Archive for August, 2011

Swat Equity

August 24, 2011

The small set of sentient beings that Lunghu has no compunction about killing may soon be reduced by one.  No, dark pool operators aren’t suddenly about to get a free pass.  Nor will ticks, black flies, green flies, house flies or leeches.  (Note the commonality?  All bloodsuckers.)

Which creature is it, then?  The pesky, whining mosquito –at least in its Aedes aegypti form.  That’s because researchers at UC Davis

… hit on the idea of [infecting mosquitos with] a naturally-occurring bacterial parasite called Wolbachia to shorten its lifespan so that [dengue fever] virus would not have enough time to develop.   The germ prevented the insect from becoming infected by the dengue virus … yet it was also [relatively] harmless. The mosquito’s ability to survive and reproduce was reduced only by about 10 to 20 percent.   After a few generations, the dengue-free mosquitoes eventually outnumber dengue-carrying counterparts.

According to Jason Rasgon at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute:

 “The advantage of population-replacement approaches is that, once established, they are self-propagating.  And because the mosquito population is simply changed rather than eliminated, effects on the ecosystem should be minimal.”

” … changed rather than eliminated.”  That has the ring of rehabilitation rather than punition and deterrence.  Not as emotionally satisfying as eradication, but perhaps more effective.  Probably wouldn’t work in the financial markets, though.

Elsewhere … change is[n’t always] good.

Sometimes it’s not enough to be happy.  You also have to be wet at all the right times.  Bhutan had hoped to harness the energy of Himalayan snowmelt by building 9000 megawatts of hydroelectric power capacity over the coming decade.

But Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley [warned]  the country was powerless to prevent changes in regional water supplies [caused by global warming].   “The glaciers are retreating very rapidly, some are even disappearing.  The flow of water in our river system is fluctuating in ways that are very worrying,” he said.    “The climate is changing, global warming is real and the impact on our hydrology is very severe.”

When change leaves you powerless, it can be hard to feel happy.

Karma Tshiteem, secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission, [observed that] “This is a stark example that climate change is not some theoretical thing that is still to be debated. We are facing it and having to do mitigation.”

He certainly doesn’t sound happy.  Nor should he be.  A billion coal-burning Chinese on the other side of the mountains aren’t about to go away anytime soon.  It can be difficult to maintain your cosmic equanimity in conditions like that.  It may not be enough to endlessly repeat the mantra “all is illusion.”

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Shocked, Shocked

August 23, 2011

Feng shui master Alion Yeo Tin-ming is back in the game!   A few weeks ago, Lunghu took him to task during the Waking the Dragon halftime report, noting that Yeo hadn’t really scored any definitive ‘hits’ during the first six months of the year.  But feng shui masters often caution patience for good reason: good things come to those who wait.

When he made his predictions back in January, Yeo conceded that the Year of the Rabbit had been “difficult to read:”

A one-month process [seeking advice from the oracles] took three times that long.  He had difficulty getting a clear message in Hong Kong, so he traveled to Singapore to get a different perspective.
Yeo calls on the United States to heed the lessons of the last financial crisis, lest another great shock bring renewed economic difficulties.  Among other things, earthquakes could shock the US.

At this point, it might be a bit of a stretch calling Tuesday’s 5.8 mag tremor in Louisa County, Virginia something that will “shock” the United States.  But it should be a wakeup call:  traditionalist Chinese investors have certainly taken note, because when an earthquake strikes near your nation’s capital, it means that the dynasty has lost the Mandate of Heaven.   For Chinese, this isn’t merely a sign that the Obama regime is in trouble, either.  Basically it’s a fundamental, geomantic confirmation of what many Americans already know –that the entire system of government is close to forfeiting its tenuous claim to legitimacy.  Let’s see what impact this may have on the Treasury’s next T-bill auction.

Lunghu agrees with Lao Yeo in at least one respect:  it’s pretty clear that the United States government has failed to heed the lessons of the last financial crisis.  The same cast of characters is busily perpetrating a whole new batch of asset inflation pump-and-dump schemes (primarily in commodities markets), once again with the full, not-so-entirely-unwitting cognizance of their past and future colleagues in the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank.

No accountability for past crimes = no deterrence for future ones.  As any capable Confucian official can tell you (albeit with a tinge of regret), heads must roll –lots of ’em– in order to restore the nation’s balance and harmony.  And Lunghu’s not just talking about ceremonial dismissals of officials who resign to atone for their errors –no, sirree.  Nope, copious quantities of literal, physical decapitation are called for under the imperial code of justice.  Civil officials and military commanders.  Merchants, prelates, peasants and artisans all must go.  Economists and quant apologists?  Most definitely.  Rivers must flow red with blood (requiring temporary suspension of EPA regulations authorized by the Clean Water Act).  The wails of exiled clansmen must rend the skies.  And we’ll really have to hurry to finish all this carnage before the Mayan calendar rolls over in December 2012.  Gotta plan for a fresh start.  Have a nice day!

Dross v. Slag

August 16, 2011

America elected George Bush and got what it asked for:  unbridled white-collar organized crime (see synonym), trillion-dollar thievery, and economic collapse (still in progress).  Britain elected a Tory government and got what it deserved:  misrule of the Murdoch dynasty and a slave rebellion.  In the latter case, is anyone likely to discern the similarity to WikiLeaks/Arab Spring?  Not if British state media have their way –let the scapegoating (and misdirection) begin!

Gangs are being blamed for last week’s explosion of riots and looting. But how do we know they were responsible?  The prime minister has promised a “concerted, all out war on gangs and gang culture”, in response to the riots and looting across English cities.  A gang taskforce is being set up, to be led by Home Secretary Theresa May and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. Bill Bratton, former police chief of Los Angeles and New York, is to advise the government on how to crack down on gangs.  But were gangs really to blame?

Following this preface, BBC correspondent Tom de Castella sets forth a litany of the yeas (4) and nays (3) in call-and-response format, relying for credibility on the authority (such as it may be) of “experts” and “witnesses.”

Here’s Lunghu’s condensed gloss of what the ayes-have-it have to say:

Claim: gangs planned the riots

  • Think-tank policy wonk Christian Guy (why isn’t this guy working at Fox News?!) “believes” the riots were  a well co-ordinated operation, which is likely to have been led by young people in street gangs. The speed and devastation with which the riots spread suggests they were organized.
  • Brixton social worker Daniel Weston claims that  gang leaders used Blackberry Messenger … to mobilize younger gang members.  Targets [for looting] were identified … and gang members directed to them. During the riots [gangs] ‘put [their drug-dealing business] to one side’ to turn their attentions to looting, [Weston] believes.

Claim: gangs did the looting

Journalist Andrew Malone (Daily Mail)  describe[d] a scene in which younger drug runners [sic] ferried the spoils to older gang members in nearby vehicles –BMWs and souped-up Golfs. “There were even vans coming down.”  And how does Malone know that these yooots were gang members?

There was a gang hierarchy at work, he believes.  The youngsters had the look of the “kids” he has seen cycling around [housing projects] selling small amounts of drugs.

Lunghu:  Ah yes, the tried and true looks-like-a-duck heuristic …  Can’t wait to hear the Crown Prosecutor try that one out on the appeals court judge.

Claim: gangs cooperated during the riots

Most gang violence is aimed at other gangs. But during the riots the gangs appeared to join forces.  Weston says gangs were given a “hood pass” –meaning that hooded youths were allowed to travel into neighboring areas.  “The gangs came together and forgot their rivalries,” he says.

Lunghu:  Mr. Social Worker Weston –or correspondent de Castella— just totally lost any credibility he might temporarily have had:  a  “hood pass” has nothing whatsoever to do with wearin’ a robbin’ hood –it’s an unwritten Casablanca-style letter-of-transit permitting unchallenged passage through another gang’s ‘hood (i.e., neighborhood).   At any rate, temporary suspension of hostilities is not the same thing as “working together” (been to Belfast recently?).

Claim:  gang culture is to blame

While gang members may be a statistically small part of the looting, a pervasive wider gang culture influenced many other young people to join in.  The question, says Professor John Pitts, is why a certain inner city section of society takes [the gangsta aesthetic] so seriously.  “My guess is that the kids most affected are those for whom it provides an explanation and an ennobling narrative to their life.”

And now for the naysayers.

Claim:  a wide spectrum of society took part in the riots

  • Author Gavin Knight remarks “People see a teenager in a hoodie and think it’s a gang [member].”  In reality, there are few genuine gang members.
  • Journalist Paul Lewis (Guardian)  says it’s wrong to try to put the blame on one group.  The only generalization that’s credible is that on the whole they were young and poor.”

Claim: riots are bad for gang business

Professor Pitts claims that  the primary purpose of gangs is to make money from selling drugs.  Riots are the last thing they want.  The attraction of looting pales when you could be making several thousand pounds a day selling drugs, he argues.

Lunghu:  the notion that “the primary purpose of gangs is to make money” isn’t substantiated by the extensive research literature on the subject of gang motivation.  For a certain Anglo-American social class, reductionist thinking that ascribes most human behavior to economic motives has become almost reflexive.  Convenient.  But that doesn’t make it a persuasive argument, let alone a convincing one.

Claim: rioting was primarily the result of friends looking for excitement

  • Gavin Knight asserts that when police lost control of crowds in Tottenham,  “It was random chaotic activity not a co-ordinated uprising.”  There was no truce between gangs, the looting was simply so chaotic that normal rules ceased to apply.
  • Paul Lewis (who was receiving many of the now-infamous Blackberry messages) says messaging  was not “directly determining” the action but “loosely influencing events.”  The messages were more likely to be sent between friendship groups than gang associates, he believes.

So what’s Lunghu’s take on all this?  BBC’s story is heavily laden with beliefs, suggestions and appearances, but pretty light on actual evidence.  Here’s a 10th-century lesson from Water Margin:  today’s bandits may become tomorrow’s defenders of a just society.  Just don’t expect them to defend the Ancien Regime –not without a genuine stake in it.  Long live the heroes of Liangshan Marsh!

Another Murder for the Crown

August 13, 2011

Sure, the British are revolting.  You won’t get any argument out of Lunghu on that one.  But on occasion, rebellion is justified.   Case in point:  a long-forgotten event one thousand and nine years ago in not-so-merrie Olde England.

The St. Brice’s Day massacre was the killing of Danes [residing] in the Kingdom of England on 13 November 1002, ordered by King Æthelred the Unready.  England had been ravaged by Danish raids every year from 997 to 1001, and in 1002 the king’s advisers told him that the Danish men in England “would faithlessly take his life, and then all his councillors, and possess his kingdom afterwards.” In response, Æthelred “ordered slain all the Danish men who were in England.”

Tactical success; strategic error.  Among the slain were the sister and brother-in-law of the Danish King, Sven Forkbeard.  Sven redoubled his attacks on England for the next decade, finally conquering the kingdom and driving Æthelred into exile in 1013.  After a brief Danish occupation followed by a barely-longer Saxon reconquista, the Normans decided to take care of business across the Channel themselves.  And the rest is history.

So, three months from today, tip your mitre in memory of Saint Brice and the unnumbered Danes who were put to the sword on his feast day a millenium ago.

Fun Fact:

Saint Brice, fifth century Bishop of Tours, has his feast day celebrated (somewhere) on November 13th.

Green Streak

August 9, 2011

Early August is one of Lunghu’s favorite times of year:  it’s Perseid season.  What’s so great about that?  Well, because in the interest of the ancient science of astronomy, anybody now has a valid excuse for lying supine on the lawn in the middle of the night, looking up at the sky for hours on end.  This week –until the 14th–  is the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower, when debris from a comet’s tail intersects Earth’s orbit and provides an intermittent light show in the wee wee hours before the break of day.

The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity being between August 9 and 14, depending on the particular location of the stream.  During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour.

Lunghu often forgets about the Perseid season until it’s almost or entirely over  -–he doesn’t get out much in the middle of the night, generally speaking.  But this year, he had a great big reminder that it’s meteor season -–a wakeup call from the distant Pacific island nation of Niue.

Niue police chief Mark Chenery said [a] loud bang on Wednesday night [August 3] woke the island’s 1,200 residents and he initially thought a boat had exploded in the harbor:  “There was a large (noise), a huge clap of thunder but it was a normal starry night outside.” … The Carter observatory in New Zealand [eventually]  told him it was likely to be a meteor exploding 20 kilometers high in the atmosphere.

So sure, it’s just a temporal “coincidence,” but August 3rd also just happens to be just about six months from the time that Lunghu issued his annual review of feng shui soothsayer predictions, and made a few hare-brained prognostications of his own.   Including that one about the “non-trivial meteor impact in the Indian Ocean.”   Oh well: right latitude, wrong ocean, no impact.  In the realm of feng shui, that’s not even a near-miss.

This means that Lunghu’s prediction record for Year of the Rabbit is still perfect -—perfectly incorrect, that is.  Tiger Woods isn’t even playing golf, let alone on top of his game.  Belgium is still a single nation (sort of).  No earthquake in Nicaragua (yet).  No meteor in the Indian Ocean.  On the other hand, Gaddhafi is still in Libya.  Nobody’s perfect.