Tag Archives: obama

Do we have an economic or a spiritual problem?

By Jim Selman | Bio

Do we have an economic problem or a spiritual problem?

My teacher and friend Dr. Fernando Flores was a candidate for the Presidency of Chile. In one of his speeches, he declared, “We don’t have an economic problem so much as we have a spiritual one…we’ve forgotten who we are…we lack a vision and purpose for our nation”. He dropped out of the presidential race, but this phrase has stayed with me. I think it is true of most nations, including our own.

There is a maxim that states, “A vision without action is just a dream

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The Geezer’s Crusade

By Jim Selman | Bio

David Brooks wrote a very compelling New York Times op ed piece called “The Geezer’s Crusade”. His point was that the elders in our society hold the future for everyone in their hands (so to speak).  Since 1980 when I was serving on the California Commission on Aging, one of my biggest concerns has been that, as a society, we are turning older people into constituents competing

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Second-Guessing

By Jim Selman | Bio

Over the past few years, I have written about how life in our society is increasingly becoming a ‘spectator sport’. I am again reminded of this as I listen to week after week of pundits second-guessing President Obama and other leaders as if their points of view are a) true, b) somehow contributing to a civil public discourse, and c) honest and not contrived to produce controversy or provoke conflict and drama. I am not naïve: I am aware that the media is in the business of creating and satisfying audiencesand that drama, conflict and controversy sell more than relatively straight-forward information. Personally, I’ve managed to disconnect from the mainstream media channels about 90%, but even so the conversations are persuasive whether we’re getting them first or second-hand. If my observation about all of us is valid that we’re becoming spectators rather than being active participants in the democratic process, then the question becomes what can we do about it? As an example, a majority of us voted for a President and before the ink was dry we began to hear daily ‘score cards’ about his ‘popularity’ and is he doing a good or a bad job. Mostly we’re second-guessing his decisions and undermining his (or anyone’s) capacity to lead. Imagine what it would be like if you got married and then had a daily report by all your neighbors of how the marriage was going and how you were doing as a spouse. Either you’d have to stop listening or you’d end up reacting to the feedback to the point where you are a pawn of public opinion and no longer an actor in the relationship. I admire any leader’s capacity to balance sage advice and counsel from those committed to making things work and their ability to ‘screen’ out all the ‘devil’s advocates’ who have no other commitments than to destroy whatever possibilities may exist for change and/or to forward their own points of view.  Lately there is a back-and-forth argument about whether the President is being tough enough on Wall Street. Frankly, I don’t know what his longer-term game plan is, but I would bet the story isn’t finished. He is fighting wars on a dozen fronts. He must pick his battles. He must be strategic. If any president were to declare war on Wall Street, it is not clear who will win and, as has been the case with healthcare, we will, in all likelihood, lose the opportunity to correct and clean up the mess we’ve created.

There is very little (if any) benefit to second-guessing our leaders. If we have personal priorities and requests, there are lots of ways for them to be communicated. There are lots of forums for discourse and debate that are not daily ‘spectacles’.  We remember the story of Emperor Nero watching Rome burn. We forget that, for years before it burned, the population was drawn to the Coliseum to watch the gladiators live or die. They voted on the life

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Tempests in a Tea Party

By Jim Selman | Bio

A good friend of mine is a Canadian that grew up in Lebanon. His family still owns a bit of land that is situated between two of the refugee camps. It is a bleak scene by all accounts. I asked him what he learned growing up in that kind of environment. He said, “I learned it only takes a very few people to screw it up for everybody”.

I had the same impression as I watched the ‘9/12 tea party march on Washington’ this past week. It is fine for any group to demonstrate. That is their right. But I am also a bit perplexed why a campaign that has a few thousand people should be getting the same kind of coverage in the media that other ‘causes marches involving millions’ such as the civil rights movement receive. I am also perplexed that the media doesn’t make a distinction between hate-filled Nazi style

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Practical Economics 101

By Jim Selman | Bio

I am not an economist. Thank goodness. This is not a good time to be one. There is a wonderful overview of the field, “How Did Economists Get it So Wrong?”, by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. The bottom line is that the current situation “which nobody could have predicted” was predicted and it doesn’t take an economist to know that:

  • Nothing goes up forever,
  • People aren’t always rational,
  • We should learn from the past, and
  • The ‘house’ always wins. 

With all the theoretical back and forth between the various ‘schools’ of economic theory, one word jumps out at me: “technocrat”

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Bipartisan Inclusiveness: Time to Stop Being Polite

By Jim Selman | Bio

I am no fan of the far right, but can respect an honest difference of opinion. When the difference of opinion turns into crass and cynical lies and propaganda designed to frighten and deepen the already fragmented population, then it is time to cry “STOP!”. During one of the darker moments of the prior administration, I proposed (with tongue in cheek) the idea of creating a new organization called the “National Organization of Pissed-Off Elders” (N.O.P.E.). Its mission: to step up to the plate and declare that enough is enough whenever and wherever necessary. There is an old maxim that the only thing that has to happen for evil to prevail is for good people to do (and say) nothing.

Bob Cesca wrote a brilliant piece in the Huffington Post ("Republicans Lying to Old People about Euthanasia, Robots") slamming the current Republican attempt to defeat health care reform. The Republican attempts are not based on the strength of an argument, but on insane mainstream rhetoric charging that the Bills under consideration were designed

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Presidential Acknowledgement

By Jim Selman | Bio

President Obama held a briefing on the Community Solutions Agenda this past Tuesday, in which he acknowledged the contributions of several winners of the “Purpose Prize” along with other not-for-profit community organizations. The Purpose Prize was created a few years ago by Civic Ventures as a way to focus our attention on the ongoing contributions that elders make in our country and the world. I thought the President’s acknowledgment summed it up nicely, not only for the Elders in the room but for people of all ages committed to making a difference.

And finally, I want to thank all of you here today for everything you’re doing to find new solutions to some of our oldest, toughest problems. I know what you do is not easy. I know that for many of you, the hours are long, the pay could be better—let’s face it. But I also know the difference that each of you make. I know the lives that you change every single day. You teach us that there’s no such thing as a lost cause if you’re willing to be creative

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What To Choose After This Bad Week

By Jim Selman | Bio

Last week was not a good week for the planet and I’ve been taking it personally. Aside from the Iran Crisis and North Korea, we had the usual games being played in Europe, South America and Southeast Asia. At some moment, I realized that I had once again drifted into a spectator role. I was trying to sort out the good insurgents from the bad insurgents, the real terrorists from the "revolutionaries", and I was finding that the conservative/liberal divide seems to be a universal constant everywhere we look.

As President Obama is declaring the possibility of mutual respect and tolerance between religions and all people, we see Iran’s "Supreme Leader" declaring ‘death’ to all who oppose the current regime and the North Korean guy promising to drop the big one if anyone screws around with his boatload of nuclear armaments going to the Middle East.

I am of two minds here. On one side, I am tired of playing good guys and bad guys and want to just scream…"STOP

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No Regrets, Let’s Clean Up the Mess Together – Part II

By Jim Selman | Bio

"The worldviews of our two generations are both equally valid. They are simply our assessments of ‘the way it is’ and what is and is not possible. Neither of our assessments are ‘the truth’. And neither are ‘false’.

Understanding this doesn’t make understanding each other’s perspective any easier. I have experience and perspective that you don’t have, just as you have experience and perspective that I don’t have. I may never understand the appeal in having tattoos or spending large amounts of time in virtual space. You may never understand the kind of ‘faith’ many of my peers have in public institutions. If we are going to work together, we need to be able to accept and appreciate

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No Regrets, Let’s Clean Up the Mess Together

By Jim Selman | Bio

The Wall Street Journal last week had an article on the new theme of the annual commencement speech celebrity sweepstakes: “We are really, really sorry”. On campus after campus, speakers of the Boomer generation were apologizing to the twenty-something generation (I don’t remember the nomenclature for this batch of graduates) for the self-centered and often greedy abuses of

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