bankers to their daughters. Hello to spam, the-kind-you-eat. Hello to "how to live poor with dignity" books flooding the market. It may be a very healthy period of time but it will certainly create its own imperative and culture.
Americans survive these things but then people survive jumping off buildings. Do they really want to go through the experience again?
The Democrats will have to be counter-intuitive and prudent. Some of their eyes light up when they see the government taking over everything and that a few votes here and there will be able to transfer huge amounts of capital to favored constituencies. If they don't act responsibly they will be held responsible for a depression going into the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Obama does have the right principle in play however; growth from the bottom-up.
That may be the first grand thesis of a new age in America.
Politics As a Wound
Politics is not pleasant because there is no "glory" it it. It was made to pit ambition against ambition and have the people decide who knew the facts and could approximate the truth. At least, who had the most credible leaders to act on the facts. Politics is the sad necessity and why we read books while innocently waiting to relieve ourselves.
We glorify the system of governance and the Constitution from which it emerged. But what takes place is both temporal and ugly. So be it. We know there are times when a grace comes upon it as when the political culture is deeply wounded and trying to live inside of conflicts that have decayed through time. Such as now. At that moment a break-out of healthy demand and action takes place.
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Groups are hostile across all eras and beliefs. The reason consists of a tiny crystal of hate that has lodged in people spontaneously, coming of age in a generation, or going through a collective experience that is transformed through time into a structure of power. It is much more likely to happen in a free society where any crystal of hatred finds its lump of people to lodge in. And any lump of any size usually has some money to toss around. And if the lump gets viral the PR types are called in to dress the hatred and the leaders nicely. And hatred finds its enemies. And the enemies fueled by their own crystal of hate oblige and the battle is joined. When it is all said and done people wonder why things ever got to this state. The crystal disintegrates under the pressure of its own absurdity. Some type of cultural transmigration through all groups takes place. There is a glimmer of laughter.
But more crystals are formed for certain.
And when one pillar of hate falls, vatfulls of piss follow from the ramparts.
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Politics is the family you can't escape. A person can run off to Zambia and leave everything behind but soon enough the plague of politics will join him in one form or another. It always reminds us that we must choose. Choice is monumental in our experience. It both includes and excludes. The choice in November will initiate changes because the Republicans have no defense against it and it will take them some years to rehabilitate.
There are likeable and irascible things about John McCain but none of them are presidential. Ironically, he may even become a key ally for President Obama; time will tell. I'm sure the schism between the right and center of the Republican party will not go unnoticed by Mr. McCain.
John McCain has a fundamental flaw deadly for leaders; he can't stand to be contradicted, esp. by a younger and smarter guy. That is the mark of someone who lacks confidence and has learned to bully his way to the best sense of himself. But senators are not leaders in the way a president needs to be.
He will lose and, as I wrote last year, an era of momentus change will be upon us. It will not be good or bad but simply will be.
The good and bad will have to be discovered by an alert citizenry.
They will have plenty to choose from.
October 28, 2008
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