2022 May 26
Russia vs Ukraine
The Russian offensive in the Donbas region is making slow progress. Russian units avoid unacceptable losses by falling back on artillery, destroying village after village, which they occupy after Ukrainian units withdraw.
The Russian tactics are unsophisticated and nihilistic but also dangerous. Russian units continue to perform badly and suffer disproportionately in engagements.
The Ukrainians must hold ground and take casualties. So long as Russia has plenty of artillery and can deny Ukraine air support, the Ukrainian military must remain dispersed. Ukraine must also hold forces in reserve against the risk of a Russian offensive.
The Ukrainian military must liberate territory or bleed out the Russian army this summer. Without a peace settlement, Ukraine will remain economically paralyzed.
Ukraine has so far been politically unified. As its initial rally dissipates, new divisions will appear. Russia will weaponize them to degrade Ukrainian unity.
In a long conflict, Ukraine will probably need financial assistance from abroad. Europeans facing hardship at home may be reluctant to step in.
Europeans can still supply more artillery, train new Ukrainian brigades, and find ways to offer economic support.
AR Must stay focused.
Voters expect those who set the rules to abide by them. The Gray report sets out a dismal failure to adhere to this minimal requirement of public service.
The public seem more outraged than dismayed. The conduct of Downing Street staff shows that the ethos of public service has been debased.
Boris Johnson is damaged by the revelations. He says attending the gatherings was "one of the essential duties of leadership" but seems unaware that a duty of leadership in a national emergency is to share the hardships of ordinary citizens.
The Metropolitan Police has behaved in a capricious manner that disserves justice. The litany of failings ought to be a matter of shame for all involved.
The report mentions rudeness by officials to cleaning and security staff. The culture of entitlement that such conduct lays bare will further corrode public faith in government.
Again and again, the prime minister evades moral accountability and hides behind legalistic quibbling, heedless of the responsibilities and dignity of his office.
Britain does not have a functioning government. There is drift, decay, and disintegration. In sticking with the person in charge, the Tory party is in line for the most terrible whacking.
The British style of government works only when the person at the top knows what they are doing. Like many large organisations, governments tend to reflect the individual running them.
Those working close to government feel it too when a leader has authority and projects seriousness. A strong grip and clarity of thought are no guarantee of success but trying to organise national affairs without it is hopeless.
Boris Johnson is not cut out for government. In the Commons, he said that since the reported events took place, all senior management had been replaced, as if he were a guest in the penthouse suite while the hotel manager went rogue. He has no grip.
AR And no shame.
The Gray Report
2022 May 25
That Xi−Putin Bromance
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin swore friendship with no limits when they met in Beijing in early February. Their axis may already be buckling under the strain.
Their arrangement seemed to suggest that when Russia made its grab for Ukraine, China would not seek to exploit the westward shift of the Russian army from the far east. If the West piled on sanctions, China would help the Kremlin out of its squeeze. And Russia would do the same for China should Xi invade Taiwan.
Xi was content to let Russian soldiers pay in blood for the cost of speeding up the decline of the West. But there was no Ukrainian surrender, no puppet regime in Kyiv, no welcome for Russian tanks. After a fortnight of combat, Moscow was already begging for help.
Xi will take a political hit. He had promised to take Taiwan by force if necessary. He may be thinking twice about that.
AR Will Xi fall this year?
The Gray Report
A nurse who helped bear the horror of the pandemic was fined £10,000 for a socially distanced protest against her low pay. A woman was fined £10,000 for releasing balloons for her dead father-in-law. The prime minister was fined £50 for presiding over a series of crimes in 10 Downing Street.
While England was subject to severe lockdown rules that banned hugs, No 10 officials drank beer and prosecco until they vomited, spilled wine down walls, broke a child's swing, organised "wine time Fridays" and wine and cheese evenings, sang along to a karaoke machine provided by the former director general for propriety and ethics, and partied until after 4 am. They cared only about the "comms risk" and said they seemed "to have got away with" it.
Boris Johnson said "the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times" and his officials "were working extremely long hours" fighting the pandemic.
Nurses and doctors tending to the bodies of the dying and holding their hands because their loved ones were banned by law from doing so were also "working extremely long hours" but didn't get drunk around karaoke machines.
The justice system fined children and charged homeless people for breaking lockdown rules. While junior officials were fined for attending illicit events, the prime minister was not fined for being at the same events. Unequal justice.
AR Bullingdon boy begets frat-boy culture.
Primordial Protein Synthesis
The idea that life began with RNA molecules has dominated over competing theories. But maybe RNAs and peptides coevolved complexity. A new study suggests how early RNA molecules may have let peptides grow on them.
When cells make proteins, their genes spin out long threads of mRNA encoding recipes for making them. Ribosomes read these recipes to assemble the amino acids supplied by tRNA. The ribosome transfers a growing peptide chain onto each new amino acid until the chain folds into a functional protein.
The bonds that hold the peptides on the tRNA molecules are weak. Without a ribosome to provide shelter, water molecules can break the bonds before peptides form, making the process unfeasible in the primordial world.
The genetic code of RNA is typically written with four bases, but nucleotides with other bases are also present in many RNA molecules. These noncanonical nucleotides can attach to amino acids with a stronger bond than that to tRNA. Some were present in the last universal common ancestor of all organisms.
A model for growing peptides starting with two RNA strands capped by noncanonical nucleotides falls short of protein translation in cells. But a peptide and an RNA can coevolve in a scenario for the evolution of life.
AR This looks promising.
UK PM Boris Johnson toasting a departing communications director at an illegal gathering during lockdown,
10 Downing Street, 13 November 2020
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner: "Boris Johnson said repeatedly that he knew nothing about lawbreaking.
There's no doubt now: he lied. The prime minister has demeaned his office. The British people deserve better."
Former Met police deputy assistant commissioner and now Lib Dem peer Lord Paddick: "The public will want to
know what more evidence the police needed to give the prime minister a fixed-penalty notice, when the
photos appear to show beyond reasonable doubt that he should have been issued with one."
UK constitutional expert Peter Hennessy: "If the prime minister is the number one wrong 'un,
you're in deep, deep trouble. It's shown us the fragility of our constitution ..
The curse of Brexit will be with us for a long time."
2022 May 24
British voters need a radical redistribution of power away from Westminster, yet English voters never discuss constitutional reform.
No one can work for long in the Palace of Westminster without succumbing to groupthink. Our unusually centralised political system has failed most of England, has failed Scotland, has failed Wales, and is failing Northern Ireland as well.
The failure stems from the 2019 general election, the rise of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and the discord in Belfast. SNP dominance in Scotland and the struggle at Stormont are consequences of the Brexit deal struck by Westminster.
British democracy has never been about the dominance of Westminster thinking. English Tories are retreating at speed in Scotland and Wales and have been hammered in London. A general election would mow deliver a hung parliament.
Brexit has fanned resentment against the concentration of power in Westminster and risks dissolution of the UK.
AR All fair comment.
2022 May 23
Quad and Taiwan
President Biden says the United States would defend Taiwan against Chinese invasion: "We agree with the One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there. But the idea that it could be taken by force − just taken by force − it's just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine."
Biden says a strong response to Putin's "barbarism" is key: "If .. there's a rapprochement between the Ukrainians and Russia and the sanctions are not continued .. then what signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting to take Taiwan by force?"
White House: "As the president said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself."
Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida will double Japan's defence spending to 2% of GDP. He may seek counterstrike SLBM systems. Japan remains under the US nuclear umbrella.
AR How open to reason is Xi?
China vs Quad
The United States, Japan, Australia, and India have revived their Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. Quad members have held two naval exercises since 2020. Their leaders have assembled three times since last year and will meet in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi: "The Indo-Pacific strategy .. claims that it intends to change China's surrounding environment, but its purpose is to contain China and make Asia-Pacific countries serve as pawns of US hegemony."
Chinese concern has only grown since the Ukraine crisis. Beijing's backing of Moscow has further damaged its global image, leaving it more isolated, and its insistence on a zero-Covid policy is cutting off China from the world.
German Marshall Fund Asia Program deputy director Kristi Govella: "The Quad is trying to emphasize that it has a positive agenda .. versus becoming an anti-China, NATO-like entity."
Under Xi Jinping, China has pursued a more assertive foreign policy. It is building and militarizing artificial islands in the South China Sea. It has increased its military posturing toward Japan. It has imposed trade sanctions on Australia. Chinese and Indian soldiers clash along the disputed Himalayan border with India.
Stimson Center East Asia Program co-director Yuki Tatsumi: "The biggest driver of the Quad's revival is the growing assertiveness and aggressiveness of China."
Chinese vice foreign minister Le Yucheng: "If [the Quad were] allowed to go on unchecked, it would .. push the Asia-Pacific over the edge of an abyss."
AR Will the Quad and NATO push us into WW3?
NATO and Estonia
Last weekend, I met Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas in Tallinn. On my return, I heard former NATO secretary general Lord Robertson lecture in Oxford.
Estonians want NATO to make serious plans to defend its eastern front. The horrors being experienced by Ukrainians awaken painful memories of Soviet occupation.
Robertson condemned Russia for attacking Ukraine but counselled against overreaction. He quoted Basil Liddell Hart: "Inflict the least possible permanent injury, for the enemy of today is the customer of the morrow and the ally of the future."
Robertson: "The man in the Kremlin has a remarkably thin skin .. a messianic obsession with Russian greatness .. has produced a dangerous mindset."
Estonians say pandering to Putin is more dangerous than provoking him. They blame not only Putin but also Russian attitudes to history and geography. Russia dumped the Soviet system and the planned economy but did not dump its imperial mindset. Uprooting it will require a big shift.
Estonians know Russia far better than we do.
AR Kallas for next secretary general?
Russia vs NATO
President Putin is recalibrating his narrative: Ukrainians are proving difficult to conquer because they are Russians. They just don't realize it yet.
Colonel Mikhail Khodaryonok served in the Russian general staff directorate known as the "brains of the army" before retiring. On prime-time TV, he called the Ukrainian soldiers "professionals" willing to "fight to the last man" to win.
Former parliamentarian Sergei Markov said in the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda: "The Ukrainian army is an amazing and very strong combination of a Russian soldier, a fascist officer, and an American general."
Putin sees Ukraine as a mislaid part of the Russian world. Its successes are down to NATO assistance and brainwashing to see Russians as subhuman Orcs. Pretending all is well could never be sustained, hence the new line.
Khodaryonok and Markov agree this will be a long war to uphold the honor of Russia against those who would call its people beasts and barbarians.
In his Victory Day speech, Putin portrayed Russia as nobly standing up for what it thinks is right, against the assembled might of a United States bent on global hegemony and its debauched and craven European puppets.
He can now frame hardships in heroic terms as Russians dig in for a patriotic war.
AR Will defeating Russia be worse than WW2?
2022 May 22
Starliner Reaches Space Station
The Boeing Starliner space taxi arrived at the International Space Station on Friday. It is expected to spend 4−5 days there before returning to Earth.
For years, NASA relied on Russia to transport astronauts. SpaceX now carries crews to orbit, but a second option for NASA offers redundancy without reliance on Russia.
Starliner is now latched onto a docking port at the space station. Astronauts there are unloading its cargo. So far, the mission has encountered no major problems.
Following a successful return from orbit and landing, Boeing will do more work including investigating and fixing some glitches before NASA approves Starliner for carrying astronauts.
Starliner currently launches on an Atlas 5 rocket propelled by Russian engines. Vulcan, the successor to Atlas 5, has yet to make its first flight.
After a crewed demonstration mission to the space station, Starliner can begin regular operations, taking crews of four to orbit. NASA says SpaceX and Boeing will each fly one crew mission a year.
NASA is paying $90 million for each Starliner seat. A seat in a SpaceX Crew Dragon costs $55 million.
AR Starliner is years late.
Jörgen Nilsson Photography
Swedish Air Force Saab 39C Gripen taking off from a dispersal road base, May 2022
2022 May 21
The Unruh Effect
Researchers have found a way to test the Unruh effect predicted for objects accelerating in empty space. Observing the effect will help us understand black holes.
An accelerating space pilot would see the Unruh effect as a glow bathing her view of an otherwise black void. As her ship accelerates, the warmer the bath of glowing particles.
Empty space is suffused by energetic quantum fields. Fluctuations in these fields can be caused by an accelerating body and can create particles. An accelerating object in the quantum vacuum picks up field energy and emits it as Unruh radiation.
The Unruh effect is the flip side of Hawking radiation. Hawking radiation arises when particles are pulled into a black hole by gravity. The Unruh effect arises from acceleration. Einstein showed there is an equivalence between gravity and acceleration.
The Unruh effect requires huge accelerations to produce a tiny emission. But by grabbing an electron in a vacuum with a magnetic field, then accelerating it through a carefully configured bath of photons, we could stimulate it to a higher energy state. This added energy multiplies the effect of acceleration, so we could detect Unruh radiation surrounding the electron at lower accelerations.
The photon bath adds noise by amplifying other quantum effects, but careful control can cut interference. University labs could run the test.
AR I suspect this experiment would be too hard for most university labs.
2022 May 20
Quantum Energy Paradox
A quantum thought experiment reveals a paradox.
Any wave can be represented as a sum of sine waves of different frequencies. Normally, a wave can oscillate only as fast as its highest-frequency sine wave component. But special combinations of sine waves produce superoscillation in regions that oscillate faster than any of their constituents.
A quantum particle can be described by a wave function and expressed as sums of sine waves. When a wave function combines multiple sine waves, the particle is in a superposition of energies. A measurement seems to collapse the wave function to one of them.
Let a photon trapped inside a box have a wave function with a superoscillatory region. Quickly put a mirror in its path where the wave function superoscillates, keeping the mirror there for a short time. If the photon is close enough to the mirror during that time, the mirror will bounce it out of the box.
The wave function splits in two: Most of it remains in the box, but the small part near the mirror heads off toward a detector. When it hits the detector, the wave function collapses, with a chance that a high-energy photon is detected.
We can run the experiment many times, checking the initial energy half the time and the final energy the other half. Because the superoscillatory region is a small part of the wave function, the photon has a low probability of being found there. Over many runs, energy should be conserved.
The paradox: Energy conservation is only statistical.
AR That's OK: Quantum spacetime is foamy, and time-translation symmetry is statistical.
2022 May 19
Russia Is Fascist
Fascism is a cult of irrationality and violence. It was defeated on the battlefields of WW2. Now it's back − in Russia.
Fascism is about the triumph of will over reason. Russia has a cult around a single leader, Vladimir Putin. It has a cult of the dead, organized around WW2. It has a myth of a past golden age of imperial greatness, to be restored by a war of healing violence.
Hitler thought the Soviet Union was a Jewish state and planned to replace Soviet rule with his own. Ukraine was the prize, the Soviet Union would starve, and Germany would become an empire.
The Kremlin says Ukraine is an artificial state. After the elimination of the Jewish president and his elite, the masses will accept Russian dominion. Russia is denying Ukrainian food to the world.
The Soviet Union under Stalin defined itself as antifascist. With the help of American and its allies, the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany in 1945. But its opposition to fascism was inconsistent.
Before 1933, the Soviets treated fascists as just another capitalist enemy. In 1939, the Soviet Union joined Nazi Germany as a de facto ally, and the two powers invaded Poland together. Stalin enabled WW2 by allying with Hitler.
Nazi thinker Carl Schmitt said fascist politics begins from the definition of an enemy. This offered fascism a way to return to Russia. The war against Ukraine shows the Putin regime as fascist.
Fascism is a cult of will. It is about the mystique of a man who heals the world with violence. Ukraine must win.
AR I agree − ALBION says why.
Bertrand Russell, born
150 years ago today
2022 May 18
Putin Is Doomed
In 1979, China invaded Vietnam. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping wanted to teach the government in Hanoi a lesson.
Vietnam had been weakened by war. Observers expected a quick Chinese win. Yet the Vietnamese army halted the Chinese PLA. The myth of the invincible Chinese war machine was soon exposed.
Deng Xiaoping quickly saw that his army was only good for parades in Tiananmen Square. He saw that global integration and a booming economy were more important for the Celestial Empire.
Putin is not nearly as clever as Deng Xiaoping. He is lost in the myth behind the military parades in Red Square. So badly has he bungled his war in Ukraine that world leaders now aim to break his war machine.
Putin has managed to expand NATO to the edge of St Petersburg. He will never be a Deng Xiaoping.
AR Depose Putin.
Brexit Was Dumb
A Brexit deal that was great in 2019 is now not great.
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss aims to assert a UK version of the NI protocol. She wants to prod the EU into renegotiating the 2019 withdrawal agreement, but she elides frustration with NI border checks and a wider complaint about a stain on UK sovereignty. EU leaders are unwilling to deal with the wider complaint.
Customs checks in the Irish Sea are a symbolic injury to NI unionist feeling. Boris Johnson knowingly inflicted that injury, denied he had done it, then made it worse by complaining that the checks create "extra barriers to trade and burdens on business" involving "a great deal of faff and botheration" that raises costs.
The faff and botheration incur costs at any place where goods move between the UK and the EU. But any renegotiation would founder on first principles. Brussels says a UK that no longer applies EU rules must prove its exports comply. Brexiteers think British standards are a guarantee of quality. This is the impasse.
Brexit was just a dumb move.
AR Deprecate Brexit.
Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Tamar is committed to the Indo-Pacific region.
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key: "Global Britain is back."
AR Either WTF or LOL.
2022 May 17
Sweden and Finland will formally submit simultaneous requests to join NATO on Wednesday.
Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson: "Finland and Sweden have agreed to go through this entire process hand in hand, and we will tomorrow file the application together. Membership of NATO strengthens security in Sweden but also in the Baltic Sea region."
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says Turkey will oppose the applications and alleges Finland and Sweden shelter people linked to groups it designates as terrorists.
Finnish president Sauli Niinistö: "We have to continue our discussion. I am optimistic."
German defence minister Christine Lambrecht: "It is an improvement for NATO when two countries as strong as Sweden and Finland join. I am convinced Turkey will also be convinced of that."
AR Stress solidarity.
The prime minister is planning a law to allow him to repudiate parts of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland. This would destroy the UK reputation for keeping its word, invite a parallel EU repudiation of its free trade deal with the UK, enrage the Biden administration, and divide the West.
Brexit negotiator Lord Frost: "The detail of the protocol's provisions was essentially imposed under duress because we had no 'walk away' option."
As a matter of fact, we did. But it would have been too costly to exercise. In these negotiations the EU was (and is) in a stronger position.
The NI economy is outperforming the GB economy. Most NI voters rejected Brexit in the 2016 referendum. The May 2022 elections to the NI Assembly have delivered 53 members in favour of the protocol and only 37 against. The problem is with the DUP.
Frost: "It is time to put our own interests first."
The interest of the British people lies in the best and most stable possible relations with the EU, our biggest trading partner and closest neighbour. It is not to risk a deeper decline in UK trade in response to threats of violence from a tiny minority of Brits.
AR Dump DUP.
2022 May 16
NATO: Sweden Follows Finland
The Swedish government will apply for membership of NATO, joining Finland.
Sweden's prime minister Magdalena Andersson: "There is a broad majority in Sweden's parliament for Sweden to join NATO. This is the best thing for the security of Sweden and its people .. We are leaving one era behind us and entering a new one."
AR More good news.
UK Civil Service Cuts
The civil servant
HM government plans to fix the cost-of-living crisis by cutting civil service numbers by a fifth, down to levels last seen in 2016. This would have a devastating impact on public services.
Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg says a 20% cut is a "perfectly reasonable" way of "trying to get back to normal" after the pandemic and Brexit. No one seems to have a clue about how cuts of this magnitude would be made.
The civil service harassment pursued by this government, which escalated in the run-up to Brexit when Remoaner civil servants were thrown under the bus, has never stopped.
AR More bad news.
Fixing the NHS
Mistakes in healthcare can be fatal. As health secretary, I focused my attention on preventable harm and death. My ideas:
• Find the truth when things go wrong. When hospitals share data, those with poor results can improve. Transparency plays to the competitiveness and altruism of most doctors.
• Improve continuity of care. Most NHS patients have no ongoing relationship with a family doctor. GPs should hold remote consultations with their patients outside surgery hours.
• Improve training and systems. The NHS should decode the genome of every baby at birth and add the data to electronic health records in a format allowing analysis and update.
• Let us access our medical records on an app on our phones, subject to a secure means of access. This will encourage us to take more responsibility for our own healthcare.
AR Hunt for PM!
Leopard 2A5 tanks in forest
AR Fond memories of jogging in forests just like that in Germany ..
2022 May 15
Finland has formally confirmed it intends to join NATO.
President Sauli Niinistö: "Finland is applying for NATO membership. A protected Finland is being born as part of a stable, strong, and responsible Nordic region."
Prime minister Sanna Marin: "Our decision is historic. As a member of NATO, we will also be responsible for the security of the alliance as a whole."
Sweden may decide whether to join NATO next week.
AR Good news.
The UK government's plans to introduce new legislation enabling it to override large parts of the NI protocol were a secret intended to be carefully choreographed. But the leak triggered a furore like the Brexit wars of old.
Downing Street accuses foreign secretary Liz Truss of unnecessarily antagonising Brussels to curry favour with the Tory right. But a Foreign Office source says her tough line on the EU negotiating position is sanctioned by No 10.
Some blame the Brexiteer and senior No 10 adviser David Canzini: "He seems to want to have a higher profile in Whitehall than the PM."
A minister: "I think the problem we have is that we don't know what our end game is on this .. The whole thing has been very badly handled, and I'm not sure what the politics is of triggering a trade war with the EU in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis."
Another senior figure: "The PM has religion on this and thinks that the ERG will love it, but I'm not so sure. What I do know is that a lot of the wider parliamentary party are horrified."
An ally: "We want to change the rationale and the tone of all this from knuckle-headed Brexiteers wanting to revive an old battle to a responsible prime minister who wants to restore peace."
Brexiteers digging in
In the midst of a European war, with western solidarity of paramount importance, and a cost-of-living crisis as severe as any we have seen for decades, we are contemplating a trade dust-up with the EU, a stand-off with the White House, and a possible spike in prices for poorer British citizens already choosing between heating and eating.
Such is the collateral damage of the oath of the Brexiteers. It is psychologically impossible for the leadership to rationally manage the trade-offs of Brexit, because they are committed to the pretence that they don't exist. That is why they are keeping alive the language of betrayal.
AR Bad news.
⦿ Jens Büttner / DPA
Eurovision Song Contest 2022: Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra won with Stefania
UK artist Sam Ryder came second with Space Man
2022 May 14
The First Billion Years
Charles Q Choi
A computer model of the first billion years (Gy) of cosmic history will help shed light on how the universe evolved. Named THESAN, its predictions about the primordial past will soon be tested by data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
Soon after the big bang (ABB), about 13.8 Gy ago, the universe was filled with fog. It was so hot that particles could not combine to form atoms and space was filled with opaque plasma. The fog briefly lifted ca 380 ky later, during the recombination era, when the universe cooled and let clouds of hydrogen (H) atoms form. Light shone free and then faded out.
Darkness reigned for the next few hundred My until gravity formed stars and galaxies. The darkness dissipated gradually, as UV radiation from the first stars reionized the H before burning it away. The epoch of reionization lasted more than 500 ky and ended when light from across the spectrum shone freely through space.
THESAN is designed to simulate the early universe to a new level by combining high resolution with large volumes. It runs on one of the largest supercomputers in the world. It models how the light from stars and galaxies interacted with and reionized the H over the first Gy ABB and how cosmic dust influenced the formation of galaxies.
THESAN can track the birth and evolution of hundreds of thousands of galaxies within a cubic volume spanning more than 30 million cubic Mly. Starting from ca 400 ky ABB, the simulation extrapolates out through the first Gy ABB.
AR Forgive my abbreviations.
2022 May 13
The three Baltic states hail the expected accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO as greatly improving their security. The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania aim to ratify any membership application from Finland and Sweden quickly.
Estonia's foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets: "NATO itself will be significantly strengthened and .. would also reinforce the security environment in northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region."
Latvia's foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs: "The Baltic Sea becomes a NATO sea."
Lithuania's foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis: "It's a very clear message that the northern part of Europe is NATO territory."
The Baltic states want NATO to boost their multinational battle groups from battalions to brigades and to upgrade the air policing mission to air defense. Russia could invade Finnish and Swedish islands in the Baltic Sea for use as bases.
AR Putin faces strategic defeat.
Some problems are hard. Algorithms to solve them take exponentially longer as they scale up. We can often transform a hard algorithm to solve other hard problems. We call these problems NP.
Many problems take only polynomial time to solve. Many of these problems are also equivalent: We call this category P. We have no proof that NP problems are truly harder than P problems.
Among the arithmetic problems that depend only on addition and multiplication, some take exponentially longer as their scale increases. Many of them are equally hard or easy. We call these categories VNP and VP.
As with P versus NP, we cannot prove that VNP problems are hard. But we have made progress on VP versus VNP.
Polynomials express arithmetic problems. To prove an arithmetic problem is hard, we show that the polynomial takes exponentially more operations to solve as we add more variables. The number of operations is its size.
The depth of a polynomial is how often it alternates between sums and products. We can restrict polynomials to constant depth. Representations of constant depth we call formulas.
Matrix multiplication is a VP problem. But matrix multiplication represented with multilinear formulas is hard because of the restriction to constant depth.
We still cannot prove that VNP problems are hard compared to VP problems. But we may be closer to solving the big P versus NP question.
AR We may be.
Azov Regiment Press Service
Ukrainian defender, Azovstal steelworks, Mariupol
2022 May 12
Statement by Boris Johnson: "Vladimir Putin .. has grossly violated human rights, international law. He's guilty of absolutely barbaric onslaught on a totally innocent country. And to renormalise would be to make the mistake that we made in 2014 .. No renormalisation."
Finland must apply to join NATO without delay, say president Sauli Niinistö and prime minister Sanna Marin in a joint statement: "We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days."
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg: "Should Finland decide to apply, they would be warmly welcomed into NATO, and the accession process would be smooth and swift."
Russian foreign ministry: "Finland joining NATO is a radical change in the country's foreign policy. Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising."
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet: "The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking."
AR Putin must die or face justice.
Milky Way Black Hole
We now have a picture of the black hole at the centre of our galaxy. The image was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a global network of observatories operating as a single enormous radio telescope.
In 2017, EHT observed two supermassive black holes: the one in the Milky Way, called Sagittarius A* or Sgr A*, and the one at the centre of the M87 galaxy known as M87*. The collaboration has now released its picture of Sgr A*.
To make the image, the team aggregated many snapshots taken over the course of several nights and used a supercomputer to process the data.
An image of Sgr A*
EHT scientists have an image of Sagittarius A* sitting at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy.
EHT astrophysicist Sara Issaoun: "We were amazed that Sag A* looked so similar to the famous black hole in the M87 galaxy. This similarity reveals to us a key aspect of black holes. No matter their size, or the environment they live in, once you arrive at the edge of a black hole, gravity takes over."
Sagittarius A* is 40 Gm wide and 250 Em away. It has a mass of 4 M⦿ versus 6.5 G⦿ for M87* and is dimmer as well. Any activity on Sgr A* − such as the motion of the TK plasma orbiting it − occurs much faster than on M87*.
EHT computer scientist Katie Bouman: "The material was swirling around Sag A* so quickly that Sag A*'s appearance could change from minute to minute."
EHT director Huib Jan van Langevelde: "It took us two years to publish the M87 results. These results are coming five years after the observations."
The new images were taken in April 2017 during the same window in which the EHT was taking the image of M87*. Eight telescopes gathered views of Sgr A* over 10 nights to collect 6 PB of data.
The EHT uses VLBI to combine images observed at a wavelength of 1.3 mm.
AR The image conforms to general relativity.
Symbolic regression algorithms identify relationships in complicated data sets and report the findings in an equation. They can give us insight, whereas a deep neural network can only make predictions.
Researchers have tinkered with such machine scientists for decades. The algorithms are now mature enough to find new relationships in real data.
The Eureqa algorithm can crunch data sets involving more than a dozen variables and recover advanced equations. A trained neural network says nothing about which features it can recognize. Eureqa can communicate its findings as operations on variables.
Researchers recast the evolutionary process in Bayesian theory. They analyzed all the equations in Wikipedia to see what types are most common. The algorithm then generated variations of the equations using random sampling.
A machine scientist algorithm performs sparse regression. It searches a library of basic functions for a combination of terms that gives the most accurate predictions, deletes the least useful terms, and continues down to a handful of terms.
Machine scientists are bringing the field to the cusp of GoPro physics, where we can point a camera at an event and get back an equation for it.
AR Wow, what fun!
2022 May 11
UK vs EU on NI
President Biden appeals to the UK to settle a dispute over the NI protocol that could plunge London and Brussels into a trade war.
Boris Johnson says there is no need for drama over what he calls a crazy dispute. EU diplomats say Brussels is likely to respond to a unilateral UK move by restarting legal action against London. Talks have made little progress.
US Democrat Bill Keating urges the UK not to act unilaterally.
AR This is dismal.
British Challenger 2 tanks in Finland for Exercise Arrow
UK Pledges to Defend Sweden and Finland
Boris Johnson says the UK is "steadfast and unequivocal" in its support for Sweden and Finland. He says a new security agreement will "fortify Europe's defences for generations to come" and is not just a stopgap until Finland and Sweden were covered by NATO.
Johnson: "The war in Ukraine is forcing us all to make difficult decisions. But sovereign nations must be free to make those decisions without fear or influence or threat of retaliation."
Johnson visited Sweden and met prime minister Magdalena Andersson, then went to Finland to meet President Sauli Niinistö.
On defending Sweden and Finland with nuclear weapons: "This is about our joint decision to show that we will support and defend each other .. make a request, and we take it very seriously."
The Kremlin has responded to the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO by threatening nuclear escalation and troop reinforcements. Support for NATO has surged in both countries.
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace says Britain will defend Finland from Russian attack.
AR Is the British army up to it?
2022 May 10
David M Bader
• If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
• Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?
• Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip, joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the
third sip, peace; with the fourth, a Danish.
• Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.
• Accept misfortune as a blessing. Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems.
What would you talk about?
• The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Oy.
• There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never
visited. And whose fault was that?
• Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.
• The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao has
no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.
• Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will
be the least of your problems.
• Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as a wooded glen. And sit up straight.
You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.
• Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.
• Be aware of your body. Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical
sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.
2022 Europe Day
Ukraine Will Prevail
German chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a TV address to mark the 77th anniversary of VE Day and accused Vladimir Putin of falsifying history.
Scholz: "I am deeply convinced Putin will not win the war. Ukraine will prevail. Freedom and safety will win, just like freedom and safety triumphed over servitude, violence, and dictatorship 77 years ago."
Scholz says Putin is "falsifying history" by equating his own "barbaric war of aggression" with the fight against National Socialism: "It is our duty to state this clearly."
He thanked the Allied forces for their defeat of the Nazi regime and said Germany owes a debt to both Russia and Ukraine, which suffered millions of casualties in WW2.
In April, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky told German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier he was not welcome to visit Kyiv. Zelensky now says he has made up with Steinmeier and invited Scholz to visit Kyiv on 9 May.
Bundestag president Bärbel Bas visited Kyiv on Sunday to commemorate WW2 victims at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: "To me this day is special because it does not merely commemorate but should serve to reconcile."
AR A day for hope that sense will prevail.
A New European Community
French president Emmanuel Macron proposes a new European community of democracies that would be broader than the EU and could include such nations as Ukraine and the UK.
In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Macron said it would take years or even decades for countries such as Ukraine to become EU members:
"The European Union, given the level of its integration and ambition, cannot be in the short term the only means of structuring the European continent. It's our historic obligation to respond to that today and to create what I would call a European political community. This new European organisation would allow European democratic nations adhering to our core values to find a new space for cooperation."
AR A way to bring back the UK.
Earth, Pacific side
2022 May 8
Brexit Redux: Sinn Fein Wins
The Sunday Times
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has issued an imperious warning to the EU to fix the NI Protocol or jeopardise the peace process after Sinn Fein became the largest party in the province.
Sinn Fein will now seek to nominate a first minister who wants NI to leave the UK, paving the way to a united Ireland. A new Stormont government is unlikely to be formed because SF will need to share power with the DUP.
European Commission VP Maros Sefcovic told Truss the EU will never have a mandate to renegotiate the protocol or to go beyond existing proposals.
If there is no new mandate, the UK government is expected to bring forward primary legislation to unilaterally switch off key parts of the protocol.
Sinn Fein VP Michelle O'Neill plays down the prospect of a border poll in a campaign focused on healthcare and the cost of living: "My commitment is to make politics work."
SF leader Mary Lou McDonald thinks a border poll is possible within 5 years. The Northern Ireland Act 1998 says NI may not leave the UK without the consent of a majority of NI voters in a poll and says the NI secretary will agree to a poll if it looks likely a majority want a united Ireland.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says his party will not nominate a deputy first minister until the UK government has overhauled the protocol.
If the standoff is not resolved within 24 weeks, another election will be called.
NI election results: Sinn Fein 27 seats, DUP 25, Alliance 17, UUP 9, SDLP 8, TUV 1, independents 2, People Before Profit 1.
AR The UK will shrink to GB.
2022 May 7
I've been thinking and rethinking and rethinking. I use analogies, some poetical, but it's not coloring or embellishment. It's where I'm trying to go, trying to transmit some emotion, some sense of marvel, some sense of the core.
To understand that we do not exist is something that may free us from attachments and from suffering. It is precisely on account of life's impermanence, the absence from it of every absolute, that life has meaning.
AR Is it?
2022 May 6
Ukrainians Can Win
Ukraine still needs a lot of help. Its military equipment supply business is too personalized. That is not how to run wartime logistics. They should understand what the consumption rates are on important things like fuel, ammunition, and batteries.
Three future scenarios: Russia has a battlefield decision in their favor, the Ukrainians have a battlefield decision in their favor, or there's a stalemate. In the stalemate scenario, Russia claims victory based on facts on the ground and continues its occupation in future.
Western armaments have a qualitative edge over Russian equipment. We need to weaken Russia by strengthening Ukrainian capabilities, deter Russia by increasing NATO capabilities, degrade Russian forces and capabilities, and ensure Russia is defeated in Ukraine.
Russian troops rely on firepower. Once they have destroyed almost everything in front of them, they advance their troops methodically. It's not maneuver warfare, it's attrition warfare. The new Russian commander in Ukraine is an attrition warfare guy.
Russia is making methodical advances. Odesa is the gateway to Transnistria and Moldova. Belarus has housed, based, and supported Russia forces. The three Baltic states and Poland see Russia as an existential threat.
AR Defeating Russia is daunting but doable.
GB Local Election Results
The Guardian, updated Saturday
GB = England + Scotland + Wales
NOC = No overall control
198 of 200 councils declared
AR We need proportional representation.
UK local election day: I elected to relax in a blooming local garden
2022 May 5
UK−German Trade Falls
Trade between Germany and the UK has dropped sharply since 2016. German goods exports to the UK fell 3.9% in March compared with February and fell 0.3% from March 2021. Compared with March 2019, exports to Britain were down 27%, but total German exports grew by 16%.
German−British Chamber of Industry and Commerce director general Ulrich Hoppe: "From a German perspective, the UK is to some extent being taken out of EU supply chains."
British goods exports to Germany were down 10% last year compared with 2020, but total UK exports were up 9%. UK goods imports from Germany were also down in 2021, but total imports were up.
British Chambers of Commerce head William Bain: "As costs of exporting from Germany to the UK and vice versa have gone up since the [TCA] came into effect there has been a clear drop in bilateral trade volumes."
Resolution Foundation economist Sophie Hale: "Brexit has clearly had an impact."
AR Brexit bites Britain.
NATO Battlegroup Estonia Challenger 2, Royal Tank Regiment
⦿ Yelena Yemchuk
2022 May 4
NATO and Russia
NATO has forged a new level of unity in response to the war in Ukraine. Eastern Europe is now more militarized than at any time since the height of the cold war.
Putin sees the NATO buildup as another step in the growing threat that justified his attack on Kyiv. He threatens to strike NATO members and precipitate a world war. He accuses NATO of fighting a proxy war against him in Ukraine.
NATO military committee chair Admiral Rob Bauer: "Not being strong and credible is more dangerous than being strong and credible. The deterrence factor is very important."
For the first time in history, 40 000 troops in eastern Europe are under direct NATO command, eight countries host NATO battle groups, and a rapid response force is activated.
NATO's eastern flank states, from the Baltics to Bulgaria, now host about 330 000 troops, with national armies reinforced from western Europe, the US, and Canada. As well as land forces, 130 NATO aircraft are on high alert and about 150 warships on patrol.
NATO is no longer constrained by the NATO−Russia founding act of 1997. A new strategy aims to deter an invasion by the modernised Russian armed forces. NATO leaders held a virtual emergency summit on February 25 and agreed on which of the five response plans were necessary: all five.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg: "As long as the war continues .. NATO needs to respond and ensure continued collective defence and safety and security."
AR China must see NATO is right.
Quantum metrology can use postselection to make precise measurements.
To measure a quantity precisely, we can look for a phase shift in a wave. Each photon gives some information about the phase shift. To get a precise estimate, we average many photon measurements. We aim to increase the information gained per photon.
The probabilities of different combinations of quantum properties are given by the Kirkwood−Dirac quasiprobability distribution, which gives some combinations of properties a negative probability. The negative numbers arise from the uncertainty principle.
Postselection uses a relationship between the negativity of the Kirkwood−Dirac distribution and the information gained per detected photon. Without negativity, postselection offers no advantage; with it, the information gain goes up.
Researchers sent laser photons through a quartz slab that rotates their polarization to measure its angle. To change the measurement uncertainty and thus the negativity of the Kirkwood−Dirac distribution, they filtered photons by polarization and rotated the filters.
Information about the slab angle obtained from each detected photon increased linearly with the degree of negativity, as predicted. A trade-off between increased information per detected photon and fewer such photons keeps the total information constant.
Kirkwood−Dirac negativity underlies information scrambling in black holes.
AR Quantum theory is fun.
A friend in Poland reads
2022 May 3
Ukraine Will Win
In a video address to the Ukrainian parliament, Boris Johnson said Ukraine's allies must be humble at their weak reactions when Ukraine was invaded in 2014: "We cannot make the same mistake again .. You have exploded the myth of Putin's invincibility and you have written one of the most glorious chapters in military history and in the life of your country."
He echoed Winston Churchill: "This is Ukraine's finest hour, that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come. Your children and grandchildren will say that Ukrainians taught the world that the brute force of an aggressor counts for nothing against the moral force of a people determined to be free .. Ukraine will win."
AR A good use for his way with words.
Expand NATO Now
NATO has 30 members. Finland and Sweden may apply to join them soon.
NATO leaders should give them instant membership. For nations near Russia to join NATO at a time of war in Europe is unprecedented. We need to extend Article 5 to Finland and Sweden overnight.
At their summit in Madrid in June, NATO leaders will focus on aid to Ukraine. They are committed to adopting a new strategic concept. They should consider increasing the target of 2% of GDP spent on defence to 2.5%. Members need to spend more on training, logistics, and mobilization.
More spending should go to R and D for new technologies. The West needs to lead in hypersonic weapons, drones, and lasers. We must stay ahead on robot weapons and war in space. NATO should declare that access to critical minerals and rare earth elements is a vital security interest.
The revealed weakness of Russian conventional forces has increased the risk of Moscow resorting to chemical or tactical nuclear weapons. We need to deter that. Putin will make more use of subsea and airborne threats. We need better BMD, more antisub frigates, new stealth aircraft, and more.
Security also requires communicating common values, as President Volodymyr Zelensky shows. NATO leaders must say the purpose of their alliance is to defend democracy, freedom, and human rights.
NATO offers hope of robust security based on common values.
AR I agree.
2022 May 2
New Labour Failed
On that May night 25 years ago, Tony Blair appeared as the sun was rising over the Thames: "A new dawn has broken, has it not?"
New Labour failed to build a new Britain. It was a response to shifts from Keynesianism to free markets, from the nation state to the global economy, from the working class to individual consumers, from big unions to corporate power, and from the Cold War to US domination.
Labour had spent 18 years in the wilderness. It was time for something different. Blair was a breath of fresh air.
New Labour ripped up the old commitment to nationalisation. It knew that neoliberalism was ascendant. It papered over the cracks between old Labour values of solidarity and equity and the harsh reality of capitalism unbound. It aimed to win.
For a Marxist, New Labour looked two ways, feinting left when it was safe to do so but mostly lining up with market fundamentalism. It skimmed the spoils of a financialised economy to invest in nominally social projects. But even these were bent to the market. Social security was workfare. Education was an investment in talent. State intervention was for consumers.
New Labour never made the moral case for greater equality. It never tried to counter neoliberalism. It idolised winners.
The Blair project embraced communitarianism, understood the importance of ideas, welcomed debate, and had intellectuals to guide it. But it did so after 60 consecutive quarters of economic growth. It bought the line that class war was over.
New Labour was followed by years of austerity, Brexit, and populism. The seeds of much of this rightward shift were sown in the New Labour years.
New Labour acted big and won elections. Labour under Keir Starmer is a pale shadow of that era.
A progressive pact?
Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden accuses Keir Starmer and Ed Davey of making a pact to help each other this week. The Tories fear a progressive alliance. Labour and the Lib Dems deny it.
Conservatives see a dip in the number of Labour and Lib Dem candidates standing this week. Finding they have much in common, Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Greens are cooperating at local level.
Dowden looks hypocritical. UKIP and Reform UK are standing only a quarter of the candidates they did in 2018. Conservatives and the Brexit party made a pact for the 2019 general election.
The UK voting system wastes 71% of votes to the benefit of the Tories. It takes only 38 000 votes to elect each Tory MP but 50 000 for Labour, 250 000 for the Lib Dems and 850 000 for the Greens.
FPTP is a big fraud that shuts out millions of voices and locks in nasty and arrogant political behaviour. Progressives could pass legislation for PR and usher in a new democracy.
AR Revolution now!
2022 May 1
Russia and the World
US National Security Council senior director for European and Russian affairs Fiona Hill on World War 3: "We're already in it. We have been for some time."
The war in Ukraine has come at a uniquely bad and dangerous time in global affairs. Apart from the costs of the pandemic, inflationary pressures linked to the war and to Russia using its natural resources as a weapon are raising the cost of living.
Shifting away from such chronic over-reliance on Russian resources will take years. Massive investments are needed in other technologies, many of which depend on raw materials such as nickel or zinc where Russia is dominant in global markets.
The sudden shock has pushed the UK, the EU, and the US into crisis mode and into more support for Ukraine. Russian diplomacy has highlighted widespread views that the West is looking after its own interests and ignoring those of others.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov: "This is not about Ukraine at all, but the world order. The current crisis is a fateful, epoch-making moment in modern history. It reflects the battle over what the world order will look like."
Apocalyptic warnings of a third world war should not obscure the crises brewing elsewhere. Africa faces severe problems. The IMF warns of rising food insecurity, poverty, economic inequality, and social unrest.
High global prices threaten billions of people. Much will turn on climate conditions this summer. We are living through a turning point in history.
AR Years of blood and toil.
Oxford Tories Rule UK
Simon Kuper chronicles the rise of Boris Johnson and his clique. Kuper: "I will argue in this book that if Johnson [et al.] had received rejection letters from Oxford aged 17, we would probably never have had Brexit."
He chronicles the traditional Oxford bias in favour of entrenched elites: "In the 1920s, an Etonian like Alec Douglas-Home could be admitted to Oxford practically as his birthright, get a third-class degree and still go on to become prime minister, the third consecutive Etonian in the job. From 1900 to 1979, nearly a quarter of all cabinet ministers had been to Eton."
Kuper says students at postwar Oxford were admired for blagging and amateurism: "Bluffing your way through tutorials was considered an art."
Johnson's former Oxford tutor Jonathan Barnes: "If you're intelligent enough, you can rub along in philosophy on a couple of hours a week. Boris rubbed along on no hours a week, and it wasn't quite good enough."
Kuper matriculated at Oxford in 1988. He says the Johnson clique believed they were born to rule. The Bullingdon Club was defiantly anti-meritocratic: "Almost all its members were selected on the basis of their social origins and gender. It specialised in public statements of entitlement. Club members went around in a pack sacking restaurants or the rooms of new members, smashing bottles on the street, humiliating hired sex workers, and 'debagging' (removing the trousers of) lower-caste outsiders. They would then add insult to injury by compensating 'pleb' victims with money .. Bullingdon members were the people who were going to make the rules."
Kuper: "Brexit has been billed as an anti-elitist revolt. More precisely, it was an anti-elitist revolt led by an elite: a coup by one set of Oxford public schoolboys against [an]other."
AR I can vouch for this.
Ukrainian soldier with Russian scrap (ZSU‑23‑4, KamAZ, TOR TLAR)
2022 April 30
The New York Times
Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine appears to be faltering. Its troops are suffering battlefield losses and logistical and morale problems like those they faced in March.
Russian efforts to encircle Ukrainian troops in the east seem to have stalled. Ukrainians have retaken a small town near Kharkiv. Russia is using artillery to pound Ukrainian forces along the eastern front but has only made incremental gains.
It's hard to square Putin's claim that this is about Nazism in Ukraine, protecting Russians in Ukraine, and defending Russian national interests, when none of them were threatened by Ukraine. It's brutality of the coldest and the most depraved sort.
It's hard to square that rhetoric with what he's doing inside Ukraine to innocent people, shot in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs, pregnant women being killed, hospitals being bombed.
Russia hopes to rectify issues that previously constrained its invasion by geographically concentrating combat power, shortening supply lines, and simplifying command and control.
Russia still faces challenges. It has merged and redeployed depleted and disparate units from the failed advances in northeast Ukraine. Many of these units are likely suffering from weakened morale.
Shortcomings in Russian tactical co-ordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass.
AR Putin can only die in office.
This Week in Westminster
This week saw several revelations about MPs' inappropriate behaviour. The pattern emerging is a lack of respect for standards in public life. Sleaze and misconduct will tarnish parliament's reputation. MPs' role as the people's representatives raises questions about the proper functioning of our system.
Inflaming war to serve ambition
On Wednesday night, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss described Putin as an irrational "rogue operator" with no interest in international norms: "We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine."
Truss calls for ever more economic and military aid to be sent to Ukraine. She appears to want Moldova and Georgia to join NATO. Though Putin is irrational and unreliable, Truss argues that he is susceptible to deterrence and will not react recklessly to her escalating belligerence. This is tabloid diplomacy.
Tories should stop the bidding war
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss wants to push Russia out of Ukraine: "The war in Ukraine is our war."
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace says Ukraine includes Crimea: "Britain is assisting and finding artillery for Ukraine."
Truss: "There must be nowhere for Putin to fund this appalling war."
Wallace should know better. A steadying hand can hardly be expected from Truss in her bid for the Conservative leadership.
Brexit is a disaster
On Thursday, UK minister for Brexit opportunities Jacob Rees‑Mogg visited the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone and announced that the government was delaying yet again the imposition of post‑Brexit border checks on imports from the EU. He said this would save money and help consumers. Enforcing the checks "would have been an act of self‑harm".
Like the last days of Rome
This week, a female MP was baselessly branded an exhibitionist, a male MP was accused of watching porn in the Commons chamber, 56 MPs are reportedly under investigation for sexual misconduct, and the prime minister remains under police investigation.
Edward Gibbon said the decline and fall of the Roman empire was due to such factors as flashiness prioritised over economic growth, a widening gap between rich and poor, perverted obsessions, high taxes that were then misspent, and a decay of ideals.
AR Britain needs a revolution.
One of 200 Polish T‑72 tanks on their way to Ukraine. Britain will send Challenger tanks to Poland to replace them.
2022 April 29
President Joe Biden: "Throughout our history, we've learned that when dictators do not pay the price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and engage in more aggression. They keep moving. And the costs, the threats to America and the world, keep rising. We can't let this happen."
Russians are still struggling
The New York Times
Russian forces in the Donbas region are still struggling to overcome the same logistics problems that hampered their initial offensive, says a senior Pentagon official.
In eastern Donbas, Russian artillery is supporting troops as they methodically advance near the city of Izium. Wary of running ahead of their supply lines, the troops are advancing only a few km a day.
A missile strike hit Kyiv on Thursday hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky met with UN secretary general Antonio Guterres just a few miles away.
Biden called on Congress to approve $33 billion in additional aid for Ukraine.
America, arsenal of democracy
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin appeared to have a powerful, modern army, supported by a defense budget a dozen times larger than Ukraine's.
Even after Ukraine's defeat of Russia's initial attack, one had to wonder. Before the war, Russia's economy was about eight times bigger than Ukraine's. You might expect Russia to win a battle of attrition through sheer weight of resources.
But the way Russia is issuing dire threats against the West and cutting off of natural gas flows to Poland and Bulgaria suggests Moscow is worried time is not on its side.
America is doing what it did in the year before Pearl Harbor, serving as the arsenal of democracy. Lend-Lease has been revived, and large-scale military aid is flowing to Ukraine, not just from the United States but also from many of our allies.
The arithmetic of attrition is now working against Putin. Russia's economy is small compared with the US economy, let alone the combined economies of the Western allies.
Ukraine's army is getting better equipped by the day. Cumulative Western support for Ukraine will soon come close to Russia's annual military spending.
If Ukraine wins, it will be a triumph for the forces of freedom everywhere.
Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba: "Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons for the sake of world peace. We have then been knocking on NATO's door, but it never opened. Security vacuum led to Russian aggression."
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg: "We need to be prepared for the long term. There is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years."
AR The end is nigh: Putin is mortal.
2022 April 28
Ukraine War May Last Years
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss believes that the war in Ukraine could last for years. She fears Putin could use weapons of mass destruction to try to break the deadlock. She says he could inflict "untold further misery across Europe" if he is not pushed out of Ukraine.
Putin: "If anyone intends .. to intervene in the ongoing events and create unacceptable strategic threats for Russia, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be as quick as lightning. We have all the tools for this .. We will use them if they are needed .. All the decisions on this matter have already been made."
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace: "He is, in almost desperation, trying to broaden this either with threats .. Putin, having failed in nearly all his objectives, may seek to consolidate what he's got, sort of fortify and dig in as he did in 2014, just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country in Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions."
Putin will try to achieve a breakthrough by May 9 but is unlikely to do so.
Wallace: "If Ukraine did choose to target logistics infrastructure for the Russian army, that would be legitimate under international law."
Truss says Russia is even less trustworthy than the USSR: "They would de-escalate when they were confronted and called out .. and they had an eye on their global reputation. None of these factors applies to Putin. We are dealing with a desperate rogue operator with no interest in international mores."
Western war aims are growing
Step by step, western war aims are expanding.
US defense secretary Lloyd Austin says the western goal is to "weaken Russia" to the point where it can no longer invade or threaten its neighbors.
UK junior defence minister James Heappey says it would be "completely legitimate" for Ukraine to use western weapons to strike inside Russia.
The language has toughened as the conflict stalls. Russia's assault in Donbas is unfolding only slowly. But Kyiv's forces cannot yet force the invaders back in Donbas or the south.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says NATO is "in essence .. engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy" and risks a third world war or even nuclear war.
Russian security council head Nikolai Patrushev: "The result of the policy of the West and the Kyiv regime under its control can only be the disintegration of Ukraine into several states."
Western officials would like to see Ukraine restoring its pre-2022-02-24 borders. But Ukraine is unable to achieve such goals on the battlefield.
Western heavy weapons arrive in May.
AR Gets more ominous by the day.
Germany is sending 100 MAN HX81 tank transporters, about 50 Gepard Flakpanzer and 100 Marder Schützenpanzer
to the Ukrainian army, and may send 88 Leopard 1 Kampfpanzer and a batch of Panzerhaubitze 2000 (photo)
2022 April 27
Putin must decide whether to declare war.
The depletion of his troops means he must escalate or go home. Without national mobilization, the Donbas may be the last big offensive his military can handle. Even mobilization would not fix the structural problems facing the Russians in command, flexibility, combined arms, and logistics.
Putin will want a battlefield success before the May 9 victory parade in Red Square. Unless his forces prevail in Donbas, he will promote the narrative for the next phase of the war. He may declare an imminent danger to Russia to justify general mobilisation against a NATO proxy war on Russia.
NATO involvement is becoming both deeper and more open. So far, its aim in this special operation is to help Ukraine fight Putin to a standstill and pursue a European future.
But Putin may believe he can win a war.
AR Too risky.
Boris Johnson promised to Get Brexit Done. It is not done. His government is drafting a law to let him override the NI protocol of his Brexit deal.
This is the latest sequel in a bad movie franchise. Brussels has taken a portion of UK sovereignty hostage. Plucky Boris must go in, all guns blazing, to retrieve it. Playing by the rules and respecting treaties is for Remoaner softies.
Until now, the government has rattled article 16 in the Brexit deal. But article 16 is a conventional weapon. The new idea from the bunker is to go nuclear.
The theory is that it takes a proper crisis for Brussels to take notice of British grievance. Currently, the EU is being bureaucratic. Johnson wants to escalate to a deal between political leaders. He wants to engage Paris and Berlin.
This is a bad time to be divisive. Johnson thinks his credentials as a stalwart friend of Kyiv give him wriggle room to make demands over NI. But he is no good at cultivating foreign alliances. Wounded by Partygate, his focus is on political survival.
Cabinet has not discussed the plan to nuke the Brexit deal. Much depends on elections next week. The Stormont poll in NI could trigger a crisis. And if council elections in England reveal massive discontent with Johnson, Tory MPs may move to oust him.
The pledge to Get Brexit Done raised hope of ending a toxic national drama. But Johnson has lost the knack he once had for turning crisis into carnival. An apocalyptic downfall awaits.
AR Just resign.
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures regulates the seven base units: second, meter, kilogram, ampere, kelvin, candela, and mole. All except the mole are derived from the second. We are about to change the definition of the second.
Time has its roots in astronomical time keeping. But Earth is gradually slowing in its daily rotation, so the astronomical second is growing longer. Earth as a clock has lost more than 3 hours since 0 CE.
Metrologists use atoms of cesium 133 as clocks. Put in a vacuum and hit with microwaves, these atoms emit photons at their natural resonance frequency of 9 192 631 770 Hz. We use this frequency to define the second.
Optical atomic clocks are like cesium clocks but measure atoms or ions that tick faster, with frequencies in the visible spectrum, such as Al, Sr, Yb, or Hg.
NIST has three optical atomic clocks in Boulder, Colorado. Each is mounted on a steel slab, shielded from the geomagnetic field, in a vacuum chamber with the atom at its core.
Lasers chill the atoms to near 0 K and then excite them with photons tuned to exactly the resonant frequency of the atoms. A femtosecond-laser frequency comb that emits pulses of photons spaced like the teeth of a comb reads the THz frequencies of the tunable lasers.
In 2015, the optical atomic clocks in the Boulder labs measured different values for the second. NIST then found the exact heights of the clock labs were different.
General relativity predicts that time moves more slowly near a massive body. The slightly different timings reflected tiny changes in the gravitational field.
AR Good outcome.
To support Ukraine in its fight against Russian invaders, the UK has supplied man-portable Starstreak missiles and approved
a batch of mobile systems based on the Stormer armored vehicle fitted with a weapon station mounting eight missiles.
The Starstreak has laser guidance and is guided onto the target by the operator.
2022 April 26
How to Prevent the Next Pandemic
When Covid subsides, global attention will turn to other problems. We need to act now to prevent another pandemic. The next pathogen may be worse. We must:
1 Learn lessons from Covid for next time. A pandemic is like a fire that starts in one building and within weeks is burning in every country in the world. We need to invest $1 billion a year on a global epidemic response and mobilization team.
2 Enable every country to detect an outbreak within a week. A robust health system can detect and report diseases as well as treat them. Every community in every country should be able to detect an outbreak, report it, and start to control it within two weeks.
3 Help people to protect themselves right away. Measures like closing businesses and stopping big public gatherings have a huge impact and implementing them is hard. But we can do them right away, and we know how to do them.
4 Develop treatments as well as vaccines. Delivering a vaccine for a new pathogen to most of the population takes time. We need to invest more in understanding how pathogens work and in finding treatments faster.
5 Develop better, more accessible vaccines. Scientists were lucky to create multiple successful Covid vaccines in roughly a year, but vaccination took multiple doses. We need vaccines that are easy to deliver in one shot and protect you for life.
6 Practice for a pandemic. We need to practice stopping pathogens early, learn which parts of the system need to improve, and be willing to make changes.
7 Keep tackling infectious diseases in poorer countries. Many of the tools used against Covid have their roots in efforts to fight other diseases.
8 Develop national plans for preventing pandemics. Regardless of how the next big outbreak arises, the key is to have better plans and tools.
We understand the threat. We need to act now.
AR See his new book on this.
⦿ Daniel Berehulak / NYT
Oleksandr Halunenko, the first pilot of the Antonov 225 Mriya, surveys damage to the world's largest cargo aircraft at the
Antonov airfield near Kyiv. With its 6 jet engines and a wingspan of 88 m, Mriya flew huge cargoes across the world,
including the heaviest item ever airlifted, a 188‑ton power generator from Germany in 2009.
It was a widely beloved airplane and a cherished symbol of Ukraine.
⦿ Simon Dawson
2022 April 25
US Supports Ukraine
The New York Times
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine thanked President Biden, Congress, and the American people for their support after the US secretaries of state and defense met with him on Sunday.
Zelensky spoke with secretary of state Antony Blinken and defense secretary Lloyd Austin about defense assistance, Russian sanctions, financial support for Ukraine, and security guarantees. He said $3.4 billion in US military aid has elevated Ukraine's defensive capabilities.
Austin will discuss in more detail what Ukraine needs to prevail against Russia at a meeting in Germany on Tuesday: "We want to see Russia weakened to the degree it cannot do the kind of things that it has done in invading Ukraine."
AR China will take note.
Putin vs NATO
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
I first met Vladimir Putin while serving as the prime minister of Denmark in 2002. Back then, he was still willing to work with the West and even assisted the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. When I took over as NATO secretary general in 2009, Putin told me NATO was a relic to be consigned to history.
Putin's cruel war in Ukraine will make NATO larger, stronger, and more united. The sight of Russian tanks pouring across the border into Ukraine shattered old beliefs about security in Finland and Sweden. Both countries should apply to join NATO before the NATO summit in June.
The Kremlin propaganda machine will warn against further NATO expansion, claiming it will destabilize the region and make war more likely. The only person destabilizing Europe is Putin.
AR Defend the Baltic region.
Brexit Is Failing
Hostility toward immigration was a key driver of Brexit. The growth of non-European immigration inspired the rise of UKIP, which first rose before the immigration from new EU members. Brexit has accelerated that immigration.
The UK now has an immigration rate almost as high as ever. The points-based system has let in more migrants from outside the EU. The Home Office granted almost 240 000 work-related visas in 2021, 25% more than in 2019, fewer than a tenth of them to EU migrants. Since 2019, the number granted to Pakistanis has grown by 255%, to Nigerians by 415%, to Indians by 164%.
A recent poll shows the government has an approval rating of −57 on immigration. Only inflation has a lower rating. Hostility to immigrants is really about falling living standards. Brexit has accelerated the fall.
Is the Rwanda scheme a distraction?
The government's flagship immigration scheme to send Channel arrivals to Rwanda could see fewer than 200 sent to Africa every year. Just 2% of people who arrive in the UK by boat are deemed eligible be sent there. The £120 million scheme has attracted a lot of criticism.
AR Who voted for this?
Réélu président de la République, Emmanuel Macron a délivré son premier discours devant la foule de ses partisans:
"Merci chers amis, chers compatriotes .. Après cinq années de transformations .. une majorité d'entre nous a fait
le choix de me faire confiance pour présider notre République durant les cinq années à venir."
⦿ Carmine Palladino
2022 April 24
Today marks two months since Russia started its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine:
• Lives of civilians destroyed
• Families torn apart and forcefully separated
• Damaged housing, heating, water, and electricity supplies
• Schools and hospitals razed to the ground
• Peaceful population shelled
• Gender-based violence targeted at women and girls
• And so on ..
Since the very first day, Europe has stood united. We will continue to do so.
UK, Russia, Ukraine
The Sunday Times
When Boris Johnson visited Kyiv on 9 April, he shook hands with his "friend" President Volodymyr Zelensky, walked around the city, and reaffirmed his commitment to intensifying sanctions on Russia.
Ever since 2014, the Ukrainians have wanted to buy British weapons to resist Russian aggression. Former defence secretary Liam Fox: "The Ukrainians need the ability to defend their homeland against a much more powerful aggressor .. There was no logic whatsoever in saying .. we can't give the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves in case of provoking Putin."
In July 2016, the appointment of Johnson as foreign secretary won support from the Kremlin. In his first conversation with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Johnson said he wanted a new "constructive" relationship with Russia.
In November 2017, asked whether he had seen any Russian influence in British elections or referendums, Johnson replied: "I haven't seen any evidence of that .. not a sausage, nyet."
In December 2017, Johnson visited Moscow, sat with Lavrov, and cited "difficulties" over Ukraine. Johnson: "I am delighted to say that there are increasing exports of British Kettle crisps to Russia, and in spite of all the difficulties I believe 300 Bentleys were sold this year in Russia."
In September 2018, Johnson said in Washington: "When I became foreign secretary, I thought there was no objective reason why we should be quite so hostile to Russia .. I made the classic mistake of thinking it was possible to have a reset with Russia."
In July 2019, Johnson became prime minister when the intelligence and security committee was finalising its report on Russia. The work had been delayed by a lengthy redaction to protect state secrets. The final report was due to be published in October, but Downing Street said it needed further redactions. Former attorney-general Dominic Grieve: "Some of the evidence was germane to interference in elections."
In December 2019, Johnson celebrated his election victory at the former KGB spy Alexander Lebedev's 60th birthday party. To fund the election, the Conservative party had received a record total of £1.5 million from Russian-linked donors in 2019. A Foreign Office minister at the time: "Don't rock the boat because we need the dosh."
On 19 March 2020, Johnson enjoyed a "personal engagement" with his friend Evgeny Lebedev, son of Alexander and owner of the Evening Standard and The Independent, whom he had secretly nominated for a peerage. Lebedev was duly elevated to the Lords.
By late 2020, tensions were rising in the Donbas between Ukrainian forces and the Russian separatists. Officials in Ukraine's London embassy were desperate to buy weapons. A senior Tory source: "We didn't want to offend the Kremlin .. we were very, very muted by a desire for us not to take an economic hit in any conceivable way."
In September 2020, the new Ukrainian ambassador to London, Vadym Prystaiko, tried to secure a meeting with then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab, but Raab was too busy.
In January 2022, as Russian troops massed on the border, Britain finally agreed to send anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.
Suddenly, Johnson was eager to defy Russia. He ordered the NCA to hunt down corrupt Russian assets hidden in the UK. By late March, the government had imposed sanctions on 18 Russian oligarchs with a combined wealth of £30 billion.
President Zelensky: "If we had access to all the weapons we need .. we would have already ended this war."
AR The UK should pose with the EU on Ukraine.
⦿ Tom Jenkins
Tyson Fury wins
2022 April 23
It From Qubit
Space could be emergent. A universe with AdS space that curves like a saddle, with gravity, can be seen as equivalent to a lower-dimensional world without gravity. This is AdS/CFT duality.
Quantum unitarity guarantees that at a microscopic level, information cannot be destroyed. But Stephen Hawking calculated that information is destroyed as a black hole evaporates, creating a tension between gravity and quantum mechanics.
Particles that radiate out of a black hole may contain scrambled messages about what fell in. The entropy of a black hole equals its surface area. Something links area, entropy, and information.
The structure of space in the volume of an AdS universe manifests on the boundary. If two regions in the volume of space are connected, the corresponding variables are entangled in the flat-world boundary. If they were not entangled, there would be no space.
Suppose two gravitating universes are disjoint. General relativity requires that they be completely severed. But if we let the wild fluctuations of quantum gravity make fleeting connections, we can avoid an information paradox.
Black holes arrange the information they contain in nearly random combinations of microscopic bits. Information is preserved but almost impossible to recover.
In certain universes with too many dimensions, squishing down the extra dimensions makes a bubble with no space inside. A bubble of nothing occurs when the fundamental degrees of freedom in the flat world are no longer entangled. The qubits are still there in the flat world.
Somehow, spacetime emerges from entanglement.
AR Thus is Kant's transcendental æsthetic largely reduced to logic.
Australian climate counsellor Lesley Hughes: "Reminding people that just because it's a nice day,
climate change hasn't gone away is really important."
Boris in India
2022 Earth Day
Boris Johnson is the first prime minister to be investigated for contempt of the Commons. He was unable to block a Labour motion referring him to the privileges committee over whether he deliberately misled the House over Downing Street parties.
The principle that members do not lie to parliament is fundamental, and refusal to investigate Johnson would undermine faith in democracy. The committee will begin its inquiry after the police finish their investigations and Sue Gray delivers her report.
Johnson says he wants to get on with the job as polls show Conservatives trailing Labour on every policy area. His show of contrition in the Commons on Tuesday was followed by a show of bravado in front of the 1922 Committee.
Brexiteer backbencher Steve Baker: "I've been tempted to forgive, but .. that spirit of earnest willingness to forgive lasted about 90 seconds of the 1922 Committee meeting .. The prime minister's apology lasted only as long as it took to get out of the headmaster's study .. The prime minister should just know that the gig is up."
Defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood: "I fear it's now when, not if, a vote of confidence takes place. Sadly, the absence of discipline, focus, and leadership in No 10 has led to this breach of trust with the British people."
The Commons resolved that Johnson appeared to have misled the House and that the privileges committee should examine the evidence against him. The government had planned to whip its MPs behind an amendment to delay the motion. Minutes before the debate was due to start, it dropped the amendment and gave its MPs a free vote.
A government minister: "It was clear that there were too many people not answering the whips' calls and too many people asking for approved absences .. It was too close."
Commons leader and former chief whip Mark Harper: "At the end of the process there will be a vote and MPs will have to decide: did the prime minister mislead parliament or not?"
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer: "It's clear he has lost the confidence of his MPs. Today's climbdown showed that they know they can no longer defend the indefensible .. The prime minister has been accused of repeatedly, deliberately, and routinely misleading the House over parties held in Downing Street during lockdown."
Privileges committee chairman Chris Bryant: "Each generation of MPs has a responsibility to burnish, not tarnish, the reputation of this House."
The committee is made up of 7 MPs: 4 Tories, 2 Labour, and 1 SNP. It will be able to call witnesses and demand evidence, including more than 300 photos and any evidence the PM had when he told MPs all rules were followed.
Johnson said in India: "I have absolutely nothing, frankly, to hide. If that is what the opposition want to talk about, that's fine."
His guilt is beyond doubt
Boris Johnson's capitulation to the Commons privileges committee leaves him open to the risk of being found lying to parliament. He'd have to resign.
No one doubts the facts. Proof enough lay in the resignations that followed their disclosure. Then Sue Gray was asked to investigate, and the Metropolitan police then came in to add more delay. Johnson kicked the can down the road.
Johnson has used the Met to silence Gray. He has fled the scene to Ukraine and now takes refuge in India. He has invoked the aid of Putin, the cost-of-living crisis, and the merits of continuity. He ordered his MPs to stall over the privileges committee.
Local elections will be opinion polls on his premiership. Yet his colleagues seem ready to play along with his buffoonery. A humiliation from voters cannot be far away.
The British economy is in trouble. But Johnson is not in control. He leaves Downing Street almost daily to wander the country in search of photo ops for the evening news.
On Partygate, there was some justice in the plea that its criminality did not merit the penalty of resignation. But Johnson tried to bluff and squirm his way through the crisis. In doing so, he has subjected us all to an ugly farce.
AR Baker cited Ezekiel 7:3: "Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations."
2022 April 21
BBC News, 1600 UT
Labour tabled a motion in the Commons asking for a parliamentary committee to investigate whether Boris Johnson misled MPs during the Partygate saga. When the deputy speaker asked MPs for their opinion on in the Commons, no one opposed it.
Labour's proposal has therefore gone through. Conservatives have thus avoided concerns about the size of a Tory rebellion if it went to a vote. There will now be an investigation by the Commons privileges committee.
SNP leader Ian Blackford: "At the very heart of this scandal, there is one thing that needs to be said .. the prime minister of the United Kingdom is a liar."
AR There's a lot behind this story.
Physics-Informed Neural Networks
The Euler equations describe the motion of an ideal, incompressible fluid. Given the velocity of each particle in the fluid at some time, they predict the flow of the fluid for all time. But they may break down at singularities.
We can feed the equations into a computer, run simulations from an initial state, and watch until the value of a quantity begins to grow wildly. But the solutions are sensitive to tiny errors that can accumulate with each time step in a simulation.
We can find out whether an apparent singularity is real. A physics-informed neural network, or PINN, satisfies a set of underlying physical constraints. The physics enables it to work with very little data and to infer new parameters in the equations.
We can run a model of the equations to display a pattern. We can add a parameter for magnification and focus on a time before the singularity, then step forward up to the point of singularity.
A team has set up and trained a PINN to do this.
AR I have a PINN in my head.
Satan launch, Plesetsk, Russia, Wednesday
Putin Threatens West
Russia is now so isolated from the rest of the world that Putin sees little downside to provocative actions. On Wednesday, he provoked those in the West who "try to threaten our country" by showing a test-launch of a Satan 2 ICBM.
CIA director William Burns: "Every day, Putin demonstrates that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising ones."
Putin thinks he is winning: "We can already confidently say that .. the strategy of an economic blitzkrieg has failed."
Russian central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina: "At the moment, perhaps this problem is not yet so strongly felt, because there are still reserves in the economy. But .. the period during which the economy can live on reserves is finite."
Putin can still retaliate with has his cyberarsenal. US officials have been warning financial firms and others for months to prepare themselves.
US national cyber director Chris Inglis: "If the Russians attack the West, NATO, or the United States, that's a fraught decision that has dire consequences on both sides."
A new Satan
Dave Mosher, 2018
The RS‑28 Sarmat, NATO code name SS‑X‑30 Satan 2, has been in development since at least 2009 as a replacement for the Soviet-era Satan ICBM. It can carry 10 large MIRV warheads, 16 smaller ones, a combination of warheads and countermeasures, or up to 24 hypersonic boost-glide vehicles. It could pack up to 8 megatons of explosive power.
AR Putin is intoxicated by his satanic power.
2022 April 20
UK PM Apologises
Boris Johnson, the first prime minister in history to be found guilty of a criminal offence while in office, made a statement to the Commons. His expressions of remorse became ever more abject: He apologised "wholeheartedly", "unreservedly", "profusely", and "bitterly regretted" what had happened. "In all humility", he said the British people had a "right to expect better".
He said it never occurred to him that his attendance at a birthday celebration breached the rules. He didn't say why he accepted the resignation of Matt Hancock for a breach of the rules and Allegra Stratton for merely joking about breaking the rules. He tried to bury his apology in a wider statement on Ukraine.
Former chief whip Mark Harper cited Ukraine: "It is exactly at time like this .. that we need a prime minister who exemplifies our values."
A constitutional crisis
The prime minister is the ultimate arbiter of the ministerial code informing ministers of the standards expected of them. Parliamentarians are supposed to hold the PM to account. If this fails, as it has, we should improve the constitution:
• Separate the power to investigate breaches of the ministerial code, rule upon them, and suggest sanctions from the PM as far as possible.
• Review the work of Downing Street special advisers and hold them to account. At present, they do not appear before select committees or answer questions in public.
• Make less use of procedures designed to speed along legislation. At present, parliament lacks the time or tools to scrutinise laws properly.
• Simplify the conventions and rules of parliament to help new MPs understand them.
AR Apologise in deed and resign.
Seen in Japan
The UK Nuclear Arsenal
British governments have failed to pay proper attention to the UK nuclear weapons program for decades. Its huge cost makes this a matter of public concern.
The UK is designing a new generation of nuclear warheads and upgrading the existing ones. The warheads are designed and manufactured by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE).
AWE is updating its facilities. The service date for its new facility for assembling and disassembling warheads has slipped to 2024 and the cost nearly trebled. As for its capability to store and manufacture the fissile parts of its warheads and submarine fuel, the target service date for the storage facility is 2025 and the manufacturing capability 2030, with no updated cost estimate.
The UK must ask whether it can do all this properly. The government has renationalised AWE, but MoD failings led to AWE being privatised 30 years ago. It seems Trident is a political statement first and a weapon system second.
The UK should learn from France, where each new president of the republic gives a major speech on nuclear deterrence.
AR Merge the British and French nuclear weapons programs in a Joint European Deterrent Infrastructure (JEDI).
2022 April 19
Russia Begins Eastern Front Assault
The Times, 0900 UT
Russia says it hit more than 1,200 targets in Ukraine with missiles, artillery, and airstrikes overnight as it launched its new offensive in the Donbas region. Putin's forces captured the small eastern city of Kreminna.
Prepare for more grim news
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky: "Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas .. No matter how many soldiers are driven there, we will defend ourselves. We will fight. We will not give up anything Ukrainian."
Russian troops have captured another town in the Luhansk region. Kreminna military administration head Oleksandr Dunets: "The fighting lasted three days and Russia used a large number of armoured vehicles to attack the city."
There are 76 Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in the Donbas region and in southeast Ukraine, 11 of them added in recent days. About 22 more BTGs north of Ukraine are likely being resupplied and refitted.
Earlier on Monday, Russia fired missiles against targets across Ukraine: 4 hit the western city of Lviv, killing 7 people and injuring at least 11. Russia says the missiles wiped out Ukrainian ammunition dumps and other military targets.
Ukrainian government officials say Russian warplanes plan to drop 5‑ton bombs on the Azov steel plant in Mariupol. Ukrainian soldiers have been holding out in tunnels under the plant for 7 weeks. The tunnels provide a shelter for hundreds of civilians including children.
The capture of Mariupol is key. If Russian forces succeed in taking the city, they could free up nearly a dozen BTGs for use in the Donbas.
The UN says the civilian death toll has surpassed 2,000 since the invasion began. About 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country.
AR NATO air power would prevail.
Easter Monday: Strolled along the shoreline to Middle Beach and back (maybe 15 km)
2022 April 18
Finland and NATO
A Finnish government report says Russia jeopardises the security and stability of all Europe.
In 2012, Finland was the first European country to acquire AGM‑158 air-to-surface stand-off missiles. In February 2022, it ordered 64 F‑35 warplanes.
Finland's air force conducts regular cross-border exercises with Norway and Sweden. As well as a defence agreement with the United States, it is in the JEF grouping of 10 north European countries with mobile military forces deterring Russia.
Finland maintains big stockpiles of fuel, food, and medicine. Universal conscription for men, followed by regular training, underpins the biggest reserve forces in Europe. Courses for senior decision-makers build cohesion and capability in the face of crises. Schools teach young children to spot disinformation. A research center in Helsinki examines hybrid threats from Moscow.
For NATO, Finland's advanced, well-funded armed forces are ideal. Interoperability is already assured. Intelligence-sharing will be smooth. Assuming the Swedes follow the lead from Helsinki, the Baltic Sea will become a NATO lake.
In the Kremlin, Putin stooge Dmitry Medvedev threatens to deploy nuclear and hypersonic weapons to Kaliningrad. Russia is widely assumed to keep nuclear warheads there anyway.
Russia will try to stop Finland joining NATO. That will merely underline its necessity.
AR Welcome to the club.
Photo taken on April 14 of what appears to be the Russian navy flagship Moskva shortly before it sank. Ukrainian forces say
they hit the vessel off Odesa with land-based anti-ship missiles on April 13. It seems the crew has abandoned ship.
Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov: "When we say that, yes, it was old, yes, it had been renovated, yes, that series of
ships truly had vulnerable spots, old traumas, I get that. Just explain to me: how the hell did you manage to lose it?"
Ukrainian media say Russia's Black Sea Fleet commander Igor Osipov has been detained following the sinking.
Solovyov: "I don't care what happened, whether it was two Neptune missiles as the Ukrainians say. Since when is
a warship afraid of a missile strike when it has equipment protecting itself from such strikes?"
2022 Easter Sunday
Johnson Must Go
The Sunday Times
Boris Johnson is spending the Easter weekend at Chequers. He is expected to face a contempt of parliament motion next week over claims that he misled the Commons.
Earlier this year, Johnson cleared out No 10 as part of Operation Save Big Dog. Since then, he has reset his top team with the appointment of Guto Harri as No 10 press chief, Stephen Barclay as the PM's chief of staff, and David Canzini as Barclay's deputy.
A source: "It would be fair to say David or anyone else in No 10 would not go out of their way to proactively dig Rishi out of a ditch. We remember his silences, we remember his delays in coming out to say stuff, sullenly giving the most cursory support imaginable to the PM."
While Johnson has weathered the immediate storm following the Met's decision to fine him, it could have been different had Sunak decided to quit.
Many in the party now believe Sunak's opportunity to succeed Johnson has gone.
A cabinet minister: "It's done. Sunak's wealth was always going to be a problem for him but there is no way back now. None."
A former cabinet minister said Sunak's support had moved to Jeremy Hunt.
Days before the birthday party, Carrie Johnson sent messages asking senior officials to gather staff together. At the party, pictures were taken by an official photographer, showing Johnson drinking a can of beer and Sunak a soft drink. This event was deemed to be the least problematic of those Johnson attended.
The most damaging event was on November 13, 2020, to mark the exit of Lee Cain.
A source: "Boris came fumbling over, red box in tow, and he gathered the staff around the press office table, which did have bottles of alcohol on it. He said he wanted to say a few words for Lee and started pouring drinks for people and drinking himself. He toasted him."
Johnson returned to his flat above No 11 afterwards, for a second gathering involving his wife and her friends. Members of the press team downstairs heard Abba music blaring from the flat.
It is impossible to reconcile all this with the PM's statements in the Commons.
An insider: "It's evidence that he .. deliberately misled the House."
An MP: "The finale will be May 5."
Brexit was bad, this is worse
The UK government is badly and maliciously administered. It is a national and international disgrace. Much goes back to Johnson and Brexit, and the rot that has set in since.
But the damaging nonsense of Johnson's getting Brexit done is outdone by his glib attitude to lawbreaking. This is about the integrity of the nation.
The Ukraine war makes it more urgent that Johnson go
The criminal sanction imposed by the police on Boris Johnson should see his immediate removal from Downing Street.
Some say it would be wrong to remove the PM while conflict rages in Ukraine. But what matters to Ukraine is the position of the UK government, not the PM.
Resigning justice minister David Wolfson: "We can only .. credibly defend democratic norms abroad, especially at a time of war in Europe, if we are, and are seen to be, resolutely committed both to the observance of the law and also to the rule of law."
Putin's war in Ukraine makes it more urgent that Johnson go.
A new low for British policy
Boris Johnson broke laws intended to protect the public during a national emergency. The Mets fined him. He is expected to get more fines in the coming weeks.
Members of the public made huge sacrifices to comply with Covid rules. The PM made a mockery of those sacrifices and simply brushed off his wrongdoing.
Johnson has now made a deal with Rwanda that lets him forcibly deport to Rwanda people fleeing conflict and torture who seek refuge in the UK. Home secretary Priti Patel had to override civil servants who refused to sign the policy off on value for money grounds.
The forced deportation scheme marks a new low for British refugee policy.
2022 April 16
Sink the Putin
Moskva is the largest vessel to be sunk in battle since WW2. It played a key role in the bombardment of Mariupol and the Russian attempt to capture Odesa.
Russia says it will now resume air attacks on Kyiv. It has already reduced Mariupol to ruins but will aim to finish off resistance with no more humanitarian exit corridors. Russian forces may now commit a new round of massacres to terrify civilians.
Russia will launch a massive offensive in eastern Ukraine to seize territory. President Putin needs a credible military parade through Moscow on May 9.
AR We must sink his regime.
Good Friday: Walked to Swanage and back (maybe 30 km)
Moskva seen from orbit
on April 10
2022 April 15
Moskva Is Sunk
UKMOD, 0619 UT
Russia has admitted that the Slava-class cruiser Moskva has sunk. As flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet, Moskva served a key role as both a command vessel and air defence node.
The Soviet-era vessel was originally commissioned in 1979. Moskva completed an extensive refit designed to improve its capability and returned to operational status in 2021.
Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine. Both events will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea.
What really happened?
Russia's Defense Ministry says a fire of unknown origin detonated Moskva's stored ammunition and the resulting explosions left the ship with structural damage. It then sank while being towed to shore.
Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles. US experts believes with "medium confidence" that Ukraine's version of events is accurate.
The Moskva was armed with a range of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles as well as torpedoes, naval guns, and missile defense systems. It would have had massive amounts of explosives aboard.
Former US Navy submarine commander Thomas Shugart says the Moskva's air defense systems are not in the same league as the Aegis systems on US Navy destroyers. Soviet-era warships like Moskva are known for their offensive punch, not for their defensive systems or their damage control.
US military aid
The Biden administration says it will replenish and restock Ukrainian forces. A new $800 million defense package for Ukraine includes 155 mm howitzers with 40 000 artillery rounds and AN/TPQ‑36 and AN/MPQ‑64 Sentinel radar systems. The US will also deliver 100 armored HMMVs, 200 M113 APCs, and 11 Mi‑17 helicopters.
AR All positive news.
2022 April 14
Northern Front Against Russia
Finland and Sweden are considering whether to join NATO.
Their joining would transform the strategic situation by filling the gap between Norway in the north and the Baltic states on the eastern front. Finland and Estonia control eastern sea access to Russia just as Turkey controls its southern sea access.
Former senior US official Aaron Friedberg says the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO would be at least as important as recent shifts in Germany: "Finland and Sweden won't just be free riders but will add materially to NATO's combat power. They will mark a permanent change, one that the Russians have tried for years to prevent."
Finland is strong in artillery, surveillance, and cyber and missile readiness. The Finnish army can swiftly mobilize 280 000 troops and grow up to 900 000. It even has more battle tanks than Germany. Its air force flies 64 F‑18 strike jets and has ordered 64 F‑35 stealth jets.
NATO could soon be the grand alliance Putin fears.
Russia warns it will boost its Baltic forces if Finland and Sweden join NATO. Former president Dmitry Medvedev: "In this event, there can be no talk of the nuclear-free status of the Baltic region. The balance must be restored."
AR They should join NATO.
French National Rally Madness
National Rally leader Marine Le Pen hopes to win the French presidency.
On Russia: "As soon as the Russian-Ukrainian war is over .. I will call for the implementation of a strategic rapprochement between NATO and Russia."
On NATO: "I would place our troops neither under an integrated NATO command nor under a future European command."
On the EU: "The supranational institutions of Brussels operate through blackmail and threats that are rejected by the people."
On Germany: "We will put an end to all [military] cooperation with Berlin: the future fighter aircraft, the future tank, and continue with our own programmes."
A poll shows Macron at 53%, Le Pen at 47%.
AR Putin's useful idiot.
UK Elected Dictatorship
UK PM Boris Johnson attended illegal parties that breached Covid laws he had written. He told MPs he had been "repeatedly assured" there were no parties and no rules were broken.
If the PM did deliberately mislead MPs, he must resign under the code of conduct for ministers, which he signed off and approved in keeping with normal practice on becoming PM.
This is an important test of the UK constitution. If Tory MPs ignore the ministerial code, the charge will stick that a party with a big majority is simply an elected dictatorship.
What if Johnson is fined again?
Boris Johnson is in a much better place to fight for his survival than he was two months ago. Conservatives say now is not the time for a leadership contest.
The new No 10 team has boosted morale. The cost-of-living crisis has dominated MP mailboxes in recent weeks. Rishi Sunak's fall from grace leaves no obvious successor to Johnson.
But if Sunak is fined for turning up early to a meeting and briefly attending an event involving cake, what does that mean for the other events that Johnson is alleged to have attended?
A bad result in the upcoming local elections would mean the saga is far from over.
AR End the farce now.
Swedish PM Andersson and
Finnish PM Marin met
in Stockholm today
2022 April 13
Finland and Sweden Moot NATO
Finland and Sweden are both considering joining NATO.
Finland is producing a report on its security policy this week. Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin says she hopes discussions will wrap up by midsummer.
Sweden is producing an analysis of its security policy in May. Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson does not rule out NATO membership.
NATO allies and officials support the two countries joining. Hungary may object, but NATO officials think they can persuade its prime minister Viktor Orban to agree.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says of NATO: "This is not an alliance that provides peace and stability, and further expansion .. will not lead to more stability on the European continent."
Ukraine is unlikely to join NATO, but its efforts to join the EU have accelerated. Its application could again face opposition from Hungary.
NATO intervention in Ukraine would destabilize Europe.
Finland publishes report
CNN, 1439 UT
The Finnish government report on security changes following Russia's invasion of Ukraine asks whether Finland should join NATO: "Finland would be part of NATO's collective defence and be covered by the security guarantees enshrined in Article 5."
AR Scandinavians in NATO − good.
The PM Must Resign
Conservative MPs talk about whether the prime minister should resign over breaking the laws that he set. He will not go of his own volition. Anyone who thinks he will decide his position is untenable has not understood his career or his personality.
I think the PM should resign. He has now been found guilty of three serious failings. He has broken the law himself. He has presided over widespread lawbreaking among his staff. And he has not told parliament the truth about this lawbreaking.
Parliament relies on ministers taking trouble to inform themselves of the facts and then telling the truth to parliament about it. At least one part of that did not happen. If parliament decides that this does not matter, a line will have been crossed.
I do not believe that Britain changing its PM will make any difference to the war in Ukraine. Another Conservative PM would carry on the policy of the government with the same panache and effectiveness.
He can't cling on much longer
The Conservative party leadership plotting fizzled out as the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis made MPs reassess their priorities.
Boris Johnson seems determined to brazen the whole thing out. MPs worry about who would replace him. Many MPs fear Liz Truss might become PM.
Conservative MPs will be making a big mistake if they think Partygate is unimportant. Johnson presided over a culture of dishonesty, incompetence, and arrogance in Number 10 that led to multiple breaches of the law, then tried to cover it up.
Former Conservative party leader in Scotland Ruth Davidson: "He should go."
AR He should go.
2022 April 12
Boris Johnson has become the first prime minister found to have committed a criminal offence in office. He has been fined for attending lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Johnson's wife Carrie were also among the 30 government figures and officials to be issued today with fines for breaking Covid restrictions.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer: "Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public. They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better."
AR Resign. End the Brexit government.
2022 April 11
NATO Baltic Tripwire
The Baltic state of Lithuania borders Belarus on its east and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on its southwest. Russian TV pundits urge the Kremlin to force open a military corridor along the Suwalki gap, thus cutting off the Baltics from NATO ally Poland.
Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis: "Until last November, we had the Russian army quite far away from NATO's borders. Now the military activity is very close."
Since 2016, NATO has stationed enhanced forward presence battlegroups on its eastern flank in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. NATO will also dispatch multinational battalions to Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia.
NATO has increased its military presence in Lithuania from about 1,200 to about 1,600 soldiers and deployed new hardware. But these forces are a tripwire to trigger a response by all NATO states. Lithuania and Estonia urge NATO to move from deterrence to forward defence in the region.
Landsbergis: "What we're seeing in Russia and Belarus is now a dangerous country with the intention to attack other sovereign states .. We have to defend the Baltic states."
NATO and Russia signed a founding act in 1997 that limits how many NATO troops can be deployed to the Baltics and how close they can be to the border. The enhanced forward presence in Lithuania is made up of seven European nations led by Germany and must be rotated every six months at great cost and effort.
Landsbergis: "We have to start thinking in strategic terms."
AR Scrap the act.
2022 April 10
Putin's war has reached a crucial stage. Both sides are gearing up for battles that will decide whether Ukraine is partitioned and whether Russia can declare victory.
Putin will know this war could be his downfall and will not want a long war against NATO. He wants a war aim he can be sure of achieving and is now in a hurry to end the war.
Volodymyr Zelensky aims to restore the position before the Russian invasion. But then his people would press to retrieve the separatist enclaves. That would require inflicting another massive defeat on Russian forces.
Ukraine has the advantage in motivation and morale. It has no shortage of willing troops, with some of its best units deployed in the Donbas region.
Ukraine depends on the West for equipment. For a successful offensive, it will need heavy weapons and plentiful ammunition. NATO members have promised to keep the equipment flowing and include heavier weapons.
Ukraine is evacuating as many civilians as possible from areas that may soon be in contention. Russian forces aim to encircle and destroy the Ukrainian army in the Donbas region.
This is a critical moment in European history. The Ukrainians must set their own war aims. The West has every reason to give them maximum support.
Johnson visits Kyiv
Boris Johnson took a trip to Kyiv on Friday to meet Volodymyr Zelensky. He promised more British arms and money to help counter Russia.
Johnson: "Ukraine has .. pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century .. We are stepping up our own military and economic support and convening a global alliance to bring this tragedy to an end, and ensure Ukraine survives and thrives as a free and sovereign nation."
The UK has pledged £100 million in military assistance and will send 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems to Ukraine.
Moscow seeks to build a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbas region. Ukrainian forces retain control of positions around Mariupol, but Russian shelling hinders attempts to evacuate people and bring in food and medicine.
Russian forces have poor morale and have taken heavy losses.
AR A united European front can win this war.
France is over the horizon: my seafront, 2022-04-09, 1600 UT
Presidents von der Leyen,
2022 April 9
A New Cold War?
Putin's war has prompted a retreat into a Cold War mindset.
Western commitment to Ukraine and fears of a wider confrontation have led to increased military spending. The US Congress has hiked its annual military budget, already over $700 billion, by more than $40 billion to about 4% of GDP.
Putin leads an astonishingly weak great power. Russia's GDP is less than a tenth of America's or China's. The average Russian earns a fraction of what their US counterpart does. Putin and his henchmen have no path to world power.
Anglo-American elites minted the new Cold War in response to crises between 1989 and today. But unifying the various revolts against liberal democracy today by reviving antifascism or anticommunism would be a perilous mistake.
Western democracies need to make themselves more credible. The greatest temptation in the coming years is to believe that we fight for democracies already worthy of the name.
Neoliberalism has been the rule since the Cold War. Putin blindsided everyone in the summer and autumn of 2016 with Brexit and Donald Trump.
A Cold War with China will only make things worse.
AR Blaming Putin for B— and DT is my flourish.
President Ursula von der Leyen
"Ukraine belongs in the European family. We have heard your request, loud and clear. And today, we are here to give you a first, positive answer. In this envelope, dear Volodymyr, there is an important step towards EU membership. This questionnaire is the basis for our discussion in the coming months. This is where your path towards the European Union begins."
Kyiv, April 8
NASA Galaxy Evolution Explorer UV image of Andromeda
2022 April 8
Weak Boson Overweight
The W boson weighs about 80 GeV, but it may be overweight. The Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) collaboration now measures it to be 0.1% heavier than predicted by the Standard Model.
Other experiments weighing the W produced tamer results. In 2017, the ATLAS experiment at the LHC measured the W boson mass and found it to be only a hair heavier than what the SM says. The clash between CDF and ATLAS suggests that one or both groups has overlooked something.
Frank Wilczek: "It's a monumental piece of work, but it's very hard to know what to do with it."
W and Z bosons mediate the weak force, which transforms heavier particles into lighter ones. A muon decays into a W boson and a neutrino, for instance, and the W then becomes an electron and another neutrino. Related transformations cause radioactivity and help keep the Sun shining.
The W mass is predicted from the SM equations to be 80 357 MeV.
The new mass measurement, based on an analysis of millions of W bosons produced at the Tevatron between 2002 and 2011, finds the W mass is 80 433 ± 9 MeV, or 76 MeV heavier than the SM predicts. The discrepancy is some 7× larger than the margin of error. Such a 7σ discrepancy is big news.
W boson is 0.1% too heavy
The Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) was shut down a decade ago. A fresh analysis of old CDF data has unearthed a stunning discrepancy in the mass of the W boson.
The W boson is some 80 times heavier than a proton. It carries the weak nuclear force that lets neutrons decay into protons.
The Standard Model prediction for the W mass is 80 357 ± 6 MeV. But the CDF value for the W boson mass is 80 4335 ± 9.4 MeV. This is nearly 77 MeV higher than the SM value, almost 0.1% higher.
A W boson decays far too quickly to register in a detector. We infer its presence and properties by studying its decay products, chiefly electrons and muons. The CDF team found about 4 million events attributable to a W boson decay.
This work took a decade. The result has a statistical significance of nearly 7σ. Without new physics, discrepancies this big would arise from chance once every 800 billion times the experiment was run. Such a 7σ result is a call to arms.
The LHC ATLAS team is currently working to improve its measurement of the W mass.
Shocking W boson result
The new measurement of the mass of the W boson is shocking. US physicist Ashutosh Kotwal and his colleagues have analyzed old data from the Tevatron collider to calculate the most precise value so far. The result is extraordinary.
AR Is this a hint of SUSY?
2022 April 7
NATO expansion did not prompt President Putin to arrest or assassinate perceived political opponents, oust the Russian parliament, steal property on an unimaginable scale, and force the domestic media to spread propaganda and lies.
Putin chose war. His obsession with Ukraine, his belief in his personal supremacy, his desire to go down in history as a great Russian ruler, and his penchant for messianism run deep.
Stalin is in a tiny category of murderous despots along with Hitler and Mao. Putin is a far lesser figure. He will be named beside Hitler as someone who invaded Ukraine.
AR Z will become a hated symbol.
Ukraine, Poland, Germany
UK PM Boris Johnson meets Polish president Andrzej Duda today and German chancellor Olaf Scholz tomorrow.
Poland has opened its arms to 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees. Polish nationalists denounce Berlin for regarding the EU as a Fourth Reich and for being cautious toward Moscow.
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki says Russia is a "totalitarian fascist state" committing atrocities in Ukraine: "Germany's policy over the past 10 or 15 years has meant that Russia now has a strength based on the monopoly on the sale of raw materials .. Germany is the biggest brake when it comes to more decisive sanctions."
Polish leaders want Germany to agree to specific dates for ending the import of Russian coal, oil, and gas. Oil exports earn big money for Russia.
Polish deputy prime minister Jaroslav Kaczynski: "Germany always thought it knew better. You can't constantly support a major power like Russia with billions in payments from the purchase of energy. This is inadmissible from a political and moral point of view .. Germany should finally take a clear stance on it."
Poland plans to step up the rearmament of Ukraine in advance of the battle for Donetsk and Luhansk. It is willing to hand over hundreds of Soviet‑era T‑72 tanks.
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss: "The age of engagement with Russia is over. The NATO−Russia Founding Act is dead, and it is time to cast off an outdated approach to handling Russia."
Johnson may hope to persuade Poland and Germany to work together.
AR Bodger will fail.
Keynesian socialism has worked well in the UK in this century. In 2008, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling saved the banks by state intervention. In 2020, Rishi Sunak used the power of the state to pay wages during the Covid crisis.
In the spring of 2016, I said conservatism was philosophically finished. Its two main priorities had become so divergent that no Conservative leader could hold them together. Market fundamentalists wanted free trade, but a free market needs free movement of labour. British nationalists wanted new borders.
Brexit was a hopeless fudge that failed to unite a warring party. It was accomplished by electing a sophist as prime minister. Many of us felt some bitter comic relief in the resulting meltdown, but we do better to understand the wider problems.
The Tories have upped the tax burden to a level not seen for 50 years. They have refused to admit that government fraud is a crime. They are introducing legislation to ensure all public protest can be vetted by the home secretary. They plan to censor misleading information on social media yet permit it in print. They remain indifferent to the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan they helped create. They have made a bonfire of ministerial ethics. They have discovered the UK economy needs help from willing newcomers to survive.
After the banking crisis in 2008, market theory was bust. Successive Tory governments have refused to prosecute the crooks who caused the crisis and instead behaved as if nothing had happened.
AR This is inexcusable.
⦿ Roman Pilipey / EPA
Bucha, April 6
2022 April 6
Mitigation of Climate Change
The sixth IPCC assessment report provides a global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges. It examines the sources of global emissions, developments in emission reduction and mitigation, and the impact of national climate pledges.
Social scientists include their research. They debunk claims that less developed countries need fossil fuels to help tackle poverty. They describe efforts to block climate policy and say the obstacles are politics and fossil fuel interests.
The role of the fossil fuel industry is absent from the Summary for Policymakers. An earlier draft described the fossil fuel industry and others as "vested interests" that work against climate policy. But the summary must be approved by government representatives from 195 countries.
University of Lausanne professor of ecological economics Julia Steinberger: "No sustainable development [is] possible without climate mitigation. Unless you mitigate climate, the impacts are going to catch you every step of the way."
Exeter University professor of energy policy Catherine Mitchell: "People are beginning to realize how serious the climate crisis is, and that the ways to meet [it] tend to also improve energy security, justice, social concerns."
Breakthrough Energy atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira: "It's not about information deficit, it's about power relations, and people wanting to keep economic and political power."
AR My faith in human nature has taken big knocks recently.
Imagined view from surface
of exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f
NASA has so far detected
2022 April 5
Russian War Crimes
Russian aggressors committed all kinds of war crimes in Bucha. They searched for and deliberately killed anyone who served Ukraine. They shot and killed women outside their houses. They killed entire families − adults and children − and they tried to burn the bodies.
Civilians were shot and killed in the back of the head after being tortured. Some of them were shot on the streets. Others were thrown into wells and died there in agony. Civilians were crushed by tanks while sitting in their cars in the middle of the road, just for fun.
The Russian forces cut off limbs and slashed throats. Women were raped and killed in front of their children. The aggressors cut out tongues for speaking what they didn't want to hear.
Bucha is only one of many examples of what the occupiers have been doing on our land for the past 41 days. There are many more. Russia wants to turn Ukrainians into silent slaves.
The Russian military and those who gave them orders must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes in Ukraine. Anyone who has given criminal orders or carried them out by killing our people should be brought before a tribunal.
AR My short cut, edited from a translation.
Brexit Has Been Disastrous
Conservatives want to make Brexit a big issue again in the next general election. With no achievements and no ideas, they will say: Keep Brexit Done.
Boris Johnson said last month that the Brexit vote showed the freedom-loving nature of the British people, who shared it with Ukrainians resisting the Russian invasion.
His speech was so crass that even many Brexiteers condemned it. But it is part of a strategy. The top priority is delivering on the promise of Brexit.
The OBR says Brexit has cost the UK 4% of GDP. Statistics show UK exports have declined 16% since 2018.
Johnson: "There is no natural impediment to our exports, it is just will and energy and ambition."
The oven-ready solution is to repair the economic relationship with the EU. Yet both main parties refuse to discuss this.
AR The oven-ready solution is to rejoin the EU.
⦿ Anna Kucherova
Red is dead: postwar
2022 April 4
Real World War
Thomas L Friedman
The war between Russia and Ukraine looks more global than WW1 or WW2 ever were.
In WW1 and WW2, no one had a smartphone or access to social networks. Many people outside the war zones were still subsistence farmers who took little interest in the wars. The globalized and urbanized middle class was far smaller than today.
Almost half of the people on the planet today have a smartphone. With a smartphone and a credit card, anyone can aid strangers in Ukraine. The encrypted messaging app Telegram offers live war updates for both Ukrainians and Russians. Cyberwarriors can jump into the fight from anywhere.
Russia is a huge exporter of natural gas and crude oil. Russia and Ukraine are key suppliers of wheat and fertilizer to the farmers who feed the world. Gas, fuel, and food prices worldwide have soared.
Putin saved up over $600 billion in gold, bonds, and foreign currency, as a cushion. He let China, France, Japan, Germany, the US, the UK, the BIS, and the IMF hold nearly 80% of Russian central bank foreign currency assets. Russian holdings of around $330 billion are now frozen.
Putin had no clue.
AR WWZ debunks Russian hubris from WW2.
2022 April 3
Russian Atrocities in Ukraine
We believe that Russian forces have committed war crimes. That's why it's so urgent that Russia end this war of aggression.
Russia had three goals: to subjugate Ukraine and deny its sovereignty and its independence, to assert Russian power, and to divide the western alliance.
On all three, it has failed. A sovereign, independent Ukraine is going to be there a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene. Russian power has vastly diminished, its military has greatly under-performed, its economy is reeling. And NATO is more united than in any time in recent memory.
The purpose of the sanctions is to change Russia's conduct. It's up to Russia.
AR Evidence of war crimes is now overwhelming.
My seafront, Saturday morning − it was swept by a snowstorm that evening
2022 April 2
Lee Smolin says we need to reimagine the relationship between matter and mind. Physical laws describe how matter behaves but not how brain activity gives rise to conscious experience.
Quantum theory says elementary particles appear as clouds of possible states. The classical world seems to arise out of quantum uncertainty thanks to our intervention as observers.
Quantum mechanics and general relativity define observers in totally different ways. In the block universe of general relativity, our experience of time flowing is an illusion.
Sean Carroll says a better understanding of emergence might make sense of our role as observers in quantum reality.
Smolin seeks a cosmology rooted in present events and the relationships between them. Each event has a view of the world that lets it fit into the rest of the world. In this causal theory of views, quantum mechanics and spacetime emerge from a network of views. As events come to be, the unknown future becomes the present moment.
AR I do too, but making it work is hard.
2022 April 1
German Security Policy
Angela Merkel neglected the Bundeswehr. She prematurely closed German nuclear power plants and increased German dependence on Russian gas. She left Germany poorly placed to deal with Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz waited until February 27 to reverse German security policy. He imposed economic sanctions on Russia, agreed to send antitank weapons to Ukraine, and added €100 billion to the defense budget.
He also halted NS2 and announced an end to gas supplies by 2024 at the latest. Russian supplies of oil and coal to Germany will end this year. Almost all major German companies have now pulled out of Russia.
Much of the new defense funding will go at first to refurbishing existing equipment and improving logistics. But over time, the German armed forces will become the most powerful in Europe.
AR This may save free Europe.
Russians Feel Shame and Dismay
Russia has come full circle. It has been set back by decades. The young, educated, and creative are leaving. The hard men are ascendant. Once again, Russia is a pariah state.
A friend still in Russia spoke of "shame and bitterness" among students and staff at a graduate school when word spread that the invasion had begun: "Nobody, nobody anticipated that he would ever do this. We had ridiculed the reports in your newspaper that an invasion was imminent."
They had refused to believe that Putin would invade Ukraine, even though they had pushed back against his oppressive rule. They had assumed he was sufficiently rational not to do something so criminal and self-destructive. My friend: "He just threw over the chess board."
Like most Russians, the intelligentsia supported Putin at first. He restored a measure of order to the chaos of the early post-Soviet years. The economy expanded, and with it the wealth and standard of living for many people.
Putin has made extraordinary efforts to deny there is any war and to minimize Russian casualties. None of them can justify or explain his decision to invade Ukraine.
UK defense secretary Ben Wallace: "Putin is not the force he used to be. He is now a man in a cage he built himself. He's isolated. His army is exhausted, he has suffered significant losses. The reputation of this great army of Russia has been trashed."
UK defense chief Admiral Sir Tony Radakin: "Putin has damaged himself through a series of catastrophic misjudgments .. he allowed himself to be misled as to his own strength .. Putin is a weaker and more diminished figure today than he was a month ago."
AR Putin, 69, felt steroid rage.