Tesla Motors and South Carolina: Wishes, Hopes and Dreams

We are living in a time when our most basic principles are being abandoned.  I cite two examples below, one concerned with our financial apparatus and the other grounded in our political institutions.

This week our financial markets debuted an initial public offering of shares in Tesla Motors, a spanking-new car company that manufactures electric vehicles (EVs) using a lithium-ion cell as its power source.  Just plug in the car and Voila! it recharges.  On one hand, this Tesla IPO represents good old American ingenuity.  Paired with the ever-present wishes, hopes and dreams that fuel the values of shares, this issue gained 40% in its first day of trading.  On the other hand, I wonder how well thought-out this product really is and therefore, it may also represent good old American consumerism and greed.

Let me explain.  Here we are, in dire need of new, alternative, renewable technology if we expect our planet to ultimately survive.  This EV is supposedly as green as could be.  Yet, what is the effect of this plug-in car on the overall entropy of the world?  How much new megawatt power will be necessary to power up the Tesla?  After all, the new megawatt stations will be powered by our standby fave of coal, which destroys the geography, puts human lives in danger in its mines and blows dirty.

Additionally, as exciting and innovative as Tesla appears, we do not yet know if their ingenuity and sense of green purpose of product will translate into equally admirable policies of corporate behavior.  For a company to rape their planet and their investors for the betterment of their executives and bottom line is not acceptable.  So let’s wait and see if Tesla can not only produce an auto that is truly green, but also adhere to ethical standards of corporate conduct.  Aah, will Tesla fulfill the wishes, hopes and dreams that fuel our economy, markets and American can-do spirit?

Like our deep-seated desire for a financial windfall, a similar circumstance, an event also based on wishes, hopes and dreams, is playing out in South Carolina.  Nikki Haley, an ultra-conservative, is running on the Republican ticket for Governor.  In the greater scheme of civil rights, this woman of Indian heritage speaks volumes to an often-reactionary state that has no interest in minorities.  However, her not- just- regular-conservatism, but her strict, ultra-conservatism just might override her enlightened place on the ticket.  The article written by James Rosen attributes South Carolina’s corrupt political machine and its bigoted social stance to maybe, something in their water!

Consider South Carolina’s racial history, focusing on their unenviable record of civil rights, a track record not to be proud of.  Frank Rich writes in the New York Times on this fourth of July about what that state’s history implies for the future.  It is a good overview of racial politics.  The gist of the issue is this, and I quote:

Yet paradoxically the news in New York was preceded by happier tidings from South Carolina, where the flag of the Confederacy still flies at the state Capitol. Republican primary voters there gave victories both to an African-American candidate for Congress, Tim Scott, and an Indian-American gubernatorial hopeful, Nikki Haley. Liberals have argued that these breakthroughs come with a caveat: Scott and Haley are often ideologically to the right of even their conservative competitors. True enough, but that doesn’t alter the reality that some very conservative white voters in the land of Strom Thurmond did not let any lingering racial animus override their other convictions. They voted for Haley, the daughter of Sikh immigrants, despite the urging of a local G.O.P. official that they reject a “raghead.”

Scott’s victory had an added irony because he defeated Thurmond’s son. But we shouldn’t read too much into these results from low-turnout primaries — just as we shouldn’t draw too much solace from the pleasing morality tale of Byrd’s atonement. Even as Washington paid homage to Byrd’s triumph over his origins last week, the Capitol played host to what the Supreme Court’s only black justice, Clarence Thomas, might call a “high-tech lynching.” The victim was, of all people, Thurgood Marshall — the nation’s first black solicitor general and first black Supreme Court Justice, nominated to both jobs by L.B.J.

Rich goes on to say that in the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan, conservatives went full speed ahead in trashing Thurgood Marshall.  Thus America still has a long way to go in its quest for equal, civil rights.  Moreover, the sins of leaders like Strom Thurmond are still percolating right below the surface.   Only time will tell if Haley, if elected, will continue her state’s sorry legacy in race relations or set the state on a new, enlightened path.

As an aside, I feel obligated to add that the rise of Nikki Haley in no way approximates the rise of Barack Obama.  For all of their actions seeking to bring down President Obama, for all of their searching for a “Waterloo” to stop him in his tracks, the Republicans crave an equally popular and effective politico just like Obama, to call their own.  They hinge their desires on any and all newcomers, like Palin and Haley, regardless of the candidates’ bona fides.   Rosen’s  article (and this is my second link to it because it is so damn truthful), cites the GOP’s jump-the-gun contemplation of perhaps elevating Haley to Presidential candidate status.  Shades of the Palin debacle, no?  I have no idea who this Haley is or what she stands for.  She might very well be a decent, competent leader.  That is not the point.  The point is that a political party owes it to their constituents and their country to thoroughly vet a candidate and not go off on a wing and a prayer, on wishes, hopes and dreams, in promoting the newest person in their league.  That said, the GOP has absolutely no one who can duplicate President Obama’s rise and promise.  Obama is a once-in-a-century phenom.  But the GOP’s grasping at straws does a disservice to everyone involved.

I wish the best for Tesla and Nikki Haley in their own specific arenas and hope they deliver the right stuff.  To fall on the side of negativism is not productive, but to be aware from the get-go of potential problems can be insightful and instructive.  However, wishes, hopes and dreams cannot compensate for truth, knowledge, ethics and reality.  We cannot abandon our basic principles, whether financial or political in nature, for a quick win.  If we do, we will lose.

Heroics are not heroism.  The wishes, hopes and dreams that accompany heroics can fall flat if all the necessary principles are not included.

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