Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Writer Heard From

Compare & contrast:

This, from Slate's "Moneybox" (there's a semi-icky name) by a Daniel Gross, who was on the same junket to Vietnam as our muse, Ms. McA, w/ all of Ms. McA.'s items from Vietnam, & the obsessional coverage generated here. Interesting, no?

And the real masochists among us might want to visit the German Marshall Fund blog, esp. for 22 & 23 November, for further contrast.

Web log beg: Do any of my readers remember if Megan mentioned anything about the transportation infrastructure in Vietnam? Not to mention that said infrastructure was in such bad shape as the result of the well-intended, beneficent United States gov't. dropping more high explosives on Vietnam during our "dust up" (her words) w/ them than it dropped on Germany & Japan during WWII (or whatever that stat is).

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to duct tape some road flares to my chest & visit the Dep't. of Public Social Services. Watch the news!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm No Foodie, But...

I won't go into the rant about the rise of food fetishism in the '80s being a displacement of sexual whatnot based on fear of AIDS, which I mentioned in the comments to Clem's response to Megatron's first "Kitchen sink" item. Indeed, as I'm soon out to Trader Joe's™ for some peanut butter w/ my new food stamp card (it's coming out of your pocket, McArdle!) I'm just going to drive by this one. It's cookbook recommendations. No Joy of Cooking? Links to Amazon, though. Someone's maximizing their efficiency.

Did you know that Julia Child and I were the same height?
Now ask me if I care. By the way, English major, are you both dead? Or is that just how you type?
Jasper White is our seafood go-to guy; we're particularly fond of his lobster book.
May we have a moratorium on the phrase "go-to guy?" Thank you. (She's slipped into the first person plural because she's referring to her family now. Thought she'd totally rejected all their left-wing trendiness.)

Now the best part. Referring to Betty Crocker's (not a real person, but a corporate simulacrum) 1950 picture cookbook, she rightfully mocks Betty's attitude:
I wouldn't touch their "foreign" recipes if you paid me.
Oh, those quaint, unsophisticated Americans of the '50s. Tee hee. "Foreign." Have you ever read that James Lileks fellow? He makes fun of stuff like this, & Andrew thinks he's a hoot.

Four paragraphs later:
I don't have recommendations for other ethnic cuisines, either because I don't think there are super good ones, or because it's a cuisine (Chinese, Indian) that I don't cook. Though considering the state of ethnic food in much of the district, I may have to start.
How amusing to emphasize your ethnocentrism w/ the word "ethnic." Though maybe she's just emphasizing her ignorance. A "cuisine," by definition, is "ethnic." Except, of course, "American" food. It's just, you know, food. Well, pemmican, corn & taters are "American" food. Anything the Euros here eat is pretty much, oh, European, just adjusted a bit, in fine melting pot-stylee. (Fondue, any one?) And note which cuisines she doesn't cook.

Now I'm really hungry. Hope this damn card works. TJ's, here I come.


Not to step on Editor-in-ChiefFounder brad's toes or blue suede shoes (I went to college in the 1820s) but to expand on his previous item, about MM's item:

Mr [sic] Brian Beutler has a hilarious post about Public Service Announcments [sic][.]
(Hey, two sics in one sentence!) What the hell was so "hilarious" about BB's post? He threw up five YouTube clips of PSAs (one of them Canadian, one of them Kiwi). I'm doubled over in hysterics! There's irony involved, I'll grant, but I suspect the only real hilarity observed by the soon to be officially a spinster (in both senses of the word) was from the Canadian PSA, which Mr. Beutler found amusing as well. Apparently

a Canadian movement called "Prevent It", whose goal seems to be to make sure that good, hardworking Canadians never do anything without a healthy dose of panic [,]
is in favor of workplace safety. And I think we all know that "workplace safety" is statist code for choking business to death w/ petty regulations. So when some one gets a vat full of hot water/soup in the face, or falls off a ladder, it's Laffs On Parade:

Stupid workers. They deserve to be punished for the character flaws that led to their making a choice that put them on a ladder instead of behind a keyboard. Ha ha ha. Suffer, workers. Do not expect a new, safe ladder. Your betters need profit & productivity.

Spinster aunt countdown commences

With this post Megan is officially getting old. Not so much for the content as the tone, and for thinking anyone who's lived in the US for any significant amount of time doesn't know that "brain on drugs" commercial, if only because they were doing versions of it for at least a decade.
There's also this;
My college roommate had a terrific poster of a plate of breakfast food, captioned: "This is your brain with home fries and a side order of bacon.[sic]
I understand humor is inherently subjective, and Megan went to college in the late 1840s, making the poster hip in its time, but that's just not funny.

And it's not over yet

I hate you Jebus, and I'm glad you died.

What to do? What to do?:
Leaving aside race and IQ (and that last post comes quite a bit closer than I am comfortable with to touching the subject with the proverbial ten-foot pole), IQ matters for social policy. We do need to know whether g, the general intelligence factor that IQ is supposed to measure exists, how much of it is simply genetic, and how much more of it consists of environmental factors that we can reasonably change.

Because, assuming that it exists, but that the biggest problem for low-income children is environment, I don't know what sort of policy interventions this reasonably implies.
And alternately, if g doesn't exist, and the test is working on faulty assumptions of how intelligence manifests itself, then we need a new way to argue against inner city schools.
And yet, despite public schools being a trick to steal money, we could use them to improve the g of poor kids.
Even earlier interventions might help somewhat, but the earlier you go, the more problematic such interventions become. The younger the kids are, the more individual attention they require, which is why preschool is more expensive than fifth grade. Even if you're willing to pay for it, where are you going to find these millions of highly qualified early childhood experts to become, in effect, the surrogate parents to these children?
The same place you'll find the staff for thousands of new charter schools across the country? Megan's inability to self-reflect seems to extend into her ideas.
Not that I'm against trying--early childhood intervention seems to me, like schooling in general, to be one of those goods that society has an obligation to provide children if their parents are incapable. But as I've written before, good early childhood programs have enormous scale problems; I'm not sure how we overcome them.
WITH VOUCHERS!!!!!!!1!111!!!!!!1!! What better way to improve a potentially non-existent characteristic of children than with an untested radical reorganization of every facet of the context in which their intellects are, presumably, developed? And who knows better how to deal with scale problems than the good people at corporations like McDonald's and Coca-Cola? These are problems with solutions, Megan. Sheesh.


Steve Sailer is all over Megan's comments, and not for the first time. I don't know that Megan can be faulted for his frequent visits, but it is interesting that rather than take issue with him or warn others of his dubious nature, she's giving his underlying concerns voice, while avoiding specifics. It's hard, at times, not to wonder what's in Megan's heart.

Why, sweet Jebus, why?

A post on race and IQ titled Ugly questions.

Dear Jebus,
If you exist, and love me, you'll make a bus plow into the side of the building before I can proceed with reading this.

Fuck you, too, Jebus.
I am clearly not qualified to deliver a final opinion on the actual merits of the race/IQ debate. But I think that our social reaction to it is disturbing. And I do mean "our". I'm as creeped out as any latte-sipping liberal when people start arguing that blacks have genetically lower IQs than whites do. But hysterical revulsion is not the correct response to what is basically an empirical question.

In part, this is a justified reaction to the fact that so many of the people advancing these theories in public are clearly racists who have seized on a theory that validates their priors. But only in part. After all, the fact that any discussion of the possibility is greeted with hysterical revulsion guarantees that only two types of people will take the "pro" side in public: fearless iconoclasts who do not care what anyone thinks of them; and racists.
Lest we forget, Megan thinks blacks are lazy, not stupid. Damned bigoted racialists.
But being a liberal, Megan wants to know about the genetic differences between races, obviously.
If there is a difference, and that difference is genetic, I assume, in my classical liberal way, that we are better off knowing than not knowing. But my sense is that it is currently not possible to examine the question in any rigorous way right now, because almost no one will touch the subject with a ten foot pole.

And yet, the question matters. We gauge the success of our social policy by looking at macro results under the assumption that everyone (in aggregate) starts off with the same basic genetic endowment. If this is not in fact true, that would alter how we should look at that data.
Whenever I hear the phrase "classic liberal" in a non-academic setting I think of Reagan's Presidential campaign in '80, and I interpret it to mean "I am full of shit in what I'm about to say". Megan has not succeeded in challenging my instinct on this. As for the claim no one will touch the subject of genetic differences between races, I just don't know where to begin. How dare geneticists not focus on the differences between members of largely artificially constructed categories instead of scientifically valid work? The nerve.
To be sure, I am not clear on how one entirely overcomes the deep entwinement of society, environment, and genes in this case. I was recently talking to a friend who was mourning the way he watched the girls get dumber as they hit puberty, lose their interest in math and science, in a way that seemed much less likely to be the result of estrogen on their math receptors than the result of social conditioning about what men should find attractive in women.

Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure we could be doing better than we are now, except that people on all sides are terrified of finding any answer that doesn't confirm what they already believe.
Such as proof that blacks are just plain old lazy, in large part because of inner city schools and governmental aid programs for the poor.
That closing paragraph really annoys me. Megan is basically talking about something she clearly doesn't know a goddamn thing about, and taking the Bell Curve enthusiasts' claims that science is afraid to engage their claims on face value. It reminds me of a time when a born again friend of my parents tried to lecture my then gf on the lack of evidence for evolution and science's fear of admitting it. My then gf was a molecular biology major and quite possibly the most gifted intellect I've ever known personally. The amount of ignorance required to lecture others for not being more ignorant always irks me. I guess it's not Megan's fault so much as those damned inner city private schools, tho. She can't help herself.


Another view (from the world's most attractive semi-literate Christ-o-blogger) on the absolute necessity of vouchers if the minds & souls of the poor "kids" whose parents can't keep them repressed in this hideously smutty society are to be saved.

Our public schools are no longer safe havens from those who gladly give little girls hormonal pills. Expect this practice to come into your schools. Be vigilant and prepared to stop it.


Many Americans are beginning to understand that it is no longer wise to send your children to public schools. It is best that you sacrifice and do without the tiniest of luxuries so that you can send your child to a parochial school. Many private schools have private donors to help pay for your children's education.

Home schooling is a fastest growing phenomenon. Every child is entitled to a public education. However, public education is not entitled to every child. Many parents are willing to take their kids away from the harmful influence of liberal infiltrated, public educational system.
Also mentioned was the Utah pro-voucher referendum, which was defeated earlier this month. Oh, pesky democracy!
Sex education in public school is a ruse. Our youths are inundated with different sexual life style choices and not being taught the proper restrains concerning their own bodies.

There was a time when the whole of our population protected family values and understood right from wrong. Our public schools were a reflection of the times. Good moral values were of no debate. Our children were protected. That is no longer the case.
Alright, alright, Ms. McArdle's voucher fetishization isn't (openly) based on this sort of foolishness, but if nothing else we need a distraction from the financial holocaust that isn't going to happen.

Bouffant adds (1658 EDT): Not to mention a respite from the racial holocaust we're not helping to bring about.

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow in Financial Holocausts

In an undated & untimed update, we are treated to this announcement:

Update In calmer consideration, that was too flip. But the financial holocaust that was widely feared has not come to pass, and is looking less likely to occur with each passing day.
Perhaps MM was sat down & given a lecture on flippancy, esp. as concerns "serious" financial matters. (Like financial "holocausts.") Or, she may have read something on the subject (it could happen):
Policy makers at the Federal Reserve are growing increasingly alarmed about the problem, which is an outgrowth of the woes of the housing and mortgage industries.
Granted, the NYT may be a little daunting (or taunting) for an English major from Penn but there are sources at a more appropriate level:

"That light at the end of the housing-meltdown tunnel appears to be an oncoming train," says Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "With so many choices and so few buyers, the median sales price is cratering."
Mmmm, colorful metaphors. Yum. Not like that confusing old "flat earth" thing. What's up w/ that, anyway?


thy name is Megan.

On a side note, why on earth is anyone using this dreadful "flat earth" metaphor? It makes absolutely no sense. If the earth were a flat plane, would it actually be any less far from Osaka to Los Angeles? Indeed, it would seem to me that a flat earth would make things farther from each other, since presumably, it would mean unrolling the surface of the globe. That would put some two points on the earth that are currently next to each other literally a whole world away.
But what if, like, it's, like, a moebius strip? Those are pretty much flat. We could fold the planet and make intercontinental travel a breeze. Wouldn't that help free trade?

Unnecessary Taunting, Offense, 15 Yards

Taunting? One must assume that the lock was rendered useless by the theft, & was probably crummy to begin w/. Why should the "free-lance socialist" take it w/ him/her? Just so Megatron wouldn't feel "taunted?" And is it possible this wasn't a "free-lancer" at all? What if it was a socialist sleeper cell?

Need I remind any one that property is theft?

I remember something about how large (at least in comparison to her NYC crib) MM's D. C. apartment is. Couldn't she have kept the bicycle inside? Wouldn't that be the "moral choice?"

Further taunting (& just plain cheap shotting):

11:00pm - 12:00am, TLC
World's Tallest Woman
A profile of 7-foot, 8-inch Yao Defen, a 37-year-old Chinese woman whose height is a due to a benign brain tumor pressing on her pituitary gland [.] TVPG (CC)
Brain tumor, you say?

P. S.: While I did steal from Megan today (by going to get a food stamp card) I was in West Los Angeles, not the District of Columbia. So don't try to lay this one on me, copper!

Megan Madlibs

The following is composed of bits of what Megan wrote tonight put together at my whim.

Critics of the pharmaceutical industry often claim the deliberate taunting seems highly unnecessary, while gazing, in quiet admiration, at the new full-sized freelance socialist.
Should we take our ball and go home? What good are the bases doing us?
The answer is, no one knows, exactly, it seems we forgot to train our replacement.
I simply ran out of train metaphors while writing for the Economist.
This means something.

As I was just saying

Megan is fond of pointing out the flaws of others without reflecting on what they say about herself, often in ironic ways.
In the comments to Gavin's already referenced post J-- points out a great example of Megan in action. First, a short post, titled Insult to injury:

Some freelance socialist not only stole my bike from in front of my house, but left the lock. The deliberate taunting seems highly unnecessary.
Then, when questioned on what makes this act of theft socialism, Megan answers,
Guys, if I can't make fun of a political philosophy which is now subscribed to by, at a first approximation, no one, then what can I poke fun at?

But yes, I think nationalization of private property without compensation is theft.
Granted, I am in academia, but I know more socialists than I do libertarians. And I know far more Muslims than I do Mormons.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

At least trees aren't cut down to have her words printed on them

There's a disturbing tendency to think that every problem is the result of inadequate regulation. In fact, America's bank industry is, as Tyler Cowen points out, one of the most heavily regulated in the world. And not every problem can be solved by better regulation--some things simply can't be regulated without causing bigger problems than they solve. There is no perfect regulatory state that will allow us all to live in a serene economic paradise, and the sooner we stop looking for one, the more effective our regulatory state will actually be.
This comes at the end of a post questioning what seems to be an established fact that defaults on subprime loans are having a bad effect on our economy. I don't know enough about the issue to know whether to take issue with Megan on it. What she says doesn't sound right to me, as 15% of any market is a significant chunk, but I have to admit my limits.
But the bit about regulation I can take issue with, because Megan's inner closeted Hayekian is showing. One of the many obnoxious things Megan does is to try and cloak her arguments with altruistic or pragmatic concerns. Megan isn't ideologically opposed to public schools, she's worried about the kids.
In looking for further regulations to match the new realities of our banking industry we're just dreaming of an impossible utopia, and Megan wants to save us all from the angst of seeking and failing. Why worry our pretty little heads when they're just going to find new ways around those regulations eventually? Let's everyone stop fooling ourselves and relax a little. Once you learn to love the regulations you're with, happiness will follow. There may be some bumps in the road, some account holders' savings lost, but isn't love worth it? Megan just wants us all to be happy, that's all.


Gavin beat me to it, but I have to add that underlying this quotation

No one would ever do anything if they realized how much they suck.
is a common enough theme I should probably have included it in the categories of Megan's posts earlier. She likes pointing out the human flaws in others, but never seems to extend those recognitions inwards. If Megan were her own worst critic she'd still be unqualified for her position, but she'd be far less odious. She'd also undercut what we do here severely, not that it'll happen.

Kitchen Porn

"It seems to me that my hand is on fire. Could
my readers please summon a fire lorry?"

Condensed McArdle:

The crushing poverty I witnessed in Southeast Asia haunts me still, so you really ought to spend $1325 on kitchen accessories at Amazon, which, were it a man, I would gladly be rogered by.

Jon Benjamin for Pope

is a title which has nothing to do with anything, but there's a huge helping of pain to come, so why not start with a happy thought.
Megan wrote a loooooooooong post extending points about a book. Having not read the book, I won't venture an opinion, or finish reading her post, not when there's worse to come.
Real libertarians didn't:

. . . support the war. This is the emerging meme, mostly, interestingly, among people who are not themselves libertarians. Stand by for my post tomorrow: real progressives won't vote for Hilary Clinton.
Megan would never try to explain why progressives seem to support resigned to Hillary. Or link to an example of what she's on about.
The central problem that libertarians sort of tried to grapple with, and then gave up in favor of shouting with each other, is how to reconcile respect for sovereignty with libertarian contempt for the state--particularly in states like Iraq, where respect for human liberty was nonexistant. The libertarian literature on non-intervention as a principle in the face of vicious states has always struck me as inherently unsatisfying, and particularly, far to [sic] heavily reliant on positing previous US interventions as the primary cause of, well, everything bad in the world.
I'll leave it to my cobloggers, if either feels any need, to see why Megan was cheerleading for war back in the innocent days of 2002, the safe money is on WMD, 9/11, and NYC all being mentioned quite frequently. Megan claiming humanitarian concerns is to laugh, in a sad, pitying way.
A real non-interventionist has to accept that the United States should not have entered into World War II. Yes, Japan attacked us, but they did so because we were encroaching on their sphere of influence. Had we actually kept the navy within our territory, Japan would never have attacked, and we would never have entered World War II. And no, I'm not convinced by arguments that our intervention in WWI brought about WWII; our role, other than urging France and Britain to mitigate their vengeance, was fairly minor. Moreover, since we're not starting from some blank, non-interventionist slate now, this is not a compelling argument against entering into World War II at the time of World War II.[Emphasis in original]
That's one of those bits I just can't add to. Let's back up a little and admire the mess.
If you are not willing to posit that Americans should stay home even when millions are being senselessly slaughtered, then you end up in sticky pragmatic arguments about the possibilities of inherently untrustworthy state power to counteract even more noxious state power, and how much in the way of cost we can reasonably be expected to bear in order to advance liberty. I don't think there's an inherently libertarian answer to those questions. Libertarians should be inherently more suspicious of the American government's ability to make things better than other groups--but by the same token, it seems to me that they should be inherently more suspicious of repulsive states such as the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
I just don't understand where she gets the "left" part of left libertarian. Maybe she thinks pot should be legal, if only so hippies and Mexicans will stop getting so much of the profit it generates. In any case, I'm too not quite sober and definitely not a libertarian to respond to this poopy, so here's a random Binkley shot as an ending.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why Wouldn't One Simply...?

Ms. McA. does perhaps proof her items, hard as that may be to believe. Unless she's thinks she's being clever by footnoting:

Public schools* used to be the perfect incubators, because there you have large numbers of people with no prior immunity herded together, making disease transmission a near-certainty.

* By which I mean, before you start screaming, "schools attended by members of the public", not the government-run school system.
But the wonderment here is, once one sees that "public" could cause an adverse reaction (due to one's well-known deisre to voucherize the nation's schools, I might add) couldn't one simply use the delete key to take "public" out? Then there'd be no need to throw in the asterisk or type more words.

Oh, & aren't the public schools usually run by publicly elected school boards, not this anonymous, apparently responsible-to-no-one gov't.? Except, of course, for some big cities where power-grubbing mayors take control of the school system.

Last & least on the grammar patrol: If one learns to punctuate in the British style to write for a U. K. ragwebsite, how long does it take one to un-learn it, when one has a job @ the website of an American magazine?

A very typical post

Megan has roughly 9 post templates, 10 if you count blegs and random questions. There's the rare and incoherent attempt to display that english degree, the five words introducing someone else's work post, health care posts, school voucher posts, posts about race, posts about the DC mafia lunch table clique, such as Gavin covered so very, very well, posts about herself, probably the leader in sheer total number, posts about various economic matters, and, finally and, to me, most annoyingly, posts where she begins or ends with a seemingly reasonable and defensible position that's directly contradicted within about 20 words before or after, if even that far.
Case in point:
the Republicans should stop spouting nonsense rhetoric about their plans to raise tax revenue by cutting tax rates. However, it's not clear to me that this is what Fred Thompson is doing
It's not brain surgery, but at least Megan is honest enough to admit basic empirical facts. The sad thing is the sentence immediately following isn't the truly mind numbing part of the post. We get a long chunk of a Post article, then the following:
Tax simplification and cutting the corporate income tax would spur growth, and tax simplification might, by itself, bring in a significant amount of money, so I'm not sure it's correct to characterize Fred Thompson as dishing out the supply side Kool-Aid.
If you tax corporations less, it will spur growth and overall revenues will improve, but if you say lowering taxes will improve revenues you're crazy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The New England Journal of Forensic Blogginess, Vol III

Brad? You got your wish.

Me, Saturday, November 24, 2007:

Are they sincere fellow travellers, or is one (coughmcardlecough) consciously mirroring the intellectual value sets of the other as a career move?

Brad, Sunday, November 25, 2007:
I simply say this in the hopes (*cough*knowledge*cough*) that Megan will see this, and be irked. Hehe.

McArdle, Monday, November 26, 2007:
I am probably jaded, having grown up 10 blocks from Zabars, but both ingredients and equipment seem much, much harder to come by here than in New York, and while some cuisines are well represented (the Ethiopian is by far the best in America), others are practically absent (cough-Chinese-cough).

McArdle misses easy access to great bagels. Otherwise, she doesn't miss New York all that much.
Unlike most transplanted New Yorkers, I do not pine for the shadowy canyons of Wall Street...

What's with that Halloween get-up? Hang on a second. Enhance 224 to 176. Enhance, stop. Move in, stop. Pull out, track right, stop. Center in, pull back. Stop. Track 45 right. Stop. Center and stop. Enhance 34 to 36. Pan right and pull back. Stop. Enhance 34 to 46. Pull back. Wait a minute, go right, stop. Enhance 57 to 19. Track 45 left. Stop. Enhance 15 to 23. Give me a hard copy right there.

Huh. Thought she quit. Black garb, throat wounds...something...reminds me of something...

Got it:


The neighborhood of Hampstead is just at present exercised with a series of events which seem to run on lines parallel to those of what was known to the writers of headlines as "The Kensington Horror," or "The Stabbing Woman," or "The Woman in Black." During the past two or three days several cases have occurred of young children straying from home or neglecting to return from their playing on the Heath. In all these cases the children were too young to give any properly intelligible account of themselves, but the consensus of their excuses is that they had been with a "bloofer lady."It has always been late in the evening when they have been missed, and on two occasions the children have not been found until early in the following morning. It is generally supposed in the neighborhood that, as the first child missed gave as his reason for being away that a "bloofer lady" had asked him to come for a walk, the others had picked up the phrase and used it as occasion served. This is the more natural as the favourite game of the little ones at present is luring each other away by wiles. A correspondent writes us that to see some of the tiny tots pretending to be the "bloofer lady" is supremely funny. (Bram Stoker, "Dracula," 1897)

Ah, Lucy Westenra, the Bloofer Lady. I wonder what put McArdle in mind of that character?

Me, Thursday, September 20, 2007:
Too much McArdle leads to Nyquil abuse, so let's see what Ann Althouse is up to. Let's see, sentimental photos of Brooklyn and Manhattan, willful misrepresentations of the behavior of museum goers...causing outbreaks of "bloofer lady" sightings...

This is like using a nuclear imaging device to watch isotopes course through the bloodstream. Perhaps we can prepare some special isotopes. Suggestions are welcome. In the meantime, Ethiopian immigrants in the Washington, D.C. area are advised to keep their children indoors.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Travel log

Flew back home last night. Had zero problems. The airport in Florida was almost disturbingly empty, same story at JFK. My flight left right on time, landed half an hour ahead of schedule. Didn't check any bags, and got a gypsy cab seconds after stepping outside. No traffic on the roads, no issues anywhere, with anything.
I know, you don't care. I simply say this in the hopes (*cough*knowledge*cough*) that Megan will see this, and be irked. Hehe.

Because I say so, that's why

Megan has been getting grief for her most recent post on social security (scroll down to "The real problem"). Really, how could anyone have a problem with an 'argument' based on the following:

the real problem with the Social Security system: not that it is bankrupt, but that it encourages people to make extremely bad decisions about providing for their future.
Her response to the criticism is a truly shitty post:
The response of liberal commenters to my post on the fact that social security decreases labor supply and national savings seems to largely be raw incredulity. "That's crazy talk!" about sums it up.

Well, in response to those who asked, I am not only serious, but also well supported. These assertions about the response of elder labor force participation, birth rates, and national savings to pension policy are, in declining order, extremely, very, and fairly robust. All of them are strong enough that none of the slew of economists I recently interviewed on the topic of America's aging economy voiced any doubt about the relationship, direction, or causality.
Yeah, well, I asked your mom, Megan, and she said "Megan's face!" so hahahaha, I win!
Nevermind whether the "slew" of economists Megan interviewed were all Friedmanites or Hayekianistorians or their close kin, as is likely, what the babyraping fuck kind of argument is that? Megan actually has degrees?
I have interviewed several thousand six foot plus female econobloggers, and they all agreed that "Megan's face!".
I know, I'm being silly. This was just massive stoopid.
(Just to make it glaringly obvious, the problem is the complete lack of any names or citations or links or etc to back up these quite possibly contentious claims.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Crook's Dorsal Fin: Dolphin or Shark?

As noted by Brad and M. Bouffant, a new Atlantic Voice has suddenly appeared, a Mr. Clive Crook. His archives go back to October, but his blog wasn't added to the Voices roll until a week or so ago. Yglesias, for one, was apparently not informed that an Atlantic Senior Editor was starting his own dang blog. Now, I've given Crook a read, looked at some of his earlier work and traced the entrails of his admirers, and can report that the man is a much better writer than McArdle, but what he's saying isn't much different. He loves Friedman, hates Krugman and thinks that school vouchers are neato. In fact, his views are so like McArdle's that I think it's fair to speculate just WTF is going on over at Teh Atlantic. Did Crook bring McArdle onboard? Are they sincere fellow travellers, or is one (coughmcardlecough) consciously mirroring the intellectual value sets of the other as a career move? If the practical differences between them can be reduced to the level of chromosomes, with Crook being the better economics writer and a Senior Editor, whither McArdle? Will she cease her infrequent econoblogging and embrace a new, more general identity? Will she link to him constantly? Did she put those fucking strobovomit ads back on her blog to register her displeasure at being undercut? Was it an accident of timing that Crook's blog went live while McArdle was off muttering about coal in Vietnam?

Finally, does anyone else get a creepy Glenn Reynolds vibe from this guy?

"You can call me Glenn if I can call you Jane.
Oh! I seem to have set your ottoman on fire."

Weekend cat porn

Because he doesn't do well alone and is spoiled, Binkley flew down to Florida with me, as usual. That means he gets to play with the lizards.

However, that also means he has to interact with my parents' new kitten, Sasha, who is quite tiny. (Same lizard in both pics.)

Sasha is a little ball of mischief, as is proper for a kitten.

But Binkley doesn't like other cats.

To be continued.......

Hot Anole action:

The tiniest lizard I've ever caught, and I've been catching them on spring vacation for two and half decades. Here's a final, blurrier shot for scale perspective. The head and body without the tail are about the size of a quarter.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Recommended Reading

Along w/ brad's pimping of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, may I recommend, esp. for all (both?) the Asymmetrical Info. partisans who drop by here to read clear, concise writing for a change, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. Not that I, being essentially post-literate, have read it, but I've seen the PBS/National Geographic program based on it, & it's a fascinating debunking of the myth of American & Western European exceptionalism, whether based on genetics, "good/bad choices," or Jeebus & the moral superiority he & Joseph Smith grant the lighter-skinned.

From the Wikipedia synopsis:

Diamond found that he had no good answer. He says that the same sort of question seems to apply elsewhere: "People of Eurasian origin... dominate the world in wealth and power." Other peoples, having thrown off colonial domination, lag in wealth and power. Still others, he says, "have been decimated, subjugated, and in some cases even exterminated by European colonialists." (p. 15) He says that, unable to find a satisfactory explanation from the best-known accounts of history, he decided to make his own investigation to seek the root causes of Eurasian dominance.
The PBS/Nat. Geo. presentation is available from Google™ Video. Forget that football game, curl up w/ your computer & learn something.

Bouffe adds (23 Nov. @ 2023):

Piece of garbage Google™ video thing is not working on my devil-box, as compatibility between Flash & Idiot Exploder 7 seems to have gone the way of all flesh again. Where's this much bally-hooed "efficiency" we hear so much about? If it's not working for you either, try the convenient link if you really care.

Employer's Paradise

Ms. McArdle manages a further item today. I may be reading between the lines here, but it seems her idea of a better world is one in which there is an endless supply of laborers, each family has a "quiver full," & the workers labor until they drop at their cash registers, monitors, or on the shop floor, at which time they are immediately, seamlessly replaced by another member of the "labor supply." The nerve of proletarians, wanting to enjoy the fruits of being worked like mules for 40+ yrs. Hmpf.

So let's outlaw both contraception & abortion, & make it absolutely clear that a woman's primary (if not sole) duty to the statecorporation is to supply laborers & breeders. Maybe we could outlaw a lot of advances in medicine as well. Fewer old people (they're all cranky & smelly anyway) & an increase in infant & child mortality to get the ladies to do their duty. Then we can get on w/ "increasing productivity" until the entire planet is paved over.

Nothing about the "morality" of bearing children merely to force them to support older people has been mentioned anywhere. Even though we know it's wrong to expect anyone to support any one else, or provide health care for anyone else. Isn't it?

And when McMegan's carpal tunnel syndrome or whatever finally prevents her from expressing herself, her lack of offspring should effectively preclude her from any aid or assistance, shouldn't it? No exceptions. Just because you're so repellent or whatever you can't reproduce (& I proudly include myself in that category) doesn't mean you deserve a break. You made the choice not to be good parenting/breeding material. It's only fair that you should pay for it.

Holy Jebus

Megan posted 10 times today between, roughly, 10:45 and 1:15. I hope she had most of these posts already written, because if she really is methed-up I don't think we'll be able to keep up with her. Plus, meth hurts your looks, which means I'll lose interest in this twisted attempt to win her heart. So, let's see what we've got to work with.

Let us give thanks: That we live in a free market and that we don't have people with guns at our borders, like they do in the country of Africa.
An African farmer can, through the same kind of hard work, diligence, and excellent planning that you exercised, become a perhaps slightly less hungry African farmer. He is not free to do the only thing which could possibly bring him anywhere close to your level of prosperity, which is move. If he tries to do the sensible, foresighted thing in order to assure himself and his family a better tomorrow, men with guns will meet him at the border to push him back into poverty. If he succeeds in evading the men with guns, he will be labeled an illegal immigrant, forced into the gray economy by his lack of papers, and routinely excoriated by talk show hosts.
... talk show hosts? Did Megan forget she said African and not Mexican? Also, if the entire country of Africania is composed of poor farmers whose land isn't productive, where are they supposed to move?
At any rate, clearly, the way to express concern for the less fortunate is to stereotype an entire continent based on South Park's Starvin Marvin and gripe about entitlement when you're an idiot who only has her job thanks to who she knows and how she makes rich people feel about themselves. This was a weird post by Megan on many levels.

Public service announcement: Fuck trains.

Presumed innocent:
I agree 100% that this should be a coequal goal with convicting the guilty; but it doesn't surprise me that it isn't. Human beings are such irrepressible optimists, so naturally aversive to meditating upon their own failures, that psychologists have a technical term for the rare people who are predisposed to clearly and accurately assess their achievements: "depressives". When we fail, the natural urge is to cover it up--to others, in order to preserve our status, and to ourselves, in order to preserve our peace of mind. Undoubtedly, the folks at the FBI who decided not to notify people that they'd been convicted on faulty evidence reasoned that those people were all probably guilty anyway, and no real harm had been done, so why rock the boat?
On the other hand, anyone who finds fault with Megan hates women.
The more important question, I think, is why the rest of us don't spend more time worrying about false convinctions [sic]. What I've read about the Jeffrey MacDonald case, for example, makes it clear that at the very least, prosecutorial misconduct and dubious forensic testimony played some role in his conviction. This should bother us whether or not he's guilty, since presumably the kind of games the prosecutors played with the evidence have been inflicted on other, less notorious, defendants who may have been innocent. Yet there's been little interest from any quarter.
Aside from those working on the case and reporting it so Megan could read about it. Or the good, good people at the Innocence Project, or, one might assume, Lisl Auman, or.....
Oh, and there's "about 2,010,000" results for Jeffery MacDonald on Google.

The real problem: M. noted the appearance of Clive Crook just below, and he's already given Megan a doozy to work with.
the real problem with the Social Security system: not that it is bankrupt, but that it encourages people to make extremely bad decisions about providing for their future.
Oh, christ....
It starts with childbearing: social security systems seem to exert downward pressure on birthrates, in effect undermining their own actuarial base. Social security socializes the benefits of childbearing in providing for retirement, but no one has yet figured out how to socialize the main cost, which is turning your life choices over to a screaming pre-verbal dictator. People are thus tempted to free ride on the childbearing of others, and the more generous benefits are, the more they seem to free ride. This is one reason that Social Security, which used to have more than 30 workers for each retiree, now has only three, headed towards two.
(Link not reinserted) Megan is, hopefully, never to reproduce, but she's no free-rider. Why? Cuz.
Social Security also encourages people to leave the workforce earlier than they otherwise would. People are healthier than ever at 65, but while in 1950, almost half of all men over the age of 65 worked, that number is now less than 20%. This appears to be highly correlated with the spread of defined benefit pensions such as social security, which offer no advantage to delaying retirement. Indeed, Social Security perversely penalizes anyone who takes early benefit but continues to work, docking a third of their earnings.
People are getting the chance to enjoy a longer retirement. This is evil on a scale not seen since..... the pre-Clinton welfare system.
Finally, Social Security discourages private savings. This is terrible for two reasons. If future fiscal problems force the government to reduce benefits, the people who didn't save enough because they relied on those promises will be made much worse off than they would otherwise have been.

The other problem is that Social Security is not a productive investment. Privately saved money is mostly lent to corporations that mostly use the money to do things that make the economy more productive, such as R&D and capital equipment upgrades. Social security "contributions" are lent to the government, where they are mostly spent on things that could not be remotely described as improving our economy's productive capacity, such as farm subsidies.
Or $100 million bridges to nowhere in Alaska, or providing medical care for poor children, or maintaining the national infrastructure, or funding that military Megan gets so swishy for.
This transaction would actually be neutral (except for deadweight loss on the "contributions") if Congress used the Social Security money to reduce other debt; in effect, they would be doing our national saving for us. But in practice, though it is difficult to tease out cause and effect, the best evidence is that Congress simply spends the extra money as if it were tax revenue. Social security thus reduces national savings.
So, since Gore didn't win and create his "lockbox" for the then surplus, we have to scrap SS. You'd think Megan would be glad Congress has been comparatively reckless since it helps her argue against maintaining SS, but that'd require intellectual honesty. And an intellect.
The demographic transition we are currently undergoing to an older society means that we need policies to increase the workforce and productivity as much as possible. What we have, in Social Security, is a program which actively works against these aims.
We've gotta close the beaches!!!!!1!!

Speaking of Paul Krugman:
I wonder what happens to his career on January 21st, 2008? I presume we will have a Democratic candidate inaugurated; and so much of his current fame lies in his vocal opposition to a much disliked Republican president. I don't think it's crazy to speculate that, had Al Gore taken office in 2000, Paul Krugman would still be fairly obscure--better read by people like me, who loved his Slate columns, but not much noticed by the ordinary run of New York Times readers. What on earth will he write about when "Bush is evil" no longer suffices to fill column inches?
Yeah, it must suck to have been pretty much right all along. Once Bush is gone, what will he have to be right about? It's not as if the knowledge and ability which made him right once would be applicable to any other circumstances, or there's a Bush legacy, which isn't even done forming, that will likely take decades to work to undo.
A question for Megan, if Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine (read it, read it, read it, it's terrifying and essential) succeeds in discrediting Friedman and Hayek, and the general public becomes more aware of the basic brutality underlying the ideas Megan claims fealty to, what's she gonna do?
There's a difference between being an ideologue and being right.

Defining Torture:
My definition is fairly simple. If you saw someone doing something to a soldier in a movie, and that act alone was enough to tell you that the perpetrator was the bad guy, then that's probably something American soldiers shouldn't be doing to anyone else.
I don't think I need to add anything to this.

Speed demons: To reiterate, fuck trains. (As an aside, Megan is half-right. The Acela, and Amtrak in general, has major issues. What she conveniently doesn't mention is that these problems basically stem from Amtrak being an essential public service that is privately owned. The gubbermint can't let the company collapse, so the private owners essentially do nothing to improve, or in some cases maintain, their service and let the state come in and rescue them. All while charging 3 or 4 times what the public rail systems do for a less reliable service. She'd never admit it, but Megan is basically bitching about Amtrak being a private enterprise.)

Oof. That was long, and I skipped a few. Megan, speed kills. Just say no to meth, please.

You May Not Have Noticed

There seems to be another "econoblogger" @ The Atlantic's Voices, one Clive Cook, who used to work @ The Economist, & is now an editor or something @ The Atlantic. Is this an explanation for McMegan's presence? You'll note that Clive's been "blogging" since October, but no one even bothered to leave a comment (& not many of them have been left) until sometime in November. More as this story develops.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

K'thnx, Giblets (A Megan McArdle Thankgiving Book, If She'd Been Able to Use Her English Degree)

Although the Dogs were kind enough to feed the Cats that first winter, the Cats, w/ their European cunning, superior technology, & plethora of diseases to which the Dogs had no immunity soon enough had the entire continent well in paw. Thanks, Dogs, for making the wrong choices & allowing the truly moral actors to maximize efficiency & create wealth on your (mass) graves.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dept. of Petty Complaints

Megan is back in the USA.

Anyone have any idea why both the third world countries I just visited offered excellent airport baggage service, while JFK took over an hour to offload my bag?
Maybe because (and I say this with no knowledge of their local holidays) you didn't arrive in those places on their single busiest travel day of the year?
Then she links to an article about lost bags, and misses the irony of how much worse she could have had it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Travel day

Flew down to Florida to be with the parents for Thanksgiving. They just got the tiniest, most playful n loving kitten I've met in a long time. My cat, however, does not like other cats, making for interesting interactions. I was thinking about making weekend cat porn a tradition, so this'll give me a chance to stock up on good shots.
The new poll is courtesy of Clem, with minor modifications by me.
I'll take a look at what Megan's been up to today later tonight, but there's also a hot tub and an empty, beautiful beach looking out on the Gulf of Mexico to spend quality time with.
Oh yeah, n happy Thanksgiving.

Did Megatron Wash Her Hands?

The more cynical among us might think it was another excuse for racial abuse from the commentariat, enabled by Ms. McA. Check the comments for the usual "It's un-PC but.."

On the other hand, "culture matters" doesn't get you very far as a poverty eradication program[.]
Well, culture may matter, as far as the original question, "Why so much crime?" But not just the sub-culture in (unspoken) question, it's all of American culture. Megan, being solutions-oriented, pretty much ignores any causes & goes right to how to fix it, not that she has any actual idea. ("I'm not sure what I mumbled, but I changed the topic pretty quickly.") I think culture does matter. American society is quite violent, especially when compared to other, equally prosperous societies. Some of the commenters believe this is because we aren't a racially/ethnically homogeneous nation. I'd have to say it's not a question of different groups, but how those groups are treated by the majority group. (Or by the group in power: Apartheid South Africa & Sunni-dominated pre-invasion/occupation Iraq come to mind.)

But the frontier/manifest destiny mentality that is our birthright leads to crime. A nation that took an entire continent from its original inhabitants by violence (& the unfortunate susceptibility of those inhabitants to imported disease) really shouldn't complain about people taking what they want by force. Especially when that same nation indulged itself in kidnapping & chattel slavery against several million more people on the basis of their skin tone. (We should note here that by "crime" McArdle & most of her commentariat mean, essentially, armed robbery, burglary, domestic violence & murder, gang activity & the like. Especially crime committed by, you know, black people. Good thing Megan's questioner asked specifically about Washington. That way plenty of shots can be taken at black people. Crazed white serial killers, cannibals, etc., not so much. And the non-violent crimes committed by white collar types against investors & so forth are apparently viewed as a not illogical extension of the free market, caveat emptor, ha ha ha, sucker.) African-American culture having Southern American roots, we might look at this condemnation of crackers by the estimable HTML Mencken.

He refers to the exaggerated sense of honor of the Southerner. Substitute the desire for "respect" seen in some parts of African-American culture. Pretty much the same thing.

Of course the Vietnamese woman who asked Megan in the first place may have meant, "Why are there so many war criminals in D. C.?" A good question as well, & applicable to the discussion. Note this from the above referenced HTML Mencken:
Punching someone instead of arguing with them — the instinct to use violence as the first, best answer to a threat not just against one’s person, but against one’s position or “honor”, is something very old, enduring, and ingrained in Southern culture.
It's hardly limited to Southern culture, & w/ the so-called "rise of the South" (There's an entire book about it, possibly titled The South Rises Again. You could look it up.) the attitude (note current adventure in Iraq) is really nation-wide. Throw in the belief (not irrational) that criminal activity is the best, if not only, way out of poverty or wage-slavery, & we may have an answer or two.

Here ends my anti-American, blame-the-victim, reverse-racist screed.


Now class, can any one tell me what's wrong w/ this sentence, typed by an employee of the "on-line" division of what was once a major national magazine?

What is poverty, she said, and washed her hands?
Seriously. McMegan typed that. And then she typed this:
[C]learly, there is also something soul-killing about having your society brand you and everyone you know as failures.
Golly, Megan, who is continually branding poor people as being victims of their own "poor choices?" (Note correct American-style use of question mark.)

I'd go further into her item, but I have to get down to the county welfare office. (Co-bloggers are welcome to have a crack at it.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Talk to the People? I Think Not.

Compare & contrast: Clem's two uses of research, hither & yon, w/ McMegan's trusting acceptance of whatever the U. S.-Vietnam Trade Council & The German Marshall Fund of the U. S. (still don't quite get that concept) would like their charges to see, hear & believe, as reinforced by the "development community." As in:

We spent most of our time in Phnom Penh with the development community, including the extremely sharp and friendly people at the World Bank.
I've long been suspicious of the word "community," from its shorthand use as a catch-all for the impoverished residents of certain urban zones (cf: inner city) to the first time I saw the phrase "defense community" used, meaning the military-industrial complex.

One might think that the "development community" is an assortment of bright-eyed younger people, selflessly working for non-profit organizations, sincerely concerned w/ the development of Third World nations, or whatever you want to call the recipients of the largesse of Western European colonialism & imperialism. Then one sees "World Bank." And how sharp & friendly the people there are. And one begins to suspect that it isn't so much selflessness as selfishness going on.

Certainly the subtext Ms. McArdle seems to be pushing here is: "Well, these countries will be pumping CO2 into the atmosphere for the foreseeable future, so even if industrialized countries reduce carbon emissions, it won't make any difference, therefore the agenda of those who suggest we should do something to stop soiling our proverbial nest is really some sort of hippie thing to make us all live w/o SUVs & plasma televisions. And by the way, it's immoral to prevent these people from being free to improve their lot in life. See, I'm not racist, I'm really concerned (w/ "wealth creation," "maximizing efficiency," & other cliches.)

I refer you again to the blog of The German Marshall Fund of the United States.
[A] few GMF staffers are accompanying a group of American and European journalists to the region to look at trade, development, aid, economics, and other issues.
In places like the former Soviet Union, pre-war Iraq & North Korea, to name but a few, wouldn't these "few staffers" have been referred to as "minders," charged w/ keeping journalists from getting off the beaten path, preventing the journos from talking to ordinary people w/o the minders present, etc.?

In other words, hasn't Megatron been bamboozled, a process made easier by her own unwillingness to look into things for herself? Will there be many items in the coming weeks correcting or expanding on her journey, since she'll again have full access to the web? Will she publish a long, detailed article on her trip, what she learned, & how wise investment in Southeast Asia may or may not be? (What about Laos, the forgotten nation of SE Asia, by the way?) My advice: Don't hold your breath.

Dam Dirty Statistics, Cambodian Edition

Despite being a country of rivers, Cambodia is too flat to have a lot of good unexploited hydro. There are rumors about oil and natural gas, but they're still in the "fond hope" stage. How will Cambodia develop adequate electricity supplies? Coal is certainly on the table; they don't have their own deposits, but it's cheap to import from neighbors.

Again with the fucking coal. Since her predictions of willy-nilly coal burning in developing Vietnam proved lacking in the evidence department, McArdle has simply transposed them to Cambodia. How ever will Cambodia develop adequate electricity supplies? It's not as if the Royal Government of Cambodia implemented a 1999-2016 Cambodia Power Sector Strategy or anything, and if they had, surely they'd have concluded that Cambodia is too flat for hy-

6 - 1 - Generation Master Plan
The Generation Master Plan has been developed on the following criteria:
• Base load thermal generation will be located in Sihanoukville to give independent access to imported oil and thereby reducing the amount of oil transported on the Mekong,
• Peak load thermal generation in Phnom Penh,
• Small and medium size diesel units for base and peak load generation in the provincial towns and cities,
Hydro development based initially on the smaller easily accessible sites such as Kirirom, and Kamchay and subsequently mid size hydro projects: Stung Atay and Middle Stung Russei Chrum and also the two Battambang hydro sites.
The generation expansion projects have been prioritized as follows:

Stage 1- (5 years 1999-2003)
• Private developers to establish a 60MW generating plant (IPP2) in Phnom Penh with a commissioning date of December 2001.
To rehabilitate/construct Kirirom and Kamchay hydro projects, which is accessible, located reasonably close to load centers, and for which feasibility study results indicate good financial return.
(low capacity transmission links (115kV) from Aranyaprathet (Thailand) to Bantey Meanchey, Battambang and Siem Reap, and connection from Vietnam to Takeo,
large capacity transmission lines (230kV or 500kV) dedicated to energy imports/exports with the first interconnection with Vietnam. The date of this first connection is dependent on negotiations but tentatively planned to take place between 2003 and 2008. Move from 6-5 of page 8)
The cost of generation development associated with stage 1 projects is estimated at $M150.

Stage 2 - (5 years 2004-2008)
Carry out the feasibility studies commencing in 2001 of Battambang 1 & 2 hydro projects;
• Carry out detailed feasibility studies commencing in 2001 for key hydro projects identified by the least cost scenario including Kamchay 47-125MW (possible commissioning date 2008 if viable) and other hydro power stations including Stung Atay.

Carry out feasibility studies of export oriented power schemes such as Stung Mateuk (Mnam)2.
Carry out feasibility studies for other hydro projects identified by the least cost scenario, Lower and Middle Stung Russei Chrum for commissioning in Stage 3 and also Sambor identified in the preferred development plan for commissioning after the year 2016.
• Commence feasibility studies of large export oriented hydro schemes.

The cost of generation devlopment associated with stage 2 projects is estimated at $M219
to $M410. The $M219 estimate includes the Kamchay site 1 (47MW) whereas the $M410
includes the Kamchay site 2 (125MW).

Stage 3 (8 years 2009 - 2016)

Development of 110MW Stung Atay hydro station by 2012.
• Development of 90MW gas turbine at Sihanoukville.
Development of 125MW Russei Chrum hydro power station by 2016.


Cambodia's most pressing environmental problem isn't coal burning, it's deforestation and airborne pollution from fuelwood and charcoal. 80% of Cambodia's energy supply in 1995 was biomass-derived. Cambodia can't run before it can walk, and the government's first priority is the establishment of a reliable national power grid. Yes, thermal power plants running on fossil-derived fuels will play a sizable role, but so will - gasp! - hyrdoelectric plants, and the increase in carbon emissions from the large- and medium-sized thermal plants will be offset to some extent by the reduction in the reliance on the small diesel generators that so many businesses and residences currently depend on, and a reduction in biomass burning. If the Cambodian government's current strategy results in an adequate, stable power infrastructure by 2016, the real (not rumored) petroleum and gas deposits could be developed for domestic use and/or export. There are also domestic and foreign private sector initiatives aimed at developing green energy in Cambodia, including solar and wind power.

Why not nuclear? We asked.

They asked the question of the World Bank. If they'd asked the Cambodians, the answer would have been: "We don't think we need it. We have a plan, you know."

But if the Cambodians are really smart, they'll train their giant cockroaches to run treadmills.

Cambodian Royal Government energy document courtesy of the Cambodia Renewable Energy and Rural Electrification site.

Complaints about patronizing American twits with an aversion to basic research can be lodged with the American Embassy in Phnom Penh, Tel: (855-23) 728-000

She gets paid for this

Strike out:

I find it interesting that the union is getting more militant just as their bargaining position gets weaker. There's competition from the web, and from DVDs of their old programs; frankly, I haven't watched television since I left the US, and haven't missed it. Yet the union's strategy is to become more militant. My sense is that this is a common pattern--that unions are often the most aggressive right before they expire. But I don't have any rigorous study to back this up. [My emphasis]
From the second paragraph of the very first result on Google for "screenwriters strike":
One of the two major questions at issue - payments for writers of a proportion of profits from DVD sales of their work - is a matter of degree: the current 3% deal is based on the costs of expensive video cassettes rather than cheap DVDs. But the second issue - payments for internet, podcasting and mobile-phone distribution - is about whether writers (and, by extrapolation, everyone else) should be paid on these platforms at all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The New England Journal of Forensic Blogginess, Vol II

Gigantic, scary cockroaches, that's what. I'm not saying they should keep you away, but those are the biggest damn cockroaches I've ever seen. I get all crawly just thinking about it.

I'm willing to bet that McArdle's seen cockroaches as big or bigger than the Cambodian variety in her dear old New York but, being a New Yorker, she was brought up to use the classic New Yorker's psychological defense mechanism when confronted by giant cockroaches: "That's not a cockroach, that's a waterbug." Waterbug: gross, but tolerable. Giant cockroach: There Is No God. Since McArdle doesn't live in Cambodia, and has no emotional investment in maintaining a narrative of its livability, the waterbug defense is rendered inoperative, and she sees the thing for what it is.

Althouse never did take me up on my Taser Challenge. She was paid $200 to eat an egg-salad sammich. I wonder, how much money would persuade McArdle to nip over into Thailand and eat these?

Prediction: when the Yellowstone caldera unzips and North America is plunged into ashen twilight, McArdle will be the one hoarding insects as foodstuffs. When starving children come begging for ants and grasshoppers, she'll remind them of Aesop's fable:

Idleness brings want,
To work today is to eat tomorrow.
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
You should have brought vouchers

...and close the door.

In other forensic news, McArdle has finally seen the non-strobing light: the seizure-inducing strobovomit adverts are gone. She has tamped down her adolescent individualism and joined the rest of her Atlantic Voices colleagues in putting Atlantic ads on her blog. Just the other day, in comments here, I noted that McArdle and Ambinder were the only Voices who wouldn't shill for their employer. Both have now fallen into line. I shall resolve to use my powers for the betterment of all life on Earth, after directing micrometeorites onto fewer than a dozen people.

Random Notes

"It's got dots, the commissioner likes dots." "Fuck you and your dots."
Gawd I love The Wire. Now, the dots.

  • We can has been blogrolled by (the good) Roger Ailes. Hello, Roger-readers. Don't let the cat porn fool you, we're mostly about the masochistic act of reading Megan's work and making others watch as we recoil in horror at the worst bits. Y'know, for the kids.*
  • New poll time soon, n this time I'm putting it on Clem n M. to come up with an idea. Yah hear me, punks?
  • Megan is afraid of cockroaches. Someone will be around to collect her "tough native NYCer" badge soon after she's back in the country.
*- The Hudsucker Proxy did not suck, dammit.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Catching up

Megan has been much more productive since she got to Cambodia. I am overjoyed.
Even tho cat porn seems to be much loved, here's some shorterized Megan.

No justice, no peace: 30 years later, Cambodia is still struggling to find justice for the victims of its horrific killing fields, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

Institutional: Sure, I'm a Hayek/Friedman acolyte who wants the gov't to provide roads, police, and an army, period, but this trip really shows how institutions matter. The Khmer Rouge devastated the country in every imaginable way, and Cambodia is still struggling to overcome that legacy.
There are advantages to this for Cambodia now; the bad was (mostly) wiped out along with the good, although endemic corruption is one thing that seems to have survived the Khmer Rouge demonstration; perhaps this tells you just how deeply it's hard wired into us. The upside is that the ambassador says he's never seen a country so open to criticism and help; they have no traditions left to protect.
So, despite Cambodia being the fabled blank slate my ilk always dreams of, the one thing my trip here has shown me is how public insitutions are essential elements of an organized, peaceful, prosperous society, which is why we should privatize them all in the US.

Youth is wasted on the young: Megan's getting oooooo-oooooold. Megan's getting ooooooo-ooooooold. If her Althousian trajectory continues, she'll soon be drunk blogging about tall female bloggers not wearing flats around the Clenis, and how it demeans those bloggers to use their height like that. (Just a reminder, Ann Althouse, who I am not, has big boobs, and prefers low-cut blouses. She's also roughly 197, so it's kinda gross. This is why she gets jealous of younger bloggers who also have breasts.)
Getting back on point, apparently the young in a cripplingly poor country don't consider justice for crimes committed decades before they were born to be more important than food. Kids, eh?

Invidious comparison: Enough about what bad shape Cambodia is in, the more important thing is I'm a little cold.

God Bless America: It's so nice that the people of a country we bombed the shit out of and created a power void in that led to horrific mass killings aren't mad at us for it. It's almost as if they're putting on a welcoming face for the Western media in the hopes of attracting investments. But everyone I talk to says the same thing, so it couldn't possibly be message control, right? Just because I'm traveling with a group of gubbermint officials and potential investors and.....

On account: M. (checks.... yup, M.) did good work with this post exploring the revelation of why Megan is over there, and who the "we" she constantly mentions are. I'd like to focus on something different; Megan's confusion of accounting with capitalism.
We use accounting as a synonym for boring. Actually, it's not; it's fun in the same way that basic math is--if you do it right, everything smooths itself out into beautifully symmetrical answers. But more importantly, it's absolutely crucial to running any kind of a decent company, or economy. Accounting is just the sort of institution that development types are talking about when they say that "institutions matter". Accounting is the inherited wealth of generations of smart businessmen trying to make themselves smarter. You may think our great economic legacy is the factories and railroads and steel mills that litter the landscape, but it's not; it's the system by which we tell ourselves what we've got. Europe had all that other stuff basically bombed into nonexistance, and built it all back in a couple of decades. Places without decent accounting find it hard to get anything much more complicated than a Yak farm up and running. It's certainly not possible to have a capital market rich enough to fund a developed economy.

The developing world is lucky because it can import that human capital. Europe had to build it up over 500 years or so, which is why it took England a lot longer to get to $20,000 per capita GDP than it did Japan.
... Actually, I'm just going to let that stand. You don't need me to explain what's so mindbendingly stupid in those words, right?*

Stalking silk:
The making of silk is one of those things that could convert me to Intelligent Design, if they had it for societies, and if the US Congress weren't such an obvious counterexample.
The US Congress is a biological creature which either evolved into existence or wuz made by Gawd? I did not know that. Oh, wait, "if they had it for societies". Who are "they", and why are "they" keeping us from having Gawd's plan made real? Must be hippies.
Or maybe it's some corporate R&D, and they're holding out until divine plans can be patented.

Garmentos: *Sigh* If only we could exploit the Cambodian people the way we do the Vietnamese, or, even better, the Chinese. But nooooooooo, they're too busy trying to find a way out of crippling poverty. Ain't they ever heard of sweatshops?

*- Offer not valid for actual Megan fans who find their way here.

Cat porn, the dark side

Someone wants to play.

I will defeat the monster.

Or not.
He won't play if I wear a glove. He wants the taste of man-flesh, tho it looks much more violent than it is.

At Last, The Truth, or, Accounting Is Amazing

Speculation has been running rampant, even @ The World's Funniest Blog:

Meanwhile, Megan McArdle is being Megan in Vietnam this week (on whose tab no one knows), all like, ‘gosh, I never anticipated that things in Asia would be so…Asian.’
On whose tab indeed? Because, as anyone who's been reading Asymmetrical Information knows, money, money, money, nothing more, nothing less, makes the world go 'round. "Follow the money," as they say. Even those of us dedicated to irresponsibility, bad choices & suckling at the public teat, rather than grubbing for money and making good choices for our careers, are interested in who's getting what from whom. Sometimes, hard as it is to believe, it can have an influence on what is typed, & what influences the —oh, blah, blah, blah, you get the picture.

What we're working toward are the entities footing Megan's bill, who have at last been revealed.
I am probably the only person in the world who could sit on a bus, admiring the lovely tropical scenery, and thinking about accounting, but there you are. The scenery here is amazing. But so is accounting.

I was thinking about it because the US-Vietnam trade council, which shepherded us around Vietnam in partnership with the German Marshall Fund, was telling us about the ways in which they're trying to help new entrepreneurs get a leg up.
Do excuse us for a moment. (Regular A. I. readers who may have stumbled across this site 'cause your money-grubbing skills have taken precedence over your English abilities, please be patient for just a few moments. I know you're probably not familiar w/ the concept, but we're going to do some research.)

And here are the first results:
The U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council is a project of the International Center.
This stuff is hard. "It's hard, it's hard work," as somebody said. You find one thing, & it leads to another.

The International Center. That sounds innocuous. Couldn't be anything wrong w/ that. Let's see who's on the Board of Directors. Oh, look! It's representatives of Pfizer, Inc., Nike, Inc., Chevron, & something called World Federalists. (Not, I suspect, dedicated to one-world gov't. & rampant statist socialism.)

We all know who the corporate entities are, what they represent, & how much power & wealth they command. So the non-profits & NGOs also represented on the board are merely there for show. You may look them all up, but we know what's going on here.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States isn't quite as transparent. Guilt-laden Krauts, perhaps. Feeling bad about that little dust up we had 60 yrs. ago, when they killed all those people, & then we rebuilt their economy & society for them so they wouldn't succumb to the evils of Marxist yada yada.

How do they repay us? By "trying to help new entrepreneurs get a leg up." How does this repay us? Well, these new entrepreneurs exploit their countrymen, and then hand over the results of the exploitation to, oh, let me guess, Pfizer, Nike & Chevron, to name but a few. That's called "creating wealth." In a military/political context the new entrepreneurs would be called "quislings."

One thing about the Krauts, they don't bother w/ any new ideas. Dig this boilerplate:
HANOI, Vietnam — Over the next week, this blog space will see some posts from Vietnam and Cambodia, where a few GMF staffers are accompanying a group of American and European journalists to the region to look at trade, development, aid, economics, and other issues. We’ll attempt to get at the challenges and opportunities facing these two countries, how the policies of the U.S. and EU affect them, and what hopes, dreams, and fears the people have for their futures.
Another milestone in banality. The banality of evil, if I may coin a phrase.

I'm a soul-less materialist, but this crap is deadening my non-existent soul. Doesn't make me materialistic, though. Just cynical as fuck. Two fucks, as a matter of fact.

If brad's finished w/ cat pix, he may have more say on this, but I can't wade through any more of this muck right now.

I'll leave you w/ my own dose of feline whatnot, taken w/ an especially sucky digital camera:
Princess Lillie, seeking the sun.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cat porn

This is Binkley.

He's an 8 year old snowshoe siamese.

He is the anti-Kitler.

He doesn't understand why there are people who aren't me, especially the all too rare female in his spot in bed. He's very loving with me, however, although he plays rough, and my hands are always scratched up. He's not mean, just still a kitten at heart.
And now I'm done.

Not Enough Information

Ms. McA. announces in comments:

Lest I was unclear, that came from another source. But in general, Americans are uncomfortable with the French system, which offers a lot more judicial discretion, and has a different attitude towards defendants.
Posted by Megan McArdle November 16, 2007 12:07 PM
Unclear? Our overgrown elf? Let's help here & expand on this. The French system (though of course I've no idea exactly how the Cambodian system, in general or in the case of this tribunal, works) is called the Napoleonic Code. It's not unlike an American court martial, in which the members of the tribunal function as both judge & jury, asking questions, running the courtroom, & deciding the fate of the accused. And while I'm not sure if the UCMJ presumes the innocence of the defendant, though I imagine it does, under the Napoleonic Code the accused is presumed guilty (based on the efforts of the "investigating judiciary," the equivalent of the American D. A. or U. S. Attorney's office) & the defendant must prove his or her innocence. A bit more than "a different attitude towards [sic?] defendants."

Just trying to help.