Monday, October 06, 2008

Financial Reporters as Faith Healers

In Penn & Teller's book How To Play With Your Food, they have a great bit about "alternative (i.e., quack) medicine (homeopathy, acupuncture, etc.):
Every malady does one of three things if left untreated:

1. It gets better.
2. It stays the same.
3. It gets worse.

After trying any bogus treatment, one of three things will happen.

1. It'll get better.
2. It'll stay the same.
3. It'll get worse.

As long as you have a spiel for each of these three eventualities, you can be a healer that some people will believe in:

1. "See I told you."
2. "We arrested it."
3. "I guess we need more of it."

Because everyone wants hope and it's easy to explain any course an affliction may take, there are many many cures that people believe in.

The financial reporting around the recent $700 billion bailout reminds me of this. Back before the first vote, the stock market went up a bit, and reported that this was because of anticipation of a bailout being passed. Then the House rejected it, the stock market went down, and said it was because the bailout didn't pass. Then the market went back up again, so said it was because in anticipation of the Senate passing the bill. Then the Senate passed the bailout, and the stock market went back down, so said it was because of fears the bailout wouldn't pass the House again. Then the House passed the bailout, but the stock market still went down, so Friday and today says it went down despite the bailout.

No matter what the market does, they are apparently incapable of interpreting it in any way that fails to support Bailout = Good.

Over the next few weeks/months/years, I expect to see any/all of the following reported, depending on what the market actually does:

1. "See, the bailout worked!"
2. "See, the bailout stopped the market's downward plunge!"
3. "Alas, the bailout didn't go far enough."

And also:

Things I Learned From Watching Turistas

  • Having drugged eight people in order to kill them and harvest their organs, the best way to transport them to your "operating room" is to tie two of them up and carry them, but leave the other six alone to awaken on the beach, and blindly hope that they will then wander randomly into your lone accomplice in a village some miles away, who will trick them into following him to his "uncle's house" in the middle of the jungle.

  • When you are killing someone in order to harvest their organs, it is still necessary to swab down the surgical site with iodine beforehand, to prevent infection. Surgical mask and gloves, however, are optional.

  • Brazil's medical system, though short on transplantable organs, has access to the most powerful local anesthetic known to science, which allows a person to remain conscious, semi-lucid, yet in no apparent pain while their abdomen is opened up and their liver and kidneys removed.

  • Traveling from somewhere along the coast of Rio de Janeiro to a city with organ transplant facilities takes more than six hours by helicopter.

  • Tiny pockets of air trapped in underwater caves are perfectly breathable and have plenty of oxygen for up to five people at a time.

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