HWFO is an acronym coined by the CEO of Three Rings (the brilliant minds behind Puzzle Pirates), Daniel James. It stands for Hand Waving Freak Outery, and is often used on the PP forums as a disparaging remark to suggest that someone is overreacting.
Karl Denninger does his fair share of HWFO over at the Market Ticker (a fascinating blog about the markets and their dysfunction of the last several years). But hey, overreacting is what bloggers do. If we wanted dry, rational reporting on facts, we’d turn to the impartial, accurate, professional media. I mean, that’s what they are paid to do, right? *cough*
Anyway, KD’s on a tear lately, with a bit more vitriol and urgency to his commentary. It’s worth a perusal of his archives if you want to get a bead on what the markets are doing, and how the economy is functioning (or not, as the case may be). You could be excused for mistaking his latest articles as the rants of an anti-Obama nutter, but the curious fact is that he voted for the guy and made a big deal out of pointing out the fact. He wrote a few times about liking Ron Paul’s stance on the economy, but ultimately voted for Obama. So remember that when you dig around and find him ranting and waving his arms about the problems he sees. He wanted Obama to succeed (and probably still does; who really wants chaos and social breakdown?).
So, his take on the 9/12 gathering in Washington D.C. is interesting less for the inherent HWFO, and more for the observation that it’s not a big deal elsewhere in the media. No, the big news of the day is about Kanye West behaving badly. A million or more people marching peaceably on the capital in protest of government spending would be big news in a sane society. (Though, really, some of the protest posters are way over the top. Hyperbole doesn’t help make a good case. Of course, when the people in charge are telling us that they Must Pass This Bill Right Nao!!1! or The World Will Collapse!!11!!!1, it’s not like everyone is behaving rationally.) People are tired of the nonsense from both parties, and the economic abuses that we’re all dealing with. (Remember Enron? Bernie Madoff? Chuck Ponzi? When the regulators turn a blind eye to this sort of activity, or actively support it, the guy working for a modest salary can be excused for being a bit peeved at The Man.)
Also, KD’s article “An Address To Our Schoolchildren” was interesting. Rather than more partisan HWFO about the President speaking to kids in school, he took the opportunity to point out a few key ideas that our kids really should be told. As a bloke who detests current educational thought on math education, namely the blight that is Investigations Math, I really like telling kids how numbers really work. Math is really simple; it’s pure logic. The math behind the economy doesn’t add up to “All is Well, Party Hard”.
Short story long, not only is the economy broken in fundamental ways, but people are starting to understand it, and that has some significant long term repercussions. We’re not yet dealing with a Network moment of national breakdown, and Soylent Green isn’t being served in elementary schools, but ultimately, we really shouldn’t need to have the Apocalypse in our back yard before learning to pay attention to social mood or political winds. Whether or not we’re on the cusp of a real economic Depression (or something worse or something better), it’s smart to pay attention and be prepared. Better to have a bit of extra food on the shelves and nothing crazy happen than to think everything is OK only to have a run on the grocery store tomorrow and be caught with your pants down.
Call it a Blue Ocean social strategy. Pay attention to the news that isn’t in the mainstream media, and you might just find something interesting, and worth doing something about. HWFO has its place, but it’s the quiet, subtle shifts that are often most important. If you’re just paying attention to the big flashy stuff, you’re likely to miss a key point. That’s how magicians work, after all.
Disclosure: I did vote for Ron Paul as a write in vote for President, and am thoroughly disgusted with the political parties, the establishment, and the media. I’m nonpartisan; I can’t stand any of them. This mostly caught my eye as an indicator of what is happening out there in a populace that isn’t happy with a broken economy. When prevailing social mood shifts, it’s good to be aware of what is happening. I’m not saying that this is The Most Important Moment in Time, but then again, we don’t often recognize history until after the fact, and social change tends to move in small steps rather than big leaps. It’s best to try to figure out where trends might go when there’s time to plan ahead, rather than trying to react when the train wreck is imminent and unavoidable. Some may call long range analysis a bit of HWFO, but I call it strategy. Also, I’m not advocating any politial position here, just encouraging people to pay attention and to be prepared for the long term, however you want to do so. It’s not Big Brother’s job to take care of your family, whatever party he’s coming from. That’s your job, so do it.