Monday, March 24, 2008

Black Swans Everywhere

Black swan theory - In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's definition, a black swan is a large-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations. Taleb regards many scientific discoveries as black swans—"undirected" and unpredicted. He gives the September 11, 2001 attacks as an example of a Black Swan event.

The term black swan comes from the ancient Western conception that 'All swans are white'. In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 17th Century discovery of black swans in Australia metamorphosed the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass.

James Howard Kunstler brings the hard-line on what's beyond that signpost up ahead;
It's too bad the current presidential candidates have been unable to address the unfolding economic nightmare. Their collective silence on the matter suggests that they don't have a clue what to say about it. As the nightmare plays out and black swans flock in to blot out the sun, and the hedge funds come a'tumbling down, and more big banks blunder into black holes, and businesses big and small across the land shutter up their operations, and the unemployment rolls swell, and families are thrown out of their houses even when bailouts are supposed to be saving them (but the bureaucracy can't get the paperwork done in time) -- well now, they are going to be one pissed off bunch of people. What will they do at the conventions? Our outside the conventions?

In the deeper background of all this is the all-important oil story that nobody in politics or the media wants to pay attention to. Notice that in the fervid unloading of assets this past week, as investors dumped their positions in the commodities markets, the price of oil remained stubbornly above $100-a-barrel when it was all over on Thursday afternoon.
Brace yourselves friends, Kunstler doesn't pull any punches. If you don't want to know what's going on, don't click the link and read his essay. I echo his concluding sentiment, however "It will be interesting to see what new machinations are unveiled this week. Whatever else this catastrophe is, it's a good show from the cheap seats."