BLOG 2016 Q2
Battle of the Somme, 1 July — 18 November 1916: What happens when European solidarity fails

Alliance of the angry
deserves a second vote

David Aaronovitch


"This has been a
miscalculation of gigantic,
historic proportions."
Radek Sikorski

AR Radek is right.

Today, the danger
of some sort of a nuclear
catastrophe is greater than
it was during the Cold War
and most people are
blissfully unaware
of this danger.
William J. Perry

"There can be no democratic
choice against the European
Jean-Claude Juncker

"The United Kingdom will not
be the last member state to
leave the European Union."
Nigel Farage

Germany, France, and Italy
give London more time
but reject informal
talks on future

Global markets lose record
$3 trillion since Brexit vote

UK credit rating
from AAA
to AA

Leave UK and relocate
somewhere else in the EU:
Maybe Germany is the
place for you.

AR Yes it is.

"My Polish father-in-law did
more for Britain than any
graffiti-spraying racist."
David Taylor

"Austerity is the cause
of our economic woes. It's
nothing to do with the EU."
Mariana Mazzucato

BoJo, June 9
BoJo now vows to keep
UK in Single Market

Euro Trade

London is the financial
capital of Europe. Most global
trading in euros is in London.
Britain stopped the ECB from
forcing some of that business
into the EZ. Now the ECB
may try again.

Gabriel: Press UK
German SPD leader
Sigmar Gabriel demands
that Angela Merkel press
the UK harder to exit EU
as soon as possible.


Rise in Racism

A Polish community center
was daubed with racist graffiti
and far-right demonstrators
chanted abuse outside a
mosque amid a surge in
hate crimes following
the referendum vote.

Baroness Warsi said the
atmosphere on the streets
of Britain was not good.

Be Like Greece —
Ignore the Referendum!

"The key Leave campaigners
made contradictory promises
to the British people."
Philip Hammond

"They told us it was Project
Fear but you can see already
that it is Project Reality.
And all we got in the campaign
was people saying the governor
of the Bank of England and the
Treasury were peddling false
information. That was
pretty shocking."
No. 10 official

Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders

"It's the last thing I want
to see. It's not a game
of the best of three."
Nigel Farage


2016 June 30

Brexit News

The Guardian

Boris Johnson says he will not stand to be PM after his fellow Beleaver Michael Gove, the party intellectual, said he did not think Boris could be leader so he was standing instead. Supporters accused Gove of treachery.

Theresa May launched her bid to be leader and promised no general election before 2020. Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom, and Stephen Crabb complete the list for the leadership election.

Jeremy Corbyn got into trouble at the launch of a report into anti-semitism in the Labour party when he said: "Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those various self-styled Islamic States or organisations."

We can make Britain work for everyone

Theresa May

Today I launch my campaign to become the leader of the Conservative party and prime minister
of the UK:

1 Our country needs strong, proven leadership to steer us through this period of economic and political uncertainty, and to negotiate the best possible terms as we leave the EU.

2 We need leadership that can unite our party and our country. It is the patriotic duty of the Conservative party to govern in the best interests of the whole country.

3 We need a positive vision for the future of our country that works not for a privileged few but for everyone, regardless of who they are and regardless of where they're from.

I favour big changes to the way we think about our economy, our society and our democracy. We believe in capitalism, but we need to reform it.

We need to think differently about the role of the state. We have to cherish institutions like the BBC and the NHS. And we have to restore the contract between the generations.

Under my leadership, we will put ourselves at the service of ordinary, working people and we will strive to make Britain a country that works for everyone.

AR Excellent: Count me in.

EU Democracy

Amanda Taub

Leavers say the EU is elitist and undemocratic. The reality is more complicated. Technically, the EU has quite a lot of democracy going on.

The European Parliament is directly elected. Every five years, every adult EU citizen can vote for a representative. EU treaties define 751 seats. The Council of the EU is the upper house, with representatives sent by the governments of member states.

The two houses appoint civil servants and members of groups such as the European Council. These officials are both powerful and unelected. This is much like in many democracies.

Democracy is also about accountability. The EU was designed by technocrats and lets experts make sound decisions that rise above nationalist politics. To protect it from populists, there is no easy way to call them to account.

The EU does not feel very democratic. Its decisions seem remote, its leaders unreachable. When people are unhappy with EU decisions, they blame the bureaucrats.

Brexit may be unlawful

Philip Allott

Brexit would consist of two acts performed by the government. These acts are subject to legal evaluation. The government decides that the UK will withdraw from the EU and then it notifies the European Council of that intention.

The government acts in question are exercises of legal powers, which have limits. A legal power of the UK government affects the legal situation of many people, so the courts are firm in keeping the government within legal limits.

A directly affected person can request that a court conduct a judicial review to determine whether the exercise of a public power on a given occasion is within the limits. All public power is subject to the law applied and enforced by the regular courts. The ultimate guardian of the rule of law is a government minister.

A person might challenge the actions of the government in the process leading up to the Referendum Act 2015 on the ground that the motive for holding the referendum seems to have been not the public interest but the particular interest of a political party. A court can decide that it is arbitrary and unreasonable and disproportionate to base the decision to withdraw from the EU on the opinion expressed by a bare majority of people taking part in a referendum.

To withdraw from membership of the EU, the government is using the powers contained in article 50, which leaves the legality of a withdrawal decision to national law. An unlawful decision under UK law would be invalid for the purposes of article 50.

John Kerry: Brexit could be 'walked back'

The Guardian

US secretary of state John Kerry visited David Cameron and said he was loth to invoke article 50 or to start negotiating a thing he doesn't believe in, and has no idea how he would do it — "and by the way, nor do most of the people who voted to do it."

Asked if the Brexit decision could be "walked back" Kerry said: "I think there are a number of ways. I don't, as secretary of state, want to throw them out today. I think that would be a mistake. But there are a number of ways."

Frexit 1

Robert Zaretsky

The next crisis to confront the EU will be Frexit. The inability of French governments to redress the growing social and economic fissures in French society has encouraged a retreat to nativism and nationalism.

French president François Hollande has a dismal approval rating — according to a recent Le Monde poll, just 16% of French voters agree he is a "good" president.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, FN leader Marine Le Pen stood in front of a new poster displaying a pair of hands breaking free of a handcuff made of gold stars with a caption: "And Now France!"

Frexit 2

Anne-Sylvaine Chassany

On Saturday, François Hollande sat with Marine Le Pen at the Elysée Palace. The FN leader said she wanted an EU referendum. Hollande: "What would be the question?" In or out, she replied. "Out of the EU or the eurozone?" Of the EU, she confirmed.

AR Frexit would destroy the entire European order.

2016 June 29

Angela Merkel on Brexit

Ulrich Speck

German chancellor Angela Merkel has several views on Brexit:

1 She may be quietly hoping that the referendum can be reversed. Similar things have happened several times in EU history. She may be playing for time against those who want a quick Brexit.

2 She will minimise the damage if it goes ahead. She must protect the EU and sees a risk if Britain gets a good deal. Access to the single market will require respect for freedom of movement.

3 She sees UK membership as a counterweight to French dirigisme. Support for the EU is high in Germany but not in France. French president François Hollande needs to show his voters that exit is not an option, so he is inclined to punish Britain.

4 She sees the EU as an instrument of nation states and does not see it evolving toward the United States of Europe. In her view, Brexit would be a huge loss.

5 She knows the economic impact of Brexit would be damaging. After the US and France, the UK is Germany's #3 trading partner, but the terms of trade between EU-27 and a lone UK are unknown.

6 She fears Brexit could lead to a decline of European influence on the global stage, especially with regard to China. It would also make the EU a less attractive partner for the US.

Merkel does not want a divorce that destroys trust and humiliates Britain.

Brexit on Ice

Sebastian Fischer

Angela Merkel gave a speech about Brexit. Everything she said was correct. The address was undramatic and objective, Brexit on ice.

Brexit is an historical watershed in the history of Europe. People across the continent are searching for answers. Business as usual is not enough. Merkel should:

1 Push the pace
The British can choose when they apply to leave the union but they should get on with it, before they are tempted to block even more EU proposals.

2 Use the opportunity to relaunch the EU
With the British out the future EU will be different, so an opportunity for radical change has presented itself.

3 Boost an inspirational Europe
The EU is much more than a service provider for European citizens, whatever Merkel says.

Speed, change, and emotion — all lacking in her speech.

EU Migration

Francis Elliott

David Cameron told EU leaders last night that they must allow migration curbs if they want a future deal with Britain over the single market. He said refusal to reform freedom of movement rules during his renegotiations this year led to the British decision to leave the EU.

A UK government source: "He believes that one of the key issues in the referendum campaign, and therefore why a lot of people voted to leave, was this sense that there was no control on the scale of immigration or free movement."

Angela Merkel says Britain must choose between immigration controls and a trade deal involving membership of the single market — it cannot have both.

Boris Johnson was forced to reassure the Conservative right that he would fulfil his promise to limit immigration if he won the leadership. On Monday he suggested he would prioritise free trade with EU states, caused a backlash.

The EU four freedoms — movement of people, goods, capital, and services — are cornerstones of the single market.

Remaining UK options

Norway is in the European Economic Area. It accepts free movement of people and makes a payment to the EU in exchange for access.

Switzerland is not in the single market. It has a free trade deal for goods and access for some services but not full access for financial services. It accepted free movement of EU citizens.

Canada has a free trade deal with the EU. Canadians need a visa to work in the EU. The Canada deal will allow free trade in almost all goods apart from some farm products and in many services but not financial services. The deal took five years to negotiate.

Michael Gove mentioned the Albania model. Albania has free trade for industrial goods but not agricultural products and no single market access for financial services.

The Norway Option

Wolfgang Münchau

Membership of the European Economic Area — the Norway option — gives countries full access to the single European market, albeit with no say in EU politics.

EEA membership would be the least damaging to the British economy and would best minimise the transitional costs of Brexit. No British company would have to leave Europe. The City of London would keep its EU passport. This option is economically almost neutral.

But it would compromise several key Leave campaign messages. It would not allow Britain to curtail free movement of labour from the EU. The UK would still pay into the EU budget.

A new prime minister could set a time limit. Britain could decide later whether to continue in the EEA, opt out for a new agreement, or rejoin the EU, either under Article 49 or under some form of associate membership.

A Norway option is not ideal. Before the referendum, there was a broad consensus that there is really not much point in leaving the EU in order to join the EEA. But now it is the best choice left.

Elites of the World, Rise Up!

James Traub

The British have had their day of reckoning. The American one looms. France may face a similar fiasco next spring.

In much of Europe, mainstream parties of the left and right may increasingly combine forces to keep out the nationalists. Perhaps these informal coalitions can survive until the fever breaks. Cohabitation may be their only alternative to irrelevance.

The issue is globalization. Brexit, Trump, the National Front, and so on show that political elites have misjudged the depth of the anger at global forces. With prospects of low growth in Europe and the United States, voters are rebelling against their dismal prospects. Older people whose familiar world is vanishing are waving their fists at cosmopolitan elites.

Perhaps politics will realign itself around the axis of globalization, with nationalists versus pragmatists. The nationalists would see themselves as the defenders of sovereignty. The reformed center would include the beneficiaries of globalization and the marginal citizens excluded by the celebration of national identity.

Mainstream parties on both left and right are trying to reach the angry nationalists. But left and right disagree deeply about how best to cushion the effects of globalization and how to deal with increased migration. Even the threat of extremism may not be enough to bring them together.

The schism we see opening before us is deep. People are deluded and the task of leadership is to disillusion them. If it is now elitist to believe in reason, expertise, and the lessons of history, we should embrace it.

AR Bring reason and history to the masses with a globalist spin — CORAL

2016 June 28

Cameron gets frosty welcome at farewell EU summit

Financial Times

EU leaders have refused to engage in negotiations until Article 50 is invoked.

German chancellor Angela Merkel: "We will ensure that the negotiations will not be run on the principle of cherry-picking. We must and will make a palpable difference over whether a country wants to be a member of the family of the European Union or not. Whoever wants to get out of this family cannot expect that all the obligations fall away but the privileges continue to remain in place."

Dutch premier Mark Rutte said give Britain some space: "England has collapsed politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically."

French prime minister Manuel Valls: "It's not up to the British Conservative party to set the agenda."


The Guardian

Result of Labour No Confidence motion: 172 for, 40 against, 4 spoilt ballots, 13 didn't vote.


Jeremy Corbyn

The government is in disarray. Ministers have no exit plan, but are determined to make working people pay with a new round of cuts and tax rises. Labour has the responsibility to give a lead where the government will not. To do that we need to stand together. I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics. Today's vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.


John Kay

English politics is in chaos, Scottish politics is not. The SNP has a clear and positive vision of the future. The SNP will only call a fresh referendum if it is confident of winning it, but Scottish accession to the EU would be greeted with open arms. Even dallying with the prospect of joining the EZ might help things along.

A British Folly

Friends of Europe

This is just the beginning of a major political, constitutional and economic crisis in the UK. Within hours of the result, Sinn Fein had called for a vote on reunifying Ireland, Spain called for joint control of Gibraltar, and far-right leaders in France and the Netherlands called for their own EU referendums. Scotland wants to stay in the EU.

The Brexit leaders are in disarray. They never had a plan as to what voters would get instead of the EU. Westminster has a clear majority of MPs who support staying in the EU. The EU leaders are pushing for a rapid move on Article 50. The UK currently lacks any strategic political leadership. Business as usual will not do.

Britain spoke, Europe should listen

Etienne Davignon

Britain has sent Europe a message. Europe needs to heed it, because the same message is being repeated often and loudly by EU citizens.

The immediate priority must be restoring stability. Economic convergence, banking union, and energy union are all political issues related to specific problems. For these problems, sharing our sovereignty makes sense. But jumping to a federal political Europe is not the answer.

The British public were not impressed by the agreement reached by Cameron. Brexit shows politicians can no longer ignore popular frustration.

After Brexit

Marine Le Pen

The people of Britain have decided, with the courage of a people who embrace their freedom.

British voters understood the question: Do we want an undemocratic authority ruling our lives, or would we rather regain control over our destiny?

The European Union has become a prison of peoples. In the eurozone, different economies are forced to adopt the same currency, even if doing so bleeds them dry. The European Parliament is democratic in appearance but is based on a lie: We have tried to deny the existence of sovereign nations.

The British have presented the union with a dilemma. Either it allows Britain to sail away quietly and set a precedent. Or it makes the British pay for their departure and thus exposes its tyranny. I have a feeling Brussels will choose the latter.

Brexit will not make the union more democratic. Like all dying ideologies, the union knows only how to forge blindly ahead. Germany will lead the way.

I choose France. I choose sovereign nations. I choose freedom.

AR Wonderful rhetoric, better than any words from Farage, but subverted by a naive petitio principii over national identities.

Theresa May

Financial Times

Theresa May appears austere and remote, shuns the media, and refuses to put her private side on show. A leadership survey by ConservativeHome in June found that May was the choice of 35% of respondents, more than Boris Johnson, for party leader.

Just a few weeks earlier, as home secretary she spoke on police reform to the Police Federation in Bournemouth. With a piercing stare she listed the corruption, incompetence, racism, and gross misconduct that had scarred policing for over 20 years.

Theresa May Is Conservative Front Runner

The Times

Party support for Theresa May has soared, making her more popular than Boris Johnson in the race to become the next Conservative leader. The home secretary is now the betting favourite to replace the prime minister.

The English language could be banned from the heart of Europe after Brexit. English is the #1 choice for EU institutions but no state other than the UK has registered it as its primary language. So its legal status will be removed when the country leaves.

England out of Euro 2016: Iceland 2 England 1

Go Now

Daily Mirror

Britain is in its biggest crisis for decades and so is the Labour party. Jeremy Corbyn has lost control of his MPs with 46 resignations from his shadow cabinet and frontbench. He must quit now for his party and his country.

I do not believe that Brexit will happen

Gideon Rachman

Britain might be heading towards a second referendum rather than Brexit. Boris Johnson in February: "There is only one way to get the change we need — and that is to vote to go; because all EU history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says No."

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble talks of negotiating an associate membership status for Britain. In reality, the UK already enjoys a form of associate membership since it is not a participant in the single currency or the Schengen zone.

What the new PM would need to win a second referendum is an emergency brake on free movement of people. It was a big mistake on the part of the EU not to give David Cameron this concession in his renegotiation of the UK terms of membership. A second referendum with a proper answer to the question of immigration should be winnable.

Anger in Berlin

Florian Gathmann

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel wird sich heute ihre Regierungserklärung zum Brexit abgeben.

Aus SPD-Perspektive ist Merkels Kurs grundfalsch. Die Kanzlerin möchte den Eindruck vermeiden, Berlin wolle zu viel Druck auf Großbritannien beim Vollzug des Brexit erzeugen.

SPD-Chef und Vizekanzler Sigmar Gabriel sieht
die Gefahr aufkommender Fliekräfte in Europa, wenn man Großbritannien zu viel Zeit lässt. Gabriel: "Das Brexit-Referendum hat Großbritannien gespalten. Damit der Brexit nicht auch Europa spaltet, müssen die Staats- und Regierungschef jetzt schnell für Klarheit sorgen."

Nicht nur Gabriel sondern auch Sozialdemokraten Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier und dem Chef des Europaparlaments, Martin Schulz, wollen Tempo machen in Sachen Brexit.

Gabriel und die SPD träumen mal wieder vom großen Wurf: Europa neu gründen.

AR In short: Chancellor Merkel is ready to give Britain more time to decide on Brexit. But the SPD trio vice-chancellor Gabriel, foreign minister Steinmeier, and European Parliament president Schulz want a fast Brexit.

Brexit and Angry Old Men

Jochen Bittner

Brexit was a victory for angry old men like Nigel Farage.

Our future is in danger of being taken away by the maniacs of disintegration. The vote for Brexit was very much one of the old against the young. The older the voter, the more he or she was inclined to leave.

We can still repair the damage done to democracy. Migrants and refugees have become symbols of the idea that elites have unleashed rapacious globalization that hits poor people hardest. Yet it is dangerously foolish to believe that Europe can somehow shut its doors to the world.

The outpouring of anger in Europe has only just begun.

2016 June 27

Brexit Turmoil Continues

Financial Times

Markets in turmoil: FTSE 100 down 2%, FTSE 250 off 5.9%, the pound drops 14%

David Cameron addresses House of Commons, advocates minimal change

Labour party in turmoil: dozens of shadow cabinet members resign

Britain Is Part of Europe

Boris Johnson

This EU referendum has been the most extraordinary political event of our lifetime.

The number one issue was control. We should restore to the people the power to kick out their rulers at elections. People who voted Leave were also inspired by the belief that Britain is a great country, and that outside the EU we can survive and thrive as never before.

Britain is and always will be a great European power. The only change is that the UK will extricate itself from EU legislation. This will bring golden opportunities for this country. The Government will be able to take back democratic control of immigration policy.

The verdict of history will be that the British people got it right.

AR Boris is no historian.

Brexit May Never Happen

Gabriel Roth

Across social media were reports of Leave voters waking up with remorse. Some were counting on a Remain victory and wanted only to send a message or press the EU for reforms — like playing a game of chicken with 64 million hands on the steering wheel.

If Boris Johnson becomes prime minister, he knows that as soon as he triggers Article 50 and begins the EU withdrawal process, the markets will plunge again. The more time that passes before the Article 50 notification is sent, the less likely it is to happen.

Conservative MP and Leave campaigner Liam Fox: "I think that it doesn't make any sense to trigger Article 50 without having a period of reflection first, for the Cabinet to determine exactly what it is that we're going to be seeking and in what timescale. And then you have to also consider what is happening with the French elections and the German elections next year and the implications that that might have for them."

Johnson would be tempted to kick the can down the road. Perhaps a blue-ribbon commission will meet for six months and then deliver a report to Parliament, which then engage in its customary vigorous debate. Maybe Johnson would call a general election and push for an aggressive renegotiation of UK membership in the EU.

The British establishment is good at muddling along. But a period of prolonged uncertainty about Brexit might be worse for Britain than just doing it. A long wait would see the Conservatives lose seats to UKIP. But a prime minister faced with a choice between that and the financial calamity of full Brexit might go for the lesser of two evils.

The biggest concern is Scotland. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has a strong incentive to press Johnson to invoke Article 50 so she can demand a new Scottish referendum. History is full of tragic ironies.

City Braces for More Losses

The Guardian

British businesses say Brexit will trigger investment cuts, hiring freezes, and redundancies. A survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD) found that most businesses believed Brexit was bad for them.

IoD director general Simon Walker: "A majority of business leaders think the vote for Brexit is bad for them ... Businesses will be busy working out how they are going to adapt and succeed after the referendum result ... But we can't sugar-coat this: many of our members are feeling anxious."

Food Prices Will Rise

The Independent

National Farmers Union president Meurig Raymond calls the referendum result a "political car crash" and warns that UK dependence on imports plus a weakened pound equals rising food prices.

The EU Will Treat Britain Like Greece

Matthew Holehouse

The European Union can be both flexible and brutal.

EU leaders have been ready to say goodbye to Britain for a long time. Britain has not left until Article 50 is activated formally. David Cameron has left it to his successor to activate it.

In brutal EU negotiations, Greece had a number of cards to play: EU solidarity, sympathy for the Greek people, and the German taxpayer cash in Greek banks that risked going up in smoke. And Greeks made plain they wanted to remain Europeans.

No such goodwill exists for Britain. Boris Johnson caused grave offence by likening the European project to the ambitions of Hitler. His declarations that Brexit will trigger events that unravel the entire project is like a declaration of war.

Recall how inflexible EU leaders were earlier this year, when Cameron put a gun to their heads and threatened to leave unless they submitted to his demands. He has fired that gun at his foot and resigned. The only leverage left is the damage a messy Brexit would inflict on EU economies.

The EU has had 70 years of practice in breaking nations.

A Very British Fiasco

Peter Bergen

It's not often that one decision can cripple your own economy, damage global investor confidence, imperil one of the most successful alliances in modern history, foster the rise of ultra-nationalists, precipitate the possible breakup of your own country, deeply divide your own party, and cause a great schism between voters of every ideological stripe, but this is one of them.

Well done, David Cameron.

AR Britain is facing its worst crisis since the war. But there is no Churchill in sight. We need a PM who can show enough leadership to kick the referendum result into touch until wisdom prevails, portray Leavers as dupes of wild newspapers and a UKIP plot, reassure EU leaders, and chart a course to rehabilitation in the global community.

2016 June 26

A Very British Coup

The Sunday Times

Labour plot
UK shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was sacked this morning after being accused of plotting to overthrow his party leader. Benn had been consulting colleagues about approaching Jeremy Corbyn to tell him that unless the Labour leader resigned this week, they would quit. The coup attempt came amid mounting anger over Corbyn's failure to campaign harder against Brexit. A shadow cabinet source: "Corbyn will be out by the end of the week."

Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander resigned over the dismissal. Shadow minister for young people and voter registration Gloria De Piero and shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray have also resigned.

Benn: "It has now become clear that there is widespread concern among Labour MPs and in the shadow cabinet about Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of our party. There is no confidence that we will be able to win a general election as long as Jeremy remains the leader. He's a good and decent man, but he is not a leader. And that's a problem."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage: "We have the potential to keep a lot of the voters that we've got and extend out into Labour party territory in the north of England. In the Midlands and northern towns and cities the response to us on the referendum was huge. Once people have made that connection and they've left their party over a referendum, it becomes easier to leave your party over how you vote at other elections too."

Could Scots Veto Brexit?

The Observer

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon says the Scottish parliament could veto Brexit by blocking the passage of needed legislation: "If the Scottish parliament is judging this on the basis of what's right for Scotland then the option of saying we're not going to vote for something that's against Scotland's interests, that's got to be on the table."

A poll carried out just after the Brexit result revealed a bounce in support for Scottish independence. In 2014, Scotland voted to remain part of the UK by 55% to 45%.

Sturgeon: "There are going to be deeply damaging and painful consequences of the process of trying to extricate the UK from the EU. I want to try and protect Scotland from that ... As I watch what's happening in Westminster just now, the complete vacuum of leadership, it's shameful what's happened both in the Tory party and in Labour. I am determined that Scotland is going to be led, and led with purpose."

European Populists

Henrik Müller

Populists exploit general dissatisfaction. Only a quarter of European citizens think things in their countries are going in the right direction. The mood in the UK is far from the worst.

Populism needs only three ingredients: a national myth to weld a We together, a few enemies, and a halfway charismatic leader.

For economic development populism is highly problematic. Anyone who ignores economic limitations can quickly gain a following. But they will fail in the end.

European populists are enjoying the slipstream of Brexit:
— Geert Wilders in the Netherlands
— Marine Le Pen in France
— Heinz-Christian Strache in Austria
In eastern Europe some are already in government:
— Jaroslaw Kaczynski's PiS party in Poland
— Viktor Orbán in Hungary
— Robert Fico in Slovakia

Referendums are the populist power tools of choice.

Brexit — So What?

Christoph Schult

Brexit will have dramatic consequences for the UK. But for the EU they will be mainly positive:

1 Brexit will scare off copycats

Even if right-wing populists like Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen look with longing to referendums, they are unlikely to win majorities for Nexit or Frexit. The flood of bad news from Britain over the next few weeks and months will be enough to scare voters.

2 Brits can no longer block things

Economic union must finally be realised so that national decisions no longer endanger the common currency. We need common economic governance and a European finance ministry with its own resources. The same goes for foreign and security policy.

3 We don't always need more Europe

It would make sense to return a few competencies from Brussels to national states. Although Brits will no longer get the deal David Cameron negotiated, the other 27 EU states can still implement some of its terms.

So more EU citizens will learn to love the union.



From Brexit to #Regrexit — an online petition demanding a second referendum on the Brexit result has passed 3 million signatures.

EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum

We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.

AR My signature is #2,774,019.


"This was their meanest hour."

"Es gibt nichts drumherum
zu reden, der heutige Tag
ein Einschnitt für Europa."

Angela Merkel


2016 June 25

Wake Up!

David Lammy

Wake up. We do not have to do this. We can stop this madness and bring this nightmare to an end through a vote in Parliament. Our sovereign Parliament needs to now vote on whether we should exit the EU.

The referendum was an advisory, non-binding referendum. The Leave campaign's platform has already unravelled and some people wish they hadn't voted to Leave. Parliament now needs to decide whether we should go forward with Brexit, and there should be a vote in Parliament next week. Let us not destroy our economy on the basis of lies and the hubris of Boris Johnson.

AR If Parliament fails to step up to the plate to reject this abortive experiment in direct democracy, my novelist persona envisions a brief military coup to stop the Beleavers and reject the referendum result in order to maintain national security. Not very plausible ...


The Times

Boris Johnson is the frontrunner to become the next Conservative prime minister. Theresa May is emerging as the leading Conservative "stop Boris" candidate.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has started to fulfil her manifesto promise to hold another independence referendum in Scotland.

Market Reaction
Global markets took a $2 trillion Brexit hit, the biggest one-day drop since 2007.

A Shambles

Matthew Parris

Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith, propped up by Nigel Farage, are not viable as a new British government. This will be a shambles.

Our experiment in direct democracy is hurtling toward our tradition of representative democracy. Within a year they will collide. The overwhelming majority of Westminster MPs believes that leaving would be a mistake.

Biggest Blunder Since WW2

Charles Kaiser

The numbing news that Britain has voted to leave the European Union is the worst step backward for Europe — and for Western civilization — since the end of World War II.

That hideous conflict left much of the continent in ruins. But it had two extremely positive effects:

1 Personal experience of the horrors of war has inoculated Europeans against all-out war ever since.

2 Visionary politicians pushed for the creation of what would become the European Union.

French ambassador to the United Nations François Delattre: "These are difficult times, and we must chase these evil winds of populism by addressing the real issues facing our democracies."

German ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig: "This is a really serious setback. We have to prove to the citizens that the European Union is there for them — that it is a union for the citizens and not a union for the bureaucrats."

A Leap in the Dark

Roger Cohen

Brits have given the world a massive kick in the teeth by voting to leave the EU. The decision will plunge Britain into uncertainty for years to come.

Warnings about the dire consequences goaded a mood of defiant anger among voters. They are revolting against global capitalism. The EU was a convenient target of their rage.

The EU may unravel. Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders tweeted: "Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn. Time for a Dutch referendum!"

Brits voted against the global economic and social order. Now Britain will punch beneath its weight. It faces serious political and economic risk.

Russia Rejoices

Radio Liberty

Russian politicians, journalists, and nationalists are reveling in the UK vote to leave the EU. Russian TV stations spoke of a victory for Little England and cast the referendum as a nightmare for Brussels.

Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky hailed the vote as a "heroic deed" by the British people: "Agricultural, provincial, working Britain has said no to a union created by the financial mafia, globalists, and the rest of them."

Cameron Ruined

Max Hastings

David Cameron has been destroyed by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. He now pays the price for years of unfulfilled pledges and for running a Remain campaign that disastrously misjudged the mood of the British people.

Cameron is a bright man but his personal clique is dominated by Etonians and PR men. He has never seemed to possess any vision of where he wanted to take Britain. When he became Conservative leader, he conveyed to party supporters and to the nation the impression that he was sceptical about the EU and committed to force change in our relationship with Brussels.

Cameron gave repeated public pledges to control immigration, then made no credible effort to do so. This failure has grown into the main cause of the breakdown of public trust in him. As the numbers of people coming to Europe increase into the millions, the response of EU leaders remains pitiful. Now tribal instincts have been roused and nationalists are in rebellion against ruling elites.

When Cameron leaves Downing Street, there will be no substantial legacy. He will be remembered chiefly for lighting the fuse that led to Brexit. He will leave the UK and his party more divided than at any time for a generation.

UK: Old Against Young

The New York Times

At Glastonbury, Lewis Phillips, 27, said he was now "terrified" about British economic prospects: "A group of pensioners have managed to make a decision for us."

In London, Louise Driscoll, 21, spent most of the day crying: "I had a bad feeling in my gut. What do we do now? I'm very scared."

The vote exposed a generational divide. According to pre-election surveys, 57% of Britons between the ages of 18 and 34 intended to vote for remaining in the EU, while 57% of Britons over 55 supported leaving. For those under 25, three-quarters wanted the UK to stay in the EU.

Many young people in Britain have grown up thinking of European integration as a given, not a political experiment to be rolled back.

2016 June 24

UK Votes OUT From EU


A clear majority of UK voters want to leave the European Union:
Leave — 17,410,742 (52%)
Remain — 16,141,241 (48%)

UK Prime Minister David Cameron resigns, with effect from October.

Sterling falls 10% to its lowest value since 1985.

EU Reaction

"We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be. Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty. We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way."

European Council president Donald Tusk
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker
European Parliament president Martin Schulz
European Union president Mark Rutte

AR This earthquake is a consequence of mass migration. Sovereign states across Europe want the freedom to restrict the flow. The EU can adapt and survive but it needs radical reform. Britain was always the odd one out in the EU and the other 27 states will find agreement easier. If sterling fails to recover quickly, Scotland may vote to leave the UK, join the EU and adopt the euro. That will be the end of the UK and an opportunity to write a new English constitution. The rump state might even one day find its way into a federal European polity.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Operation Barbarossa
75 years ago today:
Nazis invaded

Global Markets Soar
Pound soars as markets
bet on a Remain victory

Times poll:
Leave 51
Remain 49

Telegraph poll:
Remain 53
Leave 46

World Speed Record

The fastest computer
in the world is Chinese.
Sunway TaihuLight can
perform 93 quadrillion
calculations per second,
three times more than
the previous #1, and it
has 10.65 million cores
plus 1.3 PB of RAM.
Its power usage
is 15.3 MW.

SAP Update
Barbara Stortz

In a digital business, the
speed of decision making is
instantaneous, as everything
and everyone is connected live.
Every organization needs fast
and flexible access to data that
can be trusted. SAP continues
to innovate and invest in its
portfolio to offer customers
a foundation for a digital
Pixie Lott
Trafalgar Square,
London, Sunday

European Commission
President Jean-Claude Juncker

is under fire for his unilateral
style of leadership: Officials
in Berlin and Brussels are
losing patience

Jo Cox death sparks
EU referendum poll
surge for Remain

Tim Peake: “It's just been
fantastic from start to finish.
I'm just truly elated, just the
smells of Earth are so strong,
it's wonderful to be back.”

Gerald Scarfe

IMF: Brexit Bad

It would permanently lower
UK incomes and harm
EU economies too.


2016 UK EU Referendum Day

European Disunion

Jim Yardley

The European Union has mishandled the crises of the past decade. Political solidarity is dissolving. Xenophobic and nationalist parties are gaining strength in Poland, Hungary, Austria, France, and Germany. Their nasty tone infused the Brexit campaign with hostility toward immigrants. British nationalists depicted the continent as under invasion from migrants. A UKIP campaign poster looks like the propaganda of far-right politicians in Hungary or Poland.

2016 June 22

The Referendum

David Cameron

As far as I am concerned this referendum should settle the matter. I believe it will one way or another be decisive. Britain will not want to go through this again. On the other hand if we vote to leave, this really is irreversible.

We are the reformers. Reform ends if we leave, not just for us but also our friends in Europe who want our voice heard in Europe. I think us leaving would not only damage ourselves but also the kind of Europe we want.

I always said the best outcome was for Britain to remain part of a reformed European Union. NATO is the cornerstone of our security but the EU has a growing role in exchanging information on terrorism, criminals and borders.

Please Don't Go

Linas Linkevičius

We need Britain in the EU. There are 100 million people in countries between the Baltic and the Black Sea who remember how you fought for our freedom. When the Iron Curtain fell, you made sure we were included in the most important western clubs — the EU and NATO.

We don't like bureaucracy either — we had enough of that under communism. But likening the EU to a dictator is going too far. Trust us, we've been there and know the difference.

We fret about the unfairness of eurozone bailouts, want more free trade and less protectionism. We want the single market to be deeper and bigger, including services and the digital economy. But we have a voice, and it chimes with yours.

NATO stands for military security. But the EU offers economic security. It also stands up to Russian aggression. We need both organizations. And we need you playing a full role in both.

Brexit: Blame British Newspapers

Martin Fletcher

Boris Johnson was fired from The Times in 1988 for fabricating a quotation. He had made his name as a journalist in Brussels by tirelessly attacking, mocking, and denigrating the European Union.

By the time I arrived in Brussels, editors wanted only reports about faceless Eurocrats dictating the shape of the cucumbers that could be sold in Britain, or plots to impose a European superstate, or British prime ministers fighting plucky rearguard actions against a hostile EU. Much of the British press peddles narratives reflecting and exploiting the innate nationalism, historical sense of superiority, and disdain for Johnny Foreigner of many readers.

Recent headlines in the Daily Mail:
We're from Europe: Let Us In!
Ten Bombshells the EU's Keeping Secret Until After You've Voted
Greediest Snouts in the EU Trough

Recent headlines in The Sun:
We'll Get Stuffed by Turkey
Checkpoint Charlies: Euro Judges Open Floodgates to Illegals
Eur All Invited
Queen Backs Brexit
BeLeave in Britain

Boris and the Beleavers are asking the British people to leave a monster about as real as the one in Loch Ness.

Gender as Performance

Molly Fischer

Queer theorist Judith Butler introduced the idea that gender is a performance. It is not an essential biological fact but comes into being through repeated actions. The world as we know it has generally presumed everyone to be straight, and we can find ways of questioning this.

Butler grew up in Cleveland, and as a preteen she said she hoped to be a philosopher or a clown. She went to Yale for its philosophy program and remained through graduate school. Gender Trouble was published in 1990 when she was 33. The book drew on Foucault, Freud, Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Irigaray, Wittig, Kristeva, and de Beauvoir. (Hegel, Derrida, and Nietzsche lurked in the background.)

Butler: "The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

In formulating her idea of gender performativity, Butler drew on the work of J.L. Austin, the philosopher of language who described performative utterances as speech acts that do something, like saying "I do" in a wedding ceremony. Her move was to apply this idea to actions as well as words.

AR So actions do something — forgive my LOL.

2016 June 21

EU Referendum Discussion

Bournemouth University

Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, and Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, talked to students about the EU referendum. Conor wants to leave, Tobias wants to remain.

AR We had a stimulating and informative debate, thanks to excellent moderation.


Michael Fallon

I will vote to Remain. I am sceptical of radical change without proper consideration of the consequences, of turning everything upside down without a plan for what happens next.

In their dreams of restoring sovereignty or agreeing trade deals with our former colonies, what the Leave campaign really want is a different yesterday. What they lack is a coherent plan for tomorrow. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.

To fight, to lead, and not to run away when things get tough — that's the British way. Our security is enhanced by our EU membership. The EU adds valuable tools that NATO cannot provide.

The current NATO Secretary General, five of his predecessors, and four former NATO Supreme Allied Commanders want Britain to stay. Not a single NATO defence minister wants us to leave.

As British defence secretary, I know that the global challenges we face cannot be confronted without cooperation between NATO and the EU, with the UK at the heart of both.

Leavers owe it to the British people to explain how they would guarantee our security and prosperity outside the EU. All we have had are vague promises and carefree assurances that everything would carry on as normal. For a sceptical Conservative, that is not credible.

Eurosceptic Conservatives must be ready to do the harder thing and champion our interest from within. For our security and our prosperity, we have to make Europe work.

EU Would Make UK Pay

Steven Erlanger

If Brits vote Brexit, they can expect a tough response. EU leaders will reject suggestions by Beleavers that the rest of the EU will trade with Britain on good terms. They want to deter other states from following the British example.

Once the British government invokes Article 50, the EU will likely talk about trade only after all the member states have agreed on how to unwind UK membership. Officials want to negotiate future arrangements with the UK as a nonmember. They do not want the status of EU citizens in the UK to become bargaining chips in the negotiations.

Brussels would offer Britain a choice of three models: the arrangements with Norway, Canada, and the WTO. They will reject any proposal for Britain to remain within the single market without an agreement that EU citizens will be allowed to live and work in the UK.

France would insist on a divorce. Populists throughout Europe will celebrate Brexit as a festival. NF leader Marine Le Pen compares Brexit to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Without the UK in the EU, Germany would become too powerful. Germans fear the formation of an anti-German alliance. The EU would become more French in its economic policy.

Former Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski: "Europe could forge ahead with a common security policy, which the British have vetoed repeatedly. And the countries of the eurozone would probably insist on all euro trade being moved out of Britain."

All agree that the EU is much better with the UK in it.

Good Riddance

Thomas Van Der Dunk

For Britain, the EU is no more than a distribution outlet for British exports.

As an EU member, London has consistently resisted deepening and supported enlarging the union. The result has been a subtle form of sabotage. The more the EU expands, the looser it gets, and ever closer union becomes increasingly impossible.

If the British vote to Remain with a small majority, the discussion will not be over. Should London be asked to make a new sacrifice for the common European cause, like contributing extra to help Greece or taking a proportional share of refugees, we can expect another mutiny.

When Brussels has sought to provide more economic protection to normal Europeans, Britain has stood in the way, the better to protect big business. Westminster wants unlimited access to the common market, but declines any fiscal or social obligations. It offers tax paradises for the rich and low wages for the poor. It forces more civilized countries to follow it in this race to the bottom by dismantling a welfare state model that has long assured security for all.

As long as the UK remains in the EU, the problems will continue.

2016 Summer Solstice

Brits Don't Quit

David Cameron

At my office I sit two yards away from cabinet room where Winston Churchill decided in May to fight on against Hitler. The best and greatest decision perhaps anyone has made in our country. He didn't want to be alone. He wanted to be fighting with the French, the Poles and the others. But he didn't quit. He didn't quit on democracy, he didn't quit on freedom. We want to fight for those things today. You can't win if you're not in the room.

A Colossal Blunder

Roger Cohen

The prospect that Britain might commit an act of national folly by voting to leave the European Union has politicians throughout Europe alarmed. This huge gamble would be taken for the chimera of restored sovereignty. It would reflect petulant nationalism, base bigotry, and laughable little England pretensions.

The European Union has significant failings. It is short on democracy and long on bureaucracy. But its achievements far outweigh its problems. For Britain to succumb to its delusions and leave the union would be a colossal blunder of historic proportions.

English Nationalism

Fintan O'Toole

Brexit is an English nationalist movement. A win for Leave will almost certainly be without a majority in either Scotland or Northern Ireland and perhaps without winning Wales either. The inexorable logic of Brexit is the birth of a new nation state bounded by the Channel and the Tweed.

Over time, the main outcome of Brexit is likely to be a standalone England. Over the past 400 years, England has been in first the United Kingdom in its various forms, then the British Empire, and now the European Union. The English are less used than they think to standing alone.

The English nationalist movement makes no attempt to articulate any set of social principles by which the new England might govern itself. Nationalism is about the line between Them and Us. Brexiters seem pretty clear about Them, but they need a much better sense of Us.

British Internationalism

Simon Schama

British institutions have been anything but insular in their origins and character. The vast majority of the 25 barons who obliged King John to sign the Magna Carta were Norman French. The Bill of Rights of 1689 that established our constitutional monarchy came about as the result of a Dutch invasion, and was the product of our being pulled into a European coalition resisting absolutism.

Breaking Bad

The Times

Former communities minister Baroness Warsi accuses UK justice secretary Michael Gove of peddling complete lies. She says the final straw was hearing UKIP leader Nigel Farage defend a poster with the slogan "breaking point" depicting refugees trudging across Europe.

Lady Warsi: "That 'breaking point' poster really was for me the breaking point to say I can't go on supporting this. Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win a campaign? For me that's a step too far."

Tell Mama

The Times

Jo Cox was about to launch a report in parliament on the danger posed by nationalist radicals.

The report national monitoring group Tell Mama details rising aggression by far-right extremists and an increase in Islamophobia in the past 12 months. Tell Mama director Fiyaz Mughal said that there were clusters of far-right activity across Yorkshire.

In court, the accused Cox assassin gave his name as "Death To Traitors, Freedom For Britain".


Jo Cox

EU migrants contribute more to our economy than they take out in benefits.

Brexit is not the answer to worries about migration. It would not automatically stop the free movement of EU citizens to Britain. We would have to leave the single market, in a catastrophic act of economic self-destruction.

Australia has twice as many migrants per person as the UK. Their system aims to let businesses control who comes into their country. For us, this would lead to an increase in cheap labour.

People are worried about job security, school places, and the NHS. Leaving the EU is not the only way to deal with concerns about immigration. We can do far more to address immigration while remaining in the EU.

The prime minister is right: we are stronger, safer, and better off IN the EU.

2016 June 19

Aeroplanes and Leaky Roofs

David Cameron

If people want to leave this organisation, of course we must leave. But once you have jumped out of the aeroplane, you can't scramble back through the door. You could only get back in on the basis of joining the euro, Schengen and giving up the rebate. No one is ever going to want to do that.

I believe there is a clear case for Remain. I am making that argument as vigorously as I can. I believe in confronting big questions rather than ducking them.

When I'm at a European Council and explain to Angela Merkel that I'm going back to do my constituency surgery, they all look at me as if I'm a bit mad. You go from European migration to a leaky roof in two steps. It's very good for our politics.

Fear, Loathing, Brexit

Paul Krugman

Brexit would make Britain poorer. My rough calculations, which are in line with other estimates, suggest that Britain would end up about 2% poorer, forever. The risk that Brexit would undermine the City of London could be even more costly.

Some true Beleavers say leaving the EU would free Brits to deregulate and unleash the magic of markets, leading to explosive growth. This is voodoo wrapped in a flag. The economic case to vote Remain is as solid as it gets.

I sympathize with Britons who feel frustrated enough with the EU to leave. The EU elites never seem to acknowledge their mistakes. Brexit could jolt them out of their complacency and lead to reform. But I fear it would only make things worse.

A Brumpy Ride to Little England

Neal Ascherson
(heavily edited — AR)

The early lead for the IN crowd has melted away, and polls predict more OUT cast votes.

Remainians say Brexit will bring on economic armageddon — depression, devaluation, and decline.

Beleavers say Brexit will restore a sovereign nation that can have its cake and eat it too, with both full access to 500 million EU consumers and controls on EU immigration.

Great Britain may soon shrink into Little England. Westminster politicians look nervously to Scotland. Most Scots say they want to stay in the EU.

Brexit is overwhelmingly an English idea. English nationalist anger is aimed at the EU. In fact the English need to take back control not from Brussels but from bloated, privileged London.

Germans say Brump will no longer have access to the EU single market.

Outside the EU, Brump would be the pits. For foreigners, it would be less easygoing, more suspicious and more bureaucratic for work and travel. For Brumpits, it would become a less regulated, more unequal society. For the young, it would seem a dim and stifling place that anyone with imagination would want to escape.

AR My attempts to lighten the tone have introduced a few neologisms here.

2016 June 18


The Times

The Times believes Britain would be better off leading a renewed drive for reform within the EU rather than starting afresh outside it. This referendum has rightly been a thunderous rebuke to Europe. Leading a reform movement in Europe may not sound as exhilarating or romantic as a defiant march to Brexit, but it is the better choice for Britain and Europe.


Brendan Cox

The right has so far taken the initiative on the migration issue. Mainstream politicians try to neuter the populists by taking their ground and aping their rhetoric. Far from closing down the debates, these steps legitimise their views, reinforce their frames, and pull the debate further to the extremes.

The UK government policy is a masterclass in how to get the crisis wrong. They obsess over numbers when they should focus on reinforcing frames of fairness and order. They set an unrealistic target, miss it, report on it quarterly, and in doing so show a complete lack of control.

Across Europe, the populist right have shifted the public debate on the issue. In Germany, although a huge amount of energy goes into practical support for immigrants, the focus on this has left the public narrative for the populist right to exploit. In Poland, immigration dominated a national election debate in a country whose population is 97% white Catholic and immigration levels are tiny. In France, young people are many times more supportive of migration than older people.

People who know refugees and immigrants are much more likely to support migration as a whole. As our societies become more diverse and immigration reaches more communities, more people are likely to become less prejudiced and more supportive. Power on this issue is with the people.

2016 June 17

Jo Cox MP

The Times

Jo Cox was shot three times, stabbed and left bleeding on the pavement outside the library where she was due to hold her regular surgery. She was 41 and had been a Labour MP for just over a year. Mrs Cox was also a Cambridge graduate and a mother of children aged 3 and 5.

The alleged attacker, Tommy, 52, a loner with poor mental health, was arrested soon afterwards. Witnesses say he shouted "Britain first" in an apparent reference to the EU referendum. A far-right group has the same name. Mrs Cox was a campaigner for Remain.

Robots in Space

Martin Rees

The practical case for sending people into space is getting weaker as robots are getting better. Spaceflights have become an adventure sport. The space station only makes the news when something goes wrong or when Chris Hadfield plays the guitar.

The space station altogether has cost a twelve-figure sum because we've been up there for a long time. I don't think anyone could justify it to science since manned space exploration has slowed down. Each time a shuttle failure happened it held up the program for three years, paid for by taxpayers' money. Space flights should be left to adventurers prepared to accept higher risks.

I do hope that some pioneers will eventually land on Mars, but I think they'll either be Chinese or they'll be privately funded adventurers taking high risks and one-way tickets.

AR Agreed: NASA and ESA should spend taxpayer money wisely — on robots.

Jo Cox MP dead after shooting attack

Hass auf Muslime,
gegen Asylbewerber:
Viele Bürger denken völkisch
und finden in der AfD eine
politische Heimat.

AR The D-UK mirror:
Leavers look like
this to Krauts

Richard Arens
Two US immigrants:
Kurt Gödel and
Albert Einstein,
Princeton, 1950

Photo: Carl Court
Leave campaigner
and Tory intellectual
Michael Gove

"I'm with Hillary."
Barack Obama

"Honored to have you
with me, @POTUS."

New MC-21-300 airliner,
Irkutsk Aviation Plant, Siberia.
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev:
"I am absolutely certain that
the airliner will be the pride
of Russian civil aviation."


Italy has 600 boats to patrol
its coastline for migrants.
The UK has 3.

AR Just say No to
Fortress UK.


2016 June 16

Vote Stay In EU

Financial Times

The FT does not favour membership of the single currency. But opting out of the EU would seriously damage the UK economy. Constructive engagement is vital when Europe confronts threats.

The referendum campaign is a contest between between liberal internationalism and a pinched nationalism, between an open-trading system and marginalisation. Britain's allies have unanimously supported Remain.

The influx of EU migrants has stirred fears about jobs, public services and British identity. "Take back control" in the name of democracy is a seductive slogan. But Leave has failed to spell out the serious risks of life outside the EU.

Britain's seat at the table has allowed it to win big arguments in Brussels. The UK has shaped membership to its needs, securing opt-outs from the euro and the Schengen agreement. It retains control of income tax and corporate taxation. Education, skills and a skewed housing market hold the UK economy back, not a Brussels bureaucracy the size of Birmingham city council.

Brexit is an act of sabotage. It would put the territorial integrity of the UK at risk and trigger a political crisis in the UK.

AR Vote In for peace and prosperity. Vote Out for confusion and chaos.

2016 June 15

LIGO Sees Second Black Hole Death Spiral

Lisa Grossman

On 26 December, 2015, for the second time, LIGO caught the ripples in space-time shaken off by the death spiral of a pair of black holes. The discovery was announced at an AAS meeting today.

Signal GW151226 also came from a pair of black holes merging. They were about 14.2 and 7.5 times the mass of the sun and merged to form a black hole of 20.8 solar masses, radiating about 1 solar mass of energy in gravitational waves in a couple of seconds. For comparison, our sun has radiated about a millionth of its mass in 5 billion years.

The new observation establishes gravitational wave astronomy. The black holes in the first event were so massive that LIGO saw them orbit less than 10 times before merging. In the second collision, the team watched 55 full orbits before the end.

EU Rescued UK

Daniel Finkelstein

In 1963, Britain was failing. It was being overtaken economically by Germany and overpowered by France. The end of Empire was coming and the Americans saw us as a bridge to the continent.

British prime minister Harold Macmillan saw that outside the European community the UK faced an eclipse. We finally joined the European community in 1973. Since then, we have grown faster than Germany, France, Italy, and even the US.

It is easy to say this growth has occurred despite the EU, not because of it. We have adopted a different economic model — which shows the EU does not dictate our laws and economic model. We have been free to go our own way.

This country is a better place to be than it was in 1973. Now virtually every democratic European country eligible to join the EU has wanted to do so as soon as possible — for good reason.


Yvette Cooper

Leavers are inflaming public concern with lies. Responding to public concern about migration is a challenge worldwide. Populists are getting free rein to rant and exploit public fears.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson are being deliberately dishonest and divisive. Turkey isn't joining the EU. They meet one out of 35 criteria they need to join. Cyprus and Greece will veto them. Britain has a veto too. The NHS crisis is down to government policy, not immigration. Brexit would hit growth and mean less money for the NHS, not more.

Brexit will not help us to tackle illegal immigration. We need to cooperate over the Syrian refugee crisis. No country can solve it alone.

Brexit will not lead to big cuts in legal migration either. Over half of migration comes from outside the EU. Johnson has promised access to the single market and a good trade deal, so we would end up like Norway or Switzerland, with little change to EU immigration after all.

Voting Remain does not exclude backing reforms to migrations rules and controls. We dare not let anger over immigration overshadow the good reasons for staying in Europe.

2016 June 14


Nick Carter-Lando

Last year saw the highest level ever of EU net migration to the UK. A similar number came from outside the EU for a total of 333,000.

Imagine that we left the EU and banned EU immigration completely for 10 years. And for comparison, imagine we stayed in the EU and immigration continued at the present level (the highest ever) for the next 10 years. How would that pan out?

After 10 years we would have 1.85 million fewer people living in the UK. Our population is 64.6 million, so under these extreme assumptions the difference is about 3%.

Being more realistic, a points system might reduce net immigration to 100,000 per year, say half from the EU and half from elsewhere. The difference in population after 10 years would be 1.35 million, about 2%. If we use a 5-year average for net migration, the difference in our population after 10 years is only 790,000, just over 1%.

So the impact on population is relatively small. By far the most immigration to the UK over the last 40 years has been from outside the EU and had nothing to do with EU membership.

EU migrants make a big contribution to the UK. They contribute more in taxes than they use in public services, so if we use that extra tax revenue to hire more doctors, build more schools, invest in transport and so on, we can have better public services than otherwise.

The fundamental reason for NHS pressure, oversubscribed schools, congested roads, and the housing crisis is not EU immigration. For the last 30 years, we have failed by a wide margin to build enough houses in the UK. So house prices are high. The story of decades of underinvestment is repeated for our roads and railways too.

All of these issues are within the control of the UK government. They have nothing to do with the EU and are not the fault of EU migrants. A new study finds no evidence that immigrants take too many UK jobs or reduce wages or opportunities for British workers.

Our net contribution to the EU was £8.5 billion last year and our annual NHS budget was £116 billion. To work out the impact of leaving the EU on our public services, you also need to consider the effect that leaving would have on the size of our economy, and hence on government tax revenue. The best estimate suggests that the government would have between £20 billion and £40 billion less to spend on public services than if we remained in the EU. So our public services would be much worse. Devaluation following Brexit could wipe 20% off the value of the pound.

So leaving the EU to "take control of immigration" would not only still leave us with the same problems we have today in housing, the NHS, schools, roads and so on, but add to them a recession and damage to the foundation of peace in Europe.

Winston Churchill addressed the Congress of Europe in 1948: "A high and a solemn responsibility rests upon us here ... If we allow ourselves to be rent and disordered by pettiness and small disputes, if we fail in clarity of view or courage in action, a priceless occasion may be cast away for ever. But if we all pull together and pool the luck and the comradeship ... then all the little children who are now growing up in this tormented world may find themselves not the victors nor the vanquished in the fleeting triumphs of one country over another in the bloody turmoil of ... war, but the heirs of all the treasures of the past and the masters of all the science, the abundance and the glories of the future."

AR The UK is safer, stronger, and better off IN the EU.

2016 June 13

A Historic Moment

Donald Tusk

I can only hope the British vote not to leave. It is a historic moment.

The financial and the refugee crises have fueled uncertainty, led to an uprising against political correctness, and caused a movement against the establishment. A feeling of instability is growing.

Divorce is traumatic for all. Economically everyone in the EU would suffer, but especially the British. Brexit would cheer all radical anti-Europeans in the EU countries. And on Brexit day our external enemies would drink champagne.

Brexit would be a geopolitical setback for the UK. It could be the beginning of the end not only of the EU but of the entire political civilization of the West.

The dissolution of all contractual obligations and connections would be relatively simple, and would take about two years. Negotiating new relationships would be much more difficult. Each one of the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament must approve the overall result. That will take at least five years to complete, and I'm afraid without any guarantee of success.

Fragmenting Europe would be the worst response to our problems.

Anglo-American Alarm

Edward Luce

The Brexit referendum is a trial balloon for the health of western democracy. If the British are foolish enough to leave Europe, perhaps Americans are crazy enough to elect Donald Trump. Leaving Europe is to Brexiters what building a wall with Mexico is to Trumpians — a guillotine on the cacophonous multiculturalism of postmodern life. Both are reckless illusions.


Matthew d'Ancona

Xenophobic sentiments are presented as reason enough for Britain to leave the European Union. The Leave campaign is telling voters that getting out of the EU would fix the immigration problem. The response they expect unites outright xenophobia and racism with a more general fear of globalization.

The debate about population mobility and border control has been skewed by the misrepresentation of immigration as an inherently pathological process. Most immigration is no such thing. Migrant labour is routinely needed in this country by the NHS, supermarkets, cleaning firms, public transport, and most other sectors of the service economy.

Problems of capacity in housing and public service provision are a side effect of this core economic reality. Pragmatic border control is part of any social contract. But a society on the move is a direct product of the economic liberalization of the Thatcher revolution.

If Brexit carries the day, the jobs that migrants presently fill will simply be filled by non-EU migrants. Net migration from non-EU countries is greater than that from the EU. The status of these migrants will not be affected one way or the other by Brexit.

AR In other words, block Poles and get Pakistanis. I have nothing against Pakistanis, but Catholics are easier to tolerate than Muslims. I vote for the easier option.

2016 June 12

Saving the West: A German View

Der Spiegel

The future of the West is at stake. The European Union has unified western Europe for seven decades. Britain is a bridge between Europe and the United States.

The British would lose much with Brexit and gain nothing but a brief moment of pride. They have irritated the rest of Europe for years with their special requests, self-pity, and wretched haggling over every last detail.

Saving the West: An American View

Roger Cohen

The British referendum is too close to call. The disaster if Britain voted to leave would be huge.

For Russian president Vladimir Putin, the disintegration of the European Union would be sweet revenge for the fall of the Soviet Union. Brexit would offer comfort for the fantasies of populist politicians like Donald Trump in the United States and Marine Le Pen in France. Trump calls NATO obsolete when we need it to defend the Baltic states from Putin.

Brexit would devastate Britain too if England and Scotland parted. A season of anger is upon us.

Self in the Digital Age

Edward Mendelson

The digital revolution changes what it means to be human. When everyone is carrying a smartphone, they can be found and intruded upon, not only at a fixed address at home or at work, but everywhere and at all times. A newly pervasive and transient sense of self has migrated to the digital cloud and to the judgments of the crowd.

Teenagers use messaging services to open private channels of communication after encountering one another in social networks. The zombie apocalypse is upon us as the undead lurch through the streets, each staring blankly at a screen. The Internet turns experiences from the material world that used to be densely physical into abstractions in a world of pleasure and immediacy.

The crowd has always been the field in which isolation dissolves and the individual will merges into collective impersonal force. The habit of making and seeking status updates of oneself and others creates a similar crowd that coalesces bodies into monstrously connected chimeras. Machines change the deepest experience of life.

2016 June 11

Brexit: A German View

Wolfgang Schäuble

The withdrawal of Britain would be a heavy loss for Europe.

Britain is one of the strongest economies in the EU. London is Europe's largest financial center, and Britain plays a leading role in all matters of foreign and security policy. That is why Europe is stronger with Britain than without it.

Britain is economically very closely integrated with its European partner countries. Were these ties to be cut, it would be a huge step backwards for the country and would weaken it considerably. In the era of globalization, splendid isolation is not a smart option.

One has to respect the sovereignty of the British people. No one knows how the markets would react on the day after a decision like this. If the British do vote to leave the EU, it will be important to remain calm.

In response to Brexit, a call for more integration would be crude. Even if only a small majority of the British voters rejected a withdrawal, we would have to see it as a wakeup call and a warning not to continue with business as usual. Either way, we have to take a serious look at reducing bureaucracy in Europe.

On foreign and security policy, we need the British in Europe. Whenever anyone on the European mainland tried to oppress other countries, the British were their most prominent adversaries, and they tipped the balance each time. That was true in the fight against Napoleon 200 years ago, just as it was against Hitler 80 years ago.

Europe has grown through crises. It has emerged stronger from each one. Six years ago, many no longer thought the common currency had much of a future. Today the euro is the uncontested second reserve currency in the world, and it is stable.

One country alone cannot lead Europe, especially not Germany. We need France and Poland. The EU is far better balanced with Britain than without it. And the more Britain gets involved, the better Europe works.

I have always greatly admired and respected Britain.

2016 June 10

IN or OUT?

Public EU debate, New Milton, Hampshire
My speech

AR  I spoke alongside Roy Perry, formerly an MEP and now Leader of Hampshire County Council. Leading the charge against us was Paul Bailey, founder and chief executive of Col-Tec plc and former UKIP parliamentary candidate. The audience was aggressive and I fielded many hostile questions, but afterwards I won a big round of applause and shook numerous hands. A win, I guess, although most of them will probably still vote OUT.


Jens Stoltenberg

NATO is the most successful alliance in history. Now we are positioning ourselves to address an increasingly confident Russia. We have enhanced our presence in the eastern part of the alliance.

At the NATO summit at the beginning of July in Warsaw, we will determine how to defend ourselves in future. Our planning staff has proposed sending battalion-sized units to the east. We will improve our infrastructure and position materiel and reinforcements in the region. The NATO rapid reaction force has been tripled in size, to 40,000 troops.

Our stronger presence in the east is in keeping with the counsel of our military planners. We can deploy NATO soldiers all over the world on extremely short notice, including to the Baltics. Today, the decisive factor is rapid deployability. We do not want any confrontations. We are working to establish a more constructive relationship with Moscow.

NATO is an alliance of 28 democratic societies. History shows that democracies have forged the strongest military alliance that has ever existed. In the end, democratic societies are stronger and more resilient than any autocracy. Democracy, individual civil liberties, and the rule of law are the basis for our unity. These values are fundamental to NATO.

2016 June 9

Celts End Fortress UK Dream

Financial Times

Sir John Major and Tony Blair travel to Northern Ireland to warn Brexit could jeopardize the peace process and the future of Fortress UK.

The two former prime ministers say Brexit could see the reintroduction of a hard border in Ireland between north and south, reigniting political tensions.

Sir John also claims that if Britain left the EU it could trigger an "uncontrollable and irresistible" demand for a second independence referendum in Scotland.

Sir John: "That means the unity of the United Kingdom itself is on the ballot paper."

AR Vote Leave means vote FUK means end of the Union, hello Little England minus its Celtic fringe, and Albion alone in a sea of troubles.

2016 June 8


Tim Montgomerie

David Cameron always understood the danger. He wanted an emergency brake so that freedom of movement would still be the norm but that the UK would have the power to cap numbers in abnormal or extreme circumstances. Angela Merkel apparently said no.

Last year's net immigration influx of 333,000 could be 444,000 this year or 555,000 next. There is no upper limit. A recession in Europe could accelerate the flow of unskilled workers to Britain.

In a campaign when so many unbelievable things are said by both sides, the right of this island nation to control who lives and works here could hardly be more tangible.

If Brits vote Leave, it will be because of a desire for border control and an Australian-style points system. Any arrangement that preserves freedom of movement will be ruled out.

AR This is an emotive issue for many, and easy to have a robust opinion on, independently of humanistic scruples or sympathy for poor people elsewhere, and it plays on the widespread British propensity to construe "we" as native British islanders.


Poole Mayor Xena Dion in a 1909 Stanley Steamer Xena unveils the Poole Park Photomosaic

Mind and Cosmos

Thomas Nagel says something
more than physics and biology
is needed to explain conscious
beings. He says we can't know
what it is like to be a bat. We
cannot be bats. For him, this
refutes a naturalistic theory
of everything. He proposes a
natural teleology to imagine
the universe waking up
and becoming aware
of itself.


"Once you have paid him
the Danegeld, you never
get rid of the Dane."
Rudyard Kipling

Rumble in the Jungle
George Foreman, Muhammad Ali
Zaire, 1974

Hillary Clinton
"Donald Trump says he has
foreign policy experience
because he ran the Miss
Universe pageant in Russia ...
His ideas are not just different,
they are dangerously incoherent.
They're not even really ideas,
just a series of bizarre rants,
personal feuds and
outright lies."


2016 June 7

Vote Lead

Gordon Brown

As the EU referendum looms, two anxieties collide: the fear of job losses if the UK leaves and the fear of high immigration if it remains.

Britain has no empire and its special relationship with the United States is played out. Leavers try to summon a patriotic vision of Britain standing alone, a race apart, an island fortress, independent of Europe. Remainers want Britain to maintain a positive engagement with Europe.

The positive case for the UK in the EU is to lead its next stage of development. Britain can put itself in the vanguard of charting a course for Europe. A new agenda can help reinvigorate Europe and promote the union that the international community needs:

Terrorism  Britain is home to respected intelligence agencies well placed to lead a more professional European effort on intelligence sharing and surveillance.

Refugees  Britain must help the union provide its neighbors with new educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Climate change  With British encouragement, Europe can lead the world in renewable energy projects and in building the world's leading network of scientific researchers.

Economic revival  Britain can play a vital role in making the EU an engine of global growth again. The future of the continent lies not in a United States of Europe but in a United Europe of States.

On July 4, 1962, President John F. Kennedy called for a "declaration of interdependence" with a Europe pledged toward a more perfect union and urged Britain to champion a united Europe. He was right. Britons should vote Lead, not Leave.

AR Flash Gordon to the rescue again!

2016 June 6


Gideon Rachman

Trump cards: Remainers have the economy, Leavers have immigration.

In 2015, net migration to the UK hit 333,000, the second-highest number on record, with about half that number coming from the EU.

Leavers say immigration from Europe demonstrates loss of sovereignty, the faulty judgment of elites, and the difficulty of achieving meaningful reform of the EU.

A nation state traditionally has the right to decide who can live in the country and enjoy the benefits of citizenship. That right is sacrificed by EU members. Free movement is one of the four freedoms basic to EU membership. All EU citizens have the right to live and work anywhere in the EU.

Leavers blur the distinction between legal immigrants from the EU and refugees from the Mideast. They even cite sexual assaults by migrants in Germany.

Migration from Europe has benefited Britain. But many British people are ready to accept that high immigration makes social problems worse.

Concerns about immigration could win the day on 23 June.

Vote Leave

Boris Johnson

Last year, 270,000 people came to the UK from the EU and net migration was 184,000. Since 2004, 1.25 million people have been added to the population due to EU migration.

London has benefited in so many ways from migration. As Mayor I argued consistently for a more sensible visa policy that would welcome talented people from across the globe, people recruited on the basis of their skills.

People of all races and backgrounds in the UK are genuinely concerned about uncontrolled immigration. We need to answer those concerns by taking back control of those borders.

We cannot control the numbers. We cannot control the terms on which people come and how we remove those who abuse our hospitality. Worst of all, this has deeply damaged faith in our democratic system.

The Government has failed because inside the EU we cannot control immigration. We have to accept the principle of free movement. The only way to take back control of immigration is to Vote Leave on 23 June.

AR Immigration to the UK from outside the EU is the problem. EU migrants represent economic opportunity all round. If we make the effort, we can control the influx of outside immigrants already, Brexit or not. Brussels has nothing to do with it.

2016 June 5

Clash of Generations

Niall Ferguson

There is a conflict of interest between young and old. Last week, voters aged 18-24 were in favor of the UK remaining in the EU by 78% to 22%. Voters aged 65 and over favor Brexit by 68% to 32%.

US millennials are in trouble unless they see dramatic change. They have had two recessions, students have mountains of debt, most face high healthcare costs and mediocre job prospects.

Social democracy won last century. It entrenched the position of trade unions and created public sector jobs with generous pensions and other benefits for older workers, above all in healthcare. When tax revenues did not cover the costs, social democrats borrowed.

The liabilities of the US federal government vastly exceed stated government debt. Generational accounting shows a huge gap between future federal outgoings and revenues. To close it would require every federal tax to be increased by 53% or every federal expenditure to be cut by 34%.

Young Americans will either pay much higher taxes than their parents or get much less in social security and Medicare, or both. They need reform of the bloated entitlement system, the public sector unions, and the universities.

Young Britons oppose Brexit because they will have to pick up the tab if the UK votes to leave.


Alain de Botton

Marriage is a gamble taken by two people facing a future they cannot imagine. They are drawn together by instinct and know it is right. Romance outweighs reason.

We think we seek happiness in marriage. What we really seek is familiarity. We seek to recreate feelings from childhood.

We make mistakes because we are so lonely. To choose an optimal partner we have to be at peace with the prior prospect of years of solitude.

We marry to preserve the joy we felt when we proposed. We failed to see that there was no solid connection between that and the marriage.

Abandon the romantic ideal. The best partner is good at disagreement. Compatibility is an achievement of love, not its precondition.

AR Marry well, be happy. Marry badly, become a philosopher.

2016 June 4

Working Toward the Führer

Neal Ascherson

The Third Reich maxim to work toward the imagined aims of Adolf Hitler pushed him to ever wilder extremes. Anyone who could persuade others that he was carrying out the Führer's will would get his way. A chaotic struggle raged between opportunists who claimed to speak his mind. The maxim cuts Hitler down to size and widens responsibility for the ensuing disaster.

Hitler devoted his life to acting the Führer. His private life was boring but he was a tremendous orator. Beginning with droning and dull recitals of fact and analysis, he would suddenly shift his voice upward almost an octave, double its pace, and explode into yelling demagogy. He became chancellor not by his own efforts but by those of idiots who claimed to manage him.

In 1933, the Nazis smashed parliamentary democracy, silenced all opponents, brought a chaos of voices under central control, and imposed a national revolution. Hitler ruined the groups that had led him to power: the titled landowners and the officer class. His legacy in Germany includes a stronger sense of social equality and solidarity. A new Europe rose out of the ruins.

2016 June 3


Robert Minto

Academic philosophers often disregard the possibility of finding philosophy outside the university. Yet unlike most departments in the modern university, philosophical activity seems to have a niche in every society in recorded history. Philosophy is so primitive and socially basic that its domestication in the university can seem dubious or laughable.

For much of its history, philosophy was the study of particular things. Although some strands of philosophy assert the unity of philosophical and scientific knowledge, philosophy is usually taught as a specifically European innovation in human history. But the tradition stemming from the ancient Greeks does not explain all the philosophy in world history.

Perhaps philosophy is like dance, a practice inherent in human life and society, which emerges in a host of forms in different places and times. Philosophy can be found wherever and whenever humans begin to reflect on the concepts by which they live. If philosophy is a basic human activity, not to expand the borders of its history would be absurd.

Most philosophers end up advocating a specific kind of philosophy, relying on tactics of exclusion. Philosophy as an academic discipline depends upon its distinction from other disciplines and upon the assumption that it requires its own setting and credentials to exist. Academic philosophers are in danger of betraying the activity they profess to represent.

AR With four degrees in philosophy and experience of teaching it at Oxford, I guess I count as a philosopher in the bad sense as well as the good.

2016 June 2


Angela Merkel

We work well together with the United Kingdom.

We have to develop new rules for the European Union together with the UK. Whenever we negotiate them, you can much better have an influence on the debate when you sit at the bargaining table and you can give input into those negotiations, rather than being outside of the room. Having led many negotiations with countries outside the EU in the past, I can say we would never enter the same compromises and reach the same good outcomes with states that don't share the responsibilities and costs of the common market.

I personally hope and wish that Britain will stay.

2016 June 1

Wake Up

Jochen Bittner

Germans are still traumatized by their history. Setting aside whether Nazism arose from the German DNA, four trends led people to revolt: economic depression, loss of trust in institutions, social humiliation, and political blunder. These trends echo in the West today.

The 1929 crash set off a global depression. Things were bad in Germany, just as traditional ways of life and values were being shaken by modernization. A cultural chasm opened between the traditional working and middle classes and the cosmopolitan elite.

Some people today think Hitler sneaked up on Germany. In fact, mainstream politicians saw the danger but failed to stop him. The conservative parties and the nobility believed he could be their useful idiot, contained as chancellor by a squad of reasonable ministers.

Earlier this century, Europeans and Americans thought things were fine. The 2008 crash left many millions of people angry. The result is a protest against globalized postmodernity. Liberal democracy has become too elitist to respond to the challenge.


Daniel Finkelstein

My family came from Lwow (now Lviv) in Poland.

The peace and security we take for granted is fragile and precious. Britain often went to war to preserve the balance of power in Europe. World War II really ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The EU is a huge achievement.

Jonathan Besler Photo
Wagnerian weather in southern Germany last Friday

Skagerrakschlacht 1916

The Telegraph
Tackling the EU Empire

Why They Hate Us
Fareed Zakaria and
Reza Aslan on
Saudi Arabia


India has developed a
space shuttle: 6.5 m long
with no crew, it was launched
from Sriharikota and landed
in the Bay of Bengal
1.3 ks later.


2016 May 31

The Human Brain

Robert Epstein

A huge effort to understand human intelligence has been rooted in the idea that the human brain works like a computer. This effort now involves thousands of researchers, consumes billions of dollars in funding, and has generated a vast literature. The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking.

But the IP idea that specific memories are somehow stored in individual neurons is preposterous. Brain studies tell us that multiple and sometimes large areas of the brain are involved in mundane memory tasks. When strong emotions are involved, millions of neurons can become more active.

As we navigate through the world, we are changed by a variety of experiences. We observe what is happening around us, we are exposed to the pairing of unimportant stimuli with important stimuli, and we are punished or rewarded for behaving in certain ways. No one knows how the brain changes after we have learned to do something new.

One IP prediction is that it will soon be possible to upload human minds to a computer. Fortunately, we will never have to worry about a human mind going amok in cyberspace. Alas, we will also never achieve immortality through uploading. The deep problem here is the uniqueness problem.

Because all that is required for us to function in the world is for the brain to change in an orderly way as a result of our experiences, there is no reason to believe that any two of us are changed the same way by the same experience. The changes are built on the unique neural structure that already exists, each structure having developed over a lifetime of unique experiences.

No two people will repeat a story they have heard the same way. Over time, their recitations of the story will diverge more and more. Each individual, upon hearing the story, changes to some extent, enough so that when asked about the story later they can recall hearing the story to some extent, but not very well. This makes the task of the neuroscientist extremely daunting.

In 2013, the European Union launched the billion-euro Human Brain Project. Henry Markram hoped to create a simulation of the entire human brain on a supercomputer. Less than two years in, the project turned into a brain wreck and Markram was asked to step down.

2016 May 30

Vote Remain

Vernon Bogdanor

David Cameron believes that Winston Churchill would vote Remain on June 23. Boris Johnson claims that Churchill would have voted Leave.

Churchill never wanted Britain to fight alone. In June 1940 he offered indissoluble union between Britain and a France reeling from the German onslaught. His offer came too late to avert the French surrender.

Churchill was the prophet of a united Europe. After the victory at El Alamein in 1942, he told Anthony Eden: "I look forward to a United States of Europe in which the barriers between the nations will be greatly minimized and unrestricted travel will be possible."

Churchill sought to recreate a Europe united by the rule of law. He strongly favored the European Convention on Human Rights. In May 1947 he declared: "If Europe united is to be a living force, Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family."

In 1949: "Britain is an integral part of Europe and we mean to play our part in the revival of her prosperity and greatness — no time must be lost in discussing the question with the Dominions and seeking to convince them that their interests as well as ours lie in a United Europe."

Churchill believed that European civilization could only be preserved in a united Europe. He would not have wanted Britain to do anything to undermine that unity.

2016 May 29

A UK Constitution

Linda Colley

The UK is the only polity in the world that has achieved what passes for full democracy without also having a written constitution.

Victorians believed that elements of the British political system might be profitably emulated elsewhere. British scholars wrote constitutions for different parts of the empire, and this reached a climax in the postwar decades when London drafted constitutions and ultimately bills of rights for British colonies as a prelude to recognizing their independence. British officials were heavily involved in drafting a new German constitution, and also influenced constitutional texts and human rights documents in the United Nations and Council of Europe.

Back in 1952, a British government official loftily informed a UN committee that, while other nations might require human rights and freedoms to be set down in sacred texts, in the UK "acceptance of the principle of liberty" was so ingrained that "the existence of these rights is taken for granted". Recent developments show there is a case for a written constitution.

A New UK Constitution

Vernon Bogdanor

The European question, the Scottish question, the human rights question, and the question of the appropriate electoral system for the UK are closely interlinked. They can only be resolved through a constitutional convention.

Devolution and Electoral Reform
Following the 2015 general election, the four component parts of the UK have different majorities: Conservative in England, Labour in Wales, nationalist in Scotland, and Unionist in Northern Ireland. The SNP won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland with just 50% of the votes. In England, 533 of the 525 seats are held by the Conservative or Labour Parties, but nearly one-third of those voting supported other parties. Under the UK first past the post electoral system, the number of seats a party wins depends not only upon how many votes it receives but upon the geographical structure of its vote. The UKIP vote is evenly spread, so it won one seat. The SNP vote is geographically concentrated. The distortions threaten the unity of the UK.

Europe and Human Rights
David Cameron called for a new settlement in Europe that he could recommend to the British people. His government is committed to repealing the 1998 Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British Bill of Rights. This would replicate some of the rights in the European Convention of Human Rights but curtail others. Enacting a British Bill of Rights could prove divisive both in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. A bill of rights applying only to England would hardly be satisfactory.

The UK is no longer a unitary state. It has become a quasi-federal state of nationalities in which the consent of each component part is needed for major constitutional change. The sooner a constitutional convention is held the better.

2016 May 28

The European Union

Anthony Coughlan

May 9 is Europe Day. On that day in 1950, the Schuman declaration proposed a supranational authority for the coal and steel industries of France, Germany, and Benelux. This led to the European Coal and Steel Community.

In 1957, the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC) "to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe". The treaty established four supranational institutions, the European Commission, European Council, European Court of Justice, and European Parliament. The European Commission seeks to foster a Europe of the regions as against a Europe of nation states. The European Council gives overall political direction to the EU and decides its policy priorities. The European Parliament can amend draft laws and block them by an absolute majority. Members of the European Parliament represent EU citizens.

In 1965, the EEC, the Coal and Steel Community, and the Atomic Energy Community merged to form the European Community. Britain joined in 1973.

In 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon created the European Union to replace the European Community. The treaty included most of the provisions of a Constitution for Europe drafted by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

The EU has full legal personality separate from and superior to that of its member states. The member states are obliged to uphold the EU "four freedoms": free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor. An EU charter of fundamental rights is binding across national boundaries. The charter sets out a much wider range of rights than those in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The EU abolished border controls between its member states and conferred European citizenship on its 500 million inhabitants in addition to their national citizenships. The EU has a common asylum, immigration, and external border control policy. Its foreign and security policy is in practice what Germany, France, and Britain agree on. NATO is the prime forum for collective defense and EU military policy is complementary.

The Eurozone (EZ) single currency, the euro, was established in 1999. The EU treaties require all the EU member states except Britain and Denmark (which have opted out) to join the EZ. Fallout from the 2008 financial crisis is used to justify calls for an EZ banking union, tax union, and political union.

By 2050 the EU will account for just 6% of global population, as against 20% before 1950. The EU is likely to decline relative to the rest of the world. Europeans will need to develop economic and political relations with the entire global community.

AR Coughlan represents all this as a horror story. It seems OK to me.

2016 May 27

G7: Brexit Risk to Global Growth

Financial Times

G7 leaders issued a declaration from their summit in Ise-Shima, Japan: "A UK exit from the EU would reverse the trend toward greater global trade and investment, and the jobs they create, and is a further serious risk to growth."


Alex Barker

The UK administration is now in pre-referendum purdah. In Brussels this means British diplomats must doggedly stick to their pre-agreed positions, show no flexibility or original thinking, and avoid socializing with foreigners. Some EU types joke: has anything changed?


Philip Stephens

European federalists have demoted the Westminster parliament to the status of a parish council. Eurocrats make British law. The UK must take back control. OUT seeks to convert public concern about immigration into xenophobia: Britain will be swamped by hordes of Turkish migrants.

This is not a nation that has surrendered democracy or self-government. On the things that really count — taxes and welfare, war and peace, national security — the shape and direction of policy has been set by Westminster politicians. Good, bad, or ugly, the choices are made IN the UK.

2016 May 26

Vote Leave v UK

Financial Times

The Vote Leave campaign is a new low in British politics. It launches personalized attacks on any institution or public figure that points out the risks the UK would face if it left the EU. Its attempts to demolish any authority that questions the Leave vision are increasingly disturbing.

Leavers attack the messenger when they are unwilling or unable to address the message. In the debate on the economy they have offered no serious prospectus to counter the Remain arguments. They even deny facts. The Treasury is not pro-EU: it helped keep Britain out of the euro.

Leavers demand that the UK leave the EU so that sovereignty is returned to the British people. Yet they lose no opportunity to attack the credibility of the public institutions that would exercise sovereignty should the UK depart. Their tactics risk damaging UK democratic culture.

Global Warming

New Scientist

Global temperatures shot past 1 K above pre-industrial levels last year, as predicted by New Scientist in July 2015. Expected average global surface temperature in 2016 will be 1.3 K above the pre-industrial level.

A 2014 estimate of the immediate warming in response to a doubling of CO2 was around 1.7 K. But low values for the immediate warming in response to a doubling of CO2 can now be ruled out. A 2016 estimate is 2 K.

Low values for the warming in the decades following a doubling of CO2 can also be ruled out. The next IPCC report will be revised upward.

We are also emitting other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. If their levels are translated into CO2 equivalents, the effective level of CO2 is already around 490 ppm, and on course to pass 560 ppm long before 2050.

Aerosols have a cooling effect. If countries such as China succeed in cutting aerosol emissions, warming will accelerate and the world will pass 2 K above pre-industrial levels not long after the CO2 equivalent level passes 560 ppm.

AR Invest in sunshades — geoengineered sunshades such as clouds (blog 2009-06-20).

2016 May 25

UK in EU

Gordon Brown

The focus of the EU referendum will shift to the voters who do not think the status quo is to their benefit and want to know how their lives can improve. A positive reform agenda for the 2017 UK presidency of the EU can make a reformed Europe work better for Britain and show how Britain can lead in Europe.


Carlo Rovelli

Isaac Newton tried to explain why things fall and the planets turn. He imagined the existence of a force that draws all material bodies toward one another and called it the force of gravity. He also imagined that bodies move through space and that space is a great empty box that en­closed the universe. Michael Faraday and James Maxwell added the electromagnetic field to his world.

Albert Einstein was fascinated by the electromagnetic field. He saw that gravity must be conveyed by a field too and that the gravitational field is space itself. His general theory of relativity says space and the gravitational field are one and the same thing. Space undulates, flexes, curves, and twists. The sun bends space around itself. Planets circle the sun, and things fall, because space curves.

Carl Friedrich Gauss wrote formulas to describe 2D curvilinear surfaces. He asked a student to generalize the theory, and Bern­hard Riemann did so in his doctoral thesis. Riemann said the properties of a curved space are captured by a curvature we can call R. Einstein wrote an equation that says R is equivalent to the energy of matter: R = GE. The constant G is from Newton.

2016 May 24

Europe v Austria

The Times

Europe is saved for now: Far right Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer lost to a Green.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had said Hofer, if elected, would have been frozen out of EU decision making. If a member state departs from democratic norms, Juncker can trigger a mechanism that puts its government under constitutional supervision.

In Austria, Hofer had repeatedly threatened to use presidential powers to dissolve the current coalition government. He carries a Glock pistol because of "insecurity" caused by Muslim immigration. In beer hall speeches he has ranted about the "invasion of the Muslims".

EZ Growth

Anatole Kaletsky

The European Union is enjoying a growth spurt and now outpacing Britain and the United States.

In 2016 Q1, the annualized eurozone growth rate was 2.2%, compared with the UK rate of 1.6% and the US rate of 0.5%. Since the beginning of 2015, the EZ growth rate has averaged 2.0%, the same as the UK rate and slightly ahead of the US rate, and EU unemployment has been falling more than twice as fast as UK and US unemployment.

Since the beginning of 2015, the EU has been dismantling EZ rules that turned financial problems in Greece, Spain, and Ireland into a continental economic depression. These rules had prevented the ECB from underwriting government debts in the same way as the Bank of England or the US Federal Reserve, and banned mutual support between stronger and weaker EZ states.

In January 2015, ECB president Mario Draghi announced a program of QE far larger than anything attempted by the Fed or the Bank of England. Draghi committed the ECB to monetizing all EZ government borrowing and printing more money on top to mutualize much of the outstanding government debts. Fear of a euro breakup vanished, interest rates in Italy and Spain converged to German levels, and an economic recovery began.

Italy is defying calls to tighten budget plans and is cutting taxes and increasing public investment. Consumer and business confidence have rebounded, credit conditions have improved, and GDP is growing faster. The rebellion against German austerity rules is sure to spread to France and Spain.

If Brits vote for Brexit, they will soon envy EU economic performance.

Bournemouth University aims to be in the top 50 of UK universities

"The arguments that I've
heard for leaving have been
emotional, the arguments
that I've heard for staying
have been rational."
Richard Dawkins

"Europe veers to the right
at its peril. We should heed
the lessons of 1913."
Srecko Horvat


European Union
I Love EU

Vote Leave

"Since the birthrate in Turkey
is so high, we can expect to see
an additional million people
added to the UK population
from Turkey ... the government
will not be able to exclude
Turkish criminals from
entering the UK."

AR Vote fear?

Scott Germain
Yakovlev Yak-3
WW2 Soviet fighter, served
1944 on. Some 37,000 of the
Yak fighter family were built.
WW2 French ace Marcel Albert
flew a Yak-3 and considered it
superior to the P-51D Mustang
and the Supermarine Spitfire.

AR My respect for Russia
(re)grows as I (re)read
Tolstoy's War and Peace
(45 years on).

Oxford University
Marcus du Sautoy

Brexit would be an
act of national folly

As the last three UK trade
ministers, we know what it
takes for Britain to succeed
internationally. Britain needs
all the export opportunities
it can get. For big foreign
investors into the UK, access
to the EU single market is a
big part of what makes
us so attractive.

Lord Livingston of Parkhead
Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint
Lord Davies of Abersoch

Brexit: The Movie

AR Anarcho-nationalist propaganda

"Man prefers to act in the way
he feels like acting and not in
the way his reason and interest
tell him ... A man can wish
upon himself, in full awareness,
something harmful, stupid and
even completely idiotic ...
in order to establish his
right to wish for the
most idiotic things."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Gerald Scarfe

Ukraine Wins Eurovision
Song Contest

Jamala: 1944 (3:03)

ist Letzter

Der Spiegel


The Juno spacecraft will soon
enter orbit around Jupiter.
NASA launched the $1 billion
Juno mission in 2011, and
the craft has traveled 2.7 Tm
at speeds of up to a four-
thousandth of light speed on
its 5-year way to the planet.
Now it will decelerate into an
orbit that lets it skim the
cloud tops. Then it will last
just 2 years because the
Jovian radiation
will fry it.


2016 May 23


Financial Times

The UK Treasury says Britain will be plunged into a year-long recession if it votes to leave the EU.

Its analysis suggests that growth could be 3.6% lower after two years if voters choose OUT, instead of continued growth after an IN vote. This would produce a recession like that of the early 1990s.

Its model shows the economy could be 6% lower than the current forecast in a worst-case scenario.

George Osborne: "Does Britain really want this DIY recession?"


Financial Times

The City of London is ambivalent about the European Union. But confronted by the possibility of Brexit, the financiers are clear. In a poll last year, about 73% were for IN and 12% for OUT.

The financial sector employs 2.2 million across the UK and last year paid £66 billion in taxes. It remains one of the few areas in which the UK is an undisputed global leader. Roughly a quarter of financial sector business involves the single market, equivalent to 2% of GDP.


Boris Vezjak

The European Union realizes the dream of Immanuel Kant in his essay on perpetual peace, surely one of the fundamentals of contemporary liberal thought. Even Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has come to see the advantages of European culture.

Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and at first there was high economic growth. The crash has left Slovenia with a public debt of about 83% of GDP by the end of 2015. Our economy would have surely fared worse if we had been outside the EU. It is tempting but wrong to complain of Brussels bureaucracy and the rigidity of the political leaders of Europe.

Last October Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar warned that the EU will face collapse if it cannot agree on a plan to confront the sudden influx of refugees through the Balkans. A failure to cope with the refugee crisis should not mean abandoning the project of building a democratic society where solidarity, diversity, freedom, and equality are cherished and safeguarded.

European democratic culture must prevail over its elites. An integrated Europe is a legacy worth improving.

2016 May 22

Free Will

Stephen Cave

We are free to choose between right and wrong. Civilization as we know it depends on a widespread belief in free will. Neuroscience undermines the belief.

The brain is a physical system like any other. The conscious experience of deciding to act, which we usually associate with free will, appears to be a post hoc reconstruction of events that occurs after the brain has already set the act in motion.

We no more will our brain to think than we will our heart to beat. Neurons fire, causing our thoughts and deeds, in an unbroken chain of cause and effect. In principle, we are predictable.

Researchers asked group A of subjects to read a passage arguing that free will was an illusion, and group B to read a passage that was neutral on the topic. When asked to take a math test, with cheating made easy, group A proved more likely to sneak a peek at the answers. When given an opportunity to steal, group A pilfered more.

Groups A and B of day workers were similarly primed. Those in group B showed up on time for work and were rated as more capable. Belief in free will was a good predictor of job performance. Students in a primed group A were less likely to volunteer their time to help a friend than were those in group B, and less likely to give money or lend out a cellphone.

Group A beliefs are linked to stress, unhappiness, and a lesser commitment to relationships. Group A subjects have a lower sense of purpose and poorer academic performance. They are less creative, more conformist, less willing to learn from their mistakes, and show less gratitude.

The number of court cases that use evidence from neuroscience is rising fast. Defendants say their brain made them do it. When people stop believing they are free agents, they no longer feel to blame for their actions.

Sam Harris thinks we are better off without free will. Blaming people makes us angry and vengeful and clouds our judgment. The response to 9/11 was clouded by outrage and a desire for vengeance, and led to the loss of many more lives.

Our freedom to plan options for ourselves and to choose among them without external constraint should be enough to preserve ideals and ethical standards.

Free Vote

The New York Times

IFS director Paul Johnson: "It is absolutely clear we would incur significant economic costs if we left the European Union."

Leave voter Richard Plumb: "It's about being our own sovereign nation again. It would make the country feel better. It's a feeling."

2016 May 21

War with Russia

The Times

General Sir Alexander Richard David Shirreff was the NATO deputy supreme allied commander for Europe until 2014. His new book 2017 War with Russia is a novel based on his own experience, analysis by think tanks, and the 2015 prediction of the NATO military committee chairman that Russia could sweep in and conquer the Baltic states in two days.

This would trigger a response from NATO under Article 5 of the NATO founding treaty relating to collective defense. Sir Richard: "It means nuclear war because the Russians hard-wire nuclear thinking into every aspect of their defense planning: Russia threatening to nuke NATO if it retaliates. That is why conventional deterrence is so important."

Sir Richard says the UK has become semi-pacifist: "There is an assumption in the minds of our electorates and our political leadership that peace is somehow the default setting in international affairs. Well, it's not. If you look at the sweep of history, war is the default setting and the way to protect peace is to be ready to fight."

The NATO summit in Warsaw in July will address the Baltic theater. Sir Richard: "There are a lot of people in this country who think, rather as Chamberlain did, that these are faraway countries of which we know little. But the defense of Britain starts on the frontiers of the Baltic states."

Physics and Time

Nicolas Gisin

I think certainty requires free will. But the search for scientific truth seems to kill it.

Newton speaks of a cosmos that operates like clockwork and can be described by deterministic theories. Everything was determined in the initial conditions. Nothing truly new ever happens.

Einstein showed there was no unique definition of simultaneous events. A block universe dispenses not just with free will but also with a flowing time. Past, present, and future are all frozen in one big block.

Neuroscientists say we feel our choices are free but this feeling is a phantom.

The mathematical real numbers can be thought of as containing an infinite amount of information. Yet a finite volume of spacetime can only hold a finite amount of information.

A deterministic model does not imply that nature itself is deterministic. Seemingly deterministic systems such as solar systems, clocks, and harmonic oscillators are the boring exceptions. Chaos, quantum measurements, and life are the interesting rule.

Not everything is necessary or predetermined. Science does not have to contradict free will. Science does not explain free will either. Free will allows us to trust science in the first place.

This free will does not mean we can invent the future. It merely lets us influence which possibilities become actual. Quantum theory is a non-deterministic theory, but creates a determined world.

This line of thought restores time as more than just a parameter to label a sequence of events. The happening of a non-necessary event, like the result of a quantum measurement, is a true creation.

Time passes, and free will exists. Otherwise, science makes no sense.

AR I discuss this theme (as key to psychophysics) in my 2009 book Mindworlds.

Time and Eternity

Marcus du Sautoy

Equations exist outside time. It's like the equation 0 = 1 − 1. You can have nothing and suddenly change it into one positive thing and one negative thing. Mathematics is not just a tool to navigate our universe, but at the heart of why we have this universe — how we get something out of nothing.

AR This recalls Plotinus' theory of divine emanations. More pertinently, it recalls my set-theoretic
(0 ⇒ {0} ⇒ {0, {0}}) formalization (1975) of the Hegelian dialectic, or rather of Hegel's logical gloss on what Jean-Paul Sartre later (1943) called l'être et le néant.

2016 May 20

America: Beware Islam!

Paul Weston (14 min)

2016 May 19

EU: In Or Out?

Dorset OUT
East Dorset Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Poole

AR I spoke for the IN side, against Conor Burns MP for the OUT side.
Conor won on rhetoric.

My speech (PDF, 2 pages, 75 KB)

2016 May 18

Queen's Speech

David Cameron

When we came to office in 2010, our urgent task was to get the British economy going again. With the strengthening economy moving in the right direction, we can be ambitious in our plans to deliver for the hardworking people of Britain.

Security for working people is the next step. We will make our country a world leader in the digital economy. We will make sure Britain has first-class infrastructure. We will build a million new homes across the country. And we will devolve more power to local areas.

To spread life chances to everyone, we have to go further in tackling the barriers to opportunity. We will carry out bold reforms to tackle some of the deepest social problems in our country.

Strengthening our national security to keep our country safe is the first duty of government. We will honor our NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense.

We aim to give working people security in their lives, to increase the life chances for the most disadvantaged in our society, and to strengthen our national security.

Grandee Savages BoJo

The Times

Tory grandee Lord Heseltine accused Boris Johnson of making "preposterous, obscene" statements. Johnson had compared the aims of the EU with those of Hitler, suggested that President Obama's part-Kenyan heritage made him anti-British, and made false claims about Brussels and bananas.

Heseltine supports continuing British membership of the EU: "This is the most serious decision Britain has faced in a generation and it's descending into an extraordinarily nasty situation."

Many Ways to Spin a Photon

Kyle E. Ballantine, John F. Donegan, and Paul R. Eastham

The angular momentum of light plays an important role in many areas, from optical trapping to quantum information. In the usual 3D setting, the angular momentum quantum numbers of the photon are integers. We show that, in reduced dimensions, photons can have a half-integer total angular momentum. We identify a new form of total angular momentum, carried by beams of light, comprising an unequal mixture of spin and orbital contributions. We demonstrate the half-integer quantization of this total angular momentum using noise measurements. We conclude that reduced dimensionality allows new forms of quantization.

The quantization of the angular momenta of the photon forms a discrete state space. The relevant quantum numbers are the eigenvalues of the spin and orbital angular momentum operators, Sz and Lz, in units of the reduced Planck constant ħ. The spin quantum number describes the circular polarization of light and takes values of ±1. The orbital quantum number appears in twisted beams, with phase-winding factors exp(ilθ), where θ is the azimuthal angle, and takes integer values l. Thus, the quantum numbers for the total angular momentum, Jz = Lz + Sz, are the integers.

In 2D systems, angular momentum need not be quantized in the usual way. The orbital angular momentum of an electron orbiting in 2D around a magnetic flux can include an arbitrary fractional offset. The same mechanism introduces a phase factor in the exchange of particle-flux composites, implying that such particles have generalized or fractional statistics as well as fractional spin.

We show that an unexpected half-integer total angular momentum can arise for light. The form Jz = Lz + Sz for the total angular momentum of light follows from the rotational symmetry of Maxwell's equations. But experiments involve beams of light propagating in a particular direction, so this full rotational symmetry is not present. The symmetries that determine the form of the angular momentum operators are rotations of the 2D cross section of the beam around the propagation direction. This leads to a new form of total angular momentum with a half-integer — fermionic — spectrum. We experimentally demonstrate this quantization.

AR This is interesting. The bosonic nature of photons is fundamental.


Galen Strawson

Consciousness is not mysterious. The nature of physical stuff is mysterious. People can make all sorts of mistakes about what is going on when they have experience, but none of them threaten the sense in which we know what experience is just in having it.

Consciousness raises a hard problem. We accept that consciousness is physical, but when we examine the brain we cannot even begin to understand how it can give rise to conscious experiences.

The fundamental stuff of physical reality takes the form of conscious experience. Physics tells us a great many facts about the mathematically describable structure of physical reality, but it tells us nothing at all about the intrinsic nature of the stuff that fleshes out this structure. We know nothing about the physical that gives us good reason to deny that consciousness is physical.

The hard problem is the problem of physical stuff in general. People who doubt or deny the existence of consciousness also insist on the primacy of science, because science makes the key point: The ultimate intrinsic nature of the stuff of the universe is unknown to us — except insofar as it is consciousness.

AR See my 2009 response to Thomas Nagel's LRB review of Galen's book Selves.

2016 May 17


Sarah Ditum

Gender is like sex. Simon Baron-Cohen says there is an essential difference and that the male and female brains are different. By contrast, Simone de Beauvoir said one becomes a woman and gender is learned. A third story is that gender is an innate property of the brain rather than the genitals. Julia Serano claims that certain aspects of gender are natural and can both precede socialization and supersede biological sex.

US Justice Department: "Although there is not yet one definitive explanation for what determines gender identity, biological factors, most notably sexual differentiation in the brain, have a role in gender identity development."

The search for the biological origins of gender difference is a fraught field. In a gendered world there is no control group, and scientists have preconceptions shaped by social forces such as sexism. For neurobiologist Sophie Scott, gender is something imposed on you. Scott: "My experience of science is that your threshold for accepting data can be really low if you say you're looking at sex differences."

Gender identity disorder is treated as though it arises from a mismatch between brain and body. But if gender identity is separate from socialized gender roles, of which the individual is the ultimate arbiter, there is no way to check anyone's claim about their own gender. Yet our position within the gender hierarchy is dictated not by a subjective feeling, but by the way other people respond to us over a lifetime.

We are building a political and legal edifice on scientifically shaky foundations.

2016 May 16

Empathy Burnout

New Scientist

Empathy is good. But with training we can tune it. We can care without letting it consume us.

Tania Singer and her colleagues put romantic couples into an MRI scanner. When the subjects received a painful electric shock, this elicited activity in brain regions responsive to physical pain and in regions tuned to emotional pain. When the subjects saw their loved one get a shock, their physical pain centers were quiet but the emotion regions lit up. It seems our empathy for pain network does not distinguish physical and psychological pain. Singer: "The basic principle is the same."

We feel pain for strangers too. Emotional contagion can occur even when people observe a stranger suffering distress. People who feel more empathic distress in their daily lives are more likely to become aggressive when provoked, and an overload can lead to empathy burnout.

Psychopaths shown images of people in pain react differently. Their brains showed less activity in areas associated with empathy than the brains of healthy people. But when the psychopaths were asked to empathize, their brain responses were identical to those of a control group. A spectrum of empathy exists in all of us.

Tania Singer put Matthieu Ricard, a molecular biologist turned Buddhist monk, into an fMRI machine. When she asked him to empathize with suffering instead of engaging in compassion as he had been trained to do, his empathy for pain network lit up. He begged her to stop the experiment, calling the feeling unbearable. Ricard: "Compassion is feeling for and not with the other."

AR Tania is the daughter of Wolf Singer, whom I first heard speak at ASSC2, Bremen, 1998.

2016 May 15

European Union

Boris Johnson

The past 2,000 years of European history have witnessed repeated attempts to unify Europe under a single government that could rival the classical golden age under the Romans.

Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.

But fundamentally what is lacking is the eternal problem, which is that there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe. There is no single authority that anybody respects or understands. That is causing this massive democratic void.

The euro has become a means by which superior German productivity is able to gain an absolutely unbeatable advantage over the whole eurozone. This is a chance for the British people to be the heroes of Europe.

AR Our best chance to be heroes is to stay in and reform the EU.

No More Sex

Philip Ball

As a way of making babies, sex leaves an awful lot to chance. You can avoid a lot of grave genetic conditions by genetic screening (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, PGD) of embryos during IVF, so that only screened embryos are implanted. Perhaps PGD with IVF will become the standard method of conception in a few decades.

Stem cells can be used to generate eggs and sperm. These can meet via IVF to produce offspring. We can create embryonic stem cells containing the genes of an adult by transferring genetic material from an adult body (somatic) cell into an egg that has had its own chromosomes removed. The egg can then be used to grow an embryo (a clone) from which stem cells can be cultured. A cocktail of biochemical ingredients will even convert somatic cells directly back into a pluripotent state like that of embryonic stem cells.

So there are already several ways of making gametes starting from ordinary adult cells. This will allow easy DNA harvesting for IVF. As gene sequencing gets better, we might soon be able to do PGD in a day or so. The only limit on easy PGD and IVF is cost, but this will fall.

There is no contest with the user experience of sex, but the new options are legion. A person could have both eggs and sperm made from skin or spit and used to create a child. Two people might make an embryo that is used then to conceive a child through IVF with another embryo, by mixing their gametes, to make a grandchild with parents that were never even born. The mind boggles.

AR Who pays for the kids? Surely not the DNA donors.

David Cameron, MP for Witney, in Witney


"We have looked very carefully
at the whole range of existing
opinions, calculations, models,
forecasts, scenario planning
and we've done our homework
and frankly ... we haven't seen
anything that is positive."
Christine Lagarde

Germany v EZ
Martin Wolf

Germany is a creditor and has
a dominant voice in EZ affairs.
German economists advocate
a balanced budget and stable
and flexible prices. But what
works for Germany does not
work for the EZ. The ECB has
set negative interest rates to
avoid the threat of deflation.
The EZ will fail if it is run for
the benefit of creditors alone.
Germany must accept that.

"Leaving the EU would be
disastrous for the Falklands,
Gibraltar and Ulster."
William Hague

Flexit Rate

Banks are pushing some
companies seeking to borrow
money in the UK to agree that
the cost of their debt can rise
if the country votes to leave
the EU next month.

AR Money talks.


2016 May 14

Chinese Military Power

US Department of Defense

US deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia Abraham M. Denmark presented the 2016 DoD report on military and security developments involving China.

Denmark: "China continues to focus on preparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, but additional missions such as contingencies in the East and South China seas and on the Korea Peninsula are increasingly important ... From 2006 to 2015, China's officially disclosed military budget grew at an average of 9.8% per year in inflation-adjusted terms. The true expenditure, DoD estimates, in terms of total military-related spending for 2015, exceeded $180 billion in 2015."

China's military modernization program entered a new phase in 2015:
1 Reclaiming outposts and began building military facilities in the South China Sea
2 Building a growing global military presence
3 Reforming its military to make it more capable and politically loyal


Alan Jay Levinovitz

Economists see their discipline as scientific. But mathematical models can masquerade as science and the public can mistake elegant equations for truth.

Macroeconomics is plagued by a mathematics fetish and failing to progress as a science. Economists use mathematics to imbue economic theory with unearned authority. Measurement and mathematics guarantee only the semblance of science. When the presumptions or conclusions are absurd or false, the theory is defective or wrong.

Recall ancient Chinese attitudes toward the astral sciences. Chinese governments invested large amounts of money in mathematical models of the stars. To evaluate those models, government officials had to rely on a small cadre of experts who understood the mathematics.

The Chinese science of calendrics, li, was considered essential to good governance. The idea was that good fortune and good harvests depended upon the accuracy of li. The li experts were mathematicians whose models predicted celestial motions. But there was no science to the belief that this would benefit agriculture or government policy.

Economic theorists are social scientists who excel at producing mathematical models of economies. But like astrologers, they fail at prophecy.

2016 May 13

Gala Dinner

The Italian Villa, Canford Cliffs, Poole

AR Fine venue, excellent company, and a great date


John Major

As the Leave arguments implode one by one, some of the Brexit leaders morph into UKIP and turn to their default position: immigration. This is their trump card. I urge them to take care. This is dangerous territory that, if handled carelessly, can open up long-term divisions in our society.

2016 May 12

Brexit Bad

Bank of England

Households could defer consumption and firms delay investment, lowering labour demand and causing unemployment to rise. Sterling is also likely to depreciate further, perhaps sharply. It is likely that their combined effect would be to lower growth materially and raise the rate of inflation.


The Guardian

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) estimates that the total cost to the UK taxpayer of replacing the Trident nuclear missile system will come to more than £200 billion.

The CND calculation is based on official figures, answers to parliamentary questions, and previous costs of items including nuclear warheads and decommissioning nuclear reactors, but does not take into account that past Ministry of Defence projects have frequently gone well over budget.

HM Government response: "The government needs a safe space away from the public gaze to allow it to consider policy options for delivering the deterrent in the most cost-effective way, unfettered from public comment about the affordability of particular policy options."

2016 May 11

The Multiverse

Max Tegmark

Reality is something out there independent of me as a human. We physicists try to figure out how it works.

Our theories make predictions we can test. The idea of testability works fine even for concepts like parallel universes and black holes, as long as we remember that what we test are specific mathematical theories. Parallel universes are not a theory but a prediction from certain theories. A black hole is a prediction from general relativity theory. Once you have a theory in physics, it's testable as long as it predicts at least one thing that you can check.

In physics, once you buy the theory, you have to buy the whole product. And if you don't like any of the predictions, then you have to try to come up with a different mathematical theory.

A lot of string theorists think there is some math that describes our physical world exactly and is the perfect description. Maybe this mathematical reality and the physical reality are one and the same. Maybe everything is mathematical and we're actually a part of this enormous mathematical object.

The universe is the spherical region of space from which light has had time to reach us so far since our Big Bang. If space goes on far beyond this, then all the other regions like ours are universes as well.

Inflation is the best theory we have for what created our Big Bang and what made our space so vast and so expanding. It predicts that space is not just big but vast. Our universe is just a small part of a much bigger space.

You want to keep your theory as simple as you can. In physics, we really value the simplicity not of the solutions to the equations but of the equations themselves. The theory of inflation, like the theory of general relativity, is extremely simple and parsimonious. The math is simple. Never mind that the solutions are complicated.

In the level-two multiverse, a lot of things we thought were fundamental laws of physics are not. You can transform a lot of fundamental parameters. Think of each of these parameters as written on a knob that you could twist. If you tweaked most of them, life as we know it would be completely destroyed. We are living in a very special part of space.

2016 May 10

US-UK Special Relationship

The Times

The UK and the US have a special relationship and longstanding friendship.

The world needs a strong and united Europe to work with the US to address the many geopolitical and economic challenges we face. The strong bonds between the US and Europe are rooted in shared values, shared interests, and common history. The UK has played a key role in strengthening the transatlantic alliance. But we are concerned that should the UK choose to leave the European Union, the UK's place and influence in the world would be diminished and Europe would be dangerously weakened.

The special relationship between our countries would not compensate for the loss of influence and clout that the UK would suffer if it was no longer part of the EU, a union of 28 nations with 500 million inhabitants, which is the largest economic bloc in the world. This would be true in foreign policy, defense policy and international trade matters, and other areas where the EU is a significant voice.

The decision that UK citizens will make on June 23 is of critical importance.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, George Shultz, Richard V Allen, Frank Carlucci, Robert M Gates, William S Cohen, Madeleine Albright, William Perry, Stephen J Hadley, James Jones Jr, Thomas E Donilon, Leon Panetta

US, NATO Say Brexit Bad

The Times

Thirteen former US secretaries of state and defense and national security advisers from every White House administration over the past 40 years say (above) the UK cannot bank on its "special relationship" with the US to compensate for losing global influence by leaving the EU.

Five former secretaries-general of NATO also support continued UK membership of the EU. Lord Carrington, Javier Solana, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "Given the scale and range of challenges to peace and stability we collectively face, the Euro-Atlantic community needs an active and engaged United Kingdom ... Brexit would undoubtedly lead to a loss of British influence, undermine NATO and give succour to the West's enemies."

David Cameron said (below) that Brexit could shatter world peace. He said it would be an "act of supreme irresponsibility" for Britain to trigger the collapse of the EU at a time when it needed unity of purpose in face of threats from Russia and Daesh.

2016 May 9

Brexit Risks War

The Times

David Cameron says that a British vote to exit the European Union would increase the risk of war:

"Isolationism has never served this country well. Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it. We have always had to go back in, and always at much higher cost. The serried rows of white headstones in lovingly tended Commonwealth war cemeteries stand as silent testament to the price this country has paid to help restore peace and order in Europe. Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption."

Time: Bergson v Einstein

Jimena Canales

On April 6, 1922, Albert Einstein met Henri Bergson in Paris. The philosopher was more famous and revered than the physicist. He was compared to Socrates and Kant. William James called Bergson's Creative Evolution (1907) "a sort of Copernican revolution" in thought.

Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize not for his theory of relativity but for his work on the photoelectric effect. The Nobel Committee said Bergson had shown that relativity pertains to epistemology rather than to physics.

Bergson said time has to be understood philosophically. For him, relativistic time prevents us from realizing that the future is open, unpredictable, and indeterminate.

The theory of relativity redefined classical concepts of time and space, showed that time and space are interrelated, and did away with the concept of the ether. Time dilation was new. In colloquial terms, time slows down at high speeds and stops at the speed of light. All frames of references are counted as equally valid. Simultaneity is relative and the speed of light (in empty space) is constant.

Bergson was upset by Einstein's definition of time in terms of clocks. He said clocks could not explain time and he did not think our understanding of time could be based on them. The distinction between the past, the present, and the future was determined physically, physiologically, and psychologically.

Einstein mentioned two ways of thinking about time, psychological and physical. Psychological time is the time perceived by a person, while physical time is time as measured by a clock. In most cases, the two conceptions of time need not differ much. But for events in frames moving close to the speed of light, the difference is extreme.

Einstein: "The time of the philosopher, I believe, is a psychological and physical time at once."

AR On psychophysical time, see my essay About Time (chapter 13 of Mindworlds).

2016 May 8

MI5 and MI6 View: Brexit Bad

The Sunday Times

Former director-general of MI5 Baron Evans of Weardale and former head of MI6 Sir John Sawers say Brexit could undermine the UK ability to protect Brits from terrorists and also lead to instability in Europe, compounding current economic difficulties, the migration crisis, and a resurgent Russia.

AR I expressed this concern in February.

UK polar research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough, a.k.a. "Boaty McBoatface"

London Khan

The new Mayor of London
is Sadiq Khan, a Muslim.

Rest Rooms

US religious right fights losing
war over bathroom access:
North Carolina ostracized for
law that seeks to limit trans
people to public bathrooms
and changing rooms that
match the sex on their
birth certificates.

People v AI

"People are still much better
at understanding sentences,
paragraphs, books, and discourse
where there's connected prose.
It's one thing to do a keyword
search. You can find any
sentence you want that's out
there on the web by just having
the right keywords, but if you
want a system that could
summarize an article for you
in a way that you trust, we're
nowhere near that."
Gary Marcus

AR You need my blog.
Pay me!

"I'm going to tell you what I
really think of Donald Trump
... a narcissist ... a serial
philanderer ...This man is a
pathological liar ... the man
is utterly immoral."
Ted Cruz

Click me
Beatrix von Storch MEP


"I am a little hurt that he's
not here tonight. We had so
much fun the last time. And it
is surprising: you've got a room
full of reporters, celebrities,
cameras, and he says no.
Is this dinner too tacky
for The Donald?"
Barack Obama


2016 May 7

Networked Knowledge

David Weinberger

In The Internet of Us, Michael Patrick Lynch says the internet is a wrong turn in the history of knowledge. He disparages using Google to look things up. But to focus a discussion of internet knowledge on people using Google or Wikipedia is like describing libraries as places where people use the encyclopedia.

Lynch is a philosophy professor. Invoking Wittgenstein, he writes that, in order to be reasonable, we have "to be willing to play the game of giving and asking for reasons". This edges him dangerously close to the postmodern world. If you call this a paradigm instead of a game, you are led to Thomas Kuhn. Or to a Heideggerian critique of rational scientific knowing as one way of disclosing the world, which needs to be grounded in a more basic analysis of disclosure itself. Or to others.

Thinking of the net as a set of echo chambers is bad phenomenology. Before the internet, the basic mechanisms of knowledge did the work of echo chambers: identify and publish the work of experts, vet knowledge to exclude what does not fit, and create a coherent body of knowledge that becomes harder and harder to challenge because of its curated cohesion. The problem with echo chambers arises for any knowledge.

The book shaped knowledge to fit its peculiarities. Now that we have a new medium, knowledge is taking on its properties. Looking for traditional knowledge on the net leads us to miss the fact that knowledge is becoming what happens when links connect differences and people.

Lynch has a traditional ontology that takes the world as real stuff outside our heads. He warns us not to let the digital world blind us to the world of things that are found and not made. Yet in taking the clock as a timepiece and the bullet as a way to create holes at a distance, we are relying on a world that has been constructed even before we got here.

Lynch thinks knowing is something we do in our heads. He dismisses the extended mind idea of Andy Clark and David Chalmers, which says we think out in the world. Our new tools for thought include search engines, web pages, and complex networks of people. That is where thinking and knowing is now happening.

2016 May 6

Dorset PCC Election

Daily Echo

Martyn Underhill is to serve a second term as Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner after winning a majority of more than 20,000 votes over Conservative candidate Andrew Graham (blog 2016-05-04).

Underhill 66,660
Graham 44,548

Verified votes 129,461
Rejected votes 9,477
Turnout 22.54%

Former Sussex Police Detective Chief Inspector Underhill: "I'm really pleased."


Lionel Shriver

I experienced being female as an imposition. I had to wear stupid dresses. Periods were hideous. My parents had reduced expectations for my career prospects.

Now we have entered an oppressively gendered world. You can be agender, bi-gender, cisgender, demigender, graygender, intergender, genderless, genderqueer, third gender, or transgender. Where you lie on this spectrum is an index of your individuality. Gender is no longer about fucking.

We are told that a trans woman may have been born a man, but feels like a woman. I have no idea what it feels like to be a woman. I am one. My having been born female has always seemed a biological accident.

The spectrum depends on stereotypes. A boy is rough and boisterous and aggressive and plays with trucks. A girl is soft and quiet and sensitive and plays with dolls. A little boy knows he wants to be a girl because he wants to wear a dress. We are whoever we think we are.

I have resigned myself to being female in relation to other people. But for me, my self has no gender. If selfhood is not an illusion, it transcends gender.

2016 May 5

Holy Wars

James G. Chappel

Ethical relativism is a problem for democracies. The Catholic Church holds that democracies can only exist on a strong bedrock of religious values. Secular theorists of democracy accept that democracies must have some means of adjudicating truth claims. Instead of theology, they use philosophy to derive a democratic ethic from pure reason.

Democracy only really makes sense in a society of relativists. But when confronted by religious passions, relativism tends to crumble. Secularists should learn to engage critically with religious traditions. Religion can be reformed more easily than the structures of political economy.

The persistence of religion demands a fundamental rethinking of our political and social theories. The category of religion breaks down when used to describe the entire being of an individual or a community or a war. Theorists can deconstruct the category of religion.

The secular state seeks to create a plural society respecting religious rights. In practice, if we declare something to be free, we presume its existence. The notion of religious freedom presupposes that our lives and our societies can be partitioned into religious and secular pieces. Such strategies can lead quickly to violence.

Political secularism and the logic of religious freedom are central to the governing methods of the United States and the United Nations. But the contrast of religious versus secular obscures more than it illuminates. Prioritizing religion as an object of social control reinforces differences it aims to govern. Fluid religions are carved into discrete faith communities with identifiable leaders and neatly bounded orthodoxies that do not reflect reality.

The logic of secularism presumes a split between public and private realms. At home I can believe whatever foolish thing I please. Secularism may perversely support religion on gender issues such as the repression of women.

2016 May 4

Trump Wins, Cruz Out


"It is a beautiful thing to watch, and a beautiful thing to behold," Trump said during a victory speech. "We are going to make America great again."

Our Principles PAC chair Katie Packer: "We continue to give voice to the belief of so many Republicans that Trump is not a conservative, does not represent the values of the Republican Party, cannot beat Hillary Clinton, and is simply unfit to be President of the United States."

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders looks set to win the Indiana Democratic primary. He is unlikely to cut deeply into Clinton's big delegate lead.


Martin Wolf

The fact that the UK is holding a referendum on leaving the EU proves that it remains sovereign. The referendum is not about sovereignty but about how best to exercise British power.

States exist to serve the interests of their citizens. They can do so only by cooperating with other states. The UK has signed 14,000 treaties. Legally, the UK could withdraw from them all. Treaties do not undermine sovereignty. They make it more effective.

The question for the UK is whether EU membership strikes a sensible balance between accountability and effectiveness in the exercise of delegated powers. The defects of the EU on accountability are real. The single currency is an example. Yet the UK is not part of this. As for effectiveness, the UK powers delegated to the EU are appropriate to the goals the UK wants to achieve.

Membership of the EU is an appropriate exercise of UK sovereignty. It gives the UK a say in the future of the European continent. It gives it a potent voice in EU positions on global affairs. It gives it favorable terms of access to its biggest market.

UK sovereignty is not at stake in this referendum. It is proved by it. The best balance between accountability and effectiveness lies with the status quo.

Dorset Police

Poole Conservatives

Andrew Graham was a career soldier who rose to the rank of Lieutenant General. Now he is the Dorset Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner. He has looked at the facts and says: "I see an interesting comparison with Northamptonshire Police — similar budget, same size county — for instance, they have 700 Special Constables and we have 180. I believe we can do better."

Andrew has been talking with Poole residents and says: "We live in a community-run country, so putting policing at the heart of supporting our community chimes with everyone I talk to. People here are full of praise for their Police Community Support Officers and Neighbourhood Policing teams. I find this inspiring, but I can see there is more to do."

Naked Lunch


More than 32,000 people have signed up for a chance to dine at Bunyadi, a pop-up restaurant billed as London's first naked food experience. Opening in June, the venue will take only 42 diners a time. Lollipop founder Seb Lyall says he is surprised and excited by the response.

"People want to be naked. Whether it's on a beach or in a sauna, if the opportunity is there to be in a natural state, they will take it."
Seb Lyall

2016 May 3

EZ Money

European Commission

Eurostat announces that the EZ GDP has returned to pre-crisis levels and is growing at a 0.6% quarterly so far this year. But growth remains uneven across the eurozone. Some EZ countries are finding it hard to get their debt and deficit levels within EU budget limits.

AfD und der Islam

Jan Fleischhauer

AfD-Politikerin Beatrix von Storch: "Wir meinen nicht, alle Muslime auszuweisen."

Typische AfD-Anhänger sehne sich nach den Achtzigerjahren. Für den Spiegel sei ein Blick in das Programm wie eine Zeitreise in die Sechziger. Die FAZ bestimmt die Fünfzigerjahre als ideellen Fluchtpunkt.

Das Problem mit der AfD ist nicht die Rückwärtsgewandtheit. Nostalgie ist kein Vergehen. Es ist der reformerische Ansatz, der uns zu denken geben sollte. Auch die AfD denkt nach vorne.

Noch ist nur schemenhaft zu erkennen, wie diese Zukunft aussehen soll. Der Muslim hat in ihr schon mal keinen Platz. Die führenden Leute bei der AfD verweisen darauf, sie meinten die Religion, nicht die Gläubigen. Da der Islam aber insgesamt als politische Ideologie verstanden wird, steht jeder unter Verdacht, der sich zu dieser Religion bekennt. In Deutschland sind das etwa fünf Millionen Menschen.

Am Ende der gedanklichen Fluchtlinie jeder Reinheitsutopie liegt das Lager.


2016 May 2

The Trump Bomb

Jeremy Bernstein

Donald Trump thinks nuclear capability is the biggest problem in the world: "When people talk global warming, I say the global warming that we have to be careful of is the nuclear global warming."

The bright spot is what happened in Iran. We have been unable to finalize a new disarmament agreement with the Russians. The North Koreans are surely going to test again. The Indians and Pakistanis are modernizing their arsenals.

And in the middle of this there is Trump, a colossus of ignorance.

Politics on the Brink

Janet Daley

American politics is in crisis. For generations, both the major parties could have fit within the British Conservative party. Capitalism under reasonable controls and a strong defense of individual liberty were the basic tenets of a consensus which underpinned every plausible candidacy.

Populist fragmentation has arrived. Bernie Sanders is openly socialist. Hillary Clinton is damned by her association with established Washington power. Donald Trump is popular because he is outside the limits of the accepted order.

Such anger and resistance is unprecedented in living memory. There is a rejection of everything Big: government, banks, bureaucracy, business — all in a union where the member states share a common language and a revered constitution. What about a United States of Europe?

Transhumanist Rights

Zoltan Istvan

Transhumanists want to conquer death with science and merge with machines. The concept of personhood used to be simple, but with AI and robots we will soon see a time when courts must decide on future civil rights. The LGBT movement will enjoy easier gender reassignment surgery. Eventually we may have a genderless world. Artificial wombs will challenge maternity. Robots will take jobs. Some people are screaming to slow down technology before it gets out of control. As a transhumanist US presidential candidate, I hope more people will discuss the future.

UK Pensions

Dominic Lawson

The Bank of England has created hundreds of billions of pounds to buy government bonds from commercial banks. This quantitative easing (QE) is supposed to save the big banks. Its effect has been to force interest rates down.

Guaranteed index-linked private pension schemes are now all but unaffordable. As the yield on the government gilts the funds are forced to buy has collapsed, it has become much more expensive to buy enough of them to guarantee pensions. The aggregate deficit is now over £300 billion.

Those responsible for authorizing QE were Bank of England and Treasury officials. They will suffer none of its adverse effects. This is true of the entire public sector. The government makes no provision for funding the pensions of its millions of employees. Taxpayers will pay.

The NHS pension scheme is an example. Nurses joining that scheme today will contribute just over 7% of their income to fund their retirement, and after 40 years can expect an index-linked pension worth over £30,000 a year in today's money.

In the private sector, nurses on the same salary wanting the same pension income, retiring at 65, would need a fund worth £1 million in today's money. They would have to pay more than 40% of their gross salary to the scheme.

The taxpayer-funded NHS scheme is about five times more generous than the equivalent scheme in the private sector. Junior doctors complain about their new contract. But they have a good deal.

AR Better than I do, that's for sure. Buy my books and let me live!

2016 May 1

Republican Crisis

George F. Will

Donald Trump would be the most unpopular presidential nominee ever. In losing disastrously, he probably would create carnage sufficient to end even Republican control of the House. At least half a dozen Republican senators seeking reelection and Senate aspirants can hope to win if the person at the top of the Republican ticket loses their state narrowly, but not if he loses by a landslide.

Prudence demands the prevention of a Trump presidency. Were he to be nominated, conservatives would need to help him lose 50 states yet save as many senators, representatives, governors, and state legislators as possible. Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life could only preserve the identity of their party by forgoing one term of executive power.

British Judeophobia

Mehdi Hasan

Antisemitism infects some sections of the British Muslim community. I can't keep count of the number of Muslims I have come across for whom weird and wacky antisemitic conspiracy theories are the default explanation for a range of national and international events.

It is sheer hypocrisy for Muslims to complain of Islamophobia in British public life, and yet ignore the rampant Judeophobia in our own backyard. We have a Jewish problem. Muslims are not only the victims of racial and religious prejudice but purveyors of it, too.

Islamists and Trots

Niall Ferguson

The disproportionate Jewish contribution to western civilization — not least to science and the arts — is one of the most astonishing achievements of modern history. The murder and mayhem perpetrated by antisemites throughout history, and above all in the 20th century, deserves a special place in the annals of infamy.

Trotskyists and Islamists make strange bedfellows. Since Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn joined the Labour party, a significant element of the British left has aligned itself with the Palestine Liberation Organization and other groups hostile to Israel. Labour is now flirting with a very different generation of antisemites.



Trump wins 5 state sweep,
Clinton wins 4 of 5

"The United States, and the
entire world, needs a strong
and prosperous and democratic
and united Europe."
Barack Obama

Edi Rama

Michael Gove suggests Britain
could abandon its partnership
with Germany, France and
other EU countries and instead
enter into a non-EU partnership
with Albania, Kosovo, Serbia
and Bosnia.

I am a proud Albanian, but
we do not see ourselves as
a rival to the EU, which
we admire so much.

Merkel, Obama, Hannover

The Everlasting Flame
Zoroastrianism in
History and Imagination

National Museum, Delhi
2016-03-19 — 2016-05-31

AR In case you fancy a
few days away in India.


Prince @ 57

"Few artists have influenced
the sound and trajectory of
popular music more distinctly,
or touched quite so many
people with their talent."
Barack Obama

On Augustine
Rowan Williams

Augustine is obliged by his
 commitment to the incarnate
Christ to deny that the
incorruptible and immaterial
can ever as such be an object
for the cognition of material,
historical and desirous beings.
To be an intelligence in time
is to be inescapably unfinished.
God is res, and, in respect of
him, all else is signum. If we
try to love human beings
independently of loving God,
we ignore what they are.


2016 April 30

SpaceX: Mars 2018

Robert Wright

NASA has agreed to support a SpaceX Red Dragon mission to Mars as soon as 2018. SpaceX: "Red Dragon missions to Mars will help inform the overall Mars colonization architecture that SpaceX will reveal later this year."

Red Dragon is a version of the Dragon spacecraft that currently flies to the International Space Station under SpaceX resupply contracts with NASA. As part of work to develop a version of the capsule that can carry astronauts, SpaceX has developed and tested motors that allow the craft to make a safe landing on Earth in the event of an emergency. SpaceX will adapt that system to allow the craft to touch down on Mars.

NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman: "In exchange for Martian entry, descent, and landing data from SpaceX, NASA will offer technical support for the firm's plan to attempt to land an uncrewed Dragon 2 spacecraft on Mars."

Germany v Israel

Der Spiegel

German chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier believe the current Israeli settlement policy makes a viable Palestinian state unlikely and could ultimately transform Israel into an apartheid regime.

CDU Bundestag foreign affairs committee chair Norbert Röttgen: "Israel's current policies are not contributing to the country remaining Jewish and democratic. We must express this concern more clearly to Israel."

Prior to important votes in the EU or at the UN, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu generally calls Steinmeier to request his support for the Israeli position. Recently Netanyahu called Steinmeier to express concern about an impending EU resolution. But this time Steinmeier supported the resolution: "Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible."

German Institute for International and Security Affairs: "A two-state settlement is becoming increasingly unlikely. The financial and political costs of implementing it rise with every settlement unit needing to be demolished and with every settler needing to be evacuated and compensated."

2016 April 29

Tea with Theresa May

The Heritage Suite, Shaftesbury, Dorset

Theresa May (video, 55 s)

Big Don


House and Senate Republicans are reluctantly coming to terms with the reality that Donald Trump will likely be the GOP standard bearer. Rather than fight it, a number of Republicans say, it may be time to embrace it.

Against Reality

Donald Hoffman

According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. If the fitness function does not match the truth in the real world, that will send truth to extinction.

Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that hide all the stuff we have no need to know. We have conscious experiences. Objective reality is just conscious agents. Separate conscious agents can be put together to create new conscious agents, ad infinitum. Conscious experiences are the most basic ingredients of the world. There is no brain!

AR This is philosophically naive about truth and reality, but there is a thread of sense in it.

2016 April 28

OECD Damns Brexit

Financial Times

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development likened the effects of Brexit to a permanent annual tax on British incomes. The OECD is an international organization that aims to promote the best economic policies among its 34 members, all of which are advanced economies.

The OECD calculates that Brexit would bring more restricted trade with the EU, reduced competition, lower foreign direct investment, and fewer skilled immigrants, to hit GDP by around 5%. Public finances would suffer because tax revenues lost would easily outweigh any savings from lower net contributions to the EU budget.

OECD report: "There appears little scope to use the EU budget savings to relax fiscal policy substantially for an extended period, unless there is a decision to adjust other taxes and spending, or to raise the size of the overall budget deficit."

OECD secretary-general José Ángel Gurría: "Why are we spending so much time, so much effort and so much talent in trying to find ways to compensate for a bad decision when you don't necessarily have to take the bad decision?"

2016 April 27

Ten Brexit Arguments

Martin Wolf

1 Membership has brought few benefits
Membership has raised trade with EU members by an estimated 55%, increasing productivity and output. Trade creation within the EU has far exceeded diversion of trade from elsewhere.

2 Membership has imposed huge costs
The net fiscal cost is 0.5% of GDP. A study finds that 6.8% of UK primary legislation and 14.1% of UK secondary legislation is passed to implement EU law.

3 An increasingly integrated eurozone will dictate to the UK
A full political union of the eurozone looks unlikely. Its members differ on many points, opening up opportunities for UK influence.

4 The UK should leave because a eurozone breakup would damage the UK economy
A disorderly EZ breakup would damage close partners. But leaving the EU would no more shield the UK against disaster than Canada leaving NAFTA would shield it from a US crisis.

5 The UK should leave because the EU is slow-growing
Deliberately reducing access to EU markets would help only if the EU held back the UK from trading with the rest of the world. The EU does not hold back Germany.

6 Membership of the EU prevents the UK from opening up world markets
The EU was a moving force in three successful global trade negotiations. It makes preferential trade arrangements. EU clout can open up Chinese, Indian, or the US markets.

7 It would be easy to agree on alternatives to EU membership
Three Brexit variants: WTO trade rules lose preferential EU market access, Swiss rules require free movement of people, Norwegian rules lose say on regulations. More sovereignty, less access.

8 It will be easy for the UK to obtain whatever it wants from the EU
The share of UK trade done with the rest of the EU is far greater than the share of EU trade done with the UK. The idea that a departing UK could dictate terms is a fantasy.

9 It will be easy to reach an agreement on controlling immigration
Preferential access to EU markets require UK labour mobility. Imposing work permits on EU citizens would clog the UK job market. The EU would reciprocate.

10 The uncertainty associated with leaving the EU would be modest
We do not know what the UK government would want, what the rest of the EU would offer, how long negotiations would last, or what the outcome would be.

2016 April 26

Obama in Hannover

Der Spiegel

Barack Obama lobte und pries ziemlich alles: deutsche Technik, deutsche Führungskraft, deutsches Bier, deutsche Wurst.

Obama: "Die USA brauchen ein starkes, wohlhabendes und geeintes Europa. Ihr habt so viel erreicht. Die EU ist eine der größten politischen und wirtschaftlichen Errungenschaften der modernen Zeit. Glaubt an euch, stärkt die EU!"

Es ist ein klares Bekenntnis zur Politik seiner lieben Freundin Angela: "Unsere Nationen sind stärker, wenn wir Menschen aus anderen Ländern willkommen heißen."

Bei aller Kritik an der amerikanischen Politik: Dies war der Besuch eines großen Präsidenten.

The New Anglosphere

Gideon Rachman

Brexiters recall the Anglosphere bequeathed by the British Empire. Barack Obama may have devastated their campaign.

The signature foreign policy initiative of the Obama administration has been the US pivot to Asia. Today the biggest US trade priority is not Europe but Asia. While negotiations on TTIP are still years from conclusion, the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has already been agreed and now awaits ratification.

Britain has been conducting its own pivot to Asia in its deals with China. Australia does 10 times the trade with China and Japan as it does with Britain. In Canada, about a third of the population of Toronto is ethnic Asian, with a much higher proportion in Vancouver.

Ironically, a new Anglosphere has emerged in Brussels. English is now the common language of the EU institutions.


Liam Fox

UK leaders are willing to sacrifice democratic self-government to the interests of bankers and continental politicians.

The European Union has all the hallmarks of a modern empire. Its laws are dictated by an unelected central bureaucracy and it has a democratically unaccountable leadership with a powerless parliament. Since in 1973, Britain has sent almost half a trillion pounds to Brussels.

Voters are crying out for reform in the way that the EU is run. The EU is failing. The UK has a chance to escape.

AR Or to reform and renew it.

2016 April 25

US and Germany


President Barack Obama has found his closest global partner in German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In Hannover, he said of her stance on accepting refugees: "She's on the right side of history on this. She is giving voice, I think, to the kinds of principles that bring people together rather than divide them, and I'm very proud of her for that and I'm proud of the German people for that."

Obama hopes Merkel can help sway fellow leaders to do more to counter Daesh and track suspected extremists. He also is looking for her support in hammering out a US-EU trade pact.

France: Stay


A large majority of French people want Britain to remain in the European Union. An opinion poll Saturday found 60% of them expected negative consequences for the British if they leave. Some 58% said Britain should stay in the EU and 40% want Britain to leave. Brexit would have negative consequences for the EU, said 54%. Seven French out of 10 have "a good image" of Britain and 58% think the UK is an asset for the EU.

Hawking Radiation

The Times

Stephen Hawking proposes that black holes slowly radiate all their energy away in photons. This Hawking radiation is usually so faint as to be all but invisible.

Jeff Steinhauer made a laboratory analog of a black hole using sound, and watched phonons emerge from its edge. He cooled helium to a shade above 0 K and churned it around fast enough to make a sound barrier like an event horizon. He found signs that phonons were leaking out of his sonic black hole just as Hawking predicted.

The results are controversial. Silke Weinfurtner: "Jeff has done an amazing job, but some of the claims he makes are open to debate."

2016 April 24

Cherishing the Environment

New Scientist

UK membership of the EU has been good for the environment, says House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh: "We bathe on cleaner beaches, drive more fuel-efficient cars, and can hold government to account on air pollution. Inside the EU we can influence and improve EU environmental law."

EU environmental laws led to Britain recycling much more of its waste and stopping raw sewage being pumped on to beaches, the committee heard. Witnesses implied that if the UK were free to set its own environmental standards, it would do so less stringently than the EU.

Protecting Animals

Peter Singer

As long as we continue to eat animals, it is difficult to respect their interests. Yuval Harari has described the treatment of animals in industrial farms as perhaps the worst crime in history.

Veal was the first factory-farming issue to arouse public concern. After decades of lobbying, the veal industry trade group pledged in 2007 to get rid of veal crates and shift to group housing by 2017. Veal consumption has not recovered.

Breeding sows are often kept in crates about the same width as those used for veal calves, and just a little longer. Sows get to be very large animals, so in these crates they cannot walk or turn around. In 2012, McDonald's agreed to phase out the purchase of pig meat from producers using sow crates. Since then, more than 60 major brands have followed.

Veal and sow crates are bad, but battery cages for laying hens are worse. Hens are cheap, but the sheds and so on are not. If your competitors crowd their hens more than you do, they can sell their eggs at a lower price. Small battery cages are still legal in the United States.

In the European Union, crates for veal calves, crates for pregnant sows, and battery cages for laying hens are all illegal. In the United States, efforts to pass nationwide legislation to protect farmed animals have failed.

The UNFAO says livestock digestive processes are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector. A recent UK report recommends switching existing livestock industry subsidies to alternatives and imposing a carbon tax on meat.

Touching Feyman's Bottom

New Scientist

In 1959, Richard Feynman said there's plenty of room at the bottom.

A team at Delft University of Technology have built a memory that holds 8128 bits, 1 KB, and measures 96 nm by 126 nm. A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) picks up chlorine atoms on a copper surface dented with pits and moves the atoms into and out of the pits. Each filled or vacant pit stores 1 bit. At this density, 1 TB could be stored in a 100 μm cube.

AR Such atomic manipulations take us from nanotech to picotech.

2016 St George's Day


Barack Obama

Part of being friends is being honest. My understanding is that some of the folks on the other side have been ascribing to the United States certain actions we will take if the UK does leave the EU. They say, for example, that 'we will just cut our own trade deals with the United States'.

So they are voicing an opinion about what the United States is going to do. I figured you might want to hear from the president of the United States what I think the United States is going to do.

I think it's fair to say that maybe some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement, but it's not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done. The UK is going to be in the back of the queue.


Ed Conway

Leavers say outside the EU the UK could control its borders. But net migration since 1990 from outside the EU has been three times greater than flows from the EU.

As for red tape, Britain is mired in it not because of Eurocrats but because the sovereign UK parliament made it so. Leaving the EU will not change this.

The UK could thrive outside the EU if it opened its borders and cut more red tape. But this is not what the Leave camp is saying and not what Brits want.

Brexiters in Search of an Empire

Linda Colley

The UK debate on EU membership is not mainly about economics. Nor is it really about sovereignty. And the UK has as bad a democratic deficit as the EU. Even on immigration, no one knows how Brexit would cut the flow to the UK.

The Brexit campaign is about anger stoked by globalization. Brexiters blame their economic woes on Brussels. Their yearning to restore British national pride is born of desperation. Since the war, Britain has let go of its empire.

Brexiters hark after an Anglosphere embracing the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Yet the English language has a growing hold in Europe. Reforming and reconfiguring the EU can offer a new global role for the UK.

2016 Earth Day

European Union

Barack Obama

The outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States. The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe's cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are.

Our special relationship was forged as we spilled blood together on the battlefield. It was fortified as we built and sustained the architecture for advancing stability and prosperity in Europe, and our democratic values around the globe.

From the ashes of war, those who came before us had the foresight to create the international institutions and initiatives to sustain a prosperous peace. Their efforts provided a foundation for democracy, open markets, and the rule of law, while underwriting more than seven decades of relative peace and prosperity in Europe.

Today, we face tests to this order, challenges that can only be met if the United States and the United Kingdom can rely on one another, on our special relationship, and on the partnerships that lead to progress.

As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn't moderate British influence, it magnifies it.

Rewriting Physics

MIT Technology Review

About 10 years ago, Roger Shawyer said if you take a truncated cone and bounce microwaves back and forth inside it, the result is a thrust toward the narrow end of the cone. He called it the EmDrive.

A conceptual problem arises with momentum. The can's momentum increases as it begins to move. Critics said this was an obvious violation of the law of conservation of momentum.

Various teams around the world have built versions of the EmDrive and tested them. And it seems the EmDrive really does produce thrust. Last year, NASA conducted tests in a vacuum and confirmed that the EmDrive produces a thrust. So far, six independent experiments have agreed.

Mike McCulloch proposes a new theory of inertia to explain the seeming violation of conservation of momentum. He says inertia arises from a general relativistic effect called Unruh radiation. Inertia is the pressure Unruh radiation exerts on an accelerating body. At very small accelerations, the wavelengths become bigger than the observable universe. Then inertia takes quantized values.

Evidence for quantization may be the jumps in momentum observed in some spacecraft as they fly past Earth toward other planets. Testing this effect on Earth is hard because the accelerations involved are so small. One way forward is to shrink the allowed wavelengths of Unruh radiation.

If photons have inertial mass, they exchange momentum when they reflect. But the Unruh radiation is so small that it interacts with its immediate environment. In the case of the EmDrive, this is the truncated cone. The cone allows Unruh radiation of a longer wavelength at the large end and a shorter one at the small end. So the inertia of photons inside the cavity changes as they bounce back and forth. To conserve momentum, this must generate a thrust.

McCulloch's theory predicts the order of magnitude of thrust in the experiments done so far and makes two more predictions:
1 Placing a dielectric inside the cavity should enhance the effectiveness of the thruster.
2 Changing the dimensions of the cavity can reverse the direction of the thrust.

McCulloch: "This thrust reversal may have been seen in recent NASA experiments."

The theory makes two challenging assumptions:
1 Photons have inertial mass.
2 The speed of light changes within the cavity.

Testing quantized inertia on the EmDrive

AR Quantum effects on the margin of general relativity — here be dragons.

2016 April 21

QE2 @ 90

UK monarch Queen Elizabeth II turns 90 today. The other Elizabeth, my mother, was 19 months older but died aged 89.

The UK symbol of enduring sovereignty, at least for some. For the rest, nominal rule by unelected aristocrats is a strange thing
in a post-imperial world. Real sovereignty lies with Parliament, that nominally democratic body based on two bits of input
per voter per decade — a pitiable bandwidth in an online world. The UK would benefit from a political transformation.
Perhaps Brexit will trigger dissolution of the UK and its ancient (unwritten) constitution. Or perhaps the EU will
gradually take enough load off UK sovereignty to allow a smooth transition to a more modern polity.

Trump, Clinton win
big in New York


"Islam is a political ideology
that is not compatible with
the constitution."
AfD deputy leader
Beatrix von Storch

Waking Up
with Sam Harris
The Light of the Mind:
A Conversation with
David Chalmers

(podcast, 1 h 45 m)

AR Sam and Dave are
like the inner me. I could
have said it all — just less
fluently. Awesome, guys,
tremendous, wonderful
— thanks!

PDF, 202 pages, 8.1 MB

See the happy moron,
He doesn't give a damn,
I wish I were a moron,
My God! Perhaps I am!
Dorothy Parker

"I believe the loss of Britain
would destroy the European
Union. Without the counter-
weight of Britain, and with
France failing, German
economic hegemony will
prove political dynamite.
Our exit would throw the
whole project out of balance,
in the end fatally. These are
very, very dangerous times."
Matthew Parris





2016 April 20

European Timeline

The New York Times

January 1973: Britain joined the European Economic Community, a forerunner of the EU.

June 1975: 67% of British voters endorsed UK membership of the EEC in a referendum.

February 1992: Members of the European Community signed the Maastricht Treaty.

June 1992: Danish voters narrowly rejected the treaty, which needed unanimous approval.

May 1993: 57% of Danish voters accepted it in a second referendum.

September 1992: 51% of French voters said yes to the Maastricht Treaty.

June 2001: Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty clearing the way for 12 new members.

October 2002: Irish voters overwhelmingly approved the treaty in a second vote.

September 2003: Swedes overwhelmingly rejected membership in the eurozone.

May 2005: French voters decisively rejected a draft EU constitution.

June 2005: Dutch voters did the same.

June 2008: Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty enacting parts of the draft constitution.

October 2009: Irish voters reversed themselves and voted in favor of the treaty.

April 2016: Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected an EU agreement with Ukraine.

June 2016: British voters will either accept or reject continued UK membership of the EU.

AfD vs Islam

Stefan Kuzmany

Mit ihrer absurden Attacke auf den Islam will sich die AfD wieder in den Vordergrund spielen. Klar, hört man aus der AfD, Muslime dürfen Muslime bleiben. Aber bitte nur ganz privat. Denn ihre Religion sei eigentlich gar keine Religion, sondern eine politische Ideologie, ausgerichtet auf weltweite Machtübernahme.

Die AfD malt das Schreckensbild einer islamischen Invasion in Deutschland, einem Land, in dem Frauen bald nur noch vollverschleiert, wenn überhaupt, auf die Straße gehen dürfen, wo sie und ihre dann bärtigen Männer mehrmals täglich vom allgegenwärtigen Ruf des Muezzins zum Gebet genötigt werden. Und wenn einer mal etwas klaut, dann Hand ab, weil Scharia. Darum muss dieser gefährliche Islam schnell regimentiert und womöglich verboten werden, bevor es zu spät ist.

Man muss schon bedauerlich wenig Vertrauen in die Behauptungskraft der westlichen Kultur haben, um in solchen Alarmismus zu verfallen.


2016 April 19

Affront National

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Alternative für Deutschland Vorstandsmitglied Alexander Gauland verspüre keine besondere Neigung gegenüber Marine Le Pen, der Führerin des französischen Front National. Es gehe ihm um die Zusammenarbeit mit dem FN im Europaparlament. Da stehe die AfD wie der FN gegen die Idee einer immer enger werdenden Europäischen Union.

Europaabgeordnete aus Berlin und AfD-Vizeparteichefin Beatrix von Storch: "Der Front National ist sozialistisch, wir sind liberal. Der Front National ist nationalistisch, wir sind patriotisch."

Tatsächlich gibt es eine Reihe von Unterschieden zwischen der AfD und dem FN. Der FN will den Euro abschaffen, die AfD wünscht sich einen Nord-Euro der leistungsfähigen EU-Staaten. Der FN will die EU zerstören, die AfD sie grundsätzlich reformieren. Der FN kämpft gegen den Ultraliberalismus der Globalisierung und setzt auf eine Staatswirtschaft, die AfD streitet darum, wie sie es mit dem Freihandel hält. Der FN will aus der NATO austreten, die AfD fordert das bisher nicht.

In anderen Fragen allerdings gibt es viele Gemeinsamkeiten. Etwa, wenn es um die Nähe zu Russland geht, um Migranten oder die Gefahr der Islamisierung. Das Verbot von Minaretten, Muezzins und Vollverschleierung, das die AfD fordert, und die Charakterisierung des Islams als Fremdkörper in Europa kommen den Positionen des FN sehr nahe.

Gauland will die AfD sozialprotektionistisch ausrichten und mit einer klaren Absage an den Islam und die Einwanderung von Migranten weiter Wahlen gewinnen. Das ist letztlich das Erfolgsrezept des FN.

Jörg Meuthen, der Ko-Parteichef aus Baden-Württemberg und Frontmann des wirtschaftsliberalen Flügels, hat Gaulands freundliche Einlassung gegenüber dem FN als Affront empfunden.

Geht es nach de
m nordrhein-westfälische Landeschef und Europaabgeordneten Marcus Pretzell, soll der Bundesparteitag bald entscheiden, welcher Fraktion die AfD zukünftig angehören soll.

AfD-Parteichefin Frauke Petry hat sich zum Thema FN öffentlich nicht geäußert.


2016 April 18

Vote In

George Osborne

A Treasury analysis shows that under all plausible alternatives to British membership of the EU we would have a less open and interconnected economy, not just with Europe but, crucially, with the rest of the world. A Canadian-style post-Brexit deal with Europe would cause the UK economy to shrink by 6% by 2030. There would be less trade, less investment and less business. Britain would be permanently poorer.

Those advocating exit have miscalculated their negotiating hand: While 44% of British exports go to the EU, less than 8% of their exports come to us. They must engage in the issues rather than complaining endlessly about process. This is too important a question for Britain for them to pass on the answers. Every time they cry wolf about Project Fear, they only expose how weak and friendless their case is.

There would be enormous costs for our public finances, far outweighing the little over one pence in every one pound in taxes raised that we contribute net to the EU. There would not be more money to spend on the NHS, defense, and the like. There would be far less. The conclusion is clear: For Britain's economy and for families, leaving the EU would be the most extraordinary self-inflicted wound.

AR When the Roman Empire retreated from Britannia, centuries of poverty and cutural darkness followed. We should be glad the renewed Holy Roman Empire now graces our island polity.

2016 April 17

Brexit: Happy Morons

Niall Ferguson

The IMF warns that Brexit could do severe regional and global damage by disrupting established trading relation­ships. The Bank of England warns that concerns about Brexit might lead to some softening in growth during the first half of 2016. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Deutsche Bank all say Brexit will hurt the UK economy.

Daniel Hannan tells us nothing will change, the short-term effects will be slight, and no jobs will be lost. But then he says a great deal will change, because the EU is an undemocratic superstate that is strangling British economic life with regulations. He says Brexit would liberate Britain from a federalist EU yet leave it free to enjoy its free trade zone.

Access to the single market is limited for non-EU members unless they accept EU regulations. Either British bankers, car makers and so on will be freed from EU regulations, in which case British exports to the EU will be reduced, or they will not, in which case all a Brexit vote achieves is to remove the UK from the process of making those regulations.

In 2015 Q4, the UK current account deficit hit a record 7% of GDP. That needs to be financed. But the risk of Brexit is already acting like a flashing red light to foreign investors. LSE economists say leaving the EU could reduce foreign direct investment in the UK by 22% and real income by 3.4%. Sterling is down 12% against the euro since November. Nomura estimates that sterling could depreciate by a further 10%-15% after a vote to leave.

Only a happy moron would ignore these dangers.

Mathematical Dreams

Michael Atiyah

The crazy part of mathematics is when an idea appears in your head. The idea floats in from heaven knows where. When you try to freeze it, put it into a solid frame, or make it face reality, then it vanishes. It gets replaced by a structure, capturing certain aspects, but a clumsy interpretation.

Dreams happen during the daytime, they happen at night. You can call them a vision or intuition. Basically they are a state of mind, a very primordial feeling. And again, if you try to grasp it, it always dies. So when you wake up in the morning, some vague residue lingers, the ghost of an idea.

A lot of mathematics is predictable. Somebody shows you how to solve one problem, and you do the same thing again. Every now and again, somebody comes along with a totally new idea and shakes everybody up. Mathematics has continuous development, and then it has discontinuous jumps, when suddenly somebody has a new idea. Those are the ideas that really matter. When you get them, they have major consequences.

People think mathematics begins when you write down a theorem followed by a proof. For me the creative place in mathematics comes before you start to put things down on paper, before you try to write a formula. You picture various things, you turn them over in your mind. There are no rules laid down. You have to do it your own way.

2016 April 16

Remain Calm

Tom Railton

To accuse the Britain Stronger In Europe (BSE) campaign of being dull and lacking passion is to misunderstand how the referendum will be won.

The prize in this referendum is the legion of the disinterested and half-engaged. Normal people respond to the EU with a shrug of the shoulders and a weary sigh of resignation that, yes, they will probably have to formulate an opinion on this at some point. An emotional case is likely to convince them that the wild-eyed proposer is a bit unhinged.

People who argue for a more emotional case want stirring rhetoric, the power of the big idea, the universal truth. But normal people do not feel their strongest emotions about abstract political ideas, they feel them about their families, friends and communities. Emotion is specific, not general.

Many failed political campaigns were run by people who cared far too much about politics. The electorate mistrusts ardent passion.


New Scientist

Hostility to migration is an animating force for many who want the UK to leave the European Union.

Migration has made us what we are today: an increasingly globalized society. Much of our economy and governance is shared across increasingly large chunks of the world.

Efforts to free the movement of goods and services and capital have left labor under a patchwork of national controls. Voters fear immigrants will steal their jobs and reduce their prosperity. In fact immigrants expand economies and raise prosperity.

The UK government vows to slash immigration and balance the books. It cannot do both at once. Avoiding a budget deficit requires an influx of young, hard-working and tax-paying immigrants.

The other factor is tribalism. People accustomed to cultural uniformity fear the arrival of incomers who are different. But the history of cultural mixing shows this need not prevent peaceful coexistence.

An intergovernmental agency to collect data and formulate global rules is long overdue.

AR Leave the UN to regulate an issue that makes voters angry?

Red Army Tanks

Achtung Panzer

In March 1944, the first IS-2 Stalin tanks were proved in action. More than 3,000 were built before Victory Day. Panzer General Hasso von Manteuffel called the IS-2 the best tank of WW2.

The ISU-152 assault gun was based on the IS-2 and armed with a 152 mm howitzer. It was nicknamed "Animal Hunter" and its AP round could penetrate Tiger frontal armor.

During the war, the Soviet Union built more than 125,000 AFVs. Germany built some 89,000 AFVs and only 2,000 of them were Tigers and King Tigers. There was no chance for Germany to win the war on the Eastern Front against the power of the Red Army.

Ian McEwan

Janan Ganesh

During a lecture on identity in London two weeks ago, Ian McEwan said: "It makes a difference whether you have an X or Y chromosome." This upset many transgender people and campaigners. He later clarified his remarks with the weariness of someone who has endured such squalls before.

McEwan does not seem built for controversy. The comments that provoke usually flow from his interest in science. His novels are known more for set pieces and narrative control than didactic politics. That scientific bent grounds him in doubt, evidence and other scourges of ideology.

We Are Zombies

New Scientist

Our sense of free will appears only after the fact. Our brains add loops to our mental timeline that let us feel we can predict things that in reality have already happened.

Adam Bear and Paul Bloom let volunteers look at five white blobs and silently guess which one would turn red. Once a blob had changed color, they reported whether or not they had predicted correctly.

Over many trials, their reported accuracy was significantly better than 1 in 5. With delays before a blob turned red ranging from 50 ms to 1 s, accuracy was up to 1 in 3 when the delays were shortest, as if seeing the red blob influenced predictions still in progress.

The research highlights the fictions we tell ourselves about free will. Bear: "We are essentially zombie agents most of the time."

AR My opinion: The brain gives us a quick glimpse of sense impressions before processing is complete just in case we need to respond to an urgent threat, then the cortex does its thing and we sense a fully processed scene. My evidence: Look quickly at the moving second hand on a clock. For one beat the hand seems to move backwards, then goes forward as usual. We glimpse a raw scene, then get the full cortical view, which overlays the memory on the mental timeline.

2016 April 15

EU: In or Out?

Bournemouth University
11 am — 3 pm

In: Julie Girling, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar
Out: Martin Houlden, former UKIP PPC for Bournemouth West
Chair: AR

EU Referendum

Alastair Campbell

The IMF, the OECD, the CBI, and the governor of the Bank of England have all made strong and clear arguments against a British exit from the EU. Yet many people choose not to believe them.

The danger for the Remainers is that the Leavers manage to attract the undecided who do not know what to believe. The Remainers have to flip the issue of disbelief. We believe our friends. Over the next two months the real battle is going to be fought in homes and workplaces as people turn to friends and family, bosses and colleagues, people they trust and respect.

Remain and Reform EU

George Eaton

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn: "The case I'm making is for remain and reform in Europe."

He compared his case with that to remain in Labour throughout the Blair years, an institution he has since changed from within. His message to the left was that they can achieve similar feats in Brussels. His verdict: "Britain needs to stay in the EU as the best framework for trade, manufacturing, and cooperation in 21st century Europe."

Corbyn is no EU evangelist. But referendums are won or lost on the votes of the waverers.

UK Threat

Benjamin Jones

Among British Muslims, about a quarter support the imposition of sharia law in the UK, a half would criminalize same-sex relationships, three quarters say there should be no right to publish images of Mohammed, and as many (4%) support the right to publish pictures of Mohammed as sympathize with suicide bombers.

Muslims have a young age profile, the Muslim population is growing rapidly, and Islam is almost always passed on from parents to children. Apostates face abuse, death threats and murders. They need our support.

2016 April 14

Daesh Barbarism

John Gray

The rise of Daesh confounds the predominant Western view of the world. For the current generation of liberal thinkers, Daesh can only be a mysterious and disastrous anomaly.

Daesh acts of barbarism have modern precedents. The Nazis exploited a medieval Christian demonology in their persecution and genocide of Jews, but Nazism also invoked a modern pseudoscience of race to legitimate these atrocities. The increase of knowledge has repeatedly interacted with human conflicts and passions to produce new kinds of barbarism.

A transnational crime cartel, rapidly expanding apocalyptic cult movement, and worldwide terror network like Daesh could have emerged only in modern conditions of globalization. Though its eschatological beliefs are explicitly religious, Daesh is the latest example of a recurring modern phenomenon.

Civilization is not the endpoint of modern history, but a succession of interludes in recurring spasms of barbarism. The liberal civilization that has prevailed in some Western countries over the past few centuries emerged slowly and with difficulty against the background of a particular mix of traditions and institutions. Precarious wherever it has existed, it is a way of life that has no strong hold on humankind.

Liberal civilization is a historical singularity that is inherently fragile. Defending it against Daesh requires a clear perception that Daesh will have to be defeated and destroyed.

Finnish Meteorological Institute
Electric sail concept

Imperial/Beckley Foundation


Mission Accomplished

SpaceX has landed a Falcon
rocket on a pad on a drone
ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX launched the rocket
from Cape Canaveral to send
a Dragon cargo capsule to the
International Space Station.

Steve Dipaola
Sea Hunter
US robot sub hunter diesel
trimaran prototype can stay
at sea for months on end.

$2 Billion AI Chip

The Nvidia Tesla P100 chip
is designed for deep learning.
Google AlphaGo used deep
learning to master the game
Go. Artificial neural networks
for deep learning today use
chips originally designed for
video game graphics.
Nvidia sees a market
for custom chips.

 Taxpayers of the World,

Foreign Policy

The Panama papers confirm
that the global elite cheats,
lies, and steals. Will the
masses rise up in


World leaders, criminals,
and billionaire sheikhs have
poured hundreds of millions of
pounds into London properties.
The Panama papers show the
UK capital is the go-to place
for wealthy foreigners and criminals to protect their
anonymity and assets.

 US Naval Museum
of Armament and Technology
China Lake, California

Naval Air Warfare Center
Weapons Division is recognized
for a number of firsts. NASA
occasionally calls on NAWCWD
to lend expertise to projects
of national importance.

AR Must visit.

"My video will be awesome!"

Clickthru version
without talkover

(2010, 2.6 MB)


"We can't be the policeman to
the world and have $19 trillion in
debt, going up to $21 trillion."
Donald Trump

My Politics
Donald Trump talks with
the Washington Post

"Call me old-fashioned, but
I tend to think of people
with penises as men."
Ian McEwan

Tata Steel

Tata accuses David Cameron
of sleepwalking into the steel
crisis by helping China to block
EU efforts to increase tariffs
on its cheap imports.


2016 April 13

Breakthrough Starshot


Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg, and Yuri Milner make up the board of directors for Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million program to send "nanocraft" to explore star system Alpha Centauri.

Hawking: "Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos. Because we are human, and our nature is to fly."

The project is led by NASA Ames Research Center former director Pete Worden and advised by a committee of top scientists and engineers. They hope to build hundreds of little space probes, each weighing just a few grams and carrying cameras, photon thrusters, power supply, navigation and communication equipment. A rocket would ferry these nanocraft into space, where they would unfold tiny sails.

Powerful laser beams from Earth would then push the sails, propelling the little nanocraft up to 0.2c (20% of light speed) to Alpha Centauri, where they would collect images and other data and beam them back to Earth. The Alpha Centauri star system is about 41 Pm (4.4 light years) away, so the nanocraft could reach Alpha Centauri in about 630 Ms (20 years).

Milner: "The human story is one of great leaps. Fifty-five years ago today [April 12], Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Today, we are preparing for the next great leap — to the stars."

Mars In 30 Minutes

Tech Times

A laser propulsion system could complete a trip to Mars in 30 days (2.6 Ms). In principle the travel time could be reduced to 30 minutes (2 ks). A small spacecraft would be launched into space and deploy a large photon sail. An immensely powerful laser orbiting Earth would fire a beam at the sail, propelling the craft. In theory it could accelerate to 0.5c (25% light speed) in a few minutes.

University of California physics professor Philip Lubin: "We propose a roadmap to a program that will lead to sending relativistic probes to the nearest stars and will open up a vast array of possibilities of flight both within our solar system and far beyond. These systems can be propelled to speeds currently unimaginable with existing propulsion technologies."

Electric Sails


The NASA Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transport System (HERTS) concept builds upon the electric sail invention of Finnish meteorologist Pekka Janhunen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. A large circular e-sail made of long thin bare wires electrostatically repels fast solar protons, which generates thrust. Extending outward from the center of the spacecraft, 10 to 20 electrically charged bare aluminum wires form the e-sail. Each wire is 1 mm in diameter and 30 km long. The spacecraft rotates at one revolution per hour so that centrifugal forces stretch the wires out straight. The e-sail has a large effective area at long ranges: about 60 kha at 1 AU and twice this at 5 AU. Engineers can steer the spacecraft by modulating voltage in the individual wires in the sail.

NASA principal investigator for the HERTS e-sail Bruce Wiegmann: "The sun releases protons and electrons into the solar wind at very high speeds — 400 to 750 km per second. The e-sail would use these protons to propel the spacecraft. With the continuous flow of protons, and the increased area, the e-sail will continue to accelerate to 16-20 AU, at least three times farther than the solar sail. This will create much higher speeds. Our investigation has shown that an interstellar probe mission propelled by an e-sail could travel to the heliopause in just under 10 years."

2016 April 12

Brexit: IMF Warning

Chris Giles

The International Monetary Fund warns of "severe" damage on the UK and world economy if a majority of Brits vote to leave the EU on June 23. The IMF cites the referendum as one of the main risks to global economic stability. All the IMF board members ratified the view.

IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld: "The planned June referendum on EU membership has already created uncertainty for investors."

The IMF says the referendum is already hitting the UK by lowering investment. If the UK votes to remain in the EU, the forecasts show the UK again as one of the world's stronger advanced economies. If the UK votes to leave the EU, the IMF sees no positive consequences.

UK chancellor George Osborne: "The IMF has given us the clearest independent warning of the taste of bad things to come if Britain leaves the EU."


The Guardian

New scans reveal the profound impact of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) on the brain. Volunteers injected with a dose of the psychedelic drug showed changes that altered activity and connectivity across the brain, suggesting new theories of visual hallucinations and trip experiences.

Trippers experience images drawn from many parts of the brain, not just visual cortex. Under the drug, regions once segregated communicate with one another. Some brain regions that usually form a network become more separated in a feeling of oneness with the universe and ego dissolution.

David Nutt: "This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics. We didn't know how these profound effects were produced. It was too difficult to do. Scientists were either scared or couldn't be bothered to overcome the enormous hurdles to get this done."

Nutt and Robin Carhart-Harris invited 20 healthy volunteers to attend a clinic on two separate days. One day they received an injection of 75 μg of LSD and on the other a placebo. Using three brain imaging techniques, arterial spin labeling, resting state MRI, and MEG, the scientists measured blood flow, functional connections within and between brain networks, and brainwaves in the subjects.

Carhart-Harris: "This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way, and seems to be associated with improvements in wellbeing after the drug's effects have subsided."

AR My 1973 trip led to my 2009 book Mindworlds.

2016 April 11

The Man Who Knew Infinity

New Scientist

Srinivasa Ramanujan was an untrained genius who a hundred years ago travelled from his home in Madras, India, to the UK to study mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

Like The Theory of Everything about Stephen Hawking and The Imitation Game about Alan Turing, The Man Who Knew Infinity attempts to give us a glimpse of an unknowable mind traversing the realm of abstract thought.

Cambridge mathematician G. H. Hardy recognized Ramanujan's potential and invited him to the UK. Once there, Ramanujan had to overcome British weather, racism, and a lack of good vegetarian food. Trinity College serves as a backdrop for most of the film.

Ramanujan rages at atheist Hardy during one argument over the need for proof: "An equation has no meaning to me unless it expresses a thought of god."

Mathematician Ken Ono, who has made a career of studying Ramanujan's notebooks, served as a consultant on the movie. It plays safe.

AR I saw both this movie and the Hawking one (for the first time) over the weekend.

2016 April 10

Global Finances

The Observer

The revelations in the leaked Panama papers have big implications for governments and businesses worldwide. The papers show how Mossack Fonseca helped the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad hide away vast amounts of cash and how Vladimir Putin sits in a billion-dollar money laundering network.

It is not enough to say the rich get richer and the meek inherit the mess. Dictators, criminals, and human rights abusers aside, the names of a host of political leaders and administrators, banks and businesses, and celebrities and sportspeople appear in the papers. We expect better of them.

In the 2008 financial crash, some of the biggest British, American and European banks and financial institutions plunged much of the world into austerity and recession. Since then, western governments continue to tolerate and facilitate the opportunistic and often illegal exploitation of a global financial system that lacks agreed rules and effective regulation.

A new body overseen by the UN should set rules, enforce standards, scrutinize questionable transactions, and expose and punish the unscrupulous miscreants and their cheating clients.

AR Form GO and do it right.

2016 April 9

Brexit Kabuki

Andrew Moravcsik

The Brexit debate is kabuki, a common Washington metaphor for stylized but meaningless posturing. Politicians call referendums to get out of domestic political jams.

The UK prime minister needed to stage a negotiation in which he appeared to wring concessions out of other European governments. This proved a challenge. There are few principled issues where London suffers outside the European consensus.

His faux negotiation ushered in the referendum. The Remain camp seems likely to prevail. The opposition, business, foreign investors, and most educated commentators all back the government, and in referendums undecided voters tend to favor the status quo.

Britain looks unlikely to exit Europe even if its citizens voted to do so. The government would probably negotiate a new agreement, like the old one, disguise it in opaque language and ratify it. Renegotiation inside the EU would be almost inevitable.

The lesson is simple. Europe is real because globalization is real. Even politicians who have mastered kabuki must sooner or later face reality.

2016 April 8

Global History

Sam Harris and Dan Carlin

SH The phenomenon that most worries me is the fact that you can be someone without any political grievances and an Internet meme gets into your head. A person may have been born Muslim or not, but at a certain point he read the books and goes down the rabbit hole. The moment you accept that millions of people believe in Paradise, you must admit the game has changed.

DC The vast majority of Islamic folks are embarrassed and horrified by the whole thing and are getting blowback in their own personal lives. The people who are going to win this war for us are Muslim. So anything we do that alienates them is counterproductive in the end.

SH Islamists are people who are trying to impose Islam on society politically. They want a state religion wherever they live, to be obliged to live under Sharia law. Jihadists are the subset of Islamists who are willing to do this through violence immediately. The broader set of Islamists just want to do it through some political process, but the goal is Sharia law for everyone.

DC The question is, how far are you willing to go in a crusade.

SH We need some global institution that marshals the appropriate use of force. We are talking about the problem of building and maintaining a global civilization.

AR We need Globorg. See Coral.

2016 April 7

European Union

Peter Wilson

For a full millennium the areas that are now Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands were encompassed by the Holy Roman Empire, which also extended across most of Italy, and parts of France, Denmark, and Poland.

The Empire emerged from an alliance between the papacy and Charlemagne, who was crowned in Rome on Christmas Day 800. Both parties presented it as a direct continuation of the Roman Empire. It was the political guardian of a universal Christian civilization.

The Empire collapsed in 1806, brought down by relentless French aggression. Its history belies the assumption that Europe has been and always will be a continent of distinct peoples, each inhabiting their own country defined by language, culture, and political organization.

The rise of the state is a story of kings and queens, statesmen and others, credited with creating institutions, passing laws, adding ideas and so on. External wars became struggles to delineate each state. Civil wars and revolutions were about the social distribution of power within the state. But attempts to articulate identity fragmented populations into ever smaller groups.

The European Union is intended to overcome the most destructive aspects of nationalism by providing a framework in which sovereign states can cooperate. Its fundamental weakness is that it is constructed from states still considered as sovereign and inhabited by distinct peoples. Its "democratic deficit" and the lack of a meaningful European identity arise because democratic rights and citizenship are determined by national constitutions.

The contradictions inherent in the EU between national sovereignty and political union have been obvious since the financial crash of 2008 and the eurozone crisis. But sovereignty has already been irrevocably undermined by other global forces. The old conception of the state is rapidly losing its practical relevance.

Historically, European national states offered uniform citizenship and uniform obligations, notably in taxation and in blood through the duty to defend their state. The scale of war grew in the century after 1850 because states learned to marshal their populations into mass armies to fight bigger wars. Today there is no appetite for the level of sacrifice witnessed in those wars, and the economic forms needed for them are no longer present.

The nation state is a transient form of political organization. The recent spasm of nationalism in Europe, from Poland to France, is a reaction to the migrant crisis and terrorism. But nations cannot solve these problems on their own. They need to integrate.

2016 April 6

Climate Change: Deadline 2017

Martin Wolf

Power generation infrastructure is responsible for a quarter of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In the EU, 29% of thermal power plants are more than 30 years old and 61% are more than 20 years old. Because CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries, we need to think not of annual flows but of cumulative emissions and a global carbon budget.

In a new ScienceDirect paper, four Oxford academics use Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data to ask how we can keep global temperature increase below 2 K. If new generating plants are operated to the end of their normal economic lives, they say capital stock created after 2017 would break the global carbon budget.

Reduced emissions from other activities cannot help much. Decarbonization of power generation is the best way to decarbonize transport, via new electric vehicles.

Power generation options:
1 An immediate shift to zero-emissions (ZE) tech
2 Retrofit the stock with carbon capture and storage (CCS) tech
3 Replace new capital stock with ZE capacity early in its life
4 Deploy new tech to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere

AR I say go nuclear now, go solar later.

Obama on Brexit

Daniel Finkelstein

President Harry Truman, 1947: "It must be the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."

The Truman Doctrine began with funds for Greece and Turkey. It continued with the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift, and NATO. It worked: the Soviet Union collapsed.

From the earliest days of the doctrine, America has urged European unity. Marshall Plan architect Dean Acheson worked with European community pioneer Jean Monnet and agreed on European union.

The Truman Doctrine made the organization of Europe part of US national interest. So of course President Obama will have a view about whether Britain should remain in the EU.

London Mayor

George Galloway

London needs a leader. I don't think that either of the mainstream party candidates are leaders. Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson were slightly out of the ordinary figures.

A germ of extremism and sectarianism infects a minority of the Muslim ummah. In Britain, thousands of extremists carry within them a sectarian and fanatic interpretation of Islam, which is deeply damaging to Islam, to themselves, and of course to the innocent people who they harm.

It was always a big ask for a Pakistani called Sadiq Khan to be elected, because of the terrible levels of Islamophobia that exist. He's a very poor speaker, he has very little presence. He has alienated people who might otherwise have voted for him.

Jeremy Corbyn will be challenged. Khan would be handpicked to deliver the bullet. He'd be the man in the proverbial grey suit, and I think Corbyn knows that.

2016 April 5

European Union

Yanis Varoufakis

The notion that no small country can be sovereign threatens democracy. This notion is not reserved for countries like Greece but is today being peddled in the UK for the Remain campaign.

The problem begins once the distinction between sovereignty and power is blurred. Sovereignty is about who decides legitimately on behalf of a people.

An alliance of states like the EU can arrange a defensive military alliance, coordinate police forces, open borders, agree common industry standards, or create a single market. But it can never legitimately overrule the sovereignty of one of its member states on the basis of the power granted by the sovereign states that agreed to participate in it.

Within the EU, a national parliament is sovereign in theory even if the nation is not particularly powerful. In practice, the European Council and the Eurogroup of finance ministers are not answerable to any parliament, nor indeed to any voting citizens.

North Europeans often say all the frugal and cautious Europeans live in the north, while the spendthrifts congregate in the south. The reality is much more muddled. A mighty network of corrupt practices extends over all our countries. A lack of democracy helps hide it from public view.

I support Britain remaining in the EU. The union will disintegrate even if a small country like Greece leaves, let alone a big one like Britain. Its disintegration will create a vortex that consumes us all.

2016 April 4

How did we end up here?

Charlie Hebdo

Tariq Ramadan lectures about Islam. He debates the need to adapt secularism to religion in Western democracy, to accept traditions imported by minority communities. His task is to dissuade people from criticizing his religion in any way. The students who hear him will never dare to confront Islam, lest they appear Islamophobic.

Take this veiled woman. She is courageous and dignified, devoted to her family and her children. She harms no one. Even those women who wear the full body veil do not generally use their clothing to hide bombs. They too will do nothing wrong.

The local baker has just bought the nearby bakery. He makes good croissants. He always has a ready smile for all his customers. Neither his long beard nor the little prayer-bruise on his forehead (a sign of his great piety) bother his clientele. They are too busy eating his lunchtime sandwiches. No more ham nor bacon, but there are plenty of other options on offer. So it would be silly to make a fuss.

Take this young delinquent. He has never looked at the Quran in his life, he knows little of the history of religion, of colonialism, nor a great deal about his Maghreb forefathers. This lad and a couple of his buddies order a taxi to Brussels airport.

Everyone contributes to what is about to happen in the airport or metro of Brussels. All of us submit to the fear of controversy and the dread of being treated as a racist or an Islamophobe. From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to say you are troubled by her veil, we are being forced into retreat.

Panama Papers

CNN Money

Elected leaders and top officials from around the world are responding with denials and outrage to allegations that they used secret offshore companies and accounts to hide billions of dollars. More than 11 million leaked documents allegedly show that Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca helped set up secret shell companies and offshore accounts for prominent people across Europe, Asia, the Mideast, Africa, and the Americas.

AR I wear my poverty with pride. No laundry service for me!

2016 April 3

Trump: NATO Obsolete, UN Political Game

The New York Times

Donald J. Trump says other NATO members are "not paying their fair share" in comparison with the United States: "That means we are protecting them, giving them military protection and other things, and they're ripping off the United States. And you know what we do? Nothing. Either they have to pay up for past deficiencies or they have to get out. And if it breaks up NATO, it breaks up NATO."

On letting Japan and South Korea build their own nuclear arsenals rather than relying on US protection: "We have to let them take care of themselves and if that means they have to some day get nuclear weapons ... And frankly, the case could be made, that let them protect themselves against North Korea. They'd probably wipe them out pretty quick."

Trump: "By the way, United Nations ... Do they ever settle anything? It's just like a political game. The United Nations — I mean the money we spend on the United Nations."

AR World War 2 left the United States (plus a dying British Empire) and the Soviet Union (plus a nascent China) victorious and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan defeated. The UN was founded in 1945 and NATO in 1949. Now it may be time for a new world order in which Germany and Japan emerge from US tutelage and become regular states.

The UN Security Council permanent members (P5) are presently China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Kicking France and the United Kingdom off the P5 and putting in Japan and Germany would be one way to persuade Japan and Germany to "pay their way" in a new world order based on nation states.

AR proposes a Global Order (GO) with a Regional Council R7 to replace P5:
  1 America, led by the United States
  2 Europe, led by the European Union (with a veto for the UK?)
  3 Central Asia, led by Russia (with a veto for Iran?)
  4 Mideast and Africa, left vacant while they sort themselves out
  5 South Asia, led by India (with a veto for Pakistan?)
  6 East Asia, led by China (with a veto for Vietnam?)
  7 Pacific, led by Japan (with a veto for Australia?)

2016 April 2


Norbert Röttgen

The Daesh goal in Brussels was to scare and divide Europeans. In Germany and elsewhere, nationalist parties are calling for a turn inward. The appeal to emotion plays into terrorist hands.

In the Mideast, we must distinguish the people fleeing war and terror in Syria or Iraq from the radical militants there. The Brussels attacks were carried out by EU citizens. Winning requires reaching out to European Muslims.

Europe is becoming less vital for the United States. President Obama sees the ME region as less important to US interests than the challenge of China and the rise of Asia and Latin America.

The European Union must take on more responsibility for shaping the Mideast by:

1 Committing money to the region. We must improve conditions in refugee camps in countries like Jordan and Lebanon. We must invest more in the ME economic future.

2 Shaping a unified ME policy. We should work with the United States to persuade Russia to allow the creation of UN humanitarian zones in Syria. We would then contribute troops to an international peacekeeping mission.

3 Preserving the transatlantic partnership. More US help on refugees would be welcome. As the United States pivots away from the Mideast, Europe will have to take over.

We cannot let terrorism tear Europe apart.

2016 April 1

Islamabad Nukes

The Times

Small battlefield nuclear weapons developed by Pakistan could fall into the hands of terrorists if the country does not do more to secure its arsenal.

US USoS for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller: "We have made our concerns known and we will continue to press them about what we consider to be the destabilizing aspects of their battlefield nuclear weapons program."

Pakistani senior military advisor Khalid Ahmed Kidwai: "We are not apologetic about the development of the tactical nuclear weapons. They are here to stay."

AR Next year: "Trump Nukes Pak Nukes" perhaps?


Emily Ratajkowski

However sexual our bodies may be, we need to have the freedom as women to choose when and how we express our sexuality. We are more than just our bodies, but that doesn't mean we have to be shamed for them or our sexuality. Even if being sexualized by society's gaze is demeaning, there must be a space where women can still be sexual when they choose to be.

AR Men too?

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