Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Wishes

Seventy years ago today, December 28, 1942, the TASS News Agency unveiled another in their series of WWII window posters. It combined traditional Vanitas motifs like a metaphor of Time's passage, (the turning calendar page), a mirror, a skeletal reflection, and a candle, along with a cartomantic New Year's wish for der Führer.

Thus Shall It Be!
Wiping cold sweat from his brow,
At the New Year
Bloodthirsty Hitler's fortune-telling:
"What will I see?"
And drawing out a random card,
The accursed snake
Cries out in terror:
"Death, The Queen of Spades!"
He presses his snout to the glass,
And to the question,
"What will I see?" He sees the answer:
A skeleton face!
Midnight struck, and here,
The New Year,
Coming through the door,
Summed up
Hitler's fortune-telling:
Thus shall it be!

It is worth noting that the Queen of Spades (an ominous card according to the fortune-tellers) and the Ace of Spades (a traditional "Death card") are singled out in the text and illustration.

Hat-tip to Brad DeLong.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

When Stupidity Fails

In the backyard there is a squirrel at the bird feeder, eating his breakfast of sunflower seeds. I'm guessing that he would not be doing that if the Mayan Apocalypse had happened on schedule. Paul Krugman has a post on another apocalyptic prophecy, the wrath of the Bond Vigilantes. It has been predicted as imminent by Republican (i.e., hack) economists and promoted by lobbyists – including one who is ominously named Maya – but the prophecy has failed consistently for over four years now. One might conclude that these prophets are out of their crystal skulls.

Their beliefs are no more based in reality than the prediction that Mitt Romney's imagined "momentum" would result in "an electoral landslide". Or the beliefs of Tarot enthusiasts who have insisted for over 230 years that the trump cards are some sort of esoteric manifesto. Centuries of failed attempts to discern such hidden meaning will never deter true believers from their quest to ignore reality (rationalizing away their cognitive dissonance) and impose a preferred "reality". Festinger's famous book was titled When Prophecy Fails, but a better title might have been, When Stupidity Fails. Facts matter.

December 24, 2012 postscript:

Yesterday, Paul Krugman made the same connection between Republican economists, (specifically, editors at the Wall Street Journal), and the book When Prophecy Fails. He concludes his observations by noting, "they’ve been hugely, absurdly wrong for years on end, and it’s time to stop taking them seriously." Naturally, that could also be said about generations of Tarot enthusiasts from the 18th century into the second decade of the 21st.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012: and to all a good night.

Glad tidings — a new year is nigh. At least in the Northern Hemisphere.

Happy Holidays.