Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fractured Fairy Tales: Ross Douthat And The Seventh Divorce From Reality

Bless me, Father Teddy, for I have sinned....

Ross Douthat is curled up in bed, sucking his thumb and casting his mind to his happy place. It's much better than the real one.

Once upon a time, Ross tells himself, Candidate Trump promised to think real hard about jobs, giving the common clay much pleasure and winning their votes. He was faking, as the Carrier non-deal shows, but the thought was nice. However, despite their benevolent thoughts,  the Trump Administration immediately began losing hugely. But fear not!-the Republicans' historic fuck-up makes them just like liberals.
As a result, right now his presidency is in danger of being very swiftly Carterized — ending up so unpopular, ineffectual and fractious that even with Congress controlled by its own party, it can’t get anything of substance done. The war with liberals and the media may keep his base loyal and his approval ratings from bottoming out. But it does nothing to drive any kind of agenda, or pressure Congress to enact one. And the more the Trump White House remains mired in its own melodramas, the more plausible it becomes that the Trump-era House and Senate set a record for risk avoidance and legislative inactivity.
Republicans spent the last eight years calling and fighting for, and achieving, avoidance and inactivity. They were spectacularly successful at being unsuccessful at governance.
Obviously, the absence of agenda-setting starts with the compulsively tweeting president. But the role of Bannon in these first few chaotic weeks also distills the White House’s problem.
One agenda was enacted, to world-wide fury and alarm. Theocratic Ross ignores Trump's Muslim ban because he believes in white Christian supremacy and because it's as embarrassing as hell.
The former Breitbart impresario has a clearer-than-your-average-Republican grasp of the political promise of Trumpism — the power of a right-leaning populism to speak to voters weary of cultural liberalism and libertarian economics.
Republicans are noticeably absent from the finger-pointing, as Ross both punches a few hippies and throws his libertarian buddies under the bus.
But instead of spearheading a domestic agenda oriented around these insights, instead of demanding (or making sure his boss demands) an infrastructure bill and a working-class tax cut from Congress the day before yesterday, Bannon has seemingly set out to consolidate power over national security policy — an arena where his ideas are undercooked and his lack of expertise is conspicuous.
Republicans have always wanted to starve the government into dysfunction, privatize the now-crippled agencies and services, and cut taxes for the rich. None of that has changed. The right is panicking because they thought they could avoid any repercussions for their actions and Trump destroyed their plausible deniability.
In effect, Bannon is trying to be both Dick Cheney and Karl Rove — the Darth Vader of counterterrorism and the architect of a domestic realignment, except with less experience, subtlety and political support than either.
This is not going to work. (In the end, it didn’t work out that well for Cheney and Rove, either.) Liberals can scare themselves about Bannon’s supposed plan for a slow-motion coup and Trumpistas can tell themselves that “disruption” is just what the ossified establishment needs. But a White House run this way will be politically impotent long before it reaches its first midterm.
Republicans are getting everything they wanted. More military, less foreign aid, entitlements cut and eliminated, minority rights eliminated or under fire, deportations and internal terror campaigns against those who are not white male Christians.
Is a different scenario possible?
No. You fought for it and won. This is your reward.
Of course, because the president still has free will. (We can talk about total depravity later, Calvinists.) He has, to his credit, assembled a reasonably competent cabinet.
Ben "Back up or I'll gut you, Mom" Carson.
Betsy "Wetsy" DeVos
Michael "Dasvidaniya" Flynn
He campaigned, again to his credit, on a reasonably popular policy agenda.
Racism, sexism, fascism, and jobs.
He faces no immediate foreign policy or economic crises, no threat that requires him to act sweepingly and instantly.
Just wait.
So there is no necessary reason he could not wake up tomorrow and decide to show a broad deference to Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis on foreign policy, while letting Jeff Sessions and John Kelly between them hash out an immigration enforcement agenda.
So if Sock Puppet Trump on Ross's left hand can work with Sock Puppets Tillerson and Mattis on his right hand, surely dreams can come true and peace and plenty will shower the land.
There will be time to reshape the world order if his approval ratings ever edge back over 45 percent; for now, he could shelve plans for big-league disruptions and Nixon-to-China strokes of genius and simply take crises as they come.
Yes, Ross wants to let Trump reshape the world order, a phrase that has no negative connotations whatsoever.
Which in turn would free him — and, yes, Steve Bannon, too — to pick a few policy themes and hammer them.
Let's not forget Bannon's priorities; one must be generous to the help. Cleansing the US of non-whites and non-Christians isn't done in a day, you know. And we all know that there's no chance of Ross ever being cool until the women, minorities, and non-Christians are all put in their place.

(Joking! He still won't be cool.)
And not the hardest policies, either: Let Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell figure out how to get an Obamacare replacement through Congress and tell Tom Price to prop the system up if they can’t. From the White House, the message should be simple, boring, popular.
The popularity of repeal and don't replace must explain all of those noisy town halls calling for the careers of anti-ACA Congressmen. And it's nice to see that Ross feels comfortable being so cavalier with my family's healthcare. We wouldn't want the wealthy to worry their little heads about the other 90% of us.
We want a big infrastructure bill. A middle-class tax cut. Corporate tax reform.
Infrastructure. Tax cuts for workers and parents. A better tax code for business.
Liar. He want tax cuts for himself and a cut of any privatized business.
Not a war with the judiciary. Tax cuts.  
Not CNN or Nordstrom’s perfidy. Jobs. Not Bannon’s theories about Islam or the crisis of the West. (And you know I like theories about the crisis of the West!) Bridges and roads and tunnels.
This isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s kind of easy.
Liar. He loves culture war crap because it gives him a chance to scold the girls who turned him down (not that he wanted them anyway) and the boys who turned him down (to the right clubs, get your mind out of the gutter).
Which is good advice for anyone in crisis, new presidents included. If you can’t figure out how to handle the hardest stuff, try something simple for a while.
Quitting is simple. Ask Sarah Palin.

So endeth another insincere missive from Ross Douthat, another flight into fantasy-land, in which conservatives are cool and good at their jobs and liberals are invisible unless they are creating art, developing science, and cleaning up after conservative failures.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love And Money: Marriage The McArdle Way

It's Valentine's Day and Megan McArdle's thoughts naturally turn to love, which means money. Join me as I mock the woman whose rat-fucking is screwing with my life. Remember, as we rummage through the crystal ball of her head, that McArdle's interests, experiences, and speculations begin and end with herself.
This Valentine’s Day, if you’re in a long-term relationship, resolve to do something really romantic: talk about money.
Megan McArdle, M.A., MBA, FU, ignores the fact that outside of the top 10% or so, most couples discuss money every time they go out. Can we afford to go out, where can we afford to go out, what can we afford to eat or drink, what about a babysitter, is there gas in the car, and so on.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that my husband spontaneously proposed in the middle of a household budget meeting. You may therefore conclude that the McSuderman household has somewhat … unusual … ideas about what constitutes romance.
So what you're saying is that P. Suderman saw your income, bank balance, expenses, and assets and proposed on the spot.
But what’s more romantic than “until death do us part”? And substantial research shows that fights about money are one of the most common stressors on couples, and a very good predictor of divorce. One recent study found that it’s not having money troubles that send couples to divorce court, but the inability to agree on what to do about them.
Then that study ignores the stress of poverty and is useless, which is why McArdle later points out that lack of money creates stress.
In a consumer society such as ours, money is fundamental.
Yes. Yes, that's very true. We are in a "consumer society." Money is fundamental to consumerism. McArdle has a fine grasp of the obvious. It's not "Consumerism, according to Webster's Dictionary, is-" but it's very close.
Our purchases aren’t just about stuff we’d like to have; they’re about signaling who we are, to ourselves and other people. Money is one of the most important ways we shape choices about our lives. Naturally, when someone else gets involved in those choices, there’s going to be conflict.
Not so fast, missy. If your sense of yourself depends on the amount of money you have, you are very confused about both money and identity. When people base their identity on their wealth, they must convince themselves that wealth confers an abundance of positive characteristics on them, even when this is obviously untrue. If your self-esteem depends on your wealth, you are really in trouble. Such people could become greedy beyond words, because adults with no self-esteem almost never are satisfied. Nothing material can feel such a void, although not for lack of trying.

Which brings us back to Megan McArdle.
Those conflicts are obviously made easier when you have more money. There’s margin for error and disagreement without catastrophe or stress. But as financial advisers can attest, a dedicated spender can easily find ways to run through 20 percent more than he or she earns, regardless of how much that is. That spending isn’t necessarily on flat-panel televisions and speedboats; it may be on a house in a good school district. But no matter where the money goes, if you strap two spenders together, they’re both apt to end up in financial disaster. And if you strap one of those spenders to a saver, you end up with years’ worth of fiery arguments.
I think we can conclude that P. Suderman, spender, is strapped to M. McArdle, saver. Forever.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that that budget meeting has been the foundation of my marriage in more ways than one.
I believe you. 100%.
We do not agree on all money matters. There is considerable divergence in household views, for example, on the relative merits of high-end stereo equipment and expensive kitchen appliances.
I'm not a expert on technological matters but I think "guys spending money on expensive stereos" is passé, although it probably sounds a lot better in her head than "guys spending a lot of money on video cards, speakers, microphones, games, virtual reality equipment, and combustible 'snacks.'"
But we did agree that we had to agree on how the money would be spent. And having already had those discussions, through some hard times (Peter was laid off a few weeks after we moved in together) we knew even before we tied the knot that we could come to such agreement.
Two libertarians, self-selected for selfishness and mistrust, with the tendency to see those with less wealth as looters and moochers. They can exist both in perfect agreement and inevitable conflict.
Too many courting couples have a delicate reluctance to get down into the nitty-gritty of how they’re going to arrange their money: how much to pool, and how to spend those collective funds. Like a Victorian bride picturing her wedding night, they have only the vaguest notion of what is supposed to happen, but they imagine that money matters will sort themselves out easily as they drift along on a cloud of ecstatic love.
To make her unnecessary advice seem more urgent, McArdle invents a narrative of virginal, naïve Mid-Century teenage spouses, shyly opening their purse and wallet to each other for the first time.
What they often get instead is glorious fights when one party wants to put aside 15 percent of their salary for retirement and another 5 percent for emergencies, while the other wants to live for the day and let the future take care of itself.
My sympathies are naturally with the careful saver. But we’re not talking about retirement planning today; we’re talking about love. And if you want that love to last, what you do with the money is less important than being on the same page about it.
And that page says that they'll save for a rainy day and pay off the mortgage early and put away a lot away for retirement, when the spender is far too old to enjoy it.
Which means that if you’re considering marriage (or a functionally equivalent long-term partnership), you should have that conversation as soon as possible.
That conversation should include near-term budgeting. But it also needs to lay out the long-term goals that you both want, whatever they are: a big wedding, nicer cars, education for the kids, travel, a cushy retirement. You need to try setting a plan.
And since the saver has more money than the spender and has already drawn up the budget and spreadsheets and has the MBA while the spender has a kick-ass stereo and an English degree with a concentration in movie reviews, the saver usually gets her way.
And then you need to see if your partner can keep to it, or if they do as so many people end up doing when these plans are attempted: sheepishly confessing that they stopped trying to keep to the budget four days into the month, making secret purchases, blowing through the money that was supposed to go into the car fund on a spontaneous night out with the boys.
Oh, P. Suderman. You shouldn't have. That must have been a very awkward budget meeting after your The Hangover weekend.
Someone who repeatedly cheats on you with money can reform, to be sure -- but you should see strong signs of that reformation before you tie the knot, rather than hoping that marriage will somehow change them into someone they haven’t been.
He learned to be a good boy.
And what if you’ve already married that special darling who can’t seem to stick to a financial plan? What if you’re already having those fights?
Well, that’s an even better time to have that conversation. If you’re already fighting constantly about money, you need to stop blowing up over individual purchases and crises, and start hammering out a long-term plan that both of you can live with. The more distance there is between you two in how to handle money, the more detailed that planning needs to be, because you can’t rely on inertia to do any of the work for you. It is not the naturally thrifty who need a microscopically attentive monthly budget; it is those who look up at the end of the month and wonder where all the money went.
"How much do you need for coffee?
"I don't know, $6 a day?"
"Can you get by on $5 a day? Now let's talk about your cab fare."

It might not seem like the most idyllic way to spend your Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, it might ensure that you have plenty of happy Valentine’s Days to come.
And if not, DC is a not a community property "state." McArdle wins either way.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pointing And Laughing At Megan McArdle

As we all know, there is nothing I can do to stop well-paid propaganda. Megan McArdle will continue to earn a small fortune by rat-fucking her country to screw the looter and moochers and get lower taxes. But I can do one thing.

Laugh my ass off.

As much as I would enjoy taking credit for the cocktail party meme, McArdle's readers, many of whom are Trump supporters, are perfectly eager to call her an effete liberal snob without any help from me. She is on the east coast, went to an Ivy League school, and is in the media, therefore she is assumed to be a liberal cocktail chatterer.

Maybe the constant criticism over her anti-Trump views is getting on her nerves. Maybe her hit count is going down as Trumpers gain ascendancy and #NeverTrumpers lose it. Maybe she's just a liiiiitle less useful to her backers as she once was. She was hired to be honey for the wingnut bees, and the bees are beginning to give their Queen the stink-eyes.

McArdle has about half a dozen posts that she recycles endlessly in her blog, radio and tv appearances, her book, and speeches. As her commenters have noticed in the past.

At this point the fun tirade ends, but I want to add one comment from a reader to demonstrate the kind of person she is attracting and chooses not to reprimand. I have a feeling we are going to hear this kind of argument again.

I don't think Bannon will stop with Muslims. I don't think any of the Trumpers will either.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

McArdle Knows Best

Megan McArdle has written multiple posts saying the Democrats should quit fighting and give up because they'll never win. Like the poisonous witch in Tangled, she attempts to undermine liberals to exploit them for her own gain while telling them that it's for their own good. She is so very concerned about their well-doing, you see, and wants to help them because Mother Knows Best.

Mother McArdle:  
You want to go outside? Why, liberals...!  
Look at you, as fragile as a flower  
Still a little sapling, just a sprout  
You should stay up in your ivory tower

Liberals: I know but-

Mother McArdle:  
That's right, to keep you safe and sound, dear  
You were so sure this day was coming  
Knew that soon you'd lord over all the rest  
Soon, but not yet

Liberals: But--

Mother McArdle:  
Shh! Trust me, pet  
Mother knows best  
Mother knows best  
Listen to your mother 
It's a scary world out there  
Mother knows best  
One way or another  
Something will go wrong, I swear  
Escalation, blowback  
From vituperation  
And Trump

Liberals: No!

Mother McArdle: Yes!

Liberals: But--

Mother McArdle:  
Also many  
White Working Class Men, and  
Stop, no more, you'll just upset me  
Mother's right here  
Mother will protect you  
Darling, here's what I suggest  
Snub the commie  
Stay with Mommy  
Mama knows best

Mother knows best  
Take it from your mumsy  
On your own, you won't survive  
Knee-jerk peaceniks,  
Elite mandarins,  
Please, they'll eat you up alive  
Half-baked ideas,  
Positively Marxist  
And a bit, well, hmm fascist 
Plus, I believe  
Gettin' kinda slutty  
I'm just saying 'cause I wuv you  
Mother understands  
Mother's here to help you  
All I have is one request, liberals?

Liberals: Yes?

Mother McArdle: Don't ever ask to win an election again.

Liberals: Yes, Mother McArdle.

Mother McArdle: I love you very much, dear.

Liberals: I love you more.

Mother McArdle:  
I love you most  
Don't forget it  
You'll regret it  
Mother knows best