Left hand switch

Don’t take it at face value.

How many times do you hear that?

People are good at spinning positive symbols to you, and hiding the information you need to see the picture that’s bigger than their pleasant vision and includes its downsides.

For example, a used-care salesperson telling you that a car has “low miles,” which is true because when you inspect it, you find out it doesn’t start. His statement was true; it was only part of the true information you need, however.

Another way they fool you is the left hand switch. As they shuffle the cards, the right hand makes a big deal of doing what it always does — it’s almost distracting how mundane it is. In fact, the point is to distract you with the right hand while the left hand changes something equally vital behind the scenes.

Modern society could be viewed as an endless series of left hand switches. They told you that oppression was a problem, and got rid of the kings, which thrust you into a society ruled by economics. They told you that nationalism was a problem and flung you into multiculturalism, which means you now exist in a world without a standard in common so you never get praised for anything but money and popularity. It’s the vapidity of high school turned up to 11.

Their latest left hand switch has been the economy. When the leftists got in control in the 1990s, they unleashed a storm of economic chaos from which the world has not recovered.

  • Fast money. Bill Clinton’s economic “miracle” was to make money easy to lend and borrow, which transitioned our economy into a paper tiger where we re-value paper instruments and move them around in a big Ponzi scheme. The result was that in about the year 2000, the economy imploded as people realized that not only the dot-com boom but the country in general was overvalued. The housing blow-up in the late 2000s was just an aftershock of this.
  • The subsidy state. You’re afraid of class war, race war and bullying? Great, just sign here. We’re going to buy these people off with massive entitlement programs. We’re going to take your money and pay it as a daily bribe so they stay calm and don’t start burning down their neighborhoods and hateraping your children. The problem is of course that this money dead-ends; it goes to rent, to entertainment, to booze and to divorce lawyers. It does not rise higher up into the economy and go to new and developing fields.
  • Slashing the military budget. If you want to be popular with teenagers, tell them you’re against war. Say that to a historian or political scientist and you’ll get the polite smile we reserve for the mentally retarded. War is a fact of life; even more, if you’re big and wealthy, you need to be ready for war or ad hoc enemies will close in and take your stuff, destroying your nation in the process. A majority of our fellow citizens are too mentally immature to face this. They find champions in leftist presidents who slash defense and transfer that money to entitlement programs. The difference is that military spending is not just about the military. It’s about research and development: most of the huge booms in our economy, including the internet, came from defense spending. Right now, only a true blue idiot would slash defense spending. We’re on the cusp of a revolution in robotics and military spending, not private industry, is leading the way. It’s too much of a longshot — at this time — for private industry.
  • The red tape society. The liberal response to society is to see it, like nature, as a savage and unstable thing which we need to pave over, make equal, and force to perform according to rigid rules based upon what is convenient for humans to believe about our society. The result is both a Nanny State of absurd dimensions and a bureaucratic semi-totalitarian system that hampers you at every turn with a plethora of rules, each discipline of which requires you hire a special expert, making it less likely that you’ll start a business (legally at least) or take any kind of risk. We paralyze ourselves so that we can enrich these legions of parasites who like their easy and stupid jobs of memorizing rules, then enforcing them on others. Do these rules help? Possibly, but they don’t fix the problems they claim to fix or reduce them so noticeably that we need them. In the meantime, they wreck our competitiveness by tying us down with detail-oriented, big-picture-blind regulations.
  • The touchy-feely society. Liberal governments inculcate in us a vision of a moral society, responsive to compassion and other emotions, that looks out for the little guy. The result is the same thing that happens in an office when someone takes control of a problem: everyone else puts their brain on hold, delegates their consciousness to this person, and then spaces out with more pleasant thoughts about lunch, nailing the new project manager from LA, or video games. You suddenly have an electorate conditioned to behave like children and treat government like a parent, demanding increasingly absurd portions and throwing tantrums (see last week’s riots in the UK) when they are not delivered the impossible. Such an electorate doesn’t accept, ever, the idea that programs must be cut; they want to cut vital programs, like the military or space exploration, before they will cut entitlements, including the education systems and non-profits that provide cushy do-nothing jobs for many of their friends.

The result of all this is a left-hand switch: your economy is officially doing what it always has done. There is no inflation per se. But on the left hand, the market is adjusting to the fact that your currency is worth less as a whole. It’s not inflated, in the sense of losing value, so much as viewed as less important and less desirable as repository for value, which means a covert kind of inflation.

With unemployment still high, companies in recent months have tried to camouflage price increases by selling their products in tiny and tinier packages. So far, the changes are most visible at the grocery store, where shoppers are paying the same amount, but getting less.

For Lisa Stauber, stretching her budget to feed her nine children in Houston often requires careful monitoring at the store. Recently, when she cooked her usual three boxes of pasta for a big family dinner, she was surprised by a smaller yield, and she began to suspect something was up.

“Whole wheat pasta had gone from 16 ounces to 13.25 ounces,” she said. “I bought three boxes and it wasn’t enough — that was a little embarrassing. I bought the same amount I always buy, I just didn’t realize it, because who reads the sizes all the time?”

Ms. Stauber, 33, said she began inspecting her other purchases, aisle by aisle. Many canned vegetables dropped to 13 or 14 ounces from 16; boxes of baby wipes went to 72 from 80; and sugar was stacked in 4-pound, not 5-pound, bags, she said. – NYT

If they officially admit the problem with our currency, panic occurs and the herd lashes out. However, if they just adjust expectations downward — that ol’ left hand shift — the value adjustment happens while the good oblivious sheep keep drunkenly sleepwalking forward, repeating empty actions in a fug of personal paranoia and denial.

Conservatives view modern society as a kind of “evil” because it has this cult-like tendency. You must buy into it, but when you do, the cost is that you put your brain on hold. You accept the official story, which isn’t official from the government so much as it is the intersection of other people’s selfish notions.

Evil corporations? Government conspiracies? Secret fascist sects? That’s Hollywood, and nothing Hollywood is real. More likely: a nation of scared sheep demanding illusions be kept alive so that each individual can get what he or she wants and get out of the system. The selfishness of each individual binds them together into a mob which demands illusions, each person thinking that have passively cheated the others and come out ahead.

Of course, these people don’t understand economics. Dollar bills have no value except that they’re like stock certificates purchased in a nation. You’re betting on the value of the economy by having them. If you gut an economy and then try to take your wealth out, you’ll find that it has lost value. Some hope to beat this by buying gold, but like most periodistic things, this rewards those with really good fine-tuned timing.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell sharply from a three-year high in February, reversing five straight months of improvement.

The decline raises questions about Americans’ ability and willingness to spend in coming months.

The index fell more than expected to 63.4 from a revised 72.0 in February. Economists expected 65.4, according to FactSet.

The drop was the steepest since the 10.1-point plunge from January 2010 to February 2010, when the U.S. stock market was hammered by worries about Greece’s national debt.

“Rising food and gasoline prices are starting to take their toll on the consumer psyche, and Japan’s triple calamity — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster — has been very unsettling,” said Chris Christopher Jr., senior principal economist at HIS Global Insight. – WEX

The fools have oversold the whole thing.

Not just the economy — heck, if anything, the economy just shows us where our thinking is going, which means that if we’re treating the economy like a Ponzi scheme, we’re also treating home life, education and culture like the same Ponzi scheme.

First we oversold our economy, and by the Clinton years were re-valuing paper and re-selling it, truly generating no wealth but inventing it out of thin air because people were willing to pay for chunks of our economy. We were coasting on the momentum of the past, trading altitude for airspeed by rapidly selling off whatever we could jettison.

Next, we created a series of bubbles by selling stuff to ourselves. Did we expand into new markets? No, we re-sold stuff to our American consumers. First it was the internet, where we convinced ourselves that some web browser loading an ad was worth money; nevermind that it turned out later it was some impoverished stoned guy in a basement. Next it was in housing, which our brilliant President Clinton inflated by strong-arming banks into loosening up loans, and so we assumed we were doing great because people were buying lots of homes; nevermind that they couldn’t afford them, abandoned them and left behind ghettoes.

Don’t watch the right hand; that’s for show. Watch the left.

The left hand has slowly siphoned money out of the American and European companies into an elite of international super-rich who make their money not by inventing new things, but by catering to the masses of clueless people who are dependent on entertainment, convenience and populist luxury products like iPods. This is not value added to an economy; this is us pouring water from one cup to another and back again, claiming it has gained in volume.

Around four in five female graduates will never repay their student loan under the Coalition’s new tuition fees regime, it emerged yesterday.

An analysis of the student loan system shows that middle-income men who will finally pay-off their loan at the age of 47-50, will bear the brunt of the cost of higher education.

The figures show that between 70 and 80 per cent of women – up to 150,000 a year – will never repay their full loan, compared with 20 to 30 per cent at present. And when loans are written off, 30 years after graduation, the average woman will still owe £26,500. – The Daily Mail

This is from England, but figures are similar in the USA: we have oversold our education. Throughout the 1970s through the 1990s, we dumbed down education so that any idiot could make it through high school. This alienated the smart kids and ensured that most knew nothing. That in turn forced our colleges to become remedial, which meant that our kids graduated having spent half of their college lifetimes re-learning stuff that was botched in high school. But all the parents are happy, because even if Johnny is stupid, he got some kind of award. Too bad that too was oversold.

Now that everyone and their dog has a college degree, a college degree is worthless. It is no longer any particular distinction unless you went to Harvard, and even then employers are wary, because Harvard hands out too many degrees for political reasons in lieu of excellence. So now the name of the game to get ahead is to make your way through graduate education or a certification program or both. You are in school until you’re thirty, and then you demand a larger salary.

How does industry respond? By lessening the value of your money. Sure, you can have $200,000 per year, but that figure in today’s dollars doesn’t translate at all to what it would have been in 1987 or 1997 dollars. Even more, you have new expenses. Since everyone has a house, it’s more expensive to stay out of the ghetto and away from the dangerous/useless schools. Since medical care is tied up in red tape, you want to be able to afford private pay. Since there are 10,000 criminals to every one cop, you want a neighborhood with private security. The list goes one.

Elite-college admissions offices drive professional-class parents crazy because in many respects they do not operate as meritocracies. Consider, for example, those students admitted via one of the two programs that stand as strange mirror opposites: those that give preferential treatment to the sons and daughters of alumni, and those that extend it to the children of unrepresented minorities. The latter practice suggests that generations of injustice and prejudice can be redressed by admission to a fancy college, the former that generations of inclusion and privilege demand their own special prize; the two philosophies would seem to cancel one another out, but each has its place in the larger system.

In fact, when you account for all of the “hooked” seats in the freshman class—spaces specifically set aside for kids who have some kind of recruited talent or family connection or who come from an underrepresented minority group—you accomplish, at the most selective colleges, two things: you fill a large percentage of the class (some researchers believe the figure is as high as 60 percent), and you do so with kids whose average grades and scores are significantly lower than your ideal. Now it’s time to swing a meritocracy into place; the caliber of the class is at stake. All of the unhooked students are now going to be thrown into a hypercompetitive pool, the likes of which the layperson can’t imagine. As daunting as the median grades and test scores of the typical Princeton admittee may appear, those statistics have taken into account all of the legacies and volleyball players and rich people’s children who pushed the averages down. The colleges are looking for one very specific quality at this point in the cycle: not “creativity” or “imagination” (or the ability to say funny things at the dinner table and make perceptive comments about movies—a knack today’s parents tend to call “critical thinking”); what they are looking for are the most deeply smart students in the country.

Chua has accepted, in a way that the good mothers will not, that most children today can’t have it both ways: they can’t have a fun, low-stress childhood and also an Ivy League education. She understood early on—as the good mothers are about to learn, when the heartbreaking e-mails and letters from the top colleges go out this month—that life is a series of choices, each with its own rewards and consequences. In a sense, that is the most unpalatable message of her book, the one that has caused all the anguish: it’s an unwelcome reminder (how can we keep forgetting this?) that the world really doesn’t lie before us like a land of dreams. At best—at the very best—it can only offer us choices between two good things, and as we grasp at one, we lose the other forever. – The Atlantic

By overselling education, and putting political requirements on it, we’ve created a horrific rat race. Either you study all the time and have a soul, or you grow up stunted having spent your youth entirely on becoming an elite student with an elite future. And as we see with many of the graduates of our top schools, automatons do not do so well in creative or unconventional thinking. In fact, they can be a force of entropy that knows too well what has been done and is lost beyond that.

On the other hand, America has oversold itself via the notion that all of us are special, when only a few of us are Beethovens or Watsons:

Americans have been told always to encourage their kids. This, the theory goes, will improve their self-esteem, and this, in turn, will help them learn.

After a generation or so of applying this theory, we have the results. Just about the only category in which American students outperform the competition is self-regard. Researchers at the Brookings Institution, in one of their frequent studies of education policy, compared students’ assessments of their abilities in math with their scores on a standardized test. Nearly forty per cent of American eighth graders agreed “a lot” with the statement “I usually do well in mathematics,” even though only seven per cent of American students actually got enough correct answers on the test to qualify as advanced. Among Singaporean students, eighteen per cent said they usually did well in math; forty-four per cent qualified as advanced. As the Brookings researchers pointed out, even the least self-confident Singaporean students, on average, outscored the most self-confident Americans. You can say it’s sad that kids in Singapore are so beaten down that they can’t appreciate their own accomplishments. But you’ve got to give them this: at least they get the math right. – The New Yorker

The dream is that everyone is equal and if you just work hard, you’ll end up being a Beethoven.

The reality is that geniuses are born and develop with talent, and a high-pressure society produces lots of very competent imitators but crushes any genius, and that in the meantime, we’ve made life so competitive we are sacrificing joy in our own existence for the illusory possibility of really striking it rich.

Our high-materialism lifestyle has other consequences as well:

Children who suffer psychological problems – such as trauma over their parents divorcing – earn up to 30 per cent less than others when they grow up, a study revealed yesterday.

It warned that psychological problems in childhood have a more severe long-term impact than physical conditions such as speech defects because they persist through life.

Children who had psychological problems typically grew up to earn £215,000 less during their lifetimes than those who did not, the study found. This figure is for total ‘family income’, including the earnings of a spouse or partner, and is calculated after tax. – The Daily Mail

Like so many other things, the sexual revolution was sold to us by people claiming to act in our best interests. End fighting over sex — just give it away! This will be most convenient for you as an individual, so join us to get this right.

We find out a generation or two later that it’s actually quite destructive, but no one was thinking about that at the time. The greedy little monkeys were thinking about how it would help them to get their little wicks wet, not what it might do to their country and future generations.

In fact, we could say that parents whether slacker or disciplinarian are projecting themselves onto their kids, trying to live through their kids. We could point to the rising fascination with media as similar escapism. No one wants to live their own life. Everyone wants escape to a simpler world.

Warning: The Super-Rich Delusion has pushed us to the edge of a great precipice: Remember the Roaring Twenties? The Crash of 1929? Great Depression? Just days before the crash one leading economist, Irving Fisher, predicted that stocks had “reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”

Yes, he was trapped in the “Great Gatsby Syndrome,” an earlier version of today’s Super-Rich Delusion. It was so blinding in 1929 that the president, Wall Street, all America were sucked in … until the critical mass hit a mysterious flash point, triggering the crash.

Yes, we’re reliving that past — never learn, can’t hear. And oddly it’s not just the GOP’s overreach, the endlessly compromising Obama, too-greedy-to-fail Wall Street banksters, U.S. Chamber of Commerce billionaires and arrogant Forbes 400. America’s entire political, financial and economic psyche is infected, as if our DNA has been rewired.

The Collective American Brain is trapped in this Super-Rich Delusion, replaying the run-up to the ’29 Crash. – Market Watch

Blame the super-rich if you want, but more likely, blame the audience for the product.

The American people wanted easy answers and simple dreams. They got them. The salesman did not mention the side-effects, which were that the country would perish in confusion.

We spread our money so thin it lost value, and then hammered it home by basing its value on our ability to sell each other paper and banner ads on the internet.

We socialized our culture, our sexuality, and opened our borders to people from all lands. Each of these decisions were errors. We watched the right hand, which promised more of the good, and ignored the left, which behind the scenes destroyed all that was good and already existing.

As the long-term consequences of those acts begin to show, we’re starting to see how badly we were scammed.


  1. Repair_Man_Jack says:

    This reminds me of the question now facing the few honest reformers in DC. How do we unplug this (redacted) monster? I, myself, threw up my hands in discouragement.


    I’m wondering if we could BRAC the next budget and only allow the vast majority of Sens and Reps to vote thumbs up/thumbs down.

  2. pentti says:

    While I agree with you that there has been strong liberal bias in mass mediated culture since the ’80s (not the ’90s, but dating back to the founding of CNN and cable TV in general), mostly owing to the Baby Boomer nonsense peddled by the mind control industries they created…

    …the socioeconomic culture has been nothing but global-corporate-feudal, and it has been run by mainstream GOP conservatives.

    Let’s take the example of Ms. Stauber, 33, and her NINE offspring. Why is she shopping retail if she is breeding wholesale? Do you really think that LIBERALS were behind the trillions of dollars of supermarket advertising, research, and development that have gone into brainwashing people into thinking that food comes from Safeway or Pathmark or WalMart?

    NO. This was the outcome of many decades of joint multinational corporate and USDA collusion to create and always expand an industrial food system, which grows a few basic crops on a mega-wholesale basis, then fractionates the harvests and recombines them into the health- and vitality-murdering gut bombs these stores sell. It also has murdered off America’s self-sufficient agrarian culture and most family farms, but let’s not side track there.

    Why is Ms. Stauber, 33, buying little boxes of pasta? If she’s going to crank out babies by the dozen, she should either be buying flour by the 50 pound bag and making her own, or buying pasta by the 100-pound crate for far less than she’s paying. Damn, lady, you breed like that, I don’t want to hear the whining later that things cost more than you thought they would. You should have calculated that out before you got nailed. Again.

    And BABY WIPES? At what point did she let herself be convinced that those were an essential part of bringing an infant from birth to toilet training?

    So while I agree with much of what you always say, I think it continues to be flawed by your attachment to the bipolar disorder of axiological thinking. It really doesn’t matter is something is left or right, liberal or conservative, A or B. Our asses are to the wall, and all that matter is: what is going to work the best, to get humanity off the blithering path of self destruction that Near Eastern (i.e., Iraqi and Iranian and Egyptian) and later Roman Empire set it on, with agriculture?

  3. TGGP says:

    “When the leftists got in control in the 1990s”
    B.S, leftists destroyed the constitutionally restrained government as far back as the 1930s (if not earlier). The 1990s were a time of relative restraint thanks to Congress’ opposition to the President, and his attempt to triangulate away from previous Dem electoral defeats. And military budgets never go down in nominal terms. Switzerland (yes, they have mountains, we’ve got oceans) has done just dandy without wasting money bringing “democracy” to Dysfunctionstan or helping the Soviet Union conquer eastern europe. The defense budget is a massive tax rip-off that so-called “conservatives” unfortunately are prone to swallowing hook-line-and-sinker.

    If you think inflation is being hidden by skimping on quality, you should look at the price of fixed-quality products. Raw commodities, say.

    The hubbub in the media about childhood influences is the result of nurturist dogma which banishes hereditarian arguments as Nazi-like. Read Judith Harris’ “The Nurture Assumption”.

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