Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Department of Excuses

Megan McArdle actually wrote a post about other journalists' math errors. They say misery loves company; I guess innumeracy does as well.

Ooops, it seems that McArdle doesn't care for reminders of past errors.

It good to know that at least some journalists post corrections. It's got to be embarrassing when the WaPo company starts putting you to shame.

Last warning, Zosima. Next time I ban you.

We all make mistakes, say things we regret, make wrong choices. We apologize and try not to do it again. McArdle can't do that because she's paid to lie, so she tries to control what is said to squash dissent. She's caught in a horrible trap of her own making, a vicious circle of lying, exposure, ridicule, and humiliation.

I hope the money's worth it.

Bar None

Like Megan McArdle, I live in the middle of a big city, surrounded by a mix of commercial and residential properties. I live close to several bars and have observed my neighborhood go from slightly seedy to slightly gentrified. The yuppies (as they were called then) happily bought up the relatively inexpensive houses but immediately began bitching about the noise and traffic. So when I read this:

A nearly perfect house became available. The house we're buying is on a street that I fell in love with the first time I saw it. It's located close to Big Bear Cafe, the neighborhood's single biggest draw. Many of our friends live nearby. The engineer said he loved the house. We can live in it immediately and renovate as we have the cash. And the price is in a range that we can afford.

I knew one day I'd be reading this:

But it is true that London also has more quiet pubs New York--and New York, in turn, has more of them (outside of the East Village) than DC does. And this does make bars and cafes noticeably more unpleasant for the neighbors, as well as the customers. Which in turn causes residents to fight like hell to keep out any business that might attract a late-night crowd.

One possible solution is upzoning--neighborhood bars aren't so obnoxious when you're ten floors above them. But of course, the local residents tend to fight that as well.

Libertarianism in theory always sounds great, but in practice it is meaningless. People don't want loud bars in their neighborhood. Bars want to open in places without bars. Both can't get their way. There is no libertarian solution because we are not rugged individualists who just want to live our lives without anyone forcing us to do anything. If the laws don't allow, you can't put bars wherever you want. If you want to let bars in your neighborhood there is no way to ensure they will be tasteful and quiet. The only thing to do is hope that people won't be selfish and obnoxious, which is something that libertarians usually endorse. Just think--if there weren't so many libertarian-types in the world, libertarians could get what they wanted.

Well, whaddaya know. Sometimes life actually is fair.

Monday, November 29, 2010

By The Way

We, the United States of America, murdered tens of thousands of people. We tortured, raped and blew the damn place up. Then we reelected the torturers, murderers and rapists-by-proxy into office. When their terms expired and we elected a new president, he refused to prosecute our murderers for their crimes.

It is inevitable that people will hate us, will try to expose us to judgement and ridicule. Will blow us up if they have the opportunity. We killed and then we went shopping.

We are not going to be rich and powerful forever. When we fall the rest of the world will not mourn our passing. They won't talk about how moral we are, how we just want to do good. They won't debate whether or not we deserve to be embarrassed before the world.

We killed people and we walked away scot-free. We don't even have the grace to feel guilty for what we've done. We are indignant when others criticize us or try to harm us. We think that everyone should just forget about it and continue to treat us with respect, admiration and envy.

Actions always have consequences. Sometimes they affect you, sometimes someone else, but actions always have consequences.

Let Them Give Their Cake To The Bankers While They Starve

Shorter "Marie" McArdle: "[...]Europe cannot let its banks fail, but it also can't divert public pensions to line the pockets of bankers. Yet it may well have to do one or the other. I am also expecting finance to win."

There you go. The poor and middle class will pay so the bankers lose nothing. So let it be written, so let it be done.

I wrote a long post supporting Amanda Traub's criticism of McArdle, but since Traub immediately backed off, why bother? No cookie for you.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Remember Afghanistan?

We are trying to ignore some of Megan McArdle's ignorant rantings--how many ways can you call someone stupid?--but boy, is she stupid.

James Wimberly on the fighting between police and gangs in Brazil: [snipped]

I'm skeptical that the issue is inequality, if only because there have been a lot of very unequal countries in history but not many where the police effectively ceded large chunks of territory to the rule of violent gangs--I'm struggling to think of any after Sherwood Forest, but that's undoubtedly a product of my limited historical knowledge.

Still, something clearly went pathologically wrong here. It would be nice to know what.

Her commenters educate her a little but someone who couldn't think of even one place partially ruled by local warlords isn't going to learn much anyway.

McArdle could look up information regarding Brazil's economic inequality but that would take work 'n' stuff.

The reasons for Brazil's enormous and persistent income inequality are obviously complex and can only be explored briefly in this article. The first set of reasons stem from the nature of the world economy. In recent decades, income distribution has grown more unequal in general, many of the developed economies included. The primary culprit is probably the increasing income gap between skilled and unskilled workers. But that gap is especially notable in developing countries, which typically exhibit a labor surplus, a problem that became especially acute in Brazil's case with the post-1945 surge in population growth. Brazil since the 1920s, furthermore, has gone through a phase of rapid industrialization. This process is necessarily capital- rather than labor-intensive, and industry therefore can afford to pay wages well above those of less prosperous employers. This further contributes to the wage gap.2 Because the productivity gains from industrialization tend to go disproportionately to the owners of capital, this further suppresses the labor share of national income.

Yet another factor has been the mode of Brazil's insertion into the world economy. The country's continuing heavy dependence on primary product exports, right up to the present day, has meant that Brazil was not gaining proportionately from the export of products that were high value-added. As is well known, higher value-added exports were among the keys to rapid growth (and improvement in income distribution) in the East Asian economies. Wages paid in Brazil's primary product sector have instead remained low because of the labor surplus.

The second set of reasons are historical factors specific to Brazil. They have to do with the power of its elite to influence government policy-both taxes and benefits-to its economic advantage. Government policy on taxes and public benefits has consistently favored the 5 to 10 percent of the population who control most of the wealth and have been able to control the levers of government. In practice, the federal government acts as a powerful channel for redistributing income from those on the bottom to those on the top. The general revenues of the Brazilian federal government, for example, are generated by a relatively regressive tax system, which is heavily dependent on payroll taxes and indirect taxes (Baer 2001, 79, 277; see also Weylancl 1996, chap. 5). A detailed analysis would undoubtedly show that the lowest income tax payers receive significantly less in return for their taxes, dollar for dollar, than do the middle and upper classes.

Yet another example of successful elite defense of self-interest is the government pension system (federal, state, and municipal). This is currently running a huge deficit (the deficit for the system covering federal employees is currently estimated to be $20 billion a year) which must be made up out of general revenues. (For a comprehensive survey of this topic, see World Bank 2001b.) According to the World Bank, "statistics indicate that less than 1 percent of social security spending reaches the poorest 10 percent of Brazilians, while about 50 percent is cornered by the wealthiest 10 percent" (World Bank 2001b, 3).

Other examples of regressive redistribution routinely occur at both the federal and state levels. It has been especially true in the liberal use of tax incentives, "which tend to favor the better-off classes. One instance is the heavily subsidized interest rates the federal government charged to (primarily large-scale) farmers on their loans in the 1980s. All in all, the net effect of the Brazilian government's fiscal policy is almost certainly regressive (Macedo 1991, 31; see also De Albuquerque 1991, 51).3

Further examples of the elite's success in protecting its interests are easy to find (Power 2000).4 To take a prominent recent example, the Cardoso government tried at least four times to get the congress to lower the exorbitant top range of federal pension benefits. Each time, it met defeat after an intense lobbying effort led by the beneficiaries, which, of course, included, inter alia, members of Congress. Another such case is free tuition at federal universities, which many members of the Cardoso government readily acknowledged should be changed. Because individuals often can get sufficient education to pass the entrance exam only if they can afford private tuition for primary and secondary school, this represents a significant distributional bonanza for the children of well-to-do families, the majority of whom could afford to pay part or all of the university tuition costs. The injustice of this de facto regressive system is all the more striking, given how badly Brazil's public system of primary and secondary schools has been underfunded (Birdsall and Sabot 1996). Whenever change is mentioned, however, students (and many faculty) stage enormous demonstrations-effectively frightening the government into leaving the system unchanged. The Cardoso government did not tackle the issue of universal free tuition at federal universities, for example, not wanting to risk the political costs of attempting reform.

The rich drains the country of money, the middle class goes along as long as they are still getting their cut, and the poor are left to fend for themselves, under laws and customs designed to steal their labor and work them until they die.

The Ruling Class Rules*

Speaking of No More Mister Nice Guy, Zandar has a post up about Obama's catfood commission:

"Let them eat cake" is one thing. This is far more sinister in its implications. And yet Simpson here represents the prevailing Village Serious Centrist viewpoint: Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh are exactly the same (except Maddow is a fish/inanimate object). They are extremists outside the worldview of Simpson, as is anyone who isn't a Beltway insider. Only the Serious Village People in the middle can "govern" and by govern that means make the little people suffer, because that's what the powerful are supposed to do to the small. If you're poor to the point where you actually need Social Security "handouts", then you're "greedy" and that's your damn fault. What good are you to Simpson?

Spoken like a man who really, really despises your average American like only a rich and powerful former Senator can.

And yet the larger problem is that President Obama is the one who asked Simpson to help craft this plan. He might want to do something about that.

I would only add one thing: Obama did do something about that. He appointed Simpson. Simpson does not represent the Village Serous Centrist viewpoint, he represents Obama. Our elite obviously understand that if you want to get rid of Social Security, you should pay a Democrat to do it. Better yet, a minority Democrat! That'll do the trick. Sixty-seven percent of us are authoritarian and that would include Democrats as well as Republicans. Authoritarians are easily manipulated with fear and it was easy to hold the far-right wing over our heads, just like the right used a far-left threat of socialism taking away the right's money and giving it to Black people. Same tactic, different group. It works like a charm.

Obama never would have been elected unless he went along with the banking elite. He is a very intelligent man and very ambitious. He took the money and appointed Simpson and now we are going to lose Social Security unless we find some kind of magic underpants gnome way to stop him.

This would be a really, really good time for Democrats to threaten to primary Obama. He seems to frighten easily and it might work. At the very least we might get someone who wouldn't subject us to groping when we need to go through security. I seriously doubt Obama would let that happen to his daughters, yet like all elite he is fine with it happening to ours.

And if someone pulls out Sarah Palin to defend voting for Obama, they are being dishonest. Palin is not a threat; the elite on the right do not support her, she is lazy and out of control, and she'll never be elected president. The tea baggers were elected whether we supported Obama or not. As for the Supreme Court, Obama's criteria is business-friendly, not liberal.

When are we going to do the right thing instead of the political thing? As amusing and cathartic as it is to mock the right, it does no good if the left elects people like Obama. It's just mindless meanness.

*It's Called the Ruling Class Because It Rules

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Little Klein

Here at the Snark we are thankful for many important things, but we also take time to be thankful for the little pleasures in life, such as pundits who feel it necessary to explain why they were wrong without acknowledging that they were, in fact, wrong. Not since Megan McArdle first tried to explain her homicidal proclivities with 2x4s have we seen such a self-gratifying excuse for stupidity as Joe Klein's recent cri de moron. Klein, who is 64 years of age and might be assumed to have attained some small degree of self-awareness and wisdom, graces us with his correction of a teeny, tiny mistake.
Latest Column
On a mistake I made. (For Swampland regulars, this column is dedicated to implacable commenter Stuart Zechman). And Happy Thanksgiving!

My Continuing Education
No columnist nails every call. Here's one I got wrong—and why I should have known better.

Gosh, Mr. Klein must be right a great deal. He says so right there.
Columnists are paid to have opinions. Sometimes those opinions are wrong. Those two sentences are as obvious as a sunrise, but usually unspoken by my fellow opinionmongers. I can point you to many weeks of prescience and sheer genius in my work since I arrived at TIME in January 2003. But I think we'd learn more if we took a look at one of my goofs:

How modest is Mr. Klein! He could tell us tell us all the times he's right but instead he'll tell us about a time he was wrong. Not because he was forced to by Mr.Stuart Zechman, of course. He does it because he's eager to help others learn from his mistakes.
I supported George W. Bush's idea of partially privatizing Social Security, which he tried to enact after he was re-elected in 2004. This was a close call for me at the time; it seems positively idiotic now that we've experienced the Great Recession — and the idea of private investment has finally regained proper perspective. Investment is about risk; Social Security is about certainty. A fair amount of certainty is crucial when it comes to retirement. Why, you might ask, was I blind to this simple proposition at the time?

Because of his "[l]aziness, straight-shootin' obsession, late-'90s Gore/Bush pundit hysteria, boomerism, maverick-worship, warmongering"? And let's not forget Aimai's encounter with the usually-but-not-always-right Mr. Klein, so entertainly related on No More Mister Nice Guy. She saw Mr. Klein at a private event they both happened to attend and responded to something he was saying.
I was standing at the cookout minding my own business when Klein started pontificating for the rubes on how “surprising” and “shocking” it was that Grassley, of all people, should have come out and endorsed the “death panels” lie. I walked up and said “why are you surprised?” [edited to remove typo] to which he, in best pundit debater fashion (never allow yourself to admit you were just posing!), shot back “who says I'm surprised?” I said “well, you did. You just started your lecture saying “Its surprising.”” Its not surprising, the republicans have nothing left to lose and nothing left to gain at this point outside of pleasing the crazy base and attacking Obama and the dems.”

We were off and running. He then said that its true the fringe republicans were “crazy” but perhaps no crazier than the “crazy left” under Bush. I thought he meant the “truthers” so I said “name me one person in congress or the Senate who was as crazy on any topic as these Republican senators and Congressmen who sign on to the birther and deather stuff are now?” Evading this question he said “well, Glenn Greenwald is crazy—he's a civil liberties absolutist.” Now, me, I come from a long line of civil liberties absolutists so I said “I admire Glenn Greenwald's work immensley but it must be very embarrassing for you, of course,
because he's been eating your lunch for years.” (!) I think this must be something of a sore point for him. He began shrieking “Glenn Greenwald is EVIL! EVILl! you know what he did? He “sicced” his blog readers on my EDITOR and she was going through a DIVORCE at the time.” Really? I said, politely, that was very wrong, if it happened.

“We kept it very quiet” he said, backing off the claim of any real harm and, as a twofer, managing to imply that only those "in the know" had been kept informed.

There's a lot more funny but to be brief let's skip to the point:
As long as there is money to be made or friendships to be maintained on the right side of the aisle he will continue to write these “on the one hand/on the other hand” pieces so in six or seven years he can point to whichever part is more convenient to him. And woe betide the reader who takes what he writes seriously- we're just crazy, leftist, wikipedia reading hysterics.

Klein, like McArdle, cannot bear for others to point out his mistakes. They have a certain image of themselves that must be defended at all cost, no matter what humiliating contortions they must commit to ensure its continuation. When their self-esteem depends on this image, they cannot do anything else.
Well, two reasons. The first was a matter of courtesy and optimism: I always try to give a newly elected President the benefit of the doubt.

He is courteous, a courtly member of the Versailles Court. He is optimistic; this is, after all, the best of all possible worlds. Klein sits in judgement of the president but is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. One must be fair to those whom one favors with one's approval, or those from whom one withholds one's approval.
This is especially difficult — and all the more necessary — when it's a re-elected President whose policies seem misguided. I had written column after column about the bloody futility of Bush's war in Iraq — and don't get me started about the demonstrably foolish supply-side philosophy that spawned his tax cuts. Still, he was going to be my President for the next four years; my fellow citizens, and many of my readers, had voted him in. The partial privatization of Social Security was, he said, the top domestic priority for his second term. This seemed bold and politically risky.

Risky, yes. Bold, no. The middle class can't afford to support their parents. They sure as hell can't afford their parents' health care. We look towards Medicare as the finish line of a life-long sprint, hoping we'll last long enough to get the same sort of health care as the rest of the world. It's cruel to withhold it from young families and middle-aged people, but why only torture strangers when you can torture your neighbors as well?
Scaring the elderly about cuts in their retirement benefits is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but Bush truly believed that if people could invest retirement savings in the market, they would end up with larger pensions.

There's no way of knowing if this is true. Bush would never tell the truth, unless by accident.
And so did I, albeit with a truckload of caveats. I came to this belief the hard way, by overreading 30 years of experience as a journalist.

Here is where the lying begins. As soon as the pundit reveals he ignored reality in favor of fantasy we know the only thing he can do is lie. He can't tell the truth--he believed what he wanted to believe; he believed whatever satisfied his needs and wants. He believed whatever assuaged his insecurities and reinforced his prejudices.

Let the excuses begin!
Much of that time had been spent on urban issues, especially the failure of traditional liberal social programs to alleviate poverty.

As if liberal social programs could end economic inequality! It's an amazingly insulting statement. Let the rich do what they want, and when the middle class tries to help the poor, blame them for the continuation of poverty. The man deserves a round of applause for that contortion.
Indeed, welfare — Aid to Families with Dependent Children — as it was then constituted seemed a system of perverse rewards that intensified poverty, encouraging poor women not to marry, not to work, not to make sure their kids showed up at school and so forth. Their children were making and having babies prematurely, with no sense of responsibility. A discrete culture of poverty — in which people didn't look for work even when the economy surged — had taken hold. An essential feature of this culture, it seemed to me, was passivity.

I guess that racism problem was all cleared up then? And what we have now is a group of people with high illegitimacy rate--meaning Black--who are passive, lazy, irresponsible, immoral, and bad mothers and citizens. These people are unlike white people, who inherited the Judeo-Christian work ethic and morality and therefore are much better than certain other people whom we will not name to spare then the embarrassment.
One possible answer to the problem of passivity was choice: if parents were given the choice of which school their child could attend, for example, they might bestir themselves to take a more active role in their kids' education. I first saw this principle at work in East Harlem in the early 1980s, where parents were offered an array of schools with different curriculums for their children. The results were mixed, but it was lovely to see beaten-down people taking action, taking control of at least one public aspect of their lives for the first time.

Gooooo down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt-land!
Tellll ole Pharaoh
To let my people goooooooo!

I'm sorry, where were we?
I became besotted with the notion of choice, which was another way of saying I became besotted with the idea of markets. If you gave people a choice, the best public products — schools, job-training programs, health care services and, yes, retirement plans — would rise to the top, and average folks would be empowered to become more active, and therefore better, citizens. I still think it's a pretty good principle.

So if you give poor people a choice between being milked by a corporation or by spreading the cost so everyone can have better services, getting milked is the better choice? Evidently Klein believes that all corporations want to do is provide the best goods or services at the lowest price. Either Klein has the intellect of a kindergartner or he's trying to bullshit the entire planet, including himself. And failing.
But there are limits. Social-service markets have to be strictly regulated. Even in Chile's groundbreaking social-security privatization plan, which I looked at on a visit, individuals were only allowed to invest their retirement savings in a handful of very cautious government-approved plans. There was never any talk of that kind of regulation in Bush's scheme, which was one of my caveats. I missed the biggest problem of all, though, because — like most Americans — I was raised in good times. Markets could tank. Retirement savings could be wiped out. The function of Social Security was — like food stamps — to provide a floor. It needed to be recession-proof.

Over and over, our pundits confess that it doesn't even occur to them to look at the potential downside of a situation they are supposed to be analyzing. And they still keep their jobs.
And so, belatedly, I've realized that there are two types of social programs: those that are designed to raise people out of poverty ... and those, like Social Security, that provide, yes, a safety net when the bottom falls out. The programs that seek to raise the poor often work better when people are given a choice; those that provide a net need to be as simple and reliable as possible. In this case, the name said it all: Social ... Security. It was an essential lesson in the continuing education of a political columnist.

In other words, Klein thinks that except for that one exception, the time he forgot to consider whether or not the stock market could go down, he was right, while the liberals were wrong about poverty and social justice. Which makes everything even and Mr. Joe Klein just a little bit wiser than he was before.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

K-Lo Tweets: Greatest Tweet Ever

Kathryn Jean Lopez truth be told, id welcome some kind of patdown or SOMETHING 4 some1 on amtrak. i'd feel a little acela didn't even check my card.
1 hour ago via web

On the one hand, I admire K-Lo's ability to get a little foreplay out of the TSA. A girl has to get her jollies where she can in this harsh world. On the other hand, and I never thought I'd say this, I feel sorry for the TSA employees. The media made the body scanners and pat-downs sound like they'd be getting free porn and a little surreptitious groping, but instead they're forced to search K-Lo and explain why this doesn't mean that they are now engaged.

I'm surprised that K-Lo doesn't demand to have everyone in the NRO office scanned as well. How can she feel safe knowing that her torture-loving, gun-happy co-workers might go Full Metal Wingnut and decide to take out everyone who ever annoyed them?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cross Your Fingers!

I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.

Salon is making a list of notable bloggers and naturally we are rooting for our favorite blogger to take her place in history. War Room's Hack 30, the "thirty worst pundits in America," "are the most predictable, banal, intellectually dishonest and all-around hacky newspaper columnists, cable news shouting heads and political opinion-mongers working today....We cut the list down to 30 people whose continued employment most baffles us, and then we ranked them in order of shamelessness."

What could be more shameless than Megan McArdle's flagrant double standards, as well as her lies and more subtle omissions and shadings? What could be more predictable than her heart-felt and unwavering support for bankers and their compensation? What could be more intellectually dishonest than her attacks on Paul Krugman, Elizabeth Warren, and anyone too smart to support invading other countries for no reason?

Salon must choose McArdle. What other pundit has made a name for herself by specializing in failure, thereby becoming the living embodiment of the irresponsibility and selfish destructiveness of the corporate media?

Monday, November 22, 2010


Every cookie is sacred.

McArdle is droning on in her ignorant way about trains, so let's look elsewhere today. Dear, pious Kathryn Jean Lopez furrows her brow, gingerly uncaps her fountain pen, (which she still uses because the nuns told her to), sticks her tongue out a little in concentration, and begins her tale of gratitude for her blessings.

There is gratitude for those who have been true trailblazers. Liberal feminists are forever honoring their heroines’ victories in the face of supposed oppression. But one woman who was among the first to graduate from Harvard is missing from their list of honorees. The Senate had passed the Equal Rights Amendment 84 to 8. The House had passed it 354 to 23. Thirty states had approved it the first year it was up for ratification, and only eight more states were needed. The ERA was going to be the next constitutional amendment.

Except it wouldn’t be. Because Phyllis Schlafly stopped it.

That reminds us, some day in the future we must take time to spit on Schlafly's grave.

Conservatives like to say that conservative women are the real feminists, since they have managed to take advantage of both women's struggle for equal rights and the corporate and religious elite's attempt to destroy it. It is a testament to the depth of conservative hypocrisy that it loves to take advantage of the very same thing it is seeking to destroy. Schlafly should have been given speeches when women were arrested for speaking in public; that might change her mind about the necessity of equal rights by law.

She was a Mama Grizzly long before John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.

She sure was. She also put her career before the children as the conservatives say, instead of staying home to be there when they needed her. Where were the anti-feminists when Schlafly needed them to keep her out of university and off the public stage? To turn her extremely bright mind to its proper sphere, ironing and baking and taking the kiddies to church, as well as volunteering her work for free in the community and parish?

I’m not sure that grizzly bears are all that comfortable in St. Louis, where she was born. But comfortable is one thing that Schlafly definitely is: comfortable that she is known for stopping the ERA, comfortable that she fought feminists on their turf — with class. She’s a lady, and when she saw threats to marriage and family being pushed by the ERA and its proponents, she would have none of it.

We have a lot to thank her for — including being a lady who modeled fearlessness in politics, even while being attacked as a self-hating woman who deserved to be burned at the stake.

Nobody tell K-Lo that Schlafly does not support Palin for president. It might make her cry.

But by God, K-Lo is right about one thing. Marriage is under attack because if men and women are equal, the man is not the head of the house and the woman is not required to obey him. Next thing you know, she'll want to decide how many kids she'll have!

Also liberals think that self-hating women should be killed, which is why they never try to convince self-hating women to stop hating themselves and start feeling like they are not worth less than a man.

I often find myself debating feminists, arguing about feminism and how it has made the world worse. I’m frequently told that I am an ungrateful, um, witch (except now that’s actually the word they use). That I have Gloria Steinem to thank for the fact that I’m even allowed to have an opinion, never mind get paid for having them. Well, I am grateful for Schlafly, a woman who has succeeded in politics and debate without walking away from faith, family, or femininity.

Go ahead, K-Lo! Let your freak flag fly and say bitch. God won't strike you dead, we promise. We've been saying it ever since we read your article.

And there is gratitude for enduring institutions. Even as Nancy Pelosi was thanking God for the liberal religious sisters who bucked up her dangerous health-care legislation,

That the pope supports.

the Catholic bishops’ conference showed it understands that this is no time for business as usual in the church bureaucracy.

Therefore the priest-boy scout overnight picnic has been cancelled.

Breaking with tradition and seniority, they passed over the next in line and went with a leader who has helped train and inspire an orthodox, faithful army of young priests who are willing to take on the lies of a culture of death.

Father Marcial Maciel?

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, based on Fifth Avenue, now has a second leadership base in our nation’s capital as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’m certainly grateful for that.

And who would Timothy Dolan be when he's at home? It seems that he's not a very big fan of the separation of church and state. He criticizes Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and gay marriage, but was unable to criticize George Bush's wars and capital punishment views. As we all know, a good priest or nun is one that has the exact same views as K-Lo, and a bad priest or nun is anyone who disagrees with K-Lo. Fortunately K-Lo is also able to ignore anything she wishes to ignore; Dolan is for universal health care as long as he gets to decide what medical procedure can and cannot be done on women.

It makes this woman feel quite popular to have so many people fighting over her uterus.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

K-Lo Goes To Confession: K-Lo Go Boom!

Father: Kathryn Jean, what's the emergency? Is it another one of your little abortion protests? Do you need bail money?

K-Lo: No, no, Father. Mama said if I got arrested and shamed her before that Gay-American couple who live down the street just one more time she would refuse to pay for my wedding. She's been in a snit ever since their daughter got married and had a baby. She just doesn't think it's fair that---.

Father: Kathryn Jean, what is the problem?

K-Lo: Sorry, Father, but this is an emergency confession. If I don't confess right away I just know I'll get hit by a bus before I have the chance and then God will send me to Hell because He loves me so much and wants me to be good. Bless me Father for I have sinned. Oh, Father! (breaks down into sobs)

Father: Kathryn Jean, you're starting to alarm me.

K-Lo: Father, I'm having a "crises of faith" just like they talked about in my confirmation classes. (blows nose) Sorry, Father, but I never thought it would happen to me. Mary Catherine Lombardi got to third base with half the boys in the class and I just knew she would turn her back on Jesus, but me? Never!

Father: What happened?

K-Lo: It was the pope, Father. You know, Pope Benedict.

Father: (dryly) Yes, I remember his name, Kathryn Jean.

K-Lo: I read today that he said all countries should have universal health care. He chose Obamacare over the Free Market and Democracy, Father! How could that be? How could the pope choose Obama over us real Americans, Father? How? (sobs) Doesn't he love us anymore?

Father: Now, Kath---.

K-Lo: We're on the same side, Father! We're the good people! Obama is the bad people! He wants to destroy America with his elitist socialism! Mrs. Governor Sarah Palin said that he wanted to kill my grandmother! My grandmother loves the pope! Why does the scary Black man want to hurt my Nana? (starts to hyperventilate)

Father: Kathryn Jean, are you alright? Breathe! Do you have a paper bag?

Kathryn Jean shakes her head and breathes into her purse.

K-Lo: (muffled) I'll be okay Father if you just tell me that this is one of the those horrible "lamestream" media lies. It's all a lie, right?

Father: Kath--

K-lo: Oh, God, will this nightmare never end?

Father: Kathryn Jean, what did the pope say?

k-Lo: He said health care was a fundamental right and the government should provide it. It has to be a lie, Father. Where could the pope have gotten that idea? What's next, give the rich's money to the poor? Feed the poor?

Father: Now that you mention it, Kathryn Jean, yes. Remember that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Jesus wants us to help and take care of each other, and that includes health care.

k-Lo: I--I feel dizzy, Father. Obama--the pope--Obama--the pope---. (begins rocking)

Father: Poor thing. Well, it was only a matter of time. (briskly) They say God works in mysterious ways, Kathryn Jean. Perhaps a little rest in a Catholic institution will do you a world of good. The hurly-burly of politics is such a bad influence on a sensitive soul.

k-Lo: They need me, Father! The boys at work need a member of the gentler sex to support them and take care of them and remind them of their moral responsibilities and be a civilizing influence!

Father: Yes, yes, Kathryn Jean. But a little vacation would do you a world of good. Ah, I hear your mother's voice. Why don't you go with her like a good girl?

K-Lo: Yes, Father. I--I just need to sleep. That's it. Some rest. And then I'll wake up and this will all be a bad, bad dream and I'll laugh and Fluffy will jump up and beg me to take him for a walk, just like every other morning. Good bye, Father! I mean good night!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Real China

Chinese Farmhouse

If Megan McArdle were a rapper her pseudonym would be Credulous. The Chinese government takes her and other reporters on a show tour of a Chinese farm and she thinks she's seeing the real China.

The farmers we visited are, we're informed, about average for China these days. They have running water, electricity, and cable television. Each person farms about 1.5 mu, or roughly a quarter of an acre, with three seasonal crops: two of vegetables, one of rice. The fact that they can get three crops out of that little amount of land tells you why China has so many people.

The annual income per person is about 10,000 RMB, which has allowed a fairly massive upgrade of lifestyle for the villagers--most of the villagers seem to have their own homes, with new appliances. The journalists gawked at the small one-room dwelling that had once been the main house, and now served as a kitchen; the host, clearly embarrassed, hurried us into the three story house he built himself four years ago, replete with shiny tile and new furniture.

McArdle is impressed yet wonders if the government will end subsidies to farmers, unlike in the US. (She does not note that most subsidies go to large corporations, not small family farms, as her good buddies at Cato and Heritage could tell her.)

McArdle is also told that Chinese statistics "don't always agree." Other economics writers have noted that there are "lies, damned lies, and China's statistics," but that doesn't occur to our "journalist."

One of the enduring mysteries of the Chinese economy is, well, all the enduring mysteries about the Chinese economy. Which is to say, good statistics are very hard to come by. The other day, I spoke to an economist who said that after a long period when wages lagged economic growth, they were finally moving in the other direction, growing 30% a year.

For wages to be growing that much faster than the economy, something else must be growing slower, and I endeavored to find out what that something was. Were profits growing more slowly? No, they were growing faster than ever.

What about the government's share? No, also rising.

Could this be reflection of the inflation rate? Assuredly not, he said. These were real figures, not nominal.

Which leaves us with something of a mystery. As he admitted when I, convinced I was not understanding something, pressed him: "The figures," he said, "don't always agree."


The lack of good economic statistics often makes it hard to know what's going on here. It's tempting to measure progress by the breakneck pace of construction, which you can see, rather than the pace of economic activity, for which you have no good measurement.

This would be a problem anywhere. But it's a particular problem in China, because the government directs so much economic activity here. It is not exactly central planning any more, to be sure, but nonetheless, government here seems to be much more actively and enthusiastically behind everything from new construction to how much lending activity goes on.

McArdle also writes a few posts about excesses in airline security, since she has just flown. One of the articles expresses concern for pregnant women fliers who don't yet know they are pregnant. The Baby Watch continues! If she is trying to think of names we suggest Hayek Cato if it's a girl and Milton Pinochet if it's a boy. Your own suggestions (in the comments) will be most welcome.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We Love Sarah Palin!

One of the strangest beliefs of the right is their belief that the left fears and therefore hates Sarah Palin, and that liberals hate her because she's so wonderful that she makes liberals feel bad about themselves. They have no idea how much we love her.

We love, love, love, love her! She is wonderful!

TBogg gives us some of the Clan Palin's latest hits, each more horrifyingly hilarious than the last. Palin managed to raise a family of violent, drug-fueled, rage and libido-driven, greedy little disasters who no doubt will entertain us for decades as the right financially supports them, elects them to office, and breathless hangs on their every word and deed.

Sarah Palin, you're the top!!

For Our Mutual Benefit

The new normal.

Another day, another dollar Megan McArdle atrocity.

When the United States talks about China, you hear a lot of complaints about how we're losing our "good jobs"--our manufacturing base--to countries abroad. A lot of the people I've spoken with here so far have pointed out that this is silly--that comparative advantage is real, and that shipping lower-skilled jobs over here results in mutually beneficial gains from trade.

"Mutually beneficial gains from trade." Have you ever seen a more bloodless way of saying that the working man is disposable?
All true. And yet what you also hear quite a bit now is the same sort of anxiety about China losing its jobs. One person told us a story about the Chinese premier talking to Obama. "Mr President," he said, "you say that the economy needs to create 8 million jobs in order to bring America back to prosperity. I need to create 24 million jobs every year just to absorb the college graduates and the rural migration."

I have no idea if the story is true, but the point is certainly sound: China has an enormous population that needs to be absorbed into the labor market each year. So perhaps its natural that you're starting to hear exactly the same trade worries that Americans voice: textile jobs going to Bangladesh, assembly work heading across the border to Vietnam. Hell, in Vietnam, they spend a surprising amount of time worrying about the Cambodians taking their low-end manufacturing jobs.

Yet in both places, the worry is silly--at least on an aggregate level.

She uses "silly" to belittle concerns for people who will suffer terribly.
For an individual with a job in a textile factory, there may indeed be displacement.

She uses the passive voice to disassociate herself from the repercussions.
Yet over the centuries, our economy has "lost" millions of jobs.

She uses big-picture words to gloss over suffering now.
Weavers no longer ply their trade in front of a hand loom, threshers don't stride through the golden fields of wheat with their scythes, and wheelwrights and blacksmiths have lost their livelihoods to the horseless carriage. Yet unemployment has not shot up to 100%; over time, we've found jobs to replace all of these specialties.

And to gloss over the consequences. There will be other jobs eventually but that won't help the people who are suffering now. Don't look at them--think of it as a bit of history unfolding at a very great distance.
Perhaps someone will protest that we lost those jobs to technology, rather than trade, but what's the difference between competing with a Chinese laborer, and competing with a machine? Either one can cause distressing temporary dislocation, but both of them make us more productive, boosting our lifestyle (and, thankfully, the lifestyle of the Chinese laborer).

Except when it doesn't because the worker doesn't have a job anymore and can't start over in our Brave New World.
After a couple of decades of urging the Americans to overlook their anti-trade biases, the Chinese are going to have to adjust to the same discomforts.

And the rest of America says, Fuck Yeah! Fuck the Chinese! While their bosses are saying, Fuck Yeah! Fuck the working man!

But every cloud has a silver lining. Modeled Behavior:
Dean Baker is fond of blaming journalists’ pro free trade bias (which they supposedly have) on the fact that they are a protected professional class because of the limits on skilled immigration, and that without those protections their jobs would be subject to more foreign competition like manufacturers are. With all due respect to Felix Salmon, Andrew Sullivan, and all of our other imported foreign pundit labor, I always doubted the extent of this argument. After all, local knowledge, understanding the cultural, and language barriers represent significant barriers to entry for journalists and pundits. At the very least competition from developing countries will be limited; it’s not like the New York Times could move it’s operations to China and start operating from there. In short, while I believe there would be some impact, I don’t think removing all legal protectionism for journalists and pundits wouldn’t amount to all that much more competition.

That’s what I thought until I read some reactions in China to American elections courtesy of the New Yorker. Allowing perhaps to the distance and detachment from the issues, the insightfulness in the analysis easily surpasses many bloggers and pundits.


This raises a question: will my blogging be outsourced? Well, since my blogging wage is $0, I cannot be underbid. Also, for the time being I presume my particular brand of moderate libertarianism is probably illegal in China.

I could however, be replaced by a blogger from India or another country with more freedom of speech. Putting me at a disadvantage compared to anti-trade liberals and conservatives is that if I am replaced by foreign competition I will be unable to complain, ask for protectionism, or appeal to any sort of nativist favoritism without also simultaneously exposing myself as a hypocrite and thus destroying my blogging career anyway.

All it will take is the hiring of one Harvard or Oxford educated Indian man or woman. Every other media company will jump at the chance to improve the bottom line. The Atlantic already has an Englishman. Why wouldn't they wipe out the entire staff and replace them with the best the world has to offer, at half the price? A globalized market need globalized employees.

It's just mutually beneficial gains from trade.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death Watch

Evidently Dick Cheney is not long for this world. Then:

Now, via Yahoo news:

A word of advice:

The right will try to shame us into whitewashing Cheney's crimes, like every other Republican criminal and moral failure after their deaths. We can whimper and beg their pardon or we can demand that the right acknowledge each and every crime he committed.

An Unequal Equation

Someone let Megan McArdle near a calculator again. Let's document the atrocities.

Like my colleague Derek, I played with the New York Times deficit calculator, and this is what I came up with: allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire,

To starve the government, supposedly to eliminate the deficit even though it would be a very bad mistake for the government to stop spending while consumers have also stopped spending. How is the economy supposed to recover if nobody but the Super-rich can afford to spend money?

eliminating or modifying major tax subsidies like the employer health insurance deduction, and cutting all manner of subsidies.

We would love to see this happen, especially if McArdle's employer stops paying for her health insurance. No doubt she'd go without, as she did in the past. I hear having a baby while you are high-risk is very affordable!

I could have gone farther, but I deliberately left most military spending alone--not because I think it shouldn't be cut, but because I have absolutely no idea how many ships the US should have, or what the consequences would be of cutting their number.

Odd. Ignorance never stopped her before.

On the other hand, I'm relatively comfortable with my grasp of what would happen if we eliminated farm subsidies.

Your farmer relations would do away with you and bury you in the back pasture?

In fact, I generated too much in savings; we now have large surpluses in 2018 and 2030. Tax cut for everyone! Or, er, more public parks!

So funny! Because the rich need more tax cuts. How about increasing their taxes instead?

There's just one small problem, which is that this is completely politically infeasible--any politician who tried to enact my plan would be carried away by villagers waving pitchforks long before he'd finished reading off the list of tax increases and budget cuts.

It wouldn't be the villagers getting the tax cuts, it would be the aforementioned rich. And what about tax increases for the group of people whose taxes are at historical lows?

Heh, just foolin'. We know that if the Super-rich are forced to suffer the indignation of paying more for their services they will go Galt, depriving us of the benefits of their financial innovations and off-shore factories. It would be much better to eliminate the safety net instead, so we can finish our bat-out-of-hell race to third world status.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Faith-Based Reasoning

It's real if I say it's real, goddammit.

Even when you win, you lose. Megan McArdle laments the execution of a man who was convicted on one piece of evidence--a strand of hair that was eventually found to belong to the victim, not the accused.

But DNA tests completed this week at the request of the Observer and the New York-based Innocence Project show the hair didn’t belong to Jones after all. The day before his death in December 2000, Jones asked for a stay of execution so the strand of hair could be submitted for DNA testing. He was denied by then-Gov. George W. Bush.

Then-Governor Bush denied every request for stay of execution except for one, for notorious serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, following all of the Board of Pardon and Parole's recommendations.

McArdle says:

I confess, I am opposed to the death penalty for other reasons, but I think that even if you think it's morally acceptable to execute the guilty, the long string of exonerations suggest an error rate in the justice system incompatible with executions. Remember, most cases don't even have DNA evidence, so we're certainly not discovering all the innocent people we've sent to jail.

Forensics is an inexact science, and eyewitnesses are unreliable. We shouldn't hand out penalties that can't be at least partially reversed if we discover that we made a mistake.

Sadly, McArdle's commenters disagree, and are most disappointed with her foolishness. A true conservative/libertarian believes that markets always reach equilibrium, even the market for death. Let's see what they have to say to their gracious hostess, as they refer to her on other, happier occasions.

Megan is always quick to assume the worst about conservatives and Texas death penalty cases, and this seems to be another of her quick assumptions. Calm, down a little on this subject, Megan. These cases take years and decades to play out in the courts, and it's OK to take a few more hours to research them before posting.

Silly poster. Why start now?

Another poster asks the same question that's been taunting us for years:

Yeah, we've seen this picture before with Megan - I remember her post about the arson case where there was some after-the-fact learning about arson. If this is anything like her prior posts on the death penalty, she will not be at all interested in learning additional facts about the case. In that case, she was willing to take a completely one-sided account that perfectly fit with her preexisting attitudes about the death penalty, and ignored contrary evidence. From the bit I have just read about this case, she is so far following a similar pattern here.

I have to admit, her posts about the death penalty undermine my confidence in her posts on subjects like economics and pharmaceuticals (where I agree with her). After all, if she is unduly dismissive of legitimate contrary evidence when discussing death penalty cases, I have a suspicion that she is similarly dismissive of legitimate contrary evidence when discussing other topics.

Yeah! Lying about the facts and deliberately misinterpreting data are just fine when they're in the service of supporting the enrichment of the elite, but McArdle should know better than to use them to support the poor! Not that she is, but these are conservatives, and anyone who doesn't want to see someone else suffer must be a lying liberal. McArdle rarely has this problem but her devoted followers always ensure that they put her in her place when they deem it necessary.

Zosima, whom we have met before, mentions just this point.

Megan does this on most of her posts, y'all just don't seem to mind when she is agreeing with you.

Another commenter tries again to point out the utter lack of intellectual rigor demonstrated by McArdle's commentariat:

FuriousGiorge 2 days ago
It's interesting that, in a reversal of the usual setup, it's Megan's conservative posters that are blasting her for sloppy writing. And they are right - while Cameron Todd Willingham was almost certainly an actually innocent man, there is no evidence to suggest that Claude Jones was innocent, there is simply evidence that the certainty of his guilt was exaggerated.

(Perhaps those of you on the right will think twice in the future before posting your knee-jerk reaction towards those of us on the left who point out the sloppiness of some of Megan's writing.)

Was_Holdfast 2 days ago in reply to FuriousGiorge
I'll try, but it is natural that one will invest the effort into picking apart those arguments that one most disagrees with. For what it is worth, I think precision in arguments and writing is always important - who wants to have their own case undermined by the sloppiness of one of their co-advocates (cough, Al Gore, cough)?
Flag 2 people liked this. Like ReplyReply

aMouseforallSeasons 2 days ago in reply to FuriousGiorge
Possibly the key difference here is that she wrote sloppily on issues of fact that can be easily cross-referenced and verified. The most obnoxious of her left-wing opponents tend to pipe up in order to blast her for having wrong opinions, which has the unfortunate side effect of drowning out the occasional legitimate criticism on factual matters.

You would never do such a thing, of course.

And that is why we will never be able to pull the right out of its self-soothing stupor. Like McArdle herself, the commenter simply says a fact is really an opinion when he or she dislikes the fact, and an opinion is really a fact when he or she agrees with the opinion. We can't even agree on what is or is not a fact, we'll never be able to agree on interpretation or implementation of policy. The faith-based reasoning of the authoritarian right has utterly killed any of this nation's ability to face its problems and come up with a working solution.

For now there is little we can do but watch our fellow countrymen, with great deliberation and not a little glee, destroy the country to prove that their Tribe is superior to any other. America believes success is based on merit and merit is based on moral superiority. Since they also believe in American Exceptionalism--the innate superiority of Americans' morality and competence--they will never face facts and work to solve our national problems, and they will never stop insisting and demanding that liberals are not real Americans and that they--or anyone else who is not conservative--has the legitimate right to even exist.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Corner

Is it my imagination or does The Corner refresh the page every time you scroll down? If so, that's an interesting way to rack up your hit count. It sure beats having good content, which takes skill and hard work. Poor things. NRO's owners sure doesn't seem to have much confidence in their staff.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It Was Nice While It Lasted

It is utterly foolish to join in any discussion of how to reform Social Security and Medicare. When you argue on the opposite side's terms you have already lost. The United Corporations of America want to end Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, not make it affordable or successful or fair. They want it gone. Period. And they will win because nobody is strong enough to fight them. Kiss your future good-bye, America. You traded it away for the right to feel Exceptional. We hope the bargain was worth it.

Our nation elected a Black liberal, a community organizer, an intelligent and sensitive man, who promptly did everything Corporate told him to do. There are two ways of looking at this: If someone like Obama can be captured by Corporate interests, anyone can and will be assimilated as well. Or, Obama never would have been able to get the support necessary to pay for the office of the President without already being assimilated. We choose Door Number 2 because Obama quickly and efficiently jettisoned anything and anyone who might interfere with his political rise. He said one thing--progressive things--and did another--Corporate things. That is not a moral failure, a failure of courage or empathy. It is simply doing the job he was hired to do.

Now our bright and shining Exceptional nation has elected a scrotum of greedy, stupid tea baggers (TM TBogg) to rule over them, to go along with the idiotic, bought-and-paid-for Congressmen we already have. They will do absolutely nothing to stop the destruction of the middle class or the further degradation of the poor. They will grab what they can get and put up a fence around their property. Not that they will need it. The citizens of the United Corporation of America have been very well trained to worship the wealthy and persecute the weak. They'll love the new world order. Until it's their turn to be eaten by the strong.

Let's take a closer look at this wonderful bargain that we've entered into. Corporate America tells us that if we want to protect ourselves and take care of the less fortunate we'll have to vote for their candidates. We do what we're told, because Sarah Palin/Supreme Court/Social Security!!111!!!!. Then our new Progressive leader calls forth a commission to cut Social Security and nominates a Corporate lackey to the Supreme Court. The only thing Obama hasn't done is choose Sarah Palin for his running mate in 2012, and we wouldn't bet against it, the way things are going. And what is our response? Elect better Democrats! Because the new Democrats will be so powerful and independent that they'll shove aside those Corporate interests, take on the Christianist military, give a rousing speech that will win over everyone else in Congress and send their enemies running for their lives! Hallelujah! We are saved!

Money controls politics and Corporations have too much money to lose this battle. Jonah Goldberg has said that he was paid a million dollar advance for his next book. He has since excreted a different book called Proud To Be Right: Voices Of The Next Conservative Generation, which is filled with tales of shallow patriotism, maudlin self-pity, and pre-pubescent political contrarism. Goldberg's introduction gives us a sample of this mindset:

I've visited scores of college campuses over the years and one of the things that you notice is that the best conservatives are, on average, simply sharper than the best liberals. Obviously, there are any number of exceptions to this. There are plenty of mule-headed Right-wingers and any number of insightful and interesting young liberals. but at the far right tail of the bell curve, the conservative kids are just a bit, well, better--better at explaining and articulating their ideas, better at weighing their feelings against the facts, better at sticking to their principles despite pressure from both their peers and their professors.


The best learning is Socratic. It comes from having your core views questioned and challenged. Even the sharpest liberal students get much of their college and high school education passively--because they already agree with what the professor has to say. Their prejudices are confirmed, not challenged. Not so with conservative students. They are reminded every day that they are slightly out of tune with the majority. They see things with their heads cocked slightly to the side.


The same trend applies in nearly all intellectual vocations. In higher education education, the media, government, and that vast but ill-defined vocation sometimes called the "helping professions," conservatives have to swim upstream. This makes things harder for them, but it also builds muscle.

The people who fight for what is right work for free. The people who fight for corporations are paid millions.

We have made a terrible mess of our country because we refuse to admit that we would rather live in a fantasy world of moral and intellectual superiority than admit most of us were stupid and greedy. And now the time has come for us all to pay for our mistakes.

Shorter Snark:



And that is why you will lose Social Security and Medicare.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Less Analyzed Megan

Megan McArdle is being stupid again but we need a break. Therefore:

Less Analyzed Megan: Here are meaningless unemployment numbers utterly devoid of context, so I can grind my little My Tribe Is Better Than Your Tribe axe.

Bonus stupidity:

So is Pethokoukis right? I'm not quite as pessimistic as he is about Obama's chances, but if unemployment really is at 8.5%, I have to think that he will at the very least face a really tough campaign battle--yea, even if Sarah Palin is his opponent.

Obama is not going to run against Palin and he certainly wouldn't lose against Palin. Palin is not a serious person by anyone's standards, which means that she is not predictable. Bush was equally unserious, but he was raised to obey his parents and their advisers. He fought their demands by drinking and screwing around but in the end he knuckled under and just did what he was told to do. Palin was raised very differently, and has never seemed to finish anything she started, from governorship to parenting. If she can't be controlled she's no use to anybody, except as a hoochie-coochie dancer in the Republican Big Top tent, getting men in the door and money out of their pockets.


The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Need A Vacation

So nice to see you again, Mr. Goldberg.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is once again begging for money for National Review On-Line, as she is forced to do every year. We are not sure why she doesn't just pray for it and wait for God's Wells Fargo stagecoach to pull up to her door; perhaps God doesn't provide after all.

We’re having this fundraising drive now, because, frankly, we need the money. Most everyone reading this, I suspect, has had some hard financial times lately. And most of us haven’t been bailed out. Most everyone reading this reads National Review Online for more than this fundraising pitch. Maybe you’ve benefited from some information we’ve relayed. Maybe you’ve laughed at Jonah Goldberg’s jokes. Maybe you’ve campaigned for more Star Trek references. Maybe you’ve been bucked up by Victor Davis Hanson’s perspective in election after election now. Maybe you’ve been inspired to get involved in a campaign. Maybe you’ve felt part of a team, or even a family. Maybe for this, or other reasons, you’ll consider contributing to our Fall 2010 fundraising drive.

I know that many of you were generous to campaigns this season. I know that the holidays are coming up. But please know that National Review Online will be working. The staff here and writers — many of whom write for nothing, or next to — will be at it, as ever. Working to counter the conventional wisdom. Working to highlight good people and encourage them. You deserve the best in analysis and news and reporting. We’d like to be able to bring it all to your computers and mobile devices at

Someone should tell Jonah Goldberg that he's working for peanuts. He grew up in and now lives in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And how he does love his vacations.

Hey. I went to Europe more than a few times as a teenager, most on family vacations. My Dad — a language buff — really wanted me to learn French or Italian. It didn’t happen.

What a surprise. And how nice that rich boy Jonah got to travel a lot. It seems he still does.

The Goldbergs are contemplating a mini-vacation from our vacation, perhaps driving down to Northern California (stopping with relatives in Oregon). Personally, I’d love to go to San Francisco, Sonoma and all that but that looks to be too ambitious. Mendocino looks more doable, but we know very little about it. Any suggestions welcome for hotels (parameters: needs to be only a few days drive at most from Seattle, we’ve already visited Victoria, can’t be too high-end since we’ll have a four year-old (though probably not Coz) and can’t be too low-end because my wife has standards that preclude words like “Super” and “Motel” in the title), scenic spots, restaurants (see hotel parameters) etc.

The missus and I are going to London the week after next on a mixture of business and vacation. Anybody have really good restaurant suggestions? We've been to London before -- it's even where I asked the Fair Jessica to stoop to marrying me -- but we always feel like we're missing gastronomic opportunities.

GOSH, I MISS YOU GUYS [Jonah Goldberg]
As you can probably tell, I''ve basically taken this week as a vacation (don't tell Rich). Anyway, we leave Saturday for the Canadian rockies and points South and South East. I should be posting a lot more frequently then.

Donate now so that Goldberg and his family can spend Thanksgiving in France. Again.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Via Blue Texan, Bush hits McCain where it hurts.

The 43rd President has told friends the ex-Alaska governor isn't qualified to be President and criticizes Arizona Sen. John McCain for putting Palin on the 2008 GOP ticket and handing her a national platform.

"Naming Palin makes Bush think less of McCain as a man," a Republican official familiar with Bush's thinking told the Daily News.

"He thinks McCain ran a lousy campaign with an unqualified running mate and destroyed any chance of winning by picking Palin."

McCain was tortured until he broke and collaborated with the enemy. From Bush, the younger man, who avoided active duty yet pranced around in a flight suit like a hero, that's a deeply cutting insult. McCain is reminded of his past every time he wakes up in pain. Bush whitewashes his past and gets off scot-free, his critics silenced by dirty tricks.

The right is trying to rehabilitate Bush and therefore themselves. (Which will probably work; you can't be an Exceptional American if you acknowledge that Americans keep screwing up.) McCain was forced to humble himself before Bush but times change, and it'll be very amusing interesting to see if and how McCain responds.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quality Control

It seems that a German chain of in-store bakery machines is being sued for deceptive advertising; their "fresh-baked rolls" are nothing of the sort. Megan McArdle just doesn't see what all the fuss is about.
I am certainly not against all false advertising statutes--the government's role in ensuring transparency is extremely important. But this seems like an egregious abuse of the statute. The bakers are not altruistically worried that consumers will be hurt by their decision; they're worried about competition cutting into their profits.

McArdle is all about free market competition. Caveat lector, suckers! If, for instance, you happened to buy a copy of The Atlantic because of its reputation for intellectually stimulating work by America's finest writers and you got Megan McArdle instead, that's just too bad. You'll know better next time.
Indeed, it's hard to see how a consumer could be hurt by this.

"Indeed" indeed. How could bakeries possibly be harmed by someone passing off lower-quality products as bakery-level quality, at a lower price?
Fresh baked bread does not have some sort of magic, hard-to-observe qualities like preventing cancer; it just tastes better. Consumers are in a very good position to observe whether the bread they buy at Aldi does, in fact, taste better; if not, they can always go back to their local bakery. What purpose, then, does suing for false advertising serve?

And if you call yourself an econoblogger but don't really blog on economics, your readers will just find another economics blogger. Getting all fussy and demanding regarding quality and truth and whatnot serves no purpose at all. And it damages reputations.
One could ask the same about France's rigid rules about regional naming, making it illegal to call anything Bordeaux unless it comes from a rigidly defined geographical area
One could also ask the same about Ivy League schools. Why are they so rigid about who can be called Ivy League and who couldn't? Why couldn't my large commuter state school call itself Yale but keep its much lower tuition? Anyone who looked at me would know at once if I were Yale or not Yale.
The US is not quite as bad about this sort of thing as many European companies are, but we have a fair amount of this nonsense, particularly surrounding food--so that there are strict rules, for example, about how much beef a soup must have before you can call it "beef soup with vegetables" rather than "vegetable soup with beef". Yet the amount of meat in a soup is easily observed directly by the consumer, and if they don't like it, they can always buy a different brand of soup.

It's really very simple: If you can see someone trying to rip you off, it's okay to rip you off. Which explains McArdle's belief that if she announces her husband works for a Koch she does not have a conflict of interest when she supports a Koch. Yet another jigsaw puzzle piece falls into place.
Transparency should focus on products that are costly and qualities that are hard to observe--ensuring that kosher food is actually kosher, and low-fat food is low in fat, and that the car alleged to have a v-6 engine and passenger-side airbags actually does. Quibbling over semantic labeling distinctions wastes time and energy--and worse, often serves as a forum for anti-competitive maneuvering.

McArdle just doesn't see the problem with both trading on and undercutting a brand's reputation.

Why are we not surprised?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Attack Of The Strawman Deficit

Bite me!

Before we get down to examining Megan McArdle's views on the deficit and handing out Cookies Of Gratitude to the many wonderful people who correct her so we don't have to, let us pause to note one great advancement in the march of human history.
Naturally saying that neither party is particularly credible on the deficit right now has drawn a lot of angry people out of the woodwork to say that I am ignoring the clear evidence that Democrats/Republicans are better. Well, I've looked at the evidence, and to me it's not that clear. [my bold]

That's right, ladies and gentlemen! Liberals have been promoted to the status of people! Yay, us!


Unfortunately that promotion seems to be unpopular with her audience. Despite their protestations of clear-sighted balance, most are conservative and don't like to be told that the Republicans are as bad as the Democrats.

But let's start at the beginning: Travel back in time with me to October 29, when we at the Snark were otherwise occupied with the approaching holiday festivities.

Which Party Is Better on the Deficit?

I'm seeing a lot of worry that if Republicans take Congress, it will be bad for the deficit, because they're not serious about deficit reduction.

It seems the deficit is one of our economy's most serious and enduring problems, greater than any other problem in the history of this recession. The deficit is stalking the land, ready to swallow anything it sees like a giant stalking Cyclops of fiscal imprudence.
I agree that they aren't serious--but this has less bite than it might, because I've seen little evidence that the Democrats are serious. An enormous amount of the "Democrats are serious" credibility is borrowed from the Clinton years. Even crediting Clinton with 100% of that, and the Republican Congress with none--an interpretation I think rather far-fetched--that was over a decade ago. What have they done for us lately?

Don't get me wrong, I think that Republicans are deeply, terrifyingly unserious about raising taxes and cutting spending. But I think that Democrats are also deeply, terribly unserious about doing those things. I think that Republicans are worse on the tax side, but I think Democrats are worse on the spending side, and it's far from clear to me that on balance, the Democratic position leads to net deficit reduction over the Republican alternative.

And here we see the premise that will soon get McArdle into hot water. McArdle tries to say that the Democrats are the big spenders who will crash the economy with their big spending. She can't support this statement and if you look carefully you'll see she doesn't even try; she just blames "pre-existing Democratic priorities." Other bloggers tries to understand her analysis, examining her data and trying to follow her logic but there is no data or logic because Megan McArdle thinks enacting health insurance reform in 2014 has exploded Obama's present deficit.
...The problem is that even if all the Medicare cuts work, we're still left with a really big deficit problem--and we have already "spent" the arsenal of revenue enhancers and spending cuts that would otherwise have been our first line of defense against fiscal disaster.

So while I worry about Republicans passing irresponsible tax cuts, I worry equally about Democrats passing irresponsible spending programs that pay lip-service to the notion of deficit reduction, while in fact making it more likely that America will end up in a crisis. You can argue that American really needed health care reform, but the Republicans would say the same about tax cuts. At that point, you're obviously not that interested in the deficit; you're simply saying that the stuff my side wants to do is worth risking the country's financial future, while the stuff the other side wants to do isn't. Okay, maybe, but that isn't going to make the resulting deficit any less . . . um . . . deficit-like.

McArdle's next article attempts to bolster her claim that Democrats are as bad or worse than the Republicans when it comes to the economy. She achieves this goal by simply declaring that anything good that happened under Democratic president didn't count, while anything good that happened under a Republican president did. She gives Bush I credit for Clinton's surplus and ignores the fact that Bush had to raise taxes after cutting them to please the base.
As you can see, the Bush [I] deficit reduction package is very competitive, though it included some temporary deduction phaseouts that boosted the tax take. On the other hand, Clinton got to enjoy the fruits of the 1991 and 1993 base-closing commissions in the wake of the end of the Cold War, so I'm not inclined to dock him all that much for this.

Bush's actions on the deficit helped cost him the election.

Bush's broken promise to not raise taxes helped cost him the election. Does she think we were all born yesterday?
I'd call him a Hero of Deficit Reduction, First Class--without him, Clinton's surpluses would never have been possible.

Looking at our small group of post-1980 presidents, we have two GOP presidents who increased the deficit, one GOP president who took major steps to close it, one Democratic president who took steps to close it. The "Dems good, GOP bad" has another problem, of course: Barack Obama., the Democratic president who has set spending records as revenue collapsed. Maybe he's planning a secret surprise where he balances the deficit in 2014. But there's not really all that much evidence for this proposition, beyond the fond hopes of those making it.

So while, yes, we have one more "bad Republican" than "bad Democrat", that's out of a group of five--not particularly compelling evidence.

McArdle flawed argument has been refuted but we all know that something can be technically true and collectively nonsense.

Meanwhile, The New York Times printed a chart showing How Trillion Dollar Deficits Were Created. At the bottom we can see "Other Obama programs" add $56 billion to the deficit, while Bush's policies, for example, added $673 billion.

Paul Krugman added:
Even More On The Origins of the Deficit
I’ve thought of another way to present the data on GDP, spending by all levels of government, and taxes. Let’s look at trends in GDP, spending, and revenues over two periods — one designed to capture “normal” growth, the other the economic crisis.

For the first period, I look at trends from the business cycle peak in the first quarter of 2001 to the peak in the last quarter of 2007. This is a standard way of measuring economic trends, by the way, since business cycle peaks presumably measure the economy’s output at or near capacity. And yes, this means that I wrote this post in a fit of peaks.

For the second period, I use the quarters since that 2007 peak.

So here’s what you get:


During the pre-crisis period, spending grew slightly faster than GDP — that’s Medicare plus the Bush wars — while revenue grew more slowly, presumably reflecting tax cuts.

What happened after the crisis? Spending continued to grow at roughly the same rate — a bulge in safety net programs, offset by budget-slashing at the state and local level. GDP stalled — which is why the ratio of spending to GDP rose. And revenue plunged, leading to big deficits.

But I’m sure that the usual suspects will find ways to keep believing that it’s all about runaway spending.

Ezra Klein said:
McArdle has two examples of Democrats not only trying to pay for things, but making unpopular choices to pay for things. Then she's got a bill in which Democrats decided to pay for more than the whole thing, and made a bunch of unpopular decisions to do so -- decisions which Republicans are attacking mercilessly. And this is her evidence for a post which asks the question, "Which Party Is Better on the Deficit?" and finds it impossible to answer.

And Marshall Auerback at Naked Capitalism writes On McArdle's Fuzzy Deficit Accounting:
In 2005 tax revenues were humming, with a growth rate of 15% per year—far above GDP growth–hence, reducing nongovernment sector income—and above growth of government spending, which was just above 5%. As shown in the figure above, such fiscal tightening invariably results in a downturn. When it came, the budget deficits increased, mostly automatically. While government consumption expenditures remained relatively stable over the downturn (after a short spike in 2007-2008), the rate of growth of tax revenues dropped sharply from a 5 % growth rate to a 10 % negative growth rate over just three quarters (from Q 4 of 2007 to Q 2 of 2008), reaching another low of -15% in Q1 of 2009. Transfer payments, as expected, have been growing at an average rate of 10% since 2007. Decreasing taxes coupled with increased transfer payments have automatically pushed the budget into a larger deficit, notwithstanding the flat consumption expenditures. These automatic stabilizers and not the bailouts or much-belated and smaller-than-needed stimulus are the reason why the economy hasn’t been in a freefall a la the Great Depression. As the economy slowed down, the budget automatically went into a deficit putting a floor on aggregate demand.

As estimated by the New York Times, even if we were to eliminate welfare payments, Medicaid, Medicare, military spending, earmarks, social security payments, and all programs except for entitlements, and in addition stopped the stimulus injections, shut down the education department, got rid of a number of other things and doubled corporate taxes on top of all of this, the budget deficit would still be over 400 billion. This further demonstrates the non-discretionary nature of the budget deficit. And of course this doesn’t take into consideration how much more tax revenues would fall and transfer payments would rise if these cuts were to be undertaken. With the current automatic stabilizers in place, the budget cannot be balanced, and attempts to do so will only cause damage to the real economy as incomes and employment fall.

But this set of facts is much less attractive, apparently, than simple Obama bashing.

(McArdle showed up in comments on that post, which is always fun.)

McArdle tries to tell us that "...a lot of [Obama's spending] is also discretionary, and given the way that many of those funds were used to target pre-existing Democratic priorities, Republicans have a right to argue that this can't all be simply written up to the recession." And "...either way, I don't think you can ignore the huge leap in government spending that has taken place during the first two years of Obama's term." Yet Obama-only programs have added $56 billion to the deficit and "Obamacare" won't be funded until 2014, so we fail to see how McArdle has even begun to support her emotion-based assumption that Obama is a big spender.

In conclusion:
On health care, I think it's likely that the GOP will try to defund much of the health care bill, while leaving the pre-existing condition rules, and perhaps the addition of adult children to their parents' health insurance. If that happens, health care reform will collapse under its own weight, perhaps taking the US insurance market down with it.

Just the insurance market? Why not all medicine, for all time? Tune in next week when Megan McArdle declares that thanks to President McSpendypants, all doctors will Go Galt and mow their own lawns instead of healing the foolish, ungrateful masses.