Apple Still Won’t Help the FBI Break Into iPhones. Good.

That’s the title of an Opinion Piece published in Bloomberg News.

There are two important lessons in this week’s announcement that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has finally succeeded in cracking two mobile phones belonging to Mohammed Alshamrani, the aviation student who killed three people last December at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida.

The first lesson is that cracking an encrypted device takes time and effort even when the federal government brings all its resources to bear. The second is that Apple still refuses to build tools to make hacking its mobile devices easier.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’m happy about both.

RTFA. Stephen Carter makes a decent – albeit flawed – case for the first lesson. I’ll stick with his support for the second on principle.

The flaw? He thinks the cost of resources required to hack into anyone’s phone is prohibitive and, therefore, self-limiting. We have government agencies that gleefully waste billion$ on anachronistic military devices, pet projects for totally anal politicians, self-congratulatory research on regulations premised upon moving this nation in just about any direction but forward. Don’t count on wasting money as a problem.

Increasing Number of Psychiatrists challenge the “Goldwater Rule”

❝ Do psychiatrists who question the mental state of President Donald Trump have a professional or personal obligation to speak out if they fear his words and actions endanger the nation?

That question prompted a packed and sometimes heated panel discussion…during the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association here. The answer for many, including some prominent members of the profession, was a resounding “yes.”

❝ But a 1973 APA policy known as the Goldwater Rule tells them they can’t — not without conducting an examination of the man and receiving proper authorization or consent — lest they be found guilty of unethical behavior, face professional rebuke, and ultimately, get themselves kicked out of the association…

❝ But many in the room disagreed. Some called the Goldwater Rule nothing more than a “gag” rule, a violation of their right to free speech, especially during these particularly tempestuous first months of the administration. They want the APA to eliminate the rule, or seriously modify it, because they need to be “liberated” to speak out about the clear signs and symptoms they’re trained to recognize, and which they believe suggest the president could lead the nation into an unnecessary war.

Regardless of personal convictions – mine certainly are strong and open – the article is a good read. An historic examination of a topic critical to medical disciplines and public freedoms.

Consumer survey explains how pollsters don’t understand why Clinton will win the election

A new question added to the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers could turn out to be more accurate than ordinary opinion polls in predicting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

In June and July, respondents to the monthly survey were asked who they expected to become the next president — rather than who they intended to vote for. The results belie the horse-race nature of the campaign that’s being implied by most polls of voter intent.

58 percent of the households surveyed by the University of Michigan said they thought Hillary Clinton would emerge victorious, relative to just 37 percent for the real estate and reality TV mogul Trump. That presents a very different picture to aggregations of voter intention; as is shown by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which has Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency at 53.3 percent versus Donald Trump at 46.7 percent.

A report published by Ludwig Maximilians University Research Fellow Andreas Graefe in 2014 found that asking voters who they think will win has proved a better crystal ball than asking them which candidate they themselves are likely to support.

“Across the last 100 days prior to each of the seven U.S. presidential elections from 1988 to 2012, expectations provided more accurate forecasts of election winners and the final vote shares,” he wrote, relative to benchmark methods like intention polls, prediction markets, expert judgments, and quantitative models. “Gains in accuracy were particularly large compared to intention polls: on average, expectations reduced the error of intentions by more than half.”

Wonder how many professional pollsters will take note of this finding?

The sequester is just as destructive as we thought


Congress-louse Hal Rogers (R-KY) pretends he had no idea there would be airport delays

Remember the sequester? When seven weeks ago the deadline to find a federal budget compromise came and went, there was much handwringing in Washington. In the event that no agreement was found there were to be cuts to public spending so severe and painful that no one would dare fail to agree. To deter Republicans from holding out, half the immediate spending savings of $85.4 billion was to be found from the defense budget, and, to ensure Democrats would work to find a deal, half from annually funded federal programs. Despite these encouragements to fiscal discipline, the March 1 deadline came and went.

…This week the sequester broke surface when it began affecting air travel, causing long delays at airports, which is to be expected when you send 1,500 air traffic controllers home without pay. One in 10 controllers will stay at home on unpaid leave every day until October. With the vacation season looming, crowded airports full of frustrated passengers will become commonplace…

Postponing medical research sounds victimless, but it is not if you are among those helped when a new drug comes onstream. It is impossible to list those who will miss new treatments by a year or so but will continue suffering, or even die, as a consequence of the delay. More easy to picture are the thousands of cancer patients being turned away from hospitals because of the cuts. For a cancer center on Long Island, that means not administering the most expensive drugs and telling one-third of its 16,000 patients on Medicare it will no longer treat them…

So far, the sequester appears to have pleased no one, except perhaps those fiscal hawks who agree to anything so long as the federal government is shrunk. The cuts are blind, irrational, hastily arranged, uncaring, arbitrary and dangerous. They are to good economic management what chain-saw sculpture is to Michelangelo’s David…

Although the federal government is reluctant to put a GDP figure on the cost of Hurricane Sandy, it and anticipation of the sequester drove American growth in the final quarter of 2012 into the red for the first time in 14 months. Even with Sandy, growth dropped by just 0.1 percent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the sequester alone will cost 0.6 percent in GDP this year. The cuts are not merely the enemy of good economic management but an automatic depressant upon the nation’s economic health.

weak lawmakers, true to form, are hoping to avoid having to make a decision by busily trying to exempt their pet projects and favorite causes from the sequester. The list of those lobbying to be taken off the hit list includes the homeland security department, drug and pharmaceutical companies, and medical equipment suppliers. But money saved on exemptions must be made up by cuts to other federal programs, only increasing the agony.

It is a mark of how dysfunctional Congress has become that even the failed bipartisan negotiations over gun control count as an optimistic sign that other matters, such as defanging the sequester, could be fixed through negotiation and compromise. Until that happens, we must impotently watch as essential government services slow down and seize up, and as Americans, particularly those at the bottom of the heap, cry out in pain.

Wapshott finished the original piece with a snappy remark about air traffic delays. But, we cynics got what we expected – an emergency bill sorting the lack of air traffic controllers. Too many hacks in business class were delayed. Sufficient threat to politicos anticipating those donations from corporations-as-individuals.

And so it goes. A temporary solution designed to force intransigent Republicans and gutless Democrats into conflict resolution – once again – didn’t comprehend the capacity of Washington slime to gestate a new mutant strain of corruption.

Why do you like what I like, but I don’t like what you like?

When we like a product, do we think others will like it, too? And when we believe others like a product, do we like it as well? A new study…says these two questions are fundamentally different.

“The answer to the first question (Will others like it?) requires people to start with their own product preferences, which we call projection,” write authors Caglar Irmak (University of South Carolina), Beth Vallen (Loyola University), and Sankar Sen (Baruch College). The second question (If others like it, do I?) makes people think first about others’ preferences and then decide whether they like the product or not, which is called “introjection.”

“We show that different psychological processes underlie projection and introjection,” the authors write. “In particular, we demonstrate that providing our own opinion about a product before thinking about others’ preferences, as in projection, affirms one’s unique concept.” This, in turn, weakens uniqueness motivations and leads consumers to predict others will like what they themselves like.

On the other hand, thinking about others’ preferences before our own (introjection) threatens our sense of uniqueness. “As a result, those who are in high need for uniqueness don’t like what other people like,” the authors explain…

If we learn others’ preferences before forming our own, we tend to preserve our uniqueness by altering our product preferences accordingly,” the authors write. “If, however, we already have an opinion about a product, we are okay with others following us.”

Uh, OK.

Ed Rollins advises Republicans, “Don’t go to war over Sotomayor”


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Almost everybody cheers for the underdog — maybe not those born to upper-class standing with great advantages, but those of us who weren’t always want the little guy to be victorious.

We want hard work and extra effort to be rewarded. Standing at the front of the East Room of the White House Tuesday morning were two Americans who clearly had started life as underdogs.

One is now our president, son of a Kenyan. The other is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who is about to sit on the highest court in the land. Both were born without privilege. Both were raised in households with little cash, but much love. Both were raised by strong, devoted mothers who worked hard to support them.

Both were encouraged that through hard work and education they could go beyond the boundaries of their environment and their class. Somehow the flame of ambition was lit and both became outstanding students who didn’t need affirmative action programs to get to the top of their class.

Both are extraordinary role models for the next generation of Americans and both will be historic figures. And the important thing is that both President Obama and Judge Sonia Sotomayor never forgot where they came from or the people who helped them move forward to such heights.

It was a day to make all Americans proud.

Continue reading

Number of Northern Ireland terrorists is tiny

Police say the number of republican dissidents trying to wreck the Northern Ireland peace process is about 300.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde told the BBC that intelligence clearly showed the numbers intent on violence was a tiny proportion of the population. His comments came after three members of the security forces were killed in two separate attacks one week ago.

Nine people have now been arrested over the murders of a policeman in Craigavon and two soldiers in Antrim.

Det Supt Farrar said the killers had made an unsuccessful attempt to burn-out the getaway car after the murders. “As a result, we now have a number of forensic opportunities that we are exploring,” he said.

Sir Hugh told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “Of course, the threat is very dangerous, that’s been evidenced in the last week, but it’s a very small group. “Three hundred people in a population of 1.7 million people puts it in perspective but it’s a threat we take seriously.

A small number of nutballs can still endanger very many law-abiding citizens. The KKK proved that in America.

As long as unity in peaceful political processes can be maintained by the major parties, life and change will proceed in all of Ireland.

Forming an opinion about stem cell research? Religious? Don’t let facts get in the way!

When forming attitudes about embryonic stem cell research, people are influenced by a number of things. But understanding science plays a negligible role for many people.

More knowledge is good – everybody is on the same page about that. But will that knowledge necessarily help build support for the science?” says Dietram Scheufele. “The data show that no, it doesn’t. It does for some groups, but definitely not for others.”

Along with Dominique Brossard and Shirley Ho, Scheufele used national public opinion research to analyze how public attitudes are formed about controversial scientific issues such as nanotechnology and stem cells. What they have found again and again is that knowledge is much less important than other factors, such as religious values or deference to scientific authority.

“Highly religious audiences are different from less religious audiences. They are looking for different things, bringing different things to the table,” explains Scheufele. “It is not about providing religious audiences with more scientific information. In fact, many of them are already highly informed about stem cell research, so more information makes little difference in terms of influencing public support. And that’s not good or bad. That’s just what the data show.”

On the other hand, a value system held by a much smaller portion of the American public works in just the opposite direction. The attitudes of individuals who are deferential to science – who tend to trust scientists and their work – are influenced by their level of scientific understanding.

I’m only surprised by how polite the authors managed to be.