Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Tiny Note On An Old Friend

It would be a crying shame to ignore Megan McArdle's reaction to the successful upholding of her bete noir, "Obamacare." Since her new little blog is up and running, let's take a peek.

McArdle states that the ruling didn't make much sense and didn't matter much anyway. Life goes on, tra la la. Her attitude is very different from her earlier views, in which Obamacare meant the death of millions and the end of the nation as we know it.
I'm not super surprised that they voted to uphold--though I suspect that Justice Roberts has ducked outrage from liberals only to now get just as much outrage from his own side. This is the political environment we now live in. The age when liberal academics could comfortably expect to see their dominance of the academy translate into a broad progressive consensus on the court are over. We'll be battling over the composition of the court for a long time—and if a liberal or conservative justice is forced to retire while the other party holds the presidency, I expect to see things get vicious indeed.
In McArdleland, the Supreme Court does not reliably side with corporations; it is progressive and, for some reason that McArdle does not share with the little people, a liberal academia directly leads to a liberal Supreme Court. McArdle is still bitter that academia cannot entirely be overtaken by conservatives and provide her friends and family with (magically lucrative) jobs. But she does find a silver lining in the Obamanation.
Some people, maybe including me, will be helped by the bill. Even if you think that this bill will, on net, make more people worse off, you should still be glad for the people who are being helped.
Odd. McArdle told us earlier that she wanted Obamacare gone even if she would suffer for it, as she has a pre-existing condition. Her job change (and therefore health insurance change) must have made her reconsider her earlier position. It's amazing how reality can turn a frown upside down. Other conservatives might disagree. They think people like McArdle should simply suffer and die if she can't buy insurance. True, Mr. Cowen was just thinking about the poor, not about a real person who actually counts like McArdle, but the general principle still holds--some die so the rich can be richer.

McArdle, however, chooses to make lemons into lemonade. McArdle now thinks the conservatives can crow about Obama's "tax increase" because evidently it never occurred to conservatives to claim that liberals want to raise taxes. My goodness, liberals sure will be sorry that they dangled that bait before conservatives. Republicans might not have thought of it otherwise.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Lesser Of Two Evils

Authoritarians often do not realize that they make decisions based on the deeply-ingrained impulse to obey authority. These people do not say that there is an approved way and someone's else way and they choose the approved way. They say to themselves that there is only one way and it's foolish and wrong to refuse to follow it. There are always multiple options in any scenario although some of those options are desperate and final.
It is our responsibility, our duty, and in our self-interest to criticize the people to whom we have handed over our power/vote. We chose them, supported them, funded them, obeyed them. We are personally responsible for their actions.  They represent us and everything they do reflects on us. It is delusional to expect others to give us a pass for the actions of our leaders. We certainly don't do the same for them.

If our president, the leader of our nation and in this case the leader of our political party, kills foreigners with drones we will be held responsible. We will suffer the consequences of those actions, just as we hold Republicans responsible for voting for George W. Bush. They chose him because they wanted to be winners and Bush promised them that they would be able to use that power to grab more money, force the poor and minorities to show them more respect and obedience, and kill foreigners at will. Liberals chose Barack Obama and they do not just have ownership of some gay rights and health insurance reform, they have ownership of a lot more. From Jimmy Carter's op-ed, via Glenn Greenwald, we are also personally responsible for:

"top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens"

"our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the [Declaration on Human Rights'] 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”

"Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces”

"recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications"

"drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior"

And, via John Cole, Matt Stoller also points out our responsibility.

This alternative narrative is a hard truth to hear, because it carries with it an implicit rejection of American exceptionalism. Yes, American institutions are no better, and in many ways are more malignant, than those of many other countries. Yes, our political leaders, our press, our military leadership, operate in service to sociopathic aims. Yes, our freedoms are often an illusion, unless you fit a very narrow criteria. Yes, our banks are run to rob us, yes, our CIA spies on us, and yes, our government is fundamentally anti-democratic. Yes, our President is a con artist, and yes, nearly every reporter who writes about him participates in this set of lies, because of careerism, social financial reasons, or a simple lack of competence or imagination.

But, the idea that the king is always good, which is where the hope and change narrative draws its deep strength, is something we do not have to accept. We as people can break this spell, and speak to our own dignity, as citizens. We can learn our own power, if in no other manner than in saying at the voting booth and in public, “I do not accept your lies, and though you might take it by force, I will not grant you my consent willingly.” We can choose not to address our political officials by their titles. We can work to organize ourselves, and our lives, with those of us who understand that power is something that must be taken, with money, organization, but most of all, with moral courage. It is not something that politicians have except through our consent, consent we have been giving for decades, to a rotten political class. This is what they truly fear. This is why they spend tens of billions on propaganda, on advertising, on symbols and personalities and celebrity. This is why they hide the workings of our government and banks and institutions of power in the language of boring bureaucrat-ese. This is ultimately why they are weak. Because in order for them to do their work quietly, we must go about our day, and believe either the hope and change narrative, or the Kenyan socialist narrative, scoffing at the opposing “team” who thinks what we do not. Instead, we can choose an alternative narrative, that power and consent come from us, come from the choices that we make, as people, and as citizens. And we will no longer believe that Barack Obama, that cool, brilliant, self-aware con artist is anything but what he has revealed himself to be. (my bold)

Power is terrifying because it comes with responsibility. All we have to do to avoid this responsibility is refuse to use our power. The concept of power and responsibility seem very vague and far away. Most people are only concerned with their immediate world, the actions that directly affect them. But when you give away your power you can't keep the part you need and give away the part you don't need. You have given all of it away and it's no longer there when you need it. So you simply say that you don't need it. Obama's cool. He's got it. Let him handle it. Trust him to do his job. And then you go back to your daily life, and people die from bombs and joblessness is ignored and banks grow richer while we grow poorer. I am reading the same economic warnings that I read in 2008. It is terrifying. Which is worse--lose an election or lose a nation?

Mr. Cole and many of his commenters were very displeased by Stoller's words. Stoller was immensely insulting and disrespectful of their authority. They believe that Obama is better than Romney, which is undeniably true but short-sighted. They only look at what they might gain and ignore what they might lose. They do not weigh the long-term consequences against the short-term consequences or exercise their power for their own personal gain. They work only for the personal gain of their authority, a defining characteristic of authoritarianism.

If we will not be more moral or wise, let us be more greedy. We trade economic gains for social gains but money is power, and if we don't trade votes for jobs we will continue to be utterly powerless and dependent on the charity of our elected officials, who will only reverse their assault on our civil rights when they need our votes.

And yet, how do you tell people that their authority thinks they are chumps when they were raised to respect and obey authority? Tell them their parents were selfish, foolish and cruel to teach them to obey? For most people the idea is an absurd and evil accusation. They do not believe it; they cannot admit that people we love can harm us, even if that harm was done unwittingly and with the best intentions. We love our parents so much that we can't bear to admit that they forced us to mistrust our own judgement, underminded our self-confidence and self-esteem, and left us looking for someone to obey for the rest of our lives. We might be willing to die rather than admit it.

We certainly would rather let strangers die than admit it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Evolution In Twitter

I miss Megan McArdle. Nobody can backpedal from embarrassing herself in public due to ignorance as fast as she can. From Twitter:
Megan McArdle‏@asymmetricinfo I sometimes get a feeling that solid majority of Americans who aren't creationists believe in Lamarckian evolution or ID by some other name  
Dom Narducci‏@dnathe4th @asymmetricinfo I'll take Lamarckian over ID any day. At least soft-inheritance can be debated against Darwinism, without a "just because".  
Megan McArdle‏@asymmetricinfo @dnathe4th I'm talking about what you might call "Gaian ID"--concept that animals/ecosystems evolve in some direction for benevolent purpose  
Dom Narducci‏ @asymmetricinfo Oh ... I thought Lamarckian was the concept that organisms can pick up traits to pass on during their lifetime?  
Megan McArdle‏@asymmetricinfo @dnathe4th Yes, it is. I hear both--a lot of people read evolution in strange ways, including those who think creationists are crazy.
When is Lamarkianism not Lamarkianism? When Megan McArdle says so.

But at least McArdle isn't one of those silly liberals! They think creationists are crazy to believe in ID but they believe crazy things too! Sadly, McArdle does not let us know who actually believes in "Gaia ID" but they must be out there somewhere because McArdle says she heard them say it. And we all know that people frequently tell McArdle things that supports her negative image of liberals. And "urban" people. And teachers.

McArdle didn't learn much science at school but she did learn how to cover her ass. And it wouldn't be a McArdle whoopsie without some friend trying to help with the ass-covering.
Timothy P Carney‏@TPCarney @asymmetricinfo you are correct. First time I was called a creationist was b/c I denied creatures could "evolve" on demand.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Link Bait

Does The Atlantic think all women are scum? Instead of hiring a female economist it hired Megan McArdle, as if to prove the cliche that women can't do math. It paid that harpy Sandra Lo, who wrote about her messy and selfish personal life and now it has Elizabeth Wertzel, who seems to think that feminists must be narcissists to earn the title. (No links for them.)

Using unpleasant women who humiliate themselves in print as link bait might please the accountants and The Atlantic's  conservative readers but it doesn't improve the already damaged reputation of the magazine.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dead Horse, Dead Rider

Son, get off your knees. --Steve Gilliard

David Brooks' column, in which he scold the peasants for lack of reverence for the divine right of kings, has been beaten to a pulp but try as I might, I can't ignore a plea for greater authoritarianism.

Brooks began by lamenting that the nation no longer builds monuments to the glory of America's greatness.
Why can’t today’s memorial designers think straight about just authority?
Authoritarianism is the straight, the right  way, and Brooks does not understand why everyone else isn't falling into line, as God and nature intended. Dividing authority between just and injust is merely a transparent attempt at deflection; for authoritarians, all authority is just and, as we will see, Brooks thinks people who protest injustice are just whiners.

Obedient, subservient people are frightened by the thought of disobedience. It threatens the basis for their entire worldview. There is a hierarchy and everyone has his place on that hierarchy. The hierarchy was given to us by God and instilled in us by our parents, to whom we owe absolute obedience as well. If we do not obey our parents/gods will be angry with us. Anti-authoritarianism offers uncertainty, poverty and isolation. Authoritarianism offers security, the promise of money at some time in the future, and the consolation and pleasure of belonging to the (weak, obedient) tribe. And, much more practically, if offers money. Otherwise Brooks would not be crouching under the rich man's table, mouth wide open and watery eyes expectant, to catch any crumbs that happen to fall. Obedient--nay, Godly--people are rewarded for their loyalty.

It is perfectly obvious who has money and therefore the authority and who does not. The left has no money at all compared to the corporate right. Exxon funded Reason, not Greenpeace. The Koches fund libertarians, not liberals. America is not just conservative because it is authoritarian, it is conservative because conservatives promise to "leave more money in your pocket." Conservatives must have a carrot as well as a stick, after all.
Some of the reasons are well-known. We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power. Most of the stories we tell ourselves are about victims who have endured oppression, racism and cruelty.
We live in a culture that worships power and thinks it natural to kill anyone who displeases us. Brookes's tribe, who also live on their knees, tell themselves that they are victims of the powerless because they are afraid to admit they are the victims of their authority and because they want to continue exerting authority over anyone with less power than them. After using others to feel powerful, keeping slaves "for their own good," controlling women "to keep them safe," abusing children to force them to learn fear and automatic obedience, authoritarians claim they are the victims in an attempt to deflect attention and alleviate guilt and responsibility.
Then there is our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect. It’s hard in this frame of mind to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves.
This is the money quote, the reason David Brooks lives in a multi-million dollar house and you don't. He can state with a straight face that not everyone deserves respect, not everyone is equal. Some are "immeasurably superior to ourselves." The lickspittle must lick spit.
But the main problem is our inability to think properly about how power should be used to bind and build. Legitimate power is built on a series of paradoxes: that leaders have to wield power while knowing they are corrupted by it; that great leaders are superior to their followers while also being of them; that the higher they rise, the more they feel like instruments in larger designs. The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are about how to navigate those paradoxes.
We have a choice, to either give away all our power to one man or small group of men, or to share power amongst our fellow man. Shared power is less corruptible. It forces us to acknowledge that we are only as good as our actions. To wield power is to wield force, and force always crushes those under its power. Why not? The little people owe their betters obedience, right? Who are they to question the powerful?
These days many Americans seem incapable of thinking about these paradoxes. Those “Question Authority” bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority. They symbolize an attitude of opposing authority.
God forbid. Literally.

There is no just and unjust authority. There is power, and either we let the rich have it all or we demand our equal share.
The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism. The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves.
Who has the money now and who doesn't? We don't have to theorize, we just have to look at the massive transfer of wealth that just happened.
Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.
How dare you, in your arrogance, think you are as good as your authority? Authoritarians love this approach because they think liberals are afraid to seem arrogant.

Has there ever been such a naked appeal to authority? (K-Lo excepted, of course.) David Brooks is now "Knees" Brooks, because he is always on them, the better to abase himself before his betters. Grovel, little man!
You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don’t believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.
Grind those $500 trousers into the dirt as you wiggle your tail!
Maybe before we can build great monuments to leaders we have to relearn the art of following. Democratic followership is also built on a series of paradoxes: that we are all created equal but that we also elevate those who are extraordinary; that we choose our leaders but also have to defer to them and trust their discretion; that we’re proud individuals but only really thrive as a group, organized and led by just authority.
Sadly this is more true than not; many liberals think that we do owe our leaders our trust. We do not owe our president anything. He is our public servant, we are not his.
I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else.
What could be more cynical than accusing someone of vanity when he is only trying to protect his own rights? Might we have had a reason for becoming more cynical? I watched Watergate updates in between episodes of Josie and the Pussycats and Scooby Doo as a kid. It takes willful blindness to retain worship of authority under those conditions.

I also learned to mistrust anyone named Old Man Withers, but that is another story.
In his memoir, “At Ease,” Eisenhower delivered the following advice: “Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.” Ike slowly mastered the art of leadership by becoming a superb apprentice.
How much is David Brooks learning from his position on the ground? What should we be studying--how to run unsuccessful wars? Destroy the economy and the middle class? Shove more people into poverty and dependence? And then demand admiration, respect and obedience?
To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it. Those skills are required for good monument building, too.
To bad they are not the skills needed to have a good country.

David Brooks' sycophancy is sickening and he deserve every bit of the scorn that has been heaped on him for this column. If he wants to make a living by bowing and scraping before his betters that's his right but all he is doing is humiliating himself.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goodbye To You

Press play to hear this article's soundtrack.

It is with deep, deep, ever-so-deep sadness that we at the Snark note the passing of Megan McArdle from the pages of The Atlantic (online!) It seems that she and her beloved magazine have parted ways and now McArdle must bid adieu to her cushy, prestigious little Watergate office. But as McArdle told us when she bought her darling Victorian row house, she has confidence that she can always find a new job in DC, and lo and behold, McArdle was snapped up at once by Tina Brown.
This is a bittersweet post for me to write. I've missed you all terribly while on leave, and in the interim, Newsweek has come to me and made me an offer I couldn't refuse to move there.
Ah, proof positive that McArdle was not fired, as some ungenerous people might think. True, McArdle went on book leave right after lying about her Koch conflict of interest but since The Atlantic never cared about that before it could not have fired her for such unprofessional conduct. Now we know that McArdle quit to write for The Daily Beast and Newsweek instead. They must have offered her a great deal of money; while Newsweek has a bigger audience, The Atlantic featured McArdle prominently as its only female Voice. Anyone trying to find McArdle amidst the clamoring clutter of The Daily Beast will need a search engine and a microscope.

Some might quibble at the disloyalty McArdle has displayed after all The Atlantic has done for her by taking a chance on a little-known blogger and financing her book leave. Thanks to The Atlantic McArdle was also a shining star at the Aspen Ideas for Big Brained Thinkers festivals and followed those triumphs with speaking engagements and fellowships provided by allies of David G. Bradley. But, thanks to McArdle, we all know that the most important thing in the world is money and we also know that where money goes, Megan McArdle follows.
I'll still be on leave for a few more months while I finish up the project I've been working on, and then at the end of the summer, I'll start blogging and writing for Newsweek/Daily Beast.
Yes, Megan McArdle, once the Senior Editor for economics at The Atlantic, will now be one of the fine stable of bloggers at The Daily Beast and a "correspondent" for Newsweek. Evidently her first assignment has something to do with McArdle's specialty, failure. Wikipedia tells us:
The back page is reserved for a "My Favorite Mistake" column written by celebrity guest columnists about a mistake they made that defines who they are.[25]
Since McArdle recently tweeted requests for her devoted followers to fill out a survey on their favorite mistake, McArdle must be working on that or a similar column; we look forwards to many posts and articles explaining how wonderfully failure has worked out for, well, certain people.
[yap yap yap]  
I'm very excited about the opportunity to work in a newsroom led by Tina Brown, whose turnarounds of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker are legendary. But it is not without regret--the inevitable regret that tradeoffs are necessary and I cannot take the job at Newsweek/Daily Beast without leaving so much behind at The Atlantic. In my five years here, we've gone from a magazine that was fantastic, but losing money by the bucketful to one that was still fantastic, but also profitable. That happened in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, an achievement which still boggles the mind. We've built a web presence, and a web brand, that few organizations can match. And it's been immense fun. Working for The Atlantic has been more than I ever dreamed it would be. I'll forever be immensely grateful to everyone who was here during my time--including my readers and my commenters, who are the ultimate reason that I get to spend my days reading and writing about stuff that interests me.
Those readers and commenters variously informed McArdle that they wished her the best and that most of them would continue reading her column at The Daily Beast, if they could find it. A few noted sadly that they understood her decision to sell out and didn't blame her at all for going for the money, and a few took a final shot at our favorite libertarian princess, now swiftly replaced by Garance Franke-Ruta. (Thanks, Downpuppy.)
Come tomorrow, I should have a URL to give you for the new blog, where I'll be posting a little bit over the summer (expect a post when the Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare drops). For now, I'll just say thanks for reading. I miss you guys more every day.
The link did not arrive but she need not bother; a less-important Megan is not the threat that an Atlantic Megan represented, and therefore is not worth wasting one's time over. Since McArdle was recently whining about her nasty troll critics no doubt she will be immensely relieved that she has traded prominence and respect for money and can now sink into anonymity. The Snark will continue to check out McArdle from time to time but as she is no longer important she will no longer be a central focus on this blog.


Who's next?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Breaking! Must Credit Ross Douthat! Conservative Slaughter of Innocents!

Would you kill this adorable child? A conservative would!

Via celebrated conservative intellectual Ross Douthat (by way of Tbogg, Defender of Evil and Scourge of the Britbartians), we are shocked--nay, shocked and appalled!--to hear that CONSERVATIVES ARE ABORTING HANDICAPPED CHILDREN WHOLESALE. Maybe retail as well! Sing it, Brother Douthat!
In 90 percent of cases, a positive test for Down syndrome leads to an abortion.
Gasp! What could this mean for our national morality? America is conservative! If 90% of all women with a Down syndrome child have an abortion, almost all such abortions are being committed by conservative women and their conservative husbands and partners in crime!

A 2010 Gallup poll says:
The ideological orientation of Americans seen thus far in 2010 would represent a record-high [42$%] level of conservatism (since at least 1992) if it is maintained for the full year. This follows an increase in the percentage of conservatives in 2009 that was fueled by heightened conservatism among independents, a pattern that continues today.
Independents today are slightly more likely to say they are moderate than conservative, with fewer than 20% identifying as liberal. While this is similar to 2009, it represents an increase in conservatism among this group since 2008.
The fact that the nation has become more conservative while the conservative party has become much more ideological, aggressive, authoritarian and destructive is proof that the nation is, indeed, conservative. Plucky little pockets of liberal resistance might keep up the good fight but they are penniless and powerless and therefore can be utterly ignored.

Fortunately for liberals, with power comes responsibility and with powerlessness comes irresponsibility. Conservatives are the majority, which means it is conservative politicians who have enough corporate or private cash to have a successful "election," by which we mean "purchase." And therefore it is up to conservatives, the majority, the powerful, the wealthy, to stop the conservative aborting of Down syndrome children.

Fortunately for conservatives, they have already shown us the way for conservatives to attack their horrendous Nazi Socialist geno-and-gynocidal murder of their very own teeny-tiny conservative babies. Conservatives can take little fetus-sized video cameras into abortion mills and doctors' offices and film conservative women choosing to abort their babies while drinking martinis and wearing tiny pillbox hats in pastel colors, just like Jackie Kennedy. The faces of these conservative women can then be plastered all over the internet and a non-stop bloggy cry of Shame! Shame! Slut! can ring righteously across the land.

Then little women who pretend to be nuns can take up the battle cry in the name of God. No more conservative abortions! Defend the differently abled! Shame on the conservative women who selfishly have an abortion! If you can't afford the baby, hold a bake sale! If you already have too many children, God will provide! Sure, the nation, which is conservative you know, decided that abortion would be legal, making abortion as conservative as apple pie and hot dogs at a Forth of July picnic on a baseball field with a flag waving overhead and a military drone buzzing across the sky, but remember the conservative babies being aborted by their conservative mothers and must be stopped!

Oh, thank you, Ross Douthat, for manfully girding your mighty loins to fight the Godly battle against the conservative women who murder their unborn children with Down syndrome! Go forth and attack conservative women forthsooth, brave Knight!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Congratulations, Megan McArdle!

Once again we offer congratulations to Mrs. Megan McArdle, blogger extraordinaire, who has failed upwards soared to new heights of achievement and will now write for Newsweek (motto: people used to read us a few decades ago) and blog for The Daily Beast. The latter might be a little awkward as McArdle took to sniping at Andrew Sullivan after he could no longer help her career, but as we all know our DC upper class is perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones when there is money to be made.

A few years and a couple of dozen embarrassments later McArdle will no doubt be writing for The New York Times.

Going Galt

You might think that I have not been posting because of real life commitments such as graduations, out-of-town visitors, getting the house and yard in shape for out-of-town visitors, multiple birthday parties, and birthday-related outings but you would be wrong, wrong, wrong. For I have been refraining from blogging to protest the shredding of our Constitution and our national descent into socialist Hell via the diabolical works of our Kenyan overlord. As long as he still sits on his throne of power I cannot muster up the emotional strength necessary to commit random insults to digital paper and must retreat into the safety and security of my little Texas homestead where the taxes never rise, unlike the floodwaters, buckling asphalt streets, and strange groups of people who purport to be holding tea parties yet never drink tea or eat small cucumber sandwiches.

I'll be back tomorrow.

ADDED: Bwahaha!