BLOG 2012 Q2
The return capsule of the
spacecraft landed in the Inner
autonomous region on Friday as planned.
Astronauts (from left to
right) Liu Wang,
Jing Haipeng, and Liu Yang enjoy a breather
leaving the Shenzhou IX capsule.
Students of Zhengzhou No 11
School hold pictures of school
alumna astronaut Liu
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao
congratulated everyone involved in the success of the Shenzhou IX
space docking mission.
China started its manned space program ten
years ago. Since then, China has launched nine spacecraft and a
space lab module.
Four flights were manned and took eight astronauts
into space. At a cost of nearly 39 billion yuan (over $6 billion), China has
mastered the three basic technologies of manned
spaceflight: the technology to transport human beings to and from
extravehicular activity technology, and space
rendezvous and docking technology.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will participate in an
emergency UN meeting on Syria set for Saturday in Geneva,
Switzerland. The meeting will bring together top diplomats of the five
permanent members of the UN Security Council — China, France, Russia, the
United Kingdom, and the United States — and Turkey.
Guide To The Galaxy
I now have a Samsung
Galaxy running Google Android.
Women don't want to have sex any more. Ours is now a
terribly under-sexed society. I have talked to a lot of young women about
this and they just don't seem to do it any more. I suppose it's because we
all have so many other demands on our time. I don't write about sex nearly
as much as I used to.
1912-06-23 — 1954-06-07
2012 June 30
Chancellor Angela Merkel gave up several core
demands during the EU summit. The ESM can now provide direct aid to banks.
This helps Spain. And states will get ESM money without having to accept
strict oversight. This helps Italy. But she abandoned positions that were
already untenable. And she won big trade-offs with the fiscal pact and the
Lending Spain cheap money to save its banks makes no
sense when it only increases Spanish sovereign debt. And aid will only begin
to flow once an effective European banking supervision mechanism is in
place. Austerity measures don't help when states lack the will and ability
to implement them.
The fiscal pact gives Merkel a tool to impose
strict austerity measures on highly indebted states. Italy must balance its
budget in future and will only get cheap money from the ESM once it has
drawn down its debt. Merkel can do no better in the euro crisis than prime
ministers Mario Monti in Rome and Mariano Rajoy in Madrid. Both have pushed
through deep reforms.
Merkel got new French President François
Hollande to sign off on her fiscal pact in return for her support on the
€130 billion EU growth pact. The growth pact is made up of little more than
empty promises and dreams that can never come true. It is no win for
2012 June 29
+++ BLOGGING FROM THE EURO ABYSS +++
Eurozone leaders agreed at the
European summit to restructure Spain’s €100 billion bank recapitalization
plan. EU bailout funds will now be injected directly into teetering Spanish
financial institutions. The change will come as soon as the eurozone sets up
banking supervision run by the ECB. The move came after Italy and Spain
forced leaders to remain at the summit overnight by blocking agreement on
all other agenda items until they got a rescue deal.
and Spain Get Their Way
Italian PM Mario Monti and Spanish PM Mariano
Rajoy have won a eurozone agreement to let the bailout funds EFSF and ESM
support ailing banks and act in sovereign bond markets. The agreement will
allow the ESM to recapitalize troubled banks directly instead of loaning the
bailout aid to national governments in exchange for austerity commitments.
Emergency aid funds will also be made available to stabilize the bond
markets without requiring countries to adopt additional austerity measures.
Monti and Rajoy got the deal by blocking the vote on the
€120 billion EU growth pact. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had promised to
pass the pact in exchange for domestic opposition support in ratifying the
ESM and the EU fiscal pact. She was not an early fan of the growth pact.
French President François Hollande had promised voters that he would secure
a growth pact to complement the fiscal pact. Monti and Rajoy used the growth
pact to get their way.
EU leaders are meeting again to discuss the
creation of a banking union and a eurozone deposit insurance scheme. Merkel
would also like to see steps taken toward further political and economic
integration across the eurozone. A detailed proposal for a banking union is
due in October. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy says the aim is
"to make the euro an irreversible project".
Large investment banks in the City of London and
Wall Street wrap their activities in the rhetoric of free markets. But the
London Interbank Offered Rate was never organized as a proper market.
LIBOR pricing was murky and capricious, since it was based on private
reported quotes in a market dominated by a small clique of powerful banks.
Reforming this system will not be easy.
An estimated $350 trillion of
derivatives contracts have already been written using LIBOR as a reference
point. LIBOR is now hard-wired into the system, with all its flaws.
European leaders might reflect on the breakup of
the Soviet Union. So for the Soviet Union should we read the eurozone, and
for a secessionist Russia a disgruntled Germany?
The eurozone is not
built on a doomed economic system. Its disintegration is not inevitable. All
agree they need to mutualize debt and decision making. They disagree on
which to do first.
Germany fears that agreeing to eurobonds will
relax pressure for fiscal discipline and economic integration. The Club Med
countries say they need help to pull out of debt and deflation. All need
The Supreme Court of the United States upholds the reform of
health care coverage initiated by Barack Obama. The Affordable Care Act
requires most Americans to have health care insurance.
Under the law,
insurance companies will cover preventive care services. Without it, 40
million Americans would stay uninsured and those without insurance would
grow to some 60 million by 2019.
Many Americans get health cover from
employers. Others can buy insurance at state exchanges. Obama says the
ruling upholds the principle that no American should go bankrupt because of
2012 June 28
+++ BLOGGING FROM THE EURO ABYSS +++
Today's EU Summit
The summit will be
stormy. Chancellor Merkel stands firm in her opposition to eurobonds. Italy and Spain
want relief from the high costs of servicing
their debt. They want the ESM to buy their bonds, but Merkel says no. The
Dutch and Finnish prime ministers are on her side. The result may be a
Both camps say they want "more Europe". The
Mediterranean countries want a collectivization of debt, in the short term
through the ESM and in the long term through eurobonds. But Germany wants to
give Brussels more power to intervene in national budgets first.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President
José Manuel Barroso, ECB chief Mario Draghi, and Euro Group head Jean-Claude
Juncker together presented a report titled "Towards a Genuine Economic and
Monetary Union" (blog June 27).
The situation heading into the summit is even
more complicated than usual. The only option is to kick the can down the
road. The four EU officials say they can present another interim report for
the next summit in October, with concrete proposals left for the summit in
Merkel Says No
German chancellor Angela Merkel called short-term
measures to help lower Spanish and Italian borrowing costs ahead of the EU
summit "eyewash and fake solutions".
One plan is to use the €440 billion eurozone rescue fund to purchase Italian
and Spanish bonds, but Merkel says the eurozone should institute more
central controls over European banks and national budgets and believes that
eurobonds are the wrong way to go.
Paul Krugman and Richard Layard
Advanced economies remain deeply
depressed. This manifesto offers an analysis:
The causes: The crisis
was created by excessive private sector borrowing and lending. The bursting
of this bubble led to large falls in output and thus in tax revenue, hence
to government deficits.
The nature of the crisis: When the bubble
burst, people slashed spending. This was rational for individuals but
collectively self-defeating. One person's spending is another person's
The appropriate response: Public policy should stabilize the
economy and sustain spending, not make things worse with big cuts in
The big mistake: Policy took a wrong turn by
attempting to reduce public debts in tandem with the private sector. Fiscal
policy has reinforced the damping effects of private spending cuts.
Supporters of the existing approach say austerity will increase confidence
and encourage recovery. But budget cuts do not inspire business confidence.
They also say output is constrained on the supply side. But the problem is a
shortage of demand, not of supply.
Western policy makers are
inflicting massive suffering on their people. They cite ideas rejected by
most economists after the Great Depression.
I read Keynes at Oxford: This is a correct analysis.
The European Union accounts for less than a
quarter of the 3.5 million people who the Office for National Statistics
says have immigrated to the UK since 1997.
When I wrote in 2003 that
some women in England were living in similar conditions to those I had
witnessed as an aid worker in Bangladesh, but were further isolated by
language, the Muslim Council of Britain put me on its watch list. Three
years later the Blair government dropped plans to ban forced marriage
because the Muslim Council warned that doing so would stigmatize
We have imported feudal societies into our midst but
ignored the people trapped inside them. Fewer than one in four women from
these communities have jobs. Many still do not speak English. Immigrants who
cannot get jobs, or work only in one sector, will not integrate. Immigrants
who cannot communicate will not integrate. The more relatives arrive, the
larger these ghettos will become and the harder it will be to tear down the
According to polls, the majority of those surveyed say "all
further immigration should be halted" and say the worst thing about the UK
is "the number of immigrants".
Muslim immigration until the present lot are integrated.
"I can assure you if I'm President, the Iranians will
have no question but that I would be willing to take military action, if
necessary, to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I
don't believe at this stage, therefore, if I'm President, that we need to
have war powers approval or a special authorization for military force. The
President has that capacity now."
2012 June 27
Toward Economic and Monetary Union
Herman Van Rompuy
This report sets out a vision for the future
of the EMU based on:
1 An integrated
financial framework with two central elements: European banking supervision
and a common deposit insurance and resolution framework. Integrated
supervision would ensure that the supervision of banks in all EU member
states is equally effective in preventing bank failures and the need for
intervention. A European deposit insurance scheme could add to national
deposit guarantee schemes and a European resolution scheme could help ensure
2 An integrated
budgetary framework: Effective mechanisms to prevent and correct
unsustainable fiscal policies in member states are essential. Issuance of
common debt could be explored subject to progress on fiscal integration and
a robust framework for budgetary discipline and competitiveness. A fiscal
union would imply the development at the euro area level of a treasury
3 An integrated economic policy
framework: National policies should be oriented toward strong and
sustainable economic growth and employment while promoting social cohesion.
4 Democratic legitimacy and accountability:
Decisions on national budgets will require strong mechanisms for legitimate
and accountable joint decision making.
Further work is necessary. An
interim report could be presented in October 2012.
AR This is the best our EU President can do? I'd
expect more from a British senior civil servant.
Google Brain Thinks Cats
The New York Times
Google X lab
scientists made a neural network with 16 000 computer processors and over a
billion connections. They turned it loose on 10 million randomly chosen
digital images from YouTube videos. And it learned to recognize cats.
Google scientist Jeff Dean: "We never told it during the training, this
is a cat. It basically invented the concept of a cat."
The Google brain learned to recognize three quarters of the cats it saw
among a collection of 20 000 objects. The scientists are cautious about
drawing parallels with our brains. The human visual cortex is a million
times more complex.
AR Great stuff. Now
maybe we can expect better results from Google image search.
2012 June 26
An EU proposal for closer fiscal union is on the
agenda for Thursday's summit. Powers to rewrite national budgets for
eurozone countries that breach debt and deficit rules are part of an
ambitious plan to move to a closer fiscal union, giving Brussels more powers
to serve like a finance ministry for all 17 members of the currency union.
The report will also outline plans for a banking union and political union.
Investment experts at Deutsche Bank now feel that a collapse of the
common currency is "very likely".
Two decades of progress in Europe would
be lost. Millions of business contracts and relationships would have to be
reassessed and thousands of companies would need protection from bankruptcy.
Europe would plunge into a deep recession. Governments would have to borrow
more billions to meet their needs and either raise taxes or accept higher
2012 June 25
I am in favor of keeping Britain positive toward the
project of European integration. If they sort out the euro crisis and Europe
moves forward again, then Britain is going to have a very interesting choice
in the future. The rationale for Europe today is not peace any more, it is
You need a plan to put before people. That means treating the
debts of one as the debts of all, which is very hard for Germany to do. And
it means those other countries in the eurozone need to reform so that Europe
can regain its competitiveness. There is going to be a huge reconstruction
Last Thursday, Chancellor Merkel resisted all
proposals to provide relief to Spain and Italy from the excessive risk
premiums prevailing in the market. This threatens to turn the June summit
into a fiasco. It will put the periphery into a permanently subordinate
argued that it is against the rules to use the ECB to solve the fiscal
problems of member countries. A European Fiscal Authority (EFA) is needed to
establish a debt reduction fund. In return for Italy and Spain undertaking
structural reforms, the fund would hold part of their debt. It would finance
the purchases by issuing European Treasury Bills.
That will be the
prelude the establishment of a full political union and the introduction of
eurobonds. Chancellor Merkel insists that a political union should precede a
fiscal and banking union. That is both unrealistic and unreasonable.
2012 June 24
Nicholas D. Kristof
President George W. Bush upended the Taliban
in Afghanistan, Iran's enemy to the east, and then removed the Saddam
Hussein government from Iraq, Iran's even deadlier threat to the west. The
United States fought the wars and Iran won.
of Iran as a police state, but Iran is a complex and contradictory country.
Iran imprisons more journalists than any other country, yet it has a
vigorous parliament and news media with clashing views. Some ethnic Turks
seek to secede and join Azerbaijan, but the country’s supreme leader is an
ethnic Turk. Iran's regime sometimes embraces anti-Semitism, yet Parliament
has a Jewish member.
Iranians gripe about their government without worrying
about being overheard, yet participants in protests are tortured, gays can
be executed and the Bahai religious minority endures mind-boggling
repression. Iranian women constitute a majority of university students and
hold important positions in the country, yet women are still required to
cover themselves. Let's not undercut the Iranians who are chipping away at
hard-line rule by flashing their hair.
2012 June 23
Daniel C. Dennett
Turing showed how to make a machine that could be used to compute any
computable sequence. With that demonstration the computer age was born.
Before Turing, computers were people, who had to understand mathematics to
do their jobs. Turing took their tasks and squeezed out understanding,
leaving nothing but mechanical actions. A computing machine does not need to
know what arithmetic is.
A good way of understanding Turing's
revolutionary idea about computation is to compare it with Darwin's about
evolution. To this day many people cannot get how a mindless process can in
time generate ever more complex organisms without understanding what it is
Darwin and Turing both discovered the existence of competence
without comprehension. This inverted the assumption that comprehension is
the source of all advanced competence. The motto of modern education —
comprehend in order to be competent — motivates skepticism about both
evolution and artificial intelligence.
Turing took human computers as
his model. They did one simple and highly reliable step after another,
checking their work, writing down the intermediate results, consulting their
recipes, turning a daunting task into a routine. Turing broke down the
simple steps into even simpler steps, removing comprehension.
what about the genius of Turing, and of later programmers, whose own
intelligent comprehension was the source of the designs that can knit such
mindless building blocks into useful competences?
A single cascade of
natural selection events would seem unlikely to create an algorithm for
conscious judgments. But the process of evolution can copy itself on many
scales, of mounting discernment and judgment. The recursive step of
designing a computer that could mimic any other computer could itself be
reiterated, permitting specific computers to enhance their own powers by
redesigning themselves, leaving their original designer far behind.
Turing saw that all of human thought could in principle be constructed level
by level out of these building blocks. When we analyze this stack, we need
to know for each level what it is and what it does. What it is can be
described in terms of the structural organization of the parts from which it
is made. What it does is some (cognitive) function that it (sorta) performs
well enough to use.
This is the key to answering the question of how
a mind could ever be composed of material mechanisms. What we might call the
sorta operator is, in cognitive science, the parallel of Darwin's gradualism
in evolutionary processes. There is no principled line marking off true
AR Turing's contribution
to logic and computing dominated my graduate research.
Deutschland siegt 4:2 gegen Griechenland
The Scale of the
By Cary Huang
AR Achtung, Panzer!
British defense Secretary Philip Hammond: "Foxhound's arrival in Afghanistan
is great news for our soldiers. This government has spent £270 million on
300 of these hi-tech, British-built vehicles."
AR Nearly a million a pop?
You gotta be
2012 June 22
Germany wants to propel Europe towards greater
political union and has started to discuss with other EU states the prospect
of creating a European finance minister, a beefed up European border police
force, and a European army. Britain is not part of the conversation in the
Future of Europe group.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle:
"The discussion about the future of the EU has to begin. One of the
consequences of the situation is that we have to accelerate integration in
Europe. No investor in the world will invest in Europe if he doesn't have
the feeling that Europe believes in itself and is working on its future."
AR Quite right too: high time to get on with
the job and build a federal Europe. The absence of the UK is a historic
opportunity to make faster progress and confront perfidious Albion with a
2012 June 21
Arab Junta Summer
In Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
(SCAF) has dissolved the elected parliament and unilaterally amended the
constitution. This is a catastrophe.
Today we are due to
learn whether Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, or Ahmed
Shafiq, a military man and former prime minister, won the presidential
election. Shafiq sees Morsi as an Islamist who wishes to impose theocracy on
Egypt. Morsi views Shafiq as a Mubarak throwback who will return the country
to secular dictatorship. In reality, neither would have the powers under
SCAF has put itself on a collision course with the revolution.
Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Khairat al-Shater: "The coming revolution
may be less peaceful and more violent. It may be difficult to control the
streets. Some parties, not the Muslim Brotherhood, may resort to further
violence and extremism. When people find that the door to peaceful change is
closed, it is an invitation to violence."
Many Egyptians are weary of
revolution. About half the voters backed Shafiq, the remnant of the old
regime. Egypt will be a quagmire for the foreseeable future.
2012 June 20
Germany Good, Club Med Bad
In the decade of the euro,
German exports boomed. Germany encouraged competitiveness by reforming the
labor market, tax, and welfare. Club Med failed to reform. Unit labor costs
rose by 7% in Germany, but by 30% in Italy, 35% in Spain, and 42% in Greece.
Money became cheap under the euro, and profligacy easy. This was Europe's
tragedy. Now the crisis countries want Germany to cheapen credit for all and
shoulder the risk alone. But that will perpetuate the maladies of the
eurozone. Club Med must mend its ways, or the eurozone faces bankruptcy and
Tax avoidance is tax evasion that is legal and
tax evasion is tax avoidance that is illegal. A billionaire (and heir to a
billionaire) with a £10 million home in North London, a Central Park
apartment and a yacht, laughed when asked how much tax he paid: "People like
me don't pay taxes." A major bank has a unit staffed by brilliant young
graduates who are paid well to devise ways to help very wealthy people avoid
paying tax. A tycoon puts his British earnings in the name of an offshore
wife who has never earned anything. If we all found a way to avoid paying
our taxes, we would all be worse off.
2012 June 19
Spain and Italy
The Greek election avoids a showdown between
Greece and Germany. Greece will probably limp on with austerity. But the
fate of the euro will be decided in Spain and Italy.
The EU can keep
Greece in the single currency. But if Spain and Italy fail to fund
themselves through the markets, the EU may be unable to save them. Spain
might need a full sovereign bailout, which could cost €500 billion. Italy's
total public debt is now €1.95 trillion and its borrowing costs are creeping
A chaotic Greek exit might show there are worse options than
austerity. But the effects could still be enormous. The Greek election has
made a confrontation less likely.
Hydrogen From Water
MIT Technology Review
Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen
using heat and catalysts may be a cheap and clean way to produce hydrogen.
Caltech professor Mark Davis has developed a new approach that works at
relatively low temperatures, produces no toxic or corrosive intermediate
products, and can work without fossil fuels. Davis heats up an oxidized
metal to drive off its oxygen, then adds water. He starts with magnesium
oxide and facilitates the reactions by shuttling sodium ions in and out of
it. Without the sodium, the temperatures would need to be over 1300 K. With
it, the reactions work at about 1100 K. The heat can come from nuclear
reactors or solar thermal rigs using mirrors to concentrate sunlight.
2012 June 18
New Democracy Win
Greece: The moderate New Democracy party came top in Sunday's
parliamentary elections, a vote seen as a referendum on the survival of the
euro. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras vows to form a government
"determined to do what it takes and do it fast." Samaras: "Today the Greek
people expressed their will to stay anchored within the euro, remain an
integral part of the eurozone, honor the country's commitments and foster
growth. This is a victory for all Europe."
Well, what a relief.
The Turing Test
Alan Turing was born 100 years ago this week. In
1950 he proposed a game, the Turing test. In 1990, American philanthropist
Hugh Loebner founded the annual Loebner prize for artificial intelligence,
"the first formal instantiation of the Turing test". This year the
competition was held at Bletchley Park:
Loebner explains the rules to
four volunteers, "Your job is to convince the judges that you are the
human." They sit down at their screens and begin the first of four online
chats. Their opponents are computers, each with a different chatbot designed
by AI enthusiasts to talk like a human being. Across the hall, four judges
sit at another bank of screens. In each round, the judges will hold two
online chats, one with a volunteer and one a chatbot. They do not know which
is which. If a bot fools two or more judges, it will win its creator a gold
medal and $100,000.
This year's "most human-like computer" won't get
any love letters. A $5,000 prize goes to American chatbot Chip Vivant. For
its creator, American consultant Mohan Embar, it is success at the fifth
attempt. Creating his bot wasn't about deceiving the judges so much as
offering them a meaningful conversation.
It's a harder test than anyone thought 60 years ago.
2012 June 17
The Sunday Times
British defense secretary Philip
Hammond will will announce a £1 billion contract to help start building the
reactors needed to power the next generation of nuclear submarines. The new
submarines will replace the Vanguard fleet, which carries the Trident
nuclear missile arsenal. The total estimated cost of the replacement is £20
billion. The new submarines are scheduled to come into service in 2028.
AR Does Britain really need a nuclear deterrent big enough to blow up
half the world?
Brit Hol Girls Go Bonkers
of British girls admit they have enjoyed a bonk on the beach on their hols.
Almost a half of women under 30 have had a one-night stand on holiday. One
in ten have had five lovers or more during a week-long break. And nine in
ten girls have more sex in the sun than when they're at home.
Seems I missed out somehow on my hols.
2012 June 16
Bloomsday today, Drachmageddon tomorrow
Three space enthusiasts,
inspired by the 50-year anniversary of John Glenn's orbit of the earth,
launched a weather balloon with a message to the world: Now is the time for
us to go back into space. Their DIY message may be the first marriage
proposal from space.
When I was 18, my parents
threatened to kill me. The trouble started when I was 15. At the
time, we were living in the Austrian city of Linz, a world away from
Pakistan, where I had grown up in a village near the Kashmir
mountains. I loved the freedoms of my new life in Europe but my
parents didn't. We fought about swimming lessons and acting classes,
which my father said were for prostitutes. My mother thought tampons
would ruin my virginity. When she learned that I had kissed a boy
after school, she attacked me and called me a whore. When she was my
age, she went into an arranged marriage. She thought I should do the
same. I disagreed. Thus began a 3-year war.
As a state legislator, I was shocked when the
leadership of the Michigan House of Representatives had decided to
silence me and keep me from doing my job because I had uttered the
word vagina. We were debating a new anti-choice law that would
over-regulate women's health clinics to the point many could no
longer offer abortions. I explained my opposition to the bill. As a
Jew, I asked that they not force their religious views on me. In
closing, I told them that I was flattered in their interest in my
vagina, but no means no. The next day, I was told I wouldn't be
allowed to speak. Shouldn't we be able
to discuss body parts if we're going to pass laws about them?
Average Westerners are 20 kg heavier than 50 years
ago. We're not eating more or exercising less. We became sugar addicts.
Forty years ago, heart disease was blamed on fat or sugar. The sugar
industry blamed fat, and "low fat" became the new health buzz. Ten years
later, people were getting fatter. When lab rats ate rat food they put on
weight normally. But when they ate processed supermarket food they grew fat
Sugar is addictive, like cigarettes or alcohol. The gut
learns to want more sugar and sends irresistible messages to the brain. Then
obesity affects the function of a hormone called leptin. The body produces
leptin to say you are full, but fat people deplete their stock. With no
leptin signal, your body keeps eating.
The U.S. Air Force wants a High
Speed Strike Weapon for its F‑22 Raptor and F‑35 Lightning II stealth
fighters. The missile will strike "time-critical targets" from "tactically
relevant standoff distances" and will be an air-breathing hypersonic system
that can survive in "stringent" air defense environments. The scramjet
missile will need to be small enough for a fighter to carry but still carry
advanced navigation controls, precision guidance tools, and sophisticated
sensors, plus a warhead, and to survive the heat generated by Mach 5 and
Bats and Angels
IceCube Neutrino Oscillations
The IceCube Neutrino
Observatory at the South Pole has measured the highest-energy neutrino
oscillations yet. The measurements may help us to understand the neutrino
Roughly 5 trillion atmospheric muon neutrinos are
created per second as cosmic rays collide with air molecules in the Earth's
atmosphere, and some oscillate into tau neutrinos. The energy of the
oscillating neutrinos fell between 10 and 100 GeV, with a peak at about 30
2012 June 14
Donnerwetter! A Blitzschlag put my iMac offline.
2012 June 13
The eurozone is pursuing fiscal austerity and
structural reform. Weak economies face a growing mountain of bad private
debt, high fiscal deficits, rising public debt, high interest rates, and
fragile financial systems. A balance cannot be achieved without higher
spending and inflation in the core.
A transfer union is politically
infeasible. It is unnecessary for poorer countries to run sustained current
account deficits provided wages remain in line with productivity. It is
undesirable for countries to receive large and sustained net transfers that
I suggest insurance union and adjustment
union. An insurance union provides temporary and targeted support for
countries hit by big shocks. An adjustment union ensures symmetrical
adjustment to changes in circumstances. Both are necessary and together they
should be sufficient.
2012 June 12
Saudi Oil Push
Saudi Arabia is on course for a showdown with
fellow OPEC members after calling for a higher output target. Iran blames
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE for the recent drop in oil prices. Saudi
oil minister Ali Naimi says Saudi oil production has "acted as a type of
stimulus to the European and world economy".
A senior Dutch politician: "We cannot push through a
banking union when the French have just cut their retirement age to 60 and
we have raised ours to 67." Dutch and German citizens find it unfair to
underwrite the banks of countries that offer social
benefits more generous than those in Germany or the
Netherlands. Before you mutualize debt across Europe, you need to
harmonize European social security systems. Anything less is giving southern
Europe a German credit card without setting a credit limit.
Merkel has prevented political extremists from gaining ground in Germany. In
France, a third of the electorate recently voted for a far-right or a
far-left presidential candidate. In the Netherlands, the far right and the
far left are running first and second in opinion polls. In Austria, the far
right is strong. Germany cannot afford a similar backlash. A rise of the far
right in Germany would wreck Europe.
2012 June 11
Europe's Roach Motel
gets bank aid from its European neighbors to recapitalize struggling banks,
it needs to avoid becoming a ward of the European state like Greece,
Ireland, and Portugal. So far, emergency European funding has been a one-way
resort, like a roach motel. Rather than catalyze an inflow of private
capital to restore growth and financial viability, public money has enabled
the private sector to exit program countries at a much lower cost.
Again and again, such schemes end up helping private investors to get richer
at the expense of law-abiding taxpayers — the cash cows of the new world
order. Governments have taken all my surplus earnings and given them to the
rich. Now I'm feeling the pinch. Calling all rich pigs: gimme a break!
The Jew Who Would Be God
was a Jew, his followers were Jews, and the Gospels are Jewish writings.
Nothing Jesus says in the New Testament goes beyond the Judaism of his day.
In the first century CE, there was no clear distinction between Judaism and
Christianity. The binitarian idea of two divine powers, father and son, does
not divide the faiths, but the Trinitarian idea of three divine powers does.
The vicarious suffering of the messiah is no problem for Jews, but the scandal of his
death on the cross is.
Some of the potential inherent in Judaism and
Christianity before they became distinct religions returned to Judaism in
AR And on Kabbalah, read Yehuda
Berg, Madonna's coach, who alongside such scientific luminaries as Albert
Einstein cites Stuart Hameroff, the quantum mindfreak from Tucson, Arizona,
who gained cinematic immortality in
What the Bleep Do We
2012 June 10
Die Gemeindefreizeit in Mücke war sehr gut. Morgen kommt wieder
Freizeit-Leseprogramm: A Theory Of Everything by Ken Wilber
2012 June 9
Europe: Bubble Or Bicycle?
George Soros says only three months remain to save
the euro. He says that the European Union is like a bubble in financial
markets. In the boom phase it contained everything people thought they
wanted. It grew, feeding like a bubble on its own success. But by
establishing monetary union without political union, it had a hole at its
heart. This was exposed by the crash of 2008. Market sentiment reversed.
The famous Europhile idea that the EU is a bicycle is correct. You have
to keep peddling because it is not stable. As soon as you stop you fall off.
The most likely result is a euro in a much smaller, fiscally united zone,
centered on Germany and France. Beyond it will be a wider ring of non-euro
countries. Soros warned that the new Europe would become "a German empire
with the periphery as the hinterland".
2012 June 8
Angela Merkel says a core group of states needed
to press on with European integration to fight the eurozone crisis. Hours
before a visit by David Cameron to Berlin, Merkel said eurozone nations must
move closer together: "We cannot just stop because one or other doesn't want
to join in yet."
Her move highlights what Berlin perceives to be an
irritating contradiction between British refusal to sign up to strict new EU
fiscal rules and Cameron's call for more intervention in the crisis. Cameron
urged Merkel to take quick steps to pull the eurozone back from the brink of
Merkel: "We need more Europe. We don't only need monetary
union, we also need a so-called fiscal union. And most of all we need a
political union, which means we need to gradually cede powers to Europe and
give Europe control."
A nuclear deal with Iran is possible only as part
of a grand bargain between Iran and the United States. Former U.S. State
Department senior official Nicholas Burns: "The fact that we might go to war
with a country that we do not know, we don't understand its leadership, we
have no idea what their bottom line might be — if a deal is even possible —
is very disturbing."
What the west wants: Iran eschewing all but
peaceful nuclear development and willing to accept international
surveillance of such activities, withdrawal of Iranian support for terrorist
groups in Palestine and Lebanon, willingness to help stabilise Iraq and
Afghanistan, and recognition of Israel's right to peaceful existence.
Iranian goals: the lifting of sanctions, the right to a nuclear cycle
for peaceful means, removal of the threat of regime change, withdrawal of
U.S. military forces from the region, a privileged position for Iran in Iraq
and Afghanistan, a weakened Israel, and a new
regional security architecture.
Hyperbolic String TOE
Projections of hyperbolic
space onto a flat disc, as in Escher images of tesselated bats, seem to
square string theory with observations.
Measurements show that our
universe is flat and expanding at an accelerating rate. In general
relativity, this means our universe has a positive cosmological constant.
But string theory, which offers a neat picture of the universe and connects
gravity to quantum mechanics, works best in a universe with a negative
So physicists face a chasm: on one side is a
universe that works but lacks a complete theory, and on the other is a
complete theory that doesn't describe our universe.
and colleagues propose a bridge. They can now describe expanding,
accelerating universes using a negative cosmological constant. In search of
a universal quantum wave function that can generate the probability of
various universes arising from the big bang, they first used a positive
cosmological constant, but in string theory universes with positive
cosmological constants tend to be unstable. Their new work describes
universes from wave functions with negative cosmological constants, some of
which are expanding and accelerating.
The universes generated by
their wave function could evolve to look like one form of string theory.
With their wave function, the universe of string theory could accelerate
outward with a negative cosmological constant. Our universe may be flat as
far as we can see but still have a hyperbolic geometry.
Accelerated Expansion From Negative Λ
J.B. Hartle, S.W. Hawking, T. Hertog
Wave functions specifying a quantum state of the universe must satisfy the
constraints of general relativity, in particular the Wheeler-DeWitt
equation. We show for a wide class of models that a wave function in a
gravitational theory with a negative cosmological constant can predict an
ensemble of asymptotically classical histories which expand with a positive
effective cosmological constant. So even fundamental theories with a
negative cosmological constant can be consistent with our low-energy
observations of a classical, accelerating universe.
2012 June 7
High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System,
HELLADS, will "harness the speed and power of light to counter multiple
threats." DARPA hopes to unveil a 150 kW weapon light enough for a fighter
Falcon HTV-2 is an
unmanned, hypersonic, rocket-launched, maneuverable aircraft that glides
through the Earth's atmosphere at Mach 20. Numerous sensors collect data in
an uncertain operating envelope.
Discrotor helicopters blend
helicopter and airplane to take off and land vertically but also retract its
rotating blades and rely on fixed wings to fly at high speed like a plane.
Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned
Vessel, ACTUV, is an unmanned surface ship designed to track even the
quietest submarines. It will be able to operate alone on the high seas.
Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance, EXACTO, is the world's first guided
bullet. Once fired at a specific target, the bullets fly themselves into it
by changing shape.
CROSSHAIRS rigs, equipped with visual and
IR cameras, will "detect, locate, and engage shooters, as well as defeat a
variety of threats including bullets, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank
guided missiles, and direct fired mortars, while stationary and moving."
Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munitions, MAHEM bullets, use "compressed
magnetic flux generator (CMFG)-driven magneto hydrodynamically formed metal
jets" to penetrate a target.
ADAPTIV pixilated armor works by
covering a vehicle with sheets of hexagonal pixels that can rapidly change
temperature. Onboard thermal cameras capture the background and change the
vehicle's heat signature to make it undetectable by infrared scopes.
Space-Based Infrared System, SBIRS, will consist of a series of satellites
in both elliptical and geosynchronous orbits as well as ground-based data
processing centers to detect missile launches or nuclear detonations
anywhere on Earth.
6.-10. Juni: Gemeindefreizeit in Flensunger Hof, Mücke
Catholics Say No To Sex
The Vatican says Sister Margaret Farley's 2006 book, Just
Love, presents a "defective under-standing" of Catholic theology. Farley
taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School. The church cites her views
on masturbation, homosexuality, and remarriage after divorce as
irreconcilable with Catholic teaching.
AR Quite right too. Catholic teaching is to deny and repress sexuality
except in pursuit of procreation within marriage.
The Key To Spiritual Bliss
After decades of doing
work and writing about it, I have made my biggest discovery quite by
accident at home. Losing yourself is a far better idea than finding
yourself, and work is the best sort of losing yourself there is. But what I
didn't know is that chair repair work offers so much.
Manual (no computer)
Good for the soul
Satisfying (you see a result)
Repetitive (you get better)
Varied (you never get bored)
2012 June 6
Germany Must Act
The G7 says economies worldwide will be destabilized
unless Germany rescues the eurozone. But Germany will accept common
eurobonds only after real fiscal union in Europe. Angela Merkel's growth
plan for Europe ties structural reform to the need for fiscal discipline and
austerity. Her rejection of stimulus spending on the scale envisaged by
France is likely to be unacceptable to François Hollande.
Flames are threatening the eurozone's combustible
core. European leaders have shied away from fixing the euro because they
fear unpopularity with electorates. The European Union was constructed by
elitist means that left a lack of popular legitimacy. But a eurozone
collapse could be devastating.
A eurozone fix need not
be too radical. The first priority is to avoid bank runs. A eurozone-wide
banking union would move the supervision and support of banks to European
level. It would require an agency that could restructure or close failing
banks, plus a European deposit insurance scheme.
Voters would retain
the choice of whether to move to the next level of integration, to mutualize
eurozone government debt. This would move the eurozone a long way toward
full fiscal federalism. The debt sustainability of the currency area would
then be beyond doubt. First we need banking union.
2012 June 5
Europe's Lehman Moment
European elites need a "Lehman moment" to move
beyond the euro crisis. Greece can play the part of Lehman Brothers.
The Lehman bankruptcy came after American
politicians had already bailed out Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, and Freddie
Mac. The bailouts were insufficient because the problem was the system. The
banking sector was undercapitalized and the solution was forced
recapitalization. But political will to impose it was lacking. The Lehman
moment woke up politicians and the will was mobilized.
with the Eurozone today is obvious. It needs eurobonds underpinned by
centralized fiscal discipline, deposit insurance, and mandatory
recapitalization. But political will is lacking. Grexit would confront
Eurozone leaders with a clear choice: unite immediately or watch the euro
disintegrate. The measures would be more popular because the Greeks would
not be seen as free riders.
Soros says Europe has 3 months to do it.
History of German arms cooperation with
2012 June 4
Israel Versus Iran
Israel has little faith in the
talks between Iran and the Six Powers due in Moscow in two weeks. Israeli PM
Binyamin Netanyahu says Iran is using talks "as another opportunity to
deceive and delay, just like North Korea did for years".
Jews supported President Obama, but Israelis now see the Republicans as a
more reliable ally. Mitt Romney: "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will
have a nuclear weapon. If you elect me as the next president, they will
Military action carries a heavy price. No Jewish target in the
world will be safe for generations. Once bombed by the great Satan and the
small Satan, Iran may emerge more determined than ever to build a nuclear
These are bad times for the Arab spring. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad
says his army was not responsible for the massacre at Houla a week ago. He
talked of the most serious crisis since the end of colonialism and warned
that his war could extend to other countries.
The Satanic Verses
The mullahs weren't my target
audience. The only thing worse than a bad review from the Ayatollah Khomeini
would be a good review from the Ayatollah Khomeini. The reason why books
endure is not that people dislike them or there's a controversy around them.
The reason why books endure is because there are enough people who like
them. It's the people who love books that make them last, not the people who
2012 June 3
Mitt The Mormon
Mitt Romney comes from Mormon stock going back
generations. He was once in charge of the church in the Boston area and had
religious authority and responsibility. Mormonism is central to who he is.
Romney hasn't mentioned the M-word in the campaign. When he has spoken
of Mormonism in the past, it's almost always of the all-encompassing way of
life it encourages and sustains. Mormons are among the nicest, kindest, most
wholesome people in America.
Mormons believe that Jesus visited the
Americas and will return in Jackson County, Missouri, and that God is a
human being with a physical body. The founder of the religion was a
convicted scam artist who claimed revelations from buried sacred plates
nobody else could see or translate.
If Romney became president, it
would be a big day for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Mormonism is already among the fastest-growing religions in the world. But
it could sink his candidacy.
Martin Amis, 62, and family moved from London to New
York. His latest novel plays out in London. Lionel Asbo was the youngest
ever recipient of an antisocial behavior order. He is serving time for
criminal damage and affray when he wins the national lottery. A cheque for
£140 million takes him out of remand prison and into a farcical second life
of wealth and celebrity.
AR Sounds like
2012 June 2
DAS RHEINGOLD von Richard Wagner
production with boldly iconic staging.
Qatar World Cup
Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup and plans to
build new soccer stadiums in the desert for the event. German architect
Albert Speer was chosen to design them. Speer, 77,
and his partners in Frankfurt designed a new city for 3 million people near
Cairo, a new capital for Nigeria, an automobile city for 50,000 people near
Shanghai, the big stadium in Baku, and countless projects in Germany. Speer
introduced the idea of sustainability into urban planning.
Stuxnet, the worm that crippled
centrifuges in Iran, was part of a joint
American-Israeli cyberwarfare project. The program was conceived under
President Bush but embraced by President Obama, who ordered the attacks. The National Security Agency
worked with an
Israeli agency dedicated to cyber work. The collaboration helped
dissuade Israel from launching pre-emptive military strike against Iran.
2012 June 1
Irish approve fiscal pact in referendum
This much direct democracy is perilous!
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee, 2012
Iran and Syria
General Ismael Gha'ani of
Quds Force in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps:
"Before we were not in
the slaughter of the people by
the opposition was much higher.
But with the presence of the Islamic Republic in a physical
many great massacres in
Syria were stopped."
Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi is in hiding in Germany. Three weeks ago,
Iranian clerics issued four fatwas against him after he released a song
begging the tenth imam, who died in 868 CE, to return to Earth and
sort out modern Iran. The song has been downloaded over half a million
times in Iran.
2012 May 31
Inequality and Austerity
The United States could be forced to make big budget
cuts later this year. As in Europe, it would increase the proportion of debt
to GDP and put America in an austerity trap. Meanwhile, the share of
national income going to profits has risen, the share to labor has plunged,
and the gulf widens between the pay of TOP executives and that of other
If Europe moves toward an
American-style labor market while pursuing fiscal austerity and America
embraces fiscal austerity but continues to shrink payrolls, we will get the
same results on both sides of the Atlantic. Real wages and economic security
will fall and public services will shrink. That is not sustainable,
economically or politically.
Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1995. He decided
selling books was the best way to get big fast on the Internet. He aimed to
build a brand that was ubiquitous and irresistible. Today the bookstore wars
are over and Amazon is triumphant. The new war in publishing is between
Apple and Amazon.
Last year Amazon earned $48 billion in revenue, more than all six major
American publishing conglomerates combined, with a cash reserve of $5
billion. The company is valued at nearly $100 billion and employs more than
65,000 workers. Amazon is now an online Walmart.
bulldozes any real or perceived obstacles to its pursuit of clout. The
Independent Publishers Group, a principal distributor of about 500 small
publishers, recently refused to accept the company's demand for deeper
discounts. Amazon promptly yanked nearly 5,000 digital titles.
Ross, a literary agent in Oakland, California: "Monopolies are always
problematic in a free society, and they are more so when we are dealing with
the dissemination of ideas, which is what book publishing is about."
2012 May 30
Italy and Spain have governments unable to manage
their public debt unassisted. Much of that debt is held by their banks. Many
of these have been damaged. Governments with weak creditworthiness feel
compelled to rescue fragile banking systems that are expected to finance the
The German position: no eurozone bonds, no increase in
funds available to the ESM, no common backing for the banking system, no
deviation from fiscal austerity, no monetary financing of governments, no
relaxation of eurozone monetary policy, and no powerful credit boom in
The eurozone is on a journey toward breakup that Germany
shows little will to alter. This is not because alternatives are
inconceivable. We need to turn some Neins into Jas. German leaders must
choose between a shipwreck and a change in course. On that choice hangs the
fate of Europe.
thing about growing old is the fear of declining powers. Genius is all the
god-given stuff, the altitude of perception and articulacy. Talent is craft.
And what happens I think is your genius shrinks and your talent expands. I
still feel, when I wake up and all I've got to do that day is write, I
can't wait to get down there. It's a wonderful way of earning a living.
2012 May 29
Flame is a virus apparently directed at
Iran and Mideast states. Symantec senior analyst Orla Cox: "It is a backdoor
worm that goes looking for very specific information. It scrapes a mass of
information from any infected machines and then sends it, without the user
having any idea what is going on." The worm has lurked
undetected for at least two years and caused the disruption to Iran's oil
industry last month. Cox: "To the casual observer, the worm looks like any
piece of software. To get that level of sophistication would take a team of
ten several months. It's very professional."
Related to Stuxnet
Flame was apparently released five years ago and has infected machines
across the Mideast. The 20 GB virus can gather data files, remotely change
settings on computers, turn on computer mikes to record conversations,
take screen shots, and copy instant messaging chats. Iran's Computer
Emergency Response Team says Flame is "a close relation" of Stuxnet. It
contains much more code than Stuxnet and spreads only when hidden
controllers allow it. The file infects Windows computers and has five
encryption algorithms, exotic data storage formats, and more.
Neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak says oxytocin is a biological proxy for trust.
Countries whose citizens trust one another gain economically, and trust is
built through good deals that boost levels of oxytocin. Selfish gene theory
explains why we are nice to our kin and the theory of reciprocal altruism
explains why unrelated people in a social group are kind to one another. Zak
has identified a causal chain from oxytocin to empathy to morality to trust
to economic flourishing.
Evolutionary anthropologist Christopher
Boehm says kin selection and reciprocal altruism go only so far before free
riders gain a reproductive advantage. But over the past 50,000 years humans
learned to shame and shun free riders who violate social norms and to punish
cheats or bullies. Older, selfish moral emotions are often in conflict with
these newer ones, explaining why we often feel selfish but also feel bonded
with our fellows.
2012 May 28
What Money Can't Buy
We live at a
time when almost everything can be bought and sold. But there is something
wrong with a medical system in which the rich can pay for priority
treatment. A market-driven hospital is not a proper hospital. They have
misidentified what a hospital is for. A debate with someone who held that
view of the purpose of a hospital or a school is a moral argument about how
properly to understand the purpose of those institutions.
political debate is conducted between those who favor unfettered markets and
those who maintain that market choices are free only when they're made on a
level playing field. But the hold of markets and market values suggests that
the source of that faith runs deeper than the conviction that markets
deliver the goods. Markets seem to spare us the need to engage in public
arguments about the meaning of goods.
But we do need to reason about
the value of goods. The markets give us no framework for having that
conversation. We're tempted to avoid it because we know we will disagree
about how to value bodies, or pregnancy, or sex, or education, or military
service. Letting markets decide seems to avoid talking about
Economics has cast itself as a value-neutral science but it should probably
be seen as a branch of moral and political philosophy.
Not Dead Yet
Many years ago I was at school with Martin Amis and
didn't see him again until an awards ceremony in 2010. I went up and said,
"You might not remember me, but we were at school together." He said, "No,
I don't remember you, and you only remember me because I'm famous."
got my revenge by writing Amis into my novel
Not Dead Yet and giving him a
very small penis. The gangster he is staying with says, "You've always
traded on being your dad's son, but you was never half the man he was." I
was rather pleased with that.
2012 May 27
Loreen won the
Eurovision Song Contest 2012
in Baku, Azerbaijan, with
2012 May 26
The Bundesbank says German citizens have saved €4.7
trillion in savings accounts, pension plans, and shares. That figure, which
does not include property, increased by €149 billion over the previous year.
Official figures next week are expected to show another record low for
German unemployment. Record export earnings generated by its highly
competitive manufacturers are only part of the story. Awash with cheap money
flooding from the European periphery, Germany is heading into a property
Poland has become the most astonishing success
story in Eastern Europe. Relations between Berlin and Warsaw have never been
better. Things have been steadily improving in Poland for more than two
decades, and Poland is now a role model in Europe. It has long since
incorporated a debt limit into its budget, and it signed the fiscal pact
without hesitation. The government is even pushing to join the eurozone.
Poles want to play a leading role in the northern alliance of European
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde says it is
payback time for Greece and she will not soften the terms of the Greek
austerity package. Greece has seen its economy shrink by a fifth since the
recession began and has been told to cut wages, pensions, and public
spending in return for financial help from the IMF, the European Union and
the ECB. Lagarde thinks about Greek citizens not paying their tax and says
Greece is not getting softer treatment than a poor country in the developing
Sexual intercourse is a universal
human practice. Yet for most of western history it seemed obvious that
illicit relations angered God, prevented salvation, damaged personal
relations, and undermined social order.
Sexual discipline was a
central feature of Christian civilization. The emergence of modern
attitudes to sex constituted a great revolution.
Erfüllender Sex hat immer sowohl eine
genitale wie auch eine emotionale Komponente. Nur ungefähr ein Fünftel
der Frauen können einen Orgasmus durch reinen Geschlechtsverkehr
erreichen. Orgasmus kann man üben wie Klavierspielen oder Fahrradfahren.
Erregung ist angeboren, gute Sexualität nicht. Jeder ist für seinen
Orgasmus selbst verantwortlich.
Bubble Bath Cosmology
Einstein's equations gave
birth to big bang theory. Inflationary cosmology says
countless big bangs.
So our universe is just a bubble
in a cosmic
bubble bath —
The Facebook IPO got off to a
faltering start as technology glitches delayed the opening of trading.
Shares opened at $38 and ended the day at $38.23.
Bono is a partner with Elevation Partners, a
private equity firm that invested around $210 million in Facebook. At
$38 per share, the position is valued at $1.5 billion. Bono stands to
make about $43 million from the IPO.
Not bad for a muppet!
Paralyzed woman uses
to drink coffee via Braingate interface and robotic arm
Facebook set the share price for
initial public offering at $38,
for a $104 billion valuation.
Mark Zuckerberg, 28, has
a stake valued at $19 billion.
Make Or Break
UK PM David Cameron:
"The eurozone is at a
crossroads. It either has to make up or it is looking at a potential
breakup. Either Europe has a committed, stable, successful eurozone ...
or we are in uncharted territory, which carries huge risks for
Trillion Dollar Loss
CEBR forecaster Doug McWilliams says a planned
euro breakup would cost 2% of eurozone GDP but a disorderly collapse
would cost 5% or $1 trillion: "The end of the euro in its current form
is a certainty."
Every odd N > 1 is the sum
of at most five primes
2012 May 25
Europe is in the grip of the nationalisms it
thought it had banished. The G8 leaders are helpless in the face of the
banking and sovereign debt crises. NATO is rushing for the exits in
The rebalancing of global power was never going to be
easy for the west. But for we who grew up in the nations bestriding the
North Atlantic, the speed of the turnaround is breathtaking.
summit was polite enough. But Barack Obama makes no secret of his
frustration with Angela Merkel. The crisis in Europe could rob him of the
economic growth he needs for re-election. All the main players want to save
the euro. But are they ready to create a political union to do so?
As for NATO, events will provide the mission: stuff
happens. The west is not finished.
Evolution results from the differential survival of genes in gene pools.
Genes are replicators. They make exact copies of themselves in a pool of
such copies. Genes are locked up in the bodies of organisms, and
the pool is stirred by sexual reproduction. A gene's success
depends on the survival and reproduction of the bodies. The organism is a survival machine for its genes.
gene works for the benefit of a sibling, that gene can survive in the same
way as a gene that works for the benefit of offspring. Hamilton's rule
states that a gene for altruism toward kin will be favored if the cost to
the altruist C is outweighed by the benefit to the recipient B devalued by
an index r of the probability of sharing genes. A gene for altruistic care
will spread through the population if rB > C.
Genes survive by
programming the embryonic development of their vehicles, then ride inside
them to share their fate. Replicators are the units that survive. Vehicles
are devices to help them survive. Genes are the replicators, organisms the
vehicles. Group selection would imply that a group does something like
surviving and reproducing or dying. Convincing
examples are hard to find.
AR An organism
is a group of cells. An organism has a self-image. A group can have a
2012 May 24
Metaphors can be treacherous. English is not a lady
whose purity is continually being violated or polluted by vulgarisms,
Americanisms, and other nasty things. For one has to admit that English
looks more like a woman who came from a distant bog, has had more sex
partners than Fanny Hill, and is now running a bawdy house near an
international airport. So much for metaphors.
Standard English and
American are used to strengthen social elitism and exclusion. English
spelling is a mess and an insult to human intelligence, and by grammar most
educated English speakers mean a small set of trivial shibboleths. The use
of English as a global language is a result of American power and influence
and says nothing about the quality of the language.
2012 May 23
25. Hauptversammlung der SAP AG
AR SAP turns 40 this year. The mood is good
because 2011 was the best year ever, with double-digit growth and billions
in revenues. My former team makes the SAP HANA in-memory analytic engine,
the most successful SAP new product ever, earning €160 million in the second
half of 2011 and expected to earn over twice as much this year, for a total
of half a billion. Hmm, why am I short of money?
NATO is the bedrock of common security, freedom, and prosperity. We are
unified behind a plan to responsibly wind down the war in Afghanistan. We
are making substantial progress against our core objective of defeating
al-Qaida and denying it safe haven, while helping the Afghans to stand on
their own. We will continue to train, advise, assist, and support Afghan
forces as they grow stronger.
NATO has become a hub of global
security. We have agreed on the mix of conventional, nuclear missile, and
missile defense forces that we need. America's contribution to this effort
will be a phased adaptive approach that we're pursuing on European missile
defense. I continue to believe that missile defense can be an area of
cooperation with Russia.
Europe: Stop Wasting Time
Centre for Policy Studies
Jin Liqun: "The debt crisis is actually
much less devastating than the handling of the debt crisis. Too much time
has been wasted on endless bargaining on terms and conditions for piecemeal
bailouts. Since the debt crisis broke out, there has never been a master
plan for a resolution."
Jin Liqun is chairman of a $440 billion sovereign wealth
fund, China Investment Corporation, the foreign investment arm of the
Chinese Government, which holds $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves.
Former German central bank board member Thilo
Sarrazin caused outrage two years ago with a bestseller criticizing the
impact of Muslim immigrants on German society. Now he says Europe doesn't
need the euro. In his new book he argues that Germany is being pressured to
bail out the eurozone because it perpetrated the Holocaust.
Green leader Jürgen Trittin: "It is pitiful that he
invokes the Holocaust to secure the maximum possible attention for his
theories on eurobonds."
2012 May 22
G8 leaders call for Greece to stay in the
eurozone. But without the option of devaluation, Greeks are left with wage
cuts and mass unemployment. Greek reforms are causing political and economic
The euro lacks the key institutions needed to make
monetary union work. There is no central government to enforce budgetary
discipline, no federal budget to transfer funds, and no bank deposit
insurance. Even if EU politicians did create a federal union, it would
hollow out national democracies and invite a nationalist backlash.
The break-up plans now being drawn up envisage a Greek exit, followed by an
effort to build a firewall to prevent other countries being sucked into the
crisis. A Grexit would unleash contagion. Markets would attack the next
vulnerable countries. Allowing the fate of the euro to be driven by market
panics would be the worst way to go.
It would be better for EU
leaders to decide which countries are willing and able to stay in the euro
and work on a divorce for the rest. Then they can get ahead of events. A
velvet divorce offers an exit.
2012 May 21
A firewall must be in place to
prevent contagion well before Greece leaves the euro. If Greek voters choose
next month to honor their structural and fiscal obligations, Greece can
remain in the eurozone. But this is unlikely unless the probable
catastrophic costs for the rest of the eurozone of a Greek exit are credibly
Only the ECB can provide the firewall that Europe needs
before the Greek elections. It should announce that in the event of a Greek
exit it will stand ready to buy unlimited amounts of the sovereign bonds of
countries remaining in the euro for a limited period of time. The ECB
mandate should be clarified in the fiscal pact to clear any doubt that it
can intervene in this way if the integrity of the monetary union is
We need ECB readiness to intervene massively in
sovereign bond markets. This intervention need not cause moral hazard. No
country will leave the eurozone and bring economic catastrophe upon itself
so that other countries can benefit. By securing the eurozone, the ECB would
increase fiscal discipline within it.
Extremism and Xenophobia
British deputy PM Nick Clegg says the European project
faces a "huge" crisis of confidence as the public loses faith in the
European Union: “If the eurozone does not come up with a comprehensive
vision of its own future pretty soon ... we will have a whole range of
nationalistic, extremist, xenophobic and populist movements increasing
Jews and the Left
Jews, Judaism is a religion of social justice and progress. Michael Walzer
offers a contrary vision. He reads the Bible with an eye to politics and
finds only silence. The Bible is filled entirely by God. When the prophets
called for justice, they meant submission to God. Walzer explains the
historical Jewish affinity for the left thus: "We have supported the people
who support us."
YIVO Conference, New York, May 2012
2012 May 20
Camp David, Maryland: David Cameron and Barack Obama
put pressure on Angela Merkel to print money, known as quantitative easing.
But Germany resisted calls to use the joint statement released at the end of
the G8 to call for more action on the eurozone, saying this was not the
The final statement: "We all have an interest in the
success of specific measures to strengthen the resilience of the Eurozone
and growth in Europe. We support euro area leaders' resolve to address the
strains in the eurozone in a credible and timely manner and in a manner that
fosters confidence, stability and growth."
Cameron: "The G8 can't
instruct the eurozone what to do. But why meetings like this matter is that
eurozone countries can hear from countries outside the eurozone."
Ten years ago I predicted that the euro would
suffer a crisis over the lack of fiscal integration. The costs of the single
currency disintegrating are so high and would impact so many people that
the only responsible thing to do is to argue urgently for the next step to a
The game of chicken between Athens and Berlin could
end with the two cars colliding, but I think both will swerve at
the last minute. They're bluffing. The Germans have a big interest in
preserving the euro.
The logic behind the euro was that monetary
union will force an ever-closer fiscal union. Now we're at the moment of
truth for the fiction that a monetary union can
exist independently of a fiscal union.
Corporate Germany is rich and
powerful and benefits massively from Europe. With socialists in France and
the likelihood of the socialists in government in Germany next year, we will
likely end up with tax harmonization and eurobonds, which bails everyone
Power is shifting inexorably to Brussels. The descent
into disrepute of national political elites helps make the case for
federalism. The national politics of continental Europe is collapsing. This
is paving the way toward a federal solution. Europe is essentially an
anti-populist, if not anti-democratic phenomenon. European integration has
always been an elite project foisted on national
The German political elite moved fast in 1990 when the
opportunity presented itself to reunite Germany. You might be surprised by
how quickly they move when the chips are down.
Britain might vote to
leave the European Union altogether. If you're not in the federal union, you
have zero influence over decision making. If you're not in the currency,
you're not in the room at all.
Almost one in three people who voted Conservative
at the last election are ready to back the UK Independence Party, according
to a new poll. The UKIP is a Eurosceptic fringe party.
2012 May 19
Lady Warsi Speaks
British Conservative Party
co-chair Sayeeda Warsi: "There is a small minority of Pakistani men who
believe that white girls are fair game. We have to be prepared to say that."
Lady Warsi believes Muslim leaders must condemn men's bad behavior.
AR Good, but I still don't hear the mullahs condemning too loudly.
Cold And Rich, Hot And Poor
Good institutions emerge
slowly under centralized government. The various durations of government
around the world are linked to the various durations and productivities of
farming. Europe began to acquire highly productive agriculture 9,000 years
ago and state government at least 4,000 years ago, but subequatorial Africa
acquired agriculture at most 2,000 years ago and state government more
Geographical latitude affects prosperity. In the Americas,
the two north temperate countries and the three south temperate countries
are on average five times richer than almost all of the intervening
17 countries. Similarly, mainland Africa is a sandwich of 37 mostly
desperately poor tropical countries, between slices each
containing five richer countries in the north and south temperate zones.
Diseases and low agricultural productivity make tropical countries poorer than
Europe has a long history of agriculture based
on productive crops and domestic animals. Agriculture in tropical Africa is
more recent and less productive. Europe has glaciated fertile soils,
reliable summer rainfall, and few tropical diseases. Tropical Africa has
widely infertile soils, less reliable rainfall, and many diseases.
Regions with natural advantages end up better off. Institutions are only
half the story.
Darold Treffert keeps a registry of known savants. Of the 330 savants from
around the world on his list, 300 were born that way. Only 30 acquired their
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) primarily affects front-left
parts of the brain. It seems unaffected regions step in to compensate for
the loss, leading to what Treffert calls "the three Rs": recruitment,
rewiring, and release. Savants may unlock parts of the brain the rest of us
Ordinary people can gain
savant skills for short periods of time. One researcher uses electronic kit
to replicate the FTD brain state briefly in healthy humans. Treffert: "He
calls it the thinking cap."
2012 May 18
Once Upon a Time, 1977
Queen of Disco
Top Ten Songs
Love to love you baby
I feel love
She works hard for the money
On the radio
This time I know its for real
AR Love and
Children who sleep alone form emotional
attachments to blankets and teddy bears. They are quite happy to have
their toys replaced, but they resist accepting a copy of a sentimental
object like a blanket or a teddy bear.
Identity and uniqueness
are psychological constructs. People generate them when they invest some
emotional time or effort in an object. If it has some significance for
them, they imbue it with this property. Then it's irreplaceable and you
can't duplicate it. It becomes sacred. This is essentialism.
self is is a very compulsive experience. I think it's an illusion. The
"I" of the experiencing self and the "me" of personal identity are
stories. You can illustrate the weaknesses of the "I" by using visual
illusions. Conscious experience is just a fraction of what's really
Personal identity depends on autobiographical or
episodic memories. You are the sum of your memories. And memory is
constantly reshaping itself. We tend to remember things that fit with
our idea of our self and ignore anything that is inconsistent. A
multitude of unconscious processes generate the coherence of
consciousness. The "I" and the "me" are generated narratives.
have the illusion that there is an integrated individual, with a
veridical notion of past. We emerge from the processes that generate us.
If you observe an object going into a tunnel and a moment later a
similar object coming out, then you see it as the same object. The
experience of self is a succinct and economical way of interacting with
each other. We deal with individuals.
Objects are part of the
extended sense of self. We surround ourselves with objects. We place
value on objects that we think represent us. We overvalue things we
perceive to be in our ownership. We overvalue an object as soon as we
possess it. As soon as you make your connection to an object, then you
value it more and remember more about it.
Religions capitalize on
childish inclinations. Intuitive ways of seeing the world are triggered
automatically. You can educate people to think logically, but you never
eradicate the intuitive ways of seeing the world. They were never taught
in the first place. An example is the idea that everything has a
purpose. People default back to it when they are under stress.
2012 Christi Himmelfahrt
Greece And Germany
Billions of euros have left
Greece in the last ten days. Some have been withdrawn by Greeks who need the
cash, but many have bought German bonds. Germany has saved an estimated €20
billion between 2009 and 2011 and is forecast to save €20 billion more
because its interest rates are so low.
Greek banks depend on the ECB
for funds. Borrowing from the ECB accounts for more than half the Greek GDP.
Greek banks borrowed €120 billion through the ECB in January alone. This
exposes the ECB to potentially colossal losses if the Greeks default.
Germany is the biggest backer of the ECB.
A disorderly exit from the
euro is now highly likely. If the Greek government fails to fund its
outgoings between now and June 17, it would cause a human catastrophe.
Athens can probably muddle through. But the risk may shake Germany out of
its insistence that countries must live within their means.
way Germany ends up with a monstrous bill. Germany has lent about €90
billion to southern European banks. Spain and Italy are too big to rescue.
The ECB has given them a temporary lifeline by lowering the interest they
pay on their debt. But without growth it will be hard for them.
German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble now calls for wages to rise in
Germany. Weak German consumption has exacerbated the crisis. The euro has
made Germany competitive for a decade at the expense of southern Europe.
Germany should be the engine of European growth.
The United States is modernizing its nuclear weapons,
But the expected cost for the B61 tactical nuclear bomb has risen to $6
billion. The improved bombs are planned for deployment in Europe in 2019.
The B61 modernization program includes a new tailkit to increase the
bomb's precision. The B61 will have four yield options, ranging from 0.3 to
45 kilotons. The F-35 fighter can carry two of them.
American Scientists expert Hans Kristensen: "If you have increased accuracy,
it opens up new possibilities for also using the lower yields for missions.
It's a cleaner nuclear attack."
Just the thing to attack those Iranian bunkers.
2012 May 16
Greece has been served notice that the euro can survive
without it. Eurozone leaders are preparing for Greece to return to the
drachma if voters return a left-wing government bent on ripping up the terms
of the international bailout.
IMF head Christine Lagarde says
the eurozone must be "technically prepared for anything" and warns a Greek
exit could be "quite messy".
Dutch Minister for Europe Ben Knapen
says there is no scope to water down Greek austerity plans.
AR The Grexit is a trial run for a hypothetical
François Hollande flew to Berlin for talks with
Angela Merkel within hours of being installed as French president. Both say
Greece should remain a full member of the Eurozone and promise to consider
new measures to revive economic growth.
The Gerfraxis is the neural tube of an embryonic Europaradise.
Death deprives me of the good things in life. But if
that's true, there must be a time when it's true. So when is death bad for
me? Not now, because I'm not dead. And not when I'm dead, because I won't
exist. If nonexistence can be bad for somebody who doesn't exist, then it's
bad for somebody who never exists. But there are zillions of possible people
and we don't care about them.
Perhaps to say why death is bad
we need to assume that something can be bad for you only if you exist at
some time or another. Suppose that somebody has a nice long life. Now
imagine halving his lifetime. That's worse for him. Now imagine halving it
again and again. It gets worse and worse. But according to the assumption,
when I cut off his last moment of existence, that's fine.
nonexistence is bad, then I should be upset by the eternity of nonexistence
before I was born. But nobody is upset about that. So it makes no sense to
be upset about nonexistence after you die. Before my birth I haven't lost
anything. What's bad about death is the loss. Let's call the state before
birth "schmoss". Why do we care more about loss of life than schmoss
2012 May 15
Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts: "The threat
from Greece remains real, and Greece exiting the euro area would likely have
contagion effects that cannot easily be addressed in the current setup."
François Hollande has a
strategy with three main ideas:
1 France must deliver growth, social
inclusiveness, and budgetary discipline; all three at once.
must improve education and innovation. Studies show a positive correlation
between educational performance and growth.
3 The European Union must
pursue both budgetary discipline and a complementary growth package.
It should finance reforms in labor and product markets and higher education,
and must do more on industrial policy. The eurozone needs unified banking
supervision and deposit insurance.
Hollande wants inflation rates to
rise in the northern eurozone.
The Meaning of The
John Edwards' lawyers intend to argue that Edwards did not
violate campaign finance laws by using donations to hide his affair with
Rielle Hunter. The law proscribes "any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or
deposit of money ... for the purpose of influencing any election for federal
office." Edwards' lawyers argue that the word the implies the sole purpose.
Prosecutors argue that it indicates one among several purposes.
AR The defense may cite Bertrand Russell, who
"The x such that f(x) is such that A(x)"
be analyzed as
"There is an x such that f(x), and for all y
such that f(y), y = x and A(y)"
and hence imply uniqueness.
Dalai Lama Wins Templeton Prize
The Dalai Lama received the £1.1 million Templeton Prize at St
Paul's Cathedral. He said the economic crisis was made by man:
need self-confidence. Please do not feel helpless or hopeless."
He will donate most of the money to Save the Children in India
and some to the
Mind and Life Institute
The new French president François
Hollande plans to impose a 75% tax rate on earnings over €1 million,
plus a 45% rate for income above €150,000, plus higher wealth taxes.
Meanwhile in the UK, David Cameron is cutting tax rates for the wealthy.
Finance firms and banks in Paris have begun relocating their top executives in London. London already has a French population in the hundreds
of thousands. Chelsea and Kensington are full of French banker
Before the eleventh century
there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin
church. Only in the thirteenth century was marriage added to the
sacraments. The sanctity of marriage is a medieval fiction.
St Thomas Aquinas argued that spousal
consent is the efficient cause of marriage and the seal of intercourse
the final cause. The myth of the sacrament
should not deprive gays of a right to marry.
"The Bamiyan Buddhas are part
of the culture of the human
race. Whatever the world's archaeologists
agree on, the ministry will agree with that."
The Buddhas were
destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Calls to restore them raise fears of a
backlash from Islamists against shrines for infidels.
World Heritage status forbids a rebuild using modern materials.
German art historian Bert Praxenthaler envisions restoring the small
Buddha "with lots of holes and gaps" to retain its authenticity.
AR Siddharta Gautama
would say forget
Asian Sex Gang
on Asian child rapists: "Those men were acting within
their own cultural norms. Nobody ever explained to them that the history
of women in Britain was once rather similar to that in Pakistan and it
AR Off with his head.
Navy Jets U-Turn
The Royal Navy should have fast jets at sea by 2018 following a British
government U-turn. The Ministry of Defence will revert to purchasing the
jump-jet F-35B variant of the Lockheed Martin fighter after finding that
continuing with the F-35C cats and traps option would cost too much and
take too long.
Emer O'Toole, 28, went on national TV
to show off her unshaven armpits.
like a harmless
eccentricity to me.
Greece is heading for a fall. Radical leftist
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras, 38, wants to rip up the "barbarous"
austerity program and repeal measures forced by the international
bailout to slash the Greek budget deficit. ECB executive board member
Jörg Asmussen moots a Greek exit from the euro.
U Lodz Press
Our new book
due out soon
2012 May 14
UK Business Secretary Vince Cable says a "massive"
economic impact awaits Britain if the eurozone fails to contain the turmoil
on the continent. He said that there was little Britain could do apart from
hope that eurozone firewalls were strong enough to hold back a blaze in
The Greeks have rejected austerity. Greece is
sailing between the Scylla of depression imposed by creditors and the
Charybdis of unilateral debt repudiation and chaotic exit from the euro.
Last week more than two-thirds of voters backed parties opposed to the
spending cuts, tax increases, and structural reforms imposed by the EU and
IMF as the price of a second bailout. Yet the same proportion of these
voters also say that they want to keep the euro. This contradiction is not
2012 May 13
Israel Air Force officers have been brainstorming
about the next steps for their role in Israeli strategic power. Major Nimrod
Segev divided his officers into teams focused on advanced information
technology, vast data, space, cyber, environment, intelligence, human
factor, organizational behavior, and a red team to challenge the rest.
Ideas included nano drones an infantryman can keep in his pocket,
helicopters piloted by robots for medevac, micro satellites on demand, large
spy balloons in the upper stratosphere, virtual training with a helmet from
your office, algorithms that resolve ethical dilemmas, and farming out code
to a network of high school kids.
Segev says aerial combat is still a
staple of IAF pilot training: "These days the air-to-air missile is the
dogfight. The missile can be launched from a vast distance at an enemy
plane. The point is to see the enemy way before he sees you, and for that
you need datafighters, not dogfighters."
"There's something special
about the way
Chantal Sutherland rides a thoroughbred racehorse.
it right away:
you can always pick her out
of a tightly packed field
15 riders and horses."
AR I see what you mean, Bo.
Males As Second Sex
Men are being oppressed. In many walks of life,
they are routinely discriminated against in ways women are not. More boys
drop out of school, fewer men earn degrees, more men are jailed or die
Psychologist Susan Pinker says most children with developmental and
learning problems are male. She adds that male risk-taking and
stress-related disease kill many more men than women in their prime.
Feminist Julie Bindel: "Masculinity is just learned behavior in the same
way that femininity is. Ultimately, if we dismantle the patriarchy, that
would end up being better for men, too."
Perhaps if we measured
success differently, taking into account wellbeing from family relationships
and a flexible work-life balance, men would be losing out.
2012 May 12
Directed by Steven Spielberg
AR His best for many years: the
horse reframed the horrors of World War I.
What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
By Michael J. Sandel
Reviewed by A.C. Grayling
market economies have become market societies where bottom-line thinking
He raises two objections:
Fairness: Money can buy you more than your fair share of anything you want.
2 Corruption: Selling things of human value can
degrade both things and seller.
Different people have different
resources. What about the greater talent or harder work that helps a person
accumulate more resources than a less capable or lazier person can?
Money is dangerous: consider buying a bride,
bribing people to sell a body organ, paying people to do bad things, and
letting people who pay do bad things.
We need to draw a line between
the things that have a price and those that are priceless. We should do so
before shooters can buy licenses to hunt down criminals in our woods and
2012 May 11
Euroshift To Growth
After two years of austerity,
growth is back in fashion in Europe, thanks to the incoming French president
François Hollande. But the planned EU growth pact may be too small
to help the crisis-hit countries of southern Europe.
Grexit Not Fatal
Greek radical leftist Alexis Tsipras declares
previous euro bailout agreements to be "null and void".
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble says Athens can't
be forced to retain the euro: "Greece must decide for itself if it wants to
remain in the euro zone or not." If Greece wants to remain a member, then it
"must form a stable government and it must adhere to its obligations." He
says most Greeks want the euro at any cost "because they are conscious of
all the advantages of the common currency despite all the burdens."
Asian Sex Gang
Imam Alyas Karmani says over curry
in Bradford that many British Pakistani men live in two worlds:
socially conservative culture where there is no toleration of sex outside of
marriage, and little emphasis on sexual gratification." Many preserve family
honor by marrying a cousin from their village in Kashmir. The new wives
bring "an unhealthy attitude towards sex and sexuality".
over-sexualized, material and lust-driven English lifestyle, where women are
scantily clad, binge-drinking is a mainstream form of entertainment and porn
is a massive factor." Some Asians learn to like gangsta music and films
glorifying sexual violence and gang lifestyle.
Blame the women,
blame porn. Anything but bad men.
A new kind of wartime emerged on
September 11, 2001. The country had been attacked. But Americans who were
not in the military were asked to live as though we were at peace. While
Americans killed and got killed in Iraq, Americans back home shopped at
Walmart and watched reality television.
In the post-9/11 era, the
Obama administration has extended the Bush-era challenge to constitutional
principles. John Horgan says war could end tomorrow if a few global leaders
agree to end it. His proposals: cut the bloated U.S. military, end
international arms sales, and scrap the nuclear arsenal. This is not an exit
2012 May 10
Total War On Islam
The U.S. military taught its future leaders that a
total war against the world's 1.4 billion Muslims was needed to protect
America from Islamic terrorists. The course at the Joint Forces Staff
College has since been canceled. But the officer who delivered the lectures
is still there.
From the course materials: "There is no such thing as
moderate Islam. It is therefore time for the United States to make our true
intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam
must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction."
A war plan
to transform Islam by force included reducing Islam to cult status and
starving Saudi Arabia. The officer dismissed laws protecting civilians and
considered applying the Hiroshima precedent to bomb Mecca and Medina. His
views are not the official policy of the U.S. government.
Obama Backs Gays
President Barack Obama's blockbuster announcement
that he is in favor of full marriage equality is the most courageous thing
he has done since he entered the White House three and a half years ago.
AR So now lovers
can get married independently of the shape of their genitalia. That's
Romney Gay No
Mitt Romney: "I do not favor marriage between people of
the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to
marriage other than by name."
people of gender do not favor Mitt on this.
Christian fundamentalists see abortion as genocide.
Increasing numbers of U.S. states are demanding that women seeking abortions
be subjected to the transvaginal probe, a long, dildo-shaped instrument used
to detect fetal heartbeats.
The general idea of humiliating women by forcing things up their vaginas
or subjecting their genitals to abusive examination in the cause of hygiene
or to prove your virginity is a key weapon in the armory of patriarchal
repression of women.
Christian tolerance of systematic misogyny
continues unabated, as conservatives debate the outrage of single mothers
claiming welfare benefits or as liberals allow web voyeurs to enjoy the
degradation of young women in pornography.
British Muslims gang-raped underaged white girls
on a bare mattress above a kebab shop.
Mohammed Shafiq, director of the
Ramadhan Foundation, said that of 68 recent convictions involving street
grooming, 59 were of British Pakistani men and concluded that the community
had a problem.
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for northwest
England, said the men think women are lesser beings: "The availability of
vulnerable young white girls is what has drawn the men to them."
Criminologists said of the Pakistani offenders: "The defendants in question
are at most nominally Muslim. Practicing Muslims certainly aren't supposed
to have sex with children."
It is not a tenet of Islam that girls
should be seduced. But Islam teaches that a modest woman keeps her eyes
downcast, covers her hair or her face, keeps her voice quiet, and does not
speak to unmarried men. A woman whose eyes go where they will, whose hair
is free, and who speaks freely is immodest.
Only an inferior culture
treats women and girls as possessions to gratify men. Only a weak one fails
to care for and protect its children.
2012 May 9
Austerity fatigue has set in. Many countries have
no plausible exit from depression, deflation, and despair. The last
chance of reform rests with François Hollande.
According to the IMF, the ratio of gross public debt to GDP will rise,
not fall, in every year from 2008 to 2013 in Ireland, Italy, Spain, and
Portugal. Over a half of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 in
Greece and Spain do not have a job, over a third in Portugal and Italy,
and one in five in France. The IMF says the real economy will shrink
this year in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. This is perilous.
Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann says monetary policy has reached
its limits. Many Germans believe that their success is due to earlier
socialist reforms, but this is nonsense. Germany has export-led growth
and a superb industrial base. Weidmann: "Monetary policy in the eurozone
is geared towards monetary union as a whole; a very expansionary stance
for Germany therefore has to be dealt with by other, national
instruments." This is not a monetary union. It is an empire.
Hollande must engage with Germans on how to end the eurozone crisis. The
only sensible way out is to make symmetrical adjustments of trade
imbalances and start reforming weaker countries.
Jon Stewart, the comedian host of The Daily
Show, seems to enjoy interviewing religious figures. He and his writers
cover Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and a whole spectrum of
smaller faiths, including atheism. And they pay attention to the finer
points of belief, mining them for humor but at the same time informing
Stewart comes at religion with buckets of derision,
but he and his writers have realized that good theology makes for good
humor. All religions have beliefs that seem bizarre to outsiders. The
Daily Show approaches American religion in the spirit of tolerance.
Religions are strange: our job is to take an honest look, then tolerate
Stewart has said very little about his own Judaism.
But if he is indifferent to religion, he is clearly not bitter about it.
He and his writers have the scrupulosity of objective journalists.
Religious claims are frequently too bizarre for any sane person to
believe. Humor is a great way to get over them.
When people are primed to think
analytically, it weakens the strength of their religious belief. In one
experiment, researchers asked participants to look at images of
sculpture: either Rodin’s The Thinker or another artwork of a discus
thrower that had similar color and posture. Those who viewed The Thinker
were significantly less likely than the control group to say they
believed in God. Across the board, participants who were primed for
rational thought were less likely to express religious belief.
The friction between intuitive and analytical thinking may help explain
the origins of religious belief and disbelief. In human psychology there
are two systems of thinking. System one is intuitive, rapid, and
effortless. System two is analytical, reasoned, and thoughtful. Analytic
thinking can push people away from intuitive thinking.
Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief
Narcissism and Religion
Narcissism may have the strongest effect
on the religiously devout.
answered questions about how religious they were and about how
acceptable they found certain ethically dubious behaviors. The
Christians were more likely to show better ethical judgment than
skeptics. But when data on their narcissistic tendencies was factored
in, the more devout participants tended to make the worst ethical
judgments. The ethical judgment of both nominals and devouts were
clouded by narcissistic tendencies. For both groups, as narcissism
increased so did the tendency to worse ethical judgment, but the effect
of narcissism was stronger among those identifying themselves as
religious. Skeptics showed more similar ethical judgment however
narcissistic they were.
Narcissists tend to ignore the rules that
govern the behavior of others, to attain personal goals at the expense
of others, and be insensitive to what society expects of them in terms
of conformity to its norms. So a person might be seduced by narcissism
into engaging in unethical acts.
Does Narcissism Impair Ethical
Judgment Even for the Highly Religious?
Athletes prepare for the London 2012
Did Dinosaurs Fart To Death?
Dinosaurs may have
gassed themselves to extinction with their own flatulence. A new study
shows that during the Mesozoic era millions of herbivorous sauropods
farted a calculated 500 Tg (megatons) of methane a year, enough to warm
the planet and hasten their own demise.
Could methane produced by
sauropod dinosaurs have helped drive Mesozoic climate warmth?
"It's up to you to have
an amazing life"
Olivia Newton-John, 63
AR I loved her in
Michèle Roberts says of her novel Ignorance:
"I was just impelled to write it." Born in 1949, she wanted
to explore "how family stories veil, or put differently, what might have
happened". Roberts went to a Catholic convent school and read English at
Oxford. She says St Teresa of Avila is her muse. Her 2007 memoir
Houses describes her life in London, her discovery of socialist
feminism, and her struggles with sexual guilt and terror.
AR I recall talking about revolution with Michèle
at Oxford 42
Tom Jones appeared at the back of the stage,
and gave out a primal bellow. It was a noise that appeared to have
started before the beginning of time and would go on to outlive
everything there is to come. For when Jones sings, it is not,
technically, singing at all, but a primal energy ray from deep within
his gonads, expressing his wish to have sex with every woman on the
Earth. It is a sound meant to make all other men on this planet hide in
fear, while their womenfolk take off their clothes and run towards Jones
shouting, "I'm ready!" As a consequence of this unstoppable,
unending testicularity, the Jones reaction shots are as unvaried as they
are powerful. His reaction on sighting a young lady is always a hungry
grin that says, "I'd like to fuck her."
Put your knickers back on,
Edvard Munch's painting
sells for $120 million.
Get Over The War
British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said
German reluctance to launch military action outside its own borders
is limiting its international importance. German voters and politicians
should accept that the war was "quite a long while ago" and play a more
active role in global security operations.
2012 May 8
Greece And France
A Franco-German split on growth versus austerity
would open up a seismic fault in the foundations of the European Union and
endanger the euro.
Most analysts assume Hollande
will settle for a face-saving deal with Merkel to move the EU debate in
favor of growth. A Hollande-Merkel deal would put a vaguely worded new
growth pact alongside the fiscal pact. It would reject Eurobonds but might
accept EU infrastructure project bonds. A typical Franco-German fudge would
allow all parties to retreat with honor.
The new eruption of the
Greek political volcano complicates things. The Greek problem cannot be
fudged with a few words. Greece will either press ahead with big budget cuts
soon, as demanded by its most recent bailout deal, or it will refuse, and
the IMF will refuse more aid for Greece. The Greek government will then run
out of money and Greece will exit the eurozone.
Faced with a choice
between supporting Greece and supporting Germany, the French are almost
certain to go with the Germans. The rhetoric is irrelevant.
How To Survive A Euro Collapse
If the new President of France tries to stimulate
growth through further borrowing, then the death of the euro may be close.
Issuing government debt to stimulate growth is a dangerous game. The markets
may lose faith and demand a risk premium.
I set up an economics prize to discover how to unwind the euro. If a
Eurozone state exits the euro and devalues its new local currency, it will
re-denominate contracts in the new local currency, leaving a legal and
financial mess for overseas investors.
How to protect yourself from a
1 Transfer euro deposits from
banks in a potential exit state to northern European banks.
2 Write new contracts in euros with legal
provision for the possibility for a euro collapse.
Fund bank loans made in a potential exit state by deposits subject to local
2012 May 7
Regie: Jean-Luc Godard,
Analysiert von Prof. Dr. Gerhard Poppenberg
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut Heidelberg
François Hollande, 57, is the next French
president. Speaking at his rural base before flying back to the Bastille,
the Socialist leader said his election signals hope that Europe can avoid
austerity. He wants to give Europe a dimension of growth and prosperity and
vows not to ratify the EU fiscal discipline treaty without new measures to
AR Had to
happen: Austerity sucks.
Global Machine Breakdown
The global economic machine is stalling. Modern
monetary theory offers suggestions to improve it:
1 The debt crisis is a currency
issue. Eurozone countries cannot borrow from the treasury or devalue their
currencies. Bond investors trust nations with high sovereign debt only if
they can still print money.
2 The money
multiplier does not work as expected. Quantitative easing was expected to
produce hyperinflation. Giving the banks more reserves should let them
create money freely. But bank lending has continued to decline. So banks are
not reserve constrained.
budget deficits are not always the enemy. As banks and households have both
reduced their debt level, continued government spending is essential.
Austerity has failed in Europe.
AR The money multiplier did not
work "as expected" because the banks had to reduce their leveraging. Their
previous multiplier was based on a faulty risk model. Banks are constrained
by risk, not reserves.
2012 May 6
Many people in Europe and America have convinced
themselves that the end is nigh.
James Lovelock regards
Earth as a living organism and human beings as an infection in it. Martin
Rees gives humanity a 50-50 chance of surviving beyond this century. Al Gore
proposes to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by using low-energy lightbulbs,
driving less, checking your tire pressure, recycling, rejecting unnecessary
packaging, adjusting your thermostat, planting a tree, and turning off
electrical appliances. Others say we must change our diets, cut back on air
travel, consume fewer material goods, and stop driving gas guzzlers.
A secular prophet has no function other than indignation. So he becomes
intoxicated with his own words and claims a legitimacy with no basis. These
are not great souls who alert us to troubles but tiny minds whose preaching
brings only despair.
The Christian apocalypse saw hope of the coming
of the Lord. Today we only hope to escape the chaos.
Recovery would be easy to achieve: all we need is to
reverse recent austerity policies and temporarily boost spending. The boom,
not the slump, is the time for austerity. Now is the time for the government
to spend more until the private sector revives.
We have both the
knowledge and the tools to get out of this depression. We could be back to
high employment very fast, probably in less than two years. All it takes is
intellectual clarity and political will.
We need more government
spending. High tax shares correlate with low unemployment. Austerity
policies are followed by economic contraction and higher unemployment.
Reducing the budget deficit lowers growth but fiscal stimulus makes jobs.
Alain de Botton
Adultery is tempting and exhilarating. The real
fault might be the lack of any wish to stray. This might be considered
wrong, against nature. Refusal to entertain adultery would seem to represent
a colossal failure of the imagination.
marriage as the perfect answer to all our hopes for love and sex is naive
and misguided. What is wrong with the idea of adultery is its idealism.
Adultery suggests that we might rescue our marriage through an adventure on
There is no answer to the tensions of marriage. To feel
only intermittent affection for a spouse, to have mediocre sex six times a
year, to keep a marriage going for the sake of the children — such
compromises are pitiful.
In a marriage, it is the ability to stay
that is worthy of honor. A loyal marriage ought to recognize the immense
forbearance and generosity of the two parties. If one partner should slip,
the other might pause to admire the previous fidelity.
AR Must try this line on a sexy wife some
time (just kidding — no prophet needs an adulteress).
My Amazon review of Sam Harris on
morality and religion
Scott Atran on Sam Harris on morality and religion
2012 May 5
The German Model
Countries around the world envy German economic
success. But a closer look reveals a much bleaker picture. Only a few
workers are benefiting from the boom, while stagnant wages and precarious
jobs are making it hard for the rest. Managers, specialists, and members of
the core workforce are still in demand. But the people used for contract or
part-time or temporary work are out in the cold.
increasingly moving in the direction of a three-class society. The first
class contains executives and the like who are paid millions. The second
contains the educated and reasonably paid legions of white-collar and
skilled workers. Bringing up the rear are people like shop assistants,
cooks, waiters, and teachers, who often earn less now than they did a decade
Earlier reforms encouraging temporary work were intended to free
up the labor market, but they largely failed to move more people from the
third class into good jobs. To narrow the gap between rich and poor, we need
more spending on education and changes to the tax and transfer systems. The
reforms led by Chancellor Schröder as Agenda 2010 reorganized the welfare
state. Now we need an Agenda 2020.
The right and left hemispheres of the brain differ on
certainty. The left brain rejects information that conflicts with its
accepted theory, is an expert at denial, and has a penchant for delusional
optimism. The right brain holds ambiguous possibilities in suspension and is
good at contextualizing, empathizing, and intuiting.
The left brain
not only shows exaggerated optimism about outcomes but also about its own
ability. Children with right-brain deficit disorder ignore task obstacles,
accept impossible challenges, make grossly inadequate efforts, and are
stunned by the poor outcomes. Patients with right-brain injuries will make
up convincing answers to questions rather than admit they don't know. They
have an unbridled willingness to accept absurd ideas.
understanding and a circumspect position are not signs of weakness. The
right brain has an affinity for ambiguity and grasps implicit meaning,
metaphor, humor, and irony. It sees everything in context. A wiser
understanding of complex issues disavows claims of complete certainty as
bogus. No right-minded person would be taken in by them.
Belief that life has a purpose comes from belief
in a personal God who wants you to be all you can be.
The rejection of
traditional religion is conspicuous among intellectual and artistic elites.
The Europe Syndrome starts with a conception of humanity that is devoid
of the divine. Humans are bags of chemicals that come and go. The purpose of
life is to have fun. But European welfare states have plunging birth rates
and fewer people find satisfaction in their work. Without family or faith,
Europeans no longer celebrate greatness.
Religiosity is indispensable
to great art. The falling away from religiosity must end. The West has been
wandering in the wilderness. Humans are drawn to the big questions.
AR This (originally very long) jeremiad betrays
deep ignorance of Art, of Europe, and of God.
The Meaning of
Colin McGinn's new book is bullshit. Disgust is
an emotion whose principal function is to help us avoid contaminants and
disease. But McGinn says: "Disgust occurs in that ambiguous territory
between life and death, when both conditions are present in some form."
He says disgust reﬂects our existential terror and ambivalence about
being souls tied to mortal bodies. He argues that humans need the emotion to
rein them in. Apparently, the desires of our caveman ancestors became so
rapacious that "early humans started desiring sex with dead bodies and
wanting to eat feces". Rather than seeing necrophilia and coprophagia as
dysfunctional because they expose the sybarite to pathogens, McGinn says
they are not "conducive to psychological wellbeing."
His prose is
wild. On male genitalia: "Life and death coexist in complex and subtle ways
in the penis and testicles, telling a story of triumph and tragedy." On
feces: "I have no wish to romanticize the turd." Pubic hair is "nature's
furry bounty". Semen is a "pointless sticky daub once it is spilled on the
ground". The brain "resembles nothing so much as a mound of dung". The grave
is "a rectum, with corpses featuring as large turds". On penis-vagina sex:
"a tumor and a wound are violently combined in a vital act to produce a
fresh life, itself redolent of death." On farting: "Who can deny the
mood-destroying effect of an errant ﬂatus just at the moment of erotic
AR Oh, Colin.
2012 May 4
The Top One Percent
Joseph E. Stiglitz
In the United States, 1% of the population
controls some 40% of the wealth and garner for themselves some 20% of all
The TOP may believe that they earned what they received
through hard work. But no one succeeds on his own. The poor often work far
harder than the richest. After the crisis, the bankers walked off with
outsized bonuses while those who suffered from the crisis went without a
job. The government bailed out the banks but not the people.
United States, the political system is more akin to "one dollar one vote"
than to "one person one vote." The system amplifies the voice of the
wealthy. It fails to protect the ordinary citizens against the wealthy and
enriches the wealthy at the expense of the rest.
protesters say we need a democracy where people, not dollars, matter. We
need a democracy that reflects the general interests, not the special
interests. The best government that money can buy isn't good enough.
Of the 1%, for the 1%, and by the 1%
2012 May 3
Sarkozy Slams Hollande
Nicolas Sarkozy lost his temper last night in a TV
debate with François Hollande. When Hollande accused Sarkozy of appointing
cronies to high places, the president erupted and called him a "little
Again and again Sarkozy accused his
socialist contender of lying. "Monsieur Hollande, when you lie so
shamelessly, do I have to accept it?"
In reply Hollande said he
didn't have to listen to lectures from a failed president. "Monsieur
Sarkozy, you would have a hard time passing for a victim. It’s never your
fault. You always have a scapegoat."
There was no outright winner in
the clash. But the incumbent failed to deliver a knockout blow against the
challenger. Both sides claimed victory.
Toward the United
States of Europe
Niall Ferguson and Pierpaolo Barbieri
Tom Sargent recently argued
in his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture that Europe is now where the United
States was under the 1781 Articles of Confederation. The next step is fiscal
federalism, corresponding to adoption of the 1787 constitution.
Angela Merkel is no Alexander Hamilton. But she is the only Eurozone
leader who has been boosted by her crisis management. At her last CDU Party
Congress she called Europe a "community of destiny".
invested in the European ideal. It has helped them achieve prosperity,
political respectability, successful reunification, and a dominant economic
position. Today the biggest threat to Europe is the political fallout from
austerity. The way forward is fiscal union.
Some say Britain should exit the European Union and
become an offshore Switzerland. Within its island fortress, Britzerland
would prosper on financial services and tourism.
But Switzerland is
not what it once was. Now foreigners make up one in five of a population of
almost eight million, and the percentage is growing. Over a fifth of the
foreigners are Muslims. Switzerland still has high employment and expects
modest growth this year, but there is strong global pressure to open up the
banking system. So in future foreign clients will be taxed at foreign
levels, hedge fund rules will follow EU best practice, and the tax regime
will be aligned with Brussels. Switzerland is now bound more tightly than
Britain to the free movement of people across its borders. Since 2002, the
Swiss confederation has signed 210 bilateral treaties imposing European law.
In the old days, Bern eschewed membership of both the European Union and
the United Nations. Then Switzerland joined the UN in 2002. Do Brits want
The Righteous Mind
Moral behavior emerges from natural competition
among human groups. Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues,
norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and psychological
mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and
support cooperative societies.
The ritual practices that the New
Atheists dismiss as costly, inefficient, and irrational turn out to be a
solution to one of the hardest problems humans face: cooperation without
kinship. Irrational beliefs can sometimes help the group function more
Digital immortality is about there being a silicon
you for when the physical you dies. Your brain is scanned and your essence
uploaded as data. This whole brain emulation is saved and brought back to
life as an avatar in a virtual world or in the body of a robot.
We need to:
all the data that makes up who you are,
Store that vast amount of data,
Theoretically the problem seems solvable, but whether the
solutions are practical is another story.
Stuart Armstrong, Future of
Humanity Institute, Oxford: "Technology is now advancing faster and faster
and we understand it a lot better because we built it ourselves. So the
problems that digital immortality is facing are merely engineering
2012 May 2
China and Europe
China firmly supports the integration of Europe and
regards the European Union as a strategic partner. With its solid economic
foundation and scientific and technological strength, Europe can beat the
crisis and turn it into an opportunity for greater progress.
firmly supports Europe both in words and in deeds in its efforts to overcome
the current crisis. In the past two years, China's imports from EU countries
have grown at an annual rate of more than 25%. Last year, China almost
doubled its direct investment in Europe.
When "designed in Europe" is
combined with "made in China" and when European technologies are applied to
the Chinese market, there will be amazing results. We are ready to work with
Europe. China and Europe can progress and develop together.
Brits Flock To Islam
Abdal Hakim Murad
Many British Muslims do not publicly announce
their faith. These are the submarines. There have been, it seems, a hundred
thousand British conversions to Islam in the past decade.
account for three quarters of new Muslims in the UK. Often the spiritual
wanderer finds his way to Islam having rejected Christianity because of the
complexity of its belief system. Ultimate truth should be ultimately simple.
Mayday, from a hilltop in Pfalz
2012 May 1
London: Go For Typhoon
The British government is facing calls to choose
Eurofighter Typhoons for its new aircraft carriers. Industry sources say
adapting the Typhoon to fly off a carrier would be cheaper than either
variant of the American F-35. It would also create British jobs at BAE
Systems. The government had dismissed the Eurofighter option for fear of
upsetting Americans, and BAE Systems has invested heavily in the F-35
program with Lockheed Martin.
Berlin: Go For Austerity
The Eurozone must stick to its austerity-led
recovery plan, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Monday:
"The first precondition in order to have sustainable growth everywhere
in Europe is fiscal consolidation."
One World Trade Center Now
New York's Tallest
Once completed, the glass-paneled monolith
formerly called the Freedom Tower will stand 1,776 feet tall from
ground level to spire, boasting 104 floors. It will be 408 feet
taller than its predecessors. Its construction is expected to cost
Image: CBS News
WTC site six days after 9/11
I used to remonstrate with readers who
complained about my sesquipedalianism. I'd point out that my texts were
as full of resolutely Anglo-Saxon slang as they were of the flowery and
the Latinate. But I've stopped bothering.
Now I point out
ruefully that although the subject matter of my writings —
which includes sexual deviance, drug addiction, and mental illness — has
become quite unexceptionable, the supposedly difficult language they are
couched in seems to have become offensive.
Astronomers have discovered a planet capable of
supporting life just 22 light years away. Planet Gliese 667Cc is rocky,
with a mass of 25-30 zettatons (Earth mass is 6 zettatons), and orbits a red
dwarf star in the habitable zone, where it gets enough solar energy to
allow liquid water and mild surface temperatures.
Currently, planet hunters use the High Accuracy
Radial Planetary Searcher (HARPS) telescope to measure the radial
velocity of a star and analyze wobbles in its motion caused by a planet.
They can detect planets of 3-5 times Earth mass. In future, they hope to
detect planets as small as 10 zettatons.
CERN Finds New Particle
LHC physicists have
discovered a new particle. It is a neutral baryon called "Xi_b ^ * 0"
and made of three quarks: an up, a strange, and a bottom. Its
mass-energy is between 6 and 7 GeV. The CMS detector recorded 21 decays,
enough for a discovery.
AR I say call
it a chibon.
Martin Amis revitalized English
prose with the freewheeling energies of its American cousin.
novel is Lionel Asbo:
The State of England.
David Cameron and George
Osborne are called "posh boys" by one of their own MPs. The
notion of position through privilege and connections conveys an image of
being out of touch with ordinary people and is a toxic charge against a
British leader. They are pretty posh too: children of millionaires,
educated at top private schools, and members of elite Oxford drinking
Too Old To Work,
Too Young To Die
No one can fire older people just because of their age,
and they must work longer to top up their pensions. But now it seems
that younger people need their jobs. People have to work so long partly because for years the
state has been running an unfunded pyramid pension scheme. Are older
people selfish for working on or for retiring too soon?
How to meditate
2012 April 30
Growth Not Austerity
European policy makers assume that countries are
too deep in in debt and so face a high cost of borrowing, which inhibits
growth. So they provide financing but insist on austerity.
countries are in trouble because the financial crisis led to a collapse in
growth. High deficits are a symptom. The right focus for Europe is on
growth. Austerity is a step in the wrong direction.
Austerity at the
national level is likely to reduce creditworthiness. Fiscal contraction
reduces incomes, limiting the capacity to repay debts. It achieves only
limited reductions in deficits, given reduced tax revenues and increased
benefit payments. And it blights future growth by reducing capital
investment and raising unemployment.
The Eurozone periphery cannot
succeed unless Germany allows its trade surplus to contract. A country that
drives down its economy in pursuit of austerity does its creditors no favor.
Success requires growth.
François Hollande vowed to end the remorseless
austerity programs advocated by Germany: "The citizens of France are going
to address a message of change to Europe, and that message is one of
reorientation towards growth. Our challenge is to refuse the austerity that
cannot be our horizon."
AR Larry and
François seem to agree.
2012 April 29
David Eagleman and Raymond Tallis
Our lives depend on our brains. But the large majority of the brain's
activity takes place under the hood of conscious awareness. So people are
nuanced, complicated, contradictory.
Everything about us requires a brain in working order. It does not follow
that our brains are pretty well the whole story of us. We are part of
community of minds, a human world.
Brains and culture operate in a feedback loop. A brain reflects its culture.
An understanding of the limitations of consciousness gives a richer
understanding of the wellspring of our ideas.
Studies show choices are shaped by an implicit egoism built into the brain.
But the public space of culture is at least as important. To say the brain
is in charge is to personify it.
Illusions reveal that perceptions generated by the brain do not necessarily
correlate with reality. We don't have a strong grasp of what reality out
there even is, because we detect such a small slice of it. That small slice
is called the umwelt. Our sensorium is enough to get by in our ecosystem,
but no better.
RT We could not recognize
illusions and so on for what they are unless most of our experiences were
veridical. If we were confined to an umwelt, how would we know it? Knowledge
transcends immediate experience and corrects our intuitions.
DE We are sealed off from most of reality but we
can discover more of it by a process of careful experimentation. That is the
endeavor of science.
AR We emerge like a
spike from a stack that goes down through the brain and the umwelt to the
world of physics and the universe. We're all spikes on the same stack.
2012 April 28
The U.S. Air Force is quietly preparing
to assert air dominance in the Mideast again. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq,
F-15C Eagles flew air patrols from Saudi Arabia. But they met no resistance,
and since then the Air Force has deployed only ground-attack planes to the
Mideast. The F-15Cs stayed home in the U.S. and Japan. Now stealthy F-22 Raptors
are ready for combat.
The Air Force is preparing to fight
Iran. In March the Air Force deployed standard F-15Cs to the theater,
probably either in the United Arab Emirates or in Qatar. Upgraded F-15Cs
from Japan joined them, with the latest phased-array radars that
track more targets, faster, than old mechanical radars. Now Raptors have
deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE. If they're from Alaska, they're the Increment
3.1 model with boosted bombing capabilities. The Mideast mission is the
first F-22 deployment on the front line.
The Air Force needs to mix
F-15s and F-22s. It has so few Raptors that it keeps 250 F-15Cs in
service. Pilots have developed team tactics for the two types. Large numbers of
F-15s cover for small numbers of Raptors that use stealth to penetrate enemy
defenses. Look out for a Mideast deployment of Air Force bizjets and Global
Hawk drones fitted with Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (Bacon).
The F-22 and F-15 data links need a Bacon plane nearby to work together.
AR Good hunting, chaps!
The Jet That Ate the Pentagon
The United States
is making a gigantic investment in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Claimed to
be near invisible to radar and able to dominate any future battlefield, the
F-35 will replace most of the air-combat aircraft in the inventories of the
U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and at least nine foreign allies, and it
will be in those inventories for the next 55 years. But the program is a
1 Cost: This year, the acquisition price has increased to
about $400 billion. This does not include the operating cost. The current
appraisal for operations and support is $1.1 trillion, for a total of $1.5
trillion. The total program unit cost for each individual F-35 is now $161
million. But the estimate assumes the F-35 will only be 42% more expensive
to operate than an F-16. Expect at least 100% more.
2 Schedule: The
design was born some 25 years ago as a supersonic STOVL aircraft. Then it
was decided to make it both an air-to-air fighter and a bomber. Next came
stealth, imposing a new shape, new skin coatings, and new internal weapons
bays. There would be three versions, for the three services. Hundreds of
planes are being built before the test results are in. The test program is
only 20% complete. The target date for combat readiness is 2019.
3 Performance: The F-35 lacks the F-16's agility in the air-to-air mode and
the F-15E's range and payload in the bombing mode, and it can't match the
A-10 at low-altitude close air support. Its availability will be lower
because its complexity prolongs maintenance. The aircraft most like the
F-35, the F-22, flew on average for only 15 hours per month in 2010. The
F-35 is not even very stealthy.
Bottom line: Thumbs
2012 April 27
University of California researchers Dacher Keltner
and Michael Kraus tested how people from different social backgrounds
interact. The poorer subjects were more likely to use warmer and more
expressive body language and gestures that signal engagement, while the
richer participants were more aloof.
Asked to rate the emotions
expressed in photographs of human faces, subjects with better jobs were
consistently worse at the task. When pairs of students were asked to act out
mock interviews, the students from poorer backgrounds were better at
guessing their partner's feelings than those from wealthier backgrounds. But
the wealthier students suddenly improved at reading emotions when they
imagined talking with someone more prestigious.
In a test of
altruism, people from poorer backgrounds tended to give more than wealthier
people. Experiments show that wealthier people are more likely to behave
unethically than poorer people. The results suggest that tax cuts for the
wealthy will not cause benefits to trickle down to poorer people.
Keltner: "Our results say you cannot rely on the wealthy to give back, to
fix all the problems in society. It is improbable, psychologically."
AR I cannot be corrupted. You are welcome to
try by offering me a large sum of money.
The Roman Empire
Romans dominated the Mediterranean in the second century BCE and in the
following centuries ruled an empire stretching from the Atlantic to the
Euphrates, from Britain to the Sahara. The last emperor to rule from Rome
was deposed in 476 CE. The last to rule from Constantinople lost to the
Turks in 1453.
The empire was based on military force. Julius Caesar
said his campaigns in Gaul, Germany, and Britain were for the good of the
republic. According to Virgil, Jupiter said it was the Roman destiny to
"spare the conquered and overcome the proud in war" (parker subiectis et
debellare supremos). The Romans expected victory or death. From graffiti on
a cave wall in Jordan: "The Romans always win."
In 212 CE, Emperor
Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to almost every free person in the
empire. Many of the barbarian warlords who carved up the western provinces
had served in the Roman army, including Alaric, the Goth who sacked Rome in
410. In the aftermath of the sacking Saint Augustine wrote his
City of God.
Christianity is the most profound legacy of the Roman era.
military organization and weaponry beat all their opponents. The political organization was a legacy of
Greek philosophy. I'm told the barbarians won by mounting stirrups on their
warhorses, to allow standing in the saddle, a Mongol innovation.
United States is the new Rome, and U.S. military organization and weaponry
beat all opponents. What will be the new stirrup?
2012 April 26
Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?
Why is there something rather than nothing? The
question has been asked since people have been around. Now we can plausibly
argue that a universe full of stuff came from nothing. We know you can
create space from where there was no space. There were no particles in
space, but also there was no space. The laws of physics could be an
environmental accident. On that theory, the laws of physics come into being
when the universe comes into being.
Space didn't exist but the laws
of quantum mechanics existed. Most of the laws of nature didn't exist before
the universe was created. They were created along with the universe, at
least in the multiverse picture. In a different universe, different forces
and different particles might exist. We don't yet have the mathematics to
describe a multiverse. I don't know what laws are fixed and I don't have a
quantum theory of gravity, so I can't tell you for certain how space comes
You can keep asking "why" forever, but the "how"
questions are the ones that matter. If the multiverse really exists, then it
could be an infinite object. That may beg the question of where the multiverse
came from. You might not be able to answer that final question.
... standard presentations of relativistic quantum field theories ... have
nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of where those fields came from, or
of why the world should have consisted of the particular kinds of fields it
does, or of why it should have consisted of fields at all, or of why there
should have been a world in the first place. Period. Case closed."
from his critical review of the book
A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Krauss
intro, 65 min)
Is Susy Dead?
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has yet to
see any new phenomena that would support supersymmetry (Susy). Theorists
introduced Susy fifty years ago to connect fermions and bosons. It would
give every known boson a heavy fermion superpartner and every known fermion
a heavy boson superpartner.
The LHC is smashing protons with an
energy of 4 TeV apiece, generating new particles with mass up to about 1
TeV. For Susy to work as intended, at least a few of the Sparticles should
have a fraction of that mass. The Higgs boson provides another reason for
light sparticles. Without them, Standard Model calculations imply an
infinite Higgs mass. A Higgs mass of around 0.125 TeV, as the LHC seemed to
suggest in 2011, would be right where Susy predicts if sparticles have a
fairly low mass. As the LHC collects data but no sparticles, Susy's fans may
AR Frank Wilczek likes Susy
All in the brain: A trick that seems to defy gravity
Neural Correlate Society "Best Illusion of the Year" 2011
Sugihara (video, 50 sec, after
2012 April 25
Robert B. Laughlin
Nobel Prize for Physics 1998
macht das Licht aus: Die Zukunft der Energie
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut Heidelberg
AR An informal talk promoting his new book
Powering the Future but fun anyway
Content Curators Are The New Superheroes Of The Web
Curation is the act of individuals with a passion for a content area to
find, contextualize, and organize information. Curators provide a consistent
update regarding what's interesting, happening, and cool in their focus.
Curators tend to have a unique and consistent point of view.
Superheroes are extraordinary humans who dedicate themselves to protecting
the public. Anyone who steps up and volunteers to curate in their area of
knowledge and passion is taking on a Herculean task. They're going to stand
between the web and their readers, using all of the tools at their disposal
to "listen" to the web, and then pull out of the data stream nuggets of
wisdom, breaking news, important new voices, and other salient details. It's
real work, and requires a tireless commitment. While there may be an economic benefit for
being a "thought leader" and "trusted curator," it's not going to happen
overnight. Being a superhero is often a thankless job.
AR So now I'm
a web superhero — Spiderman! All I need is a way to make it pay.
2012 April 24
France and Europe
The battle for France has a couple of weeks to
run. After that, the battle for Europe will begin.
Sarkozy and François Hollande promise to save the "French exception" by
changing the European Union.
Sarkozy promises to protect the French
way of life: to tighten border controls, limit immigration, and promote a
"buy Europe" policy.
Hollande promises to lead the fight against austerity and to
reorient the EU toward growth. He may want to change the ECB statutes and
promised to reduce France's deficit yet promote European spending on
infrastructure. Germany would pay, so expect a no from Berlin.
Anger, Not Racism
In France on Sunday, over 6 million voters voted
for Marine Le Pen. These are not 6 million French fascists hoping she will
bring back black shirts and far-right politics. But many voters are worried
about radical imams brainwashing young Muslims. The Toulouse killings
reminded them of her rhetoric about the "enemy within". Policies like the
burka ban fueled their anger.
Le Pen has managed to make the Front
National more respectable. An FN vote is often a "no" or "fed up" vote
rather than a racist one. From a British perspective, much of her program
does not look right-wing. It may be better to look at the way politics has
been waged for decades than to condemn FN voters. But it would be foolish to
be too blasé.
AR Wisdom of the crowds:
Oppose militant Islam.
WAR ON WOMEN
When it comes to the status of
women in the Mideast, it's not better than you think. It's much, much
worse. Even after these "revolutions," all is more or less considered
well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the
home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced
to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry or divorce
without a male guardian's blessing.
Not one Arab country ranks in
the top 100 in the WEF report
Global Gender Gap
Sarkozy Versus Hollande
Incumbent President Nicolas
Sarkozy and Socialist candidate François Hollande square off in the
second round of France's presidential election on May 6.
Sunday's Top 3
Le Pen 18.1%
Anti-immigration National Front party leader Marine Le Pen:
"The battle for France has only just begun."
My short cut of
The Unknown Life of JC
by Nicolas Notovitch
Hitch on that quote
Stop The Bill
Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns the
UK government that a planned extension of the state's spy powers
would be a "destruction of human rights". He says: "The amount of
control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is
The UK government has run into a storm of criticism
over its plan to allow GCHQ to monitor all internet communication in
Britain. Berners-Lee: "The most important thing to do is to stop the
bill as it is at the moment."
Where does spacetime
come from, O guru?
Spin symmetry breaking
in the primordial blob
Titanic 3D has broken box office
records in China to become the biggest opening ever in the country. The
movie has already taken more money in China than it did in 1998 on its
David Cundall, 62, is on a
quest to recover a cache of buried Spitfires from Burma. He found them
sealed and buried in crates and hopes to restore them.
In August 1945 the new Spitfire Mark XIV fighters were
crated and shipped to Burma. But by then they were not needed and 12
were buried; 8 more may have been buried in December 1945.
2012 April 23
The Crisis of Big Science
The Standard Model is
our working theory of elementary particles. Quarks make up the protons and
neutrons in atomic nuclei, and leptons include the electron. Force carriers
include photons for electromagnetic forces, W and Z bosons for weak nuclear
forces, and gluons for quarks. But the model does not explain the masses of
quarks and leptons and does not include gravitation.
The theory of
the weak and electromagnetic forces is based on an exact symmetry between
them. The W and Z particles and the photons all appear as massless
particles. But the electroweak symmetry is broken. The symmetry breaking
involves a field with a particle we call the Higgs boson. We are looking for
the Higgs. But finding it will not give us a deep new theory.
more funding, I do not think we can make much more progress in the search
for the laws of nature. Fundamental physics may grind to a halt. But funding
is a problem for all fields of science. Cosmology has been revolutionized by
satellite observatories working in tandem with ground-based observatories.
Without new space platforms, it may get stuck too.
AR The story of physics in the last hundred
years has been thrilling beyond compare. It has changed everything for us
Earthlings. But the civilization that sustained it needs a basic makeover.
Too much of its foundation of ideas is a mess. Too many people are singing
the wrong words. We need a new basic myth that can grip us all for a
thousand years. Physics must wait.
Sie haben das Gefühl eines Selbst. Das ist das Grundgefühl, das uns das
Gehirn manchmal vermittelt: jemand zu sein. Aber das gehört nur zu einem vom
Gehirn erzeugten Modell. Es ist eine Art vorübergehende Simulation.
Das Selbstmodell ist ein faszinierendes und hochkomplexes Gebilde. Es macht
so etwas wie Ich-Gefühl, subjektives Erleben und kritische Rationalität
überhaupt erst möglich. Das Selbst existiert nicht als Ding. Es ist nur der
Inhalt eines Vorgangs, der sich im Laufe von Jahrmillionen der Evolution
ständig weiterentwickelt hat.
In Zukunft wird deutlicher werden, wo
und wie im Gehirn welche Komponenten des Selbstmodells dargestellt werden.
Schichten des menschlichen Selbstmodells werden von außen erst erzeugt, von
der Kultur etwa. Unsere Ich-Erfahrung wird auch beeinflusst von der
Gesellschaft, in der wir leben, wir nehmen etwa Einflüsse von außen in
unsere Persönlichkeit auf.
Es gibt Roboter mit Kameraaugen, die sich
drahtlos mit dem Gehirn steuern lassen. Der Forscher steuert also direkt mit
dem Selbstmodell in seinem Gehirn einen Roboter, ein Computer übersetzt. Mit
einer Brille kann man dabei auch durch die Kameraaugen des Roboters sehen.
Da fragt man sich schon mal: Wo ist es denn nun, das Selbstmodell?
Der Ego-Tunnel von Thomas Metzinger
2012 April 22
Jesus Lived in India
By Holger Kersten
Believers in the death and resurrection of Christ will have a hard time with
this book. They will pick and poke at details just as some do over Darwin's
theory of evolution or the new sciences of the universe and the brain. But
Kersten's destruction of the orthodox position of traditional faith is clear
and convincing, for me at least. His own research and his summary of the
research of a vast number of other careful scholars has shown with some
1 Jesus was a teacher in the tradition of Buddhism and Hinduism
who quite possibly learned his trade in advanced and extended
Indian or Buddhist training,
2 Jesus survived the crucifixion, as
he would have hoped, using Yogic skills developed during his training plus the
cooperation of friends who may have seen his suffering Roman cruelty as a
Jewish victory, and
3 Jesus probably headed back east after his recovery and became
a wandering teacher called Yuz Asaf who finally settled in Kashmir and is
buried in Srinagar.
Any attempt to reconstruct the
events of so long ago with any clarity is doomed to be debatable, and any
attempt to do so for a historic figure like no other in (Western) history is
going to raise organized resistance from vested interests, but Kersten has
given us a platform for doing so that is really good, in my humble opinion.
I have read several books on this and related themes, and this is the best,
for me. The balance of fine detail and judicious overview, the insistence on
hard facts and the sober appraisal of probabilities, the sympathy extended
to people of faith, whether Indian or Mediterranean, and the overall
scholarly tone of the enterprise together make this for me the fiducial
source on this topic. I have no hesitation in recommending it to seekers
My Amazon review: five
Martin Amis, Hitchens' friend since their Oxford days,
recalled that his pal was a "self-mythologizer" who
often referred to
himself in the third person. Whenever an injustice occurred, Hitchens would
"The pen of the Hitch will flash from its scabbard."
2012 April 21
Israelis Loving Germans
Juliane von Mittelstaedt
On his first night in Germany, Tomer
Heymann, an Israeli, slept with a German. He met Andreas Josef Merk, blond
and Catholic, at a Berlin club. Heymann is a gay Jewish film director. Merk
traveled to Tel Aviv on a one-way ticket and the two men celebrated Passover
and Christmas together. Together they made a one-hour movie:
I Shot My
Love. Six years on, Tomer and Andreas are still together.
recent survey, 98% of Jewish Israelis say remembering the Holocaust is the
guiding principle of their lives. But more Israelis are traveling to
Germany, meeting Germans, and falling in love. Many Israelis are learning
German, and Hebrew courses in Tel Aviv include many Germans. This century,
there has been a rapid increase in the number of Israelis holding a German
passport. For some, it's an insurance policy, for others a convenience. Some
see it as a belated victory.
Men are not two tribes, homosexuals and
heterosexuals. Imagine that most men are more straight than gay and some are
more gay than straight. Imagine a scatter graph, with some close to one end,
some to the other, and plenty in between. Social pressure to be straight
would polarize the scatter to a straight majority and a minority who can
only be gay.
A war between the world of macho heteros and that of gay pride puts a no
man's land between them. Both straights and gays have reason to deny they
had a choice: the straights because gay inclinations were disapproved of;
the gays because their best hope for tolerance is to wimp out and say they
can't help it. We all win when a man can say he chose.
Christopher Hitchens †
For an hour and a half, the Great Hall of the Cooper
Union in Manhattan was filled with the wit and the coruscating erudition of
the man universally referred to as "Hitch".
Martin Amis delivered the
eulogy. He said Hitch had been so widely loved partly because of his "full
and friendly" good looks, partly because of his "perfect voice without any
mannerisms or poncey intonations like mine", and partly because "he was an
auto-contrarian" who loved nothing so much as to argue with himself.
The memorial marked the final gathering of the Hitchens gang —
Amis, Ian McEwan,
James Fenton — with
Hitchens' place marked by a photo of him (left). Stephen Fry recalled that there
were few pleasures in life as great as having a disagreement with Hitch. But
the aspect that boomed loudest was his relentless secular humanism in the
face of ignorant religion.
is not great
2012 April 20
Germany Arms Greece
Germany fed a Greek appetite for arms that triggered
the debt crisis. Just under 15% of German weapons exports and some 10% of
French arms sales go to Greece. Speculation is rife that EU aid was
conditional on Greece honoring its agreements to buy arms from Germany and
As a proportion of GDP, Greece spends twice
as much as any other EU member on defense. Since the 1974 Turkish invasion
of Cyprus, Greece has perceived a security risk from Turkey and spent an
estimated €216 billion on arms. Both Turkey and Greece are in NATO.
Romney Needs Mate
Mitt Romney lacks charisma. He also needs someone
to help win back women voters. What he needs is a glamorous female running
mate. Sarah Palin, step right up.
AR Can someone find Mitt a Hillary in the GOP,
please, before Sarah reads this?
According to quantum theory, electrons in a chain of atoms
can be split into three quasiparticles: a holon carrying the electron
charge, a spinon carrying its spin, and an orbiton carrying its orbital
location. Electrons confined in an atom behave like waves, and when excited
the wave splits into multiple waves.
1996, physicists split an electron into a holon and spinon. Now, Jeroen van
den Brink and colleagues have split one into an orbiton and a spinon. The
team created the quasiparticles by scattering X-ray photons off a single
electron in a 1D sample of strontium cuprate and measuring photon energy
loss. When a photon lost between 1.5 and 3.5 eV, it excited the electron to
a higher orbital and created an orbiton and a spinon moving in opposite
directions through the sample.
Orbitons may help to explain how some
materials are superconductors at high temperatures. They could also be
useful a quantum computer, where fragile states decay quickly, since orbital
transitions occur in femtoseconds.
2012 April 19
The International Monetary Fund warned that
European banks looked set to shrink their balance sheets by €2 trillion over
the next 18 months. Unless officials improved their policy response, the IMF
said, European banks would dump almost 7% of their assets by the end of
The eurozone is looking Japanese. Short-term
German interest rates have fallen below their Japanese equivalents for the
first time in more than two decades. Benchmark 10-year Bund yields on
Wednesday fell to 1.63%, an all-time low. Japan shows that yields can go a
lot lower. The outlook for equities in a Japan scenario is gloomy.
Indian Missile Test
The New York Times
India says it has successfully launched a
missile with nuclear capability and a 5000 km range, giving it the ability
to strike Beijing and Shanghai. With the Agni 5 missile, India is the sixth
country with long-range nuclear missile capability. Defense analyst Poornima
Subramaniam: "Agni 5 will give India complete coverage of targets in China."
AR Time for India and China to talk about
their border in Assam.
Islamist Human Rights
Britain's relationship with the European Court of Human
Rights was tense yesterday after the court halted deportation
proceedings against the radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada. David Cameron
vowed to force him out of the country "no matter how difficult" after AQ's lawyers challenged the removal process.
AR Memo to DC: Kick the bum out even if the ECHR
dithers. Let the lawyers fight it out after the fact. Don't let the taxpayer
foot the bill for AQ to stay anywhere but in a morgue.
Podiumsdiskussion im DAI Heidelberg
Moralmaschine Religion!? Konstruktion
und Anspruch ethischer Wirklichkeiten?
Das Böckenförde-Diktum auf dem
Eberhard Schockenhoff, stellvertretender
Vorsitzender des Deutschen Ethikrates,
Professor für Moraltheologie an der
Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät der Universität Freiburg
Professor für Religionswissenschaft
an der Philosophischen Fakultät der
Joachim Kahl, Doktor der Theologie und
Philosophie, freiberuflicher Philosoph
Religionskritik, Ethik, Ästhetik
Wolff-Metternich, Akademische Oberrätin am Philosophischen Seminar,
AR Prof. Schockenhoff hat die Diskussion mit
seiner Katholischen Parole dominiert.
2012 April 18
The eurozone is a monetary union, without fiscal
backups. The pressure of adjustment falls on labor markets. Fear of
inflation depresses nominal wages, leading to soaring unemployment,
collapsing economies, and debt deflation. The eurozone is an aircraft being
redesigned as it crashes.
1 Solidarity remains largely national: The ECB
is the principal international financier.
Power rests in member states: The eurozone is an international arrangement.
3 States disagree on what went wrong: Germans
say fiscal indiscipline; others say excessive lending, divergent
competitiveness, and external imbalances.
of a break-up: Some say the single currency provides useful pressure for
2 The ideal of an integrated Europe:
The eurozone integrates states that used to go to war.
3 A secure place in Europe and the world:
Europeans still believe in the postwar agenda.
The most likely
outcome is a miserable but enduring union.
The union needs a shot of Teutonic dynamism.
The IQ Gene
A huge international brain study has found a gene
that has a measurable effect on intelligence. Gene HMGA2 can vary at a
single DNA site from C (cytosine) to T (thymine). With letter C, IQ rises by
1.29 and brain volume increases by 0.58%, adding around 9 ml of brain
tissue, about 2 teaspoons. When people inherit C from both parents they get
an IQ rise of about 2.6. The study involved 21,151 adults.
Nature Genetics, DOI: 10.1038/ng.2250
2012 April 17
Islam in Egypt
Egyptians are intent on creating a prosperous and
democratic society. But the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), founded by the
Muslim Brotherhood, believes that the goals of the revolution are under
We in the FJP believe that Islam brings about
social harmony, justice, and prosperity. Our principles:
1 Individuals must be free to choose their faith
and their way of life
2 Everyone is equal
before the law
3 The people are the sole
holders of power
Our economic platform is based on a free economy and
social justice. A strong private sector is the main driving force behind a
thriving economy, while the state provides the legal and political
Robots in China
Apple and Foxconn plan to improve pay and
conditions for over a million workers in China. Foxconn will deploy a
million industrial robots in its factories over the next three years.
Chinese economic planners know the number of annual entrants to its
labor market is set to peak soon. The leaders know that the population may
get old before it gets rich. The government wants to see wages go up, both
to strengthen domestic consumption and because it helps Chinese companies
produce more advanced goods for the world market. China needs well trained
and well motivated workers. Using more robots fits that strategy.
west has not begun to appreciate the consequences of this rapid embrace of
automation. Europe must attract skilled immigrants and revitalize its
World Military Spending
military expenditure in 2011 totaled $1.74 trillion, almost unchanged since
2010 in real terms, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research
The 2011 figures were down for Brazil, Britain,
France, Germany, India, and the United States. U.S. spending fell by 1.2% in real
terms. Spending rose 6.7% for China and 9.3% for Russia.
SIPRI Yearbook 2011
2012 April 16
The F-35 Saga Continues
David Cameron may have to make a
U-turn. British forces chiefs apparently want to abandon plans
to buy the navalized F-35C fighter jet for the new carriers and
revert to the F-35B jump-jet version.
The reassessment reveals:
— The Royal Navy will have two carriers with F-35B but only
one with F-35C.
— Installing cats and traps would cause extra spending
of up to £1.8 billion.
— Britain would pioneer the U.S.
electromagnetic catapult, with all the risks.
— The F-35C is too heavy to land on the French
Charles de Gaulle carrier.
— The carrier with the
F-35C is unlikely to enter service until 2025.
Against the decision:
the F-35B has lower performance and payload.
Cannot the government find a couple of billion more for the navy?
We may see gravity waves
by around 2015
Has Earth Seeded Space?
A team at Kyoto Sangyo
University say Earth could have seeded other moons and planets
with life. The asteroid that hit 65 million years ago may have not only
killed off the dinosaurs but also kicked up well over a trillion tons of
rocks into space. The team calculated that hundreds of millions of Earth
rocks could have been thrown to Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's
moon Europa. Even more could have ended up on the Moon and Mars.
Hundreds of rocks could even have made it to planets around other stars,
such as Gliese 581.
German historian Ernst Nolte argued in a
2004 speech that the only difference between Israel and the Third Reich
is Auschwitz. The late Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago once compared
the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah to Auschwitz and accused Jews
a spiteful god.
Günter Grass, in
his writing, shows himself to be a man tired of hearing about the
Holocaust, tired of thinking about the Holocaust, tired of carrying
around the moral burden of the Holocaust. This is under-standable. But
being a former member of the Waffen-SS
means having to say you're
AR Maybe now GG,
lifetime of writing,
has a right to sigh and say
2012 April 15
The Human Brain Project
The Human Brain Project,
funded by the European Union, will offer new insights into the human brain.
EPF professor Henry Markram: "The complexity of the brain, with its billions
of interconnected neurons, makes it hard for neuroscientists to truly
understand how it works. Simulating it will make it much easier, allowing
them to measure and manipulate any aspect of the brain."
The virtual brain will be housed
in a giant new supercomputer at Jülich, near Düsseldorf, Germany. The
machine will generate 3D moving images of the brain on large screens around
a cockpit. Scientists will sit in the cockpit and fly through the brain,
zooming in or out to explore its workings.
For 15 years Markram and
his team have dissected and studied the mammalian brain's basic information
processing units, the cortical column. These units are less than half a
cubic mm in size but contain tens of thousands of neurons with many millions
of interconnections. The team used their data to simulate a cortical column
in a supercomputer. By 2014 they hope to model an entire mouse brain.
Markram: "The human brain is far larger with around a million cortical
columns. A computer capable of simulating it would have to carry out a
billion billion calculations a second."
A fine challenge for an exaflops machine.
2012 April 14
The Hajj show is a hit
2012 April 13
Top Ten Philosophers' Novels
1 Thus Spake Zarathustra by
Reading Zarathustra for the first time, despite
its literary form, its poetic vision, I treated it as pure philosophy. But
nothing will quite prepare you for the deceptions of Nietzsche's language.
2 The Last Puritan: A Memoir in the Form
of a Novel by George Santayana
Santayana was attached to
William James' idea that the emotions are the perception of bodily
processes. Santayana develops this idea of the observing self
3 Intimacy by Jean-Paul Sartre
The idea of intimacy denies everything of the transcendental ego and
affirms intentionality, which a detached ego violates. Intimacy necessitates
the connection to others.
Candide is perversion. Voltaire proceeds with caricature.
The line of common sense philosophy leads straight from Voltaire to the
modern preachers and prophets of this perversion.
5 A Severed Head by Iris
Murdoch denied that her novels were works of philosophical
fiction. Existentialism, for her, defined the whole genre of the
philosophical novel: philosophy clarifies, literature mystifies.
Thomas the Obscure by Maurice Blanchot
wrote fiction that it was in part philosophical investigation. He described
the fiction as ontological, where the language of ontology resides outside
the subject and object divide.
7 Thérèse Philosophe
by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens
Dostoyevsky called it as
a trashy little book. It is a tale involving a sexual romp with Catholic
clergy confusing sexual with spiritual ecstasy that should never have seen
the light of day.
8 The Stranger
by Albert Camus
The stranger is conditioned in every respect. He
could not be his own self in his actions. Rather than act, he is acted upon,
and his world too is empty and meaningless, as there is no self.
9 The Name of the Rose by
Eco's novel expresses the finite and infinite in themes
and meanings, pinned down by a detective story. Beyond that simple form,
there are unlimited mysteries to solve and connections to make.
Essays in Love by Alain de Botton
Many readers felt
frustration that de Botton tells us nothing of what love is. The work failed
as a novel because de Botton had not matured as a storyteller, but the real
weaknesses are philosophical.
The Backslider by Seán McGrady
AR More shameless self-promotion
there. I agree with his #1 anyway.
The Samaritan Temple
The Old Testament says 10 of the 12 tribes in
Samaria founded the state of Israel in the year 926 BCE. The two other clans
lived in Judah with its capital Jerusalem. The Samaritans were in the
majority. They were the guardians of the Ark of the Covenant and the keepers
of the Mosaic tradition.
There's one big difference between the
Samaritan Torah with the Jewish Torah. For Jews, the center of the world is
Jerusalem, whereas for Samaritans it's Mount Gerizim. Shortly before his
death, Moses told the Israelites to travel to Mount Gerizim and build a
shrine there, or at least that's what the oldest Bible texts say. But then
the Assyrians subjugated Israel and killed or enslaved its inhabitants. Many
Israelites fled to Judah and Jerusalem.
The Jews wove an entire
biblical tale around Judah. King David ruled from Jerusalem and his son
Solomon allegedly built a glorious temple there. No remains have ever been found
of his temple. But a temple stood for many years on Mount Gerizim, which in
180 BCE covered about 4 hectares and attracted huge crowds of worshipers.
Then in 128 BCE a Jewish army burned it to the ground. The Samaritans never
rebuilt it. The victors rewrote the Bible.
So forget about the Dome on the Rock. It's just another mosque.
Did Jesus survive the crucifixion?
If so, once
he recovered he may
have escaped the Romans by
returning to India,
where he lived
quietly as a teacher and died
aged 80 in
Beyond Belief: Jesus in India
Tomb Of Jesus
Pattaya Daily News, 2010
The ancient city of Srinagar is in Indian Kashmir, a bumpy drive
east of Islamabad.
It contains the alleged tomb of St. Issa, a.k.a.
Jesus Christ. Ostensibly the grave of
medieval Muslim preacher,
Youza Asaph, the tomb is actually that of Jesus, say many
believe that Jesus came to India following his crucifixion and
lived out his life in Srinagar.
The Lost Years of
Documentary Evidence of Jesus'
17-Year Journey to the
By Elizabeth Clare Prophet
The Bible records
Jesus aged 12
in the temple, then aged 30 at
the river Jordan.
That leaves a
gap of 18 years.
Publishing academic research is an expensive
business. Prestigious publications have high rejection rates, require
peer reviews and cataloguing, and get the best papers. But academic
researchers dislike making profits for publishers.
Wellcome Trust has agreed with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in
the United States and the Max Planck Society in Germany to underwrite a
new web-based and open-access journal,
eLife, run by scientists, for scientists.
The Indian Navy has
commissioned the Akula II class K‑152 Nerpa nuclear-powered attack
submarine INS Chakra. The sub displaces 8140 tons, has a maximum speed
of 30 knots, can operate at a maximum depth of 600 m, and has a strike
range of 3000 km. It has four 533 mm and four 650 mm torpedo tubes and
can fire Indian Club nuclear-capable missiles. INS Chakra was built in
Russia and will serve until the Indian-built nuclear submarine INS
Arihant is commissioned later this year. India is the sixth
country to operate nuclear subs.
Tagore Festival, Dartington Hall, Devon, England, April 6-9, 2012
Rabindranath Tagore, born in 1861, wrote on women's rights, the
environment, Indian independence, and educational reform. In 1913 he won
the Nobel prize for literature.
Authors today go straight from creative writing
courses to careers in self-promotion. They have no time for politics.
Christianity is in crisis.
The Catholic Church hierarchy has covered up a conspiracy to abuse and rape countless youths and
children. Protestant churches have declined and evangelical
Protestantism has grown. Many evangelicals embrace a gospel of
prosperity. Others defend a rigid biblical literalism. Something is
wrong. Great injustices require mobilization and public
witness. But Christianity will rise again.
AR Will it?
George Galloway of the Respect party flirts
with Islamism and has been married four times, thrice to Muslims.
Bradford is the second seat with a large Muslim electorate
that he has won. When the results were announced, he exclaimed,
"All praise to Allah!" and his supporters responded, "Allah! Allah!" He
got an even bigger cheer when he shouted: "Long live Palestine!"
AR GG, U
Oxford Literary Festival 2012
The Sunday Times
started in the Sheldonian Theatre and moved on to tents in Christ
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said British
Muslim women can "help assert them-selves" by wearing a veil.
Steve Jones: "I prefer not to
argue with creationists. It's like getting into a boxing ring with a
blancmange: it will quiver but it will always come back at you."
Children's novelist Katherine Rundell said she ties herself to
her chair with shoelaces to force herself to write, and makes herself
meet deadlines by writing £1,000 cheques to the BNP and handing them to
a friend: "If I haven't written my book by a certain date, mail it."
My upbringing was strict, with a sense of purpose. At 41, I feel a real sense of confidence and stability.
My first political memory is seeing Margaret Thatcher wave outside No 10.
AR Warsi will neuter
2012 April 12
Muslims Can Reject Extremists
David Cameron says the Muslim world can reject a
dead-end choice between extremism and dictatorship. Extremists are a
dangerous foe on a par with supporters of slavery, but Indonesia has taken
an extraordinary journey along the inspirational path to democracy.
Cameron cites four enemies of
leaders: "The Arab spring has shown that denying people their
rights in the name of stability and security actually makes countries less
stable in the end."
2 Corrupt elites:
"Corruption denies the people their economic and political stake – the
citizenship, the job and the voice that they want. Worse still, it breeds a
cynicism and a sense of rage."
Islam is "observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people" but
"there is a problem across the globe with Islamist extremism, which is a
political ideology supported by a minority" who reject debate and consensus.
4 Tribalists: Northern Ireland
is a recent example.
AR The global
community needs a clean separation between religion and politics.
The National Security Agency is
building a big spy center in Utah
2012 April 11
MIT nuclear scientist Dennis Whyte: "We are basically making a star on the
British Museum exhibition on the pilgrimage to Mecca:
Ten Facts About Turkey
1 Turkey is now
70% urban (France is 77% urban)
Turkey's governing party (the AKP) has a reformist agenda
3 Turkey's GDP grew at 8.5% in 2011
(almost as fast as China)
women were given the vote in 1930 (but gender equality is very low)
5 Turkey is slightly larger than Texas
(but has much more biodiversity)
Kurds are a big minority and Istanbul is the world's largest Kurdish city
7 The Turkish press is vibrant but
restricted (100 journalists are now in prison)
8 The Turkish armed forces last staged a coup in 1997
9 Turkey has compulsory religious
education (in Sunni Islam)
international trade is regulated in Brussels
What Grandpa Did
German historian Moritz Pfeiffer asked his grandfather what
he did in World War II. His new book
My Grandfather in the War 1939-1945
(in German) is based on his interviews with Hans Hermann.
Hermann was born in 1921 in Wuppertal to an arch-conservative, nationalist
family with a military tradition. His father served as a lieutenant in World
War I. Young Hans was a member of the Jungvolk.
In 1941, Hans took
part as an infantryman in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet
Union. He said he knew nothing about such orders as the one to kill any
Soviet commissars they captured.
Pfeiffer said it
was "hardly believable" that his grandfather didn't know anything about mass
killings. He says his grandparents suffered the same "moral insanity" that
afflicted many Germans back then.
2012 April 10
Israelis Condemn Grass
In the six days since Günter
Grass published his latest poem, the Nobel laureate and Waffen-SS veteran
has drawn condemnation from the prime minister of Israel, the foreign
ministers of Germany and Israel, and a host of pundits in both countries.
German commitment to Israel remains firm. Yet criticism of Israeli
policies is no longer taboo. Lurking behind the Israeli fury is concern that
broader German backing for Israel is on the wane. A rift is opening between
Israel and western intellectuals and artists.
Muslims condemn a
cartoon, Israelis a poem. Art works.
Book publishers know they must evolve. A fifth of all Americans have read an
e-book, and 114 million e‑books were sold in 2010. Some 48 million iPads,
Android tablets, and e-readers were sold to U.S. consumers in 2011, twice as
many as in 2010. Demand for e-books is growing fast.
revolution is far more complicated than that faced by the music and movie
industries, which essentially needed to digitize their current products.
Bookmakers must become multimedia companies. They face a dizzying array of
decisions as they get their products to run on new devices and platforms.
The world of young-adult fiction provides great opportunities for
multimedia storytelling. Books by television and film writers can be
released as episodic apps and e-books. An episodic approach is natural for
teenagers who spend tons of time reading text messages, Facebook updates,
Future e-books could be more social experiences, with
voting for characters or plots or optional extra content. For titles that
become television shows or movies, publishers and studios could work
together on combined print and screen versions. It will take a few years for
the air to clear.
AR Maybe I should
refactor my books and blog as an app.
Conservatives are neat freaks, liberals are slobs
2012 April 9
Jesus Was A Buddhist Monk
BBC 4 video, 49:12
This documentary examines a range of views on
the life and death of Jesus. It seems the three wise men were Buddhist monks
who found Jesus and came back for him around puberty. After being trained in
a Buddhist monastery, he returned to preach Buddhist ideas to Jews, survived
the crucifixion, and escaped to Afghan Kashmir, where he died as a well
remembered teacher, aged 80.
AR This has
the ring of truth for me. I vote for this story.
Princess Speaks Out
Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz, 47, is the daughter of King
Saud, a mother, a businesswoman, and a working journalist. These are the
changes she would like to see in Saudi Arabia:
Rewrite the constitution
I would like to see a proper
constitution that treats all men and women on an equal footing before the
law. Our constitution should be inspired by the philosophy of the Koran.
2 Change the divorce laws
The current divorce laws are abusive. A woman can ask for a divorce only if
she either pays a big sum of money or gets someone to witness why she is
filing for a divorce. This contradicts the Koran.
3 Overhaul the education system
The focus in most of our educational system is on religious subjects. We
need to encourage our youth to think freely, innovate, and use their
initiative for the betterment of our society.
Reform social services
The ministry of social affairs is
tolerating cruelty toward women rather than protecting them. The ministry is
also one of the reasons poverty is rife in the kingdom.
5 Repeal the chaperone law
Women in Saudi cannot get around or travel without a male chaperone. The law
curtails women's freedom and infantilizes women.
BBC podcast (28 min)
Fassung im Spiegel
taught physics to a teenage Saudi princess in London in 1981. Was it her?
John Derbyshire has shot himself in the
2012 April 8, Easter Sunday
Allaluyah, the concept for my next book on
Globorg is risen!
Mitt and Bibi
The New York Times
Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu met in 1976
in the offices of the Boston Consulting Group, where both had been recruited
as corporate advisers. That shared experience led to a warm friendship.
The men reconnected shortly after 2003 when Romney became the governor
of Massachusetts. Netanyahu paid him a visit and told him how he had
challenged unionized workers, reduced taxes, and privatized formerly
government-run industries. He encouraged Romney to look for ways to do the
A few years later, Romney dined with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
When Netanyahu informed him of a campaign to persuade pension funds to
divest from businesses tied to Iran, Romney offered his help.
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Lawrence M. Krauss
As a cosmologist, I am aware of the human need
to assume that the existence of life, the universe, and everything reflect
something profound. But science has taught us to think the unthinkable.
Most of the energy in the observable universe can be found outside
galaxies in otherwise empty space. But the energy of empty space pushes
distant galaxies away from us at an ever-faster rate. Eventually they will
recede faster than light and will be unobservable.
The Large Hadron
Collider has given tantalizing hints that the origin of mass is a kind of
cosmic accident. Experiments suggest the existence of a universal field that
gives the masses to all elementary particles that we observe today.
Combining the ideas of general relativity and quantum mechanics, perhaps the
entire universe and even space itself could arise spontaneously out of
nothing. The uncertainty principle expands what can possibly occur
undetected in otherwise empty space. With gravity too, new universes can
spontaneously appear and disappear.
Physics revolutionizes not only
the concepts of "something" (elementary particles and the forces that bind
them) and "nothing" (the dynamics of empty space or even the absence of
space) but also the answer to the question of why there is something rather
A universe like ours could have come from nothing. This
does not prove that it did, but we can imagine it did. Perhaps, alone and
together, we make the meaning in our lives.
This was the drift of my 2004 essay
Purpose in Life and Science.
The Missing Shade of Blue (2012) flirts with big ideas: the illusory
nature of happiness, the dangers of too much thinking, the illusion of free
Iris Murdoch is the author most people associate with the
The Philosopher's Pupil (1983) is concerned with good and evil, though
the pupil of the title is said to be beyond both and close to "awful aspects
of the world". Some of Murdoch's metaphysics seems to get lost in melodrama.
Milan Kundera is wary of the novelistic illustration of ideas. With
philosophy and the novel, it seems difficult to get the balance right. His
The Art of the Novel (1988) is "not to transform the novel into
philosophy" but rather to bring to the novel "a sovereign and radiant
Julian Barnes ranges over a variety of philosophical
concepts in his novel
The Sense of an Ending (2011). It is a psychological mystery tale and a
meditation on the passage of time and memory. It is laden with ideas: the
subjectivity of memory, the illusory nature of truth, the philosophical
rationale for suicide.
The novel and philosophy have a great deal to
give one another. But the novel is something felt and lived, not something
AR Endearingly shameless
promotion of her own novel.
In northern Saudi Arabia, near the border with Jordan,
engineers have pumped up water from deep underground
to create huge
agricultural settlements, as these Landsat images show.
Twenty years ago, Mark Beeman was
studying patients who had suffered damage to the right hemisphere of the
brain. Many of them had serious cognitive problems even though the left
hemisphere had been spared. Beeman wanted to compare right and left
brain activity for a standardized task. He came up with a set of word
puzzles that subjects solved equally often by insight or by conscious
Beeman found that the brain quickly gets tired as the
left hemisphere searches for logical answers. That triggers a switch of
brain activity to the right hemisphere. A burst of gamma-wave brain
activity appears 30 ms before an insight. Gamma rhythm correlates with
the binding of neurons. In the seconds leading up to it, there is
intense activity in the anterior superior temporal gyrus, located on the
surface of the right hemisphere just above the ear. This is the neural
correlate of insight.
AR Above the
good to know.
The People's Republic of China may become the world's largest military
spender in just 20 years. It is investing in ballistic and cruise
missiles, modern jets, submarines, radars and spy satellites, and cyber
and space weapons. China aims to threaten American bases in the western
Pacific and to push U.S. carrier groups beyond the first island chain.
But China devotes just over 2% of GDP to defense; America spends 4.7%.
Chinese Military Power
The New York Times
Google showed off a pair of glasses with a
clear display that can stream information to the wearer and send and
receive messages through voice commands. It even has a camera to record
video and snapshots.
The augmented-reality display sits over the
eye and runs on the Android mobile platform. Google has lots of other
shapes and variations of the glasses in the works. Wearers say the
glasses don't interfere with daily life. They actually free people up
George Galloway's third wife,
Rima Husseini gave birth to their second son four months ago: "We are
still married under Islamic law."
GG, U dog!
Historian Bettany Hughes says Christianity was originally a faith where
women held sway. In the first 200 years of Christianity, over half of
all churches in Rome were built by women. "Our own monotheistic
institutions might do well to take a leaf out of the book of human
experience." Hughes will present the BBC 2 series
After his Bradford West victory,
George Galloway flew to
Amsterdam and married his fourth wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi.
Good 4U George!
Success came as a shock to Jones,
who had spent 15 years as a screenwriter failing to get her work
produced. "Life is not a meritocracy," she says now. When
was published, she says the reception was ridiculous: "Like being
bombarded with sweeties."
Respect supporters predicted a shock.
People are disillusioned with austerity and war and with being taken for
granted. Bradford is mired in unemployment and stagnation. Respect
argued that we need investment in order to re-energize our economy and
create the growth to deliver jobs. When the voters of Bradford West
heard that argument put confidently and coherently, with an eloquence
that only George Galloway can summon, they responded warmly.
2012 April 7
Mideast Nuclear Proliferation
powers on a hair trigger in the Mideast is a nightmare scenario for security
planners. But dire warnings about uncontrolled proliferation are far from
Pakistan embarked on a nuclear program in 1972 to match
India's nuclear development program. Pakistan's perception of the threat
posed by India is far more acute than how either Egypt or Turkey perceive
the Iranian challenge. And the security situation in the Persian Gulf is not
as severe as the one along the Indo-Pakistani border.
already under a NATO nuclear umbrella. Ankara safeguards roughly 90 American
B61 nuclear bombs at Incirlik airbase. But Turkey cannot even deliver its
allotted B61 bombs. Turkey has no fissile material, cannot mine or enrich
uranium, and has no way to reprocess spent fuel. The Turkish government has
plans for civilian nuclear power to provide a quarter of Turkey's
electricity needs by 2040, but this is optimistic.
Egypt is way ahead
of the Turks in developing nuclear infrastructure. The Egyptian Atomic
Energy Commission was established in 1955 to develop peaceful atomic energy.
The Soviet Union gave Egypt a 2 MW light water reactor. Yet Egypt has made
no effort to develop nuclear weapons technology. Pundits who warn of an
Egyptian bomb should visit Egypt. They would see its ramshackle
infrastructure and the dire state of its economy and relax.
Arabia has the cash to buy a nuclear program. But they do not have the
capacity to manage one. They would have to import Pakistanis to do the work
or buy nuclear devices directly from Islamabad, both risky options. The
Saudi kingdom says it would be forced to act if both Iran and Israel
possessed a nuclear arsenal. Said an unnamed Saudi official in June 2011:
"We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't.
It's as simple as that."
AR Saudi Arabia can easily
do a deal with Pakistan. The Saudis allegedly financed the development of
Pakinukes — "the Islam Bomb" — and
now Pakistan needs more
The Villa In The Jungle
itself as a "villa in the jungle," a vulnerable island of civilization
surrounded by Islamists. Israelis call the Arab Spring the "Islamic Winter."
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said last November that the Arab rebellion
is developing into an "Islamic, anti-western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli,
undemocratic wave," and the Arab world is "moving not forward, but
Former Mossad head Efraim Halevi: "Obviously Israel is in
the eye of the storm, but it behaves as if it were not involved in the
2012 April 6, Good Friday
Israel, Iran, Grass
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu: "Günter Grass' shameful moral equivalence between Israel and
Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel,
says little about Israel and much about Mr. Grass. For six decades, Mr.
Grass hid the fact that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS. So for him to
cast the one and only Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace and
to oppose giving Israel the means to defend itself is perhaps not
Iranian state broadcaster Press TV: "Never in the
history of postwar Germany has a prominent intellectual attacked Israel in
such a brave way as Günter Grass with his controversial new poem.
Metaphorically, the Nobelist has delivered a lethally lyrical strike against
AR Grass is politically
naive but hardly dangerous. The poem
is an artless expression of an incorrect but superficially reasonable set of
ideas for peace.
The Muslim Brotherhood has sent a
delegation to Washington. The delegates from the Freedom and Justice Party
(FJP) want to secure funding and investment for Egypt.
Sondos Asem: "We acknowledge the very important role of the United States in
the world and we would like our relations with the United States to be
better than before."
A recent poll showed that 54% of Egyptians rated job
creation and economic development as their top priority. Less than 1% wanted
AR We must give them the
benefit of the doubt. Democracy may tame them.
2012 April 5
French Hard Line
France will take a harder line within the
European Union on immigration and trade if President Nicolas Sarkozy wins
re-election. French foreign minister Alain Juppé:
1 "There is an intellectual revolution to make
... which is this idea of a Europe which protects ... a Europe with borders
... We want the external borders of Schengen to be controlled which is not
the case at the moment. The Greek-Turkish frontier is a sieve."
2 "We have a divergence with our British friends
who see Europe as a big free trade area. That is not our vision. We must
introduce into free trade the notion of reciprocity."
3 A "Europe which protects" involves building an
autonomous EU defense capability.
Grass Versus Israel
Nobel laureate Günter Grass has outraged Germans
with a poem,
Was gesagt werden muss,
criticizing Israel for its policy on Iran.
The Israeli Embassy in
Berlin issued a statement: "What must be said is that it is a European
tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder
... Israel is the only state in the world whose right to exist is openly
doubted. That was true on the day of its founding and it remains true today.
We want to live in peace with our neighbors in the region."
Jewish writer Henryk Broder: "Grass has always had a tendency toward
megalomania, but this time he is completely nuts."
revealed in 2006 that he served in the Waffen-SS in World War 2.
My translation: What must be said
No Consciousness In V1
A new experiment shows that attention and
consciousness are different. Scientists projected a low-contrast grating
that was drifting horizontally into one eye. It was surrounded by a
scintillating ring in the same or in the opposite eye. In the latter case,
the central stimulus became perceptually invisible. The scientists
manipulated the visibility of the moving grating (2 conditions) and whether
or not subjects attended to the grating (2 conditions) by asking them either
to monitor a series of single letters that appeared on the ring or to ignore
the letters. At issue was whether the subjects consciously saw the grating
and whether or not they attended to it (4 cases).
measured the subjects' functional MRI response in the primary visual cortex,
V1, which receives visual input from the eye. Paying attention to the target
consistently and strongly increased the fMRI activity, regardless of whether
the subject saw the target or not. Many previous studies had shown that
attending to a signal reinforces its representation in the cortex. Whether
or not the stimulus was consciously perceived made no difference. Attention
is not consciousness.
AR No surprise
there. Consciousness is a much harder problem than attention.
2012 April 4
Obama Versus Social Darwinism
President Barack Obama aims to portray
Republicans as good for millionaires but heartless toward ordinary
Americans, whereas Democrats look out for the middle class.
He calls the budget proposal put forward by Republicans in the House of
Representatives a Trojan horse: "Disguised as a deficit-reduction plan, it's
really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It's nothing
but thinly veiled social Darwinism." By "gutting" education and research and
development, Republicans are proposing a "prescription for decline."
Obama: "In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from
the success of a wealthy few. It has always come from the success of a
strong and growing middle class."
Romney Hat Trick
Mitt Romney: "Out-of-touch liberals like Barack Obama
say they want a strong economy, but they really don't like businesses very
much. The economy is simply the product of all the nation's businesses added
together. So it's like saying you love omelettes but don't like eggs."
Neuroscientists aim to explain every aspect of creation
and perception by activity in different areas of the brain. Neuroscience
reveals the raw facts about humanity and its works. In literary criticism,
forget the jargon of semiotics and discover how axons and neurons help in
the reading of a text. Mirror neurons are currently fashionable. Because
mirror neurons are activated by seeing someone doing something and doing it
ourselves, human empathy is built into the brain. It is ethics made easy.
2012 April 3
The U.S. economy grew at an 3% annual rate in Q1.
Americans raked in over $13 trillion. Yet all the gains went to the top 10%
and the lion's share to the top 1%. More than a third of the gains went to
15,600 super-rich households (going by previous trends).
In 2010, the
last year for which we have final figures, most of the bottom 90% lost
ground. Their average adjusted gross income was below $30,000. That’s down
about 16% from 2000 (all adjusted for inflation). The share of people with
health insurance from their employers dropped from almost 60% in 2007 to 55%
in 2010. And the share of private-sector workers with retirement plans
dropped from 42% in 2007 to below 40% in 2010.
Meanwhile, the "talent" in executive
suites is getting gold-plated healthcare coverage for themselves and their
families, along with deferred compensation and fat pensions subject to few,
if any, taxes. The stock market has shown nice gains over the past two
years. The value of financial assets held by American households increased
by $1.46 trillion in Q4, 2011. The richest 10% became $1.3 trillion richer
and the top 1% gained over $550 billion.
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke
says the U.S. economy needs to grow faster to produce enough jobs to bring
down unemployment. But we can't grow faster if the vast majority of
Americans don't have the money to buy things. There's no way the richest 10%
can do it.
AR The United
States needs more socialism.
Bankers Decide Who Pays
My conspiracy theory involves powerful people
meeting in private offices, hundreds of billions of euros, and clandestine
deals ruining entire countries.
Last year, when the future of Greece was being decided, you probably didn't
catch many references to Charles Dallara and Josef Ackermann. They're two of
the most senior bankers in the world, among the top 1% of the 1%. In the
euro negotiations they represented the International Institute for Finance.
The IIF is a lobby group for 450 of the biggest banks in the world. After a
deal was struck last July, the IIF put out a note bragging about its
"catalytic" role. The agreement was terrible for the Greeks and brilliant
for the bankers.
The tale of the IIF is a chapter in a bigger story
of how governments across the western world got swallowed up by their
AR The democratic
deficit in Europe is unacceptable.
2012 April 2
is about how the world of the Revelator ended. He was a devout Jew who wrote
his book as war propaganda after the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem.
2 The numerals 666 denote the Roman emperor
Nero, who was despised by early followers of Jesus. The Revelator used the
Jewish numerology system to spell out Nero's imperial name.
3 The Revelator was crusading for traditional
values. He saw Jesus as the messiah but he didn't like what the apostle Paul
was preaching. He was not a Christian in the modern sense.
4 There is more than one Book of Revelation.
Plenty of books of revelation didn't make the final cut for the Bible. Early
church leaders suppressed them all.
A Tale of Three Cities
Muslim Asian youths rioted
in Oldham, Burnley, and Bradford in 2001. Since then, segregation in housing
and schools has got worse. There is gloom among ordinary people, white and
Together, the three towns house about 600,000 people, with a
rising proportion of south Asian Muslims. In Bradford a third of the
citizens are ethnic Asians, mainly Pakistanis, and in Oldham almost a
quarter. Burnley is smaller.
The 1948 British Nationality Act
allowed in all citizens of the Empire and Commonwealth. In the 1950s and
1960s, south Asian immigrants, mainly Pakistanis, came to work night shifts
in textile factories. By the 1980s the textile industry had gone and
multiculturalism encouraged segregation.
All three towns are studded
with the relics of past glories.Today's inhabitants are like people
camping in the ruins of a once-great civilization. A confrontation in
Bradford in 1988 led to the burning of Salman Rushdie's novel
Verses. Now Naveeda Ikram is the first female Muslim Lord Mayor of Bradford.
But the white schools in Bradford have some of the worst results in the
Arranged marriages with a partner from Pakistan are still
common. Many young Pakistanis juggle three languages and study the Koran for
hours every day after school. This has created some confused and delinquent
three towns have failed to reinvent themselves. Comparing what happened in
Germany's Ruhr industrial region in the 1980s with the story in the northern
mill towns, Britain looks negligent.
2012 April Fool's Day
Gorgeous Pink Islamo-Stalinist
You can imagine my
delight when the news came in from Karachi West that "gorgeous" George
Galloway had been elected with a thumping majority. Sir, I thought, I salute
your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.
We need more
Islamo-Stalinist self-publicists in the House of Commons. The weekly
spectacle would be improved by a backbencher on his hands and knees in a
pink leotard, lapping milk from a bowl held by a female member
[as GG did on TV in Celebrity Big Brother —
Galloway insisted to his electorate that he was teetotal, and always had
been, condemned all western intervention in Muslim lands, and claimed his
victory was down to "the grace of God". His supporters took every
opportunity to bandy about the word "Zionist", a word that fundamentalist
Muslims use interchangeably with the word "Jew".
I don't know what Allah thinks about men wearing pink
leotards and miaowing like a pussycat on chav TV. But it was enough that
Galloway's simplistic opposition to everything that constitutes western
society struck a chord with the Muslim voters.
This is the bloke who,
on the Iranian-owned Press TV, told Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the
Islamo-Stalinist president of Iran, that he supported his campaign for