RWCG


Homeland Review
November 30, 2011, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have been a huge fan of Claire Danes since My So-Called Life, the greatest TV show in history about a chick (close second: Felicity, up until the point where she cut her hair. Third: Double Trouble, starring Peggy Bundy’s twin sisters, if that counts.) That’s why I was so thrilled to learn (like last night – I keep on top of these things) that she was starring in a followup TV series, Homeland.

As far as I can tell via streaming the first four episodes from pirate websites last night till 3 a.m., Homeland is a direct sequel to My So-Called Life after a 15+ year gap. The premise of Homeland is that Angela Chase (Danes), having graduated from Liberty High in Three Rivers, Pennsylvania, has grown up, moved to Washington DC, and risen to a promising but shaky-high-wire career as as a CIA officer under the pseudonym ‘Carrie’ something. But make no mistake, she still has the same meepy, mopey, whiny angst she had as a 15-year-old that we all came to love so dearly, infinitely self-centered, acting all ditzy and unpredictable, second-guessing everyone and everything, and crying at inappropriate times.

Angela fans be warned – it’s kind of a tragedy to see how far she’s let herself go – her home is a mess, she has no friends or real personal life, no contact with her parents, she barely eats, she bums antipsychotic pills from her doctor sister (the grown-up Danielle Chase, I assume, though I didn’t check if she’s still played by Lisa Wilhoit). But when you think about it, this decline was all pretty much foreordained back when Angela first dyed her hair red, put on flannel, and started hanging out with Rayanne and Ricky. It’s almost a cautionary tale: ‘hey kids, this is what happens if you rebel and listen to too much Violent Femmes’.

She’s even still (this is so Angela) spending 95% of her waking moments obsessing over some guy – although with Jordan Catalano a distant memory, she’s now set her sights on a returned POW soldier guy played by Lt. Winters from Band of Brothers. Well, you do have to admit he’s a hunk, so can’t blame her there. On the other hand, the lengths she goes to play out this crush (setting up 24-hour surveillance in all the rooms of his house) are becoming kind of creepy.

I haven’t seen enough episodes to get a real sense of where it’s headed (there were some confusing side plots about terrorism or something – was too tired to pay attention), and the soundtrack so far has been a bit spare (no Afghan Whigs, no Juliana Hatfield), but it’s just good to see Angela back in a weekly series again. The only thing I wonder is how Brian Krakow the next-door neighbor kid is doing and whether he still has that unrequited crush on her. I assume so. But surely I’ll find out as the season progresses.

THREE AND A HALF STARS OUT OF FOUR AND A HALF



Postworthy
November 30, 2011, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Postworthy™ is a semi-regular feature of Rhymes With Cars And Girls that I just made up, in which we here (at RWCG) highlight a gem from the RWCG comments section that is worthy of a…

Aw hell let’s just go to the comment, left here, by Jehu of Chariot of Reaction, on what people really seem to mean by ‘fairness’:

Society should socialize away the status effects of all my disadvantages while allowing me to continue to reap the status effects of all my advantages, and
Status should be allocated by society according to the formula that most benefits people like me

There’s nothing wrong with these two positions, IMO, since pretty much EVERYONE holds them at least in terms of revealed preference. What’s disgusting to me is when people attempt to pass them off as some kind of moral imperative.

Postworthy!™

It does remind me of a post I wrote along the same lines (for any given idea there’s always some post I wrote about it), something to do with how in the limit Matthew Yglesias would love a tax code that has credits for (all the things Matthew Yglesias likes to do), but I can’t seem to find it. Ah well. I link to myself too much as it is. It’s about time all y’all started pitching a hand and linking to me, anyway. I’ve spoiled you!

UPDATE: Expanded here.



Meet The New TLAs
November 30, 2011, 12:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t know why I feel the need to keep reminding my readership that all these attempts to come up with a ‘solution’, a ‘plan‘, to save Eurosocialism are at root attempts to use complexity and accounting tricks hide the fact for a little bit longer that they don’t have as much money as they’d been behaving as if they had and hope people buy it. You guys already know that. Don’t you?

Anyway to expand upon my helpful explanation of the EFSF (it’s a giant CDO2), let me now further put into language you have already heard what are supposedly its latest ‘plans’ to ‘solve’ the European socialism debt crisis:

“Under the partial risk protection, EFSF would provide a partial protection certificate to a newly issued bond of a member state.

“The certificate could be detached after initial issue and could be traded separately. It would give the holder an amount of fixed credit protection of 20-30 percent of the principal amount of the sovereign bond.

“The partial risk protection is to be used primarily under precautionary programmes and is aimed at increasing demand for new issues of Member States and lowering funding costs.

“Under option two, the creation of one or more Co-Investment Funds (CIF) would allow the combination of public and private funding. A CIF would purchase bonds in the primary and/or secondary markets.

“Where the CIF would provide funding directly to member states through the purchase of primary bonds, this funding could, inter alia, be used by member states for bank recapitalisation. The CIF would comprise a first loss tranche which would be financed by EFSF.

Translation:

Option 1 (PPCs) means the EFSF will write some unfunded 70-80% fixed- or maybe floored-recovery CDS protection on Eurosocialist countries’ debt.

In detail: they’ll sell (essentially) CDS protection to some SPVs as their swap counterparty, and it looks like the SPVs will package that protection up with new-issue Eurosocialist countries’ bonds to buyers who (the idea is) will supposedly suddenly have more interest in bidding up Italian bonds when they come with this unfunded protection from an amorphous entity with vague, unfunded, uncollateralized, non-marked-to-market guarantees behind it. Because you see, then those bonds will not be merely IOUs from a bankrupt entity, they will be double-IOUs from a combo of bankrupt entities. That changes everything!

Now surely you remember reading about the evils of CDS in your Time Magazine’s Foldout Guide To The Financial Crisis. I’m guessing you know at least 2 (two) evil three-letter acronyms whose mere existence Caused The Crisis and that ‘CDS’ is one of them. You might even know that there were institutions that got into trouble using their ratings to sell a bunch more CDS protection than a sane accounting and risk analysis would probably have shown they were good for (monolines, DPCs), or that went bankrupt before they could pay up (Lehman). How’d all that turn out? What did CDS protection from Bluepoint turn out to be worth? Can’t remember. Well anyway, this PPC idea is just like that.

Option 2, CIFs is a bit vague but from what I can tell it may involve the EFSF implicitly selling funded super-senior CDO protection on baskets of the Eurosocialist bonds they hope investors will suddenly want to buy if they are given tons of cheap leverage. Maybe some hedge fund puts up $1 to EFSF’s $99 and together they go in on $100 worth of bonds, with the hedge fund getting almost all the return, and the EFSF covering any loss over 1%.

Now I am sure you recognize ‘CDO’ as the other three-letter acronym that Caused The Crisis. But nevermind that. This sort of arrangement was good enough for AIG, so I’m sure it’ll work out fine here.

Anyway, the important thing to remember is that these ‘new’ options with these newfangled three-letter acronyms that they’ve come up with are more or less just some CDS and CDOs they’d be entering into and levering up as much as possible (without harming their rating) to try to trick investors at large to overpay for things and keep spreads down. Because again, the EFSF is a giant CDO2.



Almond Milk
November 29, 2011, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t get it. I mean, I’ve seen almonds and eaten many. Guess what? No milk.



Vocab Note On Health ‘Insurance’
November 28, 2011, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For the record: although I’ve mentioned this before, what y’all usually call ‘health insurance’ isn’t insurance, it’s more like a complicated and opaque payment-plan for (mostly) routine items that for some reason precludes fair market transactions for even the smallest things, hides from you what you’re paying for everything, and thus prevents you from knowing whether you’re even gaining or losing money by being on the plan.

So if you ever see me refer to such a thing as a ‘health-care payment plan’ don’t get confused, I’m just talking about what you would probably (erroneously) call ‘insurance’.

FYI



Hollister
November 28, 2011, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For what seems like years now I’ve been seeing young people wearing clothes with ‘Hollister’ printed on them. This has always made me do a double-take. How on earth can so many people be from Hollister?

Hollister, of course, is (to my mind) some city in California whose Little League team our league would occasionally encounter at the Lakewood Little League All-Star Tournament. That summarizes the extent of my knowledge about Hollister. So whenever I’ve seen these clothes, the only theory my subconscious mind had ever come up with is ‘Must be really big fans of their Little League team.’

Of course, this leaves unexplained why one never sees T-shirts with ‘Long Beach’, ‘Pacifica’, ‘San Leandro’, or whatever other Cali cities on them. It’s always just Hollister. Everyone just loves Hollister in particular! I even worked with a girl for about a year who would wear a ‘Hollister’ sweatshirt every N days, and assumed her family was from Hollister (like, when she took days off, my subconscious mind would think: ‘Must be going to visit her folks in Hollister.’) I’m pretty sure I even considered asking her about the little league thing, like maybe I once played against her brother?, etc.

Only recently did it occur to me, or did I devote enough brainpower to sussing this out anyway, that ‘Hollister’ in this context might actually denote something other than the random Little League city that would send All-Stars annually to Lakewood. Which of course it does (I actually Wikied it, and you can too if you are just that bored). But I still like my explanation better. Why shouldn’t lots of people just happen to love Hollister’s little league team?



Why Does Inequality Not Matter
November 27, 2011, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was reading this Norman Geras post on why inequality matters and was going to write a detailed response to it but have since had second thoughts. As usual with Geras, we approach things from such different angles that it makes me think the disagreement I feel welling inside me just stems from not understanding him.

I will just identify one of those non-shared assumptions: Geras appears to identify justice, and morality, with fairness. It’s not fair that (to use his example) some children are born into wealthier, and therefore more-advantaged, families than others – as I’m sure we’d all agree. Geras however goes on to call this unjust, equating it to a moral issue. I don’t.

As (apparently only some) people are taught from childhood, life isn’t fair. More concretely, if different children having childhoods of different wealth is immoral, the only moral outcome would be for all children to have exactly equal wealth. This means, in particular, that no single parent – not I, not you – should even be allowed to privilege his child in any way, with any advantage, as against any other child. It’s unjust and immoral.

Yeah, no, I don’t cotton to that. I see ‘fairness’ as distinct from justice. Lack of the former doesn’t by itself establish injustice in my mind.

But this does lead to the main point I wanted to make: why inequality doesn’t matter. ‘Inequality’, as commonly used, is a relative concept: it can only be defined by taking your life circumstances and comparing them to the life circumstances (in particular the incomes, wealth, property, etc.) of a bunch of other people.

And all that stuff? Is none of your business. Unless you can establish that the wealth is the product of, say, some crime (in which case the problem and the immorality and the injustice is that crime, not the ‘inequality’), how much money this or that other person makes and how much wealth they have and how much privilege they have is just none of your business. This is, by the way, another basic lesson in politeness and civility that some of us are taught in childhood – but again, not all of us, apparently.

And since how much (whatever) others have is none of your business, rectifying it can’t, even in principle, by itself be a moral issue. But people who don’t think in my terms will probably have as hard a time understanding me on that as I so often do Norman Geras.



Exposition
November 27, 2011, 8:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Another entry in the ‘rap video tribute to some baseball team I have no connection to but still moves me somehow’ genre (I hope to see 20+ more!):

Not quite as good as this one (what could be?) but still surprisingly effective given that I could really give a rip about the Montreal Expos.

What is it about baseball that makes it such easy, cheap nostalgia fodder? Even the music (from This Week In Baseball of course) gives me chills, apparently it is a composition called ‘Gathering Crowds’ by a guy from Manfred Mann. As a kid I always assumed it was Beethoven or some such:



News
November 26, 2011, 9:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The sort of useful ‘news’ story and discussion you can only find on Digg: Gabby Giffords’s Husband Mark Kelly Tells Piers Morgan That Sarah Palin Never Contacted Him

“We were never contacted by her,” Kelly said.

“I find that extraordinary,” [Piers] Morgan exclaimed.

“Yeah, I was surprised too,” Kelly replied.

You know who else never contacted Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords’s husband?

ME.

I have never, once in my life, contacted him. So that makes two (2) people in the world who (a) had nothing to do with his wife getting shot and (b) did not contact him, later.

What about you? Did you contact Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords’s husband, after his wife got shot by some other guy? No?

I find that extraordinary!

NEWS.



Fail Fail
November 22, 2011, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Can we please retire ‘fail’ and ‘epic’ and all permutations thereof at this point? You guys still saying these things on the internet sound idiotic.

You don’t still use the phrase ‘are belong to us’ do you, so why are you still saying ‘fail’?

It’s enough to make one miss the simpler, bygone days of the ‘Turkish stud’.



Being Mad At The Government’s Meaningless Classification Of Foodstuffs Is Certainly The Most Optimal Use Of Your Mental Energy
November 22, 2011, 7:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

There are times when I get a depressing deja vu or Kafka-esque feeling about certain irritations that seem to keep appearing and re-appearing in my life. For example, this happens whenever the (as far as I can tell, originally Reagan-era) ‘scandal’ over whether foodstuff XYZ counts as a ‘vegetable’ pops up. I think this time it’s pizza sauce.

Anyone up in arms over this just seems stuck on stupid. What are they reacting to exactly? Is the government declaring XYZ to be a ‘vegetable’ and you think it’s not? Okay, you win! It’s not! Now shut up and do something useful with your brain.

Since when is whether such-and-such foodstuff a vegetable a function of or dependent on what some government bureaucrat says? Answer: since never. So what does it even matter what the government decides about it? Answer: it doesn’t. And so since it doesn’t matter, and since we all realize that ‘whether XYZ is a vegetable’ is not something decided by government bureaucrats, I ask again, what are you reacting to?

You’re going to say “But what about the children!” Because obviously the only reason this even comes up at all is that the federal government, or something, runs some school lunch program. That program (I gather) has guidelines about how much of such a lunch must be comprised of ‘vegetables’, and some bureaucrat has decided to make (pizza sauce, or whatever) count.

You don’t like that? Then why not try actually buying vegetables for your kid to take to school. You do not have to sit quietly and accept whatever lunch the government decides to feed your child, and feed them nothing else! Why do you think you do? End of discussion. And if you’re going to say that vegetables – all vegetables – are ‘too expensive’ for poor people to buy, that is just stupid. People who can buy Cheetos and Pepsi could buy vegetables.

The real problem is that any vegetables you put in your kid’s school lunch would probably be mostly thrown away by said kid. But that, at least, is not the government’s fault. :)



Technocracy, Whiskey, Sexy
November 22, 2011, 1:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s been surreal to see the term ‘technocrat’ enter into the popular usage, being given the buzzword treatment as if it’s a new thing none of us are familiar with. Which, I guess, many weren’t. Hasn’t everyone else been reading super-technocrat Matthew Yglesiases’es 500 posts/day about all the Washington, DC sidewalk cracks he wishes were mended and the construction buildup he wishes were created around his condo, raising its market value? Okay, perhaps not.

The problem is that the word ‘technocrat’, as applied to the new crop of supposedly ‘technocratic’ leaders in Europe, is being used as if it means something specific, when it doesn’t. Quick, what’s the agreed-upon, textbook ‘technocrat’ approach to Italy’s high spreads? You can research ‘technocrat’ all you want but you won’t find one, because ‘technocrat’ just doesn’t indicate what a person will or won’t do in any given circumstance. It’s just not that kind of term. It’s not a descriptive political term at all. But the public should be forgiven if they’re confused about that, because it’s suddenly being treated in the press like one.

This often happens to niche negative-terms that enter popular usage. ‘Technocrat’ is a negative-term in that it was just (I gather) supposed to connote a sort of opposite or alternative to ‘partisan’. Typically, the person calling himself a ‘technocrat’, the Brad DeLong figure or whoever, is casting himself as a disinterested, intellectual supergenius above the partisan fray. He’s above all that! He just wants to get things done! The right things! The ultimate expression of ‘technocrat’ as a political philosophy in this sense comes, as so many useful political-economic concepts do, from George Lucas’s masterpiece Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones:

ANAKIN SKYWALKER: We need a system where the politicians sit down and discuss the problem. Agree what’s in the best interests of all the people, and do it.

Now do you understand? Because that’s precisely what a ‘technocrat’ would do, in the common usage. What is it that they would do? What’s in the best interests. Of all the people. I’m glad I could clear that up for you. Of course SENATOR PADME AMIDALA points out a little snag in that prescription: “the trouble is that people don’t always agree”. Golly! That is trouble isn’t it! If only all people always agreed about all things then politics would be so much easier and more functional.

Well, that’s what technocrats are for. Supposedly. Because now that we’ve discovered ‘technocratic’ governance, we can just do the ‘technocrat’ thing and all is swell. But what is the ‘technocrat’ thing? Um. Let me consult the rest of this awesome Star Wars Blu-ray set and get back to you.

The point is that ‘technocrat’ is a hollow term with no perceivable, concrete definition. In fact, prior to about 2 weeks ago virtually all uses of this term I had ever seen were vanity uses by an arrogant blowhard impressed with his own genius and seeking to puff up his super-important opinions and policy prescriptions with some neutral-sounding label that would mask their partisan nature.

So why then are people suddenly using it as if it has a definite meaning and as if the sentences they construct with the word actually mean something, tell you anything about what exactly the ‘technocrat’ will or is likely to do? It’s a bit like the term ‘alternative’ in rock music. Originally (maybe) it was a valid term just meant to connote any rock music that wasn’t clearly of a preexisting genre, or something. But once it entered popular usage, got radio play, etc., it became treated as if it was a style of music, as if there were some identifiable ‘alternative rock music’ subgenre, that you could hear a piece of music and say it sounded like ‘alternative’. To the point where Tower Records created, much to my annoyance, an ‘Alternative’ section.

What does ‘alternative music’ sound like? Nobody can say because it’s not actually a style of music. Similarly, what do ‘technocratic policies’ entail? Nobody can say. All they can say is that they won’t be ‘partisan’ policies. That is, they won’t appeal either to the left or to the right. They will (supposedly) be neither left nor right, just correct. Well! Why didn’t I think of that! Just do the correct thing. It’s that easy. As surely our ‘technocratic’ betters in Europe are going to proceed to show us….



On The Loose
November 21, 2011, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

No one can stop us now!



Regulation Is Not Fungible
November 20, 2011, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Comments here have reminded me of one of my biggest pet peeves in finance commentary: In many peoples’ minds, the cliff’s notes version of The Financial Crisis™ can be summarized by one thing, not enough regulation. End of story!

Mostly this implicitly bespeaks a lazy view of ‘regulation’ as if it is fungible: no one ‘regulation’ is really distinguishable from any other (more specifically, we’re all just too lazy to speak/think about any single regulation in particular, and we think that’s fine and shouldn’t prevent us from spewing our uninformed lazy opinions). You just draw (or put back) some undifferentiated blob of regulations from the Great Regulation Vat Of The Universe. As such, the only thing ever worth discussing is how much ‘regulation’ you have at any given time. The assumption that goes hand in hand with this one is the notion that ‘regulation’ and ‘bad things happening’ are mutually exclusive. After all, regulations are supposed to prevent bad things! That’s what they’re for! Thus, if a Bad Thing happened, it automatically follows that there wasn’t enough ‘regulation’, and the way to stave off future Bad Things, is of course More Regulation.

With these axioms, clearly the only thing to ever ponder or discuss in the face of some legislative or other proposal (after some Bad Things happened) is: Is it a regulation (or would it increase regulations)? If so, then it must a good idea and only evil people would argue against it.

Obviously this sort of idiocy doesn’t merit even the amount of brain cells I’ve already thrown at it, but it’s particularly noxious coming from people discussing the financial sector, because when it comes to finance, to apply these assumptions (let’s call them the Fungibility Assumption, and the Regulation/Bad-Thing Exclusion Principle) makes it especially clear that such people don’t know what the f**k they’re talking about.

So as fair warning let me just admit that anyone who opines on the financial sector and claims it “isn’t regulated enough” has marked themselves as a phony moron in my mind. I’m sure I could be convinced that there need to be some different or other regulations, but ‘more’ is not a synonym for this, and in any event you still need to individually defend any given regulation on its merits to be making an actual point. But keep in mind that I am here to state that the financial sector is, right now, probably the most fascistically- and hugely-regulated industry on earth (the rivals in my mind being military and perhaps health care). Indeed, I sincerely believe that, under current regulation, essentially no one working in the financial sector in any nontrivial capacity fully knows (or could possibly know) the entirety of the rules and regulations that apply to them, and virtually any person working in finance could be plausibly arrested and charged with this or that crime or violation. In any given case, it’s really only a question of whether the government feels like it (and has the bandwidth).

But of course, when I complain about this state of affairs, and point out that it violates the concept of Rule Of Law to the core, all the ‘regulation is fungible’ people get confused and alarms go off in their head. After all, I sound like I’m arguing for Less Regulation!

No. I’m arguing for whatever regulation there must be, to be sane regulation. I would prefer clear and purposeful laws, with an identifiable connection between means and ends, with a logical connection between the alleged problem they are meant to solve when argued for, and the actual effect they would have. For the Rule Of Law, in other words.

I know, I know. Dream on.



Projection Politics
November 18, 2011, 10:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the more curious phenomena of the ‘occupy’ movement has been the spectacle of otherwise-ordinary, -intelligent people who (seemingly instinctively) have declared that they ‘support’ the occupiers. I’m sure that (as with me) many of your friends, acquaintances, family members (and blog-readers) of any sort of left of center bent have all made at least some cooing noises in this direction.

The reason I say instinctively is because it’s not objectively possible to ‘support’ (or oppose for that matter) the goals of the ‘occupy’ movement, because they have put forth no coherent statements, goals, beliefs or demands. Just as I can’t say I oppose their goals (I can deplore and make fun of their methods and tangible actions, but to this day I still don’t even know what their goals are), you also can’t realistically ‘support’ the points of people who, by their own admission and declaration, have no point.

What you can do, however, is make up some stuff in your head that you think they are saying, or should be saying – essentially, imagine your own personal Platonic ideal of an ‘occupy’ movement – and support that. This is what a lot of people seem to have done. They have engaged in projection politics.

The logic (from the pro-OWS point of view) seems to be that the occupiers are angry (about stuff), and protesting (against stuff), and they recognizably occupy the same cultural space as myself, and the people they seem to be mad at are the same people I’d be mad at if I were protesting, therefore I agree with them. This also helps explain why the violence and related epiphenomena of these protests doesn’t damage the movement in its supporters’ eyes at all. They can just say: ‘Well all that bad stuff isn’t part of the real ‘occupy’ movement.’ You know, the perfect Platonic one in their heads.

To some extent the political affiliation proceeds by fashion: ‘I’m with them because of how they look and dress.’ But it’s not just fashion, it’s also the target/scapegoat they’ve selected, and something about the methods which resonates, and so forth. There is a genuine basis for these sorts of movements and affiliations. What has been short-circuited in all this however is anything resembling a recognizable argument for anything, let alone a full-fledged political platform.

This is something of a pattern too, because Barack Obama was elected largely on the strength of projection politics: many of his supporters made up a Barack Obama in their heads, a Barack Obama that had no discernible biographical connection to the actual guy running for office, and then voted for that Barack Obama.

The open question is whether this pattern will continue and grow, politics becoming even less and less substantive and more fashion-based and shallow, or will it somehow reverse itself, collapse under its own contradictions. If I ever figure out the answer, I’ll Tweet it and post it on my Facebook wall, and then you guys can all re-Tweet & ‘like’ respectively.



The Protest Ritual
November 17, 2011, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

During the big campout in New York, endless reams of electrons were wasted by writers (I have already linked to some) eager – nay, desperate – to ascribe some sort of deep meaning to the actions of the campers. And this is understandable because in reality, there was none apparent. That is why entire new theories had to be developed in September-November 2011 just for this occasion, theories which no doubt 5-15 years from now will form the basis for new substudies in sociology departments on campuses across the USA. Theories about how nowadays the mere act of ‘occupation’ is so laden with such meaningful political significance (&c.) that in our modern, internet-dominated age you don’t actually need to make any actual points, arguments, or demands about anything anymore. Theories saying indeed that a lack of tangible, cogent demands or arguments for or against anything is a sign of great strength in a movement. Theories, I can only imagine, focused on Twitter* and putting the # sign in front of stuff (*I know jack squat about Twitter, all I know is I’m sick of seeing that # sign).

It’s tempting to dismiss all that babble as desperate intellectual masturbation by people attempting to cover their embarrassment that a movement they instinctively, some would say unthinkingly sided with was (in addition to being violent and lawless, of course) so vapid and devoid of intellectual substance. These theories undoubtedly provided much psychological comfort to their proponents at a time of great cognitive dissonance, stemming from the subconscious thought: if we’re all such Smart People who so obviously should be put in charge of everything that it’s a civil-rights issue when we’re not, howcome none of us can put together let alone agree on a coherent argument, let alone a tangible policy proposal or demand?

But I think there was no need for such worry. Let me give some comfort here. The fact that OWS was so intellectually hollow is no mark against it. Intellectual hollowness need not shame anyone here. This was not about substantive politics in the first place. This was, in a word, ritual.

Obviously my observations here are colored and honed from my all-too-many years spent in Berkeley (whose campus was ‘occupied’ essentially every single day). But it’s time it was more broadly recognized that the Protest Movement in our society has now evolved and matured to the point of being ritual – like a baptism, or communion. Heavy use is made of symbols, of common cultural cues. Certain people instinctively participate and sense that they belong, others don’t. There are multiple generations (hold a not-obviously-right-wing protest about virtually anything and like clockwork you’ll see the aging hippies come out to play). Certain actions are predictably taken with no apparent meaning/motivation or tie to the ostensible purpose of the ritual (camping; let’s form a library; drumming). And there is a predictable arc to the festivities – a beginning, middle, and end – before things go inevitably back to the way they were before and people carry on with their lives.

True, this is all pretty embarrassing if OWS is meant to be taken seriously as a political movement. But OWS was just a ritual, and for rituals, this is par for the course.

So you see occupiers, this is nothing to be ashamed of. All ritual has these traits. Vestiges of times gone by, stripped of whatever meaning they once had, but carried on by the faithful and passed on to the next generation of believers. Sure, doing something like, oh, playing poorly-metered bongos nonstop has nothing to do, on the surface, with making a political-economic argument for or against something vis-a-vis federally-insured depository banking institutions. But one could just as easily say that eating a cracker & drinking cheap wine has nothing to do with Jesus. That is so not the point. The point is the ritual, the psycho-dramatic meaning of it, the emotional transformation it inspires, the cultural transmission it engenders. And protest is ritual now.

Without having a good objective tangible real-world-based reason why, a collection of believers went and camped out in a park in New York for a while. There was drumming, and getting high, and getting off, and guitar-playing, and hand-gesture-based pseudo-voting, and histrionics – all recognizably part of the ritual. There was media coverage galore, photographers and newscasters there to ‘cover’ the event, a constant postmodern self-awareness among the participants that theirs was in large part a synthetic media event – again, part of the ritual.

Finally, like all rituals, there had to be a dramatic conclusion. And in the protest ritual, everyone knows the dramatic conclusion comes when the pig-police swoop in and clear everyone out. The protest rites dictate this, just as they dictate that as this is going on the protestees wail and gnash their teeth about the ‘police state’ they live in and how their ‘eyes have been opened’ to where the ‘real power’ truly lies.

Even most lefty commentators have noted that there was no other conceivable way this could have really ended. And while that is exactly right, the diagnosis has been missed. OWS had to be ended by a police sweep because that is chapter and verse how the protest ritual always comes to its dramatic conclusion. If this isn’t literally written down anywhere in some sort of protest catechism – well, perhaps it’s about time someone does write it down. This socialism thing is transitioning into pure religion, after all – as far as I can tell, the only religion most of these people have got.



Occupy Wall Street Wrapup
November 17, 2011, 10:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Now that the actual campout occupation is over, we can step back and take it all in. My thoughts:

  • The protest was, by all accounts, a huge success: it got a lot of people to type “#OWS”, or something involving the pound-sign anyway, into their computer. In our modern Googlefied, Twitterfied age, that’s the metric. Or one could cite how many ‘liked’ it on their Facebooks. Good enough. We don’t even know what other sort of tangible result there could be to a protest movement anyway.
  • For those who like me had for the past two months been avidly following the exciting race as to which would feature more dirty, bloody, smelly, putrefied, stumbling, disgusting creeps weekly, we can now close the books as the ‘occupy’ movement edges out Walking Dead Season 2 by a nose.
  • The protesters got all of their points across. By this I mean: they had precisely 0 points, and 0 out of 0 is a perfect score in my book. Or to look at it from a different analytical angle, if I sit down and make a list of all the points they tried to make, there are exactly none (of those) that they failed to get across.
  • The important thing is that we learned absolutely nothing and everyone who had opinions prior to OWS has exactly those same opinions now.


A Prejudicial Label That Fools Only The Very ‘Smart’
November 17, 2011, 7:46 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Via GeekPress:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/health/research/brain-exam-detects-awareness-in-3-vegetative-patients.html?_r=4

I know this issue is, like, sooo middle-2000s, but I believe the notion of ‘persistent vegetative state’ will one day be considered our scientific equivalent of bloodletting. The main thing, for example, that seemed to convince people that it was ok to forcibly – via judge order! – pull the plug on Terri Schiavo was that the state she was in had been christened (by someone) with a sciencey-sounding label that has the word ‘vegetative’ in it.

It was around then that it first started to dawn on me just how fundamentally shallow were the ‘science’ credentials of the supposedly ‘reality-based’ Smart People. “But she’s a vegetable! Science says so!” was their point, essentially.

Now, ‘science’ seems to prove that incorrect. We’re still stuck with this 19th century ‘vegetative’ label however. And that label seems to do about 95% of peoples’ thinking for them, sadly. Especially the ‘pro-science’ ones.



The Importance Of Doublethink
November 16, 2011, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Matthew Yglesias reminds us that Paul Krugman reminds us that

Paul Krugman notes, however, that people should try to wrap their heads around the fact that even as it’s true that “Freddie Mac was a deeply corrupt institution,” it’s also true that Fannie/Freddie are not responsible for the housing bubble or the subsequent financial crisis.

Just so. It’s important to remember that the GSEs were bad when they gave money to Newt, but it’s also important not to blame them for anything since they are a key component to our semi-socialized housing/Democrat payola system. It’s a heroic struggle but apparently-conflicting Received Narratives such as these must be simultaneously kept in one’s head at all times.

It’s a good thing we have so many reminders of this, otherwise people might slip up and think for themselves instead of struggling mightily to ‘wrap their heads around’ what the Krugmans and the Yglesiases of the world are so keen for us to wrap our heads around.



Yglesiocracy
November 16, 2011, 11:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Paul Volcker says Volcker rule too complicated

Well, I could have told you that.

But really, I don’t know what he’s complaining about. In Smart regulation, complication is a feature not a bug. The complication of the Volcker Rule means that anyone falling under its umbrella will need an army of lawyers, “consultants”, CFAs, and IT/database gurus to even begin to cobble together some sort of conclusion as to whether they’re compliant with the Volcker Rule or in massive violation of it. Meanwhile, on the government side, to check (rather, pretend to check) compliance with the Volcker Rule and fine unpopular/non-regime-friendly market actors random gigantic amounts from time to time, the government will have to assign a parallel army of government schmoes to try to sort through all the reports and data collection, to make asinine requests for irrelevant information, to make site visits to ensure everyone clicks their heels and falls into line and serves them muffins, and so on.

This is win-win. Tons of sinecure jobs pushing papers and collating numbers for the otherwise-useless overdegreed (such as myself) and for Smart People bureaucrats. All at the American mortgage-borrower & taxpayer expense.

This is what happens when it becomes conventional wisdom among Smart People that something that can’t be defined (‘prop trading’) should be banned. And make no mistake. The people you see posting on their Facebook walls that ‘it’s great, it’s about time they banned prop trading, I just hope the banks don’t water it down’ are talking out of their butts. There is no coherent definition of ‘prop trading’. There is no sharp line you can ever draw between ‘prop trading’ and other (the good kind of?) trading. So, any effort to ban ‘prop trading’ via some sort of enforceable, clear regulation would have turned out like the spiderweb mess we are apparently getting.

Of course, Volcker is claiming he wanted a much simpler, vaguer rule. This is what you’d expect him to say as a Smart Person, in accordance with the basic principle of Yglesiocracy:

Just make the law completely vague, like: ‘No doing bad stuff!’. Let us handle the rest; we’ll go ahead and run with it from there.

This is because Smart People have no use for the concept of the Rule of Law. Smart People favor the rule of Smart People.

One final interesting note here is the extent to which our government now is at the beck and call of certain anointed gurus. The article concludes with this statement:

“It reinforces the point – I don’t want the banks doing the kinds of things they were doing,” he said.

I find this rather interesting. It’s nice and all that Paul Volcker ‘doesn’t want’ ‘the banks’ doing this and that. And he’s entitled to his opinion and all. But may I ask a question? Who cares with Paul Volcker thinks about anything, what he ‘wants’ and ‘doesn’t want’? Paul Volcker is not a member of the U.S. government. He is not even part of the Federal Reserve anymore. He sat on some non-governmental committee for Obama a while ago, which I guess is how he got into this conversation. But literally, Paul Volcker is a private citizen. Yet this article is treating his opinion about which regulations should and shouldn’t be in place as divine revelation.

And it may as well be. Because the fact is, the people we do elect to make our regulations, don’t know jack squat about the things they are regulating. This is how we end up with ‘Volcker Rules’ and then retardedly turning to Volcker (his name is on the ‘rule’ after all! he must know!) to explain to us the rule he ‘wanted’. Truly, we are living in a Yglesiocracy.




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