Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Derp Is A Decision

In his on-going discussion of derp in economics, Paul Krugman said:
Events and data may have made nonsense of claims that the Fed’s policies would inevitably produce runaway inflation, and made those insisting on such claims look like fools; but there’s a large audience of people who, pulled in by affinity fraud, live in a bubble where they never hear about such evidence. Truly, we live in a world in which people feel entitled not just to their own opinions but their own facts.
A lot of people in that bubble do hear about the facts and complain endlessly that they can't avoid them. Many of derpdom's denizens want to learn about the enemy's sins, real and imagined, and seek out more information to win the water cooler discussion or Thanksgiving dinner. They are the reason Megan McArdle is paid so much money to disseminate propaganda; the right needs ammunition in their eternal war, even if it's complete bullshit. The right often fights as hard as it can to deny reality and facts. They're derps not dupes.

Let's take a look at a couple of comments from a post by Barry Ritholtz about some economic zombie lies:
chains & shackles • a day ago 
Mr. Ritholtz studied eloquence can probably make most of his readers believe Marx and Mao and their central planning, social engineering redistribution ideology works stunningly well. Sometimes journalist cream rises to the top; sometimes it's not cream, you tell me what it is. That we are regularly exposed by Bloomberg to bias illogical journalism where it believes that since it controls the stage it should control the argument is despotic and deleterious.  
Ritholzt's lead point that we do not have inflation and a currency collapse is right; however he is right for the wrong reasons. The discussion presented by Ritholz, Bloomberg et al, does not tread near the reality that endless QE has actually stifled the economy, that entrepreneurs who understand economics can't be fooled, that we can't print trillions and have zero ramifications. Fed-Keynesian-leftist policies have slowed the flow of money (multiplier) so much that there can not be inflation. Lack of money velocity slows the economy and this in turn slows commodity demand and in turn pressures the dollar upward. No inflation and a strong dollar yes; but right for the wrong reasons.  
Ritholtz ponzi advocation is sad. It is remarkable that he uses this as an example of those who have been wrong and have failed to admit it. The Bloomberg editorial staff, journalists and commentators crawl over each other to see who can tout statist and 1920's flapper irresponsible policies the loudest. This is a cancer not enlightenment. Economic logic states the artificial dance can not continue despite such high and brilliant pontificating  
Neutral Observer > chains & shackles • 5 hours ago   
I would call you an idiot, but that would not be fair to the rest of the idiots globally.

Farcaster • a day ago  
Glad to see this sort of article! It's about time folks on the conservative side admit they are simply wrong on their entire budget and economic agenda, mainly because they ignore Keynes: "The Boom, not the Bust, is the right time for Austerity at the Treasury."  
The conservative myth list continues to grow:  
1. Tax cuts increase revenues. 
2. We have a spending problem not a revenue problem.  
3. Climate change is neither risky nor man-influenced.  
4. Fannie & Freddie / government housing policy were a primary cause of the crisis.  
5. Austerity in a downturn helps confidence/can kickstart growth.  
6. Fiscal stimulus doesn't help create jobs or boost gdp.  
7. The free market will self-regulate.  
8. Income inequality doesn't matter to economic growth.  
9. QE/Fed stimulus will create runaway inflation.  
10. Our debt problem is severe enough to merit a government shutdown.  
I mean, how wrong does an ideology have to be before it loses all credibility and is excluded from government? And when will the middle class and poor elements of the conservative electorate realize they are voting against their own interests, helping enrich those at the top? Do they really think Koch & Co. is in their corner, while Obama fights for a hike in the minimum wage and infrastructure stimulus? Yes, low taxes and small government sounds great, until you realize the rich get 23% of the income versus the 10% they got from 1950-1970. Effective government is there to prevent the rich from sticking it to the poor.  
Teddy Roosevelt, where are ya?  
Nathan of Brainfertilizer Fame > Farcaster • a day ago  
1. Tax cuts increase revenues. True, with a few caveats.  
1) Obviously, the length of timeline matters. Within the first fiscal cycle, revenues will decrease, but over the long term, revenue increases with lower taxes because there is an increased incentive to work harder and produce more.  
2) Even with the added incentive to work harder, the Law of Diminishing Returns does apply, because 0% taxes won't being in more revenue that 1% taxes.  
3) What is certainly true, and constantly reproven, is that the US is unfortunately on the upper side of the Laffer curve: we are above the optimum point of tax revenue return, and so cutting taxes from the current rate will inevitably result in higher revenue...just as it obviously did with the Bush tax cuts. It is axiomatic that revenue will always be higher if taxes are lower than where Progressives/Democrats want them. Which is why Progressives/Democrats are always reduced to sputtering about Economic Patriotism on the occasions when they get their way: their tax policies invariably undermine tax collection. (see: inversion)  
2. We have a spending problem not a revenue problem. This absolutely true. There is simply no way to honestly or seriously say we have a revenue problem. Just look at the numbers. We spend more and get worse government performance in any metric you care to point out. The Progressive answer is always to spend more, but we never get better performance, no matter how much Progressives spend. The only spending that is effective is when tax revenues go to line the pockets of Progressives, which is why they think we don't have a spending problem.  
3. Climate change is neither risky nor man-influenced. There has never been a time the climate has been static. It might be risky, but it has only been "proven" by those paid to produce exactly that result, in violation of the scientific process. Which makes the advocates just as questionable as the advocation. Man's influence might be more than a rounding error in light of natural effects (although physicists rightfully point out man is part of a closed system whose only energetic input is the Sun), or it might not...again, the only people who have "proven" anything differently are those who are benefiting from "proving" it.  
4. Fannie & Freddie / government housing policy were a primary cause of the crisis. They were. There is not even the slightest indication the financial crisis was precipitated by anything but the result of Progressives not understanding the results of their "social justice" fantasies. Reynolds' Law. Google it.  
5. Austerity in a downturn helps confidence/can kickstart growth. It absolutely does. See: Germany, 2009  
6. Fiscal stimulus doesn't help create jobs or boost gdp. It doesn't. There is no proof it helped. The only scoring that claimed the Stimulus created jobs was one that assumed that for every n amount of dollars spent, v job would be created, so since xn amount of $ were spent, it must have created xv jobs. If Stimulus had created jobs, why are we at the lowest labor participation in decades? Why is GDP still in the doldrums? Never trust anyone who says: this is a different time, and the old rules don't apply.  
7. The free market will self-regulate. It is absolutely true that the free-market generally self-regulates on a fine scale more effectively than the government can. So government can and should establish the broad parameters of the free market: "Within this space, and within these limits, do as thou wilt". You aren't going to be able to fix a large crane with an eyeglass screwdriver...but you aren't going to be able to fix your glasses with a sledgehammer or monkey-wrench. No one has ever said, "Get rid of government and let the market do everything." That is a strawman argument Progressives like to trot out, though. But many people have correctly observed that the more government regulates, the less effective it is, the more injustice it creates, and the more opportunity for graft is created. The last one is why Progressives like ever-increasing government regulation, maybe? The biggest Democrat names over the last 2 decades have also been the best shake-down artists and/or top players in the government-dependent crony system.  
8. Income inequality doesn't matter to economic growth. Some people prefer that everyone's amount of pie gets larger, even if their own slice gets smaller, because the pie is expanding exponentially. These are Conservatives. Some people would prefer to have a larger piece of a smaller pie. These are Progressives. Some people see standard of living in absolute terms: i.e, is my life better now than 40 years ago because I have 2 HD flat-screen TVs, a reliable car, safe housing, A/C, internet, etc, even if I have moved to a lower economic quintile? These are conservatives. Some people are motivated by envy and jealousy. They might be perfectly happy with their car, house, televisions, A/C...until they see someone else with a bigger car, bigger house, bigger TV, etc. They don't care what they have, they only focus on people who have more, especially if those people with more don't have the "correct" ideology. These people yearn to put everyone in the correct place, according to their own personal value system, which (of course!) puts that individual on the very top of comfort. These people are Progressives. Notice one thing: "income" inequality. Why is it "income" inequality rather than "wealth" inequality? Because "wealth" inequality would hurt too many Progressives.  
9. QE/Fed stimulus will create runaway inflation. Strawman. QE/Fed stimulus has created inflation. That's undeniable to anyone who shops for food. Runaway? Admittedly not yet, but that was never the argument. The argument was that the QE/Fed Stimulus would cause harmful inflation, and it already has done that...the Federal govt changed the way it measures inflation to exclude food and as long as you don't eat or use any energy at all, you won't experience inflation. In the real world, however, inflation is a reality. The only reason it hasn't been more harmful is that interest rates have been kept artificially low for almost a decade now. So at this point, all we've done is delay the inevitable. That can go on quite a while, but all it means is you've shifted the consequences, not eliminated them.  
10. Our debt problem is severe enough to merit a government shutdown. Meh. It is always possible to kick the can down the road. At some point you have to say "enough!" The real issue of the govt shutdown was that the GOP wanted Obama to keep his promises, and he refused. Obama was so determined to betray his own promises that he was willing to shut the govt down over it. But since 95% of the news media voted for him and is committed to his agenda, the GOP gets blamed for trying to help Obama keep his word. It is telling that you aren't even self-aware enough to care that Obama made a mockery of your support for him.
These commenters have assembled elaborate pseudo-scientific justifications for greed, racism, and/or vanity. They know the facts, they just don't care.

It's not about facts or reality; it never was. It's about having enough power to force everyone else to live in your reality.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Revolution Will Be Derped

Dear me, someone has become a little frazzled.
Ever wonder why on earth anyone thought socialism would work?
Ooh, Megan McArdle is going to illuminate us on the history of socialism. Cool. I haven't thought much about socialism since that excellent university history class I took a million years ago. Democrats don't sit around discussing the Russian Revolution and Karl Marx when they could be creating obscene puns and song parodies instead.
No, seriously: Ever wonder why?
No. Get it? En. Oh.
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” sounds very fine, but by the time socialism rolled around, this idea had been tried, and fallen apart, in multiple communes.
Tune in, drop out, overthrow the bourgeoisie?
Moreover, sponging, shirking relatives had been observed in families from the dawn of history.
Yeah, kids suck.
The universal desire to work less than needed had long been countered by some variant on the biblical rule that “he who does not work, does not eat.” Why, then, did people want to throw out the profit motive and have the government run everything?
Because Jesus said feed the poor and care for the sick and give hospitality to strangers? Because income inequality causes social unrest? Because a wise government wants to avoid violence?
Conservatives and libertarians who ask themselves this question generally assume that socialists must have been naïve pointy-heads who didn’t understand that socialism would run into incentive problems. And of course, as in any sizeable movement, there were just such naïve pointy-heads. Even if I'm no expert on the history of socialist thought, the reading I have done suggests that the movement itself was not actually this naïve; there were people who understood that, as economists like to say, “incentives matter.”
Oh, what a lovely phrase, "the reading I have done." It could be the latest academic papers. Textbooks, perhaps. Journals, scientific magazines, blogs, class notes, even. Or it could be something Amity Schlaes or Veronique De Rugy wrote on a napkin at a Reason cocktail party. Who knows!
They thought that socialist economies would perform better despite the incentive problem1 because of various efficiencies: streamlining overhead, creating massive economies of scale, eliminating “wasteful competition,” and the many-splendored production enhancements possible through “scientific planning.”
That sounds like Wal-Mart.
In hindsight, this sounds ridiculous, because we know that socialized economies failed on a massive, almost unprecedented scale.2
Such as... or would details be too much trouble?
Scientific planning proved inferior to the invisible hand of the market,
It's the Free Market Fairy, kids! Quick, wish for the end of regulation so the invisible hand can reward good businesses and punish bad businesses!
scale turned out to have diseconomies as well as economies,
See, there are savings and dissavings, expenses and disexpenses, and institutional failures as well as institutional success through failure.
and administrative overhead was not, to put it lightly, reduced.
Take her word for it, kids. *Wink*
But before socialism was tried, this all seemed plausible. And one reason why is because the people who suggested it had already seen government planning work miracles.
Yes, once upon a yesteryear, before socialist communism, people never thought to share and share alike in small communities, depending on each person to contribute to the society.
I speak, of course, of the great public health achievements between roughly 1850 and 1960. Doctors and public health experts were given extraordinarily broad powers by the government, and they used them to eliminate the scourges that had made cities into pestholes from time immemorial.
McArdle picks up this sentence and twists it into a knot to avoid saying that the government paid doctors and public health officials to eliminate the scourges. The passive voice is an old friend of the propagandist.
They built gleaming sewers and water treatment plants to wipe out virulent water-borne pathogens that used to regularly claim thousands of lives. Contact-tracing and quarantine of airborne and sexually transmitted diseases turned former plagues like smallpox and syphilis into tragic but sporadic outbreaks. Changes in building codes helped beat back mass killers like tuberculosis. Poison control cut down on both accidental and deliberate deaths. The Pure Food and Drug Act, and similar ordinances in other countries, reduced foodborne illness, and also, the casual acquisition of opiate or cocaine addictions through patent medicines. Malarial swamps were drained. Environmental toxins were identified and banned. Then they went and invented antibiotics and vaccines and vaccination laws, and suddenly surgery was as safe as a long-haul flight, TB was curable, and childhood illnesses that used to kill hundreds of people every year were a quaint footnote in your 10th-grade history textbook.
Why do I see a "but--" coming on?
Having seen public experts work these miracles through the heavy hand of the state, people understandably concluded we could use miracles in other areas.
Having seen that the heavy hand of the state, at the people's desperate request, saved them from disease and suffering, the people understandably concluded that the people could solve many problems if they worked together for the benefit of all.
They had a metaphor, so to speak.
They had a success, and not the first one in the history of mankind, by the way.
The metaphor wasn’t very good, as is often the case, but it took a while to find out that you couldn’t solve a problem in your steel supply chain with the same system that was so good at tracing cholera outbreaks to tainted pumps.
Better pack a picnic basket. We're starting to get lost in the weeds.
You know why I’ve been musing about this, of course: the mishandling of the first Ebola patients to be diagnosed on U.S. soil.
By the hospital. Not the government.
The nation’s public health apparatus has inherited the justly magnificent reputation of its conquering forebears. Sure, other areas of government might botch things up a bit, but the Centers for Disease Control sits on the hallowed ground otherwise reserved for kindergarten teachers and firefighters.
True, true. Republicans do want to eliminate financing, resources, and authority for all three.
Failure is shocking and horrifying. The institution that gave us so much faith in government now risks shaking that faith as nothing else could.
Now, calm down there, missy! Uncurl your claws from the curtain and join us down here on the furniture.
This is an overreaction to a terrible failure, for two reasons.
This overreaction that I just made up is an overreaction to the terrible failure of the not-the-government hospital.
First, big bureaucracies fail all the time, especially in the face of novel threats. A large institution is like a battleship: hard to sink, but also hard to turn. Public health experts of earlier eras made grave mistakes, like dumping London’s untreated sewage into the Thames; public health experts of the future will too. The more important question is whether they correct themselves, as it seems to me the CDC is now doing.
If they suggest dumping sewage into the Thames, they aren't really public health experts, are they? Especially since we are talking about the 17th or 18 century, when their expertise would be limited to the knowledge of the time.
The second is that this is not your grandfather’s public health system. Public health experts were, in a way, too successful; they beat back our infectious disease load to the point where most of us have never had anything more serious than Human papillomavirus or a bad case of the flu. This left them without that much to do. So they reinvented themselves as the overseers of everything that might make us unhealthy, from French Fries to work stress.
The government's public's health system used to be good but it got so good that it got bored and decided to poke its nose into the public's lunch box and personnel file and leave little post-it notes suggesting the public go on a diet or stop smoking.
As with the steel mills, these problems are not necessarily amenable to the organizational tools used to tackle tuberculosis.
And my proof is my ass, from which I have pulled this remark.
The more the public and private health system are focused on these problems, the less optimized they will be for fighting the war against infectious disease. It is less surprising to find that they didn’t know how to respond to a novel infectious disease than it would have been to discover that they botched a new campaign against texting and driving.
Although McArdle just wrote a post saying that the CDC was there to give advice on how to handle Ebola while the hospital botched the treatment of the Ebola patient, which is no more than one can expect with our flawed organizational structures. However we can only learn through hindsight so now the hospital has succeed through failure and is much wiser than before.
Don't get me wrong: Fighting infection is still one of the things that the public health infrastructure does, and though I hope it doesn’t come to that, I expect that our system will do a much better job next time. But the CDC did not botch the job because there’s something wrong with Barack Obama, or government, or the state of Texas, or private hospitals. They dropped the ball because the public health system no longer needs to work so many miracles, and consequently hasn’t had much practice. We shouldn’t have let public health give us such an inflated belief in the power of government. But we also shouldn’t forget that with the right task and the right tools, government is still capable of doing some wondrous things.  
1 And the socialist calculation problem, which most modern readers will probably know from the Hayekian critique of it.  
2 I refer to economies in which much or all of the nation’s productive capacity was nationalized, not to social democracies, which may have sacrificed some growth, but did not fail spectacularly, though I suppose there’s still time.
The government is useless except for when I depend on it, in which case it is wondrous.

To Lie About Lying

It's difficult to realize how extreme Megan McArdle has become, especially when one reads a lot of right-wing material. Her posts on Ebola were so dishonest they deserve an additional look.

McArdle once said that she wrote her MBA program's gossip column and her style has not changed since. She begins "Ebola and Politics Don't Mix" with a summary of her twitter and Facebook feeds, and then writes "Ebola's Greatest Threat: A Third World Pandemic" (a contradiction of terms) with a personal anecdote about her little adventures that just happens to perfectly illustrate her point.

McArdle says that Ebola is worrisome but you should not be worried, and everyone is both worrying too much and not worrying enough about the right stuff to be worried about. She also tells us that Yuval Levin says that our real concern is Ebola traveling to cities in Nigeria, for instance, although she also says Ebola did in fact travel to Lagos and was contained.

In her first post McArdle points out that we can't close borders to keep out Ebola, we couldn't identify the US case because the patient lied, and the hospital's staff did not follow containment protocol because all organizations are prone to failure. She explains that the government cannot do a better job than individual hospitals because the CDC has already issued instructions on dealing with Ebola, and she also explains those instructions don't call for isolating patients from Africa with a high fever. As proof she links to the CDC guidelines, which say to isolate patients with high fevers suspected to have Ebola.

In her second post she points out that we need to take steps to contain Ebola in the US, which we will certainly do because we are a rich country with a good health care system. Presumably we will do this not because the government uses its wealth and power to coordinate efforts to stamp out a disease, as it has done so many times before, but because our hospitals are really great even though they are full of unavoidable errors that end up spreading epidemics instead of containing them.

But despite the egregious nature of McArdle's mindless anti-government rhetoric, it is her libel of NIH director Francis Collins that is most offensive. While lecturing conservatives and liberals about politicizing Ebola, McArdle devoted two posts to bashing government success and excusing away corporate/private failure. To do so she had to ignore reality, namely any attempt by this or any other government to create a vaccine against Ebola. And to do that, she had to libel Mr. Collins.

Libel, according to one on-line legal definition, is:
Published material meeting three conditions: The material is defamatory either on its face or indirectly; The defamatory statement is about someone who is identifiable to one or more persons; and, The material must be distributed to someone other than the offended party; i.e. published; distinguished from slander. Criminal Law. A malicious defamation expressed either in printing or writing or by signs or pictures, tending to blacken the memory of one who is dead, with intent to provoke the living; or the reputation of one who is alive and to expose him to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.
Megan McArdle presented Collins' statements about an Ebola vaccine as a "meme" and coyly said,"I think they’re, um, misplaced." She added:
It’s not exactly the first time that an organization has claimed that some crisis could have been averted by giving them boatloads of money … and sadly, not the first time that such pronouncements have been treated, not as a self-interested party schnorring for a bigger budget, but as the modern equivalent of tablets handed down from Mt. Sinai. I generally support higher government spending on basic scientific research, but I'm narrowly skeptical of the claim that a doubled research budget would almost certainly have delivered a vaccine for a rare virus that had, until now, never infected a patient on U.S. soil. Medical research is not a vending machine that spits out a candy bar when you put in a quarter; it’s a slot machine where a lot of the time, you pour in a bunch of money, and walk away with nothing.
McArdle avoids directly accusing Collins of being a liar but her implication that he lied is perfectly clear. She maliciously and publicly mocks him, saying he is a schnorrer, a sponger or beggar, to undermine his authority.

A journalist has a duty to check on the validity of the information she presents in her work. McArdle did not check even the NIH website to verify Collins' statements before hitting print and wrote another post about Ebola without correcting her earlier statements.

Paul Krugman calls this The Age Of Derp, which is "a determined belief in some economic doctrine that is completely unmovable by evidence." It's worse to pretend the evidence does not even exist, or to be too ignorant and incurious to look for it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

An Analysis Of An Argument Against Reproductive Options

The personal is political.

Premise: While most writers state their premise and follow with supporting evidence, Megan McArdle attempts to manipulate her audience to make them receptive to a potentially unacceptable premises. She does this by sharing personal details with the reader to create a bond of trust so they would believe her declaration that elites like them ("ambitious professionals") can't afford to put off childbearing, fear mongering, and appeals to authority, hoping to overcome the common belief that women should have control over their reproductive cycle.


A. Appeals to authority: McArdle presents the views of the elite, knowing that acceptance to the elite tribe demands acquiescence to its dogma.
1.) "the women I know"  
2.) "as friends who have done it freely remark"  
3.)"for most ambitious professionals"
B. Concedes the obvious to convince audience she is fair and balanced (while concern-trolling).

I’m not arguing against egg freezing; it’s obviously a godsend for women with cancer or other conditions that are likely to impair their fertility, and I’m sure that it will help some women to put off having a healthy baby until they can meet the right person. I’m just questioning the idea of egg freezing as career saver. There are a few professions, such as academia or some areas of medicine, where there’s a hard, bright finish line you need to cross before most women want to think about having kids, and in those professions, this obviously makes sense.
Solutions that help woman expand their fertility choices are a great advance. But I worry that in this case, companies may end up encouraging women to make a very different choice from the one they think they’re making.
B. Fear mongering

1.) Companies might be trying to take advantage of you.
There’s some suspicion among women I know that this is supposed to help/force women in technology balance family and career by delaying childbirth -- it’s not a good time in your late 20s and early 30s, so freeze those eggs and have kids when you’re ready.
2.) Businessmen inadvertently might be encouraging women to ultimately become childless.
But I worry that in this case, companies may end up encouraging women to make a very different choice from the one they think they’re making.
3.) You'll never have a baby if you put it off.
What I haven’t seen anyone explain is when, exactly, you’ll be ready. For most people, your 40s and early 50s are your peak earning years -- is that really going to be a good time to meet that special someone, or finally step back to invest some time in having kids? Is all this egg freezing actually going to expand the choices of most of the women who use it, or will it just be an expensive way to choose career over family without realizing that you’re making that choice?
4.) You'll be too old to raise a child.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m already noticing that I have a lot less energy than I used to. It’s not that I can’t get my work done or anything like that. But it used to be that if I had to travel for six days straight and then deliver a 2,500-word essay on the 7th, I could dial up my reserves and power through it -- miserable and cranky, to be sure, but functioning. Then one day, around the time I turned 40, I dialed down for more power and there just ... wasn’t any. My body informed me that it was tired, and my brain would not be doing any more work today, and we were going to sleep whether I liked it or not.  
This is -- as friends who have done it freely remark -- a difficult age to be taking on your first newborn. I can’t even imagine trying the same feat 10 years from now, when my joints will be even creakier and my reserves even more depleted. So I’m skeptical that women who are having trouble combining work and career now will really find it much easier to do within any reasonable time frame.
Conclusion: Megan McArdle uses fear, class identification and concern trolling to manipulate women into bearing children before they are ready, a practice she advocates for everyone else but herself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Lying Epidemic

Let's watch Megan McArdle try to damage a government official's reputation so she can continue to believe in sweet, sweet Randian lies. Ladies and gentlemen, Megan McArdle:
Ebola demonstrates the folly of cutting research budgets. Thank Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, for this [claim]. If his budget hadn’t been cut so much, he says, we’d probably already have an Ebola vaccine. It’s not exactly the first time that an organization has claimed that some crisis could have been averted by giving them boatloads of money … and sadly, not the first time that such pronouncements have been treated, not as a self-interested party schnorring for a bigger budget, but as the modern equivalent of tablets handed down from Mt. Sinai. I generally support higher government spending on basic scientific research, but I'm narrowly skeptical of the claim that a doubled research budget would almost certainly have delivered a vaccine for a rare virus that had, until now, never infected a patient on U.S. soil. Medical research is not a vending machine that spits out a candy bar when you put in a quarter; it’s a slot machine where a lot of the time, you pour in a bunch of money, and walk away with nothing.
What did Francis Collins actually say, in the article that McArdle links to?
Researchers might have developed an Ebola vaccine in time to stem the current outbreak if it weren’t for budget cuts, a top federal health official said in a new interview.
Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said the agency has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. “It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'”
Collins told the Huffington Post. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”  
Collins said researchers and doctors would likely have been “a year or two ahead of where we are” had research funding stayed on track.
Why does McArdle doubt Mr. Collins' claim? She does not say. She gives no evidence, let alone proof, that Mr. Collins is lying about the NIH being close to developing a vaccine. She could have gone to the NIH website and found this:
Ebola Vaccine Research The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) has developed an Ebola vaccine candidate in collaboration with Okairos, a Swiss-Italian biotech company recently acquired by GSK. The investigational vaccine, which was designed by VRC scientists, contains no infectious Ebola virus material. It is a chimpanzee adenovirus vector vaccine into which two Ebola genes have been inserted. This is a non-replicating viral vector, which means the vaccine enters a cell, delivers the gene inserts and does not replicate further. The gene inserts express a protein to which the body makes an immune response. The investigational vaccine has recently shown promise in a primate model. The VRC vaccine will enter into a phase 1 clinical trial, which could start enrollment as early as fall 2014, pending approval by the FDA. The VRC is also in discussions with governmental and non-governmental partners regarding options for advancing this candidate beyond Phase I clinical evaluation.
Evidently McArdle assumes that nobody is developing an Ebola vaccine because she thinks nearly all drugs are developed by American corporations for American diseases using money they get by overcharging American customers. Because this is Megan McArdle, she does not bother to take two seconds to google "ebola vaccine" because that's not what she does. She is paid to tell people what to think based on her own wisdom, not look stuff up and tell everyone else about it like a real journalist.

In fact the US is not the only country trying to develop a vaccine:
The first human clinical trials of a Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine, VSV-EBOV, begin in Maryland today to assess the vaccine's safety and determine the appropriate dosage to fight the virus that has killed more than 4,000 people, largely in West Africa, Health Minister Rona Ambrose has announced.
"We are able to share some very promising and hopeful news in the fight against Ebola," Ambrose said from Calgary.  
She made the announcement at a joint news conference with chief public health officer Dr. Gregory Taylor, who spoke from Toronto.
Both stressed no individuals in Canada have ever been diagnosed with Ebola, and the risk of contracting the disease remains low in this country. One person in Belleville, Ont., is in isolation with Ebola-like symptoms, though the hospital described the case as "extremely low risk." Another person who had been in isolation in Ottawa since Sunday tested negative for the virus on Monday, health officials said.
The vaccine, which was developed by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, will be tested on 20 healthy volunteers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md.
Studies in primates have shown the vaccine prevents infections, if given before exposure, and increases survival chances among those who get it quickly after exposure.
The results from the Phase 1 human trials will be completed by December, Ambrose said, although no specific date was given.  
She said the vaccine has been shown to be "100 per cent effective" in preventing the spread of the Ebola virus when tested on animals.
"This provides hope because if the Canadian vaccine is shown to be safe and effective [in humans], it will stop this devastating outbreak," Ambrose said.
The Canadian government owns the intellectual property rights to the vaccine but has licensed the rights to a small U.S. biotech company called NewLink Genetics through its wholly owned subsidiary, BioProtection Systems, the public agency said.
So McArdle wrongly implies Mr. Collins lied about vaccine development and she also wrongly implies he lied because he was "a self-interested party schnorring for a bigger budget." It always surprises me that McArdle is so very confident that she can get away with lying about people. Sure, she has plenty of proof that she can get away with lying to her readers but as McArdle's profile and tv fame grow she might find it harder to bat her eyes and hide behind her blog while attempting to damage other people's credibility.

By the way, "schnorring" means begging or sponging off others. I guess McArdle feels that the National Institute of Health is sponging off her tax dollars when we all know that only corporations develop new drugs, not governments.

She works hard for her money. Anyone can tell the truth. Lying takes effort, although obviously not very much.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Sides Have Already Been Chosen

At Hullabaloo, Tom Sullivan discusses taking sides between corporate or populist Democrats.
Village Democrats are consistently about a decade behind their base. Their dependency on corporate money is a big reason why. Money has such a nice, insulating effect that way. But it's time party leaders caught on and caught up. Perhaps defending the status quo is the real dead end.
Rich people hate you. They are selling you a product so they pretend to be nice but they are not. They are trying to monetize our new poverty. We will be branded as another interest group, with a slogan, a catch phrase, a meme or two, and a slow dribble of charity to keep us voting for the rich's lackeys. They will incessantly stroke our economic fears and hold our children's futures over our heads. And they will get away with it because most people already have picked a side. They knew full well that the president and all the other presidents will seek to preserve the status quo because that is how they became rich and powerful. The common people who are still successful also want to preserve the status quo.

Sullivan links to Harold Myerson's "Why The Democrats Need To Take Sides." Myerson gives a lot of advice that would have been very good about 40 years ago and is now 40 years too late. You cannot correct a gross imbalance of power when you are the one on the bottom. And you cannot expect that the rich will do anything but crush you when you try. You must use the only power you have, which is not the vote. It is the power of choice.

We are frightened to change and we can't imagine an action that will end successfully. Not voting, not violence, not talking or planning or begging. But we do have the power to say no. The poor want to change the status quo and their numbers are growing. Our young people don't expect to join the rich and powerful anymore and are losing their loyalty to it. The Democratic Party will run a woman for president but after that they will be out of cheap momentum. Then they will claim to be populist, will talk about labor heroes and successful movements of the past, but it will never to time to fight. Before and after the election they will celebrate the base. During the election they will crank up the pressure to force Democrats to vote for the servants of the rich and powerful.

But the ranks of the poor and marginalized will grow until they take their power in their own hands. Then it will be far, far too late to change sides.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It Pays To Lie

When Megan McArdle wanted to downplay the news of audio tapes that proved the banks were successfully avoiding regulators, she wrote a post saying bank regulators are naturally going to become corrupt and favor banks.

When McArdle wanted to downplay the legal consequences of Wall Street's crimes, she wrote a post saying that Wall Street really wasn't all that corrupt because regulators successfully controlled illegal behavior.

McArdle gets paid a lot of money to be dishonest. She parlayed her media appearances into a book contract and speaking gigs. She is a fellow here and an honored guest there. Propaganda pays well.

Friday, October 3, 2014


You know, I really am starting to get a little bit freaked out by the level of sheer inanity in the press right now. There is some serious stuff going on and they are all behaving like a bunch of hysterical children in a haunted house. It must be the bubble ... Whatever it is they seem determined to create a panic.
They think correctly that frightened people are more likely to vote Republican. In response we should taunt, insult and mock them for being cowards. Everyone says that elections matter; let's see people fight for them. If people say you're mean, uncivil, disrespectful or un-liberal, you're doing it right.