Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Brilliant Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell embarrasses himself in his latest Townhall essay. He writes that brainy people are dangerous--just look at FDR, Robert MacNamara, Hitler, and Juan Peron, who were all smart people who did stupid things.

There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.

Such people have been told all their lives how brilliant they are, until finally they feel forced to admit it, with all due modesty. But they not only tend to over-estimate their own brilliance, more fundamentally they tend to over-estimate how important brilliance itself is when dealing with real world problems.

Many crucial things in life are learned from experience, rather than from clever thoughts or clever words. Indeed, a gift for the clever phrasing so much admired by the media can be a fatal talent, especially for someone chosen to lead a government.
Does Sowell know that his fellow-travelers often call him brilliant? I hope he isn't too insulted. Sowell rose from poverty through his intelligence and hard work. He was a Marine and photographer, went from GED to doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago, and must be a remarkable man. He probably has both street and book smarts, which makes it very sad to see him write such puerile, anti-intellectual boiler-plate garbage. He is obviously capable of much more yet prefers to flatter the proudly ignorant and pass on the wisdom of the failed thinkers of the Chicago School.

Someone recently pointed out how much Barack Obama's style and strategies resemble those of Latin American charismatic despots-- the takeover of industries by demagogues who never ran a business, the rousing rhetoric of resentment addressed to the masses and the personal cult of the leader promoted by the media. But do we want to become the world's largest banana republic?
He should be ashamed of himself.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Political Abortions

Megan McArdle finds something in the health care debate to agree with.
I think that not paying for abortions is morally and politically correct; you cannot use public money to subsidize an activity that half the public thinks is something akin to murder. Even if Democrats win this battle, the minute the Republicans get control, they'll just undo it. If you think crowding out is real, then you need to accept the fact that national health care may reduce access to this particular procedure. Maybe Republicans could learn to love this plan after all . . .
Do you know I think is akin to murder? Murder. Yet I am forced to pay for our murder of innocent Iraqi women and children and unborn babies. Somehow the right never seems to think of that while weeping over all the dead babies.


I took down the anti-pope post because it needed too many corrections. Stupid facts, getting in the way of my erroneous rant.

What's Shaking, Jonah?

Jonah Goldberg tweets:
bellweather? For first time, Reagan Nat airport stores now fronting anti-Obama t-shirts. "Don't Blame Me I Voted For McCain
about 1 hour ago from API

The Reagan National Airport had pro and anti-Obama t-shirts when I was there in June. Goldberg could investigate and discover the facts of the situation, but that would cut into his lunch and drinking time, so I understand why he has no idea what he's talking about.

Every time I see Goldberg I'm tempted to shout, "Norm!" Or maybe "Morn!"

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fairy Dust

Shorter Ross Douthat: If Obama closes his eyes real tight and claps his hands real hard and really believes, he'll magically win in an impossible situation.

Why bother with facts and reality when superstition works so well? When choosing belief over reason is so satisfying, especially when someone else suffers the consequences?

Sweet Blessed Relief

Ohthankgod, Megan McArdle has stopped blogging about economics. I'm thrilled for her. Finally she has realized her limitations and has accepted her path in life, to give womanly moralizing lectures to her flock and concern troll the left. No doubt she out buying skirts that go below the knees and pill-box hats as we speak.

Roman Polanski has been arrested on his 32-year old statutory rape charge and is scheduled for deportation to the United States.


The French, too, have forgiven him of course....You would think we'd busted him for unpaid parking tickets. The guy drugged a thirteen year old girl in order to rape her. Perhaps the French have some sophisticated, European point of view on these things that I, with my puritan ancestry, simply cannot rise to. [my bold]
Miss Megan McArdle, Irish Catholic daughter of immigrants, most of whom fled the potato famine in the 1840s or came over in a great wave at the turn of the century, who would have been looked down upon as a dirty, Popish Johnny-Come-Lately by the Protestants who had been in America for generations, hearkens back to her fake-Puritan ancestry to declare that Europe is too sophisticated and European and immoral and therefore offends her deep, moral, fake-Puritan soul. Why not Catholic morality? Is that not hip enough for her?

BREAKING!: Damn! I spoke too soon.

Shorter Miss Megan Mary Margaret O'Leary McArdle: The FHA is to blame for the economic crash.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Will We Fight Now?

Some news about the lynched census taker has surfaced.

A part-time census worker found hanging in a rural Kentucky cemetery was naked, gagged and had his hands and feet bound with duct tape, said an Ohio man who discovered the body two weeks ago.

Authorities have also said the word "fed" was scrawled with a felt-tip pen across 51-year-old Bill Sparkman's chest, but they have released very few details about the case and said investigators have not determined if it was a homicide, suicide or an accident.
Someone at the scene said his census ID was duct-taped to his body.

When an authority gives permission to attack, there are consequences.

Earlier this summer, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) waged a high-profile, wildly-dishonest campaign against the Census. The Minnesota congresswoman said she was so worried about the threat of the government asking “very intricate questions” and collecting information that she would illegally refuse to fill out the form. “They will be in charge of going door to door and collecting data from the American public,” she said. “This is very concerning.” She repeatedly used inflammatory and fear-mongering rhetoric against the Census:

– “I think there is a point when you say enough is enough to government intrusion.” [6/25/09]

– “If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps.” [6/25/09]

“You will receive approximately six contacts from them [Census workers], either through phone calls or they will knock on your door. If you still do not give them the information, they said they’ll contact your neighbor to the left of you, to the right of you to get information.” [6/25/09]
Bachmann’s irrational diatribes about scary stalking Census workers quickly spawned a right-wing movement. During an interview with Bachmann, Fox News’ Glenn Beck said, “Ok, so let me talk about the Census because there’s a lot of people that are concerned with it because they don’t want to fill it out, they’re not comfortable with ACORN members coming to find out all this information, they don’t want to give the government all this kind of information.”
Apparently Bachmann is mostly funded through the far right.

Michele Bachmann (R)
Contributor Total

Club for Growth $92,630
Susan B Anthony List $15,201
TCF Financial $14,600
Verizon Communications $11,000
ACA International $10,000
American Crystal Sugar $10,000
Associated Builders & Contractors $10,000
Campaign for Working Families $10,000
Cmte for the Preservation of Capitalism $10,000
Credit Union National Assn $10,000
Eagle Forum $10,000
Every Republican is Crucial PAC $10,000
Freedom Club of America $10,000
Help America's Leaders $10,000
House Conservatives Fund $10,000
Keep Our Majority PAC $10,000
Koch Industries $10,000
Longhorn PAC $10,000
Majority Initiative-Keep Electing Repubs $10,000
National Assn of Home Builders $10,000
National Auto Dealers Assn $10,000
National Beer Wholesalers Assn $10,000
National Fedn of Independent Business $10,000
Northstar Leadership PAC $10,000
People for Enterprise/Trade/Econ Growth $10,000
Texas Freedom Fund $10,000
Together for Our Majority $10,000
United Parcel Service $10,000

Koch. What a surprise. No Tea-bagger Left Behind, I guess.


Number of Megan McArdle posts savoring the fall of ACORN: 3

Number of posts decrying the murder of a census taker: 0

I'm not sure why an economics writer is discussing ACORN at all. But since the right is whipping up hysteria about ACORN and its assistance in recruiting census takers and a census worker was lynched with the word "FED" on his chest, it would only be equitable and fair--and wise--to point out the consequences of that hysteria.

I won't hold my breath.

Speaking of consequences, I see that yet another person has died for lack of health care. But she was young, and Megan McArdle has said that young people don't need health care, so I guess she can just ignore that person's death as well.

No wonder she can't sleep at night.

UPDATE: McArdle posts on the killed census worker, to say that it's unlikely he was killed by a right-winger because they have nothing against the census.

She's paid to be a "journalist," by the way.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pharma Chameleon

Good Heavens, Megan McArdle is still trying to convince people she wasn't lying about health care innovation. If she doesn't learn to let go she's not going to have a very good marriage with young Mr. Suderman.

When I was talking about pharma's role in innovation, a lot of people confused this with being pro-pharma.
No, mainly we thought you were pulling statistics out of your ass. We just assumed that lying to support pharma meant you supported pharma.
The implication was that I should be in favor of anything that's good for Big CDrugs.
Are you on Big CDrugs right now, or are you just an unprofessional writer?
This is sort of like thinking that because I like watching Derek Jeter play baseball, I would also enjoy watching him stab a puppy to death.
Drugs it is.
Hence I am not happy, but outraged, by this:
Time for a brief comment on health care reform, now that Sen. Baucus has presented a bill to the Finance Committee (which, to be sure, I believe has already attracted over 500 proposed amendments). As is well known, the largest drug industry trade group, PhRMA, signed on to the whole idea of a large reform effort early, in exchange for a seat at the table (and a chance to make things go favorably). How's that working out so far?

As Steve Usdin at Biocentury writes, the answer is "fairly blatantly"...


The tax put on medical devices by this bill has already been noted widely in the press, and I see that Sen. Kerry is already objecting to that provision - naturally enough, since Massachusetts has some big players in that area. The Senators from Guidant and Medtronics (also known as Indiana and Minnesota) are speaking up as well. The trade association for that industry (AdvaMed) apparently couldn't come to terms with Washington, so this tax is their reward - which, in a nutshell, is the sort of thing that keeps gradually turning me into a libertarian.
Profits are good when they result from providing a service people want.
That's not what you said before. You said Americans had to pay higher prices for drugs than Europeans because those profits financed innovation, which would save millions of lives in the future. The natural inference is that any higher American profits lead to more innovation.
When they are the result of capturing the government by cutting special deals, they're immoral and inefficient. And this is just the beginning . . .
Because special deals with corporations are a brand-new innovation, never tried before, and certainly not an issue when Bush cut a deal with pharma to pay full price for Medicare drugs.

The entire health insurance industry is immoral and inefficient, yet McArdle says we must keep it as it is or millions will die. She has no problem with that.

Tune in next week, when McArdle discovers that people are dying in Afghanistan and declares it's all Obama's fault.

In Money We Trust

When something goes terribly wrong the only smart thing to do is find out what happened and prevent the event from reoccurring. It is completely illogical and extremely dangerous to declare that nobody should try to find out the cause of disasters. It's like watching New Orleans drown but refusing to find out why the city flooded. A sane, honest person would want to know what happened so the city doesn't flood again. She would determine the cause of the flood, determine what needed to be repaired and how, and investigate how to prevent the event from happening again. But if you're Megan McArdle you would encourage people to move back into the old neighborhood and do nothing else, because finding out the reason is too hard, the flood couldn't have been prevented anyway, and nobody is responsible because everyone is responsible.

McArdle clings to an incredibly weak argument to make her point.
[F]inancial meltdowns don't offer villains, for the simple reason that no one person or even one group is powerful enough to take down a whole system.

There were many reasons and no villains, and the bad practices that led to financial disaster were okay because everyone was doing it and everyone thought it would work.

[Matt Taibi] complains about CDO's on the grounds that Goldman hid the atrocious risks inside a fancy dan derivative package that no one could understand. But in fact, everyone was aware that CDO's were repackaging crap mortgages--that was the point. The idea was pure portfolio theory, broadly agreed upon by everyone involved. Everyone knew a lot of the mortgages might go bad, either by defaulting or prepaying. (This is a risk for bankers, who don't like the idea that if interest rates drop, their 7% mortgage might suddenly turn into a pile of non-interest-bearing cash which can only be invested at 5%.) But if you pool the risk, only some of the bonds will go bad, while others pay off. The result is a less risky, less volatile investment than any individual junk mortgage bond. And it would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for those crazy kids a collapse in the housing market of a scale not seen since the Great Depression.
Taibbi anticipated strawman arguments like McArdle's before she made them.
I’ve been shocked by how many grown adult people seem to have swallowed this argument, that the argument against Goldman’s behavior during the bubbles of recent decades is invalid because “everyone was doing it” — and other banks, like for instance Morgan Stanley, were “just as bad” as Goldman was.

Two things about that. One, it isn’t true, not really. By any reasonable measure Goldman is and has been the baddest guy on the block for a long time. When it comes to government influence, no other Wall Street company even comes close. And while maybe one might have made an argument that other players were more damaging to society before the crisis of last year, there’s simply no question now, after the bailouts and especially after the AIG fiasco, that Goldman now reigns supreme in the area of insider advantage. To pick any other bank to tell the story of the rapidly growing influence of Wall Street on politics and the blurring of public and private roles would be a glaring journalistic oversight, and surely even Goldman’s biggest supporters would admit this.

Two, even if it is true that “everyone else was doing it”: so what? Who cares? To me this response is highly telling. We published a piece accusing Goldman Sachs of systematically ripping off pensioners and other retail investors by sticking them with rafts of toxic mortgages it knew were losers, of looting taxpayer reserves to cover its bad bets made with AIG, of manipulating gas prices to massive detrimental effect, of helping to explode an internet bubble that caused over $5 trillion in wealth to disappear, and numerous other crimes — and the response isn’t “You’re wrong,” or “We didn’t do that shit, not us,” but “Well, Morgan did the same stuff,” and “Why aren’t you writing about Morgan?”

Why didn’t we write about Morgan? Because we didn’t. Because it’s your turn, you assholes.

Barry Ritholz read McArdle's claim that no one/everyone was to blame with disbelief.
I don’t really get Megan McArdle when she makes a statement such as the one above. It was in an article critiquing Matt Taibbi and defending Goldman Sachs.

Um, Megan, I am going to have to beg to differ with you. There were many, many identifiable villains who through their own action and inaction, helped create the crisis. There were people who remained slavishly devoted to an outmoded and disproven ideology, which led them to decisions that were indefendable. Some people engaged in utter recklessness when it came to risk management, or such gross irresponsibility that they are not merely morally culpable, but legally also. Then there are those regulators who gave the corporate interests they supervised pretty much everything they asked for. And of course, the people simply trying to grab a free lunch contributed mightily to the collapse.

I have 322 well researched pages that shows as much.

Goldman Sachs was but one of the 5 biggest investment banks that requested from the SEC, and received, an exemption from the net cap rules. This allowed their leverage to balloon from 12-to-1 to as much as 40-to-1.

As a nation, we need to stop pretending this is “too complicated” and start holding the responsible parties accountable . . .

That is the last thing McArdle wants to do. She claims to not understand his point.
Ritholtz is not, in many of these cases, describing villainy. He is describing "being wrong", which is not a crime, thank God. Villainy involves people who know, or should have known, that what they were doing was likely to lead to the awful results.

I mean, you can quibble and say "You should have known[...]", and indeed you should have, but if, for whatever reason, your senses deluded you, you're not a villain. No, even if you were thinking about the presentation you had due at work--or how angry you were at your husband for having a fling with his secreatary--rather than concentrating on your driving.

When something is common enough, I think it definitionally isn't villanous. It may be a practice that should be fixed--we should all be more careful when starting our cars, I'm sure. But most of us have, at some point in our lives, accidentally stepped on the gas instead of the brake. And in the overwhelming majority of cases, this is not a huge problem, or even a problem at all--we run into the curbstone, or roar out of the driveway a little too fast. We don't punish people merely because, through a fluke of circumstance, the one time THEY did it happened to be fatal. Or at least, we shouldn't.

Remember that McArdle is habitually wrong. She was wrong on Bush (twice), wrong on Iraq, wrong on almost every aspect leading up to the financial crises, wrong on the bank bailout, and wrong on health care innovation. She can't even understand an article on securitization. She's even wrong on cooking. The last thing she can afford is for people who are wrong to be held accountable for their actions. She'd be managing a Payless shoe store in Trenton if that were the case.

But why is she so very wrong so very often? Because she doesn't think for herself. She depends on consensus to give her her opinions, just like she depends on other blogs to tell her what to write about or what to think. Like all authoritarian followers she's afraid to think for herself and goes along with what she's told or what her peers think. Authoritarian followers were not permitted to form their own opinions; they were forced to agree with the opinions of their authority, so they are unaccustomed to examining an argument and coming to a conclusion. That conclusion might contradict what they are told and authoritarians can't let that happen, throwing everything they think they know into question and forcing them into the terrifying position of having to think for themselves for maybe the first time. The fact that she is being paid to not think is just gravy.

For some reason know only to McArdle and her god, she has chosen the financial industry as her authority. They are the parent who cannot fail her and must be supported at all costs, no matter how abusive they are. The people of Wall Street and DC who nearly created a Great Depression Part 2 (and who still might) must be absolved of all blame, or else the entire imaginary world in McArdle's head will be threatened.
There are two basic narratives of what happened. The first is that bankers had bad incentives: they took massive risks because the profits were so good in the up years that it was worth the risk of the bad, or because they could pass the risks onto some other sucker, or they thought Uncle Sugar would bail them out. The other narrative is that bankers had bad information: they didn't understand the risks they were taking.

I've always preferred narrative B, because Narrative A doesn't make much sense. The CEOs of big banks lost vast sums of money, and their jobs, most of their social status, and so forth. They held onto the worst tranches of their securities, which implies they didn't know how badly they were going to blow up. Etc.

I find it vastly more plausible, if not so comforting, to believe that systems can occasionally produce bad results even if the incentives basically point in the right direction. The FICO score revolution was valuable, but we took it too far. The money sloshing around US markets disguised the problems, because people who got into trouble tapped their home equity, or in a pinch, sold the house at a tidy profit. Everyone from borrowers to regulators was getting the same bad signal, that their behavior was much less risky than it actually was.

That doesn't mean that nothing can be done. Maybe we decide we want a less complex financial system. But it won't be because there's some villain manipulating everything into ruin; rather, we may decide that there are certain kinds of risks we can trust ourselves to handle.

I'm not sure that this would work, and I'm skeptical that it's a good idea. But the more time we waste trying to figure out who did us wrong, the less quickly we will arrive at an actual solution.

Not everyone has McArdle's neurotic need to support the banks.
A failure to prosecute the "villains" responsible for the financial crisis that brought the United States to its knees will leave the country without the moral compass needed to avert future crises, a Wall Street luminary said.

Pioneer hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt is angry that the bailout of America is eroding the nation's capitalist ethos while those whose deeds crippled the U.S. economy suffer scant opprobrium, their names still untarnished.

"Something really went wrong here. We're about to enter a period where our budget deficit will dwarf anything we've seen before," Steinhardt told the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit in New York.

"What we really needed a long time ago was a recognition that there were villains apace. The evils of the financial system should have been recognized long before this," said Steinhardt, who no longer manages billions of dollars but whose counsel is sought on Wall Street and among select politicians.

Steinhardt, who is a bit of a villain himself, lists Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, the American public, and many others. He has no problem naming names and calling for accountability.
"The question is, What's going to come of this, if there are going to be no villains?" he said.

"Is Hank Greenberg a villain?" Steinhardt said, referring to the former chief executive of insurer American International Group, recipient of a $152 billion federal bailout after it suffered massive losses mainly on complex securities tied to mortgages that had declined in value.

He rattled off other names: James "Jimmy" Cayne, former CEO and chairman of defunct investment bank Bear Stearns Cos, whose unsustainable leverage in two failed hedge funds sparked the crisis in summer 2007.

And Richard Fuld, ex CEO of failed investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., whom Steinhardt said he saw last week in a restaurant "happy as a hero, blowing kisses."

Finally, he asked, referring to the senior counselor of Citigroup and a former Treasury secretary under Clinton. "Is Bob Rubin a villain? Still at Citibank? Is he a villain? You can't name a villain? Is this a villain-less debacle?"

Although a friend of Clinton, Steinhardt knocked Barack Obama's pick of ex-Clinton officials for key positions in his administration. The choices reveal a deep lack of substance on the president-elect's part, he said.

"We have a new president who I find to be an absolute tabula rasa in terms of his knowledge of anything," he said, referring to Obama as a blank slate.

"Pay attention to what Obama says and you will find he hardly ever says anything of consequence."

Steinhardt also railed against Congress, where the quality of intellect "is not exactly awing."

"It seems to me that the intellectual level that we are surrounded with both in government and in the industry is exceptionally low at the moment, it makes me angry."

Not everybody ignores reality, however, not even in The Atlantic.
Here's the synopsis: Financial innovation produced a vast network of complicated asset-backed securities traded among what insiders call "shadow banks," or unregulated banks. Shadow banks looking to park cash where it would hold value
and earn interest created a short-term securities market -- much like a checking
account. But unlike a regular FDIC-insured checking accounts, these deposits
would not be guaranteed by the government. So investors borrowing from this
shadow depository system had to put up collateral. And they chose ... their
asset backed securities.

Why is that dangerous? Because in the shadow banking industry, these deposits, backed by sub-prime mortgages instead of the FDIC, acted as money. Banks relied on it for transactions. "Subprime morgage debt had entered the money supply." But then the housing bubble burst. Depositors dumped their assets to raise cash and tried to withdraw their money,raiding the shadow depository market, and the money supply crashed.

McArdle is still claiming that financial innovations weren't a problem. She is wrong, as she is wrong about so many things. Here McArdle either deliberately out of dishonesty or accidently out of stupidity thinks she's found support for her claim that sliced and diced mortgage securities did not contribute to the economic crises. McArdle also wrote an irrelevent article claiming banker pay had nothing to do with the crises, claiming bankers' pay is so high because they must take so many risks with huge amounts of money. She does not mention how they ran to the government when their bets went bad, invalidating her theory.

McArdle has written so many tediouus words defending the indefensible. She has danced around pretending to be impartial, criticizing insane mouthpieces like Glenn Beck for balance while supporting the financial elite. It's just an insane waste of words, of time, of money. We are drowing and McArdle is shoving our heads under water, telling is that this is how it has to be, for our own good. And it works. Sensible people still find it nearly impossible to believe that our elite are perfectly willing to watch us suffer and slowly die, as long as they get rich in the process. The truth is too painful to accept, so they choose to believe the lies instead.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Burying the Lede

Megan McArdle says:
Advertising has plummeted for most publications (although, of course, she noted modestly, the Atlantic actually recently enjoyed its best ad month ever).

What McArdle doesn't say:
Coming off a difficult first half that saw ad pages slide 24.6 percent compared to the same period last year, The Atlantic said its July-August "Ideas” issue, on newsstands now, pulled in the most ad revenue of any issue in the magazine’s history.

The Atlantic has always lost money.
Atlantic Media is a private company and profitable, thanks to the National Journal, a political publication with a Capitol Hill readership, which commands subscription fees of $1,600 a year. The Atlantic, with a circulation around 400,000, is known for its lengthy original reports that run to thousands of words. It has lost $12 million in its worst years under Bradley but should lose less than $5 million this year [2007], he said.

The economy is much worse now than in 2007, which no doubt is why ad revenues are down almost 25%. McArdle might want to rethink her immodesty.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Moderation and Civility

Our lords and masters, our political/financial elite, had a serious dilemma last year. They had successfully manipulated markets and blown bubbles, raking in billions. Consequently the middle class lost a big chunk of their investments, land wealth and pensions and the lower class lost jobs. When that money was gone the elite had the Fed to print up more money to be paid back by future generations, like a bad boyfriend who steals your wallet and runs up your credit cards before he leaves you. But all good things come to an end, and the elite knew that even American rubes can get suspicious, angry and dangerous. So they began to plan. Peter Suderman, in Reason in 2008:

[I]t’s crucial for the right to defend itself against accusations of wholesale capture by the corporate-lobbying complex (and release itself if and where that capture exists). Part of that might mean, as [David] Frum seems to imply, severing some existing corporate ties. Part of that might mean tactical redirection of the anti-corporate sentiment that has come as a natural result of the recent string of bailouts. It will definitely mean highlighting stories like this one, which showcase the ways that, far from reducing corporate influence on government, a Democratic Washington has in many ways been a boon to the lobbying world. My good friend Tim Carney, newly of the DC Examiner, does this more consistently than just about anyone. I continue to foresee (and hope!) that his ideas, and hopefully his work, become a major strain of thinking on the right.
The tea-bagging protests, funded by Suderman's former organization FreedomWorks (which is funded by corporations), whipped up fury over government actions. Others are doing the same against ACORN, the census, whatever will strike a cord in the stupid and paranoid Republican base. The monsters who incite violence ignore possible repercussions because they can; Democrats are afraid to even touch stories like the lynching of a census worker, hanged with the word "fed" scrawled across his chest. They don't want to be premature, they're terrified to be wrong, they don't want to make a fuss and look silly. Republicans would be calling for martial law if it happened to them, but they only care about winning, while Democrats want to be fair and measured and balanced and thoughtful and wise. Republicans have declared open season on liberals, carrying guns at town hall meetings, hanging politicians in effigy, and railroading them into jail. The liberals let them. After all, they don't want to be premature.

At the conservative paranoia site, someone posts a You Tube video titled "Census taker caught with a GPS device." From the comments:

anthony Reply:
i had that guy at my door, he asked a few questions if it was a single residence, but yes he did have a friggen gps, i saw it, it was not a ups notebook, it was a scrolling map, so much for the old paper trail with just names and numbers, i dont care anymore, they can have this body, do wutever you want you nwo scumbags, either way i win u lose and Jesus rocks

Dante Reply:
next time dont be pussies standing in the doorway …get in this fuckers face with that camera get the real footage its …first amendment freedom of the press…this guys pressing on your door with a GPS tracker…so if there gonna get you there gonna get you …STAND UP!!!

Points out dumb asses Reply:
Hell yea!!!! Get in this dudes face! He’s on your property! Until these pathetic bastards take it from us, it is STILL OURS!!!!!! USA!!!

mattconner Reply:
exactly what i was going to say, fuck him and every one else when you are in your house it dosent matter if the queen of the netherlands is at your door you can film her or who ever the hell else is with her, and what does this census worm think he is doing? the entire planet is already gps mapped! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK GOOGLE MAPS IS? THIS PUKE IS LITERALY PAINTING THE TARGET FOR THE ANTI PATRIOT AIRSTRIKES AGAINST THE AMERIKAN PEOPLE! i wish one of these earth worshiping corbonophobics would come to my door when im home and ask me if i dare question his lordships” polasaays”

Ill see you son of a bitches in the trenches

Nick Reply:
Don’t you dare LET THEM HAVE your body! In a country with habeas corpus, “you may keep the body!!!!”

One who knows Reply:
I had the same GPS toting fool show up at my driveway and I requested to see his identification. It was elementary to say the least a silly white badge with his signature on the back. Nothing official whatsoever. I asked him to leave my property. He replied I have permission to enter your property and take GPS readings. I got right in his face and told him I request respectively one more time to leave my property immediately. He jumped back in his truck and left.

Only a fool would allow the New World Order to come up and take GPS readings at your front door. There is nothing good to come from big Brothers constant meddling into our lives!

Beware, and carry a big stick… preferably .308 Winchester full metal jacket

Spook45 Reply:
HERE HERE!! I have to resinate that point as well. I dont think anyone would have had anything to say if OBAHHHHMA hadnt taken the Census away from the people who have always done it and given to his private little Gestapo(Acorn) the problem here is that it falls right in line with all of his other dirty little power grab antics and it quite frankly scares the crap out of people who have any sense at all. IF IT AINT BROKE DONT FIX IT. The census was fine where it was and with whom it was and it didnt need to be tampered with unless there was some alternative agenda

endTHEwar Reply:
it’s not the worker that you are standing up to, it’s what they represent and the threat they pose to our liberty.

did the british tax collector deserve to be tarred and feathered in Boston, 1774? probably not, but it sure sent a signal to other tax collectors and to the royal crown.

JJ Alaska Reply:
First off NO the census is NOT done the same as 1790, you have been lied too, only a head count was taken and only a head count is allowed to be taken.

Secondly, the questionaire, that is not the job of the census, it is not legal unless it has ONE AND ONLY ONE question , how many ADULTS occupy this residence, PERIOD THAT IS IT.

You census workers may be just collecting a pay check, but that does not justify or forgive anyone working for them , that knowingly and willing aids the enemy at the cost of the safety and security of fellow americans.

Just doing my job , it no different an excuse then just following orders, and that NEVER justifies a wrong. As some of the Nazi’s attempted that arguement and still thankfully hanged high for there crimes.

oldnamvet Reply:
I am a old man but I pretty much know that if your home is in a GPS system,they could target you from the air very easy,with a missle or whatever.By the way that retard working for the govt did sound and talk like a dipshit retard.I think I would invite him in and ask to see his drivers liscense,so I could look him up at a later time for treason or hangen.
Why would these morons think that ACORN is taking down names to bomb Americans?

[Michelle]Bachmann [(R-MN) ]explained that her fears over the Census were in large part due to the fact that her Number-One Enemy, ACORN, could possibly be involved. (The group might help recruit some of the 1.4 million people needed to go door-to-door to count every American.) She insinuated that former senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) had lost his reelection bid because of “fraudulent votes” perpetrated by ACORN:

BACHMANN: This is what ACORN will do. They will get multiple fraudulent voter registration forms, stuff the registrar’s office with them, in hopes that maybe not all fraudulent registrations will find people at the polls voting. But there may be some people who get through. And sometimes you don’t often need many in order to sway an election one way or another. I come from Minnesota. We’re still in a recount with our U.S. Senate race between Sen. Norm Coleman and the challenger Al Franken. Sen. Coleman won the race on election day, but that was challenged repeatedly, over and over, with what we feel may be fraudulent vote [sic], and we’re very concerned about what comes forward.

Hardly anybody is condemning this murder. He was found hanging from a tree--lynched--with the word "FED" written on his chest, yet everyone is stroking their chin and saying that we don't know if it was murder, we don't know if it was because he was a census taker, we need to wait and see. (And are we really sure he's dead? Yes, the man is no longer actually moving and the body has decomposed, but let's wait to be sure!) What are people waiting for? Are the afraid that the dead man was killed by someone who hated the feds generally, and not specifically? These people see people employed by the government every day--teachers, mail carriers, cops, and many, many more. They weren't killed, a census taker was. He wasn't shot or stabbed, he was lynched. He wasn't hidden in the hills, he was left hanging. What facts are people waiting for?

No worries, it'll soon be forgotten. No doubt someone will write a stiff letter to the editor criticizing the alleged death, and David Broder will list all the times Democrats were incivil to Republicans to show balance. And more people will die, because the left is afraid to fight back. The left is dealing with cowards and fools who could be easily intimidated (they are authoritarians) yet they are too afraid to type out words on a computer. They might be wrong, and that would be embarrassing. And what is murder, compared to embarrassment?

UPDATE: Kevin Drum calls for civility.
ACORN has filed a lawsuit against James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, the two undercover filmmakers who taped ACORN workers providing advice about how to smuggle underage sex workers into the country from El Salvador...

Points for chutzpah, I guess, but this is a bad idea on so many levels it hurts just to think about it. All they're doing is extending the news cycle on this whole debacle, making fools of themselves with transparently petty arguments, and just generally showing less common sense than your average mafia don caught on a 60 Minutes sting. At this point, ACORN needs to take their lumps, finish their internal investigation, and clean up their act. In the meantime, the least they can do is avoid handing the Glenn Beck crowd free additional ammunition. Fair or not, shooting the messenger isn't helping their cause.
That's quite right. You wouldn't want anyone on the right to be discourage from such actions, to have to hire lawyers and spend money to defend themselves or suffer any consequences at all from their trumped-up hysteria. The left will just make fools of themselves and wind up Glenn Beck. We should be afraid to take on Glenn Beck and just ignore him, like we did during two or three decades of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh is fading away at last and we don't want to do anything to discourage Beck from taking his place. Best to just admit whatever we are accused of and slink away, to make more room for the right's next targets.

That's splendid advice, Drum.

Less Tall Megan

Heavy workload the past day or two, so here are some shorters, with a longer to follow later.

Shorter Mrs. Megan McArdle: I had more money when I was single.

Stupider Megan McArdle: Since CEOs never make bad decisions, 'twas unions that killed the Beast GM.

More Trollish Megan McArdle, verbatim: "It's not as if most people first heard of ACORN when Breitbart started to go after them; they're on the news radar because they are a massive nationwide organization that takes millions of tax dollars every year."

Less Thoughtful Megan McArdle: Here are Felix Salmon's thoughts. I have none of my own.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Step Right Up

The Times is at it again; reporting on Middle America as if it were an especially interesting and enterprising flea in a circus sideshow.

[The Rev. Daniel] Henderson is a peppy, unassuming man in his early 50s, a Jerry Falwell-trained Baptist minister. After serving for many years as the spiritual leader of a megachurch in suburban Minneapolis, he left the pulpit and founded Strategic Renewal, a nonprofit organization that holds “prayer summits” and how-to-worship seminars around the country. (Henderson was also a contributor to the magazine Pray!, which recently went out of business.) “The fact is, most pastors never learn how to really pray,” he explained. “They get to the seminary, and people just assume they know how to pray. But that’s not true. Prayer is a lot more than reciting words. It requires mastering both theory and technique.” [my bolding]

In the afternoon, in a classroom of the tabernacle’s annex, Henderson delivered a workshop on technique to an audience of pastors and seminary students. “Some people think it is better and more meaningful to pray alone, but that’s false,” he told his students. “You improve by praying with others who can mentor you, people who are more expert than you.” According to Henderson, there are rules of effective praying: “Let God begin the conversation. Keep your prayers brief and clear. Repeat simple Scripture-based phrases. Pray standing up to fight torpor. And pray directly facing others, eye to eye, in a loud, clear voice.”

It's not that Henderson didn't ask God to keep his magazine running, it's just that God said no.*

(*from Taxi)

Waving To Ann Althouse

Ann Althouse asks a question:

Why not create a business out of absolutely nothing but bullshit?
Labels: commerce, New Age

posted by Ann Althouse at 9:24 PM

You already have, Ann.

Child Prodigies

The New York Times dresses up Ross Douthat in a sailor suit, straw boater with blue ribbon, and polished shoes, pulls him out from behind its skirt, pushes him in front of his audience, takes his finger out of his nose, and gives him a little shove. Little Master Douthat opens his mouth and begins to recite.
[I]f Bush is destined to go down as a failed president, come what may, he looks increasingly like an unusual sort of failure.


On foreign policy, Bush looks a lot like Lyndon Johnson — but only if Johnson, after years of unsuccessful escalation, had bequeathed Richard Nixon a new strategy that enabled U.S. troops to withdraw from Vietnam with their honor largely intact. On economic matters, he resembles Herbert Hoover — but only if Hoover, after presiding over the stock market crash of 1929, had engineered an economic response that nipped the Great Depression in the bud.

It’s true that Bush didn’t personally formulate the surge, or craft the bailout. But he was, well, the decider, and if he takes the blame — rightly — for what Donald Rumsfeld wrought, then he should get credit for Gen. David Petraeus’s successes in Iraq, and for blessing the sweeping decisions that Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke made in last September’s desperate weeks.

And if we give Bush credit on these fronts, it’s worth reassessing one of the major critiques of his presidency — that it was fatally insulated, by ideology and personality, from both the wisdom of the Washington elite and the desires of the broader public.

In reality, many of the Bush-era ventures that look worst in hindsight were either popular with the public at the time or blessed by the elite consensus. Voters liked the budget-busting tax cuts and entitlement expansions. The Iraq war’s cheering section included prominent Democrats and scores of liberal pundits. And save for a few prescient souls, everybody — right and left, on Wall Street and Main Street — was happy to board the real-estate express and ride it off an economic cliff.

[mumble mumble]

And perhaps his best decisions, on the surge and the bailout, were made from the bunker of a seemingly-ruined presidency — when his approval ratings had bottomed out, his credibility was exhausted and his allies had abandoned him.

This is not a blueprint that future presidents will want to follow. But the next time an Oval Office occupant sees his popularity dissolve and his ambitions turn to dust, he can take comfort from Bush’s example. It suggests that it’s possible to become a good president even — or especially — when you can no longer hope to be a great one.
It's very cruel to laugh at children, so I can't mock Douthat for being so stupid, self-delusional and dishonest in the defense of his political party and personal credibility. I blame The New York Times, who kept him up past his bedtime and displayed him in public, to everyone's painful embarrassment. Bush obeyed conservative principles--give the rich whatever they want and ignore everything else--to the letter and conservatives have no one to blame but themselves for his failures. Declaring that he wasn't so bad after all is stupid and pointless. There is more bad news ahead in the economy and history will not be kind to Bush. Douthat will fare much better; ten minutes after he's dead nobody will remember a single word he ever said.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

God Is An Englishman A Conservative

Matthew Cooper on Irving Kristol:
Other journals and institutions would try to reform liberalism from within--The Washington Monthly and The New Republic, where I worked. The now much-dismissed Democratic Leadership Council comes to mind, too. But the first broad strokes of a serious criticism of modern liberalism were painted by Kristol. You don't need to agree with everything he wrote--or certainly with where his disciples took the country--to admire his work on this sad day.
Brad DeLong on Irving Kristol:
Irving Kristol explains where the economics articles he published in The Public Interest came from:
Among the core social scientists around The Public Interest there were no economists.... This explains my own rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems. The task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority - so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government...
As always, the "serious criticism of modern liberalism" is that it is not conservatism.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mental Health Care

Arguing from authority is a double edged sword. With authoritarians it's never-fail, but if you lose your air of authority there is nothing left. Megan McArdle finds herself needing three mental health breaks recently, for the natives are getting restless. The problem begins when McArdle insults Rush Limbaugh and his fans, some of whom are also McArdle commenters.

I have a dilemma. The other day, I boldly stated that I could not possibly like Rush Limbaugh less. Then he went and described bullying attacks as what happens in "Obama's America"...Race-baiting is not a team sport that anyone should want to join. And I assure Limbaugh, from vivid memory, that horrible bullying also took place in Ronald Reagan's America, and every other America since at least 1978.

The only decent thing for me to do now is apologize and note that at the time, I really did not think it was possible for me to like Rush Limbaugh any less. Now I realize that I was mentally excluding all sorts of activities from the realm of the possible, like murdering boatloads of Guatamalan orphans, or this sort of vileness. It won't be the last time I'm wrong, but I certainly hope it's the last time I'm that wrong about talk radio's capacity for socially destructive quasi-populist virulent nonsense.
Many accusations of elitism later, McArdle compounds her heresy by criticizing his fans as well. They retaliate in comments, and McArdle retreats to her happy place of baby seals and friendly lions. But the unkindest cut of all comes from a much more important place, an Ezra Klein place, and it is devastating.

For a long time, I took questions about stifling innovation very seriously. So did a lot of liberals. But then I realized that the people making those arguments wanted to do things like means-test Medicare, or increase cost-sharing across the system, and generally reduce costs in this or that way, which would cut innovation in exactly the same way that single-payer would hypothetically cut innovation: by reducing profits.

I also found that I couldn't get an answer to a very simple question: What level of spending on health care was optimal for innovation? Should we double spending? Triple it? Cut it by 10 percent? Simply give a larger portion of it to drug and device manufacturers? I'd be interested in a proposal meant to maximize medical innovation. I've not yet seen one.

It turned out that concerns about innovation weren't really about innovation at all. They were just about attacking universal health care ideas of a certain sort. Which is why I stopped taking them seriously. As it is, I'm less worried about squeezing out medical innovation than I am about rising medical costs squeezing out innovation in every other sector of society. Maybe some day the situation will change, and so too will those concerns. But we're not there yet.
McArdle's authority comes from the acceptance of her peers. They made her and they can unmake her, socially if not professionally. It was extremely unwise for McArdle to draw attention to Klein's and Henley's posts because they did not mention McArdle by name. It was perfectly obvious whom they were talking about but plausible deniability works; she would have been far better off pretending they were talking about someone else. But she must insist that she is right regarding innovation, even if few people believe her anymore. She implies that the market has reached the ideal state, where pharma profits balance perfectly with innovation, and any change will upset the balance.

45 million people are on Medicare; about 45% of insured health spending is done by the government. And those drugs are not price controlled right now. The status quo is not perfect, but it's better than expanding the role of government so that there's no private pricing mechanism at all, which is something Klein et al are very much interested in.

Another classic mistake about libertarian thinking. I do not think Pharma=Good Government=Bad. I think that in a market system, prices give pharma incentive to innovate. I also think they will be happy not to innovate, if they can make money by leeching off the public purse.

[I am] opposed to more government intervention in the health care market. You can choose the slimy debating trick of framing this as "I think poor people shouldn't be insured", and I can say "You think people shouldn't have new drugs," but this is not helpful.
McArdle throws in an attack on Nancy Pelosi for balance but her heart doesn't seem into it and she turns to yet another mental health break, this time Jewish mother jokes. But this, too will pass, and the support of her employer is the only thing that really counts. They are the ones with the money.

Meanwhile, over 44,000 people die every year from the lack of health care. [pdf] Men, women and children dying right now, while McArdle files her nails and declares we live in the best of all possible worlds.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry K-Lo

Via Instapundit and ginandtacos, we see that poor Kathryn Jean Lopez is fretting that Edward Kennedy wasn't tossed into a hole in the ground after his death, as Catholic funerals are only for the ideologically pure. She links to a Catholic priests who writes that the Church should have given Kennedy a Catholic funeral but it would have been appropriate to exclude any celebration of the man's life, instead of prayers for the forgiveness of his sins.
The overall tone of the funeral liturgy — from the three eulogies, to the prayers of the faithful, to the homily, to the celebrity musicians, to the guest list, and to the nationally-televised gushing color commentaries — seemed to communicate that it was more a public, political apotheosis of Senator Kennedy than a humble, insistent prayer of the Church his mother for the forgiveness of his sins and the repose of his soul. This was probably not helpful to the Senator eschatologically, obviously scandalous to devout pro-lifers spiritually, and likely injurious to the Church both doctrinally and practically.

On the last point, since lex orandi, lex credendi — “the way we pray indicates what we believe” — the overall impression left by the tone of the funeral will likely influence the way Catholics and non-Catholics understand the purpose of the Catholic funeral liturgy for quite some time. It will, moreover, doubtless impact what some Catholics ask for in the funerals of their loved ones; if pastors are unwilling to allow what they observed Senator Kennedy received, there will be wounds to pastors and parishioners both.

This last controversy was totally avoidable; all that was necessary was to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Catholic funeral rite. And the Senator, pro-lifers and the Church as a whole certainly deserved that the Senator’s funeral be an unambiguous and undiluted expression of the Church’s faith.

Somehow I doubt that people will now believe that every mass must have celebrities, three eulogies and national coverage. Or that they must say good-bye to their loved ones by enumerating their sins in public and begging God's forgiveness for the deceased's corrupt soul lest he burn in eternal damnation.
If the Church really wants to purify its parishioners they can start with the women. Most American women take birth control at some point in their lives.
• Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.[2]
• Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2]
• 31% of the 62 million women do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had intercourse; or are not sexually active.[2]
• Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using contraceptives.[2]
• Among the 42 million fertile, sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing contraception.[2]
I have heard a priest mention, in a mildly scolding manner, that women are not confessing the use of contraceptives, but that was one statement over decades of mass attendance. If the Church were serious about denying Catholic rites (marriage, communion, and even extreme unction) to people who violate Catholic rules on contraception, they would face the audience at the altar during every mass and tell the women in the pews who are using contraception that they are forbidden from receiving communion with the men and children. They don't because they don't want to chase them away, or their money. They don't want them pulling their children out of sacrament classes or parish schools, or stopping volunteering. So they privately look the other way, while publicly pressuring vulnerable politicians to do what they will not. It's cowardly and hypocritical, and therefore Catholic women have few problems with being hypocritical in return.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Faith, Hope, And Charity

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The most important thing to remember is that Megan McArdle doesn't want anyone to have health care that cuts out the corporate middle man. That is all we know and all we need to know. She is still in the fight, bloody yet unbowed, to ensure thousands of dollars pour from the pockets of every single member of the middle class into the hands of multi-millionaires and billionaires.

I don't think that, in the end, Congress is going to be able to take much money out of Medicare. This is not something I'm happy about--it's something I've been lamenting for a decade or so. But reforming senior entitlements has always looked difficult. In the wake of Social Security reform, it's starting to look damn near impossible.

No Medicare, no Social Security, no national health care. However, she ignores everything else for which the tax-payer pays. She doesn't mind billions wasted in military defense and warfare. It might possiblely keep her safe and therefore the billions wasted are money well-spent. She graciously permits the government to police her bar-hopping, repair the roads she drives on, clean her water and deliver it to her door, remove her bodily waste, treat it, and release it far from her view.

The government hauls away her garbage, keeps her lights on, pumps natural gas into her water heater, for far less money than it would cost if she had to do it on her own. It keeps food manufacturers from poisoning her, and inspects the restaurants she visits, the buildings she lives and works in, the cars that whizz by her on the freeway. It created the internet she works on, and much of the medication and vaccines she has benefited from. It educated most of the people who fix her dishwasher, her car, her hair, her dog. All of that is perfectly okay. But health care for people drowning in rising premiums? Megan McArdle has declared that there the benefits must stop, there the line must be drawn. She doesn't need them so nobody else should have them.

This woman is so out of touch that she didn't know premiums had sky-rocketed, that companies practice rescission. She utterly ignores successful national health programs. Yet she feels quite qualified and confident to tell us that we can't have what everyone else has, what everyone else considers a natural human right, and the moral thing to do. This emotionally stunted person has decided that no matter who is hurt, nothing can or should be done to help others because it would hurt the pockets of millionaires and billionaire.

Why does anyone listen to this? What happened to the words of Christ*, in this supposedly Christian country: I am my brother's keeper. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me. The Kingdom of Heaven is not for the faint of heart, who purse their lips at the thought of helping the unwashed masses, or who harbor hate in their hearts, crowding out love and empathy. Our nation lets cruel, cold, vicious people set the moral standards for us, ignoring their Savior, ignoring basic moral values. It's a sin to be silent and idle and let them.

*still atheist

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Armpit Of The Universe

National Review On-line, in its continuing effort to bring the crazy, is inflicting someone called David Kahane on the public, because they don't have enough idiots on the payroll. His schtick is to sometimes pretend to be liberal to let the right know what is in store for them. But let's let him speak for himself.
I woke up this morning with a song on my lips. Well, not exactly a song — more like a tune, a song without words. I’m sure you know it. It goes something like this: ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-HUH . . . ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-huh . . . ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-HUH . . . ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-huh-ha-huh . . . I’m referring, of course, to the music of His Serene Highness, the Emperor Barack Hussein Obama II, who after a brief two-week absence from the national scene that more or less coincided with the beginning of Ramadan brought his road-show version of Chicago to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night. They say you can go to the well once too often, but as far as BO2 is concerned, you can never go too often to the well of the Senate or the House.

I can never get enough of the Punahou Kid. That saturnine visage, occasionally punctuated by the faux Bobby Bonilla smile; the Islamic finger-wagging, as if he had studied oratory at a mosque in Indonesia or something, the muezzin singsong of the cadences, not quite white and not quite authentically black, either. I love the way he imperiously summons the feckless Senate eunuchs and the cannon-fodder congressmen to his mock-SOTU performances. I love seeing Michelle, scowling and glowering from her perch like Madame Defarge at the guillotine, clicking her knitting needles as she waits for the next head to fall into the basket. I love seeing Annunciata d’Alesandro Pelosi — that’s Maerose Prizzi to you — as the Lady in Red, her face frozen, the only sign of life the blinking of her adoring eyes. I love seeing John McCain and his fetching companion, Lindsey Graham, smiling like a couple of rubes at a three-card-monte game, so pleased are they to be patted on the head like the good little losers they are. And I love the way that, afterward, the press corps, conducted by Jake Lingle, immediately dances around like puppets on a string, mouthing the words to “The Press Conference Rag” as Rahm Emanuel delicately pirouettes in the background with a red Spanish rose between his teeth and a dagger behind his back.

[more craziness]

My friends, our long march through the institutions is finally over. There is no aspect of what we hopefully will soon be referring to as the former United States of America — the “Supreme Soviets of America” has a much better ring to it, no? — that Hussein does not want to fundamentally change: the rapacious, malevolent private sector, the wrong-headed notions of individual “freedom” (the Education Department will soon fix that), any reference to this ever having been a Christian country, and that wicked charter of negative liberties, the Constitution, especially the so-called Bill of Rights. Imagine allowing anyone to say anything about political figures at any time, or owning a firearm, or, Gaia forbid, reserving to the states all powers not specifically enumerated to the federal government. In the interests of a happier, poorer, less polluting, freer America, this stuff has got to go.

And there's more:
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I’m currently working on yet another sequel to The Manchurian Candidate and I’ve come up with this crazy notion that, seven years after 9/11, the American people elected a man they had not even heard of a few years before, a man whose campaign was handled by a red-diaper baby, a man who was part Arab-African, the son of a Muslim, the circumstances of whose nativity are still unclear, whose college applications and transcripts have never been seen, who appears to have no friends from his days at Punahou, Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard. Heck, Hussein even went to Georgetown and made them cover up Jesus. And yet the enchanted Washington press corps finds Michelle’s bare arms and the Obamas’ new puppy — oddly enough, named BO — of far more journalistic interest. Talk about the dogs that don’t bark in the nighttime, the daytime, or any time!

Or, to put it another way, if BHO II actually were the nutbag Right’s worst nightmare, a crypto-Muslim Marxist bent on the destruction of the Principal Enemy, as our friends the Soviets used to call us, how would he act any different
And more:
As you know, the only way I can understand current events is to do what eminent thumb-suckers like Frank Rich do, and that is to frame everything in a facile entertainment context so I can score cheap political points without having to do any, you know, heavy lifting.


Being There II. A mild-mannered, well-spoken homeless person with the improbable name of Barack Hussein Obama II (Denzel Washington) takes the country by storm after he’s discovered aimlessly wandering the streets of Chicago by a shady newsman named Jake Lingle (Robert Downey Jr.). Over a couple of beers, Lingle bets one of his former colleagues at the Chicago Tribune, David Axelrod (Dr. Phil, in his big-screen debut), that he can’t get “Bambi” — who can’t remember a thing about his past at Columbia and Harvard — elected dogcatcher. Thus challenged, the campaign consultant goes to town, rounding up a coalition of red-diaper babies, radicals, terrorists, gangsters and the Daley political machine — the dreaded “Outfit” — to turn Obama first into a state senator, then a U.S. senator, and, finally… president of the United States! Before you say it’s too far-fetched to be believable, remember — it could happen!
It's all about small government, you see, not racism or mindless hatred. They have signs and everything.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Megan and Peter have a family reunion. Photo via The Quaker Agitator

The tea-bagger protests have emboldened our Megan McArdle, who crows to her audience that Democrats are going down, baby. Any day now the Right will resume their rightful place in the world, which is everywhere, and the wingnut welfare will start to flow again, trickling down into the right pockets. Then the Right can go back to ignoring the embarrassing crazies that they're otherwise obliged to support.

It's all very boring but for one thing: McArdle is a little less quick than she has been lie in the service of her masters. Now protests "rarely" work instead of never, and McArdle finally remembers the successful Civil Rights protests. True, these tea-baggers are protesting the helping of other people, but this is the Right so what can you do? You have to protest with the tea-baggers you have, not the tea-baggers you want to have.

Glenn Greenwald does a wonderful job of explaining how the tea-baggers are harming themselves, supporting the elite who stole their future and attacking the powerless who have done nothing to them but exist. This event was entirely predictable; the elite made sure they pointed their victims at each other and then pulled the trigger. During the amusing fracas they walked away with the cash, to McArdle's approval. And the tea-baggers are still waving their guns around, never even noticing when they shoot themselves in the ass.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Across The Atlantic: Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da

Peter's a tea-bagger in the market place.
Megan is a pundit for the Man.
Peter says to Megan, girl I like your face
And Megan says this as she takes him by the hand.

Ob-la-di Ob-la-da lies go on bra
Lala how the lies go on
Ob-la-di Ob-la-da lies go on bra
Lala how the lies go on.

Peter takes a subway to the jewellers' stores,
Buys a half a carat golden ring.
Takes it back to Megan waiting at the door
And as he gives it to her she begins to sing

Ob-la-di Ob-la-da lies go on bra
Lala how the lies go on
Ob-la-di Ob-la-da lies go on bra
Lala how the lies go on

In a couple of years they have built
A home sweet home
With a couple of kids running in the yard
Of Peter and Megan's home.

Happy ever after in the market place
Peter's contacts give the kids a job.
Megan blogs for Pharma, panders to the base,
And in the evening she still plays Wii with the gang.

Ob-la-di Ob-la-da lies go on bra
Lala how the lies go on
Ob-la-di Ob-la-da lies go on bra
Lala how the lies go on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Think Twice, Post Once

Heh. Megan McArdle:

...[T]he argument that consumers find it hard to make informed decisions on healthcare is true of many services, particularly professional services. Do you know whether your lawyer is doing a good job? If so, how? Unless he's actually dozing through the trial or forgetting your name and the pertinent details of your case, you don't have any very good way of evaluating his work. Is the house you're buying going to be snug or drafty? Did your auto mechanic do a good job on your car? In most cases, the answer is . . . shrug.

Yet most lawyers could readily explain why trying to pay every lawyer in the country on a flat-fee basis based on what some bureaucrat thinks it should cost to take a case would probably not result in optimal outcomes. Indeed, most every professional, from engineers to journalists, would reject such a scheme for their own profession in short order. So why do these things sound so sensible when the target is wearing a white coat?

Indy September 11, 2009 11:49 AM
The funny thing is - this description of legal compensation is not far from how the criminal justice system works in some parts of the country. Judges and Prosecutors get a fixed salary. In many counties public defenders for the indigent are compensated in a way that is either like Medicare (mandatory uniform fixed-fees for paperwork and time), or even within a very narrow range of compensation per case unless it presents some rare and extraordinary demands.

Come to think of it - isn't free indigent defense kind of like a "public option"? You can't afford the going rate for a private practitioner and so you have to settle for what the government is willing to pay for. It's of acceptable quality, but almost no one who could afford a private attorney would choose a public defender.


Megan McArdle (Replying to: Indy) September 11, 2009 12:07 PM
And most liberals would agree that this system is terrible, provides low-quality services that are only acceptable because they go to a poor underclass that doesn't vote, and are responsible for an overlarge conviction rate for indigent defendants.


TomO (Replying to: Megan McArdle) September 11, 2009 12:34 PM
Well arguably, but only in the sense that you should pay them more and let them have a larger budget for investigation resources. Please show me where there are any liberals that don't support a "public option" for indigent defense as a matter of principle. Hell I haven't even seen any one argue a different fee system for indigent defense than either a public defender's office or set fee rates for panel attorneys.

So, no, your point fails, this is pretty much how we want to provide the legal services that we deem important enough for a government guarantee.

Doesn't she ever feel embarrassment?


Megan McArdle preemptively scolds the right.
An anti-abortion activist has been shot and killed in Michigan. It seems to be linked to another homicide in the area, so this seems more like a lone lunatic than a political killing, at least for the nonce. I certainly hope so. The abortion wars are quite damaging enough without further escalating the reprehensible violence.

I also hope that if it does turn out to be someone with a political agenda, the right can manage to refrain from claiming that this is really a symptom of some dark rot at the center of liberalism. You hate it when liberals give into the temptation of this sort of bigoted partisan nonsense, and if you really want to piss them off, set an example they'll be forced to live up to.
The party of "Liar!" isn't going to embrace restraint. People like her tea-bagging boyfriend made sure of that. But the post does make McArdle seem bi-partisan, so it serves its purpose.


Megan McArdle remembers 9/11.
Where's Osama?
Nice title. It's not insensitive at all. I'm surprised she doesn't have a drawing of a red-capped Osama among thousand of red-wearing corpses.
Every year, I'm surprised by the way it still punches me in the gut. I was closer to 9/11 than most people: just out of business school, huge numbers of my friends and classmates were working down there. I was living with my parents a few miles uptown. And of course, I ended up working at the disaster recovery site for almost a year. I knew a number of people who died, including someone I dated. When I watch the President and the First Lady standing, hands over hearts, as Taps is played, it is of them that I think . . . and the thousands of faces that were posted on flyers all over downtown, all of them beaming out happy and unknowing from their snapshots.

The rage for revenge, though, has abated, at least on my part.

All of us were angry and in pain, but only a blood-thirsty fool indulges in a rage for revenge. What on earth does she think was motivating the Saudis who attacked us? Does she think that they hated us for our freedoms? The most important thing Jesus* ever said was turn your cheek, because he knew that an eye for an eye was never-ending. When will our Christians start acting like Christians? Do they think Jesus was just joking around?
Capturing Osama will not give any of those people another breath. I care only insofar as it helps us prevent another attack, either because we cripple Al Qaeda, or pour encourager les autres.
(I assume that McArdle is trying to say discourage, not encourage, others.) Attacking someone before they attack you is a crime. You can't attack someone just because you think they might attack you. Anybody could use that justification for any action. Rod Dreher is convinced that gays will come after him because they all want to kill Christians. Is it okay for him to kill gays preemptively? Or is preemptive action (also know as murder) only okay when a Republican president does it?
Will we? Unlikely, but maybe. I'm told that the Taliban's popularity is waning rapidly in Pakistan, thanks to some ill-thought-out attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, and a horrifying video of Taliban members beating a girl in Swat.
Were you told this by the same people who told you that the banks were managing risk, Goldman Sachs needed a bailout, Saddam had WMD, and 80% of European health care profits come from the US? Because I'd start wondering if I were being manipulated and lied to.
On the other hand, I'm not really convinced that he isn't dead. So Al Qaeda gets its propaganda victory. On the other hand, we got eight years free of terrorist attacks.
Except for the anthrax attack. But yes, many terrorist attacks were thwarted because of our vigilance. The vigilance that lazy, inattentive, perpetually vacationing George Bush didn't have before thousand of people under his protection were killed. The rest of the world was not so lucky. And the propaganda coup was not the attack, it was the Bush Administration's inept, immoral response to the attack.

*Still don't believe he existed, but you get the point.

What Might Have Been

Revealed: The Taliban Minister, the US Envoy and the Warning of September 11 That Was Ignored

by Kate Clark in Kabul

Weeks before theterrorist attacks on 11 September, the United States and the United Nationsignored warnings from a secret Taliban emissary that Osama bin Laden was planning a huge attack on American soil.

The warnings were delivered by an aide of Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban Foreign Minister at the time, who was known to be deeply unhappy with the foreign militants in Afghanistan, including Arabs.

Mr Muttawakil, now in American custody, believed the Taliban's protection of Mr bin Laden and the other al-Qa'ida militants would lead to nothing less than the destruction of Afghanistan by the US military. He told his aide: "The guests are going to destroy the guesthouse."

The minister then ordered him to alert the US and the UN about what was going to happen. But in a massive failure of intelligence, the message was disregarded because of what sources describe as "warning fatigue". At the same time, the FBI and the CIA failed to take seriously warnings that Islamic fundamentalist students had enrolled in flight schools across the US.

Mr Muttawakil's aide, who has stayed on in Kabul and who has to remain anonymous for his security, described in detail to The Independent how he alerted first the Americans and then the United Nations of the coming calamity of 11 September.

The minister learnt in July last year that Mr bin Laden was planning a "huge attack" on targets inside America, the aide said. The attacks were imminent and would be so deadly the United States would react with destructive rage.

How easily we are manipulated. Read the rest here.

So You Think You Can Think

Megan McArdle pops up in the pages of The New York Times to discuss Obama's health care speech, because people with the right background don't need to be correct, honest or wise, they just need to flatter the right people.
But these sorts of wonky considerations are not the issues on which the success of the speech will ultimately be judged. The real question is whether it persuaded voters. On that score, I have my doubts — it seemed over-wonky and complicated, with Mr. Obama’s signature rhetoric left for the end, when a lot of viewers had probably already tuned out. His supporters were no doubt thrilled, and his detractors annoyed. But the mushy middle he very much needs to win? I suspect a lot of them were watching the season premier of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Obama needs to court people who aren't sure whether or not they want health care and care so little about the question that they'd rather watch that crook Tom DeLay dance? The people McArdle implies are too stupid to understand the words coming out of Obama's mouth and that have the attention span of a preteen raised on 30-minute Disney sitcoms? That mushy middle?

The middle votes on basic economic issues. "Am I doing better now than I was four years ago?" and "It's the economy, stupid." Obama won the mushy middle because Bush squandered the public's money and let the financial sector run wild and free. McCain would have won otherwise, for no red-blooded Real American will turn down tax cuts or the chance to go to war, where they can pretend to be part of a real-life action movie and watch foreigners blown up in spectacular explosions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Past and Future

As we already have what amounts to corporate control of government, opening up the meager restrictions on campaign finance through corporate entities may not mean as much as everybody assumes. Corporations currently funnel hundreds of millions to candidates through PACs anyway. But two things stand out upon reading this. First of all, the kind of significant campaign finance reform we need right now - in particular public financing to level the playing field - will never make it through the brick wall of the corporatist Roberts Court, which clearly has a lock on these issues for 20 years at a minimum. Second, if you read through these arguments, and the general set of opinions of the Court over the last term, you can only conclude that George W. Bush was a successful President. With a legacy that far exceeds his lack of accomplishments in domestic or foreign policy. Bush handed the Court to the Federalist Society right for a decade or more, and while the legal system can still put up a fight with respect to civil liberties, on most issues the ultimate answer will fall on the side of the corporation over the people every single time without question. And that's a frightening prospect.

It's too late. It was too late a long time ago. The balance of power has already reached the point where any push-back is ineffective. We just elected a black, Democratic community organizer who immediately handed over the middle class's saving for the last decade to the financial industry. We are in an economic depression that will not recover for decades. The money is gone and we won't get it back. We let Atwater and Rove drag discourse into the mud. There's no going back on that either. We let the authoritarian right give their followers permission to commit violence and carry guns and shout out tea-bagger insults in presidential speeches. It is too late. The only thing left to do is try to hold on to some dignity while much of our country sinks into violence and poverty. And laugh, because that's the one thing that they haven't stolen from us.

To Tired To Post Shorters

Here's a few comments on Megan McArdle's latest efforts:
I think predicting how these things are going to play out in the news cycle is a generally unrewarding task.
Then why did you write an entire post on it?

Byron York notes that Obama started talking about 30 million uninsured citizens tonight, rather than 47 million "people in this country". The question is, why? Politicians don't usually underplay their most dramatic statistic.
I stopped reading at "Byron York."
Mickey Kaus liked the speech better than I did, but wonders about this...
I stopped reading at "Micky Kaus."
Most people have a couple of key issues they care about. But few of them want to tell pollsters that no, they really don't much care what's happening in Afghanistan. So you get nonsense like this. The relative numbers matter--people clearly do care about health care and the budget deficit more than Afghanistan. But the absolute numbers are nearly worthless.
Now that McArdle can no longer rejoice in killing foreigners and imagine liberal protesters being beaten, she no longer cares about the wars she used to cheer-lead. Too bad our military families can't say the same.

McArdle's posts on health care.Why should I read the analysis of someone who lies to us about health care?

Teachers should get merit pay.Why should I listen to someone who unknowingly shills for people like the Waltons, who want education privatized so they don't have to pay education (property) taxes?

Merit pay: McArdle is fine with being nickled and dimed to death to pay bankers' bonuses. You should be too!

"Mental Illness Break"--Which one is it, a break from mental illness or being broken down and becoming mentally ill? Either works for me. Also, I do not understand why McArdle would post on such a subject, except to run up hits for her boyfriend's magazine.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Slippery Slope Of Regulation

Megan McArdle, who seems to be a bit of a patsy for thieves, is peeved that Kindle won't hunt down and find her e-book if it's stolen. Since she says she's had four bikes and, evidently, a couple phones stolen, I can see her preemptive distress although I'd spend more time keeping track of my possessions and less time complaining about them being stolen if I were her. What happened to personal responsibility? If McArdle's bike or phone is stolen that should just make her even more against regulation!
Should gadget makers "brick" your phone--refusing to let a new use register it--if it's stolen?

The biggest worry most people have with a lost device is that someone will call Guam on their phone and talk for 9 hours, so gadget makers say their priority is shutting down the account to prevent fraudulent charges. And the New York Times wrongly implies with its headline that gadget makers can always find your phone; in the cases where I've had something stolen, the thieves usually tried to use it a few times, then tossed it.

Still, no one should be able to use a stolen phone, Kindle, or other gadget.... If you're using a Kindle or an iPhone, the company has quite a lot of information on you, and they should use that information to reunite owners with their lost property.

But apparently they don't, because they'd rather sell content to the thief, or the person who purchased the device from the thief. This seems like an obvious place for some basic regulation.

The libertarian is calling for regulation to force the companies to change, when all McArdle has to do is wait until public pressures and/or poor sales force the company to offer the new services that she wants. If they won't she can just get a different e-book or phone. Hasn't she heard of free market forces? If someone gets hurt in the process at least they will know they are supporting free market capitalism.

Sure, McArdle will be out a Kindle or phone and the thief will have a ton of new information to use against her to commit more theft, but it's better than having the government, which is incompetent and lives on a slippery slope, take over the matter. Her loss will be a harsh lesson to the giant corporations who manufacture the products that she is willing to sleep on the street to get before everyone else. Who knows where the government will stop if they start to regulate? Next thing you know there'll be three million dead Kindles and telephones. You're substituting Kindle lives in the future for Kindle lives in the present. And what about those future Kindles--how can Kindle make enough money to spur further Kindle innovation if it has to hunt down stolen Kindles and give them back to their owners, instead of selling a new Kindle to the newly Kindle-less? It's immoral!