Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Less Tall Megan

This is Rumplestilskin. He, like the contents of these recaps, is short and evil.

Some shorters:

Maybe Crime's Not Rising, But If Voters Think It Is....

McArdle fact-checks Donald Trump and determines crime is not rising. Then she throws it all in the crapper.
Whatever the underlying reality, people are more concerned about crime than they were a few years back, and as politicians discovered in the 1960s, the public is very sensitive to any perceived increase in public disorder. I suspect that those perceptions have more to do with the riots that have filled our television screens in the last two years than they do with a significant increase in the average American's personal danger of being victimized. But whatever the cause, politicians will have to contend with the effects.
(Corrects when the crime statistics were released in first paragraph.)
I left the correction in because it amuses me.

"Whatever the underlying reality" is another keeper. The journalist corrects the record (all the cool kids are doing it) but then ignores reality to blame Black outrage over indiscriminate murder. Of course she believed all the racist propaganda shoved down her throat with a boot, but they're not depraved, they're just culturally deprived.

Affordable Housing Is Easy. In Theory.

You poor people sure are shit out of luck.

The Depression Was Great For The American Kitchen

This one was precious.
I’ve always wanted to read a good account of how American food was transformed by those years, so I was pretty excited when a reader alerted me to "A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression," by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe.
As someone who has herself published a book, I know that there is no more tedious and dispiriting review than “The author wrote the book they wrote, rather than this completely different book I’d have been much more interested in.” So I’m not going to review the book, other than to say that they have discerned their task pretty narrowly, making it mostly into an account of the inadequacy of food relief efforts during the Depression.
Hahaha! "I hate people who do this thing that I am about to do." McArdle really hates to read about capitalism's victims.

Of course McArdle goes on to rhapsodize about kitchen innovation and the wonders of new refrigerators (for those who could afford refrigerators) and frozen food (for those who could afford food).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Liar Shocked By Lies!

Trust me.

I've been writing about Megan McArdle for almost 10 years now. It's been a hard slog at times; McArdle has few ideas and it's very difficult to come up with new snark the 259th time I write about McArdle's healthcare lies. But incredulity keeps me coming back. How can she get away with lying so often about so much? The answer is self-evident: she's not paid to tell the truth, her readers don't want the truth, and McArdle wouldn't know the truth if it pulled up next to her in an Uber cab. But as many times as I tell myself that the reason is obvious, I still am flabbergasted every time.

One of the bennies of our truth-optional society is that Megan McArdle can write a long post criticizing Clinton for lying and nobody (nobody that counts) will point out her rampant hypocrisy. Isn't that nice for her? Billionaires pay her to be a hypocrite and liar AND she gets paid to scold other people for lying! Gross income inequality sure is great!
I checked in on the morning news on Sunday to find Fox News reporting that Hillary Clinton had been rushed away from the 9/11 memorial she was attending, and had appeared to faint as the Secret Service herded her into a waiting van. Her press pool was prevented from following. What followed was perhaps the most amazing spin cycle of my media career, unfolding in 140-character, exclamation-point-ridden indignation modules.
First the veracity of Fox was questioned, and its reporting compared to some of the conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health that have been circulating on the internet. Then video appeared, showing exactly what Fox’s source had said: she’s leaning on a concrete post for support, tries to get into the van, and then her knees buckle and she has to basically be lifted by the people around her. The Clinton campaign said that the candidate had “overheated” and was resting comfortably at her daughter’s apartment.
Take that, liberals! Fox wasn't lying, for once! Of course they tried to exaggerate Clinton's illness into anything that would prevent her from winning and make Trump president as well, but we aren't supposed to care about that.
Liberal New Yorkers rushed to paint the city as a sort of Death Valley of the East, its streets littered with the fallen bodies of those who had dared to step outside for more than a few minutes. Eventually someone on Team Clinton seemed to realize that the “overheated” story was making her sound like a frail old lady and we got a new story: Clinton had pneumonia.
I was on Twitter at that time as well. Everyone said it was hot outside. Not satisfied with exaggeration, McArdle moves quickly to speculation. The Clinton team must have panicked and "we got" a new story!
Now the spin began rotating fast enough to power a high-speed monorail.
I was curious enough to look this up, and I still have no idea what she's talking about. If she is referring to Maglev trains, apparently there is no spinning involved, just magnetic repulsion and a lot of stabilization.
There was no story here except the one about a brave politician who had disregarded personal sickness to pay tribute to the victims of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Belonging to the party of Trump is killing her elitist soul.
Clinton had gone to work sick because “that’s what women do.”
McArdle tweeted that she and lots of people worked when sick. So there!
Anyone still talking about her health after this remarkable display of physical stamina was a scurrilous partisan and a bad journalist.
Poor, poor, victimized conservatives are just trying to elect a narcissist authoritarian and the mean Democrats are making fun of them!
UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman had the tweet that I think best captured the flavor of the exercise: “Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un shakes the world with the spirit of Juche by collapsing at a military parade.”
Yes, mindless support for a leader belongs to conservatives and liberals better remember that.
To state the obvious: Obviously Hillary Clinton’s health matters, and the public has a right to know whether she has the physical stamina to be president. Obviously Sunday's events are a real story, not only because of what happened, but because the Clinton team lied about it. If it didn’t matter, why did they lie, and hide it from her press pool?
That's a great question. Why did Megan McArdle lie about health care statistics? What did she get out of it? Money? Perks? Jobs? The thanks of a grateful Koch brother?
Perhaps less obvious, but also true: this whole cycle was straight out of the playbook that worked for Bill Clinton for many years. Hide, deny, lie, and when that lie breaks down, spin another while surrogates and supporters attack. That playbook lost its mojo on Jan. 19, 1998, when the Drudge Report broke the story of Monica Lewinsky's presidential trysts. It has been steadily getting less effective since that day. Unfortunately, the only person who doesn’t seem to realize that is Hillary Clinton.
Because McArdle is dishonest, she pretends that Clinton is secretive out of stupidity, instead of necessity. Clinton has been the target of the wingnut welfare system for most of her adult life and she has learned to be excessively cautious.
I will hardly be the first to observe that all of us, and especially famous people, now live in a digital panopticon, where at any moment our actions may be observed, videotaped, and uploaded to the internet. Nor that the web has democratized publishing, creating what law professor Glenn Reynolds has dubbed “an Army of Davids” willing and able to attack the powerful.
That same "army" mocked Clinton for pointing out it exists.
Nor that the amazing proliferation of data and records on the web has given those Davids an array of weapons far more powerful than a slingshot. Why has the news not yet reached Hillary Clinton?
If you collapse in public, and you are famous, the odds that this event has not been captured on someone’s cell phone are starting to approach zero. And the odds that this video will be seen by virtually every American are starting to approach 100 percent because there are no longer any gatekeepers to bully. Trying to control stories like the old Clinton spin machine did is like trying to fight World War II with tactical maneuvers that worked for Caesar’s legions.
Politicians control spin!  News at 11!
Nor is this the first time that Clinton has had this problem. She tried to keep her e-mails secret by building a private server that was eventually going to come to light.
So did everyone else, evidently.
When it was discovered, her early stories about it were nonsensical to anyone who knew anything about technology.
That is, people who are not McArdle.
They were bolstered by easily checkable statements that were at best half-truths and which were almost immediately exposed.
You know who else makes easily checkable statements that are at best half-truths and which are almost immediately exposed?
When she finally gave a press conference, she played dumb and evasive as the public’s trust in her plummeted. She then swung to a series of new statements which were progressively shown to be untrue.
This drip-drip-drip of revelations had been worse for her than if she’d been more forthcoming in the first place, because it turned a bad one-day story into a months-long Technicolor saga.
McArdle is lying by implication, pretending that the Wingnut Wurlitzer doesn't exist.
This problem could have been avoided if she had simply recognized that the old world was gone, and that the new one offered no safe hiding places. Just as she could have short-circuited Sunday's disaster by announcing, well before the ceremony, “Secretary Clinton has walking pneumonia, but it’s under control and she feels very strongly that she needs to be there to honor the victims of September 11.”
The right would have immediately called for her resignation. Which is exactly what happened.
If Gabriel Rossman perfectly summed up the spin cycle yesterday, David Axelrod perfectly summed up the problem beneath it: “Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What's the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”
Unfortunately, there’s now a possibility that even if such a cure is found, for Hillary Clinton, it will come too late.
Have I mentioned lately that Megan McArdle is a lying liar?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cela Ne Peut Pas Etre Un Etre Humain

Matthew Yglesias at work.

Because Matthew Yglesias is a soulless, calculating, automaton and fake journalist hack, he wrote a post arguing for less government transparency. Because Megan McArdle is a soulless, calculating automaton and fake journalist hack, she wrote a post complaining that if the government gets to avoid transparency, so should businesses.

The money shot:
Moreover, customers also have a voice in how businesses run, because they can move to a competitor if they don’t like your performance. Arguably, this gives them more control over businesses they deal with than over their elected officials, which is why you get better customer service from your cell phone company than from your local purveyor of building codes. Why, then, should I have a right to know not only what options Goldman Sachs sold me, but what they thought of them, if similar government deliberations are shielded from view?
We want to see the internal deliberations of Goldman Sachs because that protects us against fraud. But consider how you’d feel about a presidential administration that sold its new health-care overhaul by saying, “If you like your plan you can keep it,” and then later discovered that this was untrue. Then consider how you’d feel if its leaders knew that this promise was false and made it anyway. Even a well-run administration will make honest mistakes. But an administration that lies about one policy proposal will probably lie about them all, and you’ll want to adjust your faith in its promises accordingly. Which means you have a stake in knowing, not just what happened, but the internal process that led to that promise.
Goldman, Sachs sold bad mortgages and then bet against them. McArdle doesn't want you to know that second part. Of course this lucrative deceit has nothing to do with Obama's predictions for Obamacare, all of which suffered from constant Republican undermining and the need to get the approval of the medical field and drug companies.

This is what passes for clever in McArdle's eyes.

Title corrected.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Recommended Reading

Andrew Johnston at The Literary Dissection Tray is winding up his dissection of David Brooks.  I especially liked this part:
Brooks probably does wish he was a better man, maybe even one of those Great Men that are so central to his paleoconservative worldview. The problem is that the transformation that he himself describes demands way too much of him. He preaches the need for a worthwhile vocation even as he clings to a job he hates for the easy paycheck. He instructs others to ignore the external joys of prestige even as he gladly accepts the accolades showered upon him by his peers. He demands that others confront their wretched and sinful nature even as he denies ever doing anything wrong. He speaks of the virtue of the private life even as he grants himself the privilege to judge the private lives of the poor from afar. He wants everyone else to sacrifice while he stays the same.
And really, that describes Brooks most of all. He walked down the road to character, met himself eight times and found the promised land which was right back where he started. Would that we could all get paid for such things.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Greed Might Not Be Good But It Must Be Protected

After everyone else had already done the hard work for her and after she had been conspicuously silent, Megan McArdle finally came up with a post on Mylan and the EpiPen. It took a threat from Hillary Clinton to get her to respond; she was uninterested in discussing Mylan until it looked like the government might actually do something about drug company price gouging. Hurry, McArdle! A corporation needs protection!

McArdle begins her little plea by telling her readers that if they don't know about EpiPen they must have been living under a bushel. (Or they must read her column.) McArdle, however, knows everything and now that someone else has reported, digested, and printed the information, she is here to tell you all about it.

McArdle flatly states that greed made Mylan raise prices. Actually, a person raised prices, a person who should be unable to go out in public without hearing hisses and boos. McArdle usually adores talking about CEOs and their brilliant business skills but for some unknown reason she does not discuss Heather Bresch herself.  McArdle explains that the reason Mylan raised prices was the lack of competition, and because the FDA made it too difficult for competitors to get to market.
These artificial barriers to entry are why we keep seeing huge price spikes for various drugs. Now, it’s worth noting that these spikes don’t necessarily last very long. With the exception of some new, expensive and very valuable drugs, such as Opdivo for cancer or Sovaldi for Hepatitis C -- drugs for which there isn't a good alternative -- competition eventually becomes a problem for price-hiking drugmakers. Patients and doctors will eventually switch to another product if the price gets too high, and I’m sure that in the wake of all these news stories, there are now a lot more doctors asking patients whether they want an EpiPen or an Adrenaclick. Eventually, that competition should push the price down even if the government doesn’t do anything.
This paragraph is stuffed with lies and deception but it would take about two hours to research and correct every error and lie, and I have work to do. Unlike McArdle, I can't have someone else do the preliminary work for me while I drink, shop, and google my name looking for compliments, and then write up a blindly pro-free market tissue of lies and hit print.

McArdle's post(s) on Sovaldi were as filled with deception as all her other posts. The price of Sovaldi went down only after the government investigated them and mandated discounts. The drug company solution for astronomical prices is to hand out coupons, but most people would rather use coupons for things like soda and shampoo, not life-saving drugs.

But now that we know greed will check itself, what about Clinton's plan? McArdle says we should do what Alex Tabarrok tells us to do, having no thoughts of her own. McArdle also repeats her lies about drug innovation depending on the high cost of drugs in the US, because being a hack means never having to say you're a liar. Tabarrok says that we can solve these problems with FDA reciprocity with Europe. Any drugs approved there will also be approved here, and the government can temporarily buy European drugs when the price in the US to high.

These solutions would do nothing to solve the problem of greedy drug manufacturers, they would only make the greed more palatable for voters/customers. The government should always negotiate when buying drugs, but the pharmaceutical lobby is too powerful. It's odd that McArdle would ignore their lobby, as she was so very concerned with prison guard lobbies. But eradicating the problem would cut profits, so what is a Free Market Fairy to do?

As always with McArdle, the only thing that counts is eradicating regulation.
Beyond that, we should have a good long think about what the FDA does. A lot of the reason that it can be so hard to get new drugs and devices approved is that the FDA too often wants those drugs and devices to be perfect -- at least as good as anything already on the market and preferably better. And it does not really consider factors such as “It’s cheaper,” or “It will keep the other companies honest” when passing judgment.
We should learn a lesson from this episode. But the lesson is not, “We need more government and less market.” The lesson is, “We need more market -- which means we need better government.”
It seems that the free market might not be entirely free after all, therefore we should continue to regulate only enough to let CEOs kill the poor and rake in billions without interference.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Public Prisons, Private Profits

This is Bernie Madoff's prison. He's high on the production chain.

Megan McArdle has shown an extraordinary devotion to the profits of the health care industry, but she is not a one-trick pony. She also supports making a profit off of the justice system, namely, adding a thick padding of profit onto the taxpayer's prison bill. People who are wealthy and well-connected can make a small fortune off of the private industry/public administration/intellectually intimidating academic circular track. Her social class and network of Ivy League school chums will reap the benefits.
If you’re in the business of running a private prison, you’ve had a bad couple of weeks.
Naturally, McArdle looks at the problem from the point of view of a CEO, although she will never be one. Was she disappointed when Tim Robbins' character escaped from Shawshank Prison?  Did McArdle root for the Nazis when she watched The Great Escape? By escaping from the prison, the allied prisoners were misappropriating their place in the production chain of Farben and Siemens.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced that the U.S. Justice Department would be reducing its reliance on private prisons after a report by its inspector general suggested they weren’t doing such a great job.
McArdle, as always, attempts to minimize any damage to corporate images.
Now the government is looking at ending the use of private facilities to detain illegal immigrants. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called it “an important step in the right direction” and “exactly what I campaigned on as a candidate for president.” Investors weren’t such big fans; shares of prison corporations slid accordingly.
You think profiting off human misery is all fun and games until the evil government takes away your ball.
This is undoubtedly a victory for people who have campaigned against privately managed prisons.
People don't make logical decisions based on data, they have quirks and likes and dislikes, and those are the basis for their decisions. Their ideas come from nowhere, or maybe everywhere.

But is it a victory that the rest of us should celebrate?
To answer that question, we need to know whether private prisons are better or worse than public ones — which is to say, we need to know what there is to dislike about private prisons.
No, we need to look at the data, or read the people who looked at the data.
Here are the main candidates I’m aware of:
That "I'm aware of" is classic McArdle. She could research but eh, but why bother?
1.“It is morally wrong for corporations to profit off the mass incarceration of millions of people in this country.” (Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California.)
2.Private prisons cannot be run as well as public ones, because the profit motive will always cause them to cut corners and deprive the inmates.
3.Whether or not private prisons could theoretically be run as well as public ones, empirically they aren’t.
4.Private prisons create a powerful lobby that will influence legislators to increase our already staggering incarceration levels.
5.Private prisons are apt to have more variance. There will be more good ones, and also, more bad ones.
The first idea plays a strong role in our national debate, even though I think that it’s logically incoherent, for reasons that Michael O’Hare has laid out. All sorts of corporations profit off of the incarceration of millions of people in this country: the makers of guns, razor wire, steel bars and armored vehicles, for example.
Watching McArdle think through moral arguments is hysterical. O'Hare pulled one line off of a fundraising email (which I can't find online). He ignored the fact that a profit-making enterprise will expect to constantly increase profits, a huge incentive to cut labor costs and other expense, all of which have a negative impact on prisoners' well-being. It is moral to care about other people. It is immoral to put profit before human life. It is moral to close for-profit prisons.

And I happen to have the Presbyterian Church of the US, the United Methodist Church, and the Catholic Bishops of the South right here with me, agreeing that private prisons are immoral.

O'Hare's response ignored human well-being to discuss people as consumers, whose fate is determined by their position in a production sequence.
As O’Hare notes, “What Harris says implies that every potato on the inmates’ plates, and every brick in the building, and all the guards’ shoes, must be made by a government agency (or, I guess, donated by a nonprofit), or right there in the prison. Maybe it would not be morally wrong if all that stuff were just confiscated from farmers and manufacturers to be sure they don’t profit? Does she demand that the prison be built entirely by inmates and civil-servant hardhats?”
You don't want to eliminate profit from shoe manufacturers, do you? So why do you want to eliminate profit from human misery? Likewise, slavery was part of the slave-molasses-rum production sequence, so you can't mess with slavery.
On the other hand, despite my basically libertarian beliefs, I was prepared to believe the second and the third arguments. There are some services for which it is hard to make a market, like police forces, and when we find one of those services, we generally have the state provide it instead.
There is a thriving market in private security but it would be incredibly expensive for the rich to protect themselves and their property in every location at every time. They need the police so they are happy to let the taxpayer pay pick up the tab. Free market for thee, socialism for me.
There are reasons that it might be hard to draw up a good contract that lines up the incentives of these kinds of providers with the public’s interest in, say, having a well-run prison that doesn’t abuse its inmates.
Do tell.
Probably the most important feature is simply that the primary “customer,” the inmate, lacks the exit rights that are so important to making markets work.
The problem with conservative pundits is not that they made a few mistakes. The problem is that conservatives reject or ignore data that doesn't confirm conservative ideology. The free market must prevail, so incarceration must exist on a free market basis. McArdle arbitrarily decides the prisoner is the customer, not the product being serviced. It is so obviously wrong that even McArdle must concede the product has no rights, so she can blunder on and give her bullshit defense for monetizing human beings.
If Sears cheats me, I can take my business to another store. Prisoners cannot take their business to another prison. And while contracts can be written to try to enforce quality as well as price metrics, these metrics are cruder than the kind of discipline afforded by a regular market.
So the prisoner isn't a customer, but will be considered one for the purpose of this fake persuasive essay.
That’s why I tend to think that the government should buy its pencils on the open market and run its social services with in-house staff rather than outsourced private agencies; one can be bought in a normal market where customers have exit rights, and the other can’t.
She is as believable as Trump, too. McArdle believes in whatever will benefit her.
But then I actually spoke to some defense attorneys, in Hawaii and the District of Columbia, and it turned out that some inmates actually prefer private prisons — even though in the case of Hawaii, that means a long plane trip to the mainland for family who might want to visit you. Why? Because the mainland private prison wasn’t as overcrowded as the one in Hawaii. They could have televisions in their cells. It had a nice area that allowed “contact visits” — where you can sit down with your family members instead of talking to them across a glass window -- with vending machines where they could buy snacks, and, as one attorney put it, “Have a little picnic.” Here in Washington, a friend who’s a public defender told me, the private prison is right next to the public prison, and there was a period of time where the public one ended visits (which are quite expensive for the prison), and the private one let them go on.
Warden: Ms. McArdle, this is Inmate 8375037.

Megan McArdle: Hi. Why do you like public prisons over government prisons?

Inmate 8375037: They're great, lady. We throw picnics in front of the vending machine and watch tv. My family is happy to chip in so my mother can spend hundreds of dollars to visit me.

McArdle: That's great!

Inmate 8375037: Can I have my blanket back now?
That’s not a slam-dunk case in favor of private prisons, of course, but as someone who favors incarceration reform, it seems to me that we should care what the prisoners prefer. And from what I can gather, it’s not clear that prisoners view private prisons as worse than public ones, though they’re not really overfond of either.
They are not overly fond of either types of prison. Imagine that. Maybe it's not all picnics and butterflies. But why would McArdle care one way or another about prison reform? The idea must have just popped into her head.

I guess the world will never know.
Nor do we have better metrics that might help us make a better decision; data on prison performance and even prison costs is hard to gather, and the best summary of the research out there seems to be equivocal.
Let's cast our minds far, far back in time, to the first paragraph of this endless ode to human misery. McArdle mentioned the Department of Justice report on private prisons, which she minimized by downgrading its conclusions to "suggested [private prisons] weren’t doing such a great job." That was a set-up so she could pretend that nobody knows anything ever, and therefore one shouldn't do anything to upset the perfect equilibrium of the free prison market, unless one wants to remove checks and balances, of course.

        I spent about three seconds googling and then read the report. It is not clear why McArdle refused to do the absolute minimum requirements of her job.

(Heh, it's perfectly clear. She's a hack, a word that goes back to "hackney," a horse especially bred for riding and driving. They have an excellent, slightly showy gait, strength and stamina, according to Wikipedia. Hackneys became popular as hired horses, and a hack became slang for a horse that was easy to hire and ride. The parallels to hack writers are obvious.)
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated this review [of private prisons] to examine how the BOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons] monitors these facilities. We also assessed whether contractor performance meets certain inmate safety and security requirements and analyzed how contract prisons and similar BOP institutions compare with regard to inmate safety and security data. We found that, in most key areas, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions and that the OP needs to improve how it monitors contract prisons in several areas. Throughout this report, we note several important corrective actions the BOP has taken, in response to findings and recommendations in our April 2015 audit of the Reeves County contract prison, to improve its monitoring of contract prisons, including in the areas of health and correctional services.
As we can see, data wasn't too hard to gather, and the best summary was not at all equivocal. Wingnut welfare jobs are awesome.
Private prisons are certainly awful places. But public prisons are also awful places. Prison is awful, no matter who is running it, so that doesn’t really tell us whether governments or corporations will do a better job. Until there’s better data, I’m agnostic on this point.
Corruption is easy. The banality of evil includes lazy indifference, coupled with a profit motive. McArdle ignored the data and then lied about it.

For it is not impossible to find information on prison spending either. It's incredible that McArdle doesn't address the arguments. She simply lies and says data doesn't exist, as if public prisons don't have budgets and reports. It's a step up from lying about data, but not a very high one.

After telling us that there's no way to tell if private prisons are worse than public prisons, McArdle announces that there's also little difference between public prison guards or private prison owners lobbying for more and harsher prison sentences.
What about lobbying? I don’t think the evidence merits the conclusion that private prisons are a unique threat. Prison-guard lobbies are powerful, arguably more so than the private companies, and they lobby for all the tough-on-crime laws that you would expect from a group with a financial interest in incarcerating as many people as possible.
Someone has been whispering fully formed thoughts in Mrs. McArdle's ear. I wonder who.

Eventually one thing becomes clear: McArdle is so busy thinking about the poor beleaguered private prison CEO that she forgets all about the lower classes, namely the prisoners, their families, rank-and-file prison guards, and taxpayers in general. She only addresses the needs of the groups in power.
She ignores or denies any other perverse incentives that would affect the poor, such as denying inmates care and safety or the actions of a CEO of private youth detention facilities who made a deal with two judges: "kids for cash." From an interesting post on a far-left site:
Both guards’ unions and prison profiteers face perverse incentives, but in different ways. Prison profiteering firms are often seen cutting corners in order to cut costs. For example, Corizon is paid to provide healthcare to prisoners, and avoids providing care whenever they can cut costs by doing so. This desire to cut costs is not seen from public employee unions. But the public employee unions face different perverse incentives, largely related to protecting their members from accountability. For example, in Maryland the guards’ union successfully lobbied for “the passage of the Correctional Officers Bill of Rights, which made it much harder to discipline bad correctional officers — thus reducing C.O.s’ accountability and facilitating brutality and corruption scandals,” as Alexander Volokh explained at the Washington Post.
McArdle then pulls some magnetic words at random from her hand bag and arranges them on her refrigerator.
I’m not in favor of such lobbying, but there’s not much evidence we’ll get less of it simply by ending private prisons. Indeed, it’s possible we’d get more, because monopoly providers have more incentives to invest in lobbying than players in fragmented markets. A monopoly provider reaps all of the financial benefit of its lobbying, rather than seeing some of its efforts help competitors, and therefore each dollar invested in lobbying represents more potential profit.
When you throw out all the data, you are left arguing about the proportional size of the private prison lobby.
Argument No. 5 is the most interesting to me, and it was suggested by my friend the public defender. Bureau of Prisons facilities, she said, are pretty much all the same. But in her estimation, you could get very good private prisons, and also very bad ones — and the freedom that enabled the good ones to outshine the public prisons was probably the same thing that allowed the bad ones to sink below those standards.
The free market creates both good and bad prisons, which we must tolerate because freedom is the path to excellence. This belatedly explains the poor prison report that McArdle downplayed earlier, no doubt.
I am of course glad if private prisons allow some facilities to do a better job than a government prison could. However, there’s a minimum standard of decency that we owe to people we’ve incarcerated, and it’s questionable whether we really want to “buy” better prisons for some inmates at the cost of sticking others in especially bad ones. If this really is the case, then we should probably end private prisons. But we don’t have solid empirical data to make this case.
If anyone accuses McArdle of supporting heinous private prisons after the next private prison atrocity, she will point to that paragraph and back up her data lie with her earlier data lies.
Overall, given our state of knowledge, I don’t see a strong case for ending the use of private prison facilities — not without better data, and perhaps, not without trying to see if we can write better contracts that will force the lower-performing private prisons to clean up their acts.
We'll be the best prison negotiators ever. Not like foreign prisons. Sad!
Which is why it's interesting that the issue seems to be suddenly taking off. This may be the swiftest and most high-profile shift in prison policy in many years -- and probably the least important. Privatization is not what makes prison awful, and ending it will not do much to fix our current problems, because as Keith Humphreys has written, “Private prisons are bit players in the sorry drama of mass incarceration.” The overwhelming majority of prisoners are housed in public prisons, where conditions are not obviously better than they are in the private ones.
Conservatives want us to respect their intellectual policy discussions and give them the benefit of the doubt while they lie and cheat.
So why does this issue attract, as Humphreys notes, such “outsize attention"?
I suspect that this is an example of what philosopher Robert Nozick once called “normative sociology”: the study of what the causes of problems ought to be. It seems as if private prisons should be worse than public ones. The idea of profiting off of keeping someone in a cage makes us feel, for want of a better word, kind of squicky. So closing private prisons is a concrete step that can make the public feel better about the fact that so many Americans are locked up in terrible places.
So, so dishonest. Such a sickening affront to reality and truth. 
The problem with normative sociology is that it can become a substitute for social science, and for policy improvements that actually make us better off. Most people in this country will never go to prison, which means most of them will never intimately care about whether they’re decent. That makes prison policy a particularly fertile field in which to plant an empty symbolic gesture and walk away. And meanwhile, in other fields that need deep weeding, the real problems can continue to thrive unchecked.
It ends with the typical McArdle flourish of a pricking of liberal guilt and a dire warning of future disaster.

Applause! Applause! What a pathetic little impotent whine, what a mealy-mouthed defense. A one-woman virtuoso sleaze performance!

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Megan McArdle Hot Take: Mother Teresa, Come On Down!

More tweets for your edification:
This is typical of McArdle's arguments. She claims to be impartial before giving her opinion. She makes a sweeping statement that she does not back up with any evidence. She does not name names and she does not explain her statement. True, Twitter is severely limited, but we know this little tweet follows a much bigger pattern. Fortunately for us, McArdle explains her thought.

Now we know McArdle read one article by right-wing frenemy Christopher Hitchens and knee-jerked a tweet in response. Typically, McArdle ignored any Hitchens nuance and made a false accusation based on willful misreading of the article. (McArdle's reading comprehension is poor but not that poor.) 

Hitchens didn't "complain" that Mother Teresa opposed abortion; he said one expects Catholics to believe Catholic teachings. He criticized her fundamentalist fanaticism, for which he had plenty of evidence. McArdle ignored the evidence given and was far too idle and self-assured to actually check to see if she was right.

The idea that suffering sanctifies people is horrific, something that a person with McArdle's moral maturity can't even begin to understand. Suffering is pain, but some Catholics believe that since Jesus was good and Jesus suffered, it's good for people (usually other people) to suffer. Mother Teresa was criticized for glorifying suffering, instead of using her fame and considerable donations to eradicating the causes of poverty, as Hitchens stated. Eradicating poverty begins with women gaining control over their lives, which begins with birth control.

To top off the whole sorry picture, she defended a rapist priest who went on to rape more children. Not that McArdle cares. Some of her friends are conservative Catholic so she defends Mother Teresa on Twitter. They're in the same tribe and nobody wants to think badly of their group.

And that is how America became stupid. When thinking becomes painful, people stop thinking. Well, some people do.

 At this point McArdle abandoned the discussion. It wasn't about money so it wasn't worth doubling and tripling down.

(Another reminder that if you want the truth about someone famous, find a devoted admirer. And critics, of course.)