Friday, July 31, 2009

Odds & Ends & Shorters

This is what happens when truly smart people make the mistake of actually reading anything Megan writes. (h/t Nils in comments) It's beautiful in its depth and skill, but she simply doesn't deserve the effort. I rarely even bother to debunk Megan's made up claims at this point because if you know who Megan McArdle is, you know she's full of shit about pretty much whatever she's saying, or you yourself are full of shit. (Or you're just far too generous of spirit in this particular case.) The problem is she's not being judged by truth standards, she's being judged by how well she pushes right wing talking points compared to Red State and Dan Riehl and Ross Douthat by an extremely limited group that ultimately boils down to David Bradley and the people who influence his decisions. I suppose I should give Megan some credit for finding a niche where being not quite abjectly stupid makes you above average. I think she can sleep well at night knowing her competition is Jonah Goldberg.
Changing topics, I haven't forgotten the "worst of" collection, just been busy and distracted by reality.
And yes, as we'll get to in just a moment, Paul Campos is being kind of an idiot. His intent might be good, but he's overcompensating and adopting unnecessarily extreme and dogmatic positions, which he's otherwise intelligent enough to recognize, making it infuriating. Our culture is too anti-fat, and the idea that we have total control over our weight is false. That doesn't mean obesity isn't a public health problem. But I'm skipping ahead, here come the shorters.

America's Moral Panic Over Obesity:

Megan: Aren't fatties really just going to be fatties and we shouldn't try to change the poor slobs? They aren't rich and white like me, they can't actually improve themselves.

Paul: Absolutely, and if we conflate societal pressures to be model thin and well-toned with the fact that industrial foods, and especially HFCS, have added a significant number of unhealthy pounds to the national waistline, making diabetes more common, along with fucking gout, just to name two conditions, then any attempt to respond to this actual problem is actually anti-fat bias. Saying maybe people should try to eat less and/or more healthily along with be more physically active is, in essence, a hate crime.

Megan: Well, I definitely agree that fatties will be fatties and we shouldn't try to stop them. After all, businesses make money selling fatties those excess, unhealthy, calories. But have you considered that when I'm your most vocal supporter, you're almost certainly wrong?

Paul: Nope, I'm caught up in self-righteousness. Maybe it's personal for me, but we won't get into speculating about that. Just know that saying the obese should consider trying to lose weight as part of becoming more healthy is akin to telling black people to act more like white people. And I'm just not going to talk about things like why we've gained this weight as a nation over the last few decades, because it might imply we could actually try to counterbalance that, which would be government sponsored discrimination.

More on Obesity: Is the Government to Blame?:

A long post wherein Megan tries hard to ignore the role our food industry has played in the poor nutrition which contributes greatly to our obesity problems by downplaying the role the subsidies given to agro-giants have played in reshaping the contents of our supermarkets. It's a complex situation, which means Megan can't even begin to understand it, especially because it might involve criticizing for-profit businesses.

Environmental Concerns:

So it seems that James Fallows and Marc Ambinder and I all agree that the increase in obesity in the American population is environmental, though they seem to think I disagree, despite my having made this point several times, and have thus spent a fair amount of time disproving a point no one has made. The very point of the height example offered in my first post was to note how environment interacts with genes.
Heehee, Megan was misunderstood again, because other people are dumb.
Also, since obesity is also rising outside the US it can't be the government, and since food companies are completely invisible to Megan's mind it must be that people are just magically getting fatter right now. Maybe we're absorbing some of that excess carbon we're pumping into the atmosphere.
Now read this, because if my brain has to bleed, so does yours:
We can eliminate agricultural subsidies. Great: high fructose corn syrup won't be so cheap! But total corn subsidies in the US are about $10 billion, or about $33 per American. Even poor households spend many multiples of that per capita for food. You're talking about a difference of less than a dollar a week per person in the food budget. Meanwhile, what else happens when we dismantle our ag subsidies? The price of sugar, which is kept high by that same farm policy, falls by about 30-40%. Perhaps you wanted to get rid of the corn subsidies while keeping the sugar price supports? But the politically impossible job of slashing corn subsidies (we've been trying since the Reagan administration) will become even more unlikely if you don't also cut the cost of sugar to keep corn syrup competitive.
If we don't work to undercut the effects of changing the way corn subsidies shape our national food system, then our national food system might actually change, which could mean reduced profit for some noble giant corporation. Think of the costs, people!
She keeps going into Meganfantasyland, where corporations don't mean to prioritize profits and cost savings over consumer health and the only way to accomplish anything would be to force the country to radically change in impossible ways no one anywhere would actually collectively want. It's like she's saying the only way to fix a broken arm is to create a world where the arm was never broken in the first place. Just don't mess with anybody's profits, ffs.

GDP Falls Less Than Expected:

I'd just like to highlight a comment chain:
RobM1981 (Replying to: jmo3) July 31, 2009 11:41 AM

Newsflash from Planet Obvious:

Thomas Blair and Claudius' numbers are numbers. They don't take anything into account, they simply are.

The fact that they have happened in the face of this "stimulus" shows that perhaps there's something more to the economy than repaving roads that don't need repaving.

What is next year's stimulus - mowing government lawns twice per week instead of only once?

It didn't take long for Obama's inner-Chauncey to become patently obvious.

Nero fiddled; Chauncey "has a beer."

jmo3 (Replying to: RobM1981) July 31, 2009 11:50 AM

repaving roads that don't need repaving.

They were in desperate need to repaving - FYI.

aMouseforallSeasons (Replying to: RobM1981) July 31, 2009 1:18 PM

If you want to oppose the ARRA projects on grounds of principle, go right ahead, but there's no need to accuse anyone of digging holes and filling them up again. There are several ARRA projects underway here in Colorado, and those are going into necessary work projects such as rebuilding very old bridges and repaving rotted-out road sections.

thomasblair (Replying to: aMouseforallSeasons) July 31, 2009 1:39 PM

And there's an ARRA project underway about 1/4 of a mile from my father-in-law's house where they're repaving a perfectly good road. Hell, it took them two days just to drive the mandatory signs into the ground.

What's the point? I'm sure everybody's got an anecdote.
I can't really add to that, can I?

Drug Wars:
I'm supposed to be on holiday. But everyone is linking to this post by Ben Domenech which, like, totally proves that I don't know what I'm talking about regarding pharma research, so I should probably point to this post by Derek Lowe, pharma researcher, which questions Ben Domenech's analysis. It's true that I oversimplified both pharma and academia's role: academia sometimes develops drugs, while pharma does basic research. Such is blogging. The broad point is that basic research and developing a working drug are two different activities, and neither is "real" innovation. I don't want to stop government from funding basic research, and never said I did. But producing drugs does not seem to be the government's core competence.
That's the entire post, links not reinserted. Sure, she's a lying propagandist, but she's relying on everyone who reads her to know she's lying and........... ummmmmmm, what the fuck is "real" innovation? All I know is that it certainly requires highly paid non-scientist executives to be produced. And a marketing department.
Btw, pharma rarely, if ever, does basic research, because the fucking government does it for them via the NiH. Or they buy it from academia. Megan knows this, but has an agenda to push. Plus it's Friday, and she doesn't work on Fridays. Like, totally.

Oog, that was long, but now it's over.


Dhalgren said...

'On holiday'? She's trying to be funny or is she an anglophile?

Fridays mean never having to dig just a little to see how many millions big pharma pays research hospitals to drug trials and important number crunching. They all give researchers grants.

But Megan's agenda is to give all credit for innovation to the drug producers.

clever pseudonym said...

"On holiday." I see Megan hasn't entirely surrendered her phoney British affectations.

I love how she dismisses her "oversimplifications" as boiling down to the nature of blogging. It's a blog. She shouldn't have to get anything right or go into detail or provide anything to back up her claims.

Susan of Texas said...

I think the most telling thing here is that even when Bradley's other employees tell her she's wrong, it doesn't matter. She says they, like, actually agree with her, you know, and she is so totally right.

Susan of Texas said...

The New York TImes takes Megan down.

Anonymous said...

As usual, I'm talking out my ass. "Such is blogging."

shane said...

neither is "real" innovation

I think Megan is so rattled by getting schooled by Ben freaking Domenech she doesn't realize that this admission destroys her entire thesis. She's really starting to sound like Jonah Goldberg.

Susan of Texas said...

Jesus. I did some reading and it is entirely possible that every word McArdle uttters re. R&D is full of shit. Not a surprise, but still--.

How? And why? And how? How can someone be so bad and so successful? It's not just her ability to shill--others do that, and do it better. You can't hear the gears grinding when they try to think. They know at least something. I don't expect fairness in this world, or happiness, or anything else, but unless she's eaten by a crazed hungry homeless person, I'll start to think the world hates anyone who isn't full of shit.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Okay, but at least now we can use "such is blogging" as an all-purpose excuse.

"Oh, fuck, I burned the French toast. Well, such is blogging." Etc.

bulbul said...

"Oh shit, lost an important client. Well, what can you do, boss - such is blogging."
I find this particularly insulting - I know plenty of linguabloggers (to name but one subgroup of Teh Great People's Blogorepublic) who treat their blogposts as mini research papers with references 'n' shit.

Btw, pharma rarely, if ever, does basic research, because the fucking government does it for them via the NiH. Or they buy it from academia. Megan knows this, but has an agenda to push.
Actually, no, I don't think she does. The way she described the distinct roles of "academics" and "researches" fits perfectly with her worldview as we've seen it displayed in her, um, writing. To her, the world is like a bunch of legos and relationships between things and institutions are nothing but legos stack on one another. To expect her to comprehend the complicated fabric of institutional and personal relationships that make up the contemporary world of publicly and privately theoretical and applied science - well, shiiiiit, no one would.
Ceterum autem censeo etc.

bulbul said...

... publicly and privately funded theoretical and applied science