The joys of summer:
Eurovision song contest
victor Måns Zelmerlöw
Abraj Kudai, Mecca:
£2.3 billion hotel with
4 helipads, 5 floors for
bedrooms, 45 storeys,
near the Grand Mosque,
open in 2017
U. Alvarez-Rodriguez et al.
Dr. h.c. Hala Gorani
George Mason University
wins 8 gongs
at Billboard bash
2015 May 27
China's Military Strategy
State Council Information Office, PRC
China will follow
the path of peaceful development. The United States is enhancing its
military presence and alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan is
overhauling its military and security policies. China must safeguard
its maritime rights and interests.
China's national security
is vulnerable to international and regional turmoil, terrorism,
piracy, natural disasters, and epidemics. Security interests
concerning energy and resources and strategic sea lines of
communication are an immediate issue.
strategic goal is to build a prosperous society by 2021, when the
CPC celebrates its centenary, and a modern socialist country by
2049, when the PRC marks its centenary. The Chinese Dream is to
achieve a great rejuvenation.
transcript on the USNI site is long but worth reading.
America is not in decline. Its per capita
income is more than eight times higher than China's. It is the
world's largest exporter of goods and services and food. It has
an entrepreneurial culture, deep and efficient capital markets, and
an unrivaled capacity for technological innovation.
the United States could become almost entirely energy
self-sufficient. It will no longer depend so heavily on unstable
regions and unreliable partners in the Mideast. The United States
can play the dominant role in shaping military and economic outcomes
in every region of the world.
Angela Merkel wants to keep Britain in
the European Union. She tells David Cameron: pull out, and your
country will find its position in the world reduced. But she is
equally worried about Europe.
The German government assumes
that the British prime minister also wants to keep Britain in the
EU. Freedom of movement and economic migration within the EU will be
the biggest problem.
2015 May 26
Never Give In
UK prime minister David Cameron greeted EC
president Jean-Claude Juncker at Chequers. They met in the room
where Winston Churchill reputedly wrote some of his most famous
wartime speeches. Cameron invited Juncker to recall: "We'll fight
them on the beaches."
War Zone: South China Sea
Gordon G. Chang
Last Wednesday, the Chinese navy sent
eight warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft flying
over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. On Friday, the
Chinese Foreign Ministry called the flight "very irresponsible and
dangerous and detrimental to regional peace and stability".
China is staking a claim in 3.5 million square km of water bounded
by Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where
annual commerce totals $5.3 trillion. Beijing is accelerating a land
reclamation program in the Spratly reefs to add about 4 square km of
land. At present, there are 100 Chinese dredgers at work in the
shallows. A new runway on one reef is about 3 km long. Last week's
radio warning from the Chinese navy to the American P-8A referred to
"our military alert zone".
The United States has no
territorial claims in the South China Sea. The US Navy deploys
planes and warships into what China considers its sovereign airspace
and territorial waters to defend international law and freedom of
AR China sees islands
this far from its shores as part of a defensive island chain. They
enable the Chinese navy to counter the threat from US Navy carrier
fleets. But surrounding states, including Japan, see hegemonic
ambition. Others also see greed for oil revenue.
2015 May 25
If somebody had said, "I have a deal for
you: we are going to lower the tax rates at the top and deregulate,
and the outcome a third of a century later is that 90% of you are
going to see no income increases, many will see decreases, the
economy is going to grow slower than in the past but all the growth
is going to go to the top 10%," it is inconceivable that any
democratic society would have voted for that package.
story of a well-functioning market economy is that not only does it
create jobs but it also creates increases in income that are shared.
This is not a matter of bashing Wall Street. This is really about
reconstructing our economy where the financial sector has an
important role but is doing what it is supposed to be doing. This is
not about the politics of envy, it is about trying to create a
Fall of Ramadi
US defense secretary Ash Carter: "What apparently
happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.
They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the
opposing force, and yet they failed to fight, they withdrew from the
site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have
an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend
War in Ramadi
Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), the
Golden Division, was created and trained by US special forces. An
ISOF commander: "We are elite, the tip of the spear."
Golden Division suffered heavy casualties and were demoralized
when holding a defensive line against ISIL militants in Ramadi.
Former US army military adviser to ISOF David M. Witty: "It was a
complete waste of an elite force. But Iraq was forced to do that,
because it was the only dependable force they had."
airstrikes in Anbar province are co-ordinated by Australians. An
ISOF officer calls them and they call the Americans for approval
before an airstrike, which often comes too late: "We are paying for
this with our soldiers' lives."
2015 May 24
A Nuclear Nightmare Averted
The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was
signed in 1968 and became international law in 1970. After the Cuban
missile crisis of 1962, President John F. Kennedy saw that the
nuclear order of the time was unacceptably risky. The United States
and Soviet Union set up a hotline for talks during crises, signed a
test ban treaty, and began negotiations that led to the NPT.
Many nations who signed up for the NPT were known cheaters. It
seemed delusional to presume that the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) would be able to identify violators. The IAEA has
found the task challenging, but its record compares favorably with
that of national intelligence agencies.
Today the US
intelligence community is hugely more capable and more focused on
the spread of nuclear weapons than it was in 1970. There are still
only 9 states with nukes: Britain, China, France, India, Israel,
North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States.
UK Versus Islamic State
Islamic State poses a threat to civilization
in the Mideast and beyond.
If the the IS caliphate is not
defeated in Syria and Iraq, its ambition will spread across the ME
region and potentially into Europe. Air strikes and limited
assistance to indigenous forces have failed. On the ground is where
the evil problem must be solved.
As the head of the British
army from 2006 to 2009, I will never forget the costs of the Iraq
invasion in terms of UK soldiers, 179 of whom died in the campaign.
In Afghanistan, more than 450 died trying to defeat the Taliban. But
we must defeat the caliphate.
We are facing a fight to the
finish against this despicable enemy.
2015 May 23
Iraq Versus Islamic State
Iraqi forces are attacking Islamic State militants to
defend Baghdad. An alliance of Sunni tribal fighters,
Iraqi security forces, and a Shiite militia could take back Ramadi,
capital of Anbar province.
The Islamic caliphate has
In the Ramadi area, militants summarily executed people in the
street whom they accused of working with the government.
forces are pushing along the Euphrates River between Ramadi and
Falluja. They face the Habbaniya military base, from which the Iraqi
government now hopes to retake Ramadi and Anbar.
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi is
now commander in chief of the army. On April 1, 2015, he walked into
Tikrit after the Islamic State retreat, triumphantly waving the
Iraqi flag. But while he rejoices in his military accomplishments,
his civilian advances have won him the most plaudits. After eight
years of al-Maliki's dictatorial methods, many Iraqis welcome
al-Abadi's lighter touch.
Baghdad feels calm. Thousands
throng to its historic book market for a weekly literary festival.
In Najaf the Shia shrine of Imam Ali was the scene of a book fair.
On one stall were Arabic translations of the Bible, Talmudic
tractates, and Baha'i texts. Another bookseller displayed works by
Marx, Kant, and Spinoza. This year's best seller: a new Arabic
translation of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene.
Islamic State is the most explosive Islamic
movement the modern world has ever seen. The movement is looking to
do something big, something that would make any past operation look
like a squirrel shoot. The more groups that pledge allegiance the
more possible it becomes to pull off something truly epic. As a
hypothetical operation, they could call on their wilayah in Pakistan
to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to
corrupt officials. This is the sum of all fears for Western
On Monday, UK prime minister David Cameron
gave his first major speech after being re-elected. Confronting a
world of challenges, he pledged to ensure that UK hospitals will be
better staffed on weekends.
Britain has resigned as a global
power. Over the next few years, the British army could shrink to
50,000, about the size of the New York Police Department. RAF
Tornado strike aircraft are a generation behind USAF F-22 Raptors.
The Royal Navy does not have a single aircraft carrier.
members aim to maintain defense spending at 2% of GDP. Britain might
not hold that level. In recent years the Foreign Office budget has
been cut by more than a quarter, and further trims are likely. The
BBC World Service budget has been slashed, with more cuts to come.
Britain supports an international system based on the free flow
of ideas, goods and services, and promotes individual rights and the
rule of law. It is a country with talent and capacity. Its inward
turn is a tragedy.
AR Britain is
almost bankrupt. World wars, end of empire, oil prices, banking
crisis: no choice but to sigh and move on.
2015 May 22
A new origin story is being constructed.
It is vastly more powerful than previous stories because it sums
over vastly more information than any earlier origin story.
There is a coherent story about increasing complexity. The early
universe was very simple. Gradually, over 13.8 billion years, more
complex things appear.
After the big bang is the creation of
stars. Next is a universe with all of the elements of the periodic
table. You can now make new materials, and planets and moons. On
some rocky planets, you get an astonishing chemical diversity. With
life, you get complex entities appearing in extremely unstable
Variations become information, because
something is responding in a complex way to those variations.
Something like choice enters the story. Natural selection kicks in.
Living organisms appear in unstable environments. To survive, they
need to be able to detect information. They give the appearance of
Human beings are next in increasing complexity.
Human language crosses a threshold where information accumulates
across generations, through culture.
A universe without
teleology can blindly create interesting and complex things. Big
history can help us see that there is a coherent story behind modern
2015 May 21
MIT Technology Review
Evolution is an
algorithmic process. An evolutionary algorithm in a virtual
environment soon creates lifelike organisms that live and reproduce.
This kind of life is a phenomenon of pure information. A population
of individuals capable of reproducing undergoes selection so that
better adapted individuals produce more offspring than others.
Change between the generations may occur through random mutation or
by sexual recombination. When these steps are repeated over many
generations, the individuals that emerge are those that survive best
in the given environment.
Unai Alvarez-Rodriguez and others simulated the
way life evolves in a quantum environment. They started by creating
quantum individuals with two parts: the genotype, or the information
passed on from one generation to the next, and the phenotype, or the
body that interacts with the environment and eventually dies.
The creatures can reproduce in two ways. Asexually, the genome
separates from its body and joins with another body. That creates an
identical copy of the original, but mutations can occur randomly.
Sexually, two creatures reproduce by exchanging quantum information
to produce a new genome. This can then join with a body to create an
organism with a new genotype.
The operation that passes
information from one generation to the next is a form of quantum
cloning. Mutation is a logic operation that changes the quantum
information a particle carries. Entanglement among different
individuals can clone the classical information and propagate the
quantum coherences of the initial quantum living units to the
successive generations. The resulting simulation is so complex that
it can be done on a classical computer only for a small number of
Quantum processes seem to lie at the heart of
biological phenomenon such as photosynthesis, our sense
of smell, and even bird navigation. Perhaps they played a role in
the origin of life.
AR I used to discuss all this with
Johnjoe McFadden and others
over a decade ago.
2015 May 20
The relationship between the author and his
community of readers is changing. Once he could assume that at least
initial readers would be those of his immediate national community
who shared a rich cultural and linguistic context with him. That is
still largely true in the States, but not elsewhere.
one seeks to produce for a larger public one inevitably has to drop
material that would only be understood by a particular group. If you
want to appeal to people of different languages and cultures, you
have to move toward tropes that are universally recognized.
Translators are underpaid, they receive a book and are told to
produce a translation in a couple of months. They may not be aware
of the particular stylistic habits of this or that author. Only
where the originals are poor and the translator talented are you
likely to get much real gain.
Never forget the
role money plays in shaping the writer's life. The life
inevitably informs the work. I always want a publisher to give me
adequate money for what I want to do.
The self is a developmental entity. Its
development is a process. A self is not a physical object but a
mental entity. Perhaps it is an illusion generated by your brain.
Imagine looking in the mirror and discovering that your brain is
missing. Even if you believe that your brain is no longer in your
body but floating inside a vat you can see on a computer monitor,
you don't feel yourself to be in the vat along with your brain.
Consider teleportation, as in Star Trek. Our bodies and brains
are destroyed at the departure gate and data transfer yields an
exact replica at the arrival gate. Your self survives the process.
We are embodied selves. We can imagine disembodied selves in
thought experiments, but we have no real experiences of them. If we
ever learn how to upload our minds into computers and that becomes a
regular practice in real life, our conception of a self will change.
2015 May 19
Reproduction through sex carries substantial
costs. One theory is that sex allows sexual selection to clear the
universal fitness constraint of mutation load. Under sexual
selection, competition and mate choice create intraspecific filters
for reproductive success, so that only a subset of males gains
paternity. If reproductive success under sexual selection depends on
individual condition, which is contingent to mutation load, then
sexually selected filtering could offset the costs of sex.
test this theory by comparing how populations with histories of
strong versus weak sexual selection purge mutation load and resist
extinction. After evolving replicate populations of the flour beetle
for years under conditions that differed solely in the strengths of
sexual selection, we revealed mutation load using inbreeding.
Lineages from populations with strong sexual selection were
resilient to extinction and maintained fitness under inbreeding.
Lineages derived from populations with weak sexual selection showed
rapid fitness declines.
Multiple mutations across the genome
with individually small effects can sum to a significant fitness
load. Sexual selection reduces this load.
2015 May 18
Ed Miliband staked his campaign on the wager
that the triumph of market individualism in Britain could be
reversed. He and his advisers saw the central divisions of British
society as based in class. They did not understand the difficulties
of governing a country where competing nationalisms jostle with
market individualism and the socially disruptive effects of global
The working-class support on which
Labour has relied is melting away in the north. In Scotland it is
already gone. The SNP story is that nationalism can be detoxified
and become the basis of a type of supranational government. This
progressive narrative may explain the sunny view the SNP takes of
the European Union. These problems shape the Labour struggle to
A referendum in which David Cameron succeeds
in delivering a vote to stay in the EU will leave him and the
Conservatives stronger than they are now. Offering a bold form of
devolution to Scotland serves the Conservative interest. Full fiscal
control would give Scottish voters a taste of what independence
would cost. Miliband staked his party on an unreal vision of
Mad Max: Fury
AR No characters but a
imagery for a desert war
Science is endless.
1MW concept car
has a revolutionary electric
power train. From
AR 1 MW = 1341 hp
Far From the Madding Crowd
is based on a classic novel by
Dorset writer Thomas Hardy
Robert Syms: "The whole
campaign has been a joy."
70 years ago today:
Conservatives gave Poole
Twin Sails Bridge,
opened in 2012
Geert Wilders with SWAT team
before they kill 2 at Muhammed
cartoon event in Garland, TX
"If you want me to
leading the country, making
sure we have that
and security in our economy,
David Cameron: "It takes a
long time to
fix the mess that
I was left. We are half way
through a building
Ed Miliband: "There was a
global financial crisis,
was a high deficit."
2015 May 17
Democracy is in crisis. Between Westminster,
Whitehall, and the City, the same people are in power. It is a
democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite. The
assumptions, the structures, the rules that govern our lives are not
subject to anything as unpredictable as the will of the people. We
need to make democracy work as a vehicle for real people power, not
the plutocrat power we have today. We need to take power out of the
hands of big donors and unions and business and put it back in the
hands of the people. Take back our democracy!
AR Hilton was chief strategist for David
Cameron. He seems not to understand politics. He should read more
2015 May 16
The big bang ought to have produced equal
amounts of matter and antimatter particles, which would instantly
annihilate each other to leave nothing but light. Yet we are here.
In 2001, Tanmay Vachaspati offered a theoretical solution. Even
if matter and antimatter were created in equal amounts, as they
annihilated each other they would create monopoles and
antimonopoles. As they in turn annihilated each other, they would
produce matter and antimatter with a charge-parity (CP) bias toward
If so, twisted magnetic fields permeating the
universe should have left-handed twist, not right-handed. Vachaspati
and his colleagues looked for traces in data from the NASA Fermi
space telescope. Gamma rays should be bent by the twisted fields. The
data shows they are.
Intergalactic magnetic field spectra from diffuse gamma rays
Ex Machina is about a
young man who is seduced by a devious, soft-spoken female robot
called Ava. The real test of human identity turns out to be love.
The movie explores the suggestive confusions that result when
machines look and think like humans.
Ava manipulates the
young man to win him over in a plot to rebel against her maker. She
is as human as the biblical Eve, who also achieved humanity by
rebelling against her creator. What is the relation of the creature
to her creator? The answer is not a happy one.
2015 May 15
Prince Charles' "black spider memos" are now
released under the Freedom of Information Act. Clarence House is
briefing journalists that Charles should be compared to the great
Conservative environment secretary Liz Truss
attacked the monarchy during her Lib Dem days: "We Liberal Democrats
believe in opportunity for all. We believe in fairness and common
sense. We do not believe people are born to rule." She still does.
The most forward thinking traditions of the Conservative party have
always been rooted in a commitment to meritocracy and self-reliance.
The party that should be leading the charge against monarchy is
the Conservatives: "It's not where you come from, it's where you're
going." Let's make the British bill of rights a republican
Sunni Versus Shiite
The New York Times
If the Iran deal is sealed, President
Obama will say he bought another decade before Iran can get a
nuclear weapon. But Saudi Arabia and other Arab states vow to match
whatever enrichment capability he lets Iran retain. They say he
cannot credibly argue they should not do so.
The members of
the Nuclear Suppliers Group have a long list of components they will
not ship to the Mideast. For the Saudis that leaves Pakistan. The
Saudis financed much of the nuclear work done in Pakistan. It is
thought Pakistan would provide Saudi Arabia with the technology.
Over the years, the Saudis financed nuclear research projects
but no more. They bought Chinese missiles useful only to deliver a
nuclear weapon but there is no evidence they ever had warheads for
them. Obama is expected to offer security assurances to the Sunni
AR I predict a
nuclear war in the region.
2015 May 14
Alan Guth devised the theory of inflation
in about 1980. Our universe expanded exponentially for a tiny
fraction of a second after the Big Bang. Now the sphere of spacetime
we can see from Earth is 90 billion light years across. This expanse
is only a small part of a tiny bubble in a frothy sea whose
proportions defy comprehension.
John Kovac and colleagues ran
the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole. They saw some of the oldest
light in the universe. It suggested the theory of inflation is true.
Paul Steinhardt said the analysis of the BICEP2 data was flawed.
He had developed a theory of eternal inflation that generated an
infinite bubbly multiverse. Andrei Linde developed a similar idea in
BICEP2 looked at a patch of sky for 3 years to
collect photons from the big bang afterglow. The primordial universe
would have been awash in gravity waves that would spin the photons
into a polarization pattern. The swirling effect would be visible in
only 1 in 30 million photons. The BICEP2 team found the swirling
patterns (blog 2014-03-17).
BICEP2 published its results in April 2014. In May,
cosmologists began to question their interpretation. In June, Kovac
sat on a panel with Guth, Linde, and Steinhardt. In September, most
cosmologists decided that BICEP2 could not distinguish its signal
from dust glow. In February 2015, Kovac and his team admitted as
The BICEP2 saga was a triumph for science. It showed
why science is our best way to get to know the natural world.
Our Earth sits in the middle of the observable cosmos, the
sphere of light that we can detect with our telescopes. Gaze into
this sphere and you see layers, from stars and the planets that
circle them, from the billions of galaxies beyond, to the final
layer of light, the afterglow of the big bang. We are trapped in
this snow globe of photons forever.
2015 May 13
Jews in Britain
1 Howard Jacobson has explored the fear and loathing surrounding
Israel and anti-Semitism in Britain. He sees a tone in anti-Zionism
that he explains as hatred of Jews. He fears this combined with
Muslim anti-Semitism could be lethal.
2 Muslims make up a quarter of the population in Bradford.
George Galloway MP has adopted the rhetoric of Palestinian
nationalism. Bradford city council head David Green is Jewish and
concerned that this is harming Bradford.
3 Manchester has the largest British Jewish community outside
London. It has an orthodox Jewish area with the feel of a ghetto
crowded between a poor white area and a large Muslim area. Both Jews
and Muslims experience abuse.
4 Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, exhorts a
crowd in London to support Palestine and denigrates Israel as the
apartheid state. Many British Jews sense a visceral loathing of the
Jewish state on the British left.
5 Ties between the Jewish community in Britain and Israel are
close. Zionism is at the heart of British Jewish identity and Israel
is a way of life. As Israel becomes more isolated from Europe
politically, that identity becomes complex.
2015 May 12
Patrick Wall suggested a functional view
of pain as a mixture of sensation and the motivation to make it
stop. He explained how rituals or procedures offered by a doctor or
shaman, regardless of their efficacy, could reduce pain. Pain
motivates an animal to escape from a source of damage, protect a
wound, or devote energy to recovery. Wall argued that one of its
roles in humans is as a motivation to seek help from a trusted
source. When that goal is satisfied, pain is relieved.
evolutionary time, several stimuli and situations that are not
painful in other animals have come to be felt as painful for humans.
Our distress elicits help from others and hence offers a survival
advantage. Labour pain is a good example. Human childbirth appears
to be uniquely painful among members of the animal kingdom.
Protracted labour pains make us show distress and recruit help from
others well in advance of the birth. This strategy offers a survival
2015 May 11
Global connectivity is increasing as more devices,
more machines, and more companies connect via the Internet. The new
IT uses real-time, connected software to remove complexity built up
over years in legacy systems.
SAP is a thought leader for
IT-driven innovation and best practices. SAP teams implement SAP
software before it becomes available on the market as a first
ramp-up customer, pressure-testing the new solution, providing
first-hand feedback to development, and partnering with the business
units to help them achieve their strategic goals.
runs transactional and analytical data in the same database in
memory to create huge business value with lower costs. SAP S/4 HANA
is a next-generation business suite offering a radically simplified
data model, analytical flexibility, and the ability to slice and
dice data on all dimensions. It can help businesses run simple in a
digital and networked economy.
SAP uses more than 70,000
smart devices and has 130 apps in its app store, many built on the
SAP HANA Cloud Platform. SAP software and mobile workflows let SAP
employees work productively on their own devices.
AR I worked for 6 years in the SAP HANA
development team. I wrote the
book (now outdated) on our prototype engine. As my colleagues used
to say: "Wir sind die Guten."
2015 May 10
Cameron Launches Blitz on Europe
The Sunday Times
With a working majority of 15, prime
minister David Cameron will redraw constituency boundaries to make
the electoral system fairer to the Conservatives.
George Osborne and foreign secretary Philip Hammond will go to
Berlin and Brussels to redraw UK-EU relations. New lord chancellor
and justice secretary Michael Gove will abolish the Human Rights
Act. And a new culture secretary will reconsider the BBC license
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will
address British concerns about benefits abuse by EU migrants: "The
proposals will be tailored to address long-standing British
concerns, but also the concerns of other countries such as Germany
and The Netherlands."
A German source said chancellor Angela
Merkel "does not envisage an EU without the UK" and is awaiting
"specific and constructive" ideas from London.
The scale of the SNP victory in Scotland
was epoch making. All but three Scottish seats fell to the
nationalists. Conservatives, Labour, and the Lib Dems were left with
just one seat each.
The election result is no threat to the UK. Scots were
reluctant to back the SNP when the issue was independence and voted
for them on the issue of Scottish representation at Westminster.
The result is no threat to the EU either. Regional nationalists
and environmentalists now enjoy substantial support in many member
states. Labour and the Liberals are victims of a backlash against
political establishments that we see all over Europe. Moderate
conservatism is clearly the dominant force in both England and Germany.
2015 May 9
The Victory Day parade in Red Square featured a new
Russian tank. The
T-14 Armata MBT has a remote-controlled turret and automatic
loading system. With a weight of 48 tons and a top speed of 90 km/h,
the new MBT is lighter and faster than current Western tanks.
Armata has 3 crew in an armored capsule in the hull, away from
the ammunition, and it has an active protection system against
incoming projectiles. Its main armament is a 125 mm smoothbore gun
that can fire APDS and guided munitions. The engine is 1500 hp
diesel. A tank information control system (TICS)
monitors components, diagnoses malfunctions, and
controls onboard systems.
(UVZ), Armata will replace most of the T-72 and T-90 tanks in the
Russian army. UVZ plans to deliver
2,300 Armata by 2020.
Cameron Conservatives, like conservatives in
the Anglosphere and Germany, converge with and diverge from
Republicans in the United States in ways crucial to their electoral
Center-right parties in Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, and the United Kingdom have all made peace with government
guarantees of healthcare for all. They accept that universal health
coverage belongs beside pensions and unemployment insurance in a
These parties have updated their respect for
family, work, and community. None seek to police female sexual
behavior or reproductive choices. All have accepted gay equality and
racial inclusion. They all advocate an immigration policy determined
by the national interest.
They are tough on terrorism,
extremism, and international disorder. David Cameron has stated that
the extremism that threatens Western democracies is Islamist.
Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott are consistent supporters of Israel.
Harper advocates NATO defense of Ukraine.
UK Election Results
Lib Dems 8
Plaid Cymru 3
In the local elections in Poole, Conservatives
won 32 seats out of a total 42. They now have a comfortable majority
on the previously hung council.
Local election results
swept the board, with one small exception: a Council seat for me alongside my colleagues.
2015 May 8
1 Up 3 Down
The Guardian 1222 BST
Conservative leader David Cameron
Labour leader Ed Miliband resigns,
leader Nick Clegg resigns,
UKIP leader Nigel Farage resigns.
Conservatives Win Big in Poole
BBC News 1019 BST
Lib Dems 8
Plaid Cymru 3
Conservative Robert Syms
Young 7,956 16.8%
Labour Helen Rosser 6,102 12.9%
Democrat Philip Eades 5,572 11.8%
Green Party Adrian Oliver 2,198
Poole People Mark Howell 1,766 3.7%
Northover 54 0.1%
Dorset Mid & Poole North
Tomlinson 23,639 50.8%
Liberal Democrat Vikki Slade 13,109 28.2%
UKIP Richard Turner
Labour Patrick Canavan 2,767 6.0%
Green Party Mark
Chivers 1,321 2.8%
AR We did it.
Council results later today.
2015 May 7
As British voters go to the polls in the most closely
fought election in a generation, CNN asked the audience at its UK
2015 debate to pick the most important issue to them. The economy
came out top by a huge margin.
Pauline Neville-Jones: "It's the absolutely basic thing, without
which you can't do anything else."
2015 May 6
I'm asking for five more
years to finish the job we have started: to secure our economy, so
we get more people into work, more young people getting trained
rather than sitting on the dole, more couples into homes of their
own, more pensioners feeling security and dignity in old age.
There is so much more we need to do: to start cutting the taxes
of 30 million working people, taking the lowest paid out of tax,
funding 3 million more apprenticeships, building 200,000 more homes
for young people, putting more money and more doctors and nurses
into our NHS.
Labour helped to break our economy and they
would do the same all over again. Their plans do not add up. They
want to borrow more money than we can afford. They want to tax more.
And they want to pile up more debt than our children and
grandchildren could ever hope to repay.
The choice tomorrow:
me leading a strong and stable government, or Ed Miliband being held
to ransom by the SNP. There is no room for protest voting, or voting
for marginal parties. A vote for anyone apart from the Conservatives
risks Britain and its economic recovery grinding to a halt.
Together we can keep strengthening our economy, creating more jobs,
investing in our health service, giving more young people a chance
to get on in life. The future can be brighter, but only if Britain
Germany is the economic engine of Europe.
The export industry is the second largest in the world, bolstered by
a weak euro. Germany is now the second most popular destination for
immigrants in the world, after the United States.
is at its highest level in Germany since reunification 25 years ago.
Reforms enacted in 2003 deregulated temporary work, pulled together
public benefits into a streamlined welfare program, and pushed
welfare recipients into jobs. The number of temporary jobs has
doubled over the past 10 years and many workers take multiple jobs
to make ends meet.
Germans are beginning to complain of
rising inequality. The growing chasm between rich and poor, and the
lack of economic mobility, undercuts the work ethic and the idea of
2015 May 5
If David Cameron is returned to office, the
UK will face a referendum in 2017 that could take it out of the
European Union and into strategic irrelevance. Two years will be
lost to a paralyzing debate in which British bigotry will have free
Cameron has overseen an economic recovery that has not
translated into a sense of confidence. Booming London has left the
rest of the country behind. Cameron has found his voice in the name
of free enterprise. His gamble with EU membership has been reckless.
AR This is a view from New York.
Americans want Britain in Europe.
2015 May 4
Vote For Reform
The coalition government led by David Cameron
has a lot to be proud of. It set out to reform the welfare state in
order to encourage work and the education system to encourage
learning. It tried to reform the health service and the justice
We need more reform in the tax system and the
planning system. Pensions need reform. Quangos need reform. The City
of London needs further reform. We need reform of the BBC. And only
those with an interest in keeping the National Health Service
inefficient and unresponsive to its users would wish to leave it
Conservatives also want reform of the European
Union and have a strategy for getting it.
The National Union of Students has voted to
Counter-Terrorism and Security Act and agreed to lobby against
it alongside the Islamist advocacy group
NUS blather: "Demonising radicalisation and
extremism can and is being used to target anyone who dissents from
the unjust, oppressive and exploitative state of society."
NUS statement: "As a movement, we've been let down by
politicians who have failed to speak on our behalf in a world where
the odds were already being steadily stacked against us. We've seen
the tripling of tuition fees, educational maintenance snatched away
and work prospects diminish. ...
[On May 7] we have a real
opportunity to start fixing politics in the UK. We can start
creating a New Deal for the Next Generation."
AR As long as the NUS flirts with
enemies of the state and "dissents" from hard facts of life we
should refuse to tolerate its naive and dangerous blather. A "New
Deal" might work, but not like this.
2015 May 3
Astronomy is a science that relies
on images. NASA satellite photographs have helped make the human
impact on climate change more visible. Failing to confront the
danger of climate change will no doubt get our species to the brink,
as in the sci-fi movie Interstellar by Christopher Nolan.
of the film's executive producers is Caltech astrophysics professor
Kip Thorne. General relativity predicts some weird phenomena in the
vicinity of strong gravitational fields, such as time dilation near
a black hole, and bending of light rays close to black holes and
wormholes. Everything you see in the film is scientifically
The movie team processed 800 TB of data to render
the bending of light by a black hole and a wormhole portal with
unprecedented accuracy. The images showed scientists something they
have never seen before in the equations. Thorne is now writing up
the new discoveries.
2015 May 2
The closest election in decades leaves it
impossible to predict who will be the next prime minister. Most
projections expect the Conservatives to win more seats, but Labour
may have a better chance of forming a minority government. The SNP
is predicted to win about 50 of the 59 seats in Scotland.
Conservatives could end up with about 40 fewer seats than Labour and
the SNP combined, despite winning as many votes. The latest forecast
predicts that the Tories will win 290 seats but finish 33 short of a
majority, with a 49% chance of Ed Miliband becoming prime minister
and a 51% chance of David Cameron keeping the job.
£1 billion was pulled out of funds investing in UK shares last
month. Analysts say the biggest cause of instability from the
election would be the prospect of a quick second election.
The British electorate has united in contempt for its
leaders. Voters distrust their political institutions and other
traditional centers of power, including parliament, print media, and
The unity of the nation is in peril from Scots
and support is in doubt for continued EU membership. Britain was
slow to recover from the global economic crisis and austerity has
A survey in January showed that only 1 in
10 Britons think UK politicians want to do what is best for the
country, while 7 in 10 think they are just protecting the rich and
AR Politicians emerge
from the people, who get the leaders they deserve.
2015 May 1
My Vision of Life
Everything extends from replicators,
which are in practice DNA molecules on this planet. The replicators
reach out into the world to influence their own probability of being
passed on. Mostly they don't reach further than the individual body
in which they sit, but that's a matter of practice, not a matter of
principle. The individual organism can be defined as that set of
phenotypic products which have a single route of exit of the genes
into the future. The organism is a unit of selection in the sense
that I call a vehicle.
There are two
kinds of unit of selection. One is the replicator, and what it does
is get itself copied. So more and more copies of itself go into the
world. The other kind of unit is the vehicle. It doesn't get itself
copied. What it does is work to copy the replicators which have come
down to it through the generations, and which it's going to pass on
to future generations. Individuals and replicators are both units of
selection, but in different senses.
Our best empirical theory of the brain
holds that the mind is an information processing system and that all
mental functions are computations. So humans and superintelligent
artificial intelligence share a common feature: their thinking is
essentially computational. Our best scientific theories of
consciousness hold that consciousness is closely related to
A biologically inspired
superintelligent alien (BISA) will have descended from creatures
that had biologically evolved motivations. Yet it may be so advanced
that we cannot understand any of its computations whatsoever. As
Arthur C. Clarke said, a truly advanced civilization will have
technologies we cannot distinguish from magic.
AR I toyed with such ideas in my 1996
Palace, Saigon, April 30, 1975
2015 April 30
The Daily Beast
President Barack Obama: "In those environments, if we think that
we're just gonna send the police to do the dirty work of containing
the problems that arise there, without as a nation and as a society
saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up
those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we're not
gonna solve this problem."
2015 April 29
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen
Lord Hutton of Furness
Hennessy of Nympsfield
Lord Moonie of Benochy
Richards of Herstmonceux
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce
Marshal of the RAF Lord Stirrup of Marylebone
Admiral Lord West
Admiral Sir Jonathon Band
Admiral Sir Mark
General Sir Mike Jackson
Sir David Omand
Sir Keith O'Nions et al.
nuclear deterrent exists not as a military weapon but a political
one whose very purpose is for it never to be used in anger. It is
there to deter aggression against this country and our allies and to
counter any nuclear blackmail which would threaten Britain's
essential interests or survival. It is committed to NATO.
next Prime Minister will be responsible for the decision next year
whether or not to go ahead with the Main Gate decision on triggering
the building of 4 new submarines necessary to continue the
deterrent. A decision not to go ahead would effectively end
Britain's nuclear deterrent.
NATO is committed to the goal of
creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. But as
long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a
The Trident Alternatives Report concluded
that the highest level of assurance the UK can attain with a single
deterrent system is provided by SSBN CASD.
The BASIC Trident
Commission concluded that Trident meets the criteria of credibility,
scale, survivability, reach, and readiness. It opposed proposals to
develop alternative platforms and delivery systems, with new
warheads, simply on the basis of possible but speculative cost
Q1 Trident Successor
will stimulate proliferation?
Deep reductions in Britain's
deterrent made by successive governments have produced no
reciprocation from other nuclear weapon or aspiring nuclear weapon
Q2 Only the USA, France,
and the UK have CASD?
Both Russia and China are moving to CASD.
Q3 Renewing Trident would frustrate
BASIC Trident Commission: "It is doubtful that
the UK would retain continuing influence on the thinking or process
of nuclear negotiations if it ceased all its nuclear weapon
expenditure is crippling at a time of austerity?
The total cost
up to 2060 would be an average of around £2 billion a year. The NHS
costs £2.5 billion a week.
nuclear deterrent does not address new threats such as terrorism?
Correct, but irrelevant.
Abandoning Trident would save a lot of money?
Cancellation is not
a cost-free option. Decommissioning deterrent submarines and their
infrastructure would produce substantial costs.
on Main Gate will be important. It is impossible to tell what
threats may emerge over more than thirty years. To abandon
Trident now and for good in the hope that no threat will emerge over
that period would be an enormous gamble.
The UK has made
reductions in its nuclear arsenal proportionately greater than any
other nuclear weapons power. That has represented a huge
contribution toward nuclear disarmament. It would be irresponsible
folly to abandon Britain's independent deterrent.
2015 April 28
BU Rank Rises
Bournemouth University has jumped 11
places in a national university league table. BU vice-chancellor
Professor John Vinney: "I am absolutely delighted that Bournemouth
University has rocketed 11 places in this year's
Complete University Guide rankings to 54th in the UK."
AR Last night I attended a BU political
hustings event with parliamentary candidates. I spoke out on the
need to retain Trident, citing Steven Pinker,
Ian Morris, and the
report Retiring Trident, and got
a strong round of applause.
2015 April 27
In 1992 John Major led the Conservatives to
victory. He won over 14 million votes in total, more than either
Margaret Thatcher before him or Tony Blair after him. Five years
later, the Tories slumped to defeat.
electoral politics in the 20th century. But they need to catch up
quickly with the 21st century. They need discipline and resolve in
the next 10 days to win a parliamentary majority again.
Conservatives need a broader understanding of what prosperity and
the good life mean. Tory policies cannot just be about helping
people to climb economic and social ladders. Conservatives must help
to provide security as well as freedom. They must focus on providing
a strong safety net and creating world-class public services.
Conservatives must also strike a better balance between
protecting the natural environment and building more homes. Unless
they can increase housebuilding many families will never have a home
of their own.
David Cameron promises that any re-elected Tory
government would start by cutting income tax for the lowest-paid,
creating two million jobs, extending childcare, and building 200,000
Dan Dennett says explaining
how the brain
How software animates
hardware is no mystery.
100 years on:
is 25 today
Food and the Internet
and P. Lysaght
University of Łodź
2015 April 26
The Sunday Times
There are now 117 sterling billionaires
based in Britain. That is more per head of population than in any
other country in the G20.
Their total wealth is £325 billion.
The top 3 alone are worth £37 billion. London hosts 80 billionaires.
The other 37 outside London are together worth £67 billion.
Only 62 of the billionaires in the UK are British. The Queen is
worth a mere £340 million and has dropped out of the top 300.
The Ramstein air base in Germany hosts the
United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) headquarters. But the
German government claims not to know that Ramstein is a key node in
the global drone war against Islamist terror.
Beside USAFE HQ
Ramstein, the other key node is Creech, a town in the Nevada desert.
Creech hosts a relay hub for USAF bases in ten US states. Optical
fibers transmit data to the NSA and to Ramstein.
pilot in Creech begins a mission by logging into the Air and Space
Operation Center (AOC) in Ramstein. Pilot commands go via the AOC
link to an orbiting satellite and then to the drone. The AOC node is
key because no satellite can link Pakistan and the United States
directly, and a second satellite in the chain would add too much
The German government has contracted for US use of
the Ramstein base provided nothing illegal is done there. German law
says war crimes and other violations of international law, even if
they are committed by foreigners in other countries, can all be
tried in Germany.
AR I visited
the Ramstein base in 1987.
2015 April 25
Islamic State (IS) evolved from such
jihadi groups as al Qaeda in Iraq after 2003. It resembles them in
its ideology, brutality, methods of war, and aspirations to control
1 Its use
of takfir, or excommunication of Muslims, and its willingness to
take on Muslim targets
targeting of Shia Muslims to provoke a response and force vulnerable
Sunnis into its arms
prioritization of the near enemy, apostate Mideast regimes, over
attacks on the far enemy
IS has been helped by incorporating
remnants of the Baathist Iraqi state. The US decision to disband the
Iraqi Army in 2003 was calamitous. Today around a third of the
deputies to Caliph Ibrahim are former Iraqi military officers.
IS is defined not by warped Islamic theology but by
millenarianism. Extreme religious observance is an identity marker
for who will survive the apocalypse and who will perish. IS
propaganda is deliberately traumatizing an entire generation. Cult
practices plus mass mobilization make IS totalitarian.
AR Crusaders for a clash of
civilizations: George W. Bush and Tony Blair
2015 April 24
For some, the birth of the internet spelled
the end for politicians.
The most radical answer is liquid
democracy. Every voter has a mandate to use as they see fit. The
mandate is transferable and voters can decide to pass it on to
someone they trust. If you feel strongly about an issue later on you
can take back your mandate and vote directly. But because the system
does not differentiate between voters and representatives, every
vote has to be recorded, open and transparent. So a secret ballot is
Deliberative democracy focuses on how we can
become more involved in deciding the way our lives are run, rather
than changing the way we vote. A form of deliberative democracy
known as participatory budgeting gives people a direct say in how a
percentage of their council budget is spent. This is one of the most
widespread and fastest growing democratic practices. It is moving
online as new software streamlines the process.
does not necessarily lead to workable outcomes.
2015 St. George's Day
EU on GM Food and Feed
The EU Commission proposes to allow member
states more freedom to restrict or prohibit the use of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). It sees a need to reflect public views on
the use of GMOs "for animal (feed) or human (food) consumption".
GMOs authorized at EU level by food safety watchdog EFSA are
already deemed safe. The Commission is ignoring the scientific
advice its taxpayers are paying for. It lacks the backbone to stand
by the advice.
The EU imports over 70% of its animal feed.
The proposal will prevent imports of the animal feed many farmers
rely on to feed their livestock. The free movement of people in the
EU is sacrosanct but not the free movement of goods.
2015 Earth Day
League urges world leaders to follow up on their commitments to
avoid dangerous global warming. Three-quarters of known fossil fuel
reserves must be kept in the ground if humanity is to avoid the
worst effects of climate change.
The AWWA·QG Progress Eagle is a design for
improving the physical characteristics of commercial aircraft and
reducing their environmental impact. Progress Eagle is based on the
technology beyond 2030 with ideas from quantum mechanics: engines
with zero contaminant emissions and the ability to clean the
atmosphere of pollutant particles; innovative configuration
including a lifting-body fuselage with three passenger decks and a
cockpit with panoramic views; wings with smart and self-repairing
skin made from carbon nanotubes and fibers; airframe with a
hexagonal structure and a hollow endoskeleton made of titanium and
graphene; and triple winglets to enhance aerodynamic efficiency.
With six engines, the plane is big enough for up to 800 passengers
to fly in hotel luxury.
L to R: Vikki Slade, Liberal Democrat
parliamentary candidate for Mid Dorset & North Poole; Adrian
Oliver, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Poole;
Richard Turner, UKIP parliamentary candidate for Mid Dorset
& North Poole; Andy Ross, Conservative councillor candidate
for Poole Town ward, Borough of Poole; Helen Rosser, Labour
parliamentary candidate for Poole
A hustings event in Poole on
Monday featured a Q&A session at the Salvation Army Hall
On supporting people with learning difficulties to feel
confident claiming benefits:
Vikki Slade: "Everyone
needs to be treated with dignity and respect."
Oliver: "The government has a key role in setting the
culture in our society."
Richard Turner: "It is
important to make sure those people who use the welfare
state do need it."
Andy Ross: "Benefits are a right
in our society. Those who need them will get them, should
"They are needed by some of the most vulnerable people in
this country and are extremely important."
The extermination of the
Armenians in 1915 has
marked by an assault by the
Turkish government on its
historical truth. The Israeli
government has not been able
to pass an Armenian genocide
resolution. This might be a
time for Israel to rethink.
Scottish Nationalists threaten to
block the UK
military budget until
the renewal of Trident is halted.
AR SNP tail will wag Labour dog.
2015 April 21
If Labour were to accept an offer of support
from the SNP, it could put the UK on course to a government held to
ransom on a vote-by-vote basis. Labour would be in hock to a party
that slowly but surely will push them ever further to the left. We
would pay the SNP ransom in our daily lives, through higher taxes,
fewer jobs, and more and more debt. That is no way to run a country.
AR Vote Conservative.
2015 April 20
Albert Einstein was deeply involved with
the Zionist movement promoting the settlement of Jews in Palestine.
He tried to stop the Jewish people from
becoming another nationalistic culture glorifying military strength.
But he continued to support Israel while criticizing it.
Einstein also spoke out against the militarization of America: "The
arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, initiated
originally as a preventive measure, assumes hysterical proportions.
On both sides, means of mass destruction are being perfected with
feverish haste and behind walls of secrecy. ... And at the end,
looming ever clearer, lies general annihilation."
Einstein joined with Bertrand Russell to make a public statement:
"In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons
will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the
continued existence of mankind, we urge the Governments of the world
to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purposes cannot
be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find
peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between
Is Zionism Racist?
Zionism is a nationalism. It makes a claim
for the Jewish people that they are a folk like other folk and
entitled to a land of their own just like the French have France and
the English have England.
The dream of return existed long
before the Holocaust. It existed before Herzl and the Zionists. This
vision of an end to exile kept the Jews together and brought them
hope through the years spent in Babylon millennia ago.
are not racists to want a land of their own. The Zionism of the
Jewish people is just a bid to be a nation. It was hoped that Israel
would not enslave anyone. It was hoped that Israel would treat the
strangers who lived among its people with justice and equality.
Zionism is not racist.
Nationalism is better than racism, but not always by much. Samuel Johnson:
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
2015 April 19
I am positioned where the mainstream of
politics is positioned. I want to reach out to voters who worry
about our place in the European Union, who really think we can do a
lot better as a country.
Who is going to stand up to tax
avoidance? Who is going to stand up to energy companies? Who is
going to stand up to banks? That is absolutely something I think
will appeal to Tory voters.
David Cameron already appeals to Tory voters. Former Labour home
secretary Alan Johnson on Labour's economic failure: "There is no
soundbite that we have got to equal the claim that we maxed out on
your credit card."
Philosophy of Economics
Marx thought technological innovation under
capitalism would produce a falling rate of profit for capitalist
enterprises, but he thought this because he accepted the labor
theory of value, which is false. Yet at the limit technological
innovation under capitalism will produce a falling rate of profit
because the elimination of human labor will reduce the total pool of
consumers. Is there a good discussion of this in the economic
AR Try this:
Innovative deployment of robot labor will raise productivity and
hence profits so long as disemployed workers get paid enough by the
state to keep spending. Circulation of money: capitalists
concentrate money in profits and governments spread it again in
welfare, just like a fountain powered by a pump from the pond below.
Those in the money cycle act as selectors, voting with their
spending for things that go to make up a "good" society. Income
inequalities will skew spending toward elite goods. Politics will
focus on "optimizing" the level of equality.
2015 April 18
Philosophy of Politics and Economics
All elections are uncertain but this one is
more so. Look to the transformation of society and the world of work
over the past 60 years and their relationship with the political
establishment. The absorption of UK democratic institutions by
transnational financial power is the result of a long national
decline and the circumstances of the financial crisis.
Political thought has not kept up with the new reality. Socialism
was discredited worldwide as an economic system by the collapse of
the Soviet Union. British socialism failed by turning its back on
the psychology of productive business and by selling out to casino
Neoliberalism was discredited worldwide as an
economic system by the financial crisis in 2008. The gap widened
between the rich and the rest in the ownership of wealth.
Both socialist and neoliberal economic thinking favored big
organizations. The cost argument too often ignored the
need for competition and choice or the dangers of concentrated
Advanced technology accelerated the spirit of
individualism. Each individual had to look into his own abilities
and life choices in forming a career best suited to his personal
interests. Socialist collectivism became obsolete. Authoritarian
right wing politics became equally repulsive.
ownership and control became a game of musical chairs, enterprises
were managed not to maximize market share or serve consumer
interests but to maximize quarterly profit. As national assets were
mortgaged to transnational interests, house prices rose beyond the
reach of the young.
Personal property is a human right.
Widening business ownership will encourage a more innovative and
productive economy. For big companies, company law should be amended
to give employees a say and a financial stake in them. Capitalism
based on high wages and a more equal distribution of wealth will
outperform the Anglo-American model.
2015 April 17
In the BBC TV election debate last night SNP
leader Nicola Sturgeon warned Labour leader Ed Miliband that he
would never be forgiven if he turned his back on a deal with her
to keep the Tories out of power. Sturgeon called the prime
minister's absence a disgrace: "I want Ed to replace the Tories with
Do we want to let this self-opinionated Scots ingenue call the shots
for England, wreck the recovery with spending and borrowing, and
break up the UK to boot? Hell no! Vote Tory!
Supported by Google Ideas, the
monitors the world's broadcast, print, and web news in over 100
languages. It deploys streaming machine translation to translate the
news into English in real time. For some languages GDELT achieves
the accuracy level of Google Translate. For others it can robustly
recognize key themes and flag an article for a human analyst.
AR We studied this
application area for our SAP engine.
2015 April 16
We are witnessing a struggle for regional
dominance between a coalition grouped around Saudi Arabia and one
around Iran. Sunni-Shiite enmity is not the best explanation. This
is a naked struggle for power.
The regimes are all
reactionary survivors of the Arab Spring. The Iranians mercilessly
crushed the Green Revolution in 2009, and have backed authoritarian
partners in Iraq and Syria. On the other side, the Arab monarchs
from the Gulf have extended their writ through payoffs and violence.
The Saudi bloc wants to turn back the clock. The Iranian bloc
wants to alter the regional balance of power. Both factions are run
by opaque, secretive, repressive, and violent leaders. Neither side
is interested in popular accountability, better governance, or the
rights of citizens.
Tehran has extended its influence
carefully, hedging its bets by supporting multiple groups in every
conflict zone and always maintaining a degree of remove. This
blueprint has served Iran well. Saudi Arabia has entered the Yemen
war directly, with no cover.
The regime in Tehran positions
itself as the regional champion of pluralism and minorities. The
Saudi grouping has a philosophy dangerously close to the nihilism of
al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The trend points in favor of Iran.
2015 April 15
EU Leaders Oppose Changes
European leaders are said to oppose David
Cameron's call for European Union treaty change in the run-up to a
British referendum because of the danger of copycat popular votes
spreading across Europe.
European Commission president
Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out changes to the EU treaty until late
2019 and European Parliament president Martin Schulz said treaty
change was too risky in the present political climate. President
Hollande of France and others worry that a new treaty would generate
calls for popular votes in France or the Netherlands.
Lib Dem and UKIP Manifestos
If the opinion polls are right, UKIP will
get more votes than the Liberal Democrats in the general election on
7 May, but most observers think Lib Dems will end up with more MPs
The UKIP manifesto is a populist pitch for the
protest vote and a ragbag of prejudices against the modern world.
The Lib Dem manifesto is a carefully calibrated and costed job
application for partnership in government, with a focus on balancing
the budget, on education funding, raising personal allowances, NHS
spending, and the green agenda.
UKIP and Lib Dems agree that
the British electoral system is bust. Both say Britain must have a
more proportional system if politics and government are to regain
On April 7, a USAF RC-135U
Combat Sent SIGINT aircraft
intercepted over the Baltic Sea by a Russian Air Force
Su 27 Flanker
in an "unsafe
and unprofessional manner"
with Russia would
go nuclear. Does Trident
make the UK safer?
2015 April 14
We are the party of working people,
offering you security at every stage of your life.
Our manifesto sets out how we will make this a country where those
who work hard and do the right thing can enjoy a good life:
The personal tax-free allowance raised to £12,500
No 40p tax until you're earning £50,000
The family home taken out of Inheritance Tax
£8 billion more a year for our NHS
Rail fares frozen for five years
Welfare controlled to reward work
Multinationals pursued so they pay their tax
The Right to Buy extended to 1.3 million extra families
30 hours of free childcare a week for working families with 3 and 4
• Everyone earning the
Minimum Wage lifted out of income tax altogether
We have come
this far together. Let's build on the progress we have made.
2015 April 13
Stalin and Hitler were allies for 22 months.
The Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 included a Secret Protocol
defining a division of Eastern Europe. In September Poland was
invaded by the Nazis from the west and the Soviets from the east. In
1940 the German armies conquered Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium,
and France. Churchill and Britain stood alone, for more than a year
In Poland the Soviet occupation in the east was at
least as brutal and murderous as the Nazi occupation in the west.
Hitler decided to exterminate the Jews in September 1941 and the
work started in January 1942, but their fate had been foreshadowed
by the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
The German attack in June 1941
shocked Stalin into silence at first. In September he wrote to
Churchill that the Soviet Union was in mortal danger. By 1942 he
recognized that he would gain more from his alliance with Britain
and the United States than with Germany.
In December 1941,
Churchill sent his foreign secretary Anthony Eden to Moscow. Stalin
to Eden: "Hitler's problem was that he does not know where to stop."
Eden: "Does anyone?" Stalin: "I do."
UK survival in a world with such monsters needs Trident.
2015 April 12
Time to move on from Trident
Pinning our security on a nuclear deterrent
encourages others to do the same. The UK should become the first
permanent member of the UN Security Council to give up all its
nuclear weapons. Instead of protecting us, hosting nuclear weapons
makes us a target. Having nuclear weapons diverts resources and
attention from tackling our most urgent security problems.
Peter Higgs, Michael Atiyah, and others
AR These are men whose work in physics and mathematics I
Trident Alternatives Review
HM Government, 2013
Nuclear deterrence has a unique role
in deterring extreme threats to UK vital interests which cannot be
countered by other means. A potential aggressor needs to believe
that the UK has the capability and resolve to deliver unacceptable
loss in response to an actual or imminent attack.
aims to establish if other postures or weapons systems might deliver
a credible alternative. The different systems and postures differ in
the level of assurance of second strike capability. The highest
level of assurance the UK can attain with a single deterrent system
is SSBN CASD.
Design and delivery of a new BM thermonuclear
warhead is likely to take 17 years. Delivering one for an
alternative system would take longer. This warhead timescale is
longer than the V-class SSBN can safely be operated.
costs of credible options that could meet a 2040 date were compared
against the cost of procuring 3 or 4 Successor SSBN. Cost estimates
cover the development, procurement and in-service support of a new
system, as well as transitioning from the current system.
cost driver for the Trident options is SSBN construction. The cost
driver for all non-Trident options is the warhead. The delay
requires 2 new Successor SSBN to fill the gap before a CM deterrent
Alternatives to Trident could enable the UK to
deter most potential adversaries. Alternative non-continuous
postures could offer reduced readiness when the UK assesses the
threat to be low. None of the alternatives reviewed offers the same
degree of resilience as CASD.
The costs of delivering an
alternative system could have been cheaper were it not for timing
and the fact that the UK deterrent infrastructure is finely tuned to
support Trident. Bridging the time it would take to develop a new
warhead would involve procuring 2 x Successor SSBN so that a
Trident-based deterrent remains available until at least 2040. That
makes transitioning to any of the realistic alternative systems more
expensive than a Successor SSBN fleet.
AR This is all about jobs in warhead and submarine
construction. Retask the warhead teams to civilian nuclear power
systems, retask the shipyards to SSN and surface warship
construction, and we could scrap our nuclear deterrent, have a
stronger navy, and save money.
Tony Blair is retiring as Mideast Quartet
Representative. He says the Mideast is a prime example of politics
"getting in the way" of peace. The negotiators were all politicians
and progress was impossible. By the end of 2014 a quarter of all
Palestinians and a half of all Gazans lived on $2 a day or less. To
fight religious extremism, he has established the
Blair Faith Foundation.
Tony Blair hailed "a bright new
dawn for Britain" on the morning of his 1997 election victory. As
prime minister, he wrote in
A Journey: "I had started by buying the notion, and then selling
the notion, that to be in touch with opinion was the definition of
A decade later: "I was ending by counting
such a notion of little value and defining leadership not as knowing
what people wanted and trying to satisfy them, but knowing what I
thought was in their best interest and trying to do it. Pleasing all
of the people all of the time was not possible; but even if it had
been, it was a worthless ambition."
His own method in power
was to study an issue, canvass opinion, note the debate, come to his
own conclusions, and lead. Opposition was the price paid by true
2015 April 11
purity principle might banish quantum weirdness
2015 April 10
UK Nuclear Deterrent
David Cameron: "Only the Conservatives are
absolutely guaranteeing a full replacement of Trident with four
submarines and continuous at sea deterrence. It is important that in
a dangerous, insecure world we have that ultimate insurance policy."
AR I am rethinking my approach to
nuclear war. A British deterrent based on F-35C and B61-12 would
fail to guarantee massive and unacceptable damage on a potential
aggressor. A leader as reckless as President Putin might laugh it
off. Only Trident with four boats trumps that. So British taxpayers
must shoulder the £100 billion lifetime cost and make cuts
elsewhere — or try to get our European NATO allies to share the
burden, of course.
2015 April 9
Signs of Alien Life by 2025
Los Angeles Times
NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan: "I
believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth
in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20
years. We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases
we have the technology."
2015 April 8
Margaret Thatcher (1988)
For generations, we have assumed
that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium
of the world's systems and atmosphere stable. But it is possible
that with all these enormous changes — population, agricultural, use
of fossil fuels — concentrated into such a short period of time, we
have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this
Stable prosperity can be achieved throughout
the world, provided the environment is nurtured and safeguarded.
Protecting this balance of nature is therefore one of the great
challenges of the late 20th century.
Fossil Fueled Climate Change
The goal for the international climate
talks this December in Paris is a treaty on emissions that will seek
to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 K above preindustrial
levels. Beyond 2 K, scientists say, the most catastrophic climate
consequences will occur.
Total projected warming from fossil
fuels extracted so far and the projected warming capacity of various
fossil fuels that can be extracted with present technology using a
standard model for the relationship between cumulative carbon
emissions and temperature changes: 9 K.
Price carbon emissions to reflect the damages from climate change.
2 Make energy sources like nuclear and
solar cheaper than fossil fuels.
Continue using fossil fuels but capture and store the carbon.
2015 April 7
"Leaving Europe would leave Britain diminished in
the world, do significant damage to our economy and, less obviously
but just as important to our future, would go against the very
qualities that mark us out still as a great global nation."
"I want changes in Europe but then, unlike
Tony Blair, I will trust the people in an in-out referendum. We
should ask people if they want to stay a member of this
organization. You cannot ignore the will of the people."
2015 April 6
Iran and the Obama Doctrine
Thomas L. Friedman interviews President Barack Obama
Times video (46:14)
"Anti-porn feminism recognises
a link between the propaganda of
sexual violence and its practice,
and stopping porn is understood
be essential in ending the
rapes, killings and torture that
practice against women."
die Einigung im Atomstreit.
Sie hoffen auf einen
"I thought this framework
was going to suck. Actually,
it's not bad."
ME nations now worry
about the rise of Iran
Utility and reward: The most
tend to cause the
greatest harm, the most useful
workers tend to be
Most frontline care workers
receive less than the
But those who own or run a care
company make more
more they cut. The less they
care, the richer they become.
Chief executives in the UK took
60 times as much as
worker 20 years ago and 180
times as much today. Theft is
praised as wealth creation.
2015 Easter Sunday
CERN LHC Restarts
This morning scientists are restarting
the Large Hadron Collider after an upgrade. Two years ago the team
operating the €5 billion LHC discovered the Higgs boson.
few weeks the beam energy level will be raised to 13 TeV. CERN press
head Arnaud Marsollier: "We will have collisions at energies we've
never had before. If something interesting appears in this new
window we will see it."
The first collision experiments
should be in June. ATLAS team lead David Charlton: "We're heading
for unexplored territory."
AR I want
supersymmetry. A dark matter story would be nice too.
The European Problem
Many Conservative party members see the
European Union as an aggressive imperial power. Half of them want to
leave. Conservatives suppressed a series of civil service reports on
alleged EU interference in British life when not one report found
that too much power resided in Brussels.
Asking the EU to end
the free movement of labour would be asking the EU to abolish
itself. Tearing up the social chapter is beyond our powers. The EU
does not guarantee strong workers' rights anyway. The Economist:
"Britain's workers are a bargain because their pay is so pitiful."
If Britain votes narrowly to stay in, you cannot expect
Eurosceptics to accept the result. If Britain votes to leave, many
big companies say they will leave Britain. Scotland may join the
rush to the door. A UK outside the EU would no longer be the country
Scotland voted to stay with in 2014.
After more fiscal
consolidation, local government will be unable to provide essential
services, the police and armed services will struggle to maintain
law and order, and the NHS will crack. The UK would renegotiate
trade agreements with the rest of the world from a position of
AR This Labour man has
overstated his case, but there is a lot of truth here.
2015 April 4
Yemen: Saudi Arabia Versus Iran
A Saudi Arabia-led, largely Sunni coalition
of nine countries seeks to push back Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.
Coalition jets have struck not only military targets but also a
Aside from Israel, no country views the new
Iran pact with as much skepticism as Saudi Arabia. Like the
conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the conflict in Yemen looks like a
proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran.
struggle has the potential to destroy Yemen and turn into a disaster
for Saudi Arabia. Ayatollah Khamenei is popular in Iran and seen as
a leader who is negotiating with the West as an equal. His adversary
on the Arabian Peninsula is the aging King Salman. The war poses
great risks to the House of Saud.
The integration of the Muslim community
into our cities is a problem. Our political class transferred to
teachers the whole obligation to integrate new immigrant
Our society has gone terribly wrong. People have
not been confronting the loss of the Christian faith, the inability
to confront Islam, the loss of the sense of the sacredness of the
sexual relation, and the exposure of young women both to external
predation and to moral decay.
The battle to maintain a proper
educational system was lost. The multiculturalists wanted to destroy
the old education system as they saw it. At stake is the survival of
2015 April 3
The White House
Key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive
Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's
nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland:
Iran has agreed to reduce by
approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran has agreed
to reduce its current stockpile of about 10 Mg of low-enriched
uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67% LEU for 15 years. All excess
centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA
monitored storage. Iran's breakout timeline will be extended to at
least one year, for a duration of at least 10 years.
Inspections and Transparency
The IAEA will have regular
access to all of Iran's nuclear facilities. Inspectors will have
access to the supply chain that supports Iran's nuclear program.
Iran will implement measures to address IAEA concern regarding the
Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.
Reactors and Reprocessing
Iran has agreed to redesign
and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a
design agreed by the P5+1. Iran has committed indefinitely to not
conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on
spent nuclear fuel.
US and EU
nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has
verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.
US sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and
ballistic missiles will remain in place.
For 10 years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and
research and development, ensuring a breakout timeline of at least
one year. Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
AR Well done,
P5+1 (a.k.a. E3/EU+3).
The Holocene epoch lasted 12,000 years.
Estimates put the global human population between 1 million and 10
million at the start of the Holocene.
Now we live in the
Anthropocene era. The familiar contrast between people and the
natural world no longer holds. The world we inhabit is increasingly
the world we have made. We cannot avoid responsibility for the world
we are making.
Anthropocene inequality has an affinity with
neoliberalism, the global extension of market logic. Environmental
economics uses the concept of the externality, a harm or benefit
that has no price tag, and so is ignored in market decisions.
Ultimately, the question is the value of life. There is no
correct technocratic answer. Either the Anthropocene will be
democratic or it will be horrible. Your vulnerability to disaster
often reflects your standing in a political and economic order.
Anthropocene ideas can prompt people to organize in new ways.
The idea of human rights gained much of its force this way.
2015 April 2
Iran: A Deal!
CNN, 1910 GMT
Russian generals at a meeting in Germany
• Crimea: Any attempt
to return it to Ukraine would be met with force, including nuclear
• East Ukraine: Any NATO
supply of weapons to Kiev would prompt a forceful response.
• The Baltic States: Conditions are like
those in Ukraine, which pushed Russia to act.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are warning the West of Russian
ambitions in their territories. NATO is reinforcing them.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
You base governance on things that
are objectively true, regardless of your belief system. The issue is
not that there are religious people in the world that have one view
over another but that you want to legislate that in a way that
There are religions and belief systems, and
objective truths. And if we're going to govern a country, we need to
base that governance on objective truths, not your personal belief
2015 April 1
America Versus Iran
Iran is using talks to shield its hegemonic ambitions
in the Mideast. Its Revolutionary Guard Corps and a host of proxies
are filling the power gap left by the US departure from Iraq and the
collapse of authoritarian governments.
The United States is currently rethinking the
Mideast. Hopes of a nuclear deal with Iran leave relations with
Israel at a new low. Fracking liberates America from Gulf oil, so
when Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran fight for regional supremacy
America may align with Iran.
Obama sees Islamic State as the danger and Iran as the victor. The
most powerful man in Iraq is Iranian general Qasem Soleimani —
"Supermani" — who leads the al-Quds Brigades, a private army under
the control of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Americans are impressed by
his professionalism and see his elite troops as their boots on the
A shift in US-Iranian relations is under way. The
nuclear conflict between Tehran and the West is over a decade old. A
breakthrough seems possible. The West wants the IAEA to be able to
inspect all facilities at any time and without prior notification.
But Iran blocks any measures that might limit its national
sovereignty. The two sides face a stalemate.
Khamenei: "Just like the Americans, I am of the opinion that no deal
is better than a bad deal."
Let's befriend Iran.