Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
April 29, 2010 - April 22, 2010

Friday, February 06, 2009

Free Market Ironies

Wouldn't it be great if we could be as advanced as China?

OUR FRIENDLY NEW MARSHAL. Does anybody remember when Barack Obama watched the Olympics on TV and declared the Chinese ahead of the U.S. in infrastructure investment? You know. The government runs the economy there. Like what our new president wants to do with his "stimulus" bill. So he can fix all our free awfulness. Like his dictator friends always do. And the media couldn't be any more happy to help us learn from our betters like Chavez, Castro, and Kim Dum Ill. Yesterday, for example, the Drudge Report was all pleased and everything to report that Chinese motor vehicle sales surpassed U.S. vehicle sales for the first time in history -- even though the linked article pointed out that the comparison was apples to oranges:

”This is the first time in history that China has surpassed the US,” said Michael DiGiovanni, GM’s head of global sales and industry analysis.

However, auto market analysts in China said the figures were not comparable because the Chinese figure included all vehicles produced in China - including heavy commercial vehicles and buses - while the US figure did not. Chinese passenger car production last year was 5.8m.

Even so. Here's a picture of what the Chinese auto industry has been able to produce after starting just a few years ago from a vehicle base of oxcarts:

Cool, huh? The Chinese-built Brilliance BS6.

It's got to be one of the big reasons the Obama stimulus bill -- with all its emphasis on infrastructure and long-term "strategic" investments in the economy of the future -- has to be passed right now lest we sink into a depression from which we never recover. It's imperative that we get more like China, a country properly ruled by an elite political class that knows better how to do everything than the poor schlubs who consistently screw up western capitalist economies. Forget the New Deal. We're in Sputnik territory now. We've got to catch up with the "Great Leap Forward" technology of Red China or wither on the vine. Right?

Well, maybe. A great thing about the worldwide Internet China's government is presently trying to shut down: you can count on the fact that regardless of the subject, somebody somewere is blogging about it. Here's a post I found called Chinese Copycats. (Forgive the semantic errors. Their heart is in the right place and I refuse to insert [sic] in every sentence. So there.)

Piracy in China of any kind has always been rampant and its never easy to control due to the size of this nation. Anything that can be copied will be copied so long there is a market for it. It ranged from pirated copies of Spiderman 3 DVD to watchmaker brands to even automobiles.

The almost look alike between the Mercedes C vs Chinese designed Geely Merrie 300 above are just blatant copies of their more established counterparts. Spot the difference with more pictures below.

Rolls-Royce Phantom vs Hongqi HQD

BMW 7 series vs BYD F6. Uh, Brilliance.

BMW vs BYD. Well, it's more Barack-ish than the German version.

Honda CRV vs Laibao SRV

Toyota Prado vs Dadi Shuttle

Smart vs Chinese Smart

Maybe the Chinese economy isn't quite as creative as its free-market competitors. So what? They're looking out for the little people, aren't they? Their copies of capitalist products are just as good even if they're not very original, right?

Uh, no. They're not. Remember that cool luxo-cruiser above called the "Brilliance"? Here's another angle on it:

Ouchie. Do you think the driver's okay?

Unfortunately, he's not okay. He's a fried dumpling.

And here's an excerpt from a European road test report:

Germany's ADAC, a cross between AAA and the IIHS, has performed a crash test on the Chinese-built Brilliance BS6 under Euro NCAP guidelines and the results aren't pretty, to say the least. The car earned just one star for passenger safety -- Euro NCAP uses a single rating that combines the results of front offset and side-impact crash tests that are identical to those performed by the IIHS. As the ADAC puts it, "The midsize sedan is as far from reaching optimal safety standards as Peking is from Potsdam." The BS6 thus becomes the second Chinese car to score dismally in German crash tests, with the first being the infamous Jiangling Landwind.

You're not familiar with the Jiangling Landwind crash test? Allow us to bring you, uh, up to speed.

You see, a command economy like the one Obama thinks we need can force capitalist-style manufacturing organizations to produce new products very quickly. But if they're reporting to the government instead of the consumer market, important things can be forgotten along the way. For example, it's possible to make a lot of cheap, low-quality rip-offs of high-quality originals. It's also possible to torpedo the whole tradition of safety and utility in favor of politically correct deathtraps like the Smart Car (and, yes, the even deadlier Chinese Smart Car.) That's where the irony comes in. The oppressive, exploitative free market eventually optimizes the trade-off between cost and safety in response to consumer buying decisions, while the much more "people"-oriented government-controlled economy tends to optimize only its own public relations targets, whatever they might be. And very very sadly, authoritarian governments all seem to live by an odd retro code.

"It is better to look good than feel good." Especially when the world's watching.

Funny how that works, ain't it? Soulless capitalism ultimately opts for safety while the dictatorship of the proletariat dictates terms that kill the proletariat. I mean, do you want your daughter driving a Smart Car alongside all those tractor trailers on the Turnpike? Only a socialist would be so heartless as to make you do that to her.

Catch up to China? Let's hope the market doesn't let Obama pursue that particular dream. Please. If he insists on following that example, we could get good at a lot of useless, stupid, imitative crap. Which you can enjoy if you want, but this I know: I don't want one of these things ever.

The Chinese Cheetah. Unless it's the Cheet-er.

Sorry if that taints your Obama-Aura or something.

I said I was sorry.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More Simple Arithmetic

PREVIOUS LESSON. Nancy Pelosi's little gaffe yesterday about 500 million Americans losing their jobs every month that the "stimulus" package isn't passed should be a reminder that the numbers being tossed around in Washington, DC, these days have long since crossed over into the Land of Oz.

The truth is that federal government spending, however huge the numbers sound, can't have a very large positive effect on the economy. Why? Arithmetic.

The Gross Domestic Product of the United States in 2008 was approximately $14.3 trillion. Let's look at the actual number:


Got that? Okay. The total cost of the stimulus package, so far, is $925 billion. Let's pretend that every dollar of the package will add directly to the GDP.

+     925,000,000,000

Impressed? Or just drawing a blank? Well, what if we cut these numbers down to a size us ordinary mortals can comprehend?

+     925,000,000,000

Are you impressed now? The way the Democrats want you to calculate it (in their dreams anyway), the stimulus bill will grow the U.S. economy by about 6.5 percent, which would be a very good year even in times of prosperity. If the $14,300 were your annual income and someone offered you $925, would you take it? Yes?

What if you could only get the $925 if had to spend it all on specific things: installing new rain gutters, planting some bushes in the front yard, adding a wheelchair ramp to your front door, and laying in a year's supply of condoms? Still interested?

What if it turns out that the money is actually not a gift but a loan? You see, the government doesn't actually have the $925. It has to borrow the principal with you as a co-signer, and you have to immediately begin repaying principal plus interest, which on average at the end of 2008 was about 4 percent. In fact, it's a lot like a mortgage. Now your $925 isn't a 6.5 percent increase in this year's income but something considerably less than that.

Still on board? Really? There are are a couple of other strings attached you may want to know about. You're already pretty heavily in debt, and as we've seen, the $925 is kind of a one-time thing because those condoms and the new rain gutter aren't going to earn you any money next year. If you should face some kind of additional emergency later this year or next, it's going to be much harder and more expensive to procure the loan you need then, and you might not be able to get it at all. And please don't forget, that $925 less principal and interest payments isn't money in the bank; it's in the wheelchair ramp.

Are you feeling stimulated?

I know you can make the argument that even if this kind of stimulus doesn't help you much, it might help others and so you should go along with it. The $925 may not be purchasing something you wanted, but it's good news for the rain gutter contractor, the landscaper who put in the bushes, the carpenter who built the ramp, the lumber yard where he got the materials, and the drugstore where you bought the condoms. Except that these are all one-time benefits for them as well. Nobody's power to earn future income has been improved in any way. And you're paying for it.

For how long? It's possible that the $925 you got was a long-term loan, and you'll be paying 4 percent or more on the principal for years, maybe even a generation.

There's yet another potential downside. If the loan papers you signed said anything about "creating jobs" through all this directed spending, it may well be the case that your principal liability is a lot more than $925. It might be that you've actually agreed to long-term contracts with the rain gutter people and the landscaper, that you're now on the hook to pay them every year for more gutters you don't need and more bushes you don't want.

Feeling more prosperous yet? Or would you prefer to have your gross tax rate reduced by 6.5 percent instead? This time, I'll let you do the math.

Now. Are you ready to talk about bailouts?

Our new president is talking all high and mighty about what he will and will not tolerate from the businessmen he's rescuing with government funds. Sounds like he has a lot of power, doesn't it?

How much is he spending on these bailouts anyway? Some estimates run as high as $3 trillion in troubled asset purchases and stock ownership in ailing corporations deemed too big to fail. The total cost of such "bailouts" strikes most economists as a stupendous figure, even a backbreaking figure. Does this mean the president is essentially buying a majority interest in the asset base of the U.S. economy? Is that why he's handing down commandments like Moses on Mt. Sinai?

The total estimated net worth (wealth) of  U.S. households is estimated at $60 trillion. (Have you ever heard that number before?) The government's acquisition of $3 trillion worth is about 5 percent of that. And it's the 5 percent that's most in danger of losing all its value.

Indeed, that's the most relevant fact about the government's power when it intervenes in asset ownership in this way. Almost all its power is negative. It absolutely has the power to reduce the value of  its $3 trillion investment to zero. In so doing, it can also seriously undermine the value of the $57 trillion that remains in private hands. But with a mere five percent stake, it cannot fundamentally change business practices by bullying the institutions under its control. Management of the other 95 percent of the asset base will continue to be ruled by self-interest and the laws of economics. Obama can decree that the executives he owns are limited to $500,000 a year in income (or $1 if he so chooses), but without passing new laws he cannot alter the behavior of the market as a whole one whit. If all the people who know the most about the banking and financial businesses of the United States leave Wall Street for jobs in financial and other companies not owned by the government, Obama will have succeeded only in destroying those assets under his stewardship. Are there better-paying jobs for financial executives in the other 95 percent of the economy? You tell me.

And, again, without compounding the business woes of the nation by driving the bailout companies into dissolution, there can be no excuse for further government acquisitions in the private sector. The market is more powerful than the president. And if Obama should seek more powers of interference after completing the ruin of Wall Street and Detroit, on what basis should we, or would we, trust him to do a better job in his next amateurish round of presidential Monopoly?

$60 trillion. Think about that number. That's the real power of "we, the people." It's the shoulder behind our votes if we will only begin to believe again in our own might more than we do in a feckless, unproductive government that seeks to buy our faith with a piddling $925 billion they'll have to borrow from us before they can get their pictures taken giving it away.

Who's got the real power? Keep asking yourselves that question until you fully understand the answer. And when you do understand, never yield that power without a fight.

Some Thoughts on My List of
25 (uh, 35) American Movies

We've come a long way since the first blockbuster.

WE ALSO LIKE UN-MOVING MOVIES. For anyone who didn't follow the list as I was posting it, here are the entries in order:

I almost didn't follow through on my promise to do a reflective final post, but once again I have a commenter to thank for bringng me back on task. In a response to this fairly optimistic IP post, Dirty Rotten Varmint (his choice of name, not mine) had this to say:

...While "the truth" is, sometimes, out there in Interwebland, the worldview of the vast majority of Americans is still shaped by popular media. The MSM is not so much dying out as becoming formally a state-run news system (whereas previously, since 1973 a least, it was an informal state-run news system). The universities, the popular media (MSM), Hollywood, popular culture, the government, and even major corporations conspire to promote a view of the world and of America that is distinctly un-American. Name the last major movie in which the hero is an entrepreneur who builds a business providing a valuable product or service and gets rich doing it. Which news reporter, other than Mike Yon and a few others, delivers completely honest and accurate reports about the war while at the same time clearly stating that he is pro-American and admires the heroism of American soldiers? And is Mike Yon the director of a well-funded news room with resources and funding, or scraping by on his own?

Our children are brainwashed, from the time they enter school, to believe that America is evil. Their cultural icons show them that popular girls are whores, successful boys are pimps and thugs, and people who are good at math are losers. If they manage to go to college, they are taught Marxist class, racial, and gender warfare propaganda at every lecture. Women learn that being mothers is somehow a betrayal of "feminism"and that sexual promiscuity is their "right". Men are taught that they are are evil, hormone-controlled animals who are incapable of being strong, caring providers and leaders - or that they are self-interested, monomaniacal misogynists who are to blame for all the world's evils.

America failed when FDR was President and railroaded through the national socialist "New Deal". Beyond the economic catastrophe, we put American citizens into concentration camps on American soil. Obama clearly plans to model himself after FDR. We can fail again.

Make no mistake, while America is resilient, she can be dragged through the gutter just like any other nation, and at some point she will be too sullied to climb out of the stink. [boldface emphases mine]

I understand all his points. I even agree with some of them. But he is wrong that popular culture is a monolith. It's more complicated than that because Americans are more complicated than that. Liberals are consistently wrong about how ignorant, prejudiced, and inflexible the people they call rednecks are. And conservatives are at least often wrong about how anti-American and nihilistic the people who prefer to be called progressives are. Drawing up this list was an exercise that whittled away at the easy polarity of the opposing manichaean perspectives. We're far more interesting than that, as the List of 35 demonstrated, to me anyway. Which is especially interesting given that most of the creative people behind the movies on my list were/are the (frequently) propagandizing progressives Dirty Rotten Varmint (DRV) is talking about.

For example, I was struck by how many movies on the list were the work of directors who seemed to be defying simplistic characterizations of their worldviews that might be inferred from their other movies and even their public political utterances. In Malcolm X, Spike Lee celebrates a painfully acquired self-education and self-discipline in the life of his protagonist that he appears not to require of other African-American characters in his movies. Despite his pitiful Obama commercial and distasteful Bush-bashing, Ron Howard in Apollo 13 executes a beautiful homage to detached whitebread nerds and heroes who undoubtedly come from Kansas and Texas and Nebraska and probably vote straight-ticket, flag-waving Republican. Columbia grad James Mangold made Walk the Line, which defies his east-coast influences by offering a sympathetic portrait of a country singer who exhibited every white-trash male stereotype and yet steals your heart. And in answer to DRV's challenge, "Name the last major movie in which the hero is an entrepreneur who builds a business," Martin Scorsese's The Aviator is one slam-dunk example. This perpetual champion of the disadvantaged immigrant underclasses manages to deliver a multi-faceted portrait of a rich boy who was also a technical and business genius, a heroically brave pioneer of aviation, and a creative polymath. Not to mention every bit as tortured a soul as the icon Scorsese made of the brutish fighter Jake LaMotta. (DRV: For another example of positive entrepreneurship, see Sea Biscuit from the list. There's nothing jeering about the terse success story that leads to his wealth. P.S. You didn't read my whole movie list, did you?)

Are such performances against type hypocritical? No. They're indicative of something much more positive and profound. No American ever really escapes the power of the archteypally American story. It's bred into all of us, and even the ideologues who are at base talented storytellers tend to see their stories in human rather than allegorically political terms (For an example of the latter, see the original Italian version of Swept Away, whose political climax is a rape replete with communist-bourgeoisie rhetoric. By all means look it up. The politics are so transparently obvious they result in unintended hilarity, and the actress is an ultimate gorgeous bitch who should have deterred Madonna from her disastrous remake. But, you know... ) The reduction of human individuality to mere political symbolism is distinctively not a feature of American movie-making. This is where the American impatience with ideas actually pays dividends. If there is a political, topical, or ideological message, it still has to be sold through the personality of an engaging character. Which makes all such movies more American story than political manifesto.

Which, in the context of DRV's pessimism, is all good news. People can be politically naive, superficial, and simplistic and at the same time emotionally honest and keyed in to the verities of human life. That's the way human beings are. It's especially the way Americans are. Politically, in my opinion, Ron Howard is an idiot. But there is genuine merit in his movies Backflash, Cinderella Man, and Apollo 13. Politically, in my opinion, Tom Hanks is an idiot. But there is genuine merit in his performance in Saving Private Ryan and in his miniseries Band of Brothers. In a variety of ways, in my opinion, Mel Gibson is an idot, but there is genuine merit in his movies The River and We Were Soldiers.

The larger message is that Hollywood, despite its much publicized political excesses, is not wholly the enemy of a distinctively and traditionally American lifestyle. Movies, in fact, have a disproportionate influence on the self-images and aspirations of young people. It's true that teen sex comedies are lewd and possibly destructive, but they are less than half the message Hollywood sends to young people. The other half, the larger half, consists of absolutely traditional American stories, many of them concerning comic book heroes who are laughable to social critics but instrumental in perpetuating a distinctively American mythology of individual goodness and sacrifice against malignant evil, either pure or misguided, but indistinguishable in its requirement to be opposed and terminated. Hollywood may be anti-American in its expressed policies, but it is red-white-and-blue when it iconizes the selfless heroism of Spiderman, Batman, and the X-Men -- and the brave, virtuous women who love them, even if they're superheroes too. The messages are unambigious: evil exists, it must be fought, it can be overcome by heroic individual effort, and all the consequent sacrifices are worth it in the end.

Another way of saying that movies -- written, directed, and performed by America-hating leftists -- are counter-intuitively pro-Amreican, Christian in iconography, and firmly focused on the primacy of individual character.

Despite its showy leftism, Hollywood is still in the business of promulgating Americans' mythology of themselves. Winners. Achievers. People of humble origins who become superheroes. Routinely.

So they make nasty little political diatribes on the side and give themselves awards for it as a kind of raspberry to the audience they can't quite live up to. How would you feel if you always had to play the hero when you just knew you didn't have it in you? Resentful? Envious? Hostile? If you knew that there really were heroes who are actually as good looking as you are but don't spend hours in the mirror every day making sure of it?

Remember. We don't pay the actors to write the scripts We pay them to live out our dreams. Our American dreams. And they've done that very well for close to a hundred years now.

At their best, they've shone us ourselves, in admittedly idealized terms. But those ideal terms enshrine our values and encourage each new generation to dream of accomplishment and victory against all the banes DRV is so afraid of:  poor, misguided education, sloth and surrender to mediocrity, cowardice, treachery, and, most of all, untrueness to self.

Back to my list. It represents all parts of the political spectrum. All the political lines are crossed. Rightwinger Eastwood does a moving portrayal of Charlie Parker. Leftwinger Ron Howard does an equally moving portrayal of NASA geeks. All are bound by their allegiance to American stories. And what makes those stories American is not collectivist politics but individual aspiration, spiritual commitment, and incredibly focused effort. Men, women, black, white, young, old, right, left, strong, weak, and whatever combination of the above floats your boat. In short, America. As it was, is, and will be. When it gets down to its most influential work, Hollywood is generally doing a "right" thing.

I rest my case.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Melting Messiah?

I TOLD YOU SO. It's easy to minimize the bumps in the road that have gotten the biggest play in the press, but Obama's problems may already go beyond a few lame cabinet choices and a rocky introduction to the process of working with the congress. Victor Davis Hanson has a brief but excellent analysis of the president's missteps thus far, and his conclusions are sobering.

The Impending Obama Meltdown

Some of us have been warning that it was not healthy for the U.S. media to have deified rather than questioned Obama, especially given that they tore apart Bush, ridiculed Palin, and caricatured Hillary. And now we can see the results of their two years of advocacy rather than scrutiny.

We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion—and with no Dick Morris to bail him out—brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking...

Hanson proceeds to offer up an itemized list of major blunders at home and abroad. The former are serious, but the latter are rapidly mounting up to potential disaster.

Abroad, some really creepy people are lining up to test Obama's world view of "Bush did it/but I am the world": The North Koreans are readying their missiles; the Iranians are calling us passive, bragging on nukes and satellites; Russia is declaring missile defense is over and the Euros in real need of iffy Russian gas; Pakistanis say no more drone attacks (and then our friends the Indians say "shut up" about Kashmir and the Euros order no more "buy American").

This is quite serious. I can't recall a similarly disastrous start in a half-century (far worse than Bill Clinton's initial slips). Obama immediately must lower the hope-and-change rhetoric, ignore Reid/Pelosi, drop the therapy, and accept the tragic view that the world abroad is not misunderstood but quite dangerous... If he doesn't quit the messianic style and perpetual campaign mode, and begin humbly governing, then he will devolve into Carterism—angry that the once-fawning press betrayed him while we the people, due to our American malaise, are to blame.

It's all well and good to end a dismal reckoning with upbeat bullet points about how to clean up the mess, but Hanson's finale is the only disingenuous part of his essay. In some sense, all this was -- and is -- inevitable. The frightening core of the situation is that Obama really is more messiah than politician. Yes, he showed considerable talent and flair at getting elected, as well as a ruthlessness about tactics which must have convinced his inside-the-beltway followers that he was, something like Reagan and JFK before him, a Natural. But the attainment of high office is only half the skill set of a gifted politician. The other half is the tempering of ideological conviction with the grubby pragmatism of problem solving: being a shrewd and skeptical judge of character, knowing the difference between delegating and losing control, and understanding when pure idealism must bow to the realities of the people, places, and timeframes involved.

But messiahs don't sell, bargain, close deals, and hammer out tough compromises. They simply speak and expect everyone to accept their wisdom. That's why Obama still hasn't figured out that all his gloom and doom characterizations of the economy are the antithesis of effective presidential politics. He is a true contemporary liberal, which means that he is a deep down opponent of America's traditional rugged individualism and can-do spirit.

Back in October 2005 I took the liberty of describing the real core beliefs of liberals. Does any of this ring a bell in terms of the rhetoric you've heard from Obama and the Democrat congress since the election? (Coincidentally(?), this was another time when Limbaugh was under assault for his claim to speak on behalf of conservative principles.)

What Limbaugh doesn't say is that liberals could articulate their own views almost as clearly if they weren't so at odds with the pesky national consensus that determines election outcomes. They could say: "We believe in group entitlements, expanding government, government-managed socialist economies, a judiciary empowered to act as an elitest super-legislature, rigid public secularism, government redistribution of assets, opportunities, and rights based on race and sex, and subordination of the national interest to the rulings of international bodies. We support government schooling under the absolute control of teacher unions, urban-centric government make-work programs, tax increases and increasing progressivity of tax rates, dynamic expansion of welfare into the middle class (a la France and Germany), exclusion of all religious institutions from public life, government controls on political speech we dislike, subordination of property rights to government-based social engineering initiatives, and a swift end to all military and unilateral aspects of the war on terror."

But they will not say such things out loud because they know a slender majority of Americans are too stupid to understand the superior wisdom of their ideology.

All that's changed since then is that Obama won the election and somehow believes this fact means the nation as a whole subscribes to exactly the beliefs enumerated above. He thinks we're all, or mostly, converts to this dark view of the American opportunity. Everything about us is wrong and he's been Chosen to fix us and the country. He believes our belief in him is so strong that it will survive even a prolonged period of chaos while he remakes the social contract and the international scene in the image of his utopian vision.

Any real politician would know just how thoroughly wrong that particular belief of his is. No heterogeneous population will long accept a vision that is fundamentally bleak and insulting to the people it's supposed to inspire.

Obama has begun as he had to. He will proceed as he must. I don't doubt that he still has some smoke and mirrors in his arsenal, but eventually smoke blows away in the wind, and the empty image inside the mirror may very well shatter it beyond repair.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Too Good Not to Share

Have a nice day.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Possible Bright Spot?

Radical Notions

Bailout worries? Quit carping and dream big.

THE NEWS MISSES THE NEWS . I'm not predicting, mind you. I'm speculating. But there is some evidence on my side for such speculation. All I'm doing here is putting together some facts of the current situation in a way nobody else has thought to do.

Yes, it looks as if the Obama administration and the Democrat congress are actively seeking to destroy the American economy and the capitalist system. All the bailout requests from various big companies and industries have given them a long-awaited excuse for nationalizing many of the country's largest corporate entities. Their labor policies also look as if they're designed to paralyze the ability of individual entrepreneurs to respond to market conditions and weather the storms that will be created by capital scarcities caused by too many government borrowings that compete for funds which should be invested in profit-making schemes. All of this looks bad. In fact, very very bad.

But. Let me note that the doomsayers are making an argument that is at least redundant if not deliberately dim-witted. The companies and industries that are begging for government help are, by definition, already moribund. So why all the dark mutterings about what their prospects are as nationalized pawns of a government that will kill them through interference and ignorance? When your last resort is to a government that will unquestionably make your competitive situation even more untenable than it is now, you're already dead. You're in intensive care and all your negotiations aren't about being cured; they're about not having the plug pulled today.

Permit me to suggest three points. One, the giants of Wall Street, Detroit, and the mass media are appropriately at the end of their natural life cycles. Two, the government cannot nationalize the entire economy; their budget for financial misadventures of this sort has been or will be entirely consumed by the cost of the corpses they've already acquired. And, three, the underlying infrastructure of the American economy has been so much changed by technology that it is simultaneously responsible for the collapse of the elderly titans and beautifully conducive to a new phase of economic growth that can make up for all the insanity of the Democrats.

Insanity is, after all, the exact right word. Let's say you wanted to take over the NFL and remake the game so that every team finished every season 8-8, and the person in charge got to pick the playoff teams based on personnel diversity, environmental factors, and all-around niceness. Which four teams would you seize? I'm thinking you'd "nationalize" the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Arizona Cardinals, the New York Giants, and the New England Patriots. If your goal is mediocrity, cripple the best first. But in this analogy, who would the Democrats be nationalizing? The Detroit Lions, the Kansas City Chiefs, the St. Louis Rams, and the Cincinnati Bengals. They'd run them by committee, lose every game, and be out of business in two seasons. And guess what? The NFL would be better off. The worst teams would be off the field, new franchise opportunities would open up for cities and owners who are committed to winning, and the fans would be a lot more interested because of the new unfolding drama. The government would be out of money and their only remaining power would be to change the rules in eccentric ways. But if the rules got too absurd, the fans would rise up and demand a change.

That's where we are today in economic terms. Why is everyone so alarmed that the federal government is in the process of nationalizing the Detroit Lions? So what. So fucking what. America won't become Europe because Americans are not Europeans. TA DA. Who else has pointed out this particular obvious fact? We're not going to become Britain or France because we're not Brits or Frogs. We don't settle for dismal, unacceptable crap because we're not prisoners of centuries of class warfare propaganda that persuade us to put up with numbskull oppression because the weight of all our dead ancestors on our shoulders has drained away the energy to resist. We don't have ancestors. 99 percent of us don't even know the names of our grandparents' moms and dads. What we do know is that we still want cool stuff. Right now. And we'll move heaven and earth to get it. And most importantly, we also know how to move heaven and earth to get we want. It's called work. As a people, we know what that is because it's bred into us at a deeper level than all the media propaganda and government schools and political lies can overcome. Do you hate Y-Gen slackers because they think the world owes them a living? That they're the proof America's day in the sun has ended? You do? Then why are the slacker founders of Google and YouTube billionaires? You think they didn't do any work to make their billions come true? Ha.

Two key conceptual points of relevance. The average lifespan of a corporate entity is about half that of a human being. Ford, GM, Chrysler, Merrill Lynch, CitiBank, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine are extreme exceptions to this rule. As corporate organizations, they are all in late senility. IT'S OKAY IF THEY DIE. If they vanished from the scene entirely today, it would not eliminate the demand for cars, stock transactions, or news reporting. That demand would continue and new organizational entities would arise to meet that need. Government can seek to control or suppress capitalism, but capitalism is not an ideology; it is merely a description of what happens when government isn't big enough to sit on absolutely everybody. And as big as our government is, it's not big enough to sit on all of us, because we have too much stuff, too many ideas of our own, and we're Americans. Which is the perfect intro to the second point.

The government of any nation is determined by the personality and expectations of its people, not by the political framework in which that government operates. Citizens of the U.K. remain subjects of the Crown, regardless of the long steady ascendancy of democratic ideas over the perquisites of aristorcracy. That's why they stand still for the fact that they're the most camera-surveilled society in the western so-called free world. Russians remain hostages of an arbitrary, authoritarian, and bloodily ruthless czarist regime that has changed vocabulary in its transition from monarchy to communism to democracy but never the naked brutality, paranoia, and inferiority complex that drives its leaders to mindless aggression on the world stage. China remains a dynastic culture whose leaders always command absolute power over the tiniest details of individual lives, whether the government calls itself an empire, a dictatorship of the proletariat, or an oxymoronic communist-capitalist directorate. Japan remains Samurai... France remains Napoleonic... Spain remains a matador... Nigeria remains tribal... India remains a schizophrenic blend of the Raj and deep-down Hindu voodoo.. Australia remains a resentful, racist prison colony with something to prove... Canada remains a dutiful, mild-mannered colonial cipher in which freedom is merely a word... South Africa remains a volatile outpost of imperialist go-to-hell hubris... the Israeli Knesset has more in common with a board meeting of the average synagogue than it does with the U.K. House of Commons.

And America -- the United States -- remains a bubbling, irascible stew of mixed peoples, cultures, and beliefs united by an incredibly long tradition of only putting up with the shit for this long. A nakedly totalitarian regime in this country would give rise to the most indefatigable resistance movement in human history, something that would make the Civil War look like a riot at the mall. You see, our tradition is that the government cannot contain us or command us. We tolerate its impositions, and they are always impositions, up to a point.. Most of us pay the government so little mind that we notice its impositions late, reluctantly, at first with amusement and then, suddenly, with savagely creative defiance. Cowards become heroes, meek mice become attack dogs, and mere pawns become a boardful of queens moving whither they will to checkmate a king whom tradition has never allowed to move more than space at a time. Even if we had a king or emperor, he'd still be sucking up to this week's polls.

I remember when the first bailout was in place and the MSM was telling us every day that credit in the United States was "frozen." Am I the only one who noticed the flurry of new ads for immediate credit to buy a car, a house, an insurance policy against every medical and life emergency? Yes, the giants of olden times were frozen, but every entrepreneur in the country was flowing like mercury into the cracks in the ice.

That's where we are now. If the car companies fail, foreign manufacturers will build new manufacturing plants in the U.S. If the banks fail, every dreamer and weasel who owns a blue suit will open new banks. If the big newspapers cease operation, entrepreneurs will hire reporters to produce the grist for the endless Internet mill of commentary and satire. That's who we are. As a people. As Americans. If they kill the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Houston Texans will romp. We have clout because we have stuff and we are Americans. Our expectations are permanent.

And. Most critically. The technology is on our side. Never before in history has it been so comparatively easy to start a national or international business with no investment greater than a website. The reinvention of manufacturing a generation ago via "Just in Time" principles has now catapulted into the phenomenon of Just-in-Time businesses. A publication can be launched in an instant without an expensive printing press. An insurance company can be vaulted to billions in revenue by a CG lizard. New software can build an empire from a basement. And even the most onerous labor laws can be circumvented by virtual organizations that redefine what an organization is and who works for it or doesn't.

So Circuit City died. Aw. Chances are, they were obsolete, not price-competitive, Not sustainable. Maybe there will be no more strip malls in twenty years. Who knows? Maybe by then all goods will be flashed through an electronic network that makes UPS and Federal Express richer than Croesus until they expire of size, age, and senility....

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is still micro-managing the expensive hulks of CitiBank and The New York Times.

Who cares? It's entirely possible that the speed of entrepreneurially created markets will fatally outstrip the incomprehensibly slow attempts of 19th century socialists to "manage" them. Look at China.

Look at China. Then tell me we Americans can't outlast Obama's retro agenda and still come out smelling like a rose, with yet another recordbreaking run as the world's highest standard of living and freedom.

UPDATE. I shouldn't. But I will. Because I'm InstaPunk. Bruce Springsteen at the Super Bowl? He SUCKED. He can't sing any more, he was wearing a corset and a hairpiece, and I consequently broke my vow not to watch Scorsese's "Shiine a Light" because I didn't want  to see the Rolling Stones fall below the standard of the five concerts I attended over twenty years. A friend of mine who saw "Shine a Light" and the Springsteen performance put it to me starkly. "The Stones can still play. Springsteen is a joke." I can't believe Bruce began with his first and biggest hit and couldn't sing it. I've seen Mick perform "Sympathy for the Devil" (not his first hit) five times live, and every time he makes it a new dramatic event. I disapproved of the Stones as a Super Bowl Act a year ago. But it can't compare to my contempt for the decision to schedule this hyper-politicized mega-millionaire from New Jersey to play out his threadbare common-man act in Tampa yesterday.

A Step Aside:

She rooted for the Steelers, but...

LOVE. I love her anyway. She's my wife. And there won't be any Valentine's Day guff, either. No need. Love is year round.


It’s a Ronnie thing.
She’s an itty bitty thing
but she explodes
sitting in the chair
she dances, she knows
everything, she dances,
she stops clocks with her eyes.

Saw her sitting in a lobby
years later she was more
tiny and touching
than a heart can recall
she was still freckled
and left-handed, she was
not pretty, she was only
absolution in human form.

And beautiful in the way
only an unfurious redheaded
Fury can be.

I'm just sorry for all of you who don't have one of these.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII
The Short Version

HERE WE GO AGAIN. This really isn't hard to do. We have it from the MSM that there's a lot of hoopla but little mystery.

Everything about the Super Bowl is bigger, grander and more expensive. There is no better example than the live television production.

Broadcasting Sunday's Pittsburgh-Arizona game at Raymond James Stadium will cost NBC $8 million to $10 million, and that doesn't count $600 million a year in rights fees the network is paying to also get "Sunday Night Football" through 2011 and the 2012 Super Bowl...

Viewers won't notice any new gimmicks or major enhancements in the telecast, but there's already enough technology in a Sunday or Monday night NFL telecast to land Ben Roethlisberger on the moon.

Basically, the Super Bowl telecast is an amplified edition of "Sunday Night Football."

So if you'd rather get it all out of the way ahead of time and use your Sunday for something other than an exhausting TV marathon, here's our little cheat-sheet of a post.


This part of the day will last, well, all day. Every single segment of it will begin with the same quasi-Ben Hur chariot race music accompanied by stupid graphics, so you may as well get it out of the way now with our small-scale version:

Then comes all the pre-game crap presided over by Bob Costas and his crew of exceptionally self-satisfied jocks and NBC know-it-alls and technicians. Here's pretty much all you have to know about them. (You can make up tomorrow's Steelers-Cardinals banter for yourself: Pittsburgh tough, Arizona lucky.)

Remember that line about "a different feel." Think MORE ADS.

And since halftime will be its own mega-extravaganza, NBC will probably have to give Keith Olbermann his airtime in the pregame hours as well. Here's a sample.

Again, you can make up the football hysterics for yourself.

Eventually every single person shown on camera will have said everything everybody else has said enough times that they start to collapse from boredom and vocal strain. Then it's time for...

This is easily the least important part of the proceedings. Think of it as filler for the real purpose of the broadcast: commercials and NBC programming promos (commercials). We can easily simulate this experience for you right now. Here's the whole damn game of football that will be played.

Of course it's tempting, but you're not allowed to watch it all the way through. After every kickoff, punt, touchdown, timeout,  and any other excuse you can think of, you must pause the game and go to this site, where they have the most ballyhooed Super Bowl commercials available for your viewing pleasure, and watch at least one of them. After that, you have to go here and see at least one of the NBC promos. Only then can you return to the game, and on no account can you let more than a few minutes of playing time elapse before you pause for the next commercial. Got it?

You also have to pause the game at halftime, of course, so that Bob Costas can narrate the incredible pyrotechnics that will be taking place on the field:

Oops. Wrong tediously overblown stadium event. Our mistake. Actually, there will be a slight delay as they construct a second stadium inside the first one for the super-spectacular Bruce Springsteen concert. Here's Bruce telling us how long that delay will be:

Everyone will be glad to wait, though, for the always unforgettable poet-idiot of New Jersey, secure in the confidence that we can't be offended by loopy political non-sequiturs we couldn't possibly decipher through his increasingly Dylanesque slur. It's bound to be as great as all his other legendary four-hour concerts.

Don't make the mistake of rushing right back to the game after Bruce is done. They still have to demolish the temporary stadium on the field, which means you need to go back here and here for more commercials. And keep going back, again and again till all it's all mercifully over.

Got it? Enjoy the game.


Yes, if you're still not in a coma after the final gun, there will be highlight shows. Here's what we expect you'll be seeing a lot of.

We know we're really looking forward to it.

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