Munich Security Conference
"The United States of America strongly supports NATO
and will be unwavering in our commitment to our transatlantic
alliance ... We will stand by Europe today and every day."
"Wir dürfen gegenüber
"It's all fake news"
AR I watched some of his
press conference yesterday.
It was insufferable,
for the Advancement
James Mattis says America
could moderate its NATO
commitment if member
states fail to
the 2% target
"I condemn the launch of a
ballistic missile by the DPRK"
Penrose expounded his
twistor ideas in his book
Road to Reality.
In 2004 I was impressed
and wrote a long
(chapter 12, Mindworlds).
Here is my shorter cut:
12(2), 78-83 (2005)
I want to study twistors
again once I've buffed
up my math skills.
wird neuer Bundespräsident.
nennt Deutschland "Anker
der Hoffnung" in der Welt.
AR Deutschland vertritt
2017 February 18
Konstantin von Hammerstein, Peter Müller
US secretary of
defense James Mattis: "I owe it to you to give clarity on the
political reality in the United States and to state the fair demand
from my country's people in concrete terms. America will meet its
responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America
moderate its commitment to this Alliance, each of your capitals
needs to show support for our common defense."
Germany is the
economic powerhouse of Europe, with a big budget surplus in 2016.
Berlin wants to take on more responsibility for global security. The
Pentagon sees Germany as the most important country in Europe, and
the pressure from Washington is only going to grow in intensity.
Politicians in Berlin are aware that their neighbors fear a
militarily powerful Germany. That helps explain why German military
spending in real terms ranks only third in Europe, behind the UK and
France. Were Germany to spend 2% of GDP on defense, its annual
defense budget would rise from its current level of €37 billion to
over €60 billion. That would make Germany by far the largest
military power on the continent.
Peace is best served by ensuring that European defense
spending has a more integrated character. A race of nations to the
2% line would only exacerbate international tensions.
NATO — EU
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker: "I do not
like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to
the military. If you look at what Europe is doing in defense, plus
development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the US
looks rather different."
German foreign minister Sigmar
Gabriel: "We in Europe will have to take on more responsibility but
security policy should not be reduced to the size of defense
budgets. If we do that we will not be able to fight climate change,
or water shortages, or poverty, or the crises that lead to violent
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen:
"Our American friends know well that their tone on Europe and NATO
has a direct influence on the cohesion of our continent. A stable
European Union is just as much in the American interest as a united
Tony Blair: "The British people voted to leave Europe,
and I agree the will of the people should prevail. I accept right
now there is no widespread appetite to rethink. But the people voted
without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit."
AR With Brexit the UK is endangering the
stability of the EU and hence weakening NATO too, so UK defense
spending must be discounted accordingly. The German commitment to
reducing the refugee problem counts for quite a few pro mille points
of GDP. Do the math!
Trump — Nixon
Alarming events surrounding the presidency
of Donald Trump remind me of Watergate.
The events around
Richard Nixon in 1973 and 1974 ended in a president having to leave
office before the end of his term. Nixon used the instruments of
government against his opponents, whom he defined as enemies.
Watergate was a constitutional crisis.
Donald Trump is
becoming more and more obsessed with leaks. Nixon hired burglars to
stop leaks that enraged him. Nixon and Trump both assumed government
workers were out to get them. As Nixon did, Trump views the press
with hostility. Nixon refused to obey a court ruling, and Trump
attacks the integrity of a federal judge who ruled against his
Trump might quit — or his presidency might meet an
ending not of his choosing.
2017 February 17
Unfit to Serve
E.J. Dionne Jr.
The man serving as POTUS 45 plainly has
no business being POTUS.
Questions about his relationship with
Vladimir Putin and Russia will not go away.
It is only a matter
of time — Americans need to face the truth.
It looks as if Donald Trump is not up to
US intelligence service employees apparently gave
the press incriminating material against Trump and his team. But
anyone who sees the leaks as proof of the checks and balances of the
US Constitution should think again. Trump seems to want an American
autocracy, and the services are fighting back with autocratic
America has become an unstable state.
Donald Trump imagined he could do as he
pleased in the White House. The opening weeks of his presidency have
His hopes of a grand bargain with Vladimir
Putin have dissolved. Firing Michael Flynn for lying to Mike Pence
about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in Washington
will not put things right. What did the president know and when?
The smiles in Moscow are turning to scowls. Putin hoped for a
deal that would see the US president lift sanctions and acquiesce in
Russian revanchism in return for notional cooperation in fighting
Daesh. Such an agreement now looks impossible.
alt-facts. Flynn said that in three weeks the president had restored
"America's leadership position" in the world.
Concerns About Science
Researchers are concerned at unprecedented levels
about how a new presidential administration may undermine scientific
work and delay its benefits.
AAAS CEO Rush Holt: "It used to
be when someone would say they were concerned about the state of
science, they were talking about funding for research ... What I
hear now are concerns about what I would call an ongoing trend that
goes back many years, even decades, where ideology and ideological
assertions have been crowding out evidence in public and private
debates and policymaking. It's reaching a place where people are
truly troubled about what this means for the practice of science and
the ability of science to bring its benefits to the population at
AAAS President Barbara Schaal: "This is not so that
we can have our research grants, this is for the well-being of our
nations and our global citizenry. The things that stimulate
well-being, that give us a better life — adequate food, excellent
health care, jobs — many of those things have basic science as an
underpinning ... our concern is that the government won't have the
scientific expertise that it will need to make the kind of standard
policies that are going to be coming through Congress and by
2017 February 16
Donald Trump wrote in 2000 about defending
Europe: "Their conflicts are not worth American lives."
American political commitment to European security is waning
rapidly. Britain, France, Germany and others should launch a new
European security pact that reflects political reality.
Europe is at a major political turning point. A new organization
could involve major new armaments, shared between countries.
European countries can only gain from cooperating in cyber security
and in procurement and operations.
NATO is poorly designed to
confront terrorism and chaos in the south and hybrid warfare from
Russia. A new European security pact is needed. Britain can take the
Boiling water is an example of a phase
transition. Hot water molecules jostle about vigorously and the
fastest ones escape as steam. If you raise the pressure, you reach a
critical point where it is hard to tell liquid and gas apart. The
critical point is another phase transition.
are common. Ernst Ising imagined a magnetic material as made up tiny
atomic magnets that can align N-S or S-N. Each tends to line up with
its neighbors but can also flip randomly. The higher the
temperature, the more likely a flip. But Ising could only build a 1D
Lars Onsager solved the 2D Ising model to show how a
magnetic material above a critical temperature loses its magnetism.
The 2D Ising model can simulate other phenomena that flip between
Alexander Polyakov saw that strongly coupled systems
of fundamental particles could undergo phase transitions. For
example, quarks are usually bound in nucleons by the strong nuclear
force but at high energies they can reach a critical point and break
The 2D Ising model and the equations for elementary
particles at their critical points share conformal symmetry. If the
same were true of the 3D Ising model, its mathematical description
might describe any strongly coupled system with the same symmetries.
Polyakov worked backwards to the equations. The more symmetries
he had, the more he constrained the underlying equations. His
technique is now known as the bootstrap method.
physicists are using the method to constrain the 3D Ising model more
tightly and build a rigorous mathematical foundation. The Simons
Foundation awarded them $10 million for the work.
AR Conformal symmetries are big for
Road to Reality, §8.2, §27.12)
2017 February 15
The War for Civilization
Donald Trump's ban on migrants and
refugees from seven mainly Muslim countries may be just the
beginning of repeated efforts in the US and Europe to restrict
migration from the Muslim world.
White House chief strategist
Steve Bannon said at a Vatican seminar in 2014 that Judeo-Christian
civilization is at the "beginning stages
of a global war against Islamic fascism" — this is key to
his role in the Trump administration.
In France, Marine Le
Pen believes the West is engaged in a mortal
struggle with radical Islam: "Washington, Paris and Moscow must form
a strategic alliance against Islamic fundamentalism."
Netherlands, the Freedom party led by Geert Wilders is set to top
the polls in next month's elections. In Germany, the AfD party is
likely to become the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag
Further jihadist attacks in the US and Europe
will feed this fear and hostility. Demographic trends create
pressure for migration from Muslim countries. The polemic is a
foretaste of the future.
The Military Balance 2017 calculates that only two
NATO member states met the 2% defense spending target in 2016.
Greece spent 2.4%, Estonia 2.2%, and the UK only 1.98%.
2% target is now a political constraint for government leaders. The
UK had committed in its 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review
(SDSR) to clear the 2% bar. In the United States, the 2% figure
became a symbol when Donald Trump hinted that US support could
require NATO states to meet it.
There is no shared definition
of defense budgets. NATO includes pensions, spending on peacekeeping
and humanitarian operations, and research and development costs. The
UN uses another definition. The UK reported £36.9 billion to the UN
but £39.8 billion to NATO in 2013.
There is also no agreed
source for calculating GDP share. The IISS collects GDP figures from
the IMF World Economic Outlook database in US dollar terms.
Different GDP figures will change the results, and whether or not
states hit the 2% target depends on the sources and definitions.
European NATO member states increased real defense spending from
US $255.7 billion in 2015 to US $256.5 billion in 2016, a 0.3% rise.
Their overall GDP growth was 1.8%.
NATO says UK clears 2% bar.
2017 February 14
The Way of Love
Arnold Toynbee compared the crisis of Islam
with that of the Jews two millennia ago. The Jews were a proud
people defeated by a foreign empire. This ordeal bred two groups:
Herodians (collaborators with Rome) and Zealots (militants against
Toynbee said modern Muslims have their own Herodians
(such as Turkish founder Ataturk) and Zealots (like the Arabian
Wahhabis). He predicted defeat for the Zealots. He forgot the third
Jewish way, that of Jesus.
Muslims are going through a
crisis very similar to the one Jesus addressed. The Muslim world has
lost its early tolerance and suffocated in dogmatism. Jesus found a
way out of a fixation on the letter of the law by looking instead at its purpose.
Muslims can learn from
British mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose
represents a generation who launched themselves into the universe
armed only with their wits and imagination.
Penrose studied algebraic geometry. While an undergraduate, he heard
Fred Hoyle lecture on cosmology. Hoyle believed in a steady state
universe and coined the term Big Bang in derision. Penrose: "I drew
little pictures and convinced myself that what he said couldn't be
While a graduate student, Penrose saw an exhibition of
art by M.C. Escher: "I was quite blown over. I came away and drew
pictures of bridges and roads, which gradually simplified into the
Dennis Sciama prompted Penrose to a lecture by David
Finkelstein, who was working on general relativity, black holes, and
singularities. Penrose was hooked. In 1959 he travelled to Princeton
to work with John Wheeler, who invented the term black hole.
Penrose showed that black holes could be real. Stephen Hawking saw
the work and the pair began collaborating on gravitational
singularities. But the concept of a singularity conflicts with
Penrose began in physics with quantum
mechanics. A fundamental property of quantum particles is spin, but
quantum spin seems to need objects to be spinning in twisted space.
Their motion can be described using spinors.
developed a theory that adds a new twist to spinors. His twistors
reveal deep connections between quantum theory and the shapes of
spacetime. Penrose thinks twistors might lead to a theory of quantum
gravity reconciling quantum theory and general relativity.
Penrose is 85. His ideas are still guided by an uninhibited spirit
2017 February 13
Philosophy has not covered itself in
glory. Sometimes, views can have terrifying consequences that might
actually come true. I think what the postmodernists did was evil.
They are responsible for the intellectual fad that made it
respectable to be cynical about truth and facts.
activism is not my favourite activity but sometimes one has to
engage in it. I begrudge every hour that I have to spend worrying
about political issues. Every Republican senator has an opportunity
to grow a spine and stand up for truth and justice and the rule of
The view of things getting better is the view of those who
survive. The fact that we now understand more about how evolution
works exposes the fragility of some features of our modern world. We
now have to take care not to run off the cliff with our new
No sooner do we develop the hardware to give the
globe a nervous system than we spoil it. One danger of AI tools is
that we become too dependent on them and give them more authority
than they warrant. Technological oracles give very accurate results
that we have no other way of getting. We get black box science.
Philosophers talk about the limits of comprehension.
The only way we can make progress is by division of labor and
specialization. Papers come out of CERN with 500 authors, not one of
whom understands the whole paper or the whole science behind it.
This is going to become more and more the meme. More and more, the
unit of comprehension is going to be group comprehension.
2017 Darwin Day
Life emerges naturally through the laws of
physics and information theory. Information is physical and
randomness is entropy. A demon using knowledge and intent to defy
the laws of thermodynamics pays a penalty because it cannot
have unlimited memory. When it clears its memory and erases
information, it dissipates energy and increases entropy.
Living organisms have collectively been avoiding equilibrium since
the origin of life. They harvest energy from their surroundings to
capture and store information. Their genes are instructions for
reaping negative entropy. An organism and its environment share
information that helps the organism stay out of equilibrium.
Life is a computation that aims to optimize the storage and use of
meaningful information. A lower limit on the energy used in
computation is set by the cost of forgetting. The efficiency of the
total computation done by a living cell is only a few times more
than the thermodynamic limit.
Complex systems can absorb and
dissipate energy in a fluctuating environment. As they do so, they
generate entropy and tend to settle into well adapted and highly
organized states. To use energy efficiently they can become
prediction machines. Storing information with no predictive value
has a cost, so they selectively harvest meaningful information.
Nonequilibrium systems maximize entropy. A system can maximize
entropy over a time window into the future by comparing paths and
taking the path of most entropy, with most options later. This drive
to preserve freedom of future action creates outcomes that suggest
AR This is the
— Buckingham Palace, 1941
One, 19 February, 9-10 pm, Ep 1/5
Nostalgia with a twist of "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet"
UK ranks 24th out
of 28 EU states
Marine Le Pen will
pull France out
of € if she
2017 February 12
White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon
referred to the Italian philosopher Julius Evola in a Vatican speech
Baron Giulio Cesare Andrea "Julius" Evola, who died
in 1974, wrote on everything from Eastern religions to sex to alchemy. But he is best known as a leading
proponent of Traditionalism.
Evola became a darling of
Italian Fascists, and later Italian terrorists called themselves
Children of the Sun after his vision of a Solar Civilization. He
also inspired the Greek party Golden Dawn and the Hungarian party
Evola caught on in the United States with alt-right
leaders, including US white supremacist Richard Spencer, who in the
days after the presidential election led a crowd in chants of "Hail
Born in 1898, Evola was a talented artist, who after
fighting in World War I became a leading Dadaist. This gave way to a
love for German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
The Revolt Against the Modern World cast materialism as eroding
ancient values and saw the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation,
the French Revolution, and humanism all as historical disasters that
took man further away from the perennial truth.
dictator Benito Mussolini really liked Evola's 1941 book on racial
doctrine. Evola eventually broke with the Italian Fascists because
he considered them too tame. He preferred the Nazi SS as closer to
his mythic ideal.
In his Vatican talk, Bannon also discussed
Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is influenced by Aleksandr
Dugin, a Russian Traditionalist who advocates
Eurasianism to defend Europeans from democracy, liberty, and
Bannon on Evola: "We, the Judeo-Christian West,
really have to look at what he's talking about as far as
2017 February 11
When I think of human flourishing, I think of
virtue. If you have a playful mind or a playful spirit, or you seek
truth, or pursue beauty, or fight for justice, or love another human
being, these are activities that line up with certain virtues.
If I learn mathematics and become a better thinker, I develop
perseverance and hopefulness. Some people experience transcendent
wonder at seeing something true about the universe, which is a
source of joy and flourishing.
When we talk about teaching
mathematics, sometimes we forget these larger virtues we are seeking
to cultivate in our students. We are really training habits of mind,
and those habits of mind allow people to flourish no matter what
profession they go into.
Connect with people in a deep way
and you will draw more people into mathematics. Being a
mathematician lets us see things more for what they are. Having a
mathematical background helps people to be less governed by their
Many of the people at research universities would
never consider taking students from an undergraduate college. They
miss a lot of talent.
US — China
US President Donald Trump had a long phone
call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi said adhering to the
one-China principle is the political cornerstone of China-US
relations. Trump now understands the importance of US adherence to
the one-China policy, and his administration will honor it.
The two leaders also agreed to cooperate in trade, investment, and
When two quantum particles interact
they can become entangled, with a single probability function
describing both particles together. If two entangled photons are
polarized in perpendicular directions, there is some probability
that photon A is vertically polarized and photon B is horizontally
polarized, and some chance of the opposite. However far apart they
are, measure photon A to be vertically polarized and you know photon
B is horizontally polarized.
In 1964, John Bell showed that
if particles have definite states even when no one is looking
(realism) and if no signal travels faster than light (locality),
then there is an upper limit to the amount of correlation between
the measured states of two particles. Experiments show that
entangled particles are more correlated than the Bell limit,
favoring quantum theory.
In a Bell test, entangled photons A
and B fly apart to remote optical modulators that either block or
pass photons, depending on the polarization angles. Bell assumed
that the modulator settings are independent of the states of the
photons. But if the modulators were not independent, this reduced
freedom could explain apparent entanglement.
measuring devices have two possible settings (say 1 or 0), so two
bits specify their settings when they are independent. In 2010,
Michael Hall showed that if only one bit does so once in every 22
runs, this halves the number of possible measurement settings
available in the 22 runs. This reduced freedom lets measurement
outcomes exceed the Bell limit.
In a cosmic Bell test
experiment, a team of researchers sent pairs of photons a long
distance into optical modulators and tallied coincident detections.
They attempted to maximize freedom by viewing a bright (but
otherwise random) star, and, before each measurement, using the
color of an incoming photon from the star to set the angle of a
modulator. The photon colors were decided long ago, when they left
The team found that the measurement outcomes
still exceeded the Bell limit. Nature would have had to restrict the
possible measurement settings at least 600 years before the
measurements occurred. Next, the team plans to use light from
distant quasars to push further back in time, but most scientists
bet on entanglement.
AR I do too.
In my view, measurement that breaks entanglement reflects popping
out of spacetime in a
mindworld jump. This is an epistemic leap forward to reflect an
ontic pop. The epistemo-ontic dialectic of successive temporal
popouts has a model in axiomatic set theory.
2017 February 10
Brexit Deckchairs, Trump Titanic
While Leavers and Remainers argue with
Lilliputian ferocity about hypothetical trading scenarios and
legislative technicalities and putative deals, the UK faces its
gravest national security threat since the second world war.
President Trump wants to bring about a Russian-American axis that
would enfeeble NATO, destroy the European Union, and dominate a
continent reduced to national fragments. He has instantly turned the
US into a rogue state.
His impulsive actions as president add
up to an agenda of unhinged belligerence and international
lawlessness. He has shrunk the executive branch of government into a
private dictatorial clique. He has excluded from his decision making
process all the officials who would ordinarily be consulted. He has
ridiculed countless respectable citizens.
Trumpism is a
lethal, highly infectious political disease. Fight it or succumb to
The Brexit referendum took place in a world that no
longer exists. Everybody assumed that the UK could negotiate its new
trade and security arrangements in a geopolitically stable world.
Everybody assumed the presence of a sane and friendly US president.
The new Brexit white paper cites the National Security Risk
Assessment of 2015: "Our democratic and inclusive values are the
foundation of our security and prosperity. We will continue to
uphold these values against those who are intent on undermining
To get the US trade deal that the UK needs, Theresa
May will be forced to align Britain geopolitically with Trump. She
will have to let Trumpism become the foundation of UK security.
If the UK rushes ahead with article 50 notification next month,
it will face a choice: either side with Europe in opposition to the
Trump-Putin axis but get no US trade deal or make that trade deal
but become a Trumpist American client state.
stand together against Trump. Brexit is deckchairs and Trump is
AR My cooler shrink-wrap
of a bravura source text. Audacious metaphor!
In 2010, Steve Bannon made the documentary
Generation Zero. From the text on the DVD case: "The current
economic crisis is not a failure of capitalism, but a failure of
Bannon says the culture wars and the financial
crisis both share the same villain: the bad values that supposedly
infected the 60s. That decade apparently introduced Americans to
irresponsibility and self-indulgence. Blame is offloaded from Wall
Street to the hippies.
Generation Zero is profoundly irresponsible. Once upon a time,
there was a dreadful decade, then four decades later a terrible
financial crisis, and the one somehow caused the other. Voiceover:
"In history, there are four turnings. The crisis. The high. The
awakening. The unravelling. History repeats itself. The untold story
about the financial meltdown."
The theory is ridiculous. But
it is a way to get casino capitalism out of the shadow for the
financial crisis and blame instead the forces the family values
crowd has been complaining about for years. Generation Zero connects
the dots by means of a vast looping diagram of fantastic confusion.
AR My view too (February 5).
2017 February 9
Alternative for Germany
Patriotism is based on having a healthy
attitude toward your own country and your own history. My parents
taught us to be critical. And being a scientist makes you very
critical because you have to analyze everything.
governments in the past have proven that the relationship to Israel
is very important. Israel has already experienced what Europe is
starting to experience now in terms of illegal migration and
terrorism. Germany and Israel have a special relationship.
We separate religion from the state in Europe. Islam has not
accepted that yet. In the Mideast, you even see a rollback to a
more conservative model of society where religion dominates public life. And that is something we seriously criticize,
because we see many of the migrants and asylum seekers coming to
Germany importing this model of society to Germany.
It is too
easy to compare what happened to Jews in Germany with our present
criticism of Islam. Muslims who have
lived in Germany for a long time and accept that their own religion
has problems belong to Germany. Without forgetting what happened to
the Jews, we are concerned about Muslims coming from Africa or the
Mideast, who do not even want to integrate or assimilate.
Someone asked thousands of Muslim immigrants to Europe for their
views on whether Sharia law or national legislation dominated how
they behave toward ethnic and religious minorities. Most of them
said that Sharia was more important to them than national
legislation. They also revealed very little tolerance for the Jews.
They arrive with attitudes that are so
alien to our common behavior and European attitudes that we have to
say there is a problem.
In many ways Islam is stuck in the
Middle Ages. Medieval views do not fit in a democratic context. Many
Jews in Israel are faced with this problem in everyday life. They
need not fear AfD. I understand the sensitivity in the
Jewish community on these questions.
Hot Chips on Venus
Venus has a surface temperature of 750
K and an atmospheric pressure of 9 MPa — and boiling sulfuric acid
rain. This is hard on normal digital computers. But electronics
based on silicon carbide (SiC) can take it. NASA crafted a chip and
ran it in a test rig at 1.26 MHz for almost 2 Ms:
further technology maturation, such SiC IC electronics could
drastically improve Venus lander designs and mission concepts,
fundamentally enabling long-duration enhanced missions to the
surface of Venus."
AR I still
fancy living in a sunlit city floating above the Venusian clouds (blog
The House of Commons has approved the EU (now) bill
and passed it to the Lords for further debate. If all goes to plan,
Theresa May will be able to pull the trigger in March.
AR Then bang — game over.
2017 February 8
US v Rising Reds
The ambition and activism of Russia and
China are rising as the confidence and capacity of the United States
declines. As they cross, we will see the existing order collapse and
the world descend into a phase of brutal anarchy. The cost of that
descent will be staggering.
check on Chinese and Russian ambitions has been the military and
economic power of the United States and its allies. For decades,
this global dominance has discouraged any serious challenge. Chinese
and Russian leaders feared that aggressive moves would backfire.
In recent years, the democratic order has weakened and fractured
at its core. Difficult economic conditions, the recrudescence of
nationalism and tribalism, weak and uncertain political leadership,
and new media have together produced a crisis of confidence in the
Whether the United States is willing to
continue upholding the strategic order has been in doubt for some
time. American patience with the difficulties and costs of playing
that global role have worn thin. The weakness and withdrawal
encourage a bolder stance by the dissatisfied powers.
powers produce the insecurity they claim to want to redress. The
United States cannot and should not prevent China from being an
economic powerhouse, nor should it wish for the collapse of Russia.
As for military and strategic competition, security comes first.
AR My guess — US will squander its
strength against Iran.
UK v Five Facts
HM Government white paper:
"Whilst Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership
of the EU, it has not always felt like that."
The UK parliament has always been
sovereign. Its ability to trigger Brexit proves it. Yet, driven by
the presumed will of the people, HMG plans to leave the single
market and the customs union.
Article 50 states that the EU treaties shall cease to apply two
years after the notification. The European Council can extend this
period but the chances are slim. Businesses will need clarity well
before the end, so UK leverage will rapidly dwindle.
battle plan survives contact with the enemy. The UK team is negotiating
with the European Commission, 27 member states, and the European
Parliament. They feel no urgent need to reach an agreement.
The European Commission wants to start with the terms of the divorce
before starting talks on a future framework and a transition. The UK
team says nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Disagreement can halt progress.
4 The commission calculates
that Britain owes €60 billion. This demand could prove to be the
decisive stumbling block.
5 The divorce will cover
outstanding commitments, civil rights and housekeeping issues,
complex trading arrangements, and perhaps sectoral customs unions
and "enhanced equivalence" for finance. The complexity could prove
The path on which the UK is launched is deeply
against its interests.
government admits the sovereignty argument for Brexit is invalid. Parliamentarians
failed yesterday to deplore the push for Brexit in view of this
admission during the second reading of the EU Notification of
THAAD — Terminal High Altitude Area
Defense — is a Missile Defense Agency (MDA) ABM system designed to
SRBM/MRBM/IRBM in their terminal phase using a kinetic
interceptor. Prime contractor:
AR China and Russia released a joint statement in January
opposing plans to deploy THAAD —
German humor is alive
and funny. Stay cool during
the great bulk is in English.
to be second?
Arabella sings a song for
Come back Obama!
Obama as Prez
UK parliament gives
Theresa May OK to
The United Kingdom's exit
from and new
with the European Union
PDF: 77 pages, 1.7 MB
US Grand Strategy
in the Trump Era
Colin Kahl, Hal Brands
God and war — a gory story
AR When will we ever learn?
2017 February 7
Trump as Antichine
Since January 20, Trump has hit out on
different fronts. He has lashed out at Germany, Japan and Mexico and
issued a ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries,
but he is clear that China will certainly take retaliatory measures
against his provocations. Hitting out against China will be a risky
move, for which Trump needs to find a good reason and be certain
about the benefits.
Will be suicidal for his historical
Trump as Thor
The New York Times
The Doomsday Clock stands at 150
seconds before midnight — the closest since 1953 after the United
States and Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs.
has spoken about nuking terrorists and expanding US nuclear
capabilities. He wants to keep other nations on edge about whether
he will go nuclear. Republican and Democratic presidents have long
sought to ensure that these weapons are not used lightly.
Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu propose
legislation to prohibit any president from launching a first-strike
nuclear weapon without a declaration of war from Congress. The bill
would not undercut the president's ability to respond on his own
authority to a nuclear attack.
A Pentagon board recently
proposed that the United States consider building more lower-yield
nuclear weapons to provide an option for limited use in a regional
conflict. The only legitimate role for nuclear weapons is
deterrence. The absurd notion of a limited nuclear war needs to be
Trump commands about 4,000 nukes that he alone is
empowered to launch. Any decision to do so would have to be made
quickly. The president has yet to put together a nuclear strategy
and has shown a troubling propensity to discount or reject expert
Trump has assumed office at a difficult time, a time
for restraint and careful deliberation. Nuclear weapons are too
dangerous to be brandished as a cudgel.
AR POTUS tweets while world burns.
Trump as Nero
The United States president is becoming
a danger to the world.
Germany must stand up in opposition to
POTUS 45 and his administration. Americans gave us our liberal
democracy, but we will now have to build an alliance against Donald
The president of the United States is a liar and a
racist. He is attempting a coup from the top. He fired an attorney
general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of
betrayal. This is the way of the tyrant.
Donald Trump and
Stephen Bannon hold science and education in contempt. We need
organizations like the UN, the WTO, the IPCC, NATO, and the EU.
Bannon wants to wipe them away.
President Trump fuses public
concerns with nationalism and xenophobia. Demagogues work that way.
The fact that he is calling for "America first" and trying to force
the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd.
The German economy is a target of American trade policy and
German democracy is antithetical to nationalism. It is high time to
stand up for democracy, freedom, and western alliances.
Europe must start planning its political and economic defenses.
AR Germans are sensitive to echoes
2017 February 6
Bump and Trexit
You cannot put new trading barriers between
yourself and the giant free trade area upon which we have been
dependent for the past 30 years without making yourself poorer. I
think Brexit will make us poorer. If it turns out to be at some
enormous cost and it brings an end to international investment in
quite a lot of sectors of the economy, then it could be a disaster.
Every US president until the present one has found us more
valuable because we are the leading bridge into the EU. We carry
clout because we are one of the two or three big members of the EU.
We are giving all that up as well. We are a trading nation and we
have political interests in all parts of the world, where we will
find our voice and our clout substantially diminished.
government have got this slogan about a global Britain and want to
illustrate this by having good photo opportunities with leading
figures around the world. So I suppose they thought it was quite a
political coup to finally land this first meeting with Donald Trump.
But we happen to have a rather unpleasant and highly unpredictable
American president. Perhaps he wants to have a trade deal with us
while he's busy repudiating deals with everybody else but I don't
I have never seen anything as mad or chaotic as
During the EZ crisis, Germany insisted
on fiscal austerity for the bloc as a whole. It also gave itself a
constitutional balanced budget rule. This stops the German public
sector from running a deficit that could offset the surplus of the
private sector. The German structural surplus grows from tough
fiscal rules and a weak currency.
US NTC head Peter Navarro:
"The German structural imbalance in trade with the rest of the EU
and the US underscores the economic heterogeneity within the EU."
AR The € would be stronger if UK
rode EZ too.
2017 February 5
A City on a Hill
America, born with the aspiration of
becoming a city on a hill, is in danger of becoming a fortress.
America is witnessing a new wave of nativist populism claiming to
have the solutions for fighting Islamist extremists who claim to
offer an alternative to globalization and American hegemony.
Trump aims to defeat radical Islamists. In fact, the incompetent
text of his executive order and the ethnocentric texture of the
narrative that has accompanied it are bound to fail at achieving
this objective. The ban not only weakens moderates in the Muslim
world, but also gives a huge propaganda victory to radical
Only an America that is open, free, and true to
its values can summon the understanding, forge the alliances, and
win the broad cooperation necessary to defeat radical Islamist
extremism. Only an America that welcomes immigrants and refugees
will continue to innovate and prosper.
AR If Salt Lake City is a Mormon Masada, the rest is toast.
White House chief strategist Stephen
Bannon negotiated a seat for himself on the National Security
Council. Donald Trump is not one to cede authority, but after the
first days at 1600 Pennsylvania, as one veteran Republican said,
"It's already over, and Bannon won."
Bannon noted repeatedly
on his radio show that "we're at war" with radical jihadis around
the world. This is "a global existential war" that likely will
become "a major shooting war" in the Mideast.
Born in 1953,
Bannon came from a blue collar, Irish-Catholic family of Democrats.
In the US Navy he earned a master's degree in national security
studies from Georgetown, followed by an MBA from Harvard. From there
he went to Goldman Sachs, then left to run his own firm in
Bannon was captivated by
The Fourth Turning, by William Strauss and Neil Howe, and made a
film based on it,
Generation Zero (2010, 2:02:35).
Bannon took command at
Breitbart in 2012 and made it a home for the alt right: "Our big
belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is
that we're at war."
Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro: "He
regularly abuses people. He sees everything as a war. Every time he
feels crossed, he makes it his business to destroy his opponent."
AR Generation Zero is terrible,
dump-quality war porn.
2017 February 4
President Trump's first fortnight in the White House has pleased
the voters who put him there:
● "He's been outstanding" — Fred
● "I feel safer" — Sally Armstrong
● "He's done what he
promised" — Ron Syme
Pollster Tony Fabrizio: "The average
American is tired of America being taken advantage of."
Trump has already blown it
Stephen M. Walt
Trump has squandered a genuine
opportunity to put American foreign policy on a more solid footing
and has managed to unite and empower opposition at home and abroad.
Trump picked several fights with China while undercutting the US
position in Asia, badgered Australian Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull in an acrimonious phone call, picked another pointless
fight with Mexico, announced an unlawful ban on Muslim immigrants,
and shut the door on hundreds of extensively vetted refugees on
Holocaust Remembrance Day — and then deliberately excluded any
mention of Jews from the official statement on the day itself.
Meanwhile, he is openly flirting with a trade war that would
damage the entire world economy and continuing to destabilize
relations with America's closest allies.
Kanzlerin Angela Merkel in
Malta: "Wir haben es als EU der 27 in der Hand, wie stark, wie gut,
wie schnell, wie präzise Europa ist und wie wir unsere Probleme
Trump beschert Merkel in der Flüchtlingskrise ein
doppeltes Problem: Seine Politik beflügelt Europas Rechtspopulisten.
Doch in der Flüchtlingspolitik ist die EU näher an Trump, als manche
es wahrhaben wollen. Denn ähnlich wie der US-Präsident hat auch die
EU nun beschlossen, an ihrer Südgrenze eine Mauer hochzuziehen — aus
Sicherheitskräften, Auffanglagern und Küstenwachbooten.
AR EU builds southern border "wall"
with security forces, collection camps, and coastguard boats.
Consider the facts:
● Trump intends to do
everything he said during the campaign, and more.
● The regime's main
organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to
inner circle. Departments are being
reorganized or purged to effect this.
● The inner circle is actively
probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power.
● Crushing various groups are
primary aims of the regime, and are likely to be acted on with
greater speed than was earlier suspected.
Things can go wrong
AR Some Jewish paranoia there, but the
echoes of 1933 are serious and chilling. Houston —
we have a problem!
2017 February 3
A Dark View of Islam
The New York Times
President Trump has unveiled a dark
vision of an America under siege by radical Islam. His suspicious
view of Islam borrows from the clash of civilizations thesis of
Samuel Huntington. Rejected by most serious scholars of religion and
shunned by US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, this dark
view of Islam has flourished on the fringes of the American right.
White House Islam critic Steve Bannon says the Judeo-Christian
West is at war with Islam: "There is a major war brewing, a war
that's already global. Every day that we refuse to look at this as
what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it,
will be a day where you will rue that we didn't act ... To be
brutally frank, Christianity is dying in Europe and Islam is on the
AR This crusade against
Islam is as ill-starred as the Nazi crusade against Communism.
Lacking is due appreciation of the inner integrity of the opponent.
A Dark View of Politics
The New York Times
Donald Trump named Stephen Bannon to
the NSC principals committee and downgraded the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence. The
chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national
intelligence will in future attend the principals committee meetings
only where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise
Trump has no grounding in national security
decision making, no sophistication in governance, and little
apparent grasp of how to lead a great diverse nation. Bannon has
positioned himself as a trusted aide, shutting out other voices that
might offer alternative views. Trump's first spasms of policy making
supply ample evidence that he needs advisers who can think
AR Trump is a weak
man if he cannot take moral guidance from Obama.
A New View of Computing
W. K. Hensinger et al.
A large quantum computer may best
be constructed using a modular approach. A trapped ion based
scalable quantum computer module could be based on microwave quantum
gates constructed using silicon fabrication techniques. A proposed
design makes use of ion transport between modules. An error
correction code can be implemented in the architecture and the
modules could be used in alternative architectures.
AR This is a good step forward.
2017 February 2
Quantum theory treats forces as coming
in quanta, but general relativity treats gravity as a smooth and
continuous force. All efforts to quantize gravity have so far
Juan Maldacena showed that, for a given volume of
spacetime, a string theory describing gravity inside can be
mathematically equivalent to a set of quantum equations describing
the boundary of the volume without gravity. Maldacena duality hinted
at a connection between general relativity and quantum mechanics.
Mark Van Raamsdonk looked at how the size of wormholes between
two black holes reflects the entanglement of the black holes, as
seen from the outside. He found that changing the amount of
entanglement between the black holes changed the width of the
wormhole, as if entanglement could create spacetime.
Susskind thinks spacetime in general is created by entanglement, but
complexity is an issue. Quantum systems can be in a superposition of
many states, and complexity grows exponentially with the number of
states. The growth of black hole quantum complexity might be
connected to the growth of spacetime inside them.
Carroll and his team looked at Hilbert spaces. A Hilbert space
represents all the possible states of a quantum system. Any Hilbert
space can be broken into smaller such spaces. Carroll worked out the
entanglement between the smaller constituent spaces. His team drew
graphs in which the more entangled the parts, the closer they are
together, and found some graphs for which moving from one position
to another was relatively smooth, suggesting the smooth geometry of
space could emerge from a quantum basis.
generalized Maldacena duality from anti-de Sitter space, which has a
well defined boundary and volume, to our spacetime by seeing our
cosmic horizon as a boundary. He showed how spacetime and gravity
can emerge from entanglement and explain away dark energy.
Entanglement is information: the greater the entanglement between
two systems, the more information they share. Quantum information
underlying spacetime is not of or about anything. Qubits might be
the foundation of real reality.
Continuing my own speculation (blog January 7), our growing
spacetime bubble has a Maldacena boundary that we picture as a
transparent threshold into a potentially infinite further spacetime. We
can also see it as a firewall to uncountably many entangled qubits. With duality my bubble idea becomes a fruitful image rather
than an odd fantasy.
2017 February 1
US v China
China remains far less powerful than the
United States. But it has come a long way. Its economic progress and
its ambitions, plus the size of its population, mean that China has
become the only other potential global superpower.
Donald Trump pulled the United States out
of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The pact was always more about
geopolitics than economics. Much of the Pacific Rim, including
Australia, Vietnam and Malaysia, welcomed it as a way to offset
Chinese power in Asia.
China is now trying to put together a
different trade pact with some of the same countries. If China
succeeds, it will gain more sway in Asia. Beijing will be able to
say the United States has only a transactional interest in Asia.
AR Scrapping TPP — US own goal.
Tusk v Trump
European Council President Donald Tusk warns
that "worrying declarations" from US President Donald Trump
challenge the EU.
In a letter to EU-27 leaders, Tusk said the
new US administration was part of an external threat that also
included an assertive China, an aggressive Russia, and radical
Tusk: "We cannot surrender to those who want to weaken
or invalidate the Transatlantic bond, without which global order and
peace cannot survive. We should remind our American friends of their
own motto: United we stand, divided we fall."
AR US v EU — a tale of two Donalds.
Bannon v National Security
President Trump has appointed Stephen
Bannon to the National Security Council. Bannon served seven years in the US Navy
several decades ago and made his name in the private sector,
Hollywood, and politics. He is obsessed with military history
and the art of war.
A former Hollywood associate: "He
constantly used military terms ... always spoke in terms of
aggression. It was always on-the-attack, double down ... macho
Bannon: "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and
that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and
destroy all of today's establishment."
Hollywood writing partner and former
close friend Julia Jones: "Steve is a strong militarist, he's in
love with war — it's almost poetry to him. He's studied it down
through the ages, from Greece, through Rome ... every battle, every
war ... Never back down, never apologize, never show weakness ...
He talked a lot about Sparta — how Sparta defeated Athens, he loved
Bannon for NSC?
The National Security Council is a
Cabinet-level group of agencies focused on national security that
was established by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.
Former acting CIA chief
Michael Morell: "Having somebody like Bannon in the room brings
politics into a room where there should be no politics."
Senator Bernie Sanders: "Steve Bannon sitting on the National
Security Council is dangerous and unprecedented. He must be
Senator John McCain: "I am worried about the
National Security Council ... The appointment of Mr. Bannon is
... a radical departure from any National Security
Council in history."
AR Bannon —
the hammer for Trump's Thor.
USN photo # N-1841C-042
Ohio-class boomer USS Georgia
(commissioned as SSBN-729 in 1984, redesignated to SSGN-729 in 2004).
Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines are set to replace them
This is not what greatness
The world rejects your fear,
As citizens of the world,
we stand united
your brand of division.
More than 18,000 scientists
including 50 Nobel prizewinners
and 82 other awardees have
petition and the
AAAS and the
against the ban
Charles stay cool when
Trump visits Queen?
US bans Iran citizens
bans US citizens
Theresa May and Donald Trump
renew US-UK marriage vows
The probability of global
catastrophe is very high, and
the actions needed to reduce
risks of disaster must
be taken very soon.
2016 marks three
years of record warmth
for the globe
Trump is emotionally invested
in Brexit. He feels
that it and
his own victory are part of the
same movement. He wants
to get personally involved in
negotiating a trade deal
with the UK.
critical of NATO
and wants better
with Russia. He acts like he
wants the EU to fall apart.
His hostility rattles
Credit: Kevin Dietsch
Churchill bust returns
to the Oval Office
2017 January 31
Donald Trump seems to offer Britain an
exciting escape route from Europe. The UK can leap off the rotting
raft of the EU and onto the gleaming battleship HMS Anglosphere.
Wrong. The election of Trump transforms Brexit
from a risk into a disaster:
Theresa May forged a special relationship last Friday based on US-UK
values. But on Saturday Trump dropped his "Muslim ban" bomb.
● May wants the UK to champion global free trade. But Trump is the
most protectionist US president since Hoover and could soon start
slapping big tariffs on foreign goods.
● May is a firm believer in the importance of
NATO and the UN. But Trump has twice called NATO obsolete and is
threatening to slash US funding of the UN.
● May say Britain
wants to work with a strong EU. But Trump is openly contemptuous of
the EU and his aides have speculated that it might break up.
May sees an increased threat from a resurgent Russia. But Trump is
already flirting with lifting sanctions.
UK foreign minister
Boris Johnson talks up the prospects of a trade deal with Trump. Yet
only a few months ago Boris was saying Trump was "clearly out of his
mind" and betrayed a "stupefying ignorance" of the world.
strong UK in the EU would keep its distance from Trump. Britain
could defend free trade with the EU bulk behind it. Brexit Britain
has embraced a US president Boris once called a madman.
AR Brexit Britain — not the EU bulldog
but the US poodle.
The "Muslim Ban"
President Trump has had a busy first week in
office. Christian fundamentalism has become the least of our
concerns. Our democracy has been engulfed by a hurricane of lies.
● I think Trump's "Muslim ban" is unethical toward
refugees and doomed to be ineffective in stopping the spread of
● Most of the opposition to his order is
contaminated by identity politics and liberal delusion. The
opponents continue to lie about the problem of Islamism.
One can speak about the ideological roots of Islamism and jihadism
and about the need for reform in Islam without lapsing into bigotry
or disregarding the suffering of refugees.
● If liberals who
refuse to speak honestly on these topics continue to march with
Islamists, denigrate free speech, and oppose the work of reformers
in the Muslim community, they will only further provoke and empower
The next acts of jihadist terrorism in America will
most likely be met with terrifying countermeasures by the Trump
administration. If liberals continue to lie about the causes of
terrorism and lock arms with Islamists, we have some rough times
We need to defend secularism, science, and free speech
against their enemies. We must choose between civilization or chaos.
AR Trump — the anti-Islamist golem.
2017 January 30
The Germans are ready to take on more
responsibility worldwide. With the Federal Republic, they have
created a thoroughly civilized state. This fact gives
The German interest in Europe is to shape it
in a way that corresponds to its own goals, and to equip what
remains of it politically, economically, and militarily so that it
is not controlled by foreign powers. This in turn requires resolute
Europe needs to be led by a state that is first
among equals, strong, secure, firmly western, and aware of its own
limits. Germany can be first only in partnership with allies.
AR The German original text was long
Trump Economic Plan
Peter Navarro, Wilbur Ross
Donald Trump's economic plan
proposes tax cuts, reduced regulation, lower energy costs, and
eliminating the chronic US trade deficit. His goal is to increase US
real GDP growth rate and create millions of additional new jobs and
trillions of dollars of additional income and tax revenues.
We provide a transparent scoring of the Trump economic plan in the
areas of trade, regulatory, and energy policy reforms based on
conservative assumptions. Along with tax reform, these areas
represent the four main points of the Trump policy compass. Each
works with the others and in conjunction with proposed spending
Our analysis indicates that the Trump trade,
regulatory, and energy policy reforms would collectively increase
Federal tax revenues by $2.4 trillion. In a separate analysis, the
Tax Foundation has reported a dynamically scored $2.6 trillion
revenue reduction from the Trump tax cuts assuming guardrails to
The Trump economic plan is fiscally
conservative. When properly scored, it approaches revenue neutrality
and, with proposed budget savings are taken into account, it
achieves revenue neutrality. The challenge is to fix the underlying
structural problems facing the US economy.
AR The plan might rely on a few
2017 January 29
The New York Times
Donald Trump talked for an hour with
Vladimir Putin and vowed to repair US-Russian relations.
White House: "Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful
that after today's call, the two sides can move quickly to tackle
terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern."
Kremlin: "Donald Trump asked to convey a desire for happiness and
prosperity for the Russian people, noting that the people in America
relate with sympathy to Russia and its citizens."
Der neue US-Präsident wird Deutschland spüren
lassen, dass die NATO mehr Geld und Einsatz im Kampf gegen Daesh
erwartet. Im Bundeshaushalt werden Milliarden-Verschiebungen
Die beiden Politiker verständigten sich in dem
Telefonat auch auf eine enge Zusammenarbeit gegen den Terrorismus —
trotz Merkels Kritik an dem neuen US-Einreiseverbot.
Dutch Boy Wonder
Dutch Forum for Democracy party leader and former
university professor Thierry Baudet, 34, shares with Geert "Dutch
Trump" Wilders a desire to lead Holland out of the EU as the only
way to win back control over its borders.
Baudet: "The forces
that produced Brexit in Britain and the election of Donald Trump in
America are being unleashed in Holland as well."
AR Baudet is a
friend of Sir Roger Scruton.
I Am American
When I was 7, my family fled a violent
revolution in Iran. We arrived in the United States with nothing but
a suitcase each. We chose America.
Donald Trump has signed an
executive order that effectively bars citizens of a number of Muslim
countries including Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Syria from
entering the United States. This follows his promise to ban all
No president has ever attempted to
implement a religious test on migration for the simple reason that a
ban based on religion violates the establishment clause of
Constitution. But that is what Trump is planning on doing. His
executive order is a Muslim ban by another name.
the restrictions focus on countries whose migrants could pose a
threat to Americans. But then it should restrict citizens from Saudi
Arabia. This executive order is an assault on the civil rights of
Muslim citizens in the United States.
I am an American. If
the President of the United States can threaten my rights as a
citizen, then he can do the same for any one of us.
AR Aslan is the author of
The Trump Inauguration
You know you're going to see the Trump
inauguration a thousand times, in documentaries, for the rest of
your life. But you don't know how it will be remembered.
voice-over will tell the story of what happened next, after this
angry man walked on to the stage — fist aloft, under a low grey sky,
to the half-empty Mall — and made his vows.
It looked like
the end. America is suddenly the kind of country that tells crazy
lies. In his dark, angry speech — carnage, tombstones, bleeding —
Trump did not herald a new era.
The future voice-overs will
tell us he is the impossible president. Impossible things tend not
to last very long. They are mutated ends — not beginnings.
2017 January 28
Eclipse of the West
Before Donald Trump, Washington insiders
believed that America was the indispensable nation. The cost of US
hegemony was an issue during the primaries. Republican foreign
policy experts were alarmed by the prospect of a Trump presidency.
The crisis of the West has been tied to repeated failures in
foreign policy. In this century, the limits of Western power have
been illustrated time and again, nowhere more so than in the
Mideast. There has been a loss of appetite for lengthy and
complicated foreign entanglements.
The Western way of war has
become discredited. The fashion for counterinsurgency partly grew
out of a desire to evolve towards a more sophisticated and more
politically palatable use of force. Even when it works, the
political and financial costs of such lengthy campaigns are
Blessed with decades of relative security, we
have lost the custom of thinking strategically. Having enjoyed a
preponderance of force and wealth, we have failed to grasp the
changes in international affairs. Behind all of this is a loss of
confidence in the merits of Western civilization.
carved out a privileged place for itselfin the slipstream of US
foreign policy. Its greatest strategic nightmare has been the
prospect of an American retreat from its global responsibilities.
A rebalancing of the international system is about to begin.
The America of today has lost faith in its
own superiority. It has become a regressive country that is turning
its back on the world. From Alabama to Alaska, you will find that
the American Dream has been lost.
American streets are full
of holes, US airports look old, and falling trees regularly cause
power outages. Over the last 30 years, mainstream politicians have
worked tirelessly to destroy the state, which they see as a form of
imposed socialist administration. They have made America weak.
A new understanding of the state is long overdue in America. In
a globalized world the protective identity of a state is necessary.
Donald Trump is one of the few conservatives to have recognized
Create Defense Union
EU military spending is the second highest in
the world, at roughly half that of the United States, but the
spending is inefficient. A more secure European Union can only be
created if we act together by:
Building partnerships, promoting reconciliation, and strengthening
resilience, in order to react more quickly, coordinate our civilian
and military missions better, and use our financial resources more
2 Cooperating more
closely with our most important security partners and with NATO;
3 Investing in the expansion of
research and other capacities to exploit the internal market for
defense procurement, where lack of cooperation between member states
costs an estimated €100 billion annually.
We should develop
the EU into a real defensive organization.
AR Without duplicating or bypassing
NATO, we trust.
2017 January 27
The entire senior level of US State
Department management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an
ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers. Outgoing
State Department chief of staff David Wade: "It's the single biggest
simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can
remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate. Department
expertise in security, management, administrative and consular
positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and
particularly difficult to find in the private sector."
"Donald Trump has sounded the retreat. Whether under his America
First view, his willingness to let other powers take the lead, his
distrust of international institutions, or pure ignorance, he has
ushered in a blight befalling the world as a consequence of
mean-spirited, ill-considered, short-sighted US foreign policy."
UK to US: Resist Eclipse of the West
The days when the UK and US invaded
countries to engage in nation building are over. In a foreign policy
speech to congressional Republicans in Philadelphia, Theresa May
said the decline of the West was not inevitable: "We — our two
countries together — have a joint responsibility to lead. Because
when others step up as we step back, it is bad for America, for
Britain and the world."
Beware of the Donald
Voice of the Mirror
Theresa May needs to be on her guard
today as the first world leader to meet Donald Trump in Washington.
She needs to tread a fine line between maintaining our relationship
with an ally and establishing lines of communication with a volatile
Trump, while staying true to British values of fairness and decency.
2017 January 26
Australia Day marks the arrival of the First Fleet
into Sydney Cove in 1788, a date mourned by many indigenous people.
Indigenous Advisory Council chairman Warren Mundine: "We see it
as Invasion Day. The 26th of January is the day that the British
came to invade, which led to massacres, the loss of land and the
destruction of Aboriginal societies."
Royal Navy Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Britain
in 1770. I am descended from him on my mother's side.
The America First Committee was founded in
1940. The five young men behind it built a movement more than
850,000 strong, with branches all over the country. The movement
made life hard for President Franklin Roosevelt until the Pearl
Harbor attack put an end to it.
The man who revived it was
Pat Buchanan, former adviser to Presidents Nixon and Reagan. In
1992, he launched his own protectionist, isolationist, moralist
version of America First and sought the Republican nomination as
presidential candidate but was rejected.
In 2000, Buchanan
ran for the Reform Party. Donald Trump had also sought the
nomination, but he quit the party over Buchanan: "He's a
Hitler-lover; I guess he is an antisemite. He doesn't like the
blacks, he doesn't like the gays ... That's not company I want to
The original America First campaigners said America
cannot be the world's policeman. Trump on Inauguration Day 2017:
"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this
day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first."
AR Women and children first (when
the ship goes down)
2017 January 25
Mind and World
An Edge Conversation
David Chalmers —
intelligence is an artificial mind. Virtual reality is an artificial
world. Thinking about AI and VR can shed light on deep philosophical
Virtual reality is a technology for creating and
interacting with artificial worlds. When one inhabits a virtual
reality one is interacting with a genuine digital reality. We
perceive virtual objects, and those objects really exist.
it turns out we are living in a digital virtual reality, we should
not say that none of the stuff around us exists. We should say we
are living in a world where everything is grounded in information.
The hypothesis that physics might be grounded in the interplay of
information does not make reality some kind of illusion.
Virtual objects have certain possibilities for motion and
interaction, and this grounds a sort of space that they inhabit.
This is not the same as nonvirtual space, but it is a genuine sort
of space. What matters for a physical world is the pattern of
You can see the hypothesis that we live in a
simulation as a version of the multiverse idea. Our universe would
be a local universe that is a simulation, and perhaps its creator
made other simulations with different parameters to watch them run
and see what happens. Some people have even proposed that we should
be forming religions around the idea that our simulator is our god.
Augmented reality technology lets you see not only the
physical world, but also virtual objects and entities that you
perceive in the middle of them. Everything is going to be in our
AR glasses, and AI will start to become an
extension of my mind. This mixing of the natural, the physical, and
the artificial both on the side of the mind and on the side of the
world is in our future.
Sean Carroll —
A virtual world is just as real as a physical world. Virtual
worlds are simply different ways of organizing and talking about the
world. Modern physics helps underwrite this view.
mechanics, the world is described by a quantum state. Anything above
and beyond that is just a convenient way of talking, an emergent
approximation applicable in a certain regime. A single quantum state
may be interpreted as representing very different things.
Informatic concepts bring the world to life. Perhaps spacetime
emerges out of the mutual information and entanglement between
different quantum degrees of freedom. Information is physical.
Thomas Metzinger —
four central conditions for any artificial system to become capable
of suffering are consciousness, a self-model, negative subjective
preferences, and transparency. Synthetic phenomenology may sound
like a long shot today, but so did synthetic biology two decades
Avatars will become more and more intelligent. We will
soon use them as flexible anthropomorphic interfaces to communicate
with AI systems. When AI becomes integrated with VR, avatars will
become like models of selves.
On avatars, see chapter 0000 of my 2010 book
G.O.D. Is Great. On AR
glasses, see chapter 0001. On VR, see chapters 0010 and 1011. The
book has 16 chapters, from 0000 to 1111, and I gave David and Thomas
copies in 2010.
2017 January 24
The Battle for Europe
Donald Trump wants to divide and conquer the
European Union for America. His only goal is US profitability, and
he sees global trade as a brutal fight for survival. Emissaries from
Berlin are trying to build contacts with his team.
In a March
1990 Playboy magazine interview Trump cited Japan and West Germany:
"Their products are better because they have so much subsidy ... Our
'allies' are making billions screwing us ... I'd throw a tax on
every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese
The Trump team looked at statistics showing which
countries export more to the US than they import. In first place is
China, followed by Japan and then Germany. Trump sees the EU as an
alliance aimed at weakening the US economy.
The United States
is the biggest export market for Germany. In 2015, Germany delivered
goods worth €114 billion to the US, whereas the US only exported
goods worth around €60 billion to Germany. Worldwide, German goods
exports came to €1.2 trillion but imports to €1 trillion.
German carmakers built factories in America. BMW, Daimler Benz, and
Volkswagen did so in US states, then Mexico lured them south with
low wages and free access to the US market by way of NAFTA. Now
Audi, BMW, Daimler Benz, and Volkswagen makes vehicles in Mexico.
Angela Merkel desperately needs a plan for how to react to the
Trump presidency. German export strength is key to the EZ economy,
but it is also a target for US protectionist rhetoric. Germans need
to stand up to Trump.
2017 January 23
The Origin of Life
Scientists in Germany have discovered
how liquid droplets may have evolved into living cells. David
Zwicker and collaborators in Dresden studied chemically active
droplets and discovered that they tend to grow to some size and
divide, just like living cells.
The researchers are now
studying the growth and division of active droplets made of
synthetic polymers modeled after the droplets found in living cells.
After that, they hope to observe biological droplets dividing in the
Zwicker modeled centrosomes as chemically active
droplets, continuously cycling constituent proteins into and out of
the surrounding liquid cytoplasm. This chemical flux balances when
an active droplet reaches some volume, and the droplet stops
growing. Typical droplets grow to that size, elongate and pinch in
at the middle, and split into a pair of droplets, which then grow to
the same size.
Protocell droplets could have acquired
membranes. Droplets naturally collect crusts of lipids at their
interface with the surrounding liquid, and the crusts could evolve
into membranes. A stroke of luck formed the first droplet.
AR This is another welcome but small
step in filling out the story.
Hard Brexit Could Damage EU
Brexit could end up permanently damaging
the EU. Three effects of a sudden
1 The eurozone
remains dependent on the City of London for financial services.
There would be a bigger risk of a financial crisis in the EU than in
the UK. There is a potential for blackmail here.
2 Britain has a smaller weight in
EZ trade than the eurozone has in UK trade. But manufacturing supply
chains work in both directions. A sudden break could disrupt
The UK is a member of the UN Security Council, the G20, and the G7.
If EU countries want to fight tax avoidance by multinational
companies, manage globalization in a fairer way, reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, or come up with policies to combat terrorism, they
will need the UK.
A hard Brexit would push Britain toward
becoming another tax haven — a threat to the
AR Hard Brexit would be a
declaration of economic war. Mutual assured destruction could
2017 January 22
UK Nuke Malfunction
The UK government covered up a nuclear deterrent malfunction in
June last year during a Trident II D5 missile test launch from the
Royal Navy submarine HMS Vengeance at sea off Florida.
cause of the failure remains top secret but the missile apparently
shot off in the wrong direction toward America after launch.
A source: "Downing Street decided to cover up the failed test. If
the information was made public, they knew how damaging it would be
to the credibility of our nuclear deterrent."
expert said that if the launch had not been a test and the missile
had been armed, the result could have been "collateral damage on
AR Imagine the
headline — "Awfully sorry! We seem to have nuked Washington"
Donald Trump ist vereidigt,
Amerika zieht sich auf sich selbst zurück:
First = Everybody else last
ist, dass die Deutschen diesen "wake-up call" ernst nehmen und sich
die große Koalition in Berlin schnell erholen.
AR Deutschland, Frankreich und
Großbritannien sollten alle militärisch aufwachen.
2017 January 21
US Foreign Policy
Jessica T. Mathews
Donald Trump has taken all previous US
foreign policy and thrown it out the window.
His national security adviser Michael Flynn says the United States
is facing an "international alliance of evil countries and movements
that is working to destroy us" and it must "energize every element
of national power in a cohesive synchronized manner — similar to the
effort during World War II" to fight this new global war.
Flynn says the goal of US policy should be regime change in Iran. He
says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought in a "half-assed"
manner with "token" forces and without the resolution "to crush our
enemies" in the war against radical Islam.
University professor of strategic studies Eliot Cohen cites the
Ledeen Doctrine: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to
pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the
wall, just to show the world we mean business."
recovery of American credibility "will probably occur only when the
United States actually does something to someone — wiping out a
flotilla of Iranian gunboats," for example. He was among the first
to advocate invading Iraq and Iran as part of
World War IV: "The
heart of Iran's emerging military potential lies in its nuclear
Cohen believes China is America's greatest threat.
He sees a Chinese desire to establish hegemony in east Asia and
calls Chinese actions in the South and East China Seas a potential
trigger of global war. He argues for a substantially larger US
Trump thinks America does too much in the world and
cares too much about others. He thinks money spent to strengthen
other nations is wasted. Some of this is surely posturing.
AR Even as posturing it looks bad.
Credit: Toby Melville
Credit: Marvin Joseph
"form a wall of meat"
USAF B-2 Spirit
Germany and France will
not reward the UK for
the EU and abandoning the
dream of European
By the end of the week,
Donald Trump will
He will have his moment,
for sure. But when things
wrong he will be chased
2017 January 20
Brexit — Blame Blair
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that
the decision by Tony Blair to keep UK borders open in 2004 fuelled
the anti-immigration feeling that led to the Brexit vote:
"There was a strong strand of feeling
against uncontrolled migration and I lay the responsibility for that
squarely at the door of prime minister Blair, who failed to impose a transitional regime in the UK
in 2004. That created a public perception
which we still haven't shaken off to this day."
EU leaders, Blair waived the UK right to impose
transitional controls on the free movement of citizens when eight
eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004.
AR Hmm — a new idea but an interesting one.
Populism — Fool's Paradise
Philip Hammond called populism a
fool's paradise in a speech at Davos:
"Politicians who take the populist route will find it a very
short road. There is no sustainable future for a developed economy
in protectionism, subsidy, and high debt ... Populism is a fool's
paradise. I hope I have already demonstrated that I welcome
suggestions from business and will act on them where I can."
AR I say Hammond for PM if May falters.
Energy — New Look
Former Texas governor Rick Perry once famously forgot
that the Energy Department was on the list of US government agencies
he'd like to shut down. Now he asks senators to approve his leading
"My past statements made over five years ago about
abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current
thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital
functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its
AR I bet he hadn't
realized its main job is making nuclear bombs!
Being — Alone Or Not Alone
Science fiction is doomed to profundity,
unable to avoid philosophical dilemmas. Existentialism is always
likely to appear when the theme is either our aloneness in the
universe or the encounter with the other. Being alone or not alone —
that is a question.
Passengers shows engineer Jim Preston woken from suspended
animation nearly a century ahead of schedule on interstellar cruise
liner Avalon heading for a colony planet. As the only wakeful person
in a world of sleepers, he finds he is living a nightmare.
Jim comes across a working bar aboard the Avalon, whose android
bartender is programmed to engage in convincing banter and
philosophizing. Jim then gazes at the hibernating journalist Aurora
Lane, a Sleeping Beauty played by Jennifer Lawrence. And so on.
Arrival is different: the alien visitors may be bringing a
message but at first what they offer is a written language. The
language is delicate, sharing with Chinese the ability to hold
elements in poetic tension as well as an affinity with Japanese
AR See my review
of the same movies (blog 2016-12-27).
2017 January 19
French Presidential Election
is in two rounds, the first on April 23, the second on May 7. The
campaign has not yet started and the final slate of candidates is
France 24 — Frontrunner François
Fillon vowed to take back control of immigration, in part by
imposing quotas on non-EU nationals: "France is generous, but it is
not a mosaic and a territory without limits. It is one nation that
has a right to choose who can join it and a right that foreigners
accept its rules and customs."
Marine Le Pen
Paris Match — FN candidate Marine Le Pen has
launched her campaign: "I had ants in my paws! ... François Fillon
shows great firmness, but he is entangled in a brutal program that
he does not assume ... Since his victory in November, the deputy of
Paris has been as tetanized, lying on the ball." (Google
Le Pen was seen last week in Trump Tower. She
was in New York on a private trip.
Robert Zaretsky — Emmanuel Macron, 39, has been a philosophy
student, an investment banker, and a French government economic
minister. As an independent candidate for the presidency, he
may be the best bet for a European future based on a common market
and a common morality, a single currency and a singular commitment
to the EU core values.
Macron is convinced that the French
and the Germans can still be rallied to the European project. He
praises Merkel on her refugee policy and warns that the euro will be
saved only if the European Union acts like a truly sovereign body.
Chassany — Emmanuel Macron is the third man in the race, behind Marine Le Pen and François Fillon in polls. Macron,
an École nationale d'administration (ENA) graduate and a former
Rothschild banker, became popular after taking on the left and
deregulating the economy. Now he has created his own party,
2017 January 18
The problems troubling the world are not caused
Countries should view their own interest in
the broader context and refrain from pursuing their own interests at
the expense of others. We should not retreat into the harbor
whenever we encounter a storm or we will never reach the opposite
China will keep its doors wide open. We hope that
other countries will also keep their doors open to Chinese investors
and maintain a level playing field for us.
Our careful attention to building and
sustaining the international world order, with the US and Europe at
its core, was the bedrock of the success that the world enjoyed in
the second half of the 20th century.
Globalization has not
been an unalloyed good. I am a free trader and a supporter of
globalization, but it has deepened the rift between those racing
ahead at the top and those struggling to hang on in the middle, or
falling to the bottom.
Popular movements on both the left and
the right have demonstrated a dangerous willingness to revert to
political small-mindedness — to the same nationalist, protectionist,
and isolationist agendas that led the world to consume itself in war
during the last century.
The impulse to hunker down, shut the
gates, build walls, and exit at this moment is precisely the wrong
Meritocracy is a system in which the most
talented and capable, the best educated, those who score highest on
the tests, are put in leading positions. From the start it was clear
that a meritocratic society would be a disaster. It would create a
society of selfish and arrogant winners versus angry and desperate
What makes meritocrats so unbearable to their critics
is not so much their success but their insistence that they have
succeeded because they worked harder than others, because they
happened to be more qualified than others, and because they passed
the tests that others failed.
In Europe today, the Brussels
elites are blamed for their cosmopolitanism, their resistance to
public pressure, and their mobility. The European meritocratic elite
is like a team of star footballers. When their teams start to lose,
their fans abandon them.
People trust leaders who show not
only competence but also courage and commitment. They want their
leaders to hang on in times of crisis rather than being helicoptered
out. People fear that in times of trouble the
meritocrats will opt to leave instead of sharing the cost of
The new European populists promise solidarity over
justice. They promise to nationalize the elites, not to save the
people but to stay with them, to rebuild the walls removed by
globalization. Many Europeans find this promise appealing.
John Rawls argued that being a loser in a meritocratic society was
not as painful as being a loser in an openly unjust society. He said
the fairness of the game would reconcile people with failure. He may
have been wrong.
Heidegger's appeal to the Volk community in his defense of National
Socialism against a cosmopolitan Jewish elite.
2017 January 17
UK prime minister Theresa May: "We seek a new and equal partnership
between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our
friends and allies in the EU. Not partial membership of the European
Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that
leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already
enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of
membership as we leave. The United Kingdom is leaving the European
A Global Britain
I want to outline our objectives for the negotiation ahead:
1 We will provide certainty wherever we can.
put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a
vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.
2 We will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the
jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.
We will ensure that as we leave the European Union no new barriers
to living and doing business within our own Union are created.
4 The United Kingdom will share a land border with the EU, and
maintaining that common travel area with the Republic of Ireland
will be an important priority for the UK.
5 We will ensure we
can control immigration to Britain from Europe. You cannot control
immigration overall when there is free movement to Britain from
6 We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who
are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals
in other member states, as early as we can.
7 We will ensure
that workers rights are fully protected and maintained. We will make
sure legal protection for workers keeps pace with the changing
8 We will pursue a bold and ambitious free
trade agreement with the European Union. We do not seek membership
of the single market. We seek the greatest possible access to it
through a new free trade agreement.
9 We will negotiate our
own trade agreements. I want us to have a customs agreement with the
EU and I want Britain to be free to establish our own tariff
schedules at the WTO.
10 We will welcome
agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on
major science, research, and technology initiatives.
will continue to cooperate with our European partners in important
areas such as crime, terrorism, and foreign affairs.
believe a phased process of implementation will give businesses
enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.
This is the framework of a deal.
Theresa May says from the deck of a Royal Navy ship
in the Persian Gulf: "I want a red, white and blue Brexit."
She plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
Sterling has depreciated significantly since last June and the
government is expecting a budget deficit of £122 billion over the
next five years. Yet in Westminster a state of strange calm prevails
behind a united front of unshakeable optimism.
steeling herself for a hard Brexit. This steely resolve is damaging
her in the rest of Europe. A clean break is unlikely,
and the UK will need the goodwill of other EU states to exit in
Brexit minister David Davis has no plan and an
easygoing approach. A Brexit committee meets behind closed doors and
has an equal number of Brexit supporters and opponents. A committee
member: "Everyone chips in, the PM sums up and everyone staggers out
saying how difficult it is."
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan
is a pioneer of the Brexit movement. He seems to think Brexit is as
good for Britain as victory in World War II. He says the EU can
either give Britain limited access to the internal market or get a
cold, hard Brexit.
If you have two strong arguments, the
surest way to lose a debate is to add a third one. The third
argument of our time is a warning of economic doom.
Brexit is terrible because it deprives young Britons of the
right to choose where to live, study and work, and it deprives them
of a European identity.
Remainers let their campaign be
hijacked by a third argument about the loss of the single European
passport for banks. It cost them the referendum.
The curse of
our time is fake maths, used to peddle a political prejudice.
Economic models have better uses. Nobody can see the future.
There seems to be a prevailing impression
among some people that the European Union will soon fall apart, that
after the UK others will go too. That is a false picture of the EU
and of what it offers.
Trump On Europe
Donald Trump supports Brexit: "People,
countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity
but, I do believe this, if they hadn't been forced to take in all of
the refugees ..."
German chancellor Angela Merkel came in for
special mention for her refugee policy: "I think it was a big
mistake for Germany."
US secretary of state John Kerry: "I
thought frankly it was inappropriate for a president elect of the
United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in
a quite direct manner."
BMW plans to open a facility in
Mexico in 2019. Trump: "I would tell BMW if they think they're gonna
build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35% tax,
it's not gonna happen ..."
German deputy chancellor Sigmar
Gabriel: "The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the
supply parts that aren't being built in the US were to suddenly come
with a 35% tariff."
Trump said the car trade was unfair
because on Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes-Benz. Gabriel:
"Build better cars."
Progress iff global supply chains iff free trade iff no tariff wars.
Photo: Daniel Biskup
PEOTUS USSOS pick
Rex Tillerson calls the Russian
annexation of Crimea illegal,
says the United States should
have provided more aid to
Ukraine, supports NATO, and
Putin knew of any
cyberattacks against the
Jared and Ivanka
Chinese work on Mischief
Chinese DF-21D carrier
The happy couple:
to keeping the magic alive is finding ways to promote
If policy is going to be made
characters on Twitter,
and every reasonable measure
accountability is being bypassed, and people
don't care about it,
we have a problem.
Star Ate Planet
Tabby's star KIC 8462852
series of big dips
in brightness after dimming
by 14% in 100
years. Now a
Columbia team explain all.
They say the star
a planet in the past, so it
brightened and dimmed
Every time the debris passes
between us and the star,
the image blinks.
AR Blog 2016-01-17
Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit
fellow at All Souls. Until
his death on 1 January, he was widely
regarded as the most
important living moral
partly for his work
on personal identity: We are psychological
memories, inclinations, and
intentions. In the
will go by my name, share many
of my memories,
and act on
some of my intentions. The
AR I met him at seminars.
2017 January 16
When we talked last Friday, Donald Trump had nothing but kind
words and generous sentiments for a nation he believes will be his
On the UK:
"I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing ... I'm a big
fan of the UK, we're gonna work very hard to get [a new trade deal]
done quickly and done properly."
On the EU: "People,
countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own
identity ... if they hadn't been forced to take in all of the
refugees ... I think that you wouldn't have a Brexit."
"You look at the European Union and it's Germany. Basically a
vehicle for Germany. That's why I thought the UK was so smart in
On NATO: "I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number
one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.
Number two the countries aren't paying what they're supposed to pay
... With that being said, NATO is very important to me."
Russia: "Let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For
one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced
very substantially, that's part of it. But Russia's hurting very
badly right now because of sanctions."
Trump has no intention
of abandoning Twitter because he believes it gives him a direct
connection to the American people.
Trump: "Ich mag Stärke. Ich mag Ordnung."
Erstmals erklärt ein angehender US-Präsident offen
und ohne Rücksicht, was er über Deutschland und Europa denkt.
2017 January 15
Adam and Eve
Jared Kushner and Ivanka
Trump are getting ready for the new US administration. They have
stepped down from their respective businesses in preparation for
their roles in Washington. The two are set to become the most
powerful couple in Washington.
In August, Ivanka got her
father to unveil policy proposals to lower child care costs. In
December she called members of Congress about child care legislation
and tax deductions. Her expected work on climate change was also
widely noted in the press.
Jared Kushner may have won the
presidency for Donald Trump. He is expected to be the presidential
policy person on the Mideast. Trump even says he believes Kushner
could broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Ivanka and Jared are perfectly positioned to become the powers
behind the throne. Melania and Donald Trump are adamant on spending
as little time in Washington as possible, so Ivanka and Jared will
effectively be the de facto first couple. They almost make you
forget that the Donald is about to become president.
AR First couple — would you "Adam and
Eve" [believe] it.
Catarina Dutilh Novaes + AR
In Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781), Immanuel Kant stated
that no progress in logic had been made since Aristotle. Today we
see three golden periods for logic: the ancient Greek period, the
medieval scholastic period, and the mathematical period of the last
two hundred years. Kant had disregarded the scholastic tradition.
In the classical Greek period, Plato wrote dialogues and
Aristotle discussed techniques useful in debating. The prominence of
dialectics continued through late antiquity. By the Latin medieval
period, this led to the emergence of scholastic disputation, which
continued to Summa Theologica (1265-1274) by Thomas
After Kant, logic turned toward mathematics. In
1847, George Boole inaugurated a new approach. He launched
algebraic logic and pushed the idea of using mathematical symbolism
Gottlob Frege was inspired by Kant and by Gottfried
Leibniz. He aimed to provide mathematics with logical foundations.
He used the mathematical notion of a function to represent predicate
logic and devised a new logical notation in his book
Frege saw that not only the
axioms but also the rules of inference required a rigorous
reformulation. His work established the idea that ordinary language
is expressively inadequate to account for mathematical or logical
reasoning. Parallel projects for axiomatizing parts of mathematics
were led by other distinguished mathematicians.
Unfortunately, Bertrand Russell discovered a paradox lurking in the
foundations of Frege's system. The goal of recovering and further
developing his program led Russell and his collaborator Alfred North
Whitehead to develop the system presented in their Principia
Mathematica (1910–13). Much of the work in logic in the last
century grew from their work.
Logic has become a
foundational branch of mathematics. The change reflects the fall
from grace of scholastic disputation. Only traces of the dialectical
origins of logic persist in recent developments in mathematics.
AR My trilogy Dialectical Logic
(1975, 1977, 1979) modeled mathematics in a dialectic defined in set
theory — each layer of the cumulative hierarchy was a metatheory for
the previous layers conceived as steps in an epistemo-ontic dynamic
inspired by the Hegelian dialectic. Essentially, Hegel wrapped up
all of scholastic logic in a discursive form that defied further
progress, forcing Frege to make a new start in mathematics. I found
the thread of continuity and rescued the dynamic that prevents logic
from freezing in an illusory absolutism (in fact Gödel had already
done so — I built on his work). See my 2014 essay
2017 January 14
Humanists, Moordown Community Centre, Bournemouth
AR Cambridge philosopher Ahmed presented
an individualist political philosophy (based on the views of John
Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich Hayek) that would abandon
much of the power of the state as we now understand it. I raised
objections from the floor, citing the 2008 financial crisis, the
rise of Donald Trump, and the critique of rationality due to Daniel
English-speaking countries are easier to hack
because their enemies understand what they are saying. Being an
English-speaking society makes you transparent, whereas foreign
countries are opaque to mostly monolingual Britons and Americans.
Chinese and Russian elites sent their children to study in the
US and UK. From 1990 to about 2010, Anglo-American media and films
gained huge global influence. And most AAs stopped bothering to
learn foreign languages.
The new weapon is cyber warfare. But
hacking foreign files is worthwhile only if you can use the
information. Russia and China can read English documents and
foreigners can make up fake news in English.
Britain has its
own problems with English. Westminster and the tabloid newspapers
are almost entirely monolingual. Brits therefore voted for Brexit
blithely unaware of how other European countries would respond.
The UK Foreign Office has been sidelined ahead of the Brexit
negotiations. The boss of the new department for exiting the EU,
David Davis, says the Germans will give the UK a good deal because
they sell cars in Britain. His European counterparts understand Britain rather
AR Stellen Sie sich vor,
Sie überhören ein Gespräch:
Merkel: Halten Sie durch — Ordnung muß sein!
Auto-Hersteller: Jawohl, Frau Bundeskanzlerin!
2017 January 13
China to US: Keep Out
Nominee for US secretary of state Rex
Tillerson uttered astonishing statements during his confirmation
hearing with the Senate. He had better bone up on
nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to
withdraw from its own territories.
South China Sea countries
will accelerate their negotiations on a Code of Conduct. They have
the ability to solve divergences by themselves without US
US to China: Threat
PEOTUS pick for US SOS Rex Tillerson compares Chinese
fortification of its manmade islands in the South China Sea to
Russian annexation of Crimea and threatens a major confrontation.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China
Sea and has backed up its position by expanding small islets and
building airstrips and harbors.
China foreign ministry
spokesman Lu Kang: "We hope non-regional countries can respect this
consensus that is in the fundamental interest of the whole world."
Tillerson: "This is a threat to the entire global economy if
China is allowed to somehow dictate the terms of passage through
China warns that "no effort to
internationalize and judicialize the South China Sea issue will be
of any avail" and will only make it harder to resolve the issue.
US Air Power
The US Marine Corps is sending 16 F-35B Lightning II
stealth fighters to Japan. At over $100 million each, the jets
showcase US "commitment to the defense of Japan with the most
capable and modern equipment in the US inventory," says the USMC.
"It will be the cornerstone of a multi-mission joint force
possessing improved mission flexibility and unprecedented
effectiveness to engage and destroy both air and ground threats."
China: Sea Power
President Xi Jinping will turn China into
a maritime superpower. One Belt One Road is his plan to boost
investment and commerce in over 60 countries in Asia, the Mideast,
Africa, and Europe.
Since 2010, Chinese and Hong Kong
companies have completed or announced deals involving at least
40 port projects worth a total of over $45 billion. The Pakistani
port of Gwadar is owned, financed, and built by China as the core
element in a $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
2015, the five big Chinese cargo carriers together controlled almost
a fifth of all container shipping handled by the global top 20
companies. By then, nearly two-thirds of the top 50 container ports
worldwide had some Chinese investment, handling over two-thirds of
global container volumes.
Chinese port operators are world
leaders and Chinese shipping companies carry more cargo than those
of any other nation. In Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Greece, and Djibouti,
Chinese investment in civilian ports has been followed by navy
deployments or visits or construction of a naval base.
aims to deny US aircraft carrier battle groups access to the seas
within a string of archipelagos from Japan to Vietnam — the first
AR China aims to
keep US carrier groups outside the first island chain with its
DF-21D missiles (blog 2010-12-29).
2017 January 12
By blaming them for leaking a dossier on
efforts by the Kremlin to cultivate and compromise him, Donald Trump
has declared war on US intelligence officials.
tweet and press conference took aim at the BuzzFeed release of a
35-page dossier that carries unverified allegations of collusion
between the Trump camp and the Kremlin. Trump calls the entire
Former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey says the
tweet "reads as if Trump is trying to deflect focus from these
devastating, though unverified allegations, by attempting additional
smears vilifying intelligence professionals."
Trump Nailed It
Trump has two big priorities: building
the wall and repealing and replacing Obamacare. He compared the
behavior of some within the intelligence community to Nazis. He
signaled that speculation on his relationship with Vladimir Putin
will not shift his position toward Russia. And he concluded that
Russia was probably guilty of hacking, but that will cease once
Trump is in charge.
Trainwreck Press Conference
The Trump presidency is already in
shambles. Team Trump seems happy to shine a bright light on its own
monumental mistakes. The president-elect celebrated the Russian
hacking of the DNC and all those leaked emails. Now he even brags
about his Russian connection: "If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess
what folks, that is called an asset, not a liability. Do you
honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me?
Give me a break."
2017 January 11
After my election, there was talk of a
post-racial America. Such a vision, however well intended, was never
realistic. ... For every two steps forward, it often feels we take
one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by
forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace
We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialog
to become so corrosive that people of good character aren't even
willing to enter into public service, so coarse with rancor that we
see Americans with whom we disagree as not just misguided but as
We weaken those ties when we define some of us as
more American than others, when we write off the whole system as
inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we
elect without examining our own role in electing them.
AR He always set a good tone.
White House Advice
The New York Times
Jared Kushner will become a senior
White House adviser to his father-in-law, Donald Trump. Kushner, 35,
married Ivanka Trump in 2009. Some ethics experts question whether
his appointment is legal under federal anti-nepotism laws.
Transition staff members describe Kushner as the first among equals
in the Trump high command. He is said to have a calming effect on
his father-in-law. He became the de facto campaign manager in the
spring and his influence expanded rapidly.
Kushner is an
orthodox Jew, a Harvard graduate, and a lifelong Democrat. Liberals
greeted his appointment with relief. He will resign as chief
executive of Kushner Companies and divest himself of assets
including 666 Fifth Avenue and his holdings in
The New York Observer.
AR So far so good ...
is the son of real estate developer and Democratic party donor
Charles Kushner. Charles made a $2.5 million donation to Harvard
University in 1998. Jared was accepted there in 1999 and earned a
degree in sociology in 2003.
While at Harvard, Jared made
money buying and selling buildings, supported by the family fortune.
His net worth is estimated at $200 million. At age 25, he bought the
New York Observer for $10 million.
In 2005, Charles Kushner
was convicted on 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax
evasion, and witness tampering. He served time in a federal prison.
Jared practises Orthodox Judaism, and Ivanka Trump*
converted before they wed in 2009. His grandparents escaped the
Nazis, and his grandmother Rae was a founder of the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Trump was born in 1981 as the daughter of Donald and Ivana Trump**.
in economics from the University of
Pennsylvania in 2004, then joined the family business.
**Ivana Trump was born in Czechoslovakia
and moved to Canada, where she worked as a model.
moved to New York, married Donald Trump in 1977, and divorced him in
In October 2016,
The New York Observer asked its
proprietor a question: Hillary or Donald? Jared: "Family first."
AR A new twist on the first family.
2017 January 10
Once Donald Trump is inaugurated as
POTUS, the United States will make its own rules. Trump aims to
repudiate TPP, renegotiate NAFTA, and impose hefty duties on Chinese
imports. Yet he is happy to side with Russian president Vladimir
Trump wants to make America great again. His ideas are
a jumble of economic nationalism, antipathy to globalism, hostility
to immigrants, hatred of Islamist extremism, and a dim view of great
power relations. He disdains NATO and equivocates with East Asian
Trump has promised to renounce US climate
obligations. He could strike a deal with Putin over the heads of
Europe, disavow the nuclear agreement with Iran, build a wall
against Mexican immigrants, and shut the US border to Muslims. All
this is isolationist swagger.
US allies have already
concluded that Trump is neither predictable nor reliable. China is
determined to translate its economic power into geopolitical clout
despite provocative tweets. And Putin doubtless thinks he will get
the better of Trump.
Detaching US national interests from its
international commitments is impossible. Economic interdependence
cannot be wished away and military might has its limits. The new
president will find most of his goals out of reach to America Alone.
2017 January 9
UK prime minister Theresa May: "Often people
talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want
to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU. We are leaving. We are
coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer. We
will be able to have control of our borders, control of our laws."
On January 20, Donald Trump takes the oath of office
and becomes the POTUS. For the first time in his life, he will be
employed outside his family business. At age 70, he will become
accountable to the American people.
Trump has never had to
reboot himself in anything like the manner now required. But when
his companies ran out of money to pay their lenders and filed for
bankruptcy in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009, he had to accept the strict
terms and oversight required by bankruptcy agreements.
Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump wrote a lot of
books about business: "They all seem to end at Chapter 11. He
bankrupted his companies, not once, not twice, but four times."
Wrong: Trump actually has six bankruptcies.
Researchers hacked ion channels to alter
bioelectric signaling in tadpoles engineered to develop cancer. They
reduced the incidence of tumor formation and made tumor cells return
to a healthy state.
Researchers increased the bioelectric
traffic between cells in froglets past the age at which they can
regenerate full limbs and made them do so anyway.
regenerative capabilities too.
2017 January 8
Deutschland bedeutet für die
Deutschen nicht mehr eine Frage ihrer politischen Identität. Heute
geht es um die Frage nach dem kulturellen Kern.
Was es heute
heißt, deutsch zu sein — darüber können sich die Deutschen, die mit
einer furchtbaren Geschichte, einer rauen Zuwanderungsgegenwart und
einem schwer angekratzten Ego konfrontiert sind, am ehesten noch im
In den Augen vieler Beobachter ist das
deutsche Problem die Gründlichkeit, mit der viele Deutsche die
Migranten zur endgültigen Säuberung der befleckten Nationalhistorie
und zur Umerziehung der eigenen Bevölkerung nutzen wollen.
schlägt die Verleugnung allen Deutschseins in einen Chauvinismus der
Vaterlandslosigkeit um. Schwer ist es, anderen Europäern die
Abgründe solch moralischen Großreinemachens zu erklären.
Vielleicht wenn die Deutschen sich selbst sympathischer wären und
sie sich zugleich weniger ernst nähmen, dann wäre nicht nur den
Deutschen, sondern auch unseren Nachbarn gleich viel wohler mit
diesem sonderbaren Gebilde.
Als Europäer sind die Deutschen bestens aufgenommen, die Briten eher
Britain turned down the chance to buy a fleet of second-hand
German tanks. Leopard manufacturer
KMW offered to sell 100 to 400
old Leopard 2 tanks to the Ministry of Defence in 2015. They would
have been upgraded to new A7V standard.
The UK government has instead selected two other companies — BAE
Systems and Rheinmetall — as the final bidders for the Challenger 2
Defense industry source: "They made that
offer to us and we should have taken it but there was an arrogance:
we invented the tank, we have to have a British tank."
the idea is not yet dead: "If it turns out that buying second-hand
would work out cheaper overall then finance is king. If it is
cheaper they will go that way."
Buy Leopards. Our NATO boys on the Eastern Front will need
US Army Abrams tanks on
maneuvers in Latvia, summer 2016.
A shipload of Abrams tanks
was unloaded Friday in Bremerhaven for
forward deployment in
Poland as part of operation Atlantic Resolve.
President Trump could
launch 140 warheads
in the time it takes to
Wings Over Illawarra
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
(Werk-Nr. 173056) to fly at
Illawarra Air Show
2017-05-06 — 2017-05-07
Orion on SLS
Arnie for Prez!
Celebrity Apprentice made
Trump a reality TV star.
The new 2017 season stars
AR But he was
2017 January 7
The Baltic states are in the EU and NATO but
Russia is boosting its military presence in Kaliningrad. Estonian
foreign minister Sven Mikser: "We have always seen the US as our
strongest ally. US participation has given NATO its credibility."
AR Past performance is no guarantee
of future results.
Physicists are at odds about measurement
in quantum mechanics.
Suppose you measure
the spin of an electron in an arbitrarily chosen direction. There
are only two possible results, namely plus or minus a certain
number, up or down, corresponding to an electron that is spinning
either clockwise or counter-clockwise in the chosen direction.
Before you measure it, the spin is a superposition of up and down,
each with its own amplitude. The act of measuring the spin somehow
collapses the superposition to up or down.
If we disregard
everything about an electron but its spin, its wave function is a
pair of amplitudes, one number for each sign of the spin in any
chosen direction. The wave function of an electron whose spin has
not been measured generally has nonzero values for spins of both
signs. The probabilities of finding either up or down for the spin
in a chosen direction are proportional to the squares of the
amplitudes in that direction.
A measurement puts the spin in
an interaction with a macroscopic environment that causes the
superposition of states in the wave function to collapse to one
state, unpredictably. But the Schrödinger equation is deterministic.
Given the wave function at any moment, the equation will tell you
precisely what the wave function will be at any future time.
The realist approach to quantum mechanics implies a multiverse. When
you measure the spin of an electron in some direction, the wave
function of the electron and your measuring apparatus becomes a
superposition of two terms, in one of which the electron spin is up
and you see it is up, and in the other of which the spin is down and
you see it is down. The history of the world splits every time a big
body becomes entangled with a superposition of states. The set of
all histories is the multiverse, and its wave function evolves
An entangled state involves correlations
between parts of the system. Suppose we have a pair of electrons
whose total spin in any direction is zero and whose wave function
(ignoring everything but spin) is a sum of two terms: in one term,
electron A is up and electron B is down in some direction, while in
the other term up and down are reversed. The spins are entangled,
and this entangled state can persist even if the electrons fly apart
to a great distance.
All data so far agree with ordinary
My suggested approach (2006):
Each of us lives in a phenomenal world with its own bubble of
spacetime, which is growing in qubit increments. At any
moment of phenomenal now, our reality is bounded by our past light
cone. Whenever we collapse an entanglement, we pop out spacetime by
another qubit (or more, depending on the granularity of quantized
spacetime). Entangled states are local until we collapse or pop them. Decoherence is the phenomenal manifestation of
popping qubits, and corresponds to spontaneous symmetry
breaking at the Planck scale. The Everett multiverse replaces the
Einstein block universe as background for all our phenomenal worlds.
My proximal inspiration for this epiphany was the book
Quo Vadis Quantum Mechanics? (ed. Elitzur et al., Springer
2005). This is the sort of vision I was hoping for in Richard
Muller's 2016 book
Now — but I was disappointed. Sadly, I lack the mathematical
skill to work out the technical details in a
preprint for arXiv.
2017 January 6
We are living at the end of the era of US
It has been a huge overall success. Global average
real incomes per head rose by 460% between 1950 and 2015. The
proportion of the global population in extreme poverty has fallen
from 72% in 1950 to 10% in 2015, and life expectancy at birth has
risen from 48 years in 1950 to 71 in 2015.
generation of relative economic decline, the US, the EU, and Japan
still produce over half of global output measured at market prices
and over a third measured at PPP. They host the biggest global
companies, dominant financial markets, leading universities, and
strongest cultures. The US military will remain global top dog for
But across the West, slow growth and aging
populations have taken their toll. Politicians can longer promise
more for everybody and have to take from some to give to others. The
winners have been the rich, making those in the middle and lower
incomes more fearful and more prone to racism and xenophobia.
If the West fails, China might find greatness thrust upon it.
AR Hegel conceived global history as
the steady march of the Weltgeist through the millennia from China
to India to the Mideast and Mediterranean to Europe and then to
America. Now we see the Weltgeist complete its world tour and start
a new orbit from China.
A man born in London to German parents has
been told he cannot get a British passport unless he takes a UK
citizenship test. Dom Wolf, 32, said his parents came to Britain in
1974 when his mother started work as an LSE lecturer. He has now
been told he needs to prove they were in the UK legally — yet they
moved under EU law.
AR Makes me
feel like doing a personal Brexit.
2017 January 5
Moon or Mars?
European Space Agency director general Jan
Woerner says a lunar village is the natural successor to the ISS.
The United States is the obvious partner to fund and spearhead such
an effort. But to land humans on the Moon, let alone build a
village, will take a program as big as Apollo.
A Moon base
lets you dig mines and make money. The Moon is only a few days away
from Earth and it has lots of helium 3. The isotope is rare on Earth
but the Moon has collected it for billions of years. There is an
estimated 1.1 Tg of He 3 on the moon, and just 40 Mg of He 3 in
fusion reactors could power the United States for a year.
NASA is focused on its Journey to Mars program. But it will use the
space between the Earth and the Moon to test life support and
propulsion systems for any Mars expedition. The Space Launch System
and the Orion spacecraft, holdovers from the Mars space exploration
initiative canceled in 2009, are ready for moonshots.
Americans cannot afford both a Moon base and a Mars colony. Building
either is the cheap part — the operational costs are what add up. A
Moon base delays Mars until after the lunar base design,
construction, operations, maintenance, and divestment. That could
AR I say go for the
Moon base for now. It will ripen the tech we need for Mars. A Moon
base was part of the plot in my 1996 novel
The sporadically repeating fast radio burst FRB121102
with duration 3 ms has been traced to the dwarf galaxy PGC1000714
some 30 Ym away. Cornell University researcher Shami Chatterjee: "We
think it may be a magnetar — a newborn neutron star with a huge
magnetic field, inside a supernova remnant or a pulsar wind nebula —
somehow producing these prodigious pulses."
AR See blog 2016-03-03. A neutron star
signaling us starred in my 1996 novel
UK vs EU
Britain never really joined the EU. For
France, Germany, Italy, and the rest, the union was a political
project with emotional roots. For Brits, it was a commercial
Politicians at Westminster have never quite
shaken off the conviction that the enterprise is destined at some
point to fail. Each further step toward integration has been greeted
with scorn. Even now, many Brexiteers claim to be leaving a sinking
For German leaders especially, the union is a vessel
for European values. It is an enterprise that underpins the peace,
stability, and democracy of the continent. The EU has a meaning and
purpose beyond the export of bottles of fizz and expensive cars.
2017 January 4
EU politicians want strategic autonomy in
defense, without relying on the United States. But they have long
failed to raise collective defense spending. Now Brexit and Trump
create new urgency:
Good — Without
the UK the EU can at last get moving on its defense plans. To
prevent plans for an EU operational headquarters duplicating NATO,
the HQ covers only training and civilian operations.
Bad — Brexit will cost the EU one of its
two credible military powers. New plans mean little if the EU lacks
capabilities and forces, so the EU should try to keep the UK
involved in EU military affairs.
The Trump presidency will likely spur more defense spending
by EU states. But the US security guarantee is already weakened.
Some EU leaders are concerned about Trump ties to the Kremlin.
AR With weakened US and UK
commitments to European security, the EU27 states are vulnerable.
They could not resist a serious Russian military push and must
temporize with appeasement until new defense plans are in place. If
Trump befriends Putin, this is a viable strategy.
next move is for the UK to boost its commitment to defending EU
states in return for EU accepting UK membership of the single market
despite a Fortress UK border clampdown. The boost, above the NATO
commitment, would include an immediate nuclear guarantee and initial
work on a future shared Anglo-French deterrent.
UK representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers quits, citing
"ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking" over Brexit from
UK prime minister Theresa May is facing
fresh claims that her government is turning a deaf ear to news and
advice on Brexit it does not want to hear.
supporter Peter Mandelson: "Everyone knows that civil servants are
being increasingly inhibited in offering objective opinion and
advice to ministers."
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg: "I
think it is crucial that whoever represents us in Brussels is wholly
committed to Brexit."
Klartext: Drink the Kool-Aid!
2017 January 3
Scientists: Keep Iran Deal
The New York Times
Dozens of top US scientists wrote to
PEOTUS Trump on Monday to urge him not to dismantle the Iran nuclear
deal: "We urge you to preserve this critical US strategic asset."
The letter was organized by
Richard L. Garwin, who helped design the first hydrogen bomb and
has long advised Washington on nuclear weapons and arms control.
Long before Donald Trump vowed to make
America great again, China, Russia, and Turkey had already
established the fashion for nostalgic nationalism. Democracies are
not immune to nostalgia — look at Japan, India, Hungary, and
Globalization and the relative decline of the West
increase nostalgia for a more nationalist past. But neither Putin
nor Xi is keen to discuss the crimes of Stalin and Mao, and Germans
would nix a vow to make Germany great again.
2017 January 2
Robocars — Upside
Autonomous cars will offer better safety
features and more efficiency. Semiautonomous cars are in showrooms
today. Completely autonomous cars are set to be available by the end
of the decade.
The social and economic implications are
enormous. They will transform the auto industry business model.
Related businesses, such as telecoms, software, media, freight
transportation, semiconductors, and insurance, will also face
disruption and opportunity.
Autonomous cars could contribute
$1.3 trillion in annual savings to the US economy. Annual US
productivity gains alone would be over $500 billion. Global savings
could be over $5.6 trillion.
The auto industry will have to
shift gears. The growth of software as a part of the car is likely
to divide the industry into dedicated hardware and software makers,
with a crucial role for vertical integration. This structure would
resemble that of the smartphone or computer industries.
of the concerns or obstacles to mass adoption of autonomous vehicles
are largely practical or procedural. Technology is not an issue. The
capability to make a robocar is largely available today and only
needs incremental research and development.
Public opinion on
robocars remains split. Acceptance and adoption will take time.
Potential obstacles include building sufficient infrastructure,
government regulation, and ethical issues.
Robocars — Downside
An autonomous car that relies on a human to save
the day in an emergency is not going to work. Humans make horrible
backups — they are inattentive, easily distracted, and slow to
respond. So automakers will be taking you out of the equation
Full autonomy — no steering wheel, no pedals, no
human backup — is the best way forward. Google figured this out
around 2012. The shift came as automakers recognized the difficulty
of the handoff — getting the person behind the wheel to take control
Level 2 autonomous cars can keep their lane and
handle rush-hour gridlock. Level 3 autonomy defines cars that can
make basic decisions like when to change lanes or pass other
vehicles. Level 3 requires making sure the car can handle any
situation for several seconds while the human wakes up and takes
Level 3 autonomy is difficult to justify. If every car
on the road featured Level 2 capabilities, fatal automobile
collisions would drop by 80% already. Full autonomy brings more
safety improvements while also bringing mobility to people who
cannot drive, automating deliveries, and creating other
Google started with a system that could handle
highway driving with human oversight. But engineers soon realized
those humans were lulled into paying zero attention and would be all
but useless in emergencies. So they are going straight to levels 4
and 5 and pursuing full autonomy.
Most automakers started
planning to progress steadily through the levels. Ford was among the
first to break ranks, announcing in late 2015 that it would skip
Level 3. Audi has invested heavily in the handoff and plans to bring
Level 3 to the showroom in 2018.
Audi is also pursuing full
autonomy. General Motors is buying robocar startups and Ford is
rebranding itself as a mobility company. Car sharing and other
alternatives to ownership are growing in popularity, and upstarts
like Uber see an opportunity to push established players aside.
Uber wants to drop the human chauffeurs in taxi cabs. Google
could configure robocabs for riders to use its other services.
Cities hosting fleets of robocabs get a new way to cut congestion
and solve parking problems.
2017 January 1
Frank Wilczek won his Nobel Prize
in 2004 for breakthroughs on the mathematical foundations of quantum
chromodynamics — our theory of how quarks make atomic nuclei — and
is a passionate advocate of the supersymmetric extension of current
theory that would deepen it yet further ...
authors of books on physics for poets, Wilczek is not patronizing
and does not seek to erase the technical truth behind his readable
gloss on the quest for deep beauty. On the contrary, he puts his
passions on show with rapturous outpourings of praise for the
creative impulse behind the visions he beholds — and then cites
details in appended explanations of his terms of art that spell out
the cash value of even his most apparently overblown rhetoric that
show he chose every word carefully, and meant it.
clearly a book that transcends most of the glosses on physics that
litter bookshops today. As an addict of such books, ever hopeful of
striking gold but too often disappointed, I am confident it will
stand as a classic of its kind a century from now.
Jonathan Franzen is a good writer
and Purity is a good novel. With a story about a star German hacker,
whose proclaimed mission is to let sunlight disinfect the dirty
secrets of this world, and a mixed cast of hapless Americans,
who unwittingly reveal deeper downsides of modern life, this book
could have been written for me ...
The best novelists manage
to achieve a forensic detachment from their subjects that gives the
reader space to air dissenting views. Franzen did well at standing
back, but ... the characters all seemed like nightmare products of
Franzen's imagination, with exactly the lack of frontal lobe
function that dream figures often display.
By any normal
standards it was a fine novel.
Three F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters represent our
trillion-dollar bet on the future of the West
AR O for a winter break
with warm wind and sun
Laura Williams Photography
laundry — where?
AR My festive
season is reading
by Jonathan Franzen
cool and conformist
(sample size 1)
LGM-30 Minuteman Launch
"That's what the world
needs now: a POTUS
who tweets about
Paris Hilton in paradise
AR We might join her
David Bowie's widow Iman, 61
Evolution and the Big Bang
are real and God is not
magician with a magic wand,
declared Pope Francis to the
Academy of Sciences. Experts say his comments put
the kybosh on the
theories of creationism
and intelligent design.
of an Asian millennium
triumph and tragedy
— my Amazon review of
by S. Frederick Starr
POTUS 45 elected
US Electors vote today for
POTUS 45. Trump trails in the
popular vote by over 2.5 million
— the third-worst vote margin among
Privatize the military
and see how we like the
social consequences of
their funding drives.
Deepest Mandelbrot Set Zoom
Ever In 2014: 10^198
Mandelbrot Set Back Story
2016 New Year's Eve
Happy New Tweet
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always
knew he was very smart!
AR We all
look forward to a new era of harmonious progress.
In the West, liberty and law on the one
hand and popular participation on the other created liberal
democracy. This culture of liberal democracy is waning in the United
The Founding Fathers conceived of America as a
republic to mitigate some of the dangers of illiberal democracy. The
United States developed a democratic culture, formed in large part
by a series of informal buffers that weakened the sway of the
majority. A professional elite ensured that US society and
government would focus on the national interest.
prevailing dynamics in US society over the past few decades have
been toward greater democratic openness and market efficiency. We
are about to see what American democracy looks like without buffers
in the way of populism and demagoguery.
AR Liberal humanism as we know it is past its best-before
2016 December 30
The New York Times
Differences between Israel and the
United States have boiled over into a diplomatic confrontation.
Israeli policy, under the government of prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, has evolved away from an acceptance of a negotiated
two-state resolution with the Palestinians.
A UN Security
Council resolution condemned Israeli settlement building in the West
Bank and East Jerusalem. The Obama administration chose to abstain
from the vote rather than to block it.
Under any negotiated
solution, Israelis expect their capital to be Jerusalem. But
Palestinians also want Jerusalem as their capital, as well as access
to the Muslim holy sites.
This is the cynical logic of the
settlement movement: When the world is silent, Israel can build
settlements; when the world objects, Israel must build settlements.
Under any scenario, the possibility of a two-state solution will
The Palestinians are divided and their leaders
malicious or hapless. Hamas rules in the Gaza Strip and the
Palestinian Authority governs in the West Bank. The settlements are
US secretary of state John Kerry warned that
without a two-state solution, Israel faces a choice between being a
Jewish state and a democracy. If Israel annexes the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip, Palestinians become the majority in greater Israel.
Israelis can either let them vote and lose its identity or deny them
and lose its democracy.
The Israeli far right imagines a
different one-state solution. Egypt takes over the Gaza Strip,
Israel holds most of the West Bank, Jordan takes most former West
Bank residents, and Jerusalem comes entirely under Israeli control.
AR A Palestinian state is not a
viable solution in the present political climate. Hard though it
seems, Israel must prevail against Islamist opposition.
Syrian Civil War
Americans see the carnage in Syria as a
humanitarian disaster. But the humanitarian crisis is just one of
the consequences of the US approach to the Syrian civil war:
1 Barack Obama says Syria is of no great
strategic importance to the United States. This breaks with decades
of geostrategic thinking. If Russia displaces US power in the
Mideast, it will affect US influence across the region.
2 Europe has struggled for decades to
assimilate Muslim arrivals from the Mideast and Africa. But the new
waves of Syrian refugees have created a crisis. Several EU states
are in turmoil.
3 The Obama
administration was slow to counter the gathering strength of Daesh.
The terrorist outfit is on the defensive now, but it continues to
plot and spur terrorism in the West.
The delay on Daesh also forced the United States to change its
strategy in Syria. Obama directed US military power to the fight
against Daesh, turning his attention from Assad.
5 Obama said in 2012 that if Assad were
to use chemical weapons, he would cross a red line and trigger US
military intervention. A year later, when evidence showed that Assad
had used them, Obama backed down from reprisals.
avoided another quagmire but went too far. His approach neither
strengthened American influence nor helped to make a safer world.
AR Blame the Nobel Peace Prize
committee for giving him an ideal to live up to.
British Dirty Laundry
Billions of dollars are laundered through the
London real estate market every year, contributing to an estimated
annual total of $125 billion laundered in Britain.
law is on the side of the kleptocrats. An autocrat on the run can
create a shell company to hide his identity and the source of his
illicit wealth, and then use this instrument to purchase property
incognito. London bankers, brokers, and lawyers will ask no awkward
questions as they take their commissions.
companies now own nearly 40,000 London properties. Some of these
purchases may be legitimate and innocent, but Transparency
International found this technique had been used for three-quarters
of properties whose owners were investigated for corruption in
The London Laundromat is destroying the country's
reputation. Across the former Soviet Union, Britain is now seen as a
partner in corruption, not democracy.
An amendment now in parliament can fix this, but only with
zealous application of the law. I fear that Brexiteers may seek to
indulge the kleptocrats in order to boost British finances.
Austrian Word of the Year
2016 December 29
The Chinese are keen to understand the West and its success.
They think Christianity has something to do with it. They perceive
that Western civilization has enduring characteristics to which
Christianity has made a signal contribution and which are quite
distinct from traditional Chinese civilization and modern communist
Within the West, some draw exaggerated contrasts
between Christendom and the Islamic world in the medieval period,
between imperial Europe and Asia in the 19th century, between
liberal democracies and the Soviet empire in the 20th, and between
the West and the rest now.
Westerners have found much to
admire in other cultures and have borrowed liberally from them.
Algebra from the Islamic world, cuisine from India, paper and
gunpowder from China, and fine arts from Japan are just the
highlights. Members of other cultures can grasp and appropriate
Western ideas too — Africans and Asians are sometimes better
humanists than contemporary Westerners.
Truth, goodness, and
beauty transcend time and place. No one culture has a monopoly of
wisdom, but some values are more at home in one culture than
another. The primacy of the individual over the state is arguably
more entrenched in those Western cultures shaped by Christianity
than in those eastern ones shaped by Confucianism.
Europe was well acquainted with individualism, democracy, political
liberty, and rationality. The prominence of the individual in the
West stems from the Christian notion of the prophet called to stand
up for individual justice. Christian social roots anchored an
institutional separation of church and state in the West, which
created space for a flourishing civil society generally lacking in
the Islamic world.
Pre-modern Christendom was no stranger to
reason. Scholastic theologians pushed natural science in an
empirical direction by affirming the biblical contingency of the
created world against Aristotelian necessity. What could have been
other than it is in fact can only be known by observation, not
AR The Christian
individual is a person guided by an inner light. This light is
reason for a Hellenic soul and revelation for a Judaic one, but the
Christian concept merged the two in a synthesis that survived until
communists subverted it and forced the evolution of modern humanism.
We are now seeing the emergence of a cyborg environmentalism that
merges humans with technology and individualist thinking with
planetary consciousness —
2016 December 28
Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued in
1971 that belief in generalizations based on overly small sample
sizes was a bias of cognition. They went on to show that mistakes in
human judgment are not exceptions but the rule. Kahneman went on to
win a Nobel Prize in 2002, and his 2011 book
Thinking, Fast and Slow became a huge success.
of the findings Kahneman cited in the book appear to be fragile,
even spurious. Studies mentioned there started to dissolve as
scientists tried and failed to reproduce the original results.
The problem was the one he had identified in 1971: The researchers
were fooled by faulty intuitions about randomness.
Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel, Sam Harris
neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in
maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence. We presented 40
liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held
political and non-political views. Our results highlight the role of
emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the
neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning,
and related phenomena.
Participants were especially resistant
to arguments against their political beliefs. Given the personal
importance of political beliefs for the subjects enrolled in this
study, we expected our stimuli to evoke cognition related to social
identity. We found that individual differences in resistance to
belief change correlated with activity in brain regions important
for the generation of emotions, feelings, and social judgments.
All of our participants were strong liberals. It is not clear
how well these results would generalize to conservatives. Several
studies have found structural or functional differences between the
brains of conservatives and liberals.
Sample size 40.
2016 December 27
contact with advanced alien visitors was the theme of
Arrival. Huge ellipsoidal spacecraft came to hover silently over
various spots of Earth and human experts sought to communicate with
them. Amy Adams played the language expert who made first meaningful
contact with the squid-like inhabitants of one of the ellipsoids.
Their messages looked like splashed rings from wet coffee cups and
she had a hard time making any sense of them. After humans worldwide
struggled to guess a few words that seemed to form a vague message
and military authorities began to get edgy, the spacecraft silently
headed off, leaving a host of unanswered questions.
Communication is a deep philosophical enigma, and Arrival dramatized
the issue superbly. The movie also forced us to confront our
immaturity as a species by spacefaring standards. Civilized squids
exploring the galaxy in giant ellipsoids would naturally find it
hard to strike up a conversation with us, not only on the technical
level but also in terms of what there was to say. The Adams
character was moved in ways she found unable to express, and that
seemed a bigger payoff than any new equation to warp spacetime or
whatever. This was a movie for philosophers.
Passengers could almost have been written to a formula. Avalon,
a giant space cruiser bearing five thousand aspiring colonists in
hibernation to a remote Earth-like planet, hits a cloud of space
rubble and suffers damage. The story is set in a far enough future
that the ship is on a fairly routine voyage using proven technology
and the the passengers are as safe as on an ocean-going cruise liner
on Earth today. But they are on a one-way voyage to a planet many
light-years away. For a technophile, the visualization of this great
vessel is surely the main treat in this movie.
The plot of
Passengers relies in part on surprise, so it may be unwise to say
too much, but the main plot line is the developing relationship
between two passengers, Jim and Aurora (played by Chris Pratt and
Jennifer Lawrence), after first Jim and then Aurora wake up from
hibernation following malfunctions caused by the rubble collision,
some ninety years before arrival at the destination planet. As their
lonely wakefulness in the huge public spaces of the ship works on
them and as the ship suffers escalating malfunctions, the movie
artfully evokes moods from such earlier classics as The Shining, set
in an empty hotel, and Titanic, set on a sinking ship. Jim gradually
masters his initial despair and seeks to repair the ship, while
Aurora goes through a gamut of heartfelt emotions that Lawrence
plays impressively well.
Arrival and Passengers are two very
different movies, but they complement each other in ways that reward
comparative reflection. Arrival shows how little one can say about
the problems of saying anything at all. A single note of mystic
bafflement is allowed to ring out loud and clear, with no more or
less to convey than a Zen gong in a religious retreat. Passengers
shows how even a formulaic plot can be redeemed by loving attention
to the technically plausible visualization of the interior and
exterior details of an interstellar passenger cruiser.
me, this makes Passengers the more interesting movie despite my
wholehearted admiration for the evocation of the mystic side of
communication in Arrival. Scientists may do genuine homage to deep
philosophy, but in the end they spend most of their time and effort
on the technology, and hence get most of their kicks from it. And
few scientists will fail to enjoy seeing J-Law in action.
2016 December 26
World War 3
The United States and Russia are drifting
toward a new cold war. Many of the nuclear weapon systems on both
sides are aging and obsolete. The USAF Global Strike Command has 440
Minuteman III ICBMs, relics of the Cold War, sitting in underground
silos, ready to take off within 2 minutes, to deter a surprise
The US nuclear war plan is the Single Integrated
Operational Plan (SIOP). It depended on getting Minuteman missiles
off the ground immediately. The plan called for the destruction of
12,000 targets within the Soviet Union, with 400 nuclear weapons
targeted on Moscow alone.
Missiles launched from Russia would give
POTUS about 20 minutes to respond. Missiles launched from Russian
submarines in the western Atlantic would give him only 5 minutes. A
decision to launch Minuteman missiles on warning would kill millions
The United States has taken precautions to thwart
a cyberattack on its nuclear command and control system. If landline
communications between Minuteman control centers and their missiles
are interrupted, the missiles can still be launched by UHF radio
signals from Air Force One. The radio link creates an entry point
for a possible cyberattack.
Hundreds of missiles based on US
Navy submarines also deter a Russian attack. But they too may be
compromised by malware. The Royal Navy saves money by using Windows
for Submarines, a version of Windows XP, on its ballistic missile
subs. Microsoft support for Windows XP ended in 2014.
is modernizing its nuclear arsenal. The Russian leadership is
terrified of a decapitation strike. A first strike is probably the
only imaginable route to decisive victory in nuclear war. Vladimir
Putin: "When a fight is inevitable, you have to hit first."
POTUS has sole power to order the use of US nuclear weapons, with no
legal obligation to consult anyone else.
AR Schlosser is an expert on all this.
His 2013 book
Command and Control is terrifying.
2016 Christmas Day
If I am a sovereign being, my
free will is hard to find, and must defy the findings of
neuroscience. If a public polity is to be sovereign, it must set its
face against a well developed international order, with global rules
on peace and war, trade and markets, and human rights and duties. If
freedom is power, it must escape the chains of rules that bind our
In personal or political life, the scientific
constraints on free will fall behind in the admission that no well
founded prediction can be derived in time to make effective
decisions. If I wait for the scientific story to unfold, the moment
has passed and my act is choked. Life as we know it involves acting
fast, in real time, and the power to do so is our freedom.
Politicians are paid to make choices on behalf of those who put them
in power. Voters may be pushed by powers beyond their control to
vote as they do, but the laws of large numbers average out the
wilder impulses and the rulers who emerge can count on a steady
base. Still, the focused power that remains is hostage to a cloud of
neural and social fortune.
In both personal and political
life, seeking to escape the wheel of fortune is a fatal error. The
road to absolute sovereignty is a hard one, and going with the flow
is usually the better way. If I choose autonomy, to be my own boss
and do my own thing, I must defy the gods, but if I work with others
in similar predicaments I can make peace with my fate.
Neuroscience tells me that my brain has evolved to maintain the
illusion of control, to steer me away from entanglements and toward
a felt sense of freedom. But history shows that people must moderate
their natural impulses if they want to live together in harmony.
Politicians naturally want sovereignty, but they should beware of
what they wish for.
2016 December 24
I started this book with high hopes and found
the first half really interesting, then it went downhill fast.
Muller is obviously an excellent experimental physicist and has
understood Einstein's theories of relativity, at least, really well.
He also gives workmanlike accounts of large parts of particle
physics and the basics of quantum theory ...
That said, the
denouement in Part V is an utter disappointment.
2016 December 23
Trump Tweet Translated
PEOTUS Trump appears to have declared US
nuclear weapons policy in a tweet:
"The United States must greatly
strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
has a meticulous language all its own, but his words fall outside
The word "strengthen" is not in its lexicon
but may mean
— Modernize existing nuclear forces by upgrading
President Obama's plan
— Expand qualitative nuclear capability by
developing improved delivery systems
— Deploy existing weapons
systems closer to adversaries
The word "expand" may mean
Move some warheads from reserve stockpiles to active deployment
Build and deploy new warheads
— Build new warheads and stockpile
Strengthening and expansion may mean increasing
number and yield of nuclear warheads
— The speed, stealth, range,
or other attributes of weapons that deliver them
"until such time"
— As I want
— As is necessary to maintain
the status quo
— As certain foreign states fulfill certain
— All nuclear weapons states
Russia and China
The aim may be to
Avoid any escalation that might disturb the global status quo
Continue until the world accepts American nuclear primacy
Continue until we get global nuclear disarmament
in capability would force Russia and China to respond, increase the
number of nuclear conflict scenarios, and reduce the response time
in a crisis. The Obama plan to update the nuclear arsenal is already
projected to cost $1 trillion.
The Fall of Language in the Age of English
This book was written for those who, in
moments of solitude, quietly worry about the future of Japanese
literature and the Japanese language. It is for those who think that
what is being written in Japanese today is ultimately of little
relevance but who wish, with mingled despair and resignation, that
at the very least more people would read Japanese literature written
in those years when it was deserving of the name.
AR My stab at learning Japanese in
Japan, plus my reading of classic Japanese novels in English
translation, suggests this despairing reflection is right. There was
a fragile delicacy in the culture that appears like a vanishing
world through the prism of English global hegemony.
2016 December 22
In 1975 David Bowie was in Los Angeles
pretending to star in a movie. In an interview for Rolling Stone he
talked about the drugs he preferred. Station to Station, which he
released in January 1976, was about as far from Kiss and Led
Zeppelin and the Eagles as you could possibly get.
A key to
his success in the 1970s was that his rock superstar personae,
including Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, were both up on a
pedestal and down in the everyday dirt. As an artist, writer, actor,
singer, Bowie was good, but could never join the ranks of the greats
in any of those areas. The huge surge of affection when he died came
about partly because people felt he remained a kid who never forgot
where he was from.
Bowie met the Somalian supermodel Iman in
1990 and he sobered up. Watching Bowie selling himself to the world
was a depressing sight. To fall to Earth, you have to have been way
up in the stars.
AR I liked the
late Bowie. Sobering up is a seal of quality.
The Soviet Union
The Soviet Union in 1985 possessed much the
same resources as it had a decade earlier. The standard of living
was lower than in most of Eastern Europe, but the Soviet Union had
known far greater calamities without losing its grip. No key
parameter of economic performance prior to 1985 pointed to disaster.
The Soviet Union was at the height of its global power and
influence, both in its own view and in the view of the rest of the
world. The structural reasons for its collapse fail to explain how
it happened. Between 1985 and 1989, the state and its economic
system began to be seen as shameful, illegitimate, and intolerable.
A quest for self-respect and pride hollowed out the mighty
Soviet state. Deprived of its legitimacy, the USSR turned into a
shell that crumbled in August 1991. The tale of this intellectual
and moral journey is a central story of the last century.
AR The present USUK order could end
2016 December 21
The Trump Fact
Democracy lets people with different views
live together in harmony. An outburst of fear and anger is
disturbing because such primal emotions are hard to contain. In the
UK and the US in 2016, they came together in nationalism and
The more powerful the passions, the more likely
the democratic system will collapse into despotism. Demagogues claim
the tyranny of the majority as a mask on the tyranny of one. Trump
in charge of the USA is a devastating fact.
The Brexit Game
Thomas Schelling worked out how to prevent
nuclear war. He helped American policymakers see that they had to
make first use taboo and ensure they could always retaliate. With a
telephone hotline between the Kremlin and Washington, they could
then avoid nuclear war.
The ideas of Schelling and the game
theorists relate to the problems Britain now faces when negotiating
departure from the European Union. Brexit is a game involving many
players and a reasonable outcome is not assured. It could end in
conflict and failure.
1 We should know what an acceptable deal
2 We should flag any
absolute commitments clearly.
should go for a good outcome for both of us.
AR Rule 0 — rise above us versus them.
2016 December 20
On Bastille Day in Nice, a man drove a truck
into a crowd, killing 86. Last night in Berlin, a man drove a truck
into a crowd, killing 12. Germany has foiled many more terror
The German cocoon has burst. Germans will
soon accept intensified surveillance. The federal government has
decided to beef up data gathering and cyber warfare capabilities.
Angela Merkel's open-door policy on refugees will change. Last
year she flung open the doors on German borders. Some 800,000 people
from the Mideast and Africa swarmed in.
For Merkel, the open
door was a grand moral gesture and an act of historical atonement.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Controls are now
back with a vengeance.
Alternative für Deutschland will
campaign against Merkel in the 2017 general elections. She will want
to pose as a protector of domestic security. Germany is a terror
AR The terrorists
have split up Europe already.
One of the reasons the US won
the cold war was its skill at breaking China away from the Soviet
Union. When Nixon went to China in 1972 he cemented the Sino-Soviet
split and weakened Moscow. Nixon was a devout student of global
affairs who grasped the geopolitical chessboard.
to be known as the president who returns manufacturing jobs to the
US. He is using the threat to the One China policy as leverage to
wrest concessions from China. It will backfire.
AR If Trump ups arms to Taiwan, China
will be angry.
Brexit could be chaotic for trade and diplomatic
relations. A smooth divorce may
prove unattainable and instead become a train crash. The
reasons are procedural and political.
Procedurally, the negotiations are complicated. Britain and the EU
will try to unpick a 40-year relationship in 2 years. UK ambassador to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers says it
could take 10 years.
Politically, there is simmering ill will on both sides. The negotiating
process will reveal the immense gap between the assumptions of the two sides. Talks could break down irretrievably.
The EU estimate of British financial liabilities following
Brexit is that the UK will be facing a bill of up to €60 billion. That figure will
cause outrage in the UK. But the
EU will be able to justify it.
simply walk out and let the case go to the
International Court of Justice. Then it will be impossible to make any further progress on
Brexit. Opinion will harden on both sides.
happen after 2 years even with no deal.
The consequences could be dire. A senior British civil servant:
"It's going to be bloody, but we're just going to have to bash on
AR Expect a Trumped-up
nuclear holocaust first.
2016 December 19
Beijing and Washington understand that China
will return the captured underwater drone to the United States. The
two governments have shown responsibility in maintaining peace and
steals United States Navy research drone in international waters —
rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act."
2 "We should tell China that we don't want the
drone they stole back — let them keep it!"
Trump has no sense
of how to lead a superpower. Since he has not taken office, China
has kept a calm attitude toward his provocative remarks. But if he
treats China after assuming office in the same way as in his tweets,
China will not exercise restraint.
Reform Central Banks
World Bank chief economist Paul Romer
calls modern macroeconomics a racket.
The US and
German central banks were independent before 1990 but most other
central banks were not. Most people would probably not agree that
since army generals know best what is good for us, national armed
forces must be independent.
Defenders of the liberal order
should push to reclaim the central levers of economic policy. They
should distinguish the interests of the financial sector from those
of the economy. Failure to do so was one of the reasons for the
The case for reform is overwhelming.
Against Dark Matter
Erik Verlinde says gravity emerges from
qubit entanglement and dark matter reduces to dark energy. He sees
spacetime and matter as a hologram arising from an underlying
network of qubits and traces dark energy to a property of the
Years ago, modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND)
inventor Mordehai Milgrom conjectured that when the gravitational
field strength drops below precisely 0.12 pN/g,
gravity somehow switches from an inverse-square law to something
close to an inverse-distance law.
Verlinde gives a back story
for the MOND equations. He says spacetime is a geometric
representation of data stored in qubits. To do the work of dark
matter, he postulates a thermal energy associated with long-range
entanglement between the qubits.
This entanglement is
disrupted by matter, which interacts with dark energy to modify
gravity. The interaction increasingly dominates in larger volumes of
spacetime. Verlinde says it causes galaxy rotation curves to deviate
from the inverse-square law exactly as in MOND.
Analysis of galaxies strengthens his case. Researchers looked at 153
galaxies and compared the rotation speed of visible matter at a
given distance from each galactic center with the visible mass
within that galactic radius. The two variables were linked as in
MOND without dark matter.
Testing the new MOND on data from
more than 30,000 galaxies shows that Verlinde correctly predicts the
gravitational lensing of light from the galaxies — another claimed
effect of dark matter.
achievement for Verlinde would be to account for the claimed
imprints of dark matter in the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
Dark matter explains the observed CMB spectrum but the old MOND does
USAF B-52H leads a formation of
aircraft including two Polish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four
two Luftwaffe Eurofighter EF2000s and four
Swedish Air Force Gripens over the Baltic Sea for exercise
Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images
boss Sean Hoyle:
"Replace the capitalist system
with a socialist order ...
if we all spit
we can drown the
Jail Riot Chaos
No hot water for showers in
a UK jail is thought to
set off the worst prison
riot for a generation.
Panzerjäger Tiger (P)
at Southampton Docks on
its way to Bovington
2016 December 18
The New Sheriff
Donald Trump will reverse American policy toward
Russia and in the Mideast. He will ally with Vladimir Putin and
repair US ties with autocratic Sunni Arab regimes. His team promises
a "night and day" contrast with the outgoing administration.
Trump will usher in a "new era of American leadership" and launch a
new offensive against Daesh to show them there is a "new sheriff in
town" after eight years of weakness. Trump will order his generals
to deliver a plan within a month of his inauguration.
will woo Putin. He will ditch the nuclear deal with Iran and drive a
wedge between Russia and Iran. He will use US special forces to the
max. An officer: "All we need is the presidential authority and the
GPS coordinates and we can kill anyone in the world within 72
Trump: "Military, cyber and financial warfare will
all be essential in dismantling Islamic terrorism. But we must use
ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the cold war, in part,
by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets,
so too must we take on the ideology of radical Islam."
AR It might work. Worth a try anyway.
Worst that can happen is nuclear holocaust.
The New Britain
Britain is the most centralized country in the
Western world. Its local councils account for about a quarter of
government spending. Since 2010 their spending has been cut by over
a third, and is scheduled to fall much further by 2020.
after 2010, councils in England were encouraged to freeze council
tax. The tax is calculated on the basis of property values set in
1993 and not updated since. Councils are prohibited from running a
deficit and are obliged to balance the budget every year.
Councils have made big savings in roads and transport. Spending on
parks and culture has also fallen. Leisure centres, swimming pools,
playing grounds, public toilets, and libraries have been closed.
Since 2010, billions have been cut from social care budgets. The
services that remain are overstretched, and councils must make more
cuts this year, with yet more to come. By 2020, English councils
will be spending most of their income on social care.
Austerity destroys local government and marketizes nearly every
aspect of public policy. Local government will soon be forced to
outsource most of its responsibilities to the private sector.
A municipal nation has been destroyed.
AR Be Stoic: The rich will get richer, the jams (just about
managing) will go into forced servitude, and the rest will face
death with a smile.
The New Stoics
Philip Delves Broughton
Last week Donald Trump met the
new titans in Trump Tower. Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple,
and Larry Page of Alphabet came along in suits and ties. They have
embraced Stoicism — accepting what they cannot change and managing
what they can.
Stoicism is the new Zen. Ryan Holiday has sold
nearly a quarter of a million copies of his book
The Obstacle Is the Way. Athletes, Hollywood celebrities, and
the venture capitalists and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley bought
the recycled philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.
The Stoics were
indifferent to pleasure and pain, wealth and poverty, fortified by
their distance from the emotions that trouble ordinary minds. When
they kissed their children goodnight, they imagined them dying, so
that if the worst were to happen they would be ready.
Aurelius faced war and death on the fringes of the Roman Empire. He
wrote that facing a fine meal, you should recall "this is the dead
body of a fish and this is the dead body of a bird or a pig".
James Stockdale was a US navy pilot who spent years in North
Vietnam as a prisoner of war. He had read Epictetus. He survived by
confronting the brutal facts of his situation. The men who went
under were the optimists: "They died of a broken heart."
Epictetus: "Men, the lecture room of the philosopher is a hospital;
students ought not to walk out of it in pleasure, but in pain."
AR Cue for my next book.
2016 December 17
British Tax Haven Gambit
Despite Brexit, Brits want a say in deciding
EU tax policy. They propose an HM Treasury candidate to chair the EU
working group that oversees tax competition between member states.
EU27 members resist his nomination because since the Brexit vote
Britain has blocked moves to outlaw tax havens such as Bermuda, the
Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.
AR Perfidious Albion — don't let it drag
German Armed Forces Update
Ursula von der Leyen
Since the election of the new US
president, it has become clear to Europeans that we have to take
matters that affect us into our own hands.
There is no
military solution in Syria, only a political one. If there were a
way to stop Assad by force without risking wider war, we would do
so. Assad is getting massive air and ground support from Russia and
Iran. Syria could set the world ablaze.
We have cut spending
on the German armed forces for too long and now we must modernize
them. We are approaching the NATO 2% goal in reasonable steps, but
modernization takes time. We shall include this goal in our election
The EU and Germany must do more in Mali. By
agreement with the UN, the German army will take over helicopter
rescue duties in northern Mali from Holland in spring 2017. The
Bundestag will vote in January on increasing our manpower there.
The military can only do so much. Civilian aid costs
money, but it is better than hosting African migrants here or
AR Brits who
would cut aid should see this too.
Anthony Sudbery, ed. AR
Determinism is the idea that if you know the present you can
predict the future. It worked for centuries. Then came quantum
theory defines a state vector from which you can derive predictions.
If you choose which physical quantities you want to measure, subject
to complementarity, the state vector gives you probabilities for the
Quantum mechanics gives us two answers
about the future. In the view from nowhere, the universe is
described by a universal state vector and its evolution is
deterministic. In the view from here and now, we occupy a particular
world and its evolution is probabilistic.
From here and now
there are many worlds, but one of them is singled out as actual. In
my future, no one world is singled out for me. I face a
superposition of future worlds.
Predictions do not have to be
either true or false. Let a true statement have truth value 1 and a
false one have truth value 0. The truth value of a prediction X is a
number between 0 and 1 giving the probability of X.
view from nowhere, there are many worlds with different
probabilities. My actual world is one of them, and it has
probability 1 for me. Possible worlds that are counterfactual relative to
my world have probability 0 for me.
The whole universal state vector
goes into the calculation of future probabilities. Counterfactual
events can still affect the future until they fall away by
decoherence. Even in a deterministic universe, our predictions are
AR This is just the Kripke semantics of an
with Bayesian probability.
Kremlin, Moscow, 2016-12-08 (Maxim
FBI Director James Comey and Director of National
Intelligence James Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA
that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help
Donald Trump win.
officials say Moscow is undermining the UK through espionage, misinformation,
and fake news.
Seen in Vilnius,
Cambridge University Library
by Isaac Newton: 1687 first
sold for $3.7 million
German defense minister
von der Leyen with Saudi
defense minister Mohammed
2015 Defense Budgets
United States $597.5 billion
Saudi Arabia $87.2 billion
Kingdom $56.2 billion
France $46.8 billion
NASA scientist Joseph Nuth
big asteroids and comets
on collision course with Earth
extremely rare but for us
any collision is an extinction
event. NASA has a new
planetary defense office and
an interceptor rocket
Clint and Tom did good.
Czego szukasz w Święta?
English for beginners
In hindsight, do you think
Britain was right or wrong
to vote to leave the EU?
2016 December 16
Royal Motor Yacht Club, Sandbanks
AR Robert Syms MP gave an interesting
speech on the United States and the federal ideal in Europe,
the British and German economies, and the opportunities and
challenges of Brexit.
Some choice picks:
● Vice-President: Mike Pence,
the Governor of Indiana, an evangelical Christian who opposes
abortion and denies the theory of evolution.
● Department of
State: Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, whose interests and wealth
are tangled in a web of global relationships, including a close
partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Steven Mnuchin, an investment banker who made billions off of the
● Department of Labor: Andrew Puzder, a
fast-food CEO who disdains the minimum wage and backs increased
automation in low-wage fields.
● Department of Education: Betsy
DeVos, a billionaire who evangelizes charter schools and private
● Department of Energy: Rick Perry, the former Texas
governor who infamously wants to dismantle the agency, when he can
remember its name.
● Health and Human Services: Tom Price, a
Georgia representative who opposes the Affordable Care Act and wants
deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
● Environmental Protection
Agency: Scott Pruitt, who describes himself as a "leading advocate"
against the agency.
● Department of Justice: Jeff Sessions, the
Alabama senator who opposes the Voting Rights Act and supports a
rollback of federal protection for LGBT victims of hate crimes.
Homeland Security: John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who
opposes closing the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.
Department of Defense: James Mattis, another retired Marine Corps
general, on record as saying: "If you fuck with me, I'll kill you
AR Amazing, Donald.
2016 December 15
In November 2016, at a Google office
in London, London mayor Sadiq Khan introduced Google chief executive
Sundar Pichai. The Google of the future, said Pichai, is in
Google Brain was founded in 2011 to
give artificial neural networks something like human flexibility.
This approach to AI can solve hard problems like speech recognition
and image recognition.
When Pichai spoke, Translate had just
been converted to an AI system. The new incarnation had been
completed in only nine months, yet showed huge overnight
Networks of simple artificial neurons can learn
the way we do. An artificial neural network can rewire itself to
reflect patterns in the data it absorbs. This approach to AI is
evolutionary rather than creationist.
Google Brain built an
artificial neural network comparable in complexity to a mouse brain.
They taught it to recognize cats. They showed it labeled pictures of
cats as inputs and rated its outputs, and let it wire itself to map
the inputs to the outputs.
The cat work made Brain famous.
Lead author Quoc Le then saw that if a network could handle a photo
it could also handle a sentence. His team developed an architecture
to accommodate complex structures that unfolded over time, like
language or music.
A new chip made the network faster.
Tensor processing units are deliberately imprecise: rather than
compute 12.24 x 54.39, they compute 12 x 54. A neural network is
formally a structured series of matrix multiplications carried out
in succession, and the process needs to be fast rather than exact.
In February 2016, Google convened its research leads at an
offsite retreat. The Translate update rolled out in November.
Good machine translation is likely to prove transformational. It
is a big step toward artificial general intelligence, AGI.
AR This reminds me so much of what we
used to do on a smaller scale at SAP.
2016 December 14
UK Bargaining Chips
A Lords committee says:
UK government ministers should provide an immediate
unilateral undertaking to protect the citizenship rights of EU
nationals living in the UK after Brexit.
Failure to do so would have severe consequences for EU
citizens in Britain, who would become subject to national
immigration laws of Byzantine complexity.
Giving Europeans a firm message on their future before the
end of Brexit negotiations is the only morally right action.
AR I am appalled and ashamed that the
government under which I live has not already and unconditionally
The Bundeswehr has 176,752 active military
personnel and 200 Leopard 2 tanks. The Luftwaffe has 109 Eurofighter
Typhoons and 89 Tornados. The German navy has just 10 frigates.
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen will spend an extra
$140 billion on equipment over the next 15 years. Germany spends
1.2% of GDP on defense, against a NATO target of 2%, and she is
raising this to 1.22% in 2017.
Low German defense spending
and limited capabilities are a hangover from WW2. Over the last 25
years, Germany has converged with France and the UK on the politics
of using military force. But even the Ukraine crisis has not changed
German hesitancy about the use of military force.
A half of
Germans think the defense budget should be increased. But Germans do
not want to arm against Russia, even if people in the Baltic states
and Poland do. Fear of being overwhelmed by refugees rather than
fear of Russia is prompting Germans to rethink their security policy.
AR Germany, France, and the UK need
to coordinate their defense policies much more closely — and as a
matter of the highest priority.
The Big Picture
— my review of a book by Sean Carroll
2016 December 13
Donald Trump has named Rex Tillerson,
chairman and chief executive of ExxonMobil, as his secretary of state. Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in
2013. Tillerson will work with secretary of defense "Mad Dog" Mattis
(blog December 3) and national security adviser Michael Flynn, former director
of the DIA.
Russia expert and former secretary of defense
Robert Gates: "I strongly endorse the president-elect's selection of
Rex Tillerson to be the next secretary of state ... He is a person
of great integrity whose only goal in office would be to protect and
advance the interests of the United States."
Trump has tapped
billionaire investor Wilbur Ross for his commerce secretary and top
trade official, Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head the White
House national economic council, and Goldman alumnus Steven Mnuchin
as treasury secretary.
Business takes over US governance. This tends to confirm the
view of politics and business I aired in my book
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
Global corporations will win against national polities. Trump knows
this. Snobbish governing elites
will fail against brash hard
chargers from the corporate jungle, just as smug religious elites
failed against scientists.
The New York Times
A billion-dollar investment fund led
by Bill Gates and other technology titans will invest in
transformative energy R&D to reduce the emissions that cause climate
Breakthrough Energy Ventures will capitalize on
government-backed research through partnerships with the University
of California system and other institutions.
The fund has 20
investors and will last 15 to 20 years. It will cover investments in
electricity generation and storage, transportation, agriculture, and
energy system efficiency.
Aleppo steht kurz vor dem Fall, Bewohner in
den Rebellengebieten sind in höchster Not. Laut Rotem Kreuz ist die
humanitäre Situation katastrophal, die UNO ist alarmiert wegen
Berichten über Gräueltaten gegen Zivilisten.
The new Winton mathematics gallery at the
Science Museum in London reveals the richness of mathematics.
Maths is popular with A-level students in
British schools. As a STEM subject it provides a ticket into the
world of science and jobs. But the maths they learn will not equip
them with the right skills.
The machinery that powers
mathematics is crucial. Before modern computers, we did calculations
by hand, so we worked hard to avoid them at the expense of more
upfront deliberation in defining and abstracting the question. It
was a meticulous process.
The process of defining questions,
translating them into math, computing the answers, and interpreting
results, is computational thinking. Mathematics is all this, not
just pure calculation.
We need to focus on computational
thinking, the process that drives practical applications of
AR Years ago I
helped set up the
Deutsches Museum, München.
2016 December 12
Trump v China
US President-elect Donald Trump: "I fully
understand the One China policy, but I don't know why we have to be
bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having
to do with other things, including trade."
marveled at Trump's commercial thinking and naivety for diplomacy.
The One China policy has become a fundamental principle of international
order. Leaders all around the world, including US leaders,
If Trump gave up the One China policy,
supported Taiwan independence, and sold weapons to Taiwan, China
would have no grounds to partner with Washington on international
affairs and contain forces hostile to the US.
Trump is no
geopolitical maniac, but he is easily subject to the hawkish
advisers around him. We will learn more about how he interprets the
One China policy after he is sworn in. China needs to be fully armed
Trump v Government
Donald Trump has placed a climate change denier in charge of
environmental protection, an opponent of the minimum wage as labor
secretary, a conspiracy theorist in charge of the National Security
Council, and a protectionist at the commerce department. Now he is
considering a recipient of the Kremlin's Order of Friendship as
secretary of state.
Russia: Trump seems to want a rapprochement with Russia,
which is suffering under economic sanctions imposed after its
annexation of Crimea and intervened for him during the election,
exciting speculation about his relationship with Russia.
Europe: The French and German governments fear Trump may
support Marine Le Pen or the Alternative for Germany in elections
next year, but weakening NATO could undermine his presidency.
Iran: He could easily rip up the nuclear deal, but this
could put the US on the road to war.
Mideast: He advocates a much more ferocious approach to the
war on radical Islamic terrorism.
China: He signals a sharp rise in tensions with Beijing.
PEOTUS endorses expansion in the US Navy. He could split the
informal alliance between Russia and China and instead form a
Washington-Moscow axis. But his moves smacks more of chaotic
improvisation than strategic thinking.
Trump v World
PEOTUS Trump may damage EU chances of dealing
with its many challenges. EZ and Schengen states are no longer
sovereign in regard to currency or
borders, and Germany lacks military capability, but the EU has only
a shadow capability at supranational level.
The UK may have
to hold the line in Europe for years. Rearmament must begin now in
preparation for war against a major power in Europe. A grand bargain
with the EU might preserve free trade, restrict immigration, and
increase British commitment to European security through NATO.
London needs to read its neighbors the riot act on Russia.
Europeans have seen they cannot have a common currency or a common
travel area without a common state, and a European army without a
European state can only end in more tears. They need full political
PEOTUS must see that America has the biggest stake in the
success of NATO.
2016 December 11
In quantum mechanics, time is universal
and absolute. But in general relativity, time is relative and
dynamical. We need to reconcile their notions of time.
physicists now consider spacetime and gravity to be emergent
phenomena. Spacetime and matter emerge in a hologram from a network
of entangled qubits. Spacetime is a geometric representation of the
entanglement structure of the underlying quantum systems.
hologram arises in toy universes with anti-de Sitter (AdS)
spacetime. In their elliptical geometries, spacetime increments
shrink to nothing at a boundary. The boundary provides a surface for
the entangled qubits to project the hologram. The qubit states are
like steps in timeless code, giving rise to relativistic time in the
bulk of the AdS space.
In our universe, the fabric of
spacetime has a hyperbolic de Sitter geometry. The fabric stretches
out toward the end of time. At the end, in the heat death,
everything becomes causally disconnected, time breaks down, and
nothing more happens.
Researchers do not yet understand the
emergence of time from the entangled qubits on the timeless
2016 December 10
Science is under attack. Donald Trump
claimed that climate change was a Chinese conspiracy to undermine US
industrial competitiveness. Now he repeats an evasive little mantra
about having an open mind.
But this is like saying you have
an open mind about the shape of the Earth or about evolution. Anyone
with an open mind will agree there is a huge body of evidence
showing that human activities are affecting global climate. Yet
Trump will stop funding for the
NASA Earth Science division.
NASA climate research and
monitoring is essential and respected worldwide.
NASA GISS is
one of the leading centers for studies of global climate change. An
Atlantic Council report in March identified climate change as a
threat to US national security.
The Trump plans for more
astronaut space missions are not a shifting of NASA priorities but a
concerted attack on science. There is no compelling scientific or
economic argument to put all NASA resources into space missions.
Space research is a luxury, Earth observations are essential.
Trump advisor Bob Walker says environmental monitoring is
politically correct and climate science is heavily politicized. This
is science denial. NASA should not accept such blatant political
2016 December 9
EU Nuclear Defense
Donald Trump said NATO is obsolete. He mooted
pulling back the US nuclear shield from Japan and South Korea and
suggested they develop their own nuclear weapons. If Trump seriously
questions US nuclear guarantees, Europe will be vulnerable to
possible threats from Russia.
In that case, Berlin would
consider establishing a European nuclear deterrent. NATO military
officers and diplomats are addressing the issue of a French-British
nuclear shield for Europe. Britain and France have only around 450
nuclear warheads, but their second-strike capability is strong
enough to defend Europe.
Politically, the issue is trickier.
France views its nuclear capability as a national asset and Britain
is facing Brexit. Europeans would be forced to depend on Paris and
London for their security. After Brexit, Germans might rather fund
an EU nuclear arsenal under French leadership.
AR I discussed a Franco-British EU
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
National prejudices and technical interoperability are big
obstacles. But I say do it.
Russia v NATO
General Sir Richard
Shirreff offers a scenario: 2017 begins with a new Russian invasion
of Ukraine. The Russian army sweeps westward into eastern Ukraine up
to Crimea. This conquest of half of Ukraine takes Russia three days.
NATO fails to respond.
With that done, Russia moves against
the Baltic states. Russian special forces engineer chaos during a
demonstration in the Latvian capital Riga, which creates a pretext
for a Russian invasion that is over in hours. Similar moves take
Estonia and Lithuania.
NATO ambassadors meeting in Belgium
fail to agree on action. Russian planes sink two navy ships, one
German and one British. A reluctant Germany accepts that Russia and
NATO are at war. The Shirreff scenario is a wake-up call to NATO.
AR See blog October 22.
Dictatorship of the People
Brexiteers will implement the result of the
EU referendum. But the view that the executive must do so is a form
of authoritarianism. The government becomes a dictatorship that
rules in the name of the people.
AR Wolf wäre Volksverräter!
2016 December 8
Queen Elizabeth I stood up for Britain. She
had a very clear vision about what she wanted to do.
I think everybody has their own style as to how they do
business. I just get on and do the job. What was important in
forming the team was unity.
I've got a team around me, some
of them people I've worked with before, some of them I've not worked
with before. I've reinstated cabinet subcommittees. There's a much
more open and free discussion among cabinet colleagues on different
I don't take all the decisions. Everybody
thinks that suddenly everything is coming to me as prime minister.
But there are some crucial decisions that obviously I take.
It's not a question of whether people have earned trust, but of where it's appropriate for different decisions to be
Whatever side anybody was on in the referendum vote,
we've all now got to come together and deliver for the public. It's
important that we don't leave it for too long, otherwise people will
lose faith in their politicians. They'll think that we're trying to
pull the wool over their eyes.
I want to see as smooth and
orderly a process as possible. Of course, it's going to be complex
because there's a lot to deal with. You're not a member of something
for 40-odd years and then it's easy.
I think it's important
for us to build up the relationship with the people we're
negotiating with. There are 27 member states which will be
negotiating. They don't want to see others looking to break away and
to vote to leave in the way the UK has done.
We are seeking a bespoke outcome on terms of
trading with and operating within the European market. We are
seeking tariff-free, barrier-free access. We have to judge what is
best for Britain, in terms of its access both to the European
market and to the rest of the world.
Our strategy is to bring
back the control of migration to the UK government and parliament.
That will be exercised in the national interest. We would expect to
see pretty free movement of highly talented labour, and not to cause
AR Selfish UK
U.S. Pacific Command
carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), right, with Japan
Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)
ships JS Izumo (DDH 183),
center, and JS Kurama (DDH 144), Philippine Sea, November 11, 2016
75 years ago today:
on Pearl Harbor
ein Recht auf Schadenersatz
AR My writing career
I2 Am Globorg
I1 think this slogan makes
Globorg idea ring better.
I1 is human, I2 is planetary.
So read I1 as "I for one"
as "I too".
Too Dumb To Know It
The Dunning—Kruger effect
is a cognitive
bias in which
low-ability individuals suffer
mistakenly assessing their
ability as much higher than
it really is. Dunning: "If you're
incompetent, you can't know
incompetent ... the
skills you need to produce a
right answer are
skills you need to recognize
what a right answer is."
Donald J. Trump announced
his selection of retired USMC
James N. Mattis to be
next US secretary of defense:
"The closest thing we have
General George Patton."
2016 December 7
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is one of the top
five navies in the world.
Japan Security Watch
blog editor and US Naval Institute News contributor Kyle Mizokami:
"The United States and Japan are the two closest military powers in
the world today. They're even closer than the US and UK. They train
together on a daily basis, and there are major military exercises in
air, land, and sea on almost a weekly basis."
The United States and Britain are hubs of
globalized turbo-capitalism and finance. For at least a decade,
fears and resentments had been building over the elites and the
downsides of modern life. So the British voted to quit the European
Union and Americans voted for Donald Trump.
are in the midst of an upheaval. Virtual direct democracy through
social media has outflanked representative democracy. The major
political parties in Britain and the United States will have to
prove their relevance again.
Democracies have not been
delivering. A way is needed to restore faith in our societies.
Germany, with its balance of capitalism and solidarity, its respect
for the labor force, and its commitment to education and training,
offers a model.
AR I discussed
virtual direct democracy in chapter 1111 of
G.O.D. Is Great (2010).
The overthrow of Matteo Renzi is
the latest revolt against the new managerial elites. The Italian
people knew very well that Brussels was backing Renzi. And they know
the Five Star Movement, which wants a referendum on the euro, is
likely to be a beneficiary of the turmoil.
So the people of
Italy join the people of Britain in rejecting the bureaucrats.
Brexiteers were inspired by the early revolts of the Dutch and
French and by the fighting Irish. In turn, we Brits, French, Dutch,
Italian, and Irish have emboldened Eurosceptics elsewhere.
Some revolts will go in a good direction, others in a dodgy one. But
what binds them together is hope that politics can be reclaimed from
the committee rooms of the technocrats and brought crashing back
down to the rowdy, wonderful court of public opinion.
AR Be careful what you wish for.
2016 December 6
Eine Situation wie die des
Sommers 2015 kann, soll und darf sich nicht wiederholen. Das war und
ist unser und mein erklärtes politisches Ziel. Nicht alle der
890.000 Menschen, die gekommen sind, können und werden bleiben.
Hier bei uns in Deutschland gelten die Gesetze unseres Landes.
Und zwar für jeden und jede in gleicher Art und Weise. Unser Recht
hat Vorrang vor Stammesregeln, vor Ehrenkodexe und der Scharia. Bei
uns heißt es: Gesicht zeigen, deswegen ist die Vollverschleierung
nicht angebracht, sie sollte verboten sein.
es nur dann gut, wenn es auch Europa gut geht. Wir müssen in dieser
Lage, in der die Welt aus den Fugen geraten ist, zunächst alles
daran setzen, dass Europa nicht noch schwächer aus den Krisen
hervorgeht, als es hineingegangen ist. Unsere Zukunft hängt einzig
und allein von unserer Stärke ab und die haben wir selbst in der
AR Letzter Absatz gilt auch
UK Lost Decade
It doesn't feel like the good old days in the UK. Anxiety about the future
has increased, productivity hasn't recovered, and real wages are
below where they were a decade ago. No one alive today has
experienced this before.
Monetary policy has been highly
effective. The data do not support the idea that the period of low
rates has benefited the wealthiest at the expense of the least
wealthy. All monetary policy has distributional effects, but it is
rightly the role of elected governments to take measures to offset
them if they so choose.
Politicians need to foster a
globalization that works for all. Redistribution and fairness also
means turning back the tide of stateless corporations. Companies
must be rooted and pay tax somewhere.
Nation states like the UK must learn to live with their
neighbors before they can hope to put up an effective common front
against global corporations.
The New York Times
The Breakthrough Foundation handed out
more than $25 million in annual prizes.
A special $3 million
prize went to the LIGO experiment that detected gravitational waves
from colliding black holes. The money will be split among Ronald
Drever, Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss, and the other 1,012 scientists on
The regular Breakthrough physics prize went to
string theorists Andrew Strominger, Cumrun Vafa, and Joseph
Polchinski. Strominger and Vafa used string theory to compute the
entropy of a black hole and Polchinski generalized string theory to
The Breakthrough mathematics prize went to Jean
Bourgain for work including a decoupling theorem generalizing the
Pythagorean theorem to the superposition of waves.
science prizes went to:
Stephen Elledge for exploring how cells sense and respond to damage
in their DNA and for insights into the development and treatment of
● Harry Noller for
helping to unravel the structure of ribosomes and the role of RNA
● Roeland Nusse for
work on a gene that plays a crucial role in the development of
embryos, stem cells, bone growth, and the progression of cancer;
Huda Zoghbi for work on the genes behind the neurodegenerative
disorders Spinocerebellar ataxia and Rett syndrome;
Yoshinori Ohsumi for work on how cells recycle themselves that could
help us better understand the process of aging.
AR Glad the gravity wave work was
2016 December 5
Guts and Democracy
In Italy, prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned after losing his
referendum on constitutional reform. Opposition leader Beppe Grillo
had urged Italians to vote with their guts, not their brains.
Analysts fear a run on Italian banks and a plunge in the euro.
The stability of the European Union is endangered. Italy will
probably join France, the Netherlands, and Germany in holding
elections next year, with the populists on the march.
AR Populism is a force the EU must learn
to live with. The public image of the EU in the UK is far below what
it needs to be to gain any popular traction. No wonder so many Brits
want to leave it.
Violence and Death
Violence is always a failure of articulacy.
When I create a monster character, the covers of the book are like
the bars of a cage. You can look at this monster and admire its
severity and horror, but it doesn't mean you secretly want violence.
History is accelerating and the novel has responded to that. The
narrative has to be much stronger than it used to be. Novelists are
modern people too, and they felt this acceleration of history. You
write the novels you want to read, and as I get older I write about
I'm writing an autobiographical novel about three
other writers — a poet, a novelist and an essayist — Philip Larkin,
Saul Bellow, and Christopher Hitchens. Larkin died in 1985, Bellow
died in 2005, and Hitch died in 2011, and that gives me a theme,
Words, words, words — they all died
— the end.
2016 December 4
I warned before the Brexit vote that it
would damage scientific research in Britain, that a vote to leave
would be a step backward. What matters now is how the elites react.
To reject the vote as an outpouring of crude populism would be a
The concerns about globalization and
technological change are understandable. The automation of factories
and the rise of artificial intelligence will accelerate the widening
economic inequality around the world. Many people are searching for
a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.
With the global spread of the internet and social media,
economic inequalities are far more apparent than in the past. The
lives of the richest people in the world are visible to anyone, so
the rural poor join the economic migrants in search of a better
life. These migrants undermine tolerance and fuel political
Now, more than at any time in our history, our
species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental
challenges. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on
which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it,
so we need to work together to protect it.
We need to break
down barriers within and between nations. Our leaders need to
acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With
resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are
going to have to learn to share far more than at present.
must help people to retrain for a new world and support them
financially while they do so. If communities cannot cope with
current levels of migration, we must encourage global development.
This will require the elites to learn humility.
2016 December 3
Ivanka Trump, Climate Czar?
Ivanka, 35, Trump's avatar among the moneyed
left-wing elite, is poised to play a larger public role than the
first lady. She is positioning herself as a bridge to moderates and
liberals disgusted and depressed with the tone and tenor of the new
leader of the free world.
The ambitious daughter who once
plotted her career around international brand domination is
apparently planning to make climate change one of her signature
AR If so, good news.
Mad Dog Mattis
US Marine Corps General James N. Mattis
commanded a division in the invasion of Iraq and fought in
Afghanistan. Also known as the Warrior Monk, he took the book
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius into battle. His philosophy of
● The first time you blow someone away is not an
● That said, there are some assholes in the
world that just need to be shot.
● It's fun to shoot some people.
There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It's really
● I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck
with me, I'll kill you all.
● Engage your brain before you engage
● The most important six inches on the battlefield is
between your ears.
● Marines don't know how to spell the word
● Wherever the enemy wants to fight, we will follow him to
the ends of the Earth.
AR Any friend of Marcus Aurelius is a
friend of mine.
2016 December 2
Richmond Park Surprise
Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney won the
by-election in Richmond Park. She gained a majority of 1,872, just
under 50% of the vote, to unseat former Conservative MP Zac
Goldsmith, who had won a 23,000 majority in 2015. The vote was a de
facto plebiscite on Brexit — Lib Dems said the strongly pro-remain
constituency should have an MP who opposed hard Brexit.
Olney: "Richmond Park was full of people like me, who felt the
country was going wrong, that the politics of anger and division
were on the rise, that the liberal, tolerant values we took for
granted were under threat."
The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins published his bestseller
Selfish Gene in 1976.
The book explored a new way of looking
at evolution. Bill Hamilton had argued that the reason people devote
themselves to raising their children was because this furthered the
survival of their genes. Dawkins saw that natural selection is not
mainly choosing among species, or groups, or even individuals, all
of which are transient aggregations, but among genes.
Dawkins: "Genes are in a sense immortal. They pass through the
generations, reshuffling themselves each time they pass from parent
to offspring ... Our basic expectation on the basis of the orthodox
neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is that genes will be 'selfish'."
Daniel Dennett: "Many laypeople and even some biologists may
fail to appreciate how bountiful this shift of attention has been."
AR Good book. The idea played a
central role in the argument of my book
2016 December 1
The German Challenge
The European Union is teetering:
Italy Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is likely to lose
a referendum on constitutional reform.
Freedom Party (FPÖ) presidential candidate Norbert Höfer looks set
to be elected.
— Holland Party for Freedom (PVV)
leader Geert Wilders calls for a European patriotic spring.
France Front National presidential candidate Marine
Le Pen looks set to do well next spring.
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is making waves ahead of elections
Germany may have to lead alone on Brexit, Russia,
Turkey, migrants, the EZ crisis, and dealing with US president
UK Needs Written Constitution
The sovereignty of parliament is key to
UK political arrangements. By making the will of the people
sovereign, the Brexit referendum is constitutional dynamite for
those arrangements. A written constitution is now essential to:
1 Establish a separation of powers
between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary
2 Define the political powers and rights
3 Express the aspirations
of UK society
AR Hear hear
Alt-Right's Jewish Godfather
The night America elected Donald Trump
president, Richard Spencer crowed: "We're the establishment now."
His former mentor Paul Gottfried is a retired Jewish academic who
studied at Yale under Herbert Marcuse.
Gottfried is a Nietzschean American nationalist. In his view, there
are inherent differences between races, genders, religions, and
nations, so equality is unnatural and is imposed by a class of
managers who enforce multiculturalism and political correctness.
Gottfried distinguishes social Darwinism from the corrupted version
exploited by the Nazis and says Hitler was not a fascist but a
far-right counter-revolutionary response to Stalin.
Spencer created the website
Alternative Right in 2010. Spencer: "American society today is
so — pardon my French — fucking middle class in its values. There is
no value higher than having a pension and dying in bed. I find that
profoundly pathetic. So, yeah, I think we might need a little more
chaos in our politics, we might need a bit of that fascist spirit in
AR More chaos