Police Let Flash Mob Rob 7-11

Monday, August 15th, 2011

In Montgomery County, Maryland, a flash mob robbed a 7-11, and when police responded — the clerk had hit a panic button alerting them — they quietly waited until everyone had left and made no arrests.

Leading Indicator

Monday, August 15th, 2011

John Derbyshire went to the ATM to get some cash recently, and he hopes this isn’t a leading indicator.:

Pressed the button for $200. Got four fifties.

That’s the first time I’ve ever had anything but twenties from an ATM.

Time to buy a wheelbarrow?

Gun crimes drop at Virginia bars and restaurants

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Virginia’s bars and restaurants failed to turn into shooting galleries after a new state law relaxed restrictions on concealed-carry and allowed permit-holding patrons to bring their weapons into establishments serving alcohol:

The number of major crimes involving firearms at bars and restaurants statewide declined 5.2 percent from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, compared with the fiscal year before the law went into effect, according to crime data compiled by Virginia State Police at the newspaper’s request.

Muppets: The Green Album

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Muppets: The Green Album collects classic Muppet tunes covered by modern hipster faves like OK Go, Weezer, The Fray, etc.

Now I have to go decide which are inspired and which are acts of apostasy.

Hacked Fat-Burning Cycle Makes Bacteria Pump Biofuel

Monday, August 15th, 2011

C. Dellomonaco et al. pieced together decades of research in bacterial genetics and biochemistry to produce a tour de force of genetic engineering, John Timmer of Ars Technica reports:

Cells have a pathway for the production of fatty acids, long hydrocarbon chains that are normally linked together to form fats. The end products at least look a bit more like the fuels that currently run our cars than ethanol does, but using this pathway to produce biofeuls has drawbacks. It requires a substantial input of energy in the form of ATP and tends to produce hydrocarbon chains that are too long (10-20 carbons long) to make a really convenient fuel. This pathway is also tightly regulated, since most microbes would rather divert their energy to reproduction than to making fat.

As a result, a team of researchers from Rice University decided to forgo this pathway entirely. They reasoned that cells have a second, entirely separate set of enzymes normally used to break fats down that might be repurposed to make biofuel.

Enzymes are catalysts. They generally act by making a chemical reaction more likely to occur — they don’t usually dictate in which direction the reaction goes. So, if you supply an enzyme with a large quantity of what are normally the end products of a given reaction, it will readily catalyze the reverse reaction. If you run the pathway that normally digests fats in reverse, it will produce longer hydrocarbons.

Sounds simple, right? But actually getting bacteria (the authors worked with E. coli) to do this isn’t necessarily easy. To begin with, the bacteria won’t produce any of these necessary enzymes unless they think they have fat to digest. Years of genetic studies have identified the genes responsible for shutting off the fat burning pathway, so the authors knocked those genes out.

Problem solved? Not quite. Even when fat is available, E. coli would rather burn simple sugars instead if they’re present. The gene that mediates this preference has also been identified, and the authors spliced a mutant form of it into the bacteria’s DNA. With these mutations in place, the bacteria would at last have the right enzymes around, no matter what the conditions.

The authors fed their modified E. coli glucose, which can be produced by the breakdown of cellulose (meaning the process is biofuel compatible). Glucose is a six-carbon molecule that’s broken down into short, two-carbon chunks in a process that produces ATP to fuel the cell. These two carbon molecules end up attached to a co-factor in a molecule called acetyl-Coenzyme A. If oxygen is present, acetyl-CoA gets handed over to a process that produces a number of ATP molecules as acetyl-CoA is converted into water and carbon dioxide (the CoA is recycled). If oxygen is not present, organisms like yeast convert acetyl-CoA into ethanol instead, freeing up the CoA for reuse.

As it turns out, acetyl-CoA is also where the digestion of fats feeds into the normal metabolism. So, by giving the bacteria lots of glucose, the authors created conditions where the end product of fat digestion, acetyl-CoA, was present in abundance, but there wasn’t an excess of the starting material, namely fat. This was enough to tip the pathway backwards, building up longer chains of hydrocarbons. To give the system an extra boost, the authors knocked out the gene that sends acetyl-CoA down the pathway towards ethanol.

On its own, this process wouldn’t do anything useful, since it would create a mix of longer hydrocarbons all linked up to coenzyme A. But organisms have ways of diverting specific products for use in the production of specific molecules they need, such as amino acids or the bases of DNA. So the authors did a bit more engineering and added some copies of the gene that divert a four-carbon intermediate into butanol. Expression of a different gene shifted the production toward longer hydrocarbons, resulting in a mix of molecules that contain a chain of 12 to 18 carbon atoms. Almost all of the reactions researchers tested resulted in the most efficient production of end products that anyone has reported.

The GAO Fed Audit

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Commenter Cruft brought the recent GAO Fed audit to my attention. What it reveals is appalling but unsurprising:

“As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world,” said Sanders. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

Among the investigation’s key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. “No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president,” Sanders said.

The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse. In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict of interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

The GAO’s own language is a bit more measured:

On numerous occasions in 2008 and 2009, the Federal Reserve Board invoked emergency authority under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to authorize new broad-based programs and financial assistance to individual institutions to stabilize financial markets. Loans outstanding for the emergency programs peaked at more than $1 trillion in late 2008. The Federal Reserve Board directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) to implement most of these emergency actions. In a few cases, the Federal Reserve Board authorized a Reserve Bank to lend to a limited liability corporation (LLC) to finance the purchase of assets from a single institution. In 2009 and 2010, FRBNY also executed large-scale purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities to support the housing market.

The Reserve Banks’ and LLCs’ financial statements, which include the emergency programs’ accounts and activities, and their related financial reporting internal controls, are audited annually by an independent auditing firm. These independent financial statement audits, as well as other audits and reviews conducted by the Federal Reserve Board, its Inspector General, and the Reserve Banks’ internal audit function, did not report any significant accounting or financial reporting internal control issues concerning the emergency programs. The Reserve Banks, primarily FRBNY, awarded 103 contracts worth $659.4 million from 2008 through 2010 to help carry out their emergency activities. A few contracts accounted for most of the spending on vendor services. For a significant portion of the fees, program recipients reimbursed the Reserve Banks or the fees were paid from program income. The Reserve Banks relied more extensively on vendors for programs that assisted a single institution than for broad-based programs. Most of the contracts, including 8 of the 10 highest-value contracts, were awarded noncompetitively, primarily due to exigent circumstances. These contract awards were consistent with FRBNY’s acquisition policies, but the policies could be improved by providing additional guidance on the use of competition exceptions, such as seeking as much competition as practicable and limiting the duration of noncompetitive contracts to the exigency period. To better ensure that Reserve Banks do not miss opportunities to obtain competition and receive the most favorable terms for services acquired, GAO recommends that they revise their acquisition policies to provide such guidance.

FRBNY took steps to manage conflicts of interest for its employees, directors, and program vendors, but opportunities exist to strengthen its conflict policies. In particular, FRBNY expanded its guidance and monitoring for employee conflicts, but new roles assumed by FRBNY and its employees during the crisis gave rise to potential conflicts that were not specifically addressed in the Code of Conduct or other FRBNY policies. For example, FRBNY’s existing restrictions on its employees’ financial interests did not specifically prohibit investments in certain nonbank institutions that received emergency assistance. To manage potential conflicts related to employees’ holdings of such investments, FRBNY relied on provisions in its code that incorporate requirements of a federal criminal conflict of interest statute and its regulations. GAO makes seven recommendations to the Federal Reserve Board to strengthen policies for managing noncompetitive vendor selections, conflicts of interest, risks related to emergency lending, and documentation of emergency program decisions. The Federal Reserve Board agreed that GAO’s recommendations would benefit its response to future crises and agreed to strongly consider how best to respond to them.

Who’s civilized and who’s not

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Winchell Chung (@Nyrath) points to Jo Walton’s review of Piper’s Space Viking — a book from 1963 that sounds juvenile and isn’t at all literary but addresses some big questions:

Space Viking (1963) starts out looking like a story of vengeance among the neobarbarian remnants of a collapsed Galactic Empire, and then becomes a meditation on the benefits of civilization and how that is distinct from technology.

Many of the commenters seem perplexed by Piper’s anti-fascist yet not-at-all progressive views. Only Doug M. seems to “get” it — a bit:

Well, Piper was a romantic. He loved Great Men and heroic history. He adored the Confederate States, the British Empire, and ancient Rome. Empires were cool. Empire building was an inherently admirable activity. Democracy, well… “There’s something wrong with democracy. If there weren’t, it couldn’t be overthrown by people like Zaspar Makann, attacking it from within by democratic processes.”

There’s a scene in the book where the fascists (who of course call themselves the People’s Welfare Party) are rioting. Trask suggests mowing them down with gunfire.

“That may be the way you do things in the Sword-Worlds, Prince Trask. It’s not the way we do things here on Marduk. Our government does not propose to be guilty of shedding the blood of its people.”

He had it on the tip of his tongue to retort that if they didn’t, the people would end up shedding theirs. Instead, he said softly:

“I’m sorry, Prince Edvard. You had a wonderful civilization here on Marduk. You could have made almost anything of it. But it’s too late now. You’ve torn down the gates; the barbarians are in.”

It’s not really surprising that Jerry ‘fill the stadium’ Pournelle was a huge admirer of Piper.

That said, Piper wasn’t a fascist, or even a particularly authoritarian conservative. He was a romantic individualist, and his reading of history was colored by that.

Protesters are always fighting against tyranny, right?

Thought Experiment

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Foseti offers up this thought experiment:

Imagine that you lived in a modern version of a country that had clung to a now-extinct ideology. For example, imagine yourself in still-Soviet[/Communist] Russia, still-Maoist[/Communist] China, or still-Japanese Japan.

Question: What would you believe about your country’s history?

Answer: You’d believe a lot of stuff that you currently believe to be wrong.

If the Germans and/or Japanese had won WWII, history would be very different.

If the Soviets had won the Cold War, history would be very different.

At least the official versions of history.

Even the official story of the Civil War changed dramatically during the 20th Century.

Now imagine you live in modern America. Keep in mind that perhaps no ideology has been more successful at extinguishing or assimilating its enemies than the ideology that governs modern America.

What should this chain of thoughts lead you to believe about modern, mainstream American history?

I think it would be surprising — very very surprising — if you were to conclude that modern American history is not full of lies. The official stories are — after all — part of the ideology’s success.

I love the understated reference to still-Japanese Japan.

Now, Foseti presents this as a libertarian turned to the Dark Side, as a neo-reactionary, but I’m sure those on the Left would completely agree — that The Man is keeping The Truth from The People. We must wake the sheeple from their false consciousness!

Snakes evolved venom as part of their eternal war with opossums

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Snakes evolved venom as part of their eternal war with opossums — which eat snakes:

[American Museum of Natural History] Department of Mammalology curator Robert Voss explains:

Snake venom toxins evolve incredibly rapidly. Most herpetologists interpret this as evidence that venom in snakes evolves because of interactions with their prey, but if that were true you would see equally rapid evolution in toxin-targeted molecules of prey species, which has not yet been seen. What we’ve found is that a venom-targeted protein is evolving rapidly in mammals that eat snakes. That suggests that venom has a defensive as well as a trophic role.

There’s at least a hundred different opossum species, most of which are found throughout Central and South America. Recent genetic studies into these marsupial species revealed rapid evolution in von Willebrand’s factor, a blood-clotting protein that is targeted by the snake toxins.

Sharon Jansaof the University of Minnesota explains further:

This finding took us by surprise. We sequenced several genes — including the one that codes for von Willebrand Factor (vWF) — to use in a study of opossum phylogeny. Once we started to analyze the data, vWF was a real outlier. It was evolving much more rapidly than expected in a group of opossums that also, as it turns out, are resistant to pitviper venom. Most nucleotide substitutions have little or no effect on protein function, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with vWF in these venom-resistant opossums. The specific amino acids in vWF that interact with toxin proteins show unexpectedly high rates of replacement substitutions. These substitutions undoubtedly affect protein function, suggesting that the vWF protein can no longer be attacked by these snake toxins.

Voss explains what this all means for vipers and possums:

It is so uncommon to find genes under strong positive selection, that the exceptions are really interesting and often conform to one evolutionary circumstance when two organisms are coevolving with each other. We’ve known for years that venom genes evolve rapidly in snakes, but the partner in this arms race was unknown until now. Opossums eat snakes because they can.”

Eisenhower and the Communists

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Recent American history is plagued by dishonesty, Foseti says:

One of my guiding principles when thinking about recent American history is to assume that every prominent American from the mid-[19]20s to the mid-[19]50s found a way to make himself acceptable to the communists. If an American during this period was unable to find a way to make himself acceptable to the communists, he wouldn’t have been prominent.

Even the conservative movement spent much of this time period appeasing the communists. Strange, no? (Even stranger, this is considered an achievement by conservatives).

Vladimir sums up this idea nicely in the comments:

The question was whether the leftist dominance in the intellectual circles — and consequently in the federal bureaucracies, academia, foundations, etc. — would be permitted to lead to further radical transformation and re-engineering of the country and the whole society in the leftward direction. The answer, of course, turned out to be yes, and the political forces that mounted any serious opposition were defeated utterly and consigned to infamy by the official history.

Foseti previously provided an obscure yet important example:

To recap, Tom Lamont was the effective head of JP Morgan, during a period in which large US banks de facto controlled foreign policy. Lamont actually negotiated many of the international agreements that followed WWI on behalf of the US government (or himself, or both, or maybe they are the same thing — these relationships get somewhat fuzzy). Lamont’s son was as big a commie as they come and his son thought highly of Lamont’s politics. What is Lamont’s relationship to communism or the Soviets? We have no idea. If you dig deeper though, this Republican banker sure has a lot of friends who are commies and who are directly connected to the Soviets.

The same thing basically happens when you pick anyone prominent in this time period.

For instance, Eisenhower chose Joseph Fels Barnes to ghostwrite his memoirs:

I guess he couldn’t find any non-CPUSA members to write his book. Moldbug also adds, “Eisenhower did not keep Acheson as Secretary of State, but he kept the Acheson-Hiss State Department — and indeed collaborated quite enthusiastically in purging its enemies. This was not an accident or a mistake.” Indeed, what could be more complicit with communism than not purging the State Department post-Hiss?

(Incidentally, I really like that all mainstream still refuse to admit that anybody was actually a member of the CPUSA or worked for the Soviets. I’m reading a mainstream history book now that still always refers to Alger Hiss as an accused spy — I’m pretty sure he was at least convicted. Are these guys afraid of being sued for defamation by Hiss’s heirs?).

The Birchers believe that Ike stopped short while the USA was defeating the Germans so that the Soviets could capture more territory. I have no idea if this is true. It probably doesn’t matter anyway, since the Acheson-Hiss State Department was going to make sure the Soviets got more than their fair share. The Birchers also believe that Ike has a lot of Commie friends during his time as president of Columbia. I suspect that this is probably true, but irrelevant — how could be president of Columbia in the ’40s and not have commie friends?

At some point American Communism broke with the Russian sort, Foseti admits:

However, I think this break was less ideological than bureaucratic. One side was running the other side. At some point in the 50s, this stopped – they actually broke ties. The ideologies didn’t change but the power structure did.

Back to Vladimir for the summation:

However, the real truth was in fact even worse and scarier than these conspiracy theories. The domestic American left actually believed in pretty much all the worst ideas that a Soviet subversion program would have liked to install and promote — and they believed in these ideas, for the most part, honestly and independently. [This may not be an accident. The Soviets may have believed what they believed because they were told what to believe the these Americans]. The real error of the McCarthyists and Birchers was that in their naivete and innocence, when they saw this organized insanity emanating from the highest reaches of the government, academia, NGOs, etc., they simply couldn’t bring themselves to believe that it might be anything other than an un-American foreign body implanted by nefarious aliens and traitors. They didn’t realize that the political, intellectual, and cultural war they were fighting was a civil war, not a struggle against foreign invasion. It is clear who eventually won decisively in this struggle — and whose side, for all practical purposes, Eisenhower was on.

Commenter Doug adds a rather conventional take on Eisenhower’s “stopping short”:

What I’ve read about that is that it wasn’t that Ike wanted the Soviets to get more territory, it was that he didn’t much care if they got the glory of capturing Berlin and all of Eastern Germany, with the attendant costs in Red Army lives (which were heavy in the final months of the war), and was glad to trade that off for fewer American and British casualties. I don’t know that Ike was aware that the Soviets would keep an iron curtain Red Army control over eastern Germany and Europe for decades, but probably thought they’d want to give up the burdens of occupation as the US wanted to when it could. It was more that he (and Roosevelt) were naïve about the Soviets than supporting them versus liberal western democracies.

It must be remembered that the Soviet Union looked it’s best to the outside world in the 20s and especially the 1930s and early 40s, peaking at the end of WWII. The Soviet Union grew much faster economically in the 1930s than the depression plagued United States or rest of Europe. It was undergoing the early and relatively simple stages of copy cat industrialization, where a command economy could do relatively well. It was also not greatly overspending on defense until attacked in WWII by the Nazis.

Moldbug disagrees:

There were plenty of people reporting the truth about Bolshevism in the teens, ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. They were mocked and ignored by the conventional wisdom, which you repeat. Read communists — repeat lies.

For instance, the Germans were amazed to discover the size of the prewar Soviet military machine. The Soviet Union began the war with more tanks than the rest of the world combined. Purely for self-defence, Comrade Litvinov assures you!

FDR was in no sense “naive” about the Russians. For instance, he helped cover up Katyn. 20C history isn’t a children’s game.

Vladimir cites a passage from Caught between Roosevelt & Stalin: America’s ambassadors to Moscow, by Dennis J. Dunn, a historian from Texas State University:

The Rooseveltians, however, added a revolutionary and paradoxical twist to Wilsonianism when dealing with the Soviet Union. They subsumed the Wilsonian legacy into the pseudoprofound theory of convergence. This theory held that Soviet Russia and the United States were on convergent paths, where the United States was moving from laissez-faire capitalism to welfare state socialism and the Soviet Union was evolving from totalitarianism to social democracy.

Moldbug does not disagree:

This is right on the money. Moreover, this interpretation of the Soviet Union is the mainstream American position, at least among intellectuals, and never changes — from 1917 to 1989. Even military conflict with the Soviet is intended to coerce it into convergence, not to defeat it as Nazi Germany was defeated. Of course we see this both in Korea and Vietnam.

There’s so much more.

Secrets of the Secret Wars

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Jim Shooter reveals the secrets of the Secret Wars:

The road that led to Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars actually began when Kenner Toys licensed the DC Universe for a boys’ action figure line. Their competitor, Mattel, already had their He-Man action figure line, which was doing very well, but wanted to hedge the bet in case comic book character action figures became the rage. So, they came to Marvel to talk about licensing our characters. One thing they demanded of us was an “event,” a special publication or series to help launch the toy line. I offered an idea that was suggested by a dozen or so correspondents — usually younger ones — in the fan mail every day: one big, epic story with all (or many) of the heroes and villains in it. Everyone agreed.

We went through a number of ideas for names for the toy line and series. Mattel’s focus group tests indicated that kids reacted positively to the words “wars” and “secret.” Okay.

Mattel had a number of other requirements. Doctor Doom, they said, looked too medieval. His armor would have to be made more high-tech. So would Iron Man’s, because their focus groups indicated that kids reacted positively… etc. Okay.

They also said there had to be new fortresses, vehicles and weapons because they wanted playsets, higher price point merchandise and additional play value. Okay.
Allowing any one of the writers to handle pretty much everyone else’s characters in Secret Wars, contemplated to be the biggest, most continuity-intensive crossover ever done, would have led to bloodshed in the hallowed halls.

So, I wrote it. As Editor in Chief, by definition, I was the company’s designated Keeper of the Franchises, and the ordained Absolute Authority on the characters — all part of the job, at least back then.

Riot Act

Friday, August 12th, 2011

So, why didn’t British police read those yobs the riot act? Because it was repealed:

The Riot Act (1714) (1 Geo.1 St.2 c.5) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain that authorised local authorities to declare any group of twelve or more people to be unlawfully assembled, and thus have to disperse or face punitive action. The Act, whose long title was “An act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters”, came into force on 1 August 1715, and remained on the statute books until 1973.

Punitive action?

If the group failed to disperse within one hour, then anyone remaining gathered was guilty of a felony without benefit of clergy, punishable by death.

Benefit of clergy?

In English law, the benefit of clergy (Law Latin Privilegium clericale) was originally a provision by which clergymen could claim that they were outside the jurisdiction of the secular courts and be tried instead in an ecclesiastical court under canon law. Eventually, the course of history transformed it into a mechanism by which first-time offenders could receive a more lenient sentence for some lesser crimes.

The wording that had to be read out to the assembled gathering was as follows:

Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!

Perónism Lite

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The more John Derbyshire looks at our history of national debt, the less it seems like Keynesianism at work, and the more it seems like Perónism Lite:

The guiding spirit of fiscal management in the advanced world this past half century has in fact been Juan Perón, who ruled Argentina from 1946 to 1955 (and again, but inconsequentially, 1973–4). From Paul Johnson’s Modern Times:

As President, Perón gave a classic demonstration, in the name of socialism and nationalism, of how to wreck an economy. He nationalised the Central Bank, railways, communications, gas, electricity, fishing, air-transport, steel and insurance. He set up a state marketing agency for exports. He created Big Government and a welfare state in one bound: spending on public services, as a percentage of GNP, rose from 19.5 to 29.5 per cent in five years.

He had no system of priorities. He told the people they would get everything at once. In theory they did. The workers were given thirteen months’ pay for a year’s work; holidays with pay; social benefits at a Scandinavian level. He would track down a highly successful firm which spent lavishly on its workers and force all firms to copy its practices, regardless of their resources.

At the same time he carried out a frontal assault on the agricultural sector, Argentina’s main source of internal capital. By 1951 he had exhausted the reserves and decapitalized the country, wrecked the balance of payments and built wage-inflation into the system. Next year drought struck the land and brought the crisis into the open.

Seeing his support vanish, Perón turned from economic demagoguery to political tyranny. He destroyed the Supreme Court. He took over the radio station and La Prensa, the greatest newspaper in Latin America. He debauched the universities and fiddled with the constitution. Above all, he created public “enemies”: Britain, America, all foreigners, the Jockey Club, which his gangs burned down in 1953, destroying its library and art collection. Next year he turned on Catholicism, and in 1955 his labour mobs destroyed Argentina’s two finest churches, San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and many others.

That was the last straw. The army turned him out. He fled on a Paraguayan gunboat. But his successors could never get back to the minimum government which had allowed Argentina to become wealthy. Too many vested interests had been created: a huge, parasitical state, over-powerful unions, a vast army of public employees. It is one of the dismal lessons of the twentieth century that, once a state is allowed to expand, it is almost impossible to contract it.

Now of course the U.S.A. is not Argentina. The balances of power — civilian-military, agricultural-industrial, domestic-international, legal-political — are all different, and were before Juan Perón showed up. His brutish methods would not do for us. They permitted him to accomplish in a few years what has taken us decades.

We have, though, followed the same trajectory as Perón’s Argentina, albeit more slowly and gently. He got from “the minimum government which had allowed Argentina to become wealthy” to “a huge, parasitical state” with “a vast army of public employees” in just five years; it has taken us five decades. The end result for our respective peoples will be the same.

It’s the Economy, Dummkopf!

Friday, August 12th, 2011

It’s the economy, Dummkopf!, Michael Lewis says:

What Germans did with money between 2003 and 2008 would never have been possible within Germany, as there was no one to take the other side of the many deals they did which made no sense. They lost massive sums, in everything they touched. Indeed, one view of the European debt crisis — the Greek street view — is that it is an elaborate attempt by the German government on behalf of its banks to get their money back without calling attention to what they are up to.

The German government gives money to the European Union rescue fund so that it can give money to the Irish government so that the Irish government can give money to Irish banks so the Irish banks can repay their loans to the German banks. “They are playing billiards,” says Enderlein. “The easier way to do it would be to give German money to the German banks and let the Irish banks fail.” Why they don’t simply do this is a question worth trying to answer.

Read the whole thing. Tyler Cowen calls it funny, one-sided, slightly offensive, somewhat true.

Chivalry in North Philly

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Steve Sailer shares a video edited together from security camera footage from a bus in North Philadelphia:

The back story before the video starts is that the mother shown getting off the bus had spanked her child, which led to a verbal protest from the fellow with a shaved head and a beard in a reddish brown t-shirt. The mother then got on her cell phone and called for some backup to meet her at the bus stop to help her, as Dave Chapelle would say, in keeping it real.

Apparently, nobody was badly injured, although the chivalrous six fired a total of 13 shots in the general direction of the man in the reddish brown shirt.

The psychology is interesting. Evidently, the insulted mother called the brother of the father of her baby, who then recruited a bunch of relatives and friends to help him defend the honor of his brother’s baby mama’s childrearing techniques. [...] Those are some family values.

The other angle is the advance of technology versus crime. This bus was recently upgraded with an amazing number of security cameras. So, it’s probably not a good idea anymore to stage a semi-automatic rifle assault on a bus in broad daylight in North Philadelphia. On the other hand, maybe the lesson is that you should put on hoodies and bandanas before attempting to hit the broad side of a bus with an assault rifle. Not all technological advances require criminals to undertake high-tech countermeasures.

Gangsta-style assault tactics aren’t very effective at putting bullets in targets.