Weirdest Smackdown Ever

Sullivan links to this Megan McCardle response to Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece, and calls it an “econo-smackdown” and states that she “takes an axe” to his prose. I’ve been trying to follow this stuff, and I follow Taibbi pretty closely, and since Goldman refuses to defend themselves, I figured I would read Megan’s take. So I went and read it, and the only thing I can say is that between me and Sullivan, one of us doesn’t understand what a smackdown is.

The sum total of Megan’s entire piece is the following:

a.) she compares Taibbi to Palin
b.) she concedes all the facts to Taibbi
c.) she re-iterates the already decimated Time argument that you can’t look at just one company in particular.
d.) she makes a snide remark

Think I’m kidding? Here is a snippet:

This is all technically true, and collectively nonsense. Investment trusts–aka mutual funds, now heavily regulated–were not the cause of the Great Depression. They were not even the cause of the stock market crash. They were an interesting sideshow that Galbraith included in his book because they were a vivid example of the froth. And Goldman was not the center of investment trust activity. They were one player among many whom Galbraith picked as an example, presumably because they happened to be still around and had a recognizeable name. In other words, because their activity had been less extreme, and hadn’t taken the bank down with it. Yet Taibbi turns this into a central example in the exhibit against them. Then there’s a 65-year gap in the indictment, presumably because no one has written an engaging popular book about the stock market convulsions of the 1970s.

Sure, she uses some angry words and calls him stupid, but this is far from a smackdown, because she simply does not refute anything. I’m just looking forward to Taibbi’s response.

87 replies
  1. 1
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I’m just looking forward to Taibbi’s response.

    Hell, Taibbi’s prolly penning an apology to GS now that Megan Fucking McCardle has weighed in.

    /eye roll

  2. 2
    Ash says:

    I figured I would read Megan’s take. So I went and read it

    There is never any reason to read McArdle. Everything she writes is complete nonsense. She could write that purple-colored pigs released too much toxic gas into the atmosphere and that caused plunging housing stocks, and Sullivan would probably link to it and call it “thoughtful.”

  3. 3
    Singularity says:

    Honestly, is Megan McCardle good for anything? I have never read anything by her that was not a fine example of intellectual masturbation. She is self-obsessed, shallow, and frankly quite stupid.

    And, yeah, I fervently hope that Taibbi responds, but I doubt that he will. Because in the end, who the fuck cares what Megan McCardle thinks?

  4. 4
    John S. says:

    Because in the end, who the fuck cares what Megan McCardle thinks?

    Including Andrew Sullivan, it seems to number around two.

  5. 5
    PeakVT says:

    It’s annoying that people nominally on the left (Drum, Yglesias) still link to her as if she’s a serious writer. There’s an entire cottage industry dedicated to picking apart her posts and they do a pretty good job.

  6. 6
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.

    Well done Matt Taibbi.

  7. 7
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Ya know who reminds me of Sarah Palin? I know yer thinking megan mccardle or sully or some human being somewhere but it’s Tunch. I swear Tunch is just like Sarah Palin because of (insert yer own crazy reason here.)

  8. 8
    Ben JB says:

    Yeah, I read that McArdle piece and scratched my head over where the “smackdown” was.But I also want to add that McArdle wrote a post about vegan cookbooks that was very helpful when I needed a gift.

  9. 9
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    timing. I just finished reading Meagan’s missive and the comments and here is a thread .

    Though I’m much too dense on financial matters to technically offer an opinion, Meagan’s epic treatise is a beaut’ of classic disinformation writing. Enough Red Herrings to stock The Atlantic, as it were. She should be writing for the CIA, or Putin’s (cough) democracy. Her implied reason for the financial meltdown cannot be pinned on the deeds of any one bank or financial institution, or even most of them, because well, it was just too big for that to be true. Musta been a mischievous Ghost in the market machine. And also cause Matt Taibbi is a very very very bad person, and ignorant too. So there!

  10. 10
    Bootlegger says:

    Taibbi responded to his critics and dealt with Ms. McCardle’s arguments (which Time has already trotted out). What fascinated me was the number of “anti-semite” complaints he got. “You Arabs hate teh Jews”, even though Taibbi isn’t Arab, and the Jewness of Goldmans never apparently even occurred to him.

    Taibbi can certainly take care of himself and I look forward to everything he writes.

  11. 11
    Jean says:

    She refutes nothing; she just makes counter claims. There’s no specific support for them. It’s all generalizations.

  12. 12
    JK says:

    John,

    Many,many thanks to you for creating a thread on this topic. I appended a link to McArdle’s post in previous threads in the hopes that people would see it, but fortunately you’ve given it maximum visibility.

  13. 13
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @JK:

    I appended a link to McArdle’s post in previous threads in the hopes that people would see it

    That’s how I got to it. H/t

  14. 14
    Bootlegger says:

    Ahh, I see the Juicers have already done Taibbi’s Time response (read the links Bootlegger).
    Those comments he made about Bachman was some of the funniest shit I’ve ever heard on TV.

  15. 15
    dino says:

    if by smackdown you mean concedes that his stuff is factually acurate, then yes, major smackdown…..mcardle has a degree in english literature and shes writing about finance??? mcardle confused herself here, shes palin in this fight.

  16. 16
    Beckylooo says:

    Slinking out of the shadows of lurker land here. Mad lover of Matt’s writing. Mad. Not too long ago I stayed up to embarrassing hours reading all his Men’s Journal articles. (This one is especially diabolically awesome.) Dude can turn a phrase like nobody’s business.
    While I don’t find any of the arguments against the Goldman article terribly compelling, especially not one that starts off comparing Taibbi to Sarah Palin, I was totally taken aback to find that Alex Jones, he of the wackadoo Truther movement (among other conspiracy bullshit), reposted a whole bunch of RS.com web interviews with Taibbi on youtube. I’m sorry, what? Is Jones unaware of “The Great Derangement”? Does he not care? More importantly, this confluence of reason and intelligence with unsupported ideology hurts my lady brain.

  17. 17
    The Main Gauche of Mild Reason says:

    So I went and read it, and the only thing I can say is that between me and Sullivan, one of us doesn’t understand what a smackdown is.

    If you’ve read Sullivan for any amount of time now, you realize that he’s insane and totally ignorant on matters of economics. How many times has he claimed progressive taxes amount to “punishing the successful”? So I think it’s more that his total ignorance of the subject has led to the inability to evaluate counterarguments and so the merest dissent is a “smackdown” if it’s worded strongly enough.

    Also, McArdle is a former management consultant, so she’s nominally part of the same crazy business/financial beast as Goldman, and I think you can take her comments as pretty much what Goldman would say.

  18. 18
    John Cole says:

    @JK: I aim to please. I missed your comments, but luckily found this via Sullivan. If you have something you think is important, email it. I don’t always see every comment.

  19. 19
    JGabriel says:

    Jane Galt sides with Goldman Sachs?

    Who could have predicted that?

    .

  20. 20
    Brachiator says:

    Sullivan links to this Megan McCardle response to Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece, and calls it an “econo-smackdown” and states that she “takes an axe” to his prose.

    I wondered which financial writer would be drafted as champion to attempt to deliver the “serious journalist” coup de grace to little upstart Taibbi.

    Talk about yer Goliaths and yer Davids. I agree that when Sullivan talks about smackdown, well, the most generous response to Andrew: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. ”

    McCardle is so deeply embedded in the financial world that she quickly drives off the road into that typically stoopid place in which things are so complicated that — altogether now — no one is responsible. And so, chastising young Taibbi, she says,

    But financial meltdowns don’t offer villains, for the simple reason that no one person or even one group is powerful enough to take down a whole system.

    So, does this mean we get our $700 billion back?

    Later, she asserts,

    They’re institutions who could reasonably be expected to understand the risks. Which is why it is not, as Taibbi absurdly claims, “securities fraud” for Goldman to sell people mortgage-backed CDOs when they themselves were moderately short the overall housing market.

    How “understanding risks” insulates the people who ran Goldman from possibly criminal behavior is perplexing. This is like saying that a bank robber is not really a thief because he understands the risks of getting caught.

    But the thing I love most is where McCardle tries to lecture the Rolling Stone writer but only ends up showing that she doesn’t understand the problem herself.

    Everyone knew a lot of the mortgages might go bad, either by defaulting or prepaying. … But if you pool the risk, only some of the bonds will go bad, while others pay off. The result is a less risky, less volatile investment than any individual junk mortgage bond. And it would have worked, too, if it hadn’t been for those a collapse in the housing market of a scale not seen since the Great Depression.

    Well, no. These clowns didn’t pool risk by mixing good and bad mortgages. They created a new market consisting of obviously bad mortgages and then for no rational reason whatsoever, kept telling themselves that housing prices would rise forever and ever and ever so that they would be guaranteed profits until the end of time.

    By the way, it took a seriously declining market for Bernie Madoff to be exposed. I suppose that in McCardle’s little universe, he was not really a crook either.

  21. 21
    MikeS says:

    McMegan’s response has nothing to do with the facts. She’s annoyed that Tabibi’s piece makes Goldman Sachs look like villains, and she’s responding to that perception, not to the facts. So when Tabibi writes “They stole and lied to people and made up stuff so complicated that they fooled even themselves”, Megan responds “Big deal. That’s how you get rich on Wall Street”, and thinks she’s made a strong counterargument.

  22. 22
    josefina says:

    This is all technically true, and collectively nonsense.

    This is… It’s… Really, I’m struck dumb by the pure and absolute stupidity+snideness emanating from those words.

    I know “stupidity+snideness” is clunky and not quite word-like, butI can’t think of one noun that encompasses all the shades of obtuseness, arrogance, witlessness, smug self-regard, vacuity, condescension, utter thick-headedness, and puerility there, and “s+s” was as close as I could get.

    I bet the Germans have a word for it.

  23. 23
    Anne Laurie says:

    Honestly, is Megan McCardle good for anything? I have never read anything by her that was not a fine example of intellectual masturbation. She is self-obsessed, shallow, and frankly quite stupid.

    Megan McCardle is the Libertarian Hipsters’ Sarah Palin. She is “cute” by certain carefully delimited criteria of beauty; she has “credentials” in the form of an MBA from an almost-top-tier program (plus the “right” upper-class-intellectual social background); and she’s willing to spew whatever idiocy her paymasters want her to spew this week, without reference to last week’s idiocy much less to objective reality. She’s a younger David Brooks, in a dress.

    Her “smackdown” of Taibbi is, of course, less a counter-argument than a snotty tantrum directed at the very idea that some foulmouthed, uncredentialed DFH like Taibbi should be permitted to attack the sterling image of a Glorious Free Market Ruler like Goldman Sachs. Of course nothing in her screed is original, because she’s not paid to be original (assuming she’s capable, which has never been in evidence), she’s paid to shake her pompoms while parroting the GFMR theme-of-the-day. Its real usefulness, to those of us in the reality-based community, is as an indicator that Taibbi’s attack on Goldman Sachs has reached a level of public credibility that requires a McArdle “smackdown”. To which I can only say: You go, Matt Taibbi!

  24. 24
    Bootlegger says:

    Ok, slogged through Meg’s piece and the comments and it occurred to me that Meg is more akin to Sarah Palin than Taibbi is. Someone babbling nonsense then grinning like she just won a debate, that’s Palin and apparently Meg McCardle.

  25. 25
    Brachiator says:

    @josefina:

    I bet the Germans have a word for it.

    Bullenshitten

  26. 26
    Anne Laurie says:

    How “understanding risks” insulates the people who ran Goldman from possibly criminal behavior is perplexing. This is like saying that a bank robber is not really a thief because he understands the risks of getting caught.

    Bingo!

    By the way, it took a seriously declining market for Bernie Madoff to be exposed. I suppose that in McCardle’s little universe, he was not really a crook either.

    No, no, you misunderstand — in McArdle’s universe of the Glorious Free Market Rule(rs), there is no such thing as “criminal behavior”, there is only “getting caught”. Crooks are the clumsy unfortunates who, as Warren Buffet phrased it, are seen to be swimming naked when the tide goes out. Barring such exposure, there is no “crime”, merely a gradated “maximization of fiscal opportunity”. Libertarians with MBAs have attempted to turn finance into a hard science, like physics, and their defence of Goldman Sachs’ shenanigans is intended to be as scienterrific and irrefutable as the physists’ explication of string theory. As the old saying goes, when ya can’t dazzle ’em with science, then ya baffle ’em with bvllshit.

  27. 27
    nepat says:

    They’re both total, unmitigated bores.

    And Anne Laurie – Taibbi is no DFH. In fact, that insults all DFH around the globe. He’s another prep school spawn of the media elite (father is an NBC reporter) that Jann Wenner decided to recast as the Hunter Thompson 2.0. Thus the over fucking use of the word ‘fuck.’ Because, you know, using the word ‘fuck’ a lot proves you’re a non-conforming renegade. Yawn. He and McCardle deserve each other.

  28. 28
    DougJ says:

    Neither Sully nor McArdle knows anything about economics.

  29. 29
    MikeJ says:

    I’m with nepat. Taibbi ain’t HST, and he might approach readability if he stopped trying to be. Third rate imitator.

  30. 30
    Waingro says:

    Co-sign, Anne Laurie.

    It’s instructive to see how someone like McArdle gains prominence despite being, uh… not particularly insightful.

    Here is someone who instinctively and energetically will leap to the defense of institutions who raped the global economy even if the arguments aren’t there. Again, she does this instinctively, like any good attack dog. Oligarchs always need house intellectuals and she’s willing. She’s an awful person who’s going to have a long career and make a lot of money because of this talent. For a less obnoxious example, see Fareed Zakaria. For an equally obnoxious example, see Tom Friedman.

    BTW, I would encourage people to read the comments to her article. She already has several people calling her full of shit, which is a change from the usual glibertarian tug-fest that occurs in that den of Satan.

  31. 31
    Batocchio says:

    Has McCardle ever written anything that isn’t drivel? Perhaps a sentence (or even a complete paragraph) here and there hasn’t been pabulum. And granted, I only read her when someone’s dissecting or debunking her work. But from what I’ve seen to date, McCardle’s work lands solidly at that rarefied Richard Cohen level of quality – useful only for high school students, to study how not to make a argument.

  32. 32
    jrg says:

    I really like Sully’s blog, but every time he links to McArdle it’s more about blogwhoring The Atlantic than anything else. I never even bother to read when he links to her anymore.

  33. 33
    Sharl says:

    @nepat:

    Thanks for that background on Taibbi (more here). Personally I have zero problems with a child of privilege who manages to break out of his/her psychic gilded cage and become a genuine force for good, perhaps even using the tools and connections acquired during an entitlement-blessed youth for positive action, and even if such positive action is an act of personal rebellion against family/society/etc. He could have become a corporate cog, or (family finances permitting) a trustafarian nuisance street-performer with an AmEx platinum card. Who knows, he may go over to the Dark Side some day – especially if his motivations are those of a spoiled rebellious brat – but for now, thank the FSM that he his doing what he does, even with all the f*ck-bombs.

  34. 34
    R. Porrofatto says:

    As Anne Laurie points out, how blinkered a rigged free market ideologue do you have to be defend these institutions? The last couple of years should have made it patently obvious that Wall Street and its banks have systematically devoured the wealth of an entire economy to feed their own limitless rapacity, to a degree that wasn’t even dreamed of in former times — and have proven themselves detrimental to the well-being of the country. It’s about time we change conservatives’ favorite defensive label for this particularly parasitic species of capitalist from “the most productive” to “the most destructive members of society.”

  35. 35
    lotus says:

    Thanks, nepat. I was just about to ask how Matt Taibbi and Mike Taibbi are related. Once upon a time I was impressed with Matt for about an article-and-a-half’s worth, then I got bored as/with fuck too.

  36. 36
    Janus Daniels says:

    “Megan McCardle is the Libertarian Hipsters’ Sarah Palin… an indicator that Taibbi’s attack on Goldman Sachs has reached a level of public credibility…”
    Anne Laurie wins.

  37. 37
    Bill says:

    Sullivan has a long history of embarrassing himself on economic issues.I remember a few years back when he was full metal wingnut he would actually try to take on Krugman.Bob Somerby would have a field day pointing out that Sullivan had no idea what he was talking about.

    In McCardle Sullivan recognizes his own smug, willful ignorance.Of course he’s impressed!

  38. 38
    Brachiator says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Libertarians with MBAs have attempted to turn finance into a hard science, like physics, and their defence of Goldman Sachs’ shenanigans is intended to be as scienterrific and irrefutable as the physists’ explication of string theory.

    Very well said. I think you have hit on the heart of the issue.

    And it’s strange how second-rate some of these clowns were, both as scientists and finance whizzes. Wired Magazine (among others) had a good piece about how Wall Street kept recruiting math and physics wizards to develop these astounding financial models. The huge problem was that these goobers — who didn’t know anything about business or the mortgage industry — did not devise any way of testing their models against reality.

    Meanwhile some wise guys in the industry saw ways to make huge gobs of short term profits from these models even as they demonstrated (via internal emails and other evidence) that they know the models are wrong and that what they are doing is essentially a scam against investors and sometimes their own companies.

    DougJ — Neither Sully nor McArdle knows anything about economics.

    Yeah. With Sully, this is a blind spot with him. He is weak on science as well, and keeps trying to view science as a branch of philosophy, as the ancient Greeks and Romans did.

    McCardle is a little different. She is good on some financial issues, but is weak on economics and tax policy. These areas are not the same, but McCardle is blind to this fact.

  39. 39
    Downpuppy says:

    On CDOs, I liked the way she combined Hoocoodanode? & Everybody Knew! into one paragraph & was wrong both ways.

    Having her double down in comments was a bonus.

  40. 40

    Every time I see someone wasting space in a sweet blogging gig, like whenever I read McCardle, it always reminds me that Marcy Wheeler & Co. had to beg their readers for $$ in order to hire her full time.

    There are so many good bloggers out there who don’t make a living at it. I am starting to think life isn’t fair.

  41. 41
    Germane Jackson says:

    Crossposted from the Atlantic website:

    I tried really hard to read and understand this critique of Taibbi, as I’d like to get both sides of the story and I understand that to some extent Taibbi is a rabble-rouser and, in any case, certainly not a serious financial journalist. In the end, however, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what McCardle is saying here, and what I could understand seemed obviously untrue or irrelevant.

    That Taibbi is short on details doesn’t seem to be a terrible indictment of a guy who writes polemics. What’s important is that he’s broadly right about what he’s yelling about, and is entertaining doing so. Does he exaggerate when he paints GS as the entity behind most of the last 100 years’ downturns? Probably, but even if what he says is exaggerated to twice its true size, it’s still worth the ink and bile being spilled.

    Also, the mise en scene McCardle paints of all the stock market players knowing the real story about CDOs and toxic derivatives is laughably untrue, and I’ll leave it there. And sure, maybe banks do sometimes sell people different positions than they’re taking. The difference, of course, is that the bank is usually not producing the poisonous commodities that they’re selling en masse and moving instantly away from, like someone farting in an elevator and getting off at the next floor. Anyone who can’t instinctively see the difference here, in both behavior and scope, has a seriously faulty moral compass.

    Honestly, I have a hard time understanding anyone playing apologist for Goldman Sachs at this time. Is it just a holdover from that fashionable mid-decade Slate contrarianism, wherein a journalist displays their “objectivity” by staking out positions of deep moral stupidity? Or is it that McCardle is annoyed by how much acclaim Taibbi is getting for these articles?

    One final thought–Taibbi, however right or wrong he might be, is eminently readable. McCardle is not. I would argue that’s because Taibbi is writing from a position of moral clarity and McCardle is scrambling to employ as much obfuscatory language as possible in the service of defending the indefensible, but I’ll allow that it could be simply that MT is a much better writer.

  42. 42
    r€nato says:

    She is good on some financial issues, but is weak on economics and tax policy.

    I blame the GOP, which for 30 or so years has done its best to equate economics with tax policy, thereby dumbing down to an unimaginable level a topic which is already difficult for average laymen to grasp in any useful way.

  43. 43
    Napoleon says:

    Why does anyone read, pay attention to, or link to MM. At random pick someone on this board and they are more likely to make sense then her.

  44. 44
    Oxycontin says:

    As you point out, John, the most pathetic thing about Megan McGalt-ard’s “smackdown” is that Taibbi already refuted it before she even wrote it.

    Megan is such an overrated blogger and terrible writer, and I’ll never understand why the Atlantic hired her. She’s never written anything remotely interesting or insightful. It’s like the bland publisher and editors at the Atlantic decided they needed to round out their collection of boring contrarians. And hey, why not a libertarian one?

  45. 45
    NS says:

    This is all technically true, and collectively nonsense.

    Closing argument by the worst lawyer ever.

  46. 46
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:
    I bet the Germans have a word for it.

     
    Bullenshitten Rinderausscheidung

    Fix’t.

  47. 47
    grumpy realist says:

    Speaking as someone who was almost hired by Moody’s to put together CDOs, I’d like to put up a hand in defense of quants. A lot of them knew full well the problems due to the assumptions of random walks, etc. (see e.g. Wilmott). I have no doubt but that a financial instrument was pieced together with five pages of caveats and stated assumptions….all caveats which the front office totally ignored, ripped off. They then stamped “AAA” on the rest before sending it to the sales team to sell to pension funds in Finland.

    It’s not that things didn’t get checked out with simulations. (Monte Carlo, etc.–one reason why Moody’s was thinking of hiring me was my background in that stuff.) The problem is: all bets are off when correlations go to 1 and THAT meltdown was never even considered because if you try to adequately guard against it, you might as well give up on financial instruments and stocks and bonds entirely and try to build a financial system by stuffing gold under your mattress.

  48. 48
    Napoleon says:

    Well as long as you are getting into Matt t background there is this interview with him from a couple of days ago.

    http://seekingalpha.com/articl.....att-taibbi

  49. 49
    Oxycontin says:

    @Napoleon: Interesting quote by Taibbi in that interview:

    Journalists don’t get promoted because they’re risk takers or rabble-rousers. They tend to get promoted for the opposite qualities. So the people who tend to be the elite political and financial reporters have an instinct to protect the status quo. It’s not in their nature to go after Goldman Sachs, the White House, or whoever.

    He’s describing McArdle’s modus operandi.

  50. 50

    McArdle runs around with the DC blogging crew that got their start in the early ’00s as the first round of “serious bloggers” to get paid any recognizable amount of money from a “legitimate” outlet. That’s why they’re all chummy, because they have formed their own little “village within the village,” and they all link to and talk about each other’s b.s. “serious thoughts.” And I count James Joyner as one of them (he had McA’s engagement photo up on his blog recently).

  51. 51
    Brachiator says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Speaking as someone who was almost hired by Moody’s to put together CDOs, I’d like to put up a hand in defense of quants. … It’s not that things didn’t get checked out with simulations. (Monte Carlo, etc.—one reason why Moody’s was thinking of hiring me was my background in that stuff.) The problem is: all bets are off when correlations go to 1 and THAT meltdown was never even considered because if you try to adequately guard against it, you might as well give up on financial instruments and stocks and bonds entirely and try to build a financial system by stuffing gold under your mattress.

    Let me throw in an attack from someone whose background is tax and business.

    The model was doomed to failure because of faulty and weirdly circular reasoning.

    The model said that you could reduce risk, which is one thing. But soon people behaved as though the instruments they created absolutely eliminated risk, which is absurd.

    And then, having fooled themselves into a belief that risk no longer existed, they then went on to make decisions that guaranteed disaster.

    Mortgage companies had developed proven methods of evaluating the creditworthiness of loan applicants. They then totally discarded these rules.

    So instead of a mix of mortgages of variable quality, there was soon as excess of crappy mortgages. Instead of risk being minimized, the risk was actually maximized.

    And during this period, wage income was steadily declining. So in the end, they whole enterprise depended on a single variable: that housing prices would rise forever, so that the quality of mortgages and the ability of homeowners to actually pay their loans did not matter.

    This was an absolute absurdity.

    And still the people who were involved in this mess can’t see the forest for the trees.

  52. 52

    @Brachiator:

    The model said that you could reduce risk, which is one thing. But soon people behaved as though the instruments they created absolutely eliminated risk, which is absurd.

    Taking it a step further, they then bet against those instruments through CDOs, piling “insurance” on top of those toxic assets that – were the assets to fail – would imperil AIG, swamping the entire ponzi scheme.

  53. 53
    gil mann says:

    I know it’s received wisdom at this point and thus not really worth bothering to counter, but Taibbi’s voice isn’t all that similar to HST’s. His writing’s a lot more akin to that of P.J. O’Rourke, y’know, the other guy everyone says sounds like HST but actually doesn’t.

  54. 54
    Sharl says:

    @50 – arguingwithsignposts:

    Yeah, that bugs me a bit, and there are bloggers like S,N!’s HTML_Mencken who pretty much go berzerk on the DC-based young bloggers “Rat Pack” you refer to, for the same reason you mention. For my part, I really think it is unavoidable, i.e., folks who work with/around one another are going to (mostly) become chummier with time.

    It falls on readers to stay vigilant and realize that even the best writers in any medium will have their blind spots and compromised situations. As an example, I really like Spencer Ackerman, but he is a member of the very pack you mention, so I am skeptical anytime he positively references any of his DC buds. (He’s also a big fanboy of former WaPo reporter Tom Ricks, whom I usually like as well, but Ackerman has such a puppy dog affection for Ricks that I’ll go elsewhere for good criticism of the latter’s writing.)

  55. 55
    grumpy realist says:

    Another problem was a lot of the probabilities which were used to plug into the math were the old, historical data. If banks had continued to use the old rules by which to grant mortgages, then yes, the numbers would have most likely worked out. But they thought they had found a way to get *rid* of risk, and thus could throw the rule book out….oops.

    Don’t blame the mathematicians for what they did–blame the people in charge who thought they had gotten rid of risk, that correlations never went to 1, and that the amount of derivatives swashing around didn’t have any effect on the equilibrium positions.

    All of the math works out. Derivatives and the Black-Scholes equation DO hold….as long as they’re only a tiny percent of the transactions or your system does in fact have random jitter in it. More than that, you have too much feedback/correlation and whoops, too bad about that risk we thought we had dispersed.

  56. 56
    JK says:

    It’s been hours since my first post on this topic and my blood is still boiling.

    Interesting blog to visit for people who are not Megan McArdle fans
    http://firemeganmcardle.blogspot.com

    I have never liked or appreciated the work of Megan McArdle, but she she has sunk to a new low. Calling Matt Taibbi “the Sarah Palin of journalism” marks an all-time low for McArdle. Thems Fightin’ Words. I hope Taibbi cuts her to ribbons and gives her the verbal thrashing and smackdown which she so richly deserves.

    For starters, Sarah Palin is D-U-M-B. Not just garden variety dumb, but dumb on an epic and monumental scale. Taibbi is anything but dumb. Obviously, Taibbi’s understanding of finance doesn’t match that of Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz, but that certainly does not make him dumb. Secondly, Sarah Palin has clearly demonstrated, on multiple occasions, that she not only lacks knowledge on a range of issues, but she no interest in ascertaining the proper facts.

    By calling Matt Taibbi “the Sarah Palin of journalism”, McArdle is not simply attacking Taibbi’s intelligence, she’s attacking his character. McArdle is saying that Taibbi doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t even care what the truth is.

    Before her current gig at The Atlantic, McArdle blogged under the name Jane Galt.

  57. 57
    matoko_chan says:

    Obviously “palin” is the new “retard”.
    I can’t wait to try it out on my WoW guild’s next Ulduar raid.

    F*ck! you stupid fail-dk! don’t you evah use army of the dead when im tanking! wat r u? a retard palin?
    ;)

  58. 58
    Brachiator says:

    @grumpy realist:

    But they thought they had found a way to get rid of risk, and thus could throw the rule book out….oops.

    We are in absolute agreement here, coming at the problem from slightly different perspectives.

    Don’t blame the mathematicians for what they did—blame the people in charge who thought they had gotten rid of risk, that correlations never went to 1…

    Can I blame both? The people in charge picked the wrong mathematicians, and the mathematicians were boneheads.

    I don’t know many actuaries who would accept the idea that risk could be eliminated. Imagine a life product policy based on the idea that you could construct a model in which no one ever dies. And then you sell it in an area with no medicine and a past history of plague.

    If you had run these models by bookies or operators of casinos, they would have laughed this crap out of the room in a heartbeat.

    All of the math works out.

    Reality trumps math.

  59. 59
    Mike says:

    What Germane Jackson said.

  60. 60
    Steeplejack says:

    @josefina:

    I bet the Germans have a word for it.

    Ditzenfreude, or, in its strongest form, douchenfreude: Pleasure and smug self-satisfaction in saying something patently stupid or offensive, while erroneously believing that one has said something profound or insightful.

  61. 61
    kuvasz says:

    On a continuing basis, Mr. Cole, I have questioned your judgement in wasting your time reading Andy Sullivan. I question it again.

    I don’t quite know what it is with you, but you ought not to consider Sullivan anything but whale shit, and Ms. McCardle, bless her vacuous head, 1,000 year old whale shit.

  62. 62
    josefina says:

    @Oxycontin:

    Journalists don’t get promoted because they’re risk takers or rabble-rousers. They tend to get promoted for the opposite qualities. So the people who tend to be the elite political and financial reporters have an instinct to protect the status quo. It’s not in their nature to go after Goldman Sachs, the White House, or whoever.

    Yep. McArdle is a fine example, as is Edmund Andrews, the feckless dope/NYTimes financial reporter who wrote Busted, all about why he had to buy a house he couldn’t afford because he was in luuuuurve.

    I heard an interview with Andrews and he defended himself by pointing out that he did bunches of research on sub-primes, CDOs, the whole shebang. “Once it happened to me, I started digging into it…” Which raises the question, “What the fuck were you doing beforeit happened to you? It’s not like that was your beat or anything, you credulous fuck-knuckle.”

    Bringing it back around to the starting point… I had to google for Andrews’ name and came across a HuffPo review quoting Miz 2×4:

    “Bravo to Andrews for leaning into the strike zone and taking one for the team,” cheers The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle, who is thrilled that someone has finally spoken up about how economically risky it is be a writer, thanks to the expensive education required and all the rich friends you’re likely to accumulate along the way. “And you come to feel that shopping at the farmer’s market, traveling to Europe, drinking good coffee, are minimum necessities,” she notes.

    In the interest of fairness, I even topped off my Maker’s Mark for fortification and clicked over to M&M’s original, just to make sure HuffPo wasn’t quote-mining.

    No. It’s echt-McArdle, with a little extra class-unconsciousness thrown in.

    For some reason, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

    He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.

  63. 63

    @JK:

    By calling Matt Taibbi “the Sarah Palin of journalism”, McArdle is not simply attacking Taibbi’s intelligence, she’s attacking his character. McArdle is saying that Taibbi doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t even care what the truth is.

    The funny part is, Taibbi has been linked to and praised by many financial bloggers, even those who work on wall street. See, for instance, this interview on Wall St. Insider.

    McArdle, who has nothing to do with Wall St., is attacking Taibbi as Sarah Palin?

  64. 64
    kth says:

    Matt Taibbi’s own worldview may be suspected of being unsound–I seem to recall him running some “pox on both houses” bullshit on the Bill Maher show–but goddamit he’s about all we got in the way of seriously confrontational journalism (Amy Goodman is both intermittently annoying and yet indispensible in much the same way).

  65. 65
    Llelldorin says:

    Don’t blame the mathematicians for what they did—blame the people in charge who thought they had gotten rid of risk, that correlations never went to 1, and that the amount of derivatives swashing around didn’t have any effect on the equilibrium positions.

    But part of being a good applied mathematician is learning something about the subject you’re simulating. Simply shrugging your shoulders and saying “well, that’s how the math looks with the parameters set this way, because those are the parameters that I’ve been given” is lousy applied math. Granted, if I were being paid handsomely to produce lousy applied math, I can’t guarantee that I’d have the intestinal fortitude to explore parameter space any better than the folks who went quant did.

  66. 66

    @kth:

    Amy Goodman is both intermittently annoying and yet indispensible in much the same way

    Yet you’ll never see her on a major media or cable talk show (unless she’s arrested at a political convention), and she really has no sense of humor that I’ve ever heard.

  67. 67
    El Cid says:

    Why do people discuss McArdle? All I have ever seen is ideologically correct shit-head idiocy. There’s nothing, nothing, nothing there. Nothing. It’s a complete and utter waste of time. I have never, ever seen her contribute even the tiniest part of anything worth anyone’s time except shit-head libertarian or rightwing economics echo propaganda. Just complete and utter shit. And yet, she’s obviously in an important peer group, so, yeah, let’s treat some more worthless bullshit screeds by a callow, unthinking simpleton ideologue as worthy of discussion, over and over and over again, because, you know, fuck real thinking.

  68. 68
    josefina says:

    @Steeplejack: Not bad, as a descriptor of Miss M’s state of mind. I also like Doug L.‘s word for her work product, Rinderausscheidung. Babelfish tells me it means “cattle elimination” and that pretty much does sum it up.

    Megan was suffused with Douchenfreude as she contemplated the imminent release of her next load of Rinderausscheidung.

    Works for me. Now we need a word for the effects of reading McA’s work. Maybe something a bit more indirect and metaphorical, like a word for the muscular strain and aches produced by frequent and prolonged eye-rolling. Or the wild gyrations of the cursor as the reader scrabbles at the trackpad trying to get away from the idiocy. Or the look of quizzical concern on a dog’s face when she’s awakened from a nap by an especially vehement “Oh, for fuck’s sake!”

    Something like that.

  69. 69
    JGabriel says:

    Batocchio:

    Has McCardle ever written anything that isn’t drivel?

    Much of it probably has unintended anthropological value.

    .

  70. 70
    John B. says:

    @Llelldorin: I think you are underrating the difficulty of being a mathematician employed by finance dudes. You literally speak different languages: mathematicians use technical terms which unfortunately sound just like the words normal people use, but which have much a much more precise meaning. You might tell somebody, “The expected loss of this investment is 50 cents,” and they will interpret it as “Woohoo! Risk-free!”

    I recall one of the articles that came out when this meltdown started had a quote from some obnoxious broker. It was something along the lines of “These Indian guys in the back room kept telling me that it would be 10,000 years before these mortgages would fail! It’s not my fault!”

    Reading between the lines, I’m sure that what somebody told him was that the mean time between failures of the mortgages was 10,000 years, and that sounded so good to him that he never bothered to find out what “mean time between failures” really means. I run into the same misunderstanding all the time, and I have a simple example I use to clarify the terminology: if he’s a forty-year old white American male, then his mean time between failures is 2700 years.

    The fault of the mathematicians lies significantly in failing to express their results in terms that can not be willfully misunderstood, and the reasons for their not doing so are pretty obvious. They get fat paychecks, and they still get to say, “I told you so” at the end of the party.

  71. 71
    Phoebe says:

    Germaine Jackson @41:

    “One final thought—Taibbi, however right or wrong he might be, is eminently readable. McCardle is not. I would argue that’s because Taibbi is writing from a position of moral clarity and McCardle is scrambling to employ as much obfuscatory language as possible in the service of defending the indefensible, but I’ll allow that it could be simply that MT is a much better writer.”

    Yes yes yes yes yes! Also.

  72. 72
    LD50 says:

    @Germane Jackson: Say hi to Tito for me.

  73. 73
    Steeplejack says:

    @josefina:

    Now we need a word for the effects of reading McA’s work.

    Already have one: stupefaction.

  74. 74
    Sharl says:

    Having followed the literary droolings of The Giant Elf second-hand for a couple years or so, mostly via her critics at Sadly, No! and that ‘Fire Megan McArdle’ site referenced above, I hate to bring this up – and it’s probably more in the category of a-stopped-clock-is-right-twice-a-day – but she did get some props for her critical posting on that autobiographical account by NYT’s Edmund Andrews of his experience with bankruptcy. Brad DeLong, who wrote a post nominating her for ‘Stupidest Woman Alive’ in March 2008, complimented her in a post this past May for the Andrews criticism. She even received grudging credit from the Fire Megan McArdle crew.

    One good bit of journalism isn’t enough to change my opinion of her; it just makes me wonder whether her basic problem is intellectual laziness and incuriosity, or something with deeper roots. However, absolute descriptors like never and always always concern me, so I thought this rare incident of diligence and competence should be part of the record here.

  75. 75
    Steeplejack says:

    @Sharl:

    Well said.

  76. 76
    Graeme says:

    I actually tend to enjoy the comments section on McCardle’s blog. I’ve seen a lot of really interesting debate there over the years.

    That said, I stopped reading her before she ended up on The Atlantic because I got sick of her analysis always being a defense of whatever business practice is currently popular. I always get the idea she’s so reflexively pro-Wall St. because she’s hoping to parlay the blog into a big job @ some point in the future.

    I clicked through and read it, and the thing that struck me is that she doesn’t touch all the Goldman alums who engineered the bailouts & who have the reigns of actual, you know, US fiscal policy. Didn’t say one stinking word about it.

    Plus, as everyone has pointed out, she didn’t disagree with the facts. She just asserted MT misunderstood the facts, which is basically MT’s commentary about all the Goldman non-denial denials. Same deal, different source.

    I would love to see MT get into it with McMegan, though. I think it could be an interesting little wreck to rubberneck while I drive by on this information superhighway thing.

  77. 77
    MBSS says:

    i linked from greenwald to sullivan and i noticed that sullivan was touting mcardle’s “smackdown” of taibbi, so i clicked on that.

    what should i find but some standard megan mcardle writing. it is of consistent quality. low quality, but consistent.

    then my ire begins to turn in the direction of sullivan, and ultimately greenwald.

    if i go to a greenwald dinner party would i be subjected to this? the establishment hack spews her spin because sullivan needed a bathroom buddy and greenwald couldn’t forget the invitation for his mutual admiration society back washer.

    it reflects poorly on you all.

  78. 78

    McMegan McArdle is to Atlantic bloggers what Sarah Palin is to vice-presidential candidates. McMegan didn’t get her job because she’s competent or intelligent. McArdle is ignorant, amazingly stupid and possesses a huge sense of entitlement. No, McMegan got her job because she showed up looking all tall and pretty and someone at the Atlantic saw some starbursts and gave her a job, end of story.

    I’m waiting for McMegan to get smacked down by Taibbi, the stupid bitch deserves it. Not that it will teach her anything, McMegan is incapable of learning, as witness her recent revelations about how she spent lots of time and money getting a CNE back in the mid 1990s hoping to get a high-paying job and then, a few years later, spent even more time and money getting a worthless MBA so she could get a high-paying job on Wall Street, a plan that was foiled by the dot.com collapse and 9/11. In reading both stories you can hear McMegan’s outraged sense of entitlement, how could employers have failed to hire her for a high-paying job that she was obviously qualified for because she had a piece of paper that cost her a lot of time and money. Oh the humanity!

  79. 79

    @JK

    For starters, Sarah Palin Megan McArdle is D-U-M-B. Not just garden variety dumb, but dumb on an epic and monumental scale. Taibbi is anything but dumb. Obviously, Taibbi’s understanding of finance doesn’t match that of Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz, but that certainly does not make him dumb. Secondly, Sarah Palin Megan McArdle has clearly demonstrated, on multiple occasions, that she not only lacks knowledge on a range of issues, but she no interest in ascertaining the proper facts.

    By calling Matt Taibbi “the Sarah Palin of journalism”, McArdle is not simply attacking Taibbi’s intelligence, she’s attacking his character. McArdle is saying that Taibbi doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t even care what the truth is.

    Why shouldn’t McArdle attack Taibbi and say the he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t know what the truth is? It’s not as if McMegan has clue one about what she’s talking about or has ever cared about the truth.

  80. 80

    @Germane Jackson (what a cool handle)

    Honestly, I have a hard time understanding anyone playing apologist for Goldman Sachs at this time. Is it just a holdover from that fashionable mid-decade Slate contrarianism, wherein a journalist displays their “objectivity” by staking out positions of deep moral stupidity? Or is it that McCardle is annoyed by how much acclaim Taibbi is getting for these articles?

    Both, McMegan is huge on the facile contrarianism thing, a rhetorical technique that I abandoned years ago in favor of cruel ad hominem attacks and gratuitous fucking use of the word “fuck” because the whole facile contrarianism thing made me look like a complete and utter fucking dick as well as making me feel unclean. Reading something written from the viewpoint of a facile contrarian is like going to a fucking M. Night Shalamalamadingdong movie and finding out that the ending is completely and totally lame or like watching that Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man, for the eight millionth time and as soon as you see one of the big-headed aliens you’re already screaming “It’s a cookbook you fucking morons” and reaching for the remote so you can find something better to watch, like an ad for the ShamWow.

    OK, where was I? Train of thought kind of derailed there. Right, McMegan, big on the facile contrarianism because a certain kind of person complete and total fucking idiot finds that sort of argument brilliant, just like a certain kind of person thinks that M. Night Shalamalamadingdong is a brilliant director or To Serve Man is a great episode of The Twilight Zone. But I also think that McMegan resents Taibbi because the man is a journalist as opposed to being “the world’s tallest female econoblogger”. I mean how hard is it to be “the world’s tallest female econoblogger”? In case you were wondering that’s a rhetorical question, the answer to which is “not that hard.” I could handle a gig like that, I could post ignorant, superficial, inaccurate and clearly wrong-headed bullshit about the economy and bill myself as “the world’s tallest* right-handed except when he plays the guitar amputee former M1 tank commander econoblogger”. If anyone called me on the bullshit I was spewing I’d say “Look, I didn’t say that I was the world’s most accurate econoblogger. Or the world’s most informative econoblogger. Or the world’s most knowledgeable econoblogger. I said that I was ‘the world’s tallest*, right-handed except when he plays the guitar amputee former M1 tank commander econoblogger’. If you want accuracy and knowledge or you know, real information instead of bullshit then go talk to Krugman or Brad DeLong, Dr. Housing Bubble or Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge. But bear in mind that you’ll be trading off a certain right-handed except when he plays the guitar amputee former M1 tank commander je ne sais quoi for mere competence and knowledge.

    McArdle is annoyed by Taibbi because he’s not a tall, female econoblogger, he just knows his shit, oh and because writing for Rolling Stone is infinitely cooler than writing for The Atlantic and because how dare Taibbi write about the economy? I mean he didn’t spend lots of money and time getting a worthless MBA.

    One final thought—Taibbi, however right or wrong he might be, is eminently readable. McCardle is not. I would argue that’s because Taibbi is writing from a position of moral clarity and McCardle is scrambling to employ as much obfuscatory language as possible in the service of defending the indefensible, but I’ll allow that it could be simply that MT is a much better writer.

    Yes, not only is Matt Taibbi not female (I don’t know how tall he is) but he’s also a better writer than McMegan (which doesn’t say much). Taibbi is outraged and is writing from a position of moral clarity. Now, you may or may not agree with that position but after reading one of his pieces you have no doubt as to what it is. With McMegan you have no idea what her position is, other than that she thinks that she should be getting paid more than she is and that she’s a legend in her own mind and the usual warmed over Randroid mantra of “governments bad, big corporations good”. McArdle is a hack who got her job because someone at the Atlantic saw starbursts when she applied, and what’s more she knows it, but rather than get off of her ass and stop being a hack, which would be hard she just continues along, posting stuff about her upcoming nuptials to wingnut welfare-queen Peter Suderman (please God, let there be no issue from this union) and writing bitchy, content-free posts about people, Krugman, Taibbi, etc, who actually know something about the subject that she’s supposed to be an expert on, that is to say the economy.

    *At least until someone who’s taller than my 5’11” comes along and who is also right-handed except when playing the guitar, an amputee and a former M1 tank commander, at which point I’m fucked.

  81. 81
    Sharl says:

    Someone upthread seemed to be trying to make something of Matt Taibbi’s somewhat fortunate birth (or so it seemed to me). Does anyone know about McArdle’s parentage – parents’ names, and (more relevantly) lines of work, family money, stuff like that? That kind of information is so often available for these high visibility folks who are associated with corporate media, yet her wiki page seems strangely sparse on such questions. Her bio at The Atlantic site says she grew up in the Upper West Side of NYC, but isn’t much more informative than the wiki site. She sure seems to have obtained some decent-sounding jobs for an entry-level job applicant, “all before the age of thirty.” Is she so obviously awesome on first sight, or did she have some really good connections?

    Witless champion of corporate interests that she so often is, I’m very interested in these questions, what with all the favorable links and reviews she seems to be getting – as opposed to thoughtful analysis of what she writes from those same media hotshots.

  82. 82
    Nylund says:

    Here is my take on the reality of Wall St.

    Every company is basically evil by design (in the sense that they are incredibly greedy and have no scruples). They will get rich from this. This seems unfair. But, in the long run, this has created some good for the country overall (people with good ideas can get capital to finance their good ideas), but bad people benefit in the process. This seems unfair and makes people mad. Overall, its probably worth it. But, every so often, the evilness is far greater than the goodness that comes from it and its no longer worth it. This almost always happens after some aspect of the market has been deregulated (or some new aspect goes on unregulated). MM would have you believe that such times were unexpected, unpredictable, and unpreventable. But they’re not. Many companies know the potential disaster of their actions but choose to do so knowing that they, personally, stand a good chance of coming out richer than when they started and may even promote these bad aspects of the situation. This was really Matt’s point.

    MM has no real comeback for this other than to point out that often times, their evil was still a net benefit, and completely overlooks the link to these bad times and the acts of deregulation and times of unregulation that caused them to be. She couldn’t be a libertarian if she admitted the major role of gov’t regulation in keeping the evil in check.

    MM’s overall stance is, “overall, its good for us, and those bad times, well, “no one could have predicted…”

    Matt’s overall stance is, “this has always been, and will continue to be, pure evil.”

    Matt overlooks the good that does come from the system and foolishly singled one, of many, evil firms making them seem exceptional when they were not.

    MM only sees the good and claims the bad is too unpredictable to get into a hot fuss about, failing to see that those times were evil by design.

    I think Matt overplayed his hand and in the process makes himself look just silly enough that the powers that be will not see a reason to change the status quo. Yet, I prefer his stance because he does point out many things that scream, “we need a change!” (and we do). MM’s stance does not lend itself to changing anything, dooming us to perpetually repeat the mistakes of the past. That is quite dangerous.

    But, they are both more or less right. Let’s say there are 10 facts. MM mentions 5 of them, and so does Matt, but they aren’t really overlapping facts. Screaming that GS is evil and screaming that GS is no more or less evil than the others aren’t mutually exclusive things. Where MM falters is in her faith of unrestrained (and unregulated) free market capitalism. She fails to see how those environments can be purposely manipulated for gain by the chosen few at the expense of everyone else. Matt sees only this and overlooks the efficiency of providing capital to those with good ideas who deserve capital.

  83. 83
    El Cid says:

    @Nylund: Under this analysis, why would anyone ever have taken on Standard Oil?

  84. 84
    Justin says:

    McArdle is a hack who got her job because someone at the Atlantic saw starbursts when she applied, and what’s more she knows it, but rather than get off of her ass and stop being a hack, which would be hard she just continues along, posting stuff about her upcoming nuptials to wingnut welfare-queen Peter Suderman (please God, let there be no issue from this union) and writing bitchy, content-free posts about people, Krugman, Taibbi, etc, who actually know something about the subject that she’s supposed to be an expert on, that is to say the economy.

    This is precisely what I was thinking; if they will pay you to write shallow nonsense, that’s great, but I think self-respect would compel me to at least try to know what I’m writing about. Let’s also just remember that Sully hails from the world of wingnut economics too, and has never really stepped back from that aspect of it. To him I would wager just about any sort of received conservative economic garbage would count as a “smackdown,” it just sounds too appealing and Oakeshotte-ish to let go of.

  85. 85
    Justin says:

    also, let’s never forget the Bell Curve.

  86. 86

    >.> @ Nylund

    Who the hell let David Broder in here?

  87. 87

    @StealthBadger

    >.> @ Nylund
    Who the hell let David Broder in here?

    No shit. I can’t wait for Nylund to give us his “nuanced” take on creationism versus evolution or on “the earth is flat” versus “the earth is round”. Also, Nylund, did you bother to read Taibbi’s piece? Or are you basing the nonsense you wrote, and yes, it’s nonsense, on second-hand snippets gleaned from the various websites that have been referring to it?

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