Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quintessionally Megan

Shorter: You know, this Depression might work out very well for me.

What can one say that hasn't already been said?

UPDATE SHORTER: Very well for me.

SECOND UPDATE: Fat people will be with us always. And have I mentioned lately that I'm obsessed with body image?

Less Tall Megan

Shorter Megan McArdle--It's wrong to call people fascist; you're using the definition dishonestly. And it's wrong to call liberals fascists as well.

More shorter: I can't help myself; I love me some rich folks. Mmmm, money. Money, money, money.

Another shorter: Incredibly, unbelievably, unprofessionally, I am quoting Red State, therefore everything I say is suspect.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Move Over, Alan Quatermain

Good God. I am in awe of this article. It's awesome. It just kicks ass.

To explain: We know Megan McArdle worships the rich. She sees herself as an authoritarian leader, one of the elite, and is unstinting in her support of their actions, no matter how venal, deadly, or just plain stupid. We also know she is not rich herself although she grew up surrounded by rich people, and therefore must be content with being a follower. If you are not rich but you support them you must justify this action to yourself; otherwise you're just some envious schmuck who watches E! to find out what kind of phone Paris Hilton is using. We also know from Stanley Milgrim that many people only need permission from an authority to do what they already want to do. And this morning, I hit paydirt.

Even those who think wealth is good (or at least harmless) often implicitly suggest that the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of moral goals are separate questions. They would do well to read Benjamin Friedman's The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. The author, a professor of political economy at Harvard, has written an economic tome that is accessible to the average reader without failing to offer something new to specialists as well: a compelling argument that rising incomes make us not just richer people, but better ones.

[yap yap]

Economists have long known that what they call the “wealth effect” can stimulate spending: If people feel richer because the value of their home or stock portfolio has gone up, or because they think their income is likely to rise in the future, they will loosen up and spend more. Friedman suggests that people don’t merely become more willing to treat themselves to home entertainment systems and $4 cups of coffee as their wealth grows; they also become more generous to others. “With rising incomes,” he says, “more people become willing to donate time and money. And among those who do so, rising incomes also allow people to feel able to do more.”

But direct charity is only one of the ways we become more generous. Even more important is the tolerance that growing wealth brings for competition from others. There is a growing recognition that trade is a vastly more effective way to reduce global poverty than foreign aid; even Oxfam, a reliably left-wing nongovernmental organization, has jumped on the free trade bandwagon with a campaign against agricultural subsidies. Better still, trade benefits domestic consumers. Yet progress on that front is nearly impossible unless economic prosperity is rising fast enough to ease the fears of those who are threatened by a more open market.

Here's McArdle's justification for wealth worship: People with more money donate more money, and free trade helps the poor much more than actual, you know, help.

Damn! I feel like I've found the map to King Solomon's Mines, if his mines were huge, empty cavities filled with greed and vanity instead of gold and pearls.

Bring Out Your Stupid

We've got a nasty one, folks. Megan McArdle reports:
Apparently, the Obama administration has asked Rick Wagoner to step down as part of his deal with the administration.

Stop, stop! Journalists don't use "apparently" for facts. Either he has or he hasn't. Let's--what's the word?---Google.

After his administration forced GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner to resign
and pressed Chrysler to form a partnership with Italy’s Fiat SpA to get more
taxpayer aid, Obama today said that company creditors, shareholders, workers,
dealers and suppliers will be expected to make more sacrifices.

That took about three seconds to find.
Rick Wagoner is no managerial genius, but I'm not sure this will actually help much.
If he's a poor manager, who cares if he goes? We already know he insisted on selling SUVs despite rising gas prices and the slow train wreck that is this economy. People who can't run businesses successfully get fired all the time.
GM is caught in the jaws of its own structural problems--labor costs, yes, but also its corporate culture, its legacy physical plant, and so forth.
"And so forth." Very profession journalism there too. Labor costs were already cut to help the company survive. Its corporate culture is a fantastic reason to fire Wagoner--he's the one who creates and/or maintains the corporation's culture to a large extent. And since when is owning a factory a detriment instead of a source of potential income?
Perhaps most perniciously, GM is the victim of a brain drain--it's difficult to recruit top talent to a dying firm, especially when it's located in a dying industry.
Since the brain trust already there destroyed the company they should be tossing those brains out on their asses. From here on it's someone else's baby. And although the car industry ought to be a dying industry, it isn't. People need cars and will continue to drive them until they are forced to stop through extreme circumstances. By McArdle's standard newspapers and magazines are dying industries too. She should quit at once. (For so very many reasons.)
On the other hand, it can hardly hurt.
Here she goes again, hedging and qualifying every post into irrelevance with one or two sentences that she can point to later to prove that she isn't wrong, when she so often is.
And the symbolism, both to the taxpayer and the employees, is important.
Yes, and it was also true with AIG. Not that you cared then.
GM can't be given vast sums without some visible sign of serious change. Let's hope the new CEO actually brings some, rather than providing window dressing for a continuation of business as usual.
In other words it's dinner time (see the time stamp?) and McArdle is too busy to do anything but on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand-gee-I-hope-it-works-out-bye-now-cocktails-are-here.

This post is no surprise, of course. We all know McArdle supports the elite no matter how wrong they are.
Obviously, there are people who were right about the war for the right reasons, and we should examine what their thought process was--not merely the conclusions they came to, but how they got there. Other peoples' opposition was animated by principles that may be right, but aren't really very helpful: the pacifists, the isolationists, the reflexive opponents of Republicans or the US military. Within the limits on foreign policy in a hegemonic power, these just aren't particularly useful, again, regardless of whether you are metaphysically correct.

"It won't work" is the easiest prediction to get right; almost nothing does. The thought process that tells you something probably won't work is not always a good way to figure out what will, even if you were right for the right reasons, as I agree lots of people were. That's why libertarians have a great track record at predicting which government programs will fail (almost all of them) and a lousy track record at designing ones that do work.

On the other hand, "I thought it would work for X reason", when it didn't work, is, I think, a lesson you can carry into both decisions about what to do, and what not to do. On a deeper level, understanding the unconscious cognitive biases that lead smart and well meaning people to believe that things which will not work, will work, is a very good way to prevent yourself from making the same mistake.

America gets a lot of things right, I think, precisely because it includes people who have gotten it badly wrong. Most societies shun people who err; a senior business executive in Germany who has been attached to a failing company should not expect ever to be trusted with responsibility again. America, on the other hand, is a nation of failures, and has always been more hospitable than anywhere else to the people who made an honest mistake, even a lot of them. I believe that our economy works better than our foreign policy process precisely because foreign policy tends to be decided by either the successes or the failures, but never both.

Yes, Iraq was never anything but an honest mistake anyone could make. Anyone like McArdle, that is. Sorry, but I don't think failure should rewarded as long as an elite does it. God knows the non-elite have to pay for their mistakes, often for the rest of their lives.

My god, this woman is despicable. Anything for the rich, nothing for anyone else. The naked worship of money and power sickens the soul, and is sickening to watch.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

They're Coming To Get You

Let's talk about victimization.

Why would the right, even when they controlled every venue of power in the land, consider themselves victims? Why do Christians think they are persecuted and hunted, when they are the biggest religious group in the country? Why do white male Republicans complain about being left out of the power structure and claim to be under attack?

It makes no logical sense whatsoever. We know many of them are sincere in their feelings of oppression and victimization. They genuinely feel they are being suppressed, ignored and persecuted despite all evidence to the contrary. Why?

Maybe because they were oppressed and victimized. Authoritarian parents (you knew that was coming, right?) do demand that their children sacrifice and suppress themselves, accepting their parents' definition of them, their parents' values, goals, and beliefs. This is not something most children can accept. They love their parents and want to believe their parents love them back. They would do anything to please them. But deep inside they are resentful of what they were forced to give up, and hurt and angry at the abusive insistence on repression and control. We must have someone to love. It's almost more important that being loved by someone. We may have been rejected, abused, manipulated and controlled, but we cannot stop loving our mother and father. We need that love, and rarely can admit that it was never there. We will not, except under the most extreme of circumstances, admit that our parents didn't love us for what we were, preferring to become a pale copy of them instead of finding out our true nature.

It's a silly thing, but look at this review of Twilight at the Corner. I assume that a Corner reviewer will push conservative "morals" and cliches, but this person takes resentment and victimization to heights seldom seen outside of a junior high school.

We have fully reversed the symbolism of [Bram] Stoker’s vampire, who represented a demonic assault on a virtuous community. Today’s vampire is the hip Other, and the community around him is either bungling, intolerant, or simply a source of comedic relief (as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys, and Fright Night, for example). The modern vampire is in touch with his sexuality, but the community suppresses it. The modern vampire is coming to take away your girlfriend, and she kind of likes it. The modern vampire is the guy you wish you had been in high school, or the guy you wish you’d dated in high school, and Meyer has turned that into gold.

The trouble with this evolution is that fictional monsters serve a valuable cultural purpose. They remind us that we live in communities, and that our communities must be defended from those who would rend them asunder. Though he is no conservative ideologue, Stephen King always seemed to fathom this intuitively. His stories and books featuring vampires made them evil through and through. The difference between his Salem’s Lot and Stoker’s Dracula is that King is also a bit of a dystopian, so while the community in Stoker’s novel worked together in the end to stop the menace, King lets the community fall. Still, he’s wise enough to know that creatures lacking in fundamental attributes of humanity don’t make for good neighbors.

By inverting the traditional vampire tale, so that the community is predatory and the monster an object of empathy if not admiration, we have found one more avenue along which to push the tired idea that community is, rather than a source of life and happiness, a locus of oppression. The Twilight series simply carries our modern love affair with the undead to its natural conclusion; the lovelorn vampire and the object of his infatuation get married and make a baby.

I’m all for multiculturalism, but this is too much. As Freud is supposed to have said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Likewise, sometimes the Other isn’t a cool countercultural rebel who puts a thrill up your leg, he is a monster who wants to suck your blood or, if he is technologically savvy and has a religious ax to grind, blow up your kids’ school bus. I’m not worried that the modern vampire movie will lead filmgoers to agitate for reconciliation with Osama bin Laden just because the terror master of 9/11 is also pale, has a funny accent, lives in a cave, and is a bloodthirsty egomaniac. But I do think there is value in entertainment that draws a clear line between good and evil.

While many parents are fine with having their youngsters read the Twilight series and watch the accompanying movies, I think there might be some merit in recent fare like the horrifically bloody (and financially less successful) Thirty Days of Night, in which vampires descend on a remote town in Alaska once they know daylight won’t return for a month. These creatures devour throats with viciousness, and the few townspeople who survive are saved only by the voluntary self-sacrifice of their leader. On the surface, Twilight might be more suitable for preteens, but maybe they could use reminding that creatures that prey on communities don’t often make cool boyfriends. Because there are monsters, Virginia, and sometimes they just need killing.
It's cute the way he insinuates vampires are liberals and also terrorists. The man has a sledgehammer touch with words. The author, Tony Woodlief, knows his audience and what they want, and gives it to them. A liberal, I mean a vampire, is a sexual being with unusual tastes. He'll take your girlfriend because he's cool and you're not. The community suppresses its members' sexuality but the liberal rejects the community and does what he or she wants. They don't listen to others tell them what is good or bad; they decide for themselves. That is especially frightening to the authoritarian. If nobody tells you what is right or wrong, how will you know? You can't depend on your own knowledge of right and wrong because that was taken from you. You parents told you what was right and what was wrong and if you ignored them or even disagreed with them you were punished. You know that sometimes they were wrong but you refuse to let yourself break away from your parents. You need their love and you need them to love you. [Correction: You need their love and you need to love them.] So now you are never quite sure what is wrong and what is right. You can't trust your own opinion because your parents said you were wrong to question religious teachings or your country's actions, or your parents' demands. You don't trust yourself to make a right decision. Without laws and God, people would be evil and do bad things, just like your parents said.

Poor guy. He can't watch Twilight without feeling angry at beautiful, popular Edward who wins the girl's absolute acceptance and besotted love. He can't watch True Blood without thinking that the vampires deserve to be hated and hunted for wanting to live out in the open and stop hiding in the shadows. And when he sees the townspeople ripped to pieces by the mostly unseen but constantly terrifying vampires in Thirty Days of Night, he gets grim satisfaction in seeing his nightmares come to life, proof at last that he is, indeed, the victim in this world, and never the monster.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Put Down Your Drink First

Shorter Megan McArdle: I'm not an ass-kissing, brown-nosing sycophant who praises and links to others to advance my career. I'm just a hell of a person who meant every ass-kissing, brown-nosing thing I said.

Bonus DVD material:

All the business-card warriors would do themselves a lot more good in the long run by focusing on getting good at their jobs, and helping other people when they can just because it's nice to be able to help.

Oh, god, stop it, it's too funny. "Focus on getting good at your job." It's hysterical.

Ross Douthat Is A Racist, Sexist Moron

Shorter Ross Douthat: We should pay for more police to watch and intimidate young black men so we don't have to pay for their incarceration.

Really. His solutions for the social problems of young black men are either police state or jail. Because, you see, young black men are criminals and what we need to discuss is the cheapest way to keep them from the rape and pillage that lives in the heart of every young black man except those he knows and therefore are acceptable.

God! The Times just hired a racist, sexist douchebag for its op-ed page! Can't the entire damn world see that and explode with disgust? Those "liberal bloggers" who praised him are morons.

What is wrong with this country, that such mediocre men can be treated with so much respect? That a Texas housewife with a blog read by six people realizes this, yet our elite do not?

Well, there I go answering my own question. The elite and its wanna-bes will always protect their own, to everyone else's detriment.

Ezra Klein: Congratulations to Ross Douthat, who will be replacing Bill Kristol at The New York Times. It's a great choice for many reasons, but what I've come to appreciate most in Ross's writing and look forward to most in his column is his deeply held and well-defended faith.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Ross Douthat is going to work for the New York Times as a columnist. Ross and I fight under different flags. But I expect he'll be at the Times, what he always was here--a swordsman of great caliber and greater honor. Here's to him. The roster won't be the same once he's gone.

Kevin Drum: Marc Ambinder reports that the New York Times has hired his Atlantic colleague Ross Douthat as an op-ed columnist. This is basically to take Bill Kristol's place as their #2 conservative columnist (alongside David Brooks) and it seems like a pretty good choice to me for a couple of reasons. First, Ross has a fluid, intelligent writing style that's well suited to the 800-word op-ed format. Second, he fits the post-Bush zeitgeist: he is, at core, a conservative Barack Obama.

Matthew Yglesias: I’d say congratulations are in order to Ross Douthat, the new hire at The New York Times. Dumping Bill Kristol in favor of Ross is a very smart move—probably the smartest one (Virginia Postrel?) the Times could have made—and will generate a conservative column that progressives will have reason to read and take seriously.

UPDATE: Oh for God's sake. Coates supports Douthat, while disagreeing with everyone Douthat agrees with. Idiot. You deserve your Atlantic position. Enjoy toadying to someone who calls you an exception to your inferior race.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We Shall Know Them By Their Skill Sets

Oh, my.

The NYPost reports the two biggest banking wrecks, CitiGroup amnd Bank of America, have been aggressively buying toxic assets with bailout money, and goosing the MBS auctions.

You can imagine why this might get people upset. I suspect its rather unavoidable. These banks have investment wings, and they are trolling for opportunities.

[snipped quote]

If anything, this argues against bailouts and in favor of nationalization, firing management, wiping out S/Hs, zeroing out debt, haircutting bond holders, etc.

We don't have to discover this sort of news to know what is going to happen. Thieves steal. It's what they do. These debates about the bonuses? Just words, to disguise the truth.

Ask Susan

Dear Susan,

I want to talk about my personal life but I don't want people discussing my personal life in a negative or unpleasant manner. What do I do?

Signed, Goddess

Dear Goddess,

Don't talk about your personal life.

Signed, Susan

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

An Overlooked Fact

A quick note regarding our AIG Galtian executive: Jake DeSantis has a Masters of Science from MIT and worked at Los Alamos before becoming a derivatives trader. After six years he went to work for AIG. While he is undoubtedly very bright, I seriously doubt his financial knowledge is so deep, broad and irreplaceable that someone else can't do his job.

Some people simply want to believe that our elite are extra-special and worthy of endless respect and tax-payer dollars. More on that later.

The Corporate States Of America

Rich people came to this country and took what it had. They sold it to others and became richer. When the free goods were used up they turned to theft to relive the rush of getting more and more. That money is disappearing as well. When the rich are done they will not be able to regain that rush and will have to find another way to satisfy that elusive thrill. Since they have all the money and power they will be able to choose the type of thrill. There is more than one way of feeling alive--there is also the power over life and death. Think of Rome.

They are driven to fill the emptiness inside because they are hollow men and women, devoid of self. Their true self was taken from them, usually by their parents. Their self was smothered to make way for the self their parents insisted they become. Authoritarian adults demand that their children adhere to the pattern set down by their own parents, a never-ending chain of repression and control. That emptiness and self-denial can't be filled up with religion or politics or material possessions, cannot be ignored, cannot be stopped. The authoritarian, depending on the strength of his repression, must seek out something to fill the void and will not stop unless he or she is forced to stop.

And so here we are, in the twilight of our innocence, insisting that we are children and must obey. The rich rule because they must. The poor obey because they must. It doesn't even seem to occur to most of them that there is another way. A way called "letting go." Let go of the need, of the exchange of obedience for love. Let go of the need to be special, to fill the void, to hold on to the void because you think there is nothing else. Let go, and fill the void with the person you want and need and choose to be.

Rod Dreher's Gay Obsession

Rod Dreher says he is so not obsessed with gays and anyway God says that gaydom is bad so he's right to be obsessed with gays.

I have an idea. Let's see what else the Bible says about sex. Okay, if you capture a woman during war you can have sex with her. So our soldiers who raped Iraqi women were a-okay. If you have sex with a married women, you both die. If you have gay sex, you die. If a man rapes a virgin he must marry her. If a childless woman's husband dies, she must have sex with his brother. If you can't have kids, you can have sex with your slaves or servants to have a child. If a mob wants to rape your house guest, you can offer them your virgin daughters instead. And of course you can have as many wives and slave "wives" as you wish.

All that's right there in the Bible, and yet somehow I haven't been to a Newt Gingrich stoning lately. Maybe we discard what we don't like and keep what we like, and maybe that's the sane and equitable thing to do. Or maybe we can just cherry-pick whatever pleases our egos and demons, and try to force everyone else to go along with our obsessions and fears.

Did Someone Mention Money?

Megan McArdle is still obsessing over executive compensation. It bothers her greatly that executives at failed companies (kept alive only through money taken without permission from the taxpayer) will not get their bonuses. In fact, she's positively shrill.
Of course the AIG bonuses should go back! They were paid to people in the very group that lost money! They were paid to people who have already left
the firm, putting the lie to the idea of retention bonuses! Also, they
couldn't get jobs anywhere else anyway, so retention bonuses are unnecessary!
And it's all just unmitigated greed! They're lucky to have jobs at
all! They should be volunteering to work for free, wearing sackcloth and
ashes, and grovelling on the ground in front of every taxpayer they can find,
begging for forgiveness!

It's rare for McArdle to work up a passion about anything, but money does tend to get her...excited.
I've heard a lot of complaints along the lines that the AIG people who
didn't immediately volunteer to work overtime and be paid in cigar bands are not
merely immoral, but unpatriotic.

I know and like some of those commentators, and I do believe in their fervent love of their country. I do not, however, believe that this love would actually keep them working long hours for little-to-no pay at a company that was failing because people in another department, people long since given the sack, had screwed up

My goodness, the executives will work for "little-to-no-pay" and are being told they "should work for free?" How will they live? Pay prep school tuition, buy groceries at Zabar's, shop at Harrods, hire household staff? Let's ask the AIG executive that McArdle is weeping over.
I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust. Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn't disagree.

Oh. Due to his "hard work" helping with the slicing and dicing and leveraging and insuring credit default swaps, work that resulted in the failure of his company, he is now set for quite a while, perhaps for life. Back to McArdle:
Nor do I think that they would feel that they were shirking their moral obligations if they accepted a job at another firm rather than lashing themselves more firmly to the deck of the Titanic. Perhaps there was some long lost period in American history where people identified so thoroughly with the corporations who employed them that they treated their employer's ethical obligations, its best interest, as identical with their own, willingly incinerated their careers on the altar of failing firms. But if so, thank God it's over. That's not patriotic, it's creepy.

I put this paragraph here so somebody could tell me what the hell she's trying to say. The failed employee might leave, which would be tragic but good riddance to the employee, since people who stay with a sinking ship are creepy?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Secret Lives Of Conservative Women

Maggie Gallagher is worried that women are not getting married when they have babies. Kathryn Jean Lopez is worried that the drive for equality is making women victims of physical violence. Mona Charen is worried that college students are having sex. Being so very much worry about what is going on between other women's legs is not prurience, however, it is desire to help women in these troubling times of sexual liberation. Thanks to concepts such as freedom and equality, which all people long for as long as they are not women people, women will lose what they once had, the protection of a man and marriage. Lopez explains:
It’s natural for us to expect men to protect women, and for women to expect some
level of physical protection....The women interviewed in the article appear to
want someone to take charge a bit — there is an attraction to, if not a need
for, some hierarchy. And in a culture in which masculinity — well, at least in
men — is so often suspect, some women seem to be looking to reinvent the
masculine themselves.

Women want society to be divided between male and female roles because it's our nature to want to be subordinate to men, in exchange for their protection. We want to submit. It's a convenient lie, imposed on women by their parents first and society later, to force them to submit to parental authority.

Maggie Gallagher has been writing a long series of posts on why divorce should not be legal. She appears to believe that women, since they insist on having sex outside of marriage, will inevitably end up pregnant and without anyone to take care of them. Married women are vulnerable too, since men can leave them. They need and must have protection, as child-bearing vessels.

Moreover, I came to understand in an immediate, personal way that the happy talk of the cultural elites around the visible decline in marriage was not (as
they liked to tell themselves) rooted in science; it amounted to a new sexual
taboo — a polite way of avoiding big, obvious truths by covering them up with
pretty-sounding words. A society in which marriage was weakened was not simply a
society where women had more freedom. It was a society in which women were more vulnerable and millions of babies are less protected.

Mona Charen is worried that college campuses do not discourage sexual activity. Young adults having sex is a recipe for disaster, since sexual activity outside of marriage is promiscuity, and hurts one's self-worth.
Our liberal universities are officious about warning kids of the dangers of STDs, pregnancy, and date rape. But sadly, those are the only dangers they perceive in sexual license. If they cannot imagine that “sex workers” are degraded by their work, how can they begin to understand that promiscuity compromises self-worth? Many college campuses today seem bent on satisfying nearly every imaginable sexual appetite in a “non-judgmental” environment. In fact, the only people who today feel judged are those — and there are many — who reject the casual “hook-up” culture in favor of modesty, old-fashioned dating, and even (gasp) chastity. George and Londregan suggest that colleges have a duty to fund student centers for those students just as they fund centers for gay and lesbian students. It’s a good idea. But it’s sad that sexual restraint has become an alternative lifestyle.

The Faustian bargain here is pretty clear. A woman must marry for male protection during child-rearing. If she has sex she'll have a baby, and if she has a baby she'll need a man to take care of her. In return she'll receive special status as something too weak to protect itself, softer and weaker and more moral than men, treated with special consideration. She gets to feel special--just as long as she is fertile.

Our ladies never get into the rest of the story. Women age. The ideal of young, fertile womanhood needing support and protection is less appealing in an older woman. The lure of beauty is gone, the emotional tug of small children has become the insolent voice of the rebellious adolescent. Hence the need to eliminate divorce. The gender roles are not kind to older women, who must trade on their status of mothers for the rest of their lives, an eternal nightmare of reminders of dependence and need to compensate for the loss of physical attractiveness. After all, reproduction is all conservative women have. They admit they are inferior in mind and mettle; what is is left? A few superior Galtian women might transcend their limitations, but most conservative women aren't wealthy, and they feel and think that they have nothing to offer.

When your desire to be special and wanted, the same desire we all have, male and female, is subverted to control you, the advantages can be fleeting and the disadvantages galling. The discarded wife is too large a part of social myth to be ignored, no matter how hard the conservative women try. They gave up a tremendous amount of personal freedom to submit to gender roles, and their fear that it might be for nothing can be overwhelming. So we are bombarded with messages that liberal sexual freedom is bad, when the simple truth is that conservative authoritarian sexual roles and rules are subverting women's feelings of self-worth and driving them mad with insecurity and fear of abandonment. Which is where we came in.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Duty forced me to read the transcript of Megan McArdle's appearance on Fareed Zakaria's GPS show. I thought about watching it but fortunately my idea of duty is not that strong. I did take a peek at the show and noted that either the make-up artists and stylists did an incredible job on McArdle, who looked very good, or Marlo Thomas had travelled forward in time to discuss populist back-lash, which would be both ironic and a fantastic advance in time travel technology. Either way, Marlo, I mean Megan, had lost the glasses and refrained from scraping her hair back from her forehead, and fairness dictates that an attractive McArdle appearance is noted along with the frightening appearances. Unfortunately McArdle didn't stop while she was ahead.

To discuss the elite back-lash to the populist back-lash, Mr. Zakaria had on his show three representatives of the much-neglected elite opinion. I know it's usually difficult for the wealthy and powerful to have a voice in our society, but fortunately they were able to grab a few minutes to press their case before the Sunday afternoon political interview and talk show audience. It's a time when the godly are safely tucked into their pews, the ungodly are sleeping off their Saturday night bender, and the elite are having brunch with their multi-millionaire in-laws, as they are forced to do every Sunday of their lives instead of spending the day with their mistresses, as the less elite are free to do. But they are able to catch a few minutes of CNN; indeed, they are forced to, since CNBC has a distressing week-end habit of airing shows like "American Greed," and who wants to see one's self labeled a hater before one's Belgian-waffle-and-Denver omelet-eating peers? Instead, you turn to Zakaria, who has put on a former partner at Goldman Sachs who wrote an article titled "Greed is Good," a Merrill Lynch analyst "forced out" after fraud allegations, and McArdle. Which perfectly situates her in her proper position; between venality and avarice.

The guests all agree that good, well-paid employees are essential to revive AIG, and therefore AIG needs to pay good bonuses to its good employees. Zakaria does not challenge the notion that AIG can and should be rescued or its employees are good, and ignores straw-men such as the idea that the employees will be paid nothing otherwise or AIG employees are being "thrown away." It's fertile ground for Megan's opinion.

The outrage may be completely counterproductive. But on the other hand, it's totally valid. They are getting taxpayer money, and it is totally valid to feel like I shouldn't be paying some guy who got me into trouble, forced me to bail his company out, give him another $3 million.

On Henry [Blodget]'s site, yesterday there was someone who posted a letter from an investment banker who pointed out that these guys hate their jobs. It's not a fun time to be in that position. And so, you may really need to pay the money to retain them.

Maybe the moral outrage is worth -- expressing our moral outrage is worth the price that we're going to pay if AIG gets into trouble. And that's a political decision. It's not really an economic decision.

Populist outrage at the fact that taxpayers must give millions to millionaires who helped ruin the economy will hurt us, you see. It's our money, and if we keep the men who ruined AIG from saving AIG, boy will we look stupid! But hey, it's our fault for letting politics interfere with the smooth running of the free market. Interfere with the men who know what they're doing and something really, really bad could happen. Of course Democrats are just pushing their Democrat Big Government political agenda here; smart people would leave the free market alone because it just corrects itself. Just as soon as the government signs the bailout checks, they should leave Wall Street alone to let the markets fix themselves without any damaging government interference whatsoever.

Zakaria next asks McArdle about regulation. Will the Democrats take advantage of this situation (that we just happened to find ourselves in through no fault of Wall Street) by demanding regulation, purely for political and ideological purposes?

Oh, absolutely. When the election was finally decided, my Twitter feed was filled with friends who were liberals, and Obama fans, going "It's 1932. It's 1932!"

You know, they're ready to sit down and really get in there and start, you know, playing with all the levers and the pulleys. They want to do radical reform. There's a huge sentiment.

I mean, there's also a sentiment out on the street, on Main Street, that we've been taken for a ride, that people on Wall Street have been making outrageous sums of money for what turns out to have been not merely worthless, but actively harmful.

Now, obviously, that's completely exaggerated, in my opinion, and Wall Street does a lot of good things. But -- although I probably won't make any friends for saying that here.

But, you know, it doesn't really matter at this point what the underlying economic reality is. At this point what matters is the politically reality.

It's odd that McArdle never mentioned the liberals rejoicing that it was 1932 again. That's the sort of thing that McArdle would mention. A lot. Did liberals really fill McArdle's twitter with cheers of "It's 1932!" to rejoice at a new era of regulation? Let's get into Marlo Thomas' time machine and find out.

Is it 1932?
I heard that a fair amount last night, and over the past few

This is faulty economic history. It is not 1932. It is 1929.

Outside of the economics profession, the FDR mythos is strong among
Democrats: Hoover did nothing, and then FDR came in with his magic Keynesianism,
and through the mighty power of massive government spending and a huge increase
in the social safety net, got America moving again.

Economic historians
know better. You can argue whether FDR, on net, helped a lot, helped a little,
or mildly hindered recovery. But you cannot argue that if FDR had gotten into
office on January 20th, 1930, America would have avoided most of the pain of the
next three years. The progression of the bank panics and industrial slowdown
throughout the next two years is well described, but not well understood. But
the problem was clearly not merely a lack of government activity, or fiscal
stimulus. Hoover was, contra popular myth, fairly active. It's just nothing he
did worked. Neither did most of the things FDR tried.

FDR did some
things right, don't get me wrong--and I think some of those really made a
difference, notably bank audits and the creation of the FDIC. But he also
benefitted tremendously from stepping in just as the banking system, and hence
the economy, were bottoming out. By the time of the second banking panic, the
system really didn't have much of anywhere to go but up.

Obama has the
benefit of better economic theory--but not nearly as much better as we thought
six months ago. There is no economic consensus--or even a revolutionary school
like the Keynesians--with a coherent program for getting us out of the crisis.
The happy, utterly wrong narrative of Democrats striding in and boldly reversing
Republican errors with stiff regulation, an expanded safety net, and massive
fiscal stimulus, is wrong when applied to FDR. It won't save Obama either.

If the crisis is as bad as some people fear, Obama will have no magic
bullet to fire at it. The very best he can hope for is a fairly successful
process of trial and error. To the electorate, that will look like bumbling as
Rome burns.

Now, the worst may not happen; and even if it does, Bush,
not Obama, may get the blame. But Obama is not in nearly as strong a position as
FDR was in 1932.

Well, my goodness me. People did twitter about 1932, but it was in a different context: They were worried about recovery and felt Obama would be more like FDR than McCain, an indisputably correct assumption. Here McArdle states that Obama's recovery plan won't help, just like FDR's recover plan didn't help. Later McArdle is all for Wall Street bailout and against Main Street stimulus, which just proves how flexible she is regarding the free market and libertarianism.

McArdle twisted the truth to make it sound like those evil liberals just couldn't wait to slap regulations on Wall Street for no reason at all. Bad, bad liberals! They want to be radical and pull levers and push buttons. They'll mess with the economy and break it, and then where will sensible, important conservative businessmen be with a broken economy (through no fault of their own)? Why, it could be that liberal interference will keep the economy from recovering altogether! Which is also not the conservatives' fault; the free market always fixes itself so if the economy is too broken to recover it will be all the fault of Democrats, who are mean to Megan and want to drag down the rich because of their smelly hippie envy and hatred.

Obviously the idea that Wall Street has been naughty is exaggerated, and bankers are good, honest people who "do a lot of good things." McArdle believes in and trusts Wall Street and bankers, and is always willing to put in a good word for such an important, educated, accomplished, superior caste of Americans. For instance, she also supports them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And there's a lot more, but we are nearly done, for McArdle ends by repeating that ire at AIG is just politics, and not reality at all, and Zakaria takes us to commercial.

Gosh, we're lucky, that in our hour on need there's Megan McArdle to speak up for the rich and venal, who otherwise would be forced to experience a moment of unease while enjoying their billions.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Atlantic Shorters

Shorter Ross Douthat: I'm not a hypocrite, I'm just practical.

Shorter Clive Crook: America is speshul and I'll erase your comment if you give me proof otherwise.

Shorter Megan McArdle: I'm going on tv again, and this time I'm wearing make-up!

Shorter Ta-nehisi Coates: I'm still pretending my readers aren't racist.

Shorter Jeffrey Goldberg: A kinder, gentler killing of Arabs, if you please.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You There! Get Out Of That Vagina!

Kathryn Jean Lopez explains the sexual liberation for us.
Women weren’t liberated when they were told they could act like men sexually, because anyone who lives in the real world knows that biologically and practically, such a thing is impossible. And if you doubt that, watch Jennifer Aniston’s character in He’s Just Not That into You. It was the sexual revolution that made her misery possible — living into her 40s with a guy who didn’t have to think about real commitment thanks to the Pill. If you think that’s just a movie, talk to the girls coming out of the theater after any showing. They’ll tell you it just about perfectly depicts the social scene they live with in 2009 America.

Yes, the intellectual underpinnings of Lopez's argument is a Jennifer Aniston movie. God knows what she'd come up with if she had just seen a Jack Black movie. But the point is that women can't live like men because they have a womb. It's just impossible because, uh, they have a womb. Having a womb means that you are miserable unless you live like a woman, that is, married with children. (Speaking of which, what would Lopez think about the Bundys? He works and doesn't cheat on his wife, she stays home and pretends to care for the children--they are the perfect family! But let's not get distracted.) Women can't act like men sexually because biologically they can't have sex without wanting to marry and reproduce. Practically speaking, of course, they can't have sex outside marriage because when women have sex they want to marry and have babies and you can't marry and have babies and work and have sex. Or something, it makes no sense even when I try to think like Lopez, which is quite painful.

And of course it's all the fault of the sexual revolution, which encouraged women to have sex like men, that is, when they choose to have sex. Women aren't supposed to choose to have sex. Sex is for one reason only, according to the Catholic Church; to have babies. If you have sex for any other reason you are committing a sin. The church would prefer to outlaw sex altogether, but that's not really practical, so they inserted a loophole to keep the congregations from fleeing.

Lopez links to Travis Kavulla, who explains the church's perspective.
But the Vatican’s message on preventing HIV in the first place is often muddled. So here, for the record, is a summation of the Catholic argument. It begins with the premise that while the AIDS epidemic is the result of a virus, it is as much a social as a viral illness. It is not something one catches merely by inhalation or shaking hands or other passive contact. The transmission of HIV in the vast majority of cases can be traced to an elective and deliberate act of sexual intercourse.

Thus, the Catholic logic goes, the disease should be treated essentially as a social ailment. The goal should be to promote widespread delays in becoming sexually active among young people and, when they grow up, encourage them to form committed relationships. Merely mediating a risky behavior with mechanical prophylaxis is wrong because it gives tacit permission to the sex act, and undercuts the moral authority of these larger social goals.

"The sex act." Oooooh, nasty, nasty sex. This sin is is choosing to have sex instead of controlling one's desire to have sex, since that is what God wants--to control sex. Sex is bad, you see, unless it is employed for the creation of more children.
Condom use in these seemingly “trusting” relationships is very low and, in any case, would rob them of one of their primary purposes: to produce children, the risk of HIV infection notwithstanding.

Using condoms in a marriage would prevent the couple from having children, the only reason for having sex in the first place. Therefore there is no instance in which the use of condoms would be okay. Only God can give or take a life, and humans must not interfere with His choices. Unless a man becomes ill; then he can go to the doctor and save his life, despite the illness God gave him. That's okay. Or a couple can choose to not have sex to prevent childbirth; the rhythm method is okay too. But the couple can't do anything to say no to God's desire for them to procreate ("Go forth and multiply") except say no to God when they don't want to procreate. As long as they say no to God in the One Particular Way it's okay to say no to God. Although it's not okay to say no to God regarding His Little Bundles of Blessings at all.

Got that? Me neither.

Back to the spiritual dangers of birth control, via The Virgin Lopez:
As it happens, it was the Vatican — this time, the pope himself — that warned in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that artificial methods of birth control would do our culture a disservice. Humans being human, Pope Paul VI said that the availability of the Pill could “open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards” and that “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
Because that never, ever happened before birth control.

Yes, Lopez, if it weren't for all those sluts having sex, men and women would have to marry and have babies if they wanted to have sex. Everyone would have to be just like Kathryn Jean Lopez. Which would suit her and the pope just fine, even if the rest of us look, shake our heads, and go on with our lives.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stop It, You're Killing Me!

More McArdle, sigh.
Our Conor Clarke asked Larry Tribe whether or not one could, legally, tax away the bonuses paid to AIG employees. Larry Tribe seems to think that the answer is yes.

This has interesting implications for the banks that have already taken government funds, and certainly, any banks that might be considering doing so in the future. I suspect it would be hard to write a specific tax that applied only to AIG and not, say, to Citibank--and that's assuming that the Democrats in Congress would want to.

Why would the Democrats not want to? It would be a cheap and easy way to distract us from the billions they are giving away to the banking industry.

Moreover, only a bad journalist would announce they "suspect" something can't be done without trying to find out if it could be done. Is she too lazy to look it up? Make a call? Is she posting from her iPhone while standing in line for the latest consumer goods that will hopefully make her cool and hip? Why won't she do the basic requirements of her job?
I think it's safe to assume that if this passes, any banks that possibly can will rush to return bailout funds to the Treasury. And perhaps this is a good thing. But the attempt to shield shaky banks behind a general distribution of funds will be over.

Good for that, too. I don't know if bank failures would bring down the entire system, but neither does McArdle, no matter how many times she bleats that it will happen. She doesn't have any facts, doesn't consult anyone but bankers, why should I believe a word she says, especially when she has shown so little knowledge and foresight in the past?
I suspect that it would also not do any good things for whatever future plans Treasury has. All of the plans I'm currently aware of involve substantial voluntary participation from sound financial institutions. I don't think you'll get much voluntary cooperation from banks if you declare that any acceptance of government funds will involve substantial risk that they will appropriate your paycheck.

So banks will not take billions of dollars because their bonuses might be cut? They might make a few million instead of many millions, after eight years of looting the country? Bullshit.

Stop it! Stop being a stupid, lazy "journalist" who smugly defends the power elite. Post after post of concern trolling, ignoring basic facts like the bailout is not the stimulus--simple, basic facts that reveal her posts are built on absolute faith, trust and worship of the financial system, of all things. Of all the things to worship and believe in! Men and women whose main if not only concern is to make more money! I have to echo Jon Stewart here--you're hurting us. Your idiot commenters believe you, look to you to support their fantasies and hatreds. They are seething with hatred and lies that you offer to them like a human sacrifice. You feed the beast that is swallowing us whole.

If you have no pride at least have some self-interest. You are weak and poor and you support the rich and powerful. Whom do you think the people will persecute when the truth is too obvious to be denied? Do you think social unrest is only for the Third World? Take another look at our income inequality, sweetie. We are the Third World.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

None So Blind

This was interesting:

I agree with your main point here, but it leaves the question... how do we get these people (corporate executives) to take even an ounce of responsibility for their actions? It would be great if someone, say, like, Megan McArdle, could use her position and expertise in the economic/finance world to crusade on this issue.

I know, I know, it's not your gig.

Posted by [commenter] | March 17, 2009 10:11 AM

The fact that there is a problem does not imply that there is a solution.

Posted by Megan McArdle | March 17, 2009 10:15 AM

So there's absolutely nothing to be done about a state of business ethics that is so bad it has nearly brought down our entire economy? Men can't be held to ethical standards? McArdle has no professional responsibility?

This isn't just wrong, it's desperate.

The post itself is nothing but a self-serving attempt to wrestle back some moral authority after championing immoral men.

How To Be Dishonest Without Really Trying

Megan McArdle brings up Jim Cramer again, because her ass was handed to her on a platter by her commenters. Since her only pride is in her reputation, she could not let such injuries as the truth go unremarked. Hence "What's the Matter With Jim Cramer?".
I've seen a number of people making some variant of the claim that Jon Stewart is the only one brave enough to stand up to the financial journalists who helped get us into this mess.

This is purest poppycock.

Don't you just love her "poppycocks"s and "airy-fairy"s and "Listen, children while Mummy tells you a story." tone? It's so...what's the word...professional? Um, no. Respectful? Alas, not that either. Like a bad Victorian novel meant to teach schoolchildren to obey their teachers and trust the guardian angel that sits on their shoulder? Yeah. That one.

What follows is three not altogether wrong paragraphs why Cramer shouldn't be held to journalist standards. Odd that she didn't understand this about Jon Stewart, but we can't be forever searching through the Carlsbad Caverns of her brain looking for explanations of her behavior. So now we know that Cramer is really not to blame for the sorry state of financial journalism today. (And yes, I'm looking at you, McArdle.)
No, neither Jim Cramer nor CNBC created this mess.

Ah, not so fast. The question of CNBC not being responsible for being responsible is another matter. It's not an entertainment channel, as everyone keeps reminding the right wing. Slipping it into her somewhat almost reasonable defense of Cramer is dishonest and, frankly, idiotic. Did she really think nobody would notice?
They focus mostly on stocks, and though people tend to think of the stock markets as synonymous with the financial system, they just haven't had much to do with the current problems. And thank God, really. I'd rather not hand over the responsibility for the US financial system, or even my retirement account, to a guy who goes on camera to bite the heads off of plastic bulls.

This bit is downright painful. She takes the argument (that I made) that the network focuses mainly on stocks, which is basically correct, but focusing on stocks covers a tremendous amount of ground. They aren't just a ticker and some anchors talking about stocks' rise and fall. That's obvious to anyone who's seen the network. They cover the financial world. They report from Davos, Chicago Board of Trade, and so on--the truth is too obvious to merit further discussion. She ends the paragraph by again conflating Cramer and CNBC.

In conclusion:
Going after Jim Cramer is like trying to fix your marriage by getting new drapes.

Dishonest, dishonest, dishonest. We deserve better than this. It's just insulting to our intelligence. We need better than this.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Good Advice

In "What Do [sic] Do About AIG?" Megan McArdle brings up bonuses for AIG employees. McArdle states that there is no way to tell which traders at AIG are good employees and which aren't. McArdle also says that since we now own the company we don't want to chase good employees away. Oh, heck, here's the whole paragraph because it's just so precious.
Why not just say "no bonuses for anyone at AIG"? To hell with the bums! Well, we now own the company. If we hasten the flight of quality employees out of the company, that will cost us money. The answer might be some kind of performance bond. But as in other financial firms, traders often take as bonus what should be salary, which means that they need at least part of their bonuses to maintain their lifestyle. If they're faced with bankruptcy, the traders who are talented will go elsewhere--the financial market is shrinking, but the top traders still have other opportunities. AIG has a lot of positions to unwind. Do we want to leave the job to the dregs of the organization?

This reminds me of what McArdle said about auto company employees. She seemed to think their benefits were outrageous theft from their company, not part of their pay package. She had no problem advocating for their elimination altogether. This is why I call McArdle a hypocrite. I doubt she even noticed that she said bankers need their bonuses because they are part of their salary, but auto workers should lose their benefits, the greedy bastards, although benefits are most certainly part of their pay. It's just how she thinks, where she places her priorities, and whom she considers valuable.

AIG spent money on lavish trips for employees and then on the huge bonuses, at a time when it was receiving taxpayer funds. If employees decide to leave, who cares? This is the company that was fined 1.6 billion for shady accounting practices, like Enron. Then its insurance bets went bad, and the government has to prop them up. If the employees want to leave for better jobs they can do so. Employees who ran their company into the ground shouldn't be given bonuses to continue running the company into the ground. If they're reputable they'll get some other job and if they don't they can retrain, as Bush was always telling the little people who lost jobs. We may not be able to take away the bonuses, but we can certainly say that they don't deserve them and we won't forget their greed.

Final paragraph:
Perhaps it is true, as my interlocutors accuse, that I am too stupid to understand the obvious. On the other hand, perhaps excessive confidence in your diagnosis means that you just haven't asked the right questions.

Let's review the questions McArdle asked about AIG.

Last night after my AIG posts I ducked out to a Reason Happy Hour. Naturally, everyone wanted to know what this would mean for the markets. With my crack talent for prognostication, I said, "Well, they will go up. Or they will go down. Though it's possible they might stay the same."

It's absolutely clear to me that we bailed out AIG because of its counterparty CDS risk, and that they're escalating other problems more generally. But it's less clear to me that they're the main source of contagion in the financial markets. And at this point, many, many, many things are escalating other problems.

I don't mean to downplay the role of CDSs. I'm just not sure how they came to be the main villain of the piece, that's all.

Damned if I know. But the markets seem a little unsettled . . . down 140 points as of this writing. Not catastrophic. But certainly not good.

This is all somewhat airy-fairy; perhaps you want to know exactly what will happen if Citibank and America will fail. Will CDS markets blow up? Insurance companies in receivership? Bank runs across the land?

So AIG is applying to the Federal Reserve for bridge financing to allow it to enter a restructuring deal with KKR. AIG got itself into big trouble writing credit default swaps for the mortgage market, and is now facing massive losses on Hurricane Ike. That the Fed is even considering the move shows just how much the lines between different types of financial firms have blurred in this brave new world of novel financial instruments and megamergers.

But as the Lehman bankruptcy illustrates, we have no idea exactly what will happen.

Ben Bernanke is in a tough place. Opening the loan facilities to the insurance business will further strain a loan portfolio already crammed full of risk--just as the Fed has announced that it will start accepting equity as collateral. But if AIG doesn't restructure, it may have to start dumping its massive asset portfolio. This, of course, will further erode the value of the securities held by solvent banks, meaning that more of them will likely show up at the Fed's discount window with their beggar's bowls out.

This is where I'm supposed to end with a snappy, sure summation of what the Fed should do. But all I know right now is that I'm sure glad I don't have Ben Bernanke's job.

It doesn't do any good to ask questions if your answer is always "I don't know." It's especially bad for a journalist, whose job it is to find out the answers to the questions and report them to the public. But I don't want to give the impression that McArdle never gave an opinion on AIG. She did.

If AIG fails, what happens to my policy?

[snip] The answer is that most of you can relax. Your insurance policy and/or annuity will probably be fine.

[big snip] If I had my homeowner's insurance with AIG, I'd probably bite the bullet and buy a new policy elsewhere; ditto some massive asset. But in general, unless you're insured/annuitized for a huge amount and planning to die/retire in the next few months, don't worry. With the exception of wealthy folks who bought gigantic policies, you should be able to get at least most of your money back out.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ask Susan!

Dear Susan,

What would happen if Citi and Bank of America were to fail?


Broke and Mad

Dear Broke and Mad,

Good question. I have no idea.

Regards, Susan

Special DVD Bonus Material from the comments:
As to my "friends in finance" . . . sigh. The belief that everyone who writes anything except "first let's string up all the bankers" must simply be protecting their trust fund/rich friends/shadowy conspiracy employers is inutterably ridiculous. I have more friends in liberal academia and the liberal wonkosphere than I do currently turning the wheels of commerce on Wall Street.

Oddly, I believe her. She's exactly like the housewife in Dayton or Dallas or Duluth who thinks that by supporting conservatives, somehow--magically!--part of their wealth will rub off on her. We know she doesn't have many banker friends because the bankers she does talk to all lied to her.

The More Serious Side Of Comedy

In his interview with Jim Cramer, Jon Stewart made some extremely important claims that deserve to be taken very seriously. A comic uses humor to get attention, but there's often some anger behind the jokes. Who wouldn't be angry at the thought of the financial world gaming the system to make off with the money of those who look to them for advice? There are a lot of people around the world who are much poorer than they were a few years ago and they are starting to ask questions, such as how was the financial world able to get away with it.

We know that some people reported on the malfeasance going on. We've heard their names a lot recently, but they've been warning everyone for years. But their voices were almost drowned out by the more numerous, louder voices of the people making money off the scams. Which brings us to CNBC and Megan McArdle. They have both committed the same crimes, although McArdle's colossal ignorance and arrogance were as important as the profit motive in her actions. And now Cramer and McArdle are trying to retroactively rehabilitate their reputations. Both have been massively wrong, and hence they both feel it necessary to try to repudiate Stewart's reputation to save their own skins. Cramer blatantly, egregiously lied to Stewart's face and immediately had his head handed to him on a platter with direct evidence of his lie. We've seen the same with McArdle, as we and others point out her deceptions and self-delusions. Neither has any reputation left except among those who choose to use them to reinforce their own delusions.

Their credibility is shot and therefore McArdle must provide proof that the clips Stewart showed were manipulative, misleading, and out of context as she said. McArdle has made a ridiculous claim based on what is either a dishonest or very stupid belief that comics must hew to journalistic standards when criticizing journalists. But she has made the claim, and now she must prove it.

She won't. It would take effort to find the context for the clips, effort that any real journalist would take to prove her point and convince her audience. But this is McArdle, so she will either reiterate her baseless claim or ignore the matter altogether.

It must be pretty awful being an amoral, greedy bastard, but it must be even worse to be a lackey who worships them and slavishly reports whatever they are told to say, just to grab a few crumbs from their table.

UPDATE: And it's reiterate her baseless claim for the win!

Friday, March 13, 2009

McArdle v. Truth

Megan McArdle has a deceptively complex post up about the war of words between Jim Cramer of CNBC and Jon Stewart. Unfortunately I'll have to take this slow.
The buzz today is Cramer's appearance on Jon Stewart's show. I've been of two minds about this whole fooforaw, which is why I haven't blogged about it. On the one hand, I am not a fan of financial cable news (Bloomberg usually excepted). I think Jim Cramer should be illegal. Anyone who invests money based on one of these networks, or Wall Street Week, should seriously consider making themselves a ward of the court. Anyone in the business who goes on one of those shows is talking their book. If anyone has a good way to make money above and beyond broad, boring strategies like stock indices or bond funds, will not tell you about it.

So Jim Cramer should be illegal, presumably meaning arrested for admitting on tape to illegal practices while running a hedge fund. But what does McArdle think the purpose of the business channel is except give financial advice? If nobody were to take it seriously there would be no reason for it to exist. It isn't that entertaining to see people sit around in suits talking about money. And the anchors aren't entertainers, with the possible exception of Cramer. No, the stated purpose and the behavior of the anchors amply demonstrate that the network is meant to be taken seriously. It's just not an issue, unless you're trying to excuse inexcusable behavior. Glibly stating that nobody takes CNBC seriously when it is televised into countless homes and provides countless hours of financial information is just dishonest. Maybe McArdle doesn't take it seriously but a lot of other people do and you can't just hand-wave them away.
If anyone has a good way to make money above and beyond broad, boring strategies like stock indices or bond funds, will not tell you about it.

This is a non-sequitur. The network reports on the stock and bond markets primarily.
On the other hand, the Jon Stewart video that touched this off was clearly misleading.

McArdle can't be bothered to back up this statement with a single example. If your are going to call someone misleading, you must prove it.
I do watch these channels, not for the interview but for the tickers and the breaking financial news.

I watch these channels too, interviews included. I've seen hundreds if not thousands of hours of CNBC in the last four years.
And it was obvious from the clips that half of them were anchors and reporters simply quoting someone else--it's the equivalent of dinging someone for using a racial epithet in the context of discussing racial epithets.

No, it isn't. This is either a lie or a gross misunderstanding due to stupidity. CNBC purports to report honestly on the financial world. They are either idiots or tools for not seeing any of this financial storm coming, and indeed actively fought against the idea of anything untoward in the financial industries. Goldilocks economy, greatest story never told, Bush Boom--I watched these anchors suck up to power and worship at the feet of billionaires, fluff up GE stock, lie about what was going on around them, and endlessly cheer lead on Bush, Paulson, and Goldman Sachs. And now that a Democrat is president and must clean up the financial mess, Cramer and Larry Kudlow are especially vituperative in accusing Obama of destroying the economy and ushering in socialism.
Ultimately, I find Stewart disturbing because in some sense he's doing exactly what Cramer is--making powerful statements, and then when he gets called on him, retreating into the claim that well, you can't really expect him to act as if he were being taken seriously. Jim Cramer, whose stockpicking acumen seems slightly worse than your average monkey with a dartboard, frequently issues recommendations that people act on, then brushes off the failures with a shrug.

Ah, the old excuse that everyone who was ever burned by Stewart pulls out of his rear end. Her portentous intoning about the professional responsibilities of the comedy show and its host are ridiculous--a comedy show about the media is not the same thing as the media. This point is so very self-evident that nobody should be able to misunderstand it. Cramer purports to give stock advice. He says he's there to make people money, and people call into his show to get advice. It's what he and CNBC do. Stewart makes jokes about people. He doesn't report on the media, he makes fun of the media. Just like I don't report on economics, I make fun of Megan McArdle. You would think even an idiot would understand that.
Jon Stewart also shapes peoples' decisions.

No, he doesn't. He makes people laugh. They don't take him seriously. They laugh at his words and funny pictures.
Video is a medium with powerful claims to reality--people tend to think that if they saw it, it must be true.

Sure, very, very stupid people. Otherwise don't tell me people think Dora the Explorer and Jon Stewart are really discussing CNBC. It just makes me angry, I get sarcastic when I get angry.
This makes it uniquely good at manipulating its audience with skillful editing.

Bullshit. Okay, I get profane when I'm angry.
I'm very sympathetic to Stewart's deep critique of financial shows, but I don't think the way to go about it was to string together a bunch of very misleading clips.

Prove they were misleading. You can't, because they weren't.
Nor to imply that Santelli, who has been vocally against all bailouts from the beginning, was merely frothing on the foreclosure program because ordinary taxpayers were finally getting a taste of federal largesse.

Stewart was slamming Santelli for calling people losers for trusting people like Santelli. Which McArdle really should be able to figure out.
But Stewart carefully claims he's just an entertainer, so he has no obligation to hew to journalistic standards on things like quoting out of context.

That's right. (Wrong about context, though.) Because he really is an entertainer, not a journalist. His show is a comedy show. It is not a news show. He is not a reporter. CNBC is a financial news show. It has people on it who really are supposed to be reporters. But I can understand that McArdle is confused, as she also seems to accept whatever a banker tells her. Which makes mining her archives for foolishness such a fruitful endeavor.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sinners, Beware!

I like Lisa Schiffren. Her moral scold instincts are even greater than her political instincts, and we end up with a post that snarks on Bristol Palin instead of a more Party-friendly response.
Mr. Johnson, who sees the baby frequently, will continue to be an involved father, the story reports. Or maybe he won't. Or perhaps he will sometimes, when he isn't busy, unless he gets involved with someone else who doesn't want that. Ms. Palin will continue to be the mother full time—because she doesn't have a choice.

I certainly don't know if they should have gotten married. You'd have thought so . . . even if it didn't last forever. Better odds for the kid. If the parents didn't like it, well, they should have thought about that when they were drinking and fooling around. But, as we all know, shotgun marriages lead to plenty of unhappiness, some of the time. And very young marriages have a lousy track record. So parents of the expecting teens are not willing to push. And maybe they are sometimes right. Still, the default position of the girl, left on her own with the baby, now in serious and immediate need of further education and a set of remunerative skills with which to support herself and Trip, but which will be harder to acquire with her maternal responsibilities, isn't much of a happy picture either.

You go, girl. Why should a rich girl get away without suffering from her sinning when a poor girl can't? But Schiffrin's approach isn't typical. The proper response, in conservative circles, is to cry privacy and beg others to leave the poor child alone, now that they can no longer flog her situation for political gain. And when you want mindless cliches and horse-blinkered myopia you go to Miss Kathryn Jean Lopez.
On the specific story here: I wish the name Bristol Palin never appeared in any political commentary, but here we are. [yap yap yap] Let the girl live in peace with her child.

While you hound every other unwed girl in the county, of course.

Megan Congratulates

I apologize; this post will not say anything about morality, ethics, authoritarianism, or even journalism. I'm just going to enjoy myself in base emotional indulgence.

Megan McArdle "congratulates" Ross Douthout. While you read, remember that McArdle was up for the New York Times job, is around 36 years old, and is pressed for money. It's much more enjoyable that way.
Offering congratulations to my colleague, Ross Douthat, on his new job as a New York Times columnist seems almost redundant--he was so clearly the only man for the job.

Ah, so that's why your congrats is so belated. Redundancy, not bitterness.
If conservatism, and the Republican Party, can be rescued from their current crisis, I expect Ross to be the one swinging on a rope through the flaming wreckage to pull them to safety.

Because nothing says "man coming to the rescue" like a boy whose biggest talent is convincing people he's not actually a racist, fundamentalist professional moral scold.
That he has managed to become the leading voice of thoughtful conservatism at such an appallingly young age is a constant source of wonder to his colleagues--and crises of confidence in those who have meandered all the way to thirtiy without getting a New York Times column, or even leading a small band of Oakeshottian guerillas on a suicide mission against HHS.

Did I mention that McArdle is around 36? She expected to make six figures a year sitting on her ass in an expensive suit. Now she has to scramble for a living while in an economic downturn that she very publicly praised and supported, in her carefully hedged way. Now there are going to be years of Democratic economic advisers and she'll be in her forties before the Republicans come back to power. Douthat is 29, which means people in their thirties are the older generation. And what does McArdle have to show for her career? A stock portfolio worth half of what she paid for it, an over-priced rented house, an unemployed "roommate," a dog who eats his massive weight in kibble every day, and a car that can be opened with a can opener.
Of course, it's a blow for us--he will be missed from both the offices, and the website.

"Us"? Right.
But we have extracted a promise from him to visit regularly in return for our best wishes in his new gig.

That either means they'll miss him terribly or they're planning to blackmail him to get a mention in the Times.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"We Are All Dead And This Is Hell"

Jesus Fucking Christ.

It's one step back for the Atlantic, but an order of magnitude forward for the country: my colleagues and I learned today that senior editor Ross Douthat will, in short order, become an opinion columnist for the New York Times.

Ross is late-twenties-year-old public intellectual with the sensibility of a 60-year eminence grise, the range of a Hitchens, the pitch of a conservative AJP Taylor, the conscience of a Neibuhr and the intellectual honesty of his frequent sparring partner, Andrew Sullivan.

Good God. That fucking idiot Douthat, with his gentle little moral admonishments, and his racist assumptions, and his intellectual meanderings. Fuck him and the horse he rode in on.

Jesus. We deserve to be reduced to poverty, violence and hunger. We're too fucking stupid to live. Not just because of Douthat, but because so many people pissed our country away and feel all Godly about it.

Nothing Up My Sleeve

Megan McArdle muses about university president salaries. Should they be capped too? Hmmmm? What about bank executives who accept the bailout? Is this fair? Hmmm? What do you think? Hmmmm? I have a logical, reasoned answer:

Who the hell cares? Has the economic situation not penetrated that thick snarl of cotton wool she calls a brain? Who the hell cares? Nobody! Her lords and masters screwed the pooch and now it's having septuplets! Either help, explain, or get out of the way!

Or maybe she can talk about this:

As I noted on this page in December 2007, the presumptive cause of the world-wide decline in long-term rates was the tectonic shift in the early 1990s by much of the developing world from heavy emphasis on central planning to increasingly dynamic, export-led market competition. The result was a surge in growth in China and a large number of other emerging market economies that led to an excess of global intended savings relative to intended capital investment. That ex ante excess of savings propelled global long-term interest rates progressively lower between early 2000 and 2005.

That decline in long-term interest rates across a wide spectrum of countries statistically explains, and is the most likely major cause of, real-estate capitalization rates that declined and converged across the globe, resulting in the global housing price bubble. (The U.S. price bubble was at, or below, the median according to the International Monetary Fund.) By 2006, long-term interest rates and the home mortgage rates driven by them, for all developed and the main developing economies, had declined to single digits -- I believe for the first time ever. I would have thought that the weight of such evidence would lead to wide support for this as a global explanation of the current crisis.

That's Alan Greenspan, lying his head off about his actions and the result of his actions. Which McArdle backed all the way.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back Away Very Slowly

I just spent a bit of time reading Rod Dreher, and I think I am finally beginning to understand. You know that guy on the bus, the thin one with the shiny, too-formal suit and rounded shoulders? He looks everyone in the eye and has a soft voice and whispers warnings of apocalypse and hellfire. He's carrying a couple of books stuffed with bits of paper for bookmarks. He's desperate to warn everyone before it's too late, and he's creepy as hell. That's Rod.

They're hunting us Christians, he whispers. His soft hands stroke his cheap Bible. The world is collapsing and we're all going to starve. Grow food, he hisses, looking around him furtively. The men in white coats think they're God. They're after me, too.

Please, someone put him out of his misery before he's found curled up into a ball in the corner of his basement, like a pillbug.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Less Tall Megan

Ooooh, Megan McArdle was busy. The Shorters:

The best people to fix a bad situation are the people who deliberately created it.

I'm afraid my credit line will be cut, which would be unfair.

We bought a mattress recently.

I have aaaaaaaabsolutely no idea what I'm talking about.

K-Lo Goes To Confession (Briefly)

X: Painful Truths

K-Lo: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been one week since--ow, Mama, cut that out, you're pinching my arm--my last confession. Does it still count if it's over the phone, Father?

Father: Yes, Kathryn Jean. Er--is something the matter?

K-Lo: Alright Mama! Just give me a chance! This week I disobeyed my parents and sent some work into the Corner. Oh my God I am heartily sorry for what I have done--that is everything, Mama! What? Oh, yeah, I also broke my promise to my mother that I would give up writing about "Mittens" Romney.

Father: (sadly) Oh, Kathryn Jean. I had such hopes.

K-Lo: It was for the good of the country, Father! "Bobby" Jindal wasn't man enough to stir the men and women of the conservative party. He's not nearly as dreamy as "Mittens" and doesn't wear the Underwear of the Lord, which loses him a lot of points, in my opinion.

Father: He's still married, young lady.

K-Lo: Father, it's not for me! It's for the country! I do not need to beg God's forgiveness, Mama, I am not telling a lie!

Father: Kathryn Jean--

K-Lo: He said America has to be strong, prosperous and free! Who else would say that but "Mittens"? And it needs to be said, with socialism creeping around the corner waiting to strangle us in its suffocating mother-like Smother Love! No, Mama, I don't mean you, you're love is just like Mary's love of Jesus. I know you'd be happy for me to die horribly too.

Father: Kathryn--

K-Lo: Obama's poisoning young minds with platitudes like we can do better and reality is good! Reality isn't good, it's scary and strange and it wants to get in my pants!

Father: Kath--

K-Lo: He has a plan! It's a good plan that will take back our country and solve all its problems! He'll tell us that plan some day, if we only believe in him!

Father: God or Romney?

K-Lo: Either!

Father: Kathryn Jean, you're absolved. Say ten Hail Marys and an Act of Contrition, and give the phone to your mother. I have a pharmacist friend I know she'll want to meet.

Sucks To Be Me

It's both a blessing and a curse to have one such as Megan McArdle, to provide a case study of sorts of the modern American conservative fool. Her example provides a cornucopia of information on why Bush was able to get away with his actions for so long. Her consistent behavior over a long time period allows observers to understand the process conservative go through while undermining and harming themselves and nearly everyone around them.

Case in point, as I like to say:

Apparently Congress' "buy American" clause in the bailout funds is having its desired effect: Bank of America has rescinded its job offers to foreign MBAs. I suspect that Bank of America is at least as motivated by a need to reduce headcount as it is by fear of Congress.

I agree that BoA is probably using the situation to "go Galt," that is, be forced to cut back while pretending one is doing so for other reasons. It's the next sentence that starts paging Dr. Freud.

But cutting your recruitment based on country of origin, rather than skills and fit, does not seem like the most efficient way to do it.

Why are earth do you assume that your fellow American MBAs are inferior to foreign MBAs? You're all educated in America and the Americans would have the benefit of complete fluency in English and American customers. Why would BoA be unable to find enough MBAs, especially during a recession when a lot of MBAs are getting fired? Are there so many foreign MBAs and so few American MBAs that one must hire foreign workers just to fill the new slots at BoA? Why make such a silly statement, especially with no facts or logic to back you up?

As a committed free trader--and an MBA who went through the mass layoffs of the last recession--my sympathy is all with the MBAs. These are people who mostly aren't eligible for scholarships or subsidized student loans; they've borrowed or spent close to $100,000 in America to get their degree, many of them in hopes of staying here. They're intelligent, highly skilled, and promise to be net contributors to the tax system . . . so America kicks them in the teeth and sends them home without a job.

You mean your sympathy is for the foreign MBAs rather than the American MBAs. Mostly, it seems, because they spent so much money and might not get anything out of it.

In other words, your expensive education that was supposed to make you six figures a year disappointed you to the point where you sympathize with foreigners who don't get to take American jobs. During a recession/incipient depression.

Life's All About Megan, isn't it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ask Susan

Today we are starting a new feature at this blog. Besides the Serials, on-going tales of our favorite bloggers, we now have Ask Susan!, in which I, Susan, answer questions you have been dying to know, providing hard-hitting answers to important questions. As my expertise includes no background on food, politics, or economics, I am an ideal consultant. Oh, look! I have mail!

Dear Susan,

Will Citibank fail?

A Fan

Dear Fan,

I don't know. Let's see what somebody else says. Hmm, it's impossible to say.

Regards, Susan

That's all for this week, folks. Tune in next week for hard-hitting answers to important questions.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Capitalist Profits, Socialist Losses

Shorter Megan: If a man borrows money he has a responsibility to pay it back. If a bank borrows money and it can't pay it back, the man should give him more money to make up for the money it lost, or the entire financial system will collapse.

Okay, it's not very short and she said the last part a long time ago, but you get the picture.

The Enemy Is Matching Velocity

Dear Megan,

Repeating is not the same thing as reporting. Anecdotes about what your friends, colleagues, and people you've interviewed said is not the same thing as data and analysis.

The unemployment rate hit 8.1% in February, according to a Labor Department report out this morning. The numbers were not a surprise, and every sector lost jobs, though constuction has been hit the hardest. The only moderately surprising news is that average hourly earnings continue to rise, presumably reflecting a concentration of job losses among less skilled workers.

Why are you presuming instead of checking the numbers? Asking people? Is she a journalist or is she like Sigourney Weaver's character in Galaxy Quest, whose job it is to repeat whatever the computer says?

The New York Times story reports:

Some economists expect that the nation's businesses could cut another two million jobs and that unemployment could reach 9 to 10 percent by the time a recovery begins.

Some economists? I haven't talked to a single one who estimates unemployment peaking below 9%.

It would be helpful if you gave us names, so we could know who is giving you the information. For all we know it could be your cousin who used to work for the Unemployment Office.

Unemployment is a lagging indicator--it will keep falling after output has bottomed out. And output is not yet ready to bottom out, for all of our public officials slapping happy face stickers over all their official reports.

Numbers? Please? And names? Who is slapping on happy face stickers? Which reports?

The other day I was talking to another economics journalist at a lunch,...

Another anonymous anecdote.

...and in re: Ben Bernanke's stated public opinion, asked whether he'd met anyone who actually believed that growth would recover in the second half of the year.

"No," quoth he, then added "and neither does Bernanke."

What could that possibly mean? Bernanke doesn't believe things are getting better, but doesn't say so--why could that possibly be so? Can anyone figure out this conundrum? I know--let's ask Megan. She has an MBA from the University of Chicago and many contacts in the financial industries. She is paid by the Atlantic to explain the intricacies of the financial markets to people just like us. Well, Megan?

By which he claimed no special knowledge, but rather pointed out the obvious: the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is not going to start screaming "fire!" in a market that is already primed to stampede.

Oh. Well, it was very nice of you to share that with us.