URLs du Jour

2019-05-10

[Amazon Link]

  • A cool article from Adam Thierer at the Technology Liberation Front: I (Eye), Robot?.

    I became a little bit more of a cyborg this month with the addition of two new eyes—eye lenses, actually. Before I had even turned 50, the old lenses that Mother Nature gave me were already failing due to cataracts. But after having two operations this past month and getting artificial lenses installed, I am seeing clearly again thanks to the continuing miracles of modern medical technology.

    My eyeballs have occasionally been under the knife too. Also the laser. And the results are nothing short of miraculous. Unless and until Jesus comes back, ophthalmologists are the next best thing.

    But Adam has a deeper point to make:

    Critics are fond of falling back on worst-case “technopanic” scenarios ripped from sci-fi novels, movies, and shows to explain how, if we are not careful, we are all just one modification away from creating (or becoming) Frankenstein monsters. We should heed those warnings to some extent, but not to the extent those critics suggest.

    There are legitimate ethical issues associated with certain medical treatments and human enhancements. Genetic editing, for example, holds both promise and peril for our species. By modifying our genetic code, we can counter or even defeat debilitating or deadly diseases or ailments before they hobble us or our children. Of course, genetic modification could also be used in unsettling ways by parents or governments to create “designer babies” that have no choice in how their genetic code is altered before birth.

    Ethical guidelines, and even some public policies, will need to be crafted and continuously updated to keep pace with these challenges. But, we must not let worst-case thinking determine the future of all forms of human modification such that the many possible best-case outcomes are discouraged in the process. That would represent a massive setback for the millions of humans, including the unborn ones, who might be threatened by debilitating ailments.

    I say: bring it on.


  • At AEI, Timothy P. Carney tells the truth: the Export-Import Bank is a swampy tool of self-enrichment for insiders.

    The Export-Import Bank of the United States is a corporate-welfare agency that puts U.S. taxpayers at risk when foreign companies, and foreign governments, buy U.S. goods on credit. Standing at this intersection of multinational business deals, banking, bureaucracy, and Big Government, it’s no surprise that Export-Import is also characterized by corruption and self-enrichment — of both the legal and illegal nature.

    Foolishly, the Republican Senate is on the verge of reviving Export-Import on Wednesday.

    And they did. New members were confirmed to the bank by votes of 77-17, 72-22, and 79-17. A "victory for bipartisanship", surely. Which (as usual) means we lose.


  • At NR, Michael Brendan Dougherty writes on Our Corporate Clericalists.

    This modern clerical class is not actually composed of the ordained ministers of what’s left of the Christian church. It is made up of corporate boards, much of the media, and academia. It has its communions in ideas summits, and its occasional witch-burnings in social media. There is in the written Constitution a formal prohibition against the establishment of traditional religions. But this new clerical class understands that unprovable assertions about human nature and human society can be established, so long as they trade under the name of equality.

    Why did Evangelicals vote for a thrice-married man who says he has never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness? Because they see what the unity of this new church and state produces.

    Michael cites Tim Cook as a prime example, "who does nothing for freedom of conscience in China, when he instructs a state governor that the normal conscience protections consistent with religious freedom and pluralism in America are impermissible and bad for business."


  • George F. Will's column has sage advice: Want to take money out of politics? Keep politics out of money.. Makes sense! But GFW goes to town on Senator Kirsten Elizabeth Gillibrand's "Democracy Dollars":

    Every eligible voter could get these just by asking the government for up to 600 of them. For each federal race, the Federal Election Commission would provide $200 worth of vouchers that voters could contribute to House, Senate and presidential candidates, $100 in primaries and $100 in general elections. Voters could donate only to House and Senate races in their states.

    All campaign-finance laws are written by incumbent legislators, so they usually serve incumbent-protection. Gillibrand’s proposal would require candidates accepting “democracy dollars” to accept no contributions larger than $200, a boon to incumbents, who usually are better known than their challengers and have more ways of generating free media coverage.

    “Democracy dollar” vouchers will be paid for by — wait for it — taxing the rich. Gillibrand wants to take more than $60 billion over 10 years from chief executives who make “excessive” salaries, defined as more than 25 times the median salary of their employees, or more than $1 million, whichever is less.

    There is something Orwellian in the terminology: "dollars" that you get from the government as long as you … give them right back to politicians.


  • Our Google LFOD News Alert rang for the latest … sad news, I guess: Finland Just Keeps Getting Happier and U.S. Can't Keep Up.

    The UN-funded World Happiness Report for this year’s out, and once again dark, cold Finland tops the list (the criteria are GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and freedom from corruption), followed closely by Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the Netherlands. It must be great to know that you live in the happiest nation in the world, but of course we Americans have no such dreams, despite our nation’s reputation for greatness. The US is ranked 19 this year, down one from number 18 last year. Soon we’ll be out of the top 20, as we’re not currently on a happiness trajectory.

    Among the things the US is built for, promoting the kind of happiness the Finn feels is well down on the list. Would a nation built for happiness have a state whose license plates read, “Live Free Or Die?” That’s “die,” not “fight.” The flinty Americana this motto represents doesn’t involve the government lending a helping hand for your contentment.

    My guess is that Finnish-Americans are probably happier than Finns. Because they're not in freakin' Finland.

    You might also be interested in a more serious rebuttal to a previous edition of the World Happiness Report from Kyle Smith: That world happiness survey is complete crap.


  • I got a chuckle out of this Wired headline: Bad Air Linked To Dementia, Bezos' Lunar Lander, and More News.

    OK, I get dementia. Maybe. But who knew bad air could also be linked to Bezos' Lunar Lander and also More News? That's very powerful bad air. (Also left a comment at Wired, they may fix.)