Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gone Fishing

We will not be hunting for snark today, as we are going camping. If we are not eaten by an alligator we will be back tomorrow.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh, Megan!

In this week's episode of Oh, Megan!, Megan doesn't do her homework and must face the music. Co-starring Matthew Yglesias as the Professor.

Matthew Yglesias: It would be a great idea for the government to cut out the middle man and make more direct student loans.

Megan McArdle: The government is not a bank. Starting a bank is very expensive, so banks should make student loans, not the government.

Commenter: The government already makes student loans.

Megan McArdle: "Yes, I'm aware the government makes direct loans. I'm sure it's lovely. I just don't think it will be particularly cheap to expand."


Wrong, elitist and snide. A trifecta!

Overheard On the Internet

Honey, I know exactly what we'll tell the folks and the neighbors. It's not that we're poorer, we're just, uh, making a lifestyle change!

From the Corner:

Re: I Don't Want To Pay For It (Either) [Steve Hayward]
[yap yap]

[M]y bigger idea is to go all Randian and literally go on
strike (and I've never really been much of a Rand fan, by the way—Whittaker
Chambers had her down right). I'm going to start converting income opportunities
into more leisure by deliberately reducing my income. Already between federal
and state income taxes, self-employment taxes, the AMT, and phased-out dependent
deductions as income rises, I'm at a marginal rate of about 50% on my last
dollars earned from writing or anything else. So it will pay to keep below
Obama's high income threshold. I suspect a lot of self-employed people will make
similar calculations and adjustments, and the revenue yield will be far below
what Obama's people project. Welcome to Europe.

A Note

No matter what Jonah Goldberg is writing about, the shorter version is always, "I know you are but what am I?"

Less Tall Megan

Shorter Megan McArdle: Don't trust what economists tell you. They lie.

Bonus McArdle (Implied): I do not have to back up anything I say with facts.

So why would anyone read her? Besides the chuckles, of course, which I admit are numerous.

Second Shorter, Added: Daddy will save us.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Megan McArdle Wins Prize

Congratulations to Megan McArdle, who won the Warwick Prize for her complex, hip book The Shock Doctrine.

What's that? Naomi Klein wrote The Shock Doctrine? The same Naomi Klein that McArdle said was "completely ignorant" and "economically quasi-literate"? How can it be that McArdle's imaginary rivals get all these huge prizes and McArdle gets nothing?

From the same post, on Klein's interview of Alan Greenspan (Via):

I have to give Alan Greenspan props for doing this. The host is hostile, economically quasi-literate, allows the other guest to act as co-interrogator, interrupts him every time he says anything sensible in a desperate attempt to stop the flow of information, and beats Greenspan with weird & untrue "facts" (the Iraq war has cost trillions) that have nothing to do with his job as chairman of the Federal Reserve. My favorite moment is when Naomi Klein accuses Greenspan of having pursued a crisis of faith in capitalism through his income-inequality producing policies of privatisation, deregulation, and free trade, which is a terrific twofer: not only have none of these things been convincingly linked to income inequality; but also, none of them have anything to do with Alan Greenspan's job at the Federal Reserve Nonetheless, Greenspan a) doesn't point out that she's completely ignorant b) keeps his temper and c) tries to actually explain the problems of income inequality. I doubt I'd be so well behaved.

I, too, doubt it, having seen her blogginheads videos. But the important thing is that I was wrong; McArdle didn't win a prize after all. I deeply regret the error, although I also claim that my reasoning process was flawless and therefore the fault lies with the facts, and not with myself.

We Have A Winner!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Right has somehow, without their knowledge or participation, been stuck with the reputation for being unable to govern. Nobody knows how this occurred. Yesterday the country was booming, with two wars, a surging stock market, and a fat-and-happy populace, driving new cars into their new homes.

But something happened. Nobody knows what, they just know that the world isn't quite as sunny as it used to be. People suddenly have less money and more fear, and Americans hate having less money. They really, really hate having less money. It makes them extraordinarily angry. They elect Republicans over and over to make sure they have more money, not less, yet here they are after many years of unfettered Republicanism, with less money. Someone must be to blame for this extraordinary and totally unforeseen situation.

And so, after some futile attempts to blame liberals and even some Republicans, the true culprit has been found. The person who single-handed brought down the American government has been revealed, in all his hideous glory. The culprit is none other than.........Rush Limbaugh!

Yes, America, Rush Limbaugh is totally to blame for our current situation. When Obama tried to explain his plan for staunching the economic bleeding, Limbaugh said that he hoped Obama failed. Failing liberals normally a good thing for conservatives, who need to be told that they are right and everyone else is wrong, since they can't figure such things out for themselves. But if Obama fails conservatives lose money, and that is a very, very bad thing.

So it's Limbaugh's fault that people are getting poorer. If Bush is blamed all conservatives will look bad. If evangelicals are blamed there will be nobody to pay for or do the menial work for Republicans to get elected. If the brain trust at Cato or the Heritage Foundation or National Review is blamed, there will be nobody to do the thinking for the party. That leaves the media, who naturally can't blame themselves. But there is Limbaugh, sticking his enormous neck out criticizing everyone but his listeners. He's very very rich, which makes him a target now that the base has realized that the trickle-down theory is actually the trickle-up theory. He's getting older and sicker. He's perfect.

This is going to be fun.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Megan McArdle on the crises:

There is a very real possibility that in two or three years, America will be in worse shape than it is now--unemployment in the double digits, GDP down by same, corporate and government budgets peeling apart at the seams.

Really? You think? Sure looks like Republicans can't govern, doesn't it? Too bad you didn't admit this when people were warning the collapse was imminent. You just mocked them instead.

I will be curious to see whether the new armchair empiricists of the left see this as casting any doubt on their central theories, or whether they will simply argue the counterfactual.

This is not implementing Keynesian policies. This is yanking out the diseased cancer cells and hoping the patient will survive long enough to recover. This is triage, and nobody cares whose theories keep the economy alive, except the people who are trying to cover their asses.

It's A Poser

Shorter Right Wing: Why is "Bobby" Jindal running on the Republican platform instead of lying to us and pretending to run on the Republican platform like Reagan used to?

Megan Picks Up A Parasite

Megan McArdle's site appears to have a virus, so we'll stay away until she's de-wormed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Megan Scolds

Megan wags her finger at people who are afraid the housing bust will bring down the entire economy.

Of course, falling house prices make things harder because you can't sell or refinance your way to stability. But unless you just suddenly lost your job--in which case, you probably can't be helped by a workout, because you don't have any income--then it's not reasonable to say that all the information was on the banking side. People knew a lot. They just chose not to think about it.

Bob Altemeyer says the way to neutralize an authority is to have a competing authority. People get confused and give up. There were lots of people confusing the issue, declaring that the situation was simply too complicated to understand. For every Krugman who warned that ARMs were dangerous there was a Megan McArdle claiming that bankers managed risk better than ever before, computer modeling made loans safer, and Greenspan knew exactly what he was doing.

And now she wants to claim that it's all the homeowner's fault, so they won't question her bad advice.

The Office Channel

God help me, reading The Atlantic has become like watching an episode of The Office. McArdle is having sex with Conservatism while pretending to be engaged to Libertarianism. Ta-Nehsi Coates has encased Ross Douthat's crucifix in Jello. Jeffrey Goldberg has a beet farm in the (Middle Eastern) countryside and can skin a Gazan in ten minutes. And Andrew Sullivan lords over them all, his core decency lost under a cloud of self-doubt and assumptions of male privilege.

Megan Lies To Herself

Megan McArdle's dilemma:

[...I]f [housing] prices stay high, where is the money coming from to support them? Well, from people like me, who do not currently have a home to sell, but would like to acquire one in the not-terribly distant future.

McArdle says the reason for the housing bubble was supply and demand. That is a lie. A much more accurate reason (among many) is that Greenspan set interest rates so low that he created a housing bubble. But if McArdle acknowledged this she would have to acknowledge that conservative economic principles just blew up the economy, and that would mean McArdle was wrong. She can't be wrong--she was born a little better than the common folk, a little smarter and much better educated. So she lies.

McArdle's solution:

To the extent that there is an argument for a housing bailout, I think it rests not on keeping prices high, or keeping people in houses that they could just barely afford when they bought them (or after they refinanced them), but on preventing the price decline from crippling the future financial viability of either the borrowers or the lenders*. [By the way, there's nothing at the end of that asterisk.]

That's the logic behind my lunatic plan--cut the losses to the lenders to the loss on the underlying collateral; keep the housing decline from crippling homeowners without awarding them subsidized housing in exchange for their financial illiteracy.

In other words, let house prices fall to Megan-affordable levels without harming the banks, an impossible feat.

Crises? What Crises?

Megan McArdle discusses DNA testing, since there is nothing important going on in the world right now.

Actually, I'm told that a shocking number of prisoners request DNA tests that confirm their guilt; they have nothing to lose, and apparently want to gamble on the slim possibility of a miracle exoneration. But this seems irrelevant to me.

McArdle does not provide a shred of proof of this statement, which she instantly calls irrelevant anyway.

If they get a DNA test and it proves them guilty, we've lost little time or money. If they get a DNA test and it exonerates them, we've set an innocent man free. DNA tests would have to cost $1 million apiece for me to consider that a bad bargain.

So why bother with this useless post?

It is, of course, a bad bargain for a justice system that suddenly reveals how many innocent men prosecutors have sent to death row...

So Megan can call the government incompetent.

...and if I were a prosecutor I've no doubt I could find any number of excellent reasons that we should not double-check my work.

It's not a good idea to admit that you're a shoddy worker whose work would not stand up to double-checking. That's why I'm here.

But making prosecutors feel better about themselves is not a legitimate goal of criminal policy.

Oooh, snap! to you, prosecutors, who want innocent people to go to jail so they can feel good about themselves! Because Megan says so!

Monday, February 23, 2009

K-Lo Goes To Confession

XI Holier and Wiser

K-Lo: Bless me Father for I have sinned. It's been two weeks since my last confession which as you know is totally not my fault. I prayed that God would smite the police's ankle monitor and let me leave the house but He must have been busy because it still works. It was very nice of you to come to the house to hear my confession.

Father: I am happy to help, Kathryn Jean. I'm sure God sees what is in your heart and mind and, er, makes allowances.

K-Lo: Thanks, Father, because everyone else is mad at me. That lady I had in the basement, the police, Mama and Daddy, and my parole officer. Daddy said I couldn't even work from home because of the eBay incident. I came really close to breaking the Fourth Commandment when he took away my internet access. How will I work? Talk to my friends in foreign lands who want to learn more about what I'm wearing when I pray? Push the PrayPal button for Mother Angelica?

Father: Ebay incident, Kathryn Jean?

K-Lo: I was obeying God and the Bible. And being patriotic, I think, although I'm not sure about that anymore. But the Bible! And Jesus! Jesus said blessed are the poor. And I only sold the TV and stereo, plus my mother's silverware.

Father: And now you have no internet.

K-Lo: And that's why I almost told Daddy that he couldn't stop me from working and I would do what I wanted.

Father: But you did obey him, didn't you?

K-Lo: Yes,, Father, Jesus' love kept me from straying. Well, that and the court orders. But was I wrong, Father? I thought Jesus was always right and it's good to be poor and bad to be rich, unless you're Mr. Buckley or Mr. Bush or his father or---.

Father: We must live in this world, Kathryn Jean, but it is just a prelude to our eternal life. That should guide our actions. Even rich men must obey God.

K-Lo: All my friends say we're going to be so much happier now that we're poorer, and God will like us more.

Father: Kathryn Jean, that's not quite realistic. People suffer during hard times also. When I was a missionary in El Salvador I saw the terrible suffering of the poor and would not wish that on anyone.

K-Lo: Oh, Father, I love your little missionary stories. Anyway, I think my parents should feel happier and healthier now that we're poor, but instead they're angrier and more punishing.

Father: And speaking of punishment, say two Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers, and think about respecting your parents' property as well as your parents.

K-Lo: Are you leaving already, Father? You just got here.

Father: I'm sorry, Kathryn Jean, but there are a lot more people at the food bank these days, and I need to stop by.

K-Lo: Tell them that I've very happy for their new poverty.

Father: Yes, I'll give them your regards.

K-Lo: Okay.

Father: So, you'll unlock your bedroom door now?

K-Lo: In a minute, Father. It's been kind of boring lately, and I want to read you some of my devotional poetry. It's not every day I have my diary with me at confession.

Father: Mrs. Lopez!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jesus Thinks You're Stupid

Shorter Rod Dreher: What have I done to my fellow man, that they persecute me for persecuting my fellow man? Will the madness never end?

God Loves The Poor-That's Why He Created So Many Of Them

It seems Our Megan is not the only one who was paid to spread the Poverty-Is-Moral meme. In this meme the economic crash that enriched a few elite and decimated the middle class is a good thing. Forget about the elite who just robbed you. Forget about the reasons for the crash. Certainly, don't think about revenge. You've just been shot in the face, and now they want you to apologize for it.

There is no other reason for this attempt to tell people that suffering is good for them. Religion plays that hand of course, as do parents. It's a lie. Just because greed is bad doesn't mean suffering is good.

Michael Gerson writes one of the most sickening, hypocritical articles I have ever seen. He says economic crises lead to a better, more moral life. The details don't matter. The premise is so full of shit that I have no desire to look at the semi-digested particles. Basically Gerson plays his audience like a violin, using the language of faith and politics to manipulate opinion. It's all there--god, do they have a list?

Choosing to control, crime and illegitimacy (sex and violence), suffering and renewal, vice and social stigma (shaming), personal virtue, and finally the pope. Gerson sums it all up neatly, giving kudos to the free market capitalism that created the economic crises but which he calls self-correcting. Finally he drags the Magic Word in by the scruff of its overused neck: Grace. Belief that is a gift from God. Just believe in recovery and you shall be rewarded. Somehow.

There's a good chance the crises will continue to degrade. The elite are covering their backs. When that no longer works they'll pit us against each other. When that no longer works they will start to fear us. And that will not be a good thing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

TV Time

Here is an entertaining and very informative video on the financial crises: "The Crises of Credit Visualized," via The Big Picture. And they don't even get into the consequences of an economy that is 70% consumer spending but has no money or credit to spend! It's why jobs are so important, no matter who funds them. The alternative is our current state of affairs, with small business failing right and left and everyone gradually (or swiftly) becoming poorer.

Except the bankers, politicians, and corporate owners, of course. Right now they are very, very rich.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Every post of Megan McArdle's today reveals nothing new about the Bush (ka)Boom and everything about Megan, who obviously is fuming at being criticized and being unable to neutralize the criticisms. Poor, persecuted Megan thinks the world is shrill.

More Backscratching

I am not sure if it would be helpful to unpack the messy and slightly soiled suitcase of a post by one Mr. Jason Linkins. The situation isn't complex or deep. Mr. Linkins speaks quite clearly. Mr. Linkins takes exception to a part of an article by Roy Edroso. The exceptionable section follows:

#3: A Megan McArdle Christmas. The Atlantic's Megan McArdle saw one upside to the financial crisis: "It
may break the rat race of constantly ratcheting consumption, which has
surrounded most Americans with nice things that don't really make them happy."
Later she provided readers with a "Holiday Video Game Guide ("[Mario Kart for Wii] comes with
one Wii wheel, but I recommend getting at least one more for multiplayer; we
have four") and a "Holiday Gift Guide: Electronics Edition" ("You don't want
[the Sony Blu-Ray] player if your television is smaller than 40 inches"). Well,
she didn't say these things made her happy.

Now Mr. Linkins:

My point of view on this is perhaps skewed, seeing as I'm acquainted with
McArdle, but I'm not terribly comfortable in lumping her in as a member of the
monolithic right-wing blogosphere.
Of course, I got this funny feeling that I was repeating myself! And sure enough, it turns out that I've defended McArdle from these sorts of associations before! Well, maybe McMegan has somehow ensnared me with her Siren-like libertarian charms.

So you know McArdle, you like McArdle, you leap to McArdle's defense repeatedly. Gotcha. It's crystal. So McArdle can't be lumped in with the rest of the right wingers. She's special, one of the elite.

He also thinks Edroso's reasoning was faulty.

In the first place, it seems to me that inveighing against "constantly
ratcheting consumption" and the race to procure "nice things that don't really
make [us] happy," is apostasy to dyed-in-the-wool free-marketeers.

As if there are roving bands of free marketers criticizing McArdle, instead of some people pointing out her hypocrisy and laughing.

But more to the point, I fail to see how making this suggestion in November and
then, three weeks later, providing a "holiday Gift Guide" (at a time when we
strive to relearn how giving gifts to others can bring happiness) constitutes a
significant gaffe. If that's a "Top Ten"-worthy mistake, I'd have to conclude
that, on balance, the righty blogosphere had a pretty good year!

Then let me point out the obvious, since he is too acquainted with McArdle to see it. McArdle scolds Americans for buying all the latest consumer goods, then creates a Christmas list of all the latest consumer goods. She does one thing and says another. She is a hypocrite. This is also not the first time she has been a hypocrite. She's a hypocrite about sex and marriage. She's a hypocrite about money. She's an untrustworthy person. Her words can't be trusted.

But she did go to the right schools and get the right jobs. She's one of the tribe and they must support each other; they want to support each other. To cover up their partisan leanings they tell each other that they are brilliant and clever and witty, as if frequent public praise will convince people that stupidity or ideology is really impartial brilliance. Which it probably will.

Linkins can't stop here, however. When people are ashamed of their feelings or thoughts, they strike out against others, so Linkins strikes out at Edroso, in the very last line. Childish behavior for people with childish needs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

He's Really Quite Stupid

I don't need to add a word.

I Was All Set To Apologize .... [Jonah Goldberg]

for accidentally calling Will Wilkinson a "statist" in my post
yesterday, since it seems to have annoyed
and it was not my intent to call him a statist. So I went and reread my
post and discovered I didn't call him one, even by accident. Beyond that, I will
await his longer response.

Update: From a reader:
I'm puzzled by your latest on him. As I read his
post, he's not saying you said he's a statist. He's saying he is a statist
(i.e., not an anti-statist, like conservatives).

Me: That's not how I read him. I take him being sarcastic about an
accusation he thinks I made, which I didn't.

Update II: Maybe I'm wrong. From another reader:
Wilkinson wasn't being
sarcastic when he said, "I'm a statist!"; he was taking you to mean,
essentially, "anarchist" by "anti-statist", and he pointed out that he is in
favor of a state, albeit a limited one. Hopefully there'll be a further dialogue
to clarify what exactly you meant; at this point, I feel like the two of you
more or less agree about what you're talking about, and you're just getting
confused by each other's terminology.

Update III: From a friend:
Wilkinson is not being sarcastic, at least
not in the way that you think. He’s pretending not to know what you meant by
“anti-statist.” It’s a really [redacted] rhetorical ploy, and one I’m surprised
to see from him. As a libertarian, I’m sure he’s gotten the “What, you don’t
think we should have any government at all?” line from liberals a thousand


How Much Does the Stimulus Weigh? [Jonah Goldberg]

Via Instapundit, Dave Foulk says it's 86,759 tons — in one dollar bills. That's more than an Iowa class
battleship. In pennies, that'd be 216,898 tons, which by my rudimentary math is
what scientists call, "even heavier."

Update: For the record, I went with the weight of a penny at 2.5 grams.
What I idiotically didn't do was multiply by 100. Anyway, I got this from a
OK, first Foulk is off by a factor of 10, it should be 866,740 tons
(787 billion one dollar bills each weighing 1 gram divided by 454 grams per
pound divided by 2000 pounds per ton). Next you say the weight in pennys
would only be 2.5 times the weight in dollar bills (86,759 tons versus 216,898
tons). A penny weighs 3.1 grams versus a 1 gram dollar bill (close to 2.5
ratio) but of course there are 100 pennys per dollar, so weight in pennys would
be about 268,000,000 tons.
02/18 02:24 PM

Megan Lives!

I found these really freaky sunglasses in the trash, and when I put them on I had the strangest experience. I was reading Megan McArdle's blog and saw the following:
In deflationary times, the last thing you want to do is keep the staple food commodity of your nation's poor at artificially high levels,even if that does help the farmers.

Then I happened to put on the sunglasses and it said this instead:
In deflationary times, the first thing you want to do is keep the financial system of your nation's rich at artificially high levels, even if that does help the bankers.

Megan without sunglasses:
History really is written by the winners.

Megan with sunglasses:
History really is written by me.

Without sunglasses:
But if we think people should marry, and shouldn't cohabit, than shame is a much better way to get there than giving people stupid marriage classes, paying them to get married, or making it illegal for unmarried people to rent an apartment.

But if we think other people should marry, and other people shouldn't cohabit, than shame is a much better way for other people to get there than giving me stupid marriage classes, paying some poor person to get married, or making it illegal for me to rent an apartment.

Most of the people who have been angrily emailing me have treated the question of make work jobs as if it were a referendum on government spending.

Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Little Authoritarianism, Some Family Trauma

Kathryn Jean Lopez advertises her article on Glamour and abortion, offering up her own delusional take on the article. Needless to say she gets it quite, quite wrong, and needless to say she doesn't have the wits to pretend to be open-minded.

We live in times when “choice” often means death. But even with a president
who supports the most radical pro-choice legislation, the pro-life crowd that
recently thronged the Mall in Washington, D.C., did not seem in despair.

Some clues as to why this might be so are found in the current Glamour
magazine, of all places. An article
near the very back of the March issue treats abortion with a level of honesty
rarely found in such venues. “I am still filled with regret . . . that I will
never meet [my] child,” one Virginia woman announces. Hers is one of many
similar stories of regret and pain featured in the article. Abortion is not a
clean choice; it’s a life-changing (and -ending) decision with traumatic
repercussions, a wrenching and frequently lonely ordeal that one can never be
adequately prepared for — and our culture and our clinics often don’t try to
help much at all. The writers and editors at Glamour will never be mistaken for
pro-life propagandists, but they didn’t shy away from these truths. This is

Lopez does not notice that the only women who underwent serious emotional pain at their abortions were the ones indoctrinated with religious beliefs. Nor does she mention the women who was enraged when she was roped in by a dishonest conservative clinic. Instead she culls what little seemingly critical material she can find and slaps it together with more pleas to obey her pope and give up having sex. What does this women know of sex? She doesn't even seem to realize that people have sex because they like it.

Somehow Lopez and absolutely everyone else at the Corner also didn't notice that their boy Bush, their Leader, oversaw sexual torture at Guantanamo. Not one mention. Maybe it's just too much for their sensitive natures. Or maybe they have squashed their ability to feel horror and pain, empathy and grief, from childhood, and therefore are able to shrug and go back to calling Obama a fascist.

Case in point. Michael Leeden crows that Jonah Goldberg owes him big time, for propagating the "Obama is fascist" meme.

Since you were away, I thought I'd try to sell some more Liberal
, and by my count you owe me several cases of, uh, RED ITALIAN
wine. "We are all fascists now" has now grown, the second installment is here.
Part One says that Newsweek was mistaken, that the economic "porkulus bill" is
plain vanilla "fascism," and will produce the inevitable expansion of state
power that all such bills do.

That's the part for which you owe me bigtime.

Part TWO comes largely from Tocqueville, and deals with his nightmare
vision of an American Tyranny. A soft, gentle sort, certainly nothing like
the classic twentieth-century fascist states, but you should probably pay for
that one, too, since it's a lot like what you call "smiley face fascism."

We can/should discuss the wine. You've been traveling, I've been
studying the wine sales...we'll provide the spicy pasta, you bring the
vino. Deal?

It's a two-fer for them; Jonah sells books and Leeden grabs indignant attention. Leeden scratches Goldberg's back and Goldberg scratches Leeden back*, and they chuckle at all the easy money they make by fomenting hatred.

And let's not forget the Two Ds, that Daring Duo of Devotion, God's little foot soldiers, Ross Douthat and Rod Dreher. From Rod:

As writer Ross Douthat astutely observed, "In reality, what makes Obama
promising to liberals isn't his potential to 'end' culture-war battles; it's his
potential ability to win them, by dressing up the policies that Planned
Parenthood or the Human Rights Campaign of the ACLU or whomever would like to
see in the kind of religious language and fuzzy talk about consensus that swing
voters like to hear."

In other words, Obama has learned that the smarter way to pursue liberal
cultural ends is to refrain from rubbing conservatives' collective nose in what
he's doing. He's winning the culture war by diplomatically disarming the

Dear Douthat astutely agrees with Dreher, and dear Dreher gets another link and an acknowledgement that he is, indeed, one of the guys. It's mutually stimulating and no doubt will help them maintain their status as men who know how to stand erect and firm for God.

*Sorry for that.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Workings of The Servile Mind

As you can no doubt guess by now, I believe the key to human behavior, especially seemingly inexplicable behavior, lies in the relationship between parent and child. It's the earliest, most consistent, most important influence on a person's life. And it irks me to see people dress up personal pains and grievances in political and goldly terms to satisfy their needs. It especially irks me because it works. Emotionally needy people are able to convince others to act against their own interest, to belong to the tribe.

From Glenn Greenwald:
The most significant fact of American political life is that political
journalists (of all people) see their role primarily as defenders of, servants
to, spokespeople for the Washington establishment. That's how they obtain all of
their rewards and remain relevant. The concept of journalists as watchdogs over
political power has been turned completely on its head by power-revering
servants like David Brooks, who is anything but atypical (indeed, there's a whole new generation of Beltway journalists who have learned and are eagerly replicating this model). Brooks is about as typical and illustrative as it gets. They benefit substantially from the prevailing rules of political power and, thus, their only concern is to preserve and strengthen it and protect it from the growing dissatisfaction and anger of the peasant class. The more they do that, the more they are rewarded.
There is more than one type of reward. The financial one is obvious; Brooks and Megan McArdle and their ilk can make a lot of money through their contacts with the elite. The elite will finance their books, pay speaking and travel fees, create think tanks, and buy magazines and newspapers to print their material. The elite will throw parties in which the wanna-bes can mingle among the elite, maybe even picking up a trust-fund husband or wife if they're really lucky. And never underestimate the lure of free alcohol and food.

Very often serving the elite satisfies a psychological need as well. Sometimes the needs are obvious, such as journalist Mark Halperin's attempt to get Hugh Hewitt to acknowledge that Halperin is one of the elite, a member of the Republican tribe. Again from Glenn Greenwald:

Apparently, the most traumatizing and horrifying thing that could ever
happen to Mark Halperin is for Bush followers like Hugh Hewitt to think he's a
liberal. It is self-evidently very important to Halperin -- on an emotional and
deeply personal level -- to demonstrate that he is one of them, or at least not
one of those liberals. To achieve this, he made an extraordinary vow to Sean
Hannity when trying to win Hannity's approval, in which he pledged that the
media would spend the next two weeks compensating for all of their
anti-conservative sins over the past decades, and now he is engaged in a truly
debased and highly emotional crusade to obtain Hugh Hewitt's

I really question whether someone who has obviously made it such a high
priority to obtain a very personal form of right-wing absolution can possibly
exercise appropriate news judgment. If Halperin is willing to expend this much
time and energy and shower Hewitt with such gushing praise -- and if he's
willing to make such a public spectacle of himself when doing so -- all in order
to convince Hewitt that he isn't liberal, won't that goal rather obviously
affect Halperin's news coverage? Isn't there something extremely unseemly about
the political director of ABC News engaging in such an intense campaign to win
the approval of one of the most blindly partisan, extremist Bush followers in
the country?

Mark Halperin is really showing his true colors here, and it is extremely unpleasant to watch.

Naked emotional need is always painful to watch. But covert emotional need isn't much fun to watch either. Damon Linker of The New Republic writes two posts criticizing mindless authoritarianism, namely the use of religious faith to back up political decisions. Linker's critics say that man is born sinful and will destroy himself and society if he is not controlled by his religious beliefs. Worse, if a man doesn't control himself, liberal society will do it for him, imposing its beliefs in place of "natural," God-given beliefs. Linker's arguments are reasonable; religious views based on obedience to religious authority should not be the basis for political policy and decisions, since its lack of intellectual basis can easily lead to faulty reasoning. But he quickly retracts his apparently firmly-held beliefs, abasing himself under criticism from his peers.

On Tuesday of this week, I posted an item in which I drew connections between an essay by Andrew Bacevich and political authoritarianism. Two days later, I posted a follow-up in which I expanded on the argument. In retrospect -- and in light of some online reaction to the posts -- I've concluded that the connections I made in the original item were overdrawn, and that I made things even worse in the second post. Ideas and arguments can take on a logic of their own, and I foolishly followed the logic of mine into a position several steps more radical than one I really want to defend. I trust that future online disputation and debate will provide many opportunities for me to address these and related issues again -- and so also to stake out and develop a more moderate, nuanced, and genuinely liberal position.
It is embarrassingly servile post, just as much so as Hugh Hewitt's infamous hero-worshiping post of Bush. Linker says he was foolish and radical, and can't wait for the opportunity to have more discussions with his dear friends, so he can further deny what he said. Any humiliation is better than being kicked out of the club.

So we know that people get financial and emotional rewards from being part of the tribe and supporting its leaders/exploiters. But why do some people need to be part of the Village, need approval from authorities and tribal members so badly? Why will they do anything for acceptance?

Because they never had any. They were told what they should think and believe from babyhood. Their views were considered unimportant, their likes and dislikes irrelevant and actually dangerous, since personal likes and dislikes could lead to rejection of the parents' likes and dislikes. Authority must be obeyed at all costs, at all times, and only traditional values are permitted, handed down from the dawn of time by God to parents, to enforce in their children. To disobey the parents is to disobey God, to invite his wrath down on mankind, and endanger the child's acceptance by society, thereby endangering any chance for employment or love. To enforce this obedience, parents tell the children that they are doing it for the children's own good, and indeed they often punish and repress their children in the hopes it will lead to happiness as some point in the future.

If the child rejects the parents' demands they are rejecting the parents' love. Underlying all of this, of course, is the resentment and pain of parents who were taught that obedience to parents and God is Love, and who hope that their children will give them the open and uncritical love and acceptance they never got in childhood. After all, the parent obeyed his parents all his life, sacrificing himself for society and his parents' love. Who is the child to disobey, when his parents did not? Doesn't the child love and appreciate the parents?

The personal is political. Scratch a person who insists on obedience to Obama or Bush and you'll find a scared, lonely child, longing for love and acceptance. A child who never felt love and therefore never felt safe, and spends the rest of his life looking for a parental substitute. Since the person can't acknowledge he doesn't feel loved or protected, he finds ways of looking for them that let him repress the pain he felt at his parents' rejection. He turns to God or politics to fill this need, or any one of a million other little ways. And he will swear to the end that he is using reason and facts when making his decisions, instead of reacting out of need.

Here McArdle write a long, arduous, reasoned, nuanced post enumerating and elaborating on the process by which she picked Bush over Kerry in 2004. She elaborates on 14 different categories that she used in her assessment, and acknowledges that Bush fails or is neutral in most categories. Yet she chooses Bush; why?

In the end, it comes down to how much risk the candidates will take. The
Democratic policy on foreign policy risk has been pretty much the same since
McGovern: they won't take any. They bug out at the first sign of casualties, and
go in only when the foe is so tiny that we can smash them without committing
ground troops.


I have the choices I have: between someone whose foreign policy has been so risky as to be foolhardy, or someone who will not take the political risk of voting his conscience (whatever that may be) on the war; between someone whose commanding ability to chart a course and stick to it veers into pigheaded refusal to admit he's wrong, and someone who takes four weeks to decide on a campaign bumper sticker design. Above all, I have to guess how Mr Kerry will be in office, because the president doesn't have the luxuries of a senator or a campaigner; he has to decide what to do without the other senators to hide behind, and he cannot just go out and talk about his never-never plans when action is required. He doesn't get to skip a vote, and dithering could be fatal to a lot more than his political career. When something goes badly wrong in Iraq, will Kerry stay the course, because it's important, or will he take counsel of his fears, and his party's left wing, and cut and run as soon as he decently can?

In the end, it comes down to how much risk the candidates will take. The Democratic policy on foriegn policy risk has been pretty much the same since McGovern: they won't take any. They bug out at the first sign of casualties, and go in only when the foe is so tiny that we can smash them without committing ground troops.

Kerry isn't firm and strong. Bush is. Kerry doesn't make McArdle feel safe; Bush does. Bush is of her tribe, he is in loco parentis, and he is the only one that can make McArdle feel safe, after the trauma of 9/11, which ripped a giant hole in McArdle's perpetually adolescent assumption of invulnerability.

It's not about policy. It's not about God. It's about need and fear and want, dressed up in religious and political language. Megan's afraid of bombs, so others must die. Ross Douthat's afraid of God, so others must obey. And they don't have even the slightest idea why.

ADDED: Douthat welcomes Linker back into the tribe, as he has shown sufficient remorse.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Breaking! Sex Scandal at the Atlantic!

The three-way discussion between Ta-Neisi Coates, Rod Dreher and Ross Douthat, in which Rod and Ross chastise Coates for not marrying his girlfriend and mother of his child, has made me aware of another issue. While I heartily applaud Dreher and Douthat's attempts to get Coates to act like a moral person, I am worried, nay, heart-sick, at another instance of an Atlantic blogger breaking the rules of Judeo-Christian law: fornicating while unmarried.

Yes, Megan McArdle is living in sin with a man, without marrying him. And we all know what that leads to--illegitimate motherhood. Even if McArdle marries before she has a child, she is providing a very bad example, one that will harm all of society. Just ask Dreher:

Like I said, I don't know, and cannot know, how Ta-Nehisi grew up. From his
own testimony, it sounds like he and his siblings turned out okay. But look: he
sees no particular reason to marry. It is likely that the children he and his
partner have will see marriage as unimportant too. The idea that marriage is
unimportant has real world consequences when it becomes normative -- look at the
high crime, poverty and social dysfunction rates in the black community in this
country, where the overwhelming majority of children are born out of wedlock,
and have been for a generation. The causal connection between unwed
parenthood/broken families and social dysfunction cannot be disputed. That
Ta-Nehisi and his family appear to have defied the odds is a great thing -- but
they do not refute the statistics.

What you applaud, you encourage. Wisdom, let us attend. Having
children outside of marriage should be stigmatized, for the common good. To do
otherwise is false compassion

Let's repost Douthat's reaction to Coates' immorality:

There's serious truth here - but again, it's not the only truth. Yes, the
best relationships shouldn't need institutional hedges against infidelity and/or
abandonment. But an awful lot of relationships worth fighting for do end up
benefiting from being hedged around with institutional supports - because life
is long, people are complicated, and you don't always know when you're starting
out what you'll need to reach the end of the road together. Yes, relationships
are about the two people involved far more than they're about anybody else. But
that doesn't mean that they aren't also about the community, particularly when
kids are involved. The private is central and essential, but it still spills
over into the public; your relationship is about you and your partner, but it's
also, inevitably, about your friends and neighbors as well.

And these two points go hand in hand. When people don't do the right thing,
whether by their partner or more importantly by their kids, it's by definition a
problem for the community, because it's the community that's left to pick up the
pieces. Which is why it makes sense for your community to ask you for a public
commitment when you set out to rear a family, whether you think that you and the
mother/father of your child needs such a thing or not. You may be sure that
you're in the kind of relationship that won't benefit from an institutional
commitment, but the community doesn't know that: It just knows that in the
aggregate, public commitments tend to be stronger than private ones - and thus
better for parents, for children, and for society writ large. So a community
that asks for public commitments isn't disrespecting your potential
exceptionalism; it's just asking you to respect the aggregate, and to set an
example for the people who might not be as exceptional as you.

I'm sure that any moment now Dreher and Douthat will take to their pulpits to denounce McArdle as a brazen, immoral hussy who is damaging society with her brazen, immoral hussiness. Fornicating! Without benefit of marriage! Since Dreher and Douthat spent so many words worrying about Coates' example, I'm sure they'll do the same for McArdle. After all, race and class have nothing to do with it. It's for the children.

Hungry? You're Too Fat Anyway

Megan McArdle, whose empathy for the poor is so great that she wishes them to have less food to eat and therefore be less fat, has turned her eyes once again to the problem of food prices. The recession/incipient depression that Megan's banker friends dreamed up has led to more Americans finding it harder to feed their families. For Megan McArdle, that's a good thing. Sure, she has repeatedly expressed regret and sadness that she is very tall and thin. It send the wrong message to the children. But she also feels sad at the thought of all the poor Americans who are fat. Therefore the Bush (ka)Boom can only be a good thing for us--not her, mind you, just us.

McArdle flippantly titled her economic analysis Time To Short Jenny Craig?, merging those who choose to diet with those who are forced to give up food. In Grannie's day, Megan muses, a woman didn't need all those elite brand names, fancy teas, cooked chickens, drinks out and restaurant meals.

But without a wife at home, who has time to make meals from scratch?

Lots of people, it turns out. They also have time to make sandwiches for work instead of buy them, and comparison shop for better deals on what they do bring home. And looking at the list of what America is cutting back on, I wonder if we'll see a reversal of another trend: America's growing waistline. There is a school of thought which says that the reason Americans are getting fatter is not so much the absolute price of food as the kind of food we consume--what Seth Roberts calls "ditto foods". These are commercially prepared foods which have high calorie density and are what some scientists call "hyperpalatable"--i.e. extremely flavorful. They're also carefully prepared to ensure that they taste virtually the same every time. The easy availability of these foods causes our bodies to kick up our "set point"--what our bodies naturally want us to weigh. Our appetite regulation mechanisms do the rest.

Home prepared meals are much less standardized, and not so fined tuned to hit the salty/sweet/fatty buttons over and over. Also, much of the shopping is done for them when you aren't actually hungry, and so you're likely to pick healthier foods with lower caloric density--committing your future self to behave more virtuously than it probably would decide to on the spur of the moment. A leaner wallet may mean a leaner you.

Woah, there, Megan! Look out! It looks like your strawman there is about to topple over and suffocate you!

What does the grocery decisions of a mildly wealthy woman have to do with people who can't afford to buy as much food anymore? Could it be that you are cleverly and slickly conflating the two so you can diminish the impact of growing poverty, because it might make you feel bad or look bad? Might make you wonder if all your support for derivatives and bankers will get people a teesy bit testy with you? Or is it simply a business decision, in which you hear your master's voice, and as Stephen Colbert so memorably said, write it down, publish it, and pretend you're still a journalist?

So what if people have to eat less and eat cheaper foods? They're too fat anyway. Poverty and hunger are good things! A leaner wallet may mean a leaner you!

Here is a picture of a lucky poor family during the '30s. See how lean the man's arms are? Not even any muscle left! And the woman holding her baby? Also lean! But you know what? The little children aren't skinny enough. Their little cheeks are still round and fat.

The parents were starving themselves to feed their children.

I guess they just had too much food.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stone The Crows

Ross Douthat oh-so-delicately takes Ta-Nehisi Coates to task for not valuing Douthat's values.

[...]The "artifice" of the traditional family isn't just an artifice, and the values that social conservatives hold so dear - monogamy, marriage vows, the idea that every kid deserves a mother and a father in his life - don't just exist to make people in non-traditional families feel bad about themselves. In the aggregate, Dan Quayle was right. In the aggregate, marriage is better for kids than single parenthood. In the aggregate, marriage is better for men and women than long-term cohabitation. In the aggregate, divorce is bad news - for your finances, your health, and your children's long-term prospects. And in the aggregate, if you're concerned about income inequality or social mobility or the crime rate or just about any area of socioeconomic concern, then you should be at least moderately fretful about the long, slow decline of the American two-parent family - among blacks, whites, and Hispanics alike. These aggregates don't capture the lived reality of millions of American lives, and they can easily become rote and hollow pieties. But they capture a pretty important reality nonetheless.


There's serious truth here - but again, it's not the only truth. Yes, the best relationships shouldn't need institutional hedges against infidelity and/or abandonment. But an awful lot of relationships worth fighting for do end up benefiting from being hedged around with institutional supports - because life is long, people are complicated, and you don't always know when you're starting out what you'll need to reach the end of the road together. Yes, relationships are about the two people involved far more than they're about anybody else. But that doesn't mean that they aren't also about the community, particularly when kids are involved. The private is central and essential, but it still spills over into the public; your relationship is about you and your partner, but it's also, inevitably, about your friends and neighbors as well

And these two points go hand in hand. When people don't do the right thing, whether by their partner or more importantly by their kids, it's by definition a problem for the community, because it's the community that's left to pick up the pieces. Which is why it makes sense for your community to ask you for a public commitment when you set out to rear a family, whether you think that you and the mother/father of your child needs such a thing or not. You may be sure that you're in the kind of relationship that won't benefit from an institutional commitment, but the community doesn't know that: It just knows that in the aggregate, public commitments tend to be stronger than private ones - and thus better for parents, for children, and for society writ large. So a community that asks for public commitments isn't disrespecting your potential exceptionalism; it's just asking you to respect the aggregate, and to set an example for the people who might not be as exceptional as you.

And the truth, as anyone who's read his blog or his book knows full well, is that Ta-Nehisi is exceptional - the exceptional son of an exceptional father and family. But most people aren't exceptional. Most American families in which a single man fathers seven kids by four mothers don't produce engineers, Pixar programmers, and writers for the Atlantic. And that's why norms matter, why institutions matter - and sometimes why stigmas matter as well. Not for the sake of Ta-Nehisi's partner and child - I think things are going to turn out pretty well for the family Coates no matter what - but for the sake of all those people who won't be as lucky in their mate and in their parents..
Under the polite vagueness, Douthat is really saying this: I do not trust myself, so nobody can be trusted. I do not believe I am a good person, so I need someone to force me to be good. Other people who seem to be good but don't follow my rules are special exceptions and therefore don't count. If you don't follow my rules you should be punished by society, for your rule breaking will harm me and others.

Douthat wants to eliminate any alternate lifestyles, for they force him to doubt his choice, as well as acknowledge that his lifestyle is a choice, not a command from God. Wanting what is good for one's children is a social conservative value, he says, and then states that monogamy and marriage are what is good for children, although he has just stated that that is not necessarily so. By stating that wanting what is best for one's children is a conservative value, he is also able to say that his other conservative beliefs are what is best for children. However, exceptional people can be exceptions to the rules, the Get Out Of Jail Free card that has resulted in so many hysterical Republican arrests for the very behaviors they condemn in public. But we all know that it's different for the Chosen Ones.

Yes, the best relationships shouldn't need institutional hedges against infidelity and/or abandonment. But an awful lot of relationships worth fighting for do end up benefiting from being hedged around with institutional supports - because life is long, people are complicated, and you don't always know when you're starting out what you'll need to reach the end of the road together. Yes, relationships are about the two people involved far more than they're about anybody else. But that doesn't mean that they aren't also about the community, particularly when kids are involved. The private is central and essential, but it still spills over into the public; your relationship is about you and your partner, but it's also, inevitably, about your friends and neighbors as well.
Again, Douthat says you need an institution to force you to conform to traditional beliefs, because "people are complicated" and "life is long." In other words, some people will not stay with their partner. Yet being married doesn't guarantee couples will stay together; over half of all couples divorce despite their vows before God, witnessed by family and community. Douthat has to present an imaginary view of traditional marriage to make his condemnation of non-traditional lifestyles work.

In the end it isn't the institution that keeps two people together, it's the personal, private commitment people make in their hearts.


Via Avedon Carol, we see that Obama is not moving away from eliminating the social net. It's just another step in the process. The elites needed to steal everything they could get their hands on while forcing or maneuvering people into debt so they couldn't fight back. When the people could take out no more debt they moved on to the next step, taking money currently spent on taxes. First the social net, because it's easy to pass that off as a moral thing to do when you control morality through religion. [Caution, wingnut site.] Then tax money spent on anything that does not personally benefit the elites. Soon the people will work for a pittance to support the elite; they'll have no choice.

The people will be frustrated, but the elite didn't finance talk radio and think tanks for thirty years for nothing. The people will turn on each other first, and by the time they notice that elites are the enemy, more time will have passed and more monies stolen. Finally, when the American people have nothing left to lose, they will wrestle power back from the elite.

I won't hold my breath.

ADDED: From, via:

Like feudal lords claiming the economic surplus for themselves while
administering austerity for the population at large, the wealthiest 1 per cent
of the population has raised their appropriation of the nationwide returns to
wealth – dividends, interest, rent and capital gains – from 37 per cent of the
total ten years ago to 57 per cent five years ago and it seems nearly 70 per
cent today. This is the highest proportion since records have been kept.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You Have Mail

Oh. My. Gawd! You won't believe what Megan McArdle said in Algebra today. She was like, Paul Krugman is so gross and stoooopid! and Robert Barro is ten times hotter. I would have said something but the last time I talked to Megan she gave me that "I-shop-at-the-Galleria-and-you-shop-at-Target look and said I "wasn't approved to comment." So I'm all, like, Whatever!, because even though I do think Paul's really smart it's not like he's my BFF and I'm so sick of her snotty attitude. But I got mad because she picks on Paul all the time, ever since he became class treasurer and all she got was runner-up. And all her friends are kissing her ass and saying Paul's a hack and Paul's an asshole and then they forgot about Paul and started slapping each other around, LMAO!

Anyway, I was in English and not listening because who does that! and so I read what Paul and Robert really said and surprise, surprise, Megatron from the planet Ego left out a lot. Her buddy Clive said that Paul and Robert were both hacks (which is pretty funny considering the source) and couldn't we all just get along? He just loves to pretend that he's so impartial and fair and everyone else isn't. God, he's such a fake. And Paul was all, "WTF? What happened to you, dude? I never said that!" And Robert was all, "Dude, you have no idea what you were talking about." And then Clive sez, "Yeah, I have no idea what you're talking about but the point is that you weren't FAIR!!1111!!!!Exclamation Point!!." He so needs to get over it. And then Robert and Clive said Paul started it, as if anybody cares. Wankers.


We are so fucked.

A few of Obama's top contributors for his presidency campaign:

Goldman Sachs $955,223
JPMorgan Chase & Co $642,958
Citigroup Inc $633,418
UBS AG $505,017
Morgan Stanley $483,523

The elites will not stop until they have destroyed us all. They have never learned the lessons of the past and so don't fear the consequences of their actions. They will loot the country of every dime because Americans are too passive and clueless to stop them. What happens then, I have no idea.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Megan Lectures

Shorter Megan McArdle: Accept your victimization and do nothing.

Long Version:

We are all guilty of formulating some ideal policy, and then acting as if whatever crippled version of that ideal policy survives the political process will necessarily be better than the status quo. But the pressures of the political process often require vast and counterproductive alterations. To take but one example, energy market deregulation can work very well. But energy market deregulation as screwed up by California's various interest groups (including the moronic consumer groups that proposed forcing all the utilities to always buy their power on the spot market!!) was much worse than sticking with the boring, inefficient old system.

There seems to be something missing from this paragraph. What could it be? Energy deregulation, why is that so familiar? Energy, deregulation, grandmas freezing--oh yeah. I remember now.


In October 2000, Daniel Scotto, the top ranked utility analyst on Wall Street, suspended his ratings on all energy companies conducting business in California due to the possibility that the companies would not receive full and adequate compensation for the deferred energy accounts used as the cornerstone for the California Deregulation Plan enacted in the late 1990s. Five months later, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was forced into bankruptcy. Senator Phil Gramm, the second largest recipient of campaign contributions from Enron, succeeded in legislating California's energy commodity trading deregulation. Despite warnings from prominent consumer groups which stated that this law would give energy traders too much influence over energy commodity prices, the legislation was passed in December 2000.

As Public Citizen reported, "Because of Enron’s new, unregulated power auction, the company’s 'Wholesale Services' revenues quadrupled—from $12 billion in the first quarter of 2000 to $48.4 billion in the first quarter of 2001."[7]

Before passage of the deregulation law, there had been only one Stage 3 rolling blackout declared. Following passage, California had a total of 38 blackouts defined as Stage 3 rolling blackouts, until federal regulators intervened in June 2001. These blackouts occurred mainly as a result of a poorly designed market system that was manipulated by traders and marketers. Enron traders were revealed as intentionally encouraging the removal of power from the market during California's energy crisis by encouraging suppliers to shut down plants to perform unnecessary maintenance, as documented in recordings made at the time.[8] These acts contributed to the need for rolling blackouts, which adversely affected many businesses dependent upon a reliable supply of electricity, and inconvenienced a large number of retail consumers.

The naked dishonesty here is mind-boggling. McArdle blames (liberal) special interest groups, not energy traders, for California's energy problems. She ignores Enron altogether, the better to argue against doing something to help the country's dire economic problems. Why would anyone do such a thing? What do they get out of it?

Nothing, really. They think they do, however. They are being loyal to their tribe and think their loyalty will be reciprocated. They don't acknowledge that while some people fancy themselves as authorities and leaders, the real leaders are using them and laughing at their gullible complicity.

Four years after California's disastrous experiment with energy deregulation, Enron energy traders can be heard – on audiotapes obtained by CBS News – gloating and praising each other as they helped bring on, and cash-in on, the Western power crisis.

"He just f---s California," says one Enron employee. "He steals money from California to the tune of about a million."

"Will you rephrase that?" asks a second employee.

"OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day," replies the first.

The tapes, from Enron's West Coast trading desk, also confirm what CBS reported years ago: that in secret deals with power producers, traders deliberately drove up prices by ordering power plants shut down.

"If you took down the steamer, how long would it take to get it back up?" an Enron worker is heard saying.

"Oh, it's not something you want to just be turning on and off every hour. Let's put it that way," another says.

"Well, why don't you just go ahead and shut her down."

Officials with the Snohomish Public Utility District near Seattle received the tapes from the Justice Department.

"This is the evidence we've all been waiting for. This proves they manipulated the market," said Eric Christensen, a spokesman for the utility.

That utility, like many others, is trying to get its money back from Enron.

"They're f------g taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

"Yeah, grandma Millie, man"

"Yeah, now she wants her f------g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a------ for f------g $250 a megawatt hour."

The funny part of this is that McArdle is suffering and will suffer as much as the other victims of our leaders' greed. She can't admit this because she sees herself as a leader, not a follower. Leaders are winners and followers are sheep waiting to be shorn by better men. So when Megan's stock portfolio evaporates and friends lose jobs and wages begin their inevitable move downward, as they are bound to do in a time of deflated prices and high unemployment, Megan will blame labor unions and minorities and oh, anyone else but the real culprits.

Even Megan McArdle forgets that rich people hate you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Please, God, No!

Megan McArdle's latest post is a holographic picture. If you look at it from the front you get a post about the economics of motherhood. But if you turn your head just a bit, a far different picture appears.

First, the normal picture.

Here's a question that bothers me, though: most women I know actively participate in sacrificing their careers to care for the children.


I take the boring libertarian stance that this is a perfectly fine thing to do, or not, as long as your husband is also on board with whatever you decide. But I also recognize that this represents a massive sacrifice of future earning power, and often of power in the relationship.

Ah, the two bete noirs of mommyhood; money and power. You give up both, and all you get is a kid.


After two kids, they will always be ten years behind men their own age, and in certain high-paying industries that depend on a labor force that works all hours in the early years--consulting, law, banking--they have no shot at all. Staying home with children sends a very strong signal: "I care more about my children than my career". Companies offering rewarding, relatively remunerative work are rarely willing to also play second fiddle to an eight-year-old.

Women who decide to be full-time Moms because they don't want to be a law associate any more, rather than from any personal or cultural avocation to homemaking, might well be better off if society cut off this option. (Yes, yes, men might be better off if this were an option for them . . . except that it is an option, and they're not taking it).

This is approximately Linda Hirshman's argument. I ultimately find this unconvincing, because I don't think that you promote liberty by destroying the village in order to save it. But she's certainly right that women who start out expecting that they'll share childcare duties participate in their own conversion to traditional roles.

Well, that's interesting. Make it impossible or illegal for women to hold demanding jobs. Not the solution that comes to my mind, but McArdle seems to at least agree with the underlying principle. It's a stupid thing to suggest, even if she dismisses it. And the whole discussion is a waste of time. The issue has been discussed at legnth for decades and most people manage to just do what they need or want to do.

At this point I usually would roll my eyes and move on to K-Lo or the Doughy Pantload, but unfortunately Megan babbles, and there is another side of the post to examine. From earlier in the year:

So, layoffs have come to the McArdle household, making this a depression by the most commonly accepted definition. The startup my housemate works for has gone out of business, and as we sat around last night talking about the financial implications of this, I pondered the Paradox of Thrift.

Megan now lives with her boyfriend, knowledge I could have very well lived without, and he is unemployed. Megan is 35, the point at which women who want children start to take a very hard look at their domestic situation. Reluctantly we also remember that Megan has a habit of presenting her own situation while pretending she's talking about someone else.

I wouldn't blame you if you stop reading right here. It's a little painful to contemplate the rest.

Even the men I know who say they might like to stay home with the kids seem to be saying it because they have absolutely no idea what's involved. Many journalists, for example, say they'd like to stay home with the baby and have their wife support them so that they can really get some writing done. I don't know of any female journalist who is under the impression that caring for an infant affords extensive leisure time in which to produce that novel you've been dreaming about for ten years.

Someone's been discussing having a child with her unemployed housemate. We have no idea who.


Here's a question that bothers me, though: most women I know actively participate in sacrificing their careers to care for the children. They do this, for example, by setting standards higher than the men would, which makes them de facto the supervisor of family life. They also sometimes do it because for most upper middle class women (not journalists, usually), mommying is a career option.
[bolding mine]
And here's the crux of the matter. If Megan becomes a mother she will probably stay home to take care of the children. It's what authoritarians do. That's a problem for Megan, who is selfish in both healthy and unhealthy ways.

Caring for children can be a way of not either slogging away at an unrewarding job, or grappling with the epic failure of your original life plan. I'm not saying that this is why all, or most, mothers stay home with their kids. But it's definitely one reason that some do.

Failures stay home with their kids. This is lack of self-esteem talking; she is afraid people will think her a failure.

After two kids, they will always be ten years behind men their own age, and in certain high-paying industries that depend on a labor force that works all hours in the early years--consulting, law, banking--they have no shot at all.

Mothers fall behind their peers in making money and career advancement.

Staying home with children sends a very strong signal: "I care more about my children than my career". Companies offering rewarding, relatively remunerative work are rarely willing to also play second fiddle to an eight-year-old.
Megan is ambitious. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you acknowledge it to yourself. But alas, she is authoritarian, and good women aren't supposed to put themselves first. Disdain for women is a fundamental part of society (no matter how authoritarian it is).

Women who decide to be full-time Moms because they don't want to be a law associate any more, rather than from any personal or cultural avocation to homemaking, might well be better off if society cut off this option.

And now this quote is not vaguely sinister, it's just an attempt to cut off one's options, so one doesn't have to make a decision. It's the conservative way. That other people would suffer is just collateral. Which is also the conservative way.

When decisions are difficult people have a way of doing what they want and justifying it afterwards. Sometimes all they have to do is nothing, for that is a decision too.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Okay, let's go over this again.

People raise their kids with callousness and cruelty because that is all they know. The kids grow up feeling afraid and unloved.

That makes them feel bad, so they try to find someone to give them what they want--security and love. They turn to parent-substitutes; authority figures. God is a parent substitute. So is the president. This is where the trouble starts, for nobody can go back in time and get the love they never received as a child. They can never go back to childhood and develop the self-esteem and self-confidence that comes from being loved and learning how to love others.

Therefore their search for a parent substitute is doomed to failure, an unacceptable situation that people fight tooth and nail to deny. Admit that your parents didn't or couldn't love you enough to teach you to love yourself and others? Forget that, they'd sooner kill you than admit it. So they try even harder to force their authority to give them what they need. The result is disaster.

There are no gods, no magic, no supernatural world. People would laugh at children for waving a stick and yelling, "Expelliarmus!" and expecting something to happen, yet they don't hesitate to wave a book or scroll and mutter Latin or Hebrew under their breath and expect a deity to listen and obey them. But they need a god, specifically a god who knows them personally (like a parent), loves them unconditionally (like a parent), is omniscient (like a parent in a child's eyes), and will always rescue them (like a parent is supposed to help their child). They will waste a huge chunk of their lives begging this parent substitute for proof of love and attention and never get it, because God is not their father or mother, he is an imaginary creature created out of need.

And people will do the same with the next parent substitute--their political and social leaders. Every president is a potential parent substitute, and we have come to speak of the presidency in parental terms. They must protect us and take care of us and tell us right from wrong. They must punish us when we're bad and reward us when we're good. But they aren't our parents, they are people with the same problems and issues that we have. They, too, are looking for safety and love. They, too, are damaged. But they are very, very rich, and can harm a lot of people while avoiding their own pain, by starting wars to feel safe and protecting their fellow elites to feel loved.

So here we are, debating whom the stimulus will help when we ought to know that the stimulus will help the elites feel safe and protected. We debate who created us, when we already know in our hearts. We fight and lie and deny, deny, deny--anything to avoid the simple truth. It's a tremendously painful truth that offers us nothing but more pain and hard work in the beginning, but it is the truth, and in the end that is the only thing that will set us free to love.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Megan Is Sent To Blogging School

Megan McArdle, hard at work.

This is the glamorous blogging lifestyle, my friends: three hours away
from the internet makes one feel dangerously disconnected, like the whole
financial system might have collapsed without your noticing.

She doesn't--she wouldn't--she can't possibly think we envy her life? Can she? Could she really be that self-satisfied? Well, yes, but it's still weird to see.

And we already know the financial system collapsed without her noticing, because she cheered on the collapse the entire way. More deregulation! More derivatives! More money for bankers! Woohoo!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trying To Stay Awake

Let's see, what do we have here?

Megan pretends to be populist. Megan, lawyers have to pay money out to present a case. The judge's action was attention-getting--you sure fell for it--but stupid.

Megan finds an excuse to call Obama corrupt.

Megan continues her futile support for Bush's disastrous and illegal pre-emptive war. She'll never let this go because her fragile ego won't let her. A million lives destroyed, two million--who cares? What matters is that everyone thinks Megan's right.

Megan persists in supporting the efficacy of tax cuts in stimulating an economy. Kissing rich ass isn't just a job with her, it's a way of life.

Megan drools at the thought of deflation letting her buy more useless crap. After all, it's not like newspapers, magazines and webzines are going out of business right and left. Megan is safe just as long as David Bradley still gets a thrill from owing the Atlantic.

Megan reports on Wal-Mat's success. She approves of Wal-Mart because they treat their workers like crap and to her working men and women are scum.

Megan sneers at what she says liberals are thinking. She drools again, at the thought of Obama becoming as unpopular as Bush. Spiteful thing.

Megan complains that Congress has perks and nobody's complaining, but businessmen are criticized for their perks. It must be hard to bend over and kiss ass from that height.

Megan reports on Costo's lower revenue. She doesn't approve of Costco because they don't treat their workers like crap, and Megan thinks that's a mistake.

Megan returns to the Iraq Body Count well, because she got a lot of flack for her attempts to minimize Iraqi deaths and she can't stand for people to tell her she's wrong.

It just goes on and on. It's a lousy way to make a living. There's no creativity in finding new ways to recite talking points, no satisfaction in supporting failure. No intellectual achievement in analyzing the world through an ideological lens. No art or grace in constant justifications and excuses. It's just sad and depressing. Thank god she'll be forgotten when this era is over.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Do Your Own Homework

Megan McArdle respectfully notes Paul Krugman's discussion of the paradox of thrift--the more people save because of the bad economy, the worse the economy gets because of lack of spending. Megan asks:

What does this mean for the stimulative effects of tax cuts, transfer payments, or any other kind of government spending? What does it mean for the savings rate--savings could conceivably go up as a fraction of income at the same time it goes down in absolute terms. I don't know--I'm not even sure how we could know. Has any other country ever had this level of personal debt before?

Gosh, Megan, I don't know. Why don't you look it up, do some thinking, and blog about it, instead of asking us? Isn't that your job?

We are being led by children. [Correction--We were being led by children. Now it's time to get rid of the rest of the Bush croud.]

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More McArdle Dishonesty

There's nothing to do here but point out that some of Megan McArdle's commenters correct her errors, lies and misdirection again. My work is done for me, but as always I want to point out McArdle's bad manners and lack of class, upper or lower.

How DARE I claim that stimulus spending didn't get us out of the Great Depression? GDP growth was really, really high under FDR!!!

Megan McArdle, B.A., MBA, writes like a junior high girl with an attitude problem. Capitals? Multiple exclamation point? Please. It's embarrassing. And she's supposed to be one of our finest public intellectuals?

The Bush years are over. Having conservative opinions and a pulse are no longer enough to be taken seriously.

Brooks Kisses Ass; Nation Averts Eyes

Shorter David Brooks: For the love of Heaven, save the rich people!

ADDED: Shorter Jonah Goldberg, Ass-kisser to ass-kissers: "I've been hard on David Brooks of late, so let me just say I think this is a great column with some real insights."

All Ideology, All The Time

Let's begin at the beginning Megan McArdle on Paul Krugman's correction of her work:

Paul Krugman clarifies his point about temporary versus permanent spending [Cowen quote.]

Etc. I covered this here. It is yet another example of McArdle's manipulations, both subtle and sledge-hammer, to evade responsibility for her words.

I quake to take on a Nobel-Prize winning economist, so perhaps I should call these my misunderstandings of, rather than my problems with, the post.

Perhaps you should, since you can't claim Krugman misunderstood or misinterpreted you, as you often do with your critics. However in the past you certainly did not quake to criticize Krugman:

Krugman also thought we might be about to get into a recession several earlier times, when I was more skeptical; in that sense, I called it better than he did. My care about calling a recession earlier in the year was not because I thought the economy was in fine fettle. Rather, it was because Britain had, against all theory, dodged a recession despite a popping housing bubble even more impressive than ours. This even though they'd gone more than a decade without one. Having watched the British economy in my professional capacity for most of the current decade, I'd seen it declared on the verge of recession multiple times by various commenters, for what seemed like good and sound reasons; nonetheless, it never quite went there. This made me somewhat cautious about proclaiming that a recession was inevitable based on our fundamentals.

Paul Krugman is voting for doom. It's worth keeping in mind, however, that Paul Krugman has predicted eight of the last none recessions under the Bush administration.

Unlike other popularisers, such as Paul Krugman, whose best popular work (such as Pop Internationalism) focused on his own field, what Mr Friedman is known for within the academy is completely different from what has made him famous outside it, which is possibly why liberals tend to classify him with Mr Galbraith. Mr Friedman has done more than possibly any other economist to advance the cause of free markets. But that is not his only contribution; perhaps it is not even his largest. Anyone who would compare the Nobel prize-winner to JKG as an economist can only have a gaping hole in their economic education.

This is a good one, considering the circumstances. It's long but worth it.

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not over-fond of Paul Krugman's NewYork Times column. I don't hate it on ideological grounds; I hate it for reasons
of economic efficiency. Surely we have better uses for our nation's tiny stock of really smart economists, than using one to write 1400 words a week proving that the Bush administration is at the root of every single bad thing that ever happens in the world?

I don't blame Mr Krugman entirely. For one thing, it is Mr Bush's fault for getting elected; if you read through Mr Krugman's 2000 columns, it is clear that this event unhinged him. The slow decline starts in the summer of 2000, and by Jan 1, Mr Krugman has been transformed from Dr Jekyll, the economist who wrote so elegantly and eloquently on issues like trade and productivity, into Mr Hyde, the economist who thinks that his PhD somehow elevates his poorly researched forays into politics and international affairs into something worth reading, and who hates the Bush administration so much that no crime is too ludicrous to accuse them of--including forcing the outgoing president of Indonesia into making anti-semitic remarks.

For another, the medium is a poor one for anything weightier than Maureen Dowd's fluff. (I don't particularly enjoy said fluff, myself, but it is sufficiently vacuous that the time and space constraints do it no damage.) Writing twice a week is too heavy a burden for a columnist, particularly one with a day job. 700 words is
far too short to say anything interesting or meaningful about economics. And Mr
Krugman has had his column for going on six years, which is too long. One gets
the sense that he keeps repeating "I hate George Bush" because he has long ago
exhausted his supply of insight.

I also think that the venue is reinforcing Mr Krugman's already noticeable tendencies towards paranoia and savage assaults on those who disagree with him. Now, all political administrations can use a few good savage assaults. But the ratio of savagery to sense is getting rather top-heavy. And the New York Times reinforces this
tendency, because its readership is so heavily weighted towards coastal liberals
who really, really hate George Bush. They encourage Mr Krugman in his spleen, which can't be good for his personal development. A little time off, in a nice ashram, would not be amiss.

But who could replace him? My candidate is Austan Goolsbee, one of my most favoritest professors from the University of Chicago. He's a die-hard Democrat (advised the Kerry campaign), super smart, and did I mention he's from the University of Chicago? Plus he's early in his pundit career so he's got lots of ideas, and he's of the funny, rather than savage, school of economic argument. Let's start a write-in campaign to get Mr Goolsbee the recognition he deserves, and give Mr Krugman a well-earned vacation.

Following those Chicago boys and Milton Freeman, and Randian Alan Greenspan, has brought us to this most unfortunate point. Not that McArdle would admit any such thing. And this must be a example of the wit for which McArdle is so famous--calling Prof. Krugman savage, full of spleen, paranoid, and poorly reasoning, especially about foreign policy. (This would also be a good place to mention how McArdle didn't even know the prisoners in Guantanamo weren't tried by the UCMJ while she was pontificating about them, and had to be corrected by Glenn Greenwald.)

And it's nice to know that McArdle would never take that piece of fluff job writing about economics for the New York Times. Never, never, never.

I took some flak on liberal blogs for pointing out that Paul Krugman has been the voice of doom on the economy for nigh on a decade. But there was good reason to think that there might be a recession, my critics cried.

Here's the problem. What's the one time that Paul Krugman didn't forecast a recession? That would be when we actually had a recession. It just wasn't a recession that could be blamed on George Bush.

Ygglz misunderstands me; I didn't say that Paul Krugman never writes about economics; only that he has squandered a comparative and absolute advantage in writing extraordinary economics columns, in order to write not particularly interesting political columns that get taken seriously largely because he's a Very Important Economist. Even when he writes about things like health care, it's far too light on the economics, and far too heavy on the "Why do Republicans want babies to die?" rhetoric I could read from any 23-year old lit major interning at a left-wing political magazine. And when he writes about things outside his field, he makes what are (I am told) elementary mistakes on things like foreign policy, while his writing rarely reveals anything new. I don't devote my time to hating him, or anything; it's just that I wish he would write more novel an interesting things.

I'm with Felix Salmon--Paul Krugman's unequivocal declaration that this is an insolvency problem seems borderline irresponsible. What insight does a Princeton trade economist have into bank balance sheets that almost all other observers lack? I'm not near Wall Street any more, so take this for what it's worth, but what I'm hearing is indignation that JP Morgan and the Fed got such a sweet deal out of Bear's shareholders, not worry that either one will take a bath.

But now McArdle is modestly lowering her eyelashes and chirping that she just quakes at the thought of critiquing the great Paul Krugman. What could have happened to change her mind?

I'm a little late to the party--my various ailments have taken longer than expected to recover from. But though the timing may have been political, the prize is well deserved, indeed overdue, as plenty of other commenters have noted. I would offer my congratulations if I thought that the good professor cared to get them.

One of the most interesting things that I've read in multiple commenters is that his most important insights seemed obvious. I think perhaps the deepest economics insights do--after someone has pointed them out. Everything from comparative advantage to the CoaseTheorem makes you slap your head with the inescapable logic of it, and wonder how it can have escaped the human race for so long. And still, it takes a genius to reveal these obvious truths to the rest of us poor slobs. Krugman's math is far too impenetrable for this English major, but the conclusions are as clear and lovely as a bell.

She admires him so very much, you see.

As a lowly MBA, I do not think of spending money to build the bridge as a net increase in the country's wealth. We exchanged money for a bridge worth
the money we spent (or so we light-heartedly hope). One could argue that
the bridge would generate more economic value than it cost in taxes and
deadweight loss; one could also argue that it will generate less (and Japan has
quite a few bridges of this description). But this is an argument for the
bridge, not for bridge-as-stimulus.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with being an MBA. There's everything wrong with making supposedly fact-and-knowledge-based decisions and giving advice based on ideology. If you don't, you end up making stupid statements like saying that owning a new bridge doesn't mean you are more wealthy than not owning a new bridge. There's lots more, but more able people than I have already corrected McArdle.

McArdle wraps up her yapping with this:
There are better ways to assist the unemployed than to build a bridge we don't
need. If a project won't "pay" for itself, then it should be justified on
its own terms, not packaged into a stimulus so that politicians don't have to
explain their choices to the American people.

Who says we would build a bridge we don't need, instead of one we do need or repair several that have been neglected? This is such an insultingly stupid thing to say, as if we can't figure out she's using a strawman again. Her condescension to her readers is incredible, and her dishonesty is complete.

ADDED: I don't say this often enough: It might be too late to clean up after the mess Bush and his friends made. No stimulus might be enough, or the right type, or at the right time. The reason so many people were so shrill about what Bush was doing was because the lives lost could never be regained, and the money lost will never be recovered. We will finally be force to pay for what we let happen, and no amount of blaming or excusing will get us out of it.