“I’m sorry, Dave…” (tractor edition, agriculture average is over)

By Tyler Cowen

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from Marginal REVOLUTION.

Dave asked me if there was some way to bypass a bum sensor while waiting for the repairman to show up. But fixing Dave’s sensor problem required fiddling around in the tractor’s highly proprietary computer system—the tractor’s engine control unit (tECU): the brains behind the agricultural beast.

One hour later, I hopped back out of the cab of the tractor. Defeated. I was unable to breach the wall of proprietary defenses that protected the tECU like a fortress. I couldn’t even connect to the computer. Because John Deere says I can’t.

There is more here, interesting throughout, mostly about how farmers are no longer able to fix their own tractors, which by the way may cost $100,000 or more. This part is interesting too (“model this“):

There’s a thriving grey-market for diagnostic equipment and proprietary connectors. Some farmers have even managed to get their hands on the software they need to re-calibrate and repair equipment on their own—a laptop purchased from some nameless friend-of-a-friend with the software already loaded on it. There are even ways to get around the factory passwords that block access to the tECU to effect repairs.

But under modern copyright laws, that kind of “repairing” is legally questionable.

Manufacturers have every legal right to put a password or an encryption over the tECU. Owners, on the other hand, don’t have the legal right to break the digital lock over their own equipment. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act—a 1998 copyright law designed to prevent digital piracy—classifies breaking a technological protection measure over a device’s programming as a breach of copyright. So, it’s entirely possible that changing the engine timing on his own tractor makes a farmer a criminal.

In response, there is now a community of farmers looking to encourage “open source tractors.”

If this doesn’t concern you, I can assure you that in South Korea things are even worse.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Mark Thorson.

…Click Here To Read The Full Story >>>

Source:: Donkeyrock_BlurBlog

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The Anointed Know Why You’re Fat And What To Do About It

By Tom Naughton

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from Fat Head.

A couple of news items landed in my inbox recently that aren’t directly related, but they’re both examples of the Vision of The Anointed at work.

I gave a brief summary of The Vision of The Anointed (as described by economist Thomas Sowell in a book by that name) in a speech I called Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a recap of how The Anointed (who are nearly always members of the intellectual class) operate:

  • The Anointed identify a problem in society
  • The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem
  • Because they are so supremely confident in their ideas, The Anointed don’t bother with proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work
  • If possible, The Anointed will impose the Grand Plan on other people (for their own good, of course)
  • The Anointed assume anyone who opposes the Grand Plan is either evil or stupid
  • If the Grand Plan fails, The Anointed will never, ever, ever admit the Grand Plan was wrong

The first news item that reminded me of The Anointed was about an (ahem) study that pinpoints the reason we have an obesity problem in modern America. Here are some quotes:

A new report puts some of the blame for Americans’ expanding waistlines on the growth of new Wal-Mart supercenters in the US.

Big box retailers, and Wal-Mart in particular, have made cheap, bulk-size junk foods more readily available, and Americans are eating more as a result, argues the report, which was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“We live in an environment with increasingly cheap and readily available junk food,” Charles Courtemanche, an assistant professor of economics at Georgia State University and one of the report’s co-authors, told the Washington Post. “We buy in bulk. We tend to have more food around. It takes more and more discipline and self-control to not let that influence your weight.”

Well, there you have it. People are fat because there’s more food around. I remember asking my grandparents when I was a wee child, “Grandma, Grandpa … why aren’t you fat?” And my grandpa plopped me on his knee and rubbed my head and said, “Well, we would be if we could. But if you go look over there in the pantry, you’ll see we’re down to a few slices of bread and some carrots. It happens all the time because there’s no Wal-Mart nearby and …Click Here To Read The Full Story >>>

Source:: Donkeyrock_BlurBlog

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How Government Protects The Drug Companies: FDA Keeps Malfeasance Secret

By Amy Alkon

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from Advice Goddess Blog.

How Government Protects The Drug Companies: FDA Keeps Malfeasance Secret
Hah — did you think government is there to protect you?

The latest bit of evidence that this isn’t the case comes from The Verge. Elizabeth Lopatto reports that the FDA doesn’t tell you when there’s been scientific fraud. (“Out of sight, out of mind, out of the peer-reviewed literature”):

In at least 57 clinical trials conducted from 1998 to 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration found evidence of falsification, problems with reporting side-effects, inadequate record-keeping, and more. But only three of the resulting 78 publications monitored in today’s report mentioned the misconduct uncovered during inspections. And no corrections, retractions, or other comments were added after publication. The author of today’s report blames “regulatory capture” for the lapse, or a type of corruption where a public agency protects the interests of the groups it’s meant to regulate rather than the interests of the public at large.

…The misconduct itself isn’t so surprising, writes study author Charles Seife, who is also a journalism professor at New York University. Here’s what he says is surprising, though:

When the FDA finds scientific fraud or misconduct, the agency doesn’t notify the public, the medical establishment, or even the scientific community that the results of a medical experiment are not to be trusted. On the contrary. For more than a decade, the FDA has shown a pattern of burying the details of misconduct. As a result, nobody ever finds out which data is bogus, which experiments are tainted, and which drugs might be on the market under false pretenses. The FDA has repeatedly hidden evidence of scientific fraud not just from the public, but also from its most trusted scientific advisers, even as they were deciding whether or not a new drug should be allowed on the market. Even a congressional panel investigating a case of fraud regarding a dangerous drug couldn’t get forthright answers. For an agency devoted to protecting the public from bogus medical science, the FDA seems to be spending an awful lot of effort protecting the perpetrators of bogus science from the public.

In at least one case, falsified data led to a patient’s death, in a trial that compared chemotherapy regimens. In another trial, describing a stem cell treatment in 26 patients, all patients were described as having improved, even though one later had to have a foot amputated two weeks after being treated. And in yet another case, …Click Here To Read The Full Story >>>

Source:: Donkeyrock_BlurBlog

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Iranian-backed Houthis: "Death to America, damn the Jews." Obama: "We love you too."

By Elder of Ziyon (noreply@blogger.com)

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from Elder Of Ziyon – Israel News.

From Doyle McManus in the LA Times:

The Houthis, Shiite Muslim rebels who announced that they were taking control of Yemen’s government last week, don’t seem much like natural allies of the United States.

One of their favorite slogans is “Death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews.” U.S. officials say they’ve received money, weapons and training from Iran. An Iranian official boasted recently that thanks to the Houthis, Yemen’s capital is now “in the hands of Iran,” along with those of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Should we be worried that the enemy of our enemy Al Qaeda is also friends with our other enemies — adversaries, anyway — in Tehran?
And yet, last week, Obama administration officials were scrambling to contact Houthi leaders and assure them that the United States doesn’t consider them an enemy. “We’re talking with everybody,” an official told me — “everybody who will talk with us.” The Houthis’ top leaders haven’t been willing to meet so far, but the Americans are working on it.

Why so much eagerness for a working relationship with a group that wants less U.S. influence in its homeland, not more? Because the Houthis and their allies are now in charge in Yemen, one of the main battlegrounds in the long U.S. war against Al Qaeda. And the Houthis hate Al Qaeda.

US foreign policy seems to be that anyone who screams “Death to America” the loudest is a potential ally who must be cultivated.

Hey, Iran also says “death to America” – and look what great buddies they are!

The poor Saudis and Egyptians and other Arab nations who have tried for decades to be closer to the US are treated like enemies. (Except when Egypt was briefly ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood, another group who hates America and who Obama loves back.)

When the leader of the free world chooses to ignore explicit statements of hate for his country and instead rely on wishful thinking for his foreign policy decisions to treat avowed enemies as potential partners, we have a serious problem.

…Click Here To Read The Full Story >>>

Source:: Donkeyrock_BlurBlog

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Rikers Island and the correctional officers’ union

By Walter Olson

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from Overlawyered.

It isn’t just in California (here, here, here, here, here, here) that the political power of guard unions makes prisons hard to reform. In December the New York Times investigated the head of the guards’ union in New York City, Norman Seabrook, seen as “the biggest obstacle to efforts to curb brutality and malfeasance” at the city’s notorious Rikers Island, and noted that most elected officials are reluctant to be quoted discussing him by name, sometimes due to “fears about their safety while visiting Rikers” if they get on his wrong side. Seabrook has derailed investigators, reformers, and oversight officials for years:

Perhaps the most naked display of Mr. Seabrook’s power came on Nov. 18, 2013, when a Rikers inmate, Dapree Peterson, was scheduled to testify against two correction officers in a brutality case. Mr. Seabrook essentially shut down the city’s courts by sidelining the buses that ferry inmates to and from court, interviews and documents show. As a result, hundreds of inmates missed court dates, including Mr. Peterson, whose beating had been investigated and referred for prosecution by [deputy commissioner for investigation Florence] Finkle.

The blockage also caused 49 inmates to miss scheduled medical appointments at Bellevue Hospital Center.

Full story here. More: John McGinnis (despite personal tone of Times’s criticism of Seabrook, his actions respond to the predictable incentives of a union leader), Daniel DiSalvo, Washington Examiner (unions can win popularity by preventing discipline of misbehaving workers), Ed Krayewski. See also our coverage of correctional officers “bill of rights” laws in Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc. here, here, here, and here.

Tags: NYC, police unions, prisoners

Rikers Island and the correctional officers’ union is a post from Overlawyered – Chronicling the high cost of our legal system

…Click Here To Read The Full Story >>>

Source:: Donkeyrock_BlurBlog

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