Norm Ornstein Calls Mitch McConnell--Rightly--Either Pig-Ignorant or a Liar: Do Any of HIs AEI Colleagues Dare to Back Ornstein Up? Or Are They too Subservient to Their Political Masters? Tuesday Crickets Weblogging
Snippets: Smith, Marx, Solow: Shoebox for Econ 210a Spring 2014

Robert Samuelson Is Old Man Yelling at Clouds

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Mistermix is The Sanitation Department:

The Post’s Fatal Case of Old White Man Syndrome: Richard Cohen’s appearance as the first symptom of this deadly ailment might have been missed by some observers, but even a first-year med school student could recognize that the Post is knocking on heaven’s door after examining Robert Samuelson’s latest emission:

If I could, I would repeal the Internet. It is the technological marvel of the age, but it is not — as most people imagine — a symbol of progress. Just the opposite. We would be better off without it…

Why would we be better off without it? Samuelson's rant seems… as unhinged as Kevin Hassett's call for the U.S. to nuke CERN's Large Hadron Collider.


The Internet’s benefits are relatively modest… and it brings with it a terrifying danger: cyberwar…. By cyberwarfare, I mean the capacity of groups — whether nations or not — to attack, disrupt and possibly destroy the institutions and networks that underpin everyday life. These would be power grids, pipelines, communication and financial systems, business record-keeping and supply-chain operations, railroads and airlines, databases of all types (from hospitals to government agencies). The list runs on. So much depends on the Internet that its vulnerability to sabotage invites doomsday visions of the breakdown of order and trust.

In a report, the Defense Science Board, an advisory group to the Pentagon, acknowledged “staggering losses” of information involving weapons design and combat methods to hackers (not identified, but probably Chinese). In the future, hackers might disarm military units. “U.S. guns, missiles and bombs may not fire, or may be directed against our own troops,” the report said. It also painted a specter of social chaos from a full-scale cyberassault. There would be “no electricity, money, communications, TV, radio or fuel (electrically pumped). In a short time, food and medicine distribution systems would be ineffective.”

I don’t know the odds of this technological Armageddon. I doubt anyone does. The fears may be wildly exaggerated…. In living memory, there are many threats that, with hindsight, seemed hyped: the “missile gap” in 1960; the Y2K phenomenon in 2000 (the date change was allegedly going to disable many computer chips); and, so far, the prophecies of widespread terrorism after 9/11.

Still, the Internet creates new avenues for conflict and mayhem…. Among criminals, “the Internet is seen as the easiest, fastest way to make money,” says Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer for Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm…. Stealing trade secrets likely dwarfs ordinary crime…. Mandiant identified one unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army that allegedly has hacked 141 companies and organizations since 2006, removing “technology blueprints, propriety manufacturing processes, test results, business plans.” What’s unclear is how “infrastructure” systems (electricity grids and the like) have been penetrated….

Would the loss of e-mail, Facebook or Wikipedia inflict fundamental change? Now imagine life without some earlier breakthroughs: electricity, cars, antibiotics. Life would be radically different. The Internet’s virtues are overstated, its vices understated.

Bonus Kevin Hassett weblogging:

[Kevin Hassett:] The Large Hadron Collider… consumes about the same amount of energy as a large city… could induce a catastrophic event. A brilliant review of the risks associated with the experiment by University of North Dakota law professor Eric Johnson… the LHC’s high-energy collisions might create a microscopic black hole that would, perhaps over a few years, swallow the Earth…. The issue is far from decided… the physics community… [said if] those collisions were going to create a black hole, then Earth would already be gone…. This argument… is a loser. When a cosmic ray rocketing toward Earth collides with a particle, the result of the collision would most likely be blasted into space. That means a black hole created by such a collision might be well beyond our galaxy before it is large enough to harm anything…. Oxford University’s Toby Ord… adds… the models that we use to make predictions about the possibility of catastrophe are themselves flawed…. Ord estimates that the odds of the LHC producing a disaster are between one in 1,000 and one in 1 million... the likely benefits… [cannot]… justify accepting a cost that includes a real risk of… planetary destruction…. Right now… [if] the U.S. wanted to stop the LHC experiment, it would have no recourse short of military action...