Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wankers Aweigh

Shorter Ross Douthat: GIVE ME YOUR WOMB. RIGHT...........NOW. Okay, Now, dammit! Come back here! With your womb! Immediately!

More Stressed Megan

Shorter Megan McArdle: I remember the good old days, when the mention of my blog made publicity departments quiver in fear. And the magic moments spent with Peter on the gritty streets of New York City, camped out like Iraqi refugees, with only our complimentary beverage service and inflatable mattresses to stave off the cold, cruel world. Now everybody criticizes me. Life sucks.

(Okay, not-so-shorter.)

Lies, Damned Lies and Megan McArdle

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every word Megan McArdle utters or writes must be fact checked. It would take a team of scientists, logicians, historians and economists to check every single "fact" that McArdle plinks out on her keyboard so we'll just look at one, McArdle's claim that Black Panthers wore guns and "marched on Bush" at a political rally.
typetype August 27, 2009 6:39 PM
Guns at political rallies.

I guess it's legal. I guess it's not really dangerous, if you buy Megan's argument and I'll grant her her argument.

But it's never happened before in my lifetime.

So Megan and cohorts, go ahead and be an apologist for it all you want. You can compare it to the opposition to the war in 2003, but those folks did not carry guns.

Something is very wrong.


Megan McArdle (Replying to: typetype) August 27, 2009 6:44 PM
Yeah, that's not true either:

McArdle also says:
The Black Panthers carried guns at an anti-Bush rally when he was running for president. I think they had a perfect right to do so, and also, that they were jerks. But harmless jerks, as witnessed by the fact that no one got killed.

McArdle's source is a grossly biased site created by Matthew Sheffield for L. Brent Bozzell III's Media Research Center, and is financed by all the usual right-wing foundations. A quick google reveals an problem; Newsbusters is virtually the only place to find the information. This immediately sets off alarm bells, of course. The Newsbusters article was written by Ken Shepherd, who reported:
According to the mainstream media, carrying a gun to a protest is just plain crazy, even if perfectly legal. What’s more, it’s indicative of the toxic, hate-filled atmosphere filling conservative protests of President Obama and his plans for health care reform.

“Hardball” host Chris Matthews and his daytime colleagues at MSNBC, for example, have their used air time to marvel at what would possess an average American citizen to go to a rally near where President Obama is speaking with a gun.

But the media reaction was markedly different nine years ago when a group of Black Panthers marched on the Texas Republican Party’s state convention on June 2000 brandishing AK-47s. Indeed, that incident itself was chalked up as then-Gov. Bush’s fault by none other than then-MSNBC "Equal Time" co-host Paul Begala.

A search of Nexis and the Media Research Center’s News Tracking System found no stories on that evening’s broadcast network newscasts about the Black Panthers brandishing “assault weapons” to protest then-presumptive GOP presidential nominee – and Secret Service protectee – Gov. George W. Bush’s refusal to intervene in the pending execution of convicted murderer Gary Graham.

The June 16, 2000 “Fox Report” noted the incident, featuring an on-scene report from reporter Mike Rosen of Fox News Austin, Texas, affiliate KTBC.

We can see by the date that McArdle was wrong; the "Black Panthers" event happened in 2000, as a commenter immediately pointed out. They were protesting the execution of a man who had converted to Islam, outside of the Texas Republican Party's state convention, with all the other protesters. McArdle evidently did not read the article carefully (if at all) and was quite wrong about the protest. It's very difficult to find any other information about the event (as the article notes), but a search does turn up an article from the "Ashville Global Report." It quotes a Reuters article, reporting from Houston.

Now, this is where it comes in handy to be from Houston. Any mention of Black Panthers and Houston means a mention of Quanelle X, a former drug dealer and pimp who embraced Islam and started to change his ways, declaring himself a New Black Panther and a voice of the oppressed. He is easy to find; just look for a controversy and news cameras, and he and his bodyguards and limo will be there. He is not taken seriously, to put it mildly. The Nation of Islam kicked him out for inciting violence and gross anti-Semitism, and his New Black Panthers party (not the Black Panthers) was denounced by the real Black Panthers party. Sure enough, Quanelle X was involved.
Houston, Texas, June 16— The debate over the pending execution of Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham), a black man who many believe was wrongly convicted, heated up on Friday when a dozen gun-toting black militants staged a protest outside the Texas Republican Party’s state convention. The protest turned into a brief confrontation when one of the members of the New Black Panther Party, who arrived at the protest in an open-top Hummer stretch limousine, shoved a convention delegate who shouted that the protesters were “evil persons.”

The militants, most of them wearing black military style uniforms and carrying rifles or shotguns, demanded that Graham receive a new trial and that Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, declare a moratorium on capital punishment. Displaying guns in public is not illegal in Texas except in certain instances.

“We demand an immediate moratorium on the white supremacist, racist and classist death penalty in the state of Texas and across the country,” said Quanell X, the group’s leader.

Graham, 38, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday at the Texas death chamber in Huntsville, Texas. He was condemned for fatally shooting a man while robbing him outside a Houston supermarket in 1981....

Quanelle X and his organization did not "march on Bush" because they were not at a march or rally. It wasn't the Black Panthers, it was the New Black Panthers, run by the militant equivalent of Brittany Spears. And it took place in 2000, not at a 2004 or 2008 presidential political rally. (Or health care town hall, the last place one should find guns.)

Not that the facts matter. Our glamor girl of glibertarianism habitually pulls information from her rear end, knowing her peers will refrain from criticizing her egregious and constant stream of errors, lies and manipulations.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Why look, there's Megan McArdle in her back yard, with a shovel. I wonder what she's going to do with it?

Guns at political rallies.I guess it's legal. I guess it's not really dangerous, if you buy Megan's argument and I'll grant her her argument. But it's never happened before in my lifetime. So Megan and cohorts, go ahead and be an apologist for it all you want. You can compare it to the opposition to the war in 2003, but those folks did not carry guns. Something is very wrong.
Megan McArdle (Replying to: typetype)
Yeah, that's not true either:
Jim Kakalios (Replying to: Megan McArdle)
The Black Panthers were protesting the war in Iraq in 2000? That's certainly an example of not waiting till the last minute! You were comparing the protesters of Health Insurance Reform to those opposed to a war. I think what typetype wrote is in fact true - or at least your link does not counter the argument.
Megan McArdle (Replying to: Jim Kakalios)
I meant to point out that it is not true that guns have not been pulled out at a protest in TypeType's lifetime. Or else TypeType is a very precocious child.

I do believe she appears to be digging in the dirt. I think she might be digging a hole.
TallDave (Replying to: Mike D.)
The real issue is weaponization of discourse by people with an extreme version of her basic perspective.
And those Black Panthers were just hanging out, right? Well, I guess since Obama's AG dropped the case "weaponization of discourse" is a nonissue these days.
NRB (Replying to: TallDave)
TallDave, you should be defending the Black Panthers if you want to have any sort of consistency. They weren't breaking any laws, right? Or do only crazy white people get to carry guns at political rallies?
I am at least consistent: no guns at political rallies! Not for right wing loonies and not for the Black Panthers.
Keltin (Replying to: NRB)
The Black Panthers weren't carrying guns. They were carrying clubs. A holstered revolver on the hip of a couple of conservatives going towards them to vote, would've caused said Intimidators to back away from their hate-speech they directed at whites who wanted to vote there.
Of course, Philadelphia police would've probably absolved the Intimidators and arrested the citizens because they were 'obviously racists' /s
Megan McArdle (Replying to: NRB)
I'm absolutely defending the black panthers, provided the weapons were legal. And I note that again, nothing happened. They were still jerks, of course. But harmless jerks.

It is a hole. And she keeps digging it deeper.

Can anyone care to guess how the Bush administration would have reacted to a gun carrying man in an "Out of Iraq NOW" t-shirt at a Bush speech? If I recall correctly Secret Service or hired goons were throwing people out of Bush public appearances just for having the t-shirt.
Perhaps some blacks, Hispanics, and feminists should exercise their 2nd amendment rights at a Sarah Palin public appearance.
Megan McArdle (Replying to: Stuhlmann)
As you'll see upthread, Black Panthers marched on Bush with AK-47s when he was governor of Texas and running for president. He ignored them.
DB Cooper (Replying to: Megan McArdle)
As did the current President in Phoenix. Not sure why the last sentence is relevant. The alleged hysteria does not reside in the White House.

And deeper.
Megan McArdle (Replying to: km)
The Black Panthers carried guns at an anti-Bush rally when he was running for president. I think they had a perfect right to do so, and also, that they were jerks. But harmless jerks, as witnessed by the fact that no one got killed.
Preventing people from carrying guns into buildings is a perfectly legitimate limitation, given the problems of guns in an enclosed space. But how many people does this restriction, or even the metal detectors, protect? How many people were shot in Federal buildings, elementary schools, etc. before we had the ban?

McArdle forgets Ta-Nehisi Coates is the son of a former member of the Black Panthers. Although maybe she didn't forget, and simply assumed Coates would keep quiet.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Please, Make Me Stop Reading This

I think Megan McArdle broke something in her brain.
Megan McArdle (Replying to: John Aislabie) August 28, 2009 9:21 AM
The Nation of Islam, et al., are black nationalists, which is a left-wing movement, not a right wing one. Al Sharpton, who is certainly on the left, helped incite the anti-semitic riot that killed Yankel Rosenbaum:

There are fringe antisemitic strains on both sides. Both have been waning for decades. Neither is representative of any significant number of members any longer.

A left-wing movement. Really. A movement of the left. Something that moves, from the left. The Nation of Islam, a religion. Is of the left. A anti-Semitic organization, of the left. An authoritarian religion, a separatist movement, a sect that believes in UFOs and prophesies and says that white people are potential humans who haven't evolved yet--that's liberal. That's progressive. That's the left.


Adolescents With Guns

Caption: Megan McArdle spots a liberal national health care advocate.

Let's go back in time and examine the philosophical basis for Megan McArdle's insane desire to see armed men roam political rallies.
So if Heller, as libertarians devoutly hope, legalizes gun ownership in DC, the question immediately arises for those of us who live here: buy one, or not? On the one hand, they are expensive, and shooting ranges far away. On the other hand, I live alone in an apartment that is something less than amply fortified. On the third hand, I'm pretty sure I shouldn't handle a gun when I'm sleepy.

However, I probably will anyway, just because I can.

Scratch a libertarian and you'll find a teenager, who wants to get drunk and have sex and smoke dope and shoot guns, just because he can. Not because it's wise or right or appropriate. No, because she can. Never mind the possible consequences, of course, because in Libertarian Fantasyland they don't exist. Having a gun would be cute and fun and make her look cool in front of the boys.
There is a distressing lack of attention to the female market in gun companies. I want something with accuracy and stopping power, but also, an attractive exterior casing that easily integrates with my other accessories. This doesn't seem unreasonable.

The funny part of all this gun worship is that despite the libertarian mind-set and childish desire to have something that is dangerous and goes boom!, McArdle didn't even really want a gun.
I wasn't going to buy a gun, because, hey, what would I do with it? But the chicken guano rules that DC is imposing make me want to buy a handgun just to annoy the twopenny tyrants who thought them up:

[snipped quote]

May I really carry it inside my home without a license, just as if I were a free citizen in a country that respects individual liberty? I am overcome with gratitude, really overwhelmed with the state's generosity . . . permission to cry, sir?

My goodness, that takes me back, to when I was substituting at a wealthy high school. The cheap, petty sarcasm that exposes the speaker as immature and nasty, vapid and foolish and pinched in spirit. But they were children. McArdle's a middle-aged woman. McArdle became a bit testy when commenters and others pointed out that waving around guns could be dangerous.
Now the gun controllers pour out of the woodwork to claim that you're more likely to kill yourself or a family member with a gun than a criminal.

Some of the people deploying this statistic really ought to know better. Composition fallacy, anyone?

These are not double blind experiments. Guns may be the weapon of choice for all sorts of crimes; that does not mean that they cause the crimes.

Yes, guns don't fire themselves, so adding a gun to a volatile situation will do nothing to change the power dynamic for the worse. Although McArdle said she wanted a gun to even up the power dynamic.
I'm hardly the first person to make this observation, but I don't know why it isn't noted more often: guns are the only weapon that equalizes strength between attacker and attacked. It's the only time when men's greater speed, strength, and longer reach make no difference; if you pull the trigger first, you win.

This is an enormous social advance. I am all for strengthening the social contract (and law enforcement) so that fewer men commit rape, assault, or robbery. But until human nature has improved so radically that grievous bodily harm has passed from living memory, I don't understand why more feminists don't push for widespread gun ownership.

Women need guns because bad men might try to hurt them. It's a solution that creates more problems, but one I can understand. But why do men attending political rallies need guns? It's certainly not for protection, and anyone who takes a gun to a rally dramatically increases the level of fear and panic. Guns, crowds, politics. They do not mix, and pretending they do is utterly moronic. Or just incredibly immature.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I was already feeling unwell today and reading this didn't help. Megan McArdle says that criminals are sub-normal creatures easily identified by sight. Perhaps they have beady, furtive eyes, or are wearing striped pajamas with an iron ball and chair around their ankles. Who knows? The point is that they are not us, and since McArdle wouldn't kill anyone with a gun, neither would anyone else. This was the same reasoning she used with Iraq. She said that if she were Hussein she would have had WMD, therefore despite any and all evidence to the contrary, Hussein had nuclear weapons and was going to use them. McArdle promised to reexamine her thought processes and identify the cognitive bias that created this unhappy mistake, but she must have been too busy, or maybe just forgot.

I was going to quote some stupid at random, but the whole post is so monumentally stupid, so rancidly centered around the isolated bubble that is McArdle's life, that I really can't single out one thing. Nothing exists for McArdle outside of her own head, her own experiences. It's like going to a dog for advice. They might be able to give you a very good perspective on flea-scratching and butt-sniffing, but it isn't very useful for a human being.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

McArdle Admits Her Anti-Health Care Argument Is Based On "Hypothetical" Number

In today's Washington Post live question and answer, Megan McArdle admitted that her entire argument against health care is based on a "hypothetical" statistic.

Anonymous: You said that medical innovation will be wiped out if we have a type of national health care, because European drug companies get 80% of their revenue from Americans. Where did you get this statistic?

Megan McArdle: It wasn't a statistic--it was a hypothetical.

However, whenever I have been able to find pharma financial statements that break down their profits by region, the lion's share always comes from the US.

A hypothetical is not a statistic. A statistic is a fact that can be verified, not a guess, and McArdle just admitted she made a guess. That guess was the entire basis for her argument against health care reform.
I don't think Matt understands what worries me about national health care, or else he doesn't actually understand how the system in the Netherlands works underneath his interaction with an insurance company. It isn't the cost. It isn't the taxes. It isn't the redistribution. It isn't even the mandate, which is borderline plausible to me in the way that mandatory auto insurance is, and forced retirement savings might be: the moral hazard is huge, because your neighbors won't let you die.

My objection is primarily, as I've said numerous times, that the government will destroy innovation. It will do this by deciding what constitutes an acceptable standard of care, and refusing to fund treatment above that. It will also start controlling prices.

McArdle made up a number based on a balance sheet she might or might not have seen at some time. Like so much of her evidence, it is part guess and part wishful thinking. As a pundit McArdle is inept. As a journalist she is hopelessly out of her league, a simple fact that doesn't seem to bother The Atlantic at all.

Wild Westworld

To the insurance companies' delight, Obama is trying to give everyone access to health insurance. To the drug companies' dismay, the left is talking about giving everyone access to health care, paid for by the taxpayer. To discourage this, drug companies and their lackeys are encouraging the more gullible conservatives who have a little spare time and a lot of spare fear to attend rallies protesting health care reform. Some of those gullible, fearful people are so paranoid that they feel they need to be armed, to show that they cannot be intimidated into accepting government assistance. A very few are so paranoid that they actually go where they are certain to find armed government police and wave their assault rifles around.

The most paranoid members of the most paranoid and stupid subsection of the more scardy-pants political party, who are currently calling for a National Day of Pants-Wetting. Guess who has no problem with these few nuts carrying weapons? Our NRA dogmatist, our libertarian lassie, our where-are-the-police-when-people-like-me-need-protection princess, Megan McArdle. In her fantasy libertarian world, guns at political rallies are no problem.

Not that McArdle hasn't thought this out. The secret service can't let anyone put a bead on the president, for example. That might be a bit questionable. But if the president isn't there, no other liberal need worry. It's perfectly okay for conservatives to wave guns around them, scream at them in a threatening manner, and carry signs threatening to harm them.

McArdle also points out the number of people who legally own guns and commit crimes. is "very low." Therefore the tiny number of paranoid nuts who legally own guns and wave them around at political rallies are nothing to worry about. To back up her confident words, McArdle attempts to make a bet that nobody will fire a gun at a rally.

Care to take that to Longbets? I've got up to $500 that says that no right winger discharges a legally permitted firearm at a town hall meeting.

McArdle failed to find a taker for her bet, perhaps because the entire idea is distasteful and callous or perhaps because she kept changing the parameters of her bet.
Yes, anyone who discharges a weapon for the purpose of self-defense, or defense of another, does not count.


But let's say this: no one openly carrying a weapon outside a town hall meeting discharges that weapon at another human being, except in defense of him/herself, or another person. Bet? And for how much?


Lone wackos with hidden guns can show up at any rally, and have nothing to do with the people openly carrying--though the people openly carrying might well deter them. If you believe what you said--that one of the armed "patriots" under discussion, i.e. the folks openly carrying--is very likely to shoot someone, then this is a great way to make some easy money. Otherwise, you should retract what you said.


I freely concede that it is possible that someone openly carrying a weapon will shoot at a congressman; the world is an uncertain place. But the probability is so remote that I am willing to put money down--indeed eager; weddings are expensive.


If you think that the possibility is not remote--indeed, as you stated, near certain--then you should bet. Otherwise, I still say you should admit that you were just blowing steam.


What constitutes an "attempt"? People try to assassinate every president. Most of them don't get very far. The world is full of wackos.


Since you ask, no, I have no knowledge of FreedomWorks' policies, procedures, or anything else. I know virtually nothing about the organization beyond what I've read.

Back to the topic at hand, I didn't ask you what else you wanted to bet on. I asked you to put up or shut up on this particular proposition: that one of the people openly carrying outside a townhall meeting will try to shoot the president.

McArdle goes from firing a weapon to attempted assassination of the president of the United States, which is an impressive feat.

So why on earth would those silly leftists get so excited about a gun or two in the hands of a law-abiding conservative? Or anyone who decides to copy the law-abiding conservative, only without the legal aspect or the not-shooting-into-a-crowd-of-liberals aspect?
I suspect that, like the notion that Obama is not a US citizen, or that George Bush either planned the 9/11 attacks or allowed them to happen, this is for most people what Julian Sanchez calls a symbolic belief. They don't really believe that these people are thugs intent on murder--not in the sense that they have, with careful thought, arrived at a conclusion that they are willing to defend vigorously. But it is pleasurable to tell yourself you believe terrible things about your enemies, and so you don't examine the thought until someone says, "Well, how about $500 on it, then?" and you think about how much it would hurt to lose $500 on, and realize that you don't actually have any reason to believe it's all that likely.

Unfortunately, these sorts of fun pastimes are horribly corrosive to civic society.

Actually, Bush did know about Bin Laden's plans before he carried them out. He was handed a national security briefing that warned him, which he ignored. I guess it's just knee-jerk liberal Bush haters who believe facts and photograph instead of pleasant libertarian fantasies. But let's forget all about the past because it has nothing to do with the present. The real reason liberals are against carrying guns at political rallies is because they are knee-jerk liberal gun haters. This argument is not, of course, in any way an excuse that the conservatives use every time their crazies go crazier than usual. It's just the way it is. And the presence of guns at a political rally is in no way horribly corrosive to a civil society.

Sleep, And Rest

Rest in peace, Ted Kennedy. He was a weak man in many ways but a strong man in others, and he cared about his country and fellow citizens. He lived with enormous privilege and enormous pain. Losing a close relative to murder is horrible--losing two is beyond endurance.

The right will now have to find somebody else's personal failure to explain why they care about nobody but themselves, as Chappaquiddick is no longer pertinent. Perhaps they can start with their diaper-wearing, whorehouse-running Congressmen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Interactive Megan

Megan McArdle will be available for a live chat at the Washington Post tomorrow.

I can hardly wait.

Thinking Between The Lines

Megan McArdle latest efforts are a mixture of concern trolling and vague, scatter-shot bashing of anything not libertarian. Governments are inept, unless they are shoveling the remainder of America's wealth into banks. Democrats are losers. Drug companies and drugs are good things. Europe sux, America rox. Everybody wanted to be thin for social advancement. Boring, trite, and snide. Only one of those is forgivable.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Being Wrong

It is very inconvenient when the person whose work you are critiquing doesn't manage to haul her butt to the computer before 11 am. I like to get my writing done by ten so I can do my real work, but it's impossible with McArdle's poor work ethic.

Let's start with something Glenn Greenwald said recently. It's very difficult to understand why the reporters and pundits who have been wrong about almost everything insist that they should be taken seriously and that their advice is valid. They will admit they were wrong, will admit that they failed, but insist that everyone should still listen to them (get more things wrong). Glenn Greenwald reports:
According to[Jeremy] Scahill (via email), [Chuck]Todd approached him after the [Bill]Maher show and the following occurred:

Right as we walked off stage, he said to me "that was a cheap shot." I said "what are you talking about?" and he said "you know it." I then said that I monitor msm coverage very closely and asked him what was not true that I said on the show. He then replied: "that's not the point. You sullied my reputation on TV."

Media stars are so unaccustomed to being held accountable for the impact of their behavior -- especially when they're on television -- that they consider it a grievous assault on their entitlement when it happens.

They admit they were wrong, that their thought processes are flawed, their information was bad, they trusted the wrong people, and their conclusions were wrong, but you must still listen to them--why? Just because. Because they say so, because they demand it. Because they want it. There's no other reason for their behavior than their sense of entitlement. Any criticism interferes with that lovely feeling of specialness that they believe they were born or imbued with, and since that entitlement is all they have, it drives them into a fury to be told that they don't deserve what they have. Megan McArdle, after being wrong on almost everything that ever wafted through her Swiss cheese skull, pouted that someone actually held her to account for her support of Bush during his illegal invasion of Iraq and trashing of the country, and ours:
You, and most of the other people on these boards, seem to be conducting an argument with some monstrous amalgam of every war supporter you ever tangled with, not with me. I understand your rage. But the fact that you were provoked does not give you a right to provoke me. At least I am confining my comments to the people who are actually behaving like . . . well, you know . . . not unleashing it on every person who opposed the war.

I will not now, nor ever, "admit" that having supported the war makes me an immoral moron, and frankly I'm astonished that the war opponents think that there is any possibility that they will wring such a concession from anyone. Do you behave when you are wrong in the way that you are demanding I do? Would you apologize to a girlfriend who has said the sort of things to you that the commenters on other threads have said to me?

What's even more astonishing is that the people who opposed the war wonder why they have been shut out of the discussion. This is why. Many of the people complaining seem to think that a discussion consists of screaming invective.

McArdle knows she doesn't have a leg to stand on here. She wasn't smart enough to listen to dissenting voices and in her arrogance assumed that whatever she thought would be correct. She can't tell liberals to go away and stop criticizing her because they were right and she was wrong. But she'll never admit she doesn't know what she is doing, so she goes on the attack. Yeah, the left was right but they were mean, so nobody has to listen to them and McArdle can continue to be wrong without interruption. It's just about the most feeble excuse for ignoring reality that one can imagine, but that's Our Megan.

McArdle is grossly wrong on health care as well, of course. National health care or some variation of it is successful in many countries, but McArdle's reasoning is based on emotion, not facts. If we go back far enough we can see the real reason McArdle is against national health care: She doesn't want to help anyone else. It is truly that simple.

Assuming, arguendo, that we believe in making social-justice-enhancing forced transfers, I'm not sure that this particular transfer meets the needs of social justice. One might argue that the transfer should flow to those whose need is greater, but as a class, the old and sick are wealthier than the young and healthy. They have more assets, many have a guaranteed income, and few have children to support. Moreover, a need-based transfer would argue for some sort of means-tested programme, not an indiscriminate giveaway to anyone who happens to be sick.

Moreover, as a class, the old and sick have some culpability in their ill health. They didn't eat right or excercise; they smoked; they didn't go to the doctor as often as they ought; they drank to much, or took drugs, or sped, or engaged in dangerous sports. Again, in individual cases this will not be true; but as a class, the old and sick bear some of the responsibility for their own ill health, while younger, healthier people have almost no causal role in the ill-health of others.

Perhaps they deserve it by virtue of suffering? But again, most of them are suffering because they have gotten old, often in high style. The young of today have two possible outcomes:

1) They will be old and sick too, in which case they are no less deserving of our concern than today's old and sick

2) They won't ever get to be old and sick, which is even worse than being old and sick.

As a class, the old and sick are already luckier than the young and healthy. Again, for individuals within that class--those with desperate congenital conditions, for example--this is not the case. But I'm not sure it's terribly compelling to argue that we should massively disadvantage a large group of people in order to massively advantage another, equally large group of people, all to help out the few who are needy, or deserving, or unlucky.

If you're sick it's your own fault, see? Which means that forcing employers to pay for your health care is a case of massively advantaging yourself over your poor employer, who is just trying to run a business and shouldn't have to pay for his employee's unhealthy life style. Which is why McArdle pays for her own health insurance. Oh, wait--she doesn't. She lets her employer foot the bill.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ten Cents A Dance

It's difficult to know what to say about one of Megan McArdle's latest posts about the tea-baggers and their defenders. It is absolutely unbelievable that McArdle cannot understand her conflict of interest in writing in support of tea-baggers and astro-turfing when her boyfriend is a former astro-turfer who works for Reason magazine. The only conclsion to make is that McArdle has deluded herself that she is a journalist instead of a over-educated and extremely underpaid corporate shill. By hiring her as a "journalist" and paying to fly her around the country, pretending to moderate panels and interview people for the corporate in-house rag, her bosses are getting away with paying her tens of thousands--or even hundreds of thousand--of dollars less than someone in advertising or lobbying. It's extremely clever of The Atlantic to cheat McArdle and her ilk. David G. Bradley is making a fortune off of McArdle's Ivy League reputation, bought at great personal sacrifice by her mommy and daddy. When her reputation is ruined by her corporate shilling she'll be discarded in favor of someone whose reputation is still intact, but she won't have a fat bank account to fall back on like lobbyists and other highly-paid shills.

Reason is funded by the usual right-wing foundations; Koch, Olin, Scaife and others, as well as such corporate sponsors as Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Bayer. It is an advertising brochure for libertarians, which Webster's Dictionary defines as "the political philosophy of people who act as a corporate whores but are too greedy, stupid and arrogant to know and/or care." When McArdle links to Reason articles supporting astro-turfing and tea-bagging, she obviously is acting as an agent of The Atlantic's and Reason's corporate sponsors. For a discount. She's the Wal-Mart of corporate whores.

McArdle links to Virginia Postrel, former editor for Reason, and writes umpteen articles supporting Postrel's campaign to using the poor for organ harvesting, a deeply immoral goal. Did she arrange to do this before or after her boyfriend was hired? We might never know but because McArdle's conflict of interest is so deep we have to ask. McArdle, of course, is also fighting the very idea of national health care, no doubt also for the benefit of The Atlantic's corporate sponsors such as Astra-Zeneca. How much of her outrage is manufactured and how much is ideological? It doesn't matter any more, because we have to assume it is both. Journalism has been replaced by product placement. And poor, stupid McArdle never got the memo--or the paycheck.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Demand Proof

Megan McArdle is running in place as fast as she can, trying to redeem the reputation of astro-turf firms and tea-baggers. She currently has three posts up attempting to create equivalence between the right and left. She is already on delicate ground with her peers; her pro-business slant is not as popular when she is defending insurance companies instead of bankers and stock brokers. Insurance companies don't have the same potential to make the upper middle class rich. The media is laughing at tea-baggers and by association laughing at McArdle as well, which cannot be tolerated. Her response? It's the left who is crazy, who spouts conspiracy theories, not the right. It's an obvious lie, a painfully transparent attempt to mitigate the actions of the right, but shills and hacks don't care about truth or morality, they care about paychecks.

Like McArdle, Marc Ambinder is paid to support his master's cause and lies constantly, to himself and others, in the course of his job. He is not a journalist, of course, he is paid by The Atlantic, who is paid by corporations to shill for them. Expecting journalistic integrity from a shill is incredibly foolish. It's not their job and everyone knows it. When a former aide for Cheney praises Robert Novak's professionalism, he notes that Novak was extremely helpful in spreading the administration's unfounded beliefs in supply-side economics. Novak was a great journalist because he did what the administration wanted him to do, something to remember every time a shill or hack is eulogized in the media. It should be easy to find and isolate them --they depend on appeals to the emotions instead of facts and logic--but in a world that values belief over rationality, it's not always easy for people to distinguish emotional arguments from rational ones.
FreedomWorks made a mistake when they whipped up hatred in the shallow end of the Republican's intellectual pool. They grossly underestimated the degree of crazy floating around, never thinking beyond the immediate need. They wanted old men in VFW t-shirts and mommies pushing strollers but they ended up with gun nuts and birthers. The tea-baggers are starting to hurt the cause, not help it. Dick Armey is being grilled on tv instead of being fed gentle, helpful questions. Unsurprisingly, Armey's group is cutting out the tea-baggers, who will find that they are no longer welcome to their own revolution. The word is out, the leadership of the right is frightened and the tea-bagger's day in the sun is over. There is nothing left but the rehabilitation attempts, which McArdle is throwing herself into whole-heartedly, supporting her man in his hour of need. In more ways than one.

There is only one thing to do: Demand proof. Always. If they state a fact, demand concrete evidence and then fact-check it. If they refuse, the discussion is over. They will immediately start demanding proof as well, of course, but since we value policy based on facts, that might not be the gotcha they hope it will be.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Speaking Of Prevarication--

Megan McArdle's latest on obesity:
I am, as noted before, very skeptical that public health attempts to lower the obesity rate will do much good.

No. What you said was:
Why excercise won't make you lose weight. Believe it or not, this is not surprising new science; experts have been saying this for years. The conflation of health and obesity has lead us to confuse the goals. We're told to exercise because it will make us thin, which it won't.

Study after study shows that most people are unable to lose more than a small percentage of their body weight and keep it off without major surgery.

The rest is a waste of time and a feeble attempt to use society's disdain for women to support her "argument."

Scooby and Shaggy Discuss Death Panels


Shaggy: You know Scoob, it sure is a bummer when people get real sick and are about to die.

Scooby: Rat's right, Raggy!

Shaggy: They should write a Living Will.

Scooby: Huh?

Shaggy: That a piece of paper that tells your doctor what to do when you're about to die, old buddy.

Scooby: Ru-Roh!

Shaggy: Yeah, it sure is a bummer. Talkin' about dying an' turning off machines and extreme measures. (Shudders)

Scooby: Awww. (Puts paw around Shaggy's shoulder.)

Shaggy eats another brownie to console himself.

Shaggy: The problem is that doctors want to use extreme measures.

Scooby: Huh?

Shaggy: Patients should make the decision, man! Down with the oppressors!

Scooby: Rut, Raggy--

Shaggy: If only there was a way to solve this problem.

Scooby does a double-take, takes a stethoscope out of his pocket and puts it on, pulls a large document labeled "Living Will" out the another pocket, sits down at an imaginary desk, and waves the Will in Shaggy's face. Shaggy stares into space and eats another brownie.

Shaggy: Those poor old dudes, man. It'll just scare them if you start talking about dying. They'll want to use extreme measures. Or not. Or the doctor will. Or he won't. I feel kinda dizzy, little buddy.

Scooby slaps his forehead with a paw and waves the Living Will around some more.

Shaggy: Sorry, buddy, we need the wills but we shouldn't talk about the wills or we'll get scared and want to use the wills.

Scooby sighs and eats the rest of the brownies.

Logic Puzzle

Here's a puzzle to solve. Megan McArdle posts about the Whole Foods boycott, and this...
Okay, what are the odds that half the people who signed up to boycott Whole Foods spend $200 a week there? The class of people who are most worked up over this is not necessarily contiguous with the class of people who drops $800 every single month at a single grocery store. Looking over the Facebook list, I see, broadly, three groups of people:

■People who live in a
handful of very liberal urban areas
■People who live in hippy towns and/or
college towns

There are exceptions, but this is the overwhelming effect of the list. There is also an amusing minority who live in places that don't have a Whole Foods anywhere near them, like Waterloo, Iowa, or Finland.

...contradicts this:
These people think they are indispensible to Whole Foods' business, because in their area, they are. But according to Google, there are more Whole Foods per person in Houston, Texas, than in New York City. I don't think anyone could look at a map of the distribution of Whole Foods stores in, say, Philadelphia, and proclaim that this looks much like the distribution of people who are so fired up about national health care that they are willing to cause themselves great personal inconvenience in order to punish the CEO of Whole Foods for writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Whole Foods' customers are hippies, yet there are more Whole Foods in conservative areas? How could Whole Foods survive under those conditions? To resolve this contradiction we have to determine which is correct--is Houston less liberal than she thinks, or do more conservatives shop at Whole Foods than she thinks? Whole Foods would not have so many stores in Houston if they were not making money. The Whole Foods in Houston have the same progressive, environmentalist, organic hippie image that they have in more liberal places. People who are not political would not go out of their way to shop at a more expensive store when you can find organic foods in every store unless there were another reason, such as image. So let's check to see how conservative Houston actually is.

Here is a study by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research [pdf] that says that while Houston is the largest conservative city in the nation, it is only moderately conservative. A Houston blogger notes:
Houston, as the 62nd most conservative and 177th most liberal (out of 237 total cities), on the surface seems to tilt pretty far to the right, but only voted 53.6/46.3 for Bush over Kerry. The national vote was something like 51/48 (1% other), so Houston is pretty darn close to the national average. The skew is the result of a national bias of larger cities towards liberal. Manchester, NH was the most balanced city I could find in their list, at almost exactly 50/50, and that got it ranked #80 most conservative and #159 most liberal, very close to Houston's rankings.

The bottom line: compared to other large cities, we're very conservative, but compared to the country as a whole, we're right in middle. In my humble and biased opinion, that makes for a more diverse and more interesting city than other cities that are more monocultural (or at least monopolitical).

When we see contradictions we make a decision, to either question our biases or assume our emotional reaction is the correct one. Ideologues will go with their biases, as will fundamentalists of every kind. We can't afford to indulge people who deliberately refuse to think a problem through, for fear it will make them question themselves or because they are being paid to look the other way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Death Of A Traitor

The Corner at National Review On-line is celebrating the life of journalist Robert Novak, giving examples of his humor (“Why is writing an editorial like taking a p*** in a serge wool suit? It feels great, but nobody notices!”), his skill at ferreting out information ("It was once impossible to have a casual conversation with Bob without him pouncing on a random remark if he spotted that a tidbit of news had been shared."), and his professional courtesy ("Once he told me that letting women join the National Press Club had ruined the organization.")

Novak was also known for his love of fast driving and his dislike of slowing down after he had run over someone. A witness related how he chased down Novak after the latter hit a very old homeless man, throwing him over the windshield of Novak's sleek Corvette convertible.
As he traveled east on K Street, crossing 18th, [David] Bono said "a black Corvette convertible with top closed plows into the guy. The guy is sort of splayed into the windshield.” Bono said that the pedestrian, who was crossing the street on a "Walk" signal and was in the crosswalk, rolled off the windshield and that Novak then made a right into the service lane of K Street. “This car is speeding away. What’s going through my mind is, you just can’t hit a pedestrian and drive away,” Bono said.

He said he chased Novak half a block down K Street, finally caught up with him and then put his bike in front of the car to block it and called 911. Traffic immediately backed up, horns blaring, until commuters behind Novak backed up so he could pull over.Bono said that throughout, Novak "keeps trying to get away. He keeps trying to go.” He said he vaguely recognized the longtime political reporter and columnist as a news personality but could not precisely place him. Finally, Bono said, Novak put his head out the window of his car and motioned him over. Bono said he told him that you can't hit a pedestrian and just drive away. He quoted Novak as responding: “I didn’t see him there.”

It's a pity Novak didn't see his victim, since he was so fond of the idea of running over people who are walking across the street. From an interview given long before he ran over the old man:
After witnesses saw him scream at a pedestrian, Novak explained to the [Washington Post]: "He was crossing on the red light. I really hate jaywalkers. I despise them. Since I don't run the country, all I can do is yell at 'em. The other option is to run 'em over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that."

Evidently he decided to make an exception.

The greatest tribute, however, comes from Mark Krikorian:
I never met Bob Novak, but I believe Kate that he was "a devoted husband and father, a loving grandfather, a loyal friend." But there is one more word we should add to that list:


Yes, there's nothing more patriotic than outing an American spy for political gain.

No wonder conservatives can't watch the Bourne movies. Their heroes betray their fellow Americans and expose our spies monitoring WMD. It must be slightly disconcerting to side with the traitors.

Don't Bother Me With Facts

Since health care's gone I want no one to talk to me.
It's just a game, I'm not to blame, it's plain to see.
So go away, leave me alone, don't bother me.

I can't believe that they would need cheaper health care.
It's just not right I'm going to fight I will not share.
I've got no time for you right now, don't bother me.

I know they say some folks can't pay insurance bills.
But they are few, who cares when you are paid to shill.
Work for The Man for his health plan, and go away.

I'll let you know whom you should pay. Until that day,
Don't come around, leave me alone, don't bother me.
I've got no time for facts right now, don't bother me.

I know I'll never be part-time. I'll never need a single dime.
Because I know someone will always be there for me.
You don't need help, please don't come near, just stay away.
I'll let you know when I'm in need. Until that day,
Don't come around, leave me alone, don't bother me.

Don't bother me.
Don't bother me.
Don't bother me.
Don't bother me.

Oedipus, Oh Oedipus

There is a reason why it is wrong to have a nest of pundits that are too intertwined: We can't trust them to do anything but help each other hold on to their jobs. Andrew Sullivan links to Megan McArdle because they are employed by the same person, and because both are elitists. Sullivan gives very valuable exposure to underemployed Peter Suderman, McArdle's fiance, by letting him post on his, Sullivan's, blog. Suderman is a nearly-thirty-year-old intern at Reason, which is funded by the Koch family. Suderman formerly worked for another Koch interprise, the astro-turfing and tea-bagging organization FreedomWorks. Reason formerly employed McArdle. McArdle formerly backed FreedomWorks when it was exposed as a tea-bagger and now Suderman posts in support of tea-baggers as well. Another Sullivan guest is Patrick Appel. He links to Conor Friedersdorf, whom McArdle has had on her blog as a guest poster, and who criticizes cultural critic Andrew Breitbart. Suderman and Friedersdorf both wrote for Culture11, which competed with Breitbart's Big Hollywood to corner the market on moral scolding.

This modern day Algonquin Round Table Of Fail is so busy linking to each other, praising each other and propping each other up that they forget to actually say anything worth listening to. They present ideological talking points as facts and cannot make a coherent argument, and depend on mutual praise to give them an air of authority that the quality of their work does not merit.

ADDED: Glen Greenwald:
The overlap between -- and deliberate blurring of -- political power, media opinion-making, and large corporate largesse is unlimited now. The aforementioned Tom Daschle just spent an hour this past Sunday on Meet the Press ostensibly to analyze the health care reform debate despite the fact that, as Time's Michael Scherer documented, Daschle currently works for numerous health insurance industry interests, relationships completely undisclosed during the entire one-hour health care program. Between Richard Wolffe, the Pentagon's military analysts, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Daschle, and Davis, one wonders if NBC News ever presents any "political analysts" who are free of undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let It Be Free Markets

When I find myself in times of trouble
Milton Friedman comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, markets free.
And when my posts are faulty
He is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, markets free.
Markets free, markets free.
Whisper words of wisdom, markets free.

And when the libertarian people
Living in the world agree,
We will imagine a new world, markets free.
For though there may be regulation
There's still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, markets free.
Markets free, markets free. Yeah
There will be an answer, markets free.

And when my logic fails me,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, markets free.
I wake up to the sound of critics,
Milton Friedman comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, markets free.
Markets free, markets free.
There will be an answer, markets free.
Markets free, markets free,
Whisper words of wisdom, markets free.

You Misunderstand Me

At last we have an answer to the burning question: Since Megan McArdle says that her only objection to reforming health insurance is the concern that lower drug prices will destroy medical innovation, how will she address the fact that drug companies support reforming health insurance? Now we know; McArdle will accuse the Obama Administration or some other liberal administration of coercing the drug companies, will move the goalposts, and will claim she was misunderstood.

McArdle ignores what PHaRMA actually says about health care reform to accuse liberals administrations of plotting to take over drug companies.
The political logic of pharmaceutical price controls is nearly overwhelming. You have a product that has a very low marginal cost and a very high fixed cost, which means that you can force them to provide it cheaply and eat the fixed costs if you have enough market power. You've got program that is rapidly turning into the sucking chest wound of the US budget. And you've got a big line item supplied by companies that are unpopular--unlike the other major players in the system, like doctors, nurses, assorted health care workers, and the local hospital. This is why most of Europe has turned to some form of price controls.

[yip yip yip]

[P]rice controls are a feature of national health insurance schemes, just as log-rolling is a feature of democracy. We might hold out for a while. But eventually, we'd have a combination of populists in office and a budget problem, and the pharma profits would go.

Note that McArdle does not directly address the response to her claim that drug companies make 80% of their profits from the US and could not innovate (or, by implication, even exist) if the US enacted national health insurance, which would lead us down the slippery slope to national health care. She simply reiterates that a liberal government will impose price controls on drug companies and that they will no longer be able to innovate.

Next McArdle states that she is misunderstood, a well that she's visited many, many times before. Her critics haven't destroyed her arguments with facts, they've misunderstood the argument she was actually making because they just don't "grok" libertarianism. It's all in the brain, man, just like fat is all in the genes. She does this to throw up some smoke while she moves the goal posts over to the next county.
[...T]his is where I realize that liberals often really just do not grok what libertarians are about. For them, this is a battle between people who like health care companies, and want to defend them, and people who like the government. But I don't care about the pharmaceutical companies qua pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies are interested in what is good for pharmaceutical companies. I am interest in what is good for society.

I am not under the delusion that those are necessarily the same thing.

Except she just said that they were the same thing. We need cures for diseases, the drug companies who make a lot of many come up with the cures, so we need to ensure that drug companies make lots and lots of money.
"What's good for General Motors is good for America" was a Great Society slogan, not a libertarian, or even a conservative one.

Actually, that's a misquote of something a GM president said to Congress, when he was testifying that he could be an impartial Secretary of Defense. It is most certainly not a Great Society slogan, but attention to detail and accuracy are not McArdle's strengths.
Right now, pharmaceutical companies spend a great deal of effort on innovation because they have to in order to survive. But if survival means ditching the R&D labs and churning out low-cost copies of things they've already invented, then I'm pretty sure that's what they'll do. To paraphrase Adam Smith, it is not to the benevolence of pharma that I look, but to its self interest. In the current system, that self interest means inventing new drugs.

In other words, I'm not in favor of business. I'm in favor of competition.

Oh, now it's competition that is the only thing that counts, not innovation. So are drug companies competing to see who can get the next blockbuster drug first? Or are drug companies competing who see who can make the most money and therefore do the most innovation? Either way, the drug companies will no longer innovate if we have national health, presumably because they will not be making all that money anymore. So we are left with the same unsupported opinions that McArdle has suggested all along--innovation depends on American drug companies making as much money as possible. If the drug companies say something different they are doing so not to benefit in some way, they're doing it because the government takeover of drug companies is inevitable. Never mind that nobody is suggesting or trying to implement national heath! Forget that she is making no sense at all and ignores what PHaRMA is actually doing--getting everything it wants and giving up very little.
If you want to know what PhRMA is getting this time, [Harvard Medical School professor Jerry] Avorn says just look at what's not on the table during the debate:

Drug re-importation from Canada? Off the table.

Government-negotiated drug prices? Off the table.

"A lot of those seem to have been resolved even before the public discussion begins," says [Harvard professor of medicine Jerry] Avorn. "And usually, as with the other interest groups involved, they seem to have been resolved in favor of the interest groups, rather than in favor of the public."

There's something else drug companies bought with that $40 million: people.
PhRMA alone has 29 people lobbying for it. In the graphic on this page, you can dig into the reports, and you'll find that PhRMA also hired 45 different Washington, D.C., lobbying firms to represent it in those three months of the second quarter.

Most of the drug companies that belong to PhRMA are running their own lobby shops as well, plus the biggest ones have also hired dozens of D.C. lobbying firms.

So think about it this way: There are far more people in Washington representing one party of the debate — the big drug companies — than there are members of Congress working on the health care bill.

More reality to ignore, as McArdle speculate as much and as darkly as possible, setting up impossible goals and improbable futures, ignoring facts and using cheap rhetorical tricks to paper over the emptiness of her arguments.

McArdle actually takes the arguments of the other side and attempts to us it against them. The decrease in innovation, the spiraling costs of R&D, these are now her weapons. This is what will happen to you, she threatens, utterly ignoring reality in her attempts to twist the argument to use her opponents' concerns against them. It's so stupid it's laughable.

But now she has a new talking point to argue, coincidentally the exact same one that a right-wing shill is talking up on CNBC as I type this post.
Government intervention in markets tends to dampen competition, which is something that executives like; I'm sure that's one reason that they're getting with the program. Too, administration has made it clear that they intend to do this deal with pharma or without them; they're trying to negotiate a surrender on the most favorable possible terms. But while I'm sure this is good for Obama, and I think it may even be good for pharma, I don't think this will be good for us. Companies cut deals with government all the time, and they rarely, in my opinion, redound to the benefit of the American people.

The benefits of competition are, incidentally, why I don't think that the defense model of innovation works very well in the pharmaceutical or medical technology industries. To start with, military procurement is a massive jobs program. Congressmen rarely take much action on behalf of their unemployed chemists.

But more importantly, military spending is competitive--even now, we're mostly doing this because we want to maintain our military primacy. Pharmaceutical technology is just not competitive that way. Nations don't really compete on their health care systems, and anyway, if we develop a drug, it will be patented abroad, and everyone will get it. Also, we're not all that worried that the French health care system will come over here and kill us.

I'm not sure the cognitive gap between liberals and libertarians can be bridged. At the very least, as long as they think of us as defending corporate interests, rather than defending a system that most often aligns corporate interests with ours, everything we say will continue to seem vaguely puzzling.

So drug companies are not meeting behind doors with the Obama administration, working out a private deal that will benefit them, as they did with Bush and Medicare and no doubt every other administration and issue that has affected them. They spend millions lobbying and donating to Congressmen yet it is inevitable that the same people will destroy their ability to make money. They are bowing to the inevitability of an event that is not even on the table at this time, and giving in without a fight. The goal posts have been moved and now we learn that the problem is competition, and the drug companies have been fooled into thinking that national health care will destroy their enemies while not harming them, while at the same time thinking that it is inevitable that they will be forced to capitulate to government take-over and inevitable destruction. It doesn't make the slightest bit of sense, of course, but rest assured. It's not that McArdle is wrong. You just misunderstand her.

Blog Note

I took down a post on McArdle's airplane woes since I felt the basis for my criticism wasn't firm enough. If I don't have enough evidence to speculate, I shouldn't.

Boycotting Fails, But Anti-Boycotting Works

Boycotting doesn't work, Megan McArdle declares, and Whole Foods' CEO Jonh Mackey's anti-reform article on health care might end up helping him, not hurting him.
Here's why boycotts don't work: the vast majority of customers don't care. And yes, that includes the vast majority of Whole Foods customers, a surprising number of whom drive SUVs and even--I swear!--occasionally vote Republican. Now consider the demographic that cares enough about health care to actually boycott a company over it. Most of them are a) wonks or b) political activists. The latter group is disproportionately young and does not spend a great deal of money on groceries. The former group is tiny.

Another POOMA paragraph from McArdle--Pulled Out Of My Ass. No numbers, just supposition.
You may get a large number of people who say they'll boycott Whole Foods. But then when they're out of extra-virgin olive oil and the Safeway doesn't have organic, and the nearest Trader Joes is a twenty-five minute drive away through traffic--they'll shop at Whole Foods. Three weeks later, they'll have managed to forget that they ever intended to stop shopping at Whole Foods. The stores are successful because they dominate their market niche, putting together a collection of things in one store that you would ordinarily have to go to several stores for. Shopping in mulitple places is a big pain in the butt.

So boycotting and economic activism don't work, and we can take her word for it. But let's ask one more person--Glen Beck.
ABOUT a dozen companies have withdrawn their commercials from “Glenn Beck,” the Fox News Channel program, after Glenn Beck, the person, said late last month that President Obama was a racist with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

After Glenn Beck said that President Obama was a racist, a political group began contacting his advertisers. The companies that have moved their ads elsewhere in recent days included ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble and the insurance company Progressive. In a statement that echoed the comments of other companies, ConAgra said on Thursday that “we are firmly committed to diversity, and we would like to prevent the potential perception that advertising during this program was an endorsement of the viewpoints shared.”

The campaign against Mr. Beck is rooted in an advocacy group’s objection to the commentator’s remarks on July 28. Given the number of advertisers that have pledged to remove their spots, it appears to have been unusually successful.

Its success also indicates that as commentary on cable news reaches a rhetorical boiling point, advertisers may become more skittish about being near it.

Damn you, Reality, with your meddlesome facts!!
Remember the boycott of the French? Lasted about four weeks, until everyone figured out that this meant foregoing Dannon yogurt and Mephisto sandals, and spending hours looking for a decent American brie. Effect on French foreign policy: dubious. Perhaps negative.

Since the right was simply lashing out in anger that someone, somewhere disagreed with them about illegally invading a foreign country, I'm not surprise that that temper tantrum didn't have a political effect.
Then there's the problem of counter-boycotts. Radley is one. I myself do not particularly care for Whole Foods--I find them overpriced, and their prepared food isn't very good. But as long as the progressive boycott lasts . . . well, Mr. Mackey, you've got another customer. I doubt I'm the only conservative or libertarians who will make the same pledge.

Mr. Mackey disagrees. He dumped half his stock right before he published that op-ed. He obviously thought a boycott might happen and might hurt him. But hey, McArdle shouldn't let that stop her from giving money to a store that she thinks is inferior and overpriced. I'm sure she will enjoy her mediocre food even more under the circumstances, since it will be flavored with yummy spite.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I've finally added an e-mail address on the left.

Friday, August 14, 2009

PHaRMA Wants Health Insurance Reform Also

Supposedly out of fear for the future health and well-being of Americans, Megan McArdle has tirelessly worked to oppose any reform of health insurance. She has declared that it will set the US on a slippery slope towards national health, which she says would destroy drug company innovation. She states without giving any proof that 80% of drug company profits come from the US and that the drug companies won't be able to come up with new drugs or medical innovations if the government takes over health insurance. As she has done so many times before, with Iraq and elections and public policy, she depended on her own beliefs and prejudices to provide the basis for her thought processes instead of facts and reason. Consequently she didn't think to ask any of the right questions, including one very important one--what do the drug companies think?

If she had, she might have found this letter, published in the Delaware Voice and written by the president of AstraZeneca US, or this article written by Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of PHaRMA . Both are on the home page of PHaRMA's website. They are very clearly in favor of national health insurance, which presumably would increase the number of people who could buy medications. They also seem concerned by the diminishing returns and soaring cost of research. Tauzin mentions the area of biosimilars, a promising but incredibly expensive field of research that uses living matter to find cures for diseases. (I assume he is talking about such things as stem cell therapy, which developed from research done by Canadians.)

If the drug companies are not afraid of losing all their profits and are for health insurance reform, why isn't McArdle? She has no more excuses to offer.

(Note--One of McArdle's commenters pointed out PHaRMA's viewpoint earlier. McArdle has not responded to him at this time.)


Like many other pundits with good employer-provided health insurance, Megan McArdle has decided the rest of the country cannot have any type of national health care or insurance. She has given many reasons: rationing will kill your granny, drug companies need to charge the US more to subsidize drugs for the rest of the world, the government will wrap its claws around you and take away your dessert, the government is incapable of implementing any programs successfully, and it will destroy Medicare and Medicaid and raise taxes for everyone. She wavers on which aspect is most important--she said it was public choice theory, then she said it was giving the government a greater role in health care markets, and now she says it is drug company innovation. It's obvious that she is just throwing everything out and seeing what sticks and she can't give a logical, fact-based argument because she doesn't have one. McArdle can gin up fear and throw out bad information however, and for weeks she has been doing just that. Let's take a look at her latest effort, about innovation.

McArdle finally narrows down her argument against government-run health care to one and only one issue: it will destroy innovation, because high US drug prices pay for drug companies' research and development of new drugs and medical procedures.
I'm fundamentally worried about a utilitarian calculus. As long as I think that single-payer will fundamentally depress innovation, I'll remain opposed.

Profits are the pull on the overwhelming majority of the innovation that actually results in a new drug or piece of equipment--not a good target, not an intriguing idea, but something you can actually use on a patient....

Critics of our system say that it is horribly wasteful and inefficient. I quite agree. But innovation is horribly wasteful and inefficient. It's quite common for drug researchers at mean-old profit-oriented pharma to go their entire lives without working on a drug that actually makes it past Phase III trials and into patients. Those kinds of crazy bets are exactly the kind of thing that the centralized, rational, efficient systems that progressives like to build (or at least, dream of building) have the hardest time allowing. And when such systems do make start spending big, they don't tend to get made where the biggest market is--i.e. the most patients with the strongest demand. Instead the decisions are political: which disease has the best organized interest group to lobby the government?

Those are just inherent qualities of a government system. They're the qualities of the systems that progressives lionize in government--the reason that othercountriesspendless. I acknowledge that it can work very well as long as there are some irrational, decentralized, uncontrolled countries in the mix figuring out how to deliver the technology you'll eventually use, for the same reason that a really surprisingly large number of children can forego vaccination without risking disease. But at this point, the US is the only country left providing a hefty incentive for inventing new treatments. If we stop, the whole world suffers, and we along with it. So for all the many bad points about our system, for now, I'd like to stick with it.

It has been pointed out to McArdle that six of the top ten drug companies are European, the US market is only part of the world market for drugs, the US should not have to subsidize any other country's innovation needs, European companies also innovate, US drug innovation and spending on R&D are decreasing, the government funds a tremendous amount of research that is the basis for much of the drug companies' "innovation," and drug companies are mainly innovating by re-working old drugs, but these facts do not change her views. McArdle states 80-90% of European drug companies' profits come from the US and the US provides almost all medical innovation, and therefore we can't have health insurance reform or national health care.

Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, has debunked these excuses, as have others.
In the past two years, we have started to see, for the first time, the beginnings of public resistance to rapacious pricing and other dubious practices of the pharmaceutical industry. It is mainly because of this resistance that drug companies are now blanketing us with public relations messages. And the magic words, repeated over and over like an incantation, are research, innovation, and American. Research. Innovation. American. It makes a great story.

But while the rhetoric is stirring, it has very little to do with reality. First, research and development (R&D) is a relatively small part of the budgets of the big drug companies—dwarfed by their vast expenditures on marketing and administration, and smaller even than profits. In fact, year after year, for over two decades, this industry has been far and away the most profitable in the United States. (In 2003, for the first time, the industry lost its first-place position, coming in third, behind "mining, crude oil production," and "commercial banks.") The prices drug companies charge have little relationship to the costs of making the drugs and could be cut dramatically without coming anywhere close to threatening R&D.

Second, the pharmaceutical industry is not especially innovative. As hard as it is to believe, only a handful of truly important drugs have been brought to market in recent years, and they were mostly based on taxpayer-funded research at academic institutions, small biotechnology companies, or the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The great majority of "new" drugs are not new at all but merely variations of older drugs already on the market....

Third, the industry is hardly a model of American free enterprise. To be sure, it is free to decide which drugs to develop (me-too drugs instead of innovative ones, for instance), and it is free to price them as high as the traffic will bear, but it is utterly dependent on government-granted monopolies—in the form of patents and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved exclusive marketing rights. If it is not particularly innovative in discovering new drugs, it is highly innovative—and aggressive—in dreaming up ways to extend its monopoly rights.

And there is nothing peculiarly American about this industry. It is the very essence of a global enterprise. Roughly half of the largest drug companies are based in Europe. (The exact count shifts because of mergers.) In 2002, the top ten were the American companies Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Wyeth (formerly American Home Products); the British companies GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca; the Swiss companies Novartis and Roche; and the French company Aventis (which in 2004 merged with another French company, Sanafi Synthelabo, putting it in third place).[5] All are much alike in their operations. All price their drugs much higher here than in other markets.

Since the United States is the major profit center, it is simply good public relations for drug companies to pass themselves off as American, whether they are or not. It is true, however, that some of the European companies are now locating their R&D operations in the United States. They claim the reason for this is that we don't regulate prices, as does much of the rest of the world. But more likely it is that they want to feed on the unparalleled research output of American universities and the NIH. In other words, it's not private enterprise that draws them here but the very opposite—our publicly sponsored research enterprise....

People need to know that there are some checks and balances on this industry, so that its quest for profits doesn't push every other consideration aside. But there aren't such checks and balances.

A study done by Ralph Nader's Public Citizen's Congress Watch in 2003 had similar findings:
One of the biggest controversies swirling around the drug industry goes beyond its high prices and huge revenues to the question of what pharmaceuticals do with all their money. Financial reports show that the companies plow far more money into profits than into research and development. Consider:

--As a whole, Fortune 500 drug companies channeled 17% of income into profits last year. Yet they spent just 14.1 % of revenue on R&D.

--Specifically, seven 0f the nine profitable Fortune 500 drug companies devoted more of their revenue to profits than to R&D.

The drug industry contends that it needs extraordinary profits, built on high prices, to fund expensive and risky R&D. Ironically, when some analysts contemplate the future of the industry, their greatest concern is large pharmaceutical companies' over-reliance on advertising and marketing of existing drugs-especially their "blockbusters"-and their failure to keep enough innovative drugs in the research pipeline.

In Pharmacetical Innovation, edited by Frank A. Sloan and Chee-Ruey Hsieh, the editors repeat the same information; drug innovation has greatly slowed, the "free" market is heavily weighed towards drug companies, and drug companies are increasing profits tremendously through advertising and other tactics such as outsourcing drug manufacture to China and other places, not just through innovation.

McArdle expects her audience to accept her statements as fact and does not support them with evidence. All drug companies depend on the US's high prices to create most new medical innovation and we can just take her word for it. But McArdle is not alone in clinging to her Pharma-friendly beliefs. She can rest easy knowing that Rick Santorum also believes the exact same thing and will back up everything she says with the power of his personal beliefs as well.
"You look at any other place around the world that has gone to a more socialized version of healthcare [and you find that] the government doesn't pay for innovation and quality," the former senator says. "It pays for quantity. It pays for trying to cover as many people with the cheapest available technology. This will dramatically stifle innovation in our country."

America, says Santorum, is where most innovative medicine is conducted because the market rewards excellence and innovation.

And who can argue with the Free Market Fairy?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The libertarian world of our pundit class is by definition an imaginary world, which cannot exist outside the heads of its believers. It is freedom without responsibility and without cost. Since that happy state can't exist, libertarianism is just a pleasant mental fantasy of an eternal upper-class adolescence, when they paid for everything with Dad's credit card and had nothing to do but show up at private school. Now they don't want to pay taxes and they don't want to work to make their world better, they just want to coast on someone else's dime and go out for drinks.

Nothing else is real to them because reality interferes with the happy fantasy. Megan McArdle's father had jobs in public works, privatized public works, and lobbying. He worked on government sanitation projects, so McArdle knows that the government can succeed in its endeavors. McArdle knows that money buys advantage and there is no free market. McArdle was hired by her father and his contacts and she knows that the world is not a meritocracy. McArdle knows that private companies can be corrupt and wasteful. None of this matters--it doesn't even exist for her because nothing has to be real in her world. She simply believes what she wants to believe, whatever flatters her idea of herself and helps her live with herself. It's what authoritarians do to survive. Some turn to God, some to politics, some to hate-mongering, but they all are driven by forces they don't know exist. Their advice is erratic and often wrong, their morals are flexible, and their overwhelming desire to be liked and praised regardless of merit makes them utterly unreliable.


Megan McArdle discusses whether or not a married woman should change her name. We do not care.

McArdle forgets the existence of Japan and the temporary nature of stimulus. She says, 'I'm not sure what we just went through validates any reasonable philosophy of government, except "give officials room to make ad-hoc decisions, and hope they don't do too badly."' In other words, the Democrats were not implementing a plan based on policy, they just got lucky. She had the same excuse with Iraq; she was wrong but was really right because she just had a cognitive bias, while the left was right but was really wrong because they were just knee-jerk anti-war and happened to get lucky and be against a bad war. Since McArdle's judgement is so flawed and I believe that any attempts at repair are too late, I don't care about this post either.

There are a dozen more crap posts after that which we'll just skip altogether. Finally there is another post by Ellen Ruppel Shell, who at last begins to understand the depth of the depravity inside the typical upper-middle class conservative American. You could see the inevitable disillusionment coming a mile ahead, but it's still a shame.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The multitude of stupid out there in the health care discussion is beyond belief and utterly debilitating. This nation is simply too stupid to survive and I can't deal with any more today. Megan McArdle states that my children and I can't have national health care because she thinks the government will kill off people through rationing. I don't agree with her and I think there is more evidence that supports my side than hers, namely, Europe. But reason and evidence don't matter any more--stupid will win the day.

I believe that the economy is far worse off than people want to admit and that we will be permanently poorer; at least, some of us will. We will degenerate further into violence and ignorance until we are so badly off that at last the ignorant and stupid are marginalize, something I can't imagine ever happening at this point. I don't expect an apocalypse or a return to 1800s bucolic splendor; I think we'll just gradually get poorer and poorer, while telling ourselves that everyone else in the world has it much worse whether it is true or not.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shorter Megan McArdle

Freaks and Geeks

Ross Douthat is a religious fundamentalist. It's difficult to believe that a man who is presumably sophisticated enough to make it through Harvard has a Bible-based view of the world, but he does. We can see where he obtained his practice of mealy-mouthed whimpering about smaller and smaller sins and religious issues but it doesn't excuse his actions. If life were a Monty Python sketch, Douthat would be the pet store owner, his religion would be the dead parrot, and the rest of the world would be the dead parrot's unfortunate owner. There's no point in reasoning with someone who has absolutely no intention of admitting he sold a dead parrot to fellow conservatives.
It’s been a melancholy summer for social conservatives. Their movement is fighting a rearguard battle in Barack Obama’s Washington. A cluster of family-values politicians — some of whom bunked down in the same Christian-sponsored D.C. townhouse — have spent the last few months confessing to extramarital affairs. And Sarah Palin ... well, you know how that’s turned out so far.

It's funny how the words "adultery" and "lose" are left out of this lament. Sarah Palin is greedy and not very bright. McCain could have picked someone less greedy and more intelligent, but--surprise!--McCain is greedy and not bright enough as well. Sixty percent of Republicans aren't sure or don't believe the evidence that President Obama is American. They are either too stupid to believe evidence or deliberately stupid so they will not have to question their beliefs. Conservatives are, understandably, very upset at being told that they are stupid, but since they can't change they can't learn and are forced to repeat their mistakes into infinity. When you won't let yourself learn from experience because it makes you feel bad about yourself you don't become smarter or wiser or more experienced or more tolerant. You stay stupid.

Speaking of the stupid:
Worst of all, nobody likes Judd Apatow’s new movie.

Don’t laugh. No contemporary figure has done more than Apatow, the 41-year-old auteur of gross-out comedies, to rebrand social conservatism for a younger generation that associates it primarily with priggishness and puritanism. No recent movie has made the case for abortion look as self-evidently awful as “Knocked Up,” Apatow’s 2007 keep-the-baby farce. No movie has made saving — and saving, and saving — your virginity seem as enviable as “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” whose closing segue into connubial bliss played like an infomercial for True Love Waits.

“We make extremely right-wing movies with extremely filthy dialogue,” Seth Rogen, Apatow’s favorite leading man, told an interviewer during the promotional blitz for “Knocked Up.” He was half-joking, of course, and it’s safe to say that you won’t see Apatow and his merry men at the next Christian Coalition fundraiser. But the one-liner got something important right. By marrying raunch and moralism, Apatow’s movies have done the near impossible: They’ve made an effectively conservative message about relationships and reproduction seem relatable, funny, down-to-earth and even sexy.

Aptow believes that loving his wife and valuing his family make him conservative. So does Douthat. That's a very self-flattering portrayal which just happens to leave out everything in Aptow's movies that conservatives see as signs of the Apocalypse: premarital sex, drug use, profanity, divorce, homosexuality, and an almost complete lack of religion in the lives of its characters. But hey, the main characters in the movies marry in the end (and when do they ever do that in Hollywood movies?), so the movies are conservative--as long as you ignore reality.

But there's a liberal snake in the garden, and it's dragging good conservatives straight to Hell.
More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.

In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us.

Douthat's recommendation is, of course, more social shaming and punishment for moral transgressions. That's always his answer and that attitude plainly reveals his fundamental viewpoint: We are sinners and must be punished. This is a strangely un-Christian attitude. Jesus died for others' sins so they would not suffer. Douthat's Catholicism has a system of repentance and punishment for dealing with sins. Yet that's not enough for him. He wants his entire society to be as obsessed as he with sin and guilt and fear. He wants every facet of society to reinforce everything he believes, like all fundamentalists. He wants his personal view to be vindicated and triumphed at all times, and he has managed to convince The New York Freaking Times to do this for him. It's like hiring Jonah Goldberg as the president of Harvard or Megan McArdle as chief of the Fed. It's utterly inexcusable and ought to be an intellectual scandal.
With “Funny People,” though, Apatow is offering a more realistic morality play. This time, doing the right thing has significant costs — but you have to do it anyway. This time, doing the wrong things for too long has significant consequences — and you have to live with them. It’s the first Apatow film in which love doesn’t conquer all. And it’s the first Apatow film in which you get punished for your sins.

In that sense, “Funny People” is the most conservative of all his movies. That’s probably what American audiences don’t like about it. But it’s what makes this film his best work yet.

Aptow grew up the unhappy child of divorce and made two movies about lonely people who long for families. Wanting a family and wanting to be a good spouse and parent is not solely a conservative desire, and it's vain and self-indulgent to declare that only your tribe is moral or has good values. Somehow Douthat manages to ignore those sins while looking for others.