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The Guilfoile-Warner Papers

Volley 1

It was McCain's bad luck that the Bush Administration chose the week of the foreign policy debate for its final (maybe?) stroke of incompetence--blowing up the financial industry. I mean what was Bush thinking? You can send poor people to die in an ill-conceived war, or fuel the economy by luring people who can't afford food or shelter to take on massive debt, but Wall Street is their people, man. And it doesn't help McCain when Henry Paulson goes totally Blofeld on Congress: "Give me $700 Billion and complete unchecked power in three days or the US economy will experience a total collapse! Broo-hahahahahah!" The greatest magazine in the world is one you won't find on many newsstands outside Manhattan. It's called Trader Monthly, and it's a lifestyle magazine targeted toward young, up-and-coming Wall Street turks. It might be the most aspirational publication ever produced. They test drive Bentleys and recommend $1,000 bottles of scotch, and $1,200 ear buds for your iPod. The writing in it is actually very funny, if sometimes sexist. Imagine Maxim, if Maxim readers expected seven-figure bonuses each spring, and if, instead of b-list movie starlets in bikinis, the porn was mostly of $60,000 wristwatches, each the size of baby's head. The September issue, which was probably produced months ago before everything went to hell, is this wonderful artifact, completely oblivious to Wall Street's troubles. There's a travel review of a 1.5 million acre dude ranch in Australia where you have to take a helicopter to dinner. There's a column by professional poker great Johnny Chan. Gossip about bonuses. A list of the top 30 traders under 30, with the cream of the cream posing smugly for glamour shots. The only inkling that anything is amiss in the financial world--and honestly this should have been a clue for the folks in the Trader Monthly sales department, if not the folks at Treasury--is two full pages of classifieds advertising pre-owned luxury aircraft for sale. It's a good thing Sarah Palin already unloaded hers. There seems to be some disconnect between the way pundits viewed Friday's debate and the public, at least as reflected in the polls. Professionally opinionated people generally thought McCain did better than people who give their opinions for free or, if not for free, in exchange for donuts. I watched the debate on CNNHD and the screen was filled with more indecipherable clutter than the heads up display in a MIG fighter. The left and right sides of the screen were taken up by six constantly updated pundit scorecards. The bottom of the screen showed the dial results of some focus group watching the polls (for those who have never participated in a focus group, they will sometimes give you these hand-held dials which you are supposed to ratchet to the right when you see something you like and twist to the left when you see something you don't.) Somewhere in the middle of it all was the debate, which was difficult to make out, although I could tell who was talking by watching which way the self-described Democrats and Republicans in the focus group were cranking their dials. People who are paid for their opinion tend to look for nuance--something they can see that other people can't--but that's pretty much useless for telling us how the debate is going over with voters, who look for about as much nuance in their candidates as they do in their Tommy Boy DVD extras. You used to be in the business of trading donuts for opinions, by which I mean you were a focus group facilitator. When you watch the debates can you resist putting that old hat back on and start wondering what other people are wondering as you watch?
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