FOR THE UNGRATEFUL. Thanks Brizoni.
You've done a lot of people a
favor. When you
take even The Boss by surprise with the dumbest possible presentation
of a question, you've done something good. In this instance, you've
reminded us of a whole generation of kids who know nothing about how
the economy works and how their own indifference to it is a form of
You don't seem to like bankers. The Good News: Nobody does. The Even
Better News: They're only the raw ingredients of every delightful cake
you've ever eaten. Someone has to pay for the flour, the eggs, the
baking powder, and the sugar you pour into the pan. And the recipe for
the cake. And the skill and artistry of the baker. Capitalism is about
the value of the knowledge, labor, execution, timeliness, and
distribution systems of those who transform mundane ingredients into a
product people desire enough to pay money for.
Contrary to appearances and standard reporting, bankers are not the top
end of capitalism, but the low end.. They know nothing, they make
nothing, they are nothing.
Their participation in capitalism is always ignorant, second-hand,
mathematical, and dense. If capitalism is, as the standard metaphor
goes, a great engine of wealth, the money men are merely the gas
station attendants who pump the fuel for that engine and sometimes
check the oil. If this makes them seem overpaid to you, congratulate
yourself. They are overpaid.
So why is all journalistic coverage of the economy dominated by quotes
from the suspendered nancy boys of Wall Street? It's just an accident
of positioning. Like the gas station attendant, they perform their
pedestrian tasks from a vantage point above the engine. Which makes it
seem as if they have some global perspective on what's happening inside
the cylinders and valve trains of the engine. Some of them do. Most of
them don't. You may have learned that whenever your own car breaks
down, there's always some jerk-off at your elbow anxious to offer an
opinion about what went wrong. Most economic reporting consists of
journalists (ignorant bystanders) asking that guy (the know-it-all
dumbass twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines) for his diagnosis of a
motor he's never scraped his knuckles on.
The real reason for the paralyzing boredom you experience on all
matters pertaining to the economy is your subconscious awareness that
every so-called expert opinion solicited and relayed by the media is
utter bullshit. When they tell you the stock market fell today because
Intel reported lower than expected earnings, they're flat-out fucking
lying. The stock market is a set of instruments measuring hundreds of
thousands of engine performance variables, but the read-outs from those
instruments are too complex to be correctly interpreted by static
photos of the dashboard -- such as analysis of the meaning of results
at arbitrary points in time like the 5 pm closing bell of today's
trading session. Imagine analyzing the health of a Grand Prix race car
engine by studying images of the cockpit dash at regularly timed
intervals. There are only a few conditions you could reliably detect:
low fuel, overheating, and complete absence of speed. Everything else
could be a function of where the car is on the track. High revs could
mean acceleration on a straightaway, routine downshifting for a curve,
or sudden transmission failure. Falling speed could mean expert braking
or engine failure. Now imagine that none of the dashboard instruments
display Arabic numerals or constant measurement units. They generate
their data in pure sensory terms -- sound, smell, taste, and blurry
visual snapshots of the track. All interpretations of such data could
be spectacularly wrong. That's why day-to-day and month-to-month
interpretations by so-called economic experts are routinely wrong.
Inflation is soaring. No, it isn't. Consumers are panicked. No, they
aren't. All is well. No, it isn't. The economy is in freefall. No, it
isn't. It's in a controlled four-wheel drift at the apex of a tricky
chicane the driver has well in hand. Or: it's sliding out of control
directly at the wall because of a blown shift. No foolproof way to tell.
BUT. And this is a BIG big BUT. None of the above is any excuse for
anyone, including you, Brizoni, not to understand the essentials of
capitalist economics, which have absolutely NOTHING to do with Harvard
MBAs or the pontifications of politically aware Econ professors.
Capitalism isn't even boring. It's one of the most exciting, infinitely
variable, and attractive aspects of human endeavor. It's not at all
hard to understand or visualize. Here's a look at it in action:
catching crab. For money. A lot of money.
That's the fundamental formula. The people who take the biggest risks
to serve their chosen markets have the greatest opportunity to earn big
rewards. Why do they deserve big rewards? Because losing is always an
option. Risk. Reward.
a gap between risk and reward. A gap you can fall into.
Sometimes capitalists leap the gap by being brave. Usually, they leap
it by being both brave and very very good at what they do. Are you
starting to see the difference between capitalism and your video-game
view of life? We don't live in a closed, rigidly programmed, zero-sum system with
infinite do-overs available at the touch of a button. Winning isn't
just a matter of starting out with enough 'cheats' and bludgeoning some
artificial game into submission. It's about staring the scary possible
future straight in the eye and still having the guts and brains to do
what it takes to win. ANYONE can play. That's the incredible,
glorious beauty of it all.
can be brave and smart and lose. You can be brave and dumb and win. But it's still better to be brave and
smart. Risk, reward. Risk, reward. Get it?
If your frustration with economics is more than a pose, watch all three
of the series linked above and THEN read an Econ textbook. Terms like
supply-and-demand might begin to take shape in your head in dimensions
beyond the humdrum charts. When you realize that the guys in bowties
who are usually asked to explain the economy know absolutely nothing
about the 'creation of wealth,' you're on the road to recovery.
The next and most important step is to go back to these same examples
and ask yourself what would happen if a beneficent government decided
that bravery is synonymous with greed and decreed that secretaries and
file clerks are entitled to as much reward as these guys. We're all the
same, aren't we? Why should that foul-mouthed white guy make more money
than a drug-addicted single mother of five? Wouldn't that be
But we still have a sneaking suspicion that even the liberal
heaven would retain a big supply of know-it-alls in bowties to explain
why there isn't enough lumber, why all the seafood restaurants have
closed, and why it's no longer 'economical' to conduct mining
operations in Alaska.
The final step is to realize that every jot and tittle of the American
economy, which has redefined the meaning of the word 'possible'
to the rest of the world, consists of millions of people who have taken
risks analogous to the kindergarten examples we've cited on YouTube.
Still bored, Brizoni? You need more show and tell before real life
begins to strike you as more interesting than a video game? Awwww. Here's a
homework assignment. Watch all these.
Compare your creativity to that of a capitalist economy. Then come back
and lord your boredom over us. Convincingly.
Monday, March 17, 2008
A Pitiful Cry for Help.
is to me what Mario is to everyone who understands economics.
reverse-engineered cockroach genes will endow even that statistical
Tibetan yak farmer who's never heard of Pepsi with a 400 year
lifespan (and also with flight; otherwise why bother?). Until then,
remains short enough that one must choose between gaining a working
knowledge of Mario Bros. or a working knowledge of economics. There's
not time enough in the human life nor space enough in the human head
Maybe that's pessimistic. I'll put it this way: Making sense of both
Mario AND economics in the same brain is a two-event mental triathalon.
No points for guessing how much ass I kick at Mario. It's all. All
the ass. Economics, to me, might as well all be written in that awful Beowulf quasi-English. Where every
word has three extra "y"s, two extra "n"s, and a silent "e", no matter
The video above is the first level of the first Mario game. It'll
be familiar to most of you with, like, actual jobs.
It's the level you've had a son or nephew
or young acquaintance try to teach you to play. You grasped the
basics: You could move your little Mario guy left and right, you
figured out one of the red buttons on the controller made him jump, you
got that you could hit the floating bricks with your head. Your young
friend tells you to find the mushroom. What? There's a mushroom? Where?
And why a mushroom, exactly? Just get it, he says. Hey, that looks like
a mushroom walking towards you. But why is the
ten-year-old next to you panicking --- oh no, did you die? You touched
the walking mushroom. Did you get it? Did you get the mushroom? Is that
how it's supposed to go? No, your nephew sighs in profound
exasperation. It's contagious. You're a grown-ass man, so you decide
any game this opaque can't be worth your time. You smile, muss your
son's hair, and get the hell out of there as fast as you can without
making a spectacle of it.
Well, if regular Mario crosses your eyes, steel yourself for a return
utter perceptual chaos of infancy. I give you Hard Relay Mario:
Did you, could you watch the
whole thing? Or did it black you out after two minutes? That's what economic talk does to anyone
born after 1980. If you know an exception to that rule,
well, that's awesome for you. I've met more albinos in real life, myself.
I'm pretty sure this article tells the story of private firms not
having enough money at once, so the government (the Fed's the
government, right?) decided to give billions of dollars away so the
debt/liquidity juggling act our economy is founded on doesn't collapse.
Is that about right? I don't know.
I can't bring myself to do anything but skim the piece. I really cannot
read every word in that barrage of paragraphs, terrible as an army with
Think of two hetero
men forcing themselves to kiss each other. Economic language is just as strongly and innately repellent.
And that's unacceptable. To me. The mechanics of money affects my life
most of the things that piss me off, and I have barely any idea what
and who involved to hate at.
Herculean feat or not, I've gotta
this stuff. Odds are I'm missing quite a few crucial puzzle pieces not
knowing it. You know?
Or relearn it. I've had exactly one economics class in my life. I've
forgotten most of it. I used to know who Keynes was, and the important
spin or caveat or new perspective he brought to the old
supply-and-demand model. Those and the other factoids in the economics
set are deeeeep in the
catacombs of memory now. Guarded by a fierce minotaur named No Natural
I'll need the magic sword AND shield to kill that beast. AND once I've
made a helmet of his hollowed-out skull, I have to dig a new, much
larger catacombs to put my new knowledge in, AND walk every inch of
those new catacombs until I know them by heart. I can't just learn this
stuff once to say I learned it. It has to make sense to me.
I expect that quest to go something like
Don't worry, son. Papa will explain it all. And you won't even have to
stop sucking your thumb.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
With all due
We love The Anchoress here.
THE GOSPEL OF JEFFREY.
With all the back and forth in the Democratic campaign over the
past few days, people are losing their perspective and getting things
wrong. Specifically, they're being swept up in the amount of ink being
lavished on individual events and failing to see the difference between
a grenade and a bunker-buster. Today, Glenn Reynolds (who also made an
erroneous snap judgment of his own this morning) cited The
Anchoress as a wise perspective on what's going on:
Both Democrat candidates have been
playing victim cards in their turn, for months. Yesterday Geraldine
Ferraro upped the ante by playing the gender and reverse-racism victim
These are not “racist” or “sexist” gambits being played by Wright or
Steinem, but appeals to emotion, and appeals to emotion are too often
used to gloss over a lack of substance, or so I have been told by my
correspondents on the left, lo these many years, as they accuse the GOP
of governing on “fear,” (because terrorism is not a real threat).
And while the victim card appeals to emotions, it tends to noisily set
off rage in those who listen and perceive themselves as being
identified as the “enemy.” So everyone gets emotional, everyone starts
yelling, and no one is listening or making any sense...
Her point seems to be that we
are at fault if we experience any kind of emotional response to the
exchange of revelations between opposing campaigns. This time, The
Anchoress is wrong.
WASHINGTON — The passion fueling the
Democrats' history-making presidential campaign is putting two of the
party's most important constituencies — women and African-Americans —
on what could be a collision course.
What could be...? USA
Today is wrong.
Reynolds offered the following post, reproduced here word for word:
Glenn Reynolds is wrong. However they surfaced -- which was inevitable
despite The Anchoress's uncharacteristically irrelevant concern with how they surfaced -- the video
excerpts from the sermons of Jeremiah Wright are the only significant
revelation that occurred this week. (Ferraro's faux-pas will be as
insignificant as she is in two weeks time.) They are also fatal to
Obama's chances of winning the presidency. They are probably equally
fatal to Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the presidency. It's up
to the Democrat Party to figure out how to deal with the catastrophe,
but catastrophe it is, and there are multiple reasons why.
Everyone has been bending over backwards to give Obama the benefit of
every doubt, including all Democrats, the fawning MSM, and the many
many conservatives who would also like to enter a post-racial era of
politics. That's the prime reason for The Anchoress's rare lapse of
good judgment. Citizens in the electorate who perceive, emotionally or
intellectually, that they are conceived of as "the enemy" by a
presidential candidate can't be accused of "not making any sense" if
they suddenly become intensely skeptical of that candidate. They have
every right -- an infinitely greater right, in fact, than any candidate
for the highest office in the land has to an unlimited benefit of the
doubt about the sincerity of his rhetoric. The candidate's prime
mission is to convince voters that he (or she) is not serving some
narrow slice of the electorate at the expense of all others. If he
fails to do this, he has not earned the office. Period.
For a variety of reasons, we all know very little about Barack Obama.
His life has been much like his campaign persona, featuring some point
of contact for all people. If you're poor and black, he at least is
black. If you're white and highly educated, he at least is highly
educated. If you're a struggling single mother, he at least was raised
by a single mother. If you're a Catholic or a Methodist or a
Presbyterian or a Baptist, he at least belongs to a nominally Christian
church. If you're anybody who believes in the American Dream, he is at
least, regardless of policy differences, a living embodiment of the
American Dream. He has a finger in every pie. His speeches have been
analogous. He wants things to be better. He wants less rancorous
partisanship. He wants less conflict between America and the rest of
the world. And he asserts his confidence, ever so believably, that all
these utopian goals can be achieved because he is all of us,
in one way or another.
But we don't know very much about him because the part of him to which
any of us can relate is only a sliver. Hardly any of us had a white
American college professor for a mother and a Kenyan muslim for a
father. Hardly any of us spent large chunks of our youth living in
non-European foreign countries. Hardly any of us went to the Harvard
Law School. Hardly anyone in American history has been propelled to the
summit of national politics with such frighteningly scant experience.
He is the promising stranger who seems too good to be true. But he is a
stranger, even to the 91 percent of genuine African-Americans who
support him knowing that he shares none of their ancestry of slavery.
And he is too good to be true.
The truth is, he is none of
us. Which is absolutely fine for any individual citizen of the United
States. But not for someone who aspires to be president of the United
States. Ultimately, we all require some connection that goes beyond
lofty phrases in speeches read off a teleprompter. The damage that will
simmer and ultimately explode out of the Jeremiah Wright association is
that Obama is a phony, no matter how he chooses to respond. Whether he
defends his racist, anti-American pastor of 20 years or repudiates him
with extreme prejudice. In his heart of hearts Obama understands
nothing and no one, because he has never belonged anywhere or truly
participated in anything. Which is why he has consistently gone
overboard in trying to belong everywhere he's ever been. In the
process, he has initiated a chain reaction that will do in his party,
his rivals, the people he claims to want to serve, and himself.
He seems to present a forest of contradictions. His classmates at
Harvard Law School, including his close associates at the Harvard Law
Review, seem to remember him as a great guy, tolerant, friendly, and
fair. Yet he chooses to be a member of a church that foments a
continuous and deeply counter-productive racial rage. He forms a
friendship with an over-privileged Vietnam-era radical terrorist whose
knowledge of how to play "the system" is so advanced that he can cop a
plea for bombing the U.S. Capitol and emerge from prison into a
professorship without ever expressing a moment's remorse. Yet he
marries a middle-class African-American woman who has had every
conceivable advantage and who now, on the verge of becoming First Lady
of the nation, publicly voices a churlish disrespect not only for her
country but for white people. men generally, and even the husband who
has opened up the golden path to power. He prospers politically through
a murky relationship with a Chicago operator who has relationships with
multiple dubious moneymen from the Wahabbi middle east that have
benefited him politcally and personally. Yet he slams his female
presidential rival for releasing a photo of him in muslim dress and
objects to the speaking out loud of his own middle name.
Who is Barack Obama? There is only one thread of consistency in all
these contradictions -- his distance from everyone in his life, save
possibly the mother he chose to ignore in an autobiography focused on
his distant, abandoning father. Barack Obama is whoever he happens to
be around, whoever the emotionally strong people in his life choose to
surround him with, whoever it serves him to be at the moment.
The argument is being made that Obama must hate America because he went
to Jeremiah Wright's church, got married there, had his children
baptized there, and contributed $20K to it in 2006. That's wrong, too.
It's Michelle Obama who hates America, who believes the vile propaganda
of yet anothe rich, phony, one-church Pope, who wanted to be married in
a Farrakhan-esque cult denomination, and have her children baptized
there. Obama was just reflecting her wishes because she was authentic
African-American and he was merely determined to belong. She knows this. That's why she can
barely conceal her contempt for him.
There is no Barack Obama.
Everyone who meets him makes up their own version of him. He is an
outstanding orator becaue he has learned to read the desire of those
around him about who they want him to be and then to reflect and
fulfill that desire. It has worked for him every step of the way until
now. Be the ball? He is the
words he says. When he says them. That's his whole identity, the wave
of affirmation that flows back from the crowd when he has been a clear
He has been too many things to too many different people. But all those
people expect to see what they're expecting to see every time, and it's
no longer possible in the simultaneous pressures of a presidential
campaign. Even he doesn't know how different he is from venue to venue
and person to person. That's why he doesn't know how to recognize the
urgency of repudiating Jeremiah Wright in absolute and unforgiving
terms. There's a part of him that believes in the AIDS conspiracy, just
as there's a part of him that believes in the fundamental decency of
all the guilty liberals who admired and promoted him at the Harvard
All of this could possibly be overcome if he had any feel for the deep
diversity of the American electorate. But he doesn't. From first to
last, he's always been an outsider. He doesn't understand at all -- and
neither does USA Today's eager young reporter -- that African-Americans
have been on a deadly collision course with feminists since the
mid-seventies. These two apparent and frequently avowed allies have
been competing for the same finite pool of extra privileges all along,
and because there are more women and more of the women are white, it is
the feminists who have done more to slow the de-racialization of
America than any other force. The feminists' anti-male propaganda has
inevitably done far more damage to African-American males and their
role in families than it has done to white men. The feminists' gradual
achievement of female hegemony over child ownership, child-rearing, and
abortion decisions has done more to destroy the black family and
promote the epidemic of children born out of wedlock than any
conspiracy Jeremiah Wright could ever dream up. The resistance -- in
the virulent form of hip-hop hatred of women -- has made racism and
sexism into the two supposedly allied causes that were destined to go
finally and horribly to war with one another.
Regardless of how the campaign war turns out, both sides have been
crippled. Obama cannot win because there is no one inside the gauzy,
unreal image to battle through the contradictions to a mandate based on
character rather than a mosaic of sliver identities. His white vote
shrivel as ordinary Americans discover they can't determine where his
allegiance lies, unless it's to himself only. Women will sit on their
hands because they've seen enough of the slick young operator who
waltzes in at the last moment and swipes the opportunity from the
deserving veteran female (and being half-white doesn't help him in this
respect). But Hillary can't win, either, because of the one-drop rule.
Even though Obama is not and never was an African-American, he has
always been black enough to benefit from the superannuated slave
culture that forgives every corruption and hypocrisy in those who have
any claim on being black. If Hillary is the nominee, African-Americans
will stay home in significant numbers. Unlike Jeremiah Wright, John
McCain is the irascible uncle we'd go to for help in a pinch, not hide
from because of the revolver he keeps in a cigar box.
At the end of the day, Reverend Wright is a self-fulfilling prophecy,
the poison in the well. Like Moses, he can never accompany his chosen
to the promised land When his people finally learn to stop
following his like, they will find what they seek, as if by magic. But
for now, the horse he groomed for them is scratched at the gate.
If you think we're wrong, you do not yet understand the power of
It will "never stop, never stop, never stop..."
Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the
link. I owe him an apology. When he didn't link this post quickly
enough to suit me, I sent him a cranky email. InstaPunk's customary
arrogance is a persona that's a useful tool on a satirical website but
has no place in other kinds of correspondence. Glenn has proved he's a
fairer man than I am. We'll see if I can do better in future.
All right. I admit it. The headline was the whole motivation for the
post. All that's left is a review by one Nicholas Shakespeare of a book
on terrorists by his fellow Brit, Michael Burleigh. I know I should end
the entry right now with a link to the book review in question, but I'm
a stubborn cuss, and I can't help looking for some meaning to justify the
grandiloquence of my headline. My apologies [Leave. Go. Get the hell
out of here. I have absolutely NOTHING to say today that's worth
reading]. Still here? Damn.
At least I'm not blogging about Eliot Spitzer.
That's probably why you're still reading. Nothing is more boring than Eliot
Spitzer. Not even Nicholas Shakespeare. And truthfully (???), the
review does illuminate the profound death wish of the Brit intellectual
caste. They are all so absent emotion that one could cut their throats
and their final gurgled words would be a critique of your technique.
Here are some excerpts from the review:
We live in an age of cultural disorder,
point a finger at the absurdities of radical Islam is to be branded a
racist, a fascist or a bigot. This timely and important book would
probably not have been published 10 years ago, but its relevance is
Michael Burleigh's theme:
squalor, intellectual poverty and psychotic nature of terrorist
organisations, from the Fenians of the mid-19th century to today's
jihadists - the latter group, especially, being composed of unstable
males of conspicuously limited abilities and imagination, and yet who
pose "an existential threat to the whole of civilisation" with their
crusade to realise "a world that almost nobody wants", all in the hope
of an afterlife featuring 72 virgins and rivers foaming with honey and
Burleigh has read and
travelled enough to express an impeccable
contempt for the "theoretical gobbledygook" of the IRA or the
"stunningly tedious" ideology of the New Left, while sharing the
bemusement of the kidnapped German industrialist Hans Schleyer "at the
incredible ignorance his captors [the Red Army Faction] demonstrated
about the higher workings of the German economy"...
Andreas Baader embodies many of the
resentful and narcissistic traits that Burleigh identifies in his
subjects: sour, lazy nobodies, ugly, of febrile imagination and
indifferent talent, who can only become somebody by blowing others,
inevitably persons more talented and intelligent, up....
Burleigh parades an
arsenal of facts, and the cumulative effect is
undeniable. Only with his claim that the tactic of terror "never
amounted to more than an irritant", and was not crucial in forcing
colonial powers to leave Palestine and Algeria, not to mention acceding
to power in Ireland and South Africa, do I depart from his thesis....
Burleigh shares in his prose style
something of the pitiless monotone
with which his targets engage with the world. He finds little
levity in over 500 pages, except where his keenness to be up to date
gets the better of him. He has his finger on the pulse, but his foot on
Blood & Rage is in all sorts of
ways an outstanding book; it
is also fuelled by the manic energy and focus of someone accelerating a
truckload of intellectual high-explosives into the gates of a
"stunningly" credulous soft-liberal establishment, composed of
"colluding" human rights lawyers and "celebrity useful idiots" such as
Tariq Ali, whom Burleigh witheringly chastises for having
"progressively marginalised high intellectual endeavour" while at the
same time conspiring to convert cosmopolitan London into the Islamic
haven of "Londonistan"...
Al Qa'eda's chief military
spokesman in Europe puts it best: "You love
life and we love death." If there are no flies on Burleigh, there are
plenty on the moribund dogmas of those he dissects. [emphasis added]
An academic subject, terrorism. Really. Something to
pass the time when no one else wants to discuss something important,
like the unutterably depressing brilliance of Graham
Greene novels. So here we have the passionless reviewing the
passionless and noting passionlessness as a stylistic fault.
You know, the Brits are just fucking DONE.
Maybe I should have blogged about Eliot Spitzer. Even he is more intriguing than Brit
BRIZONI! Where the HELL are you when we need you?!