Can Republicans Rule?; Ransomware; Jobs in 40 years;

Thursday, June 29, 2017

You can spend your own money on yourself in which case quality and price are paramount. You can spend your money on others in which case price is paramount and quality less so. You can spend others money on you in which case you will have a fine lunch. Or you can spend other peoples money on other people in which case you have government.

Milton Friedman

If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.

Barrack Obamas

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Constitution of the United States. Article One, Section One


Immediately after the election I asked my friend Dr. David Friedman what advice he’d give to the incoming Trump administration. He said

“Unfortunately, the best advice I could give he can’t follow, politically speaking. That’s to declare unilateral free trade, the policy of Britain in the 19th century and Hong Kong in the 20th. That would not only be good for the country and set a good example for the world, it would eliminate the current practice of using free trade negotiations to pressure other countries to adopt policies popular with American voters in exchange for the agreement.

Beyond that, most of it is obvious. Support vouchers in D.C.. Get the education bureaucracy to stop pressuring universities to use a civil standard of proof in sexual accusation cases. Permit interstate health insurance sales.”

Since Republicans can’t rule, Trump is on his own; and while the series of trade agreements we have made under the last four administrations are often to the detriment of the United States, Trump is sort of on his own now; the Republicans can’t even repeal Obamacare although the promise to do so was probably the chief factor in their sweeping victory in 2016.

If Trump wants to be reelected – I wouldn’t blame him much if he said to hell with it – he needs an economic boom – and even if he has had enough of this madness, he certainly wants an economic boom – he might consider a number of options that the Republicans can’t deliver, but many of which can be accomplished with a phone and a pen, as President Obama showed with his anti-American Greatness agenda. Whether it’s true Free Trade or mostly so with some crucial industries deliberately protected by tariffs or even subsidies, it’s likely to produce a more favorable economic result than the odd hodgepodge of agreements we have now.

The same is true of many of our policies: they have been built over the years without much overall strategic thought – unless you count the “America ought to be ashamed of itself’ bias of the Obama Administration as a policy. Add to that such bizarre items as the transfer to Russia of American uranium (with predicable large donations to the Clinton Foundation and doubling the already outrageous Moscow speaking fees of Mr. Clinton), and there are many things done without the consent of Congress that can be changed or undone by phone and pen and which would have a positive effect on the economy. For the general population not living in California or New York and not beneficiaries of free stuff from the Obama cache, It’s The Economy, Stupid.

The problem is that Republicans can’t rule.

But Trump has a pen and he has a phone, and he is President of the United States.

Should Trump Abandon the GOP?

Donald Trump may separate himself from a party disabled by a permanent blocking minority.


Daniel Henninger

June 28, 2017 6:22 p.m. ET

In 2016, Donald Trump stood on debate stages and ran against a half-dozen Republicans in the party’s presidential primaries. He won. With his presidential victory came Republican control of the House and Senate, in part because of his coattails.

After Senate Republicans this week failed to move a bill to repeal and replace Obama Care, Mr. Trump must be asking himself: Why do I need these people?

Just now, that’s a good question.

If the congressional Republicans can’t do ObamaCare reform after years of chanting they would, what chance is there they’ll pull off the heavier lift of tax reform?

Mr. Trump has to be wondering whether he would be better off with his version of the Obama presidential model: govern by pen-and-phone executive order through the agencies he controls.[snip]

Of course he’s not the first person to have thought of that, nor will he be the last. The Republicans can’t govern, but as opposition they will permit others to govern. This is astounding, and must be frustrating to a large number of Republican Senators and Conngerssmembers who thought they were elected to serve the best interests of their constituents; but as Mr. Henninger says:

[snip] Some may say Mr. Trump and the Republicans will now take political ownership of the steady collapse of the ObamaCare exchanges. But he didn’t create these things; Congress did, and when voters elected a Congress to reform ObamaCare, it failed.

The press will dump full responsibility for this political nonfeasance on congressional Republicans, and voters will take it out on them in 2018. Health and Human Services can tinker with the failing ObamaCare exchanges, as it would have under Hillary Clinton anyway, and Mr. Trump can blame Congress for the residual mess. [snip]

[snip] Look who’s out front undermining Mr. Trump’s health-care reform: Ted Cruz, Rob Portman, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The nominal reasons each has given for opposing the reform don’t add up. What makes sense is compulsively ambitious Republican politicians positioning themselves to emerge from the rubble and run in 2020 against what they think will be a wounded president. They may end up with nothing but the rubble.

Reasons abound for the GOP’s rump opposition to spend the July 4 holiday rethinking what it is doing. But the biggest of all is this: After eight years of rule by progressive presidential decree, they are putting in motion four more years of centralizing power by a Republican president. The opposition may alter American government forever, but this couldn’t be further from what they intended.[snip]

It may not be what they intended, but it may be inevitable. These Republicans can’t govern; they were elected with the understanding that they would bring significant changes to the economy, in particular to Obamacare, and stop the exponential rising of the national debt; they can’t do it. Someone must.



Russian ‘Meddlin’

What gets me about all this “Russian ‘meddling/interference/collusion/influencing/etc.’ is what you get when you ask what, specifically, Russia allegedly did.
In neutral terms, the Russians allegedly acquired information that would tend to embarrass the Democrats, and persuade voters not to vote for Hillary C. They then allegedly released it. Some Russians also, allegedly, had contact with Trump, or people close to Trump and his campaign.
Assuming for the sake of argument that this is all true, SO WHAT? Putting out information about candidates that persuade people not to vote for them is normally known as “campaigning.” It’s not only a normal part of election campaigns, it’s damn near the whole of the public part of campaigns.
As for the ‘collusion’, the charge is so vague as to be meaningless. Are we to make it illegal to speak with any Russian national under any circumstances?
Still, as the fake news about Russia continues, the people get more and more disgusted with Washington. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

Stephen M. St. Onge


But we spent millions of dollars and used FBI time to investigate: there must be an indictable crime in there somewhere.




Scientists made an AI that can read minds – MSN News

Never mind the robot apocalypse jokes, just consider the possibilities for use in police investigations and criminal justice.  There will be lots of court cases defining where and how this can be used.

And for interrogations in tyrannies.

Scientists made an AI that can read minds

Tom Regan

Engadget – Engadget – Thu Jun 29 2017 13:14:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Whether it’s using AI to help organize a Lego collection or relying on an algorithm to protect our cities, deep learning neural networks seemingly become more impressive and complex each day.


As a graduate student in psychology I did some of the early work in developing polygraphs with Dr. Al Ax at the University of Washington. We didn’t read thoughts, but we did get physiological differentiation of fear and anger and other emotions – much as blushing has long been known to betray emotions, and wet hands another, etc.  It required skin and face temperatures and many other measures, and the difficulties were compounded by having to use vacuum tube amplifiers, transistor instrumentation hot having been developed yet.  (Indeed, a few years later at Boeing, I needed a wall of Boeing Engineering Analogue Computers to filter out electronic noise and get a readable electro cardiograph for out experiments with heat tolerance; at that time EKG was usually obtained from fully restrained subjects lying inert on a metal table, while we needed the EKG to monitor the health of an unrestrained astronaut in a 499F environment (with cooled oxygen of course).  


I don’t follow this work as closely as I’d like to, but in my experience physiological signals betray emotions, not thoughts, and actual reading of minds has never been accomplished.  Of course some of my stories like Oath of Fealty make use of implants that function as thought transfer devices, but that’s not the same thing. I wouldn’t panic yet.

Oath of  Fealty  






The Latest Ransomware

It is becoming evident that the latest ransomware attack, which cyber security researchers have named NotPetya because it is similar to, but not the same as the older Petya code, is not a botched attempt at making money, but rather a direct economic attack aimed pretty squarely at the Ukraine (“Cyber-attack was about data and not money, say experts”, and the businesses that do business with the Ukraine.
This attack is also the first to use compromised software update services to spread itself, a development I have been awaiting for a long time. Such services are trusted and are granted direct access to remote systems through the software being updated. Imagine what will happen when Microsoft’s update systems are finally compromised.
It will be somewhat akin to what happened to Apple about a year ago — it was discovered that someone had managed to get a compromised version of Apple’s own Objective C development system posted onto Apple’s software store. Legitimate software companies used the compromised development system to unknowingly create thousands of virus laden applications, which Apple then sold to their trusting user community. Apple users were being attacked from the inside.
Such attacks bring the trust in all traffic on the internet into question, which may well presage the end of the internet itself.

: Kevin

It appears to have mutated. I continue to operate, but with misgivings. There are apparently other precautions that work.


The virus, which researchers are calling GoldenEye or Petya, began its spread on Tuesday in Ukraine. It infected machines of visitors to a local news site and computers downloading tainted updates of a popular tax accounting package, according to national police and cyber experts.


This morning Norton said it has protected me from this.  I presume it is true.




> Eugenics consisted of encouraging bright students to marry earlier,
> thus increasing the number of bright people.
You may remember me from my time at St. Mary of the Angels. I certainly remember you.
I have decided to remain a bachelor for my entire life, denying women the ability to divorce me, and take half my wealth. I have not found a woman worthy of marriage. It is too risky.
My IQ is about 152. So I have purposely decreased the number of bright people in the world.
I am not the only bright person to have done so. Perhaps you should have something to say about how the family courts in the English speaking world are dysgenic.
For me, I don’t care. We reap what we sow. And we have sowed horribly as a culture. We richly deserve what is coming to us.


Any comment would be superfluous.





Dear Jerry –

You quoted a “competent friend” as saying

“Chernobyl is currently running in manual mode with retired operators who are already riddled with cancer from the first melt-down. The fact the US news media is continuing their ‘All Trump Bash All the Time’ is proof they have not a fucking clue about what’s important.
Repeat: Chernobyl’s entire computer system is crashed and it is running in MANUAL MODE with retired operators who are the only ones who know how to keep it from melting down.

Umm. Jerry?

Do you really think Chernobyl is still operating?  Really?


Jim Martin

I have no idea of what residual activities go on at Chernobyl, nor do I care enough to find out. The statements about Chernobyl were in mail sent to someone else and then sent it on to my friend, and he included it all; as did I, it being unimportant to the actual message. As I said, I have not shut down their computer operations, nor have I advised anyone else to; I did think it worth alerting readers the turmoil this is causing. I certainly would not be astonished to learn that there are residual cleanup operations going on there; I would not expect any useful activities since about a quarter of its radioactive inventory was disseminated out the flu.

You all presumably know that a positive void reactor – which Chernobyl was – cannot by law be licensed or built in the United States under any circumstances; Ed Teller personally saw that written into law. The Chernobyl disaster was a result of operator error during nuclear weapons grade item manufacture, not of any power generation operations.


Jerry, a quick bit of research on this new, pernicious blob of malware shows that it’s based on Yet Another Vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.

If so, I’m sure that Microsoft is doing everything it can to patch this issue and get the patch out to the public as quickly as possible.

However, it also suggests an obvious way to keep yourself safe: don’t keep any important data on computers running Windows or at least, make regular backups to a non-Microsoft computer. And, to be even safer, make sure that the backups are run from that computer, and that your workstations do not have write-access to it. This way, even if your main box gets infected, it can only encrypt their own copies of the files. And, as any properly-written backup system keeps multiple copies, you’re safe, even if the most recent copy is mangled. (The system I use, BackInTime, uses links to back up files that haven’t changed, saving considerable space. It only makes a new copy when the file changes, and the old copy will still be there if needed.) Please note that I’m not suggesting that anybody switch their system over to Linux, because not everybody is comfortable with the idea of learning a new OS, just that they use it for their backup server.


I fear I do not go to those lengths either, but I do not blame those who do.

New computer virus spreads from Ukraine to disrupt world business | Reuters


The global ransomware epidemic is just getting started

WannaCry should have been a major warning to the world about ransomware. Then the GoldenEye strain of Petya ransomware arrived. What’s next?


June 28, 2017 7:21 AM PDT

Thousands of computers around the world are getting locked up by a fast-spreading ransomware. Big businesses are getting hit. An entire hospital is shut out of its system. Suddenly, it’s everywhere: the next big ransomware attack.

Here we go again. And again and again and again and again.

GoldenEye, a new strain of the Petya ransomware, took the world by storm on Tuesday after starting with a cyberattack in Kiev, Ukraine. From there, it spread to the country’s electrical grid, airport and government offices. At the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, workers had to monitor radiation manually because of the attack. And then it began to go global.

Russia’s largest oil production company, Rosneft, suffered a cyberattack. Denmark-based Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, had to shut down several of its systems to prevent the attack from spreading. New Jersey-based Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, also suffered a massive hack. FedEx’s TNT Express service was hit hard from the breach as well.

The list of affected victims goes on, just like it did when the WannaCry ransomware hit in May and locked up more than 200,000 computers across the globe.

It only took 44 days for GoldenEye to stare us down. 

Ransomware has been around for years but generally only targeted individual networks, like a single hospital or person. But after the Shadow Brokers hacker group leaked National Security Agency exploits in April, cybercriminals were handed a much more dangerous weapon. [snip]

There is considerably more detail in the article. The threat is serious, and some strains propagate out of control.



What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Read this to prepare your future

Jobs won’t entirely disappear; many will simply be redefined. But people will likely lack new skillsets required for new roles and be out of work anyway

[snip] “In the past, reports of the death of human jobs have often been greatly exaggerated, and technology has created a lot more jobs than it has wiped out. It’s called the “Luddite Fallacy”, in reference to the 19th century group of textile workers who smashed the new weaving machinery that made their skills redundant. Further, in the last 60 years automation has only eliminated one occupation: elevator operators.[snip]

Yet some jobs are doomed. And Teamsters no longer need to know about oxen or mules…



‘It was as if the Bureau and Justice Department intentionally waited to pounce until Trump was in power — which meant that any misstatement could now be framed as a false representation by the sitting president.’


[snip] No fewer than seven veteran Times reporters contributed to the story, the Gray Lady having dedicated more resources to undermining the Trump administration than the Republican Congress has to advancing Trump’s agenda. Remarkably, none of the able journalists appears to have asked a screamingly obvious question — a question that would have been driving press coverage had an Obama administration operative been in the Bureau’s hot seat. On what basis was the FBI investigating General Flynn?

To predicate an investigation under FBI guidelines, there must be good-faith suspicion that (a) a federal crime has been or is being committed, (b) there is a threat to American national security, or (c) there is an opportunity to collect foreign intelligence relevant to a priority established by the executive branch. These categories frequently overlap — e.g., a terrorist will typically commit several crimes in a plot that threatens national security, and when captured he will be a source of foreign intelligence. Categories (a) and (b) are self-explanatory.

It is category (c), intelligence collection, that is most pertinent to our consideration of Flynn. At first blush, this category seems limitless: unmooring government investigators from the constraints that normally confine their intrusions on our liberty (e.g., snooping, search warrants, interrogations) to situations in which there is real reason to suspect unlawful or dangerous activity. Intelligence collection, after all, is just the gathering of information that can be refined into a reliable basis for decisions by policymakers. As we shall see, it is not limitless. But we should understand why it needs to be broad. Most people think of the FBI as a federal police department that does gumshoe detective work, albeit at a high level and with peerless forensic capabilities. That, indeed, is how I thought of the FBI for my first eight years as a federal prosecutor, before I began investigating terrorism cases and became acquainted with the FBI’s night job. Turns out the FBI’s house has a whole other wing, separate and apart from its criminal-investigation division. [snip]


Sometimes mail comes in that I don’t get to and after a while it is buried under more mail, etc. This has been around long enough:

Better living through neurochemistry
I’d just like to offer a few comments on the article on the brain mapping of aggression that Joshua Jordan provided a link to.
I’ve done a lot of reading and study in this area, and it seems as though there is little that is new or unexpected in the results of this study, at least as reported. I generally try to plow through the original (often obscurely and ambiguously worded) texts, tables, and graphs of the original published studies, and even there I typically find many unaddressed points and dubious presumptions.
As noted in the article, the ability of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus to generate new neurons via epigenetic unlocking mechanisms is now well established, contravening the dogma of over 50 years that the adult brain and nervous systems in general have no regenerative powers. And even though most of the test and “sacrifice” studies, have understandably been done on rats, and inferences regarding human brains have had to be more tenuous and indirect (using some of the advanced modern imaging techniques for estimating dynamic changes in hippocampal size with learning activities, and supplementing this data with post-mortem autopsies on both intact and lesioned brains), at least one clever experiment, Spalding et al., Dynamics of Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Adult Humans, Cell(6Jun2013) 153:1219-1227, has convincingly inferred that whereas only about 10% of mouse dentate gyrus cells are turned over (old cells dying and being replace with new cells during adulthood), with humans the turnover ratio is about 100%.
Because this is by far the most dynamic area of the brain in terms of rewiring capability, figuring out exactly what the hippocampus is doing is of crucial importance in coming up with a theory of how the mind works. It has been known for many decades that the hippocampus as a whole was they key structure for encoding long term memories from recently formed ones, and it has been more recently established that it also plays an important, but perhaps more nebulous role in memory retrieval. Since it was discovered (less than 20 years ago, I believe) that the hippocampus uniquely had regenerative capability (at least in rats), that structure has also been thought to mediate the mental function of spatial mapping, not only in rats, but also in humans, because when the special black cab London taxi drivers undertook to memorize the directions to over ten thousands local streets and landmarks, their hippocampi swelled proportionately, according to fMRI studies of these cabbies brains. I don’t know whether there are any other fans out there of Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, but I presume the hippocampi of Mississippi River pilots developed in the same way as they memorized the locations of every bar, snag, and bend in the river for up to 1000 miles.
But if the hippocampus is really that crucial in dynamic mental mapping on a large scale, surely it’s not confined just to spatial mapping. I think this this is an overly restrictive view of its function predicated on the fact that most of the rat and mouse studies involve maze learning, and that the study of the London cabbies was prompted by the desire to find a human analogue of maze running. I think that the hippocampus is where all general mental patterns, models, metaphors, and the like are laid down, constituting sort of a high-level structural organization of long term memory in general, and that the overall role of the hippocampus is to mediate all higher-level organized thought, by matching present patterns and structures to the organized patterns that we’ve each built up in our minds over the years.
The hippocampus is very widely connected, not only to a main input channel from the frontal lobes, where we juggle present contents of consciousness, but also via both inputs and outputs to the lower-order subcortical structures that constitute the animal brain that we have in common with all the “lower” creatures, and among other such structures it is connected to the amygdala. Until recently, and for, probably, most neuroscientists including the authors of the present study, the amygdala has seen as kind of the CPU for our emotional lives, but a relatively recent book, The Archeaology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions (2012), by Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven, a summing up based on many decades of research on the subcortical structures by a handful of pioneers like Panksepp, makes it clear that all of our emotion-driven behaviors emanate instead from a set of mapped out subcortical systems, one for each of the major emotional systems that Panksepp and colleagues have christened: Seeking, Fear, Rage, Lust, Care, Panic/Grief, and Play. The amygdala appears to be a kind of integrative center at the apex of this subcortical pyramid, which acts as a liason with the programs of the higher cortical brain. The amygdala is thus, not a generator of emotional behaviors, but it plays a crucial role in learned emotive behavior, particularly those associated with Fear and Rage, but the expression of these behaviors is likely to be complicated in any given instance both by the affectual outputs of several of the subcortical emotion-generating systems, and by the inhibitory influences of the higher brain, especially the dorsolateral areas of the frontal lobes, which, though more pronounced in humans are also at work in other animals.
In short, any conclusions based on animal behaviors that don’t take account of all of these systems working together (and most cognitive scientists know little and care less about the subcortical systems, in part because they aren’t as easily studied by fMRI methods, but mostly because they are stuck in their own obsolete paradigm, are highly dubious.
I also happen to know of another factor that probably contaminated this study: earlier replicated studies have shown that the hippocampi of rats and mice (and perhaps also humans) become enlarged (with more new neurons being created in the dentate gyrus) simply from exercise, and my image of angry, aggressive, and even fighting rats, certainly suggests that the animals in this study were subject to prolonged physiological arousal and activity, which could by itself account for some of the measured effects, independent of the motivating affect.
I would like to second Mr. Jordan’s call for the substitution of sports for wars (and the elimination of the sports wars we’ve been fighting ever since the fall of the Soviet Union). In fact, as I think he also suggests, most of the aggressive impulsee that we (especially males) are prone to build up over the course of our hours and days, can be effectively and harmlessly (indeed, even beneficially) dissipated merely through vigorous exercise. For the animals Panksepp and company have studied, which include humans, both FEAR and RAGE are experienced largely as aversive affectual states, and the overt behaviors they stimulate are ways of discharging these negative emotions. A much better idea is to discharge such emotions in a way that generates the self-rewarding endorphins that lead to positive affective feelings, and that have the side benefits of improving the oxygen processing efficiency of our brains any body, and of significantly increasing (particularly in humans) the generation of new pattern-recognizing neurons in the hippocampus – a process, incidentally, that continues into old age.
John B. Robb




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.



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