A Chastened US Peers into the Crystal Ball

Predictions are often more useful for what they say about the predictor’s present state of mind than for what they tell you about the future. That’s certainly the case with the US National Intelligence Council’s latest peer into the crystal ball, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, neatly timed to coincide with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition to the White House.

The report, the fourth in a five-yearly series, has a decidedly chastened tone as it sets out in broad strokes the US intelligence community’s latest consensus on what the world will look like 16 years hence.

The previous edition spoke confidently of the US “remaining the single most powerful actor, economically, technologically, militarily” in 2020. Doubt has now crept in: American will be “less dominant” in 2025, with the likely implication that “shrinking economic and military capabilities may force the US into a difficult set of tradeoffs between domestic versus foreign policy priorities”. Continue reading “A Chastened US Peers into the Crystal Ball”

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Authentic Praise

Kevin Desouza teaches electrical engineering at the University of Washington in the American northwest. Earlier this year he spent a couple of months as a visiting professor at Wits. He stayed in Melville. On the flight home, he wrote about it on his blog, Desouza’s Thinking. If you need cheering up about South Africa, go Google him.

Like so many visitors to this country, he fell in love with the place and not just with its physical beauty or its food and wine. He found South Africans to be “great hosts”. They were “motivated to work together (and) help each other out”. “Hungry for knowledge”, his students worked “extremely diligently”. Executives were “warm and welcoming”. While most South Africans did not lead easy lives, “I was simply taken aback by the optimism here that things will get better”.

Also, he felt safe. “Before I got here, everyone told me how dangerous…places were. I have not encountered a single difficult situation or felt threatened. If you come here with an open mind, possess street smarts and commonsense, you will enjoy this place.” Continue reading “Authentic Praise”

Obama Dot Com

The videos president-elect Barack Obama’s campaign team loaded for free onto YouTube, the Internet site, were watched for a remarkable 14.5 million hours, political consultant Joe Trippi noted at last week’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco (itself viewable on the web).

Trippi, who pioneered the use of the web for Democrat John Dean’s almost successful insurgency in 2004, added that to access the same viewership on old-fangled television would have cost $47 million — half the total kitty Obama’s Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, received in public funding for his campaign (Obama rejected public funding to avoid the spending limits on which it is conditioned).

Speaking on the same panel, Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post – America’s Thoughtleader.co.za – said bluntly: “Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the (Democratic) nominee.” Continue reading “Obama Dot Com”

Obama’s Triumph — Some Stats

That Senator Barack Obama’s election as America’s 44th president is of historic significance does not need to be repeated.  Whatever the future may hold, November 4, 2008 now takes its place with April 28, 1994, as a date that stirs the soul.

Though not a landslide, Obama’s 53 per cent to 46 per cent defeat of Senator John McCain was the most lopsided win by a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater in 1964.  Until Tuesday, no Democrat, even in victory, had garnered more than 50 per cent of the vote since Jimmy Carter pulled past Gerald Ford in the first post-Watergate election. Bill Clinton never obtained a majority.

Another striking aspect of Obama’s triumph is that it was achieved despite white voters, representing three quarters of the total turnout, voting for his opponent by 55 per cent to 43 per cent, according to the exit polls posted on CNN’s website. Continue reading “Obama’s Triumph — Some Stats”