Saturday, February 28, 2009


Megan loves her some Bobby Jindal, and yet hasn't chimed in with anything about his massive implosion. Can't you blame it on regulations or summin, Megan?
In any case, here's a quick look at her two past posts titled "Jindalmania".

I saw Bobby Jindal talk last week at the National Press Club. He's being widely touted as McCain's potential running mate, though I agree with Ross that this would be a mistake--for Jindal. No one should run for office this year as a Republican who doesn't have to.
Mostly I was incredibly impressed. He looks like the president of the high school chess club, so it's something of a shock to my elitist coastal ears to hear a rich good-old-boy southern accent issuing from him. But he's a hell of a talker, and most of what he says actually makes sense.
One interesting thing I learned is just how far Jindal has come in fighting Louisiana's institutional problems. Bush detractors get mad when I say this...
Doopdoopdoop, digging a hole, boopbedoopdoop.
I'm willing to bet that Ta-Nehisi has never seen Jindal in person. I have. And while "swarthy" may play a small role in the Obama comparisons, it's mostly along the lines of thinking that the Republican Party's first non-white candidate would help heal the party's image a bit. The reason that they're comparing Jindal to Obama is that, in person, he comes off a lot like Obama. He's extremely positive, he's personally charming, and he's kind of skinny and his ears stick out. Like Obama, Jindal is something of an odd duck; he looks like the president of the Paramus, New Jersey High School Chess Club, and talks like a good old boy with a plantation somewhere back in the Bayou. The combination is disconcerting for northern journalists, and a little bewitching.
But once you're past that, well, the guy just has skills. His message, like Obama's, is one of hope and actual change; he tends to emphasize the work he's done reforming Louisiana's notoriously corrupt political culture. And like Obama, he has the charisma to put it over. Nearly all prominent politicians are extremely charismatic. Being in a room with them is like being in a room with the sun; you can't really look anywhere else. But some have it more than others, and Jindal has a lot of it.
Indeedilydoodily, neighborino!
Megan will never match Bill Kristol, but she's building up quite an impressive history of wrongness. Which, of course, only means she's an even bigger expert on all the things she got wrong.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh God, I'm Fucking Blegging...

Not MM again, but I have a question. From a Financial Times article (via Balloon Juice):

The real shocker, though, is what has happened after those defaults. JPMorgan estimates that $102bn of CDOs has already been liquidated. The average recovery rate for super-senior tranches of debt – or the stuff that was supposed to be so ultra safe that it always carried a triple A tag – has been 32 per cent for the high grade CDOs. With mezzanine CDO’s, though, recovery rates on those AAA assets have been a mere 5 per cent.
How is it even possible to have an investment that is backed by collateral fall to 5% of it's original value. Housing prices have gone down, but not by 95%!

I asked this in comments at BJ (titter) and someone replied that it was because of leverage. That doesn't make sense to me. I thought institutions were leveraged, not assets. What am I missing?

Cat Porn Fan Fiction

I love it when cats are the early stages of a play fight. They go through those tentative first moments in such an amusing fashion.

Bap! Samus gently smacks Ness on da head, then just lets her paw linger on his face. Ness just sort of looks at her like "oh, you wanna go?" but not in a threatening fashion. More like, he genuinely isn't sure whether she wants to go or not. Whap! He gives her a high five to the stomach. They both look like they're not sure whether they're angry, or confused, or what. How they manage to look confused about being confused is beyond me. Am I ready to fight? Do I know what's going on? Am I confused? Are we fighting? I was just licking you so fighting seems inappropriate, but your paw is definitely on my face right now. Has the fight started and I missed it again? What's going on?

Then Ness pounces on Samus and she slides off the leather couch and thumps onto the floor. They spring to their feet and thumpity-bumpity across the hard wood. Oh man, cats are awesome.

Now they're sitting across the room and pointedly ignoring each other, like you prolly should me...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This Week In Stupid, Part the First

'scuze me while I skip the intro.

Post-finance New York:

Likewise, it's hard to overstate just how far left and economically illiterate most of New York City's council members and state representatives are. The politically powerful head of the transit union was, the last time I checked, an actual communist. The financial industry was the closest thing that New York now has to a vibrant business community, and with its power ebbing, so is the only remaining natural check on the left's worst instincts. [Emphasis in original]
OOOOOOoOoOoOooOOOOOOeeeeeeeeeeeeeeOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The commies are gonna ruin Mayor Mike's perfect Manhattan, where it's just like Vegas only without the legal gambling. There's five banks on every corner, glass yuppie enclosures everywhere you look, and assholes like Megan just LOVE IT.
In my grimmer hours, I wonder how much of the broad urban renaissance can be sustained absent the credit bubble. Easy money makes even distressed property look good, and brought an influx of young urban homeowners who put pressure on the political system. As they flow out, will we be back into the territory of the ungovernable city?
To translate, Megan worries black and latino folk will get all uppity and burn down Park Slope. We should be so lucky.

Everything you always wanted to know about the banking bailouts but were afraid to ask:

Once upon a time a couple friends and I were spitballing movie mashups we'd like to see. I came up with "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex*, *- But Were Afraid To Ask Forrest Gump". (Tagline, "Thu vah-GI-nuh is like a box of choc-colates.") Somehow, I think that's more relevant to the bailouts than anything Megan said in her post.

Festina lente:

In response to someone mentioning Norm Coleman isn't being a benefit to Minnesota by dragging out his legal challenges as long as possible in an obvious political play to deny Obama a Senate vote for as long as possible, Megan sez,
To state even more obvious facts, the reason that this is in litigation is that half of Minnesotans did not vote for Franken--indeed, the measurement error being what it is, there is a decent chance that more Minnesotan voters desired Norm Coleman in the senatorial seat.
Given that, it is not good politics to get snippy at people because they're not giving up soon enough to suit you. Moreover, I seem to recall that the Gore campaign's endless new plans for lengthy recounts polled pretty well. As, of course, does divided government. The state Democrats would be very, very foolish to complain that Norm Coleman needs to knock off these challenges because Obama now has to get two whole Republican votes to pass legislation and we deserve to have the whole Senate to ourselves, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Megan almost deserves credit here. She's pretending Coleman has a principle to his plainly obstructionist/bad loser tactics while mocking Gore's "endless" challenges which ended in December of that election year. We're about to hit March, the Senate is in session, and no one seems to actually believe Coleman can find enough votes to change the certified results of this election. There's no legitimate comparison to Florida in 00 to be found, Megan's just being an asshole. She probably doesn't like Franken for helping to start up the left wing snark machine.

The problem of administrative costs:

*sigh* Should I even mention the font/spacing/margin issue? No? Ok. Then let's jump right in, without getting into the quote from Hilzoy Megan is responding to.
This seems to presume that we will spend more on administrative costs than we will save on disallowing bailouts for those who took cash-out refis. That's unlikely. The average mortgage is $150,000 and the average US government subsidy is $20,000. Once your hypothetical expensive administrator has disallowed 5 subsidies, he's paid for himself. Everything above that is pure cash to the taxpayer.
Quite the unintentionally revealing moment, no? Megan would much rather someone make $100k disallowing people from government benefits than 5 people receive $20k in government benefits. But she's against make-work programs. Woof.

Back with more soonish.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to the Grindstone, Part II

eff the foreplay.

Thought for the day:

Us stupid humans don't understand how frustrating it is for a higher life form like Megan McArdle to have to deal with us.

Assuming that we are indeed facing, in large part, a crisis of confidence, would this crisis be solved more quickly if we stopped nattering about the banking system and simply burned us some witches?
Blaming people for the mistakes they've made = horrible persecution. Megan constructed a self-serving hypothetical..... ummm, pretend logic proof that doesn't involve logic to prove it. She used capital letters like X and Y and Q and everything. QED, bitches.

A for effort:

Nutella touched on this one, but I'd like to draw attention to some of her words.
The purpose of a grade is to show mastery (or not) of some volume of material. Is it fair to set the bar higher for me than for someone who isn't as capable? Or vice versa? Is it fair to send the signal to employers that I wasn't up to scratch even when I did objectively better work than some other student?
Not comprehension, mastery. And the personal turn is just... mwwwah!
Megan thinks she got Bs because she was sooooooooooooo inherently awesome she was being graded on a different curve than the mere mortals around her in a fucking Ivy League school, as opposed to her work was mediocre compared to her classmates who were there on merit and actually trying. No, it's the old Randian truth that inherent superiority as a person is a drawback in our crazy screwed up world.

Sign of the Times:

In case you missed it, Megan followed a google alert that her name was used on the interwebs to Dhalgren's place, (Hi Ann Althouse! I'm not you!) and decided to do her whole fakey kill em with kindness act. I'm not sure it had the effect Megan wanted, as Dhalgren linked to us in his first sentence, and FMM got a mention or two in the comments, leading to a substantial bump in traffic. I don't care, but it's nice to know it'd irk Megan.

Law for law's sake:

This post is comically desperate. Megan is trying to get people to link our natural distaste for lawyers with her bootlicking toady desire not to regulate the financial doings of the masters of the universe.
FEMA couldn't send all the trailers it purchased for Katrina victims to the gulf because of rules about deploying mobile homes on floodplains, and it couldn't deploy them to help tornado victims in Arkansas because the affected area wasn't big enough to be an official emergency disaster zone. So instead the trailers rotted in storage.
Geez, stupid regulations prevented the government from doing that in the middle of hurricane season? And those trailers were pure awesome, not at all having problems with formaldehyde fumes and asbestos. There are no flaws, whatsoever, in Megan's example here.

I wonder how Megan felt about Jindal's speech last night. She's probably upset and confused by the negative response from all quarters. She laughed about volcanoes with him. Isn't Alaska cold, anyway? They should be glad for the lava giving them a chance to go out to the beach.

Back to the Grindstone

Holy shit.
I know.
The stupidity of the last couple days is astounding, even considering the source. I can't keep slacking. First up, old fashioned catch-up shorters from the end of last week, then I begin the descent into the depths of this week's hell.

Damning with faint praise:

Megan has found a new way to be unprofessional; mistakes with fonts. For some reason when she blockquotes now her entire post switches to the font, margins, and spacing within the blockquote. Sure, it's a small thing, but the woman's title includes the word "editor". She either doesn't look at her work or doesn't give a shit.
As to the post itself, Megan seems to think banks can save themselves by becoming real estate companies, and that everyone with a bad mortgage would rather be homeless.

Do you mind if I rant a minute?:

Oh, boy.

Here's my position on what ended the Great Depression: I don't know.
And therefore no one else in the world does, either.
I also think it's possible that nothing the government did ended the Great Depression. It may be that, like Topsy, it "just growed".
I think it's possible Bugs Bunny ended the recession by reinvigorating the cartoon carrot and bullet market. It may be that every time Elmer Fudd took a shot the unemployment rate dropped a hundredth of a percent, we'll just never know.
And, ummmm, then the font, margins, and spacing change for absolutely no reason. It's like she started speaking in an accent mid conversation for no discernible reason.
Once again, I am driven to quote the immortal Charles Murtaugh: the universe is not here to please you. Fiscal stimulus will make the economy grow faster, or it will not make the economy grow faster, without regard to whether taxation is theft or universal healthcare is an immediate moral imperative. I doubt I'm the only one who is wearied by the way so many of the participants in the debate seem to already know the answer they want, and are merely looking for a set of questions that will get them there most expeditiously. Was there ever a time when people didn't think that tricky economic conundrums could, or should, be used to "prove" that their personal values about the level of taxation and spending are a scientific fact? Probably not. Still, given how important this question is, I wish more people would treat this as a problem to be solved, a question to be answered, rather than a battle to be won.
Just because people's lives are being held in the balance of this artificial debate Megan and allied ideologues are trying to force into the conversation about how to begin fixing the mess Megan's fellow travelers created doesn't mean anyone should act like they give a shit. Megan is totally being dispassionate, when she isn't calling anyone who isn't as confused as she is a jerk.
In any case, as always, do as she says, not as she does. Human failings are for the little people.

A tale of two theories:

Here we see Megan at her conservative pundit "best", trying to use the knowledge imparted by Spencer's comment (Update: That's not our Spencer, I withdraw my lazy semi-endorsement.) to her previous post on the Great Depression as evidence she's totally right. Sure, he was explaining that we do pretty much know why the Great Depression ended, that she's wrong to claim it wasn't over before our entry into WWII, and that a number of FDR's policies demonstrably worked, but all that just adds up to why she doesn't credit him directly when dishonestly restating his words.
Well, maybe not dishonestly, perhaps she's just utterly lost.
If you take money out of the system in taxes, and spend it, you've created barely any stimulus at all, because more than 90% of that money would have been spent by private parties. (At our current savings rates, close to 100%). It's borrowing the money and spending it that creates the stimulative effects.
Maybe there's something I'm missing, but that seems like an amazingly stupid thing to say.
Oops, but that means I'm insulting Krugman.
I'm not really saying anything much different from Paul Krugman, though I'm much more cautious about the marvelous benefits of World War II spending than he is.
Daaaaaaaaa-uuuuuuuuu-iiiii? Gaaaaabbbaabababababbaaaaa?
Are we sure Megan actually speaks english, and not some bizarrely similar entirely personal language where words have radically different meanings?

What do you mean by "New Deal"?:
When you ask whether fiscal stimulus shortened the Great Depression, you should be simply asking

1) Was there a fiscal stimulus
2) Did it shorten the Great Depression?
It is not arguable, in my mind, that FDR's biggest contribution to fixing the mess was fixing the banks, not building dams. But the national narrative puts the FDIC somewhere down there with paying writers for taking oral histories of sharecroppers, and elevates the massive public works projects to center stage.
Because in a nation crippled by unemployment FDR's projects put millions to work building the underpinnings of the national infrastructure we now take for granted? Stupid me, I'm thinking about the little people again. They plain old don't matter except as props. The only important thing is whether financiers were living the high life.
It's also important to point out--which I've done, like, eighty times--that this is not an argument over works projects. It's a technical question: how much does fiscal stimulus do to counteract a really nasty depression? This matters in part because we're not going to build the Hoover Dam again, and we don't need to--we have social insurance to deal with unemployment in a way that we didn't then, and so we don't need to create make work in order to keep people from starving.
Sure, Megan sneeringly dismisses all government works projects as "make-work", and considering the state of our nation's infrastructure we essentially do need to build the Hoover Dam again, but if we give the unemployed a crust of stale bread every day for a couple months the problem will fix itself. Just don't make the mistake of getting caught up in worrying over the little people.

This is getting long, so I'll brb with part two of the catch-up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sort of Off Topic

I know, I've been slacking. Busy n not in the mood for her highness.
But I have to ask, did Bobby Jindal actually mock money for volcano monitoring systems in his rebuttal to Obama tonight?
The Governor of Louisiana thinks disaster preparation is a topic to be belittled?
I.... find that difficult to believe, yet there it is. Wow.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Your Narcissist is Showing

Megan is talking about grading (wtf?!?! why?! The last thing she should want is for someone to think of analytic objective evaluation when they're reading her blog!)

It's mostly boring shit. She's actually discussing whether or not to judge people on merit or ability, an analysis that most of us knock-out in about five minutes when we're twelve. Naturally, Megan's wording is rather telling:

Is it fair to set the bar higher for me than for someone who isn't as capable? Or vice versa? Is it fair to send the signal to employers that I wasn't up to scratch even when I did objectively better work than some other student?
Who uses the first person singular pronouns when discussing hypotheticals? Don't people usually use "you" or "they" or, occasionally, "one?" No, not me! When I'm imagining a situation where I'm better than others, I like to make sure that I can connect with it! I wouldn't want the point of how superior I am to be lost on YOU the reader, now would I?
Maybe. After all, one of the things that employers and graduate schools are presumably looking for is ability to exert oneself consistently.

....okie... deep breath, Toast.... we've made real good progress with our shrink.... c'mon man... come on down....


ok... moving on...

Anyway, who's fucking surprised that Megan thinks that employers aren't looking to hire people that actually know shit? Clearly, it's not a phenomenon our muse has encountered directly. That must mean she views herself as a "hard working" type. I wonder how she figures that?. I guess it is difficult for her to throw out the occasional "rich people shouldn't be allowed to literally eat the poor" posts. Man, she really slaves away.

I Really Can't Add Anything

It's surreal the way I'm watching all you people drown when the lifeline is right there. This market dive was not only predictable, it was predicted. By me. By Peter Schiff. By Marc Faber. By Ron Paul. By Jim Rogers. By Lew Rockwell.

One of the first Doctors to figure out that washing hands before surgery would save lives was ridiculed by his colleagues who refused to even consider that they were actually causing disease. He would stand outside the hospital screaming "Wash your hands!" until he was horse.
Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis was not only drummed out of the profession, but he was put in an insane asylum by his family where he died.

Megan is John Law in drag. Obama is rapidly becoming the American Robert Mugabe. Paper money pushers have done this to us and history will not look kindly on them. Get out while you still can.
Buy gold. Buy guns. These tremors are a prelude, not aftershocks.

Posted by Bearded Spock | February 20, 2009 1:16 PM

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nothing To Do W/ McArdle, Except We Both Have Healthy Egos

My ego, if not my fans, demands that I explain to all that I am currently seriously involved in the search for an apartment, & when I am relocated I will be at full strength, & have 16 hrs./day (Minimum, who needs sleep, really?) to help destroy Ms. McA. (Minus my other nihilistic web activities, of course.) May be a wk. or so. (Gawd forbid it take any longer.)

Please hold your collective breath as you wait on the edges of your seats. Thank you.

P. S.: How long did that "Kultur 11" crap last? Never heard of it except when Megatron linked thereto.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering

Megan has been trying to be coy about it, but she is living with her boyfriend and it's definitely Peter Suderman. He's the one she spent the night with waiting for the iPhone (one air-mattress and two pillows...) to come out and when when Culture11 went under Megan blogged about lay-offs coming to her home.

Anyone got some dirt on him?

brad adds:

Nownow. If he's done anything horrible professionally it's fair game, but let's remember the personal is off-limits.

A Few Shorters

I'm out soon, but let's catch up a little so hopefully I can do today's output in a single separate post late night. Also, it gives Dhalgren time to think of a reply to Megan going all Ann Althouse on him.

Did World War II end the Great Depression?:

The Great Depression indisputably ended during World War II, which is when the output gap closed. But was it causal? Like everything else about the Great Depression, it's really hard to know.
I'm stumped. What possible counter-narrative could she have in mind this time? War profiteering actually ended the Great Depression?
Oh, and "everything" about the Great Depression is "hard to know". Like, I assume, the causes, and whether Hoover and the Gilded Age really caused the crash. It was probably liberals and/or communists.

More on unemployment:
Interestingly, the argument I had with Dean Baker over makework jobs is a mirror image of the debate over the poverty rate, in which conservatives "prove" that there's no such thing as poverty because we really spend quite a lot on poor people, and liberals point out that it still sucks to be poor.
Heehee. Dean Baker kicked your ass in debate, Megan. You might want to not keep calling attention to that fact, even if you're pissed off about it. Also, it's not at all like that "debate".
Again, this is fundamentally a debate over what we're trying to measure. If the poverty rate is supposed to be a measure of how many people are trying to live on the puny incomes that fall beneath the line, then of course conservatives are right: it doesn't measure that very well.
Oh, it is like that "debate", in that Megan is wrong both times.

For shame:

As a self-appointed arbiter of what's proper, Megan is entirely in favor of attempting to use shame to coerce others to do what she wants them to do. She's not, however, willing to let anyone else do the same to her, because she is special and excused from needing to meet the societal norms she wants to push on others. This isn't cognitively dissonant, as much as it may seem so to the rest of us, because Megan considers lower economic classes to be different species.

A living wage:

Every figure you've ever seen about real income going down since the mid 70s for the vast majority of the country is just anecdotal evidence that bullshit scrubs away easily.

Sign of the times:

This just in; fuck farmers.

Home sweet home:
The administration's release talks a lot about "responsible homeowners", but very few responsible homeowners have payments that amount to 43% of their monthly income.
Yeah, fuck those people. They totally brought it on themselves, especially the ones who fell for predatory lenders.

And away I go.

On the New Deal

did rich people get richer?

Megan does not handle criticism well, especially when she knows she's wrong and thus has no counter-argument.
The internet is sexist.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mostly Longers

watch the bloggingheads bit M. linked to down below. Megan isn't pretending to be nice for once, you can practically hear her screaming "who the fuck are you to disagree with ME?", and, of course, neither was she being at all intelligent. I consider Megan to be unemployed, because her position only exists to "make work" for an ineffectively cloaked conservative propagandist. She contributes no added value, whatsoever. She has admitted her position exists outside market forces, which means she doesn't live up to her own principles. But still, we should be pissed the government is trying to help people with OUR tax dollars.

Euro-area growth falls fast:

Hey Europe, why do you keep hitting yourself? You thought you were sooooooo much better than us, but now our massive fuck-ups are dragging you down, too. Hah hah!
(Remember, Megan can't be a bully, no matter how big an asshole she is to anyone, because she's totally nice to her friends, to their faces.)

Time to short Jenny Craig?:

Noted food expert Megan McArdle is now going to make us laugh with a parody piece.

The move towards "affordable luxury" foodstuffs has been one of the great trends of the last twenty years. Grocery stores everywhere have gotten unbelievably better than they used to be, with produce and freezer sections exploding, and canned goods retreating in importance. I'm always shocked, reading old cookbooks, to see ingredients now regarded as downmarket, like canned shrimp, appearing in recipes designed for formal dinner parties served by hired staff. And one of my favorite cookbooks, the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, frequently makes references to recipes being "economical" in ways that don't make sense without hard thought.
Remember back before American food production became completely industrialized and basic foodstuffs had prices that reflected their actual costs? Megan doesn't. The hired staff must've been sheltering her from the truth.
In comparison to my grandparents, who rarely ate out and never bought a brand name if something else was cheaper, the normal life of a not-particularly-well-off urban thirtysomething seemed positively sybaritic. Three restaurant meals in one week? Drinks out every other evening? Gourmet tea? And what about all the prepared meals--the takeout, the rotisserie chickens, the $5 containers of Wegmans soup? But without a wife at home, who has time to make meals from scratch?
Please note, not particularly well off means they make less than a quarter million a year in Megan's mind. However, these are the only people in the world, or at least the only people who eat food. Thus, what follows isn't ludicrous.
Home prepared meals are much less standardized, and not so fined tuned to hit the salty/sweet/fatty buttons over and over. Also, much of the shopping is done for them when you aren't actually hungry, and so you're likely to pick healthier foods with lower caloric density--committing your future self to behave more virtuously than it probaby [sic] would decide to on the spur of the moment. A leaner wallet may mean a leaner you.
I'd mock the reasoning that applies any of this scenario to the average newly unemployed urban single mom, but first I'd have to understand that reasoning. As roughly every other commenter to the post mentioned, cheap food tends to be very unhealthy, and fattening. Malnutrition and obesity are intricately linked in the US, but Megan refuses to understand that. It's so much easier to blame people for being fat and poor, so that you can avoid feeling guilty for supporting policies which keep them fat and poor.

What is "unemployment" she said, and washed her hands ....:

I swear, that's the real title she came up with.
Dean Baker and I did a bloggingheads last week which has only just gone up now. One of the things we got stuck on is whether measures of unemployment in the 1930s should include government relief jobs, or not. If you include government jobs, FDR looks a lot better than if you don't. Liberals, unsurprisingly, favor including them, while conservatives, unsurprisingly, favor leaving them out.
Because, you see, if you pay people to perform tasks that do not directly profit individuals or corporations then you're a commie rapist who drowns puppies. Consultants are also permanently unemployed, because their jobs also don't last indefinitely. Everyone in the construction industry is permanently unemployed.
Whether you should count relief jobs as part of the unemployment figure really depends on what you're trying to measure. If you're trying to measure something about the worker experience, it makes sense to count relief jobs: they go there and they pick up a paycheck. But if you're trying to measure how robust the economy is, you shouldn't measure those jobs, because relief jobs do not vary in the same way as the underlying job market.
Yup, just because the "workers" at these non-jobs show up, perform tasks, then get a paycheck doesn't mean they're working at jobs. Unless that task is growing the capital of some investor IT DOESN'T COUNT. The purpose of unemployment figures is to help employers set wages, not to give us, as a society, some sense of how many people are unemployed. Fuck those little people, we're talking about rich folk, here.
This is, I must point out, not an argument about whether relief jobs are good or not--I certainly think they're preferable to other interventions, like long term welfare. It's just an argument about what about the economy the unemployment rate is supposed to be a proxy for. But we have other figures that already measure peoples' material conditions pretty well--the poverty level, f'rinstance. On the other hand, we don't have any very good figure to tell us the strength of the private labor market.
You stupid asshole. You stupid, stupid asshole. No, it actually is an argument about whether "relief jobs are good or not", Megan, but you know you'd lose that argument so you dance around the issue. Her job is to muddy the waters, not to prove anything.
Here's my core problem with including relief jobs in the unemployment rate: the unemployment figures start telling you as much about the political situation as the underlying economy. The government can push the unemployment level down to nearly any arbitrary level it wants by putting anyone without a job on the dole and making them do some not-very-valuable task in order to cash their check.
And the money from that check still goes back into the economy when spent, even in this strawbaby scenario. Megan thinks all government jobs are no-show positions, apparently, and that the roads and bridges and tunnels across the nation that need rebuilding and other long postponed maintenance can't be fixed, because the government can't actually put anyone to "work" doing so.
But ultimately, the health of the economy relies on the ability of the private sector to generate growth, and the private sector to generate jobs. It's the tax revenue from that growth, those jobs, that allow the government to create government jobs. In the short term, the government can borrow and spend, but if the private sector and the labor market are not growing, eventually lenders will get worried about the ability to repay and raise the interest rates they charge. Result: well, there are a lot of deposed Latin American heads of state who could describe the result in some very vivid language.
Since we haven't experienced anything like that in the US recently as a result of policies Megan supported, we should listen to her. And remember, the government has never created a job, ever, public or private. Only businesses can do that, cuz of Michael Steele said so.
If we include relief jobs in the unemployment figures, we lose track of the strength of the underlying private labor market that has to ultimately support those jobs.
If we make the numbers accurate, they no longer reflect something they were never intended to reflect.
Regardless of what the government does, our economy will not have recovered from the current mess until the private markets start growing again. The government spending may (or may not) be a good way to alleviate the pain of a weak labor market, but unless either the economy recovers on its own, or the massive stimulus shocks it back into full output, the stimulus will eventually have to be cut back, and we'll be back into the bad old equilibrium with a lot of extra debt payments making us even poorer. It behooves us, then, to keep a closer eye on the underlying figure than on what the government is doing in the short term.
The fact that the stimulus might not work is the reason for leaving a key part of its effects out of the unemployment number that most Americans will look to as a crucial measure of whether we're recovering. If we're honest about the effects of the stimulus Megan will look bad for irrationally opposing it, and that's unpossible.
And that's approximately the place the US found itself in at the end of the 1930s, with unemployment back up to 19% after falling into the low teens. The underlying economy was not sound. Perhaps the liberals are right and the problem is that FDR didn't spend enough--but that is a hypothetical. What we know is that the US economy was still in shockingly bad repair until World War II turned it around.
You see, undoing a large amount of the damage from the Crash doesn't count as progress, especially if you pretend 1937 wasn't an outlier for specific reasons involving Megan's ilk getting their way again briefly, so the New Deal was still a total failure that should in no way be looked to for inspiration in how to respond to the challenges we face today. Instead, we should totally start a war, cuz those are always good for the economy.

Sign of the Times:
Wal-Mart's earnings fell 7.4% in the fourth quarter. This makes analysts happy, because they topped expectations, and a 2.8% increase in domestic same-store sales looks positively magnificent next to the anemic results at most retailers--much of the decline stems from the costs of settling wage lawsuits.
Fucking plebs.

I meant to get a bit further in catching up, but it's time for me to begin my evening. So much stupid, so little time.

Red In The Face. Literally.

I think one of our many fine commenters may have referenced this in a comment earlier, but you must waste 4 mins. 20 secs. of your life to see Ms. McArdle "pwned," as you goofy-ass kids say.

Wouldn't unemployment stats be to count the number of people unemployed, not some imaginary "misery index?"

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Full Schlafly*

Megan McArdle is an expert in the field of expertise. The only concept that is unknown to her is to be unknowing. Mhm.
This is why she can tackle any topic, no matter how removed from anything you'd expect her to have maybe half a clue about, like, say, how many civilians have died in Iraq since we invaded their country under false pretenses over half a decade ago. How is she qualified to assess mortality statistics from a nation she's never been to? She's Megan fucking McArdle, that's how.

I heard enough during my work on a story about the body count to know that the Hopkins team was behaving in odd ways that dramatically piqued the suspicions of their critics. They made claims about their methodology, and then retracted them. They kept very close control over their data set, distributing it to only a few people, and refusing to release even well scrubbed data to almost anyone who disagreed with them. On top of that, they put limitations on what researchers who had seen the data could say to the media.
If Megan were worth taking seriously, I'd refute those claims, or at least contextualize them. Instead, I'll just quote her next sentence.
I repeatedly asked for what seemed to me to be completely anodyne pieces of information in order to investigate claims of "curbstoning" and other polling offenses, only to be told that the researchers who had access to the dataset were not allowed to give out any specific numbers.
Maybe, Megan, they plain didn't feel a need to cooperate with you? Professional courtesy applies within a profession. Journalists who ask for specific data sets tend to be trained in the fields generating those numbers, for reasons that most of us would find obvious. Indeed,
The team's defenders said that they had to do this either for the security of the responders (even though no one was asking for the raw data with identities attached), or because the people who wanted it were too stupid or disagreeable to be trusted with the data set.
As in they possibly realized you, or someone in your food chain, would have decided to claim their data said something opposite to their conclusions and force them into a public debate with an unschooled idiot with an agenda, Megan? Oh, and because their data relied on Iraqi sources whose lives might be jeopardized by haphazard public handling of their information by a blithe moron like you, Megan?
AAPOR's position, which I think is right, is that this is not the way the scientific method works. To the extent that this is, as some have claimed, standard practice in the public health community, it does not validate the behavior; it casts serious doubt on the output of the field.
Megan didn't want to play with the Hopkins team, anyway, they stink and their ball is a weird color and everyone says she's too good for them.
But, like the good conservative she pretends not to be, Megan can't resist a chance to try to muddy the waters around any Iraqi body count, because the numbers, whichever numbers they are, just seem too high to her, based on her expertise in expertizing.
With controversy swirling, I called the Hopkins PR office, only to be told that Burnham was off in Amman for work and couldn't be reached for comment. Given that must have already known that the report was due to be released, and roughly what it was going to say--I was told about the report several days before its release, by another journalist--this seemed very strange. Stranger was the Bloomberg School of Public Health's apparent total lack of interest in explaining the study to a journalist from a major national magazine. I asked them to call me when he was available, but apparently his unavailability covered the entire month of January, and beyond.
Also strange is the fact that Megan didn't offer me a place to stay when I was in DC for the inauguration.
Perhaps this was because the National Journal, my sister publication, had just published an article that was highly critical of the study. Or maybe they just forgot. But the general tendency to refuse to engage with anyone who seemed likely to question their findings did not inspire confidence in the results.
And if they can convince you, Megan, then they can convince the swing voter, your mom, and then they will RULE THE WORLD. Your skepticism is all that's keeping us safe at night. Stay Strong.
Still no word on why the AAPOR got involved in the first place. But I don't see any reason to think that they're part of the scientifically illiterate and politically motivated conspiracy against Burnham et al. that the team's supporters have alleged.
I don't think you're part of a conspiracy, Megan, I'd never give you that much credit. I suspect the team feels more as if they're trying to avoid being gummed to death by a wild pack of evil, toothless, retarded babies with giganticism.
Update 2 Just to be clear: I have no reason to think that Burnham or any of the Hopkins team committed knowing fraud, as some have alleged. I don't know that there is anything wrong with their data. But the secrecy seems bizarre and wholly unnecessary, which makes it harder to trust their results.
And I'd like to make clear I don't actually think Megan is an evil, toothless, retarded baby with giganticism, but her unwillingness to give me a tissue sample for DNA testing and the like means the cloud of suspicion may never lift.
Later she got indignant because someone pointed and laughed at her, but this is long enough as is.

* - cf


Just in case anyone has forgotten, here's a quick tour of Megan's history with the body counts since the inception of FMM. I still wish she would reuse the macaroni and cheese argument from before our time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Good To Be a Honky

to begin, white privilege is very real, very much still a part of our culture, and very easily ignored by those who benefit from it. I am a rich white male, and part of why I am so confident in sharing my opinions is because I have grown up expecting to be listened to. I'm not apologizing for that, but I do recognize that not everyone has had the same experience, and that race, class, and gender play into it. I also know that there are ways I am privileged which I'll only slowly, even never, recognize, ways which are patently obvious to those who have a different background. I don't think this awareness is any kind of achievement.
Megan, however, can make it seem like one.

Adam Serwer defends himself on the grounds that I'm just perpetuating white privilege:
I wrote about this during the election, but white people are far less concerned about racism than they are about accusations of racism, because racism isn't really a part of their experience, but being accused of being racist is. So this is a pretty self-serving argument: Kling's racism isn't problematic, because it doesn't "shut down the discourse" but Walcott calling out Kling is out of line because it might hurt some delicate feelings.
I can't speak to what "most white people" do or do not care about, because I am only an individual white person. Had he looked for evidence about this particular white person, by, say, googling what I've written about racism, he would have found that his statement was not an accurate characterization of the specific white person he was talking about. I read through the first hundred hits or so, because hey, maybe he's right--I actually agree with him that we are all guilty of subtle racial bias, so maybe I'm too worried about accusations of racism, and not worried enough about the lingering legacy of slavery.
For a moment, let's play Megan's game and ignore Jail the Jena 6 and blacks are lazy, and look at the results of that google link of her work she poured over. The first result is titled Ending racism: are we there yet? Huh? Huh?. The second result is titled The privilege olympics: sexism or racism?, where sexism "wins" as worse. The third result is by Conor Freihoffer guestblogging, and 'argues' it's unfair to link racism and conservatives. The fourth result reduces racism to an ill-defined mostly hypothetical concept, and features multiple lengthy comments from racist asshole Steve Sailer.
In fact, let's linger on that post, because it's unintentionally insightful, in a tiny way.
Most of us use a working definition of racism and sexism that is something like "Holding (bad) false beliefs about racial minorities and women". But if that is our definition, everyone is going to fail a racism/sexism self-check: no one believes that their own beliefs are false.
Hence Megan giving herself a good grade for racial awareness, and thinking her writings on the topic reflect well on her.
She goes on to defend herself, but fuck that. It's many hours after I originally began this post, I'm highly non-sober, and her self involved dribblings are extra boring at this hour in this state. But before I throw this up I have to note that, back in the original post, after becoming indignant over the notion she was minimizing racially questionable language from a fellow honky, Megan dishonestly minimizes racially questionable language from a fellow honky.
But accusing someone of deliberately using racial code-words to inflame prejudice against Barack Obama is a serious thing.
Megan should be a lawyer instead of a pretend human. Notice the word "deliberate" in there? If he didn't mean to be racist but was by accident, then it doesn't really count. Like when Megan does it. The language we use can be unintentionally revealing, but not Megan's, or that of people she likes.
With that lie via rhetoric set in place, Megan ends up with indignation. This is how we as people stay in denial of our worst faults; we accuse others of falling prey to them and take shelter in indignation, projection. This is the first, of many, privileges Megan refuses to acknowledge; the ability to spend her entire life lying to herself about who she really is with the aid of damn near every aspect of the culture around her. I don't put much stock in old Holden Caufield, as I think he was the true phony of his story, but Megan reminds us he had a bit of a point.

Back to the Shorters


Out of control:

Rent control is a communist plot to steal our precious bodily fluids. Rent control advocates force babies to rape other babies. Rent controls will cause a reaction in the global climate comparable to what's seen in The Day After Tomorrow. Rent controls force slum lords to subject their tenants to substandard conditions.
And don't get her started on Section 8, that causes cancer.

Libertarians better shut up for the next four years:

Megan would like James Wolcott to notice her, so she's decided to play the victim because one her fellow libertarians said some really fucking stupid things. Arnold Kling apparently doesn't see racial undertones in calling Obama and his economic team "a ransack[ing] gang of thugs", after having called the stimulus plan a covert "reparations" plan. Now, obviously his saying all this is a direct result of being a libertarian, so anyone's negative response is all about anti-libertarian bias. Kling, or really Megan, is the true victim of bias here, and libertarian is the new black.
Megan knows Kling, and he's nice to her, so therefore he can't possibly be biased. Wolcott is the true racist here, using the occasion of a black man in the Oval Office as an excuse to point out moments of public racism directed at that man and his office. Megan is scared and angry that she'll inevitably say something comparably stupid, so she's lashing out preemptively.
But she really would like Wolcott to link to her.


Intellectual consistency and coherency are not Megan's strong suits.

It's just like a gang of white thugs are ransacking my house:

Notice how she inserts the word "white" there to totally show how it's not a racially loaded phrase? Oh, and she's still waiting for her closeup, Mr. DeWolcott.
It's all the left making poor Kling look bad, in truth. We're out to get the poor, put upon libertarians. Sure, Kling called the stimulus bill a reparations bill, but it was some other guy who used black and reparations in the same sentence, so race was totally absent from Kling's words. And just because he implied Obama was leading a gang of thugs in an assault on his daughter doesn't mean there's any scary negro imagery involved.
But acknowledging any of this might cause Megan to notice her own unquestioned biases, which probably why she feels victimized here. And so, projection.

This is why it's a bad idea to turn the volume on the racism charges up to 11; if you're wrong, it turns out that you were self-righteously . . . slandering someone.
Oddly enough, no one in the daisy chain except our own Andrew Sullivan has been interested enough in Kling's racism to post a correction when it turned out to be mostly imaginary.
Yep, when a Bell Curve enthusiast clears you of racial bias you know you're good.

What do we mean by nationalization?:

The New Deal didn't work,
Perhaps the thing to do is triage the banks: identify (and certify) those that can get along without capital; liquidate and sell off the no-hopers to group one; and laying out clear steps for getting the banks in the middle group back onto solid ground. This is approximately what FDR did, and while the certification process was jerry-rigged and probably more than occasionally wrong, the restoration of confidence in the banks that stayed open was very helpful.
unless I can make hay out of referencing it.

Oh, Canada!:

Canada retained a culture of business regulation, and thus has been less impacted by the current crises. This means nothing, and can tell us nothing. That they ran budget surpluses and paid down debt during the Bush years instead of enacting deficit military spending and wealth redistribution upwards is nice, but has nothing to say to how we've been doing things or Megan's support of those past policies. It's just one of those things.

Ok, breaktime. Be back in just a few with a long look at the white privilege post. Stupid is as stupid does, and Megan is fucking stupid.


you're soaking in it.

But seriously, folks:

I sat here in front of my television and laughed at Maxine Waters, because her apparently random ramblings are a true spectacle. One laughs because one can't cry. But this woman is sitting on the House Financial Services Committee. She is supposed to help craft the bills that govern our financial system. And she clearly doesn't have the first shred of an inkling of a clue of how said financial system works. Her questions had the air of someone who couldn't quite wrap her mind around the complexities of the E-Z Reader consumer activist pamphlets from which she had presumably cribbed them.
Now you know how the rest of us feel when we read your work, Megan.

(Fine, not really a longer, whatevah.)

Always Playing Catch-Up

we're bad obsessive anti-fanboys here, we always fall behind. Marathon shorters, prolly in parts.

Sign of the Times:

Guess what? Megan is one of those people who actually watch infomercials. How do you think she heard about the Slanket?

Tracking TARP:

Americans are scum. While the rest of us enjoyed seeing the heads of TARP assisted banks put through the ringer, Megan was feeling sorry for them. Do you realize how rich they are?

Maxine Waters brings the crazy:

Sure, Megan confuses and conflates the bailout and the stimulus frequently, but this woman asked questions coming from an ideological basis Megan disagrees with. Waters is therefore the biggest idiot in the history of ever. Do you realize not every bank represented issues credit cards? The horror, the horror.

Is Ruth Madoff psychic, or what?:

Remember, every time Megan mentions the Madoff scam it entitles her to three rich people enabling posts. For example...

Poor little rich boys:

Sure, it seems laughable to hear financial types complain about having to live on only a half million a year, but they have a point. Rich folk having to give up a vacation or two this year is totally equivalent to poor folk having to give up food and shelter.

How do you feel?:

Yes, rich white people do get the blues. And yes, the rest of the world is perfectly right to have no fucking interest in hearing about it from us.

Now, a pause for a longer. BRB.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm Taking a Day Off

It's 64 and sunny outside, and I'm still buzzing from seeing You're Welcome, America last night.
It was FUCKING AWESOME. I can't really begin to describe how FUCKING AWESOME it was. HBO will be showing it in March, watch it, it's FUCKING AWESOME.
And I really and truly in a non-Atlas Shrugged way am gonna get to the Body Count posts, it's just been a fun n busy week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Look What I Just Found!

Apparently everything was just fine on the econo-financial front until a mere year ago when a mysterious disease or something broke out on Wall Street.

Business books, it seems, are beyond parody.

The worst, however, was a book called "The Way of the Cockroach", in which would-be CEOs were explicitly instructed to behave like vermin.  Apparently there is nothing so contemptible that a business writer will not stoop to . . . telling other people to imitate.

Come to think of it, I may have found an explanation for the last twelve months . . .
Yes, Megan, only in the last twelve months have the titans of industry & finance been interested in acting like cockroaches. 

"Beyond parody," indeed. Gah!! 

Simply Incoherent

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of nothing at all:

Yes, she butchered the saying, but it gets much worse. The post is arguing to exact opposite. (Or is it? I'm not quite clear what she's trying to say, shockingly.)

I just gave a talk on market-based strategies for growth at the Institute for Emerging Issues conference in Raleigh. I talked about a lot of things, but one of the things I brought up, which seems particularly appropriate given the TARP and the stimulus debates going on right now: it's the idea that a compromise is always better than nothing.
Clearly, with experts like Megan McArdle out there spreading the knowledge, we'll move out of these crises quickly. Never mind the fact she's parroting the conservative tactic of obstruction in the hopes of eventual political gain, there's totally a good argument for doing nothing and hoping for the best.
Let's say that TARP proponents are right and that some program to pump a great deal of money into banks is better than just letting them fail. It does not then therefore follow, as night to day, that this package--or any politically feasible package--is better than nothing. It can be true that Ideal>0 without being true that 1/2ideal+compromise>0.
And what if the TARP money turns into velociraptors and eats everyone in the banks we're trying to help? Do you really want to sentence all those poor people to potential violent, painful deaths?
We are all guilty of formulating some ideal policy, and then acting as if whatever crippled version of that ideal policy survives the political process will necessarily be better than the status quo. But the pressures of the political process often require vast and counterproductive alterations. To take but one example, energy market deregulation can work very well. But energy market deregulation as screwed up by California's various interest groups (including the moronic consumer groups that proposed forcing all the utilities to always buy their power on the spot market!!) was much worse than sticking with the boring, inefficient old system.
No, you aren't hallucinating, Megan really did just try to blame consumers for the California energy crisis. She read an industry pamphlet on the topic, and rich people don't lie. Plus she used two exclamation points, which makes it extra true. But I digress, we're talking about why doing nothing right now is obviously the way to go, at least compared to stimulus that isn't all tax cuts for the rich.
It is not necessarily true that doing nothing would be better than either of these plans, of course. But I'd like to see 0 included in the solution set a lot more often.
Hypothetically, the stimulus plan might not work, therefore DO NOTHING!! (See?)
Megan has to rely on imaginary situations because she's deluded herself straight out of reality. The New Deal made the Great Depression worse, dammit, the facts of the matter be damned. The government doesn't create jobs. Trying to help people is bad. Why won't anyone listen to her? Her commenters think she's right on.

You've Got to be Fucking Kidding Me

Remember how Megan really loved TARP? I mean, yeah, she hates government economic intervention but the American economy is completely beholden to rich peoplethe banks and so it was a necessary evil. I guess that means she's going to really like Geither's new plan to stabilize the banking sector.

The Wall Street Journal adds that "critical details of the plan remained unanswered, despite the weeks of planning leading up to Tuesday's announcement." Plan? That's not a plan, it's a fervent wish. No details at all on the foreclosure program, and precious few beyond platitudes about the mechanisms for dealing with toxic assets. The only real new information is the amount: $1 trillion total, $500 billion to start.

I don't envy Geithner his position. But he's known this was coming for months. I expected a little more than telling us that he wanted to spend a lot of money to help banks clean up their balance sheets. We knew that much already.
God, he's such an idiot! Why couldn't he have an extensive, transparent three-page plan like Bernake did! I mean, Geither didn't even get on his knees and beg like the good little capital worshiping lackey the head of The Treasury (that's, uh, what Geither does, right?) is supposed to be.

I mean, housing prices had only been plummeting for years so it's not like Bernake had time to see the collapse coming or anything. It's not like a couple of physical scientists like myself and my brother who have no formal training in economics whatsoever saw this coming a mile away and pulled out of the market months before the dive.

IT'S TOTALLY DIFFERENT YOU GUYS! Also, it has NOTHING to do with the fact that Geither is a Democrat. Nope, nothing at all.

Geither should just listen to Megan's great ideas like, uh, the one about, um, giving banks a lot of money with no strings attached and the other one about, uh, like sucking off bank executives or something. I dunno. I forget what they are but she totally has some brilliant ideas.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sofa King Stu PED

The joys of unemployment (insurance):

Like unionization, unemployment insurance is known to increase unemployment--not the number of people who lose their jobs, but the number of weeks they spend unemployed. As long as the checks are coming in, people are less motivated to take any job that's offered.
I'm proud of Megan for not getting indignant at this. How dare they? How fucking dare people not just take the first McJob they see and try to find meaningful employment while they can?
I know, I'm being unfair. Megan is in favor of unemployment insurance, just only so long as it helps the economy and not people. Do you realize many European governments actually try to provide care and services to their citizens? Fucking socialists. Thank god American greed is a transmissible virus and we're changing that. The purpose of an economy is to provide the wealthy with a scorecard in their competitions, don't forget that.

The Stupid Just Won't Stop

today's shorters. I will, for reals, do a look through the Iraq Body Count posts sometime tonight, probably fairly late. Now on with the dumb.
Oh, and I just checked the fire megan gmail addy for the first time in forever, and oops, sorry to a few folk. In the future, if it's an important email, drop a comment to let me know of it.

Niche marketing:

Megan gets very upset when she's made personally subject to the same "free market" forces she champions the rest of the time. This gouger is a rugged individual letting the market determine how to price their goods. Were they a corporate entity with a commodity doing the same, she'd be singing their praises.

Starbucks tries to scoot downmarket:

Really, Megan is wayyy too hip to drink Starbucks. Maybe a little ironic, and mostly made of chemicals, Dunkin Donuts coffee now and then, but she's too awesome for Starbucks.

The coming of Kindle 2.0:

Why get a library card for free when you can spend $200-300 on a piece of plastic that then makes you pay $10 bucks more for each entirely electronic copy of a text you want to read? Books, of course, can also run out of battery power while you read them, so there's no functional difference.

More love for Big Labor:

What does this mean for the stimulus? Union labor is more expensive. Every project that uses a PLA will cost more, and many of those jobs will use as much capital equipment as possible to minimize the demand for labor. That means that we will get a lot less employment for every dollar of stimulus spent than we would without the PLA.
Money given to union members simply VANISHES FROM THE EARTH. No one has ever penetrated their culture deeply enough to answer this mystery. They don't spend the money, or put it in banks, and the lack of open fires in areas where unions dig their underground tunnel communities suggests the money isn't being burned. Top theories include use as insulation, and that, since legal tender is made of a kind of cloth, unions actually sew the bills together to make their undergarments. But the truth is we may never know.

Internet accountability:
The St. Petersburg Times creates a site where you can actually see how Obama is doing at keeping his campaign promises. Wait . . . you mean politicians are supposed to actually do the things they promise? Did I miss a memo?
Dear Megan,
You are fucking stupid.

Triumph of Will:

Nothing says ringing endorsement like echoing the title of Nazi propaganda. I'm sure Will is quite flattered.
But if the Republican Party disappeared, the Democrats would be no closer to their goals, because the Republican Party represents real interests that would continue to exist, and would elect other people who would also oppose the bill. And at the point when you're fantasizing about the mass disappearance of a large number of voters, I'd suggest that your political philosophy needs a rethink. And if the stimulus package were really as 100% guaranteed to make America better off as its proponents claim, you can bet that sensible Republicans would be falling all over themselves to get on board.
No right winger's day is complete without projection, is it?

Be right back with a brief look at today's lowlight.

Survey Says

It's here. Now, for your protection, less dissenting opinions and more "OMG you're so funny Megan!"

'Cause, if you disagree with Megan it's just because you're uncivil.

Punishment for incivility is reeducation by 2x4.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Can't You Get A Real Job?

Megan gives advice:

You really don't want to be the high-cost provider in a deflationary environment--at least, not as long as wages remain sticky. It's also less broadly distributed, centering itself near relatively affluent areas. In most cases, that's a good place to be. But so far, the recession has taken a disproportionate toll on those with substantial assets.
And more advice:
Being the high cost provider of a rapidly depreciating luxury good is not the market niche you want in a global financial crunch.
I just can't understand why she isn't running, say, Circuit City, rather than passing this astounding business acumen around for nothing. Can you? (Hint: Probably not altruism.)

Laugh of the Day

Susan linked in comments to an old Megan piece from last year about evil liberal bias in academia, and for some reason I've been reading the comments.
And it paid off. In part of a longer comment can be found the following gem;

I think there is a perfectly plausible argument that the 'superior knowledge claim' can attach to finance and business, but not to the liberal arts: Finance has to stand up to real-world and market forces - and wrongheaded liberal ideas can be seen to fail in the real world.
Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk | March 29, 2008 1:57 AM
Also, wrongheaded conservative ideas can be seen to fail in the real world.

And it gets better. This is his response when challenged on the failure of conservative economic theory.
"Except that it's not; according to some 'respected academics' it's because there was too much regulation.
So what's the deal? If things were as clear-cut as you say they are, something like this would seem to be a long-settled issue."
'Nuff said.
Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk | March 29, 2008 11:15 AM
Jason Van Steenwyk, will you gay marry me?

Can You Imagine?

Worst sentence ever written in journalism?

The nerve of a typist who has to clarify herself every couple of wks. calling someone else on bad journalism or typing. Or anything else.

This gig is sapping my non-existent soul. At this point I can barely muster outrage.

Friday, February 6, 2009

NEWSFLASH: Water is Wet

Your morning conspiracy theory:

Am I the only one who thinks that the Republicans--with the exception of squishes in blue states--do not in fact wish the Democrats to compromise with them? The upside of cooperation is limited--they avoid punishment for having voted against it. The upside of voting against whatever the Democrats put up is clear: they get to hammer the Democrats with it.
Megan was the kid who raised her hand in class to repeat exactly what the teacher just said as if it were contributory insight. Every known political commentator came to that realization a week ago, Megan. Even my cat realized it on Monday.
My personal conspiracy theory is that the Yankees are trying to win baseball games by signing good players. I am very smart.

What If D-O-G Really Spelled Cat?

A modest proposal:

Everyone's complaining that the problem with the tax component of the stimulus is that it will be saved rather than spent. But what if that's a feature, rather than a bug?
Isn't it time you posted a bland recipe, Megan?


no foreplay, let's get to it.

When saving becomes dissaving:

What does it mean for the savings rate--savings could conceivably go up as a fraction of income at the same time it goes down in absolute terms. I don't know--I'm not even sure how we could know. Has any other country ever had this level of personal debt before?
Maybe a professional journalist or economics blogger will find out for you, Megan.

Will falling gas prices cut into Visa and Mastercard's earnings?:

Yep, she's worried about gas prices falling.
What other businesses will falling gas prices be bad for? The only one I can think of off the top of my head is mass transit--but then, they lose money anyway.
And only poor, dirty people use mass transit, except the subway, anyway.

How effective are tax cuts as stimulus?:

Amazingly, conservative ideologues claim tax cuts are highly effective as stimulus.
On a practical level, I think tax cuts have to be part of any package that hopes for quick action. As I said in my Bloggingheads with Brian Beutler, the government does not have a lot of mechanisms for spending money quickly. If you really want to shove money out the door, you need to do it through existing transfer systems: unemployment, welfare, food stamps, and of course, our friend the IRS. [Clarified for honesty]
The only way to fix the economy is to keep doing the same things that crippled it, although she's half right, in that if conservatives get their way we will need to pump money into unemployment and poverty relief programs, what with all the new unemployed poor people Megan wants to keep making.

The Costco model:
(Obligatory notation that it is still better to be a laid-off ibanker than a single mom whose shifts at Wendy's just got cut back. But the contraction in incomes at the top has been greater, proportionally, which means those people will be cutting back more than downmarket consumers.)
It's such a chore for Megan to acknowledge the existence of poor people. FFS, don't you have any sympathy for the poor financial types? Some of them have had to cut back their coke use to weekends only. That's way more of a sacrifice than deciding between paying the rent or buying food for your child. Rich folk are suffering, dammit. Priorities, people.

Is Obama losing control of his message?:
Well, yes. My mother, aka The Swing Voter, is absolutely livid that the Obama team thought it was okay to move forward with nominating known tax offenders.
A woman whose excellent judgment led her to vote for both Ronald Reagan and George Bush twice is livid that....
wait, why the fuck do we care?

Wal-Mart reports that same-store sales grew 2.1% in January:
I'd guess that the recession will be good for Wal-Mart--even if they don't actually improve their profits, they'll come out of it in a better position than most of their competitors.
You mean a bad economy is good news for the nation's cheapest, and largest, retailer? Are people trying to save money now or something? You need to explain further, Megan, to make sure your insights aren't lost on us muggles.

Productivity, and unit labor costs, rise:
For all the hyperbole about incompetent managers, layoffs are not actually performed at random. They tend to target the least productive workers in the department, or the least productive departments (though of course there are many individual exceptions to that generalization).
It would must really pain her to put in those qualifying clauses, but otherwise she'd have to admit she thinks most laid off workers deserved to be fired.

DTV in never-neverland:
Why was the DTV transition, which has been planned for years and years, suddenly delayed by the Obama administration? The rationales about people who weren't ready seemed very flimsy, and easily curable with very small amounts of government money. Julian Sanchez suggested one possibility a while back: someone with a vested financial interest has been "helping" the Obama administration with its DTV policy.
OBAMA IS A CORRUPTOCRAT, who, in the middle of a national financial crisis, won't find money for a technical change-over which is in no way important. There must be payola involved, there's no other answer...
You could have got this answer with some basic googling.
There is a backlog of coupon payment to people applying for transition. That program has ran out of money, since the Bush administration didn't adequately fund it. Funding it sufficiently to cover all people who applied for converter coupon will take a few months. Hence the delay which has been overwhelmingly passed in both houses of the congress.
This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.
Posted by Jon
This is why she wants to go to closed comments. The only people who'll bother to register will be sycophants.

Getting long. A couple quickies and a look at the Iraq Body Count posts in a few.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

McArdle Fairness Doctrine Act of 2009

Megan, who recently identified herself as among "center-right and onward people," is all mad about Congreƒs spending the taxpayers' money. Well, she's mad that Democrats are spending the taxpayers' money, because the blockquote she provides is all about a Democratic Congressional Caucus retreat. The item she linked also mentions Republican Congressional retreats (not that you'd know from Megan's selection) which like their funding not from the people they are alleged to represent, but straight from the corporate interests actually represented by the Greedy Old Party.

You know, we gave them a whole building and everything just so they could have a place to plan for the entire country. We also provide them with offices filled with staff people dedicated to planning important things for the entire country. If that's not enough, I suggest they pass the hat and rent a VFW hall somewhere like most of their constituents have to . . . or figure out a way to pay for it without tapping government funds.
Good points. Maybe all corporate retreats should be outlawed. After all, they have "buildings and everything" to work in. Certainly those seminars & conferences to which Megan flies that are financed by non-profits should be halted immediately. That's taxpayer money that the non-profits get by not paying taxes. Enough!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More clean-up

but not necessarily shorter. This will probably be a two-parter.

The burden of proof:

rests on everyone but Megan, especially if she's talking about school vouchers.
You see, history didn't happen, FDR and the New Deal accomplished NOTHING, and tax cuts are the only thing that will work at all, the failures of conservatism be damned. All this is, of course, so self-evident that it's on those who disagree to prove they are correct.
And does slavish fealty to lowering taxes mean Megan has finally come out of the conservative closet? The only person in there with her was Ann Althouse, who I am not, and neither of them noticed the closet had no door.
(Hi Ann! Are you drunk yet?)

A data gold mine:

It's totally cool for Amex to cut the limits of people who shop at low end stores, because poor people's money smells like sour milk, and you can't let too much of it pile up in one place or it just reeks.

40% of Japanese investors think there is a risk of a US default:

I don't know how much of this is related to the $815 squintillion stimulus, or whatever it is we're proposing to spend this week.
Stimulus, schmimulus = ironclad argument against the stimulus proposal.

Liar, liar pants on fire:
How DARE I claim that stimulus spending didn't get us out of the Great Depression? GDP growth was really, really high under FDR!!!!
Oh, boy. She can't even manage to rephrase the argument against her to make it sound bad. Now she's going to TOTALLY show us why getting mad at Megan for being fucking stupid means she wins!!!!
Item One: Even a dead cat will bounce if you drop it from a high enough height. GDP contracted by nearly a third during the acute phase of the crisis, from 1930-32. It wasn't actually going to continue to contract indefinitely. This is basically the pattern you see in most countries with major financial crises: severe contraction, and then rapid climb back towards former output levels.
Item One: Megan is completely wrong and knows it, but that's the fault of reality.
Item Two: Remember how we talked about increasing a measurement by increasing one of its components? Government spending went up, which naturally pushed the measurement up. But that didn't mean the economy was healthy, and no reputable economist, left or right, claims that the Great Depression ended before 1940.
And just because that wasn't a claim made in her honest and respectful summary of her critics' position doesn't mean Megan can't pretend that money vanished from the economy once the government spent it.
Item Three: The statistics point to a lost decade.
which is to say, the stats show that Megan is wrong and her critics are right, but that's because we haven't shifted the goalposts yet.
The economy basically recovered to the same level of output it had enjoyed in 1930, with much higher unemployment (17% in 1939). Indeed, FDR had more years of 20+% unemployment than Hoover. But of course, during that time, the population had grown somewhat, so GDP per capita was slightly lower than in 1930.
An economy with 17% unemployment is not healthy. And economy with GDP fluctuating around the same level it was at ten years ago is not healthy. A healthy economy would have displayed new growth and much lower unemployment.
And yet it was much healthier than it had been. (Btw, since Megan doesn't source her stats we're left to wonder whether her unemployment claims are based on the dishonest idea that people employed by the government in projects like the TVA were still unemployed. It's a common lie in current debates, like the one using the failures of anti-New Deal policies in 1937 as proof the New Deal was a sham.)
FDR's programs may have helped alleviate the pain of the Great Depression, but they did not cure the underlying economic malaise, which was alive and well as we headed into World War II.
So in other words, just because the New Deal worked doesn't mean we shouldn't lie and claim the opposite for political purposes.

Department of non-leading indicators:
I just offered an acquaintance heartfelt congratulations on . . . not being laid off.
The recession is over! Megan knows someone who still has a job, that means the economy is growing at a blockbuster rate, or was until Obama fucked it up in the last 2 weeks.

This is your head, blogging:
Brian Beutler and I discussed the stimulus. In my defense, I kept speaking over Brian because I had a raging ear infection that had made me deaf in one ear.
I'd make a joke about it requiring physical gratification from some attractive female for me to be willing to watching this, but I'm not that big a whore.

Quote of the day:
I often think to myself, "how could anyone live on $500,000 a year? It's like something in the middle ages. Except, you know, with granite countertops and private schools for the kids." But then I started doing volunteer work on the Upper East Side, and... [blah blah blah]
The actual quote of the day is the first comment to this post;
Given you defined your own brush with crippling poverty as being unable to buy cocktails after having seen a Broadway show, forgive me for ignoring your snark here.
Posted by James

Breaktime. Mostly not-shorter part 2 in a few.


The madness of crowds:

I have a general rule for debates: he who loses his temper, loses. His supporters see him as righteously inflamed by the moronic arguments of the other side. But the rest of the audience sees him as bully with a case too weak to be made without screaming.
(Note the gender of her pronouns.)
Meganball is kind of like Calvinball, only the rules aren't internally consistent. The only constant is that Megan wins, no matter what.
I take a topic on which I myself have been known to be intemperate: vaccines and autism. Both sides can get nasty. But the anti-vaccine crowd is generally the crowd that stops making arguments.
Even when Megan does it, the other guy did it first.
Next she extends this 'rule' into the debate on the stimulus plan. Because Megan doesn't actually have an argument against the plan besides it makes her feel vaguely icky to be helping people, the flaw naturally rests in how stimulus proponents talk to her and BFF Tyler (and his hair).
The one thing I can say is that the tendency of the proponents to get angry at anyone who questions them, and/or pick on side points, does not make me more confident in their judgement. It doesn't seem to me like the irritation of confidence. It seems like the anger of someone with something to hide.
"The irritation of confidence"? As in someone being irritated by a putative economics pundit repeatedly conflating a bailout and a stimulus to the point they have confidence said pundit is a blathering idiot with no idea what she's talking about?
That must not be it. One of the more frequent rules of Meganball is that her mistakes prove you wrong. I dunno, I guess we just have to accept we lose, because we aren't special like Megan.

Clean Up Shorters

fuckity fuck. She's back on speed. Wonderful. First some shorters I should have done last week, then some looks at some real stinkers from the last day or two. If I have it in me I'll look at the Krugman mess, too, if not you can head over to Susan's for coverage.

More on Dick Fuld:

Remember, if I tut-tut about the most blatantly obvious cases of misdeeds by the executive class it totally means I'm being principled when I excuse and enable them the rest of the time.
For example...

Those Wall Street leeches:

Sure, I worked in the Financial District, have an MBA, "cover" economic issues, and have lived a relatively indulged life, but that doesn't mean I couldn't secretly resent the people making more money than me while I kissed their asses.
(M. covered the coverage of this post below.)

GDP falls, deflation looms:

As a friend, another journalist, just told me, "I am slightly concerned that everything, here and around the world, really may go to some serious [expletive deleted] this year".
How many of Megan's flaws are encapsulated in this one sentence?

Media alert:
Felix Salmon and I were on Marketplace today.
First comment;
Say, isn't the idea to have the media alert before you're on the radio?
Posted by Rich in PA

The problem with bonuses:

is that most rich people totally deserve their money for the tremendous success that's been had across the board in the financial sector over the last year or so. Sure, maybe Dick Fuld doesn't deserve a bonus, but let's not go crazy.

How forward looking are we?:

My ability to get predictions wrong and choose the wrong side in near every issue makes me an expert in the field of expertise, dammit!

Damned if they do, damned if they don't:
The left is angry at banks for not managing their credit risks well enough, loaning money to people who couldn't pay it back. The implication is often that this was all some sort of scheme to get working stiffs into debt slavery.
No, Megan, the implication is that deregulation of the credit markets, or lack of sufficient oversight, led to credit card companies extending credit to people they knew couldn't afford it in order to charge them interest rates on that debt that would shame mobsters. It's not a new scam, you're just a willfully blind moron.
I never bought into the notion that expanding credit was bad for poor people (though I now realize it wasn't good for the economy as a whole). So the cutbacks make me uncomfortable and sad. But that's one reason I can't get too mad at banks for extending the loans in the first place.
Don't blame anyone who actually bears any responsibility in any of these crises, folks. They might have say about Megan's future employment.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fantasies of the Dying Right

I didn't want to be the one to break the news, but someone should spread this around.

Brooks also mentioned Megan McArdle, now writing at The Atlantic. Unpredictable, intellectual, policy-oriented, witty, with a brain the size of a planet. If there a better public intellectual for our day, I don't know who it is. In Megan McArdle, I see the potential to transform the Right; to tear down the sacred cows and rebuild a much more coherent, effective movement.
I thought carrying the weight of the world was Atlas Shrugs' gig. And no, I've no idea who fantasist Jon Henke is. But he is fantastic.

brad adds:

Henke was a guest-blogger for Megan during one of her countless vacations, along with Conor Freihoffer and some other schmendrik I forget. He's pimping her for his own gain, in other words.