Change: Who Whom?

It’s a frightening thing to contemplate without illusion; the U.S. will indeed see change. Yet many cling to the pretense that we are still masters of the change.

Poll swings aside here or there, this is what we get:

Mr Obama released a two-minute advert – four times the length of most campaign commercials – in which he set out his plans to deal with the financial crisis. He pledged to “give a $1,000 tax break to the middle class… end the ‘anything goes’ culture on Wall Street with real regulation… free [America] from our dependence on Mid-East oil in 10 years… crack down on lobbyists… and… bring a responsible end to this war in Iraq so we stop spending billions each month rebuilding their country when we should be rebuilding ours”.

Mr McCain, in his campaign ad, vowed to “reform Wall Street and fix Washington”, stressing that he had “taken on tougher guys than this before”.

That’s it. Taking on tough guys. Wiring Bud Fox to trap Gordon Gecko. Or the Boy King’s ‘Come Home, America’ — except he and those around him such as Zbig et al. know that an Iraq wind down will still take years and financial commitments will remain regardless. Like the ephemeral and ultimately worthless derivatives and leveraged debt, so to our ‘leaders’.

Paulson and Bernanke at least understand the interlocking systemic dynamics while attempting even a controlled crash landing of an orderly market clearing solution. As we all know, essentially the Fed and Treasury are seizing direct control of the ‘commanding heights’ of the U.S. money economy. Still, one should not panic. Nancy Pelosi is sending Barney Frank on a ‘fact finding mission’.

What we are witnessing may be the greatest destruction of financial wealth that the world has ever seen — paper losses measured in the trillions of dollars. Corporate wealth. Oil wealth. Real estate wealth. Bank wealth. Private equity wealth. Hedge fund wealth. Pension wealth. It’s a painful reminder that, when you strip away all the complexity and trappings from the magnificent new global infrastructure, finance is still a confidence game — and once the confidence goes, there’s no telling when the selling will stop.

But more than psychology is involved here. What is really going on, at the most fundamental level, is that the United States is in the process of being forced by its foreign creditors to begin living within its means.

That last sentence is the crux. The Warlord’s reign demonstrated the thin veneer of liberal democracy. We all know the Movement’s radicalism. What remains untapped is the radical energy and potential of the politically disinterested ‘consumer class’. Today fear and unease over poorly understood, complex and technical financial instruments impose a sense of shock and dismay. Empty bromides from both candidates in an odd way help maintain the quiescence. That likely will soon give way to deep, unfocused anger and resentment.

When does ‘change’ segue into something more? When does it cross the line into a more profound political morphology? This door we believe now is at least unlocked. Still shut. What it will take to open it and when is more unknown than the September market trajectory.

The American financial model is over. Moreover, we are no longer masters in our own house. When that brutal and unforgiving reality sinks in culturally, politically and personally, then what?


  1. Comment says

    Reading lots of pamphlets of the 1776 era leds us to believe Pat would have mixed feelings about it all – Obviously he would find Paine unbearable, unless they could set up some sort of Buchanan & Paine show. Willam Cobbett would be more to his liking -esp his slashing attacks on the French Rev and their ‘Goddess of Reason.’

    Even if Pat favored the colonies, he would probably regard B. Arnold a lot better than Alger Hiss

  2. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Pat

    Calling Wall Street “Capitalist Pigs’, Cafe Terminus, his hostility to a level society all point to his fundamental hostility to 1789 (and perversely 1776).

    One could say a telegenic Falangist AgitProp activist. An entertaining drinking partner, even if successful in his vision would be relegated to a marginal niche role by that very edifice.

    Perhaps his instinctive contrarian DNA would lead him to becoming a . . . community organizer.

  3. Comment says

    There is no way Tweety would ever allude to French anarchists. He’d be afraid – even if he knew.

  4. Comment says

    Mrs. C? hmm – re pen. Lanny? We’ve been thinking about Pat’s hipster “Cafe Terminus” allusion and we’d have to guess that his allusion was inspired by Emile Henry’s anarchist bombing of the Le Cafe Terminus – as rendered by Barbara Tuchman. It doesn’t work literally – that’s what makes it so hip – It’s like something Hunter Thompson would say. It does makes sense on a deeper level – It’s also very re vealing into how Pat dates the decline of the west

  5. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Cafe Terminus

    That’s a great Buchananism. He has a true gift for cutting succinctly to his point. His memorable concision (whether his point is valid aside) far outstrips anyone else on MSNBC.

    re Armey

    In our dealings with him (and his staff) he for good or for ill wears his emotions openly. Hence, his open tears of sorrow/mixed feelings when he voted for the war. Cheney doubtlessly knew how to manipulate him adroitly. In his special House Batcave.

    As we noted here before, however, Armey’s emotions also cut another way. When everyone else was stampeding to jam through the PATRIOT Act he was one of the few demanding and he got sunset provisions.

    Agree that Cheney, “Mushroom Cloud War In Iraq Is Like Civil Rights In The 1960s Condi” et al. have told far, far more egregious lies.

  6. Anon says

    Cheney’s most overrated lie – IMO – YMMV – But this was just one of Cheney’s many lies – Armey is an easily manipulated person. We saw him speak at some CATO things and all it took to throw him off the libertarian track was whenn he heard some culturally liberal sounding justifications for the legalizing pot. We suspect Cheney knew how to jerk him about — If Iraq was not able to build a big bomb, then they would not know how to build a small bomb. Armey mightt want to head back to his little college and take a logic course:

  7. Comment says

    Cafe Terminus would be a good name for an anarchist theme band – Unless, it’s already taken and we missed it

  8. Comment says

    Just wanted make an odd Buchananist note – He was interviewed on c-span last week and at the end of his chat he talked about the decline of the Christian West — It was interesting to hear him say Europe was Cafe Terminus. Have you ever heard a right winger make such an allusion? We have heard leftist allude to Le Cafe Terminus bomb plot – But it was an interesting to hear Pat co-opt that term to mean the end of the west

  9. Comment says

    Letting McCain be McCain sometimes needs a push – With McCain there’s always lots of ambiguous moments like his recent seeming ignorance of Zapetero and thinking he was a Latin leader.
    Scheuneman tried to rescue McCain by offering the plausible idea that McCain really meant to exclude the Spanish PM – But it really doesn’t makes sense in context – He seemed to really think Zap was a Latin.

    Our guess – he was having a mini senior moment and conflating Zapatistas with Zapetero.

  10. Anon says

    The Obama people should not ‘respond’ to the tax stuff save to say it is ridiculous – Rather , the should say McCain, unlike Obama, is gonna raise taxes and then list every tax he voted for in the past along with every GOP rival saying that about him in the past.
    He would cry foul, but it’s legit – IMO, McCain probably will raise taxes if he wins – He wil create some kind of face-saving mechanism or balance a tax raise with a cut and change some wording.
    But McCain has voted to raise taxes many many times – so why not say that – Or even say it was McCain’s attempt to be patriotic.

  11. Comment says

    McCain really blundered with his demand for Cox resigning. Who was he listening to? Ben Stein? The WSJ attacked him (we have not read the editorial). But this whole topic looks like mess for McCain because it just divides his base in so many ways.

    McCain has always been weak on money issues – From his birth in a gov hospital to his marriage to a beer heiress, he has been a spectator to the money world. It bores him -He could not care less – He is very suspicious of money power – witness his McCain-Feingold speeches.

  12. Comment says

    GE stock is been under increasing pressure since April when they bought some Citigroup assets for GE cap. Now today the stock was restricted from short sales – It probably means nothing and the Citigroup stuff may have been a great buy. But its obvious a short term headach for GE stockholders – Add to the fact that Tweety’s contract is up in 2009. The level of panic and uncertainty running thru his mind must be overwhelming/

  13. Comment says

    IMHO – Obama should have been much more agressive (via his campaign – not personally save lighthearted jabs) against McCain. Palin is cute – you don’t attack her. You ignore her and occassionally defend her against the media

    Yet – the campaign must hit harder on McCain’s weakness – his confusion, his bellicosity, and his flip flop embrace of the Bush program and his disadvantagpous neocon embrace.

    Obama’s TV team is weak – When Diane Feinstein goes on TV to defend Obama she loses – Feinstein would be fine with a President McCain if she was assured on abortion. So it shows – Carvelle and all the other HRC supporters just don’t have their hearts in Obama and it shows. Carville propably imbibed that scummy book his wife just published when he was working for Hillary. Will he vote for Obama? Probably, but he and many others in the Hillary establishment have mixed feelings and it affects their performace – mostly indirectly. They are passive and Biden–esque.

  14. Comment says

    Above – we meant to say Joe Kernan – Not Kearnan. Yeah, he was really upset at Obama’s ‘old boy staff meeting’ remark. We laughed because we know a lot of what we would call Kernan Republicans and they always react to certain things. They can’t help themselves – they freakout when a Dem makes some intellectual sounding argument or a clever argument – all sorts of cultural associations collide in their brains. Sort of like Palin with the feminists. Here’s a classic Kernan moment

    Most Kernan Republicans we know do not care one way or the other about climate change – It’s just culture war lite – ESPN2 vs. NPR, in their thinking.

    This will change as China continues to increase its lead in CO2.

  15. Comment says

    Tweety – he is lucky he won’t be on MTP in the sense that Portor Goss would have been personally better off if he had missed the chance to be DCI.

    The late Russert did many things that we objected to, but on the mechanics he was a total pro. He was excellent at framing things and creating a sense of conventional wisdom. He destroyed Hillary in the debate over drivers licenses for illegals. It was a clean hit – Tweety was the opposite with his slobbering and questions about Ahhhhnold running for President,

    We will go out on a limb and say that Hillary lost the nominstaion because of that debate – She declined right after and only regained her traction after Obamas snobby Frisco comment

  16. Comment says

    Tweety – we bet he is losing a lot of money – Buchanan seemed to indicate that he was losing a lot of money. We heard that they all share at least one broker – Someone who caters to a whole bunch of pundits.

    A while ago we heard a certain pundit took a bath in UITs in a limited partnerships pusheed by a socalled respectable brokerage firm. The further back we heard some pundit compained that they lost money because of George Gilder’s newsletter.

    Tweety is making millions, but if you’re gonna live on the same island as Jack Welch, then you have to make more than mere millions.

  17. Comment says

    OBama – we like his ad up aimed at hispanics – It got Rush upset and Lincoln–Diaz upset (he has limited street cred with many hispanics). Rush is not good for McCain when he is too front and center – He is unattractive to many people and wrapping McCain around him is goo tactics. ALso , Rush may say something that McCain will have to answer for,

    We also noticed that Kearnen on CNBC was pouting at Obama for his McCain-is-old-boy-staff-meeting remark – That was a great line and well delivered. It got good replay.

    OBama is very wise to work the Hispanic angle – It’s gonna get inside McCain’s head and force an error — McCain takes pride in being non racist and prop Hispanic and his sense of entitlement is such that he expects people to respect his flip flop on immigration as necessary BS for the right wing.

    You can hardly blame McCain for feeling this way – the media has long excused him and covered up for him and contextualized him,

  18. Comment says

    If we were McCain we’d have ads up mocking Biden for calling taxes patriotic – It’s almost too easy – you can cip all sorts of comments from Founders to help mock.

    Opening Scene:
    Youngster with his Dad watching Fourth of July parade – a float goes by with a buch of Founders in coustume reading the Declaration of Ind

    Voice over – says “You may think you’re watching a patriotic celebration, but Joe Biden and Celeb Barack (flash picture of Obama used in sex ed ad) think otherwise. They have a very different idea of patriotism.

    -Make rip sound as parade scene is ripped off screen and replaced by an ugly IRS office building with slattern taxpayers sadly waiting on line

  19. Comment says

    Biden is also talking about Catholic Social doctrine on the campaign trail – Memo to Biden: SFTU! He’s just giving the hierarchy more excuses to pass out pro McCain ‘voter guides’ that portary Obama is a most unflattering light.

    Ofcourse many liberals think this is good – They don’t understand the cultural politics at work and neither does Biden

    When this all over the story will be Biden V. Church and Biden has no idea – He thinks he was being clever a while back saying Kerry was too secular when he started his campaign. But Biden makes no sense – why should Catholic social doctrine be part of the debate.

    re Michelle – we missed the cute comment, but read about the ‘debate’ on Media Matters.
    We have no idea what she said or meant – but we have to guess that she is now being too cute by half when she says she was referring to herself.

    Excluding kids, There is only one cute person on the national stage and that is Palin – Any references to cutenesss will always be assumed to be Palin

  20. Comment says

    We just read Elizabeth Drew explain on Politico why she lost her crush on McCain – But Drew is part of the problem – her essay was ponderous and mostly about her and her feelings. Plus, a less than carefull read (most people cannot read at below average SAT levels -even when trying) it looks to be praising McCain. This kind of things is part of our culture – Anti McCain people hedge and qualify and dilute their arguments.

    We are now watching Fred Kagan speaking to Hour FA on 9/9 about Georgia – He shows the opposite skill of total inversion of reality. Kagan correctly points out that Ossetia is part of Georgia (as if sovereignty is something neocons believe in) and so he distressed that people talk about Georgia invading their own country – He makes a point. Alas, what it reveals is that Georgia should be allowed to attack ethnic minorities. All in all – a messy situation. But Kagan understands the macro debate – what Russia is really doing and he is explaining to the panel to ignore the micro details. Politically Kagan is on target because the response to him is that we and our allies also do what Russia is doing (with less excuse) – but that traps one into the blame America framework in a time of defensive declinist chauvinism.

  21. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Biden

    The ‘patriotic’ thing to do? Put him in an underground bunker until November. Michelle Obama needs better coaching, too. Why they continue to fixate on Palin is a mystery.

    True, the Boy King finally is punching well. Finally.

    Napoleon, however, advised never interrupt an opponent when he is making a mistake (paraphrasing). Right now, McCain and events are doing the Dems own work. These next few days — now is the time to let ‘McCain be McCain’. Let him dig himself deeper.

    (Although how fickle Tweety is — not only no more man crush. Last nigth was hilarious — he was so agitated because his nouveau riche status is now threatened by asset losses. So much for Philadelphia working class. Pathetic. At least he disqualified himself recently from Press the Meat in the near term.)

  22. Anon says

    It’s amazing that Biden can’t respond immediately by saying Palin is being misleading and tell the media to point out why. Also, Biden has to cut the crap about McCain being his pal. McCain does not whine on and one telling people Biden is his friend – He will say so if asked, but he is not a goober about it.

  23. Comment says

    That egregious Illeana actually invoked 9/11 at these 9/9 hearings – suggesting that it was inappropriate to question the narrative.
    Anyway = it’s sort of refreshing that the debate has fractured and has not broken down partisan lines strictly

  24. Comment says

    Flipping around on one of the c-span channels we see Illeana Ros-Lehten and H. Bermen conducting hearings – Illeana is outraged that some House FA doc seems to blame Georgia. Berman is concerned – Suddenly there is fragmentations of story lines – Diane Watson the Dem from California, but Dana Rohrbacher is clear in blaming America first.

  25. Comment says

    What was up with William Rogers?
    Was he just eclipsed by Henry? We’ll have
    to dig into our Nixon file. Maybe Pat will
    write about that in his memoirs when he is
    done gushing about Bristol’s baby bump and the
    neocon ravishing of Sistah Sarah.

  26. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Cher Condi

    It’s criminal how she and her Madonna-esque fanbase have airbrushed her incompetence 2000-2005 away with her double dealing — putting bets all around the table.

    She is the most incompetent national security advisor in U.S. history and more ineffectual a secretary of state than anyone since William Rogers.

    But it’s just sad how certain specific think tanks, their hangers on, and those in those orbits rave about her sagacity like it’s Live Earth in Wembley Stadium and she breaks out “Get Into The Groove”.

    And there is this item from Brent Scowcroft, which made us actually laugh out loud (for alot of reasons):

    Scowcroft: “I think if we, for example, were to mobilize the United States leadership on behalf of climate change and say, ‘This is a problem, we really need to move,’ the world would respond. We have that kind of power and moral authority.”

    One can only wonder . . .

  27. Comment says

    We made the mistake of watching Condi’s speech to German Marshall Fund today – Just a lot of garbage. Lots of lazy propaganda lines – She sounded like a communist.

  28. Comment says

    Dowd – it is actually amazing how many stupid conventional wisdom bullet points basically originated with her or derived from things she wrote – Almost half of Rick Davis initial attack on Obama was lifeted from her columns and she also managed to led liberals in forming attack points on Palin. Her foolish columns are most read and most emailed – She is an indicator of deep long term decline

  29. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Greenberg

    It is to laugh.

    Agree that Dowd would back off Mulcahy. But then who really actually takes their intellectual cues from her anyway? Aside from entertainment value?

  30. Comment says

    Just a side note – Mulcahy would make a good foil for Carly on the talk shows (assuming Carly is still gonna be used) – Mulcahy was supporting Clinton, but she now says she is very pro Obama – Plus she succeed in turning Xerox around when it was left for dead – She brought it out of debt and set it on a path for the future. Dowd woould never trash someone with an Irish name like Mulcahy. To the extent that Fiorina symbolizes a lot of what is wrong with the McCain campaign – Mulcahy could be a counter-symbol. Alas – she is too busy running Xerox

  31. Comment says

    re Carly Fiorina – we recall a Wall St. analyst told us a few years ago that Xerox’s Anne Mulchahy did really dig being compared to Fiorina all the time in the press – Sometimes being confused.

  32. Comment says

    Yeah – it’s refreshing to see some waning of the Palin boomlet. That video of her doing the sports roundup is pretty cute, but she doesn’t seem so Presidential in that early stage

  33. Comment says

    Did you see how Greenberg slobbers all over Democratic insiders like Holbrooke. This kind of BS is ok for a pundit – but academics should be a bit more detached.

    Here’s his wanker phrase:

    “Why should the statements of liberal pundits trouble us? It’s not because their criticisms are necessarily wrong.”

  34. Comment says

    Greenberg’s whole piece lacks coherence – He picks Steveson, a loser, to illustrate a point – Yes – The NY Times editorial stated reality, but Stevenson didn’t really state anything.

    Saakahvilli was on BBC Hardtalk today – He was such a weasel that it’s unsettling to think of young Americans dying to defend the guy no matter how brutal Russia responded.

    Btw – Greenberg is all about posing – We did not defend Hungary and we did not defend Georgia. Words Words Words

  35. A Random Quote says

    NY Observer: Would you do a TV show with Al Franken?

    Ann Coulter: No, he’s physically repulsive. TV – we’re talking about where people *see* you.

    ~NY Observer (Jan 10, 2005)

  36. DrLeoStrauss says

    But our eyes are now open. After years of brandishing our skepticism, we should recognize our success. Our anti-Bush bona fides are beyond question. No one on the left has fallen for anything Bush has said in a long time. (The right doesn’t follow him in lockstep anymore, either.) Liberals don’t need to subordinate our commiseration with the Georgian people to another chance to batter the Iraq war’s enthusiasts. What’s more, by continuing to let our anger over Iraq and Bush control our view of international affairs, we limit our capacity to defend what we really believe in: not the higher wisdom of realpolitik but the cause of liberalism.

    It’s understandable that in these times liberals might hesitate before rushing to wave the banner of democracy promotion, given how Bush has abused it. But we should remember that it was our banner in the first place. As we prepare to sweep our current president out the door in favor of what will in all likelihood be an Obama administration, we are, quite unnecessarily, handing Bush a final, enduring victory: We are allowing our judgments and ideas to be dictated not by our own principles and beliefs, but by his.

    David Greenberg is a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers and the author of Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image.

    (Sent by a friend and reader).

  37. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Japan/China

    All too true, few Americans realized in the 1980s how many American assets were dramatically overpriced for the Japanese who bought them and then had to liquidate them back. It was the cash equivalent of going to a gas tank for a fillup.

    Today, it’s a rummage sale after a house fire.

    Of course, almost no Neocons understand economics (just like they largely don’t speak foreign languages from the regions they expound upon). Both are structures and disciplines which are too confining for affirmations if Will and AgitProp.

    The imagery of going cap in hand will resonate with them far more. So it will be full steam ahead once their admittedly sound sensitivities to public moods find grounding in the post financial ‘realignment’ world.

    In the end, unlike say doctrinaire conservatives or libertarians, Neocons are not all that bothered by nationalization or Statism. And since they have a polestar, even the image of cap in hand to Beijing could be useful to them.

    It all depends if the financial contagion truly does ‘force’ a drastic reduction in American lifestyle and standard of living. Then all bets are off and demos truly will be ripe for the best and brightest of 21st century AgitProp.

    We can be sure of almost one thing there — it won’t be coming from the DNC.

  38. DrLeoStrauss says

    re Carly,

    We have met her a few times and are intimate with the details of her hiring, her battle for Compaq, overdose on Davos ala John Sculley, and then her termination from senior people involved.

    She initially was lucky to leave Lucent when she did before it collapsed. She is, however, not a ‘manager’ or ‘details’ executive. Which is precisely what HP needed. Some of her strategic ideas made sense, some didn’t. But when good ideas can not be executed the are in a way besides the point.

    People familiar with it all at ‘senior’ HP positions (carefully chosen word there) have been telling the Stiftung how appalled they are to see her involved with the campaign just on competency issues. They also note that Carly has a PR firm engaged full time burnishing her post HP path (after her manic book tanked).

    Of the two, Meg Whitman always was the less ‘showy’ (phenotype-wise), better trained, and simply a better executive.

  39. Comment says

    Leo – do you see any reactionary political implications from John Mack of “storied” Morgan Stanley going hat in hand to the ChiComs for investment?

    At least when Japan was buying up assets – they overpaid. Now the Chinese are getting some good deals on asset prices.

  40. Anon says

    From MoDo:
    “Carly Fiorina, the woman John McCain sent out to defend Sarah Palin and rip anyone who calls her a tabula rasa on foreign policy and the economy, admitted Tuesday that Palin was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

    That’s pretty damning coming from Fiorina, who also was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.”

    – Leave aside Dowd’s snarky style – which has been grating for a while and is getting old – Leave aside the fact that Dowd is jealous of successful happy women – whether black or white. Leave that aside – she does strike a truth here.

  41. Comment says

    There has been a noticable change in Mark Haines bonhomie on air – He used to harange people who descouraged the “American consumer” and he always emphasized the importance of consumer confidence (even though that confidence was an illusion) He represents a certain slice of conventional wisdom.
    Comment has noticed some friends on the street are starting to discover things like the Debt etc – like someone who had boiling water poured on them.

    Meanwhile – Colin Powell is still undecided …

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