World on Fire

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I’ve been meaning to read Amy Chua’s World on Fire for some time. Now Foseti reviews it:

Ms Chua’s argument is that countries in the developing world (with a few exceptions) are characterized by: 1) large indigenous populations that are poor and 2) market-dominant minorities. In many countries a small subset of the population controls the vast majority of the country’s wealth. This small subset — the market-dominant minority — also happens to be a distinct racial or ethnic group.

Most countries in the developed world are not characterized by such a relationship — they do not have a market-dominant minority (rather they have a market-dominant majority).

Ms Chua goes on to argue that this difference between the developing and the developed world implies that the policies that created wealth in the developed world — i.e. free markets and democracy — will not work in the developing world.

Instead, free markets will cause more wealth to accrue to the market-dominant minority. While democracy will empower the disgruntled majority. The result is likely to be ugly and violent.

Chua tries to explain with a hypothetical:

Since the creation of Microsoft, the software industry has produced the largest crop of billionaires and multibillionaires in American history.

Now imagine that all these billionaires were ethnic Chinese, and that Chinese-Americans, although just 2 percent of the population, also controlled Time Warner, General Electric, Chase Manhattan, United Airlines, Exxon Mobil, and the rest of America’s largest corporations and banks, plus Rockefeller Center and two-thirds of the country’s prime real estate.

Then imagine that the roughly 75 percent of the U.S. population who consider themselves “white” were dirt poor, owned no land, and, as a group, had experienced no upward mobility as far back as anyone can remember. If you can picture this, you will have approximated the core social dynamic that characterizes much of the non-Western world.

Foseti notes a couple of glaring flaws and wonders if Chua was too politically correct to address the truth:

She is incredibly observant with respect to racial and ethnic differences, yet she fails to notice that the same racial and ethnic groups keep rising to the top regardless of where they are. Is this really an accident? For example, the Chinese are dominant in virtually every southeast Asian economy. China itself — and the other northeast Asian countries — don’t have market-dominating minorities. Isn’t the obvious conclusion that the Chinese are smarter? Jews seem to rise to the top everywhere as well. Ms Chua not only doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion. She rejects it in one sentence.
Ms Chua is also unfortunately pro-democracy. In reading her book, the reader is confronted by lots of violence that springs from democratic movements. It should not be a stretch to conclude that such a system simply will not work in the presence of “diversity” and free markets. Ms Chua refrains from considering any alternatives — as if such a thought is verboten.

Peaceful Protesters

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I must admit, I don’t instinctively side with “peaceful protesters” — I see a mob as quite threatening, by its nature — and I certainly don’t instinctively side with “peaceful protesters” demanding money and benefits from their bankrupt government.

But I really don’t side with “peaceful protesters” who throw Molotov cocktails at police:

Do the rulers and the people have the same interests?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Aretae believes that rulers and citizens have wildly different interests, and that the primary problem of government is constraining rulers so that they don’t take advantage of citizens (too much).

Devin Finbarr doesn’t quite agree and asks, What are the perceived interests of the rulers?

For some lawful autocrats the interest was to grow their kingdom like a garden. That meant establishing justice and the rule of law, and encouraging economic development (examples: Lord Cromer, Henry II, Porfirio D?, William Penn)

For some lawful autocrats their percieved interest was to fight wars of private aggrandizement that ended up draining their countries resources (examples: John of England, Alexander II of Russia)

For most unlawful autocrats or oligarchs the percieved interest has been to enact bloody purges and repression in order to secure their rule (Stalin, Mao, Hitler).

In China, the rulers want to maintain power. They believe the best way to maintain power is to give China rapid growth, because this will keep the Chinese people satiated and prove to the people that the rulers are well fit for the job. The rulers probably also want economic growth for their own personal pride — they look good when they can boast about new technological achievements or spectacular GDP figures. The rulers interests are generally aligned with the people’s although not perfectly aligned (in particular, the rulers care way too much about big flashy projects and too little about simple quality of life improvements).

Rulers chosen by a democratic election, by a selectorate that is small, well educated, and homogenous, and that generally agree on having the same goals, and is generally pacific and moral in culture, will behave responsibly and act reasonably in the interests of the people (examples: Denmark, Switzerland, Vermont).

Rulers chosen by a democratic election by a selectorate that is large, fractured and of diverse interests will make promises to specific voting blocks and interests that will enrich those factions at the expense of the whole.

Rulers chosen by a democratic election by a selectorate that is jingoistic and covetous of their neighbors land, will start wars to invade their neighbors and take their land (19th Century America, Germany under Hitler)

Rulers chosen by a broad merchant aristocracy or an open aristocracy of wealth will tend to promote the interests of business and commerce. Depending on circumstances, that may promote growth, or the aristocracy might combine to restrain new market entrants. (Examples: 19th Century Britain, Venice, Hanseatic League, Dutch Republic)

Rulers chosen by a profit seeking corporation, where the corporation is run by enlightened management and operating in a place and time where there are high returns to human capital investments, will generally provide an attractive environment to attract and enhance human capital (examples: Pullman towns, Celebration, Florida, private cities in India, Banana Republic Guatemala).

Rulers chosen by a profit seeking corporation operating in the 19th century Congo will act with extreme short sightedness and cruelty. The corporate executives are far away and cannot directly manage the operation. Thus they have to set a quota and let the local workers manage how to hit the quota. But the death rate for white colonists was over 50% a year. Thus the incentive for local workers was to tap as much rubber as soon as possible and get the hell out. And with such a high death rate, the workers are naturally the dregs of Europe.

The goal of the formalist is to study governing institutions of the past and present, learn from them, and discover general design patterns that can be used to produce good government in the future. I keep an ongoing list of design patterns here.

Removing Potentially Messy Questions

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

What happens when “aggressive interrogation” elicits too much moral outrage? We call in the drones:

Some counterterrorism experts say that President Obama and his advisers favor a more aggressive approach because it seems more practical — that administration officials prefer to eliminate terrorism suspects rather than detain them. “Since the U.S. political and legal situation has made aggressive interrogation a questionable activity anyway, there is less reason to seek to capture rather than kill,” wrote American University’s Kenneth Anderson, author of an essay on the subject that was read widely by Obama White House officials. “And if one intends to kill, the incentive is to do so from a standoff position because it removes potentially messy questions of surrender.”

Why is Borders going bankrupt?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Why is Borders going bankrupt? Mark Evans answers:

This is a question that many of us at Borders asked ourselves frequently and I think the answer is not a simple one. As someone who has given this a tremendous amount of thought and was Director of Merchandise Planning & Analysis for many years, I’ve outlined my assessment below:

Failure to adequately address the internet sales channel and the subsequent ebook market. Specifically, the decision to outsource to To be fair, was costing the company millions of dollars in losses each year ($20m I think when they decided to outsource) and one could argue that the outsourcing solution was a case of letting the most efficient etailing organization ( handle the job and turn a big negative into a profitable business. In the short-term, this saved a lot of money. In the long run, the internet is too important to outsource in this manner and Borders’ branding, multi-channel strategy, and customer base suffered. They also dropped the ball on ebooks, but by the time this became an issue they were just trying to figure out how to keep the whole house from burning down around them, so I find it more understandable.

Poor real estate strategy. Borders leased space that was too large, the storefronts did not compare well to B&N, and they were complacent in picking and relocating existing stores to the best locations. Some of this is subjective as I don’t have great data to back this up — just my own educated assessment based on observation.

Over-investment in music. While this was a big plus for this in the early to mid 90′s, this was a disaster in the long run. This is basically why the stores were too big once the music business cratered. So, stores were sized and modeled to provide a large music CD business which largely disappeared. In addition, infrastructure was sized to support this, including a dedicated warehouse distribution facility. This last part has been addressed over time, but soaked up money, time, and energy. Note that music was also part of what made Borders a destination for many customers, so when music sales tanked, other product categories’ sales suffered as well.

Over-reliance on assortment size to compete as opposed to efficient operations. Borders was renowned for its wide and quality assortment of titles. The very large assortment size was an advantage early on before Amazon. However, by its very nature the internet was better at quickly and efficiently connecting customers with obscure titles and bringing the “long tail’ to market. Thus, Borders suffered disproportionately as the “long tail” customers abandoned them. Thus, competing on assortment size was especially vulnerable to internet retailing.

Failure to build efficient systems and processes. While Borders legendary “expert system” was considered cutting edge and an advantage early on, the company failed to successfully build upon this foundation and create new, better assortment, replenishment, and supply chain systems and processes to keep pace with the changing state of technology and efficient retail operations. B&N invested considerable time/energy/money through the 90′s in systems and processes. To provide one example, a lower ranked title that sells out in a B&N will be replenished from a central warehouse within 2-3 days. The same process could take up to 16 weeks for Borders. Borders sought to upgrade systems with two large efforts in the 00′s: first one was a home grown effort called Common Systems. Second was a “buy and integrate” project to implement Retek and E3. Both failed spectacularly. The Retek effort dramatically hurt the Walden chain, the only business unit that was managed by the system. With both of these efforts, large sums of money and, perhaps more importantly, human resources and time were squandered.

Branding failure. In addition to the problem, Borders never reached the mindshare that Barnes & Noble did for a variety of reasons. Also, Barnes & Noble secured the exclusive U.S. Starbucks partnership, a major branding and traffic-driving win for them.

A Japanese-Style Lost Decade

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The worst thing that could happen to America is a Japanese-style Lost Decade, we’re told:

It always sounds like Godzilla, or maybe the B-29s, have come back.

And yet, Japan doesn’t actually seem to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland. A friend of mine who has lived in Japan since about 1980 said a couple of years ago that although he’s always reading in the English-language press about how badly off Japan is, it doesn’t see so bad when he steps outside. When he first arrived in Japan, the country was full of badly-dressed people and ugly buildings. Now it’s full of well-dressed people and attractive buildings.

I guess I’m just obtuse. It finally dawned on me that the reason you hear about how horrible Japan is all the time is that it has been horrible for financiers since 1990. The Nikkei index is now only one-third what it was in 1990 at the end of a ridiculous real estate bubble in which the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo were theoretically worth more than all the real estate in California.

That’s Steve Sailer, by the way.

Heather Mac Donald has her own contrarian point to make about Japan:

It’s hard to think of a greater repudiation of the American public creed of maximal “diversity” than Japan’s stubborn determination to remain monocultural. Japan’s economy may well be stifled by its resistance to immigration, though in sophisticated manufacturing for technology and energy, it has few competitors. However misguided Japan’s hostility to outsiders, the following crime figures, from a forthcoming book by the criminologist Frank Zimring, may explain part of its reluctance to embrace multiculturalism. The rates are crimes per 100,000 of population in 2007:

New York: 265
London: 610
Sydney (2006): 159
Tokyo: 4.7
Toronto: 133

New York: 254
London: 1290
Sydney (2006): 1008
Tokyo: 137
Toronto: 362

New York: 10.6
London: 30.7
Sydney (2006): 51.4
Tokyo: 1.8
Toronto: N.A.

Update: New York has the lowest crime rate of any big U.S. city, by several magnitudes, thanks to 17 straight years of Compstat policing; put Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Hartford, Newark, or Miami up against Tokyo, and the differences would be even greater.

China’s Second Wives

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The Chinese have a centuries-old tradition of wealthy men taking on second wives — or er nai — and this has important marketing ramifications:

If he takes on a mistress, for most unwealthy people, this is a fundamental threat to the marriage. But if a husband is a man of means, and has a significant income, then he can take on a second wife without violating his obligation to his first wife. So there is a whole way of maintaining the system without it resulting in divorce.

I wouldn’t say er nai are socially accepted, they’re just not scandalous.

When I ask people how much it costs to maintain a second wife — a trophy concubine — the average I’m told is 50,000RMB [$7,600]. This isn’t just a girlfriend, this is someone who is kept. And she is displayed as somebody that’s a result of this guy’s power and influence, and access to funds.

In China, half of all luxury purchases are gifts:

Male consumption is the largest source, with much of it coming from man to man gifting for business purposes — you could call it trust facilitation. That’s one of the things that makes the luxury market in China absolutely unique; men buy a lot more luxury products than women do, and this is largely to smooth business transactions.

Sometimes those payouts are ill-gotten, and a way of siphoning profit into non-measurable ways, and sometimes it’s just a way of currying favour. Women self-purchasing is also a critical segment, as is gifting between man and wife and boyfriend and girlfriend.

That said, in my casual but extended observation, gifting to the second wife is significant. And those brands tend to be much more flashy.

Second Wives [like flashy brands] because they have to display that their man is dedicated to them. They lead very insecure lives. They are not independent and need to advertise the fact they have a sponsor.

Any city that has a middle class is going to have Second Wives:

I asked people what percentage of upper middle class guys [had mistresses] — and this might not be accurate but it gives you an idea of how widespread the perception is — and was told 85-95%. It’s certainly become accepted as a perk of power. Even a former president had a very high profile mistress. And it’s not a scandal.

However, the reason the government has policy for officials not to have mistresses is not about morals, it’s about corruption. The mistress is often thought to be sustained based on ill-gotten gains and it’s a trigger for corruption accusations, because the actual salary of an official is not high enough to support a mistress.

Bubbles Bursting

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The common denominator uniting protests in Libya, Bahrain, China, Iran, and even Wisconsin is the mundane matter of money, Richard Fernandez says:

Social policy — things we wanted and thought we could afford — whether food subsidies, biofuel manias or higher education bubbles, have created shortages and gluts that cannot now be resolved without changing the underlying policies themselves. In an article entitled, How the Higher-education Bubble Is Fueling Revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, the New American Explains how supply and demand affect the price of everything, even wages for new college graduates.

Would you like your college education to be free? Sure, who wouldn’t? Better question: Would you like the results of free education? Well, the people of Tunisia and Egypt are learning that whenever the government supplies something, it is never really “free.”

In Tunisia, “free” university education is guaranteed to anyone who passes the government’s exams at the end of high school. Largely as a result of this, the number of Tunisians who graduated college more than tripled in the last 10 years. This may sound like a good thing, but it has produced a glut of graduates.

Fifty-seven percent of young Tunisians entering the labor market are college educated. This is while only 30 percent of Americans earn a college degree by the time they are 27. Recent Tunisian college grads have an unemployment rate approximately three times higher than the national average of 15 percent. This is up nine-fold from 1994.

But the higher education bubble is not just about the glut of graduates, it is also about the price of the education product. As Forbes put it, “Just 10 years ago the cost of a four-year public college education amounted to 18% of the annual income of middle-income families. Ten years later, it amounted to 25% of that family’s average annual income. … Over the past 14 years the average debt for a graduating college student has doubled.” More broadly, education — even primary and secondary education — is requiring more and more taxpayer dollars or parent fees, to sustain. As CNN puts it, the education funding crisis is expected to grow beyond Wisconsin.

This week’s growing controversy about funding public education in Wisconsin is hardly an isolated incident, as 40 states are coping with budget shortfalls totaling $140 billion, which will threaten America’s 14,000 school districts for the next five years, one analyst said Thursday.

Concerns about funding kindergarten through 12th-grade systems were evident this week in Denver when big education’s stakeholders — the nation’s two largest teachers unions, a superintendents group, a school boards group and federal education officials — met to discuss labor-management cooperation, one participant said.

When the cost of paying unionized teachers increases from the kindergarten level on up while graduates at the end of the educational conveyor belt find themselves unable to parlay their credentials into jobs, one has the classic symptoms of a bubble that has to burst. Glenn Reynolds noted that the same signs which preceded the end of the real-estate bubble are happening to higher education.

It’s a story of an industry that may sound familiar.

The buyers think what they’re buying will appreciate in value, making them rich in the future. The product grows more and more elaborate, and more and more expensive, but the expense is offset by cheap credit provided by sellers eager to encourage buyers to buy….

A New York Times profile last week described Courtney Munna, a 26-year-old graduate of New York University with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt — debt that her degree in Religious and Women’s Studies did not equip her to repay. Payments on the debt are about $700 per month, equivalent to a respectable house payment, and a major bite on her monthly income of $2,300 as a photographer’s assistant earning an hourly wage.

And, unlike a bad mortgage on an underwater house, Munna can’t simply walk away from her student loans, which cannot be expunged in a bankruptcy. She’s stuck in a financial trap.

Business Insider says, “If you had to sum up the education bubble in one misconception, it might be: ‘The average 22-year-old is a good credit risk for $150,000 in debt, collateralized by something completely intangible.’”

At its most basic nonpolitical level, the showdown in Wisconsin is about the price of teachers; about a bubble. It is about whether Wisconsin can continue to afford a union/monopoly supplied product whatever the disparity with the true market value of their ‘value added’ represents. And in other parts of the world it is about the price of food, energy, or the price of maintaining juntas, politburos, kings, emirs or presidents for life.

Bubbles are at the heart of many of the riots now being reported daily and globally throughout the world. Their frequency and persistence are a sign that they are cascading on to each other, like a collapsing house of cards. The growing crisis over the federal deficit, like unrest over food prices, fuel supplies and job allocations in the Middle East — even the troubles in China — are about prices which have been distorted by government policy and now seek an equilibrium it can’t attain.

Long before all this mess, Peter Turchin noted that uprisings have little chance of success when the governing élites are unified and the state is strong, but governing élites rarely stay unified, because everyone wants in, and eventually there are too many élites.

Naturalists and Spies

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Richard Conniff discusses the link between naturalists and spies:

Spies have at times certainly pretended to be naturalists. The most public of them was Sir Robert Baden Powell, better known as founder of the Boy Scouts. As a British secret agent, he thought it clever to pose as “one of the exceedingly stupid Englishmen who wandered about foreign countries sketching cathedrals, or catching butterflies.” His detailed maps of enemy fortifications were concealed within the natural patterns of butterfly wings and tree leaves, and he sometimes showed off these sketches to locals, secure in the sad knowledge that they “did not know one butterfly from another — any more than I do.”

Rival nations and their spies have also frequently targeted natural history treasures. Persian monks visiting China in 552 A.D., for instance, brought back silkworm eggs concealed in a hollow cane. This pioneering act of industrial espionage established the silk trade in the Mediterranean and broke a longstanding Chinese monopoly. That kind of resource grab got repeated on the grand scale during the colonial era, for products from quinine to rubber, one reason international rules on collecting expeditions are now so strict.

Naturalists, or people with a naturalist avocation, have at times also had careers as spies. Maxwell Knight, the British counterintelligence spymaster (and one of the models for James Bond’s boss M), actually worked on the side as a BBC natural history presenter and author. In the late 1950s, he hired a young man named David Cornwell to provide bird illustrations for one of his books, leading Cornwell into a stint as an MI5 intelligence officer in Germany — and later to a career as the novelist John Le Carré. Likewise, the novelist and naturalist Peter Matthiessen worked briefly for the Central Intelligence Agency after graduating from Yale.

Weaponizing the Poor

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Intellectuals have been weaponizing the poor for centuries, Shannon Love says:

For nearly 300 years, leftists and their ideological predecessors have been urging the “poor” to rise up and take from the “rich”. The intellectual justifications for why the poor have a moral and practical right to rise up continuously shift while the practical outcome of who actually ends up with the most benefit remains a constant. Clearly, the constant drives the creation of the justifications and not the other way around.

The constant is clear: manipulative intellectuals, i.e., people whose primary skills lie in manipulating the thoughts and emotions of others via persuasive communication, always end up on top of the new social and political order when the “poor” rise up.

Robespierre used a justification very different in detail than those used by Lenin, yet both were manipulative intellectuals and both ended up on top, however briefly, of their respective revolutions. We can see the same pattern today, even in America. No matter what the subject at hand — the economy, foreign policy, the environment, etc. — the leftwing manipulative intellectuals always argue for a solution which leaves them with more power, influence and status. Others may or not benefit from any particular solution proposed by the Left but the manipulative intellectuals always benefit. Any solution that might benefit the poor but which does not directly benefit manipulative intellectuals — e.g., school choice — gets shot down.

When leftist intellectuals argue that the poor should “rise up” in any manner, they just seek to exploit the travails of the poor for their own selfish benefit. The intellectuals take the anger and resentment of the poor, justified or not, and shape those emotions into a political tool to drive a change which will first and foremost benefit the leftist manipulative intellectuals.

In short, manipulative intellectuals seek to weaponize the poor.

Weaponizing the poor is easy. All social mammals, including humans, are no doubt genetically programmed to seek to subvert those who possess more status. We all face the temptation to take instead of make. Everyone can be tempted by an argument that we deserve something someone else has. The manipulative intellectuals simply direct our base impulses like an engineer diverting a river.

Leftists don’t actually care much about improving the lot of the poor. When they advocate some shift of resources to the poor they are just paying their troops. Pre-industrial aristocrats paid their armies primarily by giving them the opportunity to loot. Even when they paid their troops directly, they did so with money and land taken from their adversaries. War paid for war.

Leftists use the same technique. They “pay” poor people to fight for the interests of the manipulative intellectuals by creating moral, legal and political justifications for why the poor can loot the political and social rivals of the manipulative intellectuals. Just as with the aristocrats, the weaponized poor get just a notional chance of a small material improvement in their lives while the manipulative intellectuals get to dominate society.

Just as the nobles of old did not care how much damage they did to the communal wealth during a war as long as they personally came out ahead, manipulative intellectuals don’t care if society as a whole or the poor specifically come out the worse as long as the lot of the manipulative intellectuals improves. That is why we get places like Detroit or 1970s Britain. The manipulative intellectuals drove those regions into the ground while improving their own fortunes.

When the Left does provide an improvement in the lives of the poor, it does so largely by accident. Just as a stopped clock is correct twice a day, the Left’s continual weaponization of the poor does sometimes by sheer chance align with the poor’s actual best interest.

Major Jolloud

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Every Colonel Qaddafi has his Major Jolloud, Cringely says:

I have no idea if Major Jolloud is still alive or not. Certainly he doesn’t come up in a Google search, except in a reference to something I wrote right here back in 1998. But that doesn’t matter because whether his name has changed or not, there will always be a Major Jolloud in Qaddafi’s Libya. And that’s why we’ve seen so far 200 protesters die in that country.

I’ve always been struck by the similar styles of Qaddafi and Fidel Castro of Cuba. In fact I think Qaddafi based his public persona on Castro, they are so much alike. These men rose as revolutionaries, remember, and like to be identified with their military backgrounds. But going further, they’ve deliberately tried to maintain a common touch by Castro wearing fatigues, never a dress uniform, and Qaddafi — an absolute dictator — never taking a military rank above colonel.

Both men pretend to answer to some form of revolutionary council, to be not above the law — their law, of course. And each tries for folksy touches to connect himself with the common people. For Castro it’s baseball (he’s a pitcher, or was) and for Qaddafi it’s embracing a Bedouin heritage that’s not real for him or for his largely urban nation. He camps-out in the desert with his tent and his carpets, his air conditioning and satellite TV.

In order to maintain that folksiness while at the same time run a ruthlessly repressive regime, both men have been very successful in pushing down by one level the bad-guy role. The muscle starts somewhere just below the top, and in Libya that’s with Major Jolloud.

Thirty-five years ago when I knew him, Qaddafi was a young gun and very full of himself, but the sense I always had was that he knew it was all for show and he didn’t really take himself too seriously. I asked him one time, for example, how to spell his name. After all we’ve seen it in print with a G and a K and a Q: which did he prefer? “Spell it any way you like, ” he said (in pretty fair English, by the way — something else that seems to have strategically disappeared over the years). “All that matters is spelling it correctly in Arabic.”

Major Jolloud was something altogether different. Qaddafi’s second-in-command back then, he either didn’t know there was showbiz in the Colonel’s act or he simply didn’t care. Jolloud saw his role as extending the rule of a ruthless tyrant as efficiently and as far as possible. My friend Jacek Kalabinski, who was covering Libya for the Communist radio network in Poland at that time, though he later became a leader himself in the Solidarity movement, put it best: “You can see death in Jolloud’s eyes.”

At the heart of every command decision for Jolloud was the option that someone would die, or at least that‘s the way it seemed. You could joke a bit with Qaddafi, as you can imagine I did, but not with Jolloud, who appeared to have no sense of humor at all.

Nor did anyone who worked for Jolloud. They all believed the revolutionary fiction and were determined to enforce it as needed against the people of Libya — killing citizens if they must to preserve the revolution that had freed those very people from the long-forgotten monarchy.

Libya had probably needed political change back in 1969 when Qaddafi and others (conveniently gone shortly thereafter, notice) took down the monarchy. I think history will show, though, that the cure was worse than the disease.

So now we have Libyan troops killing Libyan citizens in both protests and funeral processions. This is completely consistent with Major Jolloud. And it will continue until the government falls or all the protest leaders are dead. Not until the protests end — until the leaders are dead. That’s Major Jolloud’s way and the people of Libya probably know that by now.

Libya is not Tunisia, not Egypt, and not even Saudi Arabia. Libya is a case unto itself. Today’s version of Major Jolloud will see the protests there quickly over followed by months of assassinations to make sure they never happen again. Or if new protest leaders keep emerging to replace those who fall, then Libya, too, will experience regime change, which I guarantee will involve at some point an attempt by Colonel Qaddafi to resume his revolutionary identity and claim leadership of the very movement that is against him now.

Hopefully that dodge will fail, but it will inevitably involve Qaddafi turning on Jolloud, trying to make his number two into the bogeyman before having him killed.

“Scary, isn’t he? ” Qaddafi once asked me of Jolloud.


A Place on the Right for a Few Godless Conservatives

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times reports that there is a place on the Right for a few Godless conservatives:

As a child, Razib Khan spent several weeks studying in a Bangladeshi madrasa. Heather Mac Donald once studied literary deconstructionism and clerked for a left-wing judge. In neither case did the education take. They are atheist conservatives — Mr. Khan an apostate to his family’s Islamic faith, Ms. Mac Donald to her left-wing education.

They are part of a small faction on the right: conservatives with no use for religion. Since 2008, they have been contributors to the blog Secular Right, where they argue that conservative values like small government, self-reliance and liberty can be defended without recourse to invisible deities or the religions that exalt them.

And they serve as public proof that an irreligious conservative can exist.

The Wrath of the Child-Care Inspectors

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The 11-acre farm-based Moorestown Children’s School in New Jersey faces the wrath of the child-care inspectors, who have demanded that they chop off all tree branches below the seven-foot mark, nail down any logs — because anything the children play on is play equipment, which must be permanently affixed to the ground — and cage the cat. Oh, and some of the kids were walking around indoors in socks. We can’t have that. Put some shoes on. Schnell!

What if the villains were actually the good guys?

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Matt Zoller Seitz of Salon lists 10 revisionist works that present the villains as the good guys, including College Humor‘s take on the Death Star Attack.

Arizona girl hurt when bounce house blows away

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Two girls at a birthday party in Arizona were playing in a bounce house, when a “microburst” of wind picked up the bounce house, dumping one girl in the yard but carrying the other two houses away and dropping her onto a roof:

The incident in the town of Marana left a 10-year-old with serious head lacerations and other injuries. She was taken to a trauma center in Tucson after firefighters got her off the roof.
The 10-year-old was carried more than 100 feet before falling out onto the house. Her 7-year-old friend had minor injuries.

About two dozen roof tiles were shattered by the impact.

(Hat tip à mon père.)