Monday, December 19, 2005

More misc items... including just a little politics...

Geneticists are brewing plans for a collective effort, the Human Epigenome Project, that would map subtle changes in DNA that underlie diseases. As many as half of the genetic alterations that cause cancer, for example, may be "epigenetic" changes rather than mutations -- a small molecule simply latches on to DNA in a process called...

Over 20 million PCs worldwide are equipped with a security chip called the Trusted Platform Module, although it is as yet rarely activated. But once merchants and other online services begin to use it, the TPM will do something never before seen on the Internet: provide virtually fool proof verification that you are who you say you are. Some...

Researchers have managed to teach people suffering chronic pain to reduce their own discomfort simply by controlling their thoughts. Patients were able to reduce pain by about 50 percent by viewing real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging of the activity in their rostral anterior cingulate...

== Myths of Free Trade ==

Myths-of-free-tradeHere’s an excerpt from Myths of Free Trade By Sherrod Brown -- that shows that Smith was much more of a pragmatist than he was a purist-platonist ideologue.

As Adam Smith wrote in his 18th century book, "The Wealth of Nations," "When the regulation is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable — but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."

Smith advocated high wages as beneficial to employer and employee alike, and he advocated the abolition of slavery because “the work done by free men comes cheaper in the end than that performed by slaves.”

The distinguished American economist John Kenneth Galbraith said about "The Wealth of Nations:" “It is much celebrated by the ministry of the righteous right, few of whom have read it. “Were they to do so — disapproval of the corporate form, approval of a wealth tax — they would be greatly shocked.”

The elite’s interest, he wrote, “is never exactly the same with that of the public, who [the elite] have generally an interest to deceive — and even to oppress — the public.” Smith believed that his invisible hand could do great harm to a nation and its citizens “unless government takes great pains to prevent it.”


Finally, for those of you serious conservatives who are here to contemplate, with an open mind, a world of rapid change... consider dropping in at: Not your father’s Republican party 
The Claremont Institute


Anonymous said...

I'm intimately familiar with Smith's works, and frankly, while the standard presentation grossly misrepresents him, so does this representation.
Seriously though, for everyone who hasn't read it, Wealth of Nations should be the very next book you read. You can skip the bit on silver though.

Anonymous said...

A richer picture of what the "Trusted Computing" world might be like can be found at:

reason said...

I'm not intimately familiar with Smith's work, although I would like to read it. But I wouldn't have thought selectively quoting Eighteenth Century writers as though it was holy scripture was a progressive (sorry modernist) way to go about things. Some of his arguments will be sound, some not, some merely irrelevant.

Don Quijote said...

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Anonymous said...

The Claremont institute link seems to be broken.
I couldn't find wolfson in the site's author list
or years after 2003 in the site's date list.


Anonymous said...

relevant link

Rob said...

Good quote, Don Quixote. I think most people would engage in that quest, given the means and opportunity. Few indeed are the saints in this world who put the welfare of others above their own.

This is no time to be "taking a break from politics." The revelation of the American domestic spying program, its existence being kept secret for over a year by a major journalistic enterprise, and the attempts by the Bush Administration to prevent its revelation even now, seem to me to be of critical importance to our discussion of progressivism and enlightened modernity vs. authoritarian romanticism. The fact that perhaps we've already gone over the ground in question doesn't mean we should shrink from continuing to point out outrageous behavior whenever we see it.

Tony Fisk said...

It's called 'pacing yourself'. Take a breather or become stale.

Besides, I'd have thought that the revelations coming out now are a good time for a break: someone else is obviously doing the burrowing.

Quoth Brin (from kurzweilai):
"... the TPM will do something never before seen on the Internet: provide virtually fool proof verification that you are who you say you are. "

I wouldn't too sure of that. See this article in New Scientist on the cracking of MD5 and SHA1 hashing algorithms (by the chinese):

Having read Marcus Du Sautoy's 'Music of The Primes" (a surprisingly entertaining read, BTW), it becomes obvious that the most elaborate of encryption algorithms ultimately rely on 'security through obscurity'. It is assumed that nobody knows how to crack them, but there is no proof that they *are* uncrackable (ie mathematically 'hard'). Furthermore, Godel *did* prove that there are some things which cannot be proven
('unknown knowns': even Rummy couldn't come at that one!)

Finally, some "Good News for Modern Man":
"Judge rules against 'intelligent design' in class"

Anonymous said...

Bruce Sterling dug up an interesting speech on approaches to development in the third world:


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a computer programmer, this security standard is the scariest thing I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Flippity doo-dah,
My, oh, my what a wonderful day . . .

'Lobbyist Is Said to Discuss Plea and Testimony'

Published: December 21, 2005

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.

Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."'

Any chance Bush will pardon him first?

It's a strong possibility. Bush would pay a heavy political price, but Abramoff's testimony would decimate the G.O.P.

Now if only the $@#%@$#& Democrats would GET OFF THEIR ASS and come up with a viable alternative...

Rob Perkins said...

There's no political cost to Bush pardoning anyone. Therefore I think the chance is very high that pardons for guys like him will go out sooner or later.

The domestic spying thing will go noplace, is my prediction. The Bushies tried a minor step towards surveilling Americans without a warrant, if the communication crossed the international border.

Well, I take that back. The Times sat on the story for a year! And released it on a day when the Bushies could possibly claim good news in Iraq. I suspect a bias timing: It might get the Patriot Act sunsetted, which means that its timing (right before the Congress' holiday break and right during the Iraqi national election) is suspect to me. I think the people running the New York Times, in concert with whomever, timed the release of that report.

The piece, by the way, is outstanding journalism, in my opinion. It needed to be one page longer, though, explaining *why* the Bush Admin thought that kind of surveillance was legal.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the timing is fishy all right.

The question isn't why the NYTimes released the news now, it is why the news of this criminal act wasn't released before the 2004 election.

As to why it was released now, the LA Times reports:

Critics Question Timing of Surveillance Story
The New York Times, which knew about the secret wiretaps for more than a year, published because of a reporter's new book, sources say.

"By James Rainey, Times Staff Writer

The New York Times first debated publishing a story about secret eavesdropping on Americans as early as last fall, before the 2004 presidential election.

But the newspaper held the story for more than a year and only revealed the secret wiretaps last Friday, when it became apparent a book by one of its reporters was about to break the news, according to journalists familiar with the paper's internal discussions.",0,7619720.story?coll=la-home-headlines

If the White House was so convinced it was in the right, why did the president meet with the NYTimes editor and publisher on December 6th to plead with them to keep it under wraps?

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest
Jurist Concerned Bush Order Tainted Work of Secret Panel

"Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work."

From an April, 2004 speech by the president:

" Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

Schmuck. Putz. Liar.


Rob Perkins said...

So, then, two of several possible interpretations come out of the NYT timing, and your question is a very, very good one.

Possible motivations for doing it now:

The first is that they published when they did because they didn't want to be scooped. That's a deeply fundamental motivation for a news reporting agency. Scooping sells papers. "Old news" doesn't.

The second is that they went along to get along, meaning people within the Times *believed* the risk to national security Bush's people put to them. Or they were threatened with some kind of action against them. Whatever the motivations, the Times sat on a story because the President asked them to.

A combination of those two motivations leads to either a sinister characterization, that the Times waited on a story until it could do the most damage *without incriminating them*; news that's about to leak anyway isn't the fault of the first publisher.

Or, we consider that they wanted their best reporting out there first, as soon as it was known that the news would leak anyway. After all, they are certainly of the opinion that they have the best reporters.

In neither case can I suppose that the Times behaved like intrepid risk-taking newspersons.

That doesn't really sound to me like a hard-line anti-Republican editorial board, which is the case made by many a rightist demagogue against the New York Times.

You ask, "If the White House was so convinced it was in the right, why did the president meet with the NYTimes editor and publisher on December 6th to plead with them to keep it under wraps?"

One possible answer I can think of is that they actually had a way to monitor terrorists which they liked. Perhaps the line of surveillance was bearing fruit we wouldn't otherwise have had.

In any case, can you imagine how the Government might have prosecuted an *American* with unwarranted wiretap evidence? I can't! The judiciary wouldn't have stood for it.

And I do think this is gonna slip off the Bushies. It's such a narrow, legalistically rationalized breach that I expect the only thing possible is a slap on the wrist and a couple of lost lower-level careers.

jomama said...

But neither Smith nor Ricardo foresaw the mobility of capital.

Neither did Keynes. They weren't around in the 70s when capital started moving easily with a flick of a banker's finger, filling out a wire transfer.

And neither did any of the above-- and most others of their ilk in today's world--understand the effect of tax competition, something I believe will devastate the nation state when the guy on the street starts to find out how easy it is to move money.

macsnafu said...

Adam Smith might be considered "the father of economics", but as such, while he may have gotten a few things right, it's inevitable that he also got some things wrong. Many economists have come after him to "clean up", as it were. The problem with tariffs, for example, has been covered extensively.