Saturday, October 27. 2012
My latest op-ed at American Thinker:
For years, the press was filled with stories about how the U.S. had fallen behind Europe in wireless. A 1999 TIME article entitled "Why Your Cell Phone Stinks" boasted that Europeans routinely used their mobile phones to pay bills, make reservations, and share digital photos. Americans, meanwhile, were still catching up with Europeans in text messaging.
Read the rest here.
Monday, September 3. 2012
Some of the responses to Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment are equally ridiculous. The opinion editor for the Berkeley Political Review, Alex Kravitz, suggests that members of the Senate should have to pass an intelligence test before assuming office. Charles Johnson, who operates the once respectable Little Green Footballs blog, is stunned that Akin “managed to reach adulthood with a completely non-functioning brain” and upon learning that Akin is a member of the House Science and Technology committee advised his readers to “weep for America.”
No one disputes that what Akin said was silly, wrong, and offensive.
However, the idea that certain elected officials should have to pass an intelligence test is also silly, wrong, and offensive. It seems to me that many of the people who would support such a test are the same people who complained in the past that intelligence tests are biased. Plus, isn't there a risk that it would lead to an intelligence test for voters? (In that case, why bother having elections?)
Nor does Todd Akin’s comment disqualify him from the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The main purpose of the committee is not to determine the merit of scientific claims. It’s to discuss public policy and propose legislation.
Besides, even some of the greatest scientific minds in history embraced ideas that most people would consider irrational, stupid, or silly.
Isaac Newton, who discovered much of what is now considered the foundation of classical mechanics and who shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for inventing calculus, was intensely interested in alchemy and biblical prophecy. Though admirers point out that such ideas were commonplace in Newton’s day, there’s no getting around the fact that Newton devoted considerable time and effort to what were clearly occult ideas.
Oliver Lodge, who was one of the first to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves, was President of the Society for Psychical Research and fervently believed in telepathic communication between the living and the dead.
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, suggested that the seeds of life were planted on Earth by an extraterrestrial civilization—a theory known as “directed panspermia.” Though Crick opposed creationism, his own theory evaded the question of how life originated, passing the buck to space aliens.
William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor, warned that less intelligent people reproduce at a higher rate and that this was particularly a problem among blacks. Though Shockley shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics with colleagues John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, he seemed determined to offend people with his theory of race and intelligence.
Raymond Damadian, the principal inventor of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is a young earth creationist. Here is a man who believes that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old despite massive evidence to the contrary. Yet he not only understood the science underlying MRI, he built the first full-body magnetic resonance scanner. In my opinion, more in doubt is the intelligence of the committee that denied him a share in the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Some prefer to believe in a binary universe in which people are either consistently scientific or consistently unscientific. But that’s not how the world actually works. It’s not only possible to be scientific about some things and irrational about others—it’s rather common.
Thursday, August 23. 2012
My opinion piece at the Daily Caller:
Obamacare is an imminent threat to people with life-threatening medical conditions.Read the rest here.
Tuesday, January 24. 2012
An OpEd in today's Wall Street Journal by Stan Liebowitz on the recent SOPA/FIFA furor is spot on. Most of the opposition to SOPA/PIPA is misguided. The "free speech" argument originated with people who either oppose intellectual property rights or want to substantially weaken existing copyright law. If you really believe piracy (stealing) is wrong but that SOPA/PIPA are flawed, then suggest a better way to combat piracy.
Critics of these proposed laws claim that they are unnecessary and will lead to frivolous claims, reduce innovation and stifle free speech. Those are gross exaggerations. The same critics have been making these claims about every previous attempt to rein in piracy, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was called a draconian antipiracy measure at the time of its passage in 1998. As we all know, the DMCA did not kill the Internet, or even do any noticeable damage to freedom—or to pirates.
The OpEd is here.
Similarly, people such as Declan McCullagh make the argument that privacy demands are just a cover for squelching free speech. But keep this in mind: people are making money tracking you, selling advertising keywords to pirates, and even running ads on sites featuring pirated content. It's disingenuous to describe such activity as innocent free speech.
P.S.: See Scott Cleland's column about how Google led the fight against SOPA/PIPA. Google is masterful at skirting copyright and other IP laws as described in our book Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc.
Monday, August 29. 2011
My recent OpEd at American Thinker:
One of the few bright spots in the current economy is sales of smartphones, tablet computers, and e-readers. Led by three U.S. companies -- Apple, Google (Android), and Amazon -- the worldwide market for these gadgets is expected to reach $190 billion this year. Driving much of the growth is a rapidly expanding universe of "apps" that offer exciting new capabilities such as helping patients manage their diabetes and letting physicians pull up CT scans from any location.
Wednesday, December 22. 2010
The last 24 hours have seen a chorus of calls to abolish the FCC. In the FCC's press release on Net Neutrality, they indicate that wireless networks deserve a lighter touch because the Android operating system is open.
Even Net Neutrality supporters are scratching their heads. How could the openness of one device operating system among many, which has nothing to do with how wireless networks are designed and operated, and nothing to do with wireless carriers' business models, decide what rules to apply or not apply to wireless carriers?
It looks like Verizon and Google have done a masterful job lobbying the FCC. From Engadget:
I wonder what Microsoft and Apple think about this?
Tuesday, November 30. 2010
Republican Representative Eric Cantor said today that Republicans would keep two provisions of Obamacare: permitting children to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26 and prohibiting insurance companies from refusing coverage to patients with preexisting conditions. Cantor doesn't understand basic economics: forcing companies to offer unprofitable products destroys market efficiency and will only hurt consumers and health care providers in the long run. In fact, this idea is analogous to pressuring banks to issue high risk mortgages. How's that working out?
The following essay was originally posted on March 23, 2010 as a Facebook "note."
The preexisting condition exclusion is necessary to make health insurance work the way it works best. That doesn't mean that people with preexisting conditions should be left with no options. It just means that solutions for those with preexisting conditions should be provided separately from commercial health insurance. I'll explain in a moment.
Insurance is a great idea that we have corrupted. The original concept was that you pay a low recurring fee for protection against a relatively unlikely catastrophe. For example, homeowner's insurance will help you replace your home in the unlikely event that it is destroyed in a fire. By getting many people to buy this form of protection, insurance companies can give homeowners a sense of security, make big payouts to clients whose homes burn down, and still make a profit. Everybody wins.
Somewhere along the line we transformed health insurance into a magical third-party payer. Instead of paying a small recurring fee for protection from an unexpected major illness, we pay a large recurring fee and expect the insurance company, in exchange, to pay out more in benefits than it takes in. This reminds me of people who have tried to get me to work for them for free in exchange for "exposure." All people--including the owners and employees of insurance companies--deserve fair compensation for their work.
If insurance companies are required to provide immediate comprehensive coverage to everyone regardless of preexisting condition, then what motivation does the healthy consumer have to buy insurance? There is none. They can wait until they get sick, buy insurance, and then demand that the insurance company pay increasingly exorbitant bills.
There is an obvious way around this problem: force everyone to buy insurance. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford today's health insurance premiums, and forcing insurance companies to accept everyone regardless of risk drives up premiums for everyone. Couple that with limiting insurance companies' ability to raise premiums, and you have a formula for driving health insurance companies out of business.
It's no secret that some people want the federal government to become the sole insurance company--the "single payer" solution. I can only appeal to anyone who sees virtue in being somewhat skeptical to consider these points: a single provider insulated from competition will tend to be inefficient and ineffective; the easiest way for government to control costs is to limit access to expensive products and services; and an industry run by salaried officials is susceptible to favoritism and even corruption.
To fix the system, we need to accurately identify what's broken. Unfortunately, that is a hotly disputed--and expansive--topic. I'll just say that I believe the problems boil down to two primary causes. First, whether you like or don't like programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, such programs increase prices overall by adding bureaucracy and payment delays, and by limiting and denying benefits for specific services. Second, we have removed almost all of the direct consumer-provider interaction that forces providers to offer competitive prices. It's not just the politicians' fault--we have all acquiesced with this state of affairs.
Many states already have health insurance pools for people who cannot get commercial insurance at standard rates. When these plans were first conceived, state officials feared they would be overwhelmed with applicants for what is, in effect, subsidized health insurance. I don't claim to be an expert on this but the evidence I have seen suggests that many if not most of these plans have been under-subscribed.
The solution--if it's not too late--is to let private insurers and private health care providers do what they do best, and let government focus on those who can't get private insurance. For example, government could provide subsidized health insurance for people with genetic conditions--people who are born with "preexisting" conditions; government could step in to pay the costs of patients who incur extraordinary costs, such as children requiring liver transplants; and government could encourage taxpayers to establish health savings accounts so that more people can purchase lower cost (higher deductible) insurance plans. These steps would allow insurance companies to concentrate on providing affordable insurance to the maximum number of people, so that government can concentrate on making sure no one suffers because they can't pay.
Saturday, November 20. 2010
Friday, October 29. 2010
Betsy McCaughey on the Obama Health Law:
The Obama health law forces you to buy a one-size-fits-all health plan, whether you want it and can afford it or not, and expands the powers of the IRS to punish you for noncompliance. This violates your rights. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution permits this coercion. In fact, the 28 beautiful words of the Tenth Amendment prohibit it.
See also the page debunking the World Health Organization's claim that the U.S. ranks 37th in health care.
Saturday, October 16. 2010
The battle between the champions of individual freedom and the forces of authoritarian collectivism never ends. However, the battleground has largely shifted from the physical world to cyberspace.
In many ways, Friedrich Hayek anticipated the Internet. In his masterpiece, The Road to Serfdom, Hayek dissects the methods and objectives of socialism. He shows that centralized, top-down planning by experts can never achieve prosperity and inevitably leads to oppression. Hayek built on Ludwig von Mises' theory that constantly changing price signals are essential to the efficient allocation of resources; the “experts” can never possess the knowledge that is distributed among individual buyers and sellers. Plus, the only way that a central economic plan can be successfully implemented is by forcing everyone to obey. You can't have a central economic plan if there are people out there doing their own thing.
The Internet is like the free market. It succeeded as a decentralized, self-organized network. Experts in various specialties contributed to its growth, but there never was a master plan. In fact, the way in which the Internet succeeded and the scale of its success surprised everyone.
However, the forces of authoritarian collectivism don’t give up easily. In the physical world, they have tried both violent revolution and gradual reform to achieve their ends. In cyberspace, the two biggest threats are attempts to regulate the Internet (e.g., “net neutrality”) and a broader movement to limit or even abolish intellectual property rights (e.g., Eben Moglen’s The DotCommunist Manifesto).
The worrisome part is that the enemies of liberty have learned how to disguise their objectives through the clever use of language. Instead of admitting that they want to regulate the Internet they pretend that they are trying to preserve it. Instead of admitting that they want to abolish private intellectual property they pretend they are defending freedom of speech. For example, the Free Software Foundation says “To understand the concept, you should think of ‘free’ as in ‘free speech’, not as in ‘free beer’.”
That’s nonsense. Redistributing someone else’s creation without asking or paying for permission isn't free speech—it’s freeloading.
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