Friday, April 25, 2008

If you love

More photos here.

Am I missing something? Not bloody likely

Today's Washington Post reports, yet again, the fact that the U.S. is actively planning military action against Iran.

This article is written over and over again, presumably to soften up public opinion, but not once have I ever read any rationale that an attack on Iran would accomplish any positive objective. As far as I can tell, we just want to attack them because we like to kill lots of people in some kind of vague hope that mass murder will somehow relieve our existential frustrations. I have yet to read a single analysis that argues that attacking Iran would make the world a better place. As far as I can tell, all serious people agree that it would make things much worse.

Yea, duh.

Picture of today

Economic opportunities of tomorrow

In an ominous sign for the economy, one of the stenographers at the Washington Post reports that it is showing signs of stability. Given how consistently the Post's stenographers have been wrong when parroting Republican spin, I think it's relatively safe to speculate that the economy must be wildly unstable. Of course anyone who's not a millionaire can see that as plain as the price stamped on a gallon of milk, not to mention a gallon of gasoline. Pretty soon they'll have to implement price controls on gallons of vodka to see America through this mess.

And note that they never really reported that the economy was unstable. It's gone straight from "everything is hunky-dory" to "everything will be hunky-dory real soon."

From a journalistic perspective, it's interesting that this putative news article is almost pure opinion (if not outright fantasy) starting from the first paragraph in which we're reassured that although economic figures are weak, they are not as weak as expected.

Between paragraphs of unadulterated opinion, the Post's intrepid newsman quotes a Federal Reserve spokesman, a compatriot of Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake, a big shot from B of A and someone from a research firm, all of whom agree that the future is ever so bright.

Are there no experts out there that think that economic fundamentals are so fucked up from years of mismanagement and misleading numbers that things will likely get much, much worse? Of course there are, but it's unlikely we'll be hearing it from the stenographers who write the news or play the parrot on teevee. There is a widespread belief in self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to the economy. The powers that be think that happy thinking trumps economic reality.

Who am I to dispute these experts? Well, I'm someone who's seen the price of just about everything I buy go up by about 25 percent in the last week. Someone who gets what's essentially a cost of living raise at work that doesn't begin to cover the increase in the cost of living. In other words, an economically normal American.

But unlike most economically normal Americans, I've lived in Latin America. They have a word there for those kind of price increases and the corresponding devaluation of the currency (I note that the Euro hit $1.60 this week). That word is hyperinflation. Maybe happy thinking will help for awhile, but reality sits in pretty quickly when spending power goes through the floor. And then just when you think it's reached the basement you find that you're living in a high rise and there are a lot more floors for your spending power to fall through.

Me? I've started hoarding Euros. And if I get that old entrepreneurial spirit, you'll soon find me hanging out on Wall Street saying pssssst, I got Euros, only $3, get them today, they'll be $4 next week, better deal than the banks. Change your money with me, seƱor.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On bullshit

We often speculate about what's wrong with so many people's thought processes. You know who I'm talking about: people like wingnuts and their media parrots. Although they are today's most prominent practitioners of bullshit, the phenomenon is, unfortunately, not limited to them.

I was reading an old article about bullshit in the New Yorker and came across this passage which explains it quite well:

Creating a consensus among their peers is something that hardworking laboratory scientists try to do. But it is also what creationists and Holocaust deniers do. Rorty insists that, even though the distinction between truth and consensus is untenable, we can distinguish between "frivolous" and "serious". Some people are "serious, decent and trustworthy"; others are "unconversable, incurious and self-absorbed." Blackburn thinks that the only way to make this distinction is by reference to the truth; serious people care about it, whereas frivolous people do not. yet there is another possibility that can be extrapolated from Rorty's writings: serious people care not only about producing agreement, but also about justifying their methods for producing agreement (This for example, is something that astronomers do but astrologers don't.) That, and not an allegiance to some transcendental notion of truth, is the Rortian criteria that distinguishes serious inquirers from bullshitters.