Duck! and Gather

Archive for August 2008

In my previous blog post, commenter Steve dove headlong into this topic, and we had a nice exchange. So I’ll elevate some of the ideas from there into this post. It’s about Sarah Palin, the moron.

Some political theorists like to look at American presidential elections  10 at a time (ie. 40 years). See, e.g., Millenial Makeover. The last such 10 elections were held 1968 through 2004 (see Wikipedia for details on these).

In every election, there are, of course, four critical people: presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the two political parties. Over the last 40 years, there have been 25 such different American individuals (many people appeared in multiple of these elections).

Looking over that list of 25 people, we could try to categorize them in different ways. For example, we could organize them by age, or by gender, or by tax policy, etc. Or we could sort them by emotional health. ie. Who was corrupt? Who was venal? Who was criminal?

But in this post, I’m looking at only one metric. Specifically, I’m looking at: Who was a moron?

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Cheney may be evil; but at least there’s a certain diabolical intelligence there. Reagan may have had Alzheimer’s his second term. But Poppa Push had a brain. And true, Quayle was an idiot. Still, there was Poppa Bush.

Given all that, if Obama/Biden lose to this pair …

… then the Democratic party must die. There’s no other way.

I haven’t blogged about Obama since July 7. I suppose I have been avoiding the subject — not wanting to “go there” again. But my business partner just called me and asked: “What’s up with Obama? Why is his campaign sagging?” (Recent media reports say that McCain has overtaken Obama in the polls.)

Well, ask me a question, and I’ll tell you what I think. What I think about Obama is that he is risking not merely winning with a slight margin in November, but actually losing.

I agree with the people who say that this election is unlike recent past elections. In fact, I have a more radical view than most about this one.

I believe the country is headed for collapse. I believe when that collapse becomes evident to most Americans, the “two Americas” of John Edwards’ campaign stump speech (right message; wrong candidate) will become painfully clear to all. Essentially, the America of 2008 comprises certain entrenched powers, and then there’s the rest of us.

This isn’t a division of wealth, fame, or class, necessarily. Rather, it’s a division of mindset. It’s the mindset of Head versus Long Tail. It’s elitism versus populism. Top-down control versus bottom-up. Concentrated power versus diffuse power. Hierarchy versus network.

I think this election of 2008 is a lot like the election of 1860. Imagine what would have become of America had Lincoln been pro-slavery, or had Lincoln been defeated at the polls by a pro-slavery opponent. Had that happened, there would be no America today.

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In the last post, in which I blogged about Olympic medal counts, I wrote:

That is, China celebrates the community, and discourages the individual, whereas the US celebrates the individual, and pretty much forgets about the community.

I concluded: “Canada will always suck at the Olympics. This is the price of a really nice place to grow up.”

If these observations are more or less correct, then I think the reason I can see this is that the first 25 years of my life were spent in Canada, the next 20 years in the US, with enough time spent elsewhere. Today, I am a citizen of three countries (Canada, the US, and Greece). I think this sort of background gives people like me a clearer perspective than most about the fault lines of cultures.

Anyway, along those lines I wanted to draw your attention to this “America champions the individual” dynamic. It is absolutely graphic right now in connection with the the US Olympics men’s basketball team. As I blogged about yesterday, this team of all-stars has learned the lesson of team play. Having learned this lesson, this team is almost unbelievable. They’re like a team of unbeatable comic superheroes

What’s amazing is that these same superheroes were bums two and four years ago. They didn’t play as a team, and so they were a joke. They were like the bully on the beach who was getting sand kicked in his eyes by the skinny kids.

But today, with team play, the bully is back.

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  • Comments Off on Gold Medals: China vs. USA vs. Canada

Forgive me if the following analysis is just too obvious to bother blogging about. But in case not, here goes ….

As I write this, China leads the Olympic medal race with 42 golds. The USA is second with 25 golds. Third place starts with Britain (15 golds), and drops pretty quickly from there. Down at position 17 is Canada, with a measly 2 golds. (Canada is a country with a population roughly the size of California. China’s population is about 4 times the size of the US.)

The big question about these relative numbers — 42, 25, and 2 — is: Why the differential? Here are my answers …

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Two years ago, I posted Greece Beats the US: A Perfect Allegory for Duck & Gather. That post mentioned that, in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Basketball Championships, the Greek national team beat the U.S.

I argued that this defeat of the U.S. served as a nice allegory for America’s dark future. Basically, my argument runs that we Americans are by far the most talented and extraordinary nation the world has known (I’m not just talking basketball here). But we are headed for an epochal collapse — one that may well cost us our world empire and even threaten our very survival.

The punch line of all this: We’re doing it to our ourselves! That is, we Americans are the authors of our own impending collapse. I won’t bother going into peak oil, obesity, the wacky weather, crushing consumer debt, or any other of the glaring signs of the coming apocalypse. Instead, let’s talk basketball.

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  • Comments Off on South Ossetia in Two Pictures

After all the words I typed in the last posts, two pictures pretty much explain the core motivations of Russia and the U.S. concerning the South Ossetia story this past week.

The first is a picture of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo:

The second is a picture of countries in which the U.S. had military bases as of 2001. Note in particular the countries bordering Russia. Further, note that if I could find a current picture (circa 2008), you would see many more countries that border Russia lit up in red:

At the same time last week that the world was focused on the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, a story of war began emerging out of the country Georgia. Georgia is one among many former Soviet republics that broke away from the USSR when the latter collapsed in 1989.

Check out the Wikipedia page on Georgia. The population of the country is dominated by ethnic Georgians — that is, except for certain enclaves within the country. Two such enclaves are South Ossetia (dominated by ethnic Ossetians) and Abkhazia (dominated by ethnic Abkhazians).

At the same time that Georgia broke away from the USSR, South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia. But while Georgia has been recognized by the international community as a sovereign nation, the same courtesy has not been granted to South Ossetia or Abkhazia. So since the early 1990s, those two enclaves have been acting as “de facto” sovereign self-governing countries.

That history brings us up to the events of last week. Since Friday, the top media story across the world not involving the Olympics has concerned a war between Russia and Georgia within these two enclaves, and also in parts of Georgia proper.

Until this present moment, the American media has covered this story in a comical “fairy tale” sort of way. That is, the media — including the New York Times, CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press, and pretty much any other leading American media voice that I could find — was painting this war story as a juvenile black/white, good guy vs. bad guy story. In this fairly tale, Russia is the bad guy; Georgia the good guy.

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for the money has gone too far

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August 2008