The Flip Side of Technological Progress …

One of our e-mail correspondents sent us the cartoons depicted below, a humorous look on a subject public awareness of which has grown quite a bit in recent years. Modern electronic communication is great, and it is amazing that the market economy has made advanced devices such as smart phones accessible to the masses, but sometimes one cannot shake the impression that people have become enslaved by all the gadgets that have become indispensable accoutrements of modern-day existence. In fact, you will learn below who’s really in charge…:)

We do sometimes wonder how people would react if the power were to go out one day …


image001Important fairy tale questions have to be rephrased …

Cartoon by Stahler


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Japan’s Ministry of Defense Not Letting its Guard Down

Back in 2007, Japanese politicians were beginning to ponder how to defend the country against invading green men from neighboring star systems within the framework of the country’s pacifist constitution. Apparently a thorny issue, but at least the ministry of defense was on the case.



Hi there! (artist impression of a space alien from the Rigel II system)


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Artful Rada Brawl Composition

The Ukrainian Rada (parliament) is well known for frequently erupting in brawls, which are often reflecting the country’s West/East divisions. Via, comes a photograph of one of these brawls that is characterized by an excellent sense of composition, reminiscent of a renaissance painting.

Everything in the photograph is perfectly aligned along a Fibonacci spiral, a.k.a. the “golden spiral”, which is constructed from quarter-circles tangent to the interior of Fibonacci squares arranged in a rectangular array as depicted below:



A “golden rectangle” composed of an array of squares with sides of the length of the Fibonacci sequence. By connecting up quarter-circles tangent to each square, a “golden spiral” can be constructed.


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Happy Holidays!

We wish all our readers happy holidays and a prosperous and healthy new year. As we announced last week, the blog will go on a one week hiatus over the holidays until year end – unless something especially noteworthy happens that requires immediate comment (asteroid strike, Greek presidential election going awry, etc.).

We also want to extend a special thank you to all readers who have helped us with our funding drive over the past week – we are greatly honored by your generosity.




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An Unlikely Story

Readers may recall that some time ago, we profiled a few of North Korea’s army installations as well as its formidable navy (see “A Paucity of Enemies” for details). The entire planet has reportedly been transfixed in mute terror since we published the photographs of the North Korea’s dangerous wooden row-boats and its 20HP hi-tech central command vessel on which Kim Jong-Un and a number of people with terrifyingly big hats were sharing a Dr. Evil laugh.

On the same occasion, we also showed what we at the time believed to be North Korea’s only computer, complete with its made-in-China cable drum:


kim's computerNorth Korea’s wheeled super-computer (the DPRK equivalent of NORAD), surrounded by seven of the estimated 1,000 North Koreans with internet access.

Photo credit: KCNA / Reuters


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Creator of Stammered Works Becomes EU’s Red Tape Whacker

The European Commission seems to be serious about wanting to cut some of the mountain of red tape it has imposed over the years. Only a truly giant weed-whacker can be expected to do the job. In our paperless age, it would probably be best if someone just walked past their servers with a very big magnet.

Anyway, Reuters informs us that JC Juncker has found the right man for the job: former Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber. We have previously remarked that jobs in the EU are sinecures for political has-beens, and one might at first suspect that to be the case here as well. However, Stoiber actually does appear to be qualified for the task – at the very least, he seems well prepared for it and comes equipped with the proper mindset.


“European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appointed Germany’s Edmund Stoiber as special adviser on better regulation on Thursday, to help the EU executive fight over-regulation and red tape.

Stoiber, a former premier of the German state of Bavaria who sought to become German chancellor in 2002, has for the past seven years chaired a group advising the Commission on administrative burdens and on how to make EU law simpler and cheaper.

In October, he proposed exempting small- and medium-sized firms from a wide range of business rules with a “bonfire of red tape” aimed at reversing a public perception of Brussels as a “bureaucratic monster”.

“EU citizens need the EU to focus on where it can make a real difference to their lives, not to interfere in every detail. EU businesses need the space to innovate and grow, not get tied up in red tape,” Juncker said in a statement

Stoiber will work closely with Juncker’s deputy, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is also charged with improving regulation.


(emphasis added)

We must admit, the fact that the EU hires a guy who has accused it of being a “bureaucratic monster” for the express purpose of cutting down on unnecessary EU regulations is a positive surprise for once.

JC Juncker himself apparently seems eager to establish his anti-bureaucratic credentials as well: this is not the first time he has made remarks to this effect. A little while ago he thundered that he was “not the leader of some gang of bureaucrats” when Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi complained about Brussels interfering too much with Italy’s budgetary plans.

Naturally, we were dismissive of this claim, given the fact that bureaucracy and politics are deeply intertwined in Brussels (this is to say, most European politicians are often at the same time bureaucrats, i.e., they have usually been life-long employees of the State).


stoiberStoiber (right) meets Juncker. Will red tape really be cut? We are waiting with bated breath.

Photo credit: Stephanie Lecocq / EPA

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Pictures of Commissar Öttinger as a Young Man Discovered

One of our readers has done some detective work and has found out who the EU’s digital commissar was when he was young. It seems he has undergone a name change, because in an earlier life, he was known as “Beavis”. Judge for yourself:

Exhibit A) Öttinger now:



Photo credit: DPA


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Jonathan Gruber Spawns Hashtags and Hilarious Videos

As a little addendum to our recent look at the arrogant, but surprisingly honest (in unguarded moments) government advisor Jonathan Gruber, we would note that he has by now spawned numerous Twitter hashtags. These range from the simple #Gruber, to #GruberGate, to #Grubered.

The latter specifically has probably a very good chance of becoming a widely used figure of speech (see conclusion for a practical application).


In addition, people have become busy putting together videos, making liberal use of the fact-checking powers of the inter-tubes. What have politicians said about Mr. Gruber in the past and what are they saying about him now?

Examples of then: “He’s one of the best outside experts”, “…using super-duper computer models and helping the CBO”, “Most respected economist”, etc.

Examples of “now”: “Don’t know who he is. He never helped us write any bill.” “Some outside advisor, he never worked on our staff.” “I completely disagree with him”, “Errr….aaah”, etc.

Here is an especially hilarious example of these videos that we felt we had to share with our readers:


Fun with GruberGate


Something bothered us when seeing and hearing the president assert that Gruber “expressed an opinion that…err…I comletely disagree with…wrrrs…in term of, of the voters…”. A quick Google search of “how to spot when someone is lying” yields several indications that he didn’t really mean it, chiefly among them “change of head position”, “difficulty of actually speaking”, “repetitiveness”, “standing very still”, “having an answer for everything”, “not making eye contact”, “odd micro-expressions”, “pointing a lot” (note how Mr. Obama attempts to suppress this reflex but is still pointing up with his thumbs at the decisive moment).

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A Sclerotic Economy, Missed Deficit Targets, and now A Wave of Clown Threats to Boot …

France is evidently dogged by bad luck these days. After having elected a completely clueless socialist welfare statist as president, who has done his level best to run the economy into the ground, the country is now facing a sudden infestation by evil clowns. In fact, there seems to be a “wave of clown threats”. Luckily the forces of law and order are on the case:


“The party is over for a fake clown who received a six-month suspended jail term Monday for threatening passers-by while in full circus garb, a disturbing trend terrifying towns in northern France.

Whether brandishing a rubber chicken at a children’s party or starring as the evil protagonist in a horror film, clowns have long had both the ability to entertain and terrify.

This fear of clowns, dubbed coulrophobia, has swept small towns in Pas-de-Calais in northern France where police report a wave of complaints over people dressed up as the tricksters and threatening passers-by.

A 19-year-old young man was arrested on Friday after waving a stick resembling a long knife while chasing a group of teenagers, who had to seek refuge in a chip stand. He was also sentenced to 105 hours of community service and banned from carrying a weapon for five years. After receiving some 20 calls on Friday, police took to social networks to warn citizens to be aware of the trend.

Using fake weapons these “clowns” have been “mostly spotted outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, in a square. Their targets are often young children or teenagers, but also adults,” a police source told AFP. “They take their inspiration from American horror movies,” the source said, adding that the trend appeared to have started from a Facebook challenge.

The wave of clown threats even prompted the region’s local government representative Denis Robin to take to his official Facebook page to condemn “these misdemeanours”.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that children are held hostage by such acts,” he said, warning that those guilty of using weapons could face three years in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros.”


(emphasis added)

Clearly, this unconscionable brandishing of rubber chickens at children’s parties needs to be stopped ASAP. Adding to the dangers France is facing by allowing evil clowns to go on the rampage is definitely one bridge too far.


rubber-chicken-1This rubber-chicken brandishing apparition may well appear harmless at first glance …

(Youtube screenshot)

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It’s Actually a Good Idea …

Russian government spokesmen were slightly perplexed when Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbot announced that he intended to “shirt-front” Russia’s president Putin on occasion of an upcoming G 20 meeting in Brisbane. Abbott is a former amateur boxer, who actually once knocked out his treasurer, but he may not be aware that Putin has a black belt in Judo:


“Prime Minister Tony Abbott intends to have a one-on-one meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a summit of the world’s 20 biggest economies in Brisbane next month to demand Russian cooperation with a Dutch-led investigation into the shooting down of a Malaysia airliner in Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists with the loss of 298 lives in July.

Abbott told reporters on Monday he was “going to shirtfront Mr. Putin,” using an Australian Rules Football term for a head-on shoulder charge to an opponent’s chest aimed at knocking the opponent backward to the ground.

Abbott is an athletic 56-year-old former amateur boxer who famously punched his Treasurer Joe Hockey unconscious when they were both Sydney University students decades ago. Putin is a 62-year-old former KGB officer and judo black belt.

Alexander Odoevski, third secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canberra, described Abbott’s threat as unhelpful.

“We consider the recent statements tough talk; we consider it immature,” Odoevski told Australian Associated Press.

“Hopefully there’s no fight. Well, definitely we admire the Australian prime minister. He’s very fit, but the Russian president, he’s a professional judo wrestler,” Odoevski told Ten Network television.


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Protesting in Their Birthday Suits

In France, everybody goes on strike now and then. Only entrepreneurs seem to be an eternal exemption, although they have more reason to strike than anyone else, given the forsaken retro-socialistic environment in which they are forced to muddle on. Going Galt anyone? It would be high time, if only to send a signal, but of course entrepreneurs are bearing risks, so this would be a difficult thing for most of them to do.

Anyway, everybody else in France does go on strike now and again, and this time  nude models have decided to remain clothed – no, strike that, they didn't keep their clothes on actually. Mind that these are models for painters, art students and the like, not Playboy bunnies or employees of the Titty Twister. They have a certain advantage: by striking naked, they have managed to attract a lot of attention (including ours).


nudes strikeNude models go on strike in Paris.

(Photo: AP)


So what is it all about? As the Daily Beast reports, the models are temp workers, and although they get a minimum wage of €15/hr. (which strikes us as fairly generous actually, but then again, life in Paris isn't exactly cheap), they have a number of gripes, as their temp status means they don't enjoy many of the other protections France's convoluted code du travail bestows on employees (you can read about this bizarre and economy-destroying piece of legislation that has permanently raised France's level of institutional unemployment to truly shameful levels in a previous article: “France's Sacred Labor Code”)

They do have one complaint which we believe has great merit: the government has simply banned the tradition of the 'cornet' – a tip jar that they used to pass around after finishing a modeling session. The reason for this ban is typical statist tripe, quite disgusting actually. Supposedly, the government “cannot allow people to collect untaxed income in a public building”.


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The Search for Excuses

Recently yours truly and a few friends considered what excuses might be presented next time economic data come in 'weaker than expected'. The  exchange was motivated by a recent article on Zerohedge regarding Goldman Sachs, which is beginning to lower its overly ambitious economic growth forecasts once again (this time the 3.9%!!! predicted for Q2), as well as another article published at Marketwatch, on the economic forecast of Morgan Stanley economist Ted Wieseman. According to Wieseman, the extreme winter weather hasn't 'derailed' the US economy in Q1, although the weak performance forces him to cut his growth forecast for the whole year. Otherwise  his feet remain firmly planted in the consensus camp: 'escape velocity' is within our grasp!


“The cold and wet winter set the U.S. economy back, but it didn’t knock it off the rails, according to Ted Wieseman, an economist for Morgan Stanley and the winner of the April Forecaster of the Month award from MarketWatch.”


In spite of the fact that he has won the 'forecaster of the month' award in April, we are not inclined to accept his forecast for the rest of the year as holy writ just yet. After all, 'just you wait for the second half!' has been the battle cry for the past five years, and yet here we are, still stuck in the 'weakest recovery of the entire post WW2 era'. Apparently, economists are not considering the enormous structural damage the economy has suffered due to unprecedented monetary pumping by the Fed.

In the course of the above mentioned bantering, a number of possible excuses for future 'misses' were proposed, such as:

Memorial Day,  heatwave, euro depreciation, yuan depreciation, yen depreciation, yen appreciation, high rates, low rates, leaving early for summer holidays (because the economy is booming so can take more leisure). Also mentioned were lunar eclipse, and of course, 'El Nino'.


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