Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Markups and Price Discrimination in RAM

Dell computers have some smart cookies working out their pricing policies. They've (correctly) estimated that a very large proportion of their customers will pay a substantial premium in order to not have to open up the inside of their computer. This is because when you open up a computer, it seems to the newbie like the electronic equivalent of doing open heart surgery when you've only seen a youtube clip of the operation. Screw it up, and there goes your two grand computer.

I know this for two reasons:

1. Until a few days ago, I was one of those people, and

2. My computer tech guy pointed me in the direction of aftermarket RAM.

The latter only occurred because I'd bought a computer hoping to cannibalise the RAM from an old machine. As bad luck would have it, the old RAM was the wrong specification.

But look at the markups they charge!

A Dell Precision T3500 Workstation with 2GB of RAM will set you back $779.

When you increase your RAM to 24GB, using 1333MHz, DDR3 SDRAM, ECC (6 DIMMS), it will add another $1580 to the price.

Now let's go to my new favourite site, They're RAM finding device lets you locate RAM that will work with your T3500 workstation. How much will 24GB of 1333MHz DDR3 RAM set you back?

As it turns out, about 140 bucks. So Dell is getting a lazy 900% markup on their RAM, and that's assuming they're buying it on without any discount for bulk.

That's a hell of a premium you're paying because you're afraid of opening up your computer.

As it turns out, not checking the specification of the RAM I'd need cost me $150 in the short term, but has saved me at least a couple of grand in expected lifetime savings.

Update: So I decided to not wait for the computer guy (who had shown me where the RAM would go when he opened the computer up), and tried to install it myself. No dice - it wouldn't start up. Tried to install the old RAM - still no dice. Started to think I'd bricked the computer. Read the manual, fiddled around with it, eventually realised from the error lights that it wasn't reading that there was any RAM installed. More fiddling revealed that I hadn't pushed the RAM in hard enough, and my reluctance to push too hard meant that it wasn't fully in place. Ironically, I was only willing to push hard once I'd decided that I'd probably ruined the computer, which was in fact what it needed to fix it.

So overall, a bit nerve-wracking, but still not worth paying fourteen hundred bucks to avoid.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Judgment Jerry, Judgment!

The worst mistakes are the ones you don't realise you're making. The most poignant mistakes are the ones that you don't realise you're making, but everyone else does realise, even though they're unable to help you.

It's time for some Tarantino-style non-sequential narratives about what happens when Silicon Valley co-founders get jilted. The Hacker News discussion is interesting, but I want to focus on another lesson that can't be repeated often enough.

Let's start with the cut-scene at the end, featuring YouSendIt co-founder Khalid Shaikh:
Shaikh agreed to pay $48,194 in restitution to YouSendIt. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 30, 2012. The sentencing guidelines recommend six to 12 months of imprisonment, but under the terms of the plea agreement, that may be reduced to house arrest.
Hmmm. How did this happen? Time to cut back to the narrator and where it began:
Ranjith Kumaran didn't found YouSendIt on his own, though. Another man, one whom YouSendIt doesn't like to talk about, wrote the original code, built the first servers by hand, and served as the first president. His name is Khalid Shaikh, and he's 34. He was a computer-engineering student at McGill University and a former intern at Microsoft, and he once worked at Hewlett-Packard and Intel. More recently, he has been living in a Motel 6 outside Denver, awaiting sentencing for launching a cyberattack three years ago that crippled YouSendIt's servers.
There's more details at, but the story is a common one in Silicon Valley - a bunch of guys start a company, big-time investors come on board, the investors plus one guy feel that the other guy isn't pulling his weight, other guy gets booted. Think the Facebook story, as told in The Social Network. Or Steve Jobs (although there it wasn't Wozniak that booted him).

Except this time the guy who got booted ended up bitter and launched a bunch of denial of service attacks on his former company, and (apparently) added to the poor decisions by messing with their wikipedia page. (Fire the passive-aggressive ion cannon!).
So, on a chilly Tuesday morning in December, Shaikh ran a piece of testing software, called ApacheBench, that flooded YouSendIt's servers with traffic. The servers keeled over immediately. Later that day, a sentence appeared on YouSendIt's Wikipedia page: "Looks like the company may be out of business, their site is down." (Shaikh says he didn't write it.)
Okay, so while I have sympathy with what it must be like to get booted from a company that you start, this guy has some pretty serious judgment issues. Apparently the FBI takes computer crime pretty seriously! Who knew?

So they started nosing around after Shaikh's former co-workers trying to find out what was going on. Shaikh got wind of this. Like a slow motion car crash that you can see coming, which of the following alternatives do you think Shaikh did?
a) Called around to find the best criminal defense lawyer he could
b) Cross his fingers and hope that the whole thing would blow over.
c) Decide to head down to talk to the FBI to straighten the whole thing out himself.
Yeah, no prizes for guessing the outcome:
That night, the couple returned to the FBI office. [Shaikh's wife] Saroash was told to wait in the lobby while her husband was interviewed in an adjoining room. Because it was late on a Friday, and almost everyone at the FBI office had gone home, no one noticed when she got up and listened at the door. Inside, the agents asked Shaikh about his background. He told them about going to McGill, moving to the Valley, founding YouSendIt.
They're just asking about my background! What harm could it do?
The agents began asking Shaikh about buying and selling websites with the teenager. They asked him about a site called It had been stolen, they said. They asked Shaikh if he knew anything about the sale of that site. Shaikh wouldn't say. Then they showed him documentation that the money for the sale, about $18,000, had been transferred online using Shaikh's IP address.
Oh. Ooooohhhhh.

Hmm, that's quite a pickle, no?
"That puts me in a very negative light," Shaikh said, according to the FBI report.
1. You don't say!

2. You're going to enjoy hearing that quoted back at you at trial.
"Where do we go from here?" He asked the agents if they knew of any "FBI-friendly attorneys."
Now I'm just feeling sorry for the guy. He's so clueless that he's asking the guys whose job it is to put him in the hole with help on how to get himself out of the hole. Good luck with that.
The couple hired a criminal defense attorney and prepared for the worst.
Like buying a fire extinguisher after you just burned down your house by trying to deep fry a frozen turkey.
About a week after Shaikh's wife gave birth to a girl, their lawyer received discovery documents that included FBI reports. Shaikh had said enough during that meeting to give the FBI plenty of evidence to work with.
No kidding! *facepalm*.

Red hot tip - when the interview is over, you'll always have given the FBI plenty of evidence to work with. Trust me.

In this case, the FBI had already gotten a former friend to wear a wire and record a conversation, so he may have been boned anyway.

BUT WHY WOULD YOU GO TALK TO THE FBI BEFORE YOU'VE HIRED A LAWYER??? Especially when you know you're guilty!!

Remember, these investigators are seasoned professionals whose sole job it is to get you to incriminate yourself. They've done this thousands of times. You've done this... never. Who do you think is going to win?

Like a lamb to the slaughter. 

Suppose that you're too broke to hire a lawyer. What can you do then?

I recommend you follow this 24-carat gold advice from Penn Jillette on what you should do when the FBI wants to talk to you.

shut the fuck up

Speak to the cops in haste, repent at leisure.

(subject line reference)

Monday, February 27, 2012


You have to be both a chemist and skeptic of government policy (which I know applies to at least GS, and possibly others) to enjoy this one , but it's comedy gold - how to synthesise pseudoephedrine from N-methylamphetamine, from the Journal of Apocryphal Chemistry, Feb. 2012:
Pseudoephedrine, active ingredient of Sudafed®, has long been the most popular nasal decongestant in the United States due to its effectiveness and relatively mild side effects [1].  In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to obtain psuedoephedine in many states because of its use as a precursor for the illegal drug N-methylamphetamine (also known under various names including crystal meth, meth, ice, etc.)[1,2].  While in the past many stores were able to sell pseudoephedrine, new laws in the United States have restricted sales to pharmacies, with the medicine kept behind the counter.  The pharmacies require signatures and examination of government issued ID in order to purchase pseudoephedrine.  Because the hours of availability of such pharmacies are often limited, it would be of great interest to have a simple synthesis of pseudoephedrine from reagents which can be more readily procured.
A quick search of several neighborhoods of the United States revealed that while pseudoephedrine is difficult to obtain, N-methylamphetamine can be procured at almost any time on short notice and in quantities sufficient for synthesis of useful amounts of the desired material.  Moreover, according to government maintained statistics, Nmethylmphetamine is becoming an increasingly attractive starting material for pseudoephedrine, as the availability of Nmethylmphetamine has remained high while prices have dropped and purity has increased [2].  We present here a convenient series of transformations using reagents which can be found in most well stocked organic chemistry laboratories to produce psuedoephedrine from N-methylamphetamine.  

(via jwz)

Artificial Meat

The Economist has an interesting article about how a researcher is set to make a hamburger patty out of artificially grown meat - that is, the meat was grown in a petri dish from cells taken from cattle.

I'm doubling down on two of my earlier predictions, and revising one:

-Eventually all meat will be grown artificially

-When the process of eating meat is separated from the process of killing animals, within two generations the average person will be revulsed at the thought of killing a cow to eat it.

The one I'm revising is the headline of the earlier post - I now do expect to see this happening in my lifetime.

Within 50 years, I'm guessing artificial meat will become at least the 'free range eggs' equivalent for cruelty free meat, even if it doesn't replace meat completely due to cost.

And when this becomes widespread, the contradictions of our system of animal ethics will be harder to reconcile - it will be harder, in other words, to forget how the sausage is made.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why is LA So Spread Out?

Actually, this isn't quite right.

It's not that LA is spread out, per se. Instead, it's that the good bits of LA are not geographically contiguous. This means that you have to drive a fair way to get to all the nice parts. The good bits of Pasadena might be a two hour drive away in peak hour from the good bits of Malibu or Manhattan Beach.

By contrast, the good bits of Chicago are pretty much in a solid block from the South Loop to Belmont, and the really nice tourist bits are all downtown within walking distance from each other. The rest of the city stretches out for miles and miles west, but nobody gives a rat's about that, since it's only the residents that ever go there.

So how did LA end up this way?

Well, here's my guess for at least one contributing factor - the downtown area is too far from the coast.

As a city gets richer, people inevitably want to live near pleasant views. And human nature being what it is, this tends to mean wanting to live near large bodies of water.

But why would the downtown be built away from the coast?

The reason is because city location is usually determined by water as well, but in this case, fresh water. When you're an early settler, looking at a beautiful but undrinkable ocean is not much help. So downtown Los Angeles is located near to the Los Angeles River. This is fairly typical - a lot of major cities are located near some river or other water source.

But here's where Los Angeles gets in trouble. The Los Angeles River has two problems:

1. It's too far away from the Ocean.

2. It's a tiny drainage ditch which is not large and pretty enough that it rivals the ocean as a pretty view.

#1 means that there will inevitably be nice areas near the ocean, and these will be a reasonable drive from the city centre.

#2 means that the residents who don't care about the ocean also don't have an incentive to crowd around the river itself, which might otherwise provide a focal point for development. The nice inland areas thus tend to spread out, since there's less reason to build huge residential waterfront skyrises. The river was big enough to get the downtown to locate nearby, but not big enough to attract buildings once the city grew.

Go through the list of sprawling cities and dense cities, and see if I'm right. By my reckoning, this explains a lot of the variation.

I am no strong believer of the Jared Diamond view that geography is destiny, but I think this is a pretty parsimonious theory of urban sprawl.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Outrageous Fact of the Day

From Steve Sailer:
JUST three decades ago, Thurgood Marshall was only months away from appointment to the Supreme Court when he suffered an indignity that today seems not just outrageous but almost incomprehensible. He and his wife had found their dream house in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., but could not lawfully live together in that state: he was black and she was East Asian. Fortunately for the Marshalls, in January 1967 the Supreme Court struck down the anti-interracial-marriage laws in Virginia and 18 other states. And in 1967 these laws were not mere leftover scraps from an extinct era. Two years before, at the crest of the civil-rights revolution, a Gallup poll found that 72 per cent of Southern whites and 42 per cent of Northern whites still wanted to ban interracial marriage.
You read that right - up until 1967, interracial marriage was illegal in 18 US States. And it would have likely persisted longer until the Supreme Court stepped in. 1967! Flying men to the moon, banning interracial marriage.

File:US miscegenation.svg

 Dates of repeal of US anti-miscegenation laws by state
   No anti-miscegenation laws passed
   Before 1887
   1948 to 1967
   12 June 1967

And this being the early 20th Century, they weren't just trying to stop the symbolic recognition of interracial marriage, but instead stop the actual mixed race union, and mixed race sex in general:
Typically defining miscegenation as a felony, these laws prohibited the solemnization of weddings between persons of different races and prohibited the officiating of such ceremonies. Sometimes, the individuals attempting to marry would not be held guilty of miscegenation itself, but felony charges of adultery or fornication would be brought against them instead. All anti-miscegenation laws banned the marriage of whites and non-white groups, primarily blacks, but often also Native Americans and Asians.
In many states, anti-miscegenation laws also criminalized cohabitation and sex between whites and non-whites. ... While anti-miscegenation laws are often regarded as a Southern phenomenon, many northern states also had anti-miscegenation laws.
Steve Sailer is exactly right - 'not just outrageous but almost incomprehensible' is indeed the description.

I guess it's a failure of imagination on my part, but I simply cannot conceive of how the public justified these opinions to themselves. Even if you were racist to the core, and disgusted by interracial marriage. Was there no libertarian urge at all? Was there no sense that your own revulsion at two people having sex is not a public policy rationale for passing a law? John Stuart Mill wrote 'On Liberty' a full century earlier. Had nobody read it? Did they think it was all nonsense?

Conservatives would do well to not get too misty-eyed about America's glorious libertarian past that's being trampled on by modern liberals. In certain aspects (regulatory overreach, taxation levels, nanny-state condescension), this is definitely true.

But in other very important respects, today is a lot better than it used to be. The past is not only another country, but one that on closer inspection you may like less than you'd thought you would.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Everything Old is New Again!

Australia's former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was booted out as PM during his first term by Julia Gillard. Now that she got elected (by the three independents that chose Labor in this hung parliament), Rudd has been angling to return the favour to Gillard. She'd gotten sick of this, and was threatening to sack him. Rudd beat her to the punch, and resigned in Washington. Now Rudd is  former Foreign Affairs Minister, and leadership questions keep arising.

I guess we can at least enjoy this as farce - as long as the Chinese keep buying Australian resources, this makes it less likely that value-destroying legislation will be passed.

Tim Blair lays on the mockery, while Andrew Bolt rounds up the reactions of the commentariat.

As Henry Kissinger reputedly said about the Iran-Iraq war - it's a shame they can't both lose.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Uh-Oh Spaghetti-Os!

Apparently if you leave your fancy Tesla Roadster unplugged long enough that the battery drains to zero, it turns into an undrivable brick until you replace the entire battery. Which, as it turns out, costs a cool $40 grand. The phrase 'brick' is a term of art, meaning the car apparently can't be started or even pushed down the road. 'Unplugged' is also a term of art, which can also include having an extension cord that's too long, and thus providing insufficient charge.

Unsurprisingly, Tesla is not exactly upfront about this risk. They've (correctly!) identified that this probably won't attract a lot of buyers. Whether they've correctly identified the likely PR disaster of this information slowly leaking out and being covered up is another question entirely.

While I'm not pleased that this happens,it doesn't surprise me that the Tesla has hidden costs. The whole marketing strategy is based on hidden costs, since they advertise that the car has zero emissions. This is true only as long as your electricity comes entirely from renewable resources. Which is to say, it's broadly false, unless you happen to be driving it entirely in the Pacific Northwest, which has a fair amount of hydro power. Otherwise there's emissions - they're just coming out of someone else's property, not yours. Amazingly, the environment cares not one jot whether you burn coal and oil in a power plant or in an engine. But people that fetishize visible, variable costs flip out for this kind of pea-and-shell game. At least they're not my emissions!

Over and above the environmental dubiousness of the whole affair, the process is designed to appeal to people who like the upfront investment of lots of money to offset smaller gasoline purchases. Let's just say that the $50K to buy the model S roadster would pay for a lot trips to refill the Hummer. Or equivalently, it would for a gigantic number of refills of your Nissan Micra. Which uses the old-fashioned technology of a lawnmower-sized engine to reduce emissions. Apparently that doesn't excite people nearly as much.

LOL, I can park my car at the airport without it dying.

Thought of the Day

"Just when you think you've got it all worked out,
That's probably when they'll put you in the ground."
From the excellent song 'The Future', by The Limousines.

(via JWZ Mixtape 111)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Random correlations from a weekend in San Francisco

-Since it has been established by rigorous analysis that McDonalds restaurants tend to be the most profitable places at airports, it seems vanishingly unlikely that their absence in any first world airport is due to lack of demand. Hence a leading indicator of maddening nanny-state-ism gone mad is when airport terminals lack any fast food. This is becuase some pinhead bureacrat or politician deciding that it would be too low brow, or too unhealthy, or too commercial, or [insert modish condescending reason here]. True to form, the worst examples of this are the American Airlines terminal in SFO, and the international terminal in Heathrow. I leave the reader to their own conclusions.

-A bizarrely strong indicator that you're in a tourist trap area is the presence of a Bubba Gump Shrimp store. They always manage to find the area in any city where the worst rubberneck tourists congregate, and plonk their store down there. Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, Navy Pier in Chicago, Times Square in New York, Cancun in Mexico, Mall of America in Minnesota, Santa Monica Pier in LA... I challenge you to look at their location map and find me an exception to this rule. Shylock's tip - if you see a Bubba Gump store, leave the area you're in straight away.

-Notwithstanding this grousing, San Francisco is a very fun city. Great Chinese food, very walkable, pretty architecture, and even the hordes of weirdo hippies lend a colourful charm when one is only there for the weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2012

French Free-Market Economic Wisdom

No, that is is neither a typo, nor sarcasm.

From the great Frédéric Bastiat:
When James B. gives a hundred pence to a Government officer, for a really useful service, it is exactly the same as when he gives a hundred sous to a shoemaker for a pair of shoes.
But when James B. gives a hundred sous to a Government officer, and receives nothing for them unless it be annoyances, he might as well give them to a thief. It is nonsense to say that the Government officer will spend these hundred sous to the great profit of national labour; the thief would do the same; and so would James B., if he had not been stopped on the road by the extra-legal parasite, nor by the lawful sponger.
Let us accustom ourselves, then, to avoid judging of things by what is seen only, but to judge of them by that which is not seen.
Words to live by.

This is taken  from one of his most famous essays, about the broken windows fallacy - that you cannot spur economic activity by destroying assets and claiming that the increased production to replace them is an economic benefit, because this ignores the cost of the forgone spending on other items.

Everyone knows that, right? Nobody is seriously advocating destroying productive assets to boost the economy?

Ha ha ha! Oh, how little you understand Washington!

Bastiat himself was quite familiar with the difficulties of getting politicians to not justify wasteful spending because of it's stimulating effects:
Dear me! how much trouble there is in proving that two and two make four; and if you succeed in proving it, it is said, "the thing is so plain it is quite tiresome," and they vote as if you had proved nothing at all. 
Bastiat discusses at length the implicit arguments of those who demand government protection for their industry:
Ought not the protectionist to blush at the part he would make society play?
He says to it, "You must give me work, and, more than that, lucrative work. I have foolishly fixed upon a trade by which I lose ten per cent. If you impose a tax of twenty francs upon my countrymen, and give it to me, I shall be a gainer instead of a loser. Now, profit is my right; you owe it me." 
They're still saying exactly that.

Bastiat also makes the oft-neglected point that to oppose the government subisidising an activity is entirely different to the question of whether you desire that activity in general. His essay makes the point that subsidy policies are only ever about transferring wealth, not creating wealth. The policy must live or die on the merits of the thing to be susidised, and not the claim that the employment of the labor itself is productive:
But, by a deduction as false as it is unjust, do you know what economists are accused of? It is, that when we disapprove of Government support, we are supposed to disapprove of the thing itself whose support is discussed; and to be the enemies of every kind of activity, because we desire to see those activities, on the one hand free, and on the other seeking their own reward in themselves. Thus, if we think that the State should not interfere by taxation in religious affairs, we are atheists. If we think the State ought not to interfere by taxation in education, we are hostile to knowledge. If we say that the State ought not by taxation to give a fictitious value to land, or to any particular branch of industry, we are enemies to property and labour. If we think that the State ought not to support artists, we are barbarians who look upon the arts as useless.
The essay is most famous for the broken windows analogy. But in fact the whole essay is brilliant throughout. As they say, read the whole thing.

Frédéric Bastiat, in other words, pioneered the concept of opportunity cost (although he didn't coin that term). This is such a basic tool of economic thinking these days that we tend to forget that it wasn't always there. It came about largely because of Frédéric Bastiat. And it's still one of the most powerful arguments against hare-brained government programs - where did the money to fund this come from, and what else could have been done with that money instead?
Here is the moral: To take by violence is not to produce, but to destroy. Truly, if taking by violence was producing, this country of ours would be a little richer than she is. 
As true now as it was in 1850.

Trenchant advocate of economic liberty and opponent of sloppy thinking, M. Bastiat is richly deserving of the posthumous induction into the Shylock Holmes Order of Guys Who Kick Some Serious Ass.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Conversational Dynamics

One of the things about being an introvert (The Couch*: You're an introvert? And you write a blog? Unheard of!) is that conversation with strangers is not something that comes naturally. Like athletic ability, musical ability, or mathematical ability, conversational ability is a skill that you acquire either through being born with an innate aptitude, or something you need to work to acquire. Or both, in reality.

The difference between conversational ability and the other three is that there is very little formal training for how to make small talk, versus tons of training available for the others.

I tend to describe myself as a 'reformed introvert'. The ability to make small talk is not a natural skill of mine, but one I've worked to improve. It's still not great, but the measure of success is that people are sometimes surprised when I self-identify as an introvert.

But being an analytical type and an introvert (The Couch: Wait, you're socially inept and a wannabe intellectual, and yet you write a blog? No seriously, call the newspapers!), the question of exactly how to make conversation better is something I've had cause to think about. The guys that do it naturally don't need to think about it - it's only the guys who need to learn it who have to back out what exactly the naturals are doing.

As far as I can tell, the central challenge of conversation is how to find a topic that you both (or the group) have interesting things to say about, and then maintain that interesting thread. And when that thread ends, you then need to be able to transition to a new interesting thread.

Now, if you think about all the stuff that you know about, there's surely something  that you and the stranger could have an interesting discussion about - football, politics, military history, food, hip hop, whatever. When conversations fail, it's usually because you weren't able to find that joint interest.

The place where conversations seem to break down the most is at the transition between topics. This includes the opening, which is just the extreme form of the transition, from nothing to the first interesting area.

The people that are good at making conversation are almost always good on the transition part. This involves a number of related skills:
1. Being able to detect when a conversation idea is coming to a natural conclusion, and steering things towards something new before the awkward silence sets in.
2. Being good at identifying a new topic of likely interest, and
3. Being bold and good at changing the topic to unrelated areas without it sounding forced.

Out of the three, I think the last one is probably actually the most underappreciated. If there's one skill that can improve conversation the most, I think it's the ability to be confident to replace a silence with a segue to a new subject smoothly. And usually this is just about the transition, and the willingness to do it.
On a slightly different topic, I was reading this article the other day where...
Random question, what are your favourite restaurants in this town? I always end up going to the same places, and I'm trying to expand my list... 
So the other day, I was at the supermarket line when this guy...
The reason that conversation changes are important is that natural transitions only work well when the original topic was itself interesting. Sometimes you can get stuck on sort-of-boring topics, but the only natural conversational progressions are to other boring topics. A good conversationalist is able to figure out when things need a subject change, and move the topic along without it sounding jarring.

The final skill is having an appreciation of what might make an interesting topic, and boldly searching it out. This sometimes needs changes of course - you think something is interesting, but the audience doesn't. Reacting to these kinds of subtle cues is what stops you becoming a bore.

It sounds strange to break down conversations in this way, and almost painfully obvious. But as far as I can tell, the people who aren't good at making conversation rarely seem to think about it as something they need to explicitly work on. Which is why they don't get much better at it. It's only the weirdos like me who make attempts to actually improve the quality of the conversations they have with strangers, aiming to make them successively longer and more interesting.

If you start out as an introvert, it seems like your choices are to feel like an idiot trying to explicitly learn how to make small talk, or get left behind in a world that values social skills.

Sign me up with the first group.

*I stole the 'The Couch' gag from Jonah Goldberg.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Miscellaneous Joy

-Headline of the Day, from Maetenloch at Ace of Spades:
"Island Scandis So Inbred They Need a Website to Avoid Incest"

-Statements that it's hard to disagree with:

"To put it politely, Nigeria is a failed nation. To put it bluntly, Nigeria is f***ed."
-Economist Valentines Day Jokes (via the CM)

-In America, the furthest you can get from a McDonalds is 145 miles by car. Thank God for that - USA! USA! USA!

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Austerity Measures"

So Greece has been rioting again, as the parliament passed a set of "austerity measures" designed to combat their rampant budget deficit.

This headline from The Daily Beast is instructive, and typical of the way it gets written up:
Greece Riots: Have Greeks Had Enough of Austerity?
This is why it has been such a marketing disaster to call these rounds of budget cuts "austerity measures".

Austerity implies that the relevant aspect of these cuts is a kind of severity, a harshness of measures designed to achieve a strong outcome. More tellingly, it implies a choice. Austerity describes an action you take to limit your intake of something to more humble, and less pleasant, levels.

And who wants that?! Nobody. I've had enough of this austerity! Let's go back to the days of plenty.

The message that needs to be gotten into the heads of the marginal Greek voter is the following: riot all you want, but those days ain't coming back. Not if Greece defaults. Not if Greece raises taxes. Not if Greece prints money.

If it were me, I'd call these 'The New Normal Cuts'. That ought to indicate the correct mindset. Get used to it, because this is how it's going to be. I'd also settle for the "There's No More Money, Because It's All Been Spent Cuts". It's been spent, and borrowed, and spent again. And now there's nothing left, and no private investor with two braincells to rub together is going to lend the Greek government money again any time soon.

Because this is the problem - you can default on the debt, but it doesn't make the deficit go away. And once you default, you've got very little chance of being able to finance that deficit with borrowing at any reasonable rate. So sooner or later, the pensions and the government wages will get cut, by hook or by crook. The only other option is printing money to close the budget deficit, which is the triumph of imbeciles who think that money illusion is a fast track to prosperity. Sadly, it doesn't take much experience of hyperinflation to realise that this isn't actually the case. Ask Zimbabwe how it's working out.

These aren't the austerity cuts. These are the reality cuts. Which is why the headline is so inane:
Greece Riots: Have Greeks Had Enough of Reality?
You bet they have. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Tolstoy, you may not be interested in fiscal reality, but fiscal reality is interested in you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Market Mispricing, Female Nudity Edition

Marginal Revolution linked to this interesting piece in the Sacramento Bee on how the Burning Man Festival has run into lots of problems because it replaced its first come first serve online ticket system with a lottery. This led to a lot of the regular people not getting tickets, which is a particular problem since it's the regular people who designed the structures and cool stuff which made the event fun.

But what was most prophetic to me was one of the closing sentences:
Jones said there is legitimate concern that this might be the "jump the shark" year for Burning Man, when the artists are overpowered by those merely hoping to see topless women
Is there anyone who seriously doubts that the potential size of the latter category vastly exceeds the number of people in the former category?

The former is made up of a few idealistic hippies. The latter is made up of the half of the population known as 'men'.

It thus seems inevitable that sooner or later the perverts will price out the artists. When this happens, of course, that will be the end of the festival. Who wants to stand around in the desert with nobody but a group of seedy men? Nobody. In addition, you can expect the supply of topless women to dry up pretty fast too. Without the artsy atmosphere, how are you going to get the naked hippy girls to show up?

In other words, even if this isn't the end of burning man, I'd expect it to end this way eventually. A reputation for having naked young women walking around in public is too much of an arbitrage to not be eliminated by throngs of leering, gawking men.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Please Place Towels On The Floor If You Want Them Cleaned"

Man, do hotels love trying to get you to reduce the amount of laundry you do. It's always couched in the language of saving the environment. Think of all the towels in the world being laundered after only one use! All the water! All the detergent! All the energy!

First of all, I'm not asking for all the world's towels and sheets to be cleaned, just mine. And they ain't much. I know, because I do it myself. Or, you know, pay someone, which is basically the same thing.

You know what? Now that you mention the Hindenberg-scale disaster of all those laundered towels, I'm thinking about it, and it doesn't seem like much. Not because it's not a big amount - it is. But simply because the percent of the world's energy use that goes to the unnecessary laundering of towels is basically zero. If you did nothing but devote your life to washing towels over and over at the laundromat, your actions are going to be rounding error compared with the amount of energy the aluminium smelter down the road uses on a given days.

And even when the total amount still seems like a large number, that's mainly because if you take absolutely anything and aggregate it over the whole planet, it becomes huge. Think how many miles of cotton are wasted every day by people pulling on loose threads on their shirts, jackets and pants. It would be enough to stretch to Pluto! It would be enough to manufacture garments for all of the starving children of Guinea Bissau! It would be enough to let 300 tired garment workers take a whole extra year of vacation! etc. etc. etc.

The reality is that the hotel cares about the environment only to the extent that it cares about its profits. Which is fine - that's how capitalism generally works.

But you'll forgive me for not getting all misty-eyed about how I need to sacrifice so that the hotel makes twelve cents more profit.

Screw that. You know the Holmes motto? No Linen Too Fresh! It's my contribution to the Keynesian stimulus that I'm reliably told the economy desperately needs.

It would be funny if I thought it were intended as a joke

Never let it be said that Britons don't appreciate irony.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Miscellaneous Joy

-MIT at its best: students were sent their early admission letters in steel tubes, and told to 'hack' the tubes somehow. One girl decided that the best thing to do is to send it into space. Nice!

-A hilarious review of the book 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad', which slays it mercilessly. Oooh, the burn...

-Steve Sailer documents a particularly self-parodying David Brooks column. This reminded me of his other great quip about Brooks, which is so good I'm going to quote it again:
The public doesn't want new ideas, they just want to be told that their old ideas are new ideas that have been discovered by brain scans.
-The toughest guy to hold a PhD? (via Kottke)

-Gabriel Malor on the State Department in Iraq:
The State Department is cutting and running from its Iraq mega-embassy. It seems the salad bar ran out and there's no Splenda for coffee. Really. Those are their actual, ISYN, complaints. Oh, and they're limited to only six wings each on chicken wing night. Poor babies.
Yes, really.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Police Brutality

A long-ish quote, but I thought this summary of the broad issues of police brutality from Taki's Magazine was interesting:
Dark decades of direct experience with human beings have given us reason to operate from an ecumenical distrust of human nature. ...
Since there’s literally no “government” beyond the humans authorized to run it, our distrust of human nature leads us to a special wariness of those who possess the legally sanctioned power to harm and extort others. Without ways to keep government power in check, the whole world would devolve into the Stanford Prison Experiment within a week. Then again, since the “governed” are also human beings, we also greet their every word and deed with suspicion—if not outright disdain.
So when someone complains about police brutality, our default presumption is that both sides are at least guilty of something and that we’d need clear evidence of innocence to exonerate anyone. Yes, sure, some police officers are sadistic rageballs who take out their castration fears on the skulls of hapless citizens they’d stopped for minor moving violations. But flipping the flapjack over, many citizens are irredeemably unhinged drunken lunatics who endanger everything in their path and aren’t above lying to score a huge civil-rights judgment that the taxpayers, not the “state,” are obliged to pay. Faced with such a dismal choice, why should we even pick sides?
Sadly, not everyone is so evenhanded. Opinions about police mostly fall into two rigid camps: “Shoot the scum pigs” or “Shoot the scum criminals.
It's a good point - it's rare to find any kind of nuance in reporting about allegations of police brutality.

Then again, I'm not sure that this leads to an equal presumption against both parties. The level of relative disdain will vary a lot with the facts of the case, something which the Taki editorial recognises. My general feeling is not that police are insufficiently punished for incorrect judgment calls, but more that they're insufficiently punished for egregious bad behaviour, when it's clear they're in the wrong. The city gets a civil lawsuit, the cop gets a slap on the wrist.

Sometimes you are faced with cases where things do seem strongly leaning one way rather than the other. Radley Balko describes how the NYPD recently shot dead an unarmed man who was in the process of trying to flush marijuana down the toilet.

The question is, of course, how reasonable were the police actions ex-ante, rather than ex-post? How often do suspected armed drug dealers have guns? How often do they shoot at police? How frequently do the cops get this wrong, and what are the consequences? You can't know the answers to all these things just by looking at the cases where they get it wrong.

Balko's remarks I think focus correctly on what's worst about this whole event, and they are searingly bitter:
But let’s not lose sight of what’s important, here. Thanks to the good work of these undercover narcotics cops, the pot Ramarley Graham allegedly flushed down the toilet just before he was killed is no longer on the streets of New York. No children will get high on that pot. And that’s really all that matters.
The whole damn raid shouldn't have happened in the first place. If the cops had been assigned to some task that was actually improving welfare ex-ante, we'd be much more willing to tolerate mistakes in judgment.

Brutal actions in furtherance of astonishingly bad policy - that's what really stings.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Take That, Catholic Church!

The Obama Administration has decided to mandate that all employers have to provide birth control, including abortion-inducing drugs. This mandate now covers the Catholic Church. Which, understandably, they are not jolly pleased about.
“This is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions, and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets,” [Catholic League head Bill ] Donohue said.
You don't say.

This law seems to be on dubious grounds to start with - the constitution protects freedom of religion, but the constitutional basis for healthcare mandates is unclear (and still awaiting a Supreme Court decision). This is only a concern for reactionaries like me that don't read the Commerce Clause as being the 'Do Absolutely Anything Clause'. But frankly that ship sailed many years ago. On the other hand, how this plays in with the First Amendment is not at all obvious.

The question is why the Obama administration would be so hell-bent on making the Catholic Church provide birth control to its employees. This would cover Catholic schools, hospitals and charities. But honestly, how many employees does this really affect in the overall economy? It seems more likely that this is the administration's decision to give the finger to the church in order to curry favour with women's groups. I presume their logic is that not many Catholics vote Democratic anyway, so screw 'em.

As a basic matter of liberty, if the Catholic Church doesn't want to provide birth control, then it's no business of the government to make them. Then again, if you take this kind of radical thinking too far, you might wonder why the government has any business demanding that other employees provide birth control, or why the government has any business mandating health insurance provision at all. This thinking would clearly make you as the worst kind of dangerous libertarian loonie.

You can rely on the National Abortion Rights Action League to dissemble and mislead on this kind of thing:
“The Catholic hierarchy seems to be playing a cynical game of chicken and they don’t seem to care that the health and well being of millions of American woman are what’s at stake here,”National Abortion Rights Action League President Andrea Miller said.
Ah yes, the old canard of deliberately obscuring the relationship between health insurance and health care. The people involved are already employed (or they wouldn't be affected by the bill). If contraception is really important to you, then either don't sign up to work for the Catholic Church, or pay for it yourself. In equilibrium, if the average person has a demand for birth control, then the Catholic Church will have to pay higher wages to compensate for the healthcare that they aren't providing. Use the higher wages to buy the pill on your own - you don't need the Catholic Church to hold your hand. It's not like this is a one-off $100K cancer treatment expense, where if it's not done through insurance you can't afford it. The pill is pretty cheap, and it's a regular ongoing expense, so budget for it yourself. It doesn't make the slightest bit of difference if my employer gives me a $40 pill, or the $40 in cash to buy it myself.

For obvious moral reasons, it does make a big difference to the Catholic Church. And for utterly opaque and wrong-headed reasons, it apparently makes a big difference to the government and the National Abortion Rights Action League, who think that buying the pill on your own would constitute a horrible travesty. So much so, that they're willing to risk a brawl with America's Catholics.

Way to contribute to the Republican Get Out the Vote effort, guys!

Separated At Birth

Cee-Lo Green from the Superbowl Half Time Show:

'Future Dudes', from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

The other Cee-Lo description on Reddit was 'a Gay Sith Lord', which I can't find much fault with either.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Raise Those Prices, Jean-Pierre - The French Government Demands It

The French are determined to continue their unofficial national motto of 'Le Ass, Le Gas or Le Grass - Nobody Can Provide Stuff For Free'.

Check out this classic decision - Google Maps was fined for providing maps for free to businesses.
In a ruling Tuesday, the Paris court upheld an unfair competition complaint lodged by Bottin Cartographes against Google France and its parent company Google Inc. for providing free web mapping services to some businesses....
The French company provides the same services for a fee and claimed the Google strategy was aimed at undercutting competitors by temporarily swallowing the full cost until it gains control of the market.
Trying to provide maps for free, eh? That'll cost you 500,000 euros!

It's true that Google has begun charging for corporations that make large use of their mapping service.

So what can developers do against this vicious, anti-competitive behaviour?

One option is to switch to free, open-source mapping services. Which some companies have indeed started doing.

Now, you may look at this as evidence that there's plenty of competition for Google's free service.

But that just shows that you don't understand French courts! No, instead it is the open source mapping service being equally, if not more, anti-competitive. Once their open source product has driven out the competition, think how much they'll be able to exploit consumers by jacking up their prices!

This is of course in line with the French government putting mandatory prices on books, both electronic and paper. That'll teach you to try to sell products more cheaply.

Never mind that the benefits of lower prices tend to flow the most to the poor.

The French Government - putting the liberté in liberté économique.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What to do if your fiancee rejects the ring you offer.

The Last Psychiatrist has an interesting pair of posts covering the question of what to do if your fiancee rejects the ring you offer as not being good enough. He writes it twice, once from the perspective of the man, once from the perspective of the woman.

The standard male answer (to the question as posed in the abstract) seems to be 'dump the gold-digging b*tch'. In terms of the conclusion, if not the implicit reasoning, breaking up does seem likely to be beneficial. Things probably won't work out. But as The Last Psychiatrist notes, there's a conditioning that's being ignored here - the woman didn't turn into a 'gold-digging b*tch' overnight. To the extent that her response comes as a surprise, it seems likely that you weren't paying enough attention before. Most the time, men's response to the question in the abstract is about signalling that they're the type of man that wouldn't put up with gold-digging, goddamit.

Which is fine, as far as in goes. But remember, in the hypothetical you've gotten to the point of actually proposing. The question only makes sense if you assume that you actually love the woman in question. Which is a fair assumption if you've gotten to the point of proposing.

In which case, you want to think of this as a giant $#!7-test, as Citizen Renegade likes to put it.

So how do you respond then?

Firstly, the bad options.

Number one is to lamely respond, 'Okay, I guess I'll I'll buy you a bigger one then.' You just failed the test. Be sure to retrieve your balls from her handbag in time for the divorce.

The problem with this response (in addition to its lack of spine) is that it misunderstands what this is likely all about. Maybe she really likes big, shiny objects. That's probably part of it. But is the likelihood higher that it's about the ring per se or the ring as a symbol of the size of your commitment to her, and your ability to understand that she really wanted a big ring, both of which she's doubting?

Bet on the latter. And that ship has sailed - buying a bigger ring won't fix it. If you just agree, you're likely making yourself look very beta, which will make her resent you more.

What about getting angry? Not great either. I'm betting someone with the nerve to reject a ring is likely to be a) quite stubborn and b) a total princess. I imagine that if you angrily refuse, you're just going to get into a huge brawl over it, and she'll likely convince herself that this is in fact a huge deal, and the straw that broke the camel's back etc. etc. Which, if you want to break up, is fine. If you don't, then it seems poorly thought out.

So what's left? My vote would be to grin and respond 'Well, stiff $#!7. This is the one on offer.'

The grin is important, because you don't want to appear butthurt. You're treating the request as ridiculous and a self-evidence joke, while still hoping is to still defuse the situation.

Her likely response would be something along the lines of 'No, I'm serious.'

To which I would reply, with a slight and fading smirk, and in a tone indicating that the matter seems at an end,  'So am I.'

If she continues to push, it seems strained to keep trying to brush it off. Eventually, if you needed to back it up with a serious reason, my guess would be the following:

'The ring is not important. Marriage is important. The ring is my promise and offer to marry you. If you don't want it *pause and shrug*, don't take it.'

This reframes the issue, and with an implicit firmness saying (correctly) that her rejecting it won't be treated as a small deal.

Personally, I wouldn't want to marry her anyway. Not necessarily because she's a gold-digger, although it's a bad sign about being selfish. The Last Psychiatrist is right that this is likely about the ring as a symbol of your commitment, more than her wanting your money itself. Real gold-diggers are usually far too mercenary to do something as stupid as rejecting a ring. This jeopardises the chances of you guys getting married, and once the marriage happens, she's got half your money anyway. Including the extra money that you didn't spend on the ring. No, rejecting a ring is the sign of a princess, and an insecure princess as well. It's also a sign that you didn't understand this part of her well enough to know that you had to buy an expensive ring. That's also a bad sign for the marriage.

The problem for me is that I can't imagine a marriage with me would work for someone who was so concerned about symbolism. The substance of the issue, to me, is the marriage, not the ring. It's the same as the problem with being too excited about the wedding versus the marriage. Even if the ring is too small, a willingness to jeoparise the marriage for the sake of the ring shows a set of priorities that seems unlikely to work with mine in the long run. And if I ever got that response, it would mean that I'd failed to understand this earlier, in which case so much the worse for me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thugs Unrepentant

Last Thursday was Australia Day. As is traditional on such days, various honours are given out - the Order of Australia (Australia's equivalent of the OBE, MBE, knighthoods etc. in Britain).

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, were both in Canberra to present awards to members of the State Emergency Services.

Near to the awards ceremony there is the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Wikipedia describes it thus.
The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a controversial semi-permanent assemblage claiming to represent the political rights of Australian Aborigines. It is made of a group of activists, signs and tents that reside on the lawn of Old Parliament House in Canberra, the Australian capital. It is not considered an official embassy by the Australian Government.
Love the sotto voce in the last line. It's not a real embassy, huh? No kidding?

Essentially it's a hovel where a bunch of Aboriginal activists engage in a permanent protest against a range of causes relating to Aboriginal rights in one form or another. It's also been there since 1972.

No, really.

Now, dear reader, you may be forgiven for thinking that such an institution is likely to represent the worst excesses of a permanent grievance culture that views racial politics as a zero-sum game. You may think that a permanent slum encampment has no place on the lawn of Old Parliament House, if only as a matter of aesthetics. You may think that any protest movement that has been around for nearly 40 years has probably outlived its social usefulness.

And these would all be thoroughly defensible views.

One person who did not espouse those views, however, was Tony Abbott. Earlier in the week he had given a radio interview where he was asked about it. His thoroughly reasonable reply was as follows.
“Look, I can understand why the tent embassy was established all those years ago. I think a lot has changed for the better since then. We had the historic apology just a few years ago, one of the genuine achievements of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. We had the proposal, which is currently for national consideration, to recognise indigenous people in the constitution. I think the indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian, and, yes, I think a lot’s changed since then and I think it probably is time to move on from that.”
The tent embassy was set up originally to protest the lack of land rights. Australia now has native title, and more's the pity, but it has it nonetheless.

Overall, his statement seems jolly reasonable.

So what happened next?

One of the four press secretaries for the Prime Minister, Tony Hodges, decided that this was an excellent opportunity to stir up some racially motivated bad press. He called UnionsACT secretary Kim Sattler, who circulated among the protesters at the tent embassy that Tony Abbott had called for the embassy to be torn down.

He hadn't, of course.

But so what did these fine examples of civic society do?
When the protesters interrupted a medal ceremony for courageous emergency services personnel involved in the Queensland floods and Victorian bushfires, their behaviour was vile.
“Who f ... ing cares? They’re not our heroes,” yelled one of the first tent embassy people to arrive.
Then, spotting the Opposition Leader, she screamed: “Tony Abbott, you f ... ing big-eared Dumbo c. .t”.
This was followed by more obscenities directed at Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Things went downhill from there.

Originally Gillard got some sympathy for the affair, before it became known that her own press secretary had organised the whole thing.

He's now her ex-press secretary.

Meanwhile, Kim Sattler decided that valor was the better part of discretion:
She also posted on her now-deleted Facebook page that “Tony Abbott is like your typical bar-room brawler who starts a fight and then disappears like a coward when it is in full swing.”
Then she went into hiding
This ingenious strategy was clearly taken directly from the pages of military genius Sun Tzu:
To begin by bluster, but afterwards to take fright at the enemy's numbers, shows a supreme lack of intelligence.

There's so much shame to go around in this sorry and sordid spectacle that it's hard to know where to start.

A lot of the blame has deservedly focused on Tony Hodges, the genius mastermind behind the plan to incite the tent embassy protesters by misrepresenting Abbott's words. There's a lot of questioning, as in all these cases, whether he acted alone, or whether other Labor Party figures were involved. Andrew Bolt has a number of questions for the PM, none of which I ( or likely he) expects to get an answer to.

Tim Blair nails the media, for repeating the false accusation that Tony Abbott had called for the embassy to be shut down, without bothering to even check the transcript of what he'd actually said. He focuses a lot on the fact that the protesters went off their trolley over statements that hadn't even been said, without bothering to investigate them first.

And while the actions of the Prime Minister's office are clearly despicable in terms of trying to ineptly foster racial antagonism in a weak attempt to embarrass the opposition, a subtler point seems to have gone less remarked on.  

A lot of people are focusing on the role of the Prime Minister in duping the tent embassy folks:
Territory Indigenous Affairs Minister Malarndirri McCarthy wants Prime Minister Julia Gillard to apologise for the Aboriginal tent embassy clashes in Canberra.
The former ABC journalist and newsreader says Julia Gillard should apologise to the nation, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and the tent embassy organisers.
Let's suppose that Abbott had actually called for the tent embassy to be shut down. I would still be equally outraged that this bunch of rabble thought that this was cause to violently mob the Prime Minister such that she needed to be evacuated by the police.

Let's replay the tape once more:
Who f ... ing cares? They’re not our heroes,” yelled one of the first tent embassy people to arrive.
Then, spotting the Opposition Leader, she screamed: “Tony Abbott, you f ... ing big-eared Dumbo c. .t”.
The whole assumption is that the tent embassy folks were so incensed by the alleged statements that they had no option but to act like a mob of violent scumbags, abusing heroic emergency services workers and physically attacking Australia's elected leaders.

The tent embassy folks aren't children. They aren't psychopaths on hair trigger alert. They're adults, and they're completely responsible for their disgusting actions. They aren't in a position to demand apologies from anyone. Their repulsive behavior is the absolute best evidence that the tent embassy should  be shut down, because it appears to be populated by dangerous and violent buffoons who think this kind of response is acceptable in a democracy.

Do you think the tent embassy folks appear to have realised the folly of their ways? Let's ask tent embassy founder Michael Anderson
Mr Anderson said he believed the protest incident outside the restaurant on Thursday was a set-up.
''Someone set us up. They set the prime minister up. They set Abbott up,'' he said.
''And they knew that feelings and emotions were running high here and I think they knew that reaction would occur.''
Mr Anderson said that person would face retribution under Aboriginal law.
''And whoever it was that really promoted that confrontation, we need to take them through the cleaners.
''And I'd like them to hand them back when they finish under White Man law, give him under our law so we can put him under our law as well.''
The 'someone set me up' line has been famously tried before as a defense for being a giant @$$hole, and it didn't work then either.  

Listen to this self-pitying fool. It's all a huge injustice against him and the rest of the tent embassy folks. Note the ridiculously self-serving obscuring of subject and object:
'And they knew that feelings and emotions were running high here and I think they knew that reaction would occur.
'That reaction would occur'. Not 'we acted like cretins and hooligans', but 'reactions would occur'. Another example of what Theodore Dalrymple aptly characterised as 'The Knife Went In'.
And whoever it was that really promoted that confrontation, we need to take them through the cleaners.
''And I'd like them to hand them back when they finish under White Man law, give him under our law so we can put him under our law as well.'
Screw off, Michael Anderson, you dishonest hack. The folks at the tent embassy are the ones that 'really promoted that confrontation'. I believe the words you're looking for are 'Tony Abbott, we're really sorry that we attacked you for no good reason.' Anything else you have to say without uttering that phrase is merely adding insult to injury.

If the only person who faces police scrutiny out of this whole mess is Tony Hodges, it will be a gross injustice. There was a whole media crew there. There's footage available. The laws for disorderly conduct are clear. Charge the lot of them.