Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

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"


Downpuppy said...

Adler is the creep behind the challenge to PPACA that claimed there were no subsidies on the Federal exchanges. He's a major reason the reputation of the CWRU law school is in the toilet. Maybe less than Dean Mitchell, who was trying to screw everything that moved and intimidate everyone who wouldn't hold still, and of course the administration that took Mitchell's side, but still, a major part.

Anonymous said...

She also used to cite Derek Lowe every time on pharmaceuticals who clearly has a major major slant.

Anonymous said...

"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."

But we jailed or harassed a lot of Commies and alleged Commies first. Curiously, she doesn't cite that as an example in favor of her side.

In fairness to McArdle, the RICO act has been horribly abused. But yeah, this post seems carefully structured to show how totally unbiased she is even though the other side is wrong.

cynic said...

And in other (not so surprising) news, Mr Brooks has a sad. This time, unusually for him, his solution is explicitly stated:
"If we’re going to salvage our politics, we probably have to shrink politics, and nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within. We probably have to scale back the culture of autonomy that was appropriate for the 1960s but that has since gone too far."

Shorter Brooks: Won't the peasants please stop revolting so we elites could continue to generate prosperity for them? Please?

Susan of Texas said...

"Middle-ring relationships also diversify the sources of identity. You might be an O’Rourke, an Irish Catholic and a professor, but you are also a citizen, importantly of the Montrose neighborhood in Houston."

Was Brooks was in Houston for the NCAA championship??

I've lived in Montrose for my entire adult life. I saw it go from middle-to-upper-class gentrified-gay and slightly seedy to upper-class gentrified-yuppie to *very* rich hipster. But parts of it and nearby areas are poor, and many brand-new immigrants live in those areas and work in Restaurant Row or construction or grocery stores and so on.

There is no "community" in the sense Brooks is talking about. Our Free Market means I am surrounded by restaurants, massage parlors, vape parlors, and half-built luxury apartment towers, which are very new in Houston. In time this will be like Manhatten's Upper West Side and I will be gone, unable to pay the taxes on our old post-war cottage. I never seen neighbors unless they walk their dog.

Everything that Montrose used to be is disappearing, swallowed up by the rich who want to live in a fun area. Like everywhere else, the local membership web consists of the people with money and power who do what they like and everyone else who do what they must. Montrose's identity changes with its wealth.

Our fireman are professionals, not volunteers. The neighborhood watch is the city cops, who I see hanging out around the bubble tea place (beautiful Japanese girls) a lot. River Oaks, Southampton etc have private cops as well to make sure the color chart isn't violated. The elementary PTA was stuffed with important women, wives and executives and scientists and professors, some of whose children were nightmares of arrogance and cruelty.

But the big picture is that Brooks is babbling total bullshit and knows it. The Republicans are monsters and telling us that it's all our fault for not knowing our neighbors is the slimiest of buck-passing.

They don't get it. They went to the well one time too many. You can't un-disillusion people.

I hope his ending is very ugly. I predict they find him naked in Washington Square, putting diapers on pigeons.

Downpuppy said...

As the long time caretaker of the Thomas Friedman Breakdown Watch, I must, regretfully inform you that Brooks doesn't care enough to have a breakdown. His Suit of Respectability is bulletproof, his Hood of Forgetfulness can always be recharged.

Susan of Texas said...

Aargh. There goes my fantasy.