Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If I Only Had A Brain

Megan McArdle constructs straw men:

I think that John Quiggin is voicing an opinion held by a lot of people on the
Left: the current financial crisis has somehow discredited American-style
capitalism, that the only way out of the mess we're in is to embrace a more
social democratic society.

[snipped quote]

I believe that many on the left believe this. I even believe that it may have some political salience, although not nearly as much as John Quiggin wishes. But as an
empirical matter, it is high-test hokum.


Especially odd is the notion that the only tenable position, unless we are to go Marxist, is social democracy. Would we not have had a financial crisis if we'd had really super single-payer health care?


I understand that the left finds it politically convenient to link the uninsured and the banking crisis, but this seems only very slightly less silly than blaming it on gay
marriage--indeed, looking at the countries worst effected, the latter's
correlation seems stronger.

I've got to admit that McArdle has a sweet gig here. All she has to do is make up some crazy shit about her opponents and then cleverly refute the imaginary theories, thereby proving--in her mind, at least--that she is so much more knowledgeable and clear-thinking and sane than her crazy rivals.

I believe certain extremely tall econobloggers on the right think that free market capitalism means we can take whatever we want from the weak without repercussion. They support the upper class rape of the taxpayer because in the free market there are no regulations, no laws governing behavior at all. Therefore, since all conservatives are greedy bastards who would take the candy out of a baby's mouth and free market capitalism leads to dictatorship through concentration of wealth, Megan is a Nazi.

Disprove that!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Media Note

Via Digby and recreated by Tom Tomorrow, a roundtable of (from left to right) Dan Drezner, Ross Douthat, Megan McArdle, and Jonah Goldberg discuss torture.

Ross Douthat, Man Of The Times

Ross Douthat's first column for the Times is a promise of things to come, some of them entertaining and all of them deranged. Repeated failure has opened a schism between the two factions of the right, those who actually believe in the Republican platform and those happy to ride their platform of greed and racism to power.

In the wake of two straight drubbings at the polls, much of the American right has comforted itself with the idea that conservatives lost the country primarily because the Bush-era Republican Party spent too much money on social programs.And John McCain’s defeat has been taken as the vindication of this premise.

This nearly incomprehensible argument seems to be echoing Jonah Goldberg, who often states that the problem with Bush is that he was too soft. Goldberg chooses to believe that Bush's compassionate conservatism, embodied in his support for immigration and the religious right, kept the Republican party from being successful. It's ludicrous. Bush didn't spend too much money on social problems and the right isn't upset about him spending too much money on social problems. The "intellectual" right is upset because they think that the fundamentalist right lost them the election. Ross Douthat's special skill is to ape the mannerisms of the "intellectual" right while advocating the policies of the fundamentalist right. He brings the two sides together in an unholy alliance, held together with mutual spite and greed, and attempts to make the ugly stew palatable to the typical American.

We tried running the maverick reformer, the argument goes, and look
what it got us. What Americans want is real conservatism, not some
crypto-liberal imitation

Bush was too liberal. I've seen it before, but it's a shock every time.

“Real conservatism,” in this narrative, means a particular strain of
right-wingery: a conservatism of supply-side economics and stress positions,
uninterested in social policy and dismissive of libertarian qualms about the
national-security state. And Dick Cheney happens to be its diamond-hard
distillation. The former vice-president kept
his distance
from the Bush administration’s attempts at domestic reform, and
he had little time for the idealistic, religiously infused side of his boss’s
policy agenda. He was for tax cuts at home and pre-emptive warfare overseas;
anything else he seemed to disdain as sentimentalism.

You want "intellectual" conservatism? Then take Dick Cheney, the most hated and feared man in American. There's your "intellectual" conservatism for you. Fundamentalist conservatives don't look so bad now, do they? Which brings us to the real point of this article.

A large swath of the political class wants to avoid the torture debate. The
Obama administration backed into it last week, and obviously wants to back right
out again.

What is the torture debate? A debate about the tactics we used in Iraq? A debate about whether or not invading and occupying another country was the right thing to do? We already know it wasn't. It was an arbitrary action chosen for political reasons. But we're not having that debate. We're debating how much pain we can inflict on people.

But the argument [about torture] isn’t going away. It will be with us as long as the threat of terrorism endures. And where the Bush administration’s interrogation programs are concerned, we’ve heard too much to just “look forward,” as the president would have us do. We need to hear more: What was done and who approved it, and what intelligence we really gleaned from it. Not so that we can prosecute – unless the Democratic Party has taken leave of its senses – but so that we can learn, and pass judgment, and struggle toward consensus.

So we can learn and grow and hug, we have to debate how much torture we will permit ourselves to inflict on others. It's a moral issue and moral people must lead the nation. Don't prosecute the people who broke our laws forbidding torture, however. We must debate torture to learn (about what?), pass judgement (meaningless without enforcement), and struggle towards consensus (on whether or not we can break our laws if we're really, really scared).

How typical of a fundamentalist conservative, to be more interested in passing judgement and endless hair-spitting on ethical issues than facing more pressing and reality-oriented issue that involve actual governing.

And he's only 29. We have at least 30 more years of his toothless pontificating.

Monday, April 27, 2009

There Would Be Cake

Everyone is talking about David Broder and his support for torture. It's strange that nobody knows anything about David Broder. His biographies are strictly professional. He evidently doesn't talk about his father, a dentist who developed Parkinson's, or growing up poor during the depression. He went to university on a scholarship and went on to a very successful career. Never mentioning one's past is a clue in itself, but a thin one. How could Broder have become so callous? Have so little concern for the lives of others and no realization of what it says about the US to be a nation of torturers? To understand how he could have such a cavalier attitude towards torture is difficult, but there are a few clues here and there. From an interview he gave to Chinese journalism students:

O: As a widely-recognized “Best Political Journalist”, how did you manage to
achieve what you have done?

B: The first thing that I did every day was
to go to the Congress and various government agencies. I wanted those busy
congressmen to get to know me and trust me. The second thing was to show them my
interest and enthusiasm about the work they were doing, and to express my
willingness to understand and write accurately about their work. Gradually, I
won their trust and thus managed to get more information from them.

From an article eulogizing Tim Russert:

Sitting next to Tim many Sunday mornings on the NBC set, I had a close-up view
of his mind at work -- testing, probing, moving on. His questioning was
completely efficient but never officious. Both the viewers and the guests could
tell he really liked the newsmakers he was interviewing.

I am generally
a skeptic when it comes to the many people who jump from the political world
into television or punditry. I almost always suspect some of them are just
waiting to move back. But Tim was clearly smitten with his new world. He loved
his NBC buddies, and he bragged on them. He loved talking to that big audience,
sharing and showing off his political smarts.

He never would have left
journalism. Nothing else gave him that kind of charge. But as soon as the camera
lights went off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, he relaxed. Ali, the NBC butler, brought
out the platters of shrimp and glasses of juice, and the reporters who had been
on the roundtable (and sometimes the last interviewee) would join Tim and
executive producer Betsy Fischer for a lengthy exchange of political gossip.
When a birthday or anniversary was imminent, there would be cake. And at
Christmas, a brass ensemble would play carols.

From Sally Quinn's notorious article defining Village behavior:

"[President Clinton] came in here and he trashed the place," says Washington
Post columnist David Broder, "and it's not his place."

Whatever is driving David Broder, he obviously feels a very strong proprietary interest in his little world of political and social insiders. To prosecute these elite is to threaten their way of life.

But having vowed to end the practices, Obama should use all the influence of his
office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.

This is not
another Sept. 11 situation, when nearly 3,000 Americans were killed. We had to
investigate the flawed performances and gaps in the system and make the
necessary repairs to reduce the chances of a deadly repetition.

memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy
decision, made in the proper places -- the White House, the intelligence
agencies and the Justice Department -- by the proper officials.

administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same
offices has -- thankfully -- made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and
investigate or indict their predecessors?

That way, inevitably, lies
endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future
policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold
bitterness -- and injustice.

Suppose that Obama backs down and Holder or
someone else starts hauling Bush administration lawyers and operatives into
hearings and courtrooms.

Suppose the investigators decide that the
country does not want to see the former president and vice president in the
dock. Then underlings pay the price while big shots go free. But at some point,
if he is at all a man of honor, George W. Bush would feel bound to say: That was
my policy. I was the president. If you want to indict anyone for it, indict me.

Is that where we want to go? I don't think so. Obama can prevent it by
sticking to his guns.

Political warfare is not what David Broder does. Conflict is painful, and not conducive to pleasant talks with one's associates, as the butler hands 'round appetizers and drinks. Besides, it's more more fun to discuss the sins that others commit, instead of one's lack of responsibility. Sally Quinn acknowledged that the public cared less about Clinton's affair than the Villagers did, because the Villagers took it personally. Quinn also wrote:

NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell adds a touch of neighborly concern. "We all
know people who have been terribly damaged personally by this," she says. "Young
White House aides who have been saddled by legal bills, longtime Clinton
friends. . . . There is a small-town quality to the grief that is being felt, an
overwhelming sadness at the waste of the nation's time and attention, at the
opportunities lost."

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss sees this
scandal not only from a historical perspective but from a resident's. "There's
never been a sex scandal affecting a president while in office," he says. "In a
distilled way, the sense of centeredness, stability and order depends on who is
in the White House and what's going on there. When everything is turned upside
down it affects our psyche more than someone who might be farming in Wyoming."

Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to Presidents Carter and
Clinton and considered one of the few "wise men" left in Washington, gives yet
another reason why people take the scandal more seriously here. "This is an
excitement to us, a feeling of being in on it, and whichever part of the
Washington milieu we come from, we want to play a part. That's why we're here."

These people couldn't tolerate a little affair by the president, yet had no problem with torture. Torture happened to other people. The sniggering about Clinton happened to them. The image they want to project to the world of wise and thoughtful elites ruling the country with an iron fist in a velvet glove was damaged. Their feelings of importance were hurt, and that was infinitely more real to them than the screams and agonies of men tortured into madness.

"People felt a reverent attitude toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," says Tish
Baldrige, who once worked there as Jacqueline Kennedy's social secretary and has
been a frequent visitor since. "Now it's gone, now it's sleaze and dirt. We all
feel terribly let down. It's very emotional. We want there to be standards.
We're used to standards. When you think back to other presidents, they all had a
lot of class. That's nonexistent now. It's sad for people in the White House. .
. . I've never seen such bad morale in my life. They're not proud of their

They want to be proud of their position and place. They don't want unpleasantness. They ignored torture while it was happening or excused it away, and they are trying to ignore it now. The rabid hordes are eating up the torture revelations, examining them in minute detail to see how they can go back to the halycon days of advocating torture without getting criticized for it, but the Villagers are more interested in the status quo than imagining one's enemies in agony.

But nobody can admit that he just doesn't care what happens, as long as the money and respect and parties keep flowing. Nobody can say that torture is fine, as long as it's happening to someone else and one doesn't have to sully one's mind or relationships with any discussion of it. So the spin begins, the twisting and mitigating, the excusing and hand-waving. It amuses me to see Broder use the same justification as Our Megan, that the left acts not out of outrage at law-breaking and immorality and desire for law and order, but instead out of "an unworthy desire for vengeance." It's not a coincidence, however. Both are of relatively humble birth yet became part of the power elite, the part that keeps them in power by excusing away the elite's crimes. And they have every intention of staying there, no matter what fresh horror must be covered up to do so.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Enough, Already

For some unknown reason, Megan McArdle is still talking about torture.

I agree with you that we're faster to identify torture when its done to us,but I don't think it's impossible to construct a moral system that allows waterboarding suspected terrorists, but not repeatedly breaking John McCain's arms.

However, there is some dividing line between torture and the merely unpleasant--giving people only old copies of the Donna Reed show to watch would be awful, but not actually torture. Many advocates of extreme techniques say that waterboarding
falls on one side of that line--something distasteful, but okay to do if it
might save innocent lives. So saying "well, was it okay for the Vietcong to
torture John McCain?" isn't very useful, because what was done to John McCain
goes well beyond what they're endorsing.
Didn't you just say that it was better to not debate the fine points of torture? Why are you quoting defenders of torture? Who cares what they think? What kind of person hand-waves waterboarding? Have you research the subject? Does this look merely "unpleasant"? Why am I asking myself all these questions?

Yeah, you're against torture, but your definition of torture is oddly exculpatory.

And I step out for a few hours and come back to this:

The argument for not doing [torture] at all has to rest on proving either that it's morally repugnant, or that there is no way to have an effective waterboarding policy, or that the costs exceed the benefits. Unfortunately, I seem to see too many opponents of current policy simply arguing that it never produces usable intelligence, so everyone else is a big fat moral cretin.


That doesn't mean I agree we should waterboard--people will do lots of things for their children that should not be state policy. Only that some of the people I've heard saying they have to resort to these shaky arguments because their opponents are moral no-shows without a shred of decency seem to me to be awarding themselves vast moral credit for parroting, like a third-grader, the trivial truism that torture is bad. They find it easy to call their opponents immoral because they're ignoring a hard moral question. One that is, of course, easy to set aside if you seize on every piece of evidence suggesting that physical pressure is ineffective, and block out the people saying it's worked.

Oh, so that's what all this blathering is about. Not only is your reasoning more reasoned, but your morality is more moral than other people's morality. Just like your wrong decision on Iraq showed that your reasoning was impeccable. It's not that the left made the right decision, it's just that they are automatically anti-war. And anti-torture people aren't using logic, they're just knee-jerk anti-torture.

Your insistence that your brains are extra-superior brains reeks of insecurity. But it has given me an idea--an examination of your thought processes. Later, however. I've had enough for one day.

The World's Hardest Working Econoblogger

Really, Megan?

I work 60 to 80 hour weeks doing something I love. [Wall Street bankers have] been working 30-50 hours a week more than that, doing work that no reasonable human being could claim to enjoy the mechanics of.

We know you seldom post on the weekends. You're saying that you work 12 to 16 hours a day? Really? Or maybe only 10 to 12 hours a day and another 10 to 20 hours on the weekend? You would be working from approximately 9 am to anywhere from 7 pm to 1 am. Every week day. (If you don't include time spent eating and commuting as working, you work about two hours longer.)

Really, Megan? Doing what? Editing the business channel? Then what is Conor Clarke doing? The business channel is mostly a repackaging of the same Atlantic Voices and some links. You don't even have the charts any more. Interviews? Where are the articles? Research for your research-free posts? What? I'm willing to admit error. Where is the output I'm missing?

You said once that you make a third of what you expected to make. Let's be generous and say you make $100,000/year. Which is probably extremely generous. If you work 80 hours a week, 16 hours a day, 5 days a week you are making about $275 a day. That's $17/hour, which is not a great deal . At your minimum, 12 hours a day, you work for $33/hr, which is more respectable.

However, "you" paid--let's see, 38,000/year for prep school. Starting at junior high, that's a bit over a quarter of a million dollars. Let's say another 60,000 for Penn and University of Chicago each, although that sounds very low. That's nearly 400,000 for your education. And let's not even mention all the older, successful refinery workers and plumbers and carpenters I know of who make that much money a year as well. There are a quite a few. They don't make over $250,000 like NotJoe the Imaginary Plumber, but they do very well.

I must say, it's extraordinarily big of you to be so generous about pay disparity. The average CEO makes about 262 times the pay of the average worker. They work twice as hard, according to you, but at that rate of compensation they only have to work that hard for a relatively brief period of time. Then they are set for life, while you are still getting up a 7 am to drive to the office to write posts on how you just can't see why anyone would be angry at the devastation Wall Street deliberately set loose on the economy, so they could siphon off as much money as possible and retire to Aruba or Barbados.

Because you forgot to mention all the people put out of work by the banker' greed and irresponsibility. That's why they're angry. It's not because of corporate greed. America lives in hope that one day they, too, can rise to a position of prominence and rip off the public. It's fear of losing their jobs in a sinking economy. There is no greater fear than not knowing if you will be able to feed your children and give them a safe place to live next month. We would kill for our children, we would die for them. Yet you wonder why people are angry.

ADDED: I read the blog of the local woman who ran the tea party here and popped up on Fox. Her husband will be laid off and she is lost and afraid. America wasn't supposed to be like this for people like her. (Never mind that she chose to support people with immoral backgrounds who predictably betrayed the country's trust.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's A Hell Of A Way To Make A Living

Shorter Thomas Sowell: Where's my check? What? Oh, all right. Universal health care is bad because people ruin their health no matter what a doctor does. And we're real good at curing cancer. Now give me the damn check; my caddie's waiting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Convenient Silence

Megan McArdle says torture is wrong. Megan does not say that torturers should be prosecuted. Megan does not mention Bush. Megan does not mention Iraq. Megan does not mention Glenn Greenwald's excoriation of her lackadaisical attitude towards torture while it was going on. Megan is a putz.

K-Lo Goes To Confession: The Movie

Here is an episode of K-Lo Goes To Confession; I was too lazy/busy to monkey with the animation.

Hee. I always wanted to film one of these.

Step Right Up

Reading Megan McArdle lately has been like watching a flea circus. So much chatter and noise and fuss, while in reality there's nothing but an empty stage. Salary caps bad. Spending bad. Just because I make money blogging doesn't mean you will make money blogging. And my personal favorite, her post stating the US is to big to fail. (Does she not know that the rest of the world is reacting to our situation? I know she replaced thinking, which is hard, with ideoology, but this is ridiculous.) Salary caps bad, again. And the piece de resistance, financial journalism don't get no respect. I wonder the hell why.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

K-Lo Goes To Confession

XI: Moving Day

K-Lo: Bless me Father for I have sinned. It's been eight days since my last confession. This week I refused to honor my father when he told me I couldn't tie up
Fluffy when we play "24." I lied to the waiter in the coffee shop when he asked me if I wanted another dessert. I took the name of the Lord in vain when Jonah kept saying the pope admitted he was wrong about condoms and that proved he wasn't infallible. Father, the world is too much with me. I'm going away from this pit of sin and depravity and nakedness.

Father: Kathryn Jean, you won't be disappointed. I know that your love of the Lord will help you fulfill your potential as a Bride of Christ.

K-Lo: Oh, I'm not going to be a nun, Father. I haven't given up hope of one day being being the Bride of Mitt, or maybe dashing Sen. McCain, depending on who is widowed first. No, I've decided to move to Florida.

Father: It's a good, conservative state, Kathryn Jean, I hope you'll be very happy there although I'll miss our little talks. Still, this is a sign of real progress, that you are leaving the nest and stretching your wings a little. Where will you live?

K-Lo:(excitedly) Ave Maria, Father! Oh, Father, just think! Everyone will be exactly like me! They'll think like me and go to the same church as me and hate the same people as me! Ave Maria! Where the pill is banned and no porn stalks the land! Ave Maria! Where the cross is as high as an elephant's eye! I can't wait!


Aaaaaaaaave Maria, where the Grace comes fallin' from the sky!
And the Taint of Sin cannot get in
Past the Wall of Sanctity so high!
Aaaaaaaaave Maria, every night my crucifix and I
Sit alone and pray, wait for the day
when the Big Love that I crave is mine!
We know we belong to the pope
And the pope we belong to is dope!
And when we say
Yippie Yie-aaay-yay!
We're only sayin' you're doin' fine Ave Maria,
Ave Maria, FL!

Father: That was very nice, Kathryn Jean. I hope you find everything you desire. Um, I hate to bring it up but your parole officer...?

K-Lo: She said it was fine as long as I reported in to my new parole officer in Florida. And didn't wave pictures of fetuses in the DisneyWorld parking lot. Or take pictures of teenage girls in bikinis and write "Shame!" on them and post them on telephone poles. Or throw paper snowflakes on fertility clinic workers. Or---.

Father: Yes, yes, I see. Well, I wish you luck and I'll be happy to give you a reference if necessary. And I hope your new priests enjoy your company as much as I have.

K-Lo: That's so sweet, Father. Me too.

Father: And if it doesn't work out, you can always return to the bosom of your family.

K-Lo: Oh, Father! What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, April 20, 2009

In Hot Water

Megan McArdle is not amused by the rabble.
I haven't been a big booster of the tea-parties. Hell, I haven't been a small booster. I think that protests and street theater are, while a sacred civil right, usually counterproductive. And I don't have much sense of identification with either the right wing grass roots, or the organizers.

Umm, Megan----?
Full disclosure: as I've mentioned, before we dated, my boyfriend worked for Freedomworks. Freedomworks is one of the organizers of the tea parties, though not, as some would have it, a shadowy secret organizer--it's on the front page of their website. Neither Peter nor I have now, nor ever have had, any involvement with the tea party movement, though some of our friends have organized and attended them.

You don't have a sense of identification with your boyfriend or you guys' friends? Now, is that a nice thing to say?

And remember, every time you support the tea parties by pooh-poohing their critics, you are forced to discuss your sex life with strangers. That's why reporters often avoid stories with conflicts of interest altogether. But that's getting into professional ethics, so we understand your problem.

Also, it's not always the best idea to remind one's readers that one's associates are tea-baggers. Even former tea-baggers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gunpowder Plot

Young Petey Suderman had an idea in 2008: Kids, let's put on a show!
John Carney touches briefly on an idea that’s been gnawing at me the last few weeks: the brewing anti-corporate sentiment on the right. For a long time now, the Republican party has been the party of business, but I’m not sure that’s bound to last forever. In fact I wonder if the right won’t revive itself to some significant extent on a tide of anti-corporate sentiment. Sounds nuts, right? Permit me to try to sketch out this (admittedly half-baked) idea.


This opens up the opportunity for the right to exploit the anti-corporate outrage in Middle-America--outrage we can already see boiling up in the crusades against earmarks, (hand-outs to donors and corporate interests), against CEO pay, against hedge fund tax rates and oil company profits. But instead of running the traditional anti-corporate campaigns, which mainly focus on taxing and regulating big-business, the right runs against the way liberal politicians have gotten into bed with corporations. It’s against the Washington favor-racket, against back-room politics, against collusion between business and government. This pleases libertarians somewhat and, if done properly, keeps low-taxers in the fold.

Of course, some will turn the message into a purely anti-corporate one, but if done with a bit of skill, it uses anger at the way corporations influence the government to fuel a separation of the two rather than additional layers of easily gamed regulation. Maybe you even end up with corporations trying to distinguish themselves as good citizens by publicly refusing to have lobbyists or to take subsidies, regulatory favors, etc — starting, obviously, with Whole Foods, run by the self-proclaimed libertarian, John Mackey.

The result is that you end up with a weird sort of libertarian populism, and maybe, just maybe, you trace it back to the (presumably failed) McCain campaign, arguing that McCain’s honor economics — for low taxes but also deeply set against corporate influence and sleazy government deal-making — is what got it all started. The time is obviously not right for this. But five years down the road, or ten, if the GOP is still struggling and business has largely left them anyway, why wouldn’t they abandon their corporate wing and try something crazy? The sentiment is there for anyone who can figure out how to tap into it.

Later Suderman again discusses tying Democrats to lobbyists to achieve this goal.
Corporate capture of the GOP is a real problem at times, but that doesn’t mean that conservative activists should never make strategic alliances with the business world. If a conservative political organization finds itself in support of similar legislation as some major industry, isn’t it smart politics to work that industry’s policy wing to pass that legislation? The problem begins, I think, when conservative groups become indistinguishable from an industry’s paid lobbyists.

Still, it’s crucial for the right to defend itself against accusations of wholesale capture by the corporate-lobbying complex (and release itself if and where that capture exists). Part of that might mean, as [David] Frum seems to imply, severing some existing corporate ties. Part of that might mean tactical redirection of the anti-corporate sentiment that has come as a natural result of the recent string of bailouts. It will definitely mean highlighting stories like this one, which showcase the ways that, far from reducing corporate influence on government, a Democratic Washington has in many ways been a boon to the lobbying world. My good friend Tim Carney, newly of the DC Examiner, does this more consistently than just about anyone. I continue to foresee (and hope!) that his ideas, and hopefully his work, become a major strain of thinking on the right.

And thus a tea-bagging was born. Or rather, thus a lobbying campaign paid for by corporations disguising itself as a grass-roots uprising was disseminated. As we all know, Suderman used to work for Dick Armey and Steve Forbes' flat tax "grassworks" lobbying organization, FreedomWorks. The tea-bagging parties are an advertising campaign designed to steer middle-class rage at the Democrats instead of the Republicans. They hope that by the time the next election comes around the middle class will have forgotten to blame the Republicans and will simply blame the Democrats instead. Suderman discusses tying Democrats to lobbyists but when Obama decided to prop up the failing banks FreedomWorks simply changed tactics, tying Democrats to spending. This will probably work since the right is thoroughly accustomed to being gratefully led around by the nose, but eventually even the right will notice that they are not doing better under Republicans presidents. Of course it will be too late by then. It's too late now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The World's Bestest Econoblogger

Guess Who.

The wealthy largely get that way by working more hours than the rest of us; they shouldn't have to work those last 10 hours more for other people than themselves.

Aaaaand, there's more.

[...L]let me offer my take on why people (read: affluent, especially white people) like streetcars: they don't have so many poor people on them.

Reading Megan's commenters, I can see that our nation will eagerly embrace a future where we all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and nobody's income is stolen to pay other people's bills. Yes, the people who brag that nobody ever gave them anything and everything they have is because they worked harder and smarter and more morally than everyone else will be delighted to give up benefits at work, pay all of their parents' medical bills and living expenses, and work until the day they die.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This Space For Sale

Heh. Megan MArdle criticizes CNBC for a journalistic breach. That's pretty darn funny considering her own lack of ethics, but now she can say that she has criticiczed CNBC and so she's fair and balanced. But the aim is always the same--the Atlantic has very blatently become a shill for very rich people. That's not surprising since it's owned by a very rich person, but it's a bit sad to see a literary icon turned into an advertising brochure.

I Have Nothing

For the first time since I set sail, I find no snark worth hunting. McArdle is beyond parody or mocking. Douthat complains that religion is too compassionate these days. He's gonna be fun in the New York Times, ordering everyone to enjoy their suffering because it makes them more like Christ. We have to read Douthat in the Times. We suffer enough.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's About Money

There's method to this madness. Flat tax, no estate tax, low or no corporate tax. Or as I like to call it, Step 2.

It's kind of clever. I guess an ad campaign can be anything--a commericial, a news event, a war.

Less Tall Megan

Shorter McArdle: Now that the people are looting the treasury, I leave them to their folly.

When she is dragged through the streets by the howling mobs, i-Pod in one hand and Land's End catalogue in the other, she will still be insisting that free market forces determine that bankers are innocent of wrong-doing.

The Rush Is Dead--Long Live The Rush

Whiskey Fire covers the Jonah Goldberg scandal, in which Goldberg doesn't bow to Rush. Goldberg has his own Rush: Glenn Beck. Rush's power came from connecting the ordinary money-worshipping Republican to his elite masters, but the elites don't need them anymore. The Republican party has a new Rush, who will be the conduit between them and their new constitutes: the deeply oblivious crank.

The Republican elite killed their party, along with the economy. It was as disposable as the people who worked for it. Amazing.

The Dead Are Buried At The Crossroads

You must read this: Eating our Seed Corn: How the Financial Industry Managed to Extract Equity from Just About Everybody. (Via corrente via digby)

When the financing tap is finally shut off by the bond markets, we’ll start making our first interest payments on this new debt. It will come in the form of much higher long term interest rates, a weaker U.S. dollar, an inability to import cheap Chinese goods, and declining living standards. All this will happen because the U.S. will have eaten its seed corn. Its businesses will have been shorn of their retained earnings. Consumers will have depleted the equity in their homes. The ability of the federal government to raise taxes and protect the good faith and credit of the U.S. will be shot.

The equity mining business will have done its work well, having exhausted all the financial resources it could find. The U.S. will be approaching peak oil and water shortages at the very moment it runs out of financial equity and taxing power. It will be an ugly situation, except for the equity miners. They’ll be sitting in their gated communities with the fruits of their labor of the past 25 years. More than likely, the vast American public will never understand what exactly happened.

It's overwhelming. I still don't believe it and I've been watching this for years. I still don't believe that they've stolen all this money. I don't think they'll get their way on eliminating taxes for the rich. I don't think they'll kill social security. And yet they have and they will.

I believe that we'll descend into social unrest and violence and I believe nothing will change. I know we'll all be much poorer for the rest of our lives and I know we will be out of this mess soon. I know the elite will pit us against each other until the violence gets so bad that we finally turn on them and the pretense of American superiority and specialness will be drowned in our own blood, and I am sure that nothing will change, ever.

I hate us for being superstitious and greedy and violent. And I think that if I talk long enough people will realize that if we only learned to accept ourselves and tell the truth to ourselves we could for the first time in human history learn to live in genuine peace and prosperity.

Which way will we go? The suspense is killing me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bad Reputations

Paul Krugman mentions the ever-increasing bat-shit-craziness of the Republican party. Krugman (along with Naomi Klein and no doubt many others) is one of the self-appointed nemeses of our Megan McArdle, so the following passage especially amused me [To be clear---I mean that McArdle seems to think she is successfully presenting counter-arguments to people such as Krugman and Kein. No complement to McArdle is implied or meant. Ever.]:

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

As I pointed out before, McArdle's boyfriend used to work for FreedomWorks, and she threw her reputation behind them. It's a good thing McArdle isn't a journalist or she might be feeling embarrassed about it all. Especially since Ta-Neisi Coates quotes Krugman and considers the whole tea-bagging scene as another example of the general decline of the GOP into madness.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

She Finally Broke Me

I give up. Megan McArdle wins. The sheer volume, the depth, breadth and width of her mendacious, immoral stupidity, has finally overwhelmed my ability to process and fight back. I went dumpster diving again in McArdle's archives and found a post about school vouchers that was so disgusting that I almost can't respond. I certainly can't fight it with the vigor it deserves.

First, McArdle scold opponents of the voucher system for their racism.
Forgive me--I'm about to get testy again--but this thread on 11D really does seem to me to showcase in stunning technocolor the moral bankruptcy of voucher opponents who have pulled their own kids out of failing inner city schools. They have no good answer for why their choice is morally worthy, but vouchers are horrifying; their response to the deep need of kids in failing schools is a slightly gussied up version of "screw you, I've got mine." Their children's future, you see, is an infinitely precious resource that trumps their principles of distributional justice and community solidarity, but they cannot imagine putting the futures of poorer, darker skinned children ahead of sacred principles such as "Thou shalt not allow children to attend schools run by the Catholic Church" and "Supporting the public schools (even when they suck)". I could do a better job arguing against school vouchers.

And she does. McArdle enumerates the arguments against school vouchers and responds to them. Here are a few:
Vouchers don't work. This is the best argument against school vouchers. But it's still not very strong. For one thing, the studies that show this are small, and often funded by the teacher's unions.

And the studies for them are always funded by voucher supporters. If you read the voucher posts at the Corner and check up on their sources, as I did, they went back to a couple of groups--one founded by Sam Walton, who has a vested interest in an uneducated underclass, and some guy selling property in inner cities.
Voucher advocates are total hypocrites too, because why don't they start private vouchers, huh? Bet you never thought of that! Actually, we did, my love, and thanks for giving me an opening to plug the Children's Scholarship Fund, my charity of choice. If you support vouchers, you should be supporting their amazing work.

That's Walton's group, you moron. You donated money to one of the richest people in the world so he could fight against educating the poor.
I don't want my tax dollars used to pay for religious education. Waaaaaaah.

So much for church v. state.

She says in comments that vouchers won't drive up tuition, although she also says that government loans to college students drive up tuition. And she discusses her private school and how she was better educated there than any good suburban school. Although she's also told us she had a 2.9-something GPA and would have flunked out of Penn without intervention.

Ugh. I give up. Too many stupid, greedy immoral people in this world of ours. It's a zombie movie, and we're outnumbered and out of ammo. Maybe we deserve the ruin we've unleashed upon ourselves.

And make no mistake--for four years I read that this economic crash was coming, and it did. If the people I read were right--and they mostly have been so far--it is going to get a hundred times worse than this. I never think about that because it's too frightening, but I'm beginning to think that it might be the only way we wise up.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Job Needed

Megan McArdle:

The government wants to keep the automakers out of bankruptcy because it wants to maximize gains for employees. GM's pension, thank God, was actually overfunded last time I looked, so at least retirees won't lose the income they've planned on as so many do in these legacy industry bankruptcies--the PBGC fund top benefit is well under $50K per annum.


A General Motors Corp. bankruptcy could become the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.'s biggest nightmare.

That's because the automaker could dump as much as $13.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities onto the PBGC — the largest ever from a single company — if GM were unable to fund its U.S. defined benefit plans and terminated them.

The claim would be almost twice as large as the current record of $7.5 billion from the 2005 termination of the Chicago-based UAL Corp.'s United Airlines pension plans.

For this to happen, GM, Detroit, would have to terminate its plans and PBGC officials would have to agree to cover all the unfunded pension liabilities of the company's U.S. hourly and salaried plans. Together, the plans had a combined $84.5 billion in assets and $98.1 billion in liabilities as of Dec. 31, according to its 10-K report.

Can I have a high-profile job where I can babble whatever half-truths or misunderstandings that pop into my pretty little head? I'll work for less than McArdle and there will be fewer embarrassing moments because I'm not too lazy and smug to Google.

The Great Debate

Megan McArdle's last post is quite exciting because it is further evidence in the great McArdle debate: Is she ideologically blind, dishonest or stupid? So far the preponderance of evidence supports blindness, with a sprinkling of dishonesty and stupidity. Alas, this post supports the blindness theory. My personal favorite is the stupidity theory because it's funnier, but that theory was always weak. Someone who managed to graduate from two good universities chooses to be stupid, she isn't naturally stupid. The evidence:

America's public sector pensions have been a scandal for years. It wasn't that long ago that they finally got around to doing their accounting the way that normal pensions do: by showing how likely their assets were to generate enough revenue to pay for future benefits. When they did, we found out what critics had long been claiming: many pension funds for state and local governments were disastrously underfunded. Politicians had gotten into the habit of promising generous pensions as a "cheap" giveaway to powerful unions.

The pensions are underfunded due to "a "cheap" giveaway to powerful unions." Not the economy, drained and tossed aside by the wealthy. The unions. Her proof? Private pension funds are not nearly as underfunded as public pension funds.

[Pension underfunding] is not, it should be emphasized, exclusively a problem of public sector pensions; private firms are also underfunded. But the scale is vastly different.

This is where McArdle's ideological Underoos starts to show. Private good, public bad. Period. Thinking ends at that point. If McArdle had continued to study the issue, she might have noticed a problem.

According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which regulates and insures pensions, the total deficit in private plans covering about 34 million workers was a little over 10 billion as of September 2008. That's almost certainly multiplied quite a bit since then. But the current underfunding in public plans, which cover about 22 million workers, seems to be something north of a trillion dollars. And they're not insured.

Really? Ten measly billion shortfall for 34 million workers versus a trillion for 22 millions workers? That's a pretty big discrepancy and should make McArdle look twice. It didn't, and the PBGC sent her an e-mail correcting her error.

Actually, the PBGC was reporting on the shortfall in its own insurance
program. The private sector pension plans insured by the PBGC are in
reality underfunded by hundreds of billions of dollars. A recent
Milliman study for instance shows the shortfall among the largest 100
corporate pension plans to be $217 billion. Calculated on a
termination basis (that is assuming the pension plans were ending today)
the underfunding number is much higher.

So while the two systems (public and private pensions) are vastly
dissimilar (one with taxpayers as guarantors of last resort, the other
with the PBGC backstop), neither currently has assets sufficient to keep
its benefit promises.

I love that "actually." It's polite and gently corrects her error. I would have been a bit more pointed. McArdle's response is a classic of its kind.

The problem in the public funds is still bigger, but not as much bigger as I'd initially thought--which makes sense, since a bunch of funds, like the airlines, have been chronically underfunded since the 2000 stock market crash. It's hard for any entity to keep promises made forty years in the future.

She admits her facts were wrong but does not reconsider her opinion regarding private versus public pension funding. Why? Those damn unions that killed the golden goose. Of course an even cursory glance through the news proves this is wrong as well.

Financial Times: The crises facing pension plans for US state and municipal employees is deepening as investment losses deplete the resources of retirement funds for teachers, police officers, firefighters and other local government workers.

Bloomberg: The misleading numbers posted by retirement fund administrators help mask this reality: Public pensions in the U.S. had total liabilities of $2.9 trillion as of Dec. 16, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Their total assets are about 30 percent less than that, at $2 trillion.

With stock market losses this year, public pensions in the U.S. are now underfunded by more than $1 trillion.

California After years of gambling in real estate investments, the state workers pension fund has lost more than 41 percent of its value, after peaking last fall. Its real estate holdings have dropped from $9 billion to $5.8 billion, according to the Sacramento Bee.

New York: “Obviously, the collapse in the financial markets has a had a significant impact on our holdings,” Thomas P. DiNapoli, the state comptroller, said in a statement.

North Carolina: A year ago, the fund was worth $77 billion. The drop represents a 19.7 percent decline in fund performance, a measure created by the fund's actuary.

Cowell said the fund is down because of the dramatic downturn in global markets. The state's treasurers have traditionally been conservative in how they invest the money, which is why the state's pension fund is faring better than other similar funds, she said.

Pennsylvania: From July 1 through Sept. 30, the two funds fell by more than $12 billion, or nearly half the size of the current state budget.

The State Employees’ Retirement System said its investments fell about 14.4 percent from January through September, while the larger Public School Employees’ Retirement System’s investments dropped 16.7 percent for the one-year period ending Sept. 30.

The government workers’ pension fund shed $4.3 billion dollars from July 1 though Sept. 30, ending the period with a value of $29.3 billion. The teacher fund, the nation’s 14th largest public defined-benefit pension fund, lost $8 billion over the same three-month period to a value of $54.7 billion.

The stock market has experienced steep declines in October and November, and the two pension funds warned that their year-end accounting may end up looking worse.

In a statement, the state employees’ pension fund said its investment performance in 2008 closely mirrored that of other large public pension funds in a prominent national comparison service.

Stupid or dishonest, ideological or stubborn, it doesn't matter in the end. Living a lie is its own revenge, for the damage it does to the soul.

Jesus Wept

Shorter Rod Dreher: My racism was overcome by the Light o' Jesus shining out of my ass. Hallelujah!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Less Intelligent Megan

Shorter Megan McArdle: Felix Salmon thinks public relation embargoes are bad for journalism ethics. He says accuracy is more important than exclusives. What is this "journalism ethics" he keeps talking about and why won't he just do what the business world tells him to do, the way God and nature intended?

UPDATE: A commenter asks, who cares if you file your story first? McArdle replies:
Well, it matters for the media outlet, in the web age, because if they file six hours behind everyone else, it's very likely that no one will read their story.

Because that's what it's all about--hits and credit, not good work and professional ethics. What happened to her view that if you just do a good job you'll be successful?

Second Shorter: People are terrified they'll lose everything they have. So what? It's not happening to me.

Third Shorter: Regulation is bad since the bankers know exactly what they are doing and the market regulates itself.

Fourth Shorter: It looks like the housing market might be in trouble.

Not a Shorter: Because it's too good to abridge.

If [bankers] apply, and win government jobs . . . well, I'd like to be a fly on the wall the first time an investment banker realizes he needs a form signed in triplicate to order top shelf office supplies. It is true that bankers have an outsized sense of entitlement. It is also true that the bureaucratic nonsense the government forces its employees to endure is quite enough to drive anyone insane.

We get it, private good, government bad. You say it practically every day. Does it mean you're right?

[Commenter] April 9, 2009 7:36 AM
I don't need to get a form signed in triplicate to get top shelf office supplies. I just ask my secretary, the exact same way I did when I was in the private sector. I worked at UBS, and it was no less a slow, irrational behemoth than my current agency. But nice way to stereotype about something that you clearly know nothing about.

And DC, though somewhat lovely, doesn't come anywhere close to NYC. We need to open more federal government offices in NYC so I can live in the only real city America has to offer.

Megan McArdle (Replying to: [commenter]) April 9, 2009 10:36 AM
And what do you think your secretary does? I'm sorry, my reports come from people who have worked in the private sector and the government with non-secretary-assisted roles. Obviously, for people at the top, wherever they are, these petty annoyances are considerably eased. Now, onto per diems . . .


"I'm sorry but your actual experience means nothing. My second-hand experience is correct. Yes, I just said that bankers will not want to work for the government because they would be driven mad by government bureaucracy. And you said that you, a banker, were just fine because your assistants did that work in both the public and private sector. And then I stated that the people I'm talking about are not actually bankers, they're the people who work for the bankers who do the paperwork and errands. But you're still wrong about bankers."

Dumb or malicious--who cares? She's funny either way.

UPDATE SHORTER: As God is my witness, I'll never go without shopping again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Conflicts of Interest

Megan McArdle has been exceptionally stupid of late. Let's just look at one example.
Glenn Greenwald once lashed out at me for asking an "ignorant" question on a topic I admitted I didn't understand. A petty person would point out that his post on Larry Summers displays not only ignorance, but a total lack of awareness of any gaps in his understanding. And there, I guess I just did.

[Greenwald quote stating Summers was paid off by financial firms via lecture
fees in return for favorable treatment when Summers joined the government.]

In fact, Larry Summers is exactly what we ought to want in a Treasury Secretary: a lifelong academic with no vested interests in the financial system. Following his tenure in office, Summers retreated to a University Presidency, not a lucrative job in finance. He went to DE Shaw to make money only after the Harvard debacle, when he (and everyone else) had concluded that there was no possibility he was going to occupy a prominent political role again. There's no reason to think he is guilty of any ethical breach; in fact, he went to great lengths to avoid any potential for one, until it seemed moot.

There are legitimate questions about whether government officials should be allowed to take money by essentially auctioning off the prestige of their office
to private sector jobs and speaking engagements--but Greenwald isn't asking
them. And there are real problems with the fact that the greatest experts
on financial markets are the people who participate in them--but Greenwald
doesn't name them. Instead he retreats into the crudest sort of conspiracy

McArdle has a problem with Greenwald. He keeps telling her that she is wrong, giving proof of his assertion. That doesn't sit well with McArdle.

I certainly hope for the same forbearance when I argue that Glenn Greenwald is a self-serving media hound with a size-twelve ego squeezed into a size-four soul, and that the root of his rage is less a profound moral grievance than a narcissistic belief that his ideas are of such transcendant clarity, his concerns of such monumental importance, that any failure to obey his dicta can only stem from the most base of motives.

Sigh. Mr Greenwald's anger at the establishment power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-Glenn-Greenwald power structure[.]...This quite takes my breath away. Because the only reason that one could possibly disagree with Glenn Greenwald about anything is that WE JUST DIDN'T UNDERSTAND HIM!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!
And so on. So McArdle is quite eager to point out an error by Greenwald. Whether or not she is correct is another matter, and since this is McArdle, I think we know which side is the winning one. After all, McArdle is trying to determine if someone has a conflict of interest, and we know that she is utterly incapable of understanding that subject. She simply doesn't understand that there are conflicts of interest. To have a conflict of interest you have to recognize that other people might have interests and that your interest might harm theirs. To McArdle there is only what she wants and nothing else. No Randian or libertarian will recognize that one should repress one's self and one's actions for anyone else. That would be dragging down the elite, thwarting the good and moral rich in favor of the lazy and immoral poor. If McArdle does it it is correct. If she links to her boyfriend it's because of his elite excellence, not because it will personally benefit her. She's just better that way.

So is McArdle correct that Summers is an academic with "no vested interests in the financial system?" Let's take a look at Summers' career.

As a researcher Summers has made important contributions in many areas of economics,
primarily public finance, labor economics, financial economics, and macroeconomics. Some of
Summers' early papers concluded that corporate and capital gains taxes are an
inefficient form of taxation. Cutting the capital gains tax rate, Summers found, could help the economy grow. Later, while working in the Reagan and Clinton White Houses, Summers was able to lobby successfully for cuts in both corporate and capital gains taxes.One of Summers' prominent findings in labor economics is that unemployment insurance and welfare payments are a major contributor to unemployment, and therefore should be scaled back. As Treasury Secretary, Summers led the Clinton administration's opposition to tax cuts proposed by the Republican Congress in 1999. Also during his stint in the Clinton administration, Summers was successful in pushing for capital gains tax cuts. During the California energy crisis of 2000, then-Treasury Secretary Summers teamed with Alan Greenspan and Enron executive Kenneth Lay to lecture California Governor Gray Davis on the causes of the crisis, explaining that the problem was excessive government regulation. Under the advice of Kenneth Lay, Summers urged Davis to relax California's environmental standards in order to reassure the markets.

Volcker continued to oppose the expansion of banks into the securities underwriting business until his retirement in August 1987. At this time there was still support for Glass-Steagall in Congress (even from Schumer who wrote an oped for the NYT, Don't Let Banks Become Casinos) and so, even with Greenspan at the Fed continuing to advocate for repeal, the most Citicorp and others could do was to chip away at regulations. Over the years several attempts were made to change the law but failed to win passage in Congress. It would take a Republican Congress and the Clinton administration's Robert Rubin and Larry Summers at Treasury to repeal Glass-Steagall.Only last week, as the bill was being pushed through a congressional conference committee, Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers rushed back from a trip to China to huddle with lobbyists representing Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and other financial giants. The meeting was closed to the media and public, but one participant told the New York Times that Summers lectured the lobbyists on how to spin this bill so it appears to be in the public interest. "He said it would be very unfortunate if any financial institution were to suggest that they do not see the broad public purpose of this legislation," the lobbyist reported.

Perhaps Summers is just like McArdle, and doesn't see conflicts of interest at all. So what if he was paid 7.7 million by hedge funds and investment banks right before he was put in charge of bailing them out? It doesn't mean that the millions put in his bank account had anything to do with his subsequent actions on their behalf. The rich are different, you know.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nip It In The Bud

Since our Megan McArdle isn't very bright, I will give her a piece of advice: Do not link to your boyfriend's work unless there's an extremely valid reason and you reveal your connection. It is unprofessional. What's that? You don't know why it's unprofessional? Because you are using your employer's property (a web site) for personal gain, to increase your unemployed boyfriend's visibility, perhaps helping him to get a job. You must announce your conflict of interest so the readers know you have an ulterior motive for your actions, that they are wasting the time they set aside to read about economics to give hits to your boyfriend. And the funny thing? They probably wouldn't care. There's no reason to not tell everyone. Either McArdle was trying to deceive her readers for personal gain or she had absolutely no idea that journalists must reveal personal connections to subjects and she isn't smart enough to figure it out for herself. And yet McArdle is given authority and access to the entire nation via The Atlantic, NPR and CNN.

We are facing yet another media problem, the rising of yet another demagogue who is helping poison minds and incite violence when his career should have been crushed in its infancy. McArdle has the same purpose for a different audience, one that fancies itself more important and knowledgeable. But the message is the same: The government is bad and is trying to hurt you. They ignored the reduction in civil rights and fiscal crimes for eight years yet now pretend they are in a panic. These little Goebbels do their little jobs, sowing mistrust and fear, then claim ignorance and innocence when their actions bear fruit and angry, frustrated people start blowing others away.

It is our duty to fight back against people who would destroy us for personal gain. We don't want to be impolite, don't like conflict, don't enjoy dealing with fools and cowards. But it must be done before they get too big and influential.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Snow Day

Megan McArdle has one lone post up, something about mark to market that doesn't make much sense. I read hilzoy instead and feel like I've recovered a few brain cells.


James Howard Kunstler contemplates what will happen when people start to realize that the economy will never fully recover.
The socio-political fallout from the inherent anger and disappointment in all this is liable to be severe. The public is already warming up for it, with cheerleaders such as Glen Beck on Fox TV News calling for the formation of militias, and gun sales moving out-of-sight. One mistake that the banking elite and their lawyer paladins made the past decade was their show of conspicuous acquisition -- of houses especially -- in easy-to-get-to places where anyone can see them, for instance an angry mob in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or Easthampton, New York. Unlike the beleaguered elites of South Africa (where I visited recently), who live behind layers of fortification, the executives of Citibank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and a long list of hedge funds, will be found cringing in their wine-lockers behind a measly layer of privet hedge when the tattooed minions of Glen Beck come a'calling.

This could perhaps be avoided if someone in authority like US Attorney General Eric Holder took an aggressive interest in the multiple swindles of the decade past, and commenced some prosecutions. But the window of opportunity for this sort of meliorating action may close sooner than the government and the mainstream media believe. Social phase-change, as in the formations of mobs, is nothing to screw around with. Once the first window is broken, all bets are off for social stability. My guess is that the various bail-out gifts to the bankers are long past having gone too far in the eyes of this increasingly flammable public.


President Obama will have to starkly change his current game plan if this outcome is to be avoided. I think he's capable of turning off the mob -- of preventing the grasshoppers from turning into ravening locusts -- but it may take an extraordinary exercise in authority to do it, such as the true (not pretend) nationalization of the big banks, engineering the exit of Ben Bernanke from the Federal Reserve, sucking up the ignominy of having to replace failed regulator Tim Geithner in the Treasury Department, and calling out the dogs on the swindlers who had the gall to play their country for a sucker.

As I've averred more than a few times in this space before, the standard of living in America has got to come way down. We mortgaged our future and the future has now begun. Tough noogies for us. But the broad public won't accept the reality of this as long as the grandees of finance and their myrmidons appear to still enjoy the high life. They've got to be brought down hard, perhaps even disgraced and humiliated in the courts, and certainly parted from some of their fortunes -- if only in lawyer's fees. Mr. Obama pretty much served notice to this effect last week, telling a delegation of bankers in the White House that he was the only thing standing between them and "the pitchforks." It's possible he understands the situation.

I think that people will be extremely reluctant to attack the elite because they still think the elite will save them. They are much more likely to attack the people they were given permission to attack: liberal, minorities, immigrants, atheists, the poor, Democratic politicians. The elite won't have to worry until the right wing wises up and realizes it's been had, and let's face it, that could take a very long time.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Few Notes

Mona Charen discusses the most recent American suicide shooter. I crossed out the unimportant stuff.

Once again the cable news programs are going wall to wall covering the latest mass shooting. All other programming is on hold. I've said this before. When the news shows do this they are guaranteeing the next atrocity. A twisted desire for fame and attention drives some of this. Recall that when the networks were having a problem with streakers at televised football games, they simply turned their cameras away. The problem evaporated. These mass shootings are a little more complicated, and news organizations cannot completely ignore them. But they don't need to stop everything to cover them. And they certainly should never provide stories about the shooter's problems, failed romances, experience with teasing, or political views.

Cab drollery (via Avedon Carol and Escheton) points out the free market at work. Megan McArdle would be so pleased. What was it she said to explain why regulation wasn't needed?
One thing that strikes me about the arguments I've been having with voucher opponents is just how little they seem to understand how markets work. Markets don't work because they get it right the first time; they succeed because if at first they don't succeed, they try, try again.

Failure, to put it bluntly, works. Failure is nature's way of telling you "Hey, that doesn't work!" The American economy is vastly strengthened by the fact that companies are allowed to fail--and also by the fact that our crazy culture encourages us to try things that don't work.

Those dead children are just nature's way of telling you hey, that vaccine didn't work.

Jonah Goldberg prints a response from a reader who points out Jonah's racist assumptions regarding drugs and Black people. His response is pure Jonah:

Fair enough on the last point. I don't know any such thing one way or the other. I was merely going by the inherent assumptions behind some legalization arguments. But, I don't think that concession — which I am happy to make — changes my overall argument much. Poor people are disproportionately affected by all sorts of things all of the time and blacks are disproportionately poor. In most other spheres, libertarians don't take that fact and bend their principles to it.

So the writer is probably right, and Jonah doesn't have any idea if his facts are correct or not. He's just assuming they are. And anyway, the true facts don't change his opinion. If you started taking reality into account, then where would libertarians be? Their views only succeed in bad fiction.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's Not The Feeding That's Bothering You

My god, The Atlantic sucks. There is an article up that purports to study the breast feeding issue. Do we or don't we? People who know themselves and know what they want can answer the question fairly easily. If you want to take the time to breast feed and can afford to do so, you breast feed. If you don't want to because you don't have the time or money or patience, you don't breast feed. It doesn't have to be complicated. But if you don't know what you want, or if your idea of who you should be conflicts with who you are or are trying to be, the complications can be endless.

Hanna Rosin's article opens with the following introduction:

In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s
a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet
the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner
than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every
family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that
mostly just keeps women down?

Three indecisive pages of babble can be broken down to these parts:

Being stuck at home breast-feeding as [her husband] walked out the door for work
just made me unreasonably furious, at him and everyone else....So I was left
feeling trapped, like many women before me, in the middle-class mother’s
prison of vague discontent: surly but too privileged for pity, breast-feeding with one hand while answering the cell phone with the other, and barking at my older kids to get their own organic, 100 percent juice—the modern, multitasking mother’s version of Friedan’s “problem that has no name.”
Risen can't just say that she wants and needs to work, that she doesn't care what choices her friends make, she'll just do what she wants. She obviously feels tremendous pressure to fit in with her breast-feeding friends and authorities but also wants to fit in with the business world, which is more personally and immediately rewarding. She does what so many people do--try to gain happiness through belonging to an ideological group and try to gain power through money instead of finding out what she wants to do and then doing it.

We make many decisions in this life that have serious trade-offs. Sometimes we are forced into these decisions by circumstances and sometimes we choose them, but either way we must live with the consequences. These decisions are a choice that we deliberately make; even refusing to make a decision is a choice. Marrying, having children, working, breast-feeding--these are all choices. Nobody forces us to do them. Risen made the decision to have children, and by having three children she admits she has greatly lessened her chance to resume her career in a meaningful way. Therefore her husband will have all the power in the relationship; all the money, all the time, all the freedom, at least for quite a few years. It's a very difficult thing to do but becomes much easier if you admit that the situation exists, it must be endured, and after all it's only temporary.

But Risen couldn't admit this to herself. She didn't want to give up the money and power and she didn't want to give up her image of an earth mother. So she ends up unhappy all around, and vents her ire on something that has nothing to do with her real problem.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Doubling Down

Megan McArdle can't help but fight the notion that Democratic presidents might actually be a contributing fact explaining why the economy does better under a Democratic president than a Republican president.
But I expect that four years from now, we'll still be having the same conversations with proponents of "cancer clusters" and Democrats convinced that they can scientifically prove that Democrats are better for GDP by doing ham-fisted regressions of Democratic presidencies with a few tightly correlated economic variables.

She's already discussed this in some detail, for her. Why discuss it again? Maybe people who don't understand why they commit irrational actions are doomed to repeat them until they do. McArdle's veiw of herself as an expert does not stand up to reality. Therefore it must be constantly reinforced, either through verification by an expert or as rebuttle against criticism.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Awkward Silence

Quickly, as I have work to do.

Megan McArdle makes a joke about the death of journalism, her ostensible profession. I doubt her friends losing jobs are laughing. McArdle can afford to be callous because her job is provided by an extremely wealthy man. Next she says we're giving Europe a free ride and "we should rub it in a bit more." She speculates if she missed calling a bottom, and walks it back in the next post about unemployment. Good thing she didn't risk being wrong! Finally McArdle makes another joke about people being out of jobs, and praises a journalist only respected by people who were entirely wrong about the economic crises.

I wonder what her recently-jobless "housemate" thinks about all the unemployment cracks.