What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?

The dreaded New York Times has the article What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?

New research is zeroing in on a biochemical basis for the placebo effect — possibly opening a Pandora’s box for Western medicine.

The subject interests me because I have been taking a placebo for over 25 years, and it seems to be an important part of my mental health. The last time I tried to wean myself off the placebo, it did not work out well. I’ve decided never to try that experiment again.

Future Dollars   Recently updated !

New Economic Perspectives has the article Future Dollars.

In recent essays I’ve made reference to a new framing of what is actually happening when the U.S. treasury issues a bond. It seems to me, this new framing goes to the heart of MMT and might well hold the key to a practical implementation of MMT principles in real world applications. The framing is this:

A U.S. treasury bond is a certificate of issuance of future dollars.

I already understand Modern Money Theory (MMT), so I don’t need any convincing. For those who do not accept the truth off MMT, I fear that they will just think this essay is an attempt to convince them that the naked emperor really is fully clothed if only they looked at him from the proper perspective.

Here’s How the Country Could Actually Secure Our Elections If Politicians Actually Cared to Try   Recently updated !

Alternet has the article Here’s How the Country Could Actually Secure Our Elections If Politicians Actually Cared to Try.

This is a good, detailed, fact-based discussion of the problems of getting accurate and honest election results. Of course it addresses the counting of ballots cast. It does nothing to solve the problems of manipulating who gets to vote and who doesn’t. We need to work both on each type of problem separately and the system of elections as a whole. So the title of the article is a tad overblown, but the article itself is certainly worth reading.

In comparing the approaches discussed in this article to my proposal for an all electronic system is that my proposal uses a distributed verification system, where this article focuses on various forms of centralized verification. My distributed verification makes the voter responsible for checking whether the voter’s intent has been captured correctly before the voter leaves the polling place. The centralized system has only the ballot that was cast to use to determine the voter’s intent with no check on whether the intent was clear by what the ballot looks like. At a higher level there needs to be a discussion of the merits of distributed verification versus centralized verification,

My proposal for an electronic voting system is described in the post Making Electronic Voting Transparent. I also have an article on how to standardize voting systems Standardize Electronic Voting Technology,

Cryptocurrencies: Financial (In)stability and (Un)fairness

Naked Capitalism has the article Cryptocurrencies: Financial (In)stability and (Un)fairness.

While I think that cryptocurrencies do not make much sense and are destined to end up worthless, (Danielsson 2018a, 2018b), suppose I am wrong. The success of privately issued cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin would come at a considerable cost. It would increase financial instability and wealth inequality, while bringing no discernible benefits.

This article gives some reasons to my own feelings that cryptocurrencies don’t make much sense. I suppose it would present a political/social/economic problem if government were to completely privatize the creation of base money, crypto or not.

Marshall Auerback: Apple Has an Early Case of GE’s Disease

Naked Capitalism has the article Marshall Auerback: Apple Has an Early Case of GE’s Disease.

To be fair to Apple, it is hardly unique. As early as 2010, market analyst Rob Parenteau noted that company managements, “ostensibly under the guise of maximizing shareholder value, would much rather pay themselves handsome bonuses, or pay out special dividends to their shareholders, or play casino games with all sorts of financial engineering thrown into obfuscate the nature of their financial speculation, than fulfill the traditional roles of capitalist, which is to use profits as both a signal to invest in expanding the productive capital stock, as well as a source of financing the widening and upgrading of productive plant and equipment.” Likewise, Professor William Lazonick noted in his work, “Profits Without Prosperity,” that the 449 companies that were publicly listed between 2003 and 2012 “used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market.”

Share buybacks were effectively illegal under SEC rules until 1982, in the midst of the Reagan deregulation wave, when SEC Rule 10b-18 was introduced. Until that time, buybacks had been considered a form of stock manipulation. As early as the mid-1980s, more and more companies have resorted to them, and the practice has grown exponentially.

In one sense stock buy backs are effectively shrinking the size of the company to match the shrinking demand for its products. That may be wise policy, but the stock buyback masks what is going on from investors who only look at the per share numbers. Of course, turning cash into debt is not the smartest thing one could do if you cared about the longevity of the company.

Strange snafu misroutes domestic US Internet traffic through China Telecom   Recently updated !

Ars Technica has the article Strange snafu misroutes domestic US Internet traffic through China Telecom.

Telecom with ties to China’s government misdirected traffic for two and a half years.

China Telecom, the large international communications carrier with close ties to the Chinese government, misdirected big chunks of Internet traffic through a roundabout path that threatened the security and integrity of data passing between various providers’ backbones for two and a half years, a security expert said Monday. It remained unclear if the highly circuitous paths were intentional hijackings of the Internet’s Border Gateway Protocol or were caused by accidental mishandling.

I don’t want to scare anybody, but … I have been meaning to write about a recent incident where I received a blackmail email with my email password in it. I realized that my email account, which I had set up many years ago, was not set up to use even minimal password security (and it had a weak password). I fixed both problems, and ignored the blackmail threat.

If you use a password over the internet and the destination uses an unencrypted protocol (http) instead of the encrypted protocol (https), then your password can easily be stolen. This rerouting gimmick mentioned in this article would be an ideal way to carry out this theft. Many browsers show a green padlock in the address area to show that the trip to the destination is secure.

If you think https is totally secure, then read the ars technica article Why you probably shouldn’t be doing work on that in-flight Wi-Fi

Until last year, Gogo was also issuing its own certificates for some secure websites—including Google. That allowed them to perform content screening even in apparently secure Google searches.

I just found the Mozilla article What do the security warning codes mean?, It explains some messages I have received from Firefox, but did not fully understand the significance until preparing this post.

Using Traditional Unemployment Measures In non-Traditional Times

I have been wondering why I am almost the only person in the world to notice this. When it takes, on average, two jobs per adult worker to make a living in the USA, does it make sense to call it full employment when each working adult has, on average, one job?

In the days when it only required one paid job per family to survive, it made sense to measure how many people were totally without work to understand how the economy was doing for the average person. Nowadays, every person could have one job, and we would have 0% unemployment by traditional measures but 50% underemployment when measuring how many people had enough work to make a living.

When was the last time you heard a news report on what percentage of the people did not have enough work to make a living?

Nobody wanted to tell people that creating 100s of thousands of low wage jobs per month during Obama’s term was not really a good record. Just shows that when you tell lies when you are in power, your opponents are given free reign to tell the same lies during their term. I always opposed the neo-liberals like Clinton and Obama when they used deception to brag about what they were doing. There is a reason why my parents always told me that honesty is the best policy.

Veronique Greenwood: My Grandfather Thought He Solved a Cosmic Mystery   Recently updated !

The Atlantic has the article
My Grandfather Thought He Solved a Cosmic Mystery: His career as an eminent physicist was derailed by an obsession. Was he a genius or a crackpot?

In essence, what he thought he’d found was a way in which probabilities arose naturally, a way in which they could be derived from the basic laws of the physical world rather than deduced from experiments. And he thought this should apply in the quantum world as well. It was both as simple, and as grandiose, as that. All the other papers, down through the years, involve elaborations of this main idea.

This paragraph is as tantalizing close as the author gets to explaining the idea.

This makes me think some more about a tantalizing paradox that physicists are talking about these days. That is called quantum entanglement. Two particles are entangled in such a way that the two have opposite values of a physical quantity. You don’t know (can’t know) the value that either particle has until you measure one particle. As soon as you know the value one particle has, you know the value that the other particle must have. If you don’t make the measurement until the two particles are separated by large distances, it leads to the question of how the remote particle can instantly take on a known value when you make a mearuremment on the particle you have close access to. The special theory of relativity tells you that no particle, and no information, can travel faster than the speed of light. Quantum mechanics tells you that the answer to what value each particle has doesn’t even exist when the particles were separated and sent on their different paths. It does not seem possible that both of these physical laws can both be right, and yet the entangled particles have been shown by experiment to behave the way I described. It seems obvious that something we can’t explain is exactly what is happening. I have no idea what the answer is, but it is just interesting to think of what has to happen for someone to figure it out.

Maybe Francis Perey had the kind of insight that will be needed.