Three F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters represent our
trillion-dollar bet on the future of the West
AR O for a winter break
with warm wind and sun
Laura Williams Photography
laundry — where?
AR My festive
season is reading
by Jonathan Franzen
cool and conformist
(sample size 1)
LGM-30 Minuteman Launch
"That's what the world
needs now: a POTUS
who tweets about
Paris Hilton in paradise
AR We might join her
David Bowie's widow Iman, 61
Evolution and the Big Bang
are real and God is not
magician with a magic wand,
declared Pope Francis to the
Academy of Sciences. Experts say his comments put
the kybosh on the
theories of creationism
and intelligent design.
of an Asian millennium
triumph and tragedy
— my Amazon review of
by S. Frederick Starr
POTUS 45 elected
US Electors vote today for
POTUS 45. Trump trails in the
popular vote by over 2.5 million
— the third-worst vote margin among
Privatize the military
and see how we like the
social consequences of
their funding drives.
Deepest Mandelbrot Set Zoom
Ever In 2014: 10^198
Mandelbrot Set Back Story
2016 New Year's Eve
Happy New Tweet
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always
knew he was very smart!
AR We all
look forward to a new era of harmonious progress.
In the West, liberty and law on the one
hand and popular participation on the other created liberal
democracy. This culture of liberal democracy is waning in the United
The Founding Fathers conceived of America as a
republic to mitigate some of the dangers of illiberal democracy. The
United States developed a democratic culture, formed in large part
by a series of informal buffers that weakened the sway of the
majority. A professional elite ensured that US society and
government would focus on the national interest.
prevailing dynamics in US society over the past few decades have
been toward greater democratic openness and market efficiency. We
are about to see what American democracy looks like without buffers
in the way of populism and demagoguery.
AR Liberal humanism as we know it is past its best-before
2016 December 30
The New York Times
Differences between Israel and the
United States have boiled over into a diplomatic confrontation.
Israeli policy, under the government of prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, has evolved away from an acceptance of a negotiated
two-state resolution with the Palestinians.
A UN Security
Council resolution condemned Israeli settlement building in the West
Bank and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration chose to abstain
from the vote rather than to block it.
Under any negotiated
solution, Israelis expect their capital to be Jerusalem. But
Palestinians also want Jerusalem as their capital, as well as access
to the Muslim holy sites.
This is the cynical logic of the
settlement movement: When the world is silent, Israel can build
settlements; when the world objects, Israel must build settlements.
Under any scenario, the possibility of a two-state solution will
The Palestinians are divided and their leaders
malicious or hapless. Hamas rules in the Gaza Strip and the
Palestinian Authority governs in the West Bank. The settlements are
US secretary of state John Kerry warned that
without a two-state solution, Israel faces a choice between being a
Jewish state and a democracy. If Israel annexes the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip, Palestinians become the majority in greater Israel.
Israelis can either let them vote and lose its identity or deny them
and lose its democracy.
The Israeli far right imagines a
different one-state solution. Egypt takes over the Gaza Strip,
Israel holds most of the West Bank, Jordan takes most former West
Bank residents, and Jerusalem comes entirely under Israeli control.
AR A Palestinian state is not a
viable solution in the present political climate. Hard though it
seems, Israel must prevail against Islamist opposition.
Syrian Civil War
Americans see the carnage in Syria as a
humanitarian disaster. But the humanitarian crisis is just one of
the consequences of the US approach to the Syrian civil war:
1 Barack Obama says Syria is of no great
strategic importance to the United States. This breaks with decades
of geostrategic thinking. If Russia displaces US power in the
Mideast, it will affect US influence across the region.
2 Europe has struggled for decades to
assimilate Muslim arrivals from the Mideast and Africa. But the new
waves of Syrian refugees have created a crisis. Several EU states
are in turmoil.
3 The Obama
administration was slow to counter the gathering strength of Daesh.
The terrorist outfit is on the defensive now, but it continues to
plot and spur terrorism in the West.
The delay on Daesh also forced the United States to change its
strategy in Syria. Obama directed US military power to the fight
against Daesh, turning his attention from Assad.
5 Obama said in 2012 that if Assad were
to use chemical weapons, he would cross a red line and trigger US
military intervention. A year later, when evidence showed that Assad
had used them, Obama backed down from reprisals.
avoided another quagmire but went too far. His approach neither
strengthened American influence nor helped to make a safer world.
AR Blame the Nobel Peace Prize
committee for giving him an ideal to live up to.
British Dirty Laundry
Billions of dollars are laundered through the
London real estate market every year, contributing to an estimated
annual total of $125 billion laundered in Britain.
law is on the side of the kleptocrats. An autocrat on the run can
create a shell company to hide his identity and the source of his
illicit wealth, and then use this instrument to purchase property
incognito. London bankers, brokers, and lawyers will ask no awkward
questions as they take their commissions.
companies now own nearly 40,000 London properties. Some of these
purchases may be legitimate and innocent, but Transparency
International found this technique had been used for three-quarters
of properties whose owners were investigated for corruption in
The London Laundromat is destroying the country's
reputation. Across the former Soviet Union, Britain is now seen as a
partner in corruption, not democracy.
An amendment now in parliament can fix this, but only with
zealous application of the law. I fear that Brexiteers may seek to
indulge the kleptocrats in order to boost British finances.
Austrian Word of the Year
2016 December 29
The Chinese are keen to understand the West and its success.
They think Christianity has something to do with it. They perceive
that Western civilization has enduring characteristics to which
Christianity has made a signal contribution and which are quite
distinct from traditional Chinese civilization and modern communist
Within the West, some draw exaggerated contrasts
between Christendom and the Islamic world in the medieval period,
between imperial Europe and Asia in the 19th century, between
liberal democracies and the Soviet empire in the 20th, and between
the West and the rest now.
Westerners have found much to
admire in other cultures and have borrowed liberally from them.
Algebra from the Islamic world, cuisine from India, paper and
gunpowder from China, and fine arts from Japan are just the
highlights. Members of other cultures can grasp and appropriate
Western ideas too — Africans and Asians are sometimes better
humanists than contemporary Westerners.
Truth, goodness, and
beauty transcend time and place. No one culture has a monopoly of
wisdom, but some values are more at home in one culture than
another. The primacy of the individual over the state is arguably
more entrenched in those Western cultures shaped by Christianity
than in those eastern ones shaped by Confucianism.
Europe was well acquainted with individualism, democracy, political
liberty, and rationality. The prominence of the individual in the
West stems from the Christian notion of the prophet called to stand
up for individual justice. Christian social roots anchored an
institutional separation of church and state in the West, which
created space for a flourishing civil society generally lacking in
the Islamic world.
Pre-modern Christendom was no stranger to
reason. Scholastic theologians pushed natural science in an
empirical direction by affirming the biblical contingency of the
created world against Aristotelian necessity. What could have been
other than it is in fact can only be known by observation, not
AR The Christian
individual is a person guided by an inner light. This light is
reason for a Hellenic soul and revelation for a Judaic one, but the
Christian concept merged the two in a synthesis that survived until
communists subverted it and forced the evolution of modern humanism.
We are now seeing the emergence of a cyborg environmentalism that
merges humans with technology and individualist thinking with
planetary consciousness —
2016 December 28
Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued in
1971 that belief in generalizations based on overly small sample
sizes was a bias of cognition. They went on to show that mistakes in
human judgment are not exceptions but the rule. Kahneman went on to
win a Nobel Prize in 2002, and his 2011 book
Thinking, Fast and Slow became a huge success.
of the findings Kahneman cited in the book appear to be fragile,
even spurious. Studies mentioned there started to dissolve as
scientists tried and failed to reproduce the original results.
The problem was the one he had identified in 1971: The researchers
were fooled by faulty intuitions about randomness.
Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel, Sam Harris
neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in
maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence. We presented 40
liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held
political and non-political views. Our results highlight the role of
emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the
neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning,
and related phenomena.
Participants were especially resistant
to arguments against their political beliefs. Given the personal
importance of political beliefs for the subjects enrolled in this
study, we expected our stimuli to evoke cognition related to social
identity. We found that individual differences in resistance to
belief change correlated with activity in brain regions important
for the generation of emotions, feelings, and social judgments.
All of our participants were strong liberals. It is not clear
how well these results would generalize to conservatives. Several
studies have found structural or functional differences between the
brains of conservatives and liberals.
Sample size 40.
2016 December 27
contact with advanced alien visitors was the theme of
Arrival. Huge ellipsoidal spacecraft came to hover silently over
various spots of Earth and human experts sought to communicate with
them. Amy Adams played the language expert who made first meaningful
contact with the squid-like inhabitants of one of the ellipsoids.
Their messages looked like splashed rings from wet coffee cups and
she had a hard time making any sense of them. After humans worldwide
struggled to guess a few words that seemed to form a vague message
and military authorities began to get edgy, the spacecraft silently
headed off, leaving a host of unanswered questions.
Communication is a deep philosophical enigma, and Arrival dramatized
the issue superbly. The movie also forced us to confront our
immaturity as a species by spacefaring standards. Civilized squids
exploring the galaxy in giant ellipsoids would naturally find it
hard to strike up a conversation with us, not only on the technical
level but also in terms of what there was to say. The Adams
character was moved in ways she found unable to express, and that
seemed a bigger payoff than any new equation to warp spacetime or
whatever. This was a movie for philosophers.
Passengers could almost have been written to a formula. Avalon,
a giant space cruiser bearing five thousand aspiring colonists in
hibernation to a remote Earth-like planet, hits a cloud of space
rubble and suffers damage. The story is set in a far enough future
that the ship is on a fairly routine voyage using proven technology
and the the passengers are as safe as on an ocean-going cruise liner
on Earth today. But they are on a one-way voyage to a planet many
light-years away. For a technophile, the visualization of this great
vessel is surely the main treat in this movie.
The plot of
Passengers relies in part on surprise, so it may be unwise to say
too much, but the main plot line is the developing relationship
between two passengers, Jim and Aurora (played by Chris Pratt and
Jennifer Lawrence), after first Jim and then Aurora wake up from
hibernation following malfunctions caused by the rubble collision,
some ninety years before arrival at the destination planet. As their
lonely wakefulness in the huge public spaces of the ship works on
them and as the ship suffers escalating malfunctions, the movie
artfully evokes moods from such earlier classics as The Shining, set
in an empty hotel, and Titanic, set on a sinking ship. Jim gradually
masters his initial despair and seeks to repair the ship, while
Aurora goes through a gamut of heartfelt emotions that Lawrence
plays impressively well.
Arrival and Passengers are two very
different movies, but they complement each other in ways that reward
comparative reflection. Arrival shows how little one can say about
the problems of saying anything at all. A single note of mystic
bafflement is allowed to ring out loud and clear, with no more or
less to convey than a Zen gong in a religious retreat. Passengers
shows how even a formulaic plot can be redeemed by loving attention
to the technically plausible visualization of the interior and
exterior details of an interstellar passenger cruiser.
me, this makes Passengers the more interesting movie despite my
wholehearted admiration for the evocation of the mystic side of
communication in Arrival. Scientists may do genuine homage to deep
philosophy, but in the end they spend most of their time and effort
on the technology, and hence get most of their kicks from it. And
few scientists will fail to enjoy seeing J-Law in action.
2016 December 26
World War 3
The United States and Russia are drifting
toward a new cold war. Many of the nuclear weapon systems on both
sides are aging and obsolete. The USAF Global Strike Command has 440
Minuteman III ICBMs, relics of the Cold War, sitting in underground
silos, ready to take off within 2 minutes, to deter a surprise
The US nuclear war plan is the Single Integrated
Operational Plan (SIOP). It depended on getting Minuteman missiles
off the ground immediately. The plan called for the destruction of
12,000 targets within the Soviet Union, with 400 nuclear weapons
targeted on Moscow alone.
Missiles launched from Russia would give
POTUS about 20 minutes to respond. Missiles launched from Russian
submarines in the western Atlantic would give him only 5 minutes. A
decision to launch Minuteman missiles on warning would kill millions
The United States has taken precautions to thwart
a cyberattack on its nuclear command and control system. If landline
communications between Minuteman control centers and their missiles
are interrupted, the missiles can still be launched by UHF radio
signals from Air Force One. The radio link creates an entry point
for a possible cyberattack.
Hundreds of missiles based on US
Navy submarines also deter a Russian attack. But they too may be
compromised by malware. The Royal Navy saves money by using Windows
for Submarines, a version of Windows XP, on its ballistic missile
subs. Microsoft support for Windows XP ended in 2014.
is modernizing its nuclear arsenal. The Russian leadership is
terrified of a decapitation strike. A first strike is probably the
only imaginable route to decisive victory in nuclear war. Vladimir
Putin: "When a fight is inevitable, you have to hit first."
POTUS has sole power to order the use of US nuclear weapons, with no
legal obligation to consult anyone else.
AR Schlosser is an expert on all this.
His 2013 book
Command and Control is terrifying.
2016 Christmas Day
If I am a sovereign being, my
free will is hard to find, and must defy the findings of
neuroscience. If a public polity is to be sovereign, it must set its
face against a well developed international order, with global rules
on peace and war, trade and markets, and human rights and duties. If
freedom is power, it must escape the chains of rules that bind our
In personal or political life, the scientific
constraints on free will fall behind in the admission that no well
founded prediction can be derived in time to make effective
decisions. If I wait for the scientific story to unfold, the moment
has passed and my act is choked. Life as we know it involves acting
fast, in real time, and the power to do so is our freedom.
Politicians are paid to make choices on behalf of those who put them
in power. Voters may be pushed by powers beyond their control to
vote as they do, but the laws of large numbers average out the
wilder impulses and the rulers who emerge can count on a steady
base. Still, the focused power that remains is hostage to a cloud of
neural and social fortune.
In both personal and political
life, seeking to escape the wheel of fortune is a fatal error. The
road to absolute sovereignty is a hard one, and going with the flow
is usually the better way. If I choose autonomy, to be my own boss
and do my own thing, I must defy the gods, but if I work with others
in similar predicaments I can make peace with my fate.
Neuroscience tells me that my brain has evolved to maintain the
illusion of control, to steer me away from entanglements and toward
a felt sense of freedom. But history shows that people must moderate
their natural impulses if they want to live together in harmony.
Politicians naturally want sovereignty, but they should beware of
what they wish for.
2016 December 24
I started this book with high hopes and found
the first half really interesting, then it went downhill fast.
Muller is obviously an excellent experimental physicist and has
understood Einstein's theories of relativity, at least, really well.
He also gives workmanlike accounts of large parts of particle
physics and the basics of quantum theory ...
That said, the
denouement in Part V is an utter disappointment.
2016 December 23
Trump Tweet Translated
PEOTUS Trump appears to have declared US
nuclear weapons policy in a tweet:
"The United States must greatly
strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
has a meticulous language all its own, but his words fall outside
The word "strengthen" is not in its lexicon
but may mean
— Modernize existing nuclear forces by upgrading
President Obama's plan
— Expand qualitative nuclear capability by
developing improved delivery systems
— Deploy existing weapons
systems closer to adversaries
The word "expand" may mean
Move some warheads from reserve stockpiles to active deployment
Build and deploy new warheads
— Build new warheads and stockpile
Strengthening and expansion may mean increasing
number and yield of nuclear warheads
— The speed, stealth, range,
or other attributes of weapons that deliver them
"until such time"
— As I want
— As is necessary to maintain
the status quo
— As certain foreign states fulfill certain
— All nuclear weapons states
Russia and China
The aim may be to
Avoid any escalation that might disturb the global status quo
Continue until the world accepts American nuclear primacy
Continue until we get global nuclear disarmament
in capability would force Russia and China to respond, increase the
number of nuclear conflict scenarios, and reduce the response time
in a crisis. The Obama plan to update the nuclear arsenal is already
projected to cost $1 trillion.
The Fall of Language in the Age of English
This book was written for those who, in
moments of solitude, quietly worry about the future of Japanese
literature and the Japanese language. It is for those who think that
what is being written in Japanese today is ultimately of little
relevance but who wish, with mingled despair and resignation, that
at the very least more people would read Japanese literature written
in those years when it was deserving of the name.
AR My stab at learning Japanese in
Japan, plus my reading of classic Japanese novels in English
translation, suggests this despairing reflection is right. There was
a fragile delicacy in the culture that appears like a vanishing
world through the prism of English global hegemony.
2016 December 22
In 1975 David Bowie was in Los Angeles
pretending to star in a movie. In an interview for Rolling Stone he
talked about the drugs he preferred. Station to Station, which he
released in January 1976, was about as far from Kiss and Led
Zeppelin and the Eagles as you could possibly get.
A key to
his success in the 1970s was that his rock superstar personae,
including Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, were both up on a
pedestal and down in the everyday dirt. As an artist, writer, actor,
singer, Bowie was good, but could never join the ranks of the greats
in any of those areas. The huge surge of affection when he died came
about partly because people felt he remained a kid who never forgot
where he was from.
Bowie met the Somalian supermodel Iman in
1990 and he sobered up. Watching Bowie selling himself to the world
was a depressing sight. To fall to Earth, you have to have been way
up in the stars.
AR I liked the
late Bowie. Sobering up is a seal of quality.
The Soviet Union
The Soviet Union in 1985 possessed much the
same resources as it had a decade earlier. The standard of living
was lower than in most of Eastern Europe, but the Soviet Union had
known far greater calamities without losing its grip. No key
parameter of economic performance prior to 1985 pointed to disaster.
The Soviet Union was at the height of its global power and
influence, both in its own view and in the view of the rest of the
world. The structural reasons for its collapse fail to explain how
it happened. Between 1985 and 1989, the state and its economic
system began to be seen as shameful, illegitimate, and intolerable.
A quest for self-respect and pride hollowed out the mighty
Soviet state. Deprived of its legitimacy, the USSR turned into a
shell that crumbled in August 1991. The tale of this intellectual
and moral journey is a central story of the last century.
AR The present USUK order could end
2016 December 21
The Trump Fact
Democracy lets people with different views
live together in harmony. An outburst of fear and anger is
disturbing because such primal emotions are hard to contain. In the
UK and the US in 2016, they came together in nationalism and
The more powerful the passions, the more likely
the democratic system will collapse into despotism. Demagogues claim
the tyranny of the majority as a mask on the tyranny of one. Trump
in charge of the USA is a devastating fact.
The Brexit Game
Thomas Schelling worked out how to prevent
nuclear war. He helped American policymakers see that they had to
make first use taboo and ensure they could always retaliate. With a
telephone hotline between the Kremlin and Washington, they could
then avoid nuclear war.
The ideas of Schelling and the game
theorists relate to the problems Britain now faces when negotiating
departure from the European Union. Brexit is a game involving many
players and a reasonable outcome is not assured. It could end in
conflict and failure.
1 We should know what an acceptable deal
2 We should flag any
absolute commitments clearly.
should go for a good outcome for both of us.
AR Rule 0 — rise above us versus them.
2016 December 20
On Bastille Day in Nice, a man drove a truck
into a crowd, killing 86. Last night in Berlin, a man drove a truck
into a crowd, killing 12. Germany has foiled many more terror
The German cocoon has burst. Germans will
soon accept intensified surveillance. The federal government has
decided to beef up data gathering and cyber warfare capabilities.
Angela Merkel's open-door policy on refugees will change. Last
year she flung open the doors on German borders. Some 800,000 people
from the Mideast and Africa swarmed in.
For Merkel, the open
door was a grand moral gesture and an act of historical atonement.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Controls are now
back with a vengeance.
Alternative für Deutschland will
campaign against Merkel in the 2017 general elections. She will want
to pose as a protector of domestic security. Germany is a terror
AR The terrorists
have split up Europe already.
One of the reasons the US won
the cold war was its skill at breaking China away from the Soviet
Union. When Nixon went to China in 1972 he cemented the Sino-Soviet
split and weakened Moscow. Nixon was a devout student of global
affairs who grasped the geopolitical chessboard.
to be known as the president who returns manufacturing jobs to the
US. He is using the threat to the One China policy as leverage to
wrest concessions from China. It will backfire.
AR If Trump ups arms to Taiwan, China
will be angry.
Brexit could be chaotic for trade and diplomatic
relations. A smooth divorce may
prove unattainable and instead become a train crash. The
reasons are procedural and political.
Procedurally, the negotiations are complicated. Britain and the EU
will try to unpick a 40-year relationship in 2 years. UK ambassador to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers says it
could take 10 years.
Politically, there is simmering ill will on both sides. The negotiating
process will reveal the immense gap between the assumptions of the two sides. Talks could break down irretrievably.
The EU estimate of British financial liabilities following
Brexit is that the UK will be facing a bill of up to €60 billion. That figure will
cause outrage in the UK. But the
EU will be able to justify it.
simply walk out and let the case go to the
International Court of Justice. Then it will be impossible to make any further progress on
Brexit. Opinion will harden on both sides.
happen after 2 years even with no deal.
The consequences could be dire. A senior British civil servant:
"It's going to be bloody, but we're just going to have to bash on
AR Expect a Trumped-up
nuclear holocaust first.
2016 December 19
Beijing and Washington understand that China
will return the captured underwater drone to the United States. The
two governments have shown responsibility in maintaining peace and
steals United States Navy research drone in international waters —
rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act."
2 "We should tell China that we don't want the
drone they stole back — let them keep it!"
Trump has no sense
of how to lead a superpower. Since he has not taken office, China
has kept a calm attitude toward his provocative remarks. But if he
treats China after assuming office in the same way as in his tweets,
China will not exercise restraint.
Reform Central Banks
World Bank chief economist Paul Romer
calls modern macroeconomics a racket.
The US and
German central banks were independent before 1990 but most other
central banks were not. Most people would probably not agree that
since army generals know best what is good for us, national armed
forces must be independent.
Defenders of the liberal order
should push to reclaim the central levers of economic policy. They
should distinguish the interests of the financial sector from those
of the economy. Failure to do so was one of the reasons for the
The case for reform is overwhelming.
Against Dark Matter
Erik Verlinde says gravity emerges from
qubit entanglement and dark matter reduces to dark energy. He sees
spacetime and matter as a hologram arising from an underlying
network of qubits and traces dark energy to a property of the
Years ago, modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND)
inventor Mordehai Milgrom conjectured that when the gravitational
field strength drops below precisely 0.12 pN/g,
gravity somehow switches from an inverse-square law to something
close to an inverse-distance law.
Verlinde gives a back story
for the MOND equations. He says spacetime is a geometric
representation of data stored in qubits. To do the work of dark
matter, he postulates a thermal energy associated with long-range
entanglement between the qubits.
This entanglement is
disrupted by matter, which interacts with dark energy to modify
gravity. The interaction increasingly dominates in larger volumes of
spacetime. Verlinde says it causes galaxy rotation curves to deviate
from the inverse-square law exactly as in MOND.
Analysis of galaxies strengthens his case. Researchers looked at 153
galaxies and compared the rotation speed of visible matter at a
given distance from each galactic center with the visible mass
within that galactic radius. The two variables were linked as in
MOND without dark matter.
Testing the new MOND on data from
more than 30,000 galaxies shows that Verlinde correctly predicts the
gravitational lensing of light from the galaxies — another claimed
effect of dark matter.
achievement for Verlinde would be to account for the claimed
imprints of dark matter in the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
Dark matter explains the observed CMB spectrum but the old MOND does
USAF B-52H leads a formation of
aircraft including two Polish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four
two Luftwaffe Eurofighter EF2000s and four
Swedish Air Force Gripens over the Baltic Sea for exercise
Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images
boss Sean Hoyle:
"Replace the capitalist system
with a socialist order ...
if we all spit
we can drown the
Jail Riot Chaos
No hot water for showers in
a UK jail is thought to
set off the worst prison
riot for a generation.
Panzerjäger Tiger (P)
at Southampton Docks on
its way to Bovington
2016 December 18
The New Sheriff
Donald Trump will reverse American policy toward
Russia and in the Mideast. He will ally with Vladimir Putin and
repair US ties with autocratic Sunni Arab regimes. His team promises
a "night and day" contrast with the outgoing administration.
Trump will usher in a "new era of American leadership" and launch a
new offensive against Daesh to show them there is a "new sheriff in
town" after eight years of weakness. Trump will order his generals
to deliver a plan within a month of his inauguration.
will woo Putin. He will ditch the nuclear deal with Iran and drive a
wedge between Russia and Iran. He will use US special forces to the
max. An officer: "All we need is the presidential authority and the
GPS coordinates and we can kill anyone in the world within 72
Trump: "Military, cyber and financial warfare will
all be essential in dismantling Islamic terrorism. But we must use
ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the cold war, in part,
by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets,
so too must we take on the ideology of radical Islam."
AR It might work. Worth a try anyway.
Worst that can happen is nuclear holocaust.
The New Britain
Britain is the most centralized country in the
Western world. Its local councils account for about a quarter of
government spending. Since 2010 their spending has been cut by over
a third, and is scheduled to fall much further by 2020.
after 2010, councils in England were encouraged to freeze council
tax. The tax is calculated on the basis of property values set in
1993 and not updated since. Councils are prohibited from running a
deficit and are obliged to balance the budget every year.
Councils have made big savings in roads and transport. Spending on
parks and culture has also fallen. Leisure centres, swimming pools,
playing grounds, public toilets, and libraries have been closed.
Since 2010, billions have been cut from social care budgets. The
services that remain are overstretched, and councils must make more
cuts this year, with yet more to come. By 2020, English councils
will be spending most of their income on social care.
Austerity destroys local government and marketizes nearly every
aspect of public policy. Local government will soon be forced to
outsource most of its responsibilities to the private sector.
A municipal nation has been destroyed.
AR Be Stoic: The rich will get richer, the jams (just about
managing) will go into forced servitude, and the rest will face
death with a smile.
The New Stoics
Philip Delves Broughton
Last week Donald Trump met the
new titans in Trump Tower. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple,
and Larry Page of Alphabet came along in suits and ties. They have
embraced Stoicism — accepting what they cannot change and managing
what they can.
Stoicism is the new Zen. Ryan Holiday has sold
nearly a quarter of a million copies of his book
The Obstacle Is the Way. Athletes, Hollywood celebrities, and
the venture capitalists and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley bought
the recycled philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.
The Stoics were
indifferent to pleasure and pain, wealth and poverty, fortified by
their distance from the emotions that trouble ordinary minds. When
they kissed their children goodnight, they imagined them dying, so
that if the worst were to happen they would be ready.
Aurelius faced war and death on the fringes of the Roman Empire. He
wrote that facing a fine meal, you should recall "this is the dead
body of a fish and this is the dead body of a bird or a pig".
James Stockdale was a US navy pilot who spent years in North
Vietnam as a prisoner of war. He had read Epictetus. He survived by
confronting the brutal facts of his situation. The men who went
under were the optimists: "They died of a broken heart."
Epictetus: "Men, the lecture room of the philosopher is a hospital;
students ought not to walk out of it in pleasure, but in pain."
AR Cue for my next book.
2016 December 17
British Tax Haven Gambit
Despite Brexit, Brits want a say in deciding
EU tax policy. They propose an HM Treasury candidate to chair the EU
working group that oversees tax competition between member states.
EU27 members resist his nomination because since the Brexit vote
Britain has blocked moves to outlaw tax havens such as Bermuda, the
Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.
AR Perfidious Albion — don't let it drag
German Armed Forces Update
Ursula von der Leyen
Since the election of the new US
president, it has become clear to Europeans that we have to take
matters that affect us into our own hands.
There is no
military solution in Syria, only a political one. If there were a
way to stop Assad by force without risking wider war, we would do
so. Assad is getting massive air and ground support from Russia and
Iran. Syria could set the world ablaze.
We have cut spending
on the German armed forces for too long and now we must modernize
them. We are approaching the NATO 2% goal in reasonable steps, but
modernization takes time. We shall include this goal in our election
The EU and Germany must do more in Mali. By
agreement with the UN, the German army will take over helicopter
rescue duties in northern Mali from Holland in spring 2017. The
Bundestag will vote in January on increasing our manpower there.
The military can only do so much. Civilian aid costs
money, but it is better than hosting African migrants here or
AR Brits who
would cut aid should see this too.
Anthony Sudbery, ed. AR
Determinism is the idea that if you know the present you can
predict the future. It worked for centuries. Then came quantum
theory defines a state vector from which you can derive predictions.
If you choose which physical quantities you want to measure, subject
to complementarity, the state vector gives you probabilities for the
Quantum mechanics gives us two answers
about the future. In the view from nowhere, the universe is
described by a universal state vector and its evolution is
deterministic. In the view from here and now, we occupy a particular
world and its evolution is probabilistic.
From here and now
there are many worlds, but one of them is singled out as actual. In
my future, no one world is singled out for me. I face a
superposition of future worlds.
Predictions do not have to be
either true or false. Let a true statement have truth value 1 and a
false one have truth value 0. The truth value of a prediction X is a
number between 0 and 1 giving the probability of X.
view from nowhere, there are many worlds with different
probabilities. My actual world is one of them, and it has
probability 1 for me. Possible worlds that are counterfactual relative to
my world have probability 0 for me.
The whole universal state vector
goes into the calculation of future probabilities. Counterfactual
events can still affect the future until they fall away by
decoherence. Even in a deterministic universe, our predictions are
AR This is just the Kripke semantics of an
with Bayesian probability.
Kremlin, Moscow, 2016-12-08 (Maxim
FBI Director James Comey and Director of National
Intelligence James Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA
that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help
Donald Trump win.
officials say Moscow is undermining the UK through espionage, misinformation,
and fake news.
Seen in Vilnius,
Cambridge University Library
by Isaac Newton: 1687 first
sold for $3.7 million
German defense minister
von der Leyen with Saudi
defense minister Mohammed
2015 Defense Budgets
United States $597.5 billion
Saudi Arabia $87.2 billion
Kingdom $56.2 billion
France $46.8 billion
NASA scientist Joseph Nuth
big asteroids and comets
on collision course with Earth
extremely rare but for us
any collision is an extinction
event. NASA has a new
planetary defense office and
an interceptor rocket
Clint and Tom did good.
Czego szukasz w Święta?
English for beginners
In hindsight, do you think
Britain was right or wrong
to vote to leave the EU?
2016 December 16
Royal Motor Yacht Club, Sandbanks
AR Robert Syms MP gave an interesting
speech on the United States and the federal ideal in Europe,
the British and German economies, and the opportunities and
challenges of Brexit.
Some choice picks:
● Vice-President: Mike Pence,
the Governor of Indiana, an evangelical Christian who opposes
abortion and denies the theory of evolution.
● Department of
State: Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, whose interests and wealth
are tangled in a web of global relationships, including a close
partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Steven Mnuchin, an investment banker who made billions off of the
● Department of Labor: Andrew Puzder, a
fast-food CEO who disdains the minimum wage and backs increased
automation in low-wage fields.
● Department of Education: Betsy
DeVos, a billionaire who evangelizes charter schools and private
● Department of Energy: Rick Perry, the former Texas
governor who infamously wants to dismantle the agency, when he can
remember its name.
● Health and Human Services: Tom Price, a
Georgia representative who opposes the Affordable Care Act and wants
deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
● Environmental Protection
Agency: Scott Pruitt, who describes himself as a "leading advocate"
against the agency.
● Department of Justice: Jeff Sessions, the
Alabama senator who opposes the Voting Rights Act and supports a
rollback of federal protection for LGBT victims of hate crimes.
Homeland Security: John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who
opposes closing the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.
Department of Defense: James Mattis, another retired Marine Corps
general, on record as saying: "If you fuck with me, I'll kill you
AR Amazing, Donald.
2016 December 15
In November 2016, at a Google office
in London, London mayor Sadiq Khan introduced Google chief executive
Sundar Pichai. The Google of the future, said Pichai, is in
Google Brain was founded in 2011 to
give artificial neural networks something like human flexibility.
This approach to AI can solve hard problems like speech recognition
and image recognition.
When Pichai spoke, Translate had just
been converted to an AI system. The new incarnation had been
completed in only nine months, yet showed huge overnight
Networks of simple artificial neurons can learn
the way we do. An artificial neural network can rewire itself to
reflect patterns in the data it absorbs. This approach to AI is
evolutionary rather than creationist.
Google Brain built an
artificial neural network comparable in complexity to a mouse brain.
They taught it to recognize cats. They showed it labeled pictures of
cats as inputs and rated its outputs, and let it wire itself to map
the inputs to the outputs.
The cat work made Brain famous.
Lead author Quoc Le then saw that if a network could handle a photo
it could also handle a sentence. His team developed an architecture
to accommodate complex structures that unfolded over time, like
language or music.
A new chip made the network faster.
Tensor processing units are deliberately imprecise: rather than
compute 12.24 x 54.39, they compute 12 x 54. A neural network is
formally a structured series of matrix multiplications carried out
in succession, and the process needs to be fast rather than exact.
In February 2016, Google convened its research leads at an
offsite retreat. The Translate update rolled out in November.
Good machine translation is likely to prove transformational. It
is a big step toward artificial general intelligence, AGI.
AR This reminds me so much of what we
used to do on a smaller scale at SAP.
2016 December 14
UK Bargaining Chips
A Lords committee says:
UK government ministers should provide an immediate
unilateral undertaking to protect the citizenship rights of EU
nationals living in the UK after Brexit.
Failure to do so would have severe consequences for EU
citizens in Britain, who would become subject to national
immigration laws of Byzantine complexity.
Giving Europeans a firm message on their future before the
end of Brexit negotiations is the only morally right action.
AR I am appalled and ashamed that the
government under which I live has not already and unconditionally
The Bundeswehr has 176,752 active military
personnel and 200 Leopard 2 tanks. The Luftwaffe has 109 Eurofighter
Typhoons and 89 Tornados. The German navy has just 10 frigates.
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen will spend an extra
$140 billion on equipment over the next 15 years. Germany spends
1.2% of GDP on defense, against a NATO target of 2%, and she is
raising this to 1.22% in 2017.
Low German defense spending
and limited capabilities are a hangover from WW2. Over the last 25
years, Germany has converged with France and the UK on the politics
of using military force. But even the Ukraine crisis has not changed
German hesitancy about the use of military force.
A half of
Germans think the defense budget should be increased. But Germans do
not want to arm against Russia, even if people in the Baltic states
and Poland do. Fear of being overwhelmed by refugees rather than
fear of Russia is prompting Germans to rethink their security policy.
AR Germany, France, and the UK need
to coordinate their defense policies much more closely — and as a
matter of the highest priority.
The Big Picture
— my review of a book by Sean Carroll
2016 December 13
Donald Trump has named Rex Tillerson,
chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil, as his secretary of state. Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in
2013. Tillerson will work with secretary of defense "Mad Dog" Mattis
(blog December 3) and national security adviser Michael Flynn, former director
of the DIA.
Russia expert and former secretary of defense
Robert Gates: "I strongly endorse the president-elect's selection of
Rex Tillerson to be the next secretary of state ... He is a person
of great integrity whose only goal in office would be to protect and
advance the interests of the United States."
Trump has tapped
billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for his commerce secretary and top
trade official, Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head the White
House national economic council, and Goldman alumnus Steven Mnuchin
as treasury secretary.
Business takes over US governance. This tends to confirm the
view of politics and business I aired in my book
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
Global corporations will win against national polities. Trump knows
this. Snobbish governing elites
will fail against brash hard
chargers from the corporate jungle, just as smug religious elites
failed against scientists.
The New York Times
A billion-dollar investment fund led
by Bill Gates and other technology titans will invest in
transformative energy R&D to reduce the emissions that cause climate
Breakthrough Energy Ventures will capitalize on
government-backed research through partnerships with the University
of California system and other institutions.
The fund has 20
investors and will last 15 to 20 years. It will cover investments in
electricity generation and storage, transportation, agriculture, and
energy system efficiency.
Aleppo steht kurz vor dem Fall, Bewohner in
den Rebellengebieten sind in höchster Not. Laut Rotem Kreuz ist die
humanitäre Situation katastrophal, die UNO ist alarmiert wegen
Berichten über Gräueltaten gegen Zivilisten.
The new Winton mathematics gallery at the
Science Museum in London reveals the richness of mathematics.
Maths is popular with A-level students in
British schools. As a STEM subject it provides a ticket into the
world of science and jobs. But the maths they learn will not equip
them with the right skills.
The machinery that powers
mathematics is crucial. Before modern computers, we did calculations
by hand, so we worked hard to avoid them at the expense of more
upfront deliberation in defining and abstracting the question. It
was a meticulous process.
The process of defining questions,
translating them into math, computing the answers, and interpreting
results, is computational thinking. Mathematics is all this, not
just pure calculation.
We need to focus on computational
thinking, the process that drives practical applications of
AR Years ago I
helped set up the
Deutsches Museum, München.
2016 December 12
Trump v China
US President-elect Donald Trump: "I fully
understand the One China policy, but I don't know why we have to be
bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having
to do with other things, including trade."
marveled at Trump's commercial thinking and naivety for diplomacy.
The One China policy has become a fundamental principle of international
order. Leaders all around the world, including US leaders,
If Trump gave up the One China policy,
supported Taiwan independence, and sold weapons to Taiwan, China
would have no grounds to partner with Washington on international
affairs and contain forces hostile to the US.
Trump is no
geopolitical maniac, but he is easily subject to the hawkish
advisers around him. We will learn more about how he interprets the
One China policy after he is sworn in. China needs to be fully armed
Trump v Government
Donald Trump has placed a climate change denier in charge of
environmental protection, an opponent of the minimum wage as labor
secretary, a conspiracy theorist in charge of the National Security
Council, and a protectionist at the commerce department. Now he is
considering a recipient of the Kremlin's Order of Friendship as
secretary of state.
Russia: Trump seems to want a rapprochement with Russia,
which is suffering under economic sanctions imposed after its
annexation of Crimea and intervened for him during the election,
exciting speculation about his relationship with Russia.
Europe: The French and German governments fear Trump may
support Marine Le Pen or the Alternative for Germany in elections
next year, but weakening NATO could undermine his presidency.
Iran: He could easily rip up the nuclear deal, but this
could put the US on the road to war.
Mideast: He advocates a much more ferocious approach to the
war on radical Islamic terrorism.
China: He signals a sharp rise in tensions with Beijing.
PEOTUS endorses expansion in the US Navy. He could split the
informal alliance between Russia and China and instead form a
Washington-Moscow axis. But his moves smacks more of chaotic
improvisation than strategic thinking.
Trump v World
PEOTUS Trump may damage EU chances of dealing
with its many challenges. EZ and Schengen states are no longer
sovereign in regard to currency or
borders, and Germany lacks military capability, but the EU has only
a shadow capability at supranational level.
The UK may have
to hold the line in Europe for years. Rearmament must begin now in
preparation for war against a major power in Europe. A grand bargain
with the EU might preserve free trade, restrict immigration, and
increase British commitment to European security through NATO.
London needs to read its neighbors the riot act on Russia.
Europeans have seen they cannot have a common currency or a common
travel area without a common state, and a European army without a
European state can only end in more tears. They need full political
PEOTUS must see that America has the biggest stake in the
success of NATO.
2016 December 11
In quantum mechanics, time is universal
and absolute. But in general relativity, time is relative and
dynamical. We need to reconcile their notions of time.
physicists now consider spacetime and gravity to be emergent
phenomena. Spacetime and matter emerge in a hologram from a network
of entangled qubits. Spacetime is a geometric representation of the
entanglement structure of the underlying quantum systems.
hologram arises in toy universes with anti-de Sitter (AdS)
spacetime. In their elliptical geometries, spacetime increments
shrink to nothing at a boundary. The boundary provides a surface for
the entangled qubits to project the hologram. The qubit states are
like steps in timeless code, giving rise to relativistic time in the
bulk of the AdS space.
In our universe, the fabric of
spacetime has a hyperbolic de Sitter geometry. The fabric stretches
out toward the end of time. At the end, in the heat death,
everything becomes causally disconnected, time breaks down, and
nothing more happens.
Researchers do not yet understand the
emergence of time from the entangled qubits on the timeless
2016 December 10
Science is under attack. Donald Trump
claimed that climate change was a Chinese conspiracy to undermine US
industrial competitiveness. Now he repeats an evasive little mantra
about having an open mind.
But this is like saying you have
an open mind about the shape of the Earth or about evolution. Anyone
with an open mind will agree there is a huge body of evidence
showing that human activities are affecting global climate. Yet
Trump will stop funding for the
NASA Earth Science division.
NASA climate research and
monitoring is essential and respected worldwide.
NASA GISS is
one of the leading centers for studies of global climate change. An
Atlantic Council report in March identified climate change as a
threat to US national security.
The Trump plans for more
astronaut space missions are not a shifting of NASA priorities but a
concerted attack on science. There is no compelling scientific or
economic argument to put all NASA resources into space missions.
Space research is a luxury, Earth observations are essential.
Trump advisor Bob Walker says environmental monitoring is
politically correct and climate science is heavily politicized. This
is science denial. NASA should not accept such blatant political
2016 December 9
EU Nuclear Defense
Donald Trump said NATO is obsolete. He mooted
pulling back the US nuclear shield from Japan and South Korea and
suggested they develop their own nuclear weapons. If Trump seriously
questions US nuclear guarantees, Europe will be vulnerable to
possible threats from Russia.
In that case, Berlin would
consider establishing a European nuclear deterrent. NATO military
officers and diplomats are addressing the issue of a French-British
nuclear shield for Europe. Britain and France have only around 450
nuclear warheads, but their second-strike capability is strong
enough to defend Europe.
Politically, the issue is trickier.
France views its nuclear capability as a national asset and Britain
is facing Brexit. Europeans would be forced to depend on Paris and
London for their security. After Brexit, Germans might rather fund
an EU nuclear arsenal under French leadership.
AR I discussed a Franco-British EU
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
National prejudices and technical interoperability are big
obstacles. But I say do it.
Russia v NATO
General Sir Richard
Shirreff offers a scenario: 2017 begins with a new Russian invasion
of Ukraine. The Russian army sweeps westward into eastern Ukraine up
to Crimea. This conquest of half of Ukraine takes Russia three days.
NATO fails to respond.
With that done, Russia moves against
the Baltic states. Russian special forces engineer chaos during a
demonstration in the Latvian capital Riga, which creates a pretext
for a Russian invasion that is over in hours. Similar moves take
Estonia and Lithuania.
NATO ambassadors meeting in Belgium
fail to agree on action. Russian planes sink two navy ships, one
German and one British. A reluctant Germany accepts that Russia and
NATO are at war. The Shirreff scenario is a wake-up call to NATO.
AR See blog October 22.
Dictatorship of the People
Brexiteers will implement the result of the
EU referendum. But the view that the executive must do so is a form
of authoritarianism. The government becomes a dictatorship that
rules in the name of the people.
AR Wolf wäre Volksverräter!
2016 December 8
Queen Elizabeth I stood up for Britain. She
had a very clear vision about what she wanted to do.
I think everybody has their own style as to how they do
business. I just get on and do the job. What was important in
forming the team was unity.
I've got a team around me, some
of them people I've worked with before, some of them I've not worked
with before. I've reinstated cabinet subcommittees. There's a much
more open and free discussion among cabinet colleagues on different
I don't take all the decisions. Everybody
thinks that suddenly everything is coming to me as prime minister.
But there are some crucial decisions that obviously I take.
It's not a question of whether people have earned trust, but of where it's appropriate for different decisions to be
Whatever side anybody was on in the referendum vote,
we've all now got to come together and deliver for the public. It's
important that we don't leave it for too long, otherwise people will
lose faith in their politicians. They'll think that we're trying to
pull the wool over their eyes.
I want to see as smooth and
orderly a process as possible. Of course, it's going to be complex
because there's a lot to deal with. You're not a member of something
for 40-odd years and then it's easy.
I think it's important
for us to build up the relationship with the people we're
negotiating with. There are 27 member states which will be
negotiating. They don't want to see others looking to break away and
to vote to leave in the way the UK has done.
We are seeking a bespoke outcome on terms of
trading with and operating within the European market. We are
seeking tariff-free, barrier-free access. We have to judge what is
best for Britain, in terms of its access both to the European
market and to the rest of the world.
Our strategy is to bring
back the control of migration to the UK government and parliament.
That will be exercised in the national interest. We would expect to
see pretty free movement of highly talented labour, and not to cause
AR Selfish UK
U.S. Pacific Command
carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), right, with Japan
Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)
ships JS Izumo (DDH 183),
center, and JS Kurama (DDH 144), Philippine Sea, November 11, 2016
75 years ago today:
on Pearl Harbor
ein Recht auf Schadenersatz
AR My writing career
I2 Am Globorg
I1 think this slogan makes
Globorg idea ring better.
I1 is human, I2 is planetary.
So read I1 as "I for one"
as "I too".
Too Dumb To Know It
The Dunning—Kruger effect
is a cognitive
bias in which
low-ability individuals suffer
mistakenly assessing their
ability as much higher than
it really is. Dunning: "If you're
incompetent, you can't know
incompetent ... the
skills you need to produce a
right answer are
skills you need to recognize
what a right answer is."
Donald J. Trump announced
his selection of retired USMC
James N. Mattis to be
next US secretary of defense:
"The closest thing we have
General George Patton."
2016 December 7
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is one of the top
five navies in the world.
Japan Security Watch
blog editor and US Naval Institute News contributor Kyle Mizokami:
"The United States and Japan are the two closest military powers in
the world today. They're even closer than the US and UK. They train
together on a daily basis, and there are major military exercises in
air, land, and sea on almost a weekly basis."
The United States and Britain are hubs of
globalized turbo-capitalism and finance. For at least a decade,
fears and resentments had been building over the elites and the
downsides of modern life. So the British voted to quit the European
Union and Americans voted for Donald Trump.
are in the midst of an upheaval. Virtual direct democracy through
social media has outflanked representative democracy. The major
political parties in Britain and the United States will have to
prove their relevance again.
Democracies have not been
delivering. A way is needed to restore faith in our societies.
Germany, with its balance of capitalism and solidarity, its respect
for the labor force, and its commitment to education and training,
offers a model.
AR I discussed
virtual direct democracy in chapter 1111 of
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
The overthrow of Matteo Renzi is
the latest revolt against the new managerial elites. The Italian
people knew very well that Brussels was backing Renzi. And they know
the Five Star Movement, which wants a referendum on the euro, is
likely to be a beneficiary of the turmoil.
So the people of
Italy join the people of Britain in rejecting the bureaucrats.
Brexiteers were inspired by the early revolts of the Dutch and
French and by the fighting Irish. In turn, we Brits, French, Dutch,
Italian, and Irish have emboldened Eurosceptics elsewhere.
Some revolts will go in a good direction, others in a dodgy one. But
what binds them together is hope that politics can be reclaimed from
the committee rooms of the technocrats and brought crashing back
down to the rowdy, wonderful court of public opinion.
AR Be careful what you wish for.
2016 December 6
Eine Situation wie die des
Sommers 2015 kann, soll und darf sich nicht wiederholen. Das war und
ist unser und mein erklärtes politisches Ziel. Nicht alle der
890.000 Menschen, die gekommen sind, können und werden bleiben.
Hier bei uns in Deutschland gelten die Gesetze unseres Landes.
Und zwar für jeden und jede in gleicher Art und Weise. Unser Recht
hat Vorrang vor Stammesregeln, vor Ehrenkodexe und der Scharia. Bei
uns heißt es: Gesicht zeigen, deswegen ist die Vollverschleierung
nicht angebracht, sie sollte verboten sein.
es nur dann gut, wenn es auch Europa gut geht. Wir müssen in dieser
Lage, in der die Welt aus den Fugen geraten ist, zunächst alles
daran setzen, dass Europa nicht noch schwächer aus den Krisen
hervorgeht, als es hineingegangen ist. Unsere Zukunft hängt einzig
und allein von unserer Stärke ab und die haben wir selbst in der
AR Letzter Absatz gilt auch
UK Lost Decade
It doesn't feel like the good old days in the UK. Anxiety about the future
has increased, productivity hasn't recovered, and real wages are
below where they were a decade ago. No one alive today has
experienced this before.
Monetary policy has been highly
effective. The data do not support the idea that the period of low
rates has benefited the wealthiest at the expense of the least
wealthy. All monetary policy has distributional effects, but it is
rightly the role of elected governments to take measures to offset
them if they so choose.
Politicians need to foster a
globalization that works for all. Redistribution and fairness also
means turning back the tide of stateless corporations. Companies
must be rooted and pay tax somewhere.
Nation states like the UK must learn to live with their
neighbors before they can hope to put up an effective common front
against global corporations.
The New York Times
The Breakthrough Foundation handed out
more than $25 million in annual prizes.
A special $3 million
prize went to the LIGO experiment that detected gravitational waves
from colliding black holes. The money will be split among Ronald
Drever, Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss, and the other 1,012 scientists on
The regular Breakthrough physics prize went to
string theorists Andrew Strominger, Cumrun Vafa, and Joseph
Polchinski. Strominger and Vafa used string theory to compute the
entropy of a black hole and Polchinski generalized string theory to
The Breakthrough mathematics prize went to Jean
Bourgain for work including a decoupling theorem generalizing the
Pythagorean theorem to the superposition of waves.
science prizes went to:
Stephen Elledge for exploring how cells sense and respond to damage
in their DNA and for insights into the development and treatment of
● Harry Noller for
helping to unravel the structure of ribosomes and the role of RNA
● Roeland Nusse for
work on a gene that plays a crucial role in the development of
embryos, stem cells, bone growth, and the progression of cancer;
Huda Zoghbi for work on the genes behind the neurodegenerative
disorders Spinocerebellar ataxia and Rett syndrome;
Yoshinori Ohsumi for work on how cells recycle themselves that could
help us better understand the process of aging.
AR Glad the gravity wave work was
2016 December 5
Guts and Democracy
In Italy, prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned after losing his
referendum on constitutional reform. Opposition leader Beppe Grillo
had urged Italians to vote with their guts, not their brains.
Analysts fear a run on Italian banks and a plunge in the euro.
The stability of the European Union is endangered. Italy will
probably join France, the Netherlands, and Germany in holding
elections next year, with the populists on the march.
AR Populism is a force the EU must learn
to live with. The public image of the EU in the UK is far below what
it needs to be to gain any popular traction. No wonder so many Brits
want to leave it.
Violence and Death
Violence is always a failure of articulacy.
When I create a monster character, the covers of the book are like
the bars of a cage. You can look at this monster and admire its
severity and horror, but it doesn't mean you secretly want violence.
History is accelerating and the novel has responded to that. The
narrative has to be much stronger than it used to be. Novelists are
modern people too, and they felt this acceleration of history. You
write the novels you want to read, and as I get older I write about
I'm writing an autobiographical novel about three
other writers — a poet, a novelist and an essayist — Philip Larkin,
Saul Bellow, and Christopher Hitchens. Larkin died in 1985, Bellow
died in 2005, and Hitch died in 2011, and that gives me a theme,
Words, words, words — they all died
— the end.
2016 December 4
I warned before the Brexit vote that it
would damage scientific research in Britain, that a vote to leave
would be a step backward. What matters now is how the elites react.
To reject the vote as an outpouring of crude populism would be a
The concerns about globalization and
technological change are understandable. The automation of factories
and the rise of artificial intelligence will accelerate the widening
economic inequality around the world. Many people are searching for
a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.
With the global spread of the internet and social media,
economic inequalities are far more apparent than in the past. The
lives of the richest people in the world are visible to anyone, so
the rural poor join the economic migrants in search of a better
life. These migrants undermine tolerance and fuel political
Now, more than at any time in our history, our
species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental
challenges. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on
which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it,
so we need to work together to protect it.
We need to break
down barriers within and between nations. Our leaders need to
acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With
resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are
going to have to learn to share far more than at present.
must help people to retrain for a new world and support them
financially while they do so. If communities cannot cope with
current levels of migration, we must encourage global development.
This will require the elites to learn humility.
2016 December 3
Ivanka Trump, Climate Czar?
Ivanka, 35, Trump's avatar among the moneyed
left-wing elite, is poised to play a larger public role than the
first lady. She is positioning herself as a bridge to moderates and
liberals disgusted and depressed with the tone and tenor of the new
leader of the free world.
The ambitious daughter who once
plotted her career around international brand domination is
apparently planning to make climate change one of her signature
AR If so, good news.
Mad Dog Mattis
US Marine Corps General James N. Mattis
commanded a division in the invasion of Iraq and fought in
Afghanistan. Also known as the Warrior Monk, he took the book
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius into battle. His philosophy of
● The first time you blow someone away is not an
● That said, there are some assholes in the
world that just need to be shot.
● It's fun to shoot some people.
There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It's really
● I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck
with me, I'll kill you all.
● Engage your brain before you engage
● The most important six inches on the battlefield is
between your ears.
● Marines don't know how to spell the word
● Wherever the enemy wants to fight, we will follow him to
the ends of the Earth.
AR Any friend of Marcus Aurelius is a
friend of mine.
2016 December 2
Richmond Park Surprise
Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney won the
by-election in Richmond Park. She gained a majority of 1,872, just
under 50% of the vote, to unseat former Conservative MP Zac
Goldsmith, who had won a 23,000 majority in 2015. The vote was a de
facto plebiscite on Brexit — Lib Dems said the strongly pro-remain
constituency should have an MP who opposed hard Brexit.
Olney: "Richmond Park was full of people like me, who felt the
country was going wrong, that the politics of anger and division
were on the rise, that the liberal, tolerant values we took for
granted were under threat."
The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins published his bestseller
Selfish Gene in 1976.
The book explored a new way of looking
at evolution. Bill Hamilton had argued that the reason people devote
themselves to raising their children was because this furthered the
survival of their genes. Dawkins saw that natural selection is not
mainly choosing among species, or groups, or even individuals, all
of which are transient aggregations, but among genes.
Dawkins: "Genes are in a sense immortal. They pass through the
generations, reshuffling themselves each time they pass from parent
to offspring ... Our basic expectation on the basis of the orthodox
neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is that genes will be 'selfish'."
Daniel Dennett: "Many laypeople and even some biologists may
fail to appreciate how bountiful this shift of attention has been."
AR Good book. The idea played a
central role in the argument of my book
2016 December 1
The German Challenge
The European Union is teetering:
Italy Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is likely to lose
a referendum on constitutional reform.
Freedom Party (FPÖ) presidential candidate Norbert Höfer looks set
to be elected.
— Holland Party for Freedom (PVV)
leader Geert Wilders calls for a European patriotic spring.
France Front National presidential candidate Marine
Le Pen looks set to do well next spring.
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is making waves ahead of elections
Germany may have to lead alone on Brexit, Russia,
Turkey, migrants, the EZ crisis, and dealing with US president
UK Needs Written Constitution
The sovereignty of parliament is key to
UK political arrangements. By making the will of the people
sovereign, the Brexit referendum is constitutional dynamite for
those arrangements. A written constitution is now essential to:
1 Establish a separation of powers
between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary
2 Define the political powers and rights
3 Express the aspirations
of UK society
AR Hear hear
Alt-Right's Jewish Godfather
The night America elected Donald Trump
president, Richard Spencer crowed: "We're the establishment now."
His former mentor Paul Gottfried is a retired Jewish academic who
studied at Yale under Herbert Marcuse.
Gottfried is a Nietzschean American nationalist. In his view, there
are inherent differences between races, genders, religions, and
nations, so equality is unnatural and is imposed by a class of
managers who enforce multiculturalism and political correctness.
Gottfried distinguishes social Darwinism from the corrupted version
exploited by the Nazis and says Hitler was not a fascist but a
far-right counter-revolutionary response to Stalin.
Spencer created the website
Alternative Right in 2010. Spencer: "American society today is
so — pardon my French — fucking middle class in its values. There is
no value higher than having a pension and dying in bed. I find that
profoundly pathetic. So, yeah, I think we might need a little more
chaos in our politics, we might need a bit of that fascist spirit in
AR More chaos
Allied (starring Brad Pitt and
Marion Cotillard) is a good WW2 romantic thriller about the
ambiguities of national identity.
It features excellently
reconstructed settings and scenes that really catch the feel of
But the action scenes are formulaic and Brad seems
rather wooden as a loving husband.
I love what they have built here.
admire the invisible scaffolding
in their society that preserves
calm amid the chaos.
We may believe we live in a
sophisticated society enjoying
more freedom than at any
time in history.
But I have come to understand
giving his people
freedom from all that might
be a greater
Pap snap of aide's scribbled
notes reveals Brexit plan:
cake and eat it"
(and beware French)
"The tree which moves some
to tears of joy is in the eyes
others only a green thing
which stands in the way."
French former prime minister
François Fillon, 62, Republican
presidential election candidate
"The right can be reassured:
with Fillon they are
Donald Trump built a wall on
the border of his golf
Scotland, blocking the sea view
of local residents
to sell their homes, then he
sent them the bill.
And what rough beast,
its hour come
round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem
to be born?
W. B. Yeats
2016 November 30
The End of the AA Order
Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have more in
common than distaste for international or supranational
institutions. Farage fulminated against the banks, the liberal
media, and the political establishment. Trump deliberately tapped
into the same animus against those elitist traitors within America
who supposedly coddle minorities and despise the real people.
In the war years, the Anglo-American allies were the last hope
of freedom, democracy, and internationalism. NATO and the ideal of
European unification were born from the ashes of 1945. Decades
later, conservatives regarded the Reagan-Thatcher revolution as
a triumph for freedom.
The notion that the United States is
the greatest nation in the history of man and that Great Britain is
superior to any European country soon faded. Not only have the
fortunes of most people in Britain dwindled compared with those of
the rich, but it gradually became clear that they were doing worse
than the Germans and many other EU citizens. The blight of the old
industrial cities and mining towns was not a result of EU policies.
The last hope of the West might be Germany. Angela Merkel told
Trump she would welcome a close
cooperation with the United States, but only on the basis of
democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man,
independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual
orientation, or political views. She spoke as the true heiress of
the Atlantic Charter.
Downfall: first USSR, then USUK, perhaps?
2016 November 29
A planned European Defense Fund will
offset US pressure for NATO allies to increase military spending.
The plan would increase cross-border defense procurement and
standardization of equipment, and add EU space programs for security
and defense. At present about 80% of European defense procurement is
run on a national basis.
The NATO target for defense
expenditure is 2% of GDP. Of the 22 EU member states in NATO, only
the UK, Estonia, Poland, and Greece meet the threshold. The new plan
from the EU executive aims to increase European land, air, sea, and
space capabilities, plus those in cyber security and intelligence
France and Germany have led the charge for deeper
defense coordination, backed by Italy and Spain. The new plan aims
to to deliver a better return from rising defense expenditures.
Member states would still own all military assets and technology,
but would pool national resources to raise the benefit and efficiency of
EU member states have the second-largest
military expenditure in the world — the US spends more than twice as
much. But EU spending inefficiencies add costs of €25 billion to
€100 billion per year. With a total annual spend of €100 billion,
the EU defense industry could fall behind without sustained
A great oak canopy provides a home for an
astonishing number of small insects, birds, animals, lichens, ferns,
and fungi. The tree is the head, heart, and habitat of an entire
civilization. A great oak can survive for between six hundred and a
Many of the common trees in Europe and North
America are facing an apocalyptic threat from Asia. Fifty years ago
we lost most of our elm trees to a fungus from China. Today these
new enemies are decimating our parks and forests.
plague is leading to the death of leaves and branches in ash trees.
A green Chinese beetle has devastated many ash forests in
North America. Half of the horse chestnut trees in Europe are
believed to be infected by bleeding canker, a bacterial infection
that slowly kills the tree.
There is a way to recreate the
lost trees. Make sure to choose a Chinese or Japanese or Indian
species of the same genus. These Asian species evolved side by side
with the Asian diseases and are immune to them.
A wood wide
web lets trees communicate. In a forest, an underground network of
fungi connects trees of different species by passing chemical and
electrical signals among the roots. Tree leaves are solar panels
that use photosynthesis to fix carbon, the food of trees, and trees
can exchange carbon through their roots.
Trees can exchange
food and vital information. In their own way, trees have feelings,
they communicate with one another, and the strong can assist the
weak. Trees live in harmony with their neighbors and with their
AR Recall the Pandora
trees in Avatar.
2016 November 28
Hard Brexit would be a disaster, a bonanza time
for lawyers and emergency sessions of parliament. A huge part of the
British statute book would collapse, leaving massive uncertainty for
It is difficult when the people have just
spoken for us to say: "OK people you voted, you got it wrong, we are
not going to pay any attention." It is impossible in the House of
How do we look from across the channel at moment? We
look incoherent. They cannot believe there was not a plan and five
months on there is still no plan. They note the xenophobia, the
attacks on foreigners, the sense that the climate in Britain is
Theresa May's absolute rejection of any role for
the European Court of Justice in Britain was the most damaging step.
Most people in Brussels think that rules out anything but a hard
We are not top of the agenda for many people in
Europe. We need to take account of things that concern them and not
to advance our arguments in terms of British exceptionalism.
AR The British front in the European
civil war is an utter shambles.
Top Whitehall mandarin Sir Jeremy
Heywood: "What is our leverage?"
London is facing an EU that is economically fragile, worried about
security, under populist assault, and divided over a crisis of
2 Brussels sees the
UK as smaller than the EU, with more to lose, negotiating against a
deadline controlled by the EU-27.
Brexit blows a hole in the EU budget and will be costly for some
4 The EU is worried
about Brexit leaving outstanding liabilities of some €50 billion.
5 Defence and security is a UK
6 The UK confronts
the EU with a choice — continue a zero-tariff preferential trade
arrangement or accept WTO terms — confident in the EU trade surplus
with the UK and the economic pain from unwinding deep cross-border
supply chains in industry.
UK unbound can threaten tax and regulatory dumping — European
capitals can be undercut.
City of London is the main EU financial hub — a hard exit raises
costs for corporate Europe.
rights of more than 2.5 million EU nationals in the UK are a
priority for EU states — but they can threaten retribution on 1.2
million UK nationals resident in the EU.
10 The EU must speak as one on EU
issues, but it can speak as 27 on areas of national competence, so
crafty British diplomacy can chip away at EU unity.
like hard Brexit or unconditional surrender.
2016 November 27
Fight Brexit or Face Ruin
Brexit is pure poison, polluting everything it touches. The
fundamental questions the country should be addressing — the crisis
in productivity growth, the lack of affordable housing, the
overwhelming strain on public services, our desperately weak export
sector — are all sidelined. There is not the bandwith or capacity to
address them against the gigantic question of how to weather the
greatest shock to our economy and society since 1945.
AR The UK parliament is grossly
overburdened — so abandon Brexit, keep on delegating the boring
stuff to Brussels, and go back to business as usual. Purge the
Brexiteers, muzzle the gutter press, and use force to put down riots. Rulers dare not
appease the mob — that way lies mob rule.
Yuval Noah Harari
Humans have two kinds of abilities,
physical and cognitive. What you saw over the last century or two is
a migration of people from jobs that require mainly physical
abilities, like agriculture and heavy industry, to jobs that require
mainly cognitive abilities. Now we are seeing that the machines are
starting to compete with us, and outperform us, in cognitive
One of my main fears is that Homo sapiens are
simply not up to the task. Censorship no longer works by hiding
information from you. It works by flooding you with immense amounts
of misinformation, of irrelevant information, of funny cat videos,
until you are unable to focus.
I am very much aware that
change becomes more and more scary. Previously everyone who knew who
you were and what you did and what you thought were your intimate
community. Today, Apple and Amazon and WikiLeaks are not your
AR These are
fragments of a conversation between Harari and former UK Chancellor
of the Exchequer George Osborne.
My recent review of books by
2016 November 26
American World Leadership
At the turn of the century it seemed America
had achieved pole position in the global order. Americans appeared
poised to exercise an unchallenged, benevolent global leadership.
But in three key parts of the world America has faced serious
Mideast — Terrorists contest regional incorporation into a
global order whose ideology and culture they reject. In Iraq and
Afghanistan, American attempts to create new states that would bring
their peoples to order have failed. The state system in parts of the
region has collapsed.
Eastern Europe — Russian president Vladimir Putin seeks to
reassert a Russian sphere of influence. His use of armed force and
political subversion revives memories of the Cold War. America has
no effective response when the clashes are not big enough for
— China aims to create a new regional order. It has the strategic
weight and national resolve to mount and sustain this challenge. As
a nuclear power China can devastate American cities, which means it
can deter America from using its nuclear forces in a Pacific war.
For some years now, America has failed to achieve most of its
objectives in pursuit of its vision of global leadership. The
foreign policy establishment has underestimated the strength and
resolve of key regional rivals. It needs to rethink the vision.
Retain EU Citizenship
British citizens who want to live and work in Europe after
Brexit could pay an annual fee for individual EU citizenship.
European Parliament lead Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt: "I
like the idea that people who are European citizens and saying they
want to keep it have the possibility of doing so."
MEP Charles Goerens proposed the idea: "Between 15 and 30 million
British citizens deeply regret Brexit. My amendment was tabled in
order to get European citizenship for those British citizens who
want to keep their citizenship. If it is adopted, it must be a
voluntary request made by each UK citizen. It was thought at the
very beginning that they should have to pay a fee but that is a
detail. Paying a fee or not is not the essence."
AR I like it — count me in.
2016 November 25
"The people have spoken"
We are the 17.4 million people who voted
for Brexit. In the United States, 60 million people voted for Trump.
But as Americans will discover and Brits are already learning, the
system is a lie.
Project Fear has returned via the back door.
Philip Hammond is predicting Armageddon over Brexit. The Office of
Budget Responsibility is as pessimistic as a cancer victim at a
funeral. Tony Blair is saying: "If you offer the people soft Brexit,
they may realise there is no point leaving at all."
all sick of not being heard. Something darker is now lurking in our
hearts. This is a pressure cooker whose lid is being screwed tighter
while the temperature rises. This is an angry animal, forced into a
cage and tormented, determined to find itself free.
AR Not just hysterical garbage but the
canary in the mine.
2016 November 24
Raa-Raa at the Ritz
Farage allies, including the Barclay
brothers, who own the Ritz and the Telegraph newspaper, and Arron
Banks, who spent £7.5 million on the Leave.EU campaign, threw a
reception at the Ritz to celebrate UKIP interim leader Nigel Farage.
Over English sparkling wine supplied from Lord Ashcroft's
Gusbourne winery in Kent and canapes of coronation chicken and roast
beef, shambassador Farage was toasted by a crowd including
pro-Brexit Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.
UK Ambassador to US
When asked, Jacob Rees-Mogg said he
was not sure that Nigel Farage should be Her Britannic Majesty's
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States
(the title adopted since
1893): "Mr Farage is certainly extraordinary in his own way but
I think that being plenipotentiary as well may be a bit too much."
US Ambassador to UK
The United States Government
Ambassador, or Chief of Mission, is the highest ranking American
official in the United Kingdom. The position's title is "Ambassador
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary" — extraordinary in that the
ambassador is the personal representative of the President of the United States to Her Majesty the Queen
and plenipotentiary indicating full power to negotiate.
AR Either way, Ambassador Frump — no
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says that the vote to
leave the EU means the UK economy will grow less and the government
will have to borrow more.
OBR forecasts are slightly less
gloomy than those of the Bank of England, more optimistic than
independent forecasters, and considerably less gloomy than those of
the Treasury during the referendum campaign.
for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says workers will earn less in real wages
in 2021 than they did in 2008.
A Grim Picture
The rest of this parliament looks
set to see the return of the income squeeze we thought we had left
behind in the last parliament. Households look set to see income
growth averaging less than half the already very weak increases
recorded between 2010 and 2015. The biggest losers are lower income
families, with the entire bottom third set to see incomes fall.
"Everybody, whatever their political persuasion or indeed view
on Brexit, will agree that the return of an income squeeze on this
scale is hugely unwelcome."
Brexit Can Be Stopped
Brexit can be stopped if the British people
decide against it:
— Either you get maximum access to the
single market and accept the rules on immigration, on payment into
the budget, on EU legal jurisdiction, and people ask why we are
— Or you are out of the single market and the
economic pain may be very great because you have years of economic
living within our means — abandon Brexit.
The Prophet of
My review of
and Homo Deus
PDF (10 pages)
UK PM Theresa
May will slash
corporation tax to win back
is too small,
AR Run up
spend on arms,
Buckingham Palace is the
residence of the Queen:
The UK government will pay for
refit with £369 million of
AR Demolish it and build the
Houses of Parliament
on the site. Let the Queen
live in Windsor
Donald Trump put his fingers
grievance of our time,
the disintegration of the
This is the
real story of 2016.
Japanese prime minister
Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump
at Trump Tower: Abe said
they had got off to an
The special relationship:
German chancellor Angela Merkel
and US president Barack Obama
dining at Hotel Adlon, Berlin
NASA GISS: October 2016 was
the 2nd warmest in 136 years,
0.18 K cooler than October
60 years old this week.
AR And I have read it
for 50 of them.
The ultimate flying bike:
up to an hour at 30 m
high at 100
AR Boy toy
2016 November 23
Brexit Black Hole
The UK will be forced to borrow an extra £58.7
billion over the next 5 years because of an economic slowdown
triggered by its vote to leave the EU, according to the
Growth will be 1.4% next year, down from 2.2% predicted in March,
and the weakest growth since 2009.
UK treasury chief Philip
Hammond said growth would suffer because of greater uncertainty and
higher inflation resulting from the drop in the value of the pound.
Investment and consumer demand are also expected to weaken.
Potential growth over the next 5 years will be 2.4% lower than if
voters had chosen to remain in the EU.
The UK is to borrow another £122 billion over the next 5 years.
UK chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond admitted today as the
Brexit bill fell due. About half the extra debt is needed to plug a
hole blown in the public finances by the uncertainty caused by the
vote to leave the EU.
AR With UK
GDP at about £1.9 trillion, the lower growth represents a loss of
some £45 billion. Factor in the inflation and loss of real income
caused by the nominal drop of over £200 billion in the value of the
pound, and Brexit is costing more like £100 billion. This is too
high a price to pay for any of the stated benefits, independently of
the manifest political and goodwill losses.
The UK prime
minister can claw back this loss overnight with a single executive
UK Trump Card
The game of Brexit poker has become more
complicated. Many in the EU are concerned that the UK could
increasingly turn to the US instead of keeping their economy as open
as possible. If Trump moves ahead with protectionism, German
companies and others in the EU will have to worry about their
exports to the US as well as to the UK.
The US election has
further deepened the rift between the EU and the UK. Previous
differences are becoming more distinct. The UK and the EU are
heading toward a hard Brexit.
Brexit Britain might manage as a US colony under Farage and Trump —
a Frump state!
We have a great country and we're a great,
great people. I want to move forward.
On climate change, I
have a very open mind. And I'm going to look at it very carefully.
Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is
vitally important. Safety is vitally important. It depends on how
much. It also depends on how much it's going to cost our companies.
We have to make ourselves competitive.
The wind is a very
deceiving thing. We don't make the windmills in the United States.
They're made in Germany and Japan. They're made out of massive
amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it's in
our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere. We're subsidizing
wind mills all over this country. For the most part they don't work.
But it's hard to explain.
I've known Steve Bannon a long
time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, I wouldn't even
think about hiring him. Steve went to Harvard, he was a Naval
officer, I think he was with Goldman Sachs. Breitbart is just a
publication. If I thought that he was doing anything, I would ask him
very politely to leave.
They call it the Rust Belt for a
reason. To me more important is taking care of the people that
really have proven to love Donald Trump, as opposed to the political
people. These people are really angry. I call them the forgotten men
Right now we don't make the robots. We don't make
anything. But robotics is becoming very big and we're going to do
that. We're going to have more factories. We're going to start
We're going for a very large tax cut for
corporations. We have to get rid of regulations, regulations
are making it impossible. Taxes, regulations, health care — we're
going to talk repeal and replace. Infrastructure is going to be a
part of it — a very large-scale infrastructure bill.
think we should be a nation builder. I think going into Iraq was one
of the great mistakes in the history of our country. I have some
very strong ideas on Syria. I spoke to Putin. I would love to be
able to get along with Russia and I think they'd like to be able to
get along with us.
Israeli businesspeople tell me it's
impossible but, I think you can make peace. I think people are tired
now of being shot, killed.
General Mattis is is being
considered for secretary of defense. He said, "I've always found,
give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better
with that than I do with torture."
I hope we can all get
AR So do we all.
2016 November 22
Swedish opposition Moderate party defence
spokesman Hans Wallmark suggests Sweden should join NATO instead of
depending on its defense agreement with the US: "Now we have to rely
on a person that is very tricky to read. The arguments for Swedish
membership are therefore even higher today. It's better that we seek
the strength in cooperating with 28 countries rather just one
Finnish former prime minister Alex Stubb says Donald
Trump could do a deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop
NATO enlargement: "This would leave a security political vacuum in
northern Europe, especially Finland and Sweden."
AR Sweden and Finland should join NATO
French Republican front runner François Fillon thinks the
West treats Russia badly. He wants to forge an alliance with Moscow
to fight terrorism and create a new balance in Europe.
AR Fillon could trump Le Pen and
rebalance EU-Russian relations.
Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau:
"We're not talking as much about Brexit as you are in the UK ...
From our perspective, clearly the NAFTA relationship is of huge
importance. That's our biggest relationship by a very big margin, so
that's important to us. And then the CETA relationship opens up a
very significant market. Our opening of exploratory talks with
China ... we do see as important and as the UK figures its next
steps, that will be important too."
Bang goes Commonwealth resurrection, with its smell of
Mass Democracy Has Failed
The election of Donald Trump confirms that
the politics of mass democracy has failed. Theatrical politics
delivers people into the hands of populist adventurers. Instead of
the chilling talk about the people and its supposed will, we need to
ask how politics can be set free from the deadly polarity between
empty theatrics and a corrupt plutocracy.
AR A correct sentiment, in my humble
2016 November 21
Denmark v UK
Anglophile former head of the Danish
foreign service and PM office Ulrik Federspiel: "Britain is a
country close to our hearts. There is still a lot of goodwill. But
our main concern is that we should not give away advantages of
competitiveness to Britain or British companies ... We cannot afford
to give British companies the upper hand."
minister Kristian Jensen: "We decided what we must go for is not
what is good and bad for UK, but what is best for Denmark ... It's
not to our advantage to be helpful and friendly. We would lose out.
The more you look at the issues the more it toughens your line."
The UK percentage of Danish exports have declined from more than
half after the war to about 7% today. The Danish fishing industry is
vulnerable, as almost a third of its catch comes from UK waters. But
about half of Danish GDP is from exports, and two thirds of exports
are to the single market and Germany.
Brexit is like defection in the prisoners dilemma in game
theory. If all cooperate, all benefit. If one defects, it benefits
and the others lose — unless they gang up to punish the defector.
Nazi Germany defected from a fragile European peace in 1939 and the
world ganged up against it. Brexit is defection from a fragile
2016 November 20
The human brain contains 86 billion
neurons. It burns 25% of the energy our entire body needs, compared
with 10% for almost all other vertebrates. Ancestral humans learned
to feed bigger brains some 1.5 million years ago by cooking their
When primates and nonprimates diverged around 65
million years ago, primates began to pack their brains with many
more neurons for the same brain mass. This occurred for both the
cerebellum and the cerebral cortex, with the former containing about
80% of the neurons for most mammals.
The average size of
neurons increases exponentially as the number of neurons increases
in nonprimates but not in primates. As the cortex of a nonprimate
acquires 10 times more neurons, its neurons become on average 4
times larger and hence the cortex 40 times larger in mass. Among
primates, the average size of neurons remains constant as the
neurons increase in number.
The average human brain has 16
billion neurons in the cerebral cortex, 69 billion in the
cerebellum, and fewer than 1 billion in the rest of the brain. This
fits the neuronal scaling rules for primates: we have a normal
primate brain, with the right number of neurons for the mass of our
brain and body size. Other great apes have relatively far smaller
brains for their body size.
Different scaling rules apply to
the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. For all primates, when
additional neurons are added to the brain the cerebral cortex
increases in mass at a much faster rate than does the cerebellum.
The cortical neurons make connections over several cm, but neurons
in the cerebellum span only a few mm.
The human frontal and
prefrontal cortex have a standard mass and a standard number of
neurons for a primate of our size. But we have a higher total number
of neurons compared both to great apes of our size and to primates
smaller than we are. Our prefrontal cortex contains 1.3 billion
neurons — this is the human advantage.
AR The further civilizational advantage is the algorithmic
coding in the connectome.
Physicists and mathematicians are
exploring a surprising correspondence. The values calculated from
Feynman diagrams seem to match some numbers in algebraic geometry
Mathematicians study periods as numbers
generated by integrating polynomial functions. The class of periods
contains many features that point to an underlying order. Cohomology
theories cover the geometric objects defined by the solutions to
classes of polynomial functions.
Feynman diagrams have lines
representing particle paths. In quantum mechanics, the path a
particle takes is computed by taking a Feynman path integral over
the set of all paths.
Each Feynman diagram has an associated
integral. To calculate the probability of an outcome from a set of
starting conditions, consider all possible diagrams for that
outcome, take each integral, and add the integrals together to give
an amplitude. Square the amplitude to get the probability.
Feynman diagrams with loops represent situations in which particles
emit and then reabsorb additional particles. The new particles are
created and annihilated before they can be observed. By considering
more loops, physicists increase the precision of their calculations.
The number of loops in a Feynman diagram may correspond to a
weight for the dimension of the space of the integration. The
classification of periods by weights carries over to Feynman
diagrams. This is work in progress.
The intercourse between mathematics and physics has been
fruitful for centuries.
2016 November 19
US and Germany
America has been closely divided politically
for some time. But in this age of social media, voters can swing
back and forth. Some of this is less ideological and more just an
impulse toward change.
Some of the same concerns about
globalization, technology, and rapid social change that were
reflected in Brexit exist in the United States as well. If we
address the concerns of those who feel left behind by globalization,
then many of these tensions will be reduced. But if inequality
continues to grow, then we could see more of these divisions arise
around the world.
When I came in we had had a crisis, but we
were able to stabilize the financial system, stabilize the US
economy and return to growth. When I turn over the keys to the
president-elect, the country will be much stronger than it was when
I came into office.
I was elected because I believed in
politics from the bottom up. Even when the economy was bad or we had
problems, people sensed that I listened to them and I was on their
side. All politicians today have to be more attentive to people
wanting to have more control over their lives.
has been an extraordinary partner for me and for the United States
throughout my presidency. One of her great qualities is that she is
steady. Chancellor Merkel and Germany are a lynchpin in protecting
the basic tenets of a liberal, market-based democratic order that
has created unprecedented prosperity and security for Europe and the
The values that we share — freedom of speech, freedom
of religious practice, freedom for civil society, free and fair
elections, the innovation created through a market-based economy —
those things are ultimately going to be the path for us to continue
into a better future.
freedom of movement — don't let the terrorists win!
2016 November 18
Humans On Earth
Our best chance for survival as a species
is to leave Earth and establish colonies on other planets. The chance of a disaster to planet Earth adds up over time, and becomes
a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years. By that time we
should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster
on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.
to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense
of what you see, wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be
curious. However difficult life may seem, there is always something
you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.
Germans On Brexit
Until Brexit is complete, Britain will
have to fulfil its commitments. There may be some commitments that
last beyond the exit. Also we cannot grant any generous rebates.
The UK is still a member of the EU and it has always upheld
valid regulations, laws, and treaties. Euro clearing must be done
within the eurozone because the euro is the EU common currency.
The UK will not get special treatment on migration if it wants
to remain in the single market. Freedom of movement is a core
element of the internal market. There is no à la carte menu.
Without membership of the internal market, without acceptance of the
four basic freedoms of the internal market, there can be no
passporting, no free access for financial products or for financial
AR Just as I expect:
Germans will stick to their guns. Nein means no.
S. Frederick Starr
Central Asia's Golden Age from the
Arab Conquest to Tamerlane
far I have only read a third of this book but already it has
revealed a view of Central Asia from about 700 CE to 1200 that shows
it to have been about as special as Classical Greece or
Enlightenment Europe. For example, the Persian mathematician
Khwarazmi (latinised as Algoritmi, ca 780 — ca 850) wrote a book of
algebraic algorithms called The Compendious Book on Calculation
by Completion and Balancing that was in regular use for
centuries, the physician Razi (865 — 925) wrote an eight-volume
encyclopedia of medicine, and the philosopher Farabi (latinised as
Alfarabius, ca 870 — ca 950) wrote a book On the Perfect State
reconciling Plato's Republic with Islam by calling the
philosopher-king an imam or Supreme Leader.
2016 November 17
Remake European Union
I believe the UK belongs in Europe. But I
respect their choice. The question is whether the UK and its
27 partner nations will have enough time to reach a mutually
Nobody can enjoy privileges without
fulfilling responsibilities. This is simple logic. No European
government could agree to grant the UK free access to the single
market if Britain does not accept rules, duties and concessions,
including the free movement of Europeans, in return.
doubts about the European project cannot be explained away as
insular or idiosyncratic. And yet the only way forward for Europeans
in our globalized world is to stand together. Europe needs an
overhaul as well as reforms.
The EZ and the EU-27 have
different paths to follow. The EZ needs to deepen its integration,
with more permanent leadership for EZ summits, a central secretariat
to serve as EZ treasury, and an EZ monetary fund. The EU-27 should
revert to ensuring the domestic market operates smoothly and
focusing on strategic issues, and needs to review Commission
Europe needs a new immigration policy. It needs
a new Schengen, shared immigration and asylum policies, and
consistent employment laws regarding foreigners to end social
dumping. We need to protect EU borders and prioritize cooperation
aimed at stemming illegal immigration.
Europe must not reform because it hopes to bring the UK back to
the fold. It must reform because its future and its survival depend
on it. Reform is urgent and vital.
Civil Service World
UK civil service chief executive John
Manzoni says the government already had too many objectives before
the UK voted to leave the EU: "When I look across from outside, I
say we're doing 30% too much to do it all well — that is the nature
Manzoni says the civil service is "still in
thinking mode" about Brexit. There is "an enormous amount of work
going on across the civil service redefining what the future of the
various policies might be, or what we might like them to be ... we
need to go back, we need to re-plan, we need to be realistic, we
can't do it all — it won't all happen within the existing envelope."
AR The ramifications of Brexit
and Trump suggest the AA ship is entering uncharted waters where the
crew will be challenged to stay in control. The downside risk
is not just anger and confusion but the sort of
global disorder we last saw 70-80 years ago.
2016 November 16
Merkel: Free Movement
German chancellor Angela Merkel: "Were we to
make an exception for the free movement of people with Britain, this
would mean we would endanger principles of the whole internal market
in the European Union, because everyone else will then want these
exceptions ... I personally hold the view that we will have to
discuss further with the European Commission when this freedom of
movement applies ... Free movement applies in the sense that the
employee himself earns the money he needs for himself and his family
in the other member state."
British foreign secretary Boris
Johnson: "It is stupid to say that freedom of movement is a
fundamental right. It has been acquired by a series of decisions by
the courts. And everyone now has in his head that every human being
has a fundamental, God-given right to go and move wherever he wants.
But it is not. It was never a founding principle of the European
Treaty Establishing the European Community, Rome, 25 March 1957:
Part Three. Community Policies. Title III. Free Movement of Persons,
Services and Capital. Chapter 1. Workers. Article 48. Freedom of
movement for workers shall be secured within the Community by the
end of the transitional period at the latest.
"I'm a rabbi, and I'm applying for a German
Most of my mother's family, from
Heilbronn, perished. So why would I want a German passport?
1 My synagogue took a group of members
to Berlin. The city marked where Jewish families had lived with
Stolpersteine commemorative plaques. It recorded the history and
celebrated the contribution Jews had made to German culture.
2 This year, Heilbronn published a
biography of my mother, from 1933 to 1947. The city gave us a huge
welcome to launch the book. I felt comfortable in Germany, and quite
3 I have also felt
enormous admiration for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Britain voted for Brexit, I decided to reclaim my German origins. I
am a European as well as a proud Briton. I think it perfectly
possible to be a Briton and to hold a German passport too.
Germany has a rapidly growing Jewish community.
stinking legacy of Daesh
A New Special
President Putin spoke to
Donald Trump and
the idea of a new relationship
with the United States
on equality, mutual respect,
and non-interference in
other's internal affairs. They
agreed to get the Russo-US
relationship back on track.
Sounds OK to me.
A pitch for Globorg!
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
died 300 years ago today.
He developed binary arithmetic
and worked on a machine
computations. His imagination
paved the way for the
Das Zeitungslesen des Morgens
ist eine Art von realistischem
AR Reading the morning
newspaper is the realist's
morning prayer — and
my morning devotion.
There is a crack,
That's how the light gets in.
Russian Armata tank
"We have to hope the rhetoric
we heard during the campaign
rapidly replaced by a very
sober and serious statement
there is any question of
a NATO member being attacked
Trump will without any
hesitation or equivocation come
defense of the country.
Anything less would be really
Former NATO Deputy SACEUR
General Sir Richard Shirreff
Trump in 1987
2016 November 15
A leaked memo prepared for the Cabinet Office and circulated
within Whitehall is critical of Brexit plans and suggests civil
servants are struggling. Gist:
Politics: The prime minister aims to keep her party
from splitting. A public debate would expose splits. If necessary, a
short enabling bill will be submitted to parliament, permitting the
government to invoke Article 50 in March. The debate in parliament
will shift expectations.
Government: Departments have developed well over
500 projects to implement Brexit. These are beyond the capacity and
capability of government to execute quickly. Departments are
struggling and need increased headcount in the 10-30,000 range.
Government expects lobbying on company decisions, industry insights
and issues, and overall business concerns. The government priority
remains its political survival, not the economy. There will be no
clear strategy soon.
AR I never
expected otherwise. May is on a loser with this one.
Donald Trump is not a regular politician. He
has won the presidency despite repeated media exposure as a chronic
liar, sexual predator, serial tax avoider, and race baiter. He is
the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for
autocrat — and won.
I have lived in autocracies and written
about Vladimir Putin's Russia. My rules for surviving in an
1 Believe the
autocrat. He means what he says.
not be taken in by small signs of normality.
3 Institutions will not save you.
4 Be outraged. Trump has secured power.
5 Do not make compromises. They will be
6 Remember the future.
AR Perhaps Trump will turn out to be
a Teddy bear.
A New Dark Age?
Donald Trump and his advisers are said to
be looking for a way to terminate the Paris climate agreement within
his first 100 days in office. They will likely also gut the Clean
Adviser Myron Ebell may head up the Environmental
Protection Agency. Ebell: "There has been a little bit of warming.
But it's been very modest and well within the range for natural
variability, and whether it's caused by human beings or not, it's
nothing to worry about."
Trump promised to end US support for
UN climate science. Two of his leading advisers on space policy
argued that NASA should cut spending on "politically correct"
Scientists have a natural interest
in the ebbs and flows of atmospheric chemistry, and the carbon cycle
that determines Earth's climate on long time scales. The science
of cloud formation, precipitation patterns, sea winds, and hurricanes
is essential to a deep understanding of the physical world. We
depend on the good health of the vegetation that
greens our continents.
Scientists have made a long march from
antiquity, when the Earth was proven round, to the Scientific
Revolution, when it was found to be moving, to the Enlightenment,
when geologists began to grasp its extreme age, on through to today.
The close, patient study of this planet has nothing to do with the
passing fashions of political speech in the here and now.
2016 November 14
Nietzsche Was Right
Friedrich Nietzsche said liberal democracy
cannot work. Belief in equality and social justice leads to
fragmentation. Politics is dominated by noisy disadvantaged groups
who treat any unifying ethos as the oppressive ideology of the
He was right. Progressive politics is
collapsing as its rhetoric is dominated by concern for various
victim groups. In the UK and US, about half the electorate dislikes such
rhetoric enough to overturn the ideals of the other half.
Liberals lack a big bold unifying vision. To renew the liberal
vision, restate it in bigger bolder terms. Stop fetishizing a few
Hau ab, Briten!
The UK is an example of how not to handle
populist outrage. European politicians will take a tough line on
Brexit to defend the project they have spent years on. If that means
politics must trump economics, so be it.
Britain may try to
stall the efforts of the EU-27 to show life after Brexit. This plays
to those in Europe who just want to say "Fuck it" to the Brits, says
a senior German MEP. When Brexit talks sink into acrimony, expect
those Europeans to say the EU is well shot of Brits.
2016 November 13
This is no time to question the value of
the partnership between Europe and the United States.
European leaders have always understood that when it comes to
security, going it alone is not an option. American leaders have
always recognised that they had profound strategic interest in a
stable and secure Europe. And throughout the last 67 years America
has had no more steadfast and reliable partner.
We seek to
prevent a conflict. An attack against one will be met by a response
Right On Trump
The New York Times
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert
Wilders: "Congratulations! A historic victory! A revolution! We will
return our country to the Dutch. We are witnessing the same uprising
on both sides of the Atlantic."
French Front National party
leader Marine Le Pen: "It shows that when the people really want
something, they can get it. When the people want to retake their
destiny in hand, they can do it ... It's the emergence of a new
Italian Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo: "They
called us sexists, homophobes, demagogues and populists. They don't
realize that millions of people already no longer read their
newspapers and no longer watch their television."
Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache: "The left and the
corrupt establishment, which considers itself so superior, are being
punished blow by blow by the voters and voted out of various
positions of responsibility."
British former UKIP leader Nigel
Farage tweeted: "It was a great honour to spend time with Donald
Trump. He was relaxed and full of good ideas. I'm confident he will
be a good President."
Filmed in 19 locations across the
world and set both in the present and the year 2033,
Mars depicts how we will colonize Mars.
features interviews with Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Martian
author Andy Weir, NASA engineers, and former Apollo 13 astronaut
James Lovell. A fictional narrative is set in 2033, when the first
human mission lands on Mars.
Producer Justin Wilkes: "If the world
can come together for something as significant as putting people on
Mars, then what else are we capable of doing? I think we need that
2016 November 12
The Last Trump
Trump calls global warming bullshit, a hoax.
He plans to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement. He says
he will axe
clean energy funding, end aid to developing nations for climate
change problems, and wave through contested fossil fuel projects.
US National Center for Atmospheric Research senior scientist
Kevin Trenberth: "This is an unmitigated disaster for the planet."
The Trump presidency will likely see a resurgence in US
greenhouse gas emissions. If China, India, and the European Union
fail to make compensatory emissions cuts, the planet could spiral
into runaway climate change.
NASA scientists are expecting
cuts to climate research programs. But the physics is inexorable:
2016 will be the warmest year on record.
Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) chief
"During the campaign, Trump was all over
... AAAS, for more than half a century, has been outspoken to
policymakers and the public about the risks of human-induced climate
change and the need to take action to mitigate it ... I think we
will be urging him to look at the evidence even before his first day
because climate change is a major, historic, global problem."
I was an AAAS
member from 1989 to 1991.
Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, 85,
understands human behavior in terms of the search for meaning. His
"Democracy is teleological. It's a collective effort
with a noble goal: inclusion. In some ways, democracy is a fiction
that we're trying to realize ... The belief that democracy is
supposed to be a system in which non-élites have a say — that
principle is built right into the nature of democracy. But there are
constructive ways of asserting it and destructive ways."
Islam: "As long
as human beings aspire, they will be capable of corrupting the
object of their aspiration. I'm a person of faith ... If I were
Muslim, I would look at the present situation in Saudi Arabia and
with the Islamic State and I would be appalled, as my Muslim friends
World War II was the defining fact of Taylor's
childhood: "The climax — a day I'll never forget — was when France
sued for the armistice. In my family, that was the end of
Taylor is in favor of localism and
subsidiarity. A rooted, meaningful democracy might be centered on
local schools, town governments, voluntary associations, and
churches. Family members talk, over dinner, about politics, history,
and faith — a pastoral vision.
Compare Heidegger and the
Volksgemeinschaft. I admire Taylor's work — at Oxford I
regularly attended his All Souls seminars on Hegel.
2016 November 11
Brexit Britain, Trumped America, and Militant
The House of
War has become a house of division. Europe is teetering on the brink
of disintegrating into quarrelsome nation states and America is
sinking into riots and discord that could split the union. Militant
Islamists are gleeful.
The psychic fog of old religious
dogmas still hangs around our body politic. Christian values still
constrain European and American attitudes to sex, birth, death,
atheists, and animals. Harsher doctrines still shroud the faithful
in the House of Islam.
Some recent immigrants into Europe are
infected with an ideological plague. Muslims who regard it as their
holy duty to wage jihad against the infidel will not rest easy in
Western lands. Jihadists need to be liquidated before it is too
The Christian doctrine that we should love the sinner
but hate the sin may guide us. Immigrants with a Muslim heritage can
be fine people, but their hard religious views must be melted down.
If the newcomers fight assimilation, we must fight back.
first duty is solidarity with each other as members of a strong and
vibrant civilization. Europeans and Americans have a common cause
here. Brexit or Trumpet diehards should turn their anger to
revulsion for the plague within Islam.
Make no mistake, this
will be hard. But it must be done. Any lesser response will leave
our neighbors bowing to Mecca, cowed by evil men.
2016 November 10
Future Greenhouse Warming
Global mean surface temperatures are
rising in response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The
magnitude of this warming at equilibrium for a given radiative
forcing is uncertain, but we find that the range of estimates of
future warming by 2100 CE overlaps with the upper range of climate
simulations conducted in
Within this century, global mean temperatures will very likely
exceed maximum levels of the last 784 000 years.
AR Astronomers say Earth will warm up
US Election: Analysis
Electoral College so far: Clinton 232, Trump 290 (1
state to call)
— Michigan so far: 47.3%, 47.6% (96% in at 3:53 pm
National vote: Clinton 59,926,386 (47.7%), Trump
Male voters: Clinton 41%,
Female voters: Clinton 54%, Trump 42%
18-44: Clinton 52%, Trump 40%
Voters aged 45+: Clinton 44%, Trump
Senate: Dem 48, Rep 51 (1 to go)
House: Dem 193, Rep
238 (4 to go)
UK prime minister Theresa May policy board chairman George
Freeman: "The roar of anger at globalization, machine politics,
out-of-touch elites has now swept the UK and the USA. All in
mainstream politics need to look harder, listen better, and think
smarter about the underlying causes of popular anger and address
them. We need new policies to respond to and address the grassroots
failure of our political economy."
Key trends by 2020:
1 Social media will have continued to
2 Machine learning and AI
will move forward 10x
3 50 billion
devices and 1 trillion sensors will come online
4 Digital avatars will become
photorealistic and fully programmable
Micropayments, smart objects, and blockchain apps will go mainstream
Bottom line: The 2020 election will be very personal.
2016 November 9
UK date 9/11
The New York Times, 1009 ET
President: Clinton 218 Trump 279 (270 to win)
Congress: Dem 191 Rep 236
Senate: Dem 47 Rep 51
A New Anglo-American World
Trump in America and Brexit Britain in Europe — the transatlantic
Nylon axis has taken a turn for better or worse, but certainly a
turn. The currently liberal world order will become more illiberal.
The borders of the AA nations will become less porous and
self-interest will take the lead as tie breaker and deal breaker.
Globalization will continue but politicians will learn to
champion it less naively than before. Big corporations will continue
to go their own way, but they will more often have to fight for
their transnational privileges. Markets will be sliced and diced
with new political restrictions, and consumers will face more
Geopolitically, expect harder regional
profiles, with the European Union holding back from the new mood in
the AA world and European nationalists confronting EU liberal
pieties more aggressively. China will find America a more awkward
bilateral trading partner and a more assertive regional military
opponent. NATO will struggle to keep the attention of Americans
focused on Europe, and Russia will be tempted to ramp up border
The wider lesson to draw here is that communities
sharing a native language develop a deeper cohesion than communities
based on the more superficial ties of shared interest or prudential
calculation. Londoners feel closer to New York than to Brussels.
Philosophers will see this as a confirmation of the felt importance
of the folkish community as described by Martin Heidegger.
the short term we can expect a bumpy ride. Americans will retreat
faster from their Globocop role and Europeans will build up their
union independently of the breakaway province across the Channel. We
are witnessing the breakup of the world order established after
World War II.
The United States has elected its own
Silvio Berlusconi — or Benito Mussolini. Donald Trump is the
narcissist who basks in the adulation of his mostly white male
followers. Members of the elite did not reckon on their anger and
Trump says out loud all those things white people have
been thinking but were told by teachers and the media they should
never express. A lot of them like his tantrums and vows of revenge.
Trump is the American id, untroubled by reason or reality.
Congress will have to keep Trump from declaring war in a fit of
pique or trying to dismantle parts of government. And staff around
him will have to keep him from insulting foreign leaders or behaving
like a toddler. His voters want someone who will come in and drain
the swamp or burn the place down. They may get their wish.
Trump is currently involved in 75 legal cases. Some he instigated,
some have been brought by former employees, some involve civil
charges of fraud. A Trump presidency is terrible for America and
terrible for the world, but it will be great for satire.
Andrew Sullivan, May 1, 2016
Plato said the longer a
democracy lasted, the more democratic it would become. Deference to
authority would wither, tolerance of inequality would wane, and
multiculturalism and sexual freedom would run riot. This freedom is
The rich come under attack, patriarchy is
dismantled, and family hierarchies are inverted. Students mock their
teachers, animals are regarded as equal to humans, and the foreigner
is equal to the citizen. Then a future tyrant will seize his moment.
He makes his move by taking over a mob and attacking his wealthy
peers as corrupt. Soon his enemies are forced either to appease him
or to flee as he promises to cut through the paralysis and take them
on. The people thrill to him.
Donald Trump fits the platonic
template. He is the true messiah of conservative populism, but he is
not just a wacky politician. In terms of our liberal democracy and
constitutional order, Trump is an Extinction Level Event.
AR Whoa — steady on, Sullivan!
"Democracy, freedom, respect for the law and
for human dignity, regardless of ancestry, skin color, religion,
gender, sexual orientation or political leanings. On the basis of
these values, I offer the future president of the United States of
America, Donald Trump, close cooperation."
"Trump is a warning to us as well. He is the
harbinger of a new authoritarian and chauvinistic international
German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel
his campaign, Trump was critical not just of Europe, but also of
Germany. I believe we must prepare for American foreign policy
becoming less predictable. We must prepare for a situation in which
America will be tempted to make decisions on its own more often."
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
to prepare for the fact that it must provide for itself."
defense minister Ursula von der Leyen
27 years ago today: Berlin wall breached
78 years ago today:
a major movie.
Sir Tim Is Back
University of Oxford
Sir Tim Berners-Lee joins
University of Oxford
Department of Computer
Professor Mike Wooldridge:
changed our world as profoundly
as Tim did
with his invention
of the World Wide Web.
We are delighted and
honoured to welcome
Tim back to
Bonfire of the Sanities
The Monarch of the
— yours for £10 million
At the Spectator's
Parliamentarian of the Year
awards, Boris Johnson promised
to make a "titanic success"
Unwort des Jahres
Reality Is Not
What It Seems
Carlo Rovelli is a true heir to the
legacy of the Renaissance man.
His exposition of loop quantum
gravity is authoritative and,
I am pleased to say,
intelligible, so far
as it goes.
The property on this peninsula
(just minutes away from me)
is valued at about £1 billion
2016 November 8
The Closing of the Liberal Mind
A liberal order that seemed dominant after the
end of the cold war is fading. The folly of the masses has replaced
the wisdom of crowds as the liberal obsession. Liberals see the task
at hand as securing the survival of their way of life.
Liberal societies have a future only if the protective role of the
state is firmly reasserted. Rolling back the state can have the
effect of leaving people less free. Liberals still say globalization
is producing a worldwide middle class that is demanding political
There is no detectable connection between advancing
globalization and the spread of liberal values. Liberals resist this
because their liberalism is a surrogate religion, providing the
meaning of history. But human rights cannot serve as a template for
Liberals talk about reason versus an emotional
rejection of experts. Yet much of what has passed for expert
knowledge consists of speculative or discredited theories. Voters
are ignoring the intellectual detritus that has guided their leaders
and are responding instead to facts and their own experiences.
A post-liberal society is one in which freedom and toleration
are protected under the shelter of a strong state. In economic
terms, this entails discarding the notion that the primary purpose
of government is to advance globalization. In future, governments
will succeed or fail by how well they can deliver prosperity while
managing the social disruption that globalization produces.
Liberals find themselves powerless spectators of events. They still
want more idealism and still want to renew the liberal projects of
the past. All they have left is fear of the future.
AR A strong state must follow a guiding
vision, or it falls into autocracy. The only vision that excites me
is that of a future global polity. I revelate that the increasing
role of technology — and the big corporations that drive it — will
reconfigure history as the launch ramp for the emergence of a global
organism embracing all life on Earth.
In this view, nation
states are unstable dominoes in the way of big corporations. The
only polities strong enough to prevail are federal superstates, a
group of which can govern the planet. A sovereign parliament of
gentleman amateurs in Westminster can only complicate the
construction of a less liberal United States of Europe.
A few decades from now, nearly all vehicles
will be self-driving. Taxi bots owned by companies like Uber and
Google will largely eliminate the need for private car ownership.
This will result in fewer cars on the road, fewer traffic jams, and
fewer accidents. Without armor, cars will be lighter and smaller.
Travelers will have to spend less. The built
environment will improve as road signs are eliminated and parking
spaces become green spaces. Switching to full vehicle autonomy could
save the US economy $1.3 trillion a year.
A legal issue may
slow widespread adoption. The driver of an autonomous car is its
computer, so the insurance will be carried by the car manufacturer
or by the software developer. Tort law is likely to be as challenged
by the advent of robot cars as the car industry itself.
Autonomous vehicles are potentially killer robots. They will be
programmed to execute a predetermined calculus that puts a value on
the living creatures that come into their path. Someone will have to
write the code to set these limits, and no one knows what they will
The winners in the decades ahead will be those who own
the robots. Companies like Uber and Google are poised to control the
national fleet of robocars. US lawmakers are using their plans to
block investment in mass transit.
The software driving
robocars will be ripe for hacking and sabotage. Autonomous vehicles,
with their cameras and sensors, could become robotic spies. The FBI
and IRS will gain.
AR Time to
rethink cars and roads.
2016 November 7
Democracy is other people. The ignorance of
the many has long galled the intellectuals. But preselection of
voters faces objections:
screening might be biased in a way that is hard to identify or
2 Universal suffrage is
deeply established in our minds as a default.
is more important than hurt feelings. It
is right to limit the political power that the irrational, the
ignorant, and the incompetent have over others. A proposal: extra
votes for degree holders, a council of meritocrats with veto power,
and a qualifying exam for voters.
Set a test for a license to vote. Give star performers bonus
2016 November 6
The ruling by the high court is a glimmer
of hope. If there is a debate in parliament on it, if the vote is
free, and if MPs vote according to their beliefs about what is best
for the UK, the madness of Brexit can be stopped.
referendum is not an election. Briefing paper 07212 sent to MPs on 3
June 2015 made it clear that the referendum was advisory and
consultative only, that neither the government nor parliament was
bound by it, and that in matters of major constitutional import a
simple plurality of the vote is insufficient.
A majority of
UK citizens (counting 16-17 year olds, expats, and Bregreters) now
wishes to remain. MPs will have the country on their side in doing
what most of them know is right.
Good old Grayling — refusing to drink the
Let Parliament Vote
Article 50 states that any member state
may decide to withdraw from the EU in accordance with its own
constitutional requirements. A member of the EU that has decided to
leave must notify the European Council of this intention.
Notification is secondary to a constitutionally sound decision to
trigger Article 50.
Technically, the referendum was advisory.
For it to have constitutional force, it will require a parliamentary
vote. Failure to go through due process would leave the government
exposed to the risk of a range of legal challenges.
court ruled that parliament is sovereign. This removes a potential
obstacle to Brexit. A parliamentary vote is also constitutionally
and legally necessary in order to enact it.
was about Brexit, not about bulldozing UK democracy. No one voted to
neuter UK democracy. The prime minister should let parliament vote
on the broad terms of Brexit.
Germans in Britain
About 300,000 Germans are among the migrants
in the UK. For many who settled in Britain long before the campaign
to leave the EU gathered steam, the result of the vote feels like a
personal slight against Europeans.
"Jewish relatives of mine fled to the UK to escape the Nazis. I came
to the UK for the first time in 1965 and at that time it was to me
the land of hope and glory. But a lot has changed since then."
Gisela Stuart MP was a leading campaigner for Brexit. Her own
status as a European immigrant has since made her a target. She says
she has been called a traitor by EU supporters: "I never received
abuse in the United Kingdom for being German, but I now receive it
Many Germans who have come to Britain in the
last 20 years are highly skilled. More than 5,000 teach and research
at British universities, and another 3,000 work as doctors and
medical staff in the NHS.
Michaela Frye is a senior
researcher at the department of genetics at the University of
Cambridge. She has lived in the UK for 15 years and her son attends
an independent British school. Neighbours are asking when they will
leave. She says: "I feel European. That's what all my work is about.
And now what? Get lost?"
Will 300,000 Germans remain in the
UK in 2019?
AR Will I?
2016 November 5 — Bonfire Night
Andrew Norton: "The voices of the people who will be hit hardest by
the devastating impacts of climate change need to be heard."
Asad Rehman: "The Paris agreement is a major step in the right
direction, but it falls a long way short of the giant leap needed to
tackle climate change."
to crack down on emission offenders.
Anarchy in the UK
The Daily Mail front page of three High Court judges pictured
above the headline ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE looked like a wanted
Here was a major British newspaper — echoed by The
Daily Telegraph and Daily Express — suggesting an independent
judiciary, indeed the rule of law itself, are tiresome impediments.
There was no explanation that a legal ruling saying parliament must
vote on Article 50 was unlikely to halt Brexit. Or that scrutiny of
EU departure terms might be wise.
A Mail columnist warned of
huge public anger and predicted riots in the street. Think Erdogan,
Putin, Trump — the birth of a dictator.
AR Time for a military coup to crack down on the press? If
the High Court judges object, we can call them enemies of the
2016 November 4
Guest speaker: Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne TD MP
Lodge of Amity, Poole
Desmond gave the ruling a good thrashing.
The High Court Ruling
The UK government intends to appeal.
But it can have little confidence about the outcome and will be
drafting a Bill in readiness. That Bill would have to pass both the
Commons and the Lords.
The Commons is unlikely to reject the
Bill but it may impose conditions on triggering Article 50.
Procedural conditions may require government to present its
negotiating strategy to parliament in advance, regularly report to
parliament on the progress of negotiations, and give parliament the
final say over the outcome. Substantive conditions may
include setting negotiating priorities.
If the House of
Commons does not impose conditions, the House of Lords probably
will. But all this will take time. Theresa May is unlikely to
trigger Article 50 in 2017 Q1.
AR May had hoped to by-pass
the parliamentary combustion chamber.
EU Referendum Voting Intention
October poll: "How would you vote if ..."
Remain 45%, Leave 43%, Don't know/Prefer not to say 12%
DKPNTS: Remain 51%, Leave 49%
Within the margin of error for a small poll
2016 November 3
Brexit Court Defeat for UK Government
BBC, 1300 GMT
Parliament must vote on whether the UK can
start the process of leaving the EU, the High Court has ruled. So
the government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on its
AR To my great relief — may
"The insistence of the EU that free movement must
mean common entitlement to benefits is barking mad."
AR 1 This is a
splendid usage of the phrase "barking mad" so common among
parliamentarians, but not a benign one. Surely the principle that
all men are equal under the law applies here. We need not go as far
as John Rawls in making a virtue of blindness in our formulation of
the social contract to insist that differences of nationality within
a club of civilised nations should not be accepted as a marker of
discrimination between people.
As a British citizen in
Germany I both expected and received substantially the same
treatment from national and local officials as if I were a native
German, on the principle that national borders within a civilised
polity are artificial hindrances to the free traffic of free
citizens going about their lawful business. If British officials now
seek to behave otherwise, it will be a shameful regression to the
sort of police state mentality that we rightly condemn in other
parts of the world.
Nuanced treatment of migrants is entirely
possible within a legal framework that treats all men and women
equally in principle. If migrants must have paid into the system for
some years before being entitled to benefits, then we can demand the
same of native Britons. If we seek to privilege native youngsters in
the higher education market then we can factor in the parentage of
students, and so on. All this is not beyond the wit of lawyers.
Postwar Germans have a saying: "Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger" —
free travel for free citizens. In a country whose citizens include
numerous former refugees and whose history records too many outrages
against foreigners, an excess of concern for freedom may be excused.
But let us not make Britain the butt of invidious comparisons for
philosophers and historians into the far future. In seeking to
privilege holders of British nationality over citizens of similar
nations, we insult our neighbours and demean ourselves.
AR 2 About half of net immigration into
the UK is from outside the EU. Since we face no legal barrier to
throttling that half of the flow yet have failed for many years to
do so, what assurance do we have that removing the legal barrier to
throttling the EU half of the flow will in fact succeed in doing so?
Are we not rather in the position of the proverbial drunk who looks
for his lost house keys under the street lamp on the principle that
only there is he in a position to see them?
We appear to be
intent on making a theatrical show of throttling EU migration in an
attempt to persuade the electorate that we are doing something,
however futile and self-defeating, to reduce numbers that seem too
big, without anyone having any real clue as to how many people the
UK can reasonably absorb and whether the newcomers will bring us a
net benefit or not, despite our fears for the carrying capacity of
I would suggest that we do better to appoint a
parliamentary committee to look more carefully into these questions
and to ask whether the obvious damage Brexit will do to civil
relations with our closest neighbours can be outweighed by the
apparent easing on our social services, housing stock, and sense of
national identity consequent upon any feasible diminution in net
Matthew Fisher proposes that the
nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms could carry qubits in the brain.
Fisher discovered an experiment from 1986 comparing the effects
of lithium 6 and lithium 7 in rat brains. One group of pregnant rats
was given Li 7, one group was given Li 6, and a third was the
control group. The mother rats on lithium-6 showed much stronger
maternal behavior toward their pups than the others.
suspected nuclear spin. The lower the spin, the less the nucleus
interacts with EM fields, and the less quickly it decoheres. The
lithium isotopes have different spins: Li 7 decoheres too quickly
for cognitive processing, while Li 6 can remain entangled longer.
This was a hint that quantum processes play a functional role in the
Phosphorus atoms have a spin of 1/2, low enough for
long coherence times. The time can be extended further if they are
bound in clusters of 9 calcium atoms and 6 phosphorous atoms as
Posner molecules. Fisher thinks these could carry qubits in the
Pyrophosphate is made of two phosphates bonded
together. The spin interaction between the spins of the phosphates
entangles them. They can pair up in four ways, one of which has a 0
In a living cell, enzymes break apart the
entangled phosphates into two free phosphate ions, which remain
entangled as they move apart, more quickly with the 0 state. These
ions can then combine in turn with other ions and atoms to form
Posner molecules. The clusters protect the entangled pairs so that
they can maintain coherence for long periods of time.
has applied for funding to investigate further.
AR Hmm — looks better than tubulin
dimers in microtubules.
2016 November 2
British prime minister Theresa May
wants the EU to have no say over British immigration policies. She thinks British voters have decided to turn their backs on Europe.
A pall of xenophobia has settled over the UK. May: "If you
believe you're a citizen of the world, you're a citizen of nowhere."
Moderate Conservatives feel excluded by this kind of rhetoric.
Parliamentarians who were in favor of remaining in the EU feel
silenced in the pro-Brexit party.
May knows how vulnerable
she is among the hardliners. She dare not seem to be trying to
thwart the will of the British people.
Former Chancellor of
the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke: "Theresa May is in the biggest
political shambles the Conservative Party has found itself in for
AR Citizens of the world
2016 November 1
One person, one car — the vision that made the Ford
Motor Company one of the most successful enterprises in modern
history. Ford CEO Bill Ford: "Unless we figure out a very different
urban transportation model, it's not gonna work. If you think we're
gonna shove two cars in every garage in Mumbai, you're crazy."
FoMoCo is experimenting with remote-controlled cars
that use 4G networks, tech to help you find open parking spots, and
a system to let you control your Nest thermostat from your
dashboard. Ford: "By definition, most of them won't work. But the
bigger risk is doing nothing."
Ford wants his company to be
about moving people. He imagines you'll tell your phone where you
want to go, and whether you're looking to move quickly or cheaply.
It generates a single ticket that will take you through every step
of the appropriate route, a combination of car, taxi, subway, bus,
Although he worries about seeing the
FoMoCo reduced to the role of hardware subcontractor for more
innovative companies, "I am very confident that we can compete and
morph into something quite different."
AR Cars will evolve into robopackaging
AR These results show the strength of the popular mandate
for the UK government to pursue its present Brexit policy.
I see no
strength at all. If the government commits Brexit anyway, it will be
a free and sovereign act of the executive,
for which it will bear
the full and sole responsibility — for better or worse — who can
World's largest marine park
created in Ross Sea
The Prophet of
My review of
and Homo Deus
PDF (10 pages)
Professor Emerita Dr. V.
2016 October 31
A Clinton victory is very unlikely to
include Democratic control of the House of Representatives. The next
president will take office commanding a minimal majority in the
Senate and with the House still controlled by the Republican party.
The root cause of Trumpian rage is not economic. Exit polls of
nearly 100,000 Trump voters in the primaries produced a median
household income of $72,000, about $20,000 higher than the national
median. Under pressure from undersupply of skilled labor, real wages
are going up, not down.
The Obama presidency reversed what
to alienated whites was the natural order of things. When Birther
Trump came along, giving disgraceful credence to racist fantasy,
conspiracy mutterings went mainstream. What Trump supporters
celebrate as the repudiation of political correctness is really the
permission their leader has given them to vocalize the happy rush of
The cult of the pure national tribe is back with a
vengeance. America was built on the honor of immigration, but the
cultural civil war will not go away with a Clinton presidency.
2016 October 30
Red White Blues
Across the United States, red states are
poorer and have more teen mothers, more divorce, worse health, more
obesity, more trauma-related deaths, more low-birth-weight babies,
and lower school enrollment. On average, people in red states die
five years earlier than people in blue states. The more conservative
you are, the worse off you are likely to be and the sooner you are
likely to die.
This stratum of white Americans has
consistently voted against its own interests. They find themselves
reviled for their Christian morality and traditional values.
Economic despair is the central motivation behind their rage.
Donald Trump has emphasized the core elements of this deep
story. Their suffering is not merely a personal or demographic
crisis but a national tragedy. It threatens to capsize the entire
2016 October 29
Macht endlich Schluss mit der
Die ständige Verdreherei der Zeiger
ist ein Produkt längst vergangener Zeiten. Es bringt nichts.
Schluss mit der Umstellerei!
2016 October 28
Guillermo Ballesteros and colleagues claim
to sort dark matter, neutrino oscillations, baryogenesis, inflation,
and the strong CP problem — all at once.
SMASH builds on the
neutrino minimal standard model (nuMSM), an extension of the
standard model adding 3 right-handed neutrinos, introduced by
Takehiko Asaka and Mikhail Shaposhnikov in 2005. SMASH adds a new
field to include the axion (for dark matter) and the inflaton (for
As a final flourish, SMASH solves the strong CP
problem, to say why there is more matter than antimatter in the
Peter E. Gordon
Kierkegaard is widely considered the most
important religious thinker of the modern age. He thought a
reconciliation between religion and secular reason is impossible.
Faith alone distinguishes the authentic individual, and faith is a
leap into paradox.
Kierkegaard was a moralizing Lutheran. He
argued that when faith and humanity conflict, faith supervenes. For
him, there is a chasm between God and humanity, between the
individual and the collective.
He despised Hegel, whose
dialectic traced the emergence of constitutional government and the
perfection of a society in which no individual remains unfree. For
Hegel, in a modern society rationality is something shared by all
individuals. In a rational world the individual no longer feels any
contradiction between subjective interest and the public good.
Many students of theology looked to Hegel as a guide for
understanding the social and historical character of religion. Some
of them concluded that religion was a human creation. Kierkegaard
regarded the sociality of reason as a kind of totalitarianism.
AR My verdict: win for Hegel — the
totalitarianism of reason dissolves in science, and the paradox of
faith is analogous to the paradoxes of set theory (see my book
2016 October 27
A dangerous strain of totalitarian thinking
rejects and subordinates all universal norms and values to a single
violent dogma. The transnational ideology gives its followers
certainty and justifies violence. Their war is for hearts and minds
in a sustained battle of ideas.
This is not a war with Islam.
But if people are brought up to dislike Jews or consider millions of
Muslims to be apostates, that prejudice allows extremism to grow.
Unless we counter religious prejudice within Muslim communities,
extremists will use this bias to gain a foothold.
in Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, and India believe that politics,
government, and religion should all be separate. Two thirds of
people across the globe agree with them. Prejudice against Jews,
minorities, women, and any who disagree with radicals is a problem.
Muslim voices are the most effective at dismantling and
countering extremism. Their efforts must be supported by all of us.
This is a fight against a perversion of Islam.
The Terminator Conundrum
The New York Times
The Pentagon has put artificial
intelligence at the center of its strategy to maintain the US
position as the world's dominant military power. It is spending
billions of dollars to develop autonomous and semiautonomous weapons
and to build an arsenal stocked with such weaponry.
officials say the weapons are needed for the United States to
maintain its military edge. At the core of the strategy is centaur
warfighting — emphasizing human control and autonomous weapons as
ways to augment and magnify the efforts of soldiers, pilots and
sailors, not replace them.
American officials are only just
beginning to contend with the implications of weapons that could
someday operate independently, beyond the control of their
developers. Inside the Pentagon, the quandary is known as the
2016 October 26
Folklore in the Digital Age
From the Foreword by
Folkloristics is the study of
folklore using approaches and insights from science and the
humanities. Folklore expresses a people's culture and heritage, and
so helps to define our ethnic and cultural identities.
Professor Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska, the author of the essays in
this book, has enjoyed a long and successful career as a folklorist.
She has worked with various folklore resources, most of them
narrative genres, transmitted orally and locally, but also in
printed and pictorial form. More recently she has expanded her
resource base to include online folklore.
Online and digital
cultures are both driving and following a process of globalisation.
Global multimedia culture not only endangers traditional folklore
but also creates new folklore, often in surprising ways. The
miscellany of themes that the author touches upon in this book amply
illustrate the range of modern folklore studies. ...
Lodz University Press / Jagiellonian University Press 2016
AR I also co-authored
Europe has no big internet companies.
Sweden has Spotify, the UK has Asos, and Germany Zalando and Rocket
Internet, but none is a Google or an Amazon. The three top listed US
internet companies are valued at $1.3 trillion, the top in Europe
only $20 billion.
The internet giant technology creates
unicorns and then the giants eat them. The lions at the top of the
food chain are the likes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Even
the unicorns are mostly US: of 176 unicorns globally, 101 are in the
US and 19 in Europe.
The internet is an almost wholly US
environment, and most of its money flows back to the US. VC money
and the size of the domestic market are factors. Europe is big but
its laws, languages, even mains plugs are different. The US is
global in one country.
corporations will divide and conquer national polities. Politics as
we know it will become as irrelevant as the Vatican in the new world
of big tech.
2016 October 24
cited for Brexit is that the UK parliament will once again become
absolutely sovereign. No longer will it be subject to laws dictated
by unelected overseas officials. The argument is buttressed by the
assurance that any bad laws imposed by a UK government can be
rescinded following a general election that throws out the
scoundrels responsible for those laws.
But there are at least
five grounds for considering the cited argument to be either naive
national sovereignty is an illusion in a networked and globalized
2 The absolute sovereignty
desired by many MPs need not be good for UK voters
3 The checks and balances on a sovereign
UK parliament are inadequate
electoral system in the UK is less democratic than it might seem
5 British people deserve something
better than a sovereign polity
PDF, 2 pages
2016 October 22
General Sir Richard Shirreff
Since the formation of NATO
in 1949, the defense of Europe and the free world has depended on
the absolute certainty that the United States will come to the aid
of a NATO member if attacked.
president Vladimir Putin aims to re-establish Russia as one of the
global great powers and to dominate the former republics of the
Soviet Union. But if Russia puts one soldier across the borders of
the Baltic states it means war with NATO.
nuclear weapons into every aspect of its military doctrine. Any form
of nuclear release by the Russians would almost certainly
precipitate nuclear retaliation by the United States, MAD, and the
end of life as we know it.
Requirements for peace in
● Forward basing of a
credible military capability in the Baltic states and eastern Poland
Regenerating the military capabilities of Canada and European
members of NATO
Some British people admire Vladimir Putin for
his decisiveness and social conservatism. While the West flounders,
Putin acts. But I am not a member of his fan club. He strikes me as
amoral and ruthless and belligerent. Yet we provoke and provoke, we
distort the facts in order to suit our agenda, we vilify Putin and
his country in a belligerent manner.
I hope that Putin's belligerence is just an act. But it may be a
misplaced hope. You cannot divest a country of its empire, its
political system, its industry, its money, and its prestige in a few
years and not expect some sort of rebound. It was a missed
opportunity twenty years ago not to have love-bombed Russia and
invited it to join NATO.
General relativity and quantum mechanics
could not be more different from each other. Physicists seek to
unite them in a theory of quantum gravity that describes reality at
the Planck scale. It is a daunting task that was the undoing of both
Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger. The two men spent the last
years of their working lives trying to solve this problem, but
failed to make any headway. Carlo Rovelli likes loop quantum
gravity. Most physicists prefer string theory.
AR I like
loop quantum gravity too. I really like the theory of
dynamical triangulation. String theory helps itself to too much
Norwegian Royal Air Force
Russian nuclear battlecruiser Peter the Great and
aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov head for the English
The Age of Em
AR An em is an AI emulation
made by scanning your brain.
It lives in a simulated reality.
Hanson imagines the rapture
for geeks. Not for me.
FUK — EU
rock in a hard place
Light blue: EEA
Royal blue: EU
AR I'm blue
2016 October 21
Decline of the West
Javier Solana, Strobe Talbott
The transatlantic community
has set a global example for regional cooperation. That achievement
is now in jeopardy as the European Union faces an existential crisis
and the United States sours on trade agreements with Europe and
The EU has been at the vanguard of
globalization. But the financial crisis
exposed structural flaws. The EZ imposed a common
monetary policy and a fixed exchange rate, but without fiscal
integration, which hobbled its response to sovereign debt
crises and caused unemployment.
The last year has seen one
catastrophe after another. A rash of terrorist attacks has
heightened security concerns, the UK decision to leave the EU has
raised fears of contagion, and an influx of migrants and refugees
from the Mideast and Africa has placed burdens on member states.
The US election campaign has revealed a similar malaise. Many
Americans are pessimistic about the future and nostalgic for a
seemingly better past. As in Europe, there is mistrust of elites and
experts, and enthusiasm for populists.
This backlash brings
threats of protectionism, isolationism, nativism, and xenophobia.
NATO needs beefing up to help prevent the political disintegration
of Europe. Western governments
must work to cement a new public consensus for globalization.
May in Brussels
Theresa May made a short presentation on Brexit
that ran for about five minutes.
Angela Merkel: "Basically it
was a repetition of what we have heard so far. Nevertheless, it was
important for us to have it repeated in that format. As far as the
practical terms are concerned, it is going to be rough going. It
will not be that easy."
François Hollande: "I say very
firmly: if Mrs May wants a hard Brexit she will get a hard
Donald Tusk: "We have to expect the dual
reality from now on. It is a fact of life and we have to live with
it. It is not our decision, it is not our choice. I would prefer 28
member states, not only for the next months but for the next
AR Brexit is an
act of national pride. But pride comes before a fall.
2016 October 20
Some 4 Gy from now, the Milky Way will
collide with Andromeda to form one big Milkomeda galaxy.
Alignments of satellite galaxies, globular clusters, and trailing
streams of stars suggest that the Milky Way and Andromeda interacted
in the past. Simulations suggest that galaxies are surrounded by a
halo of dark matter. Parts of the halo fragment to form a population
of dwarf galaxies scattered around the parent galaxy. The dwarf
satellites and other halo objects around the Milky Way and Andromeda
form polar disks that are aligned as if the two galaxies had
interacted in the past.
Simulations of this process do not
yet work as intended and theorists are struggling.
The ExoMars Mission
The joint European-Russian ExoMars Trace Gas
Orbiter is now in orbit around Mars. It will sniff the atmosphere in
search of life and is the science package.
lander was a technology tester. In a planned 360 s descent from
orbit, contact was lost in the last 50 s. The lander jettisoned its
parachute about 30 s early and its retrorockets switched on for 3—4
seconds rather than a planned 30 s. Transmissions continued for a
further 19 s.
AR Win one, lose
2016 October 19
In science fiction, what you hear about is
generalized AI. Specialized AI is about using algorithms and
computers to figure out increasingly complex tasks. If properly
harnessed, specialized AI can generate enormous prosperity and
The government should add a relatively light
touch. But our general commitment as a society to basic research has
diminished. The analogy that we still use when it comes to a great
technology achievement, even 50 years later, is a moon shot.
I am still a big space guy — I was a sucker for Star Trek when I was
a kid. It was really talking about a notion of a common humanity and
a confidence in our ability to solve problems. That is what I love
most about America.
2016 October 18
For Brexiteers, the UK is a great country
and the EU is a disaster, and the UK
needs the EU far less than vice versa so Europeans will give Britain
a great deal. For Remainers, the
threat in Brussels to back Brexit unless the UK got a better deal
for Britain was not blackmail but a demand for
concessions, as if UK membership is a favor granted by the UK to the
Brits were unable to accept the most powerful argument
for the European pooling of sovereignty: Today Europeans make up 8%
of the world population but we will only represent 5% in 2050. By
then no single EU country will be among the global top economies. The
case for European integration rests on a recognition of diminishing
This insight remains a national taboo in
Britain. Fortress UK isolation will not be splendid.
Potholes and daily gridlock — the state of UK roads is a
Nine out of ten journeys in Britain are
made by road, but roads get less than half of government transport
spending. Road traffic is rising but spending on road maintenance is
falling. We all suffer.
Motorists are a cash cow for the
Treasury. Receipts from fuel duty and vehicle excise duty brought in
£33 billion in 2014, yet only about £9 billion of that went back to
roads. This is highway robbery.
The future of roads is the
topic for the
2017 Wolfson Economics Prize.
AR British roads — grrrr!
2016 October 17
Venus has a surface hot enough to melt lead
and skies darkened by toxic clouds of sulphuric acid. But conditions
on the planet were not always so hellish.
study to be
presented at the
AAS DPS 48
/ EPSC 11 meeting in Pasadena this week suggests that starting about
3 billion years ago and persisting for over 2 billion years Venus may have had a
balmy climate and oceans up to 2 km deep.
climate simulations suggest that 2.9 Gy ago Venus had an average
surface temperature of 284 K (11°C) and still only 288 K
(15°C) 2.2 Gy later as insolation increased.
team lead Michael Way: "At a low latitude and low elevation the
surface temperatures would not have been that different from that of
a place in the tropics on Earth [but] you would have mostly overcast
skies during the day and precipitation."
JAXA Venus Climate Orbiter mission worker Professor Takehiko
Satoh: "Probably Venus once had an ocean and probably the
environment of Venus and the Earth might have been similar."
Venus now has a CO2 atmosphere at a pressure of 9 MPa and an average
surface temperature of 735 K, thanks to a runaway greenhouse effect.
AR Earth could be next — time to go
The UK government is looking at a hard
Brexit. The EU will make it harder.
The EU will send a signal
to other Europeans who may be tempted to leave the EU. Insisting on
an Article 50 exit forces a decision — in or out. After that free
decision, Britain must accept the consequences.
partners will suffer from decimated trade. But bowing to UK demands
would be worse: If other member states could pick cherries too, the
EU would fall apart.
Then the UK would get a very hard
Britain could continue to pay billions to
the EU after Brexit to maintain passporting rights for the City of London in Europe. Also, after Brexit, the UK will face a divorce
bill from the EU for up to €20 billion. The ONS
says the average annual net UK contribution to the EU from
2010 to 2014 was £7.1 billion.
Brexit has made a sterling crisis far more likely because it has
An adverse supply side shock. The reduction in trade and openness
caused by Brexit is likely to reduce UK productivity and output in
the long term.
An adverse demand side shock. Economic uncertainty and delayed
corporate investment may reduce GDP in the near term.
A rise in the risk premium required to hold sterling. The medium
term equilibrium for the exchange rate is down, UK interest rates
are down, and investors deem sterling more risky.
sterling weak, easing fiscal and monetary policy may be a mistake.
World trade no longer consists of finished
goods bartered for raw materials. Global value chains have led to
huge growth in the trade of intermediate and capital goods. Any
manufacturing exports today contain a big chunk of value added
abroad. Low domestic value added in UK manufacturing means sterling
depreciation will hurt exporters as well as help them.
Services make up 45% of UK exports, but demand for services is less
sensitive to price than goods, as service providers compete on
quality, not price. So the UK will benefit less from devaluation
than any other G7 economy and may struggle to offset a loss of
Single Market access.
Irish Fear Hard Brexit
Irish leaders warn of economic disaster on
both sides of the border without decisive action to confront the
effects of Brexit. Incalculable consequences for the Irish Republic
and Northern Ireland involve border questions and Irish beef exports
to the UK. Some forecasters fear that Ireland could be harder hit
than Britain by the tumult.
Scots Want Soft Brexit
SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson says a second independence
referendum will be taken off the table if the UK government secures
a soft Brexit.
2016 October 16
Britain After Brexit
The vote for Brexit was a popular revolt.
We are sailing into uncharted territory.
Prime minister Theresa May wants to begin divorce proceedings in
2017 Q1, putting the UK on course to exit the EU in 2019. Her
government is trying to figure out the parameters for a new deal
with Europe. Three scenarios:
1 An amicable divorce: All
parties make rational choices. The UK obtains some control over EU
immigration and continues to access the single market as long as it
complies with EU regulations.
2 A quickie divorce: Britain
rejects post-exit deals with the EU. Tariffs are imposed on UK
manufacturing exports and the UK economy specialises in
services and lose manufacturing.
3 A hostile divorce:
Negotiations between the UK and EU become acrimonious and the
negotiations prove fiendishly complex. Financial markets are spooked
and the UK slips into recession.
Brexit offers an opportunity
to redefine our role in a new world.
UK Will Lose, EU Will Win
Theresa May is heading for a political fight
she cannot win.
The EU will yield nothing.
The pound has dropped by 14% against the dollar. Nothing has
happened on British talks
with the EU. No one will talk to us until the
government triggers Article 50.
The "all over by Christmas"
view of Brexit negotiations is fantasy. When talks begin, Britain
will be negotiating with an economic giant. In 2015, UK GDP was $2.8
trillion and EU GDP $16.2 trillion. About 44% of UK exports go to
the EU but 16% of EU exports to the UK.
Donald Tusk: "Our
task will be to protect the interests of the EU as a whole, to stick
unconditionally to the Treaty rules and fundamental values. By this
I mean, inter alia, the conditions for access to the single market
with all four freedoms. There will be no compromise in this regard."
Theresa May is heading for disaster.
Leavers said "take back control" to
return parliamentary sovereignty to
Westminster. Now the UK executive aims to seize control by imposing
hard Brexit upon the British people and parliament.
The prime minister says there will be no votes on
the timing of the triggering of Article 50, on the terms for
entering negotiations, or on the final terms of Brexit. The Great
Repeal Bill will leave 40 years of legislation vulnerable to change
There is a mandate for Brexit but not for the
final settlement. The people voted to take back control, not to face
decline and fall. Leadership is not about bulldozing UK
want a vote on the terms.
Andromeda and part of the Milky
Way, seen from California
Yuval Noah Harari
History began when humans
invented gods, and
when humans become gods
The Prophet of
My review of
and Homo Deus
PDF (10 pages)
Pound hits $1.22
on Brexit worries
Can't afford it.
Let Them In
Vote Leave campaign director
Dominic Cummings says
May must drop her
pledge to reduce net migration
to the tens
of thousands and
give skilled workers the right
to come to
Britain. He says
the public are only really
concerned by too
AR Free movement
for EU workers!
Live on Mars in 2027:
The people we send
are going for the rest
of their lives.
"The words my husband
used are unacceptable
and offensive to
"I'd like to punch
him in the face."
Robert De Niro
Need Not Apply
Leading foreign academics
acting as expert advisers to
the UK government have
told they will not be asked to
contribute to any
work and analysis on Brexit
because they are not
AR Seriously? Is it OK if
2016 October 15
Yuval Noah Harari says a new religion is
emerging to reflect the shift that is occurring in our sense of
ourselves. Dataism combines the view that organisms are biochemical
algorithms and the theory of artificial intelligence to produces a
single overarching theory that unifies all the scientific
disciplines. But it is hard to envision Dataism having an influence
anywhere near comparable with that of traditional religions.
Whereas Dataists believe that humankind is obsolete, the
techno-humanists think that technology can be used to fashion a
superior human model. Techno-humanists have different ideas about
what constitutes a superior species, and there is nothing to suggest
this process will end in a godlike being that is supreme over all
the rest. Any realistically imaginable post-human future will be a
continuation of human history by other means.
legacy of monotheistic religion is the belief that humankind is some
kind of universal subject, striving throughout history to realise
common ends. No such conception can be found in polytheistic faiths,
which see people as essentially disparate in their goals and values.
The idea that the human species could act as a conscious agent is a
relic of monotheism.
AR John and
I studied together at Oxford, though we were not friends. Now I
prefer my own review
of Harari's claims.
2016 October 14
Hard Brexit Or No Brexit
European Council president Donald Tusk: "The
only real alternative to a hard Brexit is no Brexit, even if today
hardly anyone believes in such a possibility ... The brutal truth is
that Brexit will be a loss for all of us. There will be no cakes on
the table, for anyone. There will be only salt and vinegar."
He said the best deal for the UK would be to remain in the EU.
AR Too many Brits voted for Boaty
McBoatface on June 23.
May Buries Thatcherism
Theresa May: "The central tenet of my belief
is that there is more to life than individualism and self-interest.
We form families, communities, towns, cities, counties, and nations.
We have a responsibility to one another. And I firmly believe that
government has a responsibility, too."
UK prosperity depends
heavily on the skills and knowledge of foreigners, as both workers
and investors. Given that the UK is far from the economic powerhouse
some imagine, this dependence will continue. It is vital that the
government does not curtail UK access to such global resources.
AR May — we need free movement.
Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mick
Posey: "As a Pop Culture professor I have to do a fist pump and say
YES! Dylan won a Nobel Prize in Lit!"
2016 October 13
Get Real, Brits
Why is the pound plunging against the
euro and not the other way around? Why do we not hear of companies
escaping from the EU to "free-trading Britain" while there is almost
a traffic jam in the other direction? Why do EU leaders look rather
relaxed when Brexit comes up?
Britain is losing
itself in delusional grandstanding, talking about itself to itself.
While 44% of British exports go to the EU single market, British
politicians have gone out of their way to undermine, disparage and
insult the parliaments and institutions that now hold so much power
The EU will defend its national and continental
interests with as much vigour as Britain will. And, since the EU is
more than seven times bigger, it will impose its will. Brexit will
mean what the EU decides it means.
Harte Linie gegenüber Briten
Die Präsidenten von zwei der größten
deutschen Wirtschaftsverbände, des DIHK und des ZDH, befürworten
eine harte Haltung der restlichen EU gegenüber Großbritannien. In
den anstehenden Brexit-Verhandlungen sollten die anderen 27
EU-Staaten London keinesfalls gestatten, die Zuwanderung aus der EU
zu begrenzen und trotzdem Zugang zum gemeinsamen Binnenmarkt zu
AR Richtig so: zusammenhalten.
2016 October 12
Human Settlement of Space
Later this week, US innovators will meet at the
White House Frontiers Conference to explore how US investments in
science and technology will help us settle space, the final
NASA has worked over the past 6 years to help
catalyze a vibrant new sector of the economy by enabling the
commercial transportation of cargo and soon crew from US soil to the
International Space Station. Americans are working at more than a
thousand companies to support commercial space initiatives and a new
commercial market in Low Earth Orbit.
Over the next decade,
NASA will demonstrate and test technologies in cislunar space. The
NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission will send a robotic spacecraft to a
nearby asteroid to test out exploration technologies, conduct
scientific and planetary defense experiments, and then return a
boulder from the asteroid to an orbit around the Moon for astronauts
NASA has asked the private sector how it might use
an available docking port on the ISS. A potential use of such a port
would be preparation for one or more future commercial stations in
LEO, ready to take over from the ISS once its mission ends. NASA
will provide companies with an opportunity to add their own modules
and other capabilities to the ISS.
The Journey to Mars will
be challenging — we are pushing the boundaries.
2016 October 11
The space race we won not only contributed
immeasurably important technological and medical advances, but it
also inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers with the
right stuff to keep America on the cutting edge.
We have set
a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space:
sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to
Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an
Nobel Prize in Economics 2016
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Sveriges Riksbank
Prize in Economic Sciences goes to Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström
for their contributions to contract theory.
Holmström demonstrated how a principal (e.g., a company's
shareholders) should design an optimal contract for an agent (the
company's CEO), whose action is partly unobserved by the principal.
His informativeness principle stated precisely how this contract
should link the agent's pay to performance-relevant information.
Hart made fundamental contributions to a theory that deals with
incomplete contracts. Because it is impossible for a contract to
specify every eventuality, this theory spells out optimal
allocations of control rights. His findings on incomplete contracts
have shed new light on the ownership and control of businesses.
There are social consequences to
executive rewards as well as corporate and investment consequences.
At a time of rising inequality and insecurity, the pay packages
handed to company CEOs are contributing to the anger and unrest that
played a role in both the disastrous Brexit vote and the rise of
Where Are the Aliens?
Enrico Fermi, 1950: "Where is
One solution to the Fermi paradox is that it is
not possible to run a world that has the power to destroy itself and
that needs global collaborative solutions to prevent that.
may be that the growth of science and engineering inevitably
outstrips the development of political expertise, leading to
disaster. We could be approaching that position.
AR Chilling but logical
2016 October 10
Pulling the Plug
CNN 1704 GMT
House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow
Republicans Monday he will no longer defend Donald Trump and will
instead use the next 29 days to focus on preserving the GOP hold on
Donald Trump will live to fight another day. It took
the nastiest, most bitterly personal presidential debate in recent
memory for the Republican nominee to stanch the downward plunge.
Hillary Clinton spoke of her years fighting Republicans on
policy but said she never questioned their fitness to serve as
president until now: "Donald Trump is different."
politics changed in the course of one nasty night. The once sacred
tradition of a presidential debate exploded into something quite
No other presidential candidate in history has
faced the personal buzzsaw that Trump represented on Sunday night.
Donald Trump stuck to his motto: "Never
explain. Never apologize."
US presidential democracy has
nosedived into an insult bazaar last seen in the 19th century. An
acutely polarised electorate has only become more divided.
Media observers may see a shameless male bully trying to intimidate
his female opponent. Trump fans see an outsider delivering home
truths to the consummate insider which no one else dare say.
By the truth standard, Trump was the clear loser.
2016 October 9
The Great Repeal
The proposed Great Repeal Act says nothing
about our future relationship with our EU neighbours. The European
Communities Act 1972 would need to be repealed anyway. The Great
Repeal Act does nothing until we leave the EU and merely places the
repeal in the hands of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister
can trigger Article 50, which already amounts to repeal of the 1972
Act. Once Article 50 is triggered, negotiations ensue, we agree
terms with our EU partners, our membership of the EU ceases, and MPs
repeal the European Communities Act as a final formality. But an
Article 50 challenge now in court argues that a Prime Minister
cannot repeal an Act of Parliament.
To deliver her Great
Repeal Act, Theresa May will have to persuade MPs to support it. The
House of Lords cannot withhold consent to a measure promised in an
election manifesto, but this Act was not promised, and Lords say it
would not pass. An MP could then table a motion to take back control
from an unelected Prime Minister and hold a referendum to choose
between the relationship we have with the EU and the deal the Three
Brexiteers end up proposing.
All sounds a bit dicy — the game is still undecided.
The Great Return
Mother Theresa went to Oxford as the daughter of a provincial
Anglo-Catholic clergyman. Yet she is more than a high church
Christian Democrat. Her conference speech did three things:
1 Aimed for hard Brexit in a clear
appeal to UKIP voters
Thatcherism in a bid for Labour voters
Promised a new industrial strategy
She fired off a barrage
against the "privileged few ... the rich, the successful and the
powerful ... the powerful and the privileged ... the rich and the
I warned that a vote for Brexit risked returning
the UK to the 1970s. I now fear this is what May has in mind — first
the industrial strategy, then the sterling crisis.
AR Promised everything to everyone —
something must fail.
2016 October 8
Earth 2, 3, ...
Astronomers did well to discover a planet
around the very nearest star to our sun. Proxima Centauri is 40 Pm
away, still far out of reach for human space travel. But Proxima
Centauri b orbits within the star's Goldilocks zone, where the
planet's surface might be just right for life, if the planet has an
atmosphere like ours.
now look for water vapor in the planet's atmosphere. We would like
to find oxygen, which is a sign of life, and ozone, which creates a
high atmospheric layer that protects the planet surface from UV
radiation. We will aim to make an inventory of other gases such as
carbon dioxide and methane, to help us understand the atmosphere.
Our descendants will wish to geoengineer their surroundings even
on Earth. On other planets they may first need to terraform the
atmosphere and surface. On a cold planet with a thin atmosphere,
they could reuse ideas developed for Mars.
They could deploy
a big mirror in orbit around the planet to beam starlight down to
warm its surface, melting ice caps of frozen carbon dioxide and
water. This would create a stable greenhouse atmosphere that builds
up the pressure to let liquid water exist. To get oxygen, they could
seed the planet with cyanobacteria.
I imagine a more
fantastic future. Future generations will surely develop
interstellar propulsion and terraforming technology. Our descendants
may also do away with human space travel, instead sending raw
materials and DNA to create humans on arrival, tailored to their
A team at
LAM in Marseilles believes planet Proxima
b, which was first spotted in August, could be an ocean planet. In
Astrophysical Journal Letters they calculate its
dimensions, discuss its surface, and say it may be covered by an
ocean 200 km deep.
Team lead Bastien Brugger: "Among the
thousands of exoplanets we have already discovered, Proxima b is one
of the best candidates to sustain life [and] is the closest exoplanet to Earth. It is
really exciting to have the possibility that there is life just at
the gates of our solar system."
Erstes Hitler Buch
Marc von Lüpke
Thomas Weber behauptet,
der spätere Diktator habe bereits 1923 ein Buch mit dem Titel "Adolf
Hitler: Sein Leben und seine Reden" verfasst. Als Autor verzeichnet
das Werk einen gewissen Baron Adolf-Viktor von Koerber. Weber fand
in Koerbers Nachlass Aussagen des angeblichen Buchautors, die Hitler
als Schreiber identifizieren.
Weber: "Bislang sahen wir
Hitler in diesem Zeitraum eher als eine Art Trommler, eine Art
Strohmann ... Dieses Buch beweist, dass Hitler schon sehr früh ein
geschickter Manipulator und politischer Strippenzieher gewesen ist
und nicht zunächst nur ein Propagandist, der von Hintermännern nach
oben bugsiert wurde."
Adolf-Viktor von Koerber, geboren 1891,
war ein Adliger und ehemaliger Kampfflieger. Zunächst zählte er zu
den frühen Anhängern Hitlers, wandelte sich aber vor 1933 zu einem Gegner des zunehmend radikaleren NSDAP-Chefs
und verbrachte das Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs im KZ.
Wie Adolf Hitler zum Nazi wurde
Hitlers Rolle im Ersten Weltkrieg sah ganz
anders aus als von seinen Biographen geschildert. Er war am
Kriegsende politisch absolut orientierungslos und kam in nur wenigen
Jahren vom unpolitischen Nobody zum Führer einer Bewegung, die die
Welt veränderte. Anhand neuer Quellenfunde beschreibe ich die
Schritte, die Hitler zum fanatischen Nazi machten.
Dancing in Rumi's Footsteps
Discover the wisdom of Sufism and liberate
Jalaluddin Rumi experienced the full flowering of
divinity in human form. He showed us how to touch the tender heart
of God. When we read his poems, our hearts thrill to his passionate
outpourings of love and devotion.
Rumi shows us how to birth
ourselves as divine.
Matthew at 03:13 GMT (05:13 CEST) Friday
"Arrogant. Nasty to Americans
when we were over there saving
them. Nasty when I visited them
years ago — wanted a
whole lot for nothing."
Speech to Conservative
Party Conference 2016
Nobelpriset i fysik 2016
AR Oy, what about
Comet 67P/Chu-Ger was
sniffed by ESA lander
Its coma blends H2S, NH3 and HCN, to recall the aroma of
rotten eggs, cat urine, and
Another Lost Decade?
Hammond has just admitted
Britons will soon get much
poorer. He has binned plans for
cutting spending and reducing
debt and has no replacement.
UK is jumping off a diving
board with no certainty
AR The UK future:
Splash or splat!
A country that works
2016 October 7
The two major US political parties are at
odds on climate.
If Hillary Clinton wins, she
will move forward with domestic clean energy policies and
international negotiation — a one-two punch that offers some hope of
reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into
If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style
in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax
perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will
become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but
There is no other issue this important.
German chancellor Angela Merkel won thunderous applause from
hundreds of German business leaders yesterday as she warned that
Britain could not retain full access to the EU single market unless
it allowed free movement of people.
French housing minister
Emmanuelle Cosse described as a catastrophe the British plan to
force companies to publish the number of foreign workers they
Italian deputy foreign minister Mario Giro warned
that UK political leaders were taking the tone of nationalist
parties in Hungary and Poland.
Doing a Brexit
The UK has decided to do a Brexit, I
believe even a hard Brexit. Well, then we must go all the way
through the UK's willingness to leave the EU. We have to have this
If not, we would jeopardise the fundamental
principles of the EU. Other countries would want to leave the EU to
get the supposed advantages without the obligations. There must be a
threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price. Otherwise we
will be in a negotiation that cannot end well.
Thatcher wanted to stay in Europe, but she wanted a cheque in
return. Now, the UK wants to leave and pay nothing. It's not
Taking a Pounding
The British pound fell more than 6%
against the US dollar early on Friday before recovering most of its
losses. Sterling was trading below $1.24
and €1.11 Friday afternoon. It has sunk 4.6% since the Sunday conference speech by UK
prime minister Theresa May.
2016 October 6
Theresa May had posed as the hard Brexiteer.
Now she speaks to ordinary working class people of fairness and
May is appealing to the people — a smart
but risky move among Conservatives. May sees her chance to emerge as
the winner from the British political turmoil in recent months by
championing the disadvantaged.
The economic future of the UK
is uncertain. May opted for hard Brexit on Sunday and sterling
plunged on Monday. Some experts warn of riots if the government does
not change course.
May has long tried to give the
Conservatives a more social image. Now she is dutifully enacting the
Ursula von der Leyen
My plea to the British is not to
block important European developments. It is not good to prevent
Europe from organizing itself better. We Europeans want to expand
our security and defense policy and work together better.
need a strong European pillar in NATO. Two decades ago the Americans
were not particularly interested in a cohesive Europe in NATO. Today
they say Europe must be better organized. Germany has stepped up and
done a lot more in NATO.
Germans accept the importance of
security. The problems of the Mideast are suddenly in our towns and
communities. Germany is still one of the safest countries in the
world, but terror has crept into our daily life. And that causes a
feeling of insecurity.
A nationalist and racist solution
cannot be a solution for us. We would point out that every citizen
benefits from a country open to the world. The commitment to NATO is
important — that we stand by each other.
2016 October 5
A Fairer Britain
I want to set out my vision for Britain after Brexit. I want to lay
out my approach, the things I believe. I want to explain what a
country that works for everyone means.
I want to set our
party and our country on the path towards the new centre ground of
British politics, built on the values of fairness and opportunity,
where everyone plays by the same rules and where every single person
is given the chance to be all they want to be. A vision is nothing
without the determination to see it through. And that's what Britain
The referendum was not just a vote to withdraw
from the EU. It was about a sense many people have today that the
world works well for a privileged few, but not for them. It was a
call for a change in the way our country works forever. Our society
should work for everyone, but if you can't afford to get onto the
property ladder, or your child is stuck in a bad school, or your pay
has stagnated for years, or if your complaints fall on deaf ears, it
doesn't feel like it's working for you.
We see division and
unfairness all around: between a more prosperous older generation
and a struggling younger generation, between the wealth of London
and the rest of the country, and between the rich and powerful and
their fellow citizens. We applaud success. But we also value the
spirit of citizenship that means you respect the bonds and
obligations that make our society work, that means a commitment to
the men and women around you, that means you train up local young
people before you take on cheap labour from overseas, that means you
pay your fair share of tax.
Today, too many people in
positions of power behave as though they have more in common with
international elites than with the people down the road, the people
they employ or pass in the street. If you believe
you're a citizen of the world, you don't understand what citizenship
My mission — and the mission of this party — is to
build a country that truly works for everyone, not just the
Excellent keynote speech — well worth watching.
The British people sent a clear message in the
referendum. Recent levels of immigration motivated a large part of
the vote. The Conservative party was elected on a manifesto
commitment to reduce net migration to sustainable levels.
Leaving the EU is just one part of the strategy. We have to look at
all sources of immigration:
Landlords who rent to people who have no right to be here will be
committing a crime.
● Immigration checks will be
mandatory for those wanting to get a licence to drive a
● Banks will have to do regular checks to ensure they
are not serving to illegal migrants.
I want to reduce net migration while continuing to ensure we
attract the brightest and the best:
● We will examine tightening the test companies have to take before recruiting
● We will ensure people coming here are
not taking jobs British people
● We will look at
tailoring our student immigration
This Government will
not waver in its commitment to put the interests of British
● We will make it
easier to deport criminals and those who abuse our laws.
will deport EU nationals that repeatedly commit so-called minor
crimes in this country.
We will set up a fund to ease the
pressures on public services in areas of high migration.
primary concern is protecting our way of life, and delivering the
security measures we require to ensure this. We have a government
committed to putting British interests first, delivering both the
security of our borders and control of who comes in.
AR Not reassuring.
The pound was worth $1.55 last October. Now
it is heading toward $1.27. A year ago the pound bought €1.34. Today
a pound will buy less than €1.12.
No EZ life for Brits.
2016 October 4
A Greater Britain
We are leaving the European Union. We are
ready to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the economy
from turbulence. And when the process is over, we are ready to
provide support to British businesses as they adjust to life outside
The decision to leave the EU has introduced new
fiscal uncertainty. Last year, the government borrowed £1 in every
£10 we spent. The British people elected us on a promise to restore
fiscal discipline. But we will no longer target a surplus at the end
of this Parliament.
The Conservative commitment is to build
a country and an economy that works for everyone. We will do it by
making the British economy the most outward-looking, most dynamic,
most competitive, high wage, high skilled, low tax economy in the
But to deliver that strong, prosperous, economy
requires long-term, sustainable growth. And long-term sustainable
growth requires us to raise our national productivity. Our national
productivity is lower than the US and Germany, lower than France and
Italy. Millions of British workers are working longer hours for
lower pay than their counterparts in Europe and the US.
good news is that we do know how to do productivity. Parts of London
have the highest productivity in Europe. The bad news is that the
productivity gap between our capital and our other cities is greater
than in any other major economy in the world. Closing that gap will
The British people have made a bold decision. We will
not let them down. Let us resolve to tackle the challenges we face
at home with renewed vigour. A bigger, better, Greater Britain!
2016 October 3
The referendum result was clear. It was
legitimate. It was the biggest vote for change this country has ever
There will be no unnecessary delays in invoking
Article 50. We will invoke it when we are ready. And we will be
ready soon. We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March
It is not up to the House of Commons to
invoke Article 50, and it is not up to the House of Lords. It is up
to the government to trigger Article 50 and the government alone.
Because we voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom, we
will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European
Union as one United Kingdom.
Our laws will be made not in
Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will
sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. The authority
of EU law in Britain will end.
We are going to be a fully
independent, sovereign country — a country that is no longer part of
a political union with supranational institutions that can override
national parliaments and courts.
We will do what independent,
sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control
immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.
will seek the best deal possible as we negotiate a new agreement
with the European Union.
Freedom of speech, freedom of association,
freedom to practice whatever religion you want and to live your life
as you please — these freedoms are not inimical to prosperity — they
are in fact essential to sustained growth.
Britain incarnates that symmetry. Britain is ranked among the top
three most innovative societies on Earth. We should have absolutely
no shame or embarrassment in championing our ideals around the
Never once have I felt that this country would be in
any way disadvantaged by extricating ourselves from the EU treaties.
We will remain committed to all kinds of European cooperation. But
we will also be able to speak up more powerfully with our own
Every day I go into an office so vast that
you could comfortably fit two squash courts and so dripping with
gilt bling that it looks like something from the Kardashians. This was once the nerve centre of an empire
that was 7 times the size of the Roman empire at its greatest
extent. This country, over the last 200 years, has directed the
invasion or conquest of 178 countries.
It would be a fatal
mistake now to underestimate what this country is doing or what it
can do. When we give our armed services clear and achievable
missions we can still be remarkably effective. We will be the
leading military player in western Europe for the foreseeable
And our hard power is dwarfed by soft power — the
vast and subtle and pervasive extension of British influence around
the world that goes with having the language that was invented and
perfected in this country, and now has more speakers than any other
language on Earth.
Free markets and free societies go
together. I urge you to look at the successes that these free
institutions have helped to engender. Global Britain is a soft power
AR A glorious load of
2016 October 2
Great Repeal Bill
UK PM Theresa May: "We will introduce, in
the next Queen's speech, a Great Repeal Bill that will remove the
European Communities Act from the statute book. That was the act
that took us into the European Union. This marks the first stage in
the UK becoming a sovereign and independent country once again. It
will return power and authority to the elected institutions of our
country. It means that the authority of EU law in Britain will end."
Mars Is Awfully
Elon Musk dreams of colonizing Mars. He plans
to send thousands of colonists there to build a city. Musk: "I think
probably we'll name the first ship ... Heart of Gold."
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams will
recall that Heart of Gold is a shoe-shaped spaceship powered by an
Infinite Improbability Drive.
Antarctica is a prototype for
space environments and is about as like Mars as anywhere on Earth.
Scott of the Antarctic: "Great God! This is an awful place."
Dragonfly 44 is a dim galaxy,
but in size and mass it rivals the Milky Way. Such ultra-diffuse
galaxies (UDGs) have been discovered in several galaxy clusters. The
motion of stars in UDGs can test theories of dark matter.
models of galaxy formation, clumps of dark matter coalesce into
haloes. Then gas and fragments of other galaxies, drawn by gravity,
collect at the center. They spin out into a disk and collapse into
luminous stars to form a galaxy we can see. The formation of UDGs is
The Dragonfly 44 galaxy has a total mass of around
a trillion suns but there is no evidence that it is spinning. In
most galaxies, stars and gas can outweigh dark matter near the
center by a ratio of 5 to 1, but at the center of Dragonfly 44, dark
matter outweighs the rest by 50 to 1.
2016 October 1
Theresa May and I share clear objectives.
We should be looking for a good Brexit, not a hard Brexit or a soft
Brexit. The British people will expect us to negotiate a solution
that allows the UK economy to go on growing. Whatever control powers
we have over immigration into the UK, we will use them in a way that
supports the UK economy.
Brexit could means a greener Britain. A
radical reform of British farm subsidies could restore the
countryside to something of its original health and charm. Rather
than protecting agricultural incomes, rural policy could protect the
environment and biodiversity.
buy more food on world markets. One way or another, the British
agricultural sector would most likely be reduced in size as the
economy adjusts. England will not return to being a gigantic forest,
but there is an opportunity here.
Google has pumped vast resources into data
mining and artificial intelligence systems. Now the company is
melding these advances into a new product, the Google Assistant. The
ultimate aim is to build something like the talking computer on Star
Based on your interactions with it
over the years, Google would know your habits, your preferences and
your budget, plus your friends, family and your colleagues. With
access to so much data, and with the computational power to
interpret all of it, the Assistant most likely could handle the
entire task. If not, it would simply ask you to fill in the gaps,
the way a human assistant might.
Google could build a more
capable digital assistant than others. Google is also a leader in
machine learning. But it may not have the prowess to create the
friendliest or most charming assistant.
AR I called such assistants avatars in my 2010 book