Duck! and Gather

Archive for June 2008

Two interesting stories of late. First, Obama’s Father’s Day rant telling absentee black dads to grow a responsibility bone:

Second, try a Google search for “obama monkey”. You’ll find a cottage industry of people trying to make a buck off of Obama’s popularity, and the historical white person’s negative association comparing black people to monkeys.

Why is this latter drivel interesting? Just a bunch of retro-racists who didn’t get the diversity memo over the past 40 years.

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I had drinks a few weeks ago in San Francisco with a fellow highly educated, liberal-leaning techy. I told him I’d love to take some betting action against someone who would pick McCain in November (I would pick Obama). He said he wouldn’t take that action, so we moved the conversation over to whether or not Obama would not merely win, but win in a landslide. He was thinking Obama would win, but not in a landslide. But as we began to parse the various Southern states, looking for some good betting ground, we realized there was no room for a good bet. So we left it at polite discussion.

Best bet I’ve made yet is with my wife. Her entire family is for McCain. She’s the only one for Obama. They ridicule her position. But they have her thinking Obama won’t win, even though she’d prefer that result. So we made a bet: Obama wins, we have another kid; McCain wins, no more kids for us. Of course I won’t hold her to that bet once the landslide results are in November 4. But at least it feels good to pretend like I have something meaningful riding on this little bit of historical arbitrage. (I’ve been prodding her to offer her mom double or nothing on a small debt we owe her mom. i.e. McCain wins, we pay her mom $2X; Obama wins, we pay her mom $0. But my wife refuses to take advantage of ignorance.)

Anyway, check out Obama’s 50 state strategy. “Obama’s strategists don’t really believe he can beat John McCain in [generic “Red” state]. So why blow cash there?” The article goes on to describe an elegant “bleed the Soviet Union to death” strategy to beat McCain in the Fall.

I say what this modest strategy will buy is not merely a victory in the Fall. I say it will buy Obama a surprising populist landslide the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long, long time.

Anybody wanna take McCain?

Just got off the phone with my sister. We chatted about the NBA game last night which was the subject of my previous blog posting. I talked about how that game, and the stinky way that it ended, was no different than what has been happening in our culture in other domains. The core idea is that we consumers want something, and the corporate provider of that something finds a more cost-effective, efficient way to bring that thing to us. But instead of making those improvements through proper means, the corporations “cheat” their way to those improvements.

To me, the NBA game last night was an example of the NBA corporation cheating to give me, the fan, what I want: namely, Game 6 tomorrow night. As a fan, I want to see the series go to 7 games. I want to see Game 7 tied with a minute to go. And in that final minute of the season, I want to look into the souls of the men playing, and see who they truly are as they perform in that crucible. That’s what I want as a fan — as do the majority of fans.

The NBA would like to give us what we want. But they can’t assure this through fair means. So they cheat. They gerrymander the reffing to give us what we want. But that sours the taste for us fans. And the NBA expresses “surprise” that we fans would complain.

What about the corporate media? I have read that over the past decade or so, news organizations have run stories, like video segments from an on-site “reporter”, that were written and produced by Corporations or by Government. This “Video News Release” practice saves the media corporation lots of money, since producing these video segments is expensive.

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Top story in the NBA world over the last couple of days: the FBI has been asking former and current officials about NBA ref Dick Bavetta. They’re looking for evidence supporting the obvious: Dick has been fixing playoff games for the NBA for many years.

Today was Game 5 of the NBA finals. Guess who shows up to ref today’s game? Good old Dick Bavetta. Holy hudspa, David Stern.

Then would you be surprised to learn that Game 5 tonight came down to calls and non-calls of Mr. Bavetta and his fellow refs? Tight game in the fourth quarter. Touch foul on Kevin Garnett for his 5th. Touch foul on Paul Pierce for his 5th. Effect: backs off the Boston defense. (Interesting: The TV did not show replays of either of those fifth fouls to see whether they really were fouls; contrast Garnet’s 4th foul for which the replays clearly showed he had all ball. Think an order came from the league between the 4th and 5th fouls?)

Forty seconds to go, Boston down by two, Kobe whacks Paul Pierce from behind, does not touch ball, and scores a layup that basically decides the game (except that L.A. can’t seem to hit its free throws, making the last 40 seconds more interesting than they should have been after Dick’s fix job).

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Postscript: Just got back from my father-in-law’s after watching Game 4. Wonderful game. No reffing issues. Just performances, and lack thereof, from the players. Glad that the game overshadowed the criminal Mr. Stern.
Reading various comments and articles on the former NBA ref Tim Donaghy situation is a study in the infantile mind of the American sportsman. We sports fans and sportswriters seem utterly incapable of countenancing subtlety, ambiguity, or conflict in motive. The main points of view being expressed on this matter fall into one of two extremes: (1) Donaghy is telling the literal truth when he says the NBA has been “fixing” NBA playoff games by “instructing” its refs to determine the outcome; or (2) Donaghy is a complete liar and there is nothing remotely close to such “fixing” going on.

The latter point of view makes the obvious argument that if such a conspiracy did exist for the past decade or so, one would have expected a “whistle-blower” to have emerged long before now. I agree with this “strawman” argument. I call it a strawman argument because it addresses extreme point of view #1 — a point of view that seems all but impossible to hold water.

This is where we come to the “in between” part. The grey middle between the two extremes. The ambiguous zone. In this uncomfortable zone, we observe that American social consciousness changes fluidly over time, whereas the profit motives and actions of corporations, once begun, don’t easily stop. It is within this tension between the fluidity of us humans, and the rigidity of the corporations, that this tawdry story of Tim Donaghy reaches clarity, if not satisfaction. In other words, the odds of a garden-variety sports fan reading beyond this point are slim to none.

With that, let’s begin the walk …

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Almost a year ago, I posted a hastily written essay entitled “Mr. Donaghy was Doing a Good Job“. The thesis of that essay was that Tim Donaghy, a former NBA referee arrested (and now convicted) of fixing NBA games on behalf of the mob, was anything but a simple case of a “rogue employee”. Instead, I argued, Mr. Donaghy’s criminal behavior was only a few degrees more egregious in comparison with the non-criminal but deplorable behavior of his fellow referees and of his employers (the NBA). My notion was that Mr. Donaghy is merely the most noticeable symptom of a systemically diseased body (the NBA).

The above theory of mine arose from two underlying beliefs of mine:

  1. “the money has gone too far” — this is the tag line of my site
  2. truly sociopathic humans are rare, and where they do exist, they don’t practice their sociopathic behavior in the day-to-day course of their regular lives in concert with otherwise “normal” people

The first point above says simply that when any of us places too high a value on money, this warps our lives and drives us into unhealthy behaviors. And since old corporations are nothing but machines for making money, anti-human anomalies are common with them, and easy to spot. The NBA, like Exxon, like Pfizer, like Lockheed Martin, is an old corporation. Accordingly, one would expect to find behavior of that organization contrary to the interests of us humans.

The second point says that Mr. Donaghy’s behavior was sociopathic. He placed his self interest above the interests of the entire sporting fan population. One asshole like that can leave a sour taste in the mouths of sports fans nationwide for a decade. Pretty astonishing behavior for one man.

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In late 2004, I made the following prediction:

The Democratic Party will either go the way of the Whigs, or undergo a profound metamorphosis whereby the current leadership of the party (DNC, the Clintons, U.S. Senators, etc.) is replaced with anti-Corporate leadership.

In late 2006, I made another prediction:

In November 2008, Barack Obama will be elected as the 44th President of the United States.

If you follow the above link, you’ll see that I made this last prediction based on the following observations:

  • America is entering a period of profound national crisis every bit as dangerous as any other in its history
  • During previous such crises, Americans have chosen as President a profoundly charismatic leader; if Obama is anything, he is certainly that; moreover, no other 2008 candidate was or is
  • This pending crisis can be characterized as “People vs. Corporations”, and in that battle, Obama is squarely and unambiguously on the side of the People

On that last point, recall that when asked to identity a core substantive difference between his policies and those of Hillary Clinton, Obama would say that Clinton favors and accepts campaign money from big business lobbyists, whereas he does not. That was the only substantive distinction I heard consistently coming from Obama.

Further, he has played both sides of most political coins. e.g. pro-Israel/pro-Palestine; pro-Left/pro-Right; pro-secular/pro-religious; and so on. But one huge exception to this “playing of both sides” by Obama concerns the People/Corporations divide. To my knowledge, over the past 18 months, he has never played the Corporate side of that divide.

If you still have any doubts about Obama on this score, read his speech given today in Raleigh, N.C., on the American economy. Following that link, use your browser to search for the term “corporat” in that speech. I count eight such references. And in every case, that reference by Obama was pejorative toward the corporations.

Here’s the video:

It’s coming, man. Civil war in America. I just don’t know who is going to be fighting whom. I mean there’s no geographical distinction between People and Corporations. What uniforms would the Corporations wear? What uniforms could they wear since they’re just a legal fiction?

Any of you guys have any ideas of how this battle will take shape? Theory brings me to the unavoidable crossroads of “People vs. Corporations”. I just don’t know where the road leads from there, especially when the President is on the side of the People.

Maybe the coming years will “just” be the Second Great Depression, rather than Civil War II. Here’s hoping.

for the money has gone too far

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June 2008
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