Monday, May 23, 2016

[tt] WaPo: Why people like Edward Snowden say they will boycott Google's newest messaging app

Why people like Edward Snowden say they will boycott Google's newest
messaging app
By Ellen Nakashima and Hayley Tsukayama

Google this week announced a new messaging app with strong
encryption that even the government, with a warrant, can't wiretap.
But there's a catch: You have to turn on that feature yourself.

The tech titan's plan to launch Allo this summer without end-to-end
encryption by default has drawn withering criticism from some

Google's decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default in
its new #Allo chat app is dangerous, and makes it unsafe. Avoid
it for now.

--Edward Snowden (@Snowden) May 19, 2016

But other privacy advocates are more positive.

"I, too, would prefer that Allo be encrypted by default," said Kevin
Bankston, director of New America's Open Technology Institute. But,
he added, "all in all, this is going to be a net increase in the
amount of encrypted messaging out in the world. And that is
ultimately a good thing."

The chairman emeritus of New America is Eric Schmidt, the executive
chairman of Google parent company Alphabet.

With Allo's debut, Google is taking a step toward joining the
growing number of tech firms embracing "end-to-end" encryption,
which protects the privacy of text messages and voice and video
calls in such a way that even with a warrant, the government can't
access them. But by requiring users to turn on the feature, Google
is lowering the odds that average users will avail themselves of the
option, critics such as Snowden say.

Apple's iMessage launched in 2011 with default end-to-end
encryption. WhatsApp, Facebook's messaging app, last month announced
it had full, end-to-end encryption by default on all platforms--
including Android, iPhone and BlackBerry. Apple also launched its
video call FaceTime feature in 2010 with default strong encryption.
That means that even when served with a warrant, these firms cannot
provide law enforcement access to WhatsApp and iMessage chats.

FBI Director James B. Comey has endorsed the benefits of encryption.
"I love strong encryption," he said in a speech last month. But, he
said, "what's changed in the last few years is that it's now become
the default, covering wide swaths of our lives and covering wide
swaths of law enforcement's responsibilities." He has called for a
balancing of privacy and public safety needs in which firms maintain
a way--usually with a key--to get the government access to the
communications it seeks.

So Google's move on balance is welcome, said one law enforcement
official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they
were not authorized to speak about the issue on the record. "Having
this as an opt-in feature is certainly useful to us."

Google designed Allo without default end-to-end encryption to make
it easier to mesh the chat app with Google Assistant, a new
conversation bot that can hold natural-sounding discussions with
users, a Google spokesman said. It's a competitor to Apple's Siri,
Amazon's Alexa and the many bots created for Facebook's Messenger
app. Assistant is designed to tap into Google's wealth of data about
users to provide tailored recommendations, from the best movies to
see to the quickest route to the theater.

Because Google may need to run queries made of Assistant on its own
servers, the official said, it's not feasible to offer end-to-end
encryption by default. Users who opt to use the encrypted
"Incognito" mode may thus lack some Assistant features, he said.

Some tech experts said it is possible to combine
end-to-end encryption with the artificial intelligence bot feature.
"There's always a way," said Morey Haber, vice president of
technology at the cybersecurity firm BeyondTrust. Smartphones, for
example, could do some of the processing on the device. But, he
said, it would be difficult to fully process queries to Assistant
without the power of Google's remote servers, which would need to
see the unencrypted queries. "I don't think the technology is there
yet," Haber said.

The company said that even the standard chat mode conforms
with standard encryption practices; messages between Google and
users will be encrypted, but the Google Assistant system will have
access to what users are sending.

Still, the company's decision to forgo default end-to-end encryption
has raised questions--even internally.

A Google engineer who worked on Allo's security wrote a personal
blog post Thursday obliquely criticizing the lack of such
strong encryption. "If incognito mode with end-to-end encryption ...
is so useful, why isn't it the default in Allo?" Thai Duong wrote.
He also said he would push for "a setting where users can opt out of
cleartext [unencrypted] messaging." Both lines were quietly removed
later that evening from his post, with Duong adding a note that he
erased a paragraph "because it's not cool to publicly discuss or to
speculate the intent or future plans for the features of my
employer's products."

Google declined to comment on whether it pressured Duong to edit his

Christopher Soghoian, American Civil Liberties Union principal
technologist, said by making the encryption feature an opt-in,
"Google gets the maximum press value out of the encryption tech
while guaranteeing that it is used by as few people as possible."

Google, he said, "has given the FBI exactly what top officials have
been asking for."

Bankston said the opt-in will depend on how easy the firm makes it
to do so. "That," he said, "will turn a lot on the design."

Ellen Nakashima is a national security reporter for The Washington
Post. She focuses on issues relating to intelligence, technology and
civil liberties.
tt mailing list

[tt] NYT: William Henry Gates III: My 10 Favorite Books

Send me your list. This is a difficult question. I can easily think of the
ten books that most influenced my thinking. Harder would be the ten books
I would recommend, to everyone that is, not to specific persons.

William Henry Gates III: My 10 Favorite Books

For his bookshop and website One Grand Books, the editor Aaron
Hicklin asked people to name the 10 books they'd take with them if
they were marooned on a desert island. The next in the series is
Bill Gates, who shares his list exclusively with T. (Through May 22,
One Grand is hosting a pop-up shop at Industry City in Sunset Park,
Brooklyn.) As Gates says: "If you're going to get marooned on a
desert island, I guess you can't exactly choose when it happens to
you. But if I'm shipwrecked this summer, I hope I'll have these five
terrific books I read recently--which I just shared on my blog--
as well as five all-time favorites with me."

"Seveneves," Neal Stephenson

This novel about how the human race responds to the end of life on
Earth rekindled my love for sci-fi. Some readers will lose patience
with all the technical details about orbits and spaceflight, but for
me, it's an engrossing and thought-provoking story.

"How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking," Jordan

A mathematician explains how math plays into our daily lives without
our even knowing it. The writing is funny, smooth and accessible--
not what you might expect from a book on this subject. Ellenberg's
larger point is that there are ways in which we're all doing math,
all the time.

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind," Yuval Noah Harari

This look at the entire history of the human race sparked lots of
great conversations at our family's dinner table. Harari also writes
about our species today and how artificial intelligence, genetic
engineering and other technologies will change us in the future.

"The Power to Compete," Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani

Why was Japan, the juggernaut of the 1980s, eclipsed by South Korea
and China? And can its economy come back? A smart look at the future
of a fascinating country.

"The Vital Question," Nick Lane

I wish more people knew about this British biologist's work. He is
trying to get people to fully appreciate the role energy plays in
the evolution of life on Earth (and, maybe, other places). Even if
he turns out to be wrong about certain details, I suspect his ideas
will be seen as an important contribution to our understanding of
where we come from, and where are we going.

"Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall
Street," John Brooks

Warren Buffett gave me this fantastic collection of articles that
Brooks wrote for The New Yorker. Although Brooks was writing in the
1960s, his insights are timeless and a reminder that the rules for
running a great company don't change. I read it more than two
decades ago, and it's still my pick for the best business book ever.

"The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald

The novel that I reread the most. Melinda and I love one line so
much that we had it painted on a wall in our house: "His dream must
have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it."

"Parenting With Love and Logic," Foster Cline and Jim Fay

As the parents of three children, Melinda and I have spent a lot of
time reading and discussing this book. It has been an invaluable
guide for both of us, especially when it comes to de-escalating
those inevitable conflicts between parents and kids.

"Sustainable Energy--Without the Hot Air," David JC MacKay

A fantastic guide to thinking more numerically about clean energy,
and the most accessible explanation of this subject that I've seen.
I still refer to it myself, which is a bittersweet experience now--
David died in April, at the age of 48.

"The Better Angels of Our Nature," Steven Pinker

Proof that the world is becoming more peaceful. It's not just a
question for historians, but a profound statement about human nature
and the possibility for a better future. This book may have shaped
my outlook more than any other.
tt mailing list

Sunday, May 22, 2016

[tt] WSJ: Deirdre N. McCloskey: How the West (and the Rest) Got Rich

Thanks to Sarah for this. After a session at George Mason, I asked Deirdre
if she know about the theory of Gregory Clark, _A Farewell to Alms: A
Brief History of the World_ (Princeton UP, 2007), which came to a
data-driven conclusion that Britain got out of Malthusian deadlock when it
managed to push down of the capitalist virtues of prudence, discipline,
and so on, from the richer classes to the poorer ones and this caused one
of the most remarkable cases of gene-culture co-evolution in human
history. Clark's evidence and conclusions are discusses in Nicholas Wade
(a longtime science reporter for the New York Times in 1972 but still
writes for it occassionally), _A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and
Human History_ (Penguin, 2014).

She said she had heard of the theory but sounded quite uninterested.
(Neither are the commentators on this article.) She wrote a touching book
about her sex-change operation (Crossings) but what looks like a studious
avoidance of such unclean subjects. This leaves her explanation of how the
West got rich ultimately Deuteronomistic.

Otherwise, she (and Donald) have had enormous influence on my thinking and
helped make a post-modernist out of me.

I love her story about Donald's confessing to his department chairman
about her upcoming operation. The chairman replied (approx.), "Oh, that! I
was worried for a while that you were going to confess becoming a

I have no opinion about restrooms that I would impose on everyone in the
country (if not the world) and would leave the matter up to the owners of
the restrooms. If it is a government restroom, let each water district
decide. No one seems to have brought up the possibility of a male predator
putting on a dress, gaining entrance to a female restroom, and committing
sexual abuse. This could be such a small matter that liability insurance
would be cheap, however whooped in the media it will turn out to be.

Someone, do a Coase theorem analysis on this issue. I suspect Richard
Posner would do so. What I got is at
but no mention of Coase. See also

Deirdre N. McCloskey: How the West (and the Rest) Got Rich
May 20, 2016 10:27 a.m. ET
413 COMMENTS [selection only]

Why are we so rich? An American earns, on average, $130 a day, which
puts the U.S. in the highest rank of the league table. China sits at
$20 a day (in real, purchasing-power adjusted income) and India at
$10, even after their emergence in recent decades from a crippling
socialism of $1 a day. After a few more generations of economic
betterment, tested in trade, they will be rich, too.

Actually, the "we" of comparative enrichment includes most countries
nowadays, with sad exceptions. Two centuries ago, the average world
income per human (in present-day prices) was about $3 a day. It had
been so since we lived in caves. Now it is $33 a day--which is
Brazil's current level and the level of the U.S. in 1940. Over the
past 200 years, the average real income per person--including even
such present-day tragedies as Chad and North Korea--has grown by a
factor of 10. It is stunning. In countries that adopted trade and
economic betterment wholeheartedly, like Japan, Sweden and the U.S.,
it is more like a factor of 30--even more stunning.

And these figures don't take into account the radical improvement
since 1800 in commonly available goods and services. Today's
concerns over the stagnation of real wages in the U.S. and other
developed economies are overblown if put in historical perspective.
As the economists Donald Boudreaux and Mark Perry have argued in
these pages, the official figures don't take account of the real
benefits of our astonishing material progress.

Look at the magnificent plenty on the shelves of supermarkets and
shopping malls. Consider the magical devices for communication and
entertainment now available even to people of modest means. Do you
know someone who is clinically depressed? She can find help today
with a range of effective drugs, none of which were available to the
billionaire Howard Hughes in his despair. Had a hip joint replaced?
In 1980, the operation was crudely experimental.

Nothing like the Great Enrichment of the past two centuries had ever
happened before. Doublings of income--mere 100% betterments in the
human condition--had happened often, during the glory of Greece and
the grandeur of Rome, in Song China and Mughal India. But people
soon fell back to the miserable routine of Afghanistan's income
nowadays, $3 or worse. A revolutionary betterment of 10,000%, taking
into account everything from canned goods to antidepressants, was
out of the question. Until it happened.

What caused it? The usual explanations follow ideology. On the left,
from Marx onward, the key is said to be exploitation. Capitalists
after 1800 seized surplus value from their workers and invested it
in dark, satanic mills. On the right, from the blessed Adam Smith
onward, the trick was thought to be savings. The wild Highlanders
could become as rich as the Dutch--"the highest degree of opulence,"
as Smith put it in 1776--if they would merely save enough to
accumulate capital (and stop stealing cattle from one another).

A recent extension of Smith's claim, put forward by the late
economics Nobelist Douglass North (and now embraced as orthodoxy by
the World Bank) is that the real elixir is institutions. On this
view, if you give a nation's lawyers fine robes and white wigs, you
will get something like English common law. Legislation will follow,
corruption will vanish, and the nation will be carried by the
accumulation of capital to the highest degree of opulence.

But none of the explanations gets it quite right.

What enriched the modern world wasn't capital stolen from workers or
capital virtuously saved, nor was it institutions for routinely
accumulating it. Capital and the rule of law were necessary, of
course, but so was a labor force and liquid water and the arrow of

The capital became productive because of ideas for betterment--ideas
enacted by a country carpenter or a boy telegrapher or a teenage
Seattle computer whiz. As Matt Ridley put it in his book "The
Rational Optimist" (2010), what happened over the past two centuries
is that "ideas started having sex." The idea of a railroad was a
coupling of high-pressure steam engines with cars running on
coal-mining rails. The idea for a lawn mower coupled a miniature
gasoline engine with a miniature mechanical reaper. And so on,
through every imaginable sort of invention. The coupling of ideas in
the heads of the common people yielded an explosion of betterments.

Look around your room and note the hundreds of post-1800 ideas
embedded in it: electric lights, central heating and cooling, carpet
woven by machine, windows larger than any achievable until the
float-glass process. Or consider your own human capital formed at
college, or your dog's health from visits to the vet.

The ideas sufficed. Once we had the ideas for railroads or air
conditioning or the modern research university, getting the
wherewithal to do them was comparatively simple, because they were
so obviously profitable.
Storefronts along Hudson Street in New York City, circa 1860 to
1900. Storefronts along Hudson Street in New York City, circa 1860
to 1900. Photo: Fotosearch/Getty Images

If capital accumulation or the rule of law had been sufficient, the
Great Enrichment would have happened in Mesopotamia in 2000 B.C., or
Rome in A.D. 100 or Baghdad in 800. Until 1500, and in many ways
until 1700, China was the most technologically advanced country.
Hundreds of years before the West, the Chinese invented locks on
canals to float up and down hills, and the canals themselves were
much longer than any in Europe. China's free-trade area and its rule
of law were vastly more extensive than in Europe's quarrelsome
fragments, divided by tariffs and tyrannies. Yet it was not in China
but in northwestern Europe that the Industrial Revolution and then
the more consequential Great Enrichment first happened.

Why did ideas so suddenly start having sex, there and then? Why did
it all start at first in Holland about 1600 and then England about
1700 and then the North American colonies and England's impoverished
neighbor, Scotland, and then Belgium and northern France and the

The answer, in a word, is "liberty." Liberated people, it turns out,
are ingenious. Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a
hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not. By certain accidents of
European politics, having nothing to do with deep European virtue,
more and more Europeans were liberated. From Luther's reformation
through the Dutch revolt against Spain after 1568 and England's
turmoil in the Civil War of the 1640s, down to the American and
French revolutions, Europeans came to believe that common people
should be liberated to have a go. You might call it: life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.

To use another big concept, what came--slowly, imperfectly--was
equality. It was not an equality of outcome, which might be labeled
"French" in honor of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Piketty. It
was, so to speak, "Scottish," in honor of David Hume and Adam Smith:
equality before the law and equality of social dignity. It made
people bold to pursue betterments on their own account. It was, as
Smith put it, "allowing every man to pursue his own interest his own
way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice."

And that is the other surprising notion explaining our riches:
"liberalism," in its original meaning of "worthy of a free person."
Liberalism was a new idea. The English Leveller Richard Rumbold,
facing the hangman in 1685, declared, "I am sure there was no man
born marked of God above another; for none comes into the world with
a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him."
Few in the crowd gathered to mock him would have agreed. A century
later, advanced thinkers like Tom Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft
embraced the idea. Two centuries after that, virtually everyone did.
And so the Great Enrichment came.

Not everyone was happy with such developments and the ideas behind
them. In the 18th century, liberal thinkers such as Voltaire and
Benjamin Franklin courageously advocated liberty in trade. By the
1830s and 1840s, a much enlarged intelligentsia, mostly the sons of
bourgeois fathers, commenced sneering loftily at the liberties that
had enriched their elders and made possible their own leisure. The
sons advocated the vigorous use of the state's monopoly of violence
to achieve one or another utopia, soon.

Intellectuals on the political right, for instance, looked back with
nostalgia to an imagined Middle Ages, free from the vulgarity of
trade, a nonmarket golden age in which rents and hierarchy ruled.
Such a conservative and Romantic vision of olden times fit well with
the right's perch in the ruling class. Later in the 19th century,
under the influence of a version of science, the right seized upon
social Darwinism and eugenics to devalue the liberty and dignity of
ordinary people and to elevate the nation's mission above the mere
individual person, recommending colonialism and compulsory
sterilization and the cleansing power of war.

On the left, meanwhile, a different cadre of intellectuals developed
the illiberal idea that ideas don't matter. What matters to
progress, the left declared, was the unstoppable tide of history,
aided by protest or strike or revolution directed at the evil
bourgeoisie--such thrilling actions to be led, naturally, by
themselves. Later, in European socialism and American Progressivism,
the left proposed to defeat bourgeois monopolies in meat and sugar
and steel by gathering under regulation or syndicalism or central
planning or collectivization all the monopolies into one supreme
monopoly called the state.

While all this deep thinking was roiling the intelligentsia of
Europe, the commercial bourgeoisie--despised by the right and the
left, and by many in the middle, too--created the Great Enrichment
and the modern world. The Enrichment gigantically improved our
lives. In doing so, it proved that both social Darwinism and
economic Marxism were mistaken. The supposedly inferior races and
classes and ethnicities proved not to be so. The exploited
proletariat was not driven into misery; it was enriched. It turned
out that ordinary men and women didn't need to be directed from
above, and when honored and left alone, became immensely creative.

The Great Enrichment is the most important secular event since human
beings first domesticated wheat and horses. It has been and will
continue to be more important historically than the rise and fall of
empires or the class struggle in all hitherto existing societies.
Empire did not enrich Britain. America's success did not depend on
slavery. Power did not lead to plenty, and exploitation was not
plenty's engine. Progress toward French-style equality of outcome
was achieved not by taxation and redistribution but by the Scots'
very different notion of equality. The real engine was the expanding
ideology of classical liberalism.

The Great Enrichment has restarted history. It will end poverty. For
a good part of humankind, it already has. China and India, which
have adopted some of economic liberalism, have exploded in growth.
Brazil, Russia and South Africa, not to speak of the European
Union--all of them fond of planning and protectionism and level
playing fields--have stagnated.

Economists and historians from left, right and center cannot explain
the Great Enrichment. Perhaps their sciences need revision, toward a
"humanomics" that takes ideas seriously. Humanomics doesn't abandon
the economics of arbitrage or entry, or the math of elasticities of
demand, or the statistics of regression analysis. But it adds the
study of words and meaning and their stunning contribution to our

Over 200 years, average world income per person has soared from
about $3 a day to a stunning $33 a day.

What public policy to further this revolution? As little as is
prudent. As Adam Smith said, "it is the highest
kings and ministers to pretend to watch over the economy of private
people." We certainly can tax ourselves to give a hand up to the
poor. Smith himself gave to the poor with a liberal hand. The
liberalism of a Christian, or for that matter of a Jew, Muslim or
Hindu, recommends it. But note, too, that 95% of the enrichment of
the poor since 1800 has come not from charity but from a more
productive economy.

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, had the right idea
in what he said to Reason magazine last year: "When people ask,
'Will our children be better off than we are?' I reply, 'Yes, but
it's not going to be due to the politicians, but the engineers.' "

I would supplement his remark. It will also come from the
businessperson who buys low to sell high, the hairdresser who spots
an opportunity for a new shop, the oil roughneck who moves to and
from North Dakota with alacrity and all the other commoners who
agree to the basic bourgeois deal: Let me seize an opportunity for
economic betterment, tested in trade, and I'll make us all rich.

Dr. McCloskey is distinguished professor emerita of economics,
history, English and communication at the University of Illinois at
Chicago. This essay is adapted from her new book, "Bourgeois
Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the
World," published by the University of Chicago Press.


john Matkick
Thank you Dr. McCloskey. Good advice for us all is to stop
pretending that some despot or another can cure what ails the world
and realize as common individual people we do.

Doug Hahn
Wonderful, and so right. How so many people don't get this is a
shame and a very real problem with our education system teaching
generations the exact opposite - unbelievable when you think about

To appreciate the wisdom of Dr. McCloskey's argument, one has only
to scan some of the other articles in the same issue. Just one page
farther into the section is "The Ales and Lagers that Made America"
- an example of the bourgeoisie "having a go" at fulfilling Ben
Franklin's adage that "beer is proof that God wants us to be happy."
And the very next page features "In Praise of Urban Sprawl," which
supports McCloskey's cautionary claim that "a much enlarged
intelligentsia, mostly the sons of bourgeois fathers, commenced
sneering loftily at the liberties that had enriched their elders and
made possible their own leisure." My concern centers on her
optimism. The power of the state seems to be gaining power, not
losing it, as even the ability of her beauty-shop entrepreneur to
open a new shop is coming under attack by the "enlarged
intelligentsia" who want to be our betters. Janice Joplin had it
wrong - freedom's just another word for everything left to lose.

The best thing I have read in years.

Thomas Gordon
Great article by a new voice (I hadn't heard of her.). Some people
say you owe something to the inventor of the wheel every time you
drive your car, but instead you are just enjoying the ride.

Steve Stringer
Two cents from a data geek: Legislation and regulation of individual
profit and creativity have society-wide benefits - think food safety
and patent protection - until their complexity overwhelms ordinary
people. The signs that creativity is overwhelmed by complexity:

- productivity and wage growth stagnate
- GDP growth declines
- wealth inequality and social unrest increase

Hmm, sounds familiar?

For a moment forget about red v. blue, Dem v. GOP, progressive v.
conservative. If all the ideologies are constantly adding Acts and
regulations, they are all increasing complexity. Ultimately no one's
good intentions help ordinary people. Instead they help the
extraordinarily clever and persistent people who find loopholes and
exemptions, and they help the wealthy people who can pay for those

And they benefit the career politicians - think Hillary and Bernie -
who promise better outcomes through more Acts, more regulations, and
more bureaucracy.

Let's simplify our government, please.

Robert Brown
A distinguished thinker like Dr. McCloskey writes a comprehensive
article on Western enrichment and fails to mention the most
important factor in societal wealth building.

John Rogitz
@Robert Brown She mentions the necessary if insufficient condition
of the rule of law, and the root of wealth being equality before the
law and equality of social dignity. These are not exact synonyms for
integrity, but they capture the concept.

Robert Brown
Laws are for the lawless.
Perfect integrity equals maximum productivity.

Robert Brown
Keep thinking. You'll get there.

Kevin O'Donnell
@Robert Brown I disagree; laws are rules for a civil society.Laws
are for the law abiding - the lawless will do as they please
regardless of all the laws we pass.

Integrity should be present in all conduct, but it is irrelevant to
whether I am or am not breaking a law.

Michael Dow
Incredible article. Just printed it out and am going to insist that
my kids read it and that we have a family discussion. Succinctly
describes the basic construct of our economic life and system and
why it is so successful. I do wonder, though, if the thesis totally
holds up...Rome experienced incredible and sustained economic growth
for hundreds of years--much of which was on the backs of
slaves...what explains that conundrum? I suppose one could also
make the case that early American prosperity was built on the backs
of slave labor as well. And, frankly, China is succeeding
spectacularly without the kind of freedoms implied in our
western/democratic context (for example, freedom of moving to
economic opportunity, as exmplemplified in oil roughneck above).
Still thinking about what appear to be exceptions to the
thesis...but awesome article nonetheless...

how can one not respond to such a powerful story. Our forefathers
used the right words, certain "unalienable rights" that all humans
have and then wrote our constitution to preserve these. let's not
lose them with government policies designed to raise everyone to the
same level. Today the world has too much capital and not enough new
ideas to employee it and get it growing again. For the many waiting
for a larger hand out I hope instead they find a new idea to keep
the world growing.

Victor S Terenzio
As I read Dr. McCloskey's piece, I cannot help but compare her
optimism with the pessimism of the progressive left. The America the
left depicts is one of a population under the thumb of
"billionaires" (imagine a Brooklyn accent here), serfs we are, only
we didn't know it until the mainstream media enlightened us.

How is it that the left looks at working class America, and sees
destitution and oppression? If you rode the New York City subways on
a daily basis, it's understandable that you may think that, given
the amount of homeless that now populate the system. But please
remember, Mayor De Blasio is a man of the "regressive left".

What I see, in my little slice of suburban New York, is a Mexican
immigrant who owns a pizza shop in a local strip mall. If you wanted
to order dinner there on a Friday or Saturday night, you may have to
wait about an hour. Business is good, so is the food, so it's worth
the wait. He also employs three or four other people. An architect I
know is working on drawings for an Ecuadorian immigrant who bought
an abandoned tenement in an impoverished town in upstate New York.
Together with his father and cousins, he is refurbishing it. It will
benefit him, as well as his future tenants. I get my hair cut at a
barber shop owned by an immigrant from Argentina. He told me he was
opening up a second shop in the Wall Street area. I asked him if he
had a partner,yes he said, an unwelcome one, the Government. A
family member, the only one of my first cousins without a college,
degree is a plumber. A savvy business man, he worked on several
large municipal projects. He now describes himself as semi-retired.
He doesn't actually do any plumbing himself now, he has on his
payroll 4 other plumbers who do the work.

There is no liberation to be found in the progressive left, only
dependancy. Liberated, ordinary people, can refurbish tenements,run
pizza shops, barber shops, and plumbing businesses more efficiently
and productively than government can. Apple, Microsoft, and IBM are
not government enterprises. Does anyone remember the somewhat
derisory, but accurate, expression, "good enough for government

Bravo Dr. McCloskey. A very inspiring piece.

John Rogitz
@Victor S Terenzio But of course. Classical liberalism depends on
people shirking the yoke of the king. Progressivism demands the yoke
of government be used to break everyone to the same saddle, for
their own good, of course.

Gary McHam
Pretty good yourself, Mr. Terenzio.

Grant Flygare
I agree with Professor McCloskey, but wish she had also brought into
the picture the friend, teacher and mentor of Adam Smith, Francis
Hutcheson. It was Hutchenson who reminded his students and the
world that the great equality of man was founded in the doctrines of
Jesus Christ (the Golden Rule, to treat all as you would be treated)
and that God required of man a great sympathy for the situation of
each and a great responsibility to employ the gifts and talents from
God to the betterment of not only yourself, but the lifting of
others. Each of these foundational elements was later echoed in the
two great works of Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and
Wealth of Nations, which must be understood in tandem to view the
power of the later works ideas. Smith correctly predicted the great
power of ideas, cooperative efforts and the employment of those
ideas in a free society. But it must be remembered that the grand
foundation is in the virtue of the individuals.

Bill Wald
SOCRATIC THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: If "living well" includes not worrying
about paying the monthly bills, should a person who thinks of
himself as "middle class" "deserve" to live well?

What is the numerical or percentage difference between minimum wage
and median wage in your county? Is median wage two, three, or four
times higher than minimum wage?

For a person employed full time, the minimum wage should be roughly
the minimum possible annual wage. In your county, could a person at
least live comfortably if not live well at half the median wage?

In your county, is the median retired person's income at least half
his last year's wage?

James Stewart
"Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious. Slaves, serfs,
subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or
bureaucrats are not. "

Hear, hear! We see the truth of this today, in the United States
and elsewhere, where persons with good ideas are allowed to
implement them and thereby prosper - think and Google,
for examples.

Socialists and Muslims, take note. Your economic and social ideas
are putatively on" the wrong side of history" - borrowing a phrase
associated with the Divider-in-Chief, B. H. Obama, who also doesn't
"get it" when he pushes his "social justice" ideas at all costs to
our liberties.

Anthony Alfero
Capitalism is the only system that can create a powerful middle
class and reduce poverty. Those who do not accept the reality of
history, continue to argue that US capitalism is failing because big
business controls the gov't. How absurd.

No one with an ounce of gray matter believes that being subjected to
the most taxes, regulations and litigation,is the face of control,
unless they mean gov't control. The US is not maintaining a strong
middle class and poverty is on the rise because our system has been
shackled by a massive gov't, adding endless regulations and giving
near totalitarian power to it's agencies. So instead of a free
market, we have a completely constrained market, that cannot
function as it should.

Completely correct analysis.

Now, if we can only have silicon valley develop a "politico" app we
can dispense with all the Washington waste and overhead and
supercharge human progress.

" The real engine was the expanding ideology of classical

Too bad the definition of liberal has been hijacked.

Will Oki
@EDWARD BERRY Not only that, but also the color blue. In the US the
Red's are hiding behind the color blue. In the rest of the world
they are at least honest and own up to being Red.

Stephen Walters
Prof. McCloskey's exposition is brilliant, but she underplays how
"ideas have sex with property rights," as well as with other ideas.

It's certainly possible that, e.g., a serf tilling a noble
overlord's fields might never have thought how irrigation would
improve crop yields. More likely, that serf saw how an irrigation
investment would pay, but shrugged it off after realizing that the
nobleman would take all the gains.

But when, to continue the example, serfdom collapsed and private,
individual ownership of land became possible, productive ideas
became more sensible to implement (and, indeed, it became more
sensible to devote time to thinking of productive ideas).

Ideas, institutions, and capital (physical, human, cultural, social)
might best be considered the 3 legs of the stool that is the Great

Keith Dowling
@Stephen Walters Yes, the steel plow and other farming improvements
were invented here in the US because the farmers reaped what they

john hollis
Agree Charles! Why try to fix the banking regulations by adding more
regulations that impact those who are risking their own capital to
bring innovation to the forefront?

The Indian's & Chinese understand capitalism is the capacity to
compete in a free market society. They are drawing our jobs away
from the US because we do offer our manufacturing enterprises the
opportunity to succeed! We need to fuel that spirit and we will find
talent and creativity that will restore us once again to greatness.

However, when we have a leader who sees our prosperity as somehow
unpalatable then this ideology is what fuels our own demise. Let us
offer prayers and a sense of hope that a new leader will be an
advocate for initiatives that will restore us to that former glory.

Robert Brown
A major reason American jobs are shifting overseas is because Social
Security and Medicare taxes of 15.3% have been imposed on the backs
of American labor.

On the average American job paying $50,000 Social Security and
Medicare taxes by themselves equal $7,650 per employee.

James Ewins
This book should be read by every high schooler, if not read in
middle school. Of course it would not be accepted by teachers.

"To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or
happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea"
James Madison 1788

@James Ewins I'm not sure you are correct about the teachers. The
Department of Education and the socialist progressive movement are
another matter. As with so many policies, mistakes will not be
admitted, let alone corrected.

Forgive me for repeating a rather lengthy comment I made earlier,
this time my comment illustrated with a section on Venice.

While it is true that ideas and the freedom to put them into
practice matter a great deal, they are not enough, and we can see it
in the people running for the presidency today. Let me explain what
I mean.

Many years ago when I was fresh out of college brimming with new
ideas, a VP in the company that gave me my first job stopped me cold
when I proposed to him a new idea. He responded saying "Xavier,
ideas are dime a dozen, what I need are people who can execute and
make them happen, make them actually work in practice and produce

Now look at the field of candidates vying for the presidency. Who
and what have they actually accomplished? What new products, wealth,
or even rules (laws) that actually produce or make possible more of
the goods and services that represent true wealth have they actually
made possible? Bernie? None. Hillary? Zilch. Trump on the other hand
is a dynamo that has created lots of wealth in many forms, and let
me insist that by wealth I don't mean money but actual goods and
services people can use.

So while ideas, and the savings that can be turned into investments
to make the ideas happen, and the liberty to actually do them are
incredibly important, alone they don't result in new or more goods
and services. The human dynamos to make those ideas actually happen
and produce new material wealth are also required.

That is why the author pointedly writes, but in my view not with
sufficient emphasis, "While all this deep thinking was roiling the
intelligentsia of Europe, the commercial bourgeoisie--despised by
the right and the left, and by many in the middle, too--created the
Great Enrichment and the modern world."

The Venetian example

For many years I've been amazed by the extraordinary wealth and
dynamism of the Venetian Republic and its durability for over one
thousand years. Thus, for instance, a little known fact about it is
that already in the 12th century it had created what Henry Ford
later became famous for and was producing ships in assembly lines.
It was no accident that for many centuries Venice had absolute
control of the Mediterranean.

Historians have long asked how Venice was so successful for so long
and generated so much wealth. IMHO it is because it was effectively
run by a merchant class who had made sure that the government had
very limited powers and was an enabler of trade and capitalism
rather than an obstacle like it has become in the West during the
last century. And don't think for even one minute that there wasn't
liberty in Venice.

A fascinating bit of history is told by historian Frederic C. Lane
in "Venice: A Maritime Republic," where he describes how the crews
of each ship functioned as fairly independent mini democracies where
each sailor financed and owned a share of the trip and cargo and,
jointly with the merchant or merchants who had financed the majority
of the trip, had a say in the governance of the ship!And then even
when they went to war in large coordinated fleets, each ship captain
still had to exercise a lot of initiative and independent action to

In Venice even the lowliest sailor had freedom, could be an investor
and dynamo, and had a say on how his investment was managed.

I couldn't resist repeating another amazing bit of history about
Venice that illustrates the might and wealth it had achieved. This
one is about how they built the fleet for and financed the 4th
Crusade (1202-04). It is in "A History of Venice" by John Julius
Norwich.I forget how many but the fleet Venice built numbered well
over one hundred ships. I am recounting from memory so please
forgive me if I get some of the details wrong. What's important is
the overall content of the event.

In those years there were Venetian communities throughout the
Mediterranean, including a rather large one in Constantinople
because the Roman Empire of the East was one of Venice's major
trading partners. I don't recall the details but the Roman Emperor
had broken his contract with Venice and done bad things to the
Venetian community there.

At around that time the European kings approached Venice to have
them build a fleet to transport a European army to the Holy Land. At
the appointed time the European kings showed up with their army of
many thousands to take delivery of the ships only there was a catch:
they didn't have the money to pay for the ships and their army was
not as large as expected. So the Venetian Doge or king had an idea.
Norwich speculates about whether the Doge had planned this all

Whatever the origin of the plan, the Doge proposed to the European
kings that they could sail with the ships, including also a large
Venetian contingent of ships and soldiers, if on the way to the Holy
Land they made a stop in Constantinople to fight the Emperor and
take back what he had taken from the Venetians. The Venetians
proposed to the European kings that with their own share of the
spoils they could pay for the ships.

And so the 4th Crusade got underway!

As I recall the Doge was in his eighties and went along with the
fleet at least as far as Constantinople. Could Trump be our fighting
Doge and even make the same kind of deal with the Europeans to go
back to the Middle East and get rid of ISIS? Hillary had her chance
and failed, and Bernie doesn't have it in him.

Mark Paley
Of Plymouth Plantation, the journal of William Bradford, the
leader of the Pilgrims, describes the first year of the Pilgrims
living in Massachusetts in a form of socialism, where everything was
shared, and they all nearly starved to death.

This forced the Pilgrims in their second year in the New World to
resort to every-family-for-themselves, where each family tended to
its own plot of land, and kept the benefits for themselves.

Suddenly every member of every family began spending every
moment of "leisure" time pursuing productive activities. The result
was an astonishing bonanza of surplus, which they then traded among
themselves and the Native Americans.

Dr McCloskey of UIC, knows her stuff! Just wish the influence of
her thinking could permeate Governments at all levels. How ever,
isn't odd that the UIC should also have been the place where Bill
Ayers (the half-arsed, son of the Mega Bourgeoisie, terrorist)
roosted for decades? Strange bedfellows, indeed!
michael radowitz
michael radowitz subscriber 5pts

>Why are we so rich?

***I wish I could be part of that group that asked that questions.

As far as the "average" daily earnings of an American, suppose you
were to take out of the equation the earnings of the rich? I bet the
average would then be more like China or India. Compared to those
countries, our income inequality distorts any statistics this paper
can come up with on the issue of average earnings in America.

>After a few more generations of economic betterment, tested in
trade, they will be rich, too.

***Can't argue with that. Amazing the things you can do with Daddy's
trust fund set up for you...

>Look at the magnificent plenty on the shelves of supermarkets and
shopping malls. Consider the magical devices for communication and
entertainment now available even to people of modest means. Do you
know someone who is clinically depressed? She can find help today
with a range of effective drugs, none of which were available to the
billionaire Howard Hughes in his despair. Had a hip joint replaced?
In 1980, the operation was crudely experimental.

***Right. And it's nice to have the money to afford those things.

>What matters to progress, the left declared, was the unstoppable
tide of history, aided by protest or strike or revolution directed
at the evil bourgeoisie--such thrilling actions to be led,
naturally, by themselves.

***Whoa, this is a loaded gun, not even something Trump thought of
when he was at the NRA convention.

Of course, those who have would say, 'Let the have-nots eat cake and
pay the taxes.' Problem is, there are more have-nots than such

Not everyone will invent the better mousetrap. Opportunity should be
available for all, but for various reasons and circumstances not
everyone will capitalize on opportunity.

Did the philosophy of Adam Smith prevent the U.S. from the Great
Depression in the Thirties or an impending financial cliff in 2008?

There is another element that has enabled America to thrive, and
that is our sense of righteousness in our belief in God. The Bible
says there will always be poor people, and they should be provided
for. If they're not, that's what triggers the strikes and protests
that have toppled empires and governments in the past. But America,
either through neighbors or later on through government, was always
considerate of the poor and needy...people who will never invent
something that others will be interested in, or write books that
people will read or compose songs that people will hear.

But under God, the poor and needy are given at least as much, if not
more, consideration than the rich. Jesus said it would be easier to
pull a camel through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich
person to gain entry into Heaven, for instance.

The gripe of the op-ed section of this paper, is that the government
shouldn't tell us whom to give to, or to shake us down for money it
can give to others. But it's the same government that the rich don't
mind accepting government bailouts using other people's money, or
fixing their ocean-side hurricane-damaged second-homes with other
taxpayers' money, or availing themselves of tax credits and
incentives that effectively cause the government to make up the
shortfall by laying it on everyone else, including those who live
paycheck to paycheck.

So I think that before we Americans congratulate ourselves on our
"average" earnings, we should look more behind the numbers before
slapping ourselves on the back.

Tian Cheng Wu
To think income inequality is the central economic problem is itself
a brain disease. Let's say in North Korea, there is a single
entrepreneur who brings everyone's income up by 20% and his own
income up by 10000%, income inequality increased dramatically. Is
that a worse outcome for everyone?

bobb bollenbacher
I think the reason for income inequality is not so much that the
rich are producing more, it's that the poor are producing less. Why
should one bother being industrious when the socialists have
convinced the masses (remember, 47% of adults in US pay NO federal
income tax!) that they will be taken care of by the system? Sadly,
the masses don't comprehend that, 'being taken care of' means just
surviving and thus, missing out on a fulfilling life because one
didn't maximize one's own talents and abilities.

James Ewins
@bobb bollenbacher "To suppose that any form of government will
secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a
chimerical idea" James Madison 1788

douglas watts
It is heartening to know that reasonable and wise people are still
members of some faculty.

Ed Sessions III
How dare the WSJ print the truth!!!

jerome rathskeller
Obama is trying hard to change this reality.

Richard - Surely you jest.

Richard Davidson
@jerome rathskeller
Nonsense. The whole last century had progressive laws and yielded
the most rapid expansion of wealth and progress. Obama has done
nothing to change that trend.

No one is pretending that this administration is responsible for
adding more pages to the federal register and more dollars to the
federal deficit than any previous administration. My clients are not
pretending that the costs and complexities of complying with group
health insurance plans have become too onerous to keep them. No one
is pretending that the average American is no better off than they
were 8 years nauseum.

Richard Davidson
I read all of the hate directed at Obama's economic policies, but
never has anyone listed anything he has done to produce a negative
result. The cite anything sluggish in the economy as his creation,
ignoring the previous administration's legacy or the economic
realities at large.

The reality is that we have seen over 70 months of job creation,
economic expansion, low interest rates, the saving of major banks
and auto companies, health insurance that now covers 90% of the
population, less reckless behavior in the financial markets,
reduction in war costs, and a deficit half of what it was at the
beginning of the Obama era.

So, if Obama is trying hard to change that reality, you need to come
up with what he has done to make that happen, not just cite current
economic data that is likely unrelated to what he has done.

No, I am not jesting. But you are likely pretending to know more
than you do.

Stan Feldman
While freedom of opportunity is the most powerful force that
generates growth in aggregate well being, it does not address the
central economic issue of our time- the fact that the distribution
of income is becoming more unequal in virtually all developed
nations. Although theories abound as to why this has occurred,
there is little evidence as to why it has happened and even less
about how to it reverse it.The solution of the Left-more government-
has been shown to be a failure in virtually every country that has
adopted it In this scenario the super rich are in fact the most
insulated from wealth and income expropriation because they have
more influence on where and how the government points its guns. It
is the middle &lower economic classes that suffer the most since any
income and wealth gains they produce are easily identifiable &
expropriated. Hence more govt. is likely to make things worse.
There may be market solutions to this issue but no politician has
put these forward.

Stan Feldman
@Scott Horsburgh
I understand this but the fact that the aggregate pie getting larger
is not enough when it is accompanied by an increasing income

Stan...I agree. Income inequality appears to be the issue of the
day (at least the issue of this election). The outcome of a
classical liberal system, which broadly ensures personal freedom and
tends to limit gov't has an incredible impact on material wealth of
nations. All boats have risen substantially and continue to rise.
What technology has always done in a liberal system and is doing in
a more pronounced way now, is concentrate economic spoils in the
hands of a relatively few, even if the byproduct is widespread
benefit. To wit, Steve Jobs (RIP) and his heirs have incredible
wealth as a result of his insights, initiative and ingenuity, but my
housekeeper has an iPhone, an incredibly powerful instrument
unavailable to a billionaire only 15 years ago. Pretty cool.

So if the byproduct of classical liberalism, when married to
technology, is enormous wealth concentrated in a relatively few
hands, but widespread benefit and betterment of 'everyman'...who
cares. Good for the technology billionaires- I hope they keep doing
what they do. I can live with the knowledge that they are 'upper
out-of-sight rich', because they are making my life (and everyone's)
better. The alternative would be curtailment of liberty and
redistribution of wealth. We all know how that turns out

Stan Feldman
Thank you for your response. The issue I do not think is tech
innovators getting massively rich, the distribution of income has
been getting more unequal in every developed country over the last
25 years. Technically, this should not happen in a system where
there a few barriers to entry. The issue is systemic and there is
no real understanding as to why. Not addressing the why is the
initial central problem.

Michael Wood
@Stan Feldman
"It is the middle &lower economic classes that suffer the most..."

No, it is the middle & lower classes that whine the most about their
imagined suffering.

Director's law - the bulk of public programs are designed primarily
to benefit the middle classes but are financed by taxes paid
primarily by the upper and lower classes. The empirically derived
law was first proposed by economist Aaron Director. (Stigler, G
(1970). Director's Law of Public Income Redistribution, The
University of Chicago.)

The philosophy of Director's law is that, based on the size of its
population and its aggregate wealth, the middle class will always be
the dominant interest group in a modern democracy. As such, it will
use its influence to maximize the state benefits it receives and
minimize the portion of costs it bears. (Wikipedia)

Exhibit A: Social Security and Medicare

Stan Feldman
@Richard Davidson @Stan Feldman
Believe in this myth if you like but the growth in the middle class
in 20th century is driven by the fact the U.S. was a monopolist
economic producer after W.W. II which created tremendous wealth that
allowed for social programs to expand and union and non-union wages
to expand. I would suggest that you spend some time reading about
the economics that led to the Marshall Plan for starters. Just so
it is clear to you, once the U.S. transferred technology to the rest
of the world- via trade and other means-, the economic wealth of the
country began to increase at a much slower rate beginning the
inevitable pressure on wages which unions could not prevent from
happening. It became clear by 1966 that this was occurring and
since that time it has become far more pronounced.

Michael Wood
@Richard Davidson @Stan Feldman
Not entirely and, arguably, not even mostly. But regardless, there
is a difference in your examples of government spending...e.g., for
a minimum level of public education and infrastructure...and
redistribution via government and politics. A case can be made that
the former contributed significantly to the Great Enrichment but
that the latter's cost exceeds its benefit.

Scott Horsburgh
The point of the article is that freedom has produced wealth that
has raised incomes in all economic strata to levels that were
unimaginable 200 years ago.

Kevin O'Donnell
@Stan Feldman @JOHN HELSON Stan, your premise is greatly flawed.
The distribution of talent and effort is not equal, so the results
will be unequal. This "initial central problem" of your is only a
problem when one wants socialism.

Richard Davidson
@Stan Feldman
Ridiculous. The greatest expansion of wealth of the middle class
happened because of organized labor, public education, Social
Security, government investment in infrastructure, and other
examples of government working to help better the lives of everyone.

Kevin O'Donnell
@Stan Feldman @Scott Horsburgh Stan, If you have enough and your
neighbor has way more than enough, this is not a problem with "the
system", it's a problem with your class envy.

Will Oki
@Stan Feldman Income inequality is proportional to the size of
government. i.e. it was much less when we had true Capitalism
before 1930. Big government & Crony Capitalism are creating the
problem. North Korea has the biggest income inequality.
tt mailing list

[tt] BBC: The vet, the tortoise and the airport

Great photos!

The vet, the tortoise and the airport
* 21 May 2016

Six years ago Joe Hollins became the first permanent vet on the
island of St Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Here he
looked after the oldest known land animal in the world, a
184-year-old giant tortoise - while at the same time seeing the
island enter the modern world with the construction of its first

St Helena is famously the island where Napoleon was exiled after the
battle of Waterloo. I imagine he felt little joy on his arrival
here, a tiny scrap of volcanic rock thousands of miles from Paris,
but for me it was quite the opposite - I chose to come here, signing
up for a five-year stint as Senior Veterinary Officer. And although
I didn't know it when I took the job, I would also be witness to the
biggest change in St Helena's history since the abolition of

The island of St Helena - a mere 67 sq miles of rock right out in
the middle of the Atlantic, 1,300 miles from Angola and 2,000 miles
from Brazil is now on the brink of joining the rest of the world.

After investment of �250m and five years of frenetic construction,
it has an airport - a masterpiece of engineering perched on the
cliffs, with a runway that ends in a sheer 1,000ft (300m) drop. It's
not open yet, but it will be soon, and then St Helena, which is
sometimes described as the second most remote inhabited island in
the world, will feel a lot less remote than it does now.

My favourite job, as the first resident vet, has been looking after
Jonathan the giant Seychelles tortoise - a 450lb (200kg) crusty old
reptile that I'm very fond of. There's no older living land animal
on record in the world. We know he arrived in 1882, fully mature,
which means he was about 50 then, which would make him about 184
today. He could be even older.

When I first met him he was in quite a poorly state. He was very
thin - feeding was a challenge because his beak was blunt and
crumbly so he couldn't cut the grass. He has cataracts and he's lost
his sense of smell so he couldn't see where the good grass was.

I decided to supplement his diet, so every Sunday I would go down to
the paddock in front of the governor's house, where he lives, to
feed him fresh fruit and vegetables - bananas, apples, cucumber,
lettuce and cabbage. He has a very fleshy, almost mammalian, tongue
and a long reptilian neck, very much like a snake - and he is a
prolific belcher.

After a year not only was he putting on weight and being more
active, but his beak became razor sharp and I had to wear welder's
gloves to protect my fingers. His libido came back as well, and he'd
try to knock David, the perpetually randy younger male, off Emma,
one of the three females. Not to any great effect, but it's a very
good sign.

The life expectancy of these tortoises is approximately 150 years of
age so Jonathan's already exceeded that by quite a long way. The
ancient reptile has seen off many governors, but whatever he has
witnessed in his 134 years on the island, not much has changed
around him until now. The pace of change on the island over the past
five years has been phenomenal.
Image copyright Courtesy of Joe Hollins Image caption Jonathan (on
the left), a Boer War prisoner, and a guard, around 1900

Oldest and rarest tortoise
* Ships used to stack giant tortoises on board where they would
stay alive and provide the crew with fresh food - thus most
became extinct
* There are two families of giant tortoises left in the world: the
Pacific family (Galapagos Islands) and the Indian Ocean
tortoises (Aldabra Atoll)
* There are hundreds of thousands of Aldabran giant tortoises but
only a few thousand Galapagos tortoises
* Recently it was discovered that Jonathan is an extremely rare
Seychelles giant tortoise of which there are only a few dozen
left in the world

In order to prepare for the airport St Helena had to be readied for
the modern world in every respect.

The UK government's investment - equivalent to �60,000 per capita -
came with conditions covering everything from taxation to social and
medical services, and land ownership. There were big changes in all
these areas. Six months ago they even introduced mobile phones,
something that had not been possible before because of the
challenging terrain of hills and deep gorges. Now everybody walks
along talking on their phones, as they do in the rest of the world.

I saw the very first plane land on the island on 15 September 2015 -
a historic occasion. As luck would have it I had been called out to
see a sick pig on the windward side of the island where the airport
is. Quite a few people had gathered to watch as a small light
aircraft zoomed across the airport construction site to have a look.
Its first attempt at landing was aborted and it climbed steeply away
again, above the 300m cliffs at each end of the runway and the
massive outcrops of rock beyond them.
Image copyright Remi Bruneton / St Helena Government Image caption
To build the runway a gorge called Dry Gut had to be filled with
450,000 truckloads of rock

On the third attempt it landed and you could hear people cheering
everywhere. It was not something the Saints had seen before. There
were emotional scenes.

The airport was due to open on 21 May but there are still issues to
sort out. Work is still under way to deal with turbulence and wind
shear. Landing can be pretty hairy.
Media captionThe first commercial flight makes a wobbly landing

Until now the only way on and off the island has been on the last
remaining true Royal Mail Ship, the RMS St Helena. She leaves Cape
Town every three weeks and takes five or six nights to reach St
Helena. When she anchors in the bay passengers have to take a launch
to the steps, and clamber ashore with the aid of a rope.

One of the concerns around the airport is biosecurity. The ship has
always acted like a quarantine station - because the journey took so
long, if anyone was incubating disease there was a chance they would
fall ill on board. But by aeroplane, people can get here within
hours. All we need is for somebody to arrive with a new disease and
the cat's out of the bag.

We recently had two workers on the island with malaria. Luckily we
do not have the malaria-carrying mosquito, so it could not be passed
on. But we do have two other pathogenic species of mosquito, Culex
and Aedes, which can carry human diseases like the Zika virus,
Chikungunya or Dengue fever. So the disease carriers are here but
the diseases aren't - and we mustn't introduce them.

I left, as I arrived, on the RMS St Helena. She's quite a ship. Only
100m long, with cargo at the front and passengers at the back, she's
been the only means on and off the island forever, but she will be
decommissioned as soon as the airport opens for business.

She's a lifeline. But while she brings families together, she also
tears them apart.

There are a lot of tears shed on the wharf every time she departs.


Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / May 13, 2016 5:14 PM PDT
Hello, I don't know if this has been discussed or not here before,
but after having yet another uncanny and frankly "scary" event with
ads being targeted at me for products or issues that I'm sure I had
only spoken about--and have NOT Googled/searched for them on my PC
or phone, I decided to look a little closer to see if my phone could
be "listening". I'm not the paranoid type, but what I found shook
me. This recent BBC report pretty much explains it all:
[which I just sent]

Apparently it IS possible for an app on your phone to "listen" in
via the microphone without you having any indication that it is
doing so. Google's response to this is pretty much that it has a
"policy" against it. My take is that that's just not good enough.
There should be some trusted way (i.e., from Google) to limit the
microphone to only the apps you choose--e.g. for making phone or
Skype calls. I know there are apps that claim to do just that in the
Play store--but how can I trust them? Especially if the app is
free? They all need access to at least the one component you're
trying to protect (!). Is there a trusted way to control access to
my microphone?
--Submitted by Paul


Yes, It is All Possible
by Hforman / May 13, 2016 9:07 PM PDT
In reply to: Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?

I used to work for a local government and, as part of my job, I had
to send data to the cell network providers for analysis and return
of information. For one of the providers, I had to submit the
subpoena through a law enforcement website. While there, I got to
look at all of the items on their menu as to what law enforcement
can do (with a subpoena, back then). They can turn on your phone
without alerting you and listen into conversations near your phone
and can track you in any way (even if not a smart phone) and, of
course, listen in on the phone and record. So, if you were a fan of
the T.V. show, The Wire, all you saw there can be done.
> From your description of the issue, it sounds like you have
Google/Android. Correct? Google doesn't charge anything for Android.
Google makes most of their money performing high-tech advertising
and one of their claims-to-fame is directed advertising. It is not a
secret that they keep tabs on you, the user, for these purposes.
There is a Google web page where you can see some of the information
they collect about you. A good place to start is to go to their home
page and find the (tiny) link for their Terms of Service (TOS;
"terms") and their privacy policy. Unknown to many, these documents
are not very long and are not written in "legal-ese"; just plain
In the Terms, you will find what Google says that they can do with
all of your information. This has changed and has been refined over
time. The other document, the "Privacy Policy" tells you more about
what Google says they actually do with information from you and
about you. For example, several years ago, you could find on the
Google website that the scan (electronically) or read (by real
humans) every document that passes through them. Several years ago,
it came out that Google admitted to scanning/reading every piece of
GMAIL that passes through them. Yes, it caused quite a stir. The
result was that their reading/scanning was moved right into the
site's Privacy Policy. Of course, since then, there have been many
changes. All this is supposed to be so that Google can direct
meaningful advertising at you. Websites have to make money somehow
to pay for all of the employees and hardware that they use to bring
you the site. It is common sense that the "free" World Wide Web runs
on advertising.
As far as using your microphone goes, I assume that it is mentioned
in the privacy policy somewhere. However, I would more suspect APPs
to be using the microphone more than the base Android. (You do need
the microphone to make calls?). In the Apple world (iPhone) they
warn you if an APP tries to use the microphone (or location, etc.)
and you have an opportunity to think about why and make a decision
to allow that or not. Unfortunately, I don't use Android so I can't
help you there.
Law Enforcement can do what they want but they would probably find
your conversations boring unless you were calling up to order drugs
or mutter the words: "Destroy America" or something similar.
Hopefully, someone can guide you to the settings for your phone and
find a setting you can use. The other thing you can do is keep your
phone in a case and in your pocket when you are not using it. And
try to use well-known apps from a trusted app store.
Good luck.

Collapse -
OMG! Is there a way to turn off the microphone unless needed
by outofusernames / May 15, 2016 12:29 PM PDT
In reply to: Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?
Thanks Paul and Lee Koo for the small and detailed news. I wonder
now whether I should buy an Android for my budget, or the very
expensive iPhone........
The most important question is
Is there a way to completely turn off the microphone when not

In the USA
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 15, 2016 12:53 PM PDT
In reply to: OMG! Is there a way to turn off the microphone unless

I don't worry about this as much due to wiretapping laws. But in no
Android so far is there an off setting for the microphone.
There are ideas about muting, Mic Block and more at

(NT) Everywhere
by bavant / May 20, 2016 7:29 PM PDT
In reply to: In the USA

by bavant / May 20, 2016 7:31 PM PDT
In reply to: In the USA
What use is a phone without a mic?

by lhatten / May 20, 2016 6:41 PM PDT
In reply to: Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?
Well, for Android, you can look at the permissions you give each
app. If you did not pay attention when you downloaded the app, you
can go back & check them. It is tedious, but I just did it, and the
only 2 apps that asked for permission to use the microphone were
Firefox, and Smart Tools. I will be asking them why soon. If I don't
like the answer, I will uninstall them. If you believe Google
actually uses the permissions to keep apps from over stepping their
permission to use things like the microphone, then all is good.

I wouldn't doubt it
by Lynda99 / May 20, 2016 7:09 PM PDT
In reply to: Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?
I recently became aware (personal experience) that Facebook is
gathering the personal and marketing information from non-Facebook
members who share an IP/Internet signal with a Facebook member.
It's 1984, and we've allowed it to happen.
I remember the day when the idea of actually carrying a tracking
device everywhere with us would have been unthinkable.

Yes it's possible. Yes it's about relevance and advertising.
by alanbs / May 20, 2016 9:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?
Yes it's possible. Yes it's about relevance and advertising.
Do you have Google Now? Facebook? I'm sure you do, like most of us.
(well I did get rid of FB) Some phone manufacturers have their own
apps too.
If your phone is on, it's listening for you to talk to it. "Okay
Google" will cause it to acknowledge that it is listening and
awaiting your command or query. Google and Facebook make their
millions to operate with by being "relevant" to you and by providing
Directed Advertising. Facebook, however, never told anyone that the
app once on will never shutoff unless you take action to stop it.
They originally said phone feature access was to dial from your FB
address book. Google was more forthcoming saying what it was doing.
They also track your location for the same reasons, relevance and
They are both attempting to know as much about where and what you
do, and are thinking (saying) about so that when you do open their
applications they have a head start on providing you with relevant
information, advertising and options displayed.
Your in a mall, you check FB, and the advertising is for stores in
that mall or nearby. Not a coincidence. Same for Google distributed
ads if you open a web page.
Big brother is watching, and he wants to sell you something. (NSA
not withstanding)

Wouldn't it be better if...
by Sunsetlover / May 20, 2016 10:08 PM PDT
In reply to: Yes it's possible. Yes it's about relevance and
....we were being asked to pay for OS, apps etc? Because that's the
crux of the issue here. "Directed advertising" so they can make
their money.
Let's be specific, would we be better off paying $50 for the Android
OS? How about an extra $10/year for FB? an extra $10 for Gmail? In
return, ZERO tracking, ZERO directed advertising. I haven't done the
math for the companies' revenue purposes, but you get the idea.
We have grown accustomed to free WWW, email, apps and the rest, but
a) there's no such thing as "free", and b) many people think it
would be crazy to pay the above amounts, but find nothing wrong in
shelling out $5 a day on coffee or $50 on that steak at the fancy

by TreknologyNet / May 20, 2016 11:26 PM PDT
In reply to: Wouldn't it be better if...
You've hit the nail on the head. The Internet was not pushed into
people's homes for the way it is currently being used. It was pushed
by advertising - you pay for the incoming data, and you pay for junk
advertising as well! Can you imagine people paying for the junk that
clutters their letter boxes?
That is why I will not pay extra for Cable TV or a streaming
service. If I'm paying a premium price, I expect the content to be
free of ads, and it isn't. Therefore, I'm willing to wait until I
can buy that content on a physical disc.
Facebook is panicking. People aren't sharing enough personal
information anymore. When I look at my FB feed, it's all political
activism. In an effort to harvest personal information for
advertising purposes, FB is now dragging up "memories" from two or
three years ago, and encouraging users to re-share said memories.

It may not be your phone that is doing the listening.
by TreknologyNet / May 20, 2016 10:04 PM PDT
In reply to: Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?
Many alleged "law enforcement" bodies now use skimmers, which
impersonate a cell tower. Therefore your entire conversation can be
recorded while it is being passed on to a genuine tower. These
skimmers can also be used to isolate mobile networks to prevent
information about what's really happening from escaping the
immediate environment, e.g., you're getting a good signal, but you
can't make a phone call or a data connection.
Here, in Australia, digital phones were actively marketed to public
as more secure than the analog network (because the digital network
was "scanner proof"). This was actually ********. The digital
encryption system for phones was not approved until ASIO
(Australia's CIA wannabe) had a guaranteed back door (into the data
stream, not individual phones).
My first "smart" phone was Android, and it was of limited
capability, lasting for about five years. Its replacement is also
Android but, as my phone is a phone, not a device for going online,
almost every other feature has been deliberately disabled. This is
not so much inspired by paranoia, it's more about keeping junk out
of my phone. Emails and other fora can wait until I'm sitting at a
real computer rather than another distraction when I'm about to
cross the street in front of moving traffic.
I have given up on the illusion of privacy. I know that traffic
cameras can decode the plate on my vehicle, I know that turning off
the GPS function on my phone doesn't deactivate the actual chip and,
as a gmail user, I rely on data overload to believe that if my
emails are being read, there's nothing sufficiently salacious to
make mine distinctly memorable to the poor third party who has to
wade through them all.
When I am using a 'net browser (as required to enter this post), I
use active ad-blockers. "They" may want to watch me, but I don't
have to be distracted by "their" junk. Call it 1984 if you want but,
at least for now, it's legal to use an OFF-switch.

This Happens
by jg3arrow / May 20, 2016 10:36 PM PDT
In reply to: Coincidence or is my phone listening to me?
My wife complains about this all the time. Now I know it happens to
me. But how?
I was driving through Nice, France, on Wednesday with friends. My
phone was on, but cellular data was off; I was not connected to
wifi. I pointed out La Perouse hotel to my friends and mentioned
what the name meant in French, and I noted what a good view it had.
When I returned to my apartment in Italy that night, where I
reconnect to wifi (still with cellular data switched off), I got pop
up ads for booking assistance at La Perouse hotel! How?
After a trip to Florence the week before, where my wife had noticed
an Eataly market and spoke about it, she got ads for Eataly. I
didn't speak about it - just nodded - and I got no ads.
It is definitely the microphone eavesdropping - even when the
phone's capabilities to listen are limited.
This also happens to us in the US and everywhere else we travel, so
it is not a country-specific issue.

by jg3arrow / May 20, 2016 10:50 PM PDT
In reply to: This Happens
We have iPhones.
tt mailing list


Is your smartphone listening to you?
By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News
* 2 March 2016

Media captionWatch: Expert creates app that spies on its mobile
owners' conversations

It all began with a car crash.

I was doing some ironing when my mum came in to tell me that a
family friend had been killed in a road accident in Thailand.

My phone was on the worktop behind me.

But the next time I used the search engine on it, up popped the name
of our friend, and the words, "Motorbike accident, Thailand" and the
year in the suggested text below the search box.
Image copyright Thinkstock

I was startled, certain that I had not used my phone at the time I
had had the conversation - my hands had been full.

Had I started to look the details up later on and forgotten? Or was
my phone listening in?

Almost every time I mentioned it to people they had a similar story,
mainly based around advertising.

One friend complained to her boyfriend about a migraine, her first
ever, only to find the next day she was being followed on Twitter by
a migraine support group.

Another had an in-depth chat with her sister about a tax issue, and
the next day was served up a Facebook advert from tax experts
offering advice on that exact issue.

Many said they were discussing particular products or holiday
destinations and shortly afterwards noticed advertising on the same

Community website Reddit is full of similar stories.

One reporter mentioned his male colleague seeing online adverts for
sanitary pads after discussing periods with his wife in the car.

But surely if the microphone was activated and the handset was
sending data, battery life would be even worse than it is now and
individual data usage would be through the roof?

Tech challenge

I challenged cybersecurity expert Ken Munro and his colleague David
Lodge from Pen Test Partners to see whether it was physically
possible for an app to snoop in this way.

Could something "listen in" at will without it being obvious?

"I wasn't convinced at first, it all seemed a bit anecdotal,"
admitted Mr Munro.

However, to our collective surprise, the answer was a resounding

They created a prototype app, we started chatting in the vicinity of
the phone it was on and watched our words appear on a laptop screen

"All we did was use the existing functionality of Google Android -
we chose it because it was a little easier for us to develop in,"
said Mr Munro.

"We gave ourselves permission to use the microphone on the phone,
set up a listening server on the internet, and everything that
microphone heard on that phone, wherever it was in the world, came
to us and we could then have sent back customised ads."

The whole thing took a couple of days to build.

It wasn't perfect but it was practically in real time and certainly
able to identify most keywords.

The battery drain during our experiments was minimal and, using
wi-fi, there was no data plan spike.

"We re-used a lot of code that's already out there," said David

"Certainly the user wouldn't realise what was happening. As for
Apple and Google - they could see it, they could find it and they
could stop it. But it is pretty easy to create."

"I'm not so cynical now," said Ken Munro.

"We have proved it can be done, it works, we've done it. Does it
happen? Probably."

Google responds

The major tech firms absolutely reject such an idea.

Google said it "categorically" does not use what it calls
"utterances" - the background sounds before a person says, "OK
Google" to activate the voice recognition - for advertising or any
other purpose. It also said it does not share audio acquired in that
way with third parties.

Its listening abilities only extend to activating its voice
services, a spokesperson said.

It also states in [63]its content policy for app developers that
apps must not collect information without the user's knowledge. Apps
found to be breaking this are removed from the Google Play store.

Facebook also told the BBC it does not allow brands to target
advertising based around microphone data and it never shares data
with third parties without consent.

It said Facebook ads are based only around information shared by
members on the social network and their net surfing habits

Other big tech companies have also denied using the technique.


There is of course also a more mathematical explanation - the
possibility that there is really no connection at all between what
we say and what we see.
Image copyright Thinkstock Image caption Prof David Hand argues that
anything can happen, given enough opportunities.

Mathematics professor David Hand from Imperial College London wrote
a book called The Improbability Principle, in which he argued that
apparently extraordinary events happen all the time.

"We are evolutionarily trained to seek explanations," he told the

"If you see a sign you know is associated with a predator you run
away and you survive.

"It's the same sort of thing here. This apparent coincidence occurs
and we think there must be explanation, it can't be chance. But
there are so many opportunities for that coincidence to occur.

"If you take something that has a tiny chance of occurring and give
it enough opportunities to occur, it inevitably will happen."

People are generally more alert to things that are currently
occupying them, such as recent conversations or big decisions like
buying a car or choosing a holiday, he added.

So suddenly those sorts of messages stand out more when they may
have been in the background all the time.


Prof Hand is not immune to the lure of coincidence himself.

When his book was published another author published a very similar
title at the same time. The author of The Coincidence Authority,
John Ironmonger, shared the same birthday as Prof Hand and was based
at the same university as his wife.

"These sorts of things happen," he said.

"Just because I understand why it happened doesn't make it any less


tt mailing list

Saturday, May 21, 2016

[tt] PRN Newswire: NYU Tandon Doctoral Student's Cochlear Implant Technology Banishes Ambient Babble

NYU Tandon Doctoral Student's Cochlear Implant Technology Banishes Ambient
[Thanks to Sarah for this.]

Algorithmic Solution for Hearing Aids and Implants Tunes Out
Talkers, Tunes in the Person the Wearer Wants to Hear
May 03, 2016, 12:22 ET from NYU LANGONE

NEW YORK, May 3, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/--Wearers of cochlear
implants and hearing aids often have difficulty teasing out what
someone is saying over "babble"--the cacophony of other talkers--
and other ambient sounds. New York University researchers have
devised a novel solution: an algorithmic approach that, like making
drinkable water from pond water, distills the talker's voice from a
turbid wash of noise.

Most algorithms for acoustic noise suppression aim to eliminate
steady background noise--the sound of an air conditioner or road
noise are familiar examples--which is relatively easy to
attenuate. Babble is much more difficult to suppress because it
resembles the foreground voice signal one aims to hear. Few
algorithms even attempt to eliminate it.

To tackle the problem, Roozbeh Soleymani, an electrical engineering
doctoral student, created an innovative noise reduction technology
called SEDA (for Speech Enhancement using Decomposition Approach)
with Professors Ivan Selesnick and David Landsberger in the NYU
Tandon Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the NYU
Langone Department of Otolaryngology, respectively.

The traditional method to analyze a speech signal decomposes the
signal into distinct frequency bands, like a prism that separates
sunlight into a rainbow of colors. SEDA, however, decomposes a
speech signal into waveforms that differ not just in frequency (the
number of oscillations per second) but also in how many oscillations
each wave contains.

"Some waveforms in the SEDA process comprise many oscillations while
other comprise just one," said Selesnick, whose National Science
Foundation-funded research in 2010 was the springboard for
Soleymani's work. "Waveforms with few oscillations are less
sensitive to babble, and SEDA is based on this underlying
principle," said Soleymani. Selesnick added that this powerful
signal analysis method is practical only now because of the
computational power available in electronic devices today.

J. Thomas Roland, Jr., the Mendik Foundation Professor and chairman
of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at NYU
Langone, said noise is the number-one problem for people with any
degree of hearing loss, even with an appropriately fit hearing aid
or cochlear implant. "It is also a big problem even for
normal-hearing people," he said.

The potential uses for SEDA, for which a U.S. patent application has
been submitted, go way beyond helping the hearing impaired. "While
it was originally conceived for improving performance with cochlear
implants (which it does very well), I can imagine the market might
even be bigger in a mobile phone arena," said Landsberger.

Outside funding support was provided by the National Institutes of
Health's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, when the NYU
School of Civil Engineering and Architecture as well as the Brooklyn
Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly)
were founded. Their successor institutions merged in January 2014 to
create a comprehensive school of education and research in
engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of
invention, innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to programs
at its main campus in downtown Brooklyn, it is closely connected to
engineering programs in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, and it
operates business incubators in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. For
more information, visit
tt mailing list