TCS Daily : July 2002 Archives

Hungry For Help

Africa seems to suffer from two crises: a food crisis and an HIV/AIDS crisis. Closer scrutiny reveals they are symptoms of the same political sickness. Africa accounts for 70% of the global population of people infected with HIV/AIDS and 80%... Read More

LoJacking Samantha

Goodbye, Samantha Runnion. We never knew her at all, at least not when she was alive. The little girl's tragic death taught us lessons about the horrors that have been folded into modern life, about the sick psyches that hide... Read More

The Happiest Warrior

The other day a reporter from the Los Angeles Times called me to discuss a story he was working on about conventional wisdom. He knew TCS to be a repository of some of the best alternative wisdom on the web.... Read More

Research and Risks

In last week's column about nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other advanced technologies, I wrote, "Trying to stand still might well prove the most dangerous course of action." This may seem surprising. But experience suggests that it's true. For an academic proj Read More

The Super Market

In an environment of congratulatory back-slapping in Washington Tuesday morning, President Bush signed a new piece of legislation designed to reduce corporate accounting fraud and reward companies and CEOs who are transparent and above reproach. The problem is that Read More

Fear Factor

Clinical research is the branch of medical science where the discoveries of the laboratory meet the realities of the human body -- and no other discipline stirs as much anxiety and ambivalence in the public's mind. On one hand, everyone... Read More

The Ends of Life?

Suppose that a doctor is present at a drowning. The patient isn't breathing and there's no pulse, but she was pulled out only a couple minutes after going under. But instead of issuing CPR and attempting to revive her, he... Read More

Monkey See, Terrorist Do?

If recent cutting edge research and experimentation is any indicator, our telekinetic future may be closer than we think. At least, some of our enemies seem to think so. Back in the November 2000 issue of Nature magazine, a group... Read More

Un-bear-able Deals

For years, Grant's Interest Rate Observer was noteworthy for being both exceptionally witty and consistently wrong. Times have changed. The newsletter, edited by James Grant, who has written wonderful books on such topics as the life of Bernard Baruch and... Read More

Whither Wi-Fi?

With apologies to Stephen Sills and Buffalo Springfield, but there's something happenin' in the world of telecommunications, but what it is ain't exactly clear. Yet. Some major players are now getting behind a technology called Wi-Fi, short for Wireless Fidelity,.. Read More

To Russia, With Love

It's hard to break the habits of a lifetime. We become too used to them, and so engrossed in their comforting familiarity that change strikes us as abnormal, even frightening. This is true whether the habit is physical or mental.... Read More

A Populist Philippic

The year is 1990. George Bush is cruising to a seemingly inevitable 2nd term as Washington debates a land war in the Middle East. And "Republican" political commentator Kevin Phillips had a book out, "The Politics of Rich and Poor,"... Read More

Terrorized by Numbers

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been marred by many casualties on both sides. Between the start of the second Intifada almost two years ago and the end of June, the war had killed 561 Israelis and 1,499 Palestinians. But a new... Read More

Retributive Justice

"We will not rest until the cheats and the chiselers and the charlatans spend a large chunk of their lives behind the bars of a Federal prison," President Bush said Friday. It's about time. I don't know about you, but... Read More

European Enron?

What do the proposed European Commission directive for trading CO2 emissions credits and the current malaise affecting American corporate life have in common? The answer is that both have their roots in the "creative" application of financial instruments and both.. Read More

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Did you ever think an ear of corn would save your life? Or that eating bananas might protect you from hepatitis B or save millions of children in underdeveloped countries from a deadly form of diarrhea? Welcome to the wonderful... Read More

Dying to See the Outcome

As most people are now aware, there is in this country a severe and growing shortage of cadaveric human organs available for transplantation. Every year, for at least the past 30 years, the number of patients needing an organ transplant... Read More

Red & Blue Feud Resumes

LOS ANGELES -- Like a lot of people, I spent the days after the 2000 presidential election blinking incomprehensibly at that remarkable Red-Blue electoral map of the Polarized States of America. It's still up on my office wall, complete with... Read More

Next Time, Don't Blink

The saga of John Walker Lindh's legal battles came to an end last week with Lindh pleading guilty to two of the government's ten counts against him, and agreeing to serve what will probably amount to 20 years in prison... Read More

Great Alaskan Shootout

Alaska's surface pitches and yaws as the temperature bubbles above and below, freezing and thawing as it has been for millennia. The land, ice and ecosystem respond to those temperature swings. In 1976-77, Alaska's average surface temperature jumped up and... Read More

Dumb Mobs

Howard Rheingold, a leading chronicler of the phenomenon of community on the Internet, has entitled his forthcoming book, Smart Mobs. It describes the power that Internet technology gives people to gather into swarms suddenly and spontaneously. However, he cautions Read More

Women Beware

Editor's note: The Environmental Working Group and other such activists must be feeling pretty smug this week, as regulators from the Food and Drug Administration sit cooped up in a suburban Maryland hotel reviewing, for three days, their own brand... Read More

Unfogging the Future

Sometimes the federal government does something right. And I have proof. The proof is in this report on future technologies, now available in a pre-publication PDF version. (Warning: huge PDF file; broadband connection, or great patience, recommended.) The report, Read More

Sunny Cali-fear-nia

Fears over the alleged catastrophic effects due to man-made greenhouse gases continues to terrorize Californians. Assembly Bill 1058, authored by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Woodland Hills), and signed by Gov. Gray Davis "instructs" the California Air Resources Bo Read More

California's Dreaming

Things are about to get ugly in California. And we don't mean the worsening situation surrounding the egregious MTV chronicle of the Ozzie Osbourne family or the shocking revelations surrounding the depraved murder of little Samantha Runnuin by the current... Read More

Chicken Little, Redux

At this time of national questioning about the economy and foreign policy, it's critical to recognize a simple truth about U.S. national security policy. Resolve - even, or especially, in the face of harsh criticism - can pay off handsomely.... Read More

Tales of the Hyperspectral

A technology that has roots in the civilian space program is turning out to be highly relevant to national security and the war on terrorism. This technology is hyperspectral imaging. As the name implies, it is well-suited for perceiving things... Read More

Your Money For Your Life

As the stock market falls for the third straight year -- something that hasn't happened since 1941 -- I get asked three questions: 1. When will it end? 2. Why is it happening? 3. What should I do? The third... Read More

Relax, We're Winning

A recent survey found only one in three Americans think the US is winning the war on terror. But what do most Americans consider a victory? Most likely, it's the confirmed death of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden is just... Read More

Just Ask the Experts

In 2001 the National Science Foundation surveyed 1,500 people nationwide and found that 77% believed that "increased carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere will, if unchecked, lead to global warming ..." Yet half of those polled believed... Read More

One Coin, Two Sides

Apocaplypse is not my line of business, but it only takes a glance at the headlines to understand that humanity is doomed. In fact, we are dead already but haven't taken the time to notice. Everyday, we are told that... Read More

More Drugs, Less Crime?

Drug czar John P. Walters, writing in last Friday's Wall Street Journal (link for Journal subscribers only), argued that legalizing drugs would not reduce America's crime problem, and would add a public health problem on top. Some academics, on the... Read More

Railroaded to Nowhere

Mass transit accounts for only about one percent of travel in the U.S. But the American Public Transit Association, the national lobbying organization for transit agencies, recommends America increase transit use ten-fold to match European levels. The result, accor Read More

Preventing Armageddon

How does one tangibilize the intangible? That is, how does one get people to think about something that has not happened-or more precisely, has not happened in a long time? That's the challenge faced by folks who, for example, want... Read More

Teaching Anti-Economics

Economics is: a) about balancing your checkbook. b) the study of how capitalists exploit the poor and rape the earth. c) not very nice. d) dismal. Just as environmental science is no longer taught as science, high school economics turns... Read More

A Dogged Silence

The American and British media in their coverage of genetically modified crops lately have acted much like the dog in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story "Silver Blaze." The tale is about a racehorse that disappears from his paddock, with his... Read More

Tomorrow's News, Yesterday

WASHINGTON, November 1, 2002 - The midterm elections are over. The Republicans retained the House and retook the Senate. And Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo is not -- I repeat -- not dead. Americans don't go to the polls for another... Read More

Lean 'n' Mean

In conflicts from Afghanistan to Kosovo to the Gulf War, there's been no mistaking the fact that the U.S. wages war more effectively than ever, with fewer soldiers than ever. It's no surprise, therefore, that the Pentagon sees the coming... Read More

'By Any Means Necessary'

There's an old maxim in moral philosophy that says, "the ends never justify the means." Of course, lots of utilitarians think that is so much moral posturing and nonsense. They proffer hypothetical arguments to debunk that maxim, such as: "If... Read More

What's at Stake in Jo'burg

At the end of August, up to sixty thousand people are expected to descend on Johannesburg, South Africa, for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. This leviathan jamboree organised by the United Nations was originally intended as a follow-up to... Read More

Dust Off the Yugos

California leads the world again, but in a peculiar way. Those who fumed, giving off greenhouse gases (GHGs) through their ears when President Bush said he wouldn't ratify the Kyoto Treaty, now have something to cheer about in the Golden... Read More

Technology Needs TPA

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are abuzz because there's finally hope that a bill to grant the President greater authority to negotiate international free-trade agreements might actually pass. Freer trade will stimulate the economy and help poorer countries, so it's Read More

Diminishing Sovereignty

Maybe it sounds like a good idea: a global regulatory body for a global economy. That's the latest suggestion floating around the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) a Paris-based group of thirty industrialized countries. The OECD is known. Read More

Reform Follies

Democrats and Republicans are agitating for new laws and regulatory regimes, claiming that such "reforms" are the only way to prevent future Enrons, Global Crossings, WorldComs and ImClones. However, this headlong rush for new regulations-in the midst of an electio Read More

Where Now, Nuclear?

When the Senate voted on July 9 by a 60-39 vote to approve of the Yucca Mountain site as a repository for highly radioactive nuclear waste, the scene was deja vu for Bennett Johnston. As the former Louisiana Senator told... Read More

When Wonks Attack

Democrats, eager to campaign this fall on the premise that Republicans are planning to shred Social Security, think they received intellectual ammunition in June. Two economists-Peter Diamond of MIT and Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution-issued a study argui Read More

Transformation Needed

Earlier this summer, Defense News ran an article that highlights the need for military transformation, especially in the area of procurement. The story was about the Navy's controversial decision to award a $3 billion contract for the next generation of... Read More

Private Parts

My earlier column on the benefits of cyborgization led to a thoughtful letter from blogger Susanna Cornett. Cornett wrote that she was fine with the idea of an implantable "body computer" that would keep her healthy, but worried about who... Read More

Moore's Bailiff

At Longbets, people make long term forecasts, and they put their money where their mouths are. Andy Chapman, founder of Narad Networks, which offers broadband software for cable companies, predicts that at least one local telephone company will require a... Read More

The Mobile Web

Millions of people already telecommute from home. But if people like Arturo Pereyra, general manager of WiFi Metro, Inc. have their way, they soon can telecommute -- or do homework, chat online, send e-mail, or about anything else you can... Read More

Cloning, Dignity and Politics

Man is a political animal. It is in his nature to care about what the neighbors are doing, and to compel their behavior even in cases where it doesn't directly affect him. Not all such compulsions are justifiable, but neither... Read More

Cable's Future

BRUSSELS -- A recent bid by Norwegian telecoms company Telenor for French TV company Canal Plus's Scandinavian division seems to go against the grain of current activity in the European cable market. This is because industry observers have interpreted the... Read More

Up, Up and Away

America's stock market has lost a fifth of its value since mid-March, and shares in other countries haven't done much better. But on Wednesday, while the Dow Jones industrial average was falling 283 points, 87 stocks on the three major... Read More

A Good Occupation

The assassination of Afghani Vice President Haji Abdur Qadir in broad daylight has cast doubt on the ability of peacekeeping forces to protect key ministers. Indeed, it has bought into question whether the Turkish-led peacekeeping forces are accomplishing anything Read More

Life at the Margins

In August 2000, Nicholas Markowitz, 15, was kidnapped in a Los Angeles suburb, held for several days, and then murdered by a group of men who had grown up with Markowitz' older brother. The larger motives for this crime remain... Read More

Governors vs. the Constitution

New England's Governors will travel to Quebec this summer and likely sign an agreement with Eastern Canada's premiers to essentially implement the Kyoto Protocol's caps on carbon dioxide. Last year the group adopted climate change action plans agreeing to implement Read More

Compulsory Entertainment?

Big Media, we have ways of making you entertain us. Napster failed to achieve a working business model in the face of record company opposition to online file sharing. But sharing -- the record companies call it piracy -- lives... Read More

Ready for Prime Time

News that the Russian Duma is planning to restrict Internet activities for anti-government and "extremist" opposition forces raised concerns from Western observers. Both CNET and the Christian Science Monitor were quick to hint that the new draft bill ("Draft on... Read More

School's In For Summer

Throughout the history of the battle over school vouchers, two primary obstacles stood in the way of their implementation across the country. The first was and is the obstinacy of the teachers' unions, which put the job security of their... Read More

Stop Sleuthing

Debate now rages over how much, and how well, the FBI nabs criminals and preempts terrorist attacks. But there's scant debate over how much, and how wastefully, the FBI and related agencies investigate accomplished Americans asked to serve in government.... Read More

Digital Apartheid?

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has declared the "digital divide" to be "one of the single most important issues that will determine the destiny of the American people" and the Rev. Jesse Jackson has called it a "classic form of apartheid."... Read More

Beware the Scandal Mongers

History is something that you can use, or abuse. And in the political scuffling going on over the WorldCom scandal, there's a lot of abuse of it going on. The key question in the WorldCom mess is how to improve... Read More

Human Popsicles

Might our grandchildren watch Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams hit .400 again like our parents and grandparents did back in 1941? Don't laugh, it might happen. How? Through the amazing, but obviously still unproven, science of cryonics. Cryonics... Read More

Ted's Excellent Adventure

The great slugger Ted Williams is apparently reaching more than mere Baseball Hall of Fame immortality. Woody Allen once said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying." Unfortunately for Ted... Read More

Bush's Climate Echo

The Bush administration tried to defend its policies on climate change on Capitol Hill yesterday and failed spectacularly. Sitting before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Glenn Hubbard, the Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Read More

'Greenpeace Go Home'?

OSLO -- A majority in the Finish parliament recently allowed a fifth nuclear reactor to be built. The Green Party has left the broad-based government as a result. But in the streets of Helsinki demonstrators held banners with the somewhat... Read More

'I Don't Want Any Spam'

Many Internet users, especially parents, are concerned about the growing problem of unsolicited commercial e-mail, otherwise known as spam. Legislation and technology are proposed solutions, but they won't be successful. Happily, the problem is easier than it looks Read More

Supply-Side Irony

XO communications is seeking bankruptcy protection; Williams is doing the same, as is MacLeod, Ltd. Qwest is in trouble. Adelphia is starting to miss interest payments, and Banc of America Securities has gone on a downgrading binge this week, lowering... Read More

Let the Sun Shine In

Editor's note: This article is the third in a series. In our last installment we discussed solar energy -- directly converting sunlight to electricity by the use of devices called photovoltaic cells. These cells can be arrayed in panels to... Read More

The Ankle Biters

Empathy for our travails on 9/11 has fallen. Resentment over American arrogance and unilateralism is rising. What can we say to Arab and European leaders now attacking us for evils ranging from opting out of the Kyoto accord and the... Read More

Punish Monopolists,
Not Consumers

"We have the right network - built for the explosive demand for high-speed data and Internet services - the right talent, and the right strategy at the right time." So said a confident WorldCom CEO, Bernie Ebbers, on Sept. 15,... Read More

Improves Lives

I went scuba diving last week, in the Cayman Islands. Like most divers, I use a dive computer that tracks how long I remain at various depths and pressures, and then use that to calculate how much nitrogen is dissolved... Read More

The Blob?

In the old horror movie "The Blob" a gelatinous mass of goo expands to enormous size consuming everything in its path. For many Americans, the Blob provides an effective conceptual model of the European Union. To them, it is a... Read More

Reckless 'Abandon'

A World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study, to be released today, warns that over-consumption will force human colonization of other planets within fifty years unless it is curtailed immediately. The WWF report warns that the seas will become emptied of fish,... Read More


BRUSSELS -- After years of pandering to fear of genetically modified crops in the European media, protected farm interests and green groups, it is difficult for the European Union to backtrack and claim to support GM crop production and the... Read More

Have Your Cake

Let's be clear. The best place for long-term investors to put their money is a diversified portfolio of stocks. Period. Still, these are frightening times, and investors are searching for sensible alternatives. This week, I'll discuss several decent choices and... Read More

...Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Are newspapers walking their last mile, doomed to a slow death after a couple of centuries during which they influenced so much of our politics and culture? Many experts, both inside and outside the media, say yes, and even the... Read More

The Real World

They fit the profile perfectly. He was balding, in his early fifties with a salt and pepper beard and a wispy ponytail that struggled for authority. She was roughly the same age, lank-haired and sporting only a dash of makeup... Read More

The News of
My Death...

The newspaper business is going to die within the next twenty years. Newspaper publishing will continue, but only as a philanthropic venture. On Friday, June 28, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto appeared at a conference called "Inside the Blogosphere."... Read More

Sex Still Sells

"Sex sells" has been an axiom in the advertising industry since the bikini first made its way onto the TV screen. Yet media buyers got a rude awakening last week when a new study claimed to find that programs with... Read More

Ensuring 'Global Strike'

While all eyes are on President Bush's proposed homeland security department, a far more slick entity is poised to change radically the way the United States defends itself. Far above homeland security on the technological food chain will be the... Read More

Gold for a Golden Era

We are on the cusp of an era of healthcare discovery and innovation that will rival the information technology revolution of the past thirty years. In comparison to what the future portends, the dramatic advances we have witnessed in the... Read More

Frankly Disappointing

For those of you who have been following the debates over biotechnology, perhaps the only thing you want to read less than another article by biotech critic Frank Fukuyama is another article about Frank Fukuyama. So, at the risk of... Read More

Competition Cure-All

Not long ago, I'll admit that I was one of the people worried about a broadband "crisis" - not enough Americans with high-speed connections to the Internet. But over the past year and a half, broadband has boomed. I would... Read More

Who's 'Serious About Peace'?

"I don't have any use for Saddam Hussein. But I think you have to ask yourself in what order do we have to do this. [Hussein] has no missiles to put warheads on that could reach us.... [Even the Kuwaitis]... Read More

How Europe Can Help Africa

The recent G8 meeting in Canada resulted in a $6 billion aid offer and a load of advice on good governance and open markets. It seems not to have warmed African hearts too much. Should Africans focus on the billions... Read More

A Just Peace

Immediately prior to President Bush's June 24th statement on the Middle East, the pundit class was almost unanimous in its belief-and in many cases, fear-that the President was prepared to call for an interim Palestinian state without any corresponding concessions. Read More

Liberty and the Arab World

The 4th of July prompts reflections on democracy. As we celebrate our national holiday, we Americans, as a people, assert that there are "certain inalienable rights -- among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," which apply to all... Read More

Democrats Against Democracy

The California Legislature, controlled by Democrats, just pulled a stunt that makes the corporate bigwigs of Enron, WorldCom and Global Crossing look like pikers. Last Friday, Democrats in the legislature hijacked an innocuous piece of legislation entitled Assembly Read More

Away From Rationality

The European Union took yet another step away from the rational regulation of genetically modified crop plants and foods last week, when it became the 22nd party to formally ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Although it has been heralded... Read More

Darwin's Dangerous Diet

Conservatives say it's sloth that makes you fat. Liberals say that it's urban sprawl that makes you fat. Public health crusaders say that it's the evil fast-food industry that makes you fat. Most physicians are stuck in the 1940s and... Read More

E.T., Phone Glenn

Searching for extraterrestrial intelligence is a popular sport. It's even one that can be played at home -- and is, by millions of total users. Radio telescopes listen across the sky, while computers, big and small, process the results in... Read More

Will It Stop Raining?

These are the times that try investors' souls. But they are also the times that offer investors opportunities they may never see again. As Warren Buffett, the best investor of the 20th century, once put it, "Be fearful when others... Read More

Blood and Soil

OSLO -- In May the prominent Dutch rightwing populist Pim Fortuyn was shot to death. The suspected perpetrator is an animal rights activist. This marks the first high-profile murder committed by radical environmentalists in Europe. Sadly, it will probably not... Read More

A CEO Cries Wolf

In US Airways' in-flight magazine, Attaché, exiting company Chairman Stephen Wolf opines in his last column about the "troubling issues facing mankind." Among the most frightening? Global warming from human effects. Wolf discusses a handful of limited weather event Read More

Latte Levy

Seattle is one of the more meddlesome, taxophilic cities in the U.S. - so much so that the Seattle Times last year threatened to split town if the city bureaucracy didn't back off and if the government didn't reform itself.... Read More

Needed: Promise Keepers

In a late June decision that passed by almost entirely without notice, the Federal Communications Commission decided to let Verizon get away with yet another broken promise. Verizon had asked the FCC to count $150 million it spent on Northpoint... Read More

Denmark's Red-Ink Wind

It's all too easy to criticize the press for distortions and confusions. Almost all of us have done this at one time or another. Usually, however, the press is reporting some news that we don't like, rather than garbling it... Read More

Urban Warfare

As we've seen with the recent Crusader debate, the Pentagon is awash with talk about military transformation. An important part of that debate goes beyond transformation, however, and into a concept called "4GW" -- (4th Generation Warfare). And in this... Read More

First, Do No Harm

Eight years ago, working on the public offering of the Salt Lake City-based biotechnology company Myriad Genetics, I thought I found the next Microsoft. Myriad was the discoverer of BRCA1, the so-called breast cancer gene, which left women who harbored... Read More

The Kids Are All Wrong?

Over a third of American college students would dodge the draft if it were instituted today and most think that Western and American culture are no better than Arab or Islamic culture. That was the media focus from a new... Read More

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