Economics

Penn Jillette: Is Obama Turning Into the Skid?

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Great, entertaining CNN.com column from talky magician and man-about-Vegas Penn Jillette:

I'm a fire-eater. There is some technique to fire-eating, but most of the practice goes into learning that one's mouth is wet enough, most of the heat goes up enough, and cutting the oxygen leg off the fire triangle (it's now a fire tetrahedron, but I learned fire-eating a long time ago) with one's mouth really does put the fire out. […]

Handling fire seems like a superpower. There are whole seminars and self-help jive centered on fire-walking, which is hustled as "mind over matter," or "empowerment" but is really just counterintuitive physics. As long as the fire walk is set up right and you keep moving, you can even hope and pray to be burned, while yelling counter-self-help slogans such as "I do not have any power to do this" and "universe, please burn my little piggies," and you'll be fine.

Uh, where's he going with this? Here, diagonally:

What's black and white and red all over?

President Obama is so damn smart. He just drips smart. He clearly understands stuff that we could never understand. He's trustworthy. If Obama were teaching fire-eating, we would all learn fast. If he told you that the burns would be minor and the fire would go out when you closed your mouth, you'd believe him. […]

Obama tells us that we can spend our way out of debt. He tells us that even though the government had control over the banks and did nothing to stop the bad that's going on, if we give them more control over more other bank-like things, then they can make sure bad stuff doesn't happen ever again. He says we can get out of all those big wars President Bush caused by sending more troops into Afghanistan. And I don't know. I really don't know. […]

It's certainly true that many counterintuitive things are true, and when you have the guts to do something counterintuitive that works, it's really cool. It's a superpower under our yellow sun.

But there are some things that are just intuitive. Did you know, that if you're going 100 mph, directly at a very, very thick, reinforced concrete wall, and you speed up, so you're accelerating right when you hit the wall that the accident you have is going to be much worse than if you'd jammed on the brakes as soon as you saw the wall at the end of the street? Did you know that? It's exactly what everything you know and feel would tell you, and it's exactly true. Most times when you're driving, or playing with fire, or handling money, the thing that makes sense to you is also true.

I way hope we're turning into a skid and not accelerating into a concrete wall.

Whole thing here; link via Instapundit. More Reasonalia on Jillette here.

NEXT: Rest in Pieces, Mark-to-Market

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  1. Oh things are turning into a skid alright. A skid IN MY PANTS!!

    Thanks, I'll be here all night. Don't forget to tip the waitresses.

  2. Penn Jillette: Is Obama Turning Into the a Skid Mark?

    FTFY, skid-mark-to-markety-mark-mark.

    Yo! It's about that time! To break forth the rythym and the rhyme!

    I'm gonna get mine, so get yours! I wanna see sweat comin' out ya pores!

  3. Good column. Very clever.

    But I've never understood why turning into the skid is supposed to be so counterintuitive. Whenever I've skidded, it was the most instinctive and natural thing to do - turning into the skid is what you do when you want to keep your car's front end in front of its back end, after all.

    What's hard or counterintuitive is not hitting the brakes.

  4. It's good to see a comedian like Penn Jilette on our side for a change. Now the Libertarians should be able to put together a winning coalition of the jokers, smokers, tokers, strokers, and brokers.

  5. [Il Duce] tells us that we can spend our way out of debt.

    Yeah, that's smart.

  6. I've never understood why turning into the skid is supposed to be so counterintuitive.

    If it's a GM car, you let go of the wheel and nail the brakes. When it wrecks the government will pay to fix it.

  7. I just saw the Retard-In-Chief on TV. He actually said that they will prevent all future crises and will prevent booms and busts.

    He thinks he is God! He will wave his magic wand and there will be no bad.

    The man is truly delusional and should be committed. For all those that think the Republicans and conservatives are bad on religion, this guy is sooooooo much worse. This fruit-loop actually thinks he is God.

  8. It's good to see a comedian like Penn Jilette on our side for a change.

    He's been a libertarian for as long as I can remember.

    Teller is a CATO member, iirc.

  9. sage,

    HOLY SHIT!!! I hadn't thought of that yet! I should go ahead and wreck my shitty Camaro! I'll be on the way to getting my Lexus within a week! After all, Obama wouldn't politicize my warranty would he?

  10. Man, I would totally buy one volume of an encyclopedia set from this guy.

  11. Penn is my hero.

  12. I way hope we're turning into a skid and not accelerating into a concrete wall.

    No, the right analogy is that we're driving up an icy hill and if we don't gain enough momentum we'll stop and then slide backwards down, off the road out on to the thin ice of the frozen lake nearby.

    Worrying about debt is like worrying about running out of gas as we're accelerating up the hill, it's freakin' stupid.

  13. ""

    I was warning folks here about Barry "Lonesome" Rhodes months and months ago.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050371/

    BTW where's the daily clown show? Did it finally pack up and move to another town?

  14. "Obama tells us that we can spend our way out of debt."

    Isn't that what Milton Friedman said we should have done in the Great Depression?

  15. That was for JB BTW.

  16. But I've never understood why turning into the skid is supposed to be so counterintuitive.

    Because when you start skidding you are generally being pushed off the orginal axis of travel, so the instinct is to turn the steering wheel back towards this axis rather than away (i.e. 'into' the skid)

    But on the other hand, most cars these days are front wheel drive, which tend for an understeer skid, so their ain't much the steering wheel will do for you at that point anyway.

  17. Alan Vanneman: Friedman was for loosening monetary policy not fiscal stimulus. Loosening increases inflation but not debt.

  18. Isn't that what Milton Friedman said we should have done in the Great Depression?

    Milton Friedman said that our monetary policy was too tight; he was agnostic, at best, about fiscal policy.

  19. missed it by that much.

  20. "a winning coalition of the jokers, smokers, tokers, strokers, and brokers."
    That's good, creech. Is it yours?

  21. Isn't that what Milton Friedman said we should have done in the Great Depression?

    Don't think so.

  22. But now i can't get freakin' Steve Miller out of my head.

  23. But now i can't get freakin' Steve Miller out of my head.

    Thanks, you put ELO into my head.

  24. "Thanks, you put ELO into my head."
    And of course, Jeff Lynne is a gateway earworm to the rest of the Traveling Wilburys.

  25. But I've never understood why turning into the skid is supposed to be so counterintuitive.

    I never understood what the hell that meant. Into? What the hell is "into" a skid? I know what to do instinctively, but that idea never made any sense to me.

    Then I was watching something one day, long ago, with a crystal clear translation: turn the direction you want to go.

  26. Yep, glad you liked it C.N.

  27. I think Citizen Nothing has t-t-t-to much time on his hands.

  28. That styx(?) in my craw, SF. But you're probably right.
    (But that all ends Monday when the layoffs hit and we survivors get our workload doubled.)

  29. "Thanks, you put ELO into my head."

    Hey there Mr. Blue, we are so pleased to be with you.

    Try getting that one out of your head without resorting to a shotgun.

  30. ELOworms can be thwarted by humming some 10cc

    Load up, load up, load up with rubber bullets!

    Kevin

  31. John,

    Actually I like having ELO in my head.

    Now go Macarena yourself 🙂

  32. Try getting that one out of your head without resorting to a shotgun.

    I shall roll down Rodeo instead, thankyouverymuch.

  33. High Every Body,

    I like that song to actually. As songs go to have in your head, it is not bad.

  34. But on the other hand, most cars these days are front wheel drive, which tend for an understeer skid, so their ain't much the steering wheel will do for you at that point anyway.

    If you can afford to hit the accelerator at the same time, you get back a behavior a lot like a rear wheel drive machine.

    I have not a clue what you can do if you also can't accelerate.

  35. This column reads like it could be the introduction to a new edition of Economics in One Lesson.

  36. I have not a clue what you can do if you also can't accelerate.

    Let go and pray for Obama to take the wheel?

  37. JW -- I'm with you. That saying never made any sense to me. Then I saw a demo on TV and realized I'd been doing the right thing anyway. (Why would anyone do anything else?)

  38. if you can afford to hit the accelerator at the same time, you get back a behavior a lot like a rear wheel drive machine.

    What? accelerating (or attempting to - a FWD vehicle that is already understeering will not have enough marginal traction on the drive wheels to do diddly squat for acceleration) will only make the understeer worse as the rearward weight transfer removes even more traction from the steer wheels.

    The right thing to do is to ease off the gas or even (gently!) tap the brakes. This transfers more weight over the front wheels, giving them more traction to turn with. Fortunately, this is also what most untrained drivers naturally do, and is perceived as "safer". This is why most manufacturers set up their stock suspensions to plow like a goddamn farm tractor.

  39. What? accelerating [] a FWD vehicle that is already understeering [] will only make the understeer worse

    Ah....I think we are talking at cross purposes.

    I was thinking of a fish tail or other spinning loss of control, and I believe you're speaking (with better usage, I note) of a linear slide.

  40. even (gently!) tap the brakes.

    This (i think) is even worse than accelerating in a front wheel drive car.

    Both braking and acceleration 'steal' traction, but braking does it in a direction parallel to the skid direction, which makes it even worse. Right?

  41. You people obviously are unfamiliar with left-foot-braking.

    Getting into a slippy turn can be highly entertaining, with practice.

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