Apple doldrums…why?

I think what has people spooked is that Apple is no longer the coolest game in town. Tastes change. I and others have heard anecdotes about how high school kids who are the trend-setters don’t want iPhones because everyone, especially their parents, have them.

I really believe much of the AAPL doldrums are caused by memories of RIM, PALM, etc who dominated their markets for a time, but then were disrupted by others which destroyed their businesses. Samsung/android is doing this now.

Apple needs new products to re-set these expectations. The long rumored Apple TV isn’t going to cut it. They need a product.

The iPhone needs to innovate more in features and less in design. Fingerprint authentication, mobile payments, NFC, etc are critical to re-disrupt the market.

A friend told me he lost his iPhone on the ski slopes and someone found it 18 months later, plugged it in and it worked. I’ve seen an iPhone immersed in water, and it still worked while under water. That is amazing, but also speaks to overengineering. There is a balance between investing in quality product design and investing in the software on the product, especially when most people don’t keep their phones for more than a couple of years.

I also believe that long-term, android dominance is going to fracture. Windows is going to gain market share at its expense and Samsung is going to introduce a competitive OS. When android fractures, Apple’s ecosystem will prove dominant.

Making Peace With Rockets

Re-post from Baghdad during Charge of the Knights, when the Green Zone was shelled ~8-10 times a day for six weeks…

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When the alarms go off, you throw yourself on the floor of your hooch, squirm into your body armor and helmet and under your bed, and there are moments, true life-changing moments, where you are forced to confront your fear. Your mortality and the absolute randomness that decides whether you end or continue is brought into striking focus, and you realize how truly out of control we are. Life or death no longer depends on your volition, but on the aim of some person miles away, the manufacture of a weapon from another country, the local barometric pressure, political maneuvering, gusts of wind. And so it always has been, and so it always will be.

The fear you have to confront, for if you hide from it, the fear finds you in your dreams. If you try to reason around it, fear runs your neuroses. Or worst of all, you try to think you can control it through superstitional wearing of lucky socks or amulets. Or by plugging your ears or not holding your breath so as to save your lungs from blast damage. Then you begin to lose touch with the reality, which is, there is no control. All that was and all that ever will be is, ultimately, mostly out of your hands. Control is an illusion, and all we have, all the world has, are a series of choices that combine to lead us here, or there. Your choices are few among trillions.

And so, lying facedown on the floor, panting in the dust from the adrenalin coursing through your system and the 30 pound of armor plate on your back, explosions in the distance like a pack of giants throwing stones, you confront your fear…and find peace on the other side. Peace is acceptance of the fact that one day you are going to die, and they will throw dirt on your face and you will be no more. Peace is acceptance that, if this is the will of the universe, then that is the only way it could ever be. In that peace is acceptance of risk, of life, of rockets and of death, and a dismissal of worry which is, ultimately, probably the most dangerous enemy we face in the international zone.

You find peace in the fear. You accept it, and you move on. The all clear sounds, you rise and remove your body armor, propping it up for the next time you hit the deck. You go in the other room, brush your teeth and go to bed. And you sleep, soundly and deeply, until the next alarm challenges you with fear anew.

This might sound shocking, but in fact, this is everyday life, brought into laserlike focus. We’re just so often ignorant of risk…we learn to dismiss it, accept it or worry it.  In our safe little existences we don’t have the imminent risk of violent death, or at least we think we don’t, so we learn to worry about other things… are there toxins in my water bottle that are going to kill me in 40 years? Am I getting too little iron? Maybe too much? Do I have too little hair on my head? Too much on my back? Am I a boring conversationalist? Am I too old? Is my butt too big? Are my breasts too small? Am I eating too many eggs? Or maybe too few?

These are the things we think about because basic survival is no longer an issue. So we replace it with other, seemingly life or death choices. Fear is everywhere, and it finds us one way or another. You can’t control that. The only thing you can do is choose how to deal with it…face it, or hide. Accept it, or deny the reality that all life is risk, and ultimately, death.

So eat those eggs, but exercise and accept they may still clog your heart. Enjoy your food. Let your kid play barefoot in the grass, even though they might get toxoplasmosis and lose a foot. Play is good for you and sometimes you get hurt. And when you hear the CRAM, hit the deck and squirm into your armor, just know that if it’s your time, it’s your time, and if it’s not, it’s not. Nothing more. And sleep…

A-salam alekum

Peace = سلم

Artificial Wombs Could Outlaw Abortion

Re-post of an old paper from 10 years ago…

In February of 2002, scientists at Cornell University’s Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility claimed their first successes in artificial womb research. This technology has been hailed as a breakthrough that could greatly empower childless individuals and couples, allowing them to bear children without the assistance of a surrogate mother. Unwittingly, it could also spell doom for abortion rights in the United States.
Dr. Hung-Ching Liu and her team were able to create the artificial womb by cultivating endometrial cells on an artificial biodegradable scaffolding. Spurred to multiply with heavy doses of growth hormones and estrogen, the cells took the shape of the scaffolding, modeling themselves into an artificial uterus.
Liu then implanted embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization programs. The embryos attached themselves to the walls of the engineered tissue and began to settle in normally. Although the experiments were halted after six days, Liu hopes to replicate the tests for fourteen days, long enough for the embryos to put down roots and veins, and possibly develop a primitive placenta.
Although Liu’s human experiments are limited to two weeks by IVF legislation, she plans to develop this technology using mice and dogs embryos. If successful, she plans to ask permission to extend her human experiments beyond the fourteen day limit.
Liu is not alone in her quest. While she seeks to grow a baby from scratch, Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara at Juntendo University in Tokyo wants to assist women who miscarry or have very premature births. His team was successful in removing goat fetuses from the womb and keeping them alive and growing in a tank of amniotic fluid, using artificial umbilical cords to deliver nutrients and deliver waste.
Both scientists are confident that technologies capable of bringing a baby to term outside of the mother will be a reality in a matter of years. In an unforeseen twist, these seemingly empowering technologies will, under current Constitutional law, provide States almost unfettered authority to ban abortion throughout pregnancy.
Prior to Roe v. Wade, there was no recognized Constitutional right to an abortion. In 1973, the Roe court recognized that the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment to the Constitution gave women certain privacy rights with regard to abortions. As delineated in Roe and affirmed in the 1992 Casey decision, prior to fetal viability, a woman has a right to obtain an abortion without undue interference from the state. After viability, the State’s interest in the life of the unborn child permits restrictions or prohibitions on abortion so long as the law contains an ‘escape clause’ where the life or health of the mother is in jeopardy. Currently 40 states restrict or prohibit post-viability abortions.
The Roe Court further defined legal viability as the time where the fetus is “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” Therein lies the looming conflict. Thanks to rapid advances in the survivability of preemies, viability has crept from 28 weeks at the time of the Roe decision to approximately 20 weeks today. Artificial womb technology, if successful, will catapult viability all the way back to the date of conception and will allow states to restrict or prohibit abortions throughout pregnancy.
There are two possible scenarios for the technology. The first, called the extraction scenario, is the most damaging to a woman’s right to an abortion. In this situation, researchers perfect methods to successfully extract a fetus from the mother, implant it in an artificial womb and raise it to term. Under this scenario, the date of viability outside the womb would be the date of conception. Following a strict reading of Roe, States would gain an unfettered ability to restrict or prohibit abortion from the moment of the first cell division.
More ambiguous is the implantation scenario. Here, physicians are not able to extract a fetus from the womb and transplant it, but are able to successfully grow an embryo into a baby when it is initially implanted in an artificial womb. Thus, the date of viability for an implanted fetus is conception, but the date of viability for a conventional child is still limited by medical science’s ability to care for a premature birth.
How the Supreme Court would decide on the implantation scenario is totally unpredictable and could depend on the political leanings of the Court at the time a decision is handed down. Some scholars argue that the Court would split abortion law into two categories, one for implanted fetuses, which would be protected completely, and one for normal pregnancies, which would be subject to unchanged Roe style pre- and post-viability determinations.
Others believe that the Court, especially a conservatively minded one, would interpret successful implantation as evidence that viability exists at conception. In such a situation, traditional mothers would have no right to an abortion, even though their fetus could not be transplanted to an artificial womb.
Still another more radical view envisions the Supreme Court developing an entirely new treatment for abortion law not predicated on Roe v. Wade. An activist court might follow the suggestion of the plurality in Casey and determine that the right to an abortion is so fundamental to economic and social developments that it must be preserved. But this would require a remarkable deviation from the Constitutional framework of viability that the Court has already committed itself to.
One can only marvel at the ironies that would reveal themselves if (when!) artificial womb technologies become reality. Anti-abortion conservatives, long vilifying Roe and pressing for its abandonment, would suddenly find merit in its viability framework, as it would give states almost unfettered ability to restrict or prohibit abortion. Pro-choice liberals, long claiming abortion rights victory based on the Roe decisions, would find the structure of their very savior encasing them in a constitutional cage of their own making.
The ironies extend beyond constitutional arenas and into social and political spheres. Abortion foes who have fought embryonic research as murder are faced with the prospect that the scientific research they oppose could be their savior. The embryos sacrificed today to perfect this technology may in fact save many times their number later on as artificial wombs enable states to prohibit abortions. And feminists, who might see artificial wombs as a boon to women too busy with their careers to worry about nine months of inconvenient pregnancy, may find that the same liberating technology results in a significant curtailment of their Constitutional right to abortion.
Unintended consequences are the inevitable children of all technological advances. As science delivers this precocious technology to term, the Supreme Court, and the country at large, may find itself wishing it had never met the screaming brat known as the artificial womb.

Looking forward to the tech@state discussion on Internet Freedom March 8-9

Tech@State: Internet Freedom – Agenda – TechATState.

Pakistan’s largest province tries innovative technology-driven initiative to tackle corruption – The Washington Post

Pakistan’s largest province tries innovative technology-driven initiative to tackle corruption – The Washington Post.

But the problem isn’t with finding out who corrupt officials are. Typically everyone knows who they are. The problem is prosecuting and convicting them.

Why does DoD get all the cyber dollars?

Interesting article in FP about how diplomats can and need to do more in the cyber realm.

Diplomatic Code – By Tim Maurer | Foreign Policy.

The problem with cyber weapons

Eugene Kaspersky explains the problem with cyber-weapons – they’re like cruise missiles you fire at an enemy, but then they can pick them up and fire them back at you.

Should you exit short term AAPL options?

I created this post for friends holding Apple call  options with April strikes. But it’s a useful guide on bottom-fishing Apple.
Throughout the crash, websites have been tantalizing people with the possibility of a v shaped recovery or some sort of huge bounce which will restore value and allow a decent exit.
It isn’t going to happen. At least not for the Aprils. If you’re in April, your best bet is to roll to May or later asap before theta decay erodes any remaining value.
Apple was just massively oversold. The resulting bounce has brought us up a measly 25 points and upward momentum has stalled. We just broke to the downside of a bear flag. We’re heading back down to re-test the lows. 
Now April’s only chance is that this time, Apple makes a higher low, or lower low on lower down momentum that actually holds. Positive divergence has not held throughout the crash. 
Until Apple makes a higher high, and a higher low, the downtrend is still intact and we can expect lower prices. 
Forget about 550 in the next month or two…there is no evidence for this at all. It’s hopium (possibly designed to get people to renew just one more month).
The only hope is that the Feb max-pain point of 495-500 ( is going to suck us upwards sometime in the next three weeks. I have only low confidence in this. 
Absent that, there is nothing right now that says we should go higher. We’re not oversold on the hourly or daily. There are no expected catalysts until Apple reports earnings in April.
What I’m watching is the weekly. 
RSI touched oversold on the 14 and shows divergence on the 7. MFI is oversold. Wait until positive divergence is confirmed and the macd turns up. This should coincide with a 1-2-3 trend change on the daily. Then you’ll know the bottom was in. But I expect this process to take another month or two.
And finally, ask yourself – would you buy the spread you own here at these prices? If not, then sell. Don’t bet on more hopium. Save your ammo and wait until we’re in a confirmed uptrend to buy. 
Best to sit and watch Apple right now. There will be better chances to buy in the middle of the year when guidance should be improving. 

Social Media and Arms Control Verification

Interesting article last week from Al Jazeera on the conflict between using social media to verify arms control compliance (societal verification) and the preservation of Internet Freedom.


Rose Gottemoller’s remarks, which include some interesting thoughts on using open source IT to solve verification problems are here.

A platform for a new Republican Party

Preface note: I’ve been a registered Republican my entire life

Let’s face it, the current Republican party platform is dead in the water. I capitulated on them in the second Bush administration for a variety of reasons. Last week, my 83 year old father threw in the towel. He is their core constituency. If he is giving up, you know the mantras are dead and need revision.

So what would a platform for a new Republicanism look like? I believe it would contain the basic themes of fiscal conservatism, and social libertarianism. Let’s take a look at these elements and what they would mean policy-wise. This is just a start and will evolve as I introduce new ideas:

Fiscal conservatism:

-Stop favoring tax breaks that reduce revenue to unsustainable levels while at the same time supporting expansion of entitlements (I’m looking at you Prescription Drug Benefit for Seniors.) The party seems to have grasped that entitlements need to shrink, but they seem to be resisting tax increases. It’s simple economic reality – when you’re in debt you don’t cut your income. The old canard that higher taxes leads to lower economic growth is defeated by facts. Remember those? If you doubt it, look it up.

-Focus on smart defense. Spend more on State, USAID, USIP, DoD security cooperation, empowering regional defense organizations, intelligence collection and analysis and anything else that helps prevent wars and keeps us from having to fight them. If you have to use those guns and tanks, your defense policy is failing. We need to be smart.

-Lose our attachment to high price fancy weapons platforms (like the current nuclear powered carrier battle groups,) which present juicy, vulnerable targets and reduce the number of vessels we can deploy. Integrate swarming methodologies into defense planning. Instead of a single carrier battle group, build multiple pocket carrier groups that allow force protection over a larger area and reduce the damage caused by the destruction of any one group. Swarming networks beat hierarchal systems every time.

-Where the private sector can do it, let them. Nowhere is this more apparent than Congress’ insistance that NASA pour billions into the Space Launch System when there are private companies providing more innovative technologies at lower cost. This has the added benefit of developing our private sector space launch capability.

-Doggedly focus on entitlement reform. Trade tax increases for medicare, medicaid and social security reform that will ensure these programs are viable and sustainable. When you’ve fixed them so they aren’t going to bankrupt us, then have the discussion about whether they are in our best interests.

-Embrace immigration. Immigration has been the country’s heart and soul since its founding. Encourage the best and brightest from around the world to come to the US. We can encourage innovation and entrepreneurship by making it as easy as possible for foreigners to immigrate if they possesses advanced degrees, can start businesses or can otherwise make positive contributions to society and our economy.

-Embrace technology and be unswerving advocates for disruptive innovation. New technologies are going to radically reshape the way we think about the world, interact, communicate and relate to each other. Rather than holding on to a 1950’s idyllic worldview, recognize that the only constant in life is change, and move to shape those changes before they happen. (PS a little tip: the 50’s were only great if you were a white male. Women and black folks probably have markedly different opinions.)

-Drop irrational moral objections to free markets for human organs and tissues. Thousands of people die each year for lack of donor organs when there are millions who would gladly sell them. Otherwise you are generating the 21st century version of the illegal drug trade. This market should be highly regulated to ensure proper donor information and consent, and well tracked to ensure donors don’t have long term negative health outcomes. (I bet this one will generate the most emails.)

-Promote free trade agreements and market access everywhere, but acknowledge these agreements disrupt US industries and need to be balanced by programs to assist people in effect industries in transitioning to new jobs. Embrace creative destruction.

-Become the party of entrepreneurs, not just big business. Recognize that big businesses make money through the status quo. Vibrant entrepreneurism threatens established businesses. By aligning with big business, we embrace policies that stifle innovation. We need to balance both.

-Embrace science and technology research as the cornerstone of our future weath. Uniformly reject and ostracize the ignorant fundamentalists who reject science and reason as the cornerstones of human progress and US prosperity. Space is the future of mankind, commit ourselves to space exploration and research. Space in the next two hundres years is analogous to the oceans over the past thousand years. Whomever masters it masters human civilization.

-Embrace and dedicate ourselves to supporting a public education system that evolves to reflect the changing needs of the 21st Century. Quality education for all is an obligation of a free state that is in everyones enlightened self-interest. A well educated citizenry is the best way to ensure full employment, innovation, good health, respect for law and order, civic participation, family values, responsibility and all the other virtues important to classical Republicanism.

-Give up opposition to climate change and fight the scientifically defensible battle. Denying that the climate is changing is the new religious fundamentalism. It’s belief with no connection to reality. The climate is changing – it always does. The only argument is over to what extent humans are contributing to climate change and what, if anything we should do about it. Focus on prudent research that will develop accurate models of human impact, rather than radically reshaping the energy economy to account for possibilities. Focus on innovating our way out of our problems. Wildly promote and support alternative energy entrepreneurs which will develop new industries and preserve US competitiveness in energy markets.

-Immediately cease support for the death penalty. There is no evidence that it provides any disincentive for murder, and it’s much costlier to try a death penalty case than to just lock a murderer up for life. Lock em up and save the money. If you believe, God will sort them out.

Social libertarianism:

-Stop the opposition to gay marriage, now. If two free people want to marry, let them. Don’t use the State to impinge on people’s freedom. Recognize that the concept of ‘family’ takes many many forms beyond the nuclear family. In a custom world, people need relationships that work for them. The important thing is: do the people in the relationship love each other and their children, and are they committed to each other? Those are the values we should promote, regardless of form.

-Transform the war on drugs from one focused on prosecution and interdiction to one focused on prevention and treatment. If people want to use drugs, that’s their right so long as they do it in a way that doesn’t impact others. Reduce the focus on interdiction which doesn’t work and channels huge amounts of money towards narcotrafficants, who threaten state stability.

-Diversity is our strength. Acknowledge, respect and embrace the idea that the United States is not a fixed vision, but evolves and changes based on the changing makeup of its citizens. The US looks like the world, but unlike the world where identity is frequently based on tribal, ethnic or regional affiliations, our identity is based on the shared acceptance of an idea: that we all want a better life and if we work hard and long, we can have one.

-Accept all faiths that preach positive virtues like tolerance, love, compassion and understanding. Focus on confronting those preaching hate and fear within ones own faith rather than allow them to spread their venomous messages. Stop the irrational fear-mongering about Islam and recognize how all religions which preach love can also  have subsets that twist the doctrine to hate.

-Religion and faith are important cornerstones of American life, but not everyone agrees on one Truth. Keep your faith, but keep religion out of politics. This is consistent with the ideal that you can believe in whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t impinge on my life.

-Recognize that people have different views on abortion. Some feel a fetus is a living being at conception, others believe it’s just a mass of undifferentiated cells. Ultimately, if you believe, then God will judge whether it’s right or wrong. Support research that will allow fetuses to survive outside the womb. If a mother chooses to terminate her pregnancy, the fetus would be transfered to an artificial womb for ‘gestation’. This allows the mother to terminate the pregnancy and keep the fetus alive. But if you oppose abortion, you’d better be adopting these kids or supporting organizations that care for them.

-Possession of guns are a Constitutional right, but this right is not absolute. If you think it is absolute, then you should support the local Wal Mart stocking recoilless rifles. Obviously this is lunacy and contrary to Supreme Court rulings. The right is not absolute and rather than blindly rejecting any legislation that would restrict gun sales, inject some rationality into the conversation. Recognize that while guns don’t kill people, people kill people, guns do make it a lot easier to kill people. We need  methods of ensuring that lunatics who want to commit mass shootings have difficulty obtaining weapons. Law enforcement needs to be empowered to find these people and prevent such incidents.

-Support mandatory public service for two years. While this may seem contrary to libertarianism, public service is good for creating a civil society and is important for building a strong, responsible citizenry.

The views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of the Department of State or the U.S. Government.