Archive for ‘Megan McArdle’

June 24, 2009

If you have to explain a joke . . .

Dear John . . .
You skunk-sucking bastard . . .

Hunter S. Thompson, letter to John Chancellor of NBC News, Sept. 11, 1972, reprinted in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

The humorous intent of my post congratulating Peter Suderman on his new gig at Reason magazine apparently was not apparent to all readers, as indicated by one commenter who described it as “an angry, childish, personal attack.”

One would think that the phrase “acromegalic inamorata” would have been what they call a “tell” in Vegas. Or maybe the extended riff on the old free-milk-and-a-cow adage.

Well, never mind all that, let’s do it Joe Friday style. Peter Suderman is an extraordinarily witty writer. The last time I saw him and Megan at a party in D.C., they informed me that they were, as young folks now say, “in a relationship.” Or as more old-fashioned folks might say, fornicating.

Shagging. Gettin’ jiggy. Living in sin. Whatever.

I immediately inquired when the couple planned to wed. This is my customary expression of “family values” when speaking to young people in Washington, where knocking boots without benefit of clergy is so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

Indeed, such is the mentality of young Washingtonians — a consequence of our sexualized popular culture — that a middle-aged mentor cannot consult with an attractive female protege without provoking whispers that some sort of concupiscent motivation must be involved.

Ergo, one learns to take this as the joke it is, and to turn it into a self-parodic schtick. So I’m the D.C. mack daddy pimp in the same way I’m a neo-Confederate lesbian. (Being notorious is not the same thing as being famous, etc.)

As the token social conservative in an ocean of cultural libertarians, I find it convenient to treat matters of sex humorously. On the one hand, I’m sincere in my advocacy of traditional family values — Peter and Megan should get married immediately and rapidly spawn at least half-a-dozen babies, so as to invoke the expression “Irish twins” — but on the other hand, I’m aware that most young people don’t take that stuff seriously.

So I sometimes do things like alluding to the first chapter of Romans (well worth reading, especially in the King James Version) in hope that maybe these kids come from a background where such a reference might ring a bell. As Pastor Lon Solomon says, just a suggestion, not a sermon.

Hunter Thompson and John Chancellor were friends, and so when Thompson called Chancellor a skunk-sucking bastard, he meant it in a good way. Likewise when I called Suderman a “rent boy” and a “charity case,” and suggested that he’d soon be flashing around his newfound wealth in the manner of a first-round NBA draft pick.

However, it is quite true that McArdle has never once linked me, not even after I gallantly escorted her home through the mean streets of D.C. one night when she suffered a spell of vertigo at a party. (Rumors that I secretly dosed her with ruhypnol and then had my way with her should be taken with a grain of salt, absent videographic proof.)

I’m a big enough man not to resent the non-linkage too much, but I feel compelled at least to mention it occasionally — in the same way I mention that I am The Blogger Whom Allah Hateth — lest the snobs who snub me think I’m too stupid to notice I’m being snubbed.

Even a self-parody must have some pride, and the snobs cannot be allowed to believe that they really are as superior as they wish others to think.

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June 23, 2009

Megan McArdle ends the recession

Well, not exactly. That credit goes to the Koch Foundation, which just awarded a fellowship to Peter Suderman, paramour of the World’s Tallest Lady Blogger. Thus ends Suderman’s lame excuse for avoiding matrimony with the lanky libertarian lass.

Some bloggers may express concern about the so-called “ethics” of Suderman working for Koch cash. Ethics be damned — what about the sin?

“Oh, we can’t afford to get married — I’m unemployed,” the shamelessly cohabiting Suderman said the last time I cornered him at a Reason Happy Hour and warned him of the fiery eternal tortures that await fornicators.

How convenient that the Hindenburg-at-Lakehurst implosion of Culture 11 gave Suderman an opportunity to test an old adage of market economics, enjoying the milk without the responsibility of purchasing the cow, pleading poverty as an excuse for failing to make her an honest cow.

Well, no more excuses now, eh, buddy? June is a traditional month for weddings, so Suderman’s now got a full week to take his acromegalic inamorata to the courthouse and close the deal on this particular livestock transaction.

She took him under her roof when the alternative was for him to live under a freeway overpass and stand beside the on-ramp with a tin cup and a hand-lettered cardboard sign: “Unemployed Cultural Critic, Will Snark For Food.”

Koch is a 501(c) non-profit“The mission of the Foundation is to advance social progress and well-being . . .” — so Suderman’s gone from being McArdle’s rent boy to being Koch’s charity case.

Koch is all about capitalism (“social progress,” my butt) which means that this is an extremely lucrative fellowship for Suderman, even more lucrative than being McArdle’s gigolo. So if Megan is abandoned at the altar, while Fishbowl DC is gossiping about reports that Suderman has been seen wheeling around Dupont Circle in a sporty new convertible full of scantily clad 22-year-old Cato Institute interns . . .

Well, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Libertarians in the hands of an angry God!

P.S.: If you want to congratulate the soon-to-be Mrs. Suderman on the good fortune of her fiance’s Koch bailout, the wicked fornicators are expected to be in attendance at Wednesday’s Reason Happy Hour.

P.P.S.: Megan McArdle has never once linked me. I get more linky-love from Sully. NTTAWWT.

May 3, 2009

Obamanomics vs. economics

Barack Obama blames “a small group of speculators” for the bankruptcy of Chrysler. This is a politically convenient alternative to blaming the greedy goons who run the United Auto Workers.

Yesterday, Instapundit linked Conor Clarke, who wondered “why business and policy stories get reported like campaign stories,” which is an easy question to answer: Because that’s what the editors want.

The Obama phenomenon has so entranced the journalistic elite that everything is now framed in terms of whether it helps Democrats or hurts Republicans (these are the only two possible effects of any event). As I remarked via Twitter to Tammy Bruce, if the Chicago Bulls go to double OT, the media are now obliged to tell us how this news will help Democrats.

The problem that this absurd synchonicity between the media and the Democrats has created is that economics isn’t politics, and economics is not public relations:

Don’t you people understand that it doesn’t matter how “popular” you and your policies are, if what you are doing is the wrong thing to do? And that it doesn’t matter how clever and persuasive your arguments are, if your policies bring disaster?

The fundamental realities of supply and demand cannot be wished away by Hope, and all the favorable publicity in the world is not going to change that. And yet Team Obama apparently believes that, with the assistance of their media friends, they can alter economic reality.

So today, Instapundit links Megan McArdle, who talks about how Obama has attempted to bully hedge-fund investors on behalf of the UAW and asks the provocative question:

What do you think this is going to do to the supply of credit for industries with powerful unions?

Indeed. Investors are not stupid, and you can’t make capitalism work without capital. McArdle actually voted for Obama, but has recently written some of the most sobering assessments of the misconceptions of Obamanomics. This past week, she wrote a brilliant 1,070-word article summarizing the fundamental problems, which inspired me to describe the failure of Obamanomics thus:

The stimulus-and-bailout policies have not addressed the fundamental problems of the economy — namely, an excess of debt and a shortage of capital to spur job creation — while the entitlement trainwreck of Social Security and Medicare loom immediately ahead. By piling on new trillion-dollar deficits, at a time when the recession will result in significant tax revenue shortfalls, the Democrats are steering the economy into a stagflation trap.

Obama and the Democrats apparently believe that by applying enough political muscle and ginning up enough good media coverage, this economic reality can be made to go away. They’re wrong. It Won’t Work.

UPDATE: Oh, spare me your psychobabble:

What is the chance that the current downturn will morph into another Great Depression? That question has been preoccupying people for months. The popular mood has a huge impact on the economy, so it’s worth noting what many people seem to forget: Depression scares come and go. And by one authoritative measure, the current outbreak of concern has been surprisingly mild.

This is written by a Yale University economics professor! Repeat after me: Economics is not psychology.

This Ivy League idiot then cites a poll of consumer confidence, as if “popular mood” was the most important factor in the current crisis. It’s not. We are confronted with a capital shortage, which would be disastrous enough even if the government weren’t currently in the hands of people who are profoundly hostile to capital.

Would it be too obvious to point out that the great mid-20th-century heyday of Keynesian economics was also the heyday of Freudian psychology? And that both of these theories were wrong? Look at what this idiot, Robert Shiller, wrote about Keynes and “animal spirits” in January and tell me if you’ve ever seen greater economic idiocy published in the Wall Street Journal.

The Keynesian professor looks at the Rorshach inkblot and sees consumer confidence (since this “demand-side” input dominates Keynesian thinking), whereas I’m looking at the inkblot and seeing an inkblot.

You can’t make capitalism work without capital, and the capital shortage is going to result in a lack of job creation. Or, as Michelle Malkin said in September: “The fundamentals suck.”

May 1, 2009

Of Hope and Hubris

Less than six months after the 2008 election, and just past the 100-day mark of Barack Obama’s presidency, liberals have begun congratulating themselves on the triumph of their ideas. Paul Krugman on global warming:

The 2008 election ended the reign of junk science in our nation’s capital, and the chances of meaningful action on climate change, probably through a cap-and-trade system on emissions, have risen sharply.
But the opponents of action claim that limiting emissions would have devastating effects on the U.S. economy. So it’s important to understand that just as denials that climate change is happening are junk science, predictions of economic disaster if we try to do anything about climate change are junk economics. . .

And here’s Josh Marshall on same-sex marriage:

I think most of us can see that despite some painful setbacks, and likely more to come, time is definitely on the side of marriage equality in the United States. But are we hitting some sort of tipping point under a new administration and with a rush of recent successes in several states around the country?

Think back to the 2008 campaign and ask yourself: Did Obama and the Democrats win because of gay marriage and global warming? Obviously not. It was the economy, stupid. And yet in the wake of that election, liberals now believe they have a mandate to enact their entire agenda.

Ah, but what about the economy? Megan McArdle has a 1,070-word article at the Atlantic Monthly examining the basic math of Obamanomics. It’s so good, it feels unfair to attempt to characterize it by excerpts, but here is the key part:

It’s probably no exaggeration to say that Obama’s presidency will ultimately stand or fall on its handling of the financial crisis. And at this point, with respect to all the frantic activity, the polls seem to be saying, so far, so good. . . .
Of course, Jimmy Carter’s early approval ratings hit 70% before beginning their long downward slide. And Bush’s ranged as high as 95% after 9/11. As the Wall Street prospectuses all say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Still, Obama’s performance thus far ought to offer some clue: has he set the stage for economic victory, or defeat? In some sense, for all its exertions, the Obama administration hasn’t actually done all that much.

Megan then proceeds to dismantle the fiscal assumptions of Hope, and you should read the whole thing. It is not unfair to summarize her analysis in three words: It Won’t Work. The stimulus-and-bailout policies have not addressed the fundamental problems of the economy — namely, an excess of debt and a shortage of capital to spur job creation — while the entitlement trainwreck of Social Security and Medicare loom immediately ahead. By piling on new trillion-dollar deficits, at a time when the recession will result in significant tax revenue shortfalls, the Democrats are steering the economy into a stagflation trap.

If the economic situation actually worsens between now and fall 2010 — and there are many reasons to believe it will — the public-opinion polls of April 2009 will have proven a false omen, which served only to swell the pride that went before the fall.

UPDATE: Welcome Red State readers and other disciples of blog-fu sensei Moe Lane, who says:

Not to be a broken record about this, but I didn’t need Megan to tell me that we enjoy, ah, suboptimal economic oversight. . . . Or that the current administration seems to default to style over substance.

So how come we can see this and yet (if polls are to be believed) Obama’s approval rating is at something like 110 percent? Might I suggest that we are paying the price of an educational system that renders a majority of Americans ignorant of, or misinformed about, basic economics?

UPDATE II: At The American Spectator, commenter “Indiana Alex” summarizes a fundamental problem with Obamanomics:

The shortage of capital is going to be even more severe given the extent of government borrowing.

This is why stagflation is the inescapable result of the current policy. Begin with the fact that the collapse of the “housing bubble” has left millions of Americans saddled with a huge debt load for illiquid assets (i.e., their homes) that cannot be sold for a profit or leveraged to acquire additional liquidity. Now, consider that the stock-market collapse (i.e., from a 14,000 Dow to an 8,000 DOW in less than three years) has severely depleted the 401Ks and IRAs of tens of millions more Americans.

Between the declining market value of their homes and the declining market value of their retirement accounts, these individual Americans who had positive net worths in 2005 are now in no position to make new investments that would create jobs. The total supply of American capital has thus been diminished by a sum of however many trillions.

The Obamanomics answer to this is for the government to borrow many trillions more, in order to fund an expansion of public-sector programs. And government must borrow this money from the same global credit pool already depleted by the loss of capital caused by the collapse of the bubble.

Guess what? Foreign investors balked at the last offering of Treasury notes. As a result, the Federal Reserve bought the unsold balance of this new debt, which means . . .?

Very good, class! The Fed will just turn on the printing presses to produce “new” money to account for the additional federal debt. This is inflation, which further erodes whatever asset value individuals had after the collapse and therefore leaves them less able to make new job-creating investments than they were before the enactment of these stimulus-bailout policies.

The erosion of currency value makes U.S. debt even less attractive, since inflation will cheat investors out of what interest would be paid on new bond issues. Thus, Geithnerism/Obamanomics results in a federal fiscal/economic policy that is chasing its own tail, a descending spiral of recession and inflation.

This is not merely The Road to Serfdom, but the road to Weimar America. Even if Obama, Geithner, Pelosi and Reid wised up tomorrow and suddenly reversed course by enacting sound policy, it might take 18 to 36 months of serious economic pain before we’d see anything like a real recovery. And since there isn’t the slightest hope that they’ll do the right thing, this crisis is going to get much worse over the next several years.

Things are about to get very, very bleak, and I’ve heard some informed investors talk about the Dow not reaching a bottom above 4,000.

UPDATE III: Professor Thomas Woods:

In a nutshell, the point is that when the government’s central bank intervenes in the economy to push interest rates lower than the free market would have set them, the result of its tampering is a massive cluster of errors . . . on the part of investors and consumers alike.

Of course, the professor’s new bestseller, MELTDOWN, has been a must-read recommendation here for weeks. He makes clear that it is a fundamental error to describe the Bush administration’s fiscal/monetary policies as “conservative.”

March 30, 2009

Megan McArdle: Please Re-Think That

By Smitty

Megan McArdle notes that the POTUS speaks, and GM CEO rolls. She concludes:

On the other hand, it can hardly hurt. And the symbolism, both to the taxpayer and the employees, is important. GM can’t be given vast sums without some visible sign of serious change. Let’s hope the new CEO actually brings some, rather than providing window dressing for a continuation of business as usual.

<rant>It can hardly hurt? What? You have the POTUS interfering with nominally private corporations, and you think this can hardly hurt? Repeat after me, lady: precedent, precedent, precedent. This interference should strike fear in every capitalist heart. Oh, wait: you voted for this fellow. Never mind.</rant>

Baldilocks is equally queasy.

March 20, 2009

A trillion here, a trillion there . . .

“Do any other old codgers out there in my audience remember back when $1 trillion was a noteworthy figure, rather than the minimum price needed to get people to take your policy seriously?”

January 23, 2009

‘Solid Keynesian theory’

Megan McArdle needs to wash her mouth out with soap after using that phrase. There is no such thing.

Defend the woman against Glenn Greenwald, and this is how my chivalry is repaid!
January 22, 2009

Greenwald vs. ‘abject ignorance’?

“There are times when the glaring ignorance one encounters from people who are paid to write about political issues is so severe — so illustrative of how distorted and misleading our political discourse is — that it’s impossible to ignore even though one would really like to.”
Glenn Greenwald

There are times when a writer so compulsively over-dramatizes everything — hypes it up so relentlessly with words like “severe” and “impossible” — that one must struggle to resist the temptation to think of him as a histrionic stereotype.

Such temptation is especially difficult to resist when the object of Greenwald’s ire is not, say, Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney, but rather the mild-mannered libertarian blogger, Megan McArdle, whose Crimes Against Humanity are (a) to ask a very sensible question about Gitmo detainees, and (b) to get linked by Instapundit for doing so. (Reynolds is to Greenwald as Moriarity was to Holmes.)

Glenn, think about: Do you really want to pick a fight with the Giant Blog Woman? She’s bigger than Godzilla, and you’ll be like Tokyo.

UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter who points out this previous BloggingHeadsTV exchange between Greenwald and McArdle:

I’m watching this video and severely disliking Glenn’s arguments for requiring journalists to report this, that or the other. With the sole exception of libel law — and American libel law is stacked in favor of the defendant — I don’t want government requiring journalists to do anything. We can complain all we want about the quality, amount and content of journalism (and I do), but government compulsion in journalism is frightening.

UPDATE II: All your Instalanches are belong to us. For the benefit of readers who are not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans, Mycroft Holmes is Sherlock’s older brother, “the most indispensable man in the country.” (This may be arcana, but some fans say that Myrcroft’s wife, Dr. Helen Holmes, was the hottest babe in fin de siecle London.)

UPDATE III: In the comments, someone calling themselves “Glenn Greenwald” writes:

[P]lease identify a single instance where, either in that video or anywhere else, I’ve ever advocated that the state impose obligations on journalists. I don’t and haven’t.

All righty, then. I don’t want to transcribe the entire video, but here are a couple of sentences of what Greenwald said to Megan about “public interest” in journalism:

“I see journalism as a profession like the medical profession or the legal profession, where going into work every day and thinking about, ‘How do I maximize my profits? How do I feed my readers whatever they want so I can charge as much as I want for commercials?’ is not the only concern. There are other concerns that conflict with that, and I think the law gives privileges, special privileges, to journalism, to journalists, in every single possible realm that’s based upon the assumption, the premise that journalism owes a duty to the public interest besides maximizing profit.”

OK, the medical and legal professions are both licensed by the state, correct? Not just anyone can hang up a shingle and declare himself a surgeon. And what, pray tell, are these “special privileges . . . in every possible realm” accorded to journalists? If I get a speeding ticket on my way to an assignment (it happens), can I go to court and say, “Your honor, I am a journalist,” and expect the charge to be dismissed? No.

Greenwald seems to imply — excuse me if I don’t fully grasp his entire argument — that the legal privileges (he says are) accorded to journalists might be made contingent on their acting in “the public interest.” Well, who is to be the judge of “the public interest”? Me? Megan? Glenn?

If Greenwald feels that the press corps as a whole is not doing a bang-up job, he’s got a lot of company (including the editors of most newspapers and magazines). But when he compares the practice of journalism to law and medicine (both state-licensed professions), and speaks disparagingly of the profit motive, excuse my paranoia in discerning the implied threat of a Federal Bureau of Journalism looking over my shoulder.

I’ve got no more “privileges” than Greenwald has, and I’m sure that his affiliation with Salon would be plenty enough to get credentialed as a reporter, if that’s what he wants to do. He can go and do all the eat-your-vegetables journalism he wants — or at least as much as Salon is willing to pay for.

That’s just it, however: Somebody’s got to pay for all this reporting, and as long as the bill is paid by publishers dependent on ad revenue, the incentives of the market will prevail. From all the baleful headlines I see about the newspaper industry, it certainly doesn’t appear to me that publishers are guilty of paying excessive attention to market demand. If a newspaper doesn’t make a profit, it won’t do much good to demand they serve “the public interest” once they’re bankrupt and out of business.

UPDATE IV: The Case of the Tortured Analogy, wherein I find myself accused of likening Glenn Greenwald to Sherlock Holmes. What I intended, of course, was to suggest that (in the Greenwaldian mind) Professor Reynolds is a shadowy menace like Moriarity, the evidence of whose evil handiwork is . . . everywhere.

The Doyle reader will recall how relentlessly Holmes pursues Moriarity. This relentlessness occurred to mind as I pondered how Greenwald can’t go two days without lashing out at his nemesis Reynolds — which I think is just hunky-dory, BTW, since I end up getting ‘Lanched for posts mocking Greenwald. (How do I maximize my profits?)

July 21, 2008

Right-wing pointy-heads

Megan McArdle — whom I once escorted home after she suffered an attack of vertigo — has surrendered to contrarian folly, if this New York Times article is to be believed:

Meanwhile, Megan McArdle, a libertarian writer, thinks conservative organizations will actually have a tougher time influencing policy if Senator McCain is elected. . . .Indeed, to Ms. McArdle, the possibility of a Republican defeat holds a certain romantic appeal. “Younger people are kind of excited about being in the wilderness,” she said, evoking the pre-Reagan years when Republican thinkers plotted their revolution at nonprofit organizations and in bars instead of in the Executive Office Building and congressional majority offices. The longer you’re in power, the more you want to preserve it. “That’s where the Republicans are right now, and it’s demoralizing for think tankers.”
Desperation has a way of focusing the mind. As Ms. McArdle said, “When they’re out of power, they have to think in a clearer way.”

I criticized this notion at AmSpecBlog:

Never having set foot in the Executive Office Building, I’m nevertheless dismayed by the “romantic appeal” of the wilderness for Ms. McArdle, who was in middle school the last time Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress. Should dissatisfaction with the status quo (almost universal on the Right) lead to the unconservative idea that change — any change, even Change — is progress?

The extreme youth of thinkers like McArdle, Douthat, et al., gives them a rather narrow experiential frame of reference. Having never been a think-tanker, nor a young conservative (I grew up a Democrat, an affiliation I didn’t shed until I was about 35), I shudder to think what idiocy I might have wrought if I’d been catapulted into the midst of Washington policy disputes in my 20s. (Some would say I’ve wrought plenty of idiocy in my 40s.)

I worry about these brainiac prodigies who arrive in Washington fresh from the college campus and, without any seasoning in the “real world,” are transformed overnight into savants.

When I was about Douthat’s age, I was DJing in an Atlanta strip club, which was about as much responsibility as I could handle, and perhaps more than I could handle. Yet there is something to be said for the experience of living among The People, earning one’s living outside the realm of intellectual endeavor, as a preparation for common-sense thinking about politics.

UPDATE: A liberal blogger chides the Right:

Adversity is the one thing that modern conservatives cannot stomach or stand. If they believed in it, they wouldn’t have rolled over for George Bush and they certainly wouldn’t have rolled over for John McCain. If adversity was something conservatives in this country as a whole could take, they would have nominated Senator Sam Brownback on principle and rejected the likes of McCain and Romney out of hand. Instead, they rolled over and took it.

She has kind of a point there. One of the things I’ve noticed about Beltway conservatives — as opposed to rank-and-file conservatives out in the provinces — is that they tend to be very power-oriented. There is a definite pecking order, and everybody’s trying to move up the ladder.

On the other hand, it wasn’t Beltway conservatives who rejected Sam Brownback (or Tom Tancredo or any of the other lesser Republican presidential hopefuls), it was GOP primary voters. But that is another issue entirely. And as to whether conservatives “rolled over” for either Bush or McCain — well, look at the fall-off in the GOP vote since 2006. It’s obvious that lots of rank-and-file grassroots conservatives are more or less engaged in a boycott of the Republican machine. They’ve stopped voting, they’ve stopped volunteering in campaigns, and they’ve especially stopped giving the kind of $50-$100 contributions that were once the lifeblood of the GOP.

UPDATE II: I think it’s fair to number David Weigel among the youngsters excited about a Republican exile to the wilderness. The Bush administration’s shunning of libertarians is not without a price.