Ours is a neo- age, and the template is the Victorian, our neo-liberalism, was their liberal trade, our neo-conservatism was their conservatism, our neo-classicism, was their classicism, our neo-imperialism, was their imperialism, their classical gold standard, the model for the modern monetary order. The legend that is presented is that that guilded age was a an age of rapid development, industrialization, and improvement in living standards, and that the policies of that time represented a kind of pinnacle of growth: low taxes, small government, national unity, and an abiding piety.
This order was imposed in a series of wars of unification and revolutions, the model for these, in many respects, was the Anglo-Indian War, often minimized as the "Sepoy Rebellion" or overstated as "The First War of Indian Independence." In truth, it was neither. It was the first war of a Reactionary World - the Realpolitick Revolution was on. Realism, the the ideology that dare not speak its name was about to shock the world. Got it? Then it's time to prelude and fugue...
A spectre is haunting the world, the spectre of conservatism. It is everywhere free to put peoples in chains. It claims that it is all of propriety, and sanity, even as its adherents admit that it's basic ideas just proved to be failures. For validation it presents a legendary moment in the late 19th century, when the European world industrialized, while maintaining traditional values rooted in religion. It presents itself as the inheritor of an eternal church, and a social order rooted in medieval God and Country. The truth is more brutal: the reactionary world was born in a series of revolutions and wars, starting in 1857, and reaching the final polish by mid-1870s. In the space of 14 years, a new order came about, one that was as different from what came before as any communist manifesto, or liberal constitution. This essay is an outline of the hidden realist revolutions that are the basis for the neo-age we live in now.
This is an age of post-. We talk of ourselves in terms of our weights from the past, and in terms that show we are not really after a cataclysmic change, but, instead, before one. People look back most when there is a large stretch of years that seem to imply an order to the world, and a stability. Our present is defined not by what we hope for, but by how we justify a position of wealth and privilege which we are no longer earning, but are determined to keep. At the same time, what we are post- is a rent, and the burden of that rent is strangling us, as a polity, as a society, as a country, and as humanity in general. The cost of the privilege, feels heavier, than the lift it provides.
[Cross posted at Corrente]
Far in the distance, canons were heard, shots that rumbled and boomed. The low slung clutter of buildings that was Batavia, which was to become the city of Djakarta in what is now Indonesia, soldiers were dispatched to look for the source of the fighting, their uniforms clinging in the humidity. It was not quite war, unbeknownst to the administration and others, Napoleon had escaped from Elba, and was making his way to Paris, but two decades of war had left too many marks, indeed Batavia was under British administration even though it was formally owned by the Dutch. But no fighting was found. It is the evening of April 5th, 1815, and across the sprawling archipelago that forms the barrier between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, thunder and detonation sounds are heard, on Borneo, on Sulawesi, on Bali.
It was the sound of a new world being born, in the explosive depths of a volcanic eruption. It is the begining of the way we now structure time, into pre- and post- and neo-, where an era is defined by what it is after, and what it is before, where moments are so powerful that everyone after must pay a rent in mind and society to them. However unreal that may be.
[Cross posted at corrente]
This isn't your father's recession, or as Krugman quipped about 2001 your grandfather's, it is a panic from the 19th century, where a house of cards comes completely unraveled with a bank failure. The fall of Lehman will be the precipitating event for the panic of 2008. Traditional options are dwindling. And Paulson is fiddling while Rome burns.
It is a panic. The Dow is crashing as I write this. Though it is bouncing back, The pressure to do something is enormous.
Last night Asian markets lead by Tokyo, crashed. The Nikkei, the benchmark for the Japanese stock exchange, fell by 9.38% an amount that can only be called a "crash." Rapidly the world's central banks cut interest rates, hoping that the recent fall in oil prices and rise in the dollar gave some room to maneuver in stimulating economic activity and making money available for businesses and equities buyers. Even the People's Bank of China joined in this action.
We have just had a very near thing, and what is important to realize is that all that was done was to delay. Bush is now cementing his place as truly the Worst President Ever, and Ben Bernanke, while he will be played as having averted disaster by economic fanbois, is now finding a place in the inferno of worst cental bankers ever. His remarks yesterday touched off a global sell off, as he ran like a bear through a china shop through the world's markets.
There are few days were everything hangs in the balance, and where it is ordinary people who hold the scales. There are few days in the history of the Republic which are as important as today. Either it will be seen as a turning point, or it will be seen as the inflection point ever downwards in a spiral. Today it is not moghuls of finance, generals, or distant elites who decide our fate, but only us. We can look back over two hundred years, and see a few, a very few, days which decided the fate of the nation. Many were on the field of battle, some few were elections. Today we fight a war, not with force, but the force of our convictions, we fight a battle, where the wings of victory, are our own words.
We must say no. And we must tell the people who work for us. This bill is not nothing else than the meaning of America itself. We have a choice of two Americas, one where enabling acts are rammed through under the cover of darkness and obscurity, with and in the shadow of fear, the other where there is, yet, some slim hope for our Democracy. The waves of the people's revolution must overwhelm the dike and dams of privilege on this day, or there will be no tomorrow.
Let us speak of rights and reason. Of rights we have to begin from the final humiliation against a free people a proposal to grant dictatorial powers to an outgoing administration. In effect, the ability to hide all of the financial wrong doing of the last 8 years.
However, what is important now is a solution. What we need now, is reason in action, as we already have reason to act.
[Updated: Obama has announced opposition to the principles of the Paulson plan. Details after the fold.]
While no action will be taken until March, referal by the "Big 5" has happened
and Iran says that the referal would result in the "end of diplomacy"
"and "an illegal" breach of the UN charter, the nuclear crisis over Iran is growing rapidly into the major diplomatic issue of 2006. While the US may obsess over its lost war in Iraq, the reality is that the proliferation genie is about to explode. Iran has been taking technology to hide nuclear program related activity
from the reach of airstrikes, even those on rumored "digger" trident missiles
armed with conventional warheads.
Greenspan leaves where Volcker did in the middle of a rate raising campaign, hoping to land an economy rather than crash it. The odds against him are getting longer, according to the yield curve, this is the last rate increase before "inversion". What has lead to some increasingly audible jitters is the consensus that there is at least one more coming.
One expects peer reviewed papers to meet a certain basic standard of logic and factuality. Roger Stern
shows how far below that standard one can go, with a paper that is peppered with right wing talking points that engages in outright lies and circular reasoning. This paper is an abomination, a snow job whose clear purpose is to simonize the discussion and insert far right wing junk scholarship into the debate.
So expect them to have awards heaped on him by right wing institutions and a place on the squawk show circuit next to the other conmen of the right wing - Judith Miller who discovered non-existent WMD, the Dow 36,000 authors, Art Laffer of the Laffer curve and so on. While Exxon makes: record profits - the right wing says "the towel heads did it!" and blames OPEC.
Yes, it is that bad.
I've been asked by Hale Stewart to do a short trade presentation for the Yearly Kos economics panel. This is a broad backgrounder of the key problem - a freedom deficit.
Trade, energy and decency are the three economic issues of the next generation. It's easy to explain to people why energy is important, and decency has a powerful moral argument, in addition to having popular programs like Social Security and Medicare as its political face. Trade, however, is the poor step child - unloved by many who are loud in their hatred of corporations and commerce, and misunderstood by millions who depend on it, trade flies in the face of luddite populism and reactionary racism.
But let me boil it down to one issue - a world cannot long be half free, and half unfree.