Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, December 31, 2012

For Your Viewing Pleasure

How Not To Stop A Shooter, a comic by Matt Bors.

How Terrible Is Megan McArdle?

Despite the fact that I am trying to move beyond being a Megan McArdle-centric blog, that TBogg already wrote a very funny recap of the post in question, and that Charles Pierce wrote a pithy and wonderfully illustrated post* on McArdle as well, there is one thing I would like to point out as well.

 First, let us pause to acknowledge that of all the ways to discuss the economics of Christmas, McArdle chose to examine whether or not she is getting her money's worth when she receives presents from friends and relatives.

How Terrible Is Christmas?

Should we bother giving all those useless gifts?

I am probably not the right person to answer this question: I spend the week with my father, who lives in a cosy little house with a water view, where we eat a lot and have reasonable conversations. During this week, presents are opened, mostly things that the other person actually wants and can use. I have no horror stories to share.  
But in this post I'm specifically addressing a question that is raised by one economist or another almost every year: isn't Christmas a huge waste? All those presents that no one wants represent huge deadweight loss. Wouldn't well all do better by giving cash, or skipping the process entirely?

Naturally, when McArdle discusses people who get crummy presents she does not include herself. Her family visits evidently are small, quiet, reasonable, and lucrative. No visits to Mom and Dad in her childhood home; her parents are evidently divorced and her father has moved to the seaside. No raucous get-togethers with hoards of relatives, grandparents, cousins and uncles and aunts, with little kids chasing each other around the house and toddlers playing with the wrapping paper and boxes. No loud and laughing reminiscences of childhood pranks or amicable bickering over adult differences of opinions. It's all terribly cosmopolitan.

This seems like a silly question in a world of wishlists--I got the exact martini glasses I wanted, the exact electric pressure cooker I wanted, and the exact 13-inch cast iron skillet I wanted, because people could go right on my Amazon wish list and identify them. And yet, I still had the surprise and thrill of opening gifts (well, okay, I knew what the skillet was before I opened it), because there were a number of things on my list. As far as I know, this experience was shared by everyone else around the McArdle hearth. And by millions of other families in the United States.
McArdle's relatives know better than to wing it when it comes to gift-giving.
I'm reading David Graeber's book, Debt, and while I'm aware of the problems, I do think he gets one thing really right: his exploration of money as a substitute for strong relationships. That is its appealing feature for cosmopolitans, of course; relationships are wonderful in theory, but in practice, they inevitably turn out to be parochial and limiting and an endless amount of work. You do this time consuming task of finding gifts which often aren't right, and then pretending to like and use the wrong things others have gotten you . . . and why bother if you could each buy yourself better stuff? The sociologist and anthropologist answer that the work is the relationship. The only way to have strong social ties is to spend an "inefficient" amount of time and resources investing in them.
Since McArdle just said her family chose to avoid any relationship work by using wishlists for their loved ones, we are left with only one sad conclusion. Nobody wanted to waste any of their time choosing a gift for her. And it is no wonder, for McArdle thinks that relationships are "parochial" (limited in scope or outlook), "limiting" (again), and hard work. Cosmopolitans, like McArdle and her family, would rather just spend money than give time. (Which makes all her donations of time to the IHS rather odd.) But fear not, relatives sometimes are of use after all. McArdle notes that they can sometimes come up with a present that McArdle never even knew she wanted, thereby broadening her shopping horizons. Let's let McArdle have the last word:
How much is that option value worth? I'd say a lot. Especially if it comes bundled with stronger relationships.

*note the url

Yee Haw!

The Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2012, assembled every year by Batocchio at his blog Vagabond Scholar, is up and if you haven't checked it out yet, there are a lot of good  posts there. Don't miss Batocchio's entry; it's a comprehensive analysis of the types of conservatives that the right has devolved into. (I was especially pleased to see him quote a John Rogers (Leverage) post on conservatives because it was one of the first blog posts I ever read.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Double Down

A typical kindergarten class, as pictured by Megan McArdle.

Awesome art by Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame, found here.

As my helpful commenters and emailers noted, when confronted with an incredulous and mocking response on her latest stupidity, Megan McArdle inevitably doubles down with more stupidity.

Let's start with comments she made on her original post.
Peyton 1 day ago "encourage people to gang rush shooters," Yep. Those six year olds certainly fell down on the job by not rushing the grown man with the assault weapon. You are one sick bitca.
I always enjoy a Joss Whedon shout-out.
Man-who-asks-inconvenient-questions 1 day ago @Peyton 
It takes a village, don't you know?
Gorbud 1 day ago @Peyton Thanks keep pushing that lie. It helps you avoid any reasonable response to the story. She NEVER stated that these kids could have or should have rushed anyone. People like you usually pick out something and twist it into a lie just to discredit another person. Really what is wrong with you can't you read. Or does the reality of the government's and your own impotence in the face of evil you can't wish away cause some kind of breakdown in a logical thought process? Obama's magic wand won't work on this problem. The government can't in-fact solve everyone of the world's problems. Big news for the Liberal world. Impossible to accept.
Wishful thinking becomes reality to this poor self-deluded person. McArdle is a master at giving her audience just enough wiggle room to claim that she is not as stupid or venal as she appears. McArdle did not say kindergartners should have rushed the gunmen. She said "young people" should rush gunmen. Now she can claim she meant older kids, which is still indefensible but a little less laughable. Normal human beings would not want any "young people" rushing gunmen ever. They would want their kids and their kids' friends and classmates to run and hide and survive. But Megan McArdle is no longer a normal person. She sold her soul to the devil in exchange for a sous vide machine.
PeterBuka 1 day ago @Gorbud @Peyton ''I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.''What part of that is it you do not understand? If a sane person writes a sane article and finishes it off with complete insanity, that tends to reflect poorly on the sane portions of the article. Similar to Churchill being a savior and a racist at the same time. The racist part tends to smudge his good standing.
McArdle's own words condemn her.
MeganJ.McArdle 1 day ago @PeterBuka @Gorbud @Peyton You should read the rest of the article, in which I made fun of the idea that primary schoolers could have rushed Lanza.
Here is her usual claim that her critics did not read what she wrote. It's a pathetic response but less pathetic than her other typical response, that the critic did not understand what she wrote. And it sets up the lie in the rest of the sentence.

Do you want to know why Megan McArdle is rich and you aren't? Because Megan McArdle is a liar and you aren't. McArdle routinely lies, giant, honking, bald-faced lies, for a wide variety of reasons. Money, of course. Heh! Naturally she lies for money, because she can. There is nothing to stop her. She's not afraid of losing jobs or income; she knows she can always find someone who needs liars to peddle propaganda for them. She's not afraid of social ostracism; her friends, colleagues, and relatives obviously do not find her actions to be morally repellent either. If they did they kept quiet about it, for reasons of their own. So McArdle lies for money when she finds it furthers her ideological goals.

But there is much more to McArdle than greed, of course. There is also vanity, and McArdle lies to save face. This unusually wide-spread public humiliation threatens McArdle's carefully crafted and cultivated high opinion of herself. Prep school scarred her life, evidently. She went to very high prestige schools that most people worked extremely hard to enter. McArdle went to school with lot of very intelligent people over the years (as well as many idle upper class kids like herself). And let's face it, the poor dear just isn't very bright. It had to have been humiliating to be surrounded by people who could actually understand what the professor was saying and could say something intelligent in response. McArdle must be wise, witty, intellectual at all times and the only way she can achieve that goal is by lying, so she lies.
raskolnikovx9 1 day ago 
@MeganJ.McArdle @PeterBuka @Gorbud @Peyton No, but Megan you wrote the above statement and you did it in earnest. Care to retract and apologize? Because, beyond being so very stupid, its very, very offensive. Merl Lino 1 day ago @MeganJ.McArdle @PeterBuka @Gorbud @Peyton You didn't make fun of it you said you didn't know if it would work. You you say that about everything. Please explain what the words, "I would like to see." mean. You don't say that about everything else proposed. Don't wriggle. Admit you proposed something that is terribly wrong and for some unaccountable reason didn't realize that the instant your wrote it.  
Icewaterchrist 1 day ago 
@MeganJ.McArdle @PeterBuka @Gorbud @Peyton please quote that then, because I can't find it anywhere in your article.
She did not, because she could not.

People are very tempted to ignore lies because we all lie at times. We do not, however, make a career out of it. McArdle followed her first post with a couple more. In her next post on the shooting McArdle helpfully pointed out that "I was talking about teenagers, not first graders," not knowing that any parent would be just as appalled at the thought of their 14-year-old daughter rushing a man with an assault rifle.  McArdle explained that it's possible for adults to rush a gunman under some circumstances, although she did not explain why she gave that option as a response to yet another mass shooting of small children.

What often happens in these sorts of attacks is that people run and hide. Split up into ones and twos, they are easy targets for the shooters, who find it easy to pick off cowering people one by one. Unless the shooter's weapon is temporarily disabled--as seems to have happened with Loughner--one or two people are unlikely to be a match for a rifle or a handgun. But it seems to me that 8-12 people could be. Not an automatic weapon, of course, but automatic weapons are not usually used in these attacks, because it's been illegal to manufacture or sell more of these guns for civilian use since 1986. A semi-automatic weapon takes time to aim and fire, and hitting a moving target with a fatal shot is harder than hitting someone who is hiding under a desk.
Please remember that Megan McArdle is hair-splitting the death of children to prevent anyone from passing gun control laws. She has several other reasons why nobody can do anything ever, but let's skip to the end.
Obviously, it is beyond horrible to suggest that even a small number of attacks are largely unavoidable. I don't like saying it. Unfortunately, I think it's true. Which means that it's worth thinking about whether there is something--anything--that people in that situation could do to make them less fatal.
We can't stop random murders so we should not try to control gun sales, but we should try anything up to and including forcing all our teenagers to take SWAT training so they can run towards a man firing a semi-automatic weapon at them. But is McArdle really a liar if she was careful to avoid saying that small children should rush a gunman? Maybe her critics are being unfair by accusing her of wanting to put kids in mortal danger. Fortunately McArdle clears up this dilemma by lying once more about her response.
Merl Lino 1 day ago 
"But I was talking about teenagers, not first graders." You said in a reply to a comment that you meant it as a (very bad) joke. Now your make a different excuse, possibly because you also said you wanted to encourage it unlike other proposals you deem ineffective. Those you wanted to discourage and not recommend. You new response doesn't hold water. The human shield response is not a good one, and training teenagers to do it is absurd. You just reinforce the fact that you are totally without common sense.  
MeganJ.McArdle 20 hours ago 
@Merl Lino I didn't say that. You misread me.
Merl Lino 14 hours ago 
|I covered this, wyour wrote "MeganJ.McArdle 2 hours ago@PeterBuka @Gorbud @Peyton You should read the rest of the article, in which I made fun of the idea that primary schoolers could have rushed Lanza." I replied: "But she wrote, "I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly,.." In the rest of the article she expressed doubt that regulations would be effective, but didn't say she would "like to see them encouraged." She just can't seem to admit that her proposal is terribly wrong or explain why she did not realize that instantly as she wrote it." ----- Can you explain the fact that in the part I quoted you said you'd like to encourage human shield tactics even though you had doubts it would work, but you try to discourage regulations of guns which you also think might not work? set of proposals but discourage the other though you have doubts either of them will work? Then in your first response to that idea you said you were "making fun" of that suggestion? Now you say you were trying to encourage young people, not little kids? So then it was not you making fun, it was you trying to encourage teenagers--you now say--you wanted to gang up .Instead of retracting the suggestion you now elaborate it into a training program for teenagers to learn to react as human shields. You should just admit that it is a preposterous suggestion that you would like to retract.
She can't. She's trapped, by her ego and her lies. She deserves every bit of her humiliation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Princess And The Pea Brain

It's all just a game.

This is what sounds smart to a dumb person. For the real problem with Megan McArdle is not her utter lack of empathy for anyone outside of her immediate circle, her mystification at the idea of journalistic ethics, or her vacuous worship of consumerism and all the rilly nice people who provide her with new kitchen gadgets. It's her intellectual capacity. She's dumb. She has the brain the size of a pea. She doesn't have two brain cells to rub together and she would probably end up setting herself on fire if she tried.

But she's dumb in a very special way. McArdle repeats what smarter people say, pretending that she was able to reason out the issue as well. She links to intellectual-looking resources but those works contradict or do not support what she claims. She examines every aspect of the situation in excruciating length, substituting verbiage for analysis. But the words are all empty; meaningless pseudo-intellectual garbage. There is no supporting evidence, no analysis, no chain of argument. There is nothing but a not-very-clever woman who thinks she is being smart, sophisticated and an intellectual leader when she says that children should rush a gunman who is opening fire on them.

Why make such a stupid statement? Because she is stupid. McArdle does not like the idea of gun control because she does not like the idea of people telling her what to do.
I wasn't going to buy a gun, because, hey, what would I do with it? But the chicken guano rules that DC is imposing make me want to buy a handgun just to annoy the twopenny tyrants who thought them up:

[snipped quote]

May I really carry it inside my home without a license, just as if I were a free citizen in a country that respects individual liberty? I am overcome with gratitude, really overwhelmed with the state's generosity . . . permission to cry, sir?
Stupid people do not realize that they are making knee-jerk, adolescent decisions based on a disproportionate sense of self-importance, spite, and greedy anticipation of grabbing everything they want (or might want some time in the future) before anyone else can take it away or keep it for themselves. Stupid people think they are following their ideology to its logical conclusion. They ignore common sense, logic, reason, and empathy because they they have an ax to grind.

Stupid people are also superstitious. The larger framing of McArdle's stupidity is the belief in a universal struggle between good and evil.
Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bare hands. What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold.
But I doubt we're going to tell people to gang rush mass shooters, because that would involve admitting that there is no mental health service or "reasonable gun control" which is going to prevent all of these attacks. Which is to say, admitting that we have no box big enough to completely contain evil.
Believing in evil is very convenient and satisfying. People are either good or bad. Good people almost always do good things (we are Fallen, after all) and bad people always do bad things. Therefore if anyone that McArdle considers good--corporate CEOs, titans of industry, hedge fund managers--does something bad, McArdle is easily able to deny that those bad actions ever occurred. If McArdle does not like the idea of gun control she can choose to believe that bad people are born that way and there is nothing anyone can do to stop their bad actions. Whether or not McArdle actually believes this is immaterial. Many people unconsciously choose to pretend that they believe in something if it is to their advantage.

The normal reaction to the mass shooting of a bunch of small children is horror and grief, in varying degrees of course. But McArdle does not want to be horrified because she is wrestling with even stronger emotions, her allegiances to those who ally with the gun lobby. McArdle doesn't care about guns much herself and certainly is not happy to see them used to kill kids. But McArdle is a libertarian married to another libertarian, Peter Suderman, who works for Reason, which has a long history of fighting gun control. She does not like to see her views and the views of people like her under attack. So she decides that gun control just wouldn't work, and in her infinite wisdom she shares all the reasons with us little people on her blog.

Most of her reasons consist of saying that nothing can be done to stop someone who wants to shoot people. They will carry out their plans no matter what they circumstances. That might be true but McArdle does not think that it would be any use to try to stop them. Mental health facilities? They already exist, so nothing more need be done. More gun laws? Gun laws already exist, so more will fail. Less lethal guns? They'll just use more guns instead. She has an excuse for everything to insure the nation is inactive in the face of mass shootings. But her excuses are based on willful denial, the refusal to feel any horror at the strange fruits of our gun culture so she can continue to ally herself with libertarians and conservatives. In McArdle's tribal thinking, libertarians are for guns and liberals are against guns, and McArdle finds it extremely gratifying to imagine her side is winning an argument against the side of her enemies.

Conservatives who argue that a total ban wouldn't lower the homicide rate are being ridiculous.   
America would still have a higher homicide rate than anywhere else, because for whatever reason, America is an incredibly violent place.
America has more guns than many other countries and America has many more deaths because of all those guns, but she cannot figure out why America is such a violent place. Bullshit. Of course she can. She just does not want to, and her willful ignorance makes her stupid.

But I think there's no question that our homicide rate would be lower than it is now, simply because fewer killings would succeed.

Nor am I going to go through the various cost-benefit reasons that we might want to allow guns, such as defensive uses. I find some of these arguments compelling, others less so. I will say that liberals who argue that defensive uses never save lives are being just as ridiculous as conservatives who claim that guns don't increase the death rate. We don't know the number of defensive uses, but we do know that they happen, because there are many well-documented cases. 

But now is not a good time to have a cost-benefit discussion, and there may never be a good time. The two sides are too far apart: gun control is mostly advocated by people who do not own guns, or want to own guns, and for them it is therefore a zero cost policy. Maybe a negative cost policy, because--apart from the violence--they have a fairly intense cultural antipathy for people who spend a lot of time playing with guns. Randall Collins notes that "US surveys indicate the favorite TV shows of liberal Democrats are comedians satirizing conservatives; conservatives' favorites are college football." However right they may be, those people are not in a good position to persuade gun owners that they shouldn't want to own guns, or that having them taken away is a negligible cost in the bigger picture. Nor have gun owners had any better luck explaining to the other side why they might want to own guns even though some people abuse them.

So I'll merely point out what Jeffrey Goldberg has already said, better and at greater length, in The Atlantic: the discussion is moot. You can't ban guns. That ship has sailed.

It seems strawmen, not diamonds, are a girl's best friend.  They enable McArdle to indulge in her favorite activity: pretending to be an intellectual Big Thinker dispensing her wisdom to the less elite. Nuance is ignored so Miss Megan can play Pretty Pretty Princess, earning her plastic jewels hard-earned pay as a reward for her specialness. All liberals hate guns, for whatever reason, so of course they want to ban all guns. It's in their culture, which mindlessly controls their every move. Meanwhile conservatives, for whatever reason, "spend a lot of time playing with guns." It's in their culture, evidently, to covet gun ownership. So gun control is impossible, just as caring for the mentally ill is impossible and public safety is impossible and everything else that Megan McArdle considers liberal is impossible.

But one thing, perhaps is possible. It is conservative and libertarian to unload all of the burdens of society on the individual, so Megan McArdle says that it should be individuals who stop mass shootings. It sounds perfectly logical to her!
My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

Yes, Megan McArdle just said that the "young people" should  rush the gunman or men and take them down. Because only a fucking moron would say that kindergartners should be trained assassins, McArdle fudges the issue a little but the point is not gun control or little kids' lives or the mental health of our nation. The point is that Megan McArdle is right and all those stoopid liberals are wrong. How does she know this? A rich lady is paying her a ton of money to give such opinions. She has to be right.

And what is the agonizing tragedy of little children's death next to Megan McArdle's need to stroke her own ego and revel in her own specialness?

Monday, December 3, 2012

For God And Douthat

I am sorry about the lack of posting; all my spare time is taken up re-learning algebra, cleaning and getting organized for holiday parties, and holiday baking. It seems the Algebra Gods are cruel; if you don't learn it the first, second, or third time, you will end up having to re-learn algebra to teach it to your kids. I have not posted for weeks but I can now graph an equation three different ways.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat is putting his big forehead to use by dreaming up fun ways to eliminate Social Security via the payroll tax.  His two recent posts on the matter reveal his fundamental, very un-Christian disregard for anyone without a six-figure income and extensive benefits. Douthat doesn't try very hard to convince others of his cute little idea; he didn't get where he is today by thinking and he obviously sees no reason why he should start now.

But before we dive into the dry matter of taxes and Douthat's continuing effort to give his masters a minimum of value for their inexplicably generous pay, let us detour to the Douthat corner of SexyTown, population of one. TBogg has already covered Douthat's musings on how to get Americans to take one for the team by bearing more children then foreigners because civilization demands it but such a fascinating subject demands more examination.

The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

This charming passage is an excellent example of the incoherence of Douthat's supposed philosophy. He wants to cut the payroll tax to give people more money now while saying that people are supposed to sacrifice their current financial well-being for the sake of the needs of future populations. If we are not supposed to put aside money for our own use in the future via Social Security, why on earth would we choose to spend thousands of more money now by having more children? How selfish can Douthat be?

Three thousand for pre-natal care, another three thousand for delivery (in 1990s dollars), hundreds more on clothing, furniture, bedding, diapers, other medical bills. And that's just for the baby. Lost wages, school expenses, extracurricular activity expenses, more clothing, more food, a bigger house, a better neighborhood, a car, insurance, car repairs, gas, entertainment expenses. And God forbid there should be a problem and the parents would have to spend tens of thousands more on doctors, therapies, and drugs.

As we shall soon see, Douthat wants a consumption tax to make up for the trillions lost if the payroll tax is eliminated. That would make having a baby even more onerous. But most of all, as TBogg points out, Douthat himself is not willing to do what he demands of everyone else. Douthat's wife is (gasp!) a working woman and as far as we know she has not stopped working to raise little Salome Jezebel Douthat and pump out many more little Douthats. How decadent! How selfish! How un-Godly! Why do people refuse to embrace innovation by controlling fertility? Why do they insist on standing athwart history yelling Stop! when they could be embracing the future instead? Don't they know that past generations, who had no choice in the matter regarding fertility, sacrificed by having children to build our civilization?

Since we all know that Douthat is a conservative Catholic who would never interfere with God's Plan for his Sacred sperm by refusing to accept God's Gift of a dozen or so children, we are forced to conclude that either Douthat has had sex but once in his life, or that in his ultimate arrogance Douthat has decided that he, not God, should determine how and when his property wife should conceive his children. It's bad enough that Douthat does not have a Bible-based marriage, with multiple wives, concubines, servants and slave girls bearing his progeny. That is, alas, all too common in these decadent modern times. But to refuse to accept God's will! It is enough to make me weep with grief and the fear of God's wrath!

Just look at the cuteness of Mrs. Douthat! How could Ross not want to force her to overbear?

The next time you run into her on the street, you be sure to ask Mrs. Douthat why she's not obeying her husband and popping out more babies for God and Christendom. It's not like our sexuality is a personal matter between ourselves, our partners, and our gods and goddesses. It's a matter of public record and must be discussed at every opportunity, the better to shame and control our neighbors.