TCS Daily : November 2002 Archives

Hard Science

In 1897, at the behest of a crank mathematician, the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill proclaiming that the value of pi was 9.2376 rather than the true value of 3.14159. In the face-off between man's laws and... Read More

A Better Way

WASHINGTON - Addressing the potential threat of climate change requires a different approach from the one chosen by policymakers in the European Union. Our allies in the EU are moving toward implementation of the Kyoto Protocol at great peril to... Read More

This Medieval Rule

In the face of the current economic malaise Europe's stability pact loses friends. Rising public deficits are tempting Europe's Finance Ministers to loosen its public deficit ceiling (3% of GDP). Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, recently stat Read More

'Nothing to Fear'

Acceptance of genetically-modified foods - in theory, at least - continues to grow among Europe's political leaders, but the mixed messages sent by the European Commission and EU member states will make public support more difficult to encourage. This love-hate... Read More

Too Much Information

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which deserves credit for having invented the Internet, is now engaged on another ambitious project-one which may very well be significantly less popular or effective. DARPA is seeking to put flesh on the... Read More

Understanding Petroleum

Two questions nag America's energy policy. First, when will America move from fossil fuels? Second, what is the next source of BTUs? No one knows the answers - but knowledgeable people agree the shift won't come soon. Aside from temporary... Read More

The Swedish Invasion

"We want to produce the soundtrack to the ongoing war against capitalism." That's the creed of Sweden's new garage band The (International) Noise Conspiracy. They're avowed socialists, to the point of caricature. A comically self-indulgent manifesto posted on the b Read More

Boosting Defense

Last week was a milestone for our homeland security. No, not because of passing a bill - but because of passing a test. That's the test for effective protection against the vilest leaders in the world launching the vilest weapons... Read More

Time for a Drug Binge?

In turbulent times, tastes typically turn to the tried and true. For instance, investors usually flee volatile stocks in favor of shares in the big drug companies, which keep churning out good profits, whatever the economic conditions. After all, people... Read More

Quorn Flakes

If you think Tony Soprano is one bad dude, you'll love the hit man of the food activism underworld, Michael Jacobson. He's the Capo di tutti capi of the so-called Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and... Read More

Mr. Smith Leaves Washington

When the U.S. Senate reconvenes in January, it will be without Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire). Smith, who lost the 2002 Republican primary to now Sen.-elect John Sununu, was not a particularly high-profile player on the national stage. (His brief run... Read More

Pulling a Fast One

I once attended a lecture about cholesterol in which the lecturer, a cardiologist, claimed (without any substantiation) that eating a Happy Meal from McDonald's was the biological equivalent of smoking two cigarettes. New York attorney Samuel Hirsch must have atten Read More

Loss of Prestige

The shipping business is in the dock again after the break up of the oil tanker Prestige off the north west coast of Spain triggered a predictable knee-jerk reaction from politicians, labor leaders and environmentalists looking for instant scapegoats. The... Read More

Falling Prey to Science Fiction

Michael Crichton's new novel, Prey, revolves around nanotechnology. As is typical with Crichton's work, it's a cautionary tale in which a badly planned technological development gets out of control. This has produced some mild criticism, along the lines of Janet... Read More

'Apollo Program' for Energy

When business mixes with environment, public-relations stunts and cynicism abound. Many companies talk big but do little. Others shamelessly and fruitlessly pander to extreme groups that hate the free-market system. But a few businesses - very few - get serious.... Read More

Heart of the Matter

Recent news coverage of research about heart disease beat the drums a little too loudly. To begin with, NBC News correspondent Robert Bazell reported on a study about a new test for coronary heart disease on November 14. The test,... Read More

Jesus Is Just Alright With Me

Here I am poring over my New Testament in total frustration. Nowhere can I find any references to "SUV's", although according to a group called the Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign, Jesus Christ is somehow involved. Surely they cannot be... Read More

Battling Bioterror

One of the few nice things about getting shot at is that you know when you're being attacked. With biological strikes, there's no such luxury. Agents like anthrax can make you deadly ill before you're even aware of the assault.... Read More

Shut Your MOUT!

In my inaugural TCS column, I discussed the potential logistical obstacles that stood in the way of an invasion of Iraq if they were not addressed. Happily, those concerns now appear to be solved. But for the naysayers, there is... Read More

Catching 'Little Bugs'

"Once more from the top, this time with sensing." That could be the new slogan of United Nations weapons inspectors who have been hyping the sensors and other new technologies they've acquired in the hopes they'll detect Saddam's weapons of... Read More

Post-Colonial Oppression

What my colleagues Chistopher DeMuth and Steven Hayward have christened "romantic environmentalism" - the view that protecting the environment must override all other concerns - emerged as a big loser at the giant U.N. Earth Summit in Johannesburg during September. Read More

Realizing FDR's Vision

Editor's note: This is the third part in a three-part series on political structures and political reform. "In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, noncontributory old-age pensions for those... Read More

Echelon on Uppers

Recently the most popular web site on the Internet boldly displayed a picture of the dollar bill all-knowing Pyramid thingie linked to a New York Times opinion piece warning of horrors to come via DARPA. In case you don't know,... Read More

Tiny Troubles

Editor's note: An excerpt from a new paper on nanotechnology. Some might suggest regulating research in nanotechnology because it may lead to knowledge that they would rather not have, as Bill Joy argues. Such regulation is unlikely to succeed, not... Read More

A Peerless Technology

When we look back years from now at technologies that have changed and influenced our daily lives we will have to consider the impact of Shawn Fanning and Napster. The overnight sensation that swept college dorm rooms made millions of... Read More

Sisyphus In Action

Trade is one of the main engines of growth, which allows today's mankind a standard of living that is without precedent in human history. In our era of globalisation, an increasing part of trade is cross-border or foreign trade. Without... Read More

My Optimistic Trek

One would bet that a sleeveless French frock, as ebon as the fabric of space-time between the loneliest starposts of the Galaxy, would suit as gaming clothes at any poker table in any casino in Las Vegas. Not so. Not... Read More

Marginal Benefits

All types of taxes destroy wealth, but not by equal measure. Republicans might use their election mandate to cut taxes. But to assess the benefits of new tax legislation, you need to understand how taxes reduce economic output. Taxes annihilate... Read More

Our Fatal Conceit

Montana Governor Judy Martz blamed this summer's fires on Green groups, accusing them of "environmental terrorism." But let's be clear: drought, combined with hot, windy weather, was the chief culprit behind this season's fires. The West has a history of... Read More

Hollywood, War and Moral Clarity

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the delightful if somewhat dark film based on the J.K. Rowling series of books on the young wizard, his friends, and the magical world of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.... Read More

The Power Controlling the Superpower

Here's a pop quiz for you: Who's the most powerful person on the most momentous decision of the Bush Administration? A. President George W. Bush B. Vice President Dick Cheney C. Secretary of State Colin Powell D. Secretary of Defense... Read More

True National Defense

My earlier columns on citizen defense against terrorism, A Pack, Not a Herd, and American Dunkirk, have led to requests that I write on what, specifically, individual citizens can do to prepare for a role in responding to, and preventing,... Read More

Junk the Code

"That the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create ... are propositions not to be denied. But all inconsistencies are to be reconciled by the... Read More

The Least Worst

MERCURY, Nevada - Perhaps the first thing you notice standing on the summit of Yucca Mountain, in Area 25 of the Nevada Test Site, is the collection of relatively young cinder cones on the near western horizon. Recent volcanic activity... Read More

The Uncertainty Principle

"There remains an illusion among investors, especially professional money managers and analysts, that with enough digging and number-crunching, uncertainty can be conquered." Unfortunately, it can't. That's the thrust of one of the best essays on investing I have e Read More

Accounting for a Better Economy

The fall of Harvey Pitt has dragged down the SEC and turned the reputation of the once venerable institution into an organization bedraggled with controversy, rumor, and, worst of all, disrespect. What happened in the final chapter of this steamy... Read More

A One-Sided Lancet

There is something very disturbing afoot in the world. Something other than terrorism and Islamofascism, I mean. It is something just as widespread and disturbing, and potentially just as dangerous. That something is the slow and steady creep of politics... Read More

Crying Wolf

Editor's note: This is the final entry in the TCS debate over war and freedom. To see earlier posts, please see links below. Since it's almost over let me jump right in. I don't think I said or implied or... Read More

War Changes Men

Let me begin my final post with the well-worn observation that war changes men. Apparently, the war on terrorism has led even rock-ribbed conservatives to wholeheartedly embrace new government programs and powers, mostly on the argument that they can't be... Read More

Tall Tale of the Tape

After months of intense speculation, Osama bin Laden's fate might finally be determined with the release of a scratchy, terse audio recording attributed to him. Already critics of the fight against terror (including Sen. Tom Daschle and Washington Post columnist... Read More

How to Leave No Child Behind

The fifth grade desks in my elementary school had ink wells, though we had moved on to leaky ink-cartridge pens. Teachers wrote with squeaky chalk on blackboards. And we used No. 2 lead pencils to take standardized tests. Increasingly, 21st... Read More

Medact Malpractice

Since 9/11 disabled the emotional support upon which many international activists rely, they have had to delve more often into research and data to prop up their causes. When America was busy deposing the Taliban in Afghanistan, Professor Marc Herold... Read More

George W. McKinley

Maybe George W. Bush can pull it off. Maybe he can be, as Bush adviser Karl Rove always predicted, another William McKinley, a Republican president who reaches out to immigrants, weaves them into a larger coalition, and so creates a... Read More

Well Enough Alone

The subject today is "what vision will govern broadband?" The alternatives that are offered in the title are "deregulation, open access" and "structural separation." I have a fourth alternative: competition. It is competition that increases capital investment and b Read More

Hate Mail

Yet another group of law professors has decided to enter the political fray over President Bush's judicial nominations by sending a joint letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The letter strongly opposes the nomination of Michael McConnell to the Tenth... Read More

No Natural Paradox

The U.S. climate science community has been asked by the Bush Administration to help plan its research agenda for the next few years. The goal is to define, reliably, the human effect on global climate change resulting from anthropogenic emissions... Read More

Slippery Sloping

Actually, I was not claiming to describe the totality of Nick's humanity as deeply selfish and myopic, merely the fraction that seems to argue that the comparatively small sacrifice of some liberty at home is not worth the alleviation of... Read More

A Less Harmful Way?

The 3rd International Conference on Smokeless Tobacco was recently held in Stockholm, Sweden. Scientists from all over the world arrived to discuss tobacco prevention and public health effects. One of the most interesting new strategies discussed was "harm reductio Read More

It's the Structure, Stupid

"Political revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, often restricted to a segment of the political community, that existing institutions have ceased adequately to meet the problems posed by an environment that they have in part created." - Thomas Kuhn,... Read More

Tax Attack

A meeting of officials from 31 states convened Tuesday in Chicago and unanimously voted to require participating state and local governments to have only one statewide tax rate for products sold over the Internet. The initiative, known as the Streamlined... Read More

2002 A.M.C.

Now that the government's antitrust suit against Microsoft is settled, one might wonder if things will get back to normal for the technology sector or if the trial and ensuing saga marked the beginning of a new phase of competition... Read More

Something for Nothing

Jonah Goldberg characterizes me as "deeply selfish and myopic," given to "narrow and pinched interpretation," and taking positions "based on a cliche." Finally, someone who really understands me. Jonah argues that the "supposed small tyrannies" visited upon us duri Read More

South Park Rising

A recent column titled "South Park Republicans" challenged conservative stereotypes by suggesting that a many Republican voters are more inclined to watch Comedy Central than the Christian Broadcasting Network. The piece struck a chord. Actually, it struck several. Read More

'American Dunkirk'

Two weeks ago I wrote about the need to adopt a broader approach to antiterrorism, one that would help the citizenry function as (in Jim Henley's words) "a pack, not a herd." This week I'm going to say a little... Read More

Midwife of Liberty

Editor's note: To see the first installment of this debate, click here. It seems necessary to clear the debris here. First, when Milton Friedman says war is "often the enemy of freedom," he is of course correct. War is often... Read More


Thus far, the reputed idiot Bush has graduated from Yale and Harvard, made a stack of cash in the oil industry, become the first consecutive-term governor of Texas, defeated a dual-term VP for the Presidency, and led his party to... Read More

Imperial Backlash

THE HAGUE - In the Third World the hostility against ecoimperialism from the West is growing. This ecoimperialism in practised both by western governments and western NGOs. In international trade negotiations, for instance, western governments urge the developing c Read More

Prisoner of the Caucasus

With the war against Iraq now on hold, Russia is emerging as the focal point for what appears to be the next battle in the War against Terror. The Chechen conflict will likely take a bloody, ugly turn after the... Read More

The World, Your Oyster

In the good old days, foreign stocks provided balance. Typically, if U.S. stocks were having a bad year, non-U.S. stocks would be having a good year. One study found that for the 25 years between 1970 and 1995, foreign stocks... Read More

War vs. Freedom?

"War is often the enemy of freedom." Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, an intellectual hero to both libertarians and conservatives, uttered those words at the recent meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in London. Discussing potential threats to freedom at... Read More

Fire at Will

Last week it was reported that the C.I.A. had successfully eliminated Abu Ali al-Harithi, a top al-Qaeda operative in Yemen, with a missile fired from a Predator drone. Far from being viewed as a successful mission in the war on... Read More

Heartland Heartburn

Illinois is not known as a hot bed of bio-technology. When one thinks of Illinois, images of Lincoln and the prairie or of Wrigley Field and Buckingham Fountain will come to the fore long before lab coats and microscopes. From... Read More

Positively False

A recent National Academies panel report on the effectiveness of lie detectors highlighted one of the biggest problems we face when dealing with data. Polygraphs, the panel concluded, were not sophisticated enough to help in screening out potential risks to... Read More

The Dead Hand

Europe's food and agriculture policy dominates the policies of developing nations and it is turning into an economic and humanitarian disaster. The current humanitarian crisis in Africa only serves to highlight how damaging European regulations truly are. Europe ha Read More

Dominance Lite

Those who thought the "arms are for hugging" school of foreign policy went out of fashion with the end of the Cold War, think again. In response to the administration's new National Security Strategy, an effort to weaken the U.S.... Read More

More Than Inspections

Almost two months elapsed between President Bush's appearance before the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council vote to enforce a bushel of resolutions against Iraq. This has left many proponents of regime change worried. Why, they wonder, has... Read More

The Politics of Evil

American politics has always been bitterly partisan. There is a tendency to think that some bygone day was more civil, and more issue-oriented. But, as far back as one cares to go, the "politics of personal destruction" has been the... Read More

Urge to Merge

October was a lousy month with the sniper on the loose in the Washington area. Maybe that explains why both Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department antitrust lawyers kept their heads in the sand when each opposed the Echostar-Hughes merger.... Read More

'We Know Where You Live' Part II

Students of history may recall Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Russian Red Army. Because of his importance, he had an inconvenient habit of appearing close to Vladimir Lenin in photographs. When Joseph Stalin became dictator of the Soviet Union,... Read More

Pitt Falls, Now What?

Harvey Pitt had to go. He had lost the credibility to run the Securities and Exchange Commission. Now, President Bush should move swiftly to replace him. The SEC has too much on its plate for dawdling. What the country needs... Read More

How to Dominate in '04

Two obvious things have changed in American politics since the 2000 election. America is at war, and George W. Bush has been transformed into a popular wartime President. It's rare that when there are a dozen or so close races,... Read More

The Other Election

This past week, Israel's Labor Party ditched the governing coalition set up in 2001 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Despite the fact that Sharon is able to form a temporary governing coalition (in large part by offering the post of... Read More

Four Wheeled Prisons

In America, we speak darkly about gridlock. In Great Britain the traffic Cassandra call it "Carmageddon." The result is the same; a total congealment of mid-city traffic in major metropolitan areas like New York, London, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, etc.... Read More

Separate, Unequal

You may have noticed that there's a gender bias in medicine. How could anyone not notice? We are constantly reminded of the neglect that women's health issues have suffered at the hands of a male-dominated medical establishment. Medical research ignores... Read More

Rethinking 'Our Allies'

We want "our allies" with us on Iraq. The Administration has been working the United Nations and diplomatic tracks to get them aboard. Polls show much more public backing for war against Saddam Hussein when "our allies" are aboard. But... Read More

What Was New in Delhi

The steam appears to be running out of grandiose global eco-summits. And even some environmentalists can be heard to sigh, "Good riddance." Last week in New Delhi at the eighth United Nations climate conference, developing countries stood against the European... Read More

Good Law, Good Economics

It's hard to believe that the Microsoft case is Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's first excursion into antitrust. Her decision reads as if written by someone with a nuanced understanding of the complex series of precedents that constitute modern antitrust law. In... Read More

Sweetwater vs. Saltwater

Economists agree on many things. We are all for free trade. We are all more persuaded by Bjorn Lomborg than by Edward O. Wilson. We all believe that government support for scientific research helps the economy. We all support Lawrence... Read More

A Cuckoo in Europe's Nest

The recent €900-million fine slapped on Electricit√© de France (EdF) by the European Commission was not the first time the company's relationship with the French government has come under scrutiny. There was an uproar in the European press last summer... Read More

Value and Momentum

A stock-picking system that can consistently beat the market has always been the Holy Grail of investors - desirable, tempting, but unobtainable. Investing just couldn't be that easy. But a few years ago, James P. O'Shaughnessy, a financial adviser and... Read More

Read the Fine Print

Picture yourself in a grocery store. You've heard a little bit about genetically engineered or "GE" food, but you're not quite sure what to make of it all. Safe or not, you want to be able to choose for your... Read More

Paper Ballots

As I write this, the voting hasn't even started. But I've already gotten an email telling me that there are dozens of lawyers waiting to file legal challenges to elections in my state, and I'm sure that the same is... Read More

Powell Uncertain

Fair or not, the buzz around Washington on Michael Powell is that he's indecisive - overwhelmed by the complexity of his job as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Perhaps stung by that widespread criticism, he's on the verge of... Read More

Con Game

What do the residents of Oregon share in common with a corrupt African kleptocracy? We're about to find out. Last week, the starving people of Zambia were told by their President that they could not eat GM food aid from... Read More

A Bloody Shame

The American blood supply is in a stranglehold. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Red Cross continue to tighten their rules on who can donate blood. Both aim to ensure blood safety, but seem unable to balance competing... Read More

The Ugly Truth

The media around the world have long been under attack for foisting unfair expectations of beauty and sexuality on "normal people". From sitcoms to shampoo ads, critics say, the message is clear: we are expected to be unrealistically gorgeous. The... Read More

Is There Life After Television?

In his 1992 book, Life After Television, George Gilder wrote that it was only a matter of time before television - that static, one-way, top-down couch potato medium - would be replaced with something interactive, fluid and flexible, shifting at... Read More

Galileo's Last Ride

The spacecraft Galileo, explorer of Jupiter and its moons, is entering the final phases of its mission. On November 5, the probe will conduct a flyby of Amalthea, a potato-shaped moon deep within Jupiter's magnetic and radiation environment. Since the... Read More

Human Bar Code

Biometric technologies - such as voice prints, retina, iris and face scanners, digitized fingerprints, even implantable chips - can benefit us. Look for the technologies in cell phones, mobile computers, cars doors, doorknobs and office keys-basically everywhere. T Read More

Partisan Beating

You may have seen the "priceless" picture of Philadelphia Flyers fans choking and punching an unlucky New Jersey Devils fan as onlookers cheer the partisan beating. Unfortunately, that was not an isolated incident. Across the pond, dozens have died in... Read More

Food's Fear Factor

"Few scientists think of agriculture as the chief, or the model science. Many, indeed, do not consider it a science at all. Yet it was the first science - the mother of all sciences; it remains the science that makes... Read More

Level With Me

"We're talking of about the submergence of islands, submergence of Shanghai, the submergence of Bombay, the submergence of New York City... Manhattan would be under water." - Greenpeace climate policy director Steve Sawyer. "Scientists estimate that by the year 204 Read More

Devoted to Diesel

Wait a minute, let me get this straight: Dr. Alan Lloyd embraces diesel engines? Not the same Dr. Alan Lloyd who chairs the California Air Resources Board; the Savaranola who thinks the internal combustion engine is a Satanic device designed... Read More

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