Friday, December 31, 2010
Fill In The Blank
Some day that'll be me!
Every time we try to write about the latest Megan McArdle post we find ourselves repeating past complaints. It's getting difficult to respond to boilerplate with originality.
This post is a link to yet another obscure libertarian blogger, as if being libertarian were enough qualification for pundit status. McArdle speculated on the celebrity gossip in the post and applies it to her own life, as she is wont to do. It seems McArdle is insecure about her femininity and feels the need to share this information with thousands of people. We would suggest that McArdle keep this information to herself because she is being both unprofessional and handing ammunition to her ideological opponents, but she is proud of her "feminine" style of blogging and sees no reason not to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about her life and likes and dislikes. It's All About Megan, which is why she is a libertarian in the first place, of course.
Here's yet another post that speculates on unsupported rumors just so McArdle can bash unions. What can we say except "Enjoy your lower-tax libertarian utopia!" and "Pull up those boot-straps, Missy, and shovel your own roads free of snow!"
And here's her umpteeth post on how we must have a balanced budget or the economy will crash. It's wise of McArdle to predict economic disaster since her bankster buddies ensured that disaster would happen after they were done looting the country, but it's a bit galling to see her work so enthusiastically to return us to a time when the poor begged in the streets and old people lived on cat food and died like flies every time the thermometer dropped.
But it's not all spinach; there's some fun among the depressingly servile and callous posts. McArdle admits that house prices will go down further, but sees no reason why she should regret buying a house before the prices dropped. We can think of about 50,000 reasons why she should have waited, but if McArdle is happy, then by golly so are we. It's always amusing to watch McArdle rationalize her mistakes.
Finally, McArdle has yet another post quoting and praising Little Master Douthat. She still has hope that he'll recommend her when Krugman retires, no doubt. We wish her the best of luck and can think of no better coda to this whole sorry era than to see McArdle squatting on top of the servile, deceitful heap she has devoted so much energy to climb.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
The Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2010
And thanks to Jon Weisel, wherever he is, who understood how much people who pour their hearts and soul into their work crave recognition.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
A cookie a day keeps the McArdle away!
Megan McArdle has written yet another ignorant post about teachers; she still seems to thing that teacher quality is the only factor in student success and utterly ignores home life and economic status. Tom Levenson does a great job addressing the subject here, in response to some Conor Friedersdorf stupidity.
A commenter tries to explain that the free market system of education will harm a lot of kids but it passes right over the heads of McArdle and her fans; if tens of thousands of kids have to suffer to hand over education to corporate control, then so be it.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Practice What You Preach
Megan McArdle tries to make a funny, with her traditional lack of success.
According to Kaiser Health News, Democrats have reached Stage Eight of the Seven Stages of Legislative Grief: Rebranding. Because no matter how unpopular your legislation is, it's nothing that can't be cured by coming up with a better name. [snipped quote]
May I suggest Happy Fun Care?
It seems that her jokes are like her opinions, borrowed from someone else. The White House wants a more appealing acronym for their health care plan. McArdle can't help but be snide since being persuasive didn't work. Making up numbers and claiming they are secret facts that only you have been able to glean from drug companies' financial reports didn't work as well as McArdle evidently hoped.
I suggest that Megan McArdle live up to her beliefs that the government should get out of providing health care by following the examples of her husband's fellow tea baggers and give up her government-subsidized employer-provided health insurance, and either buy hers on the open market or pay her doctors in cash.
Responding to Rep.-elect Andy Harris’ (R-MD) hypocritical demand for government-sponsored health coverage last month, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) circulated a letter among his colleagues calling on Harris and other members of Congress who want to repeal President Obama’s health care law to forgo their own government health care plans. At least four GOP congressmen have already announced they will turn down their congressional benefits, and a recent poll found that a majority Americans “think incoming Congressmen who campaigned against the health care bill should put their money where their mouth is and decline government provided health care now that they’re in office.” In an interview with the New York Times published yesterday, Rep.-elect Joe Walsh (R-IL) has said he too will forgo government health coverage:It would be the noble and correct thing to do, and would do far more to save those millions of lives than a few dozen words dashed off on a blog.
And get this: he’s turned down the usual congressional health care, pension and retirement packages.“I don’t think congressmen should get pensions or cushy health care plans,” he said. His wife is not exhilarated with the latter decision; she has a pre-existing medical condition and is now forced to hunt for a plan.
Stop being a hypocrite, Megan McArdle! Give up that fascist health care and live up to your libertarian ideals! Is she a principled libertarian or merely another sponger who will happy to let others pay for her health care? McArdle undoubtedly will take the mortgage deduction as well, and says she will use public schools for her child. How are the elite Galts of the world supposed to rid themselves of the weak, mewling parasite of the world when they are one of them??
Monday, December 27, 2010
The Best Of All Possible Worlds
It seems that if nobody covers Megan McArdle's latest atrocity the sun still shines and the the world keeps spinning; that is good to know because correcting her mistakes has little effect. McArdle responded to DougJ's correction of her math with a post saying that Paul Krugman has had wrong predictions too, so there. Yes, the mistake was simple math, not economic projections, but let's not be pedantic about it. McArdle is just like the great Paul Krugman, so there.
McArdle has some praise for Chris Christie, who seems to share her belief that since there are no real-world consequences for blind ideology, you can do any crazy thing you want. She also informs us that she was a first responder because she worked at the Twin Towers site, running a copy machine. We could point out that she did not, in fact, respond to anything but a job offer from a construction firm but who cares? The truth is utterly unimportant in the face of rising revenues. We don't need to wonder what The Atlantic sold to make those millions.
McArdle is a made man; nothing can affect her success because she has the full backing of The Atlantic, which is making a small fortune using her as a conduit for corporate propaganda. Criticism is utterly useless against propaganda, which has nothing to do with passing on information and everything to do with feeding the vanity and stoking the fears of the gullible masses. Criticism just reinforces the public's sense of victimization, which they deeply enjoy.
It has become clear that most people like things just the way they are. They like having progressives and Muslims to hate. They like to see the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. They like to kill foreigners. They like to be told to drink bad water, breathe bad air, buy bad products. Americans are, you might say, exceptionally happy with America just the way it is, and tend to see its critics as stupid party-poopers who hate America and Jesus and money.
Why are we trying so hard to warn them? Why do we bother repeating that the banks are still hiding their bad debt, that the state and local governments are still broke, that the pensions are still gone, that all that scapegoating will one day erupt in violence? It's what America wants.
Let them have it.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Less Arithmetic Megan
Megan McArdle read a post that said the number of bankruptcies was falling. She saw a chart that said the year over year rate of bankruptcy filing has gone down since 2007. She repeated the message and copy-n-pasted the graph. Of course her graph does not show the number of bankruptcies, it shows the rate of bankruptcy filings since 2007, but McArdle still insists that black is white, up is down, and total number is rate.
pragmatism 18 hours ago
who would do something like this? that would be like using this chart http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5Wme... to show a decline in bankruptcies going back to 2007 when this chart http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5Wme... paints a fuller picture. i know, fudging the x axis is completely different.
pragmatism 18 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
McMegan 14 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
Again, not my chart, and what I was interested in is the decline in bankruptcies that just happened, and is clearly marked on the chart. In retrospect, I agree with you that it's not a great way to present the data, but the post was about bankruptcies next year, and in fact clearly discussed the fact that bankruptcies had gone up during the crisis, no?
Flag 1 person liked this. Like ReplyReply pragmatism 14 hours ago in reply to McMegan
It's not her fault. She was just repeating what someone else said. It was right there in the post. What else do you want? And that graph-it doesn't say what it says. It says something else that supports my preconceived notion that bankruptcies, especially medical bankruptcies, aren't falling. Right? Right? What are you gonna do, argue with an Ivy Leaguer?
pragmatism 14 hours ago in reply to McMegan
agreed not your chart, but your choice amongst the universe of charts. what your choice does not show is how bk's spiked prior to the passage of reform. those people are not likely to go into bk again during the crisis, no? that's why it would have been better to show that data as well.
McMegan 14 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
Pragmatism, I assume that you are new to this blog, because this is hardly a fact that I have been at pains to conceal. In fact, I alluded to it in that very post, along with the fact that the rates had been rising for some time:
"This may be evidence on a question that has puzzled bankruptcy experts--was the precipitous decline in bankruptcies after the 2005 bankruptcy reform act real, or was it simply a lull before the storm? Everyone agrees that the initial drop was a result of a lot of bankruptcies being moved forward before the law took effect--everyone who thought they might need to declare bankruptcy did. But there has been a lot of analytical effort put into trying to figure out what was going to happen later: would they stay low, or would they inexorably go back to their old level? Obviously what you think depends on what you think the causes of bankruptcy are: if you blame low saving and irresponsible consumers, you're apt to think that bankruptcy will fall when it becomes harder to get a discharge. If you think bankruptcy is mostly the result of cruel economic forces--medical bills, predatory lenders, or what have you--then you'll expect them to go back up.
You, reader, did not understand what you read because of your preconceived liberal notions. I, however, did understand what I read--because of my preconceived notions, which have been verified by this line that goes down and that word bankruptcy in the title of the graph.
There's been some evidence for Ronald Mann's "Sweat Box" model of consumer debt. The idea is that the law wouldn't actually end up reducing the number of filings; it would just slow down the filings, so that consumers spent longer struggling, and paying high fees and interest charges to the lenders.
I know stuff about economics that you don't know.
But that looked more convincing when they were rising towards their old rates. Now that they're filing again, it may be time to revisit. of course, it's not a big fall--but as I say, the economy is considerably worse now. "
We can disregard any contrary evidence because we have perfectly good evidence that supports my ideology.
On this evidence, I submit that I correctly read the graph, did not notice that other people would incorrectly read the graph, and then wrote a blog post aimed at people who were going to correctly read the graph.
You misunderstood me. I know what I'm talking about, you don't.
pragmatism 14 hours ago in reply to McMegan
perhaps the working poor families project wrote that report aimed at people who were going to read the graph in question properly?
you call out their motives behind their choices of graphical representation, fine. what you say is true, its not as dramatic if you don't truncate the y axis. you made the same choice--to heighten the impact of the graphical representation.
(Edited by author 13 hours ago)
McMegan 13 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
No, I didn't. I grabbed a post from the blog I had been reading. I had no control over the graph. Do you not see a difference between how you build a graph, and using the one that goes with a blog post you would like to write about?
I have no responsibility. I'm just following orders. I had no control over which graph to publish. Don't you understand how this works?
All our fine and honorable Villager pundits lie to us endlessly. It's rare that we get to point it out in person, but it's also inevitable that if you lie and obfuscate for a living you open yourself up to ridicule and frequent, humiliating corrections.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Posting will be very light until after Christmas.
As the end of the year comes creeping up on us with little cat feet, Megan McArdle has been working on the definitive economic critique of Elizabeth Warren for almost five months. In that amount of time Glenn Greenwald could have written a couple of books, tossed off tens of thousands of blogging words and appeared on tv a few dozen times but hey, Megan McArdle is no Glenn Greenwald.
Considering Elizabeth Warren, the Scholar
Jul 22 2010, 11:40 AM ET 218
(Part one of a two-part series)
The progressives seem to have made Elizabeth Warren their cause-du-jour. I have a long and complicated history with Elizabeth Warren, so allow me a moment to offer my long and complicated thoughts on her. Really long. So long that I had to break it into two parts--scholarship and public life--in order to prevent the nausea, daytime sleepyness, and intracranial bleeding that might otherwise result. Consider yourselves warned.
Oooh, shiver me timbers! We have been warned, but oddly enough we are still waiting for the hammer to fall. McArdle might have found a back-door way to sneak into her Elizabeth Warren critique without anyone noticing, however, for she is currently trying to claim that medical bankruptcies weren't all that bad anyway, no matter what people who will remain unnamed might say.
Bankruptcy lawyer . . . er, "Toxicroach" argues in my comments section that if anything, medical bills are likely to be overrepresented in bankruptcy filings, relative to the actual damage they do:People going bankrupt don't pay their medical bills because it's for services already provided. That ranks right below everything else on the priority list. Now, income lost due to illness is a common cause of bankruptcy, but health insurance or not doesn't really change that.
Of course, I've also heard that they're underrepresented because people put them on credit cards. Which just illustrates how hard it is to determine what "causes" bankruptcy. In some cases it is clear cut, but in many there is a string of bad luck and bad decisions leading up to the final outcome.
Everything is too hard and nobody knows anything. McArdle might want to read Warren's testimony before Congress to see how science tackles a problem; it seems that while we might not know everything, we can learn quite a lot and then take action to relieve suffering. Just because McArdle can't do math doesn't mean the rest of the world is handicapped in that respect.
But then McArdle would have to think about others' suffering, and she doesn't like to do that.
McArdle also prints a handy chart that shows bankruptcies falling.
This may be evidence on a question that has puzzled bankruptcy experts--was the precipitous decline in bankruptcies after the 2005 bankruptcy reform act real, or was it simply a lull before the storm? Everyone agrees that the initial drop was a result of a lot of bankruptcies being moved forward before the law took effect--everyone who thought they might need to declare bankruptcy did. But there has been a lot of analytical effort put into trying to figure out what was going to happen later: would they stay low, or would they inexorably go back to their old level? Obviously what you think depends on what you think the causes of bankruptcy are: if you blame low saving and irresponsible consumers, you're apt to think that bankruptcy will fall when it becomes harder to get a discharge. If you think bankruptcy is mostly the result of cruel economic forces--medical bills, predatory lenders, or what have you--then you'll expect them to go back up.
Since the number of bankruptcies jumped right before bankruptcy reform passed in 2005, it would be instructive to go back further to see the total picture, not just the slice that McArdle wants us to see. Click on image to enlarge.
Unfortunately I don't have time to examine McArdle's evasions in detail. That will have to wait for my response to On Elizabeth Warren: The McArdle Post To End All Posts!!
Monday, December 20, 2010
The Punch Douthat Show
This is Ross Douthat, also known as Punch, with his bestest buddy, Moral Police. They like to make sure that everyone is Christian, like Punch, because of all the religions in all the lands since the beginning of time, Christianity is the One True Religion. (TM TBogg)
Punch Douthat is unhappy. People don't respect authority the way they used to before the bad, bad 1960s.
In the last 50 years, the Christian churches have undergone what “American Grace” describes as a shock and two aftershocks. The initial earthquake was the cultural revolution of the 1960s, which undercut religious authority as it did all authority, while dealing a particular blow to Christian sexual ethics.
Ouch! The 1060s' Clown Of Sexual Liberation is hitting poor, Christian Authority Punch Douthat! Stop that, mean Mr. Sexual Liberation! Doesn't he know that civilization depends on Christian Authorities like Punch Douthat?
Over all, [the authors of American Grace] argue, our society reaps enormous benefits from religious engagement, while suffering from few of the potential downsides. Widespread churchgoing seems to make Americans more altruistic and more engaged with their communities, more likely to volunteer and more inclined to give to secular and religious charities. Yet at the same time, thanks to Americans’ ever-increasing tolerance, we’ve been spared the kind of sectarian conflict that often accompanies religious zeal.
Look out Judy, it's a Muslim! Whom we tolerate just as long as they don't want to build a mosque near us or worship in front of us or make us listen to those funny calls to prayer!
But there is an even bigger threat to Christian Authority than mean Mr. Sexual Liberation--Multiculturalism, which keeps trying to steal the One True Sausage! I mean Church!
The first aftershock was the rise of religious conservatism, and particularly evangelical faith, as a backlash against the cultural revolution’s excesses. But now we’re living through the second aftershock, a backlash to that backlash — a revolt against the association between Christian faith and conservative politics, Putnam and Campbell argue, in which millions of Americans (younger Americans, especially) may be abandoning organized Christianity altogether.
No, not the abandonment of organized Christian sausage! Save us, Punch Douthat!
Yay! Punch Douthat has saved us again from the evil Multiculturalism! The thanks of a grateful nation are yours, Punch Douthat!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
After all, it's not like we've seen any verifiable increase in poverty in the last few years.
15 Shocking Poverty Statistics.
#1 Approximately 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009.
#2 According to the Associated Press, experts believe that 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.
#3 The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
#4 According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on a year-over-year basis, household participation in the food stamp program has increased 20.28%.
#5 The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million for the first time ever in June.
#6 As of June, the number of Americans on food stamps had set a new all-time record for 19 consecutive months.
#7 One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.
#8 More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.
#9 One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.
#10 Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as were receiving it in 2007.
#11 The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has risen over 60 percent in just the past year.
#12 According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.
#13 Nationwide, bankruptcy filings rose 20 percent in the 12 month period ending June 30th.
#14 More than 25 percent of all Americans now have a credit score below 599.
#15 One out of every five children in the United States is now living in poverty.
That was from the Economic Collapse blog, via The Big Picture.
Megan McArdle will never be stepping over starving children in the street because the police will not let their presence inconvenience the people with money. Therefore poverty doesn't really exist, and McArdle can continue raking in the cash from the corporations that support her and her husband's lying and manipulations in their service.
It takes a very special type of person to casually dismiss children begging Santa for a coat so their mom can be warm in winter. It takes the type of person who shrugs at torture and death. Who worships affluence and power.
This is the type of person that controls our freedom and financial security. This is our "elite," whom we trust to govern us, control our economy, safeguard our rights.
Rich people hate you. Don't ever forget it. They can and will and have mentally stepped over the fallen bodies of our soldiers, our poor, our children on the way to lunch. They read about suffering and they instantly dismiss it. It means nothing to them.
You mean nothing to them.
Yet we still give them more, more of our labor, more money, more respect, more benefit of the doubt. They take it and then they sign another paper or pass another law that will make them richer and us poorer and less free.
What cannot last forever will not last forever.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Kitchen Gift Guide Review!
Microplane grater: Evidently McArdle finds grating a lemon so difficult she ends up reducing her "knuckles to a bloody, sodden pulp." A microplaner seems like a nice thing to have, but it's not going to make McArdle coordinated or save her macaroni and cheese recipe. As McArdle likes to say, garbage in, garbage out.
Silicon Pastry Mat: McArdle laments her lost pastry mat, since its loss ruined her attempt to make gingerbread cookies. We would advise simply adding flour to the work surface--gingerbread cookies can take a lot; it just makes them fatter and chewier--but why ruin her little story with facts?
Silicon Oven Mitts: McArdle uses these whenever she wants " to plunge your hand into boiling water." Someone should give McArdle a colander before she ends up on "1000 Ways To Die" on SpikeTV. Her kitchen habits are not exactly safe.
Tongs: McArdle informs us that tongs are useful things, something that most of us realized the first time we picked them up and use them to terrify our little sister. McArdle recommends that we use them for lifting small items and putting them back down, a major stroke of genius. Unfortunately she appears to be setting them down on the burner; she informs us that they will catch on fire if you, well, set them on fire. So far McArdle is suffering from kitchen fires, shattering ceramic knives, immersion in pots of boiling water, and death by grater. Maybe she should find a safer hobby, like jumping out of airplanes.
Butter boat: McArdle likes have a little ceramic container of butter sitting out, which cools itself through evaporation. We live in a very hot and humid climate, and prefer to use the fridge to keep butter from spoiling and the microwave to soften it when necessary.
Silicon rolling pin: Maybe McArdle should just give up on pie crust if it's this hard for her. Just buy it already prepared, woman! Nobody cares. You won't lose your hipster doofus (TM Seinfeld) credentials.
This makes it just slightly trickier to roll up your top crust pastry on the pin and then unroll it over the pan, but this is a very minor inconvenience compared to not having half your dough stuck to the pin, and the rest an unusable, hole-filled mess. Really, once you try this, you will never go back to wood.
We suspect that McArdle doesn't realize she needs to chill the fat and ice the water, and rest the dough for half an hour. Perhaps she dug soft butter out of its watery boat and now wonders why the dough is sticky and won't roll. Or is she so terrified of flour that she refuses to sprinkle it on the board? We demand another Blogginheads competition so we can mock more knowledgeably.
McArdle also recommends a few items like an egg separator and cookbook holder, and tells us that she uses a burr coffee grinder but all you need is a blade grinder.
Froth au Lait: A milk warmer and frother is a nifty thing to have, since it is much easier to use and clean than the frother attachment on an espresso machine. McArdle's frother looks bigger than the Nespresso frother, which can be used to just warm milk as well which a self-professed latte drinker should prefer, but evidently she thinks it has potential.
The manufacturer maintains that you can make all sorts of custards and fancy sauces in it. I can't speak to that--though in theory, something that constantly stirs your Hollandaise for you at a consistent temperature does seem like an improvement over the normal procedure of curdling the eggs and then frantically trying to get them to un-separate.
Has anyone thought of giving McArdle cooking lessons? Or is tempering eggs like math, a skill far out of reach for our heroine?
Salt Pig: No holiday gift list would be complete without McArdle advising us to buy the most common condiment on earth. Last year she famously declared we should cook with an expensive British salt and season our food with an even more expensive pink salt from the Himalayas (which actually was rock salt from Pakistan, heh). She spent the next month or so denying she had ever said any such thing, to everyone's amusement. McArdle has learned her lesson; however that lesson appears to have been "keep lying and everyone will forget what I said in the past."
As I noted last year, I've been experimenting quite a bit with varietal salts. They're an extravagence, but ultimately, they're an affordable extravagence--my modest containers of my two current favorites, Maldin Sea Salt and pink Himalayan rock salt, have now lasted for over two years. So far the flavor shows no signs of degrading.
A salt pig is good for holding these at the table (don't bother cooking with pricey salt--the cooking process alters the flavor. Just use it for finishing, or table salt). But where it really excels is on the stove, holding your salt for cooking. Many people I know swear by kosher salt, but while I find this useful for treating meat, otherwise I don't see what you gain from throwing larger crystals into a dish where they will just dissolve. I use ordinary Morton's iodized* salt.
After being so thoroughly humiliated for her salt pretentiousness last year McArdle tries to use reverse pretentiousness this year. We said that most people are happy with kosher salt, the way God and Alton Brown intended us to be, and now McArdle must tell us all that kosher salt's flakes are too big and one can just use Morton's. We admire her flexibility, if not her ethics.
The wee little piggie has a wide-open mouth and will not keep out humidity, but we'll let her find that out for herself.
McArdle also lists a gravy boat, immersion blender, scale, waffle, corkscrew, and tea press, sprinkling her reviews with little stories of her entertaining success. She does not compare items to let us know which brand is best and why--if she has it and recommends it, evidently it's the best. We bought a Screwpull when working our way through school as a waitress and it still works very well; for $12 (now $30), it was a great bargain. McArdle's rabbit is $55.
The Soadastream is, as she says, very nice if you like seltzer available at all times, but we run through the canisters of CO2 very quickly; too quickly to get new ones through the mail. You can get them refilled at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $15.
On and on and on it goes. McArdle likes All-Clad pans but thinks Calphalon Infused Anodized pans are the best. All-Clad does better in comparison tests but let's not tell McArdle. She uses a cast-iron pan for meat but evidently doesn't know that if it is properly seasoned and kept seasoned, it can cook anything without sticking (and can always go from stove top to oven). She likes electric pepper grinders but doesn't warn us that they often are underpowered and break down. And she likes an electric tea kettle but doesn't know about the extremely handy Japanese water heaters and their imitators, which can be left plugged in at all times if you so wish.
Half-educated, underskilled, gets facts wrong--what does that remind us of?
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Shorter Megan McArdle:
How Not to Negotiate a Tax Deal in Two Easy Steps: Since progressive bitter enders have never negotiated anything, this is what they do: ask for something utterly impossible [like the kind of health care system every other major industrialized nation has] and act crazy. [It is nice to see that McArdle has moved on and no longer feel obligated to show any civility. It must have been killing her.]
Credit Card Companies Seeking to Expand Lending?: My credit limit doubled which is good, but more poor people are getting credit, which is bad.
Judge Rules Health Reform Mandate Unconstitutional: Nyah, nyah, told you so--any changes in health care status quo will kill medicine. [Our medical system will always be perfect until McArdle can no longer afford it.]
The Mysteries of Public Opinion: Dear me, I have no idea why people are worried about a cut in taxes that could undermine Social Security even though the article I link to gives that reason, as my commenters tell me.
Aren't We All a Bit Corrupt?: American bankers seem much less corrupt when you compare them to foreigners.
Columbia Eminent Domain Case Will Not Be Heard: Eminent domain favors the rich over the less fortunate. [True of course but it's a bit rich to see her worry about the immoral elite.]
Setting a Regulatory Budget: Most regulations are stupid. We should let the profit motive determine how many endangered animals are hunted. [I recommend the whole thing. It's mind-bogglingly juvenile.]
The Gift Guide review will be coming later. The milk warmer and frother she mentions is actually a great thing to have, but I am confident that the rest will not disappoint.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Business Is Booming
Sunday, December 12, 2010
The Pressure To Conform
What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama
By ISHMAEL REED
NOT all of my white teachers viewed me as a discipline problem. To the annoyance of my fellow students, one teacher selected me regularly to lead assembly programs. A high school teacher insisted that I learn about the theater. She was an America-firster who supplied me with right-wing pamphlets and magazines that I’d read at breakfast and she didn’t seem bothered by my returning them with some of the pages stuck together with syrup.
But most of them did see me as an annoyance, and gave me the grades to prove it.
The author is establishing his authority to speak on the subject. He reminds us of racist white women and minor intellectuals.
I’ve been thinking recently of all those D’s for deportment on my report cards. I thought of them, for instance, when I read a response to an essay I had written about Mark Twain that appeared in “A New Literary History of America.” One of the country’s leading critics, who writes for a prominent progressive blog, called the essay “rowdy,” which I interpreted to mean “lack of deportment.” Perhaps this was because I cited “Huckleberry Finn” to show that some white women managed household slaves, a departure from the revisionist theory that sees Scarlett O’Hara as some kind of feminist martyr.
Remember, progressives can be racist too. And so can feminists.
I thought of them when I pointed out to a leading progressive that the Tea Party included neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers — and he called me a “bully.”
Progressives can even be like Hitler! And, oddly, they support the tea baggers!
He believes that the Tea Party is a grass-roots uprising against Wall Street, a curious reading since the movement gained its impetus from a rant against the president delivered by a television personality on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Silly progressives, who believe Wall Street is their friend.
And I’ve thought about them as I’ve listened in the last week to progressives criticize President Obama for keeping his cool.
Obama is cool. Criticizing him is like defending racists.
Progressives have been urging the president to “man up” in the face of the Republicans. Some want him to be like John Wayne. On horseback. Slapping people left and right.
Progressives are like the right, who worship machismo.
One progressive commentator played an excerpt from a Harry Truman speech during which Truman screamed about the Republican Party to great applause. He recommended this style to Mr. Obama. If President Obama behaved that way, he’d be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people. His grade would go from a B- to a D.
Tumans' speech warning America of the growing military industrial complex? That speech?* He was screaming? And progressives want Obama to be like that? The racists would win!
What the progressives forget is that black intellectuals have been called “paranoid,” “bitter,” “rowdy,” “angry,” “bullies,” and accused of tirades and diatribes for more than 100 years. Very few of them would have been given a grade above D from most of my teachers.
And you don't want to be racist like them, do you?
When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama’s base, all they see is themselves.
You are here to support Obama. He is not here to support you.
They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos. And now they are whispering about a primary challenge against the president. Brilliant! The kind of suicidal gesture that destroyed Jimmy Carter — and a way to lose the black vote forever.
If you don't support Obama you will lose an important part of your base.
Unlike white progressives, blacks and Latinos are not used to getting it all.
You are a spoilt white person.
They know how it feels to be unemployed and unable to buy your children Christmas presents. They know when not to shout. The president, the coolest man in the room, who worked among the unemployed in Chicago, knows too.
Obama is cool. Shut up.
Mr. Reed is an important man. This opinion piece, written with skill and power and transparent manipulation, will scare quite a few people into shutting up.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Obedience and Politics
Authoritarianism is the product of a certain type of upbringing. The parent demands obedience from the child by giving or (especially) withholding love from the child based on his level of obedience and how much the child satisfies the parents' needs. The parent expect the child to make the parent feel good about himself. The parent's own parents did not give him unconditional love and the parent spends the rest of his life looking for that love from other people. Since only children can experience unconditional love, they are always going to be disappointed. They will look to religion to give them that love--God's unconditional love, which authoritarian religions use to control people; follow these rules and God will love you.
Or politics. You only have to take on look at Republicans en masse to realize that they become involved because they need a group to reinforce their dubious beliefs. Facts, logic and compassion aren't on their side but they can forget all that when they are surrounded by people like them. Which is why they only want to be surrounded by people like them.
But just because authoritarianism is weaker on the left side of the continuum doesn't mean it doesn't exist at all. Liberals seek to feel good about themselves by helping others, because it confirms the positive feelings they have about themselves or because it gives them positive feelings about themselves. The first reinforces self-esteem, the second creates self esteem in people who need outside reinforcement.
If a person backs Obama while admitting that Obama has done things that are against our beliefs, it is not a sign of authoritarianism. If a person backs Obama and refuses to admit Obama has done what he has actually, factually done, then the person is denying reality and is supporting Obama out of need, not pragmatism. The difference is huge because someone who sees Obama as an equal, who knows his own needs are as important as his leader's needs, will not hesitate to push for what he wants. Someone who sees Obama as an authority that must be supported no matter what will not argue the facts, they will argue obedience to that authority.
If we examined whether Obama's policies have helped more than they've hurt, we could figure out what to do. But instead people insist that Obama hasn't done anything harmful, even when the facts say otherwise, or that the gain outweighs the harm, which has not been proven. They accept actions from Obama that they would never accept from a Republican, which of course tilts the scales in Obama's favor. Let's hear the arguments--all of them, from both sides. If the thought make people uneasy or afraid, there is a reason for that fear--avoidance of pain.
Have you read about the Asche conformity experiments?
In the basic Asch paradigm, the participants — the real subjects and the confederates — were all seated in a classroom. They were asked a variety of questions about the lines such as how long is A, compare the length of A to an everyday object, which line was longer than the other, which lines were the same length, etc. The group was told to announce their answers to each question out loud. The confederates always provided their answers before the study participant, and always gave the same answer as each other. They answered a few questions correctly but eventually began providing incorrect responses.
In a control group, with no pressure to conform to an erroneous view, only one subject out of 35 ever gave an incorrect answer. Solomon Asch hypothesized that the majority of people would not conform to something obviously wrong; however, when surrounded by individuals all voicing an incorrect answer, participants provided incorrect responses on a high proportion of the questions (32%). Seventy-five percent of the participants gave an incorrect answer to at least one question.
We put enormous pressure on ourselves to conform. We want people we like and respect to accept us and we want to be part of that group. We want people to hit the like button. So we avoid anything uncomfortable, anything that creates a dissonance between what we know is true and what we want to be true. To do that we have to lie.
We can compromise, we can negotiate, we can even submit, but we can never lie to ourselves. It makes us dependent on outside sources for self-esteem, which leaves us wide open and vulnerable to abuse, as well as abusing others to keep the lie intact. At the very least it makes us indifferent to others' suffering, being so much preoccupied with our own.
All of this discussion of Obama depends on our acceptance of him as our leader and us as his followers. The discussion is entirely confined within the borders of our system, which is set up to extract money from the poor and middle class for the further enrichment of the elite rich. It is a game the rich play to distract us from the Greater Game, their acquisition of wealth through political, social, religious and of course monetary control. I want us all to turn our backs on the present political system, do good and feel good by helping others, especially the poor during these times. It would undercut the rich, enrich our own lives, and give us a reason to hope for better times.
I also want a pony, preferably pink.
Friday, December 10, 2010
I have not been posting much of late because I could not settle the question of supporting or not supporting Obama in my mind. I know that primarying him would not be successful and might have no effect at all. I know that most people support Obama. Politically, there is no question what must be done. But morally, it is wrong. I wrote this elsewhere in response to someone supporting Obama, but I want to repeat it here:
You are saying that we are not allowed to try to move Obama to the left. Or you are saying that we should not use the only viable means open to us--give time and money to someone other than our tribe's leader.
You are saying that our civilization is in danger and if we don't support our authority he will not be able to protect us from danger. You are saying that we must give up our principles, let the poor suffer, let the middle class become poor, let our old age pensions and medial care in old age gradually become weakened into non-existence---or the terrorists/Sarah Palin/Mike Huckabee will win.
You are saying that we must let our Leader build up our hopes for moral reform and then take them away, while scolding us for having those hopes at all. You are saying we must not speak up, must not criticize, must not use what little power we might have.
It is morally wrong to support a president who keeps open GITMO, escalates wars and begins new ones, gives taxpayers' monies to bail out banks, lowers workers' pay, and cuts taxes for the rich when the poor are desperate. You are arguing that being able to say our leader is the leader of our entire tribe is more important than doing the right thing.
You are saying that the middle class won't help the poor, the ones actually suffering right now, until the Leader's policies destroy them as well. And maybe not even then, for when it comes to supporting our Leader we would rather die than admit we were wrong and he has failed us.
We each must make our own choices but we must all acknowledge both the futility of political revolt against the elite under the present circumstances and the immorality of supporting the elite. The fact that we are trapped into immobility should give us a hint that there is something terribly wrong with the present political system, and tell us that it does not want our input, just our money and votes.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The Poor, Poor Rich
We have an awkward tax structure, to be sure--if you were designing a code from scratch, you probably wouldn't set it up this way. However, the payroll tax isn't particularly different from what the tax code looks like in many places in Europe--most people pay a broad, low rate, and then the carriage trade pays something more progressive. And it has grown over time largely in support of two social programs much beloved of progressives. If those programs were smaller, the employment taxes would be, too.
To me, [Felix Salmon's] chart shows how dependent the US federal tax take is on income taxes on higher earners, which tend to plummet precipitously in recessions, and are at historical lows simply because we're in an exceptionally bad recession.
The tax take is also at historical lows because the tax rate is at historical lows. It's very strange that McArdle does not know this.
Even the things that presumably worry progressives, like the lower revenues from corporate income taxes, are to some extent simply showing up elsewhere, as taxes on capital gains income. But you can't complain about this, and also complain that tax revenues are so low right now; broadly, the most stable taxes are also the most regressive--they're the taxes on necessities. In bad times, non-luxuries tend to get cut back and then so does your tax revenue.
This chart doesn't show the things that are really badly wrong with our tax code, like the massive inefficiency of all the deductions, and the punitive imputed marginal tax rates faced by poor workers who lose benefits as they gain a little income.
Evidently McArdle also does not know that the "poor workers" who see their taxes go up are making more money and are only paying higher rates on the amount of money in that given bracket.
An individual's marginal income tax bracket depends upon his or her income and tax-filing classification. As of 2008, there are six tax brackets for ordinary income (ranging from 10% to 35%) and four classifications: single, married filing jointly (or qualified widow or widower), married filing separately, and head of household.
An individual pays tax at a given bracket only for each dollar within that bracket's range. For example, a single taxpayer who earned $10,000 in 2009 would be taxed 10% of each dollar earned from the 1st dollar to the 8,350th dollar (10% × $8,350 = $835.00), then 15% of each dollar earned from the 8,351st dollar to the 10,000th dollar (15% × $1,650 = $247.50), for a total of $1,082.50. Notice this amount ($1,082.50) is lower than if the individual had been taxed at 15% on the full $10,000 (for a tax of $1,500). This is because the individual's marginal rate (the percentage tax on the last dollar earned, here 15%) has no effect on the income taxed at a lower bracket (here the first $8,350 of income taxed at 10%). This ensures that every rise in a person's pre-tax salary results in an increase of his after-tax salary.
For McArdle, making more money and moving into a higher tax bracket is a tragedy, not the attainment of the American Dream. It is a wonder that she does not quit her job immediately and live on the streets, where she wouldn't have to be punished for making money. Or she could go work for the Podunk Times And Courier, who would pay her much, much less and relieve her of the burdens of a higher tax bracket.
But make no mistake: Obama's tax cuts are a good deal for Democrats:
With the wailing and gnashing of teeth from many progressives, you would think that Obama had cut a deal to eliminate taxes on the wealthy in exchange for freeze-drying Guatamalan orphans in order to use them as decorations on the Family Research Council's Christmas Tree. Meanwhile, the conservatives I've seen are as proud of this deal as if they'd baked it from scratch.
I'm puzzled on both counts. Let me get the personal stuff out of the way: I think this is a terrible deal. I was rooting for gridlock to cause the tax cuts to expire entirely, which would probably have a moderately negative impact on the economy, but would at least somewhat forestall a devastating fiscal crisis down the road. If it was politically necessary to do tax cuts, I wanted them to be as small as possible, not $900 billion over two years.
Starve the government to drown it in the bathtub.
To be sure, this is a better deal, from my perspective, than it might have been. All the tax cut extensions are temporary, rather than permanent. We get a temporary extension in unemployment benefits, which I favor, given the lousy jobs picture. Some of the tax cuts, especially the temporary cut in the payroll tax, might even be stimulative. Nonetheless, I would much rather they had expired entirely than that we re-fight this battle in two years, when most of the parties are up for re-election. We may get that fiscal crisis even sooner than I thought.
But from the point of view of Democrats, this actually seems like a relatively decent deal....it looks like the Democratic proposals got more money than the GOP proposals, even if we leave the "middle class tax cuts" out of it.
Because the economic health of the nation is just another political game to win or lose.
So why are progressives so enraged? I'm not seeing a lot of complaints about austerity; rather, they simply seem to be mad that the Democrats were not able to thwart the GOP entirely. As Clive Crook says, "But is it really good politics for the party to keep telling the electorate that raising taxes on the rich is the one thing, in the end, it stands for? That nothing else comes close in the party's list of priorities? Because this is the message that comes across."
Clive, of course, is more sanguine about this deal than I am--more confident that tax reform is coming which will eventually undo it. I am not. And I would be sympathetic to progressives if they were complaining about the cost of this thing. But they're not--they're complaining about the $150 billion we're spending on Republican priorities, and saying nothing about the much larger sum we're spending on a Democratic agenda.
Republicans want to starve the government to death. Democrats want to increase government spending to make up for the lack of consumer spending so the government doesn't starve to death. The hypocrites.
Both sides, of course, are exposing themselves as the rank hypocrites they are on fiscal priorities. To say I despair for the financial future of our government is too weak.
Where was all this despair when the banks were being handed billions of tax dollars?
But McArdle isn't done yet--
Greg Mankiw and Bryan Caplan make the same point about Obama's payroll tax: it might better have been done on the employer side....
Given the terrible jobs figures, it seems obviously more important to me to pick the tax that is most likely to stimulate employment. Employed workers are mostly doing fine in this recession; it is the unemployed who need help, desperately.
Employers say that lack of demand is keeping them from hiring. This is not a secret.
USA Today wrongly told readers that: "private employers are uncertain about the economy's health and are hesitant to add jobs." The uncertainty of businesses does not explain their reluctance to add workers. If this were the case, then businesses would be increasing the number of hours worked per worker. While average weekly hours are up somewhat from the low hit last fall, they are still down by 0.7 hours from their pre-recession level. This indicates that firms are not hiring because they have no need of additional labor.
From the Washington Independent:
But I see the payroll tax as a fundamentally political move, not a serious attempt to fix the economy.
Who said it was an attempt to fix the economy, instead of an attempt to put a little money in people's pockets to stimulate the economy?
Cutting payroll taxes on workers means they will notice a little more money in their paycheck, and be happy with Obama. The unemployed won't be any happier, of course, but they have extended benefits, and few of them will realize that a differently structured tax cut might have given them a slightly better shot at finding a job.
Only if some hack lies to them and tells them it's Obama's fault that they don't have a job.
Friday, December 3, 2010
It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City
And what truly worries me about Wikileaks is not the immediate damage that has been done by the release of this sort of information, but the fact that the latest drop has created an enormous, nearly unanimous backlash in the United States.
I think our torturing, invading and killing has already done that, but that's just me.
An Apple, A Pear, A Plum, A Cherry, Any Good Thing To Make Us All Merry
Megan McArdle asks us to tell her what we are baking for Christmas this year. Her thoughts have turned towards pie baking:
asymmetricinfo Megan McArdle
Stupidest appliance ever? I want to buy one just to find out what I'm missing: http://bit.ly/hG1pGY
The appliance makes mini-pies, and McArdle also writes a post saying how stupid it is. So she acknowledges the pie cooker is stupid but she wants one anyway because it might not be as stupid as it seems, for some magical reason. Which explains her political philosophy.
But because I love to bake and therefore go hog-wild at the holidays, let's give McArdle a list of my holiday cooking plans:
Cookies: Chocolate Chip, M&M, Oatmeal Raisin, Molasses, Shortbread, Peanut Butter, and Lemon-Lime
Quick Breads: Banana Nut, Cranberry Orange, Stollen (usually bought to save time), Cornbread (for stuffing), Scones
Pies: Apple, Pumpkin, Mince, Cherry
Savories: Sausage Puff Pastry Triangles, Mini-Quiche Lorraine, Pasties
Cakes: Pumpkin Spice Bars, either cupcakes or a chocolate cake
I have a tea party on Christmas Eve with the children and maybe a few relatives, so we can sit down, relax, and enjoy some of the fruits of my labor before the Santa-ing later that night and the big meals the next day.
It's insane to do so much baking but it's also fun, especially when the work is done and it's time to eat.
This is a busy weekend for the Snark so we will be picking the low-hanging fruit today.
God only knows why, but Megan McArdle thinks we all care that she has to put up with other people when she goes out for a drink.
The gentrification boom in DC has hit up against a limited supply of bars--and neighborhood commissions that are very resistant to quickly opening more of them. The result is that no bar stays un-crowded for long; if it's any good at all, it's soon overwhelmed with a tidal wave of people fleeing the standing-room-only crowds at all the other bars. The bars aren't like this because most people in DC want to spend their Friday nights packed like cheap sardines; the bars are like this because there are so few of them in the areas where people under 35 live, that the only people who can bear to be in them are the people who will tolerate any conditions, including those of veal calves, if only they can endure them while holding a drink.
This is a new development in the areas of DC where, as it happens, Matthew Yglesias, Ryan Avent and I, all like to go out of an evening. When I moved to DC a scant three and a half years ago, there were enough bars where you could enjoy a Thursday night seated in the company of friends. Then came January 2009, when I held a birthday get-together at a previously local place on 11th street. Unfortunately, there wasn't much getting together; more than half the people were turned away because of overcrowding. Several bars had been shut down in Adams Morgan because the weren't serving enough food to comply with their tavern licenses; the result was that Adams Morgan relocated to U Street.
Since then, this pattern has been repeated over and over; any bar that opens is pleasant for a month or so, then completely, miserably jammed.
I think it's fair to say that our views on the relative importance of regulatory factors may be jaundiced by this--but in DC, regulation (and population pressure) clearly is the driving factor behind the lack of cozy, comfortable spots to get a bite and a beer.
It is very difficult to understand why McArdle thinks she is entitled to a bar that is quiet, cosy, in her neighborhood, has excellent food, and will always stay just as she wants it to stay. She may as well whine that she doesn't live next door to her favorite clothing store or bookstore or museum. She blames regulations without describing them or their history because that would mean acknowledging that regulations aren't just something handed down by a fascist, faceless government because liberals are all nanny-staters--they are often in place in answer to public problems and demands. Sure, she admits:
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
But she wants what she wants when she wants it, and like every spoiled child she doesn't understand why she can't get her own way. It's regulation's fault! Down with regulation! Get rid of them all! And when a bar moves in across the street from McArdle, she can bitch and whine about how the government destroyed her peace and quiet because governments can't do anything, ever.
Here's a suggestion for McArdle and all her little friends: Entertain at home. Our parents and grandparents did it because they couldn't afford to spend money on drinks and overpriced pub food. They watched tv, played cards, talked, and just spent time together instead of expecting to be waited on and entertained. This merry little band of bloggers bores everyone to death with their endless discussions of the best drinks and foods and cooking methods, but never seem to actually mix those drinks or cook that food. Creating something with your own hands and heart and then sharing it with your friends is infinitely more satisfying than signing a $150 bar bill and having nothing to show for it but a headache and indigestion.
Sometimes people are too tired to cook. Our generation has a way of dealing with this problem: we drive to bars. Yes, that means either taxi fees or a designated driver (we have no public transportation here). But somehow we manage to pull through.
There are a lot of people right now who can't afford to eat, let alone eat out. McArdle's attitude is that they have too much food anyway. (Note that she also complains that nobody cooks at home anymore). It is very unseemly to use The Atlantic and her privileged position to whine that there aren't enough places for her to spend all her ill-gotten money.
One final thing: McArdle came up with the same title as us. Heh.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Lies Depend On Secrecy
It's one thing for the Government to shield its conduct from public disclosure, but it's another thing entirely for the U.S. media to be active participants in that concealment effort. As The Guardian's Simon Jenkins put it in a superb column that I can't recommend highly enough: "The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. . . . Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets." But that's just it: the media does exactly what Jenkins says is not their job, which -- along with envy over WikiLeaks' superior access to confidential information -- is what accounts for so much media hostility toward that group. As the headline of John Kampfner's column in The Independent put it: "Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority." [Greenwald's bolding]
Most political journalists rely on their relationships with government officials and come to like them and both identify and empathize with them. By contrast, WikiLeaks is truly adversarial to those powerful factions in exactly the way that these media figures are not: hence, the widespread media hatred and contempt for what WikiLeaks does. Just look at how important it was for Bill Keller to emphasize that the Government is criticizing WikiLeaks but not The New York Times; having the Government pleased with his behavior is his metric for assessing how good his "journalism" is. If the Government is patting him on the head, then it's proof that he acted "responsibly." That servile-to-power mentality is what gets exposed by the contrast Wikileaks provides.
Servility to power has many rewards. There are financial rewards, because powerful people need to pay others to keep their secrets and lie to the public. There are emotional rewards as well; the servile enjoy feeling they are protected by powerful interests and are included in its elite circle. But it is a dangerous game because it depends on secrecy. Once the secrets are exposed the authoritarian followers are faced with a terrible dilemma: They must stop obeying their authority or knowingly accept the lies.
Many, many people accept the lies and demand more secrecy. Wikileaks and media critics, as well as anti-authoritarian critics of the elite, make it very hard to deny the truth, which is why so many people are angry with Julian Assuage right now. They want the lies, they want to obey, they want to feel safe and special. So we are seeing an upheaval in minds right now, the struggle between what we think we need and what we know we should want; between lies and truth. When secrecy is ripped away so is the authority, which is why our authorities are working so hard to preserve it.