Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, March 31, 2011

La Noblesse

(click on image to see larger version)

Americans have a great deal of repressed anger and not-so-repressed sense of entitlement and class envy. They will not remain passive forever and since they cannot attack the true source of their misery they will point their anger elsewhere.

Aristocrats are beyond reproach and consequences until they aren't.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oh, Megan!

Megan McArdle is most concerned about the well-being of the rich.

The Rich Really Are Different: Their Incomes Fluctuate More
Robert Frank points out that a lot of the reason states are in so much trouble is that many have become incredibly dependent on high earners for their tax revenues: [snipped quote] This is one of the reasons that we can't fix all our budget problems with higher taxes on the rich--if we do that, revenues are going to collapse dangerously every time there's a recession.

Somehow I doubt the rich are losing sleep about fluctuating income.

I see it but I can hardly believe it. Where is her dignity, her pride? Her subservience to power, her groveling before money--it's just unreal. I've said that McArdle is like Mrs. Elton in her pretentiousness, but she is like Mr. Collins in her eagerness to praise the rich and ingratiate herself with them by carefully composing flattering and exculpatory odes of praise.

DURING dinner, Mr. Bennet scarcely spoke at all; but when the servants were withdrawn, he thought it time to have some conversation with his guest, and therefore started a subject in which he expected him to shine, by observing that he seemed very fortunate in his patroness. Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank -- such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both the discourses which he had already had the honour of preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen any thing but affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood, nor to his leaving his parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations. She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage; where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself, -- some shelves in the closets up stairs.
``That is all very proper and civil I am sure,'' said Mrs. Bennet, ``and I dare say she is a very agreeable woman. It is a pity that great ladies in general are not more like her. Does she live near you, sir?''

``The garden in which stands my humble abode is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship's residence.''

``I think you said she was a widow, sir? has she any family?''

``She has one only daughter, the heiress of Rosings, and of very extensive property.''

``Ah!'' cried Mrs. Bennet, shaking her head, ``then she is better off than many girls. And what sort of young lady is she? is she handsome?''

``She is a most charming young lady indeed. Lady Catherine herself says that in point of true beauty, Miss De Bourgh is far superior to the handsomest of her sex; because there is that in her features which marks the young woman of distinguished birth. She is unfortunately of a sickly constitution, which has prevented her making that progress in many accomplishments which she could not otherwise have failed of; as I am informed by the lady who superintended her education, and who still resides with them. But she is perfectly amiable, and often condescends to drive by my humble abode in her little phaeton and ponies.''

``Has she been presented? I do not remember her name among the ladies at court.''

``Her indifferent state of health unhappily prevents her being in town; and by that means, as I told Lady Catherine myself one day, has deprived the British court of its brightest ornament. Her ladyship seemed pleased with the idea, and you may imagine that I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine that her charming daughter seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence, would be adorned by her. -- These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay.''

``You judge very properly,'' said Mr. Bennet, ``and it is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?''

``They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.''

Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.

By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies.

The rich are different, alright. They have Megan McArdle's lips firmly planted on their metaphorical asses.

ADDED: McArdle in 2009:
Koch is pretty open about their connection with institutions like IHS, but from what I know of them, astroturfing doesn't really seem like their style. I've seen Koch in action at private events, and though I'll respect the privacy, I'll say that even in the company of other like-minded rich people, he displayed rather a mania for honest dealing. That's not to say that it's impossible that they do fund FreedomWorks--I'm not particularly conversant with the world of 501(c)(3) funders. But Freedomworks doesn't publish its donor list, and there's no source offered for the claim.

McArdle doesn't have the eloquence of Mr. Collins but she made up for it in volume.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


At Fire Megan McArdle, which isn't quite gone yet, is an awesome clip of Dylan Ratigan interviewing Mark Ames and Yasha Levine about the Koch brothers. It prominently features our favorite blogger, the Princess of Payola, the Duchess of Deregulation, the Countess of Koch-whores, Mrs. Megan McArdle.

Ratigan gives a lot of credit to Ames and Levine for breaking the Koch story over a year ago and Ames gives a lot of credit to McArdle for supporting the Koches. Ratigan says "the story was crushed, one way or another" and the attack was led by Megan McArdle, who personally vouched for David Koch. Ames said they were shocked that oligarchs were able to crush the story using McArdle and The Atlantic's reputation.

Levine says that the Koches are trying to move the Republican party as far right as possible and Ames says that they are free market when it's convenient and abandon principle when it isn't. Ratigan says they are subverting the free market. The whole thing is very entertaining damning.

In the end McArdle will still be paid to shill, which is the only important thing in her world. But there is no reason why we all can't agree that this is an adversarial relationship and that McArdle is paid to pacify the ambitious middle class, who is seeing their comfortable, safe world become a little less of both. So what if she is a propagandist? It's what her customers want--reassurance that their beliefs are real and their success inevitable.

Here's Mark Ames' run-down of how their story was squashed; it's very familiar to us after McArdle's Elizabeth Warren attack. There's something extremely distasteful and repellent about McArdle's support for shifting all power from the individual to corporations and all responsibility from corporations to the individual. She's not selling entertainment or consumer or financial products--she's selling fascism.

This is what a no-talent Leni Reiefenstahl would sound like if she had a blog.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Small Note Of Concern

Because any attention is better than no attention, Megan McArdle twitter-links to a Mark Ames article about the Koches and their, as Ames puts it, "whores."

Megan McArdle
What I like about Mark Ames is that every piee [sic] contains at least one completely new, easily checkable factual error
5 hours ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

Of course when one calls Koch employees who spread Koch propaganda to enrich their masters and themselves and families "whores" one is only speaking metaphorically, hence the quotation marks. We would never wish to malign real whores, who harm only themselves by taking money for sex. Koch "whores" take money to harm other people physically and emotionally, which is far, far worse.

Real whores dress up in revealing clothing, the better to advertise their wares. Koch "whores" dress up in vests and ties or Land's End dresses. Real whores tell their customers exactly what the customers are paying for. Koch "whores" hide what they are selling behind sweet words and veiled threats. Real whores deliver value for money to their customers. Koch "whores" have perfected the art of providing nothing in return for their customers' money.

Sadly, it is the Koch "whores" who are respected, not the real whores. Like the prostitutes in Firefly, this group of "whores" are educated, sophisticated and well protected by the elite. They come from well-to-do, politically connected families and were trained in rhetoric and philosophy, taught all the social graces, and groomed to be the most exclusive club of "whores" on this or any other world.

But no matter how elegantly they live, how much money they spend, how much influence they accrue, they are still just whores. They take money for services that others will not lower themselves to perform. They make a mockery of their religion, they betray their country, and they sit idly by while their work adds to the suffering of an already stressed people.

But there is one sad corner of this lucrative world. As the Koches become better known, the army of no-so-elite bloggers on the right are starting to realize that all that lovely wingnut welfare is not trickling down very far. Only the elite get the six figure salaries, the rest of your Toms, Dicks and Harriets have to raise money from their readers. Jonah Goldberg, thanks to his wealthy, well-connected parents, lives on the West Side and vacations in Europe. Megan McArdle, whose father grew wealthy while he trod the well-worn path between government and corporations, was able to throw a lavish wedding. Glenn Reynolds went to Yale. Even Ann Althouse, while not elite, is able to trade on her status as a law professor to make some extra cash. Most of the bloggers without family connections or wealth or Ivy League educations are left to scramble as best they can, unrewarded for their loyalty and unpaid for their labor. It's one thing to be a pampered courtesan; it's quite another to hang out on the street corner working for small change.

While they are warning us of socialism the lower class bloggers of the right might want to think for a moment about how much free labor they provide to people like the Koches, Roger Ailes, David G. Bradley, and other multi-millionaires and billionaires. The elite's friends and the children of their friends are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars every single year to blog while the elite make a fortune off the unpaid labor of the little people. The little bloggers work hard and spend a lot of time on their blogs. They promote Fox events and spread politicians' talking points and raise money for the elite. The lower classes sacrifice to travel to political rallies and tea party events and pour their energy and passion into electing politicians. And what do they get in return? E-mails telling them they haven't donated enough money, spent enough time, worked hard enough or campaigned smart enough. They just give and give and give and get nothing in return.

It doesn't seem fair, does it?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Across The Atlantic: All You Need Is Cash

Cash, cash, cash
Cash, cash, cash
Cash, cash, cash

There's nothing I can write that can't be sold
Nothing I won't do when I am told.
Nothing I can't sell, I can learn how to play the game
It's easy.

Nothing I can think that can't be bought.
No one I will fight that can't be fought.
Nothing you can do but you can learn to believe me in time.
It's easy.

All you need is cash
All you need is cash
All you need is cash, cash
Cash is all you need

All you need is cash
All you need is cash
All you need is cash, cash
Cash is all you need

Nothing you can know that isn't planned
No one I can damn that isn't damned
Nowhere you can be that's away from influence by me
It's easy

All you need is cash
All you need is cash
All you need is cash, cash
Cash is all you need

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's A Wonderful Life!

Awww, isn't this cute? So cute it's twitteriffic?

Peter Suderman
@SonnyBunch I just think @asymmetricinfo is cute.
13 hours ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

asymmetricinfo Megan McArdle
@ @petersuderman A classic example of bias. The Kochs are probably paying you to say that.
13 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

Isn't that funny? Those silly leftists and their Koch complaints! How it makes Mr. and Mrs. McArdle giggle to see the Koches pay off the government to avoid punishment for their crimes! To watch Koch refineries release benzene, or see a Koch pipeline blow up and kill a couple kids!

They're one of the top ten polluters in the country but so what? It's not like the McArdles live next to one of their refineries--only poor people do that, and it's not like they were doing anything with their lives anyway! Those silly liberals. It is to laugh.

Also, be sure to read McArdle's ode to the wonderfulness of her charming Victorian rowhouse in a nearly-fashionable neighborhood of DC. She admits she paid too much for it but hey, it's only money. There's plenty more where that came from.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taylor Mali And "What Teachers Make"

This is great; from a poet and former teacher. From Bay Area Houston.

Shorter Megan McArdle

Megan McArdle has written a post titled "ObamaCare One Year In." I didn't realize it was 2015 already.

Monday, March 21, 2011

That's So Gay

Ross Douthat might find sexually active women repelling but he makes up for it by finding manly men irresistible.

In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.

Diplomats versus military men, helping versus security, beau rather than valor, Frenchies versus US Marines. How weak those lefties sound!

This is an intervention straight from Bill Clinton’s 1990s playbook, in other words, and a stark departure from the Bush administration’s more unilateralist methods. There are no “coalitions of the willing” here, no dismissive references to “Old Europe,” no “you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Instead, the Obama White House has shown exquisite deference to the very international institutions and foreign governments that the Bush administration either steamrolled or ignored.

This is what a Harvard education gets you; instead of calling liberals gay, Douthat says they "show exquisite deference," not manly resolve. But under the high tone is the same low mindset and Douthat is just another conservative who needs to prove that his tribe is more manly than the other tribe and that he is a manly man in good standing. Just as Kathryn Jean Lopez is firmly convinced that the more conservative you are, the more feminine you must be.

I thought of the unceasing reactions to [Sarah] Palin as I sat with two generations of anti-feminists at a book launch last week. Phyllis Schlafly, that brave lone warrior against the Equal Rights Amendment, and her niece, Suzanne Venker, have a book out called The Flipside of Feminism. Schlafly is an unapologetic fan of Palin — much more so than Venker — because she sees this. [This is false; Shlafly has stated that Palin is not up to the job. SoT] She knows this. She’s lived it. Having been called the worst of names simply because she was the most empowered of them all; refusing to surrender what’s only natural to an ideology that, masked as freedom, waged war on the complementary nature of the sexes.

You don’t have to want Sarah Palin to be president to acknowledge that the frenzy around her may have more to do with us than her.

On multiple fronts, the former governor of Alaska is actually much more complicated than most of the debates about her ever indicate. She’s that pro-life mom, a poster gal whom the Susan B. Anthony List was waiting for. But she’s also been known to get her inner Gloria Steinem on — which is ironic given that Steinem’s among those who would excommunicate her from the global sisterhood if she could. She’s very much the product of her times in this way — very much of the moment in this way. Born and raised in a culture where girls were educated as if they were an oppressed class in need of empowerment, often at the expense of boys, she’s representative of a culture that is increasingly coming to grips with the fact that the sexual revolution messed with some very fundamental things. Our opinions about politics sometimes merely reflect our inner struggles and longings in the messiest of ways, providing endless fodder for a ravenous media.

Note how Lopez's definition of feminine adjusts to fit anything Palin does.

Lopez doesn't call feminists butch, she just satisfies herself by calling them unnatural and not feminine. Mark Krikorian, however, throws all discretion to the wind and has a great time calling Obama effeminate.

They Know Who Wears the Pants in This Country
March 21, 2011 9:43 A.M. By Mark Krikorian
Look, I’m a sensitive New Age guy — I cook, I do laundry, I choke up at movies (well, Gladiator, anyway). But does anyone think our enemies abroad are as enlightened as we are about feminism? Steyn is right that the specific lesson they’re learning is that nukes are the best insurance against invasion — but a broader one is that our commander-in-chief is an effete vacillator who is pushed around by his female subordinates. Prof. Althouse notes, “A feminist milestone: Our male President has been pulled into war by 3 women,” and Senator Graham scored points with “I Thank God for Strong Women in the Obama Administration,” but we’re going to pay for this.

One of the reasons Khrushchev gambled on missiles in Cuba is that he perceived JFK as a weak man when they met in Vienna. Conversely, one of the reasons Khomeini released the hostages just as Reagan was taking the oath of office was his “Ronnie Ray-guns” reputation (something the air traffic controllers ignored — which itself became another lesson for our enemies). Do you think Putin and A-jad and Chavez and the ChiComs are more afraid of Obama now? It was obvious to most of us that Hillary has more, uh, stones than Obama, but to have it confirmed so publicly for less-attentive foreign goons means they’re that much more likely to try to push us and see how The One responds.

Before you send me any burning bras, the problem is not with women leaders — the enemies of the Virgin Queen and the Iron Lady can attest to that. The problem is not even with the president having strong female subordinates. Rather, Obama’s pusillanimity has been hugely magnified by the contrast with the women directing his foreign policy and the fact that they nagged him to attack Libya until he gave in. Maybe it’s unfair and there shouldn’t be any difference from having a male secretary of state do the same thing, but there is.

So we have the worst situation of all. Instead of a strong leader resisting calls for an unjustified military action — or even a strong leader resolutely supporting the military action — we have a timorous and irresolute leader reluctantly caving in to the demands of his staff. We are in for a heap of trouble.

I assume that calling the president a Nancy-boy is not meant to convert liberals but instead is meant to amuse the tribe. Sexual manipulation does not work on people who define their own sexuality instead of submitting to the group's definition of their sexuality. But many conservatives dearly love a male homoerotic bonding ritual in which women are put in their place and the steel rod of manly conservative resolve is mutually celebrated.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Invaders

We know we live in a world in which the elite have taken control of the political system. They have almost all the money, they use it to support or oppose political candidates, and politicians need that money to get elected.

As we have seen, political decisions are usually influenced by corporate demands. War is no exception. Invasion is always a choice, and we know who benefits when such choices are made. The military benefits and arms manufacturers benefit. All the corporations with government contracts benefit. The oil companies benefit. One thing that Megan McArdle has taught me is that it's about the money, almost always. Money is power and purpose, safety and pleasure. It is a source of self-esteem and a defense against insecurity.

Our elite steal from the poor, poison our air, water and land, torture and kill their enemies and prisoners, and then lecture us about our morals. Giving them the benefit of the doubt on invasion is insane; to believe what they tell us is to ignore reality. Libya has control over oil. We need oil. We have already invaded-what, four? five? countries in the middle east and financially support others. Everyone knows this but not many people like to admit it. They find excuses to ignore the facts and eagerly discusses them among themselves, examining each feeble act of cowardice in loving detail. And thus centrist punditry was born.

Let's watch Jonathan Chait squirm as he tries to justify his support for another invasion. It sure beats contemplating yet another American war. He can be useful for once by amusing us.

Why intervene in Libya and not elsewhere is a question that needs to be asked. But it's not a question that needs to be asked to determine the wisdom of intervening in Libya.

Refusing to ask questions is the hallmark of an ideologue who doesn't want to hear bad news. The answer to that question is "oil."

Should we also spend more money to prevent malaria? Yes, we should. But I see zero reason to believe that not intervening in Libya would lead to an increase in in American assistance to prevent malaria.

Yes, we should invade because it's not like we were going to do anything good with the money anyway.

Why not intervene in Burma or Yemen or elsewhere? I would say the answer is prudential: for various political, geographic, and military reasons, the United States has the chance to prevent slaughter in Libya at reasonable cost, and does not have the chance to do so in Burma.

I thought that question was settled? It must be worrying at his mind. The reasons are "oil" but telling us that we can do it on the cheap is an interesting twist. A familiar one, too. Just ask McArdle, who told us that Iraq oil would pay for the Iraq war.

But suppose there's no answer whatsoever. Does it matter? If it were the 1990s, and the Clinton administration were contemplating an expansion of children's health insurance, would it be important to determine exactly why we're covering uninsured children but not uninsured adults? No. The question is whether this particular policy intervention is likely to succeed or fail.

Does it matter if we know why we invade? Of course not! The only question is if we'll win or fail!

Now, I think there are very reasonable arguments to suggest that the operation in Libya could devolve into a quagmire, fail to achieve its objections, or achieve them at unacceptable cost.

It's the McArdle Technique--by stating something you are negating that thing, magically. If you have a conflict of interest you simply state that you have a conflict of interest and then it won't count anymore. Then you can go ahead and profit from it! This handy-dandy technique also works for very reasonable arguments. If you state that an argument is reasonable, you can then ignore it and go back to supporting your own unreasonable argument. This technique neatly cuts out the whole "prove your argument using facts" stage of punditry, which was the most tedious one anyway and will not be missed at all.

And, of course, some people -- not Sullivan or Klein -- think the U.S. has no right to intervene in places like Libya. But that's the question. The question of whether or not we ought to intervene in some other country, or in some other way, is an important foreign policy issue, but not an argument against intervention in Libya.

Stated, dismissed, hit post and go out for coffee. Best freaking job ever. He says the question of whether or not we should invade Libya is not an argument against invading Libya. Chait has to blather a bunch of nonsense to avoid examining the facts of the argument. He has to tell us that determining the facts will not help us decide whether or not to invade Libya--and he's right, because we don't decide and the elite have absolutely no intention of looking at any facts while they start more killing, destroying, and spending.

Poor Chait. Everyone else gets to argue from emotion but he has to pretend that he's presenting an intellectual argument. It's kind of amusing embarrassing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Let's try something new.

Here's a recent Megan McArdle post. It's about potassium iodine pills but it could be about anything. Let's cross out anything that she lifted from another blogger:

As some of you may know, there have been reports of crazy price spikes in potassium iodide, which can protect against thyroid cancer in the event of radioactive exposure. Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this. But apparently the soaring demand is not limited to places near Japan--all over the US, people seem to be seeking the stuff.

Presumably at least some of this is for relatives abroad, but it seems unlikely that this is the source of all the demand. Derek Lowe explains, as gently as possible, why it's not a good idea to take potassium iodide:

. . . unless you're actually being exposed to radioactive iodine, it's not going to do any good at all, and can actually do you harm. Pregnant women and people with thyroid problems, especially, should not go around gulping potassium iodide. Nothing radioactive is reaching North America yet - there's the Pacific Ocean to dilute things out along the way - which makes it very likely that more people on this side are in the process of injuring themselves by taking large unnecessary doses of iodide. This is like watching people swerve their cars off the road into the trees because they've heard that there's an accident fifty miles ahead.

Okay, now let's cross out the bit on price spikes, since McArdle's source doesn't tell us anything about pricing except "some media are reporting price gouging." She could easily find a link to support this point but she didn't. Her second source is merely a link to a google search McArdle did for "price potassium iodide" but it does support her point.

As some of you may know, there have been reports of crazy price spikes in potassium iodide, which can protect against thyroid cancer in the event of radioactive exposure. Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this. But apparently the soaring demand is not limited to places near Japan--all over the US, people seem to be seeking the stuff.

Presumably at least some of this is for relatives abroad, but it seems unlikely that this is the source of all the demand. Derek Lowe explains, as gently as possible, why it's not a good idea to take potassium iodide:

. . . unless you're actually being exposed to radioactive iodine, it's not going to do any good at all, and can actually do you harm. Pregnant women and people with thyroid problems, especially, should not go around gulping potassium iodide. Nothing radioactive is reaching North America yet - there's the Pacific Ocean to dilute things out along the way - which makes it very likely that more people on this side are in the process of injuring themselves by taking large unnecessary doses of iodide. This is like watching people swerve their cars off the road into the trees because they've heard that there's an accident fifty miles ahead.

Now let's cross out anything that is a guess or supposition.

As some of you may know, there have been reports of crazy price spikes in potassium iodide, which can protect against thyroid cancer in the event of radioactive exposure. Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this. But apparently the soaring demand is not limited to places near Japan--all over the US, people seem to be seeking the stuff.

Presumably at least some of this is for relatives abroad, but it seems unlikely that this is the source of all the demand. Derek Lowe explains, as gently as possible, why it's not a good idea to take potassium iodide:

. . . unless you're actually being exposed to radioactive iodine, it's not going to do any good at all, and can actually do you harm. Pregnant women and people with thyroid problems, especially, should not go around gulping potassium iodide. Nothing radioactive is reaching North America yet - there's the Pacific Ocean to dilute things out along the way - which makes it very likely that more people on this side are in the process of injuring themselves by taking large unnecessary doses of iodide. This is like watching people swerve their cars off the road into the trees because they've heard that there's an accident fifty miles ahead.

So what is left? Basically, this:

Some of this is natural--all the world's potassium iodide pills should not be flowing to Japan and its immediate environs, and price signals are a good way to accomplish this.

This is the economic substance in McArdle's word salad and it doesn't make a bit of sense. The drug companies and distributors should jack up prices sky-high so that Japan can't afford to buy the pills? The Japanese need the pills now, most Americans can probably wait until more are manufactured. That's just a guess, but it's every bit as good as McArdle's speculation.

It's great to be a conservative writer!

edited after posting

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Upper West Side Horror

Quick! Before she takes out her calculator!

It's spring break and we are very busy so let's be short.

Shorter Megan McArdle: We don't need more trains; there's nobody to ride them.

Shorter Megan McArdle: New York City needs more trains if it wants to accommodate more people.

If money is spent on trains that means McArdle will have to pay taxes that might benefit someone else and she would rather not help anyone who isn't Megan McArdle, thanks very much.

Shorter Megan McArdle: Netflix might just be shooting itself in the foot again!

Our brilliant journalist makes some claims that she doesn't explain ("On the other hand, Netflix has proven itself an extraordinarily nimble and visionary company, repeatedly moving to cannibalize its own sales before competitors do it for them"). She also says," The competency required to be a DVD distributor don't really overlap that much with the competencies required to identify and support successful television programming." I'll bet Netflix has amassed a huge amount of information about what people want to watch, and as I spent all week watching Dr. Who on Netflix's instant download with the kids, I know it's not just mailing DVDs either. I would like nothing better than to get rid of cable altogether, and from what I hear a lot of people have switched to viewing tv via the internet. It's the wave of the future, as they used to tell us in the '70s.

It never ceases to amuse me that McArdle is able to make a living as a journalist by obfuscating instead of illuminating. Her writing is extremely unclear and she routinely leaves out information essential to understanding her point. Fortunately for her that's a feature, not a bug, in her line of work.

Shorter Megan McArdle: "10 Quick Pickups for Your Personal Finances"

This article reads almost exactly like one of those utterly useless articles published in a upmarket woman's magazine that is aimed at educated people but is written by someone who usually covers fashion and celebrities. "Add more to your 401(k)." That's sheer genius. Putting aside the merits of 401(k)s, if you don't know enough to do this you don't have a 401(k), and if you do, you don't need some silly cow telling you to add more to your 401(k).

Shorter Megan McArdle: For reasons that I will state but not explain, income inequality isn't that bad after all! "Rising inequality (and slower income growth) have been a rising trend across most of the developed world for three decades. We need a better explanation than greedier rich people, or stupider politicians." Don't tell me--it's systemic!

Shorter Megan McArdle: Obama seems to have become as bad as Bush regarding civil rights. The problem must be...systemic!

It doesn't occur to her that power-hungry people seek the presidency, or that people actually mean what they say. Obama's worldview was not hidden; he said what he thought. People just didn't want to believe him. Now they know better. Of course most people continue the same pattern of belief and disillusionment because they dislike the alternative, which is rejecting all automatic group loyalties.

There are also a couple of posts on Japan that tell us nothing; McArdle doesn't do original analysis, she just quotes Tyler Cowen or someone else. All noise, no substance.

Where's a Dalek when you need one? Exterminate! Exterminate!

Friday, March 11, 2011

K-Lo, Girl Blogger--Starring Kathryn Jean Lopez

God Bless
March 11, 2011 6:18 A.M. By Kathryn Jean Lopez
the people hit by the earthquake in Japan — and all the subsequent tsunamis . . . including in our Hawaii.

03/11/11 11:57
Do I understand this correctly? "God bless the people whose lives and property are at risk because of an act of God"?

If she didn't already exist I would have had to invent her. She's a human sitcom, a character for the ages. Bless her thick little skull.

But We Have Low Taxes

James Wolcott notes the Texan neglect of Dealey Plaza. He quotes Donald Barnat, who said:

The lion’s share of negative vibe in Dealey Plaza, however, isn’t generated by happenstance or traffic accidents. It comes from the fact that the place is in such a miserable state of disrepair that it amounts to a disgrace for the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, and the United States of America.

I live in Los Angeles. In what’s called the slums of Beverly Hills. But what I’m about to say goes for virtually everywhere in Los Angeles. There is more attention paid to the grounds keeping and upkeep and beautification of EVERY apartment building on my street, every street in my neighborhood, and just about every building, house, park, intersection, center divider or median strip, car wash, parking lot, and public restroom than there is at the site of the assassination of the 35th president of the United States.

Paint is chipping badly. Rust stains are everywhere. The grass is trodden over, smashed down to dirt and mud under the feet of visitors. Graffiti covers key components of this historical site including the picket fence behind the Grassy Knoll where some say a second shooter may have fired shots at the president’s motorcade.

But there’s one thing even worse than the disrepair at Dealey Plaza and it is an insult to history and everyone who visits the place as well as to the memory of the slain president and of the events that happened there

The first thing I noticed about Texas when I moved here as a kid was the ugliness of the public spaces compared to San Diego. But Mr. Barnat is unfair; one place, at least, is expensively cared for.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library

Dealey Plaza:

It's For The Corporations Children

This Megan McArdle post on obesity makes absolutely no sense unless you realize that McArdle believes that the government should make policies that help corporations but should not make policies that help individuals. Dr. McArdle says it is impossible to lose weight because genetics trumps all other factors. And since genetics determines weight, hunger cannot be controlled or ignored and the more you reduce your food intake the more your body will force you to eat. Therefore government health initiatives are nanny-state assaults on freedom.

Most people who exercise won't lose much, if any weight without calorie restriction. And most people who try to restrict their calories below what their body wants fail over the long term--eventually, their appetite wins.

McArdle links to a book written by a journalist, not a scientist, with a very debatable premise--being overweight does not affect health adversely and obesity is determined by genetics, so overweight people can't lose weight because their bodies will be overwhelmed by the desire to eat more if they try to cut back on the amount they eat. Why does McArdle, who equates fat with the lower classes and therefore self-indulgence, show this unusual sympathy? Let's ask Mark Ambinder, who responded in 2009 to one of her post on obesity.

McArdle approaches obesity as if it were a Foucauldian construct: a category invented by the government to justify an exercise of power. The government has no business intervening on the level of individual choice and it shouldn't get into the business of behavioral suasion because it always fails. She's right to note that information about health risks associated with overconsuming fat and sugar and salt are saturated throughout society, even supersaturated. Everyone knows how bad this stuff can be. For her, that's the end of the argument. Government can help to provide information about how to make better choices, but it cannot and should not try to persuade people to make better choices. Indeed, the push for people to make better choices produces the stigma that makes the bad thing bad in the first place.

This assumes that the stigma itself is misplaced. It isn't. Fat stigma is bad and harmful, and it ought to be reduced. But reducing fat stigma doesn't reduce the incidence of obesity; it actually seems to increase it in certain populations. What produces fat stigma is not a government or culture that hectors people to lose weight and exercise and then excoriates them when they can't; it's a government that expects individuals to lose weight on their own (which is next to impossible) while making policy that keeps people fat. The discrepancy between expectations and reality is cruel, especially for children.


Lo and behold, government policy has helped ensure that the raw foodstuffs that go into all the starchy, sugary foods that we eat are much cheaper. And when compared to the consumer price index, fruits, vegetables and healthy foods are more expensive than they were 30 years ago. If government policy influences diet on a macro scale, and if there is evidence that the diet is harmful, then, in theory, there would be no additional intervention if, say, Congress began to subsidize tomatoes in the same way it subsidizes corn, just a change in policy.

None of this argues for a soda tax, or a tax on sugar, or a ban on, say, food marketing to children. It's just to say that if the obesity epidemic was nurtured by policy -- and it clearly was -- perhaps it can be undone by policy, too.

But McArdle read a couple of books that prove her anti-government fantasies are correct!

Fat tissue makes people want to eat--it sends out for takeout. And hunger is a signal on par with thirst or pain. You can ignore it, if you have sufficient willpower. But just as most people can't withstand torture (a minority can), most people can't ignore the constant demand from their body for food.

The other is that while I do buy some of the arguments about hyperpalatable food like Doritos (though I personally find Doritos eminently resistable [sic] most of the time), the fact that a really attractive food combination has been cooked up by food scientists does not mean that you get some kind of free pass to deny it to everyone. Whether a dish was dreamed up by Mario Batali or the staff at the Cheesecake Factory, preventing people from having it "for their own good" still represents an actual hedonic loss, as well as an actual loss of freedom. You may think they have some meta-self which will thank you later, but their current self has still had both its liberty and its joy restricted. Invoking the demon food scientists of agribusiness does not actually relieve you of the obligation to prove that intervening in the liberty of both the customers and the company is morally pressing.

To be sure, even I, the pessimistic libertarian, do not see any actual means for the government to prevent food processors from making their food taste very good. (Thank God). I just suspect that more than one of my interlocutors is casting around for just such a means.

The government could raise the price of fat, salt, and sweeteners, processed food, and restaurant meals. But I very much doubt that if our legislators actually enacted a food tax adequate to prevent obesity, they would get much thanks from anyone except the sort of people who ask each other, with wide eyes, if anyone else has noticed how disgustingly fat all the people are at the mall--and never eat at Cheesecake Factory. So I think that this, too, is unlikely.

Ultimately, the answer to "what could it hurt"? is that all actions have costs, which you cannot assume away on the grounds that those costs don't interest you. But they should interest you, because not least among those costs is the simple fact that the government cannot do everything well. Making all sorts of changes in the name of obesity means not making others that might be more important, because we have limited political and bureaucratic bandwith. [sic] Do you want obesity intervention, cap and trade, or health care reform? You may not be able to have any of them. But you probably can't have all three. And if you did, you'd make it more likely that the government would screw all of them up.

And I suppose I would make the point that at the margin expenditures of funds to fight this tendency are going to do a lot more to improve public health than will expenditures of funds to treat people's diabetes.

That presumes you can find a marginal dollar that will reduce peoples' tendency to eat more than they burn just as effectively as we treat diabetes. Seven years ago, when I investigated fast food lawsuits, I found very little evidence for that proposition. Pretty much every public health effort to get people to eat less has proven a dismal failure. As Paul Campos has noted, telling people to eat less and exercise more is the most exhausitvely [sic] attempted experiment in the history of science. And we have 200 million data points that prove just how badly it works at keeping Americans slender.

I'm thus pretty skeptical that we're going to do much about obesity through the sort of mild nudges that a lot of the discussion about changing peoples' eating habits implicitly imagines. For example, I'm a big fan of Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating, which details all the ways that we take in more calories than we think. But I'm skeptical that in the long run, these factors make all that much difference. If you think about it, taking in an extra fifty calories a day more than you need--half a piece of bread, or a few cocktail nuts--is enough to pack on an extra five pounds a year. If we really at that mindlessly all the time, we'd all be morbidly obese. I expect that in any given sitting, things like portion size, or calorie counts, can cause people to reduce their intake. But over time, I doubt they'll have much impact.

That leaves more illiberal options, like forcing manufacturers to change their foods in order to make them less apealling, [sic] or massive taxes on fat, sugar, and salt. Even if I thought there was a practical, and politically acceptable, way to carry this out, I'd be against it. Enacting national health care, and then declaring that it now gives you the right to dictate how people will eat . . . well, that's exactly the sort of thing libertarians are talking about when they bemoan the creepign [sic] nanny state.

McArdle has grown more canny over the years and now declares that we must ignore corporate-friendly agriculture policies that adversely affect our national health because of freedom and puppies and it's-for-the-children. But it all comes down to the same thing--the lower class is fat because of genetics and nothing can be done about it, so leave McDonalds alone.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blue Skies

It's not the view out my window but it could be.

Remember when Megan McArdle went to Florida? I do.

Since Megan McArdle is stuck in Tallahassee wrasslin' gators and listening with rapt attention while Jeb Bush's cronies tell her that there's never been a better time to Buy Florida, let's take a look at Paul Krugman's op-ed in the New York Times.

Her article is now out, and sure enough, it seems that risk is good and Florida might just recover (some day) and make you rich, rich, rich!

McArdle neglects to mention the BP oil spill, but that is understandable because her hosts probably did not tell her about it. Her odd style--which seems more like the musings in a personal memoir--is very much in evidence. I did some reading and it seems that the company McArdle profiles has already sold off most of its beachfront property to cover operating costs, but eh, who cares about the details when investing? Don't you want to be a millionaire? Somehow?

The day is too beautiful to waste on McArdle. We will let her enjoy her restless, twitchy drive to become rich and powerful while we enjoy other, more satisfying riches instead.

A World Of Fail

Amity Shlaes discusses Alan Greenspan and Atlas Shrugged: The Movie! The only thing missing is Shales watching the movie on a Betamax while drinking a New Coke.

Megan McArdle's Greatest Hits

I'll be out of the office and traveling today (which in my case means running errands within a two mile raidius), so here are a few posts explaining just why any article Megan McArdle writes about bankruptcy studies is probably full of errors, lies and misdirection.

Tom Levenson
R. J. Erskow
Mike Konczal

Bonus comment from McArdle's post:

A) It matters whether the arguments in favor of policies are true, even if the policies themselves are good.

B) I happen to care about bankruptcy statistics.

C) I didn't mount a case against Obamacare in this post. Had you read it more closely, you would have seen that I am now arguing against a study which theoretically supports "my side"--i.e., the study purports to have found that RomneyCare did not cause medical bankruptcies to fall substantially, even though this was one of the major selling points for ObamaCare.

By the way, this mess all started when McArdle stupidly/dishonestly said that Warren was being dishonest because she said the number of medical bankruptcies was rising, when Warren actually said the percentage of medical bankruptices was rising.

rortybomb 1 year ago
I don't understand this. Comparing total 2001 and 2007 numbers aren't an apples to apples comparison; the law has been radically changed to a higher threshold, so we expect 2007 to be lower. If it wasn't then something would be up.

Also, 2001 was the busting of the tech bubble and 9/11; it was a terrible year for the economy. 2007 was at the height of the boom. It also suffered was an overhang, where many people strategically declared bankruptcy in 2005 (600K in October alone) to avoid the new law, so many people who would have limped to 2007 called it quits there. Comparing the peak to the valley and only looking at total numbers seems like a sneak.

The relevant question for total would be are bankruptcies rising from 2006-2008, and they clearly are. You should revisit this in 6 months. My projections are at least 1.5m for 2009, beating 2001 even with the new law in effect.

rortybomb 1 year ago
"The relevant question for total would be are bankruptcies rising from 2006-2008, and they clearly are." And she brings this up, in the passage you quote.

Megan McArdle 1 year ago in reply to rortybomb
No, it wouldn't. The relevant question is, are bankruptcies being driven higher by medical bills, as their paper very clearly implies. The relevant answer is, they are lower, not higher. A higher proportion of medical bills may or may not be medically related; their data collection method isn't great. But the increase in that proportion could be--indeed, is more likely to be--driven by the fall in other kinds of bankruptcies, than by the rise in medically driven bankruptcies.

Susan [Yes, that's me] 1 year ago in reply to Megan McArdle
By "driven higher," do you mean an increase in the number of bankruptcies?

Megan McArdle 1 year ago in reply to Susan
The number of medical bankruptcies *fell*. Their paper implies, while never quite saying, that it *rose*.

Susan 1 year ago in reply to Susan
Doesn't the paper say the percentage of medical bankruptcies rose, not the number? The study says "Since 2001, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems has increased by 50%. Nearly two thirds of all bankruptcies are now linked to illness." (bolding is mine)

jstrummer 1 year ago in reply to Susan
This post is totally bizarre. The study is not misleading on its face or obviously wrong. It's talking about what are the major drivers of growth in bankruptcies since 2005. Obviously the 2005 reform cut down on the number of filings. That's not at issue. At issue is what is causing the new growth post-2005. The study talks about percentages and proportions. It's not comparing absolute number of medical bankruptcies today with those 5 years ago. That would be apples to oranges.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Brief

Megan McArdle "thinks" the most important problem in schools today is all those lousy teachers who need to be fired. Note that she does not work from data, she makes a supposition and then goes out and finds anything she can to justify her position. It would be too tedious to examine her arguments and they all come down to the same thing anyway: turn over teaching to corporations because teachers are too lazy to do a good job.

It is a bit stomach-turning to see someone lay out her prejudices and snobbery so lovingly and in such minute detail, so we will avert our eyes and leave McArdle to her frenzied scratchings and resentful glee, as she gets her revenge on all those meanies who criticized her half-ass work over the years.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Everyone [Else] Has To Hurt

Shorter Megan McArdle: You're going to be old and poor because you are greedy. Get used to it.

She's quite the little humanitarian, isn't she?

ADDED: More on this later.

The Weakness Of The Female Mind

Poor, dopey Ross Douthat has sex on the brain again. Sex makes bad things happen, you see, so when people have sex it makes them very unhappy.

[E]arlier generations of Americans waited longer to have sex, took fewer sexual partners across their lifetimes, and were more likely to see sleeping together as a way station on the road to wedlock.

And they may have been happier for it. That’s the conclusion suggested by two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their recent book, “Premarital Sex in America.” Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.

Which is more probable: unhappy people sleep around, looking for something they are missing in their lives, or sex is so evil that every time you have sex with someone you are not going to marry your life is destroyed?

This correlation is much stronger for women than for men. Female emotional well-being seems to be tightly bound to sexual stability — which may help explain why overall female happiness has actually drifted downward since the sexual revolution.

The females, with their female minds, are unhappy without a man to give them emotional stability. They will become depressed and promiscuous. Because of the sex. Ross Douthat expects us to accept this stupidity because he believes it down to the bitter, shriveled lump of pain he calls his soul. Women are not individuals to him, they are not people, they are "women." They are something else, something not, something deeply wrong and wicked and nauseating.

Someone, almost certainly Mrs. Douthat the elder, opened up Young Master Douthat's head and poured in the most repressive, hysterical, self-loathing Christianist bullshit they could come up with. And now Douthat looks around him in horror at all the screwing and partying and drinking and exploration, the failures and the wonders, the pleasures and the human pain, and it makes him want to throw up. You remember this classic:

One successful foray ended on the guest bed of a high school friend’s parents, with a girl who resembled a chunkier Reese Witherspoon drunkenly masticating my neck and cheeks. It had taken some time to reach this point–”Do most Harvard guys take so long to get what they want?” she had asked, pushing her tongue into my mouth. I wasn’t sure what to say, but then I wasn’t sure this was what I wanted. My throat was dry from too much vodka, and her breasts, spilling out of pink pajamas, threatened my ability to. I was supposed to be excited, but I was bored and somewhat disgusted with myself, with her, with the whole business… and then whatever residual enthusiasm I felt for the venture dissipated, with shocking speed, as she nibbled at my ear and whispered–”You know, I’m on the pill…”

I'd feel sorry for the poor bastard if he weren't trying to shove his emotional problems down our throats.

Among the young people Regnerus and Uecker studied, the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime. Virgins were almost as happy, though not quite, and then a young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.

When social conservatives talk about restoring the link between sex, monogamy and marriage, they often have these kinds of realities in mind. The point isn’t that we should aspire to some Arcadia of perfect chastity. Rather, it’s that a high sexual ideal can shape how quickly and casually people pair off, even when they aren’t living up to its exacting demands. The ultimate goal is a sexual culture that makes it easier for young people to achieve romantic happiness — by encouraging them to wait a little longer, choose more carefully and judge their sex lives against a strong moral standard.

I prefer Kathryn Jean Lopez's honesty to Douthat's sly attempts at manipulation. At least she says directly that she wants men to control women's bodies. And she says straight out that she wants to use the government to enforce her own religious laws. Douthat emulates the serpent in the Garden, all slippery words and "I'm only thinking of you."

It’s also what’s at stake in the ongoing battle over whether the federal government should be subsidizing Planned Parenthood. Obviously, social conservatives don’t like seeing their tax dollars flow to an organization that performs roughly 300,000 abortions every year. But they also see Planned Parenthood’s larger worldview — in which teen sexual activity is taken for granted, and the most important judgment to be made about a sexual encounter is whether it’s clinically “safe” — as the enemy of the kind of sexual idealism they’re trying to restore.

Liberals argue, not unreasonably, that Planned Parenthood’s approach is tailored to the gritty realities of teenage sexuality. But realism can blur into cynicism, and a jaded attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Social conservatives look at the contemporary sexual landscape and remember that it wasn’t always thus, and they look at current trends and hope that it doesn’t have to be this way forever.

In this sense, despite their instinctive gloominess, they’re actually the optimists in the debate.

Blah, blah, blah keep your legs closed slut. Let's go back to that happy time pre-Pill when women had no power.

The Pill was our 14th Amendment. We will never, ever go back into dependence again, and seeing Ross Douthat preach from the pulpit of The New York Times is not going to change that. When is this simple fact going to penetrate Christianists' thick skulls?

Why can't we have better elite? Or at least a less neurotic one?

Mother always did like Richard best.

ADDED: Heh, everyone already had a bash at this pinata.

One Single Tear

Megan McArdle, who has shown a, shall we say, cavalier attitude towards torture in the past, lets her heart bleed a little for Bradley Manning, who is being tortured by our and his government, using our tax dollars, because he was a whistleblower.

I understand that Bradley Manning has probably done something very wrong, for which, if guilty, he deserves a hefty jail sentence and the contempt of his fellow citizens. But this is not what a decent country does to its citizens.

The woman can blather on for pages and pages about banks CEO executive compensation but only manages to squeeze out two sentences of disapproval for Americans torturing Americans. Naturally she does not attempt to find out the circumstances of Manning's incarceration because that would entail reading liberal pundits and scholars. And of course, thinking is hard.

Meanwhile, most of her commenters and McArdle show absolutely no understanding of the need to protect whistleblowers, and show an alarming alacrity to believe anything they are told by an authority. But we already know that, don't we?

She's a journalist, by the way.

McArdle is able to simulate sympathy and horror because she is adept at adopting social cues but by her own admission she does not care enough to find out what happened. Most Americans will do the same thing and will tolerate almost anything that does not affect them personally. McArdle is part of a very large group.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

There's This Thing Called The Internet...

Megan McArdle has made a rare Saturday post to ask a question of her faithful readers:

We'd like to put in a tankless water heater, for a number of reasons: it's environmentally sound, it will lower our electricity bill, and I'd like to be able to run a nice, hot full bath.

The problem is, we don't know anything about tankless water heaters: what to look for, what brands are good, or whether they're a bad idea. So I'm throwing the question out to my ever-helpful readers. Is this a good idea? And if so, how does one go about finding a good heater?

"Environmentally sound"? Since when does McArdle, who just mocked electric car buyers, care about the environment? I can believe she wants to pay less for electricity although by all Galtian rights she should have invented a magic perpetual motion machine and not mooch off the intellectual labor of other, superior men and women. (Fake) libertarians never want to pay for the services they use.

My own advice would be to look up information on the internet for water heaters, tank and tankless, compare the costs and benefits, and make a decision, but conservatives are uneasy with thinking for themselves, and prefer to find someone else to do it for them or just skip that process altogether. They like to close their eyes, make a guess, and hope for the best. After all, nobody knows anything ever so failure is the best road to success. If McArdle makes the wrong decision she can just pay to fix her mistake and then make the correct choice, since the only way to learn is through trial and error. We realize that McArdle prefers for others to pay for her mistakes, such as supporting war and economic ruin, but she might have a hard time finding someone to take responsibility for this decision. Ordinarily a wife would look to her husband for assistance, but P. Suderman's expertise seems to lie elsewhere.

UPDATE: McMegan comments:

So my husband informs me that we have a gas water heater, not electric; we live in an older house with what seems to be copper piping, and our water doesn't seem to be unusually hard.

"Seems to be" copper piping? She had her home inspected, doesn't she know the material and condition of her pipes? Is she assuming that her one hundred year old rowhouse still has its copper piping and that it's all in good repair?

Oh, my.

Friday, March 4, 2011

K-Lo Goes To Confession: Don't Go Through The Green Door

K-Lo: (briskly) Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been five minutes since my last confession. Oh my Heavenly Father, I am heartily sorry for offending Thee. In Your Holy Omni--omminip--All-Knowingness I'm sure You know that it was all a great big misunderstanding, the kind that anyone could have had. Even really good people who never, ever do anything wrong like a priest or a nun or Daddy and Mama.


Father: Kathryn Jean, did you just say it has been five minutes since your last confession?

K-Lo: Yes, Father. I confessed to Father John--the Father John from Canada, not the other Father John--but I think I left a few things out. He said he was late for a meeting when I approached him but I needed to confess really bad so I just kept asking until he gave in. That's how I got Mama to let me get my ears pierced. But I was in such a hurry that I left a few things out and so now I have to confess again. I'll start from the beginning.

Father: That's not necessary, Kathryn Jean, you can just--

K-Lo: It was a dark and stormy night, and I was on a secret mission for Miss Lila Rose's Live Action team of baby rescuers and fornicator punishers, God bless them.

Father: Kathryn Jean, I'm not sure you should become involved with strangers on the internet. You don't know anything about them and they could be harmful to an impressionable young woman. You should stick to the list of sites that the judge said you could visit.

K-Lo: Oh no, Father, Miss Lila Rose is a wonderful person and so pretty and brave and she's doing God's Work. She was so happy that I wanted to work with them to save babies that she couldn't stop giggling the entire time we talked. Miss Lila said that they were going to film another secret Planned Parenthood video and they wanted me to go undercover as an underage Catholic schoolgirl who got pregnant by Al Gore. He wanted her to have an abortion because it would conserve energy! That is so wrong!

Father: Kathryn Jean, you are a kind-hearted young lady and perhaps you did not detect---. Perhaps she was not entirely serious about---.

K-Lo: Father, I know what you're trying to say. By dressing up in one of my old school uniforms and going into a Planned Parenthood Pit I would be endangering my immortal soul. But the babies, Father! Think of the snowflakes! Jesus is in my heart and I knew I could be strong for Him.

Father: Kathryn Jean, I'm sure we don't need to go over the details. You are absolved, say---.

K-Lo: Father, I'm not done! You don't want me to have to come back again, do you?

Father: No, no, by all means, proceed.

K-Lo: So I told Nanny I was going to a costume party at Mr. John Derbyshire's house and put on my coat over my disguise and then I took a taxi to the address that Miss Lila gave me. I was sure it was the right place because there was a big sign with girls in school uniforms on the building. Sister Mary Grace told us that abortion clinics are always trying to lure in Catholic schoolgirls because every time a Catholic schoolgirl gets an abortion, a devil gets his horns.

Father: (dryly) Sister Mary Grace retired none too soon. What happened when you went into the clinic?

K-Lo: Okay, so I went in the building and I said that I was an underage prostitute and this big guy said okay, go to the room at the end of the hallway and I did and then I left. (pause) The End.

Father: Kathryn Jean, I know you meant well but you should have not joined this group without discussing it with your parents first. And your parole officer. You must pick your friends more carefully, young lady. Now, say the Hail Mary five---.

K-Lo: Wait, Father, there's more. It kind of turned out that it wasn't exactly an abortion clinic for Catholic schoolgirls.

Father: As evil as they are, I'm sure that there was no Catholic schoolgirl conspiracy. Say five---.

K-Lo: Ah---.

Father: There's more?

K-Lo: It wasn't exactly an abortion clinic.

Father: It was a regular medical clinic? Well, that would be rather embarrassing, but not sinful in and of itself. Say---

K-Lo: Itwasastripclub.

Father: I'm sorry, what?

K-Lo: (reluctantly) It was a strip club.

Father: Are you sure? You have never been in one, perhaps you were mistaken?

K-Lo: Well, I have now. They had a stage and a woman dancing with nothing on, just like Jonah said. I thought she was undressed because she was about to have an abortion but looking back, maybe not. So I went down the hallway and when I went into the room the man in there said I could just march right back around and send in another girl.

Father: I must say, Kathryn Jean, you are taking this very calmly. It is a very promising sign. Say five Hail Marys and stay away from LiveAction, okay?

K-Lo: But Father, I haven't confessed any sins yet!

Father: Under certain emergency circumstances it is permissible to give a blanket pardon for all sins. I'm sure God would agree that this constitutes an emergency.

K-Lo: But---.

Father: Too late, you're forgiven. Be sure to tell your mother hello for me. Bye-bye.

K-Lo: (Doubtfully) Okay, Father. Gosh, that was easy. But I don't feel very forgiven. Maybe if I told you about the part where I felt lust in my heart....

Father: Dear heaven, look at the time! I really must run, so nice to see you again, we must do this again soon. But not too soon. Off you go. (confessional door clicks open and shut.

K-Lo: (Sigh) Confession hasn't been the same since Vatican II.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Standing Athwart Thinking Yelling Stop

Megan McArdle's output today (so far) is one post consisting mainly of quotes and rephrased information from three other articles. Her sole contribution is to mock auto companies for selling few hybrids and electrical cars, including a car that hasn't even started delivering to dealers yet.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time that companies have made this sort of colossal misjudgment. It wouldn't even be the first time an auto company has done so. (Remember the Edsel)? March and April sales volumes should be telling: gas prices are high, and the Leaf is supposed to hit 4,000 production units this month. If volumes remain low, we may be looking at green elephants.

Ah, conservatives. McArdle sneers at electric cars because they are green and therefore liberal. But if the cars become hip, McArdle will probably camp out in the street overnight or fly out of state to get one.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Hunting Of The Snark Cookie Of Gratitude: Thank You, Yves Smith!

The latest Cookie Of Gratitude goes to Yves Smith, who deconstructs Megan McArdle's strawmen so we don't have to!

Megan McArdle Uses Straw Men to Argue Against Principal Mods

Megan McArdle has a post up discussing why she thinks the benefits of principal mods would be “at best small and mixed”.

The problem with her lengthy discussion is that it is rife with straw men.

Before we get to the nitty gritty, I want address two bits of framing at the top which I found troubling. The first was the title, “Principal Write-Downs Still Popular With Wonks”. The “still” suggests that wonks like it even though some, presumably most, yet to be named others don’t. And singling out “wonks” further implies that (aside from homeowners) they may be its only fans.

That is very misleading. Who is in favor of mods? The only people who under normal circumstances ought to have a vote on this matter, namely, the borrowers and the lenders. First mortgage lenders overwhelmingly favor mods to borrowers with who still have a viable income. Why? Do the math [....]

Already we have two things that Ms. Smith can do and Megan McArdle can't: ask why, and math. Ms. Smith goes on to point out the other strawmen McArdle erected; modification strawmen, availability of mortgages strawmen, 20% reduction strawmen. Go read the whole thing; it's always entertaining to see someone who is not very familiar with McArdle react to her work, and Smith does a very good job of assessing McArdle and her motives.

Meanwhile, back at the post that inspired Ms. Smith's response, McArdle tells us in comments that no matter what, the banks must never suffer for making bad loans, everyone else must pay for their folly and deceit instead. Her slavish devotion to banks appears to have no limit. She would rather see the housing crises drag on forever than see banks lose money.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Comic Relief

Megan McArdle has taken down a post because her source complained about fair use of their text. Since McArdle depended heavily on their analysis for her content they must have decided that she crossed the line, although it is common for her to comment on others' analysis instead of creating her own.

But that's not the good part.

I attempted to rectify the situation by trimming down the excerpts, and naming the site from which they were drawn, but this seems to have somehow only made them madder--perhaps because this is so rare in my ten years of experience blogging that I was mystified rather than sufficiently apologetic.

In other words, she tried to pull both Such Is Blogging and I Come From A Long Line Of Academically Intimidating Intellectuals, and pissed off the author of the article she quoted. Which just goes to show that if you hire someone because she has no journalism ethics, she will tend to get in trouble for being "mystified" by journalism ethics. Some sources are much more stringent than others and McArdle does not have the flexibility and self-confidence to deal with challenges to her authority.

Thank goodness for Megan McArdle. When the future becomes too oppressive we can always read her column and laugh at her pratfalls and malapropisms.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, Power Broker

The Christian fundamentalists always intended to go after birth control. It frees a woman's sex life from male control; she can make the same choices a man can make about sex partners and career. If you control someone's sex life you control them, which is why the right wants to deny civil rights to gays as well. You can banish gays from sight and keep women legally and emotionally submissive if you have enough power.

We do not make decisions based on facts or logic, we base them on emotions. Power is wielded by people affected, and often controlled, by their needs and wants. And powerful people know how to manipulate emotions to keep their power and deny power to anyone else. One of the easier methods of controlling others is to convince them to control themselves, with the powerful setting the parameters of their lives and continuously making little demonstrations of power and strength to keep them in line. The obedient, the authoritarians, want to be good, to be accepted and praised. They will both control themselves and monitor everyone else in their class. The authoritarian leaders will control the followers and monitor their own class, using different standards than the followers, of course. The truly powerful will control everyone else and are not accountable to anyone.

The idea of Miss Kathryn Jean Lopez, authoritarian follower par excellence, wielding power over anyone, male, female, child or animal, is the single most ludicrous proof of how unequal the balance of power has become in the US. The woman has the brains of a potted plant. Her religious monomania drives her to ludicrous extremes of self-abasement and weepy sentimentality. She can't think, write, or relate to anyone who hasn't been nailed on a cross. Yet she seems to think that she and all the other small-minded, badly educated, empathy-impaired conspirators in a War Against Freedom If Freedom Has Boobs actually have the power to control all American women.

Why are Republicans waging war on contraception?

Further proof that Lopez isn't very smart. Republicans don't admit this if they want to stay in office.

It's not the first time the question has been asked, and it won't be the last. Truth be told, Republicans aren't engaging in battle on that front -- but the phrase gets close to a legitimate fight.

Congress, for its part, held an unprecedented vote in the House in February to end funding of Planned Parenthood. It's not a permanent or final vote; it was attached to a short-term move to keep the government funded. The debate in Congress was given momentum by the Live Action investigatory videos, which raised significant questions about what exactly Planned Parenthood is doing; but the rest of us need to discuss why we've let Planned Parenthood step in as a mainstream Band-Aid, throwing contraception and even abortion at problems that have much more fundamental solutions.

We need to discuss why Lopez is getting away with passing off the Live Action videos as proof of wrong-doing. Nobody wants to get near enough to Lopez to ask her questions and pin her down but if they don't, she'll continue to peddle this line and repetition creates belief.

While women may want love and marriage, they don't expect it. Justice Sandra O'Connor wrote in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion that women had "organized intimate relationships, and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail." And why wouldn't they? Who, nowadays, encourages them to want more?

Roger Ailes (the one not about to be indicted), already covered this bizarre tidbit. Hollywood makes an endless stream of popular movies about women falling in love and getting married, yet nobody wants marriage?

We've come to expect less for and from ourselves, and for and from one another. In part, it's the fruit of the contraceptive pill. New York magazine recently observed in a cover feature: "The pill is so ingrained in our culture today that girls go on it in college, even high school, and stay on it for five, 10, 15, even 20 years." That, of course, has had all kinds of fallout: a false sense of freedom, security. And it has ravaged women's fertility, as it seeks to mute exactly what women's reproductive power is all about.

And now we come to what this is really all about: power. Women think they're free if they control their reproductive system but they are not free and should not be allowed to think they are. Why are they not free? God created their "reproductive power" so only he can control it, and since God doesn't show up personally when some slut needs shaming, men will just have to do it for them, with a few women as humble helpmeets.

That's why I want to turn back the clock -- to a time when we valued love and marriage and didn't expect, support and even encourage promiscuity. Life and history don't work that way, obviously, there is no actual rewind. But we do have opportunities to learn from our mistakes.

Sex outside the parameters set by Miss Kathryn Jean Lopez is promiscuity.

The spending fight over Planned Parenthood in Congress is about a number of things. It's primarily about good stewardship, as so much of the spending debate is. But beyond legislation, beyond anything Congress can or should do, it is a call to arms for a new sexual revolution. It's about wanting more for ourselves and for those whom we love. It's about ending the surrender to a contraceptive mentality that treats human sexuality as just another commercial transaction.

Either you obey Miss Lopez's religious dogma or you are nothing but a prostitute.

Perhaps nothing better illustrates that than a recent commercial for a contraceptive called Beyaz. Women walk into a store and literally shop for men. "It's good to have choices." A woman happily shakes her head at the stork and its offerings in a sassy "we girls can do anything" kind of way, promenading through an adult Barbie commercial complete with Ken, a dream house and a trip to Paris.

Women should never have choices. They should willingly submit to those with power.

That commercial does not, needless to say, do justice to the pain and desperation many women suffer when they find themselves thinking about an abortion, or popping pills in pursuit of something that masks itself as satisfaction but is really just a bad substitute, oftentimes making true happiness all the more illusory.

True happiness is submission to God and men. Any personal satisfaction is wrong and will destroy your chance to have a family.

As evidence of the reckless and dangerous callousness at institutions supposedly dedicated to women's health -- failure to report the sex trafficking of minors, failure to report child abuse -- continues to emerge, we can't afford to lose sight of another, more fundamental conversation that we've got to have, among friends, in our homes and churches -- a talk about what it means to be human.

Humans were created to worship and obey God, as interpreted by Miss Lopez. And anyone woman who thinks that she is free and can make choices about her life must be disabused of that notion, through the use of political power if necessary.

This is what happens when you are polite to religious fanatics, when you let them manipulate your emotions. They go fucking nuts. They should never, ever be let near the slightest amount of power, and the very idea of submitting to and obeying these idiots is absolutely ludicrous. If they really want this war then we can start trying to pass laws that hand out The Pill like candy. Free condoms! Unisex bathrooms! Public nudity! If they want a fight let's give them one. Idle hands are the devil's playground and these fools have way too much time on their hands.