Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ross Douthat: Bubble Boy

Ross Douthat goes for a swim.

Ron Suskind:

The aide [Karl Rove] said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

There's a problem with creating your own reality. To sustain that fiction you must immerse yourself in your fantasy world until you risk being unable to leave it for a less satisfying reality. In your head, for example, you can tell yourself that you are part of a governing class, born and bred to excellence the way God and nature intended, one of the superior men who do the difficult but necessary job of thinking and telling everyone else what to do.

Your ideology is designed around this desire and is enclosed by it. Anything outside the bubble that will pierce it is ignored, denied,  or elaborately rationalized. Anything inside the bubble is strictly monitored for potential to ruin the bubble as well.

Your reality is now your prison, and Ross Douthat's alternate reality is the size of Alcatraz.
Donald Trump isn’t the Republican nominee — yet. The people of Indiana still get a say in the matter. The people of California will still have a chance to restore a semblance of order to the universe. Carly Fiorina will get a chance to prove that it takes a female running mate to stop a male chauvinist pig.
Douthat pretends Cruz might win and his choice of a running mate is clever tactics, not useless showmanship. Fiorina will stop nobody; Trump will insult her, scoff at her, and mock her failure at business. Believe me, there's a lot you can do with someone who pretends to be adept at economics and business but has a track record of failure. Cruz is a House of Horrors so unpopular that he has fewer supporters than Dennis Hastert.

Douthat is less than convincing when standing up to the male chauvinist pigs of the world. (A term I haven't heard in a very long time. Does Douthat even know it's 2016 and not 1976? Is he just parroting what his parents told him when he was a kid?) The only difference between Trump's view of women and Douthat's view of women is that Trump appears to like having sex with them while Mr. "Chunky Reese Witherspoon" Douthat does not. Otherwise they both see women as not-people, whose lives are subject to their whims and prejudices.
But if Trump falls short, it’s going to be a matter of inches, of a handful of delegates denying him the prize. It won’t just be too close for comfort; it will be too close for those of us who predicted that he couldn’t get there to claim vindication. Our pretense to real sagacity has crumbled; only luck and randomness can save “it won’t be Trump” punditry now.

When none of his predictions come true, Douthat will forget he ever said them. Trump needs 250 delegates to reach 1237. Cruz needs 675. There are 583 delegates remaining. Fiorina will fade away. Again. The liberal-ish woman will have to stop the male chauvinist pig, as usual.

We know why Douthat didn't present the numbers: He wanted to pretend the count is neck-to-neck, and so he could say that he was right about Trump when he was wrong about Trump. Maintaining private realities is expensive. Pundits' first priority, always, is to keep the welfare flowing, so first Douthat says he was right and then he says they all were not wise about Trump.
So it’s time to start reckoning with what we got wrong. The best place to start isn’t with the Republican Party’s leaders — the opportunists, the cowards, the sleepwalkers — but with its voters, and the once-reasonable assumptions about voter psychology that Trump seems to have disproved.
THOSE people are opportunists, cowards, and sleepwalkers, not Douthat, who is right even when he is wrong. As driftglass has pointed out about David Brooks so many times, the pundits must maintain an elaborate charade in which they are not lackeys of the Republican Party's leaders. Douthat must pretend that he and his brethren did not stoke the voters' anger and give them a constant parade of scapegoats while impoverishing them, or push policies that ended up harming their followers and the country.

There are also certain factors that Douthat must omit altogether to maintain the fantasy. Douthat can't discuss Citizens United because the elite wanted nearly unlimited money in politics. For the same reason Douthat can't talk about the suffering (and insufferable) conservative voters who turned to Trump when they realized that their party had no intention of living up to its promises to improve their deteriorating economic situation.

One such assumption, that voters follow the signals sent by party elites and officeholders, is the basis of the famous “party decides” thesis in political science, which was invoked early and often to explain why Trump couldn’t possibly end up as the Republican nominee.
Republican voters were obedient to authority in the past but are not now. Douthat does not explain why because he cannot let himself see the causes. The Republican elite deliberately destroyed their followers' unquestioning loyalty by impoverishing them, the party split between two different forces, confusing their followers, and the elite demanded that the followers stop trusting elites. Douthat can't admit that his leaders are grifters and his fellow followers are bigots so he can't let himself see any sign of the grift or the bigotry.
While his progress has undercut that thesis, it hasn’t been fully disproved, since the “party decides” conceit doesn’t tell us about what happens when the party simply can’t decide.
The Republican party has been throwing up a clown car's worth of nominees for a long time. The party decided and its choices were rejected one by one. This one's too soft. This one's too hard. This one's too soft in the head. On and on, until you end up with a Romney or Trump because everyone else was a failure and time is running out.

Whether you look at endorsements or fund-raising or any other metric, that’s what happened this time: Once Jeb Bush turned out to be a bust, the party elite never managed to coalesce around an alternative (as of right now, only four United States senators have explicitly endorsed Ted Cruz), leaving their voters as sheep without a shepherd, free to roam into strange pastures if they so desired.

Voters are sheep. You heard it here first! But something else is missing here. What happened to the elite's choice, Marco Rubio? Oh yes, he flamed out as well. The sheep baaa'd and found him wanting.

Douthat goes on to tell us that primary voters are relatively knowledgeable, interested voters and therefore won't vote for people outside their party or nominees who can't win.
(yip yip yip)  
Until Donald Trump blew this model up. Yes, Trump has adopted conservative positions on various issues, but he’s done so in a transparently cynical fashion, constantly signaling that he doesn’t really believe in or understand the stance that he’s taking, constantly suggesting a willingness to bargain any principle away. Except for immigration hawks, practically every ideological faction in the party regards Trump with mistrust, disgust, suspicion, fear. Pro-lifers, foreign-policy hawks, the Club for Growth, libertarians — nobody thinks Trump is really on their side. And yet he’s winning anyway.  
Douthat is treating all this as some kind of academic exercise. Under what conditions did Trumpism flourish? Use examples.
Or at least he’s winning a plurality. So perhaps Trumpism can be understood as a coup by the G.O.P.’s ideologically flexible minority against the conservative movement’s litmus tests; indeed to some extent that’s clearly what’s been happening.
But you would have expected such a coup to be carried out in the name of electability, and Trump doesn’t clear that threshold either. Instead his general-election numbers and favorability ratings are so flagrantly terrible that he’d probably put a raft of red states in play. In other word, he’s untrustworthy and unelectable — a combination that you’d normally expect engaged partisans to consider and reject. And yet he’s winning anyway.
Douthat pretends the voters are not indulging in spiteful revenge on their leaders and are not racist, sexist, anti-Semitic or fascist.
But here the model isn’t completely broken, because a majority of Republican voters don’t actually believe that Trump faces long odds, don’t agree that he’s less electable than Cruz or Kasich (or Rubio or whomever further back). Instead, since last fall Republican voters have consistently told pollsters that they think Trump is the candidate most likely to win in November. So the party’s voters are choosing electability — as they see it — over ideology; they’re just in the grip of a strong delusion about Trump’s actual chances against Hillary Clinton.
Douthat is still pretending this election is about anything but the followers throwing out the bums that have disappointed them and voting for the noisy man who tells them what they want to hear, the way they want to hear it.
The reason for this delusion might be the key unresolved question of Trump’s strange ascent. Is it the fruit of Trump’s unparalleled media domination — does he seem more electable than all his rivals because he’s always on TV? Is it a case of his victor’s image carrying all before it — if you win enough primary contests, even with 35 percent of the vote, people assume that your winning streak can be extended into November? Is this just how a personality cult rooted in identity politics works — people believe in the Great Leader’s capacity to crush their tribe’s enemies and disregard all contrary evidence?
Douthat must pretend that Trump's rise is inexplicable and that personality cults are unfamiliar to Bush voters, or attributions of greatness in their leaders, or the desire for their leaders to crush their enemies.
Or is it somehow the pundits’ doing? Did the misplaced certainty that Trump couldn’t win the nomination create an impression that all projections are bunk, that he’ll always prove his doubters wrong?
Whatever the explanation, we’re very close to Republican voters giving him the chance to do just that.
Yes, "whatever the reason," the Republicans are probably going to nominate Trump, and Ross Douthat will never, ever admit his role in Trump's rise. So many lies, so much pretense, such an elaborate framework of deceit, and all to keep alive Douthat's power and wealth fantasy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ross Douthat: If He Can't Be Cool He'll Be In Control

After he wrote the post I discussed earlier, Ross Douthat wrote a response to his critics.

Why Is Reaction Taboo?
Remember, Douthat is trying to bring back a racist, sexist, authoritarian era, with some fascism thrown in for variety. His problem here is separating the bad aspects of authoritarianism from the good. Unfortunately there are no good aspects of authoritarianism; anything done under its mantle can also be done without it, although force makes everything easier for the ruling class, of course. Therefore his anti-#NeverReform project is doomed to fail, just as his #NeverTrump project was doomed to fail.
My Sunday column on reactionary thought — its sins, its strengths, its notable absence from the upper reaches of our official intelligentsia — was an attempt to tackle a subject that doesn’t really lend itself it to adequate treatment in eight hundred words. So let me try to tease out some of the issues latent in the piece.
Poor, dumb Ross.

His first mistake, the one that shapes all others, is considering himself as the intelligentsia. He and all his elite brethren are not the best and brightest, they are the most suitable and most servile. They make up or pass on theories developed to hide the fact that their only goal is maintaining and increasing their power and wealth or the power and wealth of their employers.

Ross Douthat is not a Big Thinker. Neither is David Brooks. Or Megan McArdle. Or Matthew Yglesias. Or fresh young thing Caroline Zelikow. They are marginal thinkers with rich relatives or patrons, but they always support the right people in their destructive causes.

First, more than a few readers interpreted the column as simply blaming a kind of academic-left conspiracy for the absence of serious reactionary thought in America. I can see why it read that way, and to clarify I don’t think that’s exactly the right way to think about it.
In other words, readers correctly stated Douthat blamed liberals for conservatives' actions but Douthat doesn't want people to correct him.
Contemporary academic groupthink certainly illustrates the absence of the reactionary imagination, and it plays some causal role in keeping reactionary ideas taboo or marginal.
"Reactionary": Racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, fascist. By Douthat's own admission.

But there’s a chicken-and-egg issue here, because you could also argue that reaction effectively discredited itself between, say 1930 and 1965 — or between the Reichstag Fire and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, if you prefer — in a way that eviscerated its position morally and made its intellectual exile inevitable. (The Second Vatican Council has a place in that generational story as well, since it was widely seen as the last bastion of Western reaction giving up the ghost.)
Nothing discredits anti-Semitism like the Reichstag. Fortunately Selma eradicated racism, however. So what's the big problem with a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, fascist party when all those nasty things ended long ago? What you have left is the right sort of reform: Authoritarianism without exploitation, racism, sexism, fascism, and anti-Semitism. In other words, nothing.

That's not what Douthat sees. He sees women willingly subservient to men and their gods. Poof! No more men holding down women because women hold themselves down. The same with African-Americans, the poor, and whoever else they scapegoat.

The fetus-humpers have their Roe v. Wade and the Jesus-humpers have their Vatican II, which opened 17 years before Douthat was born. And Douthat wasn't even raised Catholic! "“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man,” said Aristotle, but Douthat never had that formative experience in the Church. Douthat would very much like the Church to be all-powerful and infallible; his complaints about Pope Francis' words on modern families make that perfectly clear. But the Church would also have to be frozen in time like a bug in amber, to never change--and inevitably be left behind by most people as it became less and less relevant to peoples' lives. The Pope is wiser than Douthat and wishes his living Church to change and grow, not become a zombie husk.

So no, Western Civilization did not end with Vatican II, and Douthat only makes himself look weak and frightened when he says it does. Like Rod Dreher, civilization must be crumbling or tragedy will strike; nobody will buy their cures for fixing it. Although it is a little amusing to see Douthat basically blame the Church for his own racism, sexism, and authoritarianism.

If the Church is infallible, Ross is infallible because all he has to do is parrot the Church and he'll be right and an authority, a Leader. If the Church changes, especially if Ross doesn't like the change, where does that leave him? If the Church becomes less racist, sexist, or authoritarian, how does he gain? The pope is just not thinking this through.
It’s not a coincidence, in this reading of intellectual trends, that the one philosophical school within hailing distance of reaction that’s persisted in the modern university is the school of Leo Strauss, a German-Jewish emigre whose critique of liberalism was explicitly and very personally anti-fascist, whose favored pre-modern thinkers were pre-Catholic, and whose disciples have generally cast themselves as liberalism’s wise protectors rather than its subversive foes. (Not that this saved Strauss from being linked, via Carl Schmitt, to the Nazis during the anti-Straussian frenzy of the Bush era …) The Straussian experience suggests that deep critiques of modernity can claim some territory (though not that much) in the liberal academy; they just need to be sufficiently distanced from racism and anti-Semitism and unfortunately most reactionary ideas and traditions simply aren’t.
And this is the corrupt heart of authoritarianism. It is nothing but the desire to have power over others. People who feel they have no power will do anything to alleviate that fear or desire. People who have power will do anything to maintain it. The only way to get people to submit (because death is always an alternative) is to persuade them to submit. The best way to do that is to tell people to raise their children from birth to submit to authority. It is very easy; the parent withholds love and approval in return for obedience instead of giving the child unconditional love. Their parents did it and it's the only way they know to raise a child. The child becomes an adult with the pattern of obedience to authority engraved in his or her mind and it becomes his gut response to fear and need.
Now of course you can turn this around and ask, well, if reaction was discredited by Hitler and Bull Connor, by race hatred and Jew hatred, why wasn’t left-wing radicalism discredited by Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot? If this is all about moral credibility and the company you keep, why did so many prominent historians and literary critics get to keep on calling themselves Marxists after every Marxist-Leninist regime committed mass murder on an epic scale? Why are Kipling’s politics or Eliot’s or Pound’s or even Heidegger’s considered so much more “problematic” and all-discrediting than the Stalinist strain in so much left-wing historiography and philosophy and criticism and art?
I know you are but what am I?

Douthat repeats his plea from his earlier post; if liberal academics can be Marxists, why can't conservative academics be racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and fascist? The question reveals a lot about Douthat and it's all ugly.

The New York Times. Power, prestige, privilege. And it's not nearly enough for Douthat. He wants to be able to hate and control and punish as well.

Nice job, Elite. Your front man is a petty little nebbish who whines about being unable to publically force people to submit to his authority without everyone calling him a hateful bigot.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Let's clear out some Megan McArdle deadwood, working backwards:

 Go Ahead, Make Your Own Cronut:

I’ve never braved the line at Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York to buy a Cronut. My interest in doughnuts is low; my interest in lengthy lines, nonexistent.
She slept on the streets of New York for an iPhone for chrissake. Lying to yourself is not a sign of mental health.

Anyway, McArdle is all for new businesses copying other businesses' ideas because, " It would be hard to copyright a list of ingredients when a tiny change, such as adding a pinch of this or that, would effectively define it as a new recipe." And "competitors have to expend a great deal of time and money producing a facsimile of your product." Case closed; go ahead and set up a Dunking Doughnuts.

I am tempted to set up a website called Meghan McArdle's Asymmetrical Information at Blomberg and see if she protests.

Social Security or Savings? Um. Try a Little of Both If we raise Social Security taxes, producers will Go Galt.
"...[H]high earners in high-tax coastal states could be subjected to tax rates that have distorting economic effects on their output, as they decide it’s just not worth it to become a high-earning professional, or to put in those extra hours at the business.
And we would use up all the money.
It would also represent just about all of our remaining power to tax high incomes, devoted to a single program which is by no means our biggest fiscal problem.

The Neal Gabler article got a lot of press and as McArdle was able to turn an anonymous tip about Edmund Andrews into five minutes of internet fame, she couldn't resist commenting as well.

Shorter Parents Are Bankrupting Themselves to Look Adequate: It's up to the individual to give up and accept his new poverty and teach his children to be accustomed to their new class, instead of insisting on becoming competition for the people who have already sold their souls to get to the top.

Shorter Dining Out on Empty Virtue: People don't want to eat responsibly, they just want everyone to think they eat responsibly. Thus truth in food labeling is silly.

You heard her, America. It's up to you to protect businesses and the obscenely wealthy from the poor.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ross Douthat and the Pursuit Of Cool

The master race.

Ross Douthat is trying to imagine a world in which conservatism isn't a sick joke. He is unsuccessful.
OVER the last year, America’s professional intelligentsia has been placed under the microscope in several interesting ways. First, a group of prominent social psychologists released a paper quantifying and criticizing their field’s overwhelming left-wing tilt. Then Jonathan Haidt, one of the paper’s co-authors, highlighted research showing that the entire American academy has become more left-wing since the 1990s. Then finally a new book by two conservative political scientists, “Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University,” offered a portrait of how right-wing academics make their way in a left-wing milieu. (The answer: very carefully, and more carefully than in the past.)
Haidt is a perfect example of a "libertarian" academic. He interprets his data through his prejudices and preconceived notions about liberals. But conservatives are always at a disadvantage because they are usually supporting false theories. It tends to put one at a disadvantage in academia. Douthat uses questionable Haidt to prove liberals are increasingly left-wing. He doesn't look at the primaries, where Clinton, the by-far-less-left candidate, is expected to win. Douthat does what conservatives usually do, attempt to pass off ideology as data-based fact, using cherry-picked partisan scientists to support their slanted views.
Meanwhile, over the same period, there has been a spate of media attention for the online movement known as “neoreaction,” which in its highbrow form offers a monarchist critique of egalitarianism and mass democracy, and in its popular form is mostly racist pro-Trump Twitter accounts and anti-P.C. provocateurs.
On the left we have liberal academics. On the right we have racist boobs who want to have sex with robots or pretend they can become Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man.
I suspect these two phenomena are connected — the official intelligentsia’s permanent and increasing leftward tilt, and the appeal of explicitly reactionary ideas to a strange crew of online autodidacts.
I suspect Ross Douthat is a man of marginal intelligence, but I have ample proof. This is one of the right's pet theories; the right is so horribly right because the left pushed them there by being so horribly left. Unless they grossly exaggerate the left's tilt, they have no argument. Obviously that never stops them.
For its opportunistic fans, neoreaction just offers a pretentious justification for white male chauvinism and Trump worship. But the void that it aspires to fill is real: In American intellectual life there isn’t a far-right answer to tenured radicalism, or a genuinely reactionary style.
Actually there is, but as Douthat is about to acknowledge, it's a very ugly style as well.
Our intelligentsia obviously does have a conservative wing, mostly clustered in think tanks rather than on campuses. But little of this conservatism really deserves the name reaction. What liberals attack as “reactionary” on the American right is usually just a nostalgia for the proudly modern United States of the Eisenhower or Reagan eras — the effective equivalent of liberal nostalgia for the golden age of labor unions. A truly reactionary vision has to reject more than just the Great Society or Roe v. Wade; it has to cut deeper, to the very roots of the modern liberal order.
Such as the Enlightenment, the eternal Satan in conservatives' Garden of Eden. The entire idea of progress and equality must be eradicated. The right, as Douthat demonstrates here, reject the greater equality between worker and boss, which spread prosperity instead of concentrating it into a few hands, and are nostalgic for all that was bad about that era: white male supremacy. The Reagan era helped eradicate economic equality so naturally they are nostalgic for every bit of that halcyon time.
Such deep critiques of our society abound in academia; they’re just almost all on the left. A few true reactionaries haunt the political philosophy departments at Catholic universities and publish in paleoconservative journals. But mostly the academy has Marxists but not Falangists, Jacobins but not Jacobites, sexual and economic and ecological utopians but hardly ever a throne-and-altar Joseph de Maistre acolyte. And almost no academic who writes on, say, Thomas Carlyle or T. S. Eliot or Rudyard Kipling would admit to any sympathy for their politics.
That's because they're fascists and racists. This is the kind of intelligentsia Douthat wants, because what he really wants is to restore white male Christian supremacy. This is something that nobody will acknowledge in Polite Society. Douthat should have been tarred and feathered and ran out of town on a rail but here he is in The New York Times preaching Dominionism to cronut-eating "sophisticates."

But what can one do when the world is divided into liberals and neoreactionsists? The racist, sexist, fascist scum want to be admired, respected, put into the Koch Toilet Paper Seat Of Learning and paid lots and lots of lovely money. Just like liberal academics!

So far the conservative intelligentsia have a slight problem persuading anyone to take racism, sexism and fascism to heart. They have determined that the best method of persuasion is as follows:

1. Announce they have an idea.
2. Admit it's a stupid, racist, sexist, fascist idea.
3. Tell you that you should believe them anyway because Fairies.
Which is, in a sense, entirely understandable: Those politics were frequently racist and anti-Semitic, the reactionary style gave aid and comfort not only to fascism but to Hitler, and in the American context the closest thing to a reactionary order was the slave-owning aristocracy of the South. From the perspective of the mainstream left, much reactionary thought should be taboo; from the perspective of the sensible center, the absence of far-right equivalents of Michel Foucault or Slavoj Zizek probably seems like no great loss.
Yes, it is a problem when your "reactionary style" on the right is little more than racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and fascism. In fact, you might start to wonder why Douthat is looking for a reactionary right to counter-balance the reactionary left. They do not seem to be nice people and will not help his cause, which is a theocracy in which Ross Douthat, a white (very), male (by default), Christian (theoretically), straight (also by default) person is the pinnacle of humanity.
But while reactionary thought is prone to real wickedness, it also contains real insights. (As, for the record, does Slavoj Zizek — I think.) Reactionary assumptions about human nature — the intractability of tribe and culture, the fragility of order, the evils that come in with capital-P Progress, the inevitable return of hierarchy, the ease of intellectual and aesthetic decline, the poverty of modern substitutes for family and patria and religion — are not always vindicated. But sometimes? Yes, sometimes. Often? Maybe even often.
What a pathetic desire. It's both contemptible and horribly sad. I can't imagine what it would be like to have returning to a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic past (with a little fascism thrown in) as your most heart-felt desire.

The "inevitable return of hierarchy": an authoritarian division of people by class, sex, race, and ideology--with Ross "Fucking" Douthat on top, naturally. "The ease of intellectual and aesthetic decline": an art world designed by Thomas Kincaide and an intellectual world designed by its most mediocre minds. "The poverty of modern substitutes for family and patria and religion": (Partial) freedom from male control over sexuality, the (partial) equality of the sexes instead of being suppressed and held down in a pink ghetto, the freedom to worship or not as one sees fit. He's a sad little man.

But there's a strange irony in this mental masturbation. (Naughty touch, Ross!) Douthat used to live in that Utopia; he went to an exclusive prep school, although he complained it was not exclusive enough. Still, it was massively hierarchical, with one's family, religion and country determining one's place in the hierarchy. It should have been Heaven but instead it was his Hell.

For even when Ross "Fucking" Douthat lived in the best of all possible worlds, he was still low man on the totem pole. He wasn't popular with the ladies or the guys, and never became a Leader of Men. When he went on to Harvard it was even worse because his expectations were higher. Because Harvard! But no, Douthat was once again rejected by all the cool kids and it didn't matter that he had the right bona fides because there was always someone whose fides were a lot more bona.

So even if God descended from Heaven and bestowed his Holy Grace in the form of Infinite Cool upon Ross "Fucking" Douthat,  Ross Douthat would still be the least of cool men and still be excluded from the top echelon of Cool.

But if Infinite Cool depended on your religion and how loudly you proclaim your religiosity, Ross would be the coolest. If people who are turned off by sexual independence are raised to the Cool Leadership, Ross would leave those good-looking, richer, better-connected Cool Leaders in the dust. And if Ross kept shouting Family! Family! Family!, maybe people will forget that Ross was raised by the wrong sort of people, people who failed at being liberal but became very good at being conservative and still did not have the Grace to send their only son and (half) heir to a prep school that would have certainly gained him admittance to the better clubs. If only....

But no matter where you go, there you are.

Pale, clumsy, and plain. Smart, but not smart enough. White male, but not male enough to lead others. Christian, but not charismatic enough to pass as a Patriarch. Just not good enough in this world of woe. So he wants to change the world. He wants to tear down the old order and create a new one in which he'll rise to the top--against all logic, history, or biology. He will never get what he wants but he doesn't mind destroying a bunch of lives while he tries.

Both liberalism and conservatism can incorporate some of these insights. But both have an optimism that blinds them to inconvenient truths. The liberal sees that conservatives were foolish to imagine Iraq remade as a democracy; the conservative sees that liberals were foolish to imagine Europe remade as a post-national utopia with its borders open to the Muslim world. But only the reactionary sees both.
 Iraq-as-democracy was what, the third? fourth? rationalization for invading Iraq. Douthat must squeeze the truth until it fits into his narrative. Liberals did not imagine any Utopias, no matter what any elite says. The elites told their followers that the lesser of two evils is the best of all possible worlds and the followers mostly believed them. By now Douthat is strangling the truth to get it to fit.
Is there a way to make room for the reactionary mind in our intellectual life, though, without making room for racialist obsessions and fantasies of enlightened despotism? So far the evidence from neoreaction is not exactly encouraging.
Yet its strange viral appeal is also evidence that ideas can’t be permanently repressed when something in them still seems true.
There are a lot of things that are not repressed on the internet. I suggest Douthat should not look for them, to spare his virgin eyes. Meanwhile, no, we are not going to usher in Douthat's Utopia of Me with welcome arms. Or, to spare the man, a soft handshake.

Maybe one answer is to avoid systemization, to welcome a reactionary style that’s artistic, aphoristic and religious, while rejecting the idea of a reactionary blueprint for our politics. From Eliot and Waugh and Kipling to Michel Houellebecq, there’s a reactionary canon waiting to be celebrated as such, rather than just read through a lens of grudging aesthetic respect but ideological disapproval.
I'd love to see those banners. Celebrate our racist past! Bow before your God! Know your place!
A phrase from the right-wing Colombian philosopher Nicolás Gómez Davila
You have to be kidding me. Doesn't Douthat realize anyone can google his dropped names and see exactly how appalling they are?
could serve as such a movement’s mission statement. His goal, he wrote, was not a comprehensive political schema but a “reactionary patchwork.” Which might be the best way for reaction to become something genuinely new: to offer itself, not as ideological rival to liberalism and conservatism, but as a vision as strange and motley as reality itself.
That's vague enough to get a book out of it, although Douthat will have a lot of competition in that market. There's no end of people who write about their desire to go back to a time of white supremacy.

I bet none of them would think Douthat is cool either.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It's Not Just Great, It's Uber!

I wonder how Megan McArdle feels now that she knows Uber will turn her data over to the state if it is requested. Uber released a transparency report and says it released data on 12 million riders to law enforcement and regulators. They gave data about "trips, trip requests, pickup and dropoff areas, fares, vehicles, and drivers." Of course McArdle has nothing to worry about but she's more than a little paranoid about the government's tentacles wrapping themselves around her and smothering her with its road repairs, airplane inspections, and clean water.

Since nobody can do anything ever, there's nothing McArdle can do about it. If Uber were to change its policies, drivers would lose their jobs and she doesn't want that. And she has nothing to worry about because she doesn't do anything wrong. She's not using stolen credit cards or committing fraud and nobody will subpoena her information, one presumes. She's not one of those libertarian hipsters that buy herbs that are not yet legal in DC. Nobody cares how many times she visits bars or where those bars are.

Since corporations are people, we would never want to stifle their free speech by forbidding them from releasing data.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Two Degrees Of Separation

Photo credit: from tengrain

Where's the world's tiniest violin when you need it?

Let's dispose of this one quickly so I can get back to earlier stupidities.

Ms. "What conflict of interest?" McArdle spoke up in support of yet another Koch-suckled think tank; it seems that for no reason, the Virgin Islands told the CEI that they weren't going to put up with CEI's lies anymore because people are getting hurt and VI wanted to see CEI's phone so it could read everything CEI said about Global Warming in the locker room when the coach was in her office. Megan is besties with CEI so of course she's all upset about The Betrayal.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is getting subpoenaed by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands to cough up its communications regarding climate change. The scope of the subpoena is quite broad, covering the period from 1997 to 2007, and includes, according to CEI, “a decade’s worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEI’s work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information.”
My first reaction to this news was “Um, wut?” CEI has long denied humans' role in global warming, and I have fairly substantial disagreements with CEI on the issue. However, when last I checked, it was not a criminal matter to disagree with me. It’s a pity, I grant you, but there it is; the law’s the law.
(I pause to note, in the interests of full disclosure, that before we met, my husband briefly worked for CEI as a junior employee. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.)
McArdle proves her impartiality by linking to the CEI and not an actual news source. That is interesting because:
So if the only support for your positions comes from movement think tanks (plus maybe a few marginal academics), your position is probably extremely weak. Indeed, if someone from the other side were pulling the same trick, you would be the first to notice this. Independent studies commissioned by think tanks are especially suspect. You can't check their calculations, and survey design is easily manipulable to get the answer you want.
That's why I rarely grab, say, a Heritage or CEI study on the minimum wage and offer that as evidence for my claims. As it happens, on this issue I broadly agree with them. But even if I were willing to vouch for their numbers, it's pointless, because no one who disagrees with me would accept them. So I go to the BLS, the Census Bureau, the CBO, the JEC, the GAO, or an academic study instead. In cases where I can check some of their numbers, I'll use it as a secondary source. But it's never my primary source for a policy position.
And that is interesting because most of her ideas regarding climate change seem to come from Jonathan Adler.
Last week, when I was all over the Heartland fakes, people demanded to know why I don't post more about the problem of global warming, if I'm all in favor of a carbon tax and all. That's a somewhat complicated answer, so bear with me.
The first reason I don't post a lot is that I'm not an expert, and I'm not planning to become one. I've basically outsourced my opinion on the science to people like Jonathan Adler, Ron Bailey, and Pat Michaels of Cato--all of whom concede that anthropogenic global warming is real, though they may contest the likely extent, or desired remedies.
If they say the planet is warming, then I trust that this is very likely to be true--not just because I like them, but because if you've convinced leading libertarians that humans are contributing to global warming, you've convinced me.
Yet another interesting fact is that McArdle guest hosted a post by Jonathan Adler that laid out his views on global warming. Adler said he believed in global warming but... and the buts were so numerous they added up to doing nothing but minimizing concern about global warming. McArdle's view are nearly identical. McArdle might not link to CEI papers but she links to the guy that writes some of them.

CEI is a notorious climate denial factory. The CEI has been funded in part by EXXON Mobile, Texaco, Amoco, and the pipeline-owning Koch brothers, and is heavily involved in climate change denial.
Over the last few weeks, separate months-long reporting projects by the nonprofit InsideClimate News and by a collaborating team from Columbia University and the Los Angeles Times have revealed new information about what the energy company knew about climate change and when it knew it. The reports state that starting as early as 1977—more than a decade before former NASA scientist James Hansen’s famous Senate testimony that first brought widespread public attention to climate change—scientists at Exxon had discovered their product contributed to the problem in a big way, and hid the results from public view.
Sen. Sanders sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday citing the reports and calling for a federal investigation. At issue is whether Exxon and other oil companies may have worked together for decades to deliberately mislead the public of the dangers posed by climate change and fossil fuel burning.
“These reports, if true, raise serious allegations of a misinformation campaign that may have caused public harm similar to the tobacco industry’s actions,” Sanders wrote. “Based on available public information, it appears that Exxon knew its product was causing harm to the public, and spent millions of dollars to obfuscate the facts in the public discourse.”
The two journalistic teams used internal company documents dating back to the late 1970s as well as interviews with former employees to show that while Exxon’s own scientists were at the forefront of scientific understanding of the potentially severe impacts of global warming—performing some of the original research, in many cases—its executives chose to fund a public relations campaign to play down the connection to human activities. The Times story focuses on how the company used this scientific knowledge to plan its activities in the Arctic, including to measure the impact of melting permafrost on its pipelines.

So McArdle is telling us that the CEI are climate denialists with whom she disagrees and rarely links but she agrees completely with CEI's Johnathan Adler, to whom she has repeatedly linked and even promoted his work. Adler claims to believe in anthropomorphic global warming while actually undercutting it and McArdle does the same, both saying that nobody can do anything ever. Except strengthen property laws and reduce regulations, of course.

And last but not least, P. Suderman, boy Koch-fed veal, worked at CEI, which cannot possibly affect his wife's viewpoint in any way. It's unlikely she would want to defend her husband's former employer to minimize the damage to his reputation from working at a climate denial chop shop.

If P. Suderman had a paper route as a child I would look for the Koch signature on his check.

Peter Suderman served as CEI's Assistant Editorial Director and Technology Analyst until March 2007, during which time he grew the position to incorporate his talent for multimedia editing and production. He is now living in New York City, writing film reviews for National Review Online, and continues to write regularly on technology, media, and culture.

Peter also serves as Associate Editor of Doublethink, the quarterly print magazine of the America's Future Foundation. He recieved a degree in English with a minor in Film Studies from the University of North Florida, where he worked as an editor and columnist at The UNF Spinnaker. His writing has appeared in The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner, National Review Online, Reason, The American Spectator, AFF Brainwash, and other publications.

Heh. "Doublethink." Two English majors with no training in health care policy (or health care or policies) are writing about it for online magazines and making a small fortune doing it. Our elite meritocracy at work.

Speaking of the law, why on earth is CEI getting subpoenaed? The attorney general, Claude Earl Walker, explains: “We are committed to ensuring a fair and transparent market where consumers can make informed choices about what they buy and from whom. If ExxonMobil has tried to cloud their judgment, we are determined to hold the company accountable.”  
That wasn't much of an explanation. It doesn't mention any law that ExxonMobil may have broken. It is also borderline delusional, if Walker believes that ExxonMobil’s statements or non-statements about climate change during the period 1997 to 2007 appreciably affected consumer propensity to stop at a Mobil station, rather than tootling down the road to Shell or Chevron, or giving up their car in favor of walking to work.
That quote wasn't in McArdle's first link so she had to have looked around to find it. It is very odd that she did not link [to the charges]*. I can only surmise she did not because a link would have ruined her little story, something we often see. Perhaps she did not want to be nominated for a "McLazy" twice in one weekend.

Somewhere she must have seen the actual charges against CEI, which are violation of the RICO act; obtaining money under false pretenses. I seriously doubt McLazy read the subpoena but she must have seen some account of the charges. Ordinarily it would go without saying that a journalist would find out what the charge was as a necessary part of her article but this is McArdle so journalism standards are completely optional.

Let's pause for a second and Marvel at the massive stupidity of her response to the subpoena. Yesterday I tried out 3D glasses for the iphone. At one point I was surrounded by superheroes. Iron Man stood right in front of me. The Hulk sailed through the air over my shoulder. It was incredible; a total immersion experience. A Megan McArdle post is just like that. When you are in McArdle's head you are bombarded with insultingly deliberate stupidity. Massive logic holes open up at your feet. Ideas and facts sail over your head. Ideology wraps around you. You're not skillful enough to manipulate any of the images or play the game but that's okay because when people die you can just reboot the game and your lies and mistakes disappear and you get to start anew.

ExxonMobil conspired to hide evidence of climate change that they themselves gathered. One of the wingnut welfare factories they funded was CEI. Evidence of climate change would lead to action on climate change (hypothetically) and oil companies would lose money. Billions, maybe. McMoron continues her habit of libeling people she doesn't like and branches off into gaslighting.

It's delusional to think Exxon paid CEI to obfuscate about climate change because telling people about global warming would not make them walk instead of drive and finding out Exxon hid data will not make people stop buying their gas. Therefore AG Walker is delusional and McArdle's all "um, whut?" about the great big noisy fuss over nothingburger.
State attorneys general including Walker held a press conference last week to talk about the investigation of ExxonMobil and explain their theory of the case. And yet, there sort of wasn’t a theory of the case. They spent a lot of time talking about global warming, and how bad it was, and how much they disliked fossil fuel companies. They threw the word “fraud” around a lot. But the more they talked about it, the more it became clear that what they meant by “fraud” was “advocating for policies that the attorneys general disagreed with.”

Actually, they mean "having engaged or engaging in conduct misrepresenting its knowledge of the likelihood that its products and activities have contributed and are continuing to contribute to Climate Change in order to defraud the government of the Unites States Virgin Islands and consumers in the Virgin Islands" in violation of laws forbidding obtaining money by false pretenses and conspiring to obtain money by false pretenses. Fraud is not merely a policy that the attorneys general disagree with. McArdle avoids discussing facts so she can better defraud consumers by conspiring to obtain money by false pretenses; that is, pretending to be an impartial, knowledgeable journalist whose job is to inform her readership.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the game away when he explained that they would be pursuing completely different theories in different jurisdictions -- some under pension laws, some consumer protection, some securities fraud. It is traditional, when a crime has actually been committed, to first establish that a crime has occurred, and then identify a perpetrator. When prosecutors start running that process backwards, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re looking at prosecutorial power run amok.
Tell that to Eliot Ness. But McArdle's purpose is to gin up indignation about lying scum of the earth poor, beleaguered CEI, not tell the truth. Or even the whole story. As far as we know she hasn't even found out what the charge is.
And that approaches certainty when attorneys general start sending subpoenas to think tanks that ExxonMobil might have supported. What exactly would the subpoena prove? That ExxonMobil supported opinions about climate change? That the opinions tended to be congruent with its own interests? That this opinion might have been wrong, and if so, might have encouraged wrong beliefs in others? This is a description of, roughly, every person or organization in the history of the world, not excluding attorneys general. It’s also not illegal. Especially since, as the New York Times points out, “the company published extensive research over decades that largely lined up with mainstream climatology.” This isn’t preventing consumers from buying into a Ponzi scheme; it’s an attempt to criminalize advocacy.
By carefully being "unaware" of the facts, she can pretend they are not being accused of hiding data. Incredibly, she uses the fact that Exxon found evidence supporting man-made climate change decades ago to exonerate them.  And she accuses the government of stifling constitutional rights and criminalizing advocacy. Of course.
I support action on climate change for the same reason I buy homeowner’s, life and disability insurance: because the potential for catastrophe is large. But that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to drive people who disagree with me from the public square. Climate activists have an unfortunate tendency to try to do just that, trying to brand dissenters as the equivalent of Holocaust deniers.
Dissenters have successfully held off action for four decades. We have already gone over the 2 degree tipping point. We might have sealed our own doom, far, far earlier than we thought probable. We might have sentenced our children's children to suffering and early death. It is all so big and horrifying that we can't even talk about it. These climate deniers will kill millions. Maybe all of us. We are damned by our own greed and willful blindness.

And here comes Miss Megan McArdle to support them in their murder and treason. Lying, deceiving, omitting, obfuscating, just like always.

What does she care? She won't have any kids and when P. Suderman realizes that his McArdle stock is going down while his Hot Intern stock is rising and shorts her, she won't care a bit about his little kiddies. In the mean time she is rich and slightly drunk and very happy.

It's an understandable impulse. It seems easier to shut down dissenters than to persuade people to stop consuming lots and lots of energy-intensive goods and services.
Bite me.
But history has had lots and lots of existentially important debates. If you thought that only the One True Church could save everyone from Hell, the Reformation was the most existentially important debate in human history. If you thought that Communist fifth columnists were plotting to turn the U.S. into Soviet Russia, that was also pretty existentially important. We eventually realized that it was much better to have arguments like these with words, rather than try to suppress one side of them by force of law.
Is she sure she believes in climate change? Because none of those things are real.
Unfortunately those who wield the law forget that lesson, and we get cases like the CEI subpoena, intended to silence debate by hounding one side. The attorney general doesn't even need to have the law on his side; the process itself can be the punishment, as victims are forced to spend immense amounts on legal fees, and immense time and money on complying with investigations. (And if the law were on the attorney general's side in a case like this, then that’s a terrible law, and it should be overturned.)
I think a lot of prosecutors would be very unhappy if you got rid of the RICO act and a lot of mobsters would be very happy.

McArdle has once again hit her sweet spot, where she is prominent enough to make a boat-load of money but not prominent enough to be held responsible for her own words. She can insinuate the CEI is being hounded by a probably illegal and definitely unconstitutional vendetta for the sake of AG's pet projects and suffer no repercussions.
Prosecutors know the damage they can do even when they don't have a leg to stand on. The threat of investigation can coerce settlements even in weak cases.
The enemies of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and ExxonMobil should hold their applause. In a liberal democracy, every guerrilla tactic your side invents will eventually be used against you. Imagine a coalition of Republican attorneys general announcing an investigation of companies that have threatened state boycotts over gay-rights issues, and you may get a sense of why this is not such a good precedent to set.
She's concern-trolling our planet's death.

If Republican attorneys general want to boycott states that grant civil rights to gays they are free to knock themselves out. They would rather have money, however, so it's a deliberately stupid threat in a deliberately stupid post by a deliberately stupid pundit.

*corrected "charges" for "quote"

Friday, April 8, 2016

Work Product

The Hunting Of The Snark To Do List For: The Award-Winning Megan McArdle Post On Global Capitalism

1. Research connection between McArdle and Freddie de Boer
2. Investigate  possible connection between Iraq/CPA's missing billions and Ayad Allawi's Panama account.
3. Research war profiteering as part of American corruption.
4. Research shell corporations starting with basic definitions.
5. Research internal US tax shelters, starting with basic definitions.
6. Find examples of Westerners hiding money from taxes.
7. Research local versus global economy.
8. Find and assess McArdle video on capitalism vs. socialism.
9. Research tax cheating in US.
10. Find old McArdle posts saying tax cheats can't be caught. Review.
11. Write First Draft.
12. Edit.
13. Review
14. Edit
(15. Find illustration.)
16. Post.

Megan McArdle's To Do List For Next Post: The Award-Winning Megan McArdle Post On Global Capitalism

1. Google "Panama Papers" Copy URL from likely source. Skim article.
2. Find a couple of quotes from libertarians or memory . Cut and paste.
3. Google "US citizens Panama Papers" Copy 2 URLs from likely sources without reading them.
4.Write article.
5. Post.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Announcing The Megan McArdle Prize For The Most Easily Refuted Argument

I hope to write a Much Longer version of this Shorter tomorrow. Megan McArdle has outdone herself. She has written a post on the Panama Papers and summed up the whole experience by saying that the banking records leak reflects well on capitalism in general and Americans in particular.
What we’ve seen from the papers so far is not so much an indictment of global capitalism as an indictment of countries that have weak institutions and a lot of corruption. And for all the outrage in the United States, so far the message for us is pretty reassuring: We aren’t one of those countries.  
(yip yip)  
Trying to lump all these behaviors together under the rubric of “global capitalism” distorts the term to uselessness. While the economy is certainly more global than it used to be, most capitalism is local. There is, of course, a fair amount of interaction between economic elites. Nonetheless, most of those people still live under local law and local government, and make their money in a particular local economy. When some of those people break their local laws, this is not some sort of collective enterprise that indicts everyone, everywhere.  
(yap yap)  
What we seem to have learned from the documents so far is that this particular sort of corruption isn’t a big local problem for the U.S. We do of course have some law breakers, because there is no such thing as a law that won’t be broken. But it seems to be a minor, furtive thing, rather than the mass habit you see in parts of the developing world. The IRS is very good at finding offshore tax cheats, and getting better all the time. I am confident that if U.S. scofflaws should be revealed by these documents, the tax authorities will waste no time ensuring that they get what is coming to them.  
Other governments may fail to enforce their laws, perhaps because the named figures sort of are the local government. That is a big problem. But that doesn’t mean that it’s our problem. Global capitalism didn’t create the issues plaguing weak states. And global anti-capitalism won’t fix them, either.
The Panama data leak was the biggest ever and only a small amount of information has been revealed. It was from one bank out of many that hide money. More on that tomorrow.

But--and this is the funny part--McArdle links to an article that completely disproves her theories regarding why few American names were revealed. It turns out that it's easy to hide money inside the US so there is less need here for off-shore accounts and most Americans prefer hiding money in the Caribbean anyway, not Panama.

For these and other crimes against humanity I have created The Megan McArdle Prize (nicknamed "The McLazy"), to be given to the pundit with the most easily refuted post of the year.

John Podhoretz's Twitter claim (now deleted) that there are no male leads in Star Wars movies is the first nominee for the next prize but he will have to up his game if he (or anyone else) wants to win the Cup from its namesake.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Short Note On The Psychology Of Democratic Elite

Charles Pierce:
The Sanders campaign, and liberal voters in general, seem to be getting on the candidate's [Clinton] last nerve, and I'm not sure I understand why.
Democrats expect to hold the virtuous positions in comparison to their opponents. Republican leaders feed their followers' fear and anger, Democrats feed their followers' sense of virtue.

But Sanders is taking all the virtuous positions in this race and harshing her buzz. Elite Democrats want to win more than they want to be virtuous but they become confused and angered when they don't get their proper due.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Fine Grasp Of The Obvious

Shorter Megan McArdle: Making marijuana legal won't stop the cartels from selling other drugs.

Well, yes, that's true. And obvious. But the main point is that  nobody can do anything ever.
This offers a lesson for policymakers -- and not just those who focus on drug policy. Often in policymaking there are no backsies; undoing some policy mistake gives you very different outcomes from the ones that you would have gotten if you’d never tried it in the first place. That’s not an argument for never experimenting, but it is an argument for caution. You break it, you own the outcome.
Strange that McArdle wasn't as cautious when it was time to invade Iraq or bail out the banks.

A Modest Reminder of Your Place In Society

Imagine that you are a middle-aged, upper class person in America right now. You're doing all right. You're making good money. Your future's so bright you gotta wear shades. Your possessions are ego-gratifying. Your family is well-provided for. Your kids go to college and you and your friends and associates will be able to help them get beginner jobs that will lead to good careers. Your political candidate usually wins, or at least makes you feel like you are a winner. You have freedom and some leisure and eat very well. Naturally you don't want anything to change.

How are you to know you are special if you are just like everyone else, or at least the top percent of everyone else? As libertarian Brad Bird said in The Incredibles, if everyone is special, nobody is special. Most people must be below for a few people to rise above. There must be poor so some can be obscenely rich.
The problem is that growing numbers of people are experiencing the imperfections of free markets right now. The industries that supported their parents have disappeared. They see no path to the financial security that Americans once felt. So what if the market liberals are perfectly correct? So what if this impersonal system of specialization and exchange has produced the greatest flowering of prosperity, health and opportunity in human history? That's small comfort to those Americans who are not feeling prosperous or healthy. That's small comfort to the Americans who have lost opportunities while others have gained them.
Higher taxes could lower your social and economic standing, something that is all-too-likely these days. Free college would ruin the experience for everyone else; the schools would be crowded and an elite education would be far less prestigious and unique. Your kids didn't work that hard to let everyone else just waltz in. Income inequality, as Megan McArdle reminded us, is difficult to eliminate when the rich are very happy with their circumstances and see no reason why those circumstances should change.

This time is "the greatest flowering of prosperity, health and opportunity in human history." Nobody who counts wants that wonderful, perfectly balanced system to be thrown into chaos by socialists. Don't they know that the only thing keeping the mob and violent individuals from killing people is the firm hand of the upper class, enforcing the suppression of public anger, maintaining income inequality, and enforcing political impotence?

Added: Our elite tell us we live in a meritocracy while doing everything humanly possible to eliminate competition for themselves and their children.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Shedding A Tear For Humanity: The Uber Dilemma

Megan McArdle on her way to the airport. Will the servant problem never end?

“Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations that've long since bought and paid for, the senate, the congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pocket, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and the information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them.”
George Carlin

It is extremely galling to see professional pundits paid to propagandize their lies and misdirections. It is even more galling to see professional pundits paid to lie about their propagandizing. Now that the inevitable results of their previous actions have finally arrived the pundits are lying again, telling everyone that they were just trying to help but mistakes were made and now they know much better and are even more qualified to help people than before.

First, a shorter.

Megan McArdle: Uber might not be such a great deal for drivers and passengers after all.

Now a longer, because what McArdle does here is (predictably) very dishonest. McArdle just loved, loved, loved Uber. It would shaft all those greedy taxi drivers that took so much of McArdle's money when all a girl was trying to do was save money for more kitchen appliances by squeezing the lower class man who drove her inebriated self home. (One can only hope that she tips her bartender but no doubt she is plagued by greedy servers as well.)

Uber also represents Freedom!! to McArdle. What could be better than a bunch of wealthy investors finding a way to extract more money from the poor and putting that money in her pocket? Anyone who tries to take away her right to do whatever she wants is an enemy and McArdle wrote many articles in Uber's defense.

No doubt it is a complete and utter coincidence that the Koch network supported Uber's legal challenges to the present taxi system. McArdle probably didn't even know who paid for the lawyers she met at Uber rallies. Which is more likely, McArdle supported a Koch cause to keep the gigs flowing, or McArdle was too lazy, incurious, and unprofessional to look up the background of her interview subjects?

Some questions have no answer.

Don't forget that McArdle knew every objection anyone wrote about the effect of Uber on workers and responded to many of them. She simply explained them away.

Let's start with her past coverage of Uber, not in chronological order:

Why You Can't Get A Taxi: Uber provides plush taxis at the push of a button for lower prices by avoiding regulations, which destroy the taxi industry and create all the ills of getting a taxi ride.

McArdle's claims about Uber:
1. Getting a cab is faster and more efficient because it's based on math.
2. Cars are always well-maintained and available regardless of you race, ethnicity, or location.
3. Drivers are better off because they don't have to bribe dispatchers anymore.
4. Uber is set up to make drivers a lot of money.
5. Uber eliminates jumped fares.
6. Uber eliminates offensive fares, who can be banned.

Direct quote: "Uber is a great idea."

Who's Afraid of Uber: Uber isn't helping to create a gig economy; the media just thinks it is because they are afraid of being dependent on freelance work.

Uber Serves The Poor By Going Where Taxis Don't: I don't like Uber because it saves me money, I like it because it helps the poor. Uber eliminates the need for regulations, makes it easier for cabbies to get return fares, costs the poor less for rides, and is more efficient than taxis.

Employee Label Would End Uber As We Know It : If Uber has to follow regulations regarding safe working conditions and benefits it will go out of business and drivers will be put out of work.

Uber Makes Economists Sad : New York is regulating surge pricing, which makes economists sad because it will put drivers out of work and prevent riders from getting a taxi.

The Price Is Right, Or Uber Will Raise It : Uber is cutting driver's pay. This is risky but if anyone can pull it off, Uber can!

Gig Economy is Piecework, But This Isn't Dickens : If taxi rides are cheaper, more people will want taxis. If some workers are harmed that doesn't mean the labor market is harmed. [Note that this is contradicts her minimum wage argument: some workers lose jobs from a minimum wage increase therefore the labor market is harmed.] Piecework is trivial harm next to automation and outsourcing.

But the times, they are a-changin'. Now McArdle must acknowledge that our brave new economy isn't always perfect. First she acknowledges that adding in another middleman who takes a cut might not be the best thing for a driver barely getting by.

 Sure, an app might streamline things a bit, adding enough value to let businesses expand their reach or lower their prices a bit. But since the app itself has to take a cut in order to pay back those investors, there actually isn't much room to deliver massive savings.

McArdle ignored or explained away nearly every criticism of Uber when she was promoting it. Now she's pretending she's making a timely assessment of the company's progress when she's actually pretending to care about the poor drivers.
This explanation makes sense to me. But a niggling doubt remains at the back of my mind: Does even Uber live up to the hype of being "Uber for X"?

And here is the Big Lie. McArdle never has and never will approach an economic argument honestly. She ignores anything that might harm the success of her propaganda. She is not a journalist or analyst. She is a propagandist who is trying to preserve her value in a changing market.

I’ve been writing about Uber since close to its inception, and I’m a big fan of the service. Its original incarnation as a method of summoning black cars was revolutionary for those of us who live in neighborhoods without reliable taxi service or a clear and safe route from the subway at night. (This no longer describes my neighborhood, actually, since there’s been considerable residential development over the last few years. But at the time Uber launched, my nearest Metro stop was in the middle of a sea of office buildings that tended to be deserted after 7 p.m.)

Its original incantation existed solely in McArdle's imagination, fed favorable information by the Koch-supported legal team at the Institute for Justice. She said she "bumped into" him at an Uber rally.
As I made my way toward the door, I bumped into Robert McNamara, the attorney fighting against many taxi regulations, who was there as an interested observer. “I’m impressed by how professional this is,” he told me.
She did not say that he litigated cases against taxi regulation for the Institute. She is deeply, deeply corrupt. Or ignorant. Or both; I like to be inclusive.

 Robert’s work has resulted in court victories for property owners fighting eminent domain abuse, tour guides fighting unconstitutional restrictions on their speech, taxi drivers seeking the right to own their own business, and many others.  In addition, Robert directs the Institute’s transportation-related litigation nationwide and was co-counsel in Flynn v. Holder, IJ’s landmark challenge to the federal prohibition on compensating bone marrow donors.

McArdle goes on to say that Uber has done good work in destroying the "local taxi cartels" but maybe unloading all the expenses on the worker while taking a cut of his profits wasn't such a good deal for the driver.

But the more I talk to Uber drivers, and read the message boards, the more I wonder if we aren’t in a bit of a golden moment for Uber -- the moment while there’s still a lot of investment money to subsidize operations, and before drivers realize that wear and tear on their cars is actually an enormous hidden cost that needs to be accounted for in calculating their hourly earnings.

Note that McArdle doesn't actually do the math, which is probably wise under the circumstances. The CPER did, using figures from the IRS. But if you ignore numbers you can ignore facts.

I say this because I’ve started to hear drivers talk about people they know who dropped out because of the wear and tear on their cars -- something that I never heard a couple of years back, even though I often asked about it. (Yes, in the height of all journalistic clichés, I usually interview drivers.) It also shows up on bulletin boards like The volume of complaints about wear and tear on the cars seems to be rising, often coupled with complaints about the fare and reimbursement cuts that Uber has pushed as it tried to break even.

McArdle never discussed Uber drivers' expenses. I found seven posts on Uber and re-read them twice. I might have missed a reference but I don't think I did. McArdle mentioned the cost of cleaning the car after drunk riders vomit but that is the only reference to expenses besides gas and time. This type of dishonesty is utterly typical of McArdle. All she has to do to preserve her ego and reputation and usefulness is to lie or shade the truth or simply omit it. Naturally she is corrupt.

She pushed "Uber is uber" over and over and over and didn't say one word about who was funding some of its most expensive anti-regulation activity: the Koches. She is so corrupt that she thinks her actions are natural. And now she wants to teach us how to help the poor.

The world is insane.

This is obviously far from scientific data, but it makes a certain amount of sense.

Hahaha. Try using data some time, Princess.

Most people are not accountants or small business owners, and it doesn’t necessarily occur to them that they need to calculate their hourly wage for Uber driving net of tires, oil changes and depreciation on their vehicle, as well as gasoline and any costs they incur for having the car cleaned after some barhopper vomits in it. That may have enabled Uber to sign up people who were willing to drive for a lower price than they would if they were fully factoring in all their expected costs.

I doubt that. But if it's true, McArdle did her best to encourage their continuing ignorance.

But that’s a strategy that doesn’t last. The reason that I have been asking Uber drivers about it for so long is that, well, like I said, I usually interview drivers about their jobs. And taxi drivers, longtime professionals, are acutely conscious of the cost of replacing their tires, their oil and their vehicle. Which they need to do a lot more frequently than normal commuters.

McArdle promised her readers a "sleek black sedan" that would be "well-maintained" unlike those nasty taxis, which can't afford to be nice because they have lower fares than Uber. Now we see that Uber drivers can't afford repairs either.

I’m not accusing Uber of bad faith here; I’m just saying that over the past few years, the company has probably benefited from a pricing anomaly in the market for drivers. (Not to mention a recession that kept a lot of potential drivers un- or underemployed.) As information about the cost of vehicle maintenance spreads, that pricing anomaly will go away. At which point, it seems quite likely to me that either the pool of drivers will shrink, or the fares will have to rise toward something closer to what we pay for taxis.

You know who could have helped eliminate asymmetrical information? The media, doing its job to prevent the market from losing equilibrium when the consumer has no idea what the producer is up to. But-and here's the weird thing-the media doesn't do its job because the producers own the media.

Oh well. Success and failure are both structural and not-structural so there's nothing we can do about that. Some silly people might think that pointing out in excruciating detail the propaganda that passes for journalism would be effective but those people are just not very bright.

That’s not the death knell for Uber, of course. It provided a valuable service even when it was just a virtual dispatch for black cars. UberX also adds real value to the market, although I think perhaps not quite as much value as passengers and drivers currently perceive. And they’ve continued to innovate, with ride-pooling, and things like takeout delivery services. I would be very surprised if the company were not around, and quite profitable, in 10 years.

But I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that I’m not taking quite so many Ubers, as the prices rise to bring passenger demand into equilibrium with a willing and informed supply of drivers. The taxi industry will stay disrupted. But the resulting transformation may not exactly be a revolution.

And what's a little creative destruction between friends? Or between industry and its workers?