Friday, September 30, 2011

E&C Return #6: Eagle Contemplates Eagles And Leadership–And Makes A Resolve

Roman Legion

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Eagle chatted with Plip’s group for another hour, and left confident that they had considered just about everything about the requirements of presidential leadership that  intelligent young eagles could. 

He wondered did it help or hinder that the eagle’s own system was different. He was appointed by the Council of Elders and served at their pleasure. With the post of Eagle – he was the only eagle whose name was never used – came considerable powers and as many responsibilities. But he could be removed at any time by a single majority vote.

He regarded it as a reasonable rule, but had never thought twice about it. He was guided by principle, and though he had made mistakes in his early years, his vision and integrity had never been in doubt.

He felt quietly pleased by the fact, but it was truly remarkable how many nations – close to fifty – had chosen an eagle to be their national symbol. And then there were the eagles of the Roman legions, the eagles of Napoleon’s army, the stylized eagle of the Federal Republic of Germany, and even the eagles of Armenia. Eagles seemed to be synonymous with national power and leadership. But to what end was the question?

It seemed to Eagle that a leader without a clear vision for his people, no matter how competent in other ways, was little more than a political technician.

He was also convinced that a vision that didn’t advancing the wellbeing of all Americans was fundamentally flawed.

But what did wellbeing mean? Did it just mean money? Was that it for most Americans?

Eagle looked up at the sky, and then at the stunning beauty of his surroundings, felt the crisp mountain air against his feathers, and then contemplated the energy and enthusiasm of the Irks. Life was truly wonderful. As the kids liked to say: It was awesome.

Money (for humans) like plumbing, doubtless had its uses, but if wealth was the essence of the American Dream, it was scarcely surprising that the country was in as much trouble as it was.

As far as Eagle was concerned, humans were displaying a truly dramatic lack of both awareness of the wonder that surrounded them; and of imagination. There was so much they could do, but instead they were focused on the restoring the status quo. Madness! It was the status quo that had betrayed them. Nonetheless, it felt familiar and safe; and thinking was exhausting.

But, he was very fond of his Americans – ALL Americans - and he was damned if he was willing to let them self-destruct.

Sadly; frustratingly; they seemed to be obsessed with that objective,




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Thursday, September 29, 2011

E&C Return #5: Eagle Questions The Irks; And Is Informed Of The Core Elements of Leadership.

Eagle with flag in background.

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The four Irks were looking at Eagle expectantly. They wanted more than his formal approval. They wanted to engage with him.

“You haven’t made any reference to experience,” he said “You have listed  ten qualities that an ideal president must have, but experience doesn’t even feature. Wouldn’t you trade one of the ten for experience? For instance, does the president really need to be emotionally warm and empathetic – let alone socially concerned about all his or her people? Point four, I believe. But, wouldn’t experience of the bureaucracy be more appropriate?”

Two of the members of the little group hadn’t yet spoken. Plipp indicated that one of them should speak. He introduced himself as Delo.

“We discussed this a great deal,” he said. “If this was a simple administrative post then experience would be essential. But essentially it’s an impossible job which, at its core, is about leading the Nation. And to do that you have to relate to, and care about, all Americans.”

“But a president is elected by a small majority at best,” said Eagle. “And sometimes a minority is sufficient. So why not focus primarily on those who elected you? Better yet, why not focus primarily on those who financed you.”

“Because there is a difference between the flawed money-driven system that elects presidents,” said Delo, “and the responsibilities of the president. There is a moral dimension to the office. If the president cannot transcend the rather grubby election process, then the wrong person has been neglected; which happens regularly.”

“We don’t think the Founders got it right,” said Plip. “But, unless and until the Constitution is changed, we’ve concluded the ten qualities we’ve listed as being paramount.”

“So what would the top three be?” said Eagle.

“Integrity, a clear vision of where he or she wants to lead the country, and the ability to inspire, educate, motivate and move the American people,” said Plip. “The core elements of leadership.”









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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

E&C Return #4: Eagle Hears What It Takes To Be President

First page of Constitution of the United States

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Eagle had tasked the Irks with examining the global economy – including the U.S. - in order to come up with a plan to save America.

Irks were the nerds of the eagle world – exceptionally bright, but more oriented towards intellectual pursuits than the more glamorous combat aviators.

Traditionally, the aviators had tended to have first pick of the female talent available (and female eagles are exceptionally beautiful), but the Irks were catching up. And just to confuse the issue, both sexes were now Irks. Changing times!

Eagle, who had spent much of his career as an aviator – and whose absolute passion was flying – hadn’t fully appreciated the Irks for a long time. More recently he had found them invaluable.

They were bright, quick, thorough; and brought formidable brainpower to whatever issue they were  studying; and though most were in awe of Eagle, they weren’t afraid to both speak up and disagree.

Eagle found them both intellectually stimulating and refreshing; and increasingly consulted with them.  Mostly, he spoke to one of the study groups they had formed. Four young irks at a time were exhausting enough. They could work all day, argue all evening and party the rest of the night. Though he was convinced he could still outfly them all, and drink them under the table, he had reached an age where he accepted that sleep had its merits.

Eagle glided in to a perfect landing. Cuckoo had vanished, as he sometimes did. Though Eagle seemed to be his main priority right now, he was also the Watcher for Cuckoo-Land (otherwise known as Europe). It was a vast area of responsibility, but he coped by focusing on the priorities. They could be summed up in one word: Leadership.

“We were discussing the qualities required to be president,” said Plipp, leader of this particular group. “We think one of the core problems of Eagle-Land is that it is over dependent on the presidency. Other countries with different systems seem to be better. The Chinese, for instance, are led by a small group of rather exceptional engineers. The Swiss rotate their leader who acts more like a chairman. The Swedes have a parliamentary system. All plan and seem to know where they are going whereas Eagle-Land seems to rely on one flawed human, who is normally without a plan, to save the day. That seems to us to be nuts.”

“Very true,” said Eagle. “But changing the U.S. Constitution is not an easy matter. As for planning, that assumes a majority can agree about what kind of society they want. And right now they are nearly as divided as they were before the Civil War.”

Plipp sighed rather prettily. She really was a remarkably attractive young eagle. 

Eagle decided he had better focus on his gravitas. He cleared his throat. “So what qualities do you think an ideal U.S. president should possess?”

“Thed has the list,” she said, indicating a young Irk with an iPad. “We’ve limited it to ten points, but it’s still surprisingly revealing. “Go to it, Thed.”

Thed gave a slight bow of respect to Eagle. Eagle acknowledged the compliment and indicated that Thed should begin.

“Firstly, the president should be a person of integrity,” Thed said. “By that we mean trustworthy in the fullest sense; a person of character.

“Secondly, the president must be fiercely intelligent, numerate, and with a keen analytical mind capable of great clarity of both thought and expression..

“Thirdly, the president should be knowledgeable, intellectually curious, and widely read, particularly in relation to history, military matters and economics.

“Fourthly, the president needs to be emotionally warm and empathetic; and socially concerned about all his – or her – people. We emphasize all.

“Fifthly, the president must be decisive.

“Sixthly, the president must be resilient.

“Seventhly, the president needs to be an excellent judge of character. Good at picking people.

“Eighthly, the president must be charming and politically adept.

“Ninethly, the president must be armed with a clear vision of where he or she wants to lead the country.

“Finally, the president must be able to inspire, educate, motivate and move the American people through words and, if required, action, above and beyond their prejudices and short term interests.

Eagle was lost in thought. The young Irks had nailed it simply and accurately. Set against such a short list, the issue at hand was startlingly clear.

The four Irks looked at him nervously.

“Exceptionally well done,” he said. “Excellent work.”

Deep down he know that something very important and fundamental had occurred.  It was terrifying.













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E&C Return #3: Eagle Defends His Position With Vigor. Cuckoo Decides To Open the Wine.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four term...

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Cuckoo was intrigued. After endless hours, days and months of reading and discussion, Eagle seemed to be moving from the purely academic into the practical. As far as he was concerned, Eagleomics had to be about real answers for real people; and his people were Americans.  They might be as dumb as owls when in came to understanding their best interests, but they had their redeeming qualities. And they were his responsibility. 

Certainly, the American Business Model, as currently practiced, wasn’t delivering. Instead it seemed to have morphed into an ideology of  greed and ignorance where everything was permitted – if technically legal – in the interests of optimizing shareholder value. Employees didn’t matter. The community didn’t matter. And the Nation certainly didn’t count. Jobs were being exported by the million. Intellectually property was being given or sold to competitors like China. Still, he wasn’t there to agree with Eagle. He was there to teach him, and that meant challenging him intellectually.

“What do you mean when you say that conventional economics is not working? Give me an example,” said Cuckoo

“The Financial Markets are meant to self regulate,” said Eagle. “Well the country now has the largest financial sector in its history, and all that has happened is that a small group of people have become very rich; and the average American hasn’t had a pay rise, if you factor in inflation, since about 1974. And now household earnings are actually in decline for those fortunate enough to have jobs.

“That would be insane by itself, but these supposedly self-regulating financial markets implode every few years and have to be baled out by the government – which means the taxpayer. 

“It gets worse. The New York centered U.S. financial system is supposed to be there to allocate capital in the most efficient manner but it doesn’t even do much of that any more except for large corporations and the bond market.  Small Business gets short shrift. Instead it is primarily a giant casino for the rich, subsidized heavily by the less well off. That isn’t even free market capitalism. It is a form of extortion brought on by the fact that the rich are using their wealth to buy both the political and legal systems. The entire financial system is stacked to favor the wealthy. The table, so to speak is rigged. It’s a foul business because the country is going down the tubes at a rapid rate.”

Eagle rose to his full height – which was considerable. “Now give me an argument!”

Cuckoo looked at the waning sun. It seemed to think the time had come to retire in some style behind the mountains. The skyline was as fire, though the orange was fading. 

“Let’s open a bottle of wine,” he said. “Of course you’re absolutely right, but what do you do with a president who won’t explain these issues in words of one syllable!”

“That’s at least a two bottle problem,” said Eagle. “But I’d start off by suggesting he look at FDR on YouTube for an hour every night. Now there was a president who knew how to frame an issue; and understood the correct cadence that must be achieved with words. Well paced punch! Punch! Punch! Unexpected lethal stab! And all with a smile. Clear, slow, charming, relentless, articulate death to the opposition.”

Cuckoo filled their glasses. “I’ll drink to that,” he said.




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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

E&C Return #2: Eagle Concludes Conventional Economics Is Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian-American econ...

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Eagle had always had a good brain, but had mainly confined himself to aviation during during his early years as symbol of the United States of America, and leader of all eagles in the country.

He was actually an exceptional aviator with a deep knowledge of the academic disciplines that a combat flyer needed to be acquainted with, but he hadn’t progressed much in other fields until Cuckoo challenged him. Then he had applied himself with vigor and had made remarkable progress, particularly in economics. His version was called ‘Eagleomics.’

Initially, the name change had struck Cuckoo as little more than a demonstration of Eagle’s sense of humor, but over time he had begun to realize that Eagle had intended meant much more than that. In fact, what he was really doing was evolving a whole new discipline which incorporated the best of economics but which actually worked. And slowly but surely, he was getting there. Or Cuckoo thought he was.

“You know, a lot of sound thinking has gone into economics,” said Eagle, “but the bottom line is that economics, as currently practiced, doesn’t work. If it did, we wouldn’t be in the economic mess we’re in now.”

“Fair point,” said Cuckoo.

“And yet, almost no one in the profession is really questioning the fundamentals of economics apart from a few notable exceptions like Stiglitz, Krugman and Ha-Joon Chang,” said Eagle.

Cuckoo made a mental note to ask about Ha-Joon Chang. “Why do you think that is?” he said.

Eagle chuckled. “JK Galbraith put it as well as anyone could,” he said. “Let me quote: ‘In any great organization, it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone.”




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Monday, September 26, 2011

E&C Return. #1. There Be Monsters Under the Bed…

Cartoon, with poem: Caption & poem lyrics: :: ...

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Eagle put his iPad aside for the moment. It was an invaluable tool for keeping up with events but sometimes the news was so depressing, he just wanted to soar into the sky and do some aerobatics.

He knew had to be incredibly well informed if he was to play a leading role in the Great Plan to save America – Cuckoo’s idea by the way – but there were times when he wondered whether all those human Americans were worth saving. They seemed to be nearly as dumb as owls, and owls – as everyone knew - were the dumbest birds in the sky. 

“The issues aren’t very well reported,” he said, “but if you take the trouble to look, most of the information about Eagle-Land’s decline is there,” he said. “But Americans don’t seem to want to look.”

“They are afraid,” said Cuckoo. “They don’t want to look under the bed because they are terrified of what they’ll find. There be monsters there you know. And they don’t want to find that the American Way of Life has been largely a myth for the last forty years. ”

“Very true,” said Eagle. “But has it occurred to them that if they don’t deal with the monsters, the monsters are going to deal with them.”

“You’re thinking logically,” said Cuckoo, “just like an eagle. But humans don’t think logically. They’re more like ostriches.”







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Of Eagle & Cuckoo; And The Dangers of Experimentation

banner Shakespeare

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Do I think writers should experiment?

Yes I do – even though it increases the likelihood of failure. Fortunately failure is often how we learn. And it can be both painful and humiliating – especially for an artist who performs in public. Worse yet when you perform in public and leave behind a permanent record – which is what writers do. Mind you, between the prevalence of multimedia recording tools today, and social media, there are few human activities which aren’t in danger of being recorded and communicated for posterity. Now there’s a chilling thought.

Oh to be Shakespeare, and have enough sense to use your early failures to start the morning fire with. Who wants to be reminded of one’s early literary efforts!

Which reminds me: I once used to live near Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Visited it too. I was about six at the time and sat in the rumble seat of my mother’s boyfriend’s red sports car. Very exciting. He was a professional criminal of great charm and eventually retired to Spain and respectability. So, now I think of it, did my mother. But, she had remarried by then and become a countess.

I’m thinking about experimentation because my plan is to advance Eagle & Cuckoo on two tracks. On the one hand, E&C will be the focus of books. On the other hand, they will feature in short blogs making pithy observations about the U.S. economy and the American way of life in general.

But I’m not used to writing short pieces. Very true, and I have a suspicion that it’s harder to write short than long, but that’s where experimentation comes in. And if I make a fool of myself, so be it.

But I live in hopes E&C won’t let me down.

Ah, but how short is short?

I’ll let you know when I know. Perhaps 250 words. 



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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Whatever Happened To Eagle & Cuckoo?

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

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Eagle & Cuckoo (E&C to their friends) are alive and well. Indeed, they are thriving. However, I stopped writing about them on a daily basis because I fell in love.

With them, may I add.

Frankly, it is not the first time in my life that I have fallen in love with two ‘birds’ (UK slang for women) but it is certainly the first time that I have become so fond of two actual birds – and both male at that. But, tolerance is one of life’s finer qualities; and this wasn’t sexual. It was creative passion – the highest form of love of them all. Or such is my view as I write this. I have held different views at different times under different circumstances.  Love is both an imperative; and a broad church. And it can mean a whole lot of trouble. But not, I hope, in this case.

E&C started off as an experiment. I wanted to find out could I comment on the U.S. political situation in a less in-your-face manner than most opinion columns; and I thought humor might be the right approach. And then Eagle & Cuckoo just popped into my mind, along with their manic world. And the rest just evolved. Authors write about their characters taking over. This was an all encompassing occupation. E&C’s world, and their values, became as real to me as more own.

I ceased writing E&C for a while because I wanted to turn their story into a book. That meant a great deal of work because first I had to set the scene, then link what I had written to date into a coherent storyline, and then drum up a middle and an end. I wanted the story to end with a bang. I am, primarily  (where my published books are concerned) a thriller writer. Action is my business.

The deed is now done. I’m amazed, exhilarated and delighted. But what comes next?

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