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Sep 20, 2008

Taking Counsel

Obama Volker Etc

I was interested in juxtaposing this shot with something representative of McCain's response to the Wall Street cataclysm.  Currently, however, the McCain fare consists of (pardon the pun) "more of the same" -- involving shots of Mac and his Veep doing aircraft hanger rallies, a campaign face virtually interchangeable with the week before.

This shot from yesterday, of Obama with a Wall Street brain trust (Volker/former Fed and Rubin/former Treasury on either side) communicates and reinforces the impression of one candidate getting after the crisis and demonstrating the capability of actual deliberation in the face of all hell breaking loose.  Beyond brilliant PR, it's indicative of why Obama trumps McCain as the man you want holding the keys when real judgement and intelligence is required.  (The symmetry of the sconces and the wall geometry also doesn't hurt in projecting a sense of order.)

Perhaps most powerful however, is the "Kennedy hook," given the reference -- especially, in contrast to the paucity of leadership coming out of Washington -- to "the best and brightest."  Finally, from a purely iconographic sense, more power flows from this biblical comparison.  Not to draw the analogy too closely, but the visual parallel also heightens the gravity of the moment, as well as the notion of fate and even risk of the counselor.

(image: Damon Winter/The New York Times.  September 19, 2008.  From: "Dazed Capital Feels Its Way, Eyes on Election" - link.  caption: Senator Barack Obama discussed the economy on Friday flanked by Paul A. Volcker, former Fed chairman, left, and Robert E. Rubin, former Treasury secretary)


I've always thought Obama was a smart guy and I'm glad to see him getting some press that backs it up. LISTENING to those with experience as opposed to blabbing stale talking points is refreshing to see.

Lapel pin --> Check.
Green light on the conference phone --> Check.
Pens and paper out and in use --> Check.

It actually looks like he's working and/or learning here.. which is a far cry from what we are seeing on the other side.

The comparison with the last supper is amazing..

How presumptuous! ;*)

And *how disrespectful* not to have invited Mac to join them? This is no time for partisan politics!

For me, the picture does not inspire confidence; it contributes to my feeling of dread:

The Picture of Minimalism
by: David Sirota
Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 14:05

You want to understand what Barack Obama's "minimalism" on economic issues really looks like? Then take a look at this picture of Obama's emergency economic meeting on Friday, and look at the guy sitting directly to Obama's left. Yes, that's Bob Rubin, as I noted in my column this week - "the NAFTA architect who gutted market regulations as Bill Clinton's treasury secretary and who then tried to rustle up government favors for Enron as a $17-million-a-year executive at Citigroup, a bank embroiled in today's implosion."

This guy - a person who had a very clear hand in getting America into this crisis - is the guy who Obama is relying on to help him get America out of the crisis, not the progressive economic experts who have been sounding the alarm for years, not the sober academics that have studied the problem, but a big corporate donor who is directly embroiled in the scandal himself (Oh, and by the way, at least in that photo, there aren't any of those progressives elsewhere around the table - there's Lawrence Summers and Laura Tyson - both top economic advisers in the Clinton administration when it backed the financial deregulation that is fueling this crisis...and, of course, we know Obama has hired Rubin protege Jason Furman as his campaign's top economic adviser).

Forgetting about the campaign implications of a Democrat continuing to align himself with Wall Street, this is precisely the fox-in-the-henhouse problem that needs to end if our economy is going to be fixed. It is, in other words, exactly this kind of "minimalism" from Obama that our country and our economy cannot afford right now. And if you can't see that or argue that pointing this out is supposedly some awful sin or plot to help John McCain (who I've written time and time again is far worse), then you are too afflicted by Partisan War Syndrome (or perhaps too personally wealthy to be affected by this crisis) to really see how bad this is, and how important this is beyond one election.

susan, your point is well-appreciated, as also picked up, hopefully, in the last line of the post.

great post, Michael. I'm trying to understand even the surface of this whole mess.
I hear Sirota, though - is it possible that Pres. Obama will have a balance of progressive and established advisors?
at least, I think that if he does, it will be in his nature to listen to both and take ultimate responsibility for decisions that he makes himself: the buck stopping with him will come naturally.
maybe one of our jobs after we get him into the WH is to make sure he knows who those progressive thinkers are, and make sure that they have a big enough megaphone that his natural curiosity drives him to understand.

PLEASE CALL YOUR CONGRESSPERSON -- ask them to say NO to the Wall St. Bailout.

It's outrageous. Gives BILLIONS to the treasury secretary, AT HIS DISCRETION, with no oversight, to dole out to the private companies that are tanking:

"This legislation gives Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes."

See more of the outrageous details here:

at least barack has the ability to understand the complexities of the economic disaster we are facing. there is no one on the other side that has a clue on what needs to be done. we will have a chance with barack and the people he trusts to reverse the last 40 years of free market economics.

we need to make sure he remembers who elected him

To me the photo is also a little suggestive of Da Vinci's "Last Supper", given Obama's central position in the shot and the obvious deference the other people are paying to him.

I still can't decide if the Obama-as-messiah meme is a net positive or negative. If the Republicans succeed in spreading it, what happens if people actually start believing it?

I apologize in advance for sinking to the irrelevancy of grammar cop. Sigh.

The things on the wall are 'sconces': [OF. esconse a dark lantern, properly, a hiding place...] A protection for a light; a lantern or cased support for a candle; hence, a fixed hanging or projecting candlestick. [1913 Webster]

I bring this to your attention only because in looking up the definition (to satisfy my inner pedant), I learned another usage: 3. A piece of armor for the head; headpiece; helmet. "I must get a sconce for my head." --Shak. [1913 Webster]

...which I will do at the earliest possible moment. ;)

Terri in Tokyo: from Digby: The site is called Economists for Obama.

It's a good site, lots of info, but it takes a little work to see who has progressive affiliations, I still don't know. I agree with you about 'making Obama do it'.

Beautifully written post and the perfect photo to illustrate your point.

Let us pay close attention to whether or not Congress swallows this language from the proposed bailout law:

" ""Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency" [Sec. 8".

Rubin is a snake (Goldman Sachs, like Paulson) but Volker is a giant and look who Obama is sitting much closer to and looking at and listening to. Rubin just as well not be in that room. A little boy with his hands folded on the table in front of him. Irrelevant.

Yeah, that's totally Mary Magdalene on the left.

it is quite effective propaganda (in what, ~8 years? does an image of President Bush, or for that matter Vice-President Cheney ~ standing over a map, in classic war counsel, apparent with his military commanders, even exist?)

otoh, the irony of the image is that:

the plan. . . would give the Treasury secretary [Mr. Paulson] broad power to buy and sell the mortgage-related investments without any additional involvement by lawmakers...

ie., Treasury becomes a defacto Unitary Executive.

While the proposal contains no requirement that the government receive anything from banks in return for unloading their bad assets, it would allow the Treasury Department to designate financial institutions as "agents of the government," and mandate that they perform any "reasonable duties" that might entail.

imho, this is no longer a financial crisis issue, it has become a Constitutional crisis: we are losing the freedom to fail.

PAULSON: "I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative -- a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets..."

Wiki => ‘Domino’ Theory => Nationalization

Naomi Klein => The Shock Doctrine: the rise of ‘disaster capitalism

So, what's next? e.g., Wal-Mart & Costco, et al BigBoxes become defacto consumption centers, "State Stores", apparent ~ resembling Eastern Europe circa ~1955; consumer "brand" choices for non-discretionary staples disappear ~ or, "choice" becomes an illusion : “For more enjoyment and greater efficiency, consumption is being standardized.

The Global Malaise wrought by the Bush/Cheney pillage of American idealism persists for one or more decades; ie., the Baby Boom generation just went Bust... That is to say that now is as stark a dividing line as, say ~1973 is the distinction between "modern" and "post-modern" culture, imho.

The WAR ECONOMY raison d'être becomes this perverse "economic security necessity" media narrative propaganda fostered upon the Western, Judeo-Christian masses: dystopia.

M. Gonzo, choice IS an illusion. The factories that make the brand names during the day, make the same widgets at night with the off brand logo. Same widget, just the day widget and the night widget.

The last time I went shopping at a mall, it was all the same. Each clothing store had generic choices, shoe store, furniture store, hardware store, you name it. We buy standardized, fashion forward, generic crap.

Any article that is even a little outside the box costs a small fortune.

And in other opinions, I do hope M. Volker prevails.

I have my passport in hand. Just in case.

Jean: Economists for Obama: bookmarked, and thank you!

jean: “I have my passport in hand. Just in case.”

lucky you! So that's the haves answer: run away.

BAGman: “Over the coming days, weeks and, unfortunately but likely, years, I will strive to bring you otherwise isolated views through the bunker slits of what -- having ignited this week . . . is a full-blown economic and propaganda war of attrition between America's haves and have-nots.”

if all the haves are so faithless in U.S. as to just flee us, we “left behinders” might yet grow a bipartisan backbone sooner than later, BAGman.

{sigh} that you believe (what, Europe?) to not be stiflingly in-a-Box "socialist", or entirely distinguished by class distinctions would be comic, were it not so tragic. Bon chance et bon voyage, chérie.


-$142 million wasted on reconstruction projects that were either terminated or canceled. [Special Inspector General for Iraq, 7/28/08]

-“Significant” amount of U.S. funds for Iraq funneled to Sunni and Shiite militias. [GAO Comptroller, 3/11/08]

-$180 million payed to construction company Bechtel for projects it never finished. [Federal audit, 7/25/07]

-$5.1 billion in expenses for Iraq reconstruction charged without documentation. [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction report, 3/19/07]

-$10 billion in spending on Iraq reconstruction was wasteful or poorly tracked. [GAO, 2/15/07]

-Halliburton overcharged the government $100 million for one day’s work in 2004. [Project on Government Oversight, 10/8/04]


-Millions wasted on four no-bid contracts, including paying $20 million for an unusable camp for evacuees. [Homeland Security Department Inspector General, 9/10/08]

-$2.4 billion in contracts doled out by FEMA that guaranteed profits for big companies. [Center for Public Integrity investigation, 6/25/07]

-An estimated $2 billion in fraud and waste — nearly 11 percent of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June. [New York Times tally, 6/27/06]

-“Widespread” waste and mismanagement on millions for Katrina recovery, including at least $3 million for 4,000 beds that were never used. [GAO, 3/16/06]


-A $50 million Air Force contract awarded to a company with close ties to senior Air Force officers, in a process “fraught with improper influence, irregular procedures, glaring conflicts of interest.” [Project on Government Oversight, 4/18/08]

-$1.7 billion in excessive fees and waste paid by the Pentagon to the Interior Department to manage federal lands. [Defense Department and Interior Department Inspectors General audit, 12/25/06]

-$1 trillion unaccounted for by the Pentagon, including 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units. [GAO, 5/18/03]

Given Bush’s history of gross fiscal mismanagement — including an unprecedented number of no-bid contracts and Bush’s resistance to closing fraud loopholes or increasing oversight of contracts — why should Americans trust another $700 billion to his care? Paul Krugman writes, “Let’s not be railroaded into accepting an enormously expensive plan that doesn’t seem to address the real problem.”

Hey! Water in glasses instead of plastic bottles!

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