Change has come

Change has arrived. After all the hate-filled, mudslinging nastiness, after soaring rhetoric and hollow promises, after lies, rumor, and innuendo, after poor predictions and poorer behavior, change has finally arrived.

Yes, change has finally arrived: We’ve reached the end of economic growth.
And just in time, too. As waves of red ink from the Overdraft Ocean lap at the shores of The Check(book) Republic, the cry goes out: The economy must grow. As we find ourselves swimming through an ocean filled with predatory lenders and shylock sea snakes, the screams grow louder: The economy must grow. As the serfs in the Service Economy pay homage to the princes of the collapsing financial sector, the rallying cry overwhelms the senses: The economy must grow.
Never mind the species we drive to extinction. Never mind the air we foul, the waters we muddy, the landbase we annihilate. Never mind the world we’re leaving to our children, and theirs. Never mind the insanity of perpetual growth on finite resources.
Never mind Thomas Malthus. Or Paul Ehrlich. Or Herman Daly. Or the Club of Rome. Or, for that matter, Jesus Christ himself. The economy must grow.
Damn the torpedoes. Or, in this case, the air, the water, the land, the species, the cultures, and the future generations. To hell with all of them and their tomorrows. The economy must grow.
Looks like that problem is taking care of itself, and just in time to save a small portion of what’s left on planet Earth. But the end of economic growth brings with it a host of other problems for the animal that believes he’s special.
We cannot solve this predicament. And if you’re looking for somebody to blame, look no further than geology. Or, if you’re into that sort of thing, God.
Peak oil is history. And that means economic growth is history, too.
I cannot imagine a better politician than Barack Obama to lead this nation through the dark days ahead. But expectations are running high, and the collective disappointment will be severe. Even if Obama inherits an economy that has any life left in it — which certainly isn’t guaranteed with two months left in Dubya’s term and world oil extraction falling precipitously — all available evidence indicates Obama be presiding over heat-sucking, smoldering ruins surrounded by irate hunters instead of a warm, crackling fire ringed by contented campers. BushCo has spent eight years dumping gasoline on the fire, leaving Obama and the Dems in Congress with no fuel, no matches, and no hope for a long-term recovery. Looks like we’re in for a long winter.
The only way to get the world economy stoked up again: hyperinflation. In all likelihood, we’ll escape the smoldering ruins of a severe recession by jumping straight into the bonfire of 1,000 percent inflation.
Good times, eh?
Obama surely knows what’s coming, and he’s busy assembling his team so he can hit the ground running. The first 100 days of a presidency rarely have been so important. If Obama doesn’t draw in those who opposed him within the first 100 days, he likely won’t get a second chance. If that happens, I doubt the country will hold together as united states.
We can hope Obama will inspire us to civility in the face of hard times like this country has never experienced. We can hope he’ll slay the demons of a divided nation and replace them with saints of unity. We can hope he’ll abandon the principles of neo-conservatism — the very principles he rode into office — and replace them with a strong sense of personal liberty that is exceeded by a stronger sense of personal responsibility. We can hope he’ll rise, and take us with him, from the quagmire of personal indulgence and civic irresponsibility this country has become. We can hope his charisma will hold us captive long enough to bring us together as we bravely face a world unlike any of us expected.
The alternative is unthinkable. So let’s put our hearts and minds together to think of something else.

Comments 25

  • My apologies to those who have been frustrated when tracking my blog during the last week or so. The technoglitches, which result from my being a Luddite, have been repaired by the TechnoWizards. The fix is temporary, I’m sure: My ongoing incompetence will provide plenty more work for them, later.

  • I agree fully with Guy on Peak Oil and economic growth. But I differ on Barack Obama. It appears to me that Barack Obama is still calling for economic growth. He is promising to the voting public that they can take a larger slice of a larger pie under his administration.
    Obama has not repudiated war for oil by any means. He plans to expand the military numerically and to shift forces tactically so as to faciliate control of oil. It appears to me that Barack Obama’s understanding of Peak Oil is followed by a Dick Cheney-like desire to “solve” the Peak Oil problem for the time being by using military force to perpetuate petroleum-focused U.S. hegemony.
    But it gets much worse. Obama, who never played the race card in the electoral process, has been annointed by a delirious public as a sort of “messiah” to lead the people to Martin Luther King’s “promised land”. That is an agenda not taken on by Obama himself, but shrewdly used by him to achieve power. But Obama will prove to be very different in reality, which the people will soon get to understand. Obama really does want to end the “politics of divisiveness”. Obama will not recognize past victimhood, which is part of the politics of divisiveness.
    It seems very fascinating to me that Barack Obama has already, in his acceptance speech, correctly identified the fact that “change has come to America”. He was voted in by white voters all over the country. That change was not caused by Obama, but he benefited from it and exploited it. But what sort of change will Obama himself facilitate?
    Will Obama reform the Democratic Party, which every step of the way enabled the Republicans to wage immoral wars, weaken constitutional freedoms of Americans, feed the insatiable corporate beast with hundreds of billions and even trillions of unearned dollars? Will Barack Obama change the dynamics of the lives of a male black population of which one third will be imprisoned during their lifetimes? Will Obama reel in corporate power and excesses? Will Obama effectively and transparently regulate the banking, securities, and financial industries so as to remove and make illegal fraud and corruption? Will Obama separate once and for all the deep connection between corporate money and electoral potential? I think not!
    No! I say that what Obama will do, which is very predictable, is use the impending and ongoing financial crash due to Peak Oil to preserve the status quo and make it even worse. Obama knows from where his bread is buttered. He will apologize to his needy electorate that he would like to do more, but the current emergency means that he just cannot responsibly fulfill all the wishes of those who elected him in a fervent desire for change.
    In many ways, Obama will be just like a Republican. I am talking about the worldview that you can’t raise taxes and decrease government debt during a down economy. And you can’t do it in a strong economy, either, for fear of slowing down the momentum of growth. And make no mistake about it — Barack Obama is pro-growth. So, he will favor the economic interests of the few and withhold change desired by the many.
    I say Barack Obama will prove to the the Left Wing Ronald Reagan. He bamboozled the adoring public to get elected. Then he charted an economic course of international pillage and plunder and sold the jobs of his electorate to cheaper labor pools overseas. Reagan ruined middle-class America while they waved and cheered. Obama will continue the process and watch the Peak Oil phenomenon undermine the U.S. economy even further as he laments his inability to make a positive difference. And many of the public will weep right along with their new hero and never realize what could have happened if Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich or Cynthia McKinnney had been elected.
    If I am wrong on this analysis, I will be delighted! But I see a massive difference between what I see Obama say and what his dazed followers think he said. I say that Obama change can be a change for the worse, and others assume it will be a change for the better because they think it can’t get any worse. Just ask Palestinians if things can get worse than you ever thought possible. And ask Palestinians if they take any comfort in an Obama presidency. With Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff, I think Palestinians are in for the hardest times they can ever imagine, and unfortunately, so will Americans over the next few years.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Stan,
    I think your missing the ball a little bit on this one. Guy gave us the hint in his first sentence, like any good reporter. The change that is coming is apolitical. It, rather, is geophysical. This is the end of the age of oil. The time of climate change, and ecosystem collapse. Guy’s analysis, I think, contains an belief that, Barack Obama, moving through the African-american experience(or at least demonstrating a sound intellectual understanding of it), combine with what appears to be a personal ideology strongly connected to Lincoln, King, and our nation’s founding principals, is well prepared to absorb the 2×4 to the forehead of the reality of peak oil. Barack Obama is about to have reality kick his ass. His job, regardless of what he now plans, will be crises management on a scale no president, except Lincoln, has faced. Barack Obama’s personality, is clear enough, in the Quaker sense, to assimilate the larger meanings of Peak Oil in a way that might increase the chance that our energy decent might occur down a democratic path; if even that remains possible. It doesn’t matter, for instance, if someone like Ralph Nader is individually clearer at this point. He doesn’t have an audience. And until global, national, and perhaps even regional communication systems collapse, the person with the microphone is the one that will tilt us toward facism or what use to be called, if only an ideal, the peaceable kingdom.

  • Indeed, Stan, you missed my poorly presented point. I think Obama is the best we could wish for, but wishing won’t get it done. And neither will Obama. I do not believe he will abandon his neocon principles … but I hope he will. I do not believe he will tell the truth to Americans as we head into a new dark age … but I hope he will. I do not believe he is capable of leading the sheeple down a peaceful path … but I hope he will.

  • I breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday night. I think a lot of people did. Obama isn’t some magical being with a wand to fix things, but he certainly beats the heck out of what McCain and Palin would’ve wrought. I think we have a fighting chance now.
    No a steady-state economy is what we must become. Of course, I don’t completely agree with Ehrlich or Malthus, but nonetheless, I don’t think overproduction and ruining the planet is the proper road to travel, either.
    I hope a new spirit of service to each other and the world and life (in all its forms) springs up in the wake of the current mess. If we all get down to business, maybe there really is hope for a better future even yet.
    The Fat Lady is still warming up in the wings. Let’s hope, by the time she comes out, the song will be a pleasing hymn or a new anthem and not a dirge.

  • I hate to have to disagree with y’all, but I consider Barack Obama to be far more dangerous to America’s well being than John McCain. Obama is more alike McCain in policy than unlike him. But he is far more intelligent and far more deceptive. By virtue of skin color and ambiguous rhetoric, Barack Obama will advance the common cause he share with McCain far more than McCain could because the masses of adoring, but bamboozled idolators will cut him far more slack.
    Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same imperial coin. Both have their roles to play in advancing the status quo. The status quo is best propagated over the long haul by a duopoly of complimentary, but competing proponents. The public sees the competition as adversity, but in reality it is perversity. Obama promises “change” but he means a change in parties and personnel, and not a real change in direction or policy. The wars will continue. The distribution of wealth will continue to grow disproportionately for the haves and not for the have nots. Obama will “do his best” to bring change, but he will have his excuses and the true believers will eat them up until they are no longer digestible. And the economic crisis that Obama failed to address as Senator will create a lot of cover for his failure to enact the presumed agenda expected by his voters.
    Margaret Thatcher proved that having a woman in power does not guarantee compassion. Barack Obama will prove that skin pigment and ambiguous rhetoric does not guarantee it, either. But if anyone can bamboozle the public into thinking otherwise, Barack Obama can. Yes he can. Yes he can.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • To reiterate: “I think Obama is the best we could wish for, but wishing won’t get it done. And neither will Obama. I do not believe he will abandon his neocon principles.” In other words, I don’t think we’re disagreeing, Stan.
    Obama is a neocon, of course, or he wouldn’t have been elected in this neocon nation. Given the choices, though, he is our best chance. Will he stop warring for oil? Of course not. Will he come out against economic growth? Of course not. He can’t, and he won’t. But he’s still better than the McCain/Palin profiteers. As pointed out by Matt Simmons, Obama understands peak oil and its implications, whereas McCain is energy illiterate (a lifelong Republican, Simmons voted for Obama).
    Does this mean there are significant differences between Business Party I and Business Party II? Of course not. In this country, it’s capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich, as pointed out by Ehrlich and Ehrlich in One With Ninevah. But there are extremes of both economic systems, and Obama’s version is bound to be better than McCain’s.
    As I indicated in my original post, it’s likely “we’ll escape the smoldering ruins of a severe recession by jumping straight into the bonfire of 1,000 percent inflation.” Whether we save a few elements of democracy and justice as the economy goes up in flames depends, to an admittedly limited degree, on the President and his actions. I’d rather have Obama at the levers than McCain.

  • If one wants to compare a Barack Obama presidency to a John McCain presidency, with the assumption that both have roughly the same agenda, then a major consideration would be the effectiveness of opposition by the alternate party.
    The Democrats, as opposition party, have been ineffective. They lacked the will to impeach Bush, stop the war, challenge the corporations, or anything else that so-called “progressives” would have preferred.
    I say the Republicans will be a much more organized and effective opposition party.
    This means that a McCain presidency would likely advance the common agenda more successfully than Obama would advance the common agenda.
    But reality is that the election is over. Obama won. If that makes anyone feel good, more power to them. Arnold S. got elected Governor of California, a few years ago and millions were delirious with joy. Now the state is in worse financial crisis than ever and the same people who were delirious for Ahnold are possibly dancing with joy for Obama. I don’t get it, but I don’t watch television and don’t get caught up in all the emotional symbolism.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Mr. Obama confronts a (social, economic, ecological, cultural, etc) mess of dimensions and intensity so enormous as not seen in history. Not all of it is attributable to the outgoing administration; much of it has been snowballing sine the dawn of the fossil-fuel age.
    So the incoming administration will have attempt the task of cleaning up the mess: a high-level janitorial service. But a solution may be beyond reach, and will recede further as we slice down this side of Hubbert’s curve.
    But the most difficult thing to clean up will be the attitudes of people with regard to radical changes in their lifestyle. However, there too, change is inevitable. Sabbe sankhara anicca: all composite things are transient.

  • I can think of a form of change that Obama could initiate that would impress me. It would invert a conservative model that amazed me when Ronald Reagan succeeded in a dastardly way, and which has continued. If Obama could turn it on its head using people power, he would impress me greatly.
    To recall, Ronald Reagan faced a strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union (PATCO). I thought surely the union will have leverage and achieve their rational demands. But Reagan refused to negotiate with the union and declared that the strike was illegal. No matter that air traffic control is a highly technical skill and public safety was involved — Reagan stood fast, forced managers to run the control towers until scabs could be hired and trained, and he busted the union.
    Since that time, unions have grown weaker and weaker as governments at the state and local levels have rewarded union-busting tactics that fired workers for attempting to organize, etc.
    Barack Obama is in a position, I believe, to do something impressive to change a paradigm. The unraveling of the banking, securities, financial, credit markets and systems is a profound disruption of business as usual. I, for one, don’t see any reason that the system that failed us has to be restored, refinanced, refloated, and rewarded with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. I have to believe that if airports all over the country could be run for months without normal staff, the U.S. financial system could be reformed in a clever way using government initiative.
    I don’t know exactly how, but I suspect there are capable economists who could advise on such a change, even if it were temporary to help the public pass through the current crisis. Some things are clear to me — the bankers are taking hundreds of billions of dollars right now that were intended to promote liquidity in loaning, and they are using or expected to use the money to buy other banks, build reserves, lavish bonuses on executives, pay dividends to investors, etc.
    If Barack Obama is as smart as I think he is, he ought to be able to do to the banks what Reagan did to the air traffic controllers. He should be able to do something in the public interest that maximizes any cost to taxpayers while simultaneously stimulating the economy. I have heard suggestions on the radio today on how stimulous packages could be prepared to invigorate the real economy by repairing infrastructure, training labor, educating people, and so forth.
    I would challenge people to demand that Obama shake things up with change we can believe in. The recent large-scale failure of capitalism requires right now that the deck be reshuffled. Not by rewarding failure by millionaires with low-interest loans of billions of dollars, but by cutting the undeserving out of the action altogether and remaking a sound financial system that is transparent, efficient, honest, stable, and no longer dependent on economic growth to generate profit.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Hope in Obama didn’t last long: His selection of neocon Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff indicates we’re headed for more Reaganomics. Emanuel was a huge force behind NAFTA and Bill Clinton’s draconian crime bill, and he’s pro-war, pro-business, and anti-labor. Looks like the bloom is off the rose.

  • Speaking of change coming, I see another dynamic emerging. It has to do with the emergence of a police state in America with the purpose of the government protecting itself from irate citizens.
    Obama gave his first press conference after the election yesterday. He promised that the national economy would be the first priority of his new administration. He promised to prioritize the impossible — long term economic growth.
    And Obama gave the confident false perception that this economic crisis will be dealt with quickly, as if it was unexpected, unpredictable and perhaps even unimaginable.
    The fact is that the economic crisis we face was not only imaginable and predictable, but it was imagined and predicted and feared and engineered by the government itself. Did not the congress repeal the protective Glass Steagall Act as a means of increasing profitability through the inevitable expansion of risk? Did not the insane leveraging of assets in the banking and credit and securities industries have the tacit blessing of the government? Didn’t the entire flawed system of government regulation of the market, such as it was, involved the literal self-regulation by industry insiders migrating into government oversight functions? Didn’t Obama’s own financial advisor Warren Buffet famously label derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”?
    If there was a press that actually questioned authority, this mess could have been prevented. If the press had functional investigative reporters who followed the money and looked beyond the feedings of financial pablum they received and continue to receive from the government, they could unravel this “mystery” of how we got in this mess and how much worse it is likely to get. And the finger of blame will point squarely on government, including Barack Obama. And since government continues to shift the cost of the debacle from private hands responsible for it to those of the public, it seems likely that eventually the public will catch on and become irate.
    Dissent is a function of a healthy democracy. Somehow, though, I have to think that the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff is a subtle signal that Barack Obama is not quite as easy going as his public image to date suggests. And when the politics of divisiveness rears its ugly head, I see a likelihood of repression under the Obama administration.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • It is heartening to see Robespierre and Saint-Just in spirited debate–The Committee of Public Safety is alive,well and functioning.
    Modern society in every way has reached such pernicious extremes,that it must,out of neccesity,self-destruct.Wall Street joined greedy barbarism with modern technology to destroy itself and the world economy.Obama or McCain or anyone else,it makes no difference. The world is on the path of ineluctable entrophy,when a wild flower can bloom,and a bird can sing.This is the good news,sit back and enjoy it.

  • ………and in any event,form is more important than substance.On the surface Obama is an intelligent,thoughful person.A refreshing change from seeing Bush’s Charlie McCarthy mounthing words from Cheny’s Edgar Bergen.

  • Memo to Charlene:
    Sorry Charlene,Didn’t mean to leave you out of the Revolution.You are of course Madame DeFarge.

  • A good Obama change analysis by another Frank M. can be read at:
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Thank you Stan:
    I agree with Menetrez. Not just saying that because he has such an excellent first name either !! I just finished e-mailing my two Beijing guides,and inviting them to visit me here.I told them that relations between our countries will
    be much better because Obama is intelligent and thoughtful.So yes,on balance Obama is a net plus.But I want to reiterate and clarify my idea that civilization must come crashing down, because in every aspect it has reached insensate extremes.
    I wish I had the ability to show a chart pattern familiar to market technical analysts.So let me try to describe it.
    Start with a market where prices are increasing at a steady,linear rate.You have a straight ascending line.If market
    enthusiasm increases you get exponential price` changes i.e. price increases at an increasing rate.Now the line upward starts to bend up until you get a parabolic curving line upwards.Greed feeds upon itself,price rises begets even more
    price rises until you reach near verticality,with the line going nearly straght up.Every market watcher knows what happens next-a blow off top,and it all comes crashing down.Perhaps the recent rise in crude oil to it’s $147 peak is an
    example of this phenomenon.
    I believe that human society is now in this blow off stage.In every way,every where you look,everything touched by human hand is in an insane,uncontrolable blow off top.Everything,everywhere is in such egregious excess that it all must collapse.
    In 2000, Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon of the University of Toronto published”The Ingenuity Gap”,in which he described
    a world of technology run amuck,”…too fast paced for us to understand,let alone control”
    Wish for glorius entropy.

  • Hey,
    all of your comments seem to be hopelessly naive,
    governments are run by special interest groups, hello?
    (check the board members of the FDA, monsanto etc,
    and of course Cheney and Haliburton – apparently
    this fact did not get much media time in the US,
    (or very little critical reportage)
    US democracy? = corporate kleptocracy
    he is no saviour, you guys seem to invest too much
    into your politicians, as if they are super heroes.
    or messiahs. Having said that I felt somewhat emotional
    when Barack won the election, (even in Australia).
    There is a sense of hope even in other parts of the world.
    The problem with the press is the notion of ‘concision’.
    Noam Chomsky has written extensively on this.
    (USA’s ‘greatest living intellectual’)
    The media’s sole purpose is to sell advertising.
    The problem with a complex issues is that it needs
    time for it to be sufficiently explained.
    (the space between the ad breaks is insufficient)
    Even on the Lehrer news hour (PBS?) there is insufficient
    time to explain an isssue, the sound bite rules. This media
    message/concision effects the way that we think/converse
    and understand information. That is, it shapes the way that
    we think and view the world.
    Anyway the media is the message, nothing more.

  • The world-wide financial collapse started in the halls of academia.Many Nobel Prize winning economists came up with models that supposedly could game the financial markets.Black and Scholes are just two of the names in this infamous group.They all failed disastrously.Many trillions of dollars are down the drain.Many other PHD’s in physics and mathematics were hired to design convoluted derivatives that were so arcane that even they were confused by there own inventions.Credit Default Swaps, CDO’s and a huge range of other alphabet soup bone-headed schemes were contrived to destroy the world economy.None would have been possible without academics.
    I’m not one of them–but some of you are academics.You know these types.Would you please explain them to me?

  • returning to the theme of change, Obama, and adding Peak Oil, Jan Lundberg wrote a nice piece which can be accessed at the following link:
    Here we see the intrinsic flaw with Obama’s financial model. Obama is counting on economic growth to drive his economic engine towards changed goals of green collar jobs and ecological healing. The problem is that Obama is about three or four presidencies too late. We are in the grip of Peak Oil now, though we have not felt is full force. Soon we will find that availability of oil will restrict growth, and not just price. But price will go up, up, up too. Lundberg observes that you cannot transition into a post Peak Oil paradigm after Peak Oil hits and it has hit. Dick Cheney knew and he went to war for oil. Clinton/Gore could have led us into the transition, but they got greedy and it appears that Obama is regurgitating Clinton.
    The change that Obama promises for our economics will likely be what we will find in our pockets instead of dollars as the process continues …
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Stan, thanks for the great links.
    Frank, to answer your question: Academics are just like other Americans in one respect (to quote the Buddha): “There is no torrent like greed.”

  • the above reminds me of a great depression song by Gillian Welch called
    “One More Dollar” (from her Revival album)
    A great line ends: “… could you spare me a coin and a Christian prayer — my luck has turned against me.”
    Woody Guthrie would have loved Gillian and her music.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Guy’s comments about academics adding greed to the equation reminds me of the title of the movie about the Enron debacle — “The Smartest Guys in the Room”.
    There is a huge difference between intelligence and wisdom. That gap is what dooms humanity.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • the lyrics to “One More Dollar” can be read at:
    The music is even better, including the guitar work of Gillian Welch and her partner, David Rawlings. And another song, “Acony Bell” on the same album is like Aldo Leopold’s essay on the obscure plant Draba set to old-fashioned mountin music.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • For exploration of an area where Barack Obama himself needs to change and have a healthy attitude adjustment, I recommend a website I just discovered (The Smedley Butler Society, which opposes war and imperialism)
    Major General Smedley Darlington Butler served in the U.S. Marines in the first few decades of the Twentieth Century. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor, not once, but twice, for heroism in the line of duty. And he ultimately came to understand and regret his misplaced nationalism and warmaking and became very active in opposing war.
    The Smedley Butler Society website explains the imperial nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a section on Iran explores the lies and misconception on which a war or major attack on Iran could be manufactured. Barack Obama really needs to read this documented analysis on Iran and to take a hard look at the discussion of the imperial wars of aggression and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. And the discussion of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and its misguidedness would be of particular use to Barack, because the American people would greatly benefit financially and otherwise from winding that useless war down and enhancing American security and financial integrity by more intelligent and prudent measures.
    There is a lot of information on the Smedley Butler Society website and it is well worth exploring it in detail, but not all at once.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA