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They should have left Apple alone from the beginning

It now appears that there was never any reason for the US Justice Department to pick any fight with Apple over the encryption of its iPhones.

Things happen so quickly now that events from as far back as 2015 are chiefly forgotten, but I'm going to resurrect this one. On December 2 of that year, a married couple targeted a Christmas Party being held by the San Bernardino Health Department to commit a terrorist attack. They killed 14 people and seriously injured another 22.

Authorities covered one of the conspirators' work phones (they successfully destroyed their personal phone.) It was an Apple.

In the aftermath of that attack, the US Justice Department received several court orders requiring Apple to cooperate with it is unlocking that phone. Apple objected to and challenged all such orders.

As it happens, it was not necessary, for national security or for law enforcement or for any other urgent purpose, that Apple put itself in the business of ratting out its customers. Belie…
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Momentum Trades and Contrarian Trades

Intuition tells us that the right way to bet is to go with the way things have been going, so as not to miss out. Dotcom stocks are going up. Well then, buy some! Get yourself a piece of that action.

This FOMO intuition is also known by the more dignified term, "momentum trading."

Instinct also tells us that the right way to bet is to go against the way things have been going. After all, if red keeps coming up then black must be due to come up soon.

This is sometimes known as "contrarianism."

I can think of nothing that so illustrates the bankruptcy of appeals to "common sense." Both contrarianism and momentum trading wrap themselves in the garb of common sense. They do so quite naturally.

Yet one of them must be wrong. And, at least if adhered to with any consistency, each of them is wrong. 

More on Cephalopods

A week ago I wrote here about cephalopods -- the octopus and similar creatures. I was then, and am now, motivated by some comments in Peter Godfrey-Smith's book about them, OTHER MINDS.

I want to add to those thoughts today. The reason Godfrey-Smith (a professor of philosophy at CUNY) is so interested in them is that they are arguably a case where mind, consciousness, and the use of language have emerged with an evolutionary path very different from our own.

Most writing on other, non-human, minds focuses on creatures with whom we share a lot of adaptive history: the other primates, for example, or even the marine mammals. But on the tree of life, the branching off that separates octopuses, squids, etc.  from humans and other mammals of land or sea took place a long, long time ago. This, Godfrey-Smith says, presents is with a situation similar to that which would occur were we to encounter a form of life that had evolved on another planet.

So: what do we learn by way of compare/c…

Should Pompeo be Walking his Own Dog?

A few days back, after Trump removed an Inspector General for the State Department, it became public knowledge that (1) the Secretary of State had been giving a 23 year old aide personal tasks -- i.e. had him walking his dog and arranging dinner reservations (2) the inspector general had been looking at this, and (3) that august official, Mike Pompeo, told the President that he should fire the IG.

It is of course temping to connect these dots....President Trump has not even bothered to discourage the connection. He has said that he would rather have the S of S working to resolve outstanding issues between the two Koreas rather than walking his dog.

In how many ways is that wrong?

I'll try to keep this short. First, I have no confidence that anybody involved in this administration has been or is likely to do any good with regard to Korea. I think it more likely that any time the S of S devotes to that purpose does harm than good. So, yes, I'd rather have him walking his dog.

S…