I read once that Ulysses Grant’s strategy for beating Robert E. Lee in battle was to engage Lee constantly, in order to deprive Lee of the time to come up with clever battle plans. Megan McArdle, I’m afraid, has adopted a variant of this strategy: by constantly creating complicated nonsense, she deprives the rest of the world of the time it needs to come up with effective rebuttals. Eventually, the rest of the world will simply become exhausted and start nodding along with Kevin Drum’s and Sully’s approving McMegan links. At that point, it’s fair to say that the terrorists have won.
In the meantime, commenter BR has sent me a good take-down of McMegan’s latest:
I’m amazed at McMegan’s ability to be wrong on topics as unrelated as economics and climate change, and to do so in obvious ways.
1. “1. It’s one paper. I am not casting aspersions on the authors or their methodology…” It’s not just this paper that’s been saying this. Take a look at Jeremy Jackson’s talks on the death of the ocean or similar talks on how the ocean is being turned into a parking lot – it’s a trend that’s been going on for ages, it’s not just one category of ocean life but a broad die-off, it’s not due to just one cause but a variety of human actions, and has been well documented. I mean, it took me 5 seconds to find an SF Chronicle article from 2003 on the subject.
2. The bit about all the carbon used to be in the atmosphere and the planet supported life – maybe she should have looked into the Permian-Triassic extinction event to understand what little sort of life was supported at points where a lot of greenhouse gases were in the atmosphere. This is CEI-style nonsense – “they call it pollution, we call it life.” And the level of warming we’re headed for is roughly PETM levels which means that we may be finding out by the end of the century what sort of life really can be supported.
3. The third argument is just nonsense contrarianism – the argument is that scientists who study the oceans or climate are silly people who don’t even think that there might be negative feedbacks because they’re so blinded by…I don’t know what…that they don’t know how to do their own science. And of course, she doesn’t even cite any supposed negative feedbacks that would mitigate the damage but just assumes there must be some and that the scientists must have ignored them.
The difficulty in all of this is that even many mainstream environmental organizations are compromised, and so we probably will be hearing this sort of nonsense pass for reasoned discussion on issues of the Earth for a long time.
Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions
Of course it was heh-indeeded by Eminent Reasonable Thoughtful Person Andrew Sullivan this morning…
Has anyone read our long, sorry history of cutting defense spending?
God, do I hate Fred Hiatt.
Wait. I thought this was the raison d’etre for the entire rightwing media machine.
She is also arguing that it is the 30-year fixed rate mortgage that caused the financial crisis, because it allows borrowers to “plunder the lenders.” According to her, financial reform should outlaw any fixed rate loans to “protect lenders” from being “destroyed by borrowers.”
comrade scott's agenda of rage
Yeah, it’s pretty clear she is pretty damn ignorant of what science is:
Me, I thought the whole idea of science is to formulate a hypothesis based on observation of existing phenomena, then using said hypothesis to predict new things by extrapolating what should happen given parameters X and Y, then testing whether or not this happens, either confirming or falsifying the original hypothesis, at which point the hypothesis gets further refined in order to be more predictive.
It seems to be the contemporary MO for media and dumbass bloggers to be wrong as much as possible. Certainly Megan wouldn’t be getting these many electrons spewed on her if she was correct in each essay.
Only by being divisive, nonsensical, and spectacularly wrong does she rule Teh Googullz. See also Palin, Sarah and Beck, Glennnnn.
I’m confused. Can anyone explain to me why Balloon Juice gives a shit that Sullivan links to McMegan’s drivel? Sullivan is a self-righteous imbecile and a complete tool. So again, I ask, why does Balloon Juice care what Sully says/thinks?
She is right because banks made no money and were constantly going out of business from the 1930s on through the 1990s. Someone should save the banks from the borrowers to whom they lent money on terms they largely set themselves. Fucking idiot.
I read a lot of Drum, but don’t remember many approving McMegan links. Evidence?
Step 1. Educated people are dumb.
Step 2. I have common sense and am thus smarter than educated people.
Step 3. People who run newspapers like my conclusions and could hardly care less about my methodology or logic, even if they knew enough to make sense of it.
Step 4. Profit.
It’s hardly as clever as underpants gnome business planning, but it’s a lot more profitable. So much for Jeffersonian ideals involving the sturdy common sense of the yeomanry – that’s all been edumacated out of them. The only thing the hoi polloi have going for them any more is the Jeffersonian idea of periodic popular revolutions. Of course those usually end up becoming dictatorships on the rare occasions they aren’t crushed at birth. Boy, The Running Man is looking more and more like high art.
What’s the opposite of a polymath: Polymess? Polymeth? Polymiss?
New times demand new words.
The stupid, it burns!
I bet you learned that crap in an elitist school. Science is a religion just like snakehandling and Scientology.
See also: Gish Gallop
Speaking as an electrical engineer whose favorite classes all involved feedback control, the feedback loops in climate change scare the living daylights out of me. People like McMegan talk causally about negative feedback loops but what they don’t understand is that there is no such thing as a negative or positive feedback loop: there are only feedback loops. At any given time, a feedback loop might be operating in a negative feedback configuration, but a small change in the underlying system parameters can easily convert that negative feedback into positive feedback. Once that happens, the system can (in some cases literally) blow up. Things spiral completely out of control and go very very very wrong.
This is the kind of thing that real engineers spend time worrying about and designing for: how do I make sure that no matter what the input to this system does, the system itself stays in negative feedback. This sort of analysis is extremely difficult when the system parameters are changing out from underneath you in ways you don’t completely understand.
Shorter Turbulence: feedback control is an enormously complicated subject that requires many years of advanced math and applied engineering to study and knowledge of which scares the living daylights out of anyone who cares about climate change.
It’s those vicious homeowners who take ruthless advantage of naive little banks, who after all, have no access to the $50 trillion dollar interest rate swap market, where they can for a very small fee swap fixed to floating.
Them saying that life can live in high carbon enviornments drives me crazy also. Aren’t we talking about a time that did not support flowering plants? Nearly everything we eat comes from flowering plants or eats the products of flowering plants.
DougJ will not seek help for nor even admit to his Sully addiction. It’s gotten much worse lately, IMO.
I have an environmental studies book from the 1970s that talks about the high potential for global warming to kill off phytoplankton and all the negatives that would lead to.
But then, that’s probably just more proof that this whole “global warming” conspiracy is the longest of long cons.
@Matt: Drum is on the side of the angels on this one (as usual). He’ll quote McMegan, but rarely in agreement.
You hit on one reason she is so full of it. Basically what the government does is more or less force the banks to offer a 30 year loan with a swap packaged and priced into the product. The fact that there is asymmetrical interest rate risk should be priced in the product. The bank isn’t giving it away for free.
Its funny how the second the market works in a way people like McMegan do not like they pretend the market does not work.
Well, on the plus side, once we’re all dead, maybe the next surviving species that develops (or gets God given) intelligence might actually use it.
O’Keefe is a convicted criminal
Naturally, Her Name Was Greenfield
The only good thing about all this is that McMegan is most likely going to be around when the climate change shit hits the fan.
@slag: Exactly. They don’t need to make people think they’re right; they just need to make people uncertain.
Fixt to account for McMegan’s inability to use calculators, form remotely cogent arguments, and generally function in the world.
For anyone wanting to see an extended take-down of her arguments against the 30 fixed mortgage, I recommend this:
While it may take an army to combat all of McMegan’s inaccuracies, there seem to be no shortage of volunteers on the web willing to throw themselves into the breach of her illogic–she just brings out the best in people.
@mistersnrub: Shorter Max Boot: Depriving foreigners of their freedom ain’t free.
A cellphone gun? You actually believe there’s such a thing as a cellphone gun? Is that a Nokia product or is it something by Samsung? I guess the cop was so terrified of her iPhone’s i-Gun app suddenly developing the ability to fire real bullets at him that that he just had to arrest her.
You really are the stupidest person who ever figured out how to turn on a computer. Cellphone gun.
Did not and could not are very different things. The environment didn’t support flowering plants because they hadn’t evolved yet; there’s no particular reason to think that an atmosphere with much higher CO2 couldn’t support flowering plants. For example, some greenhouses operate at deliberately elevated CO2 levels, and they don’t seem to have any problem supporting flowering plants.
The scientists have thought of the negative feedback loops. I believe one of those feedback loops is a few billion of us disappearing.
Objection. Assuming facts not in evidence. There is no proof that Paul L. actually turned on his own computer.
@Turbulence: what you have explained here illustrates why Megan McArdle frequently gets smacked down so hard throughout the blogosphere: she blogs in detail about subjects that she has no deep, nuanced understanding of.
To be fair, I don’t think that bloggers have to be experts on things to blog about. However, she is a tad unusual because she frequently posts about subjects in a wildly, arrogant and verbose way, without the foundational underlying research or knowledge of said subjects (ex. feedback loops).
It’s not so much that no one should criticize or question studies, research or say, the established rules of a particular field or profession . However, in order to advocate breaking foundational rules, or at least question the rules, you got to know what the rules are first. She doesn’t get what’s she’s talking about to begin with, and people catch her in her ignorance time and time again.
licensed to kill time
Paul el Non Sequitur rivals Drive by Wisdom in WTF?-edness.
It pisses me off that shit-heads like McMangled are not just out there but hired by Big Media, because apparently the shit-head contingent of the population want to hear from one of their own.
They don’t hire Hollow Earthers, though, because that would just be ridiculous.
From the same post, McArdle says:
Wow, McArdle supports a carbon tax, whoopee…
Is there a single BJuice reader who believes her? I’m willing to bet my very last nickle that if Pelosi introduced a carbon tax McArdle would suddenly have ‘serious questions’ about the entire concept.
You’re quite right. But you know, in this hypothesis formulating and then testing business even smart scientists regularly find that their hypothesis need modifying, i.e that they were kind of wrong. So, you know, ballpark-wise Megan’s view on science isn’t totally off. Especially, if, like her, you stand on your head and squint a bit when looking at it.
Does she mention in the article that it was floating rate mortgages with low teaser rates that were a big cause of the mortgage crisis?
Paul in KY
I think Gen. Grant’s strategy was also predecated on the fact that the CSA only had so many troops & getting them into bloodbaths (as in Cold Harbor & Peninsula Campaigns) would exhaust/wipe out their troops long before those of the Union.
This is what I’ve called elsewhere her monkey-poop strategy. She just rears up and throws whatever faeces are to hand at the bars of the cage, knowing that some will slip through and slam the unwary gawkers outside the cage.
She-is-always-wrong. And it is that to which attention must be paid.
I plan to keep on doing my part, but it is more than a full time job — because actually doing the work she won’t to report her “such is blogging” bullshit takes a lot of time.
Which is what DougJ is saying.
Jesus, the planet supported life when there was hardly any fucking oxygen in the atmosphere. I don’t think it would be a good idea to try and go back to that time.
Yeah – it’s one of those things that denies basic biology and basic physics and basic geoscience. Yet arguments like that turn up all the time in popular press and never seem to be refuted.
I was thinking when I wrote DougJ that I’d try to pick apart the rest of her post, but I got bored.
Woah, that’s not quite right. He realized that they had limited resources, and he realized that it was important to keep those resources tied up in battle, or at least reacting to Union movements.
The ‘bloodbaths’ line makes it sound like he was just sending men at the killbots until they hit their pre-set kill limit.
And there are critters that live in the deep ocean around volcanic vents, maybe the AGW-denialists should move down there.
Also. Too. I fucking hate it when people use “being that” when they mean, “since.”
You’ve nailed it, we need a word to describe McMegan and her house of dumbfuckery. Her ability to be ignorantly wrong about a wide range of different topics (and ignorantly wrong is too kind, to be frank) is astounding.
Let’s be honest, if someone came to the BJ comment section and was as error-filled and wrong as she is on her blog, we would assume they were a spoof. The ability to write a complete sentence, drive a car, etc. (let alone become a paid writer at a semi-successful-whatever-you-want-to-call-Atlantic), would seem to require a set of skills necessary to avoid being as error- and shit-filled as Megan generally is. Or, to restate, if you have a reasonable IQ, you have to try to be as wrong as she is.
Paul in KY
@daveNYC: Yes, Gen. Grant knew he was throwing men into a meatgrinder. Pres. Lincoln knew that as well. That’s why the war weighed so heavily on them. To ensure our win, we had to kill a whole bunch of them & that would also neccessitate many of our troop’s deaths as well.
The whole reason Gen. McClellan was fired was that he would not engage in that strategy, as he knew it would cause the deaths of many Union soldiers. Yet, that was the strategy which had to be employed to defeat the CSA.
Probably one of the reasons Gen. Grant drank.
If Megan thinks that “supporting life” is a reasonable environmental goal, I say we get her a nice place by one of those volcanic vents and move her down there for the foreseeable future..
The Soylent Oceanographic Report – coming soon to a bookstore near you.
@sven: I’m sure she would support a carbon tax “just not this one.”
I hate that too.
Actually the reason for Grant’s constant engagements wasn’t so much to prevent Lee from clever plans as to prevent him from being able to establish any serious defensive fortifications. With the advent of accurate, quick loading rifles, the advantage in warfare had shifted overwhelmingly to the defense, something Lee was very good at. In fact, Lee’s men often refered to him as ‘the King of Spades’ because they felt they spent more time with their shovels than their weapons.
It wasn’t until the invention of tanks and air forces that the edge shifted back to the offense.
I call them polydolts.
It’s not that complicated – McMegan is prolific in large part because she never stops to think or do research. She just pushes the banker/management/upper class position (that’s her default), and grabs anything at hand or just makes up crap as “support” for her argument. Less commonly, she’ll argue the reverse if it benefits her personally – she liked tenant rights when they helped her, but hated them when tenants foiled her from looking at a new place. The constant is that she always argues for what will benefit Glibertarian Princess McArdle in that specific place and time. She’s got enough buzz words and bravado as a bullshitter she can fool someone who doesn’t know the subject or doesn’t look too closely, but she can’t hold up to almost any level of scrutiny.
I’m pretty sure The Atlantic doesn’t care if you’re clicking through for McArdle’s wisdom, or clicking through to see the train wreck.
Many hands make light work. Guess we’re lucky that Lee didn’t have the internets.
@Paul in KY:
As Shelby Foote so ably documented “The North fought the war with one arm tied behind its back. Had there been a chance they were losing they could have unlimbered that other arm and easily crushed what was left of the South.”
Grant understood what many Generals took all of WWI to learn: if you give the enemy time to dig in they will make you pay many times over for every inch of ground.
The surprise is not that Grant drank but that he drank so little.
You should frame this.
Most glibertarians want exactly the amount of services, in exactly the places, that they figure will benefit them and theirs.
Here’s a few. Most of these are fairly approving.
Consensus climate scientists and the global warming skeptics have argued for a long time about the role of both positive and negative feedback loops in response to increased carbon emissions. Consensus climate scientists study potentially significant positive and negative feedbacks intensively. Not sure what the skeptics do, but they are loud about their conclusions.
One example is more water vapor in warmer air, leading to more clouds. Leading to… maybe a positive or maybe a negative feedback loop. I don’t think that there are firm conclusions yet about the net effect of that feedback on average temperature. But I think consensus scientists say any negative feedback will likely be small.
Does McArdle understand how to google climate blogs? Does she know how to use google scholar, or find a good library?
So, what gripes me is why can’t I get paid to just make up stuff and have it published?
@Shrillhouse: I’m grateful BJ reads the Daily Dish so I don’t have to, but also so I know that Andy’s reported brief periods of lucidity are exactly that, brief. If I find out, thanks to BJ’s monitoring, that Andy’s lucidity has returned permanently, I can start reading him myself.
And also, too,
one of the reasons climate scientists have been studying both positive and negative feedback loops intensively for a long time is that uncertainty about the characteristics of these feedback loops is probably one of the largest sources of uncertainty in long run climate forecasts. And in calculations about equilibrium atmospheric temps and concentrations. And rapidity and degree of ocean acidification before natural buffering processes starts to offset the effect of increased carbon.
And since real scientists are interested in making predictions and forecasts to test their theories, they have been very interested in any plausible feedback loops.
Which is why we need to stop talking about “saving the Earth/ Ocean/ Rainforest” etc.
As some glibertarians have already pointed out, we couldn’t kill the Earth if we tried; its our own habitat and mortality that is in peril; Even is the ice caps melt, the oceans turn to toxic dead zones, and everything between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn turns to windswept deserts, life will still go on.
We won’t be around to enjoy it, but life will go on.
What Democrats of various stripes don’t seem to understand, much less deal with, is the core wingnut tactic of strategic irrationality.
It is simple and effective. They say crazy things, knowing that they’re crazy. We waste our time whining and begging for a rational framework, and in the process exhaust ourselves and appear weak to onlookers.
It is time to change the method of response, and here’s how to do it:
1. Bluntly and concisely call them out for their irrationality.
2. Fire back, equally bluntly, on their conflicts of interest.
3. When in power, show the same sort of cohesion and discipline that they do.
All of the above calls for backbone and courage, which the institutional Democratic Party lacks. Instead, they cower in fear, eager to strike phony compromises.
The edge never shifted over to the attacker. Given equal forces with equal technology, do not attack. You will have your head handed to you.
This has become less true with tanks and planes than it used to be, but not overwhelmingly so.
Okay, I’m way late to this thread, but since no one else seems to have mentioned it, I have to drop in to point out that this is exactly the prime danger of bullshit that Harry Frankfurt pointed out in the seminal On Bullshit. You can’t defeat bullshit with rational argument (the way you can with deliberate lies), because it is so much less effort to make up new bullshit than it is to debunk it, so the bullshitter can always stay ahead of you.
Sadly, he doesn’t know what will actually work. Experience seems to indicate that mockery is the best weapon we know of, so it’s encouraging to see megadoses of it directed at McMegan.
the main point of the “opposition” is to divert, deny, and obfuscate the whole time. the effort is just to prevent any action they don’t like. keep the shit stirred, so to speak.
they can’t touch the left with facts, sanity or truth, so they bullshit like no one could have imagined or thought possible.
that they are united is their main and only asset. otherwise, they’d fall like shattered glass. when their shit hits the fan it goes all over, and they know how to throw it at the fan. and we “choose” to keep cleaning up their mess. either stand up or keep cleaning “their shit.” Such “leaders” we have now. the real leaders are dead and buried. Wellstone, Kennedy, King, and the other “liberals.”
dazzle them with diligence or as the “right” succeeds in doing, baffle them with bullshit. and buy off the media so it won’t say anything otherwise. amazing it has gone on for so long. stop cleaning up after them. let them.
Now Kevin Drum too? Well, here’s another one of those crazy approving links he gives to Megan McArdle, where he…oh wait, disagrees with her.
Do you actually read Drum, or Dionne, or listen to NPR?
Oh and also, Grant’s strategy was to wear Lee down with the North’s vastly superior resources.