December 31, 2008

Just the Facts, Ma'am.

Category: Current Events — Cranky @

As I get older I’ve started to really notice when somebody draws my conclusions for me.

For example, on CNN I read that music sales are down, “due largely to Internet piracy and competition from other forms of entertainment such as video games.” It couldn’t be the scary recession, or the possibility that perhaps people are shying away from the crappy music that is, today, manufactured for mass consumption. It has to be piracy, and so it shall be, as dictated by the RIAA. It’s just a shame the levels of piracy they claim never seem to add up correctly.

More locally, the Edmonton Police Department announced a while back that photo radar was a success because it was responsible for the reduction accidents on the Whitemud Freeway over the last decade. It couldn’t be improved automotive technology, or the fact that the influx in population has lowered the average speed on the Whitemud during commutes. It must be photo radar, despite the fact that there isn’t a single causal relationship identified. Naturally photo radar is a cash grab of tremendous size.

I’m not even going to get into the issue of how many articles simply blame man-made global warming for some unrelated thing or another, stating their speculation as fact. It’s infuriating.

Every day I read how the DOW is down for this reason, or for that reason. It’s always clear the author has no idea at all of why the DOW is up or down. They just parrot headlines from three hours earlier and draw the line. Often the line is a ludicrous one. The DOW isn’t flat because people are waiting for the next decision from the Reserve. It’s flat because some people are panic selling, and others are gambling. The volume is the key.

The U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve are king and queen, at the moment. They’re drawing lines all over the map, claiming every positive rumble in the financial landscape as proof that they’re making the right decisions, despite the fact that there’s no way in hell they could know that at this stage of the game.

I just want to hear the facts. Let me spin them how I want to spin them. The problem is that people read those conclusions and just accept them, which contributes to the further “stupidification” of society. We shouldn’t trust other people to make up our minds. That’s a very bad precedent.


December 30, 2008

The New Voodoo

Category: Economy — Cranky @

Those who know me know that I give very little credence to any claim that is even slightly suspect. Disbelief is my default, so much so that it’s clearly annoying to others. Pick your shady area of choice, I have scoffed at it.

Ionic devices, magnet therapy, zero point energy, naturopathic remedies, “holistic” anything, pyramid power… these are the stuff of fraud, and if they don’t come loaded down with proof, I don’t have a minute to give them.

To this group, I now add yet another bunch of fools who have developed a priesthood to protect their beliefs.


I don’t care how much schooling economists have completed. If they didn’t see this collapse coming – and a great many did not – they need to be stripped of their credentials and thrown out on their asses. However, an economist, much like a holistic healer, can be completely ineffective their whole career and still HAVE a career. To me that’s a major point in favour of Economists as Voodoo Priests.

I’ll go further. All of the economists who ever proposed any of the new financial vehicles that are currently collapsing should be taken out into the streets, soundly beaten, and then “Economist” should be emblazoned on their forehead, as a warning to others to never again trust this individual with so much as a monthly allowance.

Finally, in order to try to bring some respectability back to the field, we should require that anybody who wishes to practice the trade of an economist must make their assets an open book, always available for examination. I don’t care if they’re rich or poor. I would like to know they’re participating in the system they’re building. I wouldn’t buy a house from a carpenter who refuses to stand under that house.


December 23, 2008

The Foil

Category: Life — Cranky @

There’s a fellow on my team at work that provides something unique in my life. He and I are at odds on many issues, and there are lots of times when our lunch time discussions have turned heated. We discuss science, technology, economics, global warming, religion, history… nothing is off the table.

When we go for lunch each day it’s never dull. Generally three or four of us are sitting at the table, but more often than not it’s him and I that get into the debate.

Last year two new people joined our team, and at first they just stayed quiet at lunch because the discussions seemed so confrontational. Eventually they realized this was normal for our group, and they loosened up. I agree with them, though. From the outside it looks intimidating.

I’m the scientific one, and he’ll argue points with me but usually he’ll concede if I’ve got my ducks lined up. He’s the economic powerhouse, and I’ll argue when it’s appropriate, but he’s usually got me cold on these topics. We’re both philosophers, to some extent, and the nature of man is heavily debated. I’ve learned a lot from him, and he’s learned from me.

We save our best arguments for conspiracy theories. We totally disagree on 9/11, for instance. He once said to me, “You’re my foil.” We also disagree on parts of global warming, although I must confess I drifted considerably towards his side on that debate. I think that’s a positive drift, though. After all, if you don’t intend to re-examine your viewpoint, you’re not debating. You’re just holding court.

In a few months, he’ll be leaving on 6 months of paternity leave. That sucks. I need that intellectual challenge, and while we aren’t the sole participants in these discussions, we’re certainly the ones willing to go to bat in defense of our viewpoints.

I’m gonna miss that guy.