Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Rich Are Different

From the New York Post:
Christina Kelly says her investment-banker husband made her go the extra mile to help him land a client — pushing her into a partner-swap with the business honcho and his wild girlfriend. 
The mom of two revealed details of the kinky alleged hookup — and every drug binge, extramarital pool fling and sex encounter in between — in salacious Manhattan court papers targeting her husband, Jefferies & Co. wunderkind Sage Kelly.
And now, she and her reputed real-life “Wolf of Wall Street’’ hubby are “the talk of the town,’’ a Wall Street source said.
From Megan McArdle:
[Q.]Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come?  
[A. (McArdle)] Mathematically, it is likely that we are near the peak of human population. On the other hand, I'm encouraged by the incredibly rapid economic change going on now. I think that getting richer has made us more moral - more careful about human life and suffering. So if we keep getting richer, I expect that we will also get better, with more morality, more art and culture, and more of almost every other good thing.

What's Good For Me Is Good For America

Megan McArdle reads criticism of business' vacation policies and is moved to take pen in hand and protest. Let's excerpt:
Journalists like to write opinion pieces complaining about the stingy vacation and holiday policies of U.S. employers, but the policies don’t matter that much, at least for the managerial class, because people don’t take what their companies give them.
See, it's not the business' fault that staff is kept to a minimum to increase profits and people don't think they can afford to take the time off or their work will suffer, or are afraid they'll be considered redundant if they do take time off. But that does not mean that vacations are a bad thing; McArdle is happily pro-vacation.
I don’t really need to extol the benefits to an employee of a few days off, but I will say that everyone needs to take a break. Over time I’ve noticed that if I go too long between holidays -- more than about three months -- I start to feel like I’m forcing it, plodding through the day’s stories rather than actually attacking something I’m interested in.
McArdle's privilege has escaped and is oozing all over the floor, creating a nasty stain. Every three months? How stressful can it be to read The New York Times or some Chicago Boyz blogger or George Mason University professor and throw out one or two fact-free, logic-free, empathy-free posts? 


Every so often she has to travel to New York for a tv appearance or China or Hawaii or San Francisco for an interview, or some smaller town to give a lecture. This week she is "teaching" a class at the Booth School, I think.  But the demands of her job are too much for her? And if she doesn't vacate every three months she'll be unable to feel enthusiasm for being paid six figures to type and talk? Minds like McArdle's have to be interested in their work, or it all become much too fatiguing.
That’s a pretty common experience among the people I know. Periodically, you have to stop and give the well a chance to refill. I don’t think it’s an accident that creative people frequently report having breakthroughs after they’d stopped working for a bit and started thinking about something else.
Ah, her creative friends, like Matt Yglesias, Peter Suderman, Nick Gillespie, Julian Sanchez, Will Wilkinson. Their creative breakthroughs have showered the world with benefits.
What I’m talking about isn’t the same as reducing stress levels; that’s an oft-supposed benefit of time off that doesn’t actually seem to be true. But while monomaniacal focus is a powerful tool, it’s one that, in my experience, carries sharply diminishing marginal returns. You get tunnel vision, and you miss things that might have occurred to you if you’d stepped outside your office once in a while.
Really? You mean that Megan McArdle's keen mind and insight might miss something if she didn't recharge her creative batteries? Some business might get away with wrong-doing, some consumer might not get necessary information, some beneficial government program might waste away in anonymity? That would be a tragedy.
Of course, not every job is a creative tour de force.
Unlike hers.
So here’s the other reason companies should make people take some leave: Employees who never leave the office are dangerous for the company.
McArdle says companies need to get their employees out of the office to look for fraud; it's win-win!


We are not surprised that McArdle thinks it is a good thing to force corporations to pay her to do nothing; the McArdle rules still hold: anything that benefits her personally is fine, even if the government is doing it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shorter But Not Sweeter

Shorter Megan McArdle, Paraphrased:
Car Dealers Have A Lease On Congress: I want to buy a car over the internet but corruption prevents it so nobody can do anything ever.
Passing laws to eliminate corruption is too difficult so I guess we just have to put up with anything anyone wants to do to us. Fortunately the Free Hand of the Marketplace will save us, even though it does not.
Better Food Labels Won't Make You Less Fat: Although I always read food labels [presumably to make better food decisions] food labels don't change your behavior so nobody can do anything ever.
This post was especially special because it demonstrated McArdle's patented dishonesty.
When [initial food labels] failed [to change behavior], researchers naturally suggested that the problem wasn’t labeling, per se -- it was that we hadn’t gotten the right labels. Perhaps if we offered labels that translated calories into the number of minutes you’d need to walk those calories off, people would order more sparsely. Perhaps. The study is thinly described, and I can’t even tell if they were actually ordering food, or just choosing what they would eat, if they were in a restaurant.
Here is the information McArdle links to:
Boston, MA—More restaurants are displaying calorie information on their menus than ever before. It's not a coincidence; by law, retail food establishments that are part of a chain with twenty or more locations nationwide must disclose the calorie content of each menu item. The goal is to encourage consumers to make healthier, informed food choices. The majority of studies, however, show that providing information on calorie content does not lead to fewer calories ordered or consumed. A new angle for encouraging reduced calorie intake in these establishments would be welcome by many in the nutrition field.  
One currently being explored is displaying on the menu the minutes of exercise–brisk walking in this case–needed to burn food calories. "We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus," said Dr. Meena Shah, Texas Christian University (TCU). "Brisk walking is something nearly everyone can relate to, which is why we displayed on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories," said Ashlei James, TCU. Shah, the senior researcher, and James, the lead researcher and graduate student, recently conducted a study of 300 men and women ages 18-30. "The group was randomly assigned to a menu without calorie labels, a menu with calorie labels, or a menu with labels for the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the food calories," James said. "All menus contained the same food and beverage options, which included burgers, chicken sandwiches/tenders, salad, fries, desserts, soda, and water."  
The results indicate that the menu displaying the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories led to fewer calories ordered and consumed compared with the menu without calorie labels. Of note, there was no difference between the menu with calorie labels and the menu without calorie labels in the number of calories ordered and consumed by the subjects. "This study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women. We can't generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older and more diverse group," Shah said. "This is the first study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed."  
The study was eye-opening for many of the subjects. "For example, a female would have to walk briskly for approximately 2 hours to burn the calories in a quarter-pound double cheeseburger," said Shah. Results from this study will be presented orally on April 23 at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston. [my bold]
The synopses is perfectly clear and McArdle is wrong. Whether she is lying or cultivating ignorance is immaterial. If McArdle could not tell whether or not the subjects consumed food she is an idiot, and when it come to saying what businesses will pay to hear, McArdle's a genius.
But perhaps people would order differently if they were actually in a restaurant, rather than a university research group. Or perhaps people would compensate by eating more later. In general, the research showing substantial benefits from calorie labeling seems to be largely absent; the main argument for it is “Couldn’t hurt.”
When the facts are against you, throw crap up against the wall in the hopes that everyone will ignore the facts and only remember your (baseless) rebuttal. The next time the matter comes up in comments, one of the commenters will say that McMegan already proved that changing the menu labeling system didn't work.
We're All Flies In The IRS's Widening Web: Better some tax fraud then the IRS's overreach.
Oddly, McArdle does not say that we can't do anything about the IRS because of institutional malaise. Instead she says we can't do anything about tax fraud.
Uber and Cabbies in a D.C. Death Match: Labor protests are doomed to failure because Uber's "rabidly supportive and politically active fan base."
Quote:
"With the help of the city's Taxicab Commission, drivers have been waging a rear-guard action against Uber for years, but with the help of a rabidly supportive and politically active fan base, Uber has continued to make inroads into their market."
McArdle pretends to forget that Uber also has the help of the rabidly supportive and politically active Koch brothers, who set up and funded the Institute for Justice, which hired Robert McNamara to fight "for the rights of taxi, limousine, and other transportation entrepreneurs nationwide."* She has mentioned him before but left out his Koch connections, or perhaps was just too incompetent to vet him. From one of her many Uber posts:
As I made my way toward the door, I bumped into Robert McNamara, the attorney fighting against many taxi regulations, who was there as an interested observer. “I’m impressed by how professional this is,” he told me. I must have raised an eyebrow, for he hastened to explain: “When you have an issue like this, the first thing you do is, you have a town hall. You find an excuse to get people in a room, and then you make them angry.” For the moment, Uber’s angry fans seem to be carrying the day. Though the D.C. Taxicab Commission has not recanted its position on Uber, it also hasn’t made any further moves against the company. That may change, of course. But every customer Uber gains in D.C. (and even out of it) makes the company harder to attack. Uber set out to change the taxi market. In enlisting scattered consumers against well-entrenched interest groups, it may end up doing something more revolutionary.
This is how easy it is to control Megan McArdle: You tell her your tactics, tell her you are merely an observer, tell her that a taxi app has so many rabid fans that they somehow ensure lawyers are paid to defend plaintiffs or sue the government to let Uber ignore taxi regulations.


When you have wound her up you set her down and watch her chatter, like a little pair of plastic teeth.


*He also is suing legalize organ selling. Naturally McArdle supports cutting up our poor for their organs and tossing them a few bucks as well.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Non-Apology Apology

Recently Megan McArdle libeled Francis Collins, the head of the NIH. We were and are amazed that a prominent C-list journalist would libel a public official and not suffer any repercussions but this is a cold and cruel, not to mention unfair, world.


The Free Market Fairy was bought by billionaires and is now under their control. She refuses to punish bad journalists with unemployment, rewarding sycophantic behavior that glorifies greed instead. Intelligent, erudite and urbane writers are not rewarded appropriately.  Telling the truth is punished.  McArdle does not need to retract when she is criticized for her sycophancy and willful ignorance so she does not. Instead, she attempts to back-pedal just enough to avoid lawsuits while insisting she is right.


(It has recently dawned on the sycophancy class that there are only so many billionaires and there are many, many pundits. Due to pundit inequality, McArdle and her friends are experiencing a shortfall in their wealth expectations. We will discuss this in a later post, for it has led to an interesting flurry of posts hither and yon about how we all need to provide more media outlets for the "right-of-center.")


In the mean time:
You Can't Cure Ebola With Money
The subject was Ebola vaccines, not curing Ebola. McArdle says she does not write her headlines but evidently she does not read them either. Ebola will be cured or eliminate eventually and money will make it happen because money is necessary to create drugs, a fact that Megan McArdle mentioned oh, about every day while trying to claim that lower drug prices in the US will destroy pharmaceutical companies and therefore all of health care for all time. It is nonsensical to now deny that a fundamental requirement for a cure is the money needed to carry out the project and as soon as we start reading McArdle's post we see that her first paragraph contradicts the title of her post.


Eventually, however, McArdle arrives at her point: that nobody can do anything ever if it costs her money.
Last week, when I was somewhat disparaging about the claim by Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, that if only his agency budget hadn’t been slashed, we would have a vaccine for Ebola.
This sentence is why McArdle is a Killer of Souls. She was not "somewhat disparaging," she implied he lied. Mr. Collins said they were a year or two away from a vaccine and without budget cuts they probably could have had one by now. McArdle said there was no way he could be telling the truth, and that he was not telling the truth because he was a sponger who just wanted to beg more money from the government. She implied he lied without giving any evidence to support her claim whatsoever, and ignored her professional duty to research her claim.
A number of people responded with outraged indignation that I, a libertarian journalist, could malign a lovely, brilliant, noble government scientist.
Another unsubstantiated claim; perhaps McArdle does not like to name the people she impugns unless she can damage their career in some way. Or perhaps Collins is a socialist who wants to eradicate religion and substitute government for faith and family?
Francis Collins, a medical doctor, is director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and passionate about science. But the self-described Bible-believing Christian is just as passionate about his faith, which he came to after reading C.S. Lewis and seeing how religion sustained his gravely ill patients. Collins recently spoke with Beliefnet about his best-selling book The Language of God.
Oops. But he is nothing but a "government scientist."
Francis Sellers Collins (born April 14, 1950) is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. Collins also has written a number of books on science, medicine, and spirituality, including the New York Times bestseller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.  
After leaving the helm of NHGRI and before becoming director of the NIH, he founded and served as president of The BioLogos Foundation, which promotes discourse on the relationship between science and religion and advocates the perspective that belief in Christianity can be reconciled with acceptance of evolution and science, especially though the advancement of evolutionary creation.[1] In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Collins to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
In other words, just some schnorrer. But better soften the accusation or someone's silly lawyers might get upset.
Well, fair enough. But Michael Eisen, a biologist at Berkeley and investigator at the the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, says basically the same thing, at greater length:
The HHMI is:
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is a United States non-profit medical research organization based in Chevy Chase, Maryland.[1][2] It was founded by the American businessman Howard Hughes in 1953. It is one of the largest private funding organizations for biological and medical research in the United States. HHMI spends about $1 million per HHMI Investigator per year, which amounts to annual investment in biomedical research of about $825 million. The institute has an endowment of $16.9 billion, making it the second-wealthiest philanthropic organization in the United States and the second best endowed medical research foundation in the world.[3]<  
It was not until after Hughes' death in 1976 that the Institute's profile increased from an annual budget of $4 million in 1975 to $15 million by 1978. In this period it focused its mission on genetics, immunology and the rapidly growing field of molecular biology.
Unlike Mr. Collins, Mr. Eisen obviously has nothing to gain. So what did this utterly disinterested party have to say?
I read this testimony at the time, and was taken aback by this statement, but I was a bit reluctant to undermine efforts to increase NIH funding, no matter how cynical they might be. It was, after all, Congressional testimony, and one can forgive a bit of exaggeration in pursuit of remedying the horrible financial situation the NIH (and, thus its grantees and would be grantees). But now Collins has gone public with this claim, in an article in the Huffington Post, and so it’s time to call this for what it is: complete [Expletive Deleted].  
First, let’s deal with the most immediate assertion – that if there had been more funds there would be an Ebola vaccine today. Collins argues we’d be a few years ahead of where they are today, and that, instead of preparing to enter phase 1 trials today, they’d have done this two years ago. But last time I checked, there was a reason we do clinical trials, which is to determine if therapies are safe and effective. And, crucially, many of these fail (how many times have we heard about HIV vaccines that were effective in animals). Thus, even if you believe the only thing holding up development of the Ebola vaccine was funds, it’s still false to argue that with more money we’d have an Ebola vaccine. Vaccine and drug development just simply doesn’t work this way. There are long lists of projects, in both the public and private sector that have been very well-funded, and still failed.  
It is a gross overtrivialization of even the directed scientific process involved in developing vaccines to suggest that simply by spending more money on something you are guaranteed a product. And, if I were in Congress, frankly I’d be sick of hearing this kind of baloney, and would respond with a long list of things I’d been promised by previous NIH Directors if only we’d spend more money on them.  
Second, let’s assume Collins is right. That the only reason we don’t have an Ebola vaccine today was that the project wasn’t properly funded. If this is true, than one should rightly ask why this wasn’t given a higher priority. The potential for a serious Ebola outbreak has been there for a long time. And while money is tight at the NIH, they still manage to find funds to do a lot of stuff I would not have prioritized over an Ebola research program if it was really on the crux of delivering a vaccine. So there is an element of choice here too that Collins is downplaying.
Eisen says the vaccine claim is bogus because sometimes trials fail and you can't guarantee success. But if the vaccine did end up succeeding the delay was the fault of the NIH's liberal priorities, not the Republicans' budget-cutting. Eisen has different priorities for Collins:
But what really bothers me the most about this is that, rather than trying to exploit the current hysteria about Ebola by offering a quid-pro-quo “Give me more money and I’ll deliver and Ebola vaccine”, Collins should be out there pointing out that the reason we’re even in a position to develop an Ebola vaccine is because of our long-standing investment in basic research, and that the real threat we face is not Ebola, but the fact that, by having slashed the NIH budget and made it increasingly difficult to have a stable career in science, we’re making it less and less likely that we’ll be equipped to handle all of the future challenges to public health that we’re going to be face in the future.
The NIH also funds universities and those funds are being slashed. But Eisen's argument is sufficient for McArdle; propagandists only need to be plausible, not accurate.
Derek Lowe adds that the NIH budget hasn’t exactly been slashed to the bone.
He says it is down 10% from its 2004 peak. The NIH says it's down 22.4% since 2003. And it doesn't have to be slashed to the bone to delay vaccines or cures.
I support government spending on basic research.
Yes, Megan McArdle is all for anything that benefits her personally.
But I really do not support the wrongheaded idea that medical research is like ordering groceries from Peapod: Just dial up what you want, and if you’re willing to pay the cost, you can have the goodies. In fact, it’s more like a lottery: if you don’t play, you can’t win, but at best, you still lose an awful lot. An Ebola vaccine is entering trials right now, and if it succeeds, that will be incredible news. But it could fail in many ways, and acting as if it’s a guarantee is grossly irresponsible.
McArdle did not acknowledge the Ebola vaccine in her earlier posts because she did not know about it or because it would undercut her implication that Collins lied about a nearly-ready vaccine. McArdle could have accused Collins of exaggerating the nearness of the success of the vaccine but she has learned that she can get away with lying, impugning and libeling more easily if she leaves herself room for plausible deniability, as this latest post shows. And the less she knows, the more plausible her deniability.
Francis Collins is smarter than I am, and he has dedicated his life to furthering the advancement of human knowledge, one of the noblest causes there is. He’s also a Washington bureaucrat, and while he’s wearing that hat, his job is to get more money for his agency. I suspect he let his good judgment get a bit carried away in the zealous pursuit of that mission. Raising unreasonable expectations very likely to be dashed is bad for public policy, and ultimately, bad for the scientific research that Collins has done so much to promote.
So after a bit of back-peddling, McArdle has now smeared enough vague over her earlier libels to continue libeling, insulting, obfuscating and lying about her ideological enemies and their efforts. "I suspect" and "get a bit carried" and "raising unreasonable expectations" should do the trick, and now McArdle can go on her merry way, cashing her billionaires' checks and watching her possessions accumulate into emotionally satisfying heaps of electronic cash, stocks, bonds, property, and paper towels.

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  
Actually:  
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 energy...so 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.


Evidence:


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).


1.)
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.
2.)
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.