Duck! and Gather

Archive for November 2006

The answer to the question posed at the end of the last blog posting is: money.

That Chicago Tribune article on Rahm Emanuel explains Emanuel’s approach for picking the 50 Democratic challengers for the midterm elections earlier this month: “[Emanuel] had one criterion: people who could win.” What did Emanuel think was the most important attribute of a winning candidate? The article is unambiguous:

Emanuel and his staff judged a candidate almost entirely by how much money he or she brought in. If the candidate proved a good fundraiser, the DCCC [Democratic Party national committee] would provide support, advertising and strategic advice. If not, the committee would shut him or her out.

So there you have it. There’s your answer to the meaning of the great Democratic victory of 2006. The cynical Republicans of 1994 led by Newt Gingrich spoke of a “Contract with America” which included substantive terms upon which the hypocritical Republicans of 2006 were nicely skewered.

But that was 1994 when politicians still thought that they had to stand for something. This is 2006. And in 2006, Rahm Emanuel didn’t so much as even bother with a “contract” or “substance”. Instead, he cut right to the chase: In America, it’s all about the money.

When you see that, then the conflicting news and political opinion that has followed in the wake of the Democratic triumph of 2006 becomes clear. Following that Democratic victory, all sides attempted to explain it. For example, conservatives argued that the midterms were a repudiation of George Bush, but not of conservatism. They point to winning Democratic challengers who espouse traditionally conservatve positions.

For another example, I read a liberal op-ed in the New York Times over the past month claiming that the Democratic triumph represented a victory for economic populism (ie. pro-labor). Again, the article pointed to populist-leaning winning Democratic challengers.

The point here is that anyone who cares to look at the winning challengers can find in those challengers whatever issue he or she is seeking and holds dear to heart. This is because those winning challengers were not selected on the basis of any substantive issues. Accordingly, amongst all of them, odds are that most every position on most every issue of importance to this country can be found.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Here is your Democratic class of 2006: a random collection of Americans the only common thread among them being that each knows how to make a buck.

Is it just me or does anyone else think that this beautiful nation is f&*ked up beyond all recognition? (Excuse me while I go check on our gold investment.)

Another thing that struck me reading that Chicago Tribune piece on Rahm Emanuel concerns the top-down, hierarchal nature of the political parties. Well, I suppose that surprised me only because I don’t follow politics much.

I know, I know. That claim may seem dubious given that I’ve made these predictions about the Democrats and Republicans, and that I’ve blogged about them a bit. But actually, I am interested in politics only from a high-level historical vantage point. That is, while I have views on the historical purposes of each major party, I don’t much care to get into the minutiae of how they organize themselves.

But this article on Emanuel went into detail on just that sort of information. What it said was that not only did Emanuel lead the Democrat House efforts for the elections earlier this month, he actually personally selected all 50 of the Democrat House challengers.

This is in contrast with the challengers emerging via local processes. The article gives an example of a district in Illinois in which there was a viable Democrat challenger who had narrowly lost in 2004. Absent Emanuel’s efforts, that challenger would have run again. But the article explains that Emanuel poured national Democrat funds and connections into the local Democrat primaries for that district, and managed to get his candidate — Tammy Duckworth — nominated.

What this means is that the challengers selected by Emanuel did not necessarily reflect the concerns or issues of their own local districts. Instead, they reflected national Democratic concerns as defined by Emanuel.

Realize that the reason the founders created so many House seats, and put those seats up for election every two years, is that they envisioned the House reflecting the current mood of the nation. That mood, the founders reasoned, could best be polled by having “freshly elected” representatives from every corner of the country reporting on the concerns and views of each corner. Collectively, these views would define the national mood.

But Emanuel’s efforts make clear that this is not how the Democratic party approaches this nation. (Presumably, neither do the Republicans.)

Of course, that may not be so troublesome if the Democrats were pursuing some critical national agenda that affects each and every corner of the nation. Say, like the epidemic of obesity and degenerative disease that does affect every district in this nation. So maybe what Emanuel was doing was picking 50 tried and true soldiers in a upcoming national struggle.

Think again. The article makes clear that, in picking his 50 challengers, Emanuel had only one criterion on his litmus test. That is, it didn’t matter what those 50 challengers believed (beyond “opportunity, fairness for all”), so long as each satisfied this single attribute defined by Emanuel.

Can you guess what that attribute was? (Hint: read the tag line of this site or just go to the next blog posting.)

One consistent theme of that Chicago tribune article on Rahm Emanuel is that this is one angry fellow. Emanuel seems to be the leftist version of reactionary radio talk-show host Michael Weiner “Savage”. Both fellows seem to operate at only one-setting: that of anger and belligerence.

Anger and belligerence has long been the preferred style of the reactionary right-wing in America. From Mr. Weiner to Mr. O’Reilly, onto to Mr. Beck and Mr. Limbaugh, over to Ms. Ingraham and Ms. Coulter, anger, belligerence, ridicule, and vitriol seemed to be the only arrows in the quivers of the right wing.

Then along came Air America radio. Launched in 2004, the network seemed to be the misguided response of the left-wing to this right-wing assault. Mimicking their right-wing nemesis, the Air America hosts that I listened to discussed right-wing failings with anger, belligerence, ridicule, and vitriol. I felt this was misguided since what had always distinguished left from right was leftist compassion for our fellow man, for humanity, and for community. Air America did its best to blow up whatever was left of that distinction.

Mercifully, Air America filed for bankruptcy last month. Maybe this suggests I was right in my appraisal that left-wing belligerence is an oxymoron, and cannot fly for long.

But then along comes Mr. Emanuel to prove me wrong. Belligerence is alive and well in what passes as the left in America. In fact, belligerence now stands triumphant. After the midterm elections, the fire-breathing, insult-spewing, expletive-filled Mr. Emanuel is a hero to the formerly meek and moribund Democratic Party.

Well, I don’t know what this says for the future of America. Now that both parties have learned that anger and belligerence pays, what does that say about the country when it begins to realize that, as I have explained in the About page, “the money has gone too far”?

My hope is that anger and belligerence remains confined within the bounds of the hard-to-distinguish center of American politics (e.g. Democrats and Republicans). Here’s hoping that the far left (e.g. Greens) and far right (e.g. Libertarians), can recognize their common ground without resorting to belligerence. Perhaps this natural union can serve as the calm eye of the gathering American political storm.

Last night, I read a long piece in the Chicago Tribune about how Rahm Emanuel engineered the Democratic House victory earlier this month. Emanuel is a Democratic congressman from Illinois who was charged with leading that party’s efforts in the recent midterm elections concerning the House races. (Chuck Schumer was Emanuel’s counterpart for the Senate races.)

Given my personality type and the bias it creates in my perceptions, my immediate reaction to this article was to blog about all the aspects that struck me as negative and therefore deserving of criticism. But having had the night to sleep on it, I woke up realizing that that is my broken-record approach to pretty much every topic with which I harbor some disagreements. That is, if I harbor little or no disagreements with a topic, I’ll say either nothing or offer praise. But for topics with which I disagree, I have always seemed impatient to get straight to the points of disagreement, rather than waiting a bit, and instead starting off by indicating my points of agreement, and only then going on with my disagreements.

Since I’d like to change this lifelong pattern of mine, and become more balanced and tempered in my criticisms, let me start by saying what I liked in the article about Emanuel.

First, I liked Emanuel’s human energy, competitive spirit, and will to win. Second, I liked that Emanuel helped give the Republicans a “good whacking”. I’d felt since at least the 2002 elections that that party had deserved such treatment by the voters. Third, I sort of liked that the Democrats won back the House.

I mean, if, as the American popular media suggests, there are only two political options in this country, and I had to pick between the two, then I suppose I’d reluctantly pick the Democrats over the Republicans. I know this because of an article I read in the New York Times Sunday Week in Review section of yesterday. An article titled A New Class War: The Haves vs. the Have Mores explains that between 1990 and 2004, income increased the following amounts for the following socio-economic classes:

  • 2% for the bottom 90%
  • 57% for the top 1%
  • 85% for the top .1%
  • 112% for the top .01%

As the article says: “That is, the richest are getting richer almost twice as fast as the rich.” Meanwhile, the masses have gotten relatively poorer.

The Democrat leaner in me says that it’s high time that the top 1% got chopped down a bit to size. Although an “equal opportunity” person, I am not an “equal results” person. However, there is much play room between “reasonably unequal results” and the above outrageous numbers. I’d favor the Democrats bringing those numbers back to Earth.

Accordingly, for the above reasons, let me say:”Yay for Rahm Emanuel! Nice job, dude.”

OK. Now, in my next few posts, where I will be criticizing this fellow’s behavior — and what that means for this country — hopefully you’ll see that I’m not condemning the man. I mean, we all have our useful sides and less useful sides. Me, you, and Rahm Emanuel too.

Lemme know what you think about the new About page. Thanks.

I’m having a nice email exchange with an interesting fellow named Matt who is one of the readers of my book Personality and Brain. Matt pointed out that the bulk of the readers of that book are probably Enneagram Fives since the book is so information intensive and maybe kind of complex. My adorable wife (a Two) says it more directly: “I hate to tell you this, but it’s boring.” 🙂

Anyway, this reminded me that the bulk of you dear readers of the Duck! and Gather blog and listeners of the companion podcast are also probably 5s. That is because 5s tend to be more competent than the average bear on certain specific subjects, and often these subjects are esoteric, quirky, or at least unusual. Consequently, on a subject on which the 5 has decided to become competent, the 5 can tell you more than you’ll ever need to know on that subject, and is also willing to “go as deep” into that subject as anyone.

Well, the subject of Duck! and Gather — apocalypse and redemption, albeit strictly secular — is certainly quirky or unusual as measured against current regular news headlines. Moreover, with the blog entries, podcasts, essays, predictions, and analyses on this site, it seems fair to say that I’m “going deeper” into this subject than most would care to. Hence the likelihood that you are a 5.

But if so, those of you reading this are probably in the secular apocalypse/redemption camp of 5s, rather than in the personality/brain camp.

If so, then the reason I am writing is to encourage you to look deeper into the personality/brain stuff. For me, that domain answers most every question that pops up in the domain of human and social dynamics, including, but not limited to, secular apocalypse/redemption. Stated another way, the way I first came to seeing the Duck! and Gather world view was by understanding personality/brain dynamics and applying those dynamics to American society.

The funny thing is, even though I am probably writing for mostly 5s in this site, I myself am not a 5. Instead, I’m an 8. One way to tell that is by considering my predictions. I made those predictions right around this time 2 years ago. There is a little more than two years yet to run on them. What am I doing here by issuing these predictions?

I’m gambling on public perception of my own competence. In fact, as I mention in my gold at $1000/crude at $100 prediction, I’ve actually made a monetary bet with a colleague on this one (he’s also an Eight), and, more or less, have bet the liquid savings of my family on it.

Here’s the thing: I don’t actually expect all of my predictions to come true. In fact I hope they don’t all come true because it may mean this beautiful country of ours will have melted.

Instead, I sort of expect a handful of them to come true. Maybe 2 or 3 out of the 8. If that happens, I’ll be feeling all smart and smug. But, of course, if that happens, naysayers will say that I’m an incompetent boob. “57.5% to 75% wrong? Sounds incompetent to me.”

A 5 typically wouldn’t gamble on his own competence, as I have done. But 8s are big-time gamblers. Typically, the garden-variety 8 gambles at Vegas, lives the gambling life as a salesman, “chases the ladies”, or, more likely, all of the above. But weird me gambles on my own competence. Why?

Before I go ahead and answer that question, let’s step back at look at the “Why?” question. When we were kids, “Why?” was the question we asked most. And as you probably know now, there pretty much ain’t no certain end to the string of Why? questions. Because any answer will beget yet another Why? question.

5s are the personality type most interested in chasing down the endless string of Why? questions. At least on subjects of interest to them. Other types typically tire of the game earlier.

So now we come back to the question I posed: Why am I, an 8, so willing to run down these endless Why? roads?

I think the answer starts with the fact that, when I was a young boy, my dad was a very a loving father, and he was and is a 5. So I suspect that when his little boy started with the Why? questions at age 3 or 4, as all children do, my dad humored that boy and played along as long as the boy wanted. Thus my dad inculcated my boundless curiosity.

Now being an 8, I’m a reckless adventurer at heart. Usually, for an 8, this translates into being a jock who hunts down the ladies, who bets on sports, and who mans the BBQ and eats most of the food. As a younger man, I knew many guys like that, usually met through my sporting life. I dipped my toe into that sort of life, and while seeing the fun in it, I also perceived the less fun aspects, and by my 30s came to see it as not really interesting to me.

So there I was, in my late 30s, an 8 with boundless energy at my disposal (all 8s are this way for stuff that interests them), but having found sports, sex, and money as inadequate stimuli for releasing that energy. Where to direct this energy?

For me the answer was obvious. I would direct it toward the pursuit of knowledge. But not to the received knowledge. That is, I wasn’t chasing only or mostly the answered questions. That didn’t seem interesting enough. I mean, it seems hard to lose when all you’re trying to do is master some known field. But taking on fields that are still wide open did interest me. It still does.

Of course, my challenge in life is to harness this energy of mine. To release it in a more steady and measured way. The typical energy pattern of an 8 is boom followed by bust followed by boom, and so on. The latter pattern certainly describes my life to this point. I’m hoping to find the control panel to this mysterious energy source, and gain the ability to turn it up and turn it low more like our propane stove top than the olive tree cuttings my dad burned up last week in a massive conflagration that is by now cold and wet.

But if you were to read my personality/brain stuff, you’d see that, if indeed you are a 5, your challenge in life is not mine. While my challenge is to harness and domesticate the wild horses of my energy before declining testosterone production does the job for me, your challenge is to let those ponies run free once in awhile.

With the Democrats taking back the House last night, and achieving at least parity in the Senate, it would appear my Democrat demise prediction seems even more far-fetched this morning. Certainly, the implosion dynamic I described a few postings ago in the wake of a Democrat washout last night ain’t gonna happen now. So maybe I should just eat crow this morning, and concede this prediction as faulty.

Not so quick, my friend. Here’s my reasoning: The elections yesterday suggest to me that America has finally caught up to where my head was at about the Republican Party back in 2002. Back then, I started realizing that there was something historically disasterous about Mr. Bush’s administration. Those realizations led directly to this blog. Four years later, it would seem the country more or less agrees with me — at least on that party.

Now what about the Democrats? I’d say Americans are still behind the curve on that party. As I’ve repeated ad nauseum, the Democrats have no over-arching purpose or mission in life. They are aimless and rootless. Hence, they are now about the only thing a political party holds onto from generation to generation: the quest for power.

When the Democrats assume majorities in the House and Senate come January, the national spotlight will shine brightly on them. And in that bright light, I’m suspecting that that party will wilt. The Iraq War is just one quiver of this arrow. But even on that single issue, one can see that vast, opposite camps within the Democratic Party on views about that war. With Congressional majorities, Democrats will now have the power to initiate legislation and conduct invesgations. In other words, to say what they believe.

Let’s see what happens when Pelosi and Emanuel and those folks try to find the elusive fictional middle road in this country. Let’s see what happens with all of the people who will now be chasing the Democratric presidential nomination. I’ll say that Americans will finally see clearly that the Democrats believe nothing other than that they ought to be in power. And when America sees that, the fun begins.

It’s going to be an interesting couple of years.

I’m back in the U.S. after this year’s two-week trip to Greece. Went with my 80-year-old dad this time. We spent our time picking olives, getting them pressed into oil, pruning the trees, and burning the cuttings. I had fun. I hope he did too. 🙂 For example, in the Athens hotel the night before we left, we compared scars and scratches on our legs from all of the bramble on our land that we had to walk through.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to bore you with my dull personal life. Instead, I wanted to repeat an observation I made this time last year after last year’s trip to Greece. Just like during last year’s trip, during this trip I ate “terribly” by the standards I live by in America. That is, in Greece, I ate a LOT of sweets and bread, and drank much wine and beer, and even had a few shots of hard liquor at times. In America, I avoid these things like the plague. Observations over the past couple years have led me to the belief that my avoidance of these types of foods in America lets me keep my my slim girlish figure and optimal blood sugar levels.

But in Greece, I violated these rules of mine big time. In fact, this time, since my dad has a serious sweet tooth too, I ate even more sweets. Moreover, since we had our own pressed olive oil, I ate even more bread (for dipping into the oil). The last couple of days, one of the bakeries in town came out with these winter cookies called melomakarna. My mom used to bake them when I was a kid. From this bakery, my dad and I were buying them ten at a time, and I was eating more than 75% of them. Basically, I was out of control.

This morning, my first back in America, I weighed myself and took my fasting blood sugar readings. Results?

I’m down a half-pound since the morning two weeks ago that I left for Greece. And my fasting blood sugar is still optimal, and even a bit lower.

What the f#@k?! I don’t know what the hell is going on with that Greek food, but I gotta find a way to convince my wife to move there for at least part of the year. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place where the laws of nature don’t apply, and the variance cuts in your direction?

for the money has gone too far

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November 2006