BLOG 2010 Q4  

me, 2010-12-31
Me from my Mac

Prayers in Luton
David Bebber for The Times
Prayers in Luton

Islam in Europe
The Telegraph

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates that there are 2,869,000 Muslims in Britain, an increase of 74% since 2001.
The Pew Center is based in Washington, D.C.

Britain has the third largest Muslim community in Europe.
Germany has 4,119,000
France has 3,574,000

Britain 4.6
Belgium 6.0
France 5.7
Austria 5.7
Switzerland 5.7
The Netherlands 5.5
Germany 5.0
Sweden 4.9
Greece 4.7

2010 December 31

The New Middle Ages
Parag Khanna, FT

A thousand years ago, China's Song dynasty presided over the world's largest cities, gunpowder, and paper money. India's Chola empire ruled the seas to Indonesia, and the Abbasid caliphate dominated from Africa to Persia. Byzantium swayed and decayed. In Europe life was bleak.

Globalization is moving power from states to cities, companies, religious groups, humanitarian organizations, and rich individuals. In the post-colonial world, where overpopulation, corrupt governance, ethnic grievances, and collapsing infrastructure are causing states to fail, a hybrid of public and private governance is emerging. Most states struggle to manage the flows of goods, money, and people that globalization imposes. Companies provide essential services.

Today we have the legacy superpower of the United States. If the European Union today is like the Holy Roman Empire, then America is the new Byzantium, facing both east and west as it declines. The Middle Ages were a time of invention and discovery.

2010 December 29

Islam in Britain
The Times

In a survey of Muslim converts in Britain, the Islamic organization Faith Matters calculates that the number of converts has nearly doubled in a decade to 100,000. About 5,200 people converted to Islam in 2010.

The converts are often isolated from their families and friends and ignored or mistrusted by other Muslims. Nearly two thirds of the converts are women. Most changed their appearance and adopted the veil. Marriage played a part for some but most embraced Islam for reasons of faith. Some converts criticized aspects of British culture such as alcohol and drunkenness, lack of morality and sexual permissiveness, and unrestrained consumerism. Most felt their lives before conversion had been bad, sinful, or lost. The number of conversions is similar in Germany and France.

Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters, said conversion "is based on the relationship between an individual and God." In Islam, "an intermediary should not be involved in that relationship. It's a very personal relationship."

AR Sad that people should feel the need to convert.

Pew survey results

Chinese Naval Power
Financial Times

A new Chinese anti-ship missile that will alter the balance of military power in the Pacific is now operational.

Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the Chinese ballistic missile, which was designed to threaten U.S. aircraft carriers in the region, had reached initial operational capability.

Defense analysts call the Dong Feng 21D ASBM a game changer since it could force U.S. aircraft carriers to stay away from waters near China such as the Taiwan Strait. The land-based missile is designed to target and track aircraft carrier groups with the help of satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, and over-the-horizon radar.

Said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "If the Chinese or somebody else has a highly accurate anti-ship cruise or ballistic missile that can take out a carrier at hundreds of miles of ranges and therefore in Asia puts us back behind the second island chain, how then do you use carriers differently in the future?"

The "second island chain" runs in a north-south line east of Japan and the Philippines. It borders what China sees as its near seas.

AR Cue for a Tom Clancy novel.

Salah Malkawi / NY Times
The New York Times

Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, a kitsch rendition of London's Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, a hotel, and a prayer hall. The huge Big Ben will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped with a crescent.


Dong Feng 21D
Saipan Tribune

The DF-21D is an anti-ship ballistic missile, an ASBM. Its potential range of about 3000 km puts Guam, the key military base in the Marianas, within range.

The DF-21D probably uses both external and stand-alone guidance systems. It cannot rely exclusively on an external signal for terminal guidance because
the U.S. Navy has unrivaled electronic counter measures (ECM) capabilities.

For land attack, the DF-21C accuracy of 40 m CEP is good.
But an ASBM must do better.

A ballistic missile warhead flies at Mach 10 and gets hot, up to
10 000 K, hard on electronics.

Dong Feng 21
Memo to American and British defense planners: DF-21D ASBMs like these DF-21C MRBMs will make aircraft carriers obsolete.

Nuclear Apocalypse
The Guardian

The British government opted for the Trident system because it could kill 10 million Russians and inflict "unacceptable damage" on the former Soviet Union. A Ministry of Defence memo marked "personal and top secret" in support of the 1980 decision by Margaret Thatcher to replace Polaris with Trident argued that deterrence required "options" of 10 million dead.

Another "top secret" memo described the destruction the UK should wreak: "Ground-bursts would subject 55-60% of the city to a radiation dose sufficient to cause rapid debilitation followed by death for most people in the area, and to contaminate food, water, air and both damaged and undamaged buildings." The memo advised ground-bursts to overwhelm Soviet emergency services.

AR I was at the MoD then.
I thought like that too.

China Helps Euro
Financial Times

China has promised to take further "concerted action" to support European financial stabilization, including continuing to buy the bonds of countries at the center of the sovereign debt crisis.

Beijing has emerged as an enthusiastic backer of distressed European sovereign debt. The European Union is China's biggest export market, with two-way trade valued at $434 billion in the first 11 months of this year.

AR Will Globorg be Chinese?

Scholars of the World Unite!
Anthony Grafton
The National Interest

American universities are in danger. States have lowered their support. Endowments crashed in 2008. Family incomes are mostly stagnant. The cost of university study escalates. Drop-out rates are high. Students often graduate with poor basic skills, few technical skills, and big debts. Radical measures are needed. Perhaps we should let university presidents act as CEOs. Let them run universities as teaching corporations, dismiss professors, strip faculty of tenure, and cut salaries. But the American corporate model looks battered. Corporations have cut their support for basic research. We need universities to do it. American universities are still the best in the world.

Portrait: Eagle illustrator Don Harley
Frank Hampson (left) and Marcus Morris (right) created the Eagle and Hampson created Dan Dare (middle).

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future

Neocons in China
Mark Lilla

In China, the neo-conservative thinker Leo Strauss and and the anti-liberal writer Carl Schmitt are at the center of debate. Strauss aimed to reformulate the questions at the heart of the Western political tradition. Schmitt explained why the distinction between economy and politics is false and pernicious. Chinese students speak about the need for a new gentry class to strengthen the state by making it wiser and more just.

A Golden Age of Islam
Edward Rothstein
The New York Times

The 1001 Inventions exhibition at the New York Hall of Science is meant to show that the Western Dark Ages really were a Golden Age of Islam. For a thousand years, the exhibition asserts, Muslim scientists and inventors anticipated the innovations of the modern world. But it is less a science exhibition than a typical identity exhibition. The promotional goal is evident in every display.

According to Hawking and Mlodinow, there is no concept of reality that is independent of a picture or a theory. There are just models.
Michael Shermer

AR I call them mindworlds.

Out of Our Brains
Andy Clark, NY Times

Brains support minds. But other resources may be elements in an extended cognitive process. As our technology improves, gadgets like iPhones become cognitive prosthetics. If small devices implanted in the brain can support cognitive processing, external hardware can too.

Like our bodies, our minds are collections of parts that function together. When information flows, our minds may emerge in integrated processing regimes that weave together activity in brain, body, and world. Minds like ours are the products not of neural processing alone but of the complex and iterated interplay between brains, bodies, and the many designer environments in which we live and work.

Swindle of the Year
Charles Krauthammer

Barack Obama won the great tax showdown of 2010. The new stimulus will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years. While getting Republicans to boost his own reelection chances, Obama gets them to make a mockery of their newfound persona of fiscal responsibility.

AR Another trillion in the red.

WikiLeaks represents an alternative society of geeks and visionaries that constantly questions the world view handed down to it from above. It's a classic case of walking the talk. The elite feeds us a lot of guff about wars and foreign policy. But it's time we stopped letting them decide what's good for us. WikiLeaks is scary. Its aim is to illuminate, with a secondary recreational desire to embarrass. The aims of our governments are considerably less apparent.

Taylor Momsen, 17, has clocked up nine film roles and become a TV star in Gossip Girl.

"I was, like, 'Well, this is cool.'"

"You get more insight as you
get older, on everything.'"

"I kind of woke up and was like,
'Oh, I get it, I'm a product.'"

Julian Assange (pt 1)

Founded WikiLeaks in 2006.
Published material about extrajudicial killings in Kenya, toxic waste dumping in Africa, Scientology, Guantanamo Bay, and several banks. 2010: began to publish classified U.S. files.

Born in 1971 in Queensland, Australia. His parents ran a touring theatre company. In 1979, his mother remarried. The couple had a son but broke up in 1982 and struggled over custody. The mother took both her sons into hiding for years. They moved dozens of times and Julian attended many schools.

Began hacking in 1987. He and his girlfriend had a son. In 1991, Australian police raided his Melbourne home and in 1992 he pleaded guilty to 24 charges of hacking. He was released on bond. His girlfriend separated from him and took their son. They agreed on custody in 1999.


The Bahnhof bunker

Russian ICBM
RT-2UTTKh Topol-M
(NATO name SS-27 Sickle)

Warhead 550 kilotons
Range 11,000 km
Accuracy 200 m CEP

Elizabeth Drew, NYRB

The Democrats got whacked by the center. Independents swung to the Republicans and fewer moderates voted Democrat.

Many Democrats blamed Obama. He didn't explain what he was doing. His 2010 campaign themes seemed to wander all over the place. He had left it to Congress to write the big bills. He didn't really understand the role of the president as leader.

The election virtually wiped out the middle of both parties. So the House Democratic caucus will be more liberal. The Republican leaders declined Obama's invitation to dine with him at the White House after the election. It was a sign of what is to come.

2010 December 28

Colin Wells reviews the roles of faith and reason in history

2010 December 27

Assange £1m Book Deals
The Guardian

Julian Assange expects to earn more than £1 million from book deals. He said he had to sign a big deal for his autobiography due to financial difficulties: "I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat."

AR Excellent. He deserves to win financially in recognition of his services to web-age investigative journalism.

British Universities Under Siege
Simon Head, The New York Review of Books

British universities are under siege from a system of state control that is undermining the caliber of their scholarship. The theories and practices driving this assault are embedded in management systems using information technology marketed by corporations such as IBM, Oracle, and SAP.

A proliferating structure of state control has extended its reach from the purely financial to include teaching and research. The system reflects a political consensus that the academy must deliver its research output with a speed and reliability resembling that of the corporate world and also deliver useful research. The management practices include business process reengineering, total quality management, benchmarking, management by objectives, and the balanced scorecard.

The British government decides policy and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) administers the policy. The HEFCE control system starts with a regular research assessment exercise and continues with a funding process that legitimizes the micromanagement of research and requires academics to spend time and energy writing reports in management jargon.

AR Wonderful: SAP is implementing my revenge on smug and lazy British academics.

2010 December 26

U.S. Tools
Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

As we debate budget cuts in the coming year, we should remember that we have invested enormously in military power and far, far less in diplomacy, education and other fields. If we're trying to figure out how to raise our standard of living, or at least preserve it, the evidence is pretty good that we'll get a better return on investment in early childhood education than in, say, a military base in Germany.

AR The current level of U.S. military spending is certainly excessive, given the current budget deficit. But some military spending has unexpected benefits. For example, the F-35 Lightning II project is in large part an investment in converting high technology into industrial-scale production goods, and then in lining up allies who seal deals with future U.S. administrations to get their hands on the new planes. As a quite different example, I've watched U.S. service personnel in Germany for over twenty years and can confirm that the benefit is real, albeit not what you'd expect. The personnel learn that modern German life is much more civilized than they might have thought. Conversely, Germans learn to like Americans and regard them as good neighbors. Such attitudes are worth billions in reinforcing international alliances in a world where the West could all too easily fall apart into squabbling states that fail to understand each other. So military spending is wasteful and often misdirected, of course. But the benefits are not always merely military.

Christmas Day 2010

Airfix version of history: Rolls-Royce, BMW, Daimler-Benz

2010 December 23

Plutocracy: Ten Facts
The American Interest

1 Income inequality has increased substantially in the United States over the past three decades.

2 Corporate America has been doing very well for its officers and shareholders but much less well for other Americans.

3 Financial regulation did not change the perverse incentives that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

4 Money buys political influence in contemporary America. Lobbying has become a form of legitimized corruption.

5 Americans are less bothered by unequal economic outcomes than by equality of opportunity and social mobility.

6 Most Americans distrust big government. They think government wastes tax money.

7 The working poor were bought off by cheap credit. People borrowed against the future. The bankers won.

8 American elites believe they are helping society. Financiers see themselves as value creators, not as pickpockets.

9 Wall Street seduced the economics profession. The academics got big consulting fees and Wall Street got legitimacy.

10 Economists said that growth unleashed by lower marginal tax rates would benefit everyone. Many people still believe this.

AR The rich get richer and China buys the squeezed lemon.

2010 December 19

Life of Brian
The Sunday Times

Raj Patel, 38, is a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of books about the economics of poverty and global food distribution.

Benjamin Creme, 88, is a Scottish UFO/yoga enthusiast. His organization Share International has identified Patel as the Maitreya — a long-awaited World Teacher who embodies not only the second coming of Jesus Christ but also the Jewish Messiah, the Hindu Krishna, the Islamic Mahdi, and the fifth Buddha.

"Maitreya is Raj Patel, Raj Patel is the ONE," read one of the countless messages posted to Patel's Facebook page.

Patel: "I was in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time." The facts of his life matched prophecies Creme made in recent years.

Patel eventually released an emphatic denial that he had anything to do with the Maitreya. He says the Maitreya debacle reminded him of his former schoolfriend Sacha Baron Cohen's humor.

Patel read PPE at Balliol College, Oxford, then moved to the LSE for his master's. After that came Cornell, Yale, Berkeley, the World Bank, the WTO, and the UN. His wife is a neurosurgeon.

After the euphoria, some followers have changed their minds and decided that he is not the World Teacher but the Antichrist. For Patel this is even worse news than being the One.

Patel: "My dad thinks this is just purely risible." Patel Sr even bought Raj's baby son some pajamas with the line from Monty Python's Life of Brian on the chest: "He's not the Messiah — he's a very naughty boy!"

AR Herrlich!

2010 December 17

SAP Christmas Party
Enjoyed the opportunity to talk with all my old colleagues — and to get photographed on site — photos

AAAS Breakthrough of the Year

Working with Andrew Cleland and John Martinis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, this year, Ph.D. student Aaron O'Connell became the first person to induce and measure a quantum effect in the motion of a manufactured object.

The experiment required a micromechanical resonator, an extremely sensitive measurement device, and specific conditions in which to place them. O'Connell microfabricated the resonator on a wafer of silicon as a structure containing aluminum nitride, a piezoelectric material that could oscillate at 6 GHz. He isolated the resonator with a mechanical suspension. As detector, he connected a Josephson phase qubit to the resonator. The fabrication was challenging because it was built on the same substrate. Then he had to cool the chip to a temperature so low that the resonator would occupy its quantum ground state of motion.

O'Connell and his colleagues used the qubit to demonstrate that they had reached the true quantum ground state of motion. By controlling the qubit with an external magnetic flux, they injected individual mechanical quanta into the resonator.

The resonator behaved as predicted by quantum mechanics. The work was published online in Nature in March 2010.

Crusader to Tackle MoD Waste
The Times

The Government snubbed Ministry of Defence mandarins and generals yesterday by appointing a reforming crusader to tackle the waste and incompetence at the department, which has cost the taxpayer billions of pounds.

AR We need to cut the wastrels some slack. Some waste is inevitable. Specifying and developing new weapon systems is an art, not a science, and like all such work it has a maximum efficiency of well below 100%. Let's not give the bean counters such a boost that we never waste a penny again, because not wasting means not spending, and then we'll have no weapons at all. MoD desk pilots aren't financial wizards (or they'd be in the city) so by all means draft a few more bankers into the ministry — and hope they don't cause another crisis.

2010 December 16

Tax Scandal
Der Spiegel

Two Liechtenstein banks and several employees of the institutions paid 50 million euros to the German government to avoid prosecution for aiding and abetting tax evasion, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The fast settlement contrasts with the proceedings against Credit Suisse, where prosecutors have evidence of a systematic conspiracy over years to support tax evasion. That case is not expected to end before 2012.

AR The EU should threaten sanctions against Switzerland and Liechtenstein if they don't clean up their act. Tax havens are damaging to our economy. People like me pay more tax because rich criminals have havens. Make the crooks pay!

Ned Block: "The eminent neurologist and neuroscientist Antonio Damasio gives an account of consciousness that might come naturally to a highly caffeinated professor in his study."

Does Antonio Damasio have an inflated concept of self?

2010 December 15

Nuclear Security Scare
The Times

A top secret anti-terror review is under way at Britain's nuclear power plants after the discovery of security weaknesses at the Sellafield reprocessing site. The Sellafield plant in Cumbria has a bunker storing enough plutonium for thousands of nuclear bombs.

AR Now that would be a fireworks show!

Endogenous Electric Fields May Guide
Neocortical Network Activity

Flavio Fröhlich, David A. McCormick
Neuron 67(1), 129-143

Local field potentials and endogenous electric fields (EFs) are traditionally considered to be epiphenomena of neuronal network activity. Externally applied EFs have been shown to modulate pharmacologically evoked network activity in rodent hippocampus. We used the neocortical slow oscillation in vitro as a model system to show that weak sinusoidal and naturalistic EFs enhance and entrain physiological neocortical network activity with an amplitude threshold within the range of in vivo endogenous field strengths. Modulation of network activity by positive and negative feedback fields provides evidence for a feedback loop between neuronal activity and endogenous EF. Endogenous EFs could guide neocortical network activity.

AR This result offers intriguing support for the EM field model of consciousness proposed in my book Mindworlds.

2010 December 14

Luton: Epicenter of the Global Clash of Civilizations
The Independent

Luton is a hotbed of terrorism. The now-banned Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun was based there. The July 7 bombers met there before their London attacks in 2005. The Stockholm suicide bomber had studied in Luton.

The English Defence League (EDL) has invited Pastor Terry Jones — the American Koran burner — to a rally in Luton. On February 5 he intends to talk "against the evils and destructiveness of Islam."

AR I was born in Luton. This is my fight too.

2010 December 13

WikiLeaks and Press Freedom
Der Spiegel

For Berlin constitutional law expert Dieter Grimm, WikiLeaks enjoys the protections for freedom of the press under Germany's Basic Law. As a judge on the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Grimm played a key role in shaping the current interpretation of freedom of opinion and freedom of the press in Germany.

According to the Constitutional Court, it is the ability of all citizens to access all information that makes the formation of public opinion possible. The unobstructed formation of public opinion is what legitimizes the outcome of elections. The state is permitted to keep secrets from its citizens, but citizens are permitted to disclose them.

The Constitutional Court notes the absolutely essential importance of press freedom for democracy. The press is allowed to print what it has obtained for a constitutional reason. If the state derives its democratic authority from citizens being well informed, then providing information is a civic duty.

AR Far be it from me to criticize the constitution under which I choose to live in preference to the uncertainties and obscurities of Britain's notoriously unwritten constitution.

Sam Harris says neuroscience can help in morality
Roger Scruton says science trivializes the humanities
Mark Vernon says pi may not be in the sky

"In the human brain, the world's structure has reached its focal point: the structure of the world has acquired the ability to reflect upon itself ... In this conceptual setting, science appears as a collective effort of the Human Mind to reach the Mind of God ... The Mind of Man and the Mind of God are strangely interwoven."
Michael Heller

AR File this under gloriously mad narcissism.

2010 December 12

The Character of Consciousness

"Even when I was studying mathematics, physics, and computer science, it always seemed that the problem of consciousness was about the most interesting problem out there for science to come to grips with."

David Chalmers, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at New York University

Jemima Khan

The United States is examining ways to take legal action against Assange, who is in effect editor of the world's first stateless media organization. It has blocked access to the WikiLeaks website and denied its citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant. It has also successfully pressured Amazon, Visa, Mastercard and PayPal to withdraw their services from WikiLeaks, as well as the Swiss bank PostFinance, to close Assange's account.

Democracy needs a strong and free media. It is the only way to ensure governments are honest and remain accountable. WikiLeaks has revealed that we have been told a great many lies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that there has been little accountability. If WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization and if its founder is prosecuted for espionage, the future of investigative journalism everywhere is in jeopardy, as is our right as citizens to be told the truth.

AR Well said, Jemima.

2010 December 10

WikiLeaks Explained
MIT Technology Review

The WikiLeaks website says: "Wikileaks will accept restricted or censored material of political, ethical, diplomatic or historical significance. We do not accept rumor, opinion, other kinds of first hand accounts or material that is publicly available elsewhere."

WikiLeaks has evolved since 2006. In 2008, it simply dumped documents to the Web. But with the helicopter gunship video in April 2010 is made a curated and packaged political statement. The latest release is through a group of news organizations that can analyze and redact the cables, rather than dumping them or using them to make a statement.

For the new release, WikiLeaks gave all the classified documents to Le Monde, El Pais, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel. The Guardian shared its trove with The New York Times. WikiLeaks is relying on the expertise of the five news organizations to redact the cables as they are released, and it is following their redactions as it releases the documents on its website. Before the release, Julian Assange approached the U.S. State Department for guidance but they simply demanded the return of the documents.

Last July, WikiLeaks posted an encrypted file with "insurance" in the name. The insurance file contains unredacted and unreleased secret documents. The file is 1.4 GB in size and is encrypted using a 256-bit key. Assange says that if WikiLeaks is shut down, the key will be released. More than a thousand sites mirror WikiLeaks content, but its website can be attacked and its financing can be interdicted.

AR This is New Age journalism, the salvation of the fourth estate in the world of electronic media.

2010 December 9

Dauerfeuer aus Ionenkanonen
Der Spiegel

Eine anonyme Armee wütender Protestler bläst die Internetseiten von Weltunternehmen aus dem Web. Die Community ist berauscht von ihrer eigenen Macht und sie lässt sich nicht aufhalten. Die Aktionen sind vor allem der Ausdruck eines Herrschaftsanspruchs. "Wir sind das Web!" sollen die Attacken zeigen.

AR Der Globorg-Weltkrieg hat begonnen.

Research Libraries
Robert Darnton, New York Review of Books

Research libraries are facing crises on three fronts:

1 The escalation in the price of periodicals forces libraries to cut back on their purchase of monographs. The drop in the demand for monographs makes university presses reduce their publication of them. University presses fall back on books that fit into niches or can be marketed to a broader public. Graduate students fall victim to the syndrome of publish or perish.

2 Academics do research, write and referee articles, and serve as editors. They buy back their own work via journal subscriptions. We need open-access journals available from digital repositories free of charge that will be self-sustaining. The economics of journal publishing can be reversed by covering costs at the production end instead of the consumption end.

3 Google is investing billions in the control of information. The fundamental incompatibility of purpose between libraries and Google Book Search might be mitigated if Google could offer libraries access to its digitized database. A Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) could transform our libraries into a database for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

AR We need a DPL of Globorg paid for by a Google tax.

David Chalmers, the character of consciousness (OUP), is brilliant. From Eden to the Matrix — this image will haunt me as deeply as Descartes' evil demon and Kant's phenomenal and noumenal worlds.

My tasks for 2011:
1 Write an appreciation of the Eden—Matrix story
2 Finish my novelized introduction to Globorg
3 Finish my philosophical autobiography

2010 December 8

Don't Shoot Messenger
Julian Assange, The Australian

WikiLeaks is fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.

I grew up in Queensland where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. WikiLeaks was created around these core values.

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself.

Democratic societies need strong media. WikiLeaks is part of that.

AR Quite right. WikiLeaks is a useful institution.

2010 December 7

NATO and Eastern Europe
The Guardian

NATO will defend the Baltic states and Poland against Russian threats. Operation Eagle Guardian commits NATO to a military response to any attack on its eastern members. In the event of Russian aggression, NATO will send nine ground divisions, British warships and squadrons of U.S. fighters to defend Poland and the Baltic states. The plans are thought to have been approved by NATO summit in November.

AR The plan reads like a recipe for turning Danzig into Dunkirk. We need to retool Russia and get it into NATO, then build up a shared defense in depth against religionists and cyberwar.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell
The Daily Beast

DADT gave men a place to experience male-male intimacy without being called gay. Men need ways to be close to other men without forfeiting their masculinity. The military is a model for this type of masculine environment. Soldiers can be intimate without being gay. Ending DADT threatens this. Without a taboo about gay love, how can men love one another?

AR DADT seemed like a decent compromise to me. If open gays serve, you might as well mix up men and women in combat units. Hey, maybe that would work. See Starship Troopers and Aliens.

2010 December 4

Wake up America
Paul Kennedy, The Times

WikiLeaks is not Watergate. But it is worrying. The leakiness of the U.S. government's communications systems is dysfunctional. The banality of the cables raises doubts about the quality and utility of much of the U.S. diplomatic service. There is no sense in all of this chaff of the epic challenges that America faces.

Throttling WikiLeaks can do nothing about the steady shift of wealth from America to Asia and the sheer scale of U.S. debt. The United States cannot secure itself against terrorists or the growing power of China and India. America's sclerotic political system is the biggest weakness of all. Washington is increasingly unable to carry out a grand strategy.

AR Instant fame on the Internet is not a bug, it's a feature. Diplomats must wake up from their dream world of invisible ink and secret mail drops and spin the new media landscape to their advantage. Think every thought and write every word as if it were instantly universal — this is Kant's moral law, the logical basis of all higher morality since Biblical times. If diplomats can't rise to the challenge, more fool them.

Mary Eberstadt on George Weigel on Pope John Paul II

2010 December 3

WikiLeaks in Nuke-Proof Bunker
MIT Technology Review

Ongoing distributed denial of service attacks against WikiLeaks have forced its administrators to move the site to a fortified data center encased in a cold war-era, nuke-proof bunker under Swedish bedrock, courtesy of a company called Bahnhof. The site will probably be under permanent attack for the foreseeable future.

AR I think even Hillary won't try nuking the servers. But I hear WikiLeaks is now hosted in Switzerland. The neutral states of Europe have perverse uses from time to time.

Assange "taking precautions"
Daily Mail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sent out 100,000 encrypted copies of secret diplomatic cables so they will definitely be released whatever happens to him. He acknowledged there had been death threats against him and is thought to be lying low in the UK.

Assange, 39, may be detained over two claims of rape and sexual assault in Sweden. Copies of the women's police statements were leaked to Swedish media. Apparently, Assange slept with two women while in Sweden for a seminar in Stockholm last August. Before the seminar, he met Woman A and she let him stay at her flat. They went for dinner and then had sex. There was a condom problem that Assange said was an accident. At the seminar Assange met Woman B and they spent time together. They met again later at her flat and had sex without a condom. This was the basis for the rape charge, but after the event they parted as friends. Woman B later telephoned Woman A. They were scared about sexually transmitted disease. Assange was asked to take a test and he refused. The women then told their stories.

AR Assange should take the rap in Sweden and be grateful. The charges sound weak and he may get off lightly. If not, I hear that Swedish jails are quite comfortable. They may even be secure enough to keep out the CIA assassins. In any case, the story will make a great movie one day.

2010 December 2

American Values

START with Russia
The Guardian

Blocking a nuclear arms treaty that would have the United States and Russia working more closely together to control loose nukes and that is supported by people across the spectrum to deny Obama a political win is as low as it gets.

WikiLeaks on Russia
The Guardian

Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centered on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs, and organized crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state" with arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money and secret offshore bank accounts.

Assange on WikiLeaks
The Guardian

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wanted to expose China's and Russia's secrets as much as those of the United States. Speaking via Skype from an undisclosed location after a warrant was issued by Interpol following rape allegations in Sweden, he said countries with less transparency, such as China and Russia, had the most potential to be reformed by whistleblowers.

2010 December 1

The Wall Street Journal

For decades, most economists have supposed that the whole economy can be reduced to a mathematical model. They populated their models with rational people who calculate the value of possible moves and choose the optimal path.

The models translate personal preferences into equations to forecast an exact trajectory for the economy. Complex models get too difficult, so economists keep them simple. They tend to include only households, firms, central banks and the government. They may represent each player with a single equation.

Some economists are now questioning the foundations of these models. The Institute for New Economic Thinking was launched last year with financing from George Soros. The institute has approved several projects on new ways to model the economy.

J. Doyne Farmer, 58, is an expert on complex systems at the Santa Fe Institute. He has spent years trying to figure out how to predict the future. He proposes a complex computer simulation of the economy like those scientists use to model weather or traffic. Such agent-based models can include millions of players, who can be irrational and disagree with each other.

David Tuckett, 63, a professor at University College London, studies how unconscious needs and fears can cause swings in financial markets. He calls financial assets phantastic objects, which people see alternately as capable of fulfilling their dreams of wealth and power or utterly worthless and repulsive. He is working on models where behavior changes with its psychological context.

Roman Frydman, 62, is a professor at New York University. As a graduate student he rejected the concept of rational expectations. He thinks economic actors do not always make decisions in the same way. He says capitalism works because it lets people disagree about the future. He says economists must come to terms with imperfect knowledge.

Bill Gates

In his book The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley argues that our success as a species resulted from our ability to trade. The human condition has improved with the exchange of goods and ideas.

Ridley turns his rational optimism to development in Africa and climate change. In discussing Africa, he fails to see that worrying about the worst case can help to drive a solution. In dismissing concerns about climate change, he fails to prove his case.

Pessimism is often wrong because people assume there is no change or innovation. A lot of the rhetoric about sustainability implicitly assumes that we will exhaust our natural resources, as though we cannot substitute one commodity for another in future. There are potential problems in the future. Bioterrorism and pandemics are big threats. But excessive pessimism may cause problems with how society plans for the future.

Ridley suggests that all innovation comes from new companies, with no contribution from established companies. He also seems to think that innovation involves simply coming up with a new idea, when in fact execution is critical. He underestimates the innovation that takes place within mature corporations.

Ridley underplays the role of education, government, patents and science. Scientists and tinkerers are engaged in a profound process of discovery. Without their curiosity and creativity, no amount of exchange would have produced our world.

AR Worrying about Africa is surely more rational than optimism.

American Decline
Paul Kennedy

The United States is losing its status in the international system. In about 1850, the British Empire led the world. Around 1900, the United States overtook it as the world's number one. By 1945, America possessed around half of the world's GNP.

Twenty years ago, Harvard professor Joseph Nye said that American strength and influence in world affairs had three legs: soft power, economic power, and military power.

America's soft power has declined in the past two decades. America's relative economic and foreign-currency heft has weakened. America's military strengths are still remarkable.

AR Nye studied PPE at Exeter College Oxford. He may agree that the British decline since 1945 was accelerated by overspending on defense.


The Ego Has Landed
The Times

Julian Assange charges Swedish authorities with "deliberately and illegally, selectively taking bits of its material and giving them to newspapers". His response is telling. Had he celebrated it, he would have appeared a fool, but not a hypocrite. Instead, he appears as both.

AR Sad but true: Assange is a fool and a hypocrite. The WikiLeaks contribution to investigative journalism has been interesting and amusing, but is ultimately unsustainable as a business model.

Zoroaster and the Ayatollahs
Abbas Milani
The National Interest

In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini emerged to overthrow the shah. Khomeini declared that the revolution was carried out to create a new Islamic society. For more than a thousand years, Iran has been defined by Zoroastrian elements battling with an Arab Islamic culture. A recurrent image in Persian art is the cedar tree that Zoroaster planted in heaven which was bent by the winds of Islamic hegemonic culture. Khomeini and his clerical allies tried to dilute and diminish the past by derisively describing what existed in Iran before the advent of Islam as jahiliyyah. They tried to infuse the Persian language with Arabic, to Iranian nationalists a detested tool of Islamic cultural invasion.


The first Eagle, April 14, 1950
Dan Dare was the front page story until the end in 1969.

AR Symbol of my boyhood

Sky Rings
The New York Times

Roger Penrose, of Oxford University, and Vahe Gurzadyan, of Yerevan State University in Armenia, claim that ripples in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) were caused by colliding supermassive black holes in earlier cycles of the universe. Other astronomers looking at the same data conclude that the rings are part of our familiar universe.

The arXiv papers

Writer Rescues Obama
The Daily Beast

According to the pundits, things aren't going President Obama's way because he has lost control of the narrative. Sam Lipsyte advises how to find the plot:
"When I am writing and floundering, with no sense of where to go, I look back to the beginning of what I am working on, and ask: Where did I start? What set this all into motion? When you lose something, it's usually where you've been, not where you think you're going."

I believe that the past is classical while the future is quantum mechanical. Events in the past have happened, events in the future will probably happen.
Jeremy Bernstein

AR I said that years ago.

Sean D. Kelly,  NY Times

God is dead, wrote Nietzsche. God no longer tells us how to live. When the structure of a worthwhile and well-lived life is no longer agreed, a new freedom opens up. But this brings the threat of nihilism. Freedom from the constraint of agreed norms opens up fundamentally destabilizing possibilities.

In Freedom, Jonathan Franzen depicts America as a society of lost and fumbling souls. But the literary trope that suburban life is full of quiet desperation may fail to recognize the happiness found in everyday engagements with religion, work, ethnic heritage, military service and other pursuits that are potentially lofty and ennobling.

Hillary Clinton
"Let women work and they drive economic growth across all sectors. Send a girl to school even just for one year and her income dramatically increases for life, and her children are more likely to survive and her family more likely to be healthier for years to come. Give women equal rights and entire nations are more stable and secure. Deny women equal rights and the instability of nations is almost certain."
Hillary Clinton

Pixie Lott, 19, has won
platinum awards for her songs. Her second single went straight from #73 to #1 in the charts.
She debuts as an actress in the pre-teen comedy Fred: The Movie. She stars as Judy, the luminescent lust object of Fred. He stalks her, harasses her, and finally throws up on her. Judy then confesses, "I've been really mean. I totally deserve to be barfed all over."

WikiLeaks Exposés
Strategic Defense Intelligence

Described as a diplomatic 9/11,
the revelations include:

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged the United States to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.

U.S. officials were instructed to spy on members of the UN leadership.

Iran attempted to adapt North Korean rockets for use as long-range missiles.

U.S. officials expressed fears over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Prince Andrew made inappropriate remarks while abroad.

AR Spot the odd one out.

Julian Assange (pt 2)

1993: helped start a public Internet service provider in Australia. From 1994, he lived in Melbourne and developed free software. In 1995, he wrote Strobe, the first free and open source port scanner. He helped to write the 1997 book
Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier

Assange apparently attended six universities. From 2003 to 2006, he studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne, which he represented at the Australian National Physics Competition. He has also studied philosophy and neuroscience.

AR Mathematics, physics, philosophy, neuroscience, computers, sex in Sweden — what can I complain about in a history like that?

Red Faced
The Guardian

Mick Hucknall modestly estimates he slept with more than 3,000 women in three years. Now he has offered an apology. "I regret the philandering," he said in an interview. "I'm truly sorry."

Hucknall, 50, achieved huge success with Simply Red. "Between 1985-1987, I would sleep with about three women
a day, every day." He said he was in search of love. "It was an addiction that took me to my darker period ... I really came close to the gutter."

Castle Bravo
Castle Bravo
Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954

The first U.S. H-bomb test
and the most powerful nuclear bomb ever detonated by the
United States, with a yield of
15 megatons

Ahmed Rashid, NYRB

NATO has agreed to continue combat operations in Afghanistan for years to come. But Afghan president Hamid Karzai has turned against the West. His main aim now is making peace with the Taliban and ending the war.

Karzai maintains that Iran and Pakistan could help reach a settlement with the Taliban. Iran has stepped up its support to the Taliban and Pakistan wants a leading part in any talks with the Taliban.

Karzai wants to reassert Afghan sovereignty. Most of his ministers continue to work well with NATO. The tension does not augur well for either the United States or Afghanistan.

BMW S 1000 RR

BMW S 1000 RR

Engine: 1-liter water/oil cooled
4-stroke inline 4-cylinder,
2 overhead camshafts,
4 valves per cylinder
Rated output 142 kW (193 hp)
at 13,000 rpm
Max. torque 112 Nm
at 9,750 rpm

Emission standard EU-3
Maximum speed over 200 km/h

The 2010 BMW S1000RR
is the most powerful 1-liter
production bike on the market.
At 204 kg fully fueled,
it also has the best
power-to-weight ratio.
Hell for Leather



"The owl of Minerva spreads
its wings only with the falling
of the dusk"
G.W.F. Hegel
Philosophie des Rechts
1821 (trans.)

The Telegraph

Business confidence in Germany is at its highest level since reunification. Unemployment is below pre-crisis levels, consumers are out shopping, investment is soaring, and the government's finances are heading back to surplus. For most Germans, the crisis in the eurozone is just a humiliating irritant, and would be irrelevant were it not for the disrepute it heaps on their currency and the anger felt at being forced to bail out the profligate fringe.

Der Spiegel

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin would like to see a free trade agreement between the European Union and Russia. The proposal comes as Putin travels to Germany to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel. Putin also envisions close cooperation on industrial policy. He mentions ship, automobile and airplane construction, space technology, pharmaceuticals and medical technology, nuclear power, and energy generally. He also proposes closer cooperation in research and high-tech projects.

SAP und Oracle
Der Spiegel

Im Prozess um Software-Diebstahl muss SAP dem US-Rivalen Oracle 1,3 Milliarden Dollar zahlen. Laut der Argumentation von Oracle sei das gestohlene geistige Eigentum enorm wertvoll gewesen. SAP hielt in dem Prozess eine Schadensersatzzahlung in Höhe von rund 40 Millionen Dollar für angemessen.

Sarrazin Germany
David Goodhart, Prospect

Thilo Sarrazin has written what is probably the bestselling political book in postwar Europe. His message is that Germany is becoming smaller and stupider. Much of the book is a dry compendium of economic and social data. It trashes the liberal pieties of the 1968 generation.

Nowhere in Europe is the gap between public opinion and published opinion as wide as in Germany. Left and right agreed to pretend that Germany did not have an integration issue. Sarrazin describes the failure in shocking and pitiless detail.

Is God A Person?
The Times

John Lennox, 67, is a mathematics professor at Oxford University. He believes in the Christianity of Holy Writ. The strongest argument, he says, is the human brain. But he admits you cannot deduce God from science. He believes that in some oasis in Africa Eve was persuaded by a serpent to eat an apple and that ruined our world. He is a creationist and argues that the complexity of DNA demands intelligent design. DNA seems to him to be "a kind of biological singularity." Also singular, he believes, were the virgin birth, Jesus' miracles, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. For Lennox, God is a person.

In Praise of Dreams
Virginia Postrel

Many entrepreneurs wildly overestimate their chances of success. But the big winners beat the odds. These lucky fools create new industries that improve life. Society is a casino that benefits from foolish bets.

Modern consumers are dream artists. Markets give us an opportunity to exercise our creativity and to fashion and express our identities. Our consumer daydreams allow us to learn who we are and who we might become.

Christopher Hitchens
The Guardian

With his book God is Not Great, the Hitch broke out to a mass audience. In June 20120, the celebrated drinker and smoker who claimed that "booze and fags are happiness" was diagnosed with cancer. If it triggered his cancer, burning the candle at both ends, he said, also produced a "lovely light".

His life is his writing, where the effect that his life is consciously determined by the intellect is underlined by a Zelig-like presence at great moments of history.

"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"
Christopher Hitchens

Credit: Vuzix
Augmented Reality Goggles
MIT Technology Review

Wearing the Vuzix Wrap 920AR means looking at the world through a pair of LCD video displays. The Wrap is heavier than a regular pair of glasses. The displays are connected to two video cameras on the glasses. The screens show different views for depth perception. Meters and sensors track where the wearer is looking. The glasses have ports to plug into an iPhone. Vuzix software aligns virtual objects in the real world. AR glasses will take off when they get lighter, look cooler, and run killer apps.

AR See my book (chap 0001)

Russia Versus Japan
Fareed Zakaria

World War II is not over. Japan and Russia are still technically at war with another. In 1945, the USSR annexed four Japanese Islands that Russia has yet to return. This week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev angered the Japanese by becoming the first Russian or Soviet leader to visit those islands.

AR The political action in my novel Lifeball, mostly written in 1993 and set in 2013, started with a Japanese attempt to recover these four islands from Russia by force.

Obama Must Cut Spending
Mitt Romney

Under current law, the U.S. federal government's share of the economy will grow to 26.5 percent by 2020. Federal, state, and local governments will then constitute more than 40 percent of the economy. Government spending through the next decade will require $12.4 trillion in additional debt, bringing total public indebtedness to $22.2 trillion.

President Obama should freeze government employment and growth in discretionary spending. He must decide the amount that the government will spend for the year and address entitlement spending. He must not let the Bush tax cuts expire.

AR Romney = David Cameron

2010 November 30, St. Andrew's Day

Human Evolution
Satoshi Kanazawa

1 A man is valued by his wealth and power, a woman by her youth and beauty. So beautiful parents have more daughters than sons.

2 Liberals are more intelligent than conservatives. Intelligent people like new things. Evolution made us conservative. Being liberal is novel. So intelligent children tend to be liberal.

3 Most suicide bombers are Muslim. Islam lets men have many wives at once. Some men get all the women and others get none. The prospect of a harem in heaven excites the bombers.

4 Men like blondes. Blonde hair darkens with age. So blonde hair signals youth.

5 Men are naturally polygamous. If some men are much richer than others, women and children are better off sharing a rich man than keeping a poor man.

6 Men with sons are less likely to divorce. Men get wealth and power, women have youth and beauty. A father can work to help a son succeed but he cannot help a daughter.

7 Geniuses and criminals are mostly young. Creativity and violence are male traits that help get mates. So they peak in adolescence and then decline.

8 Many men get a midlife crisis because their wives do. Menopause is a sign that the man needs a new mate.

9 Powerful men marry one woman but mate with many. Men strive for power to mate with more women.

10 Men abuse and intimidate each other at work. So men who harass women at work are not sexist.

2010 November 28

North Korea and Iran
The Sunday Times

North Korea and Iran are cooperating on nuclear and missile technology. The new North Korean centrifuge plant to enrich uranium bears a striking resemblance to Iran's centrifuge plant at Natanz. Iran may have helped design and build the centrifuges. The new plant can help the North Koreans make more nuclear weapons. Also, an executive of an Iranian industrial group that makes missiles was present at a military parade in Pyongyang on October 10. The North Koreans unveiled eight new missile types capable of carrying nuclear warheads 1,900 miles.

AR Kim young'un attended an English-language international school in Switzerland until 1998, so maybe I can go and teach him some philosophy.

Tony Blair

Science and religion are not incompatible, destined to fight each other, until eventually the cool reason of science extinguishes the fanatical flames of religion. Rather science educates us as to how the physical world is and how it functions, and faiths educates us as to the purpose to which such knowledge is put, the values that should guide its use, and the limits of what science and technology can do.

AR Tony, I can help you both improve this statement and sort out the Middle East.

Butt Naked
Daily Mail

Liberia, 1982: the new high priest stood before an altar, naked. He slayed a little girl. Her heart was removed and eaten. The priest had a vision that he would become a great warrior. The devil said he must continue child sacrifice and cannibalism.

The priest was 11 years old. He grew up to become General Butt Naked. He and his coked-up boy soldiers fought naked apart from boots and guns. He said he was responsible for 20,000 deaths.

Today he is a reformed man. In July 1996, after 14 years of night talks with the devil, he had a blinding vision of Christ. At 39, he is a married father of three, known as Pastor Joshua Milton Blahyi, who lives as a Christian preacher.

AR What a heartening story!

2010 November 26

John Cassidy, New Yorker

A banking system should behave like a utility. It should distribute money to where it is needed and keep track of how it is used. Big banks should benefit their customers and the economy at large. Historically, banks have financed the growth of vital industries.

But most people on Wall Street are buying and selling securities. Many big banks have turned themselves from sources of capital for their clients into immense trading houses that exploit movements in the markets.

Big banks are forever trying to invent new financial products. They peddle opaque investment products and charge big fees for their own profit. They design trading strategies for one customer that from a wider perspective merely shift money around. They bet on movements in the markets to make profits for their shareholders.

People in the financial sector are overpaid. In most industries, when people are paid too much their firms go bankrupt. The exception is the finance industry. Bankers are rewarded for taking risks, but when a market collapses others are left to pick up the losses. In the first nine months of 2010, the big six U.S. banks cleared more than 35 billion dollars in profits.

2010 November 25


Fareed Zakaria

The Chinese support the North Korean regime. Without Chinese energy and food aid the regime would collapse. The Chinese have legitimate concerns. A unified Korea sitting on China's border with an American security alliance is threatening.

The United States and Beijing need to engage in a high-level and secret conversation about the future of the Korean peninsula. Otherwise the Chinese don't have an incentive to push the North Koreans. A stable Korea is a vital national interest of the United States.

AR Excellent analysis, as always from Fareed.

New Scientist

We create our selves through narrative. Our brain's left hemisphere is the language hemisphere. It interprets behaviors and emotional states and forms hypotheses. Functional MRI studies and PET imaging of the brain show activity in the areas for speech production and language comprehension during silent inner speech. The inner voice narrates the autobiographical self.

Narratives convey our individual perspectives, with cause and effect and a temporal ordering of events that we can communicate to others. The selves created through narratives have linear plots with a fixed past, a present built coherently on it, and a horizon of possibilities projected into the future. We make up our lives in ways that conform to universal narrative prototypes.

Digital technologies are producing narratives that stray from this classic structure. Books are just one technology for storytelling. Hypertext fiction is a nonlinear story that the reader navigates as an active participant. Interactive fiction is a story driven by the reader. Hypertext may be embellished with multimedia components. These new technologies may change the way we see ourselves.

AR Our self-narratives are actually neuromultimedia, imho.

2010 November 24

Nicholas Carr laments the hyperlinks that dominate much of what we read online. Instead of adding context, they turn the Internet into an interruption system. Many bloggers have begun to admit to an inability to read entire books or even magazine articles. The Web presents us with more information than we can process, let alone understand.

Google wants to set up a global clearinghouse for personal data

Hello? Obama?
Nile Gardiner, The Telegraph

The latest provocation by North Korea comes at a time when American leadership has gone AWOL on the world stage. In an increasingly dangerous world, Barack Obama looks increasingly like a lame duck president. America needs to stand up to its enemies rather than appease them.

Andy Ross, The Times

We need to dismantle the NK regime. First we need an okay from China. As their prize for holding back, we can let China take over for postwar reconstruction. Otherwise we let SK take the lead after the conflict. With fast and hard conventional strikes, I believe we can all but eliminate the risk that NK "succeeds" with a nuclear strike. If they strike, we reduce NK to rubble and hand China a rather large DMZ above SK. With Japan's help, we can rebuild SK to become even stronger in future.

2010 November 23

North Korean Shells South
The Times

North Korea shelled a South Korean village with artillery today, killing at least two Marines and injuring at least 18 people. Witnesses reported fires spreading on Yeonpyeong island. South Korea returned fire and scrambled F-16 jets to the scene.

A South Korean government spokesman described the incident as a violation of the terms of the 1953 armistice. The firing lasted for about an hour and started shortly after the North warned the South to stop military exercises in the area. The South continued the drills and the government issued a Class-A military alert.

The attack is one of the most serious incidents since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a ceasefire. North and South Korea technically remain at war. The United Nations recognizes Yeonpyeong island as part of the South. The area has been the site of repeated clashes.

AR Looks like war. We should be able to finish this one quickly if we keep China on our side. The North Koreans have nukes and can hit Seoul with artillery. But the nuke sites are certainly targeted for air strikes. We can shoot down their missiles with Patriot and Aegis. To minimize collateral damage on Seoul, we need to push the front northward fast. A big armored push under massed air strikes should take out the artillery in minutes. We can hope the NK regime implodes faster than the Saddam gang. When it does, we hand over the whole mess to China, with the bill.

Der Euro bleibt robust

2010 November 22

My forthcoming novel
GLOBORG — Love on a small planet
now has a back-cover text:

Amber Stewart is an ambitious journalist and Arthur Cross is a successful philosopher. When Amber interviews Art to get the key ideas of his work, she discovers the human being behind the words. She is soon caught up in an affair with him that breaks through her inhibitions and reveals dark secrets from her past. On the way, her understanding of his philosophy deepens. Art's words about the emerging global organism — Globorg — give her food for thought and make her fear for the future. Beware: Amber tells an adult tale in explicit language.

Leo Tolstoy
A.N. Wilson

Leo Tolstoy (1828—1910) was one of history's great truth-tellers, the first of the great dissidents. The question of how best to live is at the core of all Tolstoy's writings, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina. War and Peace is not just a great national and family saga, it is a novel about personal and national regeneration. After writing Anna Karenina, Tolstoy became a fervent Christian and decided that what mattered was what Jesus had taught — pacifism, anarchism, no government, no army, no upper classes, no quest for wealth. In 1909, Gandhi became enflamed by Tolstoy's writings.

Mindblindness: Were Wittgenstein and other philosophers autistic?

2010 November 20

Believe it or not, thanks to National Novel Writing Month
I've written a 50K-word novel in just 3 weeks:
GLOBORG — Love on a small planet
Now to publish it!

Gandhi: Naked Ambition
Jad Adams, The Independent

Mohandas Gandhi had an unusual sex life. He married at 13 in 1883. His wife Kasturba was 14. Kasturba was soon pregnant. Their last child was born in 1900. Gandhi later developed a censorious attitude to sex. He decided to "give service" to humanity by embracing poverty and chastity.

In 1906, aged 38, Gandhi took a vow of brahmacharya. He described a brahmachari as: "One who never has any lustful intention, who, by constant attendance upon God, has become proof against conscious or unconscious emissions, who is capable of lying naked with naked women, however beautiful, without being in any manner whatsoever sexually excited."

Gandhi worked out rules to say he was chaste while still engaging in sexual behavior. He set up ashrams and began "experiments" with sex. Boys and girls were to bathe and sleep together, chastely, men and women were segregated, and husbands should not be alone with their wives. Following Kasturba's death, Gandhi had women in his bed for his "experiments".

Sushila Nayar used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. In 1947, Sushila was 33 and Gandhi was 77. Gandhi called for his grandniece Manu, 18, to sleep naked with him. Abha, 18, joined his entourage. From August 1947 he slept with both Manu and Abha at the same time. When he was assassinated in January 1948, it was with Manu and Abha by his side.

AR Wow, I'm saintlier than Matatma Gandhi.

2010 November 17

Who Shall Inherit the Earth?
Phillip Longman

Birth rates are declining across the globe. But they are declining least among those adhering to strict religious codes and literal belief in the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran. The least likely to procreate are those who profess no believe in God. As we approach the religious fundamentalists, we find high fertility and rapid population growth. The demographic tide of history favors fundamentalism.

In our world, birthrates increasingly reflect values choices. By a Darwinian process, those who adhere to traditions that preserve and celebrate the ancient injunction to go forth and multiply put more of their genes and ideas into the future than those who don't. Secularism may have set back religion but it hasn't dented the strongholds of faith. Fundamentalists are claiming the future.

AR This seems a good reason to found a Globorg religion.

2010 November 15

Your Brain on Metaphors
Robert Sapolsky, The New York Times

Consider eating some rotten, disgusting food. Neurons in an area of the brain called the insula will activate. Think about something shameful and rotten that you once did and your insula activates. When we evolved the capacity to be disgusted by moral failures, the insula expanded its portfolio.

Or consider pain. Evolutionarily ancient regions activate in the brain, telling you about the intensity of the pain and so on. A more recently evolved brain region in the frontal cortex called the anterior cingulate is involved in the subjective response to the pain. If you watch your beloved in pain, your anterior cingulate will activate as if you were in pain. The anterior cingulate does both physical and psychic pain.

Now consider cleanliness. The brain has trouble distinguishing between being a dirty scoundrel and being in need of a bath. Volunteers were asked to recall either a moral or immoral act in their past. Afterward, offered a choice between the gift of a pencil or of a package of antiseptic wipes, the folks who had just recalled their ethical failures were more likely to go for the wipes.

What are we to make of the brain processing literal and metaphorical versions of a concept in the same brain region? This neural confusion gives symbols enormous power.

AR This confusion is what gives art and religion their power.

2010 November 14

One Day
The Sunday Times

One Day is the third novel by the London-based author David Nicholls, 43. It is an international phenomenon.

In Britain, it has now sold nearly 400,000 copies. First published in June 2009, it spent 10 weeks in The Sunday Times bestseller charts and returned to the list for two months as a paperback in 2010.

In America, the novel has sold 300,000 copies. In Sweden, the first edition sold out in three days and became a #1 bestseller. Same in Italy. It reached #2 in Germany and #3 in Russia. Translation rights have now been sold for 31 languages.

The novel tells the story of Emma and Dexter. We first meet them on July 15, 1988. Over 435 pages, Nicholls revisits the pair every July 15 for the next 20 years. The movie is scheduled for release next summer.

AR My next novel — Interviews: Love on a Small Planet — may be published by then.

2010 November 12

The G20
Mark Malloch-Brown, Financial Times

The G20 members together represent more than 80 percent of world gross domestic product. But this G20 is far from united. Many G20 members fear that China is unstoppable in its march to economic parity with the United States. China and others see recklessness and threat in the exercise of U.S. power.

AR Like it or not, the G20 is the precursor to Globorg.

"We cannot keep constantly explaining to our voters and our citizens why the taxpayer should bear the cost of certain risks and not those people who have earned a lot of money from taking those risks."
Angela Merkel

AR Quite right, Angela: Use my tax money wisely!

Environmentalists have "adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet."
— is cosmic genius Freeman Dyson right about global warming?

2010 November 10

I'm over halfway through the first draft of my next novel

Julian Young revisits Nietzsche's philosophy of religion
Susan Jacoby reviews Sam Harris's moral landscape

2010 November 7

Generation Facebook
Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books

The Social Network is a movie about Mark Zuckerberg. A boy, Mark, and his girl, Erica, sit at a little table in a Harvard bar, zinging each other. But something is not right with this young man: his eye contact is patchy; he doesn't seem to understand common turns of phrase or ambiguities of language; he is literal to the point of offense, pedantic to the point of aggression.

We came to the cinema expecting to meet Zuckerberg and it'll be a long time before a cinema geek comes along to push Jesse Eisenberg, the actor who plays Zuckerberg, off the top of our nerd typologies. The passive-aggressive, flat-line voice. The shifty boredom when anyone, other than himself, is speaking. The barely suppressed smirk. We know this guy.

Jaron Lanier has written a short and frightening book, You Are Not a Gadget, on the ways in which people "reduce themselves" in order to make a computer's description of them appear more accurate. In Lanier's view, there is no perfect computer analogue for what we call a person. In Facebook, life is turned into a database, and this is a degradation.

Facebook was designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore's preoccupations. Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what "friendship" is. We were going to live online. It was going to be extraordinary. Yet what kind of living is this? Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment: Doesn't it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life in this format?

AR Yes. Thanks, Zadie, for trashing a key ghost in my Globorg nightmare.

2010 November 5

Und ewig lockt das Blondchen
Der Spiegel

ProSieben-Moderatorin Sonya Kraus verstärkte die Blondinen-Quote der ARD-Wissensshow "Wie liebt Deutschland?"

2010 November 3

Federal Europe
Anatole Kaletsky, The Times

The European Union has taken a big step toward becoming a unitary state by shifting key policies on taxes and public spending from national to federal level. Last May, European leaders saw the risk of a collapse of the euro and created a financial mechanism to bail out nations unable to raise money from private investors.

The commitment to permanent collective guarantees for the debts of eurozone governments could never work without greater central control over national budgets. At the EU summit in Brussels last weekend, these mechanisms for control were in principle agreed. EU fiscal federalism will have irreversible legal force.

Germany's political and business elite will not agree to become permanent guarantors for the more improvident EU countries without much closer supervision over their tax, spending, and borrowing. European integration has always advanced through crises.

AR This is an excellent analysis of what looks like an inevitable historical process. If European integration is continued in this cautious and event-driven way, British and other nationalists can rest easy in their cottage homes as they survey the sunlit uplands that EU solidarity has put within reach.

2010 November 1, All Saints Day

What's Fair?
Ted Honderich, New Statesman

John Stuart Mill, proud of his logic, gave liberalism's 1859 answer, maybe the answer of Britain's Liberal Democrats today ... John Rawls of Harvard gave us liberalism's 1971 answer to the question of what is fair in a society ...

The coalition government is true to its inherited natures, the natures of liberalism and conservativism. ... The coalition says and says again and again that it is fair. The Principle of Humanity calls right now for the most effective forms of speech and argument against this farce of fairness.

AR Ted Honderich argues well (as usual) and his heart is in the right place (apparently) but his conclusion here is wrong. The coalition government shares his concern for fairness and seeks to minimize the pain of its cuts but faces its own political limits. The fact is that the power of money has us all — wage slaves, shareholders, and governments alike — by the balls. This is the logic of capital, as Karl Marx confusedly sensed in his wordy ramblings on the subject. The global flow of quantified symbols of value (money) will continue to reward its sharpest servants — the Wall Street masters of the universe and so on — until the machines take over. Then we'd better be sure we've programmed the machines properly. Until then, the best that people like Ted and David and Nick can do is to persuade the rich to work for the wider good. Contra Ted, I believe that classic liberalism is now bankrupt. My attempt to rescue the world from this predicament is enshrined in my new book G.O.D. Is Great, where the global organization (of G20, Wall Street, and so on) is Globorg, Globorg is GO, GO dominion is GOD, and GOD is great!

The novelist who converts
heroic effort into effortless
prose has come to seem like
the willed effort of the entire
culture to create a novel
worth reading.
Chad Harbach, Slate

Sunday afternoon

North Korea
Michael J. Green
Foreign Policy

The Obama administration must persuade China to deter the North from further escalation and from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. The United States should visibly enhance defense cooperation with Japan and Korea.

The Times

The USS George Washington will be next to useless. It took part in similar drills after the last provocation in March. North Korea has little to lose. In a war, Kim Jong Il would be toppled and the North Korean military would be wiped out within days. But before its defeat, North Korea could inflict massive artillery damage on Seoul and devastate the South Korean economy.

AR I say wipe them out and
take the pain. Britain should contribute by sending Ark Royal with Harriers (sic) and fund the move by drawing on European credit (like Ireland). We all profit from a stabilized Korea.

SAP and Oracle
The New York Times

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said in public statements that former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker oversaw the vast copyright infringement plan. Apotheker did not testify at the trial because Oracle's lawyers were unable to serve him with a subpoena.

AR I never did warm to Apotheker.

North Versus South
Financial Times

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il this week played two aces. The first was to reveal a uranium enrichment facility. The site was monitored by U.S. satellites and their failure was described as the worst nightmare of U.S. intelligence. The second ace was today's artillery barrage against a South Korean island.

South Korean president Lee Myung-bak last month skirted the issue of whether China was propping up North Korea. Outsourcing the job of reforming North Korea to Beijing shows how few cards Seoul has left to play.

Ethical Trade?
Prospect Magazine

Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre was born in 1929 in Glasgow. He enrolled at Queen Mary College in London, went on to Manchester University as a graduate student, and was appointed to a lectureship in philosophy at age 24. His first book was a defense of Marxism. MacIntyre applies his metaphysical approach with unrelenting rigor. There are skills, like being a good burglar, that are inimical to the virtues. Those engaged in finance are like good burglars. Teaching ethics to traders is as pointless as reading Aristotle to your dog. The better the trader, the more morally despicable.
Left: me in Q1 2008

The Hollywood Reporter

Steven Spielberg will direct the robot wars in a 2012 movie based on the novel Robopocalypse.

AR Hey, Steve, hire me and rename it Robocalypse.

The Sunday Times

Rolls-Royce says the engine problem is specific to the Trent 900 on the Airbus A380. In the short term, a new maintenance and inspection regime avoids the problem. Later RR will replace the suspect section of the 80 engines in service.

A Flying Wreck
The Times

The Qantas A380 Airbus that made an emergency landing in Singapore last week was reportedly a "flying wreck." Investigators found damage including massive fuel leaks in two of the 11 tanks, a huge hole in a landing flap, a damaged wing, a loss of brake anti-skid system, and shrapnel damage to the plane's exterior. In all, the failure of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine was said to have caused 18 major flaws.

Against Humanism
Mary Midgley

If you want to get rid of God, is the human race the right thing to be worshipping instead? Positivists got rid of Cartesian dualism but now consciousness is a scientific problem. The language for talking about mental and spiritual life is sophisticated. Humanism has to take account of religious thinking. I see no need to worship our love of our own species and no reason to call that love humanism.

AR Quite right: outgrow worship and species chauvinism. We need to identify with Globorg.

Effing the Ineffable
Roger Scruton

Every inquiry into first principles will at some stage come up against the question: what makes those first principles true? And the answer is that there is no answer that can be expressed in terms of the science for which those principles are bedrock. So how should we proceed?

There is nothing wrong with referring at this point to the ineffable. The mistake is to describe it. I too am tempted to eff the ineffable. What do our moments of revelation have to do with the ultimate questions? When science comes to a halt, does revelation point to the cause of the world?

AR Effing obviously not!

The Daily Show
The Washington Post

President Obama came to plead his case before Jon Stewart.
Obama: "In fairness, Larry Summers did a heckuva job."
Stewart: "You don't want to use that phrase, dude."
Obama: "My attitude is if we're making progress, step by step."
Stewart: "You wouldn't say you'd run this time as a pragmatist?"
Obama: "I think what I would say is yes we can, but — "
Cue for laughter.

Brussels Profligacy
The Times

Prime Minister David Cameron will implore European leaders to live within their means and rein back plans for a 6 percent rise in overall EU spending to €130 billion a year. The current budget cycle began in 2005 when the total national debt across the European Union was €54 billion. Today it stands at €868 billion.

AR Everyone on the EU payroll is overpaid. EU expenses are wildly out of control. EU foreign policy spending is money thrown away. EU agricultural subsidies reward inefficiency. Our taxes fatten MEPs who squeak ineffectually. Cut EU spending.

Three Faiths:
Judaism, Christianity, Islam
The New York Times

The Abrahamic religions share the belief that God has made himself known to his prophets through acts of revelation. And such revelations shape groups of believers by being incorporated in canonical written texts: the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Gospels, the Islamic Koran.

Monotheistic religion is concerned with just two poles: the human and the divine. Religious history becomes part of human history. Christianity developed out of Judaism, and Islam grew out of both. Each religion aggressively reinterpreted its predecessors. All three religions saw themselves as shaping world history.


HMS Ocean
HMS Ocean

The German Genius
James Buchan, The Guardian

Peter Watson's colossal encyclopedia might have been written for me. Watson is frustrated by the British ignorance of Germany. Watson wonders not just why the nation of thinkers and poets came to grief between 1933 and 1945 but also how it put itself together again in 1989.

AR Thanks, Jamie, must read it.

Sex In Fiction
The Times

Martin Amis: "Very few writers have got anywhere with sex." Where emotion meets sex on the page, it becomes "impossible" for the writer and "embarrassing" for the reader.

In 2007, Amis became Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. He says the English novel's grand theme, from Clarissa to Lady Chatterley's Lover, was "whether women are going to fall".

In 1993, Auberon Waugh founded the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

"The contrails of the more distant aeroplanes were like incandescent spermatozoa, sent out to fertilise the universe"
Martin Amis, Yellow Dog

"Keith imagined her buttocks as a pair of giant testicles (from L. testiculus, lit. 'a witness' — a witness to virility)"
Martin Amis, The Pregnant Widow

Pakistan Tests Our Patience
The Telegraph

ISIS, the Institute for Science and International Security, claims that Pakistan's secret Khushab-III reactor has been extended, allowing Pakistan to increase its stockpiles of plutonium. Pakistan has blocked the Conference on Disarmament and says a fissile materials cut-off would hurt its national security interests.

British and French Nukes
Financial Times

The British and and French governments are close to agreeing a deal that would let French CEA scientists service Britain's 160 nuclear warheads. France's CEA maintains the 300 warheads in the French force de frappe. Britain has consulted the US over the proposed move. France would charge the UK for access to CEA facilities. But the UK would not need to build its own simulation laboratories to maintain the effectiveness of its warheads.

Obama Apologizes Again
The New York Times

The Obama administration apologized to Pakistani officials for a helicopter strike that killed three Pakistani soldiers. Dozens of NATO oil tankers carrying supplies to troops in Afghanistan have been attacked and burned in Pakistan. American pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups is running up against Pakistan's sensitivity about its sovereignty.

AR Take out the Paki nukes.



Die Giordano Bruno Stiftung
(Stiftung zur Förderung des evolutionären Humanismus) ist eine Denkfabrik für Humanismus und Aufklärung, der zahlreiche bekannte Wissenschaftler, Philosophen und Künstler angehören. Die Stiftung sammelt neuste Erkenntnisse der Geistes-, Sozial- und Naturwissenschaften, um ihre Bedeutung für das humanistische Anliegen eines "friedlichen und gleichberechtigten Zusammenlebens der Menschen im Diesseits" herauszuarbeiten. Ziel der Stiftung ist es, die Grundzüge eines naturalistischen Weltbildes sowie einer säkularen, evolutionär-humanistischen Ethik/Politik zu entwickeln und einer interessierten Öffentlichkeit zugänglich zu machen.

Franzen: Stop the Press!
The Times

The British publishers of Freedom, HarperCollins said the book had 50 typos after a mistake by typesetters. They have now offered to exchange copies already sold for the new corrected edition.

Jonathan Franzen asked readers not to open the book but to wait until they get a corrected copy. There are about 80,000 incorrect hardback copies in circulation.

A spokeswoman for HarperCollins said the mistake was spotted yesterday.

AR Great! I bought a dud copy.
Do I swap it or buy another and keep it as an investment?

Jonathan Franzen

The function of the novel is "to find an adequate narrative vehicle for the most difficult stuff at the core of me, in the hope that that might resonate with the reader who otherwise has been feeling alone with those deep, difficult feelings."

2010 October 31

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is a fun approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, November 30. The only thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. You will be writing a lot of crap.

2010 October 29

The Economist

No big developed country has come out of the global recession looking stronger than Germany has. Exports are booming and unemployment is expected to fall to levels last seen in the early 1990s. The government is stable. Germany appears an oasis of tranquillity.

Germans are no longer so ready to be put on the moral defensive. Yet this buoyancy is checked by equally potent anxieties. A third of Germans think the country is overrun by foreigners. Germany is driven by the fear that things could fall apart if they don't hold on to stability.

This year's euro crisis brought out both the apprehension and the arrogance. The crisis has created a new pecking order, with Germany on top. But Germany was an awkward partner even during the golden age of European integration. The Berlin republic is a different character from its Bonn-based predecessor.

Germany's most pressing European business is to sort out the euro, the foundation on which the European edifice now rests. The reform of the euro will create a more German Europe. Germany's vision of Europe is to secure Europe's success in a globalised world. Europeans look to Germany for leadership.

AR Let's build a new capital city for Europe in Germany (but let's not call it Berlin or Germania).

2010 October 28

Solar Wind Power
New Scientist

A Dyson-Harrop satellite has a wire loop facing the sun. This wire generates a magnetic field that snags the electrons in the solar wind. These electrons are funneled into a receiver to make a current. Part of the current generates the magnetic field and the rest powers an infrared laser pointed at dishes on Earth that collect the energy. On the satellite, the drained electrons fall onto a sail, where sunlight accelerates them to keep the satellite in orbit.

A Dyson-Harrop satellite using a copper wire 1 cm thick and 300 m long, a receiver 2 m wide, and a sail 10 m in diameter, orbiting at the same distance from the sun as the Earth, could generate an 1.7 MW. A satellite with the same receiver and at the same distance from the sun but with a wire 1 km long and a sail 8.4 Mm wide could generate an octillion watts.

Since solar panels cost more per pound than the copper, Dyson-Harrop satellites would be cheaper than big power satellites with solar panels. But Dyson-Harrop satellites rely on the constant solar wind found high above the ecliptic, so they would lie many Gm from Earth and even a sharp laser beam would spread over 1 Mm on Earth.

AR Science fiction: the last sentence is the giveaway.

2010 October 26

Sex, Bombs, and Burgers
The Times

Feeding, fighting, and fucking have driven the evolution of technology. Peter Nowak calls these "our shameful trinity" but roots almost everything about modern living in their influence. Much technological invention of the past was driven by religious motives but we're living in the age of Eat, Slay, Love.

AR The ancient tension between the human and the divine is now the tension between me and the state. More grandly, the global organization Globorg and I (we) live in a dialectical synergy. The new religion drove Apollo (man on the moon) and drives the LHC (from quarks to black holes) so we're not atheists yet. Wise up, Nowak! If you read my book on Globorg you'll probably agree that we have quite a way to go before the human obsession with God is over and done, despite our FFF thing.

Anne Applebaum reviews the megadeath murders dictated by
Hitler and Stalin in the bloodlands of Eastern Europe

2010 October 25

International Space Station
International Space Station
The Guardian

For 10 years, the crew of the International Space Station have admired the Earth from a height of 350 km as the station orbits the planet 16 times a day.

AR Why?

English Extremism
The Times

The English Defence League (EDL) has declared war on Islamic extremism. The EDL threatens to "shut down" towns and cities if the Government and local councils "pander" to multiculturalism.

EDL founder Stephen Lennon has forged links with far-right movements in Europe and America. His group is receiving funding to counter the "Islamisation of Britain".

Lennon claims to command a hardcore of about 10,000 foot soldiers prepared to fight if their demands are not met. He claims that the EDL is capable of bringing a "street force" to bear upon local authorities to address its demands.

Its activists warn that if local councils change the name of Christmas to a more multi-culturally considerate title, they will "turn the heat on" to uphold Christian values.

The EDL held a demonstration in London outside the Israeli Embassy. The protest included speeches from a right-wing American rabbi who underlined the anti-Islamic stance of the EDL.

AR The EDL needs to avoid the trap of nationalism. Globorg is good. Globorg is GO, GO dominion is GOD, and GOD is great!

Angry Young Man

Stephen Lennon is the founder and leader of the English Defence League (EDL). Wearing a leather jacket and jeans, he cuts a stocky figure with the swagger of a man used to standing his ground amid the push and shove of the football terrace.

Islamic extremists helped to spawn his group after disrupting a troops' homecoming from Iraq by calling the soldiers "terrorists" and "butchers of Basra". A few hundred football fans grew almost overnight into the EDL.

Lennon was born in Luton to Irish immigrant parents in 1982. He went to school in Luton and trained as an aircraft engineer. But after brushes with the law he now works as a carpenter. A lapsed Catholic, in 2004 he joined the British National Party (BNP) and later set up the United People of Luton.

Tea Party Rabbi

In front of the gates of the Israeli Embassy in London, senior U.S. rabbi and Tea Party activist Rabbi Nachum Shifren addressed the demonstrators: "Patriots of England, we shall be prepared. We shall not let them take over this country. We will never surrender to the sword of Islam."

As the Israeli flag was waved alongside the cross of St. George,
the protesters chanted "E — E — EDL" and "No surrender".

AR Hey, guys, this is not yet the Battle of Britain.

2010 October 24

Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair

"Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die."
Horace Mann

In Tumortown you sometimes feel that you may expire from sheer advice. A lot of it comes free and unsolicited. Best perhaps to get these false hopes behind one quickly. I would have happily offered myself as an experimental subject for new drugs or new surgeries, partly of course in the hope that they might salvage me, but also on the Mann principle.

As a long shot, I am going to try to have my entire DNA sequenced, along with the genome of my tumor. Francis Collins was sober in his evaluation of the usefulness of this: "The potential for discovering mutations in the cancer cells that could lead to a new therapeutic idea is uncertain — this is at the very frontier of cancer research right now."

Last August a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a halt to all government expenditure on embryonic stem-cell research. As a believing Christian, Francis is squeamish about the creation for research purposes of these cell clumps, but he was hoping for good work to result from the use of embryos created for in-vitro fertilization. These embryos are going nowhere as it is. But now religious maniacs strive to forbid even their use. If you want to take part in the war against cancer, then join the battle against their lethal stupidity.

AR Yes, it is stupidity. I like the Mann quote.

2010 October 22

HMS Astute

HMS Astute
The Times

Britain's newest and most powerful nuclear submarine ran aground off the Isle of Skye in a humiliating blunder for the Royal Navy. The £1.2 billion stealthy attack submarine HMS Astute was exposed after its rudder became stuck during sea trials.

HMS Astute is 97 meters long and weighs 7,400 tons. The nuclear reactor that powers it is the size of a dustbin but will last 30 years.

2010 October 20

The Harrier
The Times

The Harrier jump jet will fly proudly off into the sunset after its glorious career was ended by the government's defence review. As the first fighter jet to be able to take off without a runway, the Harrier jump jet was a giant leap for aviation technology when it was introduced in 1968. The Falklands war in 1982 was the Harrier's greatest moment. In dogfights above and around the islands, they achieved 22 kills with no losses.

AR Another souvenir of my childhood gone.

2010 October 19

Religious Pluralism
The Times

Karen Armstrong spoke at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival: "People are beginning to turn quite naturally to more than one faith. Across the United States, ordinary people are reading the Sufi poet Rumi. Jesuits have for years been learning to meditate with Zen monks and more Christians read the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber than Jews do. This would have been unheard of in any previous age."

AR Armstrong is a breath of fresh air in religious writing. Pluralism is the best way to break fundamentalism. If people try to juggle Sufi, Zen, and Buber in their own thinking, they will surely either addle their brains or begin to understand the value of modern neuroscience too. The nascent science of psychology can only benefit.

The Times

The defense review identifies terrorism and cyber-attack as the gravest threats to the UK. The defense budget will be cut by 7.5 percent. The RAF will bear the brunt. About 20,000 British troops will leave Germany by 2020. HMS Ark Royal and the Harriers will be decommissioned. Two new carriers will be built but won't fly British jets before 2020. Britain will project force with Tornados. HMS Ocean may be the Navy's only platform for up to five years.

AR These changes and cuts look okay to me. No point fielding men and machines that sit idle for years while terrorists and hackers run riot.

2010 October 17

BAE Harrier
Carriers But No Harriers
Daily Mail

The new Royal Navy aircraft carriers will be deployed without jet fighters after the Harrier jump jet is axed in defense cuts. HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, will operate with no jets until 2018.

Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West said last night it would be "nonsensical" to scrap the Harriers before the Lockheed Martin
F-35B Lightning II jets were delivered.

AR I say rename the budget-buster carriers BBC1 and BBC2.

The New York Times

A growing number of economists are pointing to Japan as a dark vision of the future. Many economists are now warning of falling into the same deflationary trap of collapsed demand that occurs when consumers refuse to consume, corporations hold back on investments, and banks sit on cash.

Deflation has left a deep imprint on the Japanese, breeding generational tensions and a culture of pessimism, fatalism, and reduced expectations. In 1991, economists were predicting that Japan would overtake the United States as the world's largest economy by 2010. In fact, this year China overtook Japan.

China has so thoroughly eclipsed Japan that few American intellectuals seem to bother with Japan now. The future looks even bleaker, as Japan faces the world's largest government debt and a shrinking population.

AR Yesterday I finished the chapter on Japan in my autobiography. I think I understand the problem.

2010 October 15

Clinton Defends NATO
The Times

On a trip to Brussels for a NATO meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "NATO has been the most successful alliance for defensive purposes in the history of the world, but it has to be maintained. Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contributions."

In a final meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, British service heads discussed the cuts to be announced next week. The RAF is expected to bear the brunt, with its Nimrod fleet be phased out and the fate of the Tornado in the balance. The Navy will keep two new aircraft carriers, but questions remain over their complement of aircraft. The Army will escape any big reduction in size until 2015, when troops leave Afghanistan.

Two senior Pentagon officials have been working in the Ministry of Defence in London on the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates fears that Britain and France might reduce their defence spending to below 2 percent of GDP.

AR What NATO needs is a clear mission statement. What and where are the threats? Only when we know that can we know how much we need to spend. In any case, the spend needs to be coordinated. NATO members must learn to work better together on nuclear deterrence, aircraft procurement, naval operations, and army equipment. But that must be obvious.

As for the mission, I see a big mid-century threat. NATO members will need to counter robot weapon systems illegally purchased and deployed by fundamentalist regimes in the Middle East. I invite NATO planners to read my threat assessment: GLOBORG

2010 October 13

Made poster for my new book (PDF, 40 cm x 30 cm)

The Times

Kid Rock told Duffy he loved her debut album Rockferry so much that he wanted to impregnate her. Duffy: "Really? I remember meeting him but did he say that? I am going to get it put on a teeshirt."

AR Great album, sweet girl.

2010 October 11

Science Fiction
Andy Ross, The Times

Science fiction is oxymoronic. Science encourages structured and instrumental thinking, fiction encourages free form and indulges presence and context. So SF will always be a marginal and threatened genre. Anyway, in a world of big movies and virtual games, who needs the old world of words written in long strings? My response is to back down from science to tech, where the indulgence of presence is easier, and to go from fiction to soliloquy, as a variant of the classic monograph. The result is my new book G.O.D. Is Great, where the tech soliloquy becomes a prophetic voice from droid world and the urgency of the message is hard to ignore. Break the SF ghetto wall.

The British Muslim Empire
A.C. Grayling

At its height, the British Empire counted as subjects over one in three of the world's Muslims. At the end of the First World War, Britain had more than a million soldiers in the Middle East. Britain defined the map of the region, creating new countries and putting its clients into power.

In 1911, Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, in charge of the Royal Navy. Worried that the fleet could be held to ransom by striking coal miners, he ordered the navy to switch from coal-fired to oil-fired engines. That led Britain to colonize oil-rich Persia and British-created Iraq.

In the nineteenth century, imperial Britain fought Russia in Central Asia and Afghanistan to defend the approaches to India. In the early twentieth century, Germany's friendship with the Ottoman Empire made Britain wary, so British forces took over Egypt and Persia and destroyed the Ottoman empire.

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth
Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth II smashed a bottle of white wine to inaugurate Cunard's new 92,000-ton ocean liner. The QE is nearly 300 meters long, has 16 decks, and accommodates over 2,000 passengers.

AR A Cunard QE — just like the old days!

2010 October 10

The Female Eunuch
The Sunday Times

Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch was the publishing phenomenon of 40 years ago. Greer was credited with inaugurating a liberation movement that changed the world and set women free.

The book was not concerned with political and social equality for women. What Greer sought was a revolution in the manners of sex. The Female Eunuch gave voice to barbaric simplicities about men.

Future historians may be astounded at such irrational condemnations of an entire gender. Women in the West must be the most privileged and free in the history of humanity.

AR I enjoyed the book. I never accepted the charge of patriarchy except as it applied to the Abrahamic tradition in religion, where I now see an evolutionary significance for the basic biology of humans.

2010 October 7

Testing a new panel (above) for my new book ...
New Amazon review: "This is a marvellous book"
Michael Holroyd, The Times

Biography has its dangers. Some people read the life of a novelist or poet in place of the original novels or poems, and others are tempted to reduce all literature to social or psychological texts.

To have a private life now is to be a nonentity. New technology gives us instant access to information about the present. We are impatient with the view that understanding the past helps us to understand the present.

Biography uses an ancient technology. The golden age of scholarly writers chronicling the achievements of a single subject from birth to death is fading. Universities now offer courses in biography.

AR The ancient art of Socratic autobiography, examining the lived life to extract its lessons, is not dead. Next year, assuming optimistically that my recent book on Globorg makes a big enough splash, I hope to prove this fact of continuing life to the world of letters. But I should warn any aspiring autobiographers that a precondition for writing a good life of oneself is to have lived a life of painful frustration and rigorous self-criticism. As for biographies of other people, recall that no man is a hero to his valet.

2010 October 5

Book Wars
The Times

Welcome to the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair. Google Editions opens its store this winter. It has more material than either Apple or Amazon. Three powerful internet players are battling over books.

HarperCollins CEO Victoria Barnsley says there is no tradition of giving away books for free online. The internet can ensure the future of books rather than threaten it. We can enhance e-books with audio, graphics and apps. In 1935, when Penguin founder Allen Lane wanted something to read on a train platform, he dreamt up the paperback, a disposable that would cost less than a pack of cigarettes. E-books are as disruptive as paperbacks were.

The role of agents, publishers and retailers is up for grabs. The issue of pricing and royalties from e-books is unresolved. With a limitless supply of content on the web, publishers say they are needed more than ever to select and improve content. But how to create demand for it?

AR E-books will really take off when their readers demand more from them. Not just text but audio, graphics and apps, all accessed via readers that don't look like books. We need online 3D glasses with integrated projectors and earbuds, steered and powered by body movements. Then our hands are free and we're mobile. Soon a globalized Goomazon will feed our habit until we're consuming 24/7. Then we become borgs in Globorg. My new book makes exactly this argument.

2010 October 3

Angela Lahee
Some of my friends erected an Infostand in Heidelberg yesterday to promote the separation of church and state in Germany.

Karen Armstrong
Vanessa Thor, The Observer

Karen Armstrong, 65, lives alone in London. In 2009, reviewing Armstrong's book The Case for God, Alain de Botton hailed her as "one of the handful of wise and supremely intelligent commentators on religion." In 2008, she was awarded a prestigious TED prize.

Armstrong grew up near Birmingham. At 17, she joined a community of nuns called the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The nuns sent her off to Oxford to read English. She earned a first but her thesis was rejected. A bleak period alone in London followed.

She started work on her first book in the 1970s. It led to television punditry and to further bestsellers, earning her fame in America and across the Muslim world. Science, she believes, has yet to provide an explanation of our existence.

AR Armstrong is a kindred spirit: I've liked many of her books.

2010 October 2

A Tree in the Forest of Life
By Andy Ross


India Versus Pakistan
Isaac Chotiner, The New York Times

In the spring of 1997, the literary quarterly Granta published an issue devoted to India's Golden Jubilee. Fifty years after partition, an independent India was rapidly establishing itself as an international power. The issue was a testament to the country's extraordinary intellectual and artistic richness.

In the ensuing years, the American appetite for Indian culture has only grown. Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, and Amit Chaudhuri continued to publish fiction and reportage, and a new wave of novelists went on to write prize-winning, best-selling books. The Indian experience has become part of the American experience.

Now, Granta has assembled an issue on Pakistan. Granta's Pakistan is a country of jihadists, anti-Americanism and increasingly misogynistic and brutal forms of Islam. This issue of Granta forces an uncomfortably close confrontation with American foreign policy and the resentment it rightly or wrongly engenders.

Indian writers like Roy and Rushdie can hardly be accused of whitewashing the status of women in India. But the Pakistani contributors to Granta are particularly attuned to the misogyny that has been so central to recent debates over Islam. The compilation gives us glimpses of a less visible Pakistan while never ignoring the crueler, more vicious aspects of Pakistani society.

AR Islam is responsible for the blight of art in Pakistan.

2010 October 1


My three workstations at the start of Q4


Die Eiserne Kanzlerin
Der Spiegel

Angela Merkel kämpfte für eine neue Euro-Krisenarchitektur und hat beim Brüsseler Gipfel ihre Kernforderung durchgesetzt. Eine gezielte Änderung der EU-Verträge zum Schutz der Währung wird geprüft.

AR Sehr gut.

European Debt Control
Financial Times

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will persuade other EU members that a framework to prevent future financial crises must be embedded in the Lisbon treaty. The Lisbon treaty lays down the rules governing the European Union. A key clause says individual member states are responsible for their own debts. Berlin argues that a permanent crisis resolution mechanism cannot be created without amending the clause.

AR Renegotiate the Lisbon treaty.

Mideast Politics
The New York Times

From Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas in the Palestinian territories to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamist movements dominate in the Mideast region. Islamists have imposed a paradigm of morality and absolutism that neglects social problems. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, both Israel and its Islamist opponents have moved away from a struggle between competing nationalisms and toward a historic clash of religions. That is a sign of catastrophe.



Nein zu Multikulti
Der Spiegel

Berlin: "Der Ansatz für Multikulti ist gescheitert, absolut gescheitert!", sagte Kanzlerin Angela Merkel auf dem Deutschlandtag der Jungen Union (JU) in Potsdam. Man müsse Migranten nicht nur fördern, sondern auch fordern.

AR Absolut richtig. Weiter so.

Jacobson Wins Booker
The Guardian

Howard Jacobson's laugh-out-loud exploration of Jewishness, The Finkler Question, last night became the first unashamedly comic novel to win the Man Booker prize in its 42-year history. Jacobson, now 68, has long been highly regarded but unrewarded with major literary prizes. He claimed he was going to spend his £50,000 prize money on a handbag for his wife. "Have you seen the price of handbags?"

"Now more than ever, SAP NetWeaver is the strategic platform for SAP"
SAP CTO Vishal Sikka
TechEd 2010, Berlin

SAP NetWeaver is the platform for NewDB — based on the old
SAP NetWeaver BI Accelerator

"The global warming scam ... is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents."

Harold Lewis
Emeritus Professor of Physics
University of California
Santa Barbara

Navy Wants Its Carriers
The Telegraph

British admirals propose drastic reductions in the fleet to save two new aircraft carriers from defence cuts. The Navy argues that the two carriers are vital if Britain is to retain its place as a top-rank military power. The Navy has offered to slim down to as few as 12 surface ships, leaving it with six Type 45 destroyers and six Type 23 frigates. Its submarine fleet would reduce to seven Astute hunter-killers plus the four Trident boats.


Frankfurt Book Fair 2010

British schoolgirls forced
to wear the Islamic veil

The Telegraph

Islamic schools have introduced uniform policies that force girls to wear the burka or the niqab. Dr Taj Hargey, an imam and chairman of the Muslim Educational Trust of Oxford, said: "Muslim children are being brainwashed into thinking they must segregate and separate themselves from mainstream society."

Britain's £100 billion
mental health crisis
The Independent

Mental illness in England cost the nation more than £100 billion last year, highlighting some of the most serious emotional and psychological problems in Europe. Experts warned that the figure is likely to rise as the government cuts public services.

HP CEO: Big Pay Package
Wall Street Journal

New HP CEO Léo Apotheker's initial compensation package could be worth about $50 million.

Former SAP COO Erwin Gunst: Apotheker was known at SAP for making promises to customers and "making sure that he and the company would deliver against what he said." Unlike his predecessor at SAP, Apotheker "can get a little rough with people."

Former SAP board colleague John Schwarz: "I think that at HP he will have a freer hand to execute."

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison: "HP employees, customers, partners and shareholders will suffer."

Wall Street Journal

Hewlett-Packard Co. have named Léo Apotheker, 57, a former CEO at SAP, as their new CEO. HP generates around $115 billion a year in revenue and has 304,000 employees. SAP generates around $15 billion in annual revenue and has 47,000 employees.