Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ignorance, Like Domesticity, Is Bliss

McTorture (her prose, not her job) is on vacation, woo hoo!

I will slowly assemble torture posts over the next few days but mostly I will bake cookies.  I will use a $400 Chambers stove made in the 1950s, a Kitchen-Aid mixer made in the 1990s, a whisk, two glass bowls, and a set of metal measuring utensils. I will probably overcook at least one sheet of cookies and nobody will mind that they are not perfect.

A preview: Here is McArdle, in the middle of discussing why she is very much against torture.

Torture seems to me very likely to work provided that you can verify the information, which I assume interrogators can in at least some circumstances. Nor is it obvious to me that the quality of information is likely to be lower than that obtained by other means: yes, people will say anything to avoid torture, but they'll also say anything to avoid imprisonment. Maybe the lies will be vivider or more voluble under torture, but it doesn't seem necessarily so that the ratio of lies to truth will increase.

She's a Big Thinker, you know.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Burning Consequences

Bill Moyer:
We’ve just watched the Senate and the House — aided and abetted by President Obama — pay off financial interests with provisions in the new spending bill that expand the amount of campaign cash wealthy donors can give, and let banks off the hook for gambling with customer (and taxpayer) money. 
What happened in Washington over the past several days sounds strikingly familiar to the First Gilded Age more than a century ago, when senators and representatives were owned by Wall Street and big business. Then, as now, those who footed the bill for political campaigns were richly rewarded with favorable laws. 
Bill’s guest this week, historian Steve Fraser, says what was different about the first Gilded Age was that people rose in rebellion against the powers that be. Today we do not see “that enormous resistance,” but he concludes, “people are increasingly fed up… their voices are not being heard. And I think that can only go on for so long without there being more and more outbreaks of what used to be called class struggle, class warfare.”
One of the Robber Barons, known for figuring out the consequences of actions before most people:
[T]he problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.  
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.  
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Ferguson time a thousand.  The country will try to ignore any warning signs while getting poorer and angrier, and then one day, when the middle class is buried under parents with looted pensions and devalued houses, sons and daughters who can't go to college or find dignified work, and routine theft of their livelihood by their employers, they will start to fight back.

A lot of people will become very excited at the chance to escape from their humdrum lives. Some will join the fight,  where they will be a hazard to everyone else. Some will ignore it except to complain. Some will try to make money off of it. Most will try to desperately preserve what they already have. Only the wealthier of the top 10% will succeed.

Our nation depends on our authoritarian habit of obedience (and our greed) to keep us acquiescent. The robber barons don't really believe the sheep will ever rebel so when they do the rich will grossly overreact. They think the middle class will never fight back because they kill us whenever they feel the need. They forget that this tactic only works to a point. You can kill a bunch of African-American kids, you can kill a bunch of foreigners, you can hand over the treasury to the banks, you can rape and torture, but when the middle class realizes that they are being treated as if they are--you know [leans in, whispers], one of them, then all hell will break loose.


Megan McArdle has been much engaged with the conservative declaration of Twitter War against North Korea. She grew progressively more irritated as the day wore on and retweeted 18 other indignant tweets defending America's honor.

Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago

Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago
In fairness, lawyers probably told the chains they had no choice. If there were an attack, the chains would be bankrupted by the liability.

Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago
Nonetheless, the Greatest Generation are spinning in their graves fast enough to power a high-speed monorail between Chicago and New York.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  19 hours ago
Sony should immediately release The Interview online. I’d pay for it, if only to give the hackers a bit of heartburn.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  17 hours ago
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  13 hours ago
BREAKING: America apparently a nation of lily-livered pantywaists who let terrorists threats dictate which movies we’re allowed to watch.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  11 hours ago
All right, America, if we can’t watch The Interview, we have a civic duty to spend at least two hours over Xmas making fun of North Korea.
Megan McArdle @asymmetricinfo  ·  11 hours ago
In related news, script about North Korean defectors is also in trouble. I don’t know enough swear words for this.

McArdle has said little to nothing about the release of the torture reports, ignoring it now as she ignored it then. However there is no Glenn Greenwald to point out her lack of concern for the consequences of her choices. She will be able to happily defend America's honor over a movie while ignoring America's dishonor and nobody else will notice.

She will cash another billionaire's check and go to the movies. The screams of our victims will not sully her beautiful mind--or career.

As awful as that is, Tyler Cowen embarrasses himself even more.
Megan McArdle retweeted        
Is it silly to think that North Korea probably has committed an act of war against the United States?
 He did his best to look manly but when it comes to capacity for ferocity and hatred he can't hold a candle to McArdle.

Added: I am pleased to be wrong. David Atkins displays McArdle's jingoism to the world and reminds her that the Free Market Fairy isn't an American patriot.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Her Masters' Voices

I thought it was just general contrariness that make Megan McArdle voice her support for accused campus rapists. Maybe not.

After 15 years of writing policy papers and serving as experts in the media, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a small branch of the vast-spanning Koch billionaire-funded network, has emerged from the shadows to mount an aggressive lawsuit campaign targeting campus policies and forcing universities to pay for what they deem "First Amendment" offenses. 
The result of the onslaught of lawsuits brought by FIRE will likely be sweeping changes in the way speech is carried out in day to day campus life - based on policies penned from "libertarian" interpretations of speech, often written by the right-wing group themselves.

The group itself is not limiting itself to speech policies, however, as we previously reported. FIRE has been working with students accused of sex crimes on campus and plans to litigate on their behalf. 
The implications and the fast-moving nature of the flurry of lawsuits is a bit terrifying. The funding behind them seems to have come out of nowhere. But rest assured, it's a well-orchestrated onslaught. There's been very little coverage so far of what's happening. Vulnerable universities and colleges are folding to pressure – settling these cases out of court and permanently rewriting their school's policies – for better or worse.


 This summer, FIRE enjoyed its largest Campus Freedom Network Conference (CFN) yet! In addition to great keynote speeches by journalists Juan Williams and Megan McArdle, FIRE held a student panel so attendees could hear first-hand accounts of how fellow students fought back against censorship on their campuses.

It's amazing that a journalist can have unstated ties to an organization or activities that she reports on and nobody cares about conflicts of interest, but there you go.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Foul Rag And Bone Shop Of The Heart

People take their fears and hatreds and petty sins and pretty them up with lies. They deny their feelings, reinterpret them to make themselves look more moral and caring than they actually are, and then make up elaborate rationalizations for their self-deceit.

Authoritarian children grow up angry and resentful because authoritarian upbringing requires abusive treatment. To make matters much, much worse, the child is told to be grateful for his mistreatment and love his abuser. The child does what he is told because children will do anything for love.

So he grows up angry at his parents but unable to accept that anger, which he is told is wicked, immoral, disloyal, wrong, sinful, ungrateful. The anger does not go away; suppressing emotions makes them stronger. It must go somewhere, so the angry abused child-adult looks for another target.

Our elite know this instinctively. They were once children too. This is how our elite control the masses. They give angry people a target for their anger. They give hurt people a chance to inflict that hurt on others in indiscriminate revenge. They give needy people a chance to satisfy those needs.

In other words, an ideology.

But you can't admit your ideology is simply anger, gluttony and fear. More denial, more lies, more manipulation, more suffering follow.

Meanwhile the very rich become rich beyond imagination. The bodies from the war crimes pile up. The people erupt every couple of weeks with violence when the minds teetering on the balance tip over into hysteria and anger. Lies triumph.

Torture is wrong. It hurts people terribly, unnecessarily, cruelly. It's immoral. It must be punished to stamp it out. It must be condemned so it never becomes routine. 

But hurt repressed people want to hurt others, as relief from the hurt. Ego-starved people know they would feel good about themselves if they could prove they are special. People forced to obey want to force others to obey, to normalize the abuse and in revenge for the abuse. They all hide the violence of their emotions as much as they can but constantly look for a chance to ease the pressure. They threaten violence, stoke it when they can, vote for violent leaders, and cultivate rationalizations for their harmful actions.

Which brings us to Megan McArdle, our longitudinal study in authoritarian dysfunction. But that will have to wait for a later date.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thinking Can Be Dangerous

Shorter Megan McArdle: For centuries, middle-class women didn't have to tell men "no" to sex because society punished people who had sex outside of marriage and therefore women did not have sex and men did not rape, except for a very few psychopaths. Rape culture is based on the inability of men to figure out if a woman really does want sex and lack of respect for women who do have sex.

I don't think she thinks this stuff through very carefully.

Nor should feminists be eager to help women avoid the burden of deciding, and then stating their opinion in the strongest possible terms. "No" and "I don't want to" are great tools for women to master. For centuries, society protected nice middle-class women from having to use them by deciding what we wanted, and punishing anyone who wanted anything else. Now that those rules are gone, some feminists are essentially advocating handing the burden of deciding what we want over to ... men, who are supposed to guess whether we are offering "affirmative consent," and be punished if they guess wrong.

The affirmative consent rules are, in my opinion, completely unworkable as either a social or a legal norm. But even worse than that, they give back the power we fought so hard to win: the power to make our own decisions, and then to reap the rewards, or suffer the consequences, of what we decide. "No means no" is a good enough rule.  It is not good enough to defeat every psychopath who is willing to use drugs or a man's superior strength to take what is not offered freely, but it is certainly good enough to defeat a "rape culture" that says women don't really know what they want, or deserve to have their desires respected.

If feminists hadn't gotten their women's lib panties in a bunch they would have been protected by society and wouldn't be raped so often.

Do Not Need: The McArdle Christmas List

Megan McArdle has been publishing her Christmas gift guide for years and years and one has to wonder why. Most of the items on her lists are the same. Sure, she tweaks the list a little to fit criticism or suggestions and adds a few items. Her sales patter changes slightly; some old anecdotes are replaced by new anecdotes, but there is very little reason to repeat the entire list year after year.

Maybe the items are must-have, and McArdle thinks everyone should know about them? Or maybe not.

List of superfluous items:

Most of these tasks can be done by a more universal item, are more trouble than they are worth, or are unnecessary if you have a little common sense.

Salt pig-I do not want to root around with my (wet or food-covered) fingers in an open container of salt in my hot, humid, buggy climate.

Disposal genie-Use the drain that comes with the sink.

Pizza mesh-Turn over your food half-way through cooking or use wire cooling rack, which you already have.

Surgical tongs-Who wants to use giant eyebrow tweezers to eat their food? If you can't use chopsticks you already own forks.

Giant ice cube trays-A gimmick. Learn how to mix drinks and don't let them melt. Does anyone ever have to encourage McArdle to drink up?

Twine Dispenser-Use your kitchen scissors to cut it and put the twine on a shelf out of the way. You don't use it every day.

Ball whisk-Too hard to clean, which McArdle would care about if she didn't have P. Suderman do the dishes after her little cooking experiments. You will also need giant stainless steel bowls if it is large enough. McArdle doesn't run a gastropub, no matter what she tells her liquor store.

Egg separator-McArdle's excuse for including this item is that some people have never separated eggs before but want to make an angel food cake from scratch. The egg separator will rock their world.

Gravy separator-These are handy but it doesn't really matter whether or not you pour the fat from the juice or the juice from the fat. You could also put it in a measuring cup and put it in the freezer, then lift out the fat to use to make gravy while the meat is cooling. McArdle says, "Great for anyone who does a lot of roasts and braises." Being a "vegetarian" she probably does not use it much herself.

Splatter guard-Use your silicon mitts to protect your hands.

Spill stopper-Do you know what else keeps water from boiling over? Turning down the heat.

Butter boat-I've already mocked that thoroughly.

Hand chopper-It has no control over size or shape of chop and dulls quickly.

Mandolin-Good for experienced cooks, but you can also use the Kitchen-Aid attachments, Cuisinart, or a knife. Not for the faint of heart.

2-cup saucepan-Use the microwave, which you already own.

Paderno spiralizer-use your Kitchen-Aid attachment.

Rabbit corkscrew-Use the smaller, cheaper Screwpull.

Food mill-Use a strainer, colander, or food processor.

Pourfect bowls-Use small bowls, custard cups, and portion cups, all of which you actually need/have.
Cusinart electric kettle-A Japanese or knock-off hot water pot can be left on all the time; fill it when you make coffee in the morning and have hot water all day.

ISI gourmet whip plus-I will never foam soup and I prefer soft, pillowy whipped cream, not aerated. It is a nifty gadget, especially for someone (if anyone) who will use it all the time, but I seldom used mine and a cream aerator did not improve by sitting around for years.

Chinois pestle and stand-Look at the picture. I would never use this and I doubt it does anything in McArdle's kitchen either, besides impress guests on her Kitchen Tour. It would be a nightmare to clean.

Not everything in McArdle's list is useless; as if by accident she has about a dozen items that anyone would want or need. Rice cookers, crock pots, good pans, cast iron pots, grills, and some others are all good things. But they are vastly outnumbered by the marginally useful.

Sometimes McArdle displays a basic ignorance of cooking in her recommendations.

OXO basting brush Bulb basters are basically useless for the task of basting; they fail to draw or come apart at the worst possible moment, bathing your hand in boiling animal fat. They're also no good for barbecue sauce, marinades, mop sauce or any of the many other liquids you might want to transfer onto a savory piece of meat. The answer is a basting brush, but in recent years, they've become terrible -- the bristles start coming out almost before you start using them, which is great for adding fiber to your diet but not so good for your culinary reputation. Most of the silicone substitutes keep their bristles but don't do very well at actually transferring liquid to meat. OXO has finally solved this problem, to my immense relief. I like the longer-handled model particularly -- excellent for grilling or reaching into a hot oven.

Basting brushes are usually used for spreading something thick, such as BBQ sauce on chicken or egg yolk on a piecrust. Oxo utensils are high in quality and usefulness but McArdle should tell everyone the name of the low-quality goods so they can avoid the bad and make the Free Market Fairy happy; she doesn't think of that fundamental aspect of her job.

Bulb basters suck up juice from the bottom of a roasting pan to transfer to the meat. They do not come apart in my experience, unless they are old. They fail to draw when there is not enough liquid in the pan. McArdle's brush is not made for and will not solve that problem. She could use a large spoon when she needs to scoop up juices in a shallow pan and a ladle when the pan is deeper.

Amco refrigerator magnets These are very handy references of kitchen information. My favorite is the easy guide for doubling or splitting recipes, but there are several other good ones. Yes, you can look it up on your phone, but not without getting your phone dirty.

Ordinarily I would say that this need demonstrates a lack of cooking experience but it might just be that McArdle can't divide 1/2 by 2 or multiply 1/3 by 4 no matter how many times she tries.

Let's not forget McArdle's most elite appliance, the Thermomix:  It is difficult to figure out exactly how the Thermomix works. There are no cooking demonstrations on the site but you can find some on YouTube. It seems you have to follow recipes geared towards the machine. You may not have to chop up the vegetables but you still need to cut up food to the correct measurement, and because the blade is short. You also seem to spend a lot of time punching in numbers and waiting for beeps, which might or might not be an accurate impression.

There's nothing wrong with a machine that does your work for you but it's an antiseptic approach to cooking and gives no leeway for natural variations in the food, the amount you need to cook, or more flavorful cooking methods.

Thermomix says:
Often called “the world’s smallest, smartest kitchen”, the Thermomix is more than just a blender and food processor.  Designed and engineered in Germany, and with more than 40 years of innovation, the Thermomix TM31 is the most unique product of its kind on the market today, combining into one the functions of at least 10 kitchen appliances.  It crushes, juices, whisks, whips, emulsifies, weighs, mixes, kneads, grinds, chops, purees, grates, mills, blends, saut├ęs, cooks, stews and steams, all in one bowl that even washes itself!
In other words, when it comes to kitchen utensils and appliances McArdle is redundant many, many times over.

For cutting she has a zester, knives, a mandolin, a pizza cutter, kitchen shears, hand chopper, spiralizer, food processor, Kitchen-Aid attachments, Vitamix and Thermomix, the latter of which is supposed to replace most of the others.

For mixing, blending and whipping she has a ball whisk (and no doubt other whisks), stick blender, food mill, whipped cram aerator, food processor, ice cream freezer (which mixes as it freezes), Kitchen Aid mixer, Vitamix and Thermomix.

For cooking she lists an electric kettle, deep fryer, pressure cooker, rice cooker, gas grill, toaster oven, sous vive, Vitamix, and Thermomix.

So what's the point? Why the yearly List? Why not just list the new items? Why a very, very long list of kitchen gadgets and appliances, many of them utterly mundane, if not ugly, as a special Christmas gift-giving recommendation?

When it comes to McArdle, the simplest answer is usually the best.

As far as we know McArdle still receives a cut of the action from Amazon. Almost all of her suggestions are routed through Amazon. Christmas time is approaching and McArdle believes in gains from trade. Surely it would be utterly appropriate to make a few hundred or thousand bucks from her readers for all her hard work. Everyone must be paid by someone, and why get paid once for writing an article when you can be paid dozens of times?  Why should McArdle pay for her Christmas when she can get someone else to do it for her?

No doubt her husband would agree. After all, why should Reason's employees work hard selling ads when they can be put with a bowl to beg instead?

As far as disclosures go, well, pish-and-tush. McArdle disclosed her profit motive a long, long time ago which in her mind means that the little matter of conflict of interest is settled and done.

It is possible that McArdle severed her relationship with Amazon; in this case we heartily congratulate her for refusing to slyly use her readership to enrich herself.  It's the ethical thing to do.

If you are curious, the entire list (minus an item or two with no price) comes to $6, 672.12. (A few of those items are very deeply discounted for Christmas.)

In our next post we will discover another little goodie in McArdle's Christmas stocking: Torture.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's A Good Thing She Never Bought That Pink Gun

The chief characteristic of conservative thought might just be the desire to inflict pain on people who get in their way.

Megan McArdle in 2002 when faced with the possibility that a New York transit strike might impose on her life while she was unemployed:

  Our best hope may be that unemployed New Yorkers take to hunting down transit workers and pounding some sense into them.

 One suspect the real reason the right wanted to invade Iraq was to watch soldiers, whom they consider their proxy when they want to hurt someone, kill some barbarians. McArdle wanted protesters hit with a 2x4, she wanted transit workers on strike to get beat up, she wanted Iraqis punished for the Saudis' attack on 9/11,  and she wanted "one free Screw You" when Obamacare passed.

It might seem strange for a rich middle-aged white woman to have violent fantasies of punishing her perceived enemies but rich middle-aged white women don't stoop to violence themselves. They vote for the good-looking elite people with the right pedigree who support torture and murder and amuse themselves by imagining they have so much power they can eliminate their enemies with a few words.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thank Heaven For Daddies

Mrs. Megan "Succeed through failure!" McArdle had an interesting discussion regarding transit unions, way back in the day.  It's illuminating to see McArdle as a baby blogger, before she learned to temper her arrogance with fake humility and we shall be adding tidbits from these posts as we have time.

Let's start with this, from December 13, 2002:

Nathan, you have no idea what you're talking about on union payrolls. You are not listening to me. I spent a year doing [transit] union payrolls quite recently. Unless you have more experience than I do calculating such pay, you are not going to win this argument because I know more about it than you do.

 She said she did Xeroxing and filing at the World Trade Center. It looks as if she was actually or also doing payroll for a transit union.

[In 1985] Francis X. McArdle was named to head the General Contractor’s Association of New York. He stayed in that lucrative position for the next 20 years.

It's a hell of a lot easier to succeed through failure if you have powerful wealthy relatives, but "be born to wealth!" would make a much shorter book than succeeding through failure. Everyone assumed her dad helped her out but (possible) supporting evidence is always nice as well. It's not iron-clad but it's not like anyone will be prosecuting her for lying about and trying to rat**** Obamacare so the proof positive will have to wait.