Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, November 19, 2012

You'll Be Sorry

It seems that someone is staying up past his bedtime again and is vewy, vewy, cwoss. Little Master Douthat hitches up his pants, sticks out his fleshy, quivering lower lip, and lets out a steady, high-pitched whine, because all the other kids are being mean to him. At least, that is what he tells The New York Times his Mummy when he runs home to tattle.
Winning an election doesn’t just offer the chance to govern the country. It offers a chance to feel morally and intellectually superior to the party you’ve just beaten.

 Sorry, Ross. Thanks to the cluster of f*uck that was the George W. Bush Administration, the right no longer gets to get up on its high horse when it comes to any behavior whatsoever. No matter how hideously liberals might behave (in reality or in Douthat's imagination), the right did it first and did worse. Remember "We have a mandate," Ross? "Elections have consequences"? We sure do, and we are not about to listen to moral scoldings from the morally and intellectually corrupt.
This is an inescapable aspect of democratic culture: no matter what reason tells us about the vagaries of politics, something in the American subconscious assumes that the voice of the people really is the voice of God, and that being part of a winning coalition must be a sign that you’re His chosen one as well.

 Perhaps it's the way every US politicians encases each speech in a thick, sickly-sweet, viscous coating of Jello God blesses. God bless the American people, God bless the US, God bless our endeavors, blah blah blah. Evidently God hates foreigners because according to the US he routinely blesses our wars as well.  It's very odd that nobody thanks God when he blessed us with Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Ike and Rita, but maybe the drone-blessed Pakistanis are doing that for us while we are cleaning up our mess and burying our dead.

This means the losing coalition must be doomed to wander east of Eden, and liberals have been having a good time with this idea of late. “Those poor, benighted Republicans!” runs the subtext of their postelection commentary. “They can’t read polls! They can’t reach Hispanics! They don’t understand women! They don’t have a team of Silicon Valley sorcerers running their turnout operations!”

Actually, they can't, they can't, they can't, and they don't. Pointing out the sad truth is not triumph, it's pointing out the truth. Which is something that many conservatives are doing as well, in the hope that they will come back to power in their lifetimes. Liberals spent months pointing out that the Republicans were fooling themselves but the fools never listened. It's not our fault they're fools, and if some people happen to point and laugh, well, they asked for it didn't they?
Back in 2011, the Obama White House earned some mild mockery for its “win the future” slogan. But now that the president has been re-elected, the liberal conventional wisdom is that the Democrats have done just that — that Republicans are now Radio Shack to their Apple store, “The Waltons” to their “Modern Family,” a mediocre Norman Rockwell to their digital-age mosaic.  
Maybe it’s too soon to pierce this cloud of postelection smugness. But in the spirit of friendly correction — or, O.K., maybe curmudgeonly annoyance — let me point out some slightly more unpleasant truths about the future that liberalism seems to be winning.
You'll be sorry, oh yes you will, liberals. You think you're so cool and hip and modern when you're really just giant poopy-heads and you'll be very, very sorry when your giant poopy-headedness ruins everything for everybody! Poop!
Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it’s just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear.  
Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America’s tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they’re also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.

You think you're all so smart and nice and friendly but you'll be sorry when all those people you want to help need help! Because Hispanic girls are sluts and have lots of babies and Hispanic boys are stoopid and drop out of school and how can a poor, uneducated Hispanic person get a job? They might end up doing physical labor such as building houses and office buildings or landscaping, or become maids and nannies. And that would be a terrible shock if they degenerated to that point, wouldn't it?
Likewise with the growing number of unmarried Americans, especially unmarried women. Yes, social issues like abortion help explain why these voters lean Democratic. But the more important explanation is that single life is generally more insecure and chaotic than married life, and single life with children — which is now commonplace for women under 30 — is almost impossible to navigate without the support the welfare state provides.

And speaking of sluts, what about single women, who sometimes have babies and therefore chaos and insecurity? Do you want to support them too? Because single mothers never marry and never support themselves and are utterly incapable of taking care of their children, forcing good, goodly married men like Ross Douthat to support them instead! If Douthat wanted to support a bunch of children he would have sex, which he won't, so he doesn't have to!
Or consider the secular vote, which has been growing swiftly and tilts heavily toward Democrats. The liberal image of a non-churchgoing American is probably the “spiritual but not religious” seeker, or the bright young atheist reading Richard Dawkins. But the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general.

You know, I think I'm detecting a theme here: jobs. People need jobs to support themselves and their kids. Jobs lead to all sorts of things like order and self-sufficiency and morality. Perhaps we might think about that and maybe even do something to help Americans find those elusive, necessary things. Or we can shame and persecute them instead, the proudly conservative way.
What unites all of these stories is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible.  
This is a crisis that the Republican Party often badly misunderstands, casting Democratic-leaning voters as lazy moochers or spoiled children seeking “gifts” (as a certain former Republican presidential nominee would have it) rather than recognizing the reality of their economic struggles.  
But if conservatives don’t acknowledge the crisis’s economic component, liberalism often seems indifferent to its deeper social roots. The progressive bias toward the capital-F Future, the old left-wing suspicion of faith and domesticity, the fact that Democrats have benefited politically from these trends — all of this makes it easy for liberals to just celebrate the emerging America, to minimize the costs of disrupted families and hollowed-out communities, and to treat the places where Americans have traditionally found solidarity outside the state (like the churches threatened by the Obama White House’s contraceptive mandate) as irritants or threats.

Little Master Douthat is beginning to blubber, with big, soapy spit-bubbles floating out like in a cartoon. Democrats are never people of faith,  never members of a community, never part of a family. The Democratic way is one of dependence, chaos and immorality, because Douthat says so. All virtue belong to Republicans, except maybe that whole helping your fellow man thing that Jesus kept going on about but that doesn't count because the Bible says God helps those who help themselves. Okay, the Bible doesn't actually say that, but Douthat says that in the book he wrote and just happens to have right here for the low, low price of $13.98, which makes it the next best thing.
This is a great flaw in the liberal vision, because whatever role government plays in prosperity, transfer payments are not a sufficient foundation for middle-class success. It’s not a coincidence that the economic era that many liberals pine for — the great, egalitarian post-World War II boom — was an era that social conservatives remember fondly as well: a time of leaping church attendance, rising marriage rates and birthrates, and widespread civic renewal and engagement.

And here is where Douthat depends on the chance that you didn't go to Harvard like him and therefore must never have heard of the New Deal. Nor Social Security and Medicare, which helped older people become self-sufficient and therefore less of a burden on their children, which can only improve family cohesiveness.  Or the GI housing and education bills, which created a large middle class that lived in their own stable neighborhoods.
No such renewal seems to be on the horizon. That isn’t a judgment on the Obama White House, necessarily. But it is a judgment on a certain kind of blithe liberal optimism, and the confidence with which many Democrats assume their newly emerged majority is a sign of progress rather than decline.
Boo-hoo, Douthat sobs. Liberals will be sorry they won in the future, when the safety net they fought for is available for the people who need it and power is shared with immigrants, women, and the poor. For when wealthy white males lose power it means civilization is declining, dog and cats are living together, and Ross Douthat might actually have to succeed on his own merits.

God forbid!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


For political parties and the people who depend on them for a sense of belonging, there will never be a time to challenge, criticize or threaten their leader. From an article at the Huffington Post.
President Barack Obama made a direct, personal appeal to 30,000 of his top campaign activists on Tuesday night, asking them to stay involved in politics and to continue pressuring Republicans during upcoming tax and budget negotiations.
"I'm so proud of what you guys accomplished and I will always be in awe and inspired by what you've done," the president said on the call, which the Huffington Post listened to. "So that's the good news. The bad news is our work can't stop now. Because as we learned in the first term, in some ways an election is just the beginning. It is not the end point. It is a means to a goal and that is to actually help families all across the country."
Note that he does not speak of rewarding them for their hard work; his career successes are their rewards. Leaders believe that followers owe them, they do not owe their followers.

Obama is extremely shrewd and he knows how to manipulate people. His statement that he must cut "entitlements" or the Republicans will do it instead is one example of this and the above statement is another. He wants to keep activists' focus on what Republicans are doing instead of what he is doing.
The president, speaking from a White House phone, cautioned listeners to expect disappointments during his second term. As he has in the past, Obama warned that he was prepared to swallow some bitter pills during the negotiations, including some that would agitate the base.
"As we move forward there are going to be new wrinkles and new frustrations, we can't predict them yet," he said. "We are going to have some triumphs and some successes, but there are going to be some tough days, starting with some of these negotiations around the fiscal cliff that you probably read about, making sure that our tax system is fair. So we are going to need you guys to stay active. We need you to stick with us and stay on this."
What he means, of course, is that he needs the people who helped him get reelected to keep the rest of the Democratic party in line when they are told to accept cuts in the safety net.
But with the sour, he promised some sweets. Obama said that his White House would be more effective at community engagement. He pledged to have his team give more "clear directions and talking points in terms of how we keep mobilizing across the country." He also said that he planned to spend more time outside of the nation's capital during the next four years.
"One of my pledges for a second term is to get out of Washington more often because it is just good for my soul," said Obama.
The "sweets" are not Democratic principles and programs, they are hints that activists will actually be able to see Obama in person. Perhaps even take their picture with him! Who knows? What greater reward for selling out our elderly can one ask?
The president's comments -- the most explicit push yet for campaign volunteers to continue their election-type engagement -- came during a conference call organized by what remains of the Obama campaign. Mitch Stewart, one of Obama's top campaign aides, told listeners they would be outfitted with activist tools for the critical weeks of negotiations ahead. Stewart also revealed that some campaign staffers remained in Obama's Chicago reelection headquarters, crunching data to figure which community activist tools had worked during the election.
"As the president said, our work is not done," said Stewart. "We are never going to stop trying to be better. And there are important lessons to be learned from" the election. "There is an immediate need around the fiscal cliff that people can start to engage on," Stewart said.
Obama's priority is attacking the deficit, a non-existent problem. It is an excuse to cut Democratic programs, which will be immediately used against them by Republicans. After Obama is out of office.
The president's call to the cavalry will be welcome news to Democrats who complained Obama reverted to an inside game during his first term. Equipped with an email list of 13 million activists and more devoted followers, Obama spent much of his first four years trying to move legislation through backroom negotiations.
Of course he did. The activists were no longer necessary so they were shut out of any legislation. Now that they are needed again they are activated again.
Tuesday night's conference call suggests more of a reliance on an outside game approach -- something that the campaign has hinted it would do. In an early November conference call with Democratic-leaning reporters, Jeremy Bird, the president's top grassroots organizer, explained that the campaign was specifically constructed to be "long-lasting."
Here is the game approach they are using:

It will last as long as it is needed and then the backroom negotiations will recommence.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pride and Prejudice

Eww. There's something nasty crawling on my computer screen. Why, I do believe it is a Megan McArdle column about affirmative action. Thankfully the ACLU is very experienced in combating deeply inbred prejudice and can do the job of dredging this fetid swamp for me.

Put on your hazmat suit, folks. We're going in.
Continuing on yesterday's demographic theme, I've seen a fair number of people--including conservatives--arguing that the GOP needs to tack to the right on immigration in order to bring socially conservative latinos [sic] into their base. Since I'm in favor of more immigration, I would welcome that. But politically, I doubt it's sound strategic advice. As Heather MacDonald points out, Latino voters do not vote 100%, or even primarily, on immigration.
McArdle is linking to a National Review article, which is humiliating in and of itself. National Review gave us such gems as grossly racist and sexist John Derbyshire, vacuous twit and Jesus-humper Kathryn Jean Lopez, and libertarian economics writer Veronique De Rugy, who is wrong even more often than McArdle, if such a thing is humanly possible. The article itself is neither offensive nor ignorant but McArdle's reliance on such venues for intellectual support is very revealing of her point of view, and hopefully, her future employment.
They are heavy users of government services and generally fairly fiscally liberal. It seems more likely than not that the GOP would be supporting a drive to make millions of more Democratic voters, at least in the short term. The GOP strategists may well reckon that they are better off holding the line and letting assimilation bring latinos [sic] over onto their side.
McArdle, like many conservatives, assumes that Latinos will become more conservative as they become farther removed from the immigrant experience, despite the fact that she just said McDonald's article says the opposite. From the latter's article:
A March 2011 poll by Moore Information found that Republican economic policies were a stronger turn-off for Hispanic voters in California than Republican positions on illegal immigration. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanic voters were suspicious of the Republican party on class-warfare grounds — “it favors only the rich”; “Republicans are selfish and out for themselves”; “Republicans don’t represent the average person”– compared with 7 percent who objected to Republican immigration stances.
McArdle's hopes are resting on the assumption that everyone is like herself and wants to pull up the ladder after she has gained advantages.
Nor do I see the case for tacking left on affirmative action. I'm agnostic on affirmative action as a policy matter:it's an unjust way of rectifying a deep injustice.
Then she's not agnostic, is she? This is merely another attempt to seem fair-minded and avoid responsibility for her words, which otherwise might have some troublesome repercussions. Verily, there is nothing more unjust than being just! Affirmative action is only unjust if minorities are not disadvantaged in an historically WASP society. Let's hear from the ACLU:
From the end of the Civil War up until the middle of the 20th century, discrimination in many forms was a pillar of the American way of life. No laws protected racial minorities and women from biased employers, who were free to pass over a black worker in favor of a white worker or to reserve better paying jobs for white men only. Women were even barred by law from various jobs and professions.
I saw a television show from the early sixties (The Fugitive) that showed a man looking at want ads. There were separate columns for jobs for women and jobs for men. Without affirmative action McArdle would be teaching English in high school, or, more likely, teaching in an elementary school until she married, at which time she might be fired since before the Pill it was assumed that married women would become pregnant and quit.

What about now, in what conservatives say is a post-racial society?
Despite setbacks, the legal edifice of discrimination is gone, and the participation of minorities and women in the life of the nation has increased substantially. Nonetheless, stark inequalities remain.  
Women earn 55 to 75 percent of men's salaries.  
Many Latino and Asian workers face bias because they look or sound "foreign," according to a report published by the federal General Accounting Office. Stricter immigration laws have also triggered discrimination by employers, who, presuming that Latinos or Asian Americans are illegal aliens, often refuse to hire them.  
The face of poverty is disproportionately female and nonwhite. For example, 70 percent of black women hold "typically female," low wage jobs.  
The federal Commission on the Cities, convened in 1988, found that today's poor are poorer, and have less chance of escaping poverty, than 20 years ago.  
One third of all African American, and one fourth of all Latino, families live in poverty, compared to one tenth of white families. Native Americans remain the most impoverished minority in North America. Their communities are plagued with disproportionately high rates of unemployment, infant mortality, alcoholism and suicide. 
The unemployment rate for racial minorities is double that of whites.  
One in four African American males is in prison, on parole or on probation more than are in college.  
The ACLU believes that even though no single measure can eradicate discrimination, affirmative action remains a moral imperative and an indispensable strategy for giving those disadvantaged by discrimination a temporary leg up. In addition, the unique diversity of its human resource pool gives our nation enormous potential for developing solutions to all the problems it confronts in education, criminal justice, childcare and affordable housing, to name a few. The key to maximizing that potential is an end to discrimination and fulfillment of the Constitution's promise of freedom and equality, so that all Americans can have a chance to live productively and contribute to society.
My goodness, affirmative action sure is unjust and unnecessary!

And it's far from clear to me that on net it's good for the students who are admitted.
That's because McArdle assumes affirmative action recipients are inferior to white applicants.

Q: Don't affirmative action remedies force firms to employ unqualified workers, or universities to accept incompetent students, simply because they happen to be nonwhite or female?  
A: Absolutely not. Affirmative action has never been about hiring or admitting people solely because of their color or sex, without concern for any other factors. Affirmative action guidelines urge employers to make a sincere effort to find and train qualified people who have historically experienced exclusion from many occupations and professions. Or they urge universities to enhance their recruitment methods in order to find qualified African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American students, who generally have far less access to higher education than whites.  
In addition, employers are asked to drop "qualifications" that are unrelated to a job, but that have had the effect of excluding certain people. Such irrelevant standards include: requiring applicants for manual labor jobs to have high school degrees; experience requirements that largely disqualify women who apply for traditionally male jobs like truck driving, and tests requiring high proficiency in English that screen out people for whom English is a second language. For example, in 1990 some Cambodian immigrants charged that several industrial employers in the vicinity of Lowell, Massachusetts imposed English language based tests and high school diploma requirements for manual labor positions, among other arbitrary standards, to avoid hiring Cambodian applicants. Affirmative action policies that have challenged employers and schools to bring their standards into stricter line with the actual skill requirements of jobs and educational programs have reduced discrimination and made hiring and admissions processes fairer for all.  
Finally, it must be said that the widespread juxtaposition of affirmative action with "unqualified" itself reflects the pervasiveness of racial and sexual stereotypes in our society. Studies have shown that women and people of color, just by virtue of who they are, are automatically assumed to be less competent than white males for any task. This presumption of inferiority is so entrenched that even a woman or person of color who is actually more qualified is often perceived as being less so. Only by increasing diversity in American workplaces and on campuses will such stereotyping die out.
But that's rather beside the point, because it's a policy for a minority-minority country. In a nation where minorities are the majority of students, it's just ethnic quotas. Indeed, that's already somewhat the case; my understanding is that most of the extra spaces that go to black and latino [sic] students are taken from Asians, not whites.
McArdle is, as usual, incoherent when she claims affirmative action takes education spots from Asians and gives them to other minorities. Using McArdle's reasoning, without affirmative action high-performing Asians would take spots from whites, since McArdle obviously assumes other minorities are low performers. "My understanding is" is such a convenient phrase for those who don't think.

Q: Isn't affirmative action essentially a quota system?  
A: Not at all. Calling it a "quota system" distorts the reality of both what affirmative action intends and how it actually works. Affirmative action, which simply takes race and sex into account, is in some cases a legal remedy applied to a specific case of discriminatory exclusion, and in others a compensatory opportunity that an institution or employer provides voluntarily and temporarily to members of groups disadvantaged by discrimination.  
When a court orders an affirmative action plan as a legal remedy, it usually does so only after proof that persistent discrimination has resulted in total or near total exclusion of racial minorities or women, and only after other methods of achieving equality have failed.  
For example, in the 1974 case of Morrow v. Crisler, a federal court ordered the Mississippi Highway Patrol to make the hiring ratio of whites to blacks more equal. At the time, African Americans were 36.7 percent of the state population, yet not one black officer served on the Patrol. In 1979, the underrepresentation of Asian Americans on the San Francisco police force prompted a lawsuit that resulted in court ordered goals and timetables for hiring officers who could speak both English and Chinese. In both cases, the courts' decisions came only after the hiring practices were found to be discriminatory, and only after other, voluntary measures for promoting equality had proved ineffective.  
In cases where discrimination has been found to be extreme, the only reasonable way of remedying it is to set numerical goals that can reasonably be met within a prescribed period of time. Such goals, in effect, estimate the circumstance that would most likely prevail were there no discrimination. Seeking to discredit affirmative action, some critics insist on equating these remedial goals with "quotas." That equation is utterly false. The truth is that such goals are flexible, temporary and are remedial instruments of inclusion, while quotas are fixed, intended to be permanent and were used historically to exclude members of some ethnic groups from jobs and education.  
When used as a compensatory opportunity, affirmative action provides broad opportunities to racial minorities and women to make up for disadvantages they have long suffered because of discrimination. Universities and employers are asked to make an extra effort to seek out applicants whom they would not likely find through traditional methods of recruitment. Compensatory affirmative action sometimes means that a qualified candidate from a disadvantaged group is chosen instead of a candidate who is white and/or male.  
Affirmative action is only one method and not a perfect method of fighting a multifaceted, difficult problem. But the ACLU believes that affirmative action is a fair and moral remedy for institutionalized racism and sexism that must be used on an interim basis, where appropriate, if we are serious about achieving an equitable society.
So what should a new Republican politics for a majority-minority nation look like? I'm not sure. But I am fairly sure that future GOP platform will not look like current Democratic politics. And for that matter, neither will the future Democratic policies.
She hopes. But as we all know, McArdle's prognostication powers, not to mention intellectual powers, are a little weak, and conservatives' habit of basing one's political analysis on prejudice and ignorance is one of the reasons why we just elected President Obama, not Mitt Romney.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Always Wrong, Etc.

Shorter Megan McArdle: There are no villains so why regulate the markets?

Money quote:

 Neither markets nor government are perfectible; the best we're going to get is ones that work pretty well most of the time. In 2005, everyone--homebuyers, bankers, regulators, legislators--was making essentially the same mistake. And while it's more comfortable to believe that this was malevolent, the more prosaic truth is probably that sometimes large groups of people get stuff badly wrong. We can't plan our way to a risk free system. The best we can do is a system that fails a little bit better. 
Inded. Since we can't eliminate risk, let's eliminate regulations!

Bonus in the comments: Moral hazard does not apply to bankers.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stupidly Evil or Evilly Stupid?

Megan McArdle explains the economy to us.
The other reason you shouldn't expect much in the way of radical new plans [after the election] is that we are now officially out of money. The recession is still grinding down tax revenues, and the bills for long-promised entitlements are coming due. There's no cash in the till for big tax cuts or new spending. And while there might be some shift in emphasis as to how we ultimately resolve our budget crunch, Obama does not have negotiating room to raise it all with a massive tax on Warren Buffett, and Romney is hardly going to get much support for turning Social Security into a free coupon for half-priced beverages at Denny's. The zone of possible agreement is actually pretty small, and either man is going to find himself stuck with a solution that neither he, nor you, will very much like.

You see, there is a till and when it is empty America has run out of money. It's not like we can just "print" more.

McArdle has to be lying; she cannot possibly be ignorant of monetary sovereignty.

Can she?

It's Mine, All Mine!

The 1% will never have enough.
Goldman Sachs has dropped 33 partners since it last disclosed the number of elite bankers at the firm, according to regulatory filings. Being a Goldman partner is one of the most coveted positions on Wall Street, unlocking access to a lucrative compensation scheme on top of the prestige the title holds. The bank's partners own more than 11% of shares between them, valued at more than $6bn (£3.7bn). But as Goldman looks to slash costs, it has cut partners. According to the outgoing chief financial officer, David Viniar, up to 20% of Goldman partners typically leave every two years. High-profile partners including David Heller and Ed Eisler, two co-heads of Goldman's securities business, and Lucas Van Praag, the bank's long-time communications chief, have left the bank. Some partners appear to have chosen to drop their coveted status in favour of retaining their jobs. Since the end of 2010, the bank has cut more than 3,000 employees worldwide as it seeks to reduce annual expenses by $1.9bn.
Gosh, Goldman, Sachs must be hurting. Why else would they cut costs, depriving the 9% of their hard-earned rewards?
Goldman's revenue more than doubled in the previous quarter, to $8.35bn, from $3.59bn during the same period a year ago. It has set aside $10.97bn for compensation this year, up 10% from a year ago. The sum equates to $336,442 per employee, up 15% from $292,836 per worker during the first nine months of 2011.
They will never stop until they have it all.