Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ignorance, Like Domesticity, Is Bliss

McTorture (her prose, not her job) is on vacation, woo hoo!

I will slowly assemble torture posts over the next few days but mostly I will bake cookies.  I will use a $400 Chambers stove made in the 1950s, a Kitchen-Aid mixer made in the 1990s, a whisk, two glass bowls, and a set of metal measuring utensils. I will probably overcook at least one sheet of cookies and nobody will mind that they are not perfect.

A preview: Here is McArdle, in the middle of discussing why she is very much against torture.

Torture seems to me very likely to work provided that you can verify the information, which I assume interrogators can in at least some circumstances. Nor is it obvious to me that the quality of information is likely to be lower than that obtained by other means: yes, people will say anything to avoid torture, but they'll also say anything to avoid imprisonment. Maybe the lies will be vivider or more voluble under torture, but it doesn't seem necessarily so that the ratio of lies to truth will increase.

She's a Big Thinker, you know.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Burning Consequences

Bill Moyer:
We’ve just watched the Senate and the House — aided and abetted by President Obama — pay off financial interests with provisions in the new spending bill that expand the amount of campaign cash wealthy donors can give, and let banks off the hook for gambling with customer (and taxpayer) money. 
What happened in Washington over the past several days sounds strikingly familiar to the First Gilded Age more than a century ago, when senators and representatives were owned by Wall Street and big business. Then, as now, those who footed the bill for political campaigns were richly rewarded with favorable laws. 
Bill’s guest this week, historian Steve Fraser, says what was different about the first Gilded Age was that people rose in rebellion against the powers that be. Today we do not see “that enormous resistance,” but he concludes, “people are increasingly fed up… their voices are not being heard. And I think that can only go on for so long without there being more and more outbreaks of what used to be called class struggle, class warfare.”
One of the Robber Barons, known for figuring out the consequences of actions before most people:
[T]he problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.  
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.  
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Ferguson time a thousand.  The country will try to ignore any warning signs while getting poorer and angrier, and then one day, when the middle class is buried under parents with looted pensions and devalued houses, sons and daughters who can't go to college or find dignified work, and routine theft of their livelihood by their employers, they will start to fight back.

A lot of people will become very excited at the chance to escape from their humdrum lives. Some will join the fight,  where they will be a hazard to everyone else. Some will ignore it except to complain. Some will try to make money off of it. Most will try to desperately preserve what they already have. Only the wealthier of the top 10% will succeed.

Our nation depends on our authoritarian habit of obedience (and our greed) to keep us acquiescent. The robber barons don't really believe the sheep will ever rebel so when they do the rich will grossly overreact. They think the middle class will never fight back because they kill us whenever they feel the need. They forget that this tactic only works to a point. You can kill a bunch of African-American kids, you can kill a bunch of foreigners, you can hand over the treasury to the banks, you can rape and torture, but when the middle class realizes that they are being treated as if they are--you know [leans in, whispers], one of them, then all hell will break loose.


Megan McArdle has been much engaged with the conservative declaration of Twitter War against North Korea. She grew progressively more irritated as the day wore on and retweeted 18 other indignant tweets defending America's honor.

Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago

Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago
In fairness, lawyers probably told the chains they had no choice. If there were an attack, the chains would be bankrupted by the liability.

Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago
Nonetheless, the Greatest Generation are spinning in their graves fast enough to power a high-speed monorail between Chicago and New York.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago
Sony should immediately release The Interview online. I’d pay for it, if only to give the hackers a bit of heartburn.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  17 hours ago
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  13 hours ago
BREAKING: America apparently a nation of lily-livered pantywaists who let terrorists threats dictate which movies we’re allowed to watch.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  11 hours ago
All right, America, if we can’t watch The Interview, we have a civic duty to spend at least two hours over Xmas making fun of North Korea.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  11 hours ago
In related news, script about North Korean defectors is also in trouble. I don’t know enough swear words for this.

McArdle has said little to nothing about the release of the torture reports, ignoring it now as she ignored it then. However there is no Glenn Greenwald to point out her lack of concern for the consequences of her choices. She will be able to happily defend America's honor over a movie while ignoring America's dishonor and nobody else will notice.

She will cash another billionaire's check and go to the movies. The screams of our victims will not sully her beautiful mind--or career.

As awful as that is, Tyler Cowen embarrasses himself even more.
Megan McArdle retweeted        
Is it silly to think that North Korea probably has committed an act of war against the United States?
 He did his best to look manly but when it comes to capacity for ferocity and hatred he can't hold a candle to McArdle.

Added: I am pleased to be wrong. David Atkins displays McArdle's jingoism to the world and reminds her that the Free Market Fairy isn't an American patriot.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Her Masters' Voices

I thought it was just general contrariness that make Megan McArdle voice her support for accused campus rapists. Maybe not.

After 15 years of writing policy papers and serving as experts in the media, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a small branch of the vast-spanning Koch billionaire-funded network, has emerged from the shadows to mount an aggressive lawsuit campaign targeting campus policies and forcing universities to pay for what they deem "First Amendment" offenses. 
The result of the onslaught of lawsuits brought by FIRE will likely be sweeping changes in the way speech is carried out in day to day campus life - based on policies penned from "libertarian" interpretations of speech, often written by the right-wing group themselves.

The group itself is not limiting itself to speech policies, however, as we previously reported. FIRE has been working with students accused of sex crimes on campus and plans to litigate on their behalf. 
The implications and the fast-moving nature of the flurry of lawsuits is a bit terrifying. The funding behind them seems to have come out of nowhere. But rest assured, it's a well-orchestrated onslaught. There's been very little coverage so far of what's happening. Vulnerable universities and colleges are folding to pressure – settling these cases out of court and permanently rewriting their school's policies – for better or worse.


 This summer, FIRE enjoyed its largest Campus Freedom Network Conference (CFN) yet! In addition to great keynote speeches by journalists Juan Williams and Megan McArdle, FIRE held a student panel so attendees could hear first-hand accounts of how fellow students fought back against censorship on their campuses.

It's amazing that a journalist can have unstated ties to an organization or activities that she reports on and nobody cares about conflicts of interest, but there you go.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Foul Rag And Bone Shop Of The Heart

People take their fears and hatreds and petty sins and pretty them up with lies. They deny their feelings, reinterpret them to make themselves look more moral and caring than they actually are, and then make up elaborate rationalizations for their self-deceit.

Authoritarian children grow up angry and resentful because authoritarian upbringing requires abusive treatment. To make matters much, much worse, the child is told to be grateful for his mistreatment and love his abuser. The child does what he is told because children will do anything for love.

So he grows up angry at his parents but unable to accept that anger, which he is told is wicked, immoral, disloyal, wrong, sinful, ungrateful. The anger does not go away; suppressing emotions makes them stronger. It must go somewhere, so the angry abused child-adult looks for another target.

Our elite know this instinctively. They were once children too. This is how our elite control the masses. They give angry people a target for their anger. They give hurt people a chance to inflict that hurt on others in indiscriminate revenge. They give needy people a chance to satisfy those needs.

In other words, an ideology.

But you can't admit your ideology is simply anger, gluttony and fear. More denial, more lies, more manipulation, more suffering follow.

Meanwhile the very rich become rich beyond imagination. The bodies from the war crimes pile up. The people erupt every couple of weeks with violence when the minds teetering on the balance tip over into hysteria and anger. Lies triumph.

Torture is wrong. It hurts people terribly, unnecessarily, cruelly. It's immoral. It must be punished to stamp it out. It must be condemned so it never becomes routine. 

But hurt repressed people want to hurt others, as relief from the hurt. Ego-starved people know they would feel good about themselves if they could prove they are special. People forced to obey want to force others to obey, to normalize the abuse and in revenge for the abuse. They all hide the violence of their emotions as much as they can but constantly look for a chance to ease the pressure. They threaten violence, stoke it when they can, vote for violent leaders, and cultivate rationalizations for their harmful actions.

Which brings us to Megan McArdle, our longitudinal study in authoritarian dysfunction. But that will have to wait for a later date.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thinking Can Be Dangerous

Shorter Megan McArdle: For centuries, middle-class women didn't have to tell men "no" to sex because society punished people who had sex outside of marriage and therefore women did not have sex and men did not rape, except for a very few psychopaths. Rape culture is based on the inability of men to figure out if a woman really does want sex and lack of respect for women who do have sex.

I don't think she thinks this stuff through very carefully.

Nor should feminists be eager to help women avoid the burden of deciding, and then stating their opinion in the strongest possible terms. "No" and "I don't want to" are great tools for women to master. For centuries, society protected nice middle-class women from having to use them by deciding what we wanted, and punishing anyone who wanted anything else. Now that those rules are gone, some feminists are essentially advocating handing the burden of deciding what we want over to ... men, who are supposed to guess whether we are offering "affirmative consent," and be punished if they guess wrong.

The affirmative consent rules are, in my opinion, completely unworkable as either a social or a legal norm. But even worse than that, they give back the power we fought so hard to win: the power to make our own decisions, and then to reap the rewards, or suffer the consequences, of what we decide. "No means no" is a good enough rule.  It is not good enough to defeat every psychopath who is willing to use drugs or a man's superior strength to take what is not offered freely, but it is certainly good enough to defeat a "rape culture" that says women don't really know what they want, or deserve to have their desires respected.

If feminists hadn't gotten their women's lib panties in a bunch they would have been protected by society and wouldn't be raped so often.

Do Not Need: The McArdle Christmas List

Megan McArdle has been publishing her Christmas gift guide for years and years and one has to wonder why. Most of the items on her lists are the same. Sure, she tweaks the list a little to fit criticism or suggestions and adds a few items. Her sales patter changes slightly; some old anecdotes are replaced by new anecdotes, but there is very little reason to repeat the entire list year after year.

Maybe the items are must-have, and McArdle thinks everyone should know about them? Or maybe not.

List of superfluous items:

Most of these tasks can be done by a more universal item, are more trouble than they are worth, or are unnecessary if you have a little common sense.

Salt pig-I do not want to root around with my (wet or food-covered) fingers in an open container of salt in my hot, humid, buggy climate.

Disposal genie-Use the drain that comes with the sink.

Pizza mesh-Turn over your food half-way through cooking or use wire cooling rack, which you already have.

Surgical tongs-Who wants to use giant eyebrow tweezers to eat their food? If you can't use chopsticks you already own forks.

Giant ice cube trays-A gimmick. Learn how to mix drinks and don't let them melt. Does anyone ever have to encourage McArdle to drink up?

Twine Dispenser-Use your kitchen scissors to cut it and put the twine on a shelf out of the way. You don't use it every day.

Ball whisk-Too hard to clean, which McArdle would care about if she didn't have P. Suderman do the dishes after her little cooking experiments. You will also need giant stainless steel bowls if it is large enough. McArdle doesn't run a gastropub, no matter what she tells her liquor store.

Egg separator-McArdle's excuse for including this item is that some people have never separated eggs before but want to make an angel food cake from scratch. The egg separator will rock their world.

Gravy separator-These are handy but it doesn't really matter whether or not you pour the fat from the juice or the juice from the fat. You could also put it in a measuring cup and put it in the freezer, then lift out the fat to use to make gravy while the meat is cooling. McArdle says, "Great for anyone who does a lot of roasts and braises." Being a "vegetarian" she probably does not use it much herself.

Splatter guard-Use your silicon mitts to protect your hands.

Spill stopper-Do you know what else keeps water from boiling over? Turning down the heat.

Butter boat-I've already mocked that thoroughly.

Hand chopper-It has no control over size or shape of chop and dulls quickly.

Mandolin-Good for experienced cooks, but you can also use the Kitchen-Aid attachments, Cuisinart, or a knife. Not for the faint of heart.

2-cup saucepan-Use the microwave, which you already own.

Paderno spiralizer-use your Kitchen-Aid attachment.

Rabbit corkscrew-Use the smaller, cheaper Screwpull.

Food mill-Use a strainer, colander, or food processor.

Pourfect bowls-Use small bowls, custard cups, and portion cups, all of which you actually need/have.
Cusinart electric kettle-A Japanese or knock-off hot water pot can be left on all the time; fill it when you make coffee in the morning and have hot water all day.

ISI gourmet whip plus-I will never foam soup and I prefer soft, pillowy whipped cream, not aerated. It is a nifty gadget, especially for someone (if anyone) who will use it all the time, but I seldom used mine and a cream aerator did not improve by sitting around for years.

Chinois pestle and stand-Look at the picture. I would never use this and I doubt it does anything in McArdle's kitchen either, besides impress guests on her Kitchen Tour. It would be a nightmare to clean.

Not everything in McArdle's list is useless; as if by accident she has about a dozen items that anyone would want or need. Rice cookers, crock pots, good pans, cast iron pots, grills, and some others are all good things. But they are vastly outnumbered by the marginally useful.

Sometimes McArdle displays a basic ignorance of cooking in her recommendations.

OXO basting brush Bulb basters are basically useless for the task of basting; they fail to draw or come apart at the worst possible moment, bathing your hand in boiling animal fat. They're also no good for barbecue sauce, marinades, mop sauce or any of the many other liquids you might want to transfer onto a savory piece of meat. The answer is a basting brush, but in recent years, they've become terrible -- the bristles start coming out almost before you start using them, which is great for adding fiber to your diet but not so good for your culinary reputation. Most of the silicone substitutes keep their bristles but don't do very well at actually transferring liquid to meat. OXO has finally solved this problem, to my immense relief. I like the longer-handled model particularly -- excellent for grilling or reaching into a hot oven.

Basting brushes are usually used for spreading something thick, such as BBQ sauce on chicken or egg yolk on a piecrust. Oxo utensils are high in quality and usefulness but McArdle should tell everyone the name of the low-quality goods so they can avoid the bad and make the Free Market Fairy happy; she doesn't think of that fundamental aspect of her job.

Bulb basters suck up juice from the bottom of a roasting pan to transfer to the meat. They do not come apart in my experience, unless they are old. They fail to draw when there is not enough liquid in the pan. McArdle's brush is not made for and will not solve that problem. She could use a large spoon when she needs to scoop up juices in a shallow pan and a ladle when the pan is deeper.

Amco refrigerator magnets These are very handy references of kitchen information. My favorite is the easy guide for doubling or splitting recipes, but there are several other good ones. Yes, you can look it up on your phone, but not without getting your phone dirty.

Ordinarily I would say that this need demonstrates a lack of cooking experience but it might just be that McArdle can't divide 1/2 by 2 or multiply 1/3 by 4 no matter how many times she tries.

Let's not forget McArdle's most elite appliance, the Thermomix:  It is difficult to figure out exactly how the Thermomix works. There are no cooking demonstrations on the site but you can find some on YouTube. It seems you have to follow recipes geared towards the machine. You may not have to chop up the vegetables but you still need to cut up food to the correct measurement, and because the blade is short. You also seem to spend a lot of time punching in numbers and waiting for beeps, which might or might not be an accurate impression.

There's nothing wrong with a machine that does your work for you but it's an antiseptic approach to cooking and gives no leeway for natural variations in the food, the amount you need to cook, or more flavorful cooking methods.

Thermomix says:
Often called “the world’s smallest, smartest kitchen”, the Thermomix is more than just a blender and food processor.  Designed and engineered in Germany, and with more than 40 years of innovation, the Thermomix TM31 is the most unique product of its kind on the market today, combining into one the functions of at least 10 kitchen appliances.  It crushes, juices, whisks, whips, emulsifies, weighs, mixes, kneads, grinds, chops, purees, grates, mills, blends, sautés, cooks, stews and steams, all in one bowl that even washes itself!
In other words, when it comes to kitchen utensils and appliances McArdle is redundant many, many times over.

For cutting she has a zester, knives, a mandolin, a pizza cutter, kitchen shears, hand chopper, spiralizer, food processor, Kitchen-Aid attachments, Vitamix and Thermomix, the latter of which is supposed to replace most of the others.

For mixing, blending and whipping she has a ball whisk (and no doubt other whisks), stick blender, food mill, whipped cram aerator, food processor, ice cream freezer (which mixes as it freezes), Kitchen Aid mixer, Vitamix and Thermomix.

For cooking she lists an electric kettle, deep fryer, pressure cooker, rice cooker, gas grill, toaster oven, sous vive, Vitamix, and Thermomix.

So what's the point? Why the yearly List? Why not just list the new items? Why a very, very long list of kitchen gadgets and appliances, many of them utterly mundane, if not ugly, as a special Christmas gift-giving recommendation?

When it comes to McArdle, the simplest answer is usually the best.

As far as we know McArdle still receives a cut of the action from Amazon. Almost all of her suggestions are routed through Amazon. Christmas time is approaching and McArdle believes in gains from trade. Surely it would be utterly appropriate to make a few hundred or thousand bucks from her readers for all her hard work. Everyone must be paid by someone, and why get paid once for writing an article when you can be paid dozens of times?  Why should McArdle pay for her Christmas when she can get someone else to do it for her?

No doubt her husband would agree. After all, why should Reason's employees work hard selling ads when they can be put with a bowl to beg instead?

As far as disclosures go, well, pish-and-tush. McArdle disclosed her profit motive a long, long time ago which in her mind means that the little matter of conflict of interest is settled and done.

It is possible that McArdle severed her relationship with Amazon; in this case we heartily congratulate her for refusing to slyly use her readership to enrich herself.  It's the ethical thing to do.

If you are curious, the entire list (minus an item or two with no price) comes to $6, 672.12. (A few of those items are very deeply discounted for Christmas.)

In our next post we will discover another little goodie in McArdle's Christmas stocking: Torture.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's A Good Thing She Never Bought That Pink Gun

The chief characteristic of conservative thought might just be the desire to inflict pain on people who get in their way.

Megan McArdle in 2002 when faced with the possibility that a New York transit strike might impose on her life while she was unemployed:

  Our best hope may be that unemployed New Yorkers take to hunting down transit workers and pounding some sense into them.

 One suspect the real reason the right wanted to invade Iraq was to watch soldiers, whom they consider their proxy when they want to hurt someone, kill some barbarians. McArdle wanted protesters hit with a 2x4, she wanted transit workers on strike to get beat up, she wanted Iraqis punished for the Saudis' attack on 9/11,  and she wanted "one free Screw You" when Obamacare passed.

It might seem strange for a rich middle-aged white woman to have violent fantasies of punishing her perceived enemies but rich middle-aged white women don't stoop to violence themselves. They vote for the good-looking elite people with the right pedigree who support torture and murder and amuse themselves by imagining they have so much power they can eliminate their enemies with a few words.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thank Heaven For Daddies

Mrs. Megan "Succeed through failure!" McArdle had an interesting discussion regarding transit unions, way back in the day.  It's illuminating to see McArdle as a baby blogger, before she learned to temper her arrogance with fake humility and we shall be adding tidbits from these posts as we have time.

Let's start with this, from December 13, 2002:

Nathan, you have no idea what you're talking about on union payrolls. You are not listening to me. I spent a year doing [transit] union payrolls quite recently. Unless you have more experience than I do calculating such pay, you are not going to win this argument because I know more about it than you do.

 She said she did Xeroxing and filing at the World Trade Center. It looks as if she was actually or also doing payroll for a transit union.

[In 1985] Francis X. McArdle was named to head the General Contractor’s Association of New York. He stayed in that lucrative position for the next 20 years.

It's a hell of a lot easier to succeed through failure if you have powerful wealthy relatives, but "be born to wealth!" would make a much shorter book than succeeding through failure. Everyone assumed her dad helped her out but (possible) supporting evidence is always nice as well. It's not iron-clad but it's not like anyone will be prosecuting her for lying about and trying to rat**** Obamacare so the proof positive will have to wait.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Epic Fail"

Sadly vigilance is not always my watchword and I completely overlooked this item: The New York Times review of The Up Side of Down  [by Scott A. Sandage]. The review is most wonderfully titled "Epic Fail," so let the success through failure begin!
Books about failure put both their authors and their readers in awkward positions. Writers are at pains to abase themselves somewhat, to show that they know the terrain by sacrificing some dignity without losing all credibility. Many readers, meanwhile, may be willing to ponder how they fail or why they fear it, but few will pick up a book for people who think of themselves as “failures.” Add to this the fact that all books fail to be everything their authors hoped and that almost all books fail to sell, and it becomes clear why books about failure remain few and far between.  
Two at once is even more unusual, especially two that fail (which I mean in the nicest possible way) in different ways and take such different approaches to essentially the same question: How do we learn to stop worrying and love it when we bomb? Both authors appear to have worried about failure more than they have experienced it. Sarah Lewis, an art historian and curator who was named to O, the Oprah Magazine’s 2010 “O Power List,” celebrated her past and future failures in her college application essay (she went to Harvard) and alludes to life lessons from a janitor grandfather. Lewis invites us to think deeply about failure as a “gift” that is essential to creativity. Megan McArdle earned her M.B.A. but graduated after the dot-com bust, moving back into her parents’ New York City co-op and working part-time in her father’s firm. Eventually, she blogged her way into a journalism career at The Economist and an array of impressive print and online outlets. In “The Up Side of Down” McArdle wants to teach us how to “fail well” by changing how we react to inevitable setbacks. Chatty and digressive (six pages on her breakup in a chapter about the General Motors bailout), McArdle’s book remixes some of her magazine writing into small, easy doses.
What could be more damning than the simple truth?
McArdle has written a more straightforward if not traditional self-help book. “Since we cannot succeed simply by not failing,” she writes in “The Up Side of Down,” “we should stop spending so much energy trying to avoid failure or engineer it away. Instead, we should embrace it — smartly.” In lieu of seven effective habits, she recommends failing “early and often,” teaching failure in schools, making it easy to recover, shedding biases that keep us from perceiving our mistakes, distinguishing between novice errors and criminal ones, resisting the instinct to blame, and erring on the side of forgiveness.
In McArdle's blog posts we have seen her recommend these principles in the abstract but only call them to action whenever the financial industry is faced with regulation. She declared Obamacare doomed from the get-go.
Rooting her advice in American exceptionalism, she remarks: “Failing well can’t be that hard, because America spent several centuries being really good at it. We’re the descendants of failures who fled to these shores from their creditors, their failed farms, their disastrous love affairs. If things didn’t work out in New York, we picked up and moved to North Dakota. Somewhere along the way, we built the biggest, richest country in the world. And, I’m going to argue, we did it mostly because we were willing to risk more, and forgive more easily, than most other countries.” Later on, she reiterates “why most of us are here: because some restless ancestor got to wondering if the pastures might not be greener on the other side of the Atlantic.”
One need not have descended from involuntary immigrants, Native Americans, the landless, the unloved, the unforgiven or the Pacific Rim to recognize that if Lewis occasionally overthinks, McArdle’s weakness is blunt generalization. In an autopsy of Enron, she pauses to ask, “Why is it easy to get rich in America, and hard to get rich in Zimbabwe?” The answer (reached via detour from Enron, through the lost “communist Eden” of hunter-gatherer societies, to “the American Bourgeois Synthesis”) is “the culture and rules surrounding risk and failure.” McArdle interviews social scientists and experimental economists, invoking concepts like normalcy bias and inattentional blindness à la David Brooks. She augments the more familiar hedgehogs, foxes, blamestorming and tipping points by coining her own phrases: “Modern life has a lot of what you might call a ‘spell-check factor,’ ” for example, and “what I’ve taken to calling ‘groupidity’: doing something stupid because other people around you seem to think it’s safe.” In her best chapter, on the crushing emotional and structural costs of long-term unemployment, she offers, “The best way to survive unemployment is to adopt what you might call the Way of the Shark: Keep moving, or die.”
Catch phrases, social studies from someone who dismisses social studies, pop culture economics, self-help philosophy; truly a rehash of her blog posts. Sandage points out the central weakness of McArdle's mind and work; not everything can be extrapolated through the dim filter of McArdle's personal history. When the poor and middle class fail the results can be catastrophic. McArdle peddles her life experiences as advice since surely they are proof of her wisdom. All her failures led to her current success, therefore failure is good. And if she is wrong it does not matter; she is frequently wrong and she succeeds anyway.
... Whether one accepts Lewis’s idea that failure is a gift that keeps on giving or adopts McArdle’s advice that failing well is the best revenge depends, of course, on what you understand by “failure.” Neither book can answer that question for readers, and neither author really tries. Early on, Lewis avers that the word has no stable definition, because as soon as we try to rethink it into a boon or an opportunity, failure is no longer failure and again recedes into shadows or silence. McArdle, for her part, shrugs: “ ‘Failure’ is sort of a junk drawer of a word. We dump all sorts of meanings into it, and then when something goes wrong, we rummage around and pull one out.” This shared evasion is the only serious failure by either author, because it skirts what keeps so many of us awake at night: that we may fail simply by not succeeding, that failure may become an engulfing identity rather than an ennobling opportunity. Regenerative failure is nice work if you can get it, but what if you can’t?
It would be unfair to only repeat criticisms and not praise for McArdle's book.
This funny, cheerful look at helping teams overcome failure and find room to experiment will be a boon to business readers.” Publisher's Weekley  
“An illuminating look at the psychology behind rebounding from defeat. . . . McArdle has found a humble, intelligent way of infusing positivity and opportunity into personal losses. . . . Her message is a significant one with both personal and economic impact: There can be no vast success without initial failures, and it’s important to foster a culture of risk-takers who embrace experimentation in working outside of their comfort zones. . . . Sage counsel on how to learn from failure with humor and grace.” —Kirkus Reviews  
“Megan McArdle has written the seminal book about renewal and American greatness: The Up Side of Down will teach you to embrace failure and use it to reinvent yourself and your organization.” —Tyler Cowen
It's too bad that The New York Times has such an iconic place in McArdle's social set. It must have been difficult to realize that everyone she had ever met was going to read the review. But money is a wonderful consolation and who cares if  her illusion of intellectual superiority is fake? Her cold, hard cash is not.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Doing The Math

Shorter Megan McArdle: People should punish bad cops so bad cops won't do bad things.

All our problems are solved.

Just out of curiosity--let's postulate:

10 posts per week on average, which might be generous. This week she's posted 5 times so far and it's Friday; twice on Monday and once each other day.
works 50 weeks a year, which is very generous
that's 500 posts per year.
Let's say she's paid $200,00 per year, which is probably lowballing. It might be less and having no kids helps, but she has told everyone she has plenty of money to pay off her mortgage and save retirement funds and a cash reserve.

That means she's paid, at a very very rough guesstimate, $400.00 per vacuous post.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bootstraps Incorporated

Megan McArdle on Twitter:

Reason EIC trying to pimp out the irresistible lure of my husband. Everything they say about libertarians is true.

Reason Magazine is schnorring for donations.
Give to Reason! Because Peter Suderman's Obamacare Articles (or Star Wars Costumes) Won't Pay for Themselves! It's Reason Webathon season, ladies and Germans, which can only mean two things: 1) It is time to please give us all (or maybe most?) of your tax-deductible extra cash dollar bills RIGHT THE HELL NOW in order to secure the blessings of libertarian journalism forever and ever (or at least until next year), amen, with the crazy-ambitious goal of hitting $200,000 in donations for the week; and 2) In order to woo you, I am going to pimp out the irrestible lure of our most beloved senior staffers, starting with the one-of-a-kind Computerman, Obamacare-plus writer/reporter/editor Peter Suderman!  
So like, remember where you first heard about Grubergate? MAYBE IT WAS RIGHT HERE AT REASON, BECAUSE OF PETER SUDERMAN. Please donate today!  
Do you know how more and more people have been saying huh, this President Obama fellow, maybe he and his administration haven't been exactly square when it comes to selling their signature bit of domestic policy? Well they should have been reading Peter's great cover story, "They Lied," which was a detailed yet somehow prescient point-by-point breakdown of the dozen lies and broken promises that came with the Obamacare rollout.  
Perhaps you recall the heart-rending tale of Obamacare poster boy Chad Henderson? You know, the kid who lied to all kinds of gullible press outlets about how he was able to buy insurance during the troubled early days of the Obamacare exchanges? That lie was a Peter Suderman scoop.  
But Our Pete is no one-trick pony, no! He is also a terrible, terrible nerd, who writes about movies and television and video games and other things that humans actually enjoy more than talking about people named "Gruber." He is a frequent guest and occasional guest-host with the phenomenal Fox Business Network television program The Independents; he goes on MSNBC to take "Free Minds and Free Markets" to even more exotic locales, and remember ladies: He's married!  
Do you appreciate the work of Peter Suderman? OF COURSE YOU DO YOU ARE NOT STUPID. So: How do you get more from Peter Suderman? (A question I often find myself asking.) Well, start by donating to our Webathon THIS INSTANT, preferably with a comical suggestion about what stories Peter should (or shouldn't!) write in the next 12 months.  
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Give Reason lots and lots of money so P. Suderman, boy film critic, can continue his ratf****ing career and pay for the sous vide machine he bought his wife to go with their $1500 Thermomix. Because Reason can't survive on merit, and the Koches expect the organizations they set up to become self-supporting.

By the way, what did Ayn Rand say about donations? Mr. Jane Galt might be interested.

Ayn Rand
“It's easy to run to others. It's so hard to stand on one's own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can't fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is your strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It's easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It's simple to seek substitutes for competence--such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Not On A Bet

In 2005, Jonah Goldberg, an expert on tv, tried to make a bet with Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East. Cole refused to bet on human lives and expressed his disgust with Goldberg. Goldberg erased the post but it lingers on in quotes.
Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn’t want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I’ll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there’s another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I’m all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don’t think it’s right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I’ll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is.
When it became clear that he had lost the bet, Goldberg denied that he owed Cole. Goldberg erased that post but it too lingers on.
"E&P this morning asked Goldberg for his response, and he e-mailed: "I offered the bet in a foolish fit of pique with Cole. ... Cole refused to take the bet. ... [Now] it seems that his fans want it both ways. They want to extol Cole as a prince for not accepting the bet, but they want me to be held accountable to it even though he never agreed to it. Countless blogs have been dishonest about this suggesting I owe Cole himself $1,000."
This ancient history makes a new Goldberg post even more ridiculous than usual.
I really like Kevin’s piece today on asking pundits and other experts to put their money where their mouth is. But I have one big objection.
I am at a loss as to how Kevin who knows this terrain like an Indian scout, could leave out any mention of Julian Simon’s famous bet with Paul Ehrlich. For those who might not know, before there was global warming, a Malthusian panic stewed the bowels of the cognoscenti like so much bad gas station sushi.  Julian Simon was almost alone in deriding the Club of Rome, the Population Bomb and other claims that we would “use up” the Earth. He was derided as a fool and charlatan by his “betters” for actually being upbeat about humanity’s prospects. Ehrlich, the author of the Population Bomb, agreed to a wager proposed by Simon.
Goldberg went on to state that Simon was right about the price of commodities going down during the time period of the bet, and to add that the fact that Simon would have lost the bet at almost any almost other time and that Ehrlich was mostly right is utterly unnecessary.

So if Goldberg likes the idea of putting his money where his mouth is he can start with donating $1,000 to the USO right now. Since he received a million dollar advance for his last book we know he can afford it and it would help our Not-Yet-Fallen Warrior Heroes.

But don't be surprised if his latest post disappears as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Nature Of Protests

I don't think Megan McArdle understands the nature of protests.

Once again McArdle has been held up in traffic and once again she is outraged. The economic protests in DC made her sit in traffic, the president's motorcade made her sit in traffic, and Ferguson protests made her sit in traffic. Since Megan McArdle thinks the world is constantly trying to win her approval, she makes sure she vents her petulance to teach those dumb African-Americans a lesson.

Making someone sit in his or her car for an hour or so in order to hold a rush-hour protest may indeed get you on television. And if that person was already in sympathy with your cause, maybe they’re happy to do it out of solidarity.  On the other hand, what if that person is part of the big, messy middle who hasn’t been paying much attention to the details of Ferguson?  Now that person hates you, and by extension, your cause.  It’s a flashy protest that gets you on television, of course --  but are the folks in the big, messy middle imagining themselves in the place of a) the protesters, or b) the poor person who is going to have to skip lunch all week to make up the time he lost stuck behind your protest? 

If the answer is b), then congratulations, more people are paying attention to your cause than ever before, and instead of being apathetic, they’re actively against you.

Now look what you've done, Dark-Skinned America. You've pissed off  white-skinned Megan McArdle by making her wait in traffic and now maybe she just won't care about your little dead teenager protest thingie that you are making such a big fuss about. That'll teach you.

Now, I’m going to get some angry pushback on this from people who say that I’m ignoring historic wrongs in favor of grubby calculations about public opinion.  To which I reply: I am not ignoring the historic wrongs, which are both historic, and wrong. If you want to change them, however, you are going to need a public that supports you, or at the very least, does not actively oppose your cause.  This is a lesson that the Tea Party has been busily learning over the last few years.

If you are nice to the rich white lady she might support your cause. Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on your demeanor. If you inconvenience her or make her skip lunch she might even fight to support racism and economic exploitation! Not that she needs encouragement to do the latter, heheheh.

 Protesters need to ask themselves a similar question: “Do you want to express yourself, or do you want to actually make changes?” 
Maybe in an ideal world, there would never be a tradeoff between those two things; in the real world, however, there often is.  
Righteous fury is hard to transmit to someone else who doesn’t feel it.  And when protesters escalate their tactics in a bid for attention, they run the risk that they will inspire someone else to righteous fury -- aimed at them, not the injustice they are trying to right.

So make sure you show the proper respect and deference to the nice white people or they might get angry at you and do something in retaliation like, I don't know, shoot one of your sons. We wouldn't want that to happen, would we?

What an asshole.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Contrarian Thanksgiving!

A contrarian is a person who can convince someone to pay her for saying the opposite of what everyone else is saying, in a mistaken assumption that it makes her look smart.
So many articles on what you should do for Thanksgiving. And what you should not do. So far this season, I have read articles on why I should not eat butter, turkey, apple pie, pumpkin pie, any sort of pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing or green bean casserole. I have been told that I am "doing it wrong" or "missing out" by preparing the traditional staples of my family's table, such as orange-cranberry sauce, white-bread-based stuffing, plain mashed potatoes, or a stuffed and roasted turkey. I have read articles on how to avoid overeating by using small plates and locating the high-calorie sides on a separate table or, better yet, in a locked safe in the kitchen.
I have read articles on what salt you should use, how you should salt your food, which spices you should buy, which kitchen utensils and appliances you should buy, how you should design your kitchen, how you should use modern conveniences in your kitchen, and how you should cook instead of eat out, and all of those articles were written by Megan McArdle.
It's time for a counterintuitive "smart take":
Counterintuitive does not equal smart. Sometimes it means stupid, since it is merely the opposite take of what everyone else is saying, not the right or best take.
Eat what you like on Thanksgiving, with a due emphasis on the foods that are traditional to your family and your region. And eat as much as you want of them, without overloading your stomach to the point of illness.
Thank you for your permission, Dear Leader.
Personally, I find green bean casserole completely disgusting, so much so that I have never eaten it.
Mother: Megan, eat your green bean casserole.
Little Megan: I hate green bean casserole.
Mother: You've never had green been casserole so how do you know you hate it? The universe wasn't put here to please you, young lady. Now eat your vegetables.
Little Megan: My counterintuitive take on green bean casserole is that it's disgusting. I need no proof.
Mother: No pie for you.

That's OK! It's also OK if you love green bean casserole and wait all year to dig into its creamy depths. Pecan pie makes my teeth ache with its sweetness, but if you love it, tee up the Karo corn syrup and go to town. I think lots of spicy food on Thanksgiving is a mistake: It's mean to older relatives whose stomachs aren't so hardy, and when paired with overeating, it may result in some digestive disasters even for the younger folks at the table -- but I recognize that some people think it really wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Aunt Myrna's extra-hot Szechuan noodles. I view garlic, sour cream and other Johnny-come-lately additions to mashed potatoes as fundamentally missing the point of Thanksgiving potatoes, which is to serve as a vehicle for more gravy. But if you want your potatoes swimming in wasabi and chantarelles, or whatever crazy combination you've come up with, bon appetit. And if you want to skip the turkey in favor of barbecued pork or planked salmon, well, all I can say is: Happy Thanksgiving.
How about Aleppo pepper and herbs de provence?
Just agree to keep your hands off my pumpkin pie, m'kay? I love pumpkin pie. Not pumpkin-and-chocolate pie, or hot and spicy pumpkin pie, or honey-glazed pumpkin pie, but just a simple pumpkin two-egg custard, baked in a homemade pie crust.
She's the salt of the earth.

However that 2-egg recipe is not her Mom's traditional pie recipe. Shaving the truth until it turns red must be contrarian as well. I would give you her recipe link but it has disappeared, much like her soul.
I love a simple two-crust apple pie, without the addition of crumb topping, cheddar cheese, caramel sauce, exotic new spices or your snotty opinions about my love of such a banal and uninspiring dessert.
A simple woman.

I love my family's white-bread stuffing, heavy with turkey stock, sausage, apples and ginger, and I love it especially when fresh, hot gravy is poured over a gently steaming pile of the stuff.

A woman of the people.
I want my mother's green beans, my sister's fresh rolls and my own cranberry sauce, just like we have every year. I don't want to change up the entree or any of the sides for something more current and now. I want to feel like I'm having Thanksgiving, not a lavish dinner party of the sort that I could give on any of the other 364 days of the year.
Common clay.
Nor do I want your obesity expert tut-tutting about how the average American consumes too many calories on Thanksgiving -- 4,500 or 7,000 or whatever absurd made-up number they pulled from a tiny, unrepresentative survey of people who responded to some university's research study or newspaper poll. I do not want tips for nannying my guests into foregoing delicious Thanksgiving foods in favor of nibbling on a raw carrot while thinking healthy thoughts.
You know, a moron.

Ah, the lavish dinner parties of Megan McArdle. The lads at Reason are a lucky, lucky bunch. I would be a bit more cautious about accusing people of making up numbers, however. There's that whole "it was a hypothetical, not a statistic" thing and you don't want to remind everyone of that incident.

But, more important, it seems McArdle has not cornered the contrarian market and is less useful than she thought. She missed What is the average number of calories a person consumes at Thanksgiving dinner? by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times Food and Wine section. Mistress Quite Contrary said that the Calorie Control Council, which is passing out the 4500 calorie number, can't be right. She adds up a typical Thanksgiving meal and gets 2485, which is fairly close to the Council's 3,000 number sans appetizers, snacks and drinks. I did the same and got 2772. This does not include sodas or other drinks, alcohol, appetizers, soup or salad course, relishes, or of course seconds, a holiday tradition.

The numbers appear to be reasonable and there is no reason whatsoever for McArdle to slander yet another individual or organization by saying they make up numbers. McArdle's editors probably would agree but evidently everyone concerned thinks that the odds of the Calorie Control Council suing anyone are very small. I would not agree with that assumption, for the Calorie Control Council is the product of artificial sweetener lobbyists, which Parker-Pope did not bother to research, which is also very McArdlesque of her.

Speak of the devil:
Let me let you in on a little math:
Buckle up, folks.
Even if you actually did eat 7,000 calories on Thanksgiving, this would result in a net weight gain of less than a pound and a half.
Harvard Medical School says it would be a gain of two pounds but since McArdle is habitually off by a factor of ten this is practically right on the nose, for her.
The problem is not Thanksgiving; the problem is what you are doing on all the other days that aren't Thanksgiving. If you don't want to gain weight at Thanksgiving, eat lightly for a couple of days before and a couple of days after, and voila -- problem solved.
This is true, yet who wants to pay for true and obvious advice? Nobody. Just ask a liberal.
There is only one way to do Thanksgiving "wrong," and that is to fail to be grateful for the people you are eating it with, and the many other good people of this great nation who are sitting down at other tables. The rest is a sideshow. And don't be afraid to have another helping of that sideshow, with extra gravy on top.
Unless the other American is poor, in which case he is not sitting down at a table because according to McArdle he does not exist. Gratitude is a good thing but a contrarian like McArdle surely realizes that there are better things like refusing to be grateful for a society that tells you to eat up, have a drink, go shopping, watch tv, and forget the poverty around you.