German GDP shrank by 0.2% in Q2 and France had 0%
growth in Q1 and Q2. Eurozone GDP was 0% in Q2 after 0.2% in Q1. Year
on year EZ growth was 0.7%.
Eurostat said EZ inflation was its lowest
in 5 years.
Fed VC Stanley Fischer says the weak US recovery
might be fallout from the financial crisis and the recession but might
reflect a more structural shift in the global economy. US growth is held
back by a still anemic housing market, cuts in federal government
spending, and weaker global growth.
Oh happy day!
Leading Oxford University
mathematician Frances Kirwan: "Maths is a hugely rewarding subject, but
sadly many children lose confidence very early and never reap those
AR My first philosophy
at Oxford was her father
A humble ending
Islamic State jihadis
Thousands of refugees
Kurdish Peshmerga forces
CentCom air strikes
The British ruling classes are heroic binge
drinkers. The university drinking clubs of Oxford and Cambridge still
embarrass alumni like David Cameron, George Osborne, and Boris Johnson. The
House of Commons has eight taxpayer-subsidized bars. The bars
served 8,670 bottles of champagne last year.
Amos Oz recalls that in 2005
Israel pulled out of Gaza:
then there have been 10,000 rockets fired from the Gaza strip. ... Europeans
see things in black and white, like a Hollywood movie, with good guys and
bad guys. But it's more complicated than that."
2014 August 21
The Soul of the World
Roger Scruton argues that an acceptance of
death allows us to see the world as making a place for us. He makes
the case for a transcendence founded on our works in a world we make
human by looking for God. He finds hope in our refusal to rest
content with the contingency of nature.
Humans have evolved
from nature and stand at its edge. Scruton sees the "I" of
self-consciousness as poised between freedom and mechanism, subject
and object, nothingness and being. When science makes an account of
the world, it cannot say what it is like to be me.
forever on the edge of things. As do you. I am always looking for
you, trying to attain to that infinite horizon which is your
perspective, your uniqueness. Scruton: "I-you intentionality
projects itself beyond the boundary of the natural world."
The atheist argument that we can find no evidence of God is as
insufficient as attempting to explain love in terms of reproduction
or music in terms of vibration. We cannot expect to encounter God
any more than we can expect to meet the number one.
2014 August 20
The Curse of the Islamic State
The caliphate of the Islamic State is a
nightmarish realm stretching from northeast Syria deep into Iraq.
Thieves have their hands hacked off and opponents are publicly
crucified or beheaded. Women wear
the niqab and pants are banned. Livestock merchants must cover the
rear ends of goats and sheep to spare men lustful thoughts. Girls
are snatched from their families as brides for the warriors.
Journalist Medyan Dairieh made a 45-minute video that provides the
first real view of life inside the caliphate. It shows a world of
fanatical people in which adolescents shout into the camera,
declaring war on infidels. IS spokesman Abu Musa uses his chance to
send a message to America: "Don't be cowards who attack us with
drones. Send your soldiers instead, the ones we already humiliated
Islamic State flags fly at protests in Paris and
Brussels. In London, Islamists hand out leaflets rejoicing that the
caliphate is here and calling for men and women to fly out and fight
for the cause. The Umm Layth blogger is a British immigrant to the
caliphate. She asks women: "How can you not want to produce
offspring who may be, God willing, part of the great Islamic
Another Bloody Shambles
General Sir Michael Rose
There is a powerful case for
intervening now against the Islamic State. But our strategists must
decide with absolute clarity and precision the objective of the
mission. They must also commit sufficient resources to destroy the
terrorist organization now running amok in Iraq.
2014 August 19
The Acropolis still stands. It became
a symbol of Western civilization as the architecture of democracy.
It inspired Sigmund Freud to introspection. His whole frame of
reference was ancient Greece and its myths, archetypes and
tragedies. He excavated like an archeologist through layers of
consciousness, pursuing the secrets of the mind. If the Parthenon
had crumbled, if the works of Greek thinkers were lost, if Freud and
his books were lost, what would our world be like today?
Mesopotamia, a cradle of world civilization, is ravaged today by
psychopaths with armored trucks, swords and genocidal zeal. Living
in an eternal present rooted in an imagined past, the militants are
obsessed with destroying all that is unlike them. It is almost
impossible to reconcile the progress of the past few decades with
the remorseless hatred of the Islamic State. If our symbols are
lost, we will be no better than ignorant armies riding pickup trucks
through the endless dust.
2014 August 18
The Wisdom of the Exile
There are many types of uprooting. But
each person who survives uprooting and finds himself in exile
experiences an existential earthquake of sorts. The world around you
turns into a ruin.
To live is to sink roots. Life is possible
only to the extent that you find a place hospitable enough to
receive you and allow you to settle down. When your old world goes
down it also takes with it all your assumptions, commonplaces,
prejudices and preconceived ideas.
When you lose everything,
you gain something else. What you get is the insight that the world
does not simply exist, but it is something you can dismantle and
piece together again. Uprooting gives you the chance to create not
only the world anew, but also your own self.
2014 August 17
Islamic State Threat
The creation of an extremist caliphate in
the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is our concern. If we do
not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous
terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target
us on the streets of Britain.
We must understand the true
nature of the threat we face. This is a struggle for decency,
tolerance and moderation in our modern world. It is a battle against
a poisonous ideology that is condemned by all faiths and by all
faith leaders, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
witnessing a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who
want to abuse Islam on the other. This threat cannot simply be
removed by airstrikes alone. We need an approach that can defeat the
terrorist threat at source.
The so-called caliphate makes no
secret of its expansionist aims. A terrorist state bordering a NATO
member is a clear danger to Europe and to our security. We must rise
to the challenge.
The Zone of Interest
Martin Amis turns 65 on August 25. His new novel,
The Zone of Interest, is about the
Holocaust. Saul Bellow described the Holocaust as the terminal point
so far in human evil. The novel takes us inside the minds of the
Germans who managed Auschwitz. It is also a love story.
I was about seven, I asked my mother what all this stuff about
railway tracks and smokestacks was all about, and she said, 'Oh,
don't worry about Hitler. You've got blond hair and blue eyes —
Hitler would have loved you.' I felt a kind of ignoble relief that
Hitler would have been on my side. ... Bellow said we must try
to see things with our original eyes. You have to retain your
2014 August 16
MIT Technology Review
Bitcoin is now worth $7.7 billion.
Gavin Andresen, 48, maintains its code base and created the Bitcoin
Foundation in 2013. He says 2014 "is going to be the year of the
Andresen graduated from Princeton in
1988 and took a job with Silicon Graphics. He encountered Bitcoin in
2010 and liked the work of its pseudonymous inventor, Satoshi
Nakamoto. Bitcoins are "mined" by people running software that races
to solve a mathematical puzzle and win a prize of newly minted
bitcoins. The prize shrank over time and now 21 million bitcoins
exist. A "block chain" log serves to verify transactions.
In 2010, Andresen launched a website handing
out free bitcoins to visitors (and shut it down in 2012). He began
sending code tweaks to Nakamoto, who persuaded him to work as
project manager, paid in bitcoins. Andresen: "I am not Satoshi
Nakamoto. I have never met him."
As the price of Bitcoin
soared, its stakeholders have widened from the early enthusiasts to
investors on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Andresen: "I hope in
10 years that Bitcoin is really boring."
AR Trust a company like SAP to bring
Bitcoin to global business.
2014 August 15
Life began around 4 billion years ago. In
all life, a protein pump shunts hydrogen ions out of a cell,
creating a proton gradient across the cell membrane. Protons flow
back into the cell through another protein in the membrane. The cell
uses the energy to produce ATP.
Life comes in three empires:
eukaryotes, bacteria, and archea. Bacteria and archea have
impermeable membranes made of hydrophobic lipids, but their
membranes evolved independently.
Life seems to originated on
the sea floor at alkaline hydrothermal vents. As warm alkaline
fluids well up through cracks in the sea floor and hit the cold
seawater, minerals precipitate out to form rocky chimneys full of
narrow channels and pores. There molecules evolved into lipids and
Cells used energy from the natural proton gradient at
the interface between the alkaline vent fluid and seawater. A
turbine protein in their membranes produced ATP. Lipid membranes
formed a leaky membrane that let protons flow from seawater, through
the cell, and back out into the vent fluid.
proton pumps and the membrane evolved to be less leaky. A protein in
cell membranes swapped protons for sodium ions across the membrane,
to form a sodium ion gradient. Sodium ions re-entered the cell via
the turbine. Better pumps and less leaky membranes evolved together.
Cells learned to generate their own proton gradient and broke
free of the vents. They did this twice, giving rise to bacteria and
2014 August 14
UK Must Bomb IS
Islamic State militants are tightening their
grip on the territory and people they control. They are well funded
and well organized. They are barbaric and savage. They pose a direct
threat to all who oppose their views, they
destabilize the region, and they will create and export young
Allowing an extremist caliphate to extend from
Syria to the borders of Iran would bring further horrors to innocent
people and risk a bigger conflict with global consequences. The
caliphate would be a magnet for jihadists and would export terrorism. The fundamentalists need to be defeated.
US government has decided to use US air power to hit IS bases. We
should be ready to do the same. Sending humanitarian aid is right
but if we leave the vulnerable unprotected from IS terror then our
help is superficial. There are risks, but the cost of failing to act
could be high.
Fox has what it takes to
serve again in government.
Ye Cannae Change the Laws of Physics
A few years ago, Guido P. Fetta developed what he
considered a revolutionary engine technology. His background is in
marketing for pharmaceutical companies, though he studied chemical
engineering in college. He dubbed it the Cannae Drive.
Instead of relying on fuel or nuclear reactors, the engine bounces
microwaves around a carefully shaped container, creating changes in
radiation pressure that ultimately generate thrust. The drive could
potentially cut travel time to Mars from months to mere weeks,
overturning the laws of physics along the way. NASA tested it (blog
August 4). It seemed to work.
Bet on physics.
2014 August 13
Pedro G. Ferreira
Albert Einstein proposed his general
theory of relativity in 1915. His 1905 special theory of relativity
had brought together Newtonian mechanics and Maxwell's theory of
electricity and magnetism. Space and time became intertwined and the
speed of light became invariant. It all worked beautifully, except
for Newton's gravitational force. So Einstein came up with a general formulation including gravity.
The new general theory
of relativity needed a completely different form of mathematics and
a fresh way of thinking about physics. The decade that followed
brought amazing discoveries. Arthur Eddington showed that the light
from distant stars was bent by gravity, as predicted. Karl
Schwarzschild conceived of black holes. Alexander Friedmann
calculated that the universe was expanding. And Einstein predicted
The discovery of
quantum physics pushed
his theory into the long grass. Decades later, a new generation of
mathematical physicists revealed the
inner workings of black holes
in detail, and observational evidence for them started to amass. The
discovery of the cosmic microwave background added weight to the
idea of an expanding universe.
Future big ESA missions
include eLISA to measure the gravitational waves from collisions
between black holes, Euclid to measure universal expansion, and
ATHENA to look at X-rays from a black hole. The advanced
search for the echoes of embryos of black holes. The Event Horizon
Telescope may see the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The
Square Kilometer Array will test Einstein's theory on galactic and
mechanics and general relativity are incompatible. Their union in
quantum gravity is an
unsolved problem. Quantum spacetime will be granular.
Some work here
is really exciting.
Fields Medal 2014
Stanford University professor of mathematics
Maryam Mirzakhani has been award the Fields Medal by the
International Mathematical Union. The other Fields Medal winners
this year are Martin Hairer, Manjul Bhargava, and Artur Avila.
Born and raised in Iran, Mirzakhani completed her PhD at Harvard
in 2004. Her research interests include Teichmüller theory,
hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry. "I
dreamed of becoming a writer," she said in an
interview for Oxford University.
As a graduate student at Oxford I studied, among other
things, the Teichmüller-Tukey lemma, which is equivalent to the
axiom of choice in set theory.
Some SAP customers remain puzzled over
how the SAP HANA platform can fit into their IT strategies.
Three-quarters of respondents to an ASUG survey who hadn't bought
HANA said they had not been able to pin down a business case that
justified the cost.
SAP isn't forcing them. Nearly
three-fourths of those who said they had no current plans to
implement HANA also said they believed SAP would support their
existing environments into the future or for at least five years or
SAP hopes to convince its Business Suite customers to
migrate their environments to HANA. At the last AGM, SAP said it had
more than 3600 HANA customers overall and 1200 for the Suite on
converges database and application platform capabilities in-memory
to transform transactions, analytics, text analysis, predictive and
spatial processing so businesses can operate in real time.
AR I worked in the SAP team that
developed HANA from 2003 to 2009. In those days it was called the
SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence Accelerator and I wrote the SAP
Press book on it.
2014 August 12
There is a huge literature on the
psychology of first impressions. There is not much of a literature
on last impressions. Amid the contemporary frenzy of competing
entertainment and information streams, a writer needs to bring
readers straight into the story.
Every terminus is also a potential beginning.
Not every film opens with someone coming toward the camera or closes
in the opposite fashion, but the technique is common enough to
suggest that it echoes some kind of cognitive process in the real
Our trouble with endings hints at a larger problem:
how it all ends. Martin Rees: "It will not be humans who watch the
sun's demise, six billion years from now. Any creatures that then
exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or
2014 August 11
Consciousness as a State of Matter
Consciousness can be described in terms of quantum mechanics and
information theory. Giulio Tononi proposed that a conscious system
must be able to store and process large amounts of information and
to unify this information in a whole that cannot be divided into
Let perceptronium be the most general
substance that feels subjectively self-aware. This substance should
be able to store and process information in a way that forms a
unified whole. We can use this approach to ask why conscious
observers living in a quantum reality perceive a classical world.
Information in a conscious system must be unified. The system
must correct errors to allow any subset of up to half the
information to be reconstructed from the rest. A Hopfield net can do
this, but one with 10^11 neurons can only store 37 bits of
integrated information. Something wrong here!
AR I mentioned this Arxiv paper on
April 11. It is
technical and I don't pretend to follow its details, but a moment of
"now" in consciousness can only reliably hold a few bytes of
information, so the Hopfield limit looks harmless. Our consciousness
is layered in time and we use painfully learned heuristics to reduce
errors. Max needs to study the phenomenology of consciousness more
closely. On the quantum-classical transition and the sense of time
flow, see chapter 13 in my book
2014 August 10
I don't think we're going to solve this
problem in weeks. I think this is going to take some time. American
combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because
there's no American military solution to the larger crisis there.
The Islamic State
Jessica T. Mathews
The Islamic State has swept almost to
the gates of Baghdad. The Sunni insurgency that has risen up against
the government of Nouri al-Maliki includes another jihadi group,
Ansar al-Islam, as well as the military council of the eighty or so
tribes of Iraq, and the army of the Naqshbandi order.
disparate groups will not fight together for long. The Islamic State
and its allies have triumphed because the Sunni populations of
northern Iraq have welcomed and supported them. The Sunnis are more
afraid of what their government may do to them than of the Sunni
The war unfolding in Iraq is scary. The
Islamic State jihadis are killing because they want to live in a
world cleansed of those who do not share their deranged beliefs. By
killing Yazidis and Christians and members of other religious
minorities, they believe they are serving a noble cause. They are
closing in on stranded pockets of people they see as pagans and
slowly starving them to death.
President Obama has decided to
act. He has authorized a limited bombing campaign as well as a
humanitarian effort on behalf of the stranded Yazidis. The decision
to intervene militarily is a thorny one, but the prospect of
genocide changes things. If the jihadis succeed in collapsing the
Iraqi state, there will be no end to the killing. The president is
doing the honorable thing.
United States Central Command forces
conducted four air strikes against Islamic State armored vehicles
and positions to defend Yazidi civilians near Sinjar. Meanwhile
delivery of relief to civilians fleeing the IS continues. Aircraft
from multiple air bases dropped 72 bundles including more than 14 kl
of water and more than 16,000 packaged meals.
Catholics in Irbil say fewer than 40 Christians remained in
northwestern Iraq after a jihadist rampage forced thousands to flee
into Irbil in the Kurdish north. Irbil Archbishop Bashar Warda: "We
did not expect that one day Mosul would be without Christians and
that the Nineveh plains would be emptied of minorities. Trust is
broken between the communities. Especially with the Arabs. For 2,000
years, all these minorities had lived together."
secretary Philip Hammond says air sorties from the UK to northern
Iraq will continue. Two RAF C-130 transport aircraft flew from RAF
Brize Norton to airdrop emergency humanitarian supplies including
reusable filtration containers filled with clean water, tents, and
solar lights that can also recharge mobile phones.
A statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament
Square, London, was announced in July by Chancellor of the Exchequer
George Osborne and then Foreign Secretary William Hague during a
trade mission to India.
Dr Kusoom Vadgama, who is the
founder of the Indo-British Heritage Trust and chairwoman of this
year's 400th anniversary celebrations of Britain's relationship with
India, finds the proposed statue unacceptable: "Gandhi was obsessed
with sex and it has all been hush-hushed for all these years. He had
a habit of sleeping naked with women including his great niece and
other married women to see if he could control himself."
AR He liked women. So what?
2014 August 9
MIT Technology Review
The new IBM SyNapse chip is
designed to work like the brain. It is weak at arithmetic but needs
very little power, and is good at processing images, sound, and
other sensory data. In tests, it can recognize cars, people, and
bicycles in a road traffic video 100 times faster and using 100 000
times less power than a standard laptop.
SyNapse has over 5
billion transistors, but in a video test its power consumption was
63 mW. Its efficiency comes from avoiding the Von Neumann
bottleneck. A conventional processor works through a program by
constantly shuttling data back and forth from memory, wasting time
SyNapse processes information using a network of
just over a million artificial neurons that send electrical spikes
to each other via silicon synapses. Its neurons are organized into
4K identical blocks of 250. It has no separate memory or processor
and no fixed program. Neurons fire when the sum of input spikes
reaches a threshold. It requires a new approach to programming. It
2014 August 8
The House of Lords has been bloated to 850
members by the appointment of 22 new peers. The Electoral Reform
Society says the new peers have donated nearly £7 million to their
parties. ERS chief executive Katie Ghose: "These appointments
further cement the impression that to get into the House of Lords,
all you have to do is write a fat cheque to a political party or be
a party hack. The second chamber is a crucial part of our political
system, with real legislative power. It cannot be right that people
are effectively able to buy a seat at the highest level of
AR This looks corrupt.
Reform the house.
2014 August 7
In December last year, bitcoins were
trading at $1200 a pop. The Winklevoss brothers predicted that the
coins could peak at $40,000 each, but now they are worth under $600
each. Bitcoins are still mainly used to buy and sell illegal goods
Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust SEC portfolio: "As the
sponsor and its management have no history of operating an
investment vehicle like the Trust, their experience may be
inadequate or unsuitable to manage the Trust." The currency has
never been hacked, but the wallets people use to hold their currency
have been. Portfolio: "The loss or destruction of a private key
required to access a bitcoin may be irreversible."
burn my money in a bucket than give it to the Winklevoss brothers to
invest in Bitcoin.
2014 August 6
ESA DG Jean-Jacques Dordain: "After 10 years, 5 months and 4 days
traveling toward our destination, looping around the Sun 5 times and
clocking up 6.4 billion km, we are delighted to announce finally: we
are here. Europe's Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to
rendezvous with a comet."
Measurements from the Microwave
Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter MIRO suggest the comet is
emitting water vapour into space at about 300 ml/s. The Visible and
Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer VIRTIS measures its average
temperature to be about 200 K, indicating that the surface is
predominantly dark and dusty rather than clean and icy.
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 Gm from Earth and
are speeding toward the inner Solar System. Rosetta is orbiting 100
km from the comet's surface. In the coming weeks, Rosetta will
attempt a close orbit at 30 km and perhaps closer. The final
timeline for deploying Philae will be confirmed in October.
Irfan Siddiqi, UC Berkeley
To all the heroes and victims on
both sides in two world wars
2014 August 6
Today the European Space Agency Rosetta spacecraft arrives at Comet
The comet is about 4 km wide.
Final rendezvous burn begins at 09:00 UTC. Orbit entry will be
triggered by a small but crucial thruster firing lasting just 386 s.
From orbit, Rosetta will on 2014-11-11 drop lander Philae on to
the surface. Philae will attach itself with an explosive harpoon and
give scientists their first close view of a comet approaching the
Sun. As the solar radiation rises, the comet will start spouting a
tail of dust and gas that could grow to more than 1 Gm long.
2014 August 5
We can say with certainty that, for the first
time in human history, we are finally on the verge of being able to
search for signs of life beyond our solar system around the nearest
hundreds of stars.
Our own galaxy has 100 billion stars and
our universe has upwards of 100 billion galaxies, making the chance
for life elsewhere seem inevitable based on sheer probability.
2014 August 4
This graph maps the random trajectories of
the quantum state of a qubit as it evolves from its initial state to
its final one, over many repeated experiments. The work verifies
theoretical models of the most likely way in which a quantum system
will collapse, proving that the probable path can be predicted.
Mapping the optimal route between two quantum states
An RF resonant cavity excited at 935 MHz using
magnetoplasmadynamics to obtain a propulsive momentum transfer via
the quantum vacuum virtual plasma generated a recorded 30-50 μN of
AR If it really works and
scales, this is exciting.
2014 August 3
The Sunday Times
David Cameron does not want to leave the
European Union. He believes it will be possible to negotiate powers
back from Brussels and also secure referendum approval for staying
in the EU on the back of that renegotiation.
the mayor of London, believes the prime minister has scuppered his
chances of meaningful renegotiation by declaring at the outset that
he wants to stay in the EU and lead the "in" campaign in a
Any sign that the government was planning its
exit from the EU would provoke alarm in corporate Britain and among
some foreign investors. The London mayor offers the red meat on
Europe for which many in the Tory party hunger. The Europe argument
is hard for the prime minister to win.
Thomas L. Friedman
Iron Dome is smart and frugal. It can
calculate whether a Hamas rocket launched in Gaza needs to be
intercepted or can be ignored, avoiding the $50,000 cost of an
interceptor. If this Israeli government had applied the same
ingenuity to trying to forge a deal with the moderate Palestinian
Authority in the West Bank, Hamas would be isolated.
developed an underground maze of tunnels in Gaza, with branches into
Israel. If Hamas — which has brought only ruin to the people of
Gaza, even in times of quiet — had applied that same ingenuity to
building above ground, it could have created the biggest contracting
company in the Arab world by now, and the most schools.
Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials have been discussing the
principles of a lasting deal for Gaza. Hamas is unlikely to stop
this war without an agreement to end the blockade of Gaza. Israel is
not likely to stop this war without having rooted out most of the
Hamas tunnels and put in place a regime that will largely
The only chance these goals have of being
implemented is if the moderate Palestinian Authority is invited back
into Gaza. Hamas and Israel will both have to cede something. Israel
will have to negotiate in earnest about a withdrawal from the West
Bank, and Hamas will have to serve in a Palestinian unity government
and forgo violence.
2014 August 2
British Army: 168 Tanks
Britain will have just one tank regiment from
today. The Royal Tank Regiment is armed with 56 Challenger 2 tanks.
Two other armoured regiments, the King's Royal Hussars and the
Queen's Royal Hussars, also with 56 tanks each, enable the army to
field 168 tanks in total.
Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew
Ridgway, Colonel of the Royal Tank Regiment: "Defence capability is
like insurance: You don't have the insurance you want. You have the
insurance you can afford. The crucial thing is to get your
The British army now has more horses than
AR So trooping the colour
for the queen has priority over fighting battles.
2014 August 1
David Cameron Visits Poole
UK Prime Minister David Cameron and
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne visited the Royal Marines
base in Hamworthy, Poole, today. They used the occasion to announce
a £100 million package of help for military families and related
charities, funded by fines levied on banks implicated in the LIBOR
Prime Minister visits Poole
Germans are better than us at cars, public
transport, bicycle commuting, and yelling at people when they break the
rules. They are also better at not being big uptight prudes at the beach:
FKK = Freikörperkultur
(free body culture)
It's less about sex
or exhibitionism and more about convenience and freedom.
World Humanist Congress
Oxford, August 8-10
Don't just do something,
robot runs, hops
and uses sign language
© Mark Allan
Google Brain gives Google software engineers a way to apply
cutting-edge machine-learning algorithms to a growing array of problems.
Teams using Google Brain can download the source code, tweak a configuration
file, and point it at their own data. The code may one day go public.
2014 July 31
It Could Happen Again
A century ago, on the eve of World War I,
Europe had lived through a long period of relative peace. Rapid
progress in science, technology, and communications had given
humanity a sense of shared interests that precluded war. World
leaders scarcely believed a global conflagration was possible.
The unimaginable can occur. Events cascade. Russians are sure
that their national dignity has been trampled by a NATO and EU
strategic advance to their border dressed up in talk of democracy,
the rule of law, and human rights. National humiliation is a
tremendous catalyst for war.
Now Europeans contemplate war
with revulsion. America is in a period of retrenchment that may last
a generation. But the views of power held in Moscow and Beijing are
ones Bismarck or Clausewitz would recognize instantly. The Baltic
countries are front-line states again.
The credibility of
American power remains the anchor of global security. But President
Obama has made clear he does not believe in military force. A
century ago, it was just this kind of hope and trust that
2014 July 30
America in 1815
Daniel Walker Howe
Life in America in 1815 was dirty,
smelly, laborious, and uncomfortable. Coountry people of ordinary
means went barefoot much of the time. White people of both sexes
wore heavy fabrics covering their bodies, even in the humid heat of
summer. People usually owned few changes of clothes and stank of
sweat. Only the most fastidious bathed as often as once a week.
Having an outdoor privy signified a level of decency above those
who simply relieved themselves in the woods or fields. A single
fireplace provided all the cooking and heating for a common
household. During winter, everybody slept in the room with the fire,
several in each bed. One third of white children and over half of
black children died before reaching adulthood.
The English Language
Our tongue comes from a unique tectonic
clash between Romance and Germanic languages with sprinklings of
Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and the resulting glorious mess has played
havoc with grammar, spelling and meaning ever since.
2014 July 29
Extinguish Hamas Threat
Israel will expand the military operation in
Gaza until the threat from Hamas is extinguished. Israeli PM
Binyamin Netanyahu: "We must be prepared for a lengthy campaign. We
will not end this operation without neutralizing the tunnels whose
sole purpose is to kill our citizens."
AR Right on.
The New Caliphate
Nadette De Visser
"Death to the Jews" chanted the crowd
waving the black flags of the Islamic State. Their cause was the
creation of a worldwide caliphate answering to Caliph Ibrahim: a
zealot too radical even for Al Qaeda who has stormed through Syria
and Iraq carrying out mass executions, crucifying rivals, beheading
enemies. But these marchers were in The Netherlands. And their
message was to disaffected young Muslims in Europe.
AR We need to arrest these extremists
and silence the ringleaders. Nothing less will stop the rot.
2014 July 28
Poole Manifesto 2015
Council Group Meeting, Civic Centre
I presented my vision of how
a Conservative approach in line with national priorities can help
the Borough of Poole prosper in the coming years and decades.
2014 July 27
The Nice Party
Leading Conservative women warn that mocking
the Labour leader will put female voters off the Tories and feed
their "nasty party" image.
Ed Miliband: "If you want the
politician from central casting, it's not me; it's the other guy. If
you want a politician who thinks a good photo is the most important
thing, then don't vote for me."
Organisation national chair Niki Molnar: "Women want to hear what
someone will do for them and their family, not what shoes a
politician is wearing, how they eat a bacon sandwich, or where they
went to school."
Women2Win co-founder Baroness Anne Jenkin:
"Personal attacks of any kind turn women off."
MP Charlotte Leslie: "Negative campaigning never, ever works."
2014 July 26
Sea off southern England: 20C. See at Monica Beach, CA: 19C.
The scientific method is doing controlled
experiments, setting them into a network of grand ideas, and then
progressing toward full understanding. That approach can be applied
to understanding the origin of human sentiment by constructing a
computer that has the attributes of consciousness.
based on evidence that it is free of cultural conditioning. Science
verifies hypotheses and theories. A discovery made in one region of
science requires information on discoveries made in other fields of
science. It is a supportive articulation of ideas.
of religion is the quest for understanding. Once the oppressive
authority of the church was overcome, human inquisitiveness could
find reliable answers. Science shed that type of authority and found
a method that is extraordinarily powerful and effective.
2014 July 25
UK 2014: +3.2%
The International Monetary Fund upgraded its
growth forecast: The UK is now expected to grow by 3.2% this year.
This is more than any other member of the G7. Since April last year,
the IMF has more than doubled its UK forecast. IMF managing director
Christine Lagarde conceded that the fund had "got it wrong" on the
2014 July 24
NATO Versus Russia
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General
Philip Breedlove plans to recommend placing supplies — weapons,
ammunition, and ration packs — at a "24/7 fully functioning
headquarters" in eastern Europe to support NATO troops in the event
of a crisis.The leading contender is Multinational Corps Northeast,
in Szczecin, Poland.
2014 July 23
Israeli troops in Gaza uncovered 18
tunnels used by Hamas to send armed terrorists into Israel and built
using an estimated 800,000 tons of concrete, all donated by the
Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest
tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas could have built
seven such towers and still had enough to spare to build a pair of
kindergartens with bomb shelters as big as Giants Stadium.
Hamas is not seriously interested in governing Gaza. Its raison
d'être is killing people in order to bring about the rule of its
fundamentalist and radically intolerant brand of Islam.
Unemployment in Gaza is around 50%. It rose steeply
since Israel pulled out its troops and settlers in 2005 and
tightened border restrictions. Hamas must deliver Gazans a better
life. Gazans did not vote for Hamas either to escalate the conflict
or to fire rockets from near their homes.
1 Israel will continue
until the job is done.
2 Israel wants
to erode Hamas clout.
3 Israel is
responding to rocket fire from Gaza.
Israel wants to gain a few years of relative peace.
1 Hamas says Israel will
exist until Islam obliterates it.
Hamas wants an end to the Israeli blockade.
3 Hamas wants the release of prisoners.
4 Hamas wants to rally support at home.
2014 July 22
Thomas Nagel rejects the idea that there
is nothing more to the universe than matter and physical forces. He
doubts that evolution, as currently conceived, could produce
sentient life. Mind might be a fundamental principle of nature.
David Chalmers calls on scientists to seriously consider
Max Tegmark suggests that mathematics needs to
be admitted into science as the most fundamental part of of nature.
He sets out to show that the universe is a mathematical structure,
and its physics emerges from numbers.
Edward Frenkel notes
that most of mathematics seems to be about nothing other than
AR My philosophical works
discuss these ideas in some depth. I favor a variant of panpsychism
in which the foundations of mathematics are the foundations of mind
2014 July 21
UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond: "If
there is no change at all in the way Europe is governed, no change
in the balance of competences between the nation states and the
European Union, no resolution of the challenge of how the eurozone
can succeed and co-exist with the non-eurozone, that is not a Europe
that can work for Britain in the future. ... There has to be a
repatriation of powers to the nation states."
Former UK attorney-general Dominic Grieve had
advised David Cameron not to pull Britain out of the European
Convention on Human Rights. Grieve: "If we are not meeting European
convention norms, then the chances are that the European Court of
Justice — a completely separate body — will step in and will
actually enforce those norms on us. Unlike the court in Strasbourg —
where a judgment is just an international obligation — that has
direct effect and has to be applied here."
There was deliberate and sustained action to
introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some
schools in Birmingham. Whistleblowers first approached the British
Humanist Association with allegations and the BHA passed them on to
the Department for Education.
Much of what went on in the
schools would have been permissible if the schools had been
designated faith schools. Britain is one of only four countries in
the world to allow religious selection in admissions to state-funded
schools. The others are Estonia, Ireland, and Israel.
Anglicanism is a mild and attenuated form of the faith virus. It may
even act as a vaccine against more virulent infections. But
Christianity is becoming more evangelical in response to its global
competition with Islam. Anglicans should make common cause with
humanists in defense of tolerance.
2014 July 20
Few politicians in the great Western capitals
have any idea of how to get a grip on the current global chaos.
It is safe to assume that Vladimir Putin did not personally
order the missile launch that killed hundreds of innocent foreign
civilians. What he did do was provide sophisticated missile systems
and heavy artillery to a motley assortment of trigger-happy cowboys
whose antics have greatly increased his popularity with the folks at
In the Mideast, US Secretary of State John Kerry once
talked of brokering a peace deal. The Obama administration now looks
determined to stay out of international trouble. Israel is on its
Britain has no foreign policy worthy of the name. When
the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary go on their diplomatic
jaunts abroad, they are scarcely more than sales reps for British
industry and trade.
As a leading member of NATO, the UK is
playing a central role in providing reassurance to our allies.
Thanks to four years of hard work of my predecessors, we now have
the defence budget under control.
Over the next 10 years we will spend
over £160 billion on new equipment and equipment support. HMS Queen
Elizabeth marks a new era in British maritime power. We are spending
£10 billion on seven new submarines, £13 billion on new land
equipment including armoured vehicles and tanks, and £3 billion on
new fighter aircraft. We are buying the best and most modern kit to
deal with the threats of the future.
2014 July 19
The New York Times
Israeli troops are again in the Gaza
Strip. Israel is targeting tunnels dug to store weapons or stage
attacks. The troops operated mainly within about a mile of Gaza's
edges and quickly announced they had uncovered more than 20 tunnel
The IDF uncovered 10 tunnels, struck 240
targets, killed 17 militants, and detained 21 others in the first 24
hours of the ground operations. One Israeli soldier was killed. The
IDF counted 135 rockets in the same period, 40 of them blocked from
hitting cities by Iron Dome.
Former Israeli advisor Yaakov
Amidror: "If nothing bad will happen, we will identify the locations
of the tunnels, we will blow them up, and we will retreat. How to
finish the whole operation in terms of stopping the rockets and the
missiles, this is much more complicated."
2014 July 18
Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit is
considered by many of his peers to be the world's most important
living moral philosopher. His first book, Reasons and Persons,
published in 1984, is routinely described as a work of genius.
Parfit's "repugnant" conclusion: "For any possible
population of at least 10 billion people, all with a very high
quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable
population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be
better even though its members have lives that are barely worth
Parfit is now 71. His former student Jeff McMahan,
who will soon become the White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at
Oxford, says Parfit's writings, especially on population ethics,
have "forced a rethink on almost everything in ethics, including the
value of life itself."
recall Derek from Oxford in the 1970s.
2014 July 17
about constructing visions of the world. It has nothing to do with the assembling of data and the
ways of organizing the assembly of data. It has everything to do
with our mental vision of the world. Science is a process in which
we keep exploring ways of thinking.
Science is not about
certainty. Nothing is scientifically proven. The core of science is
the deep awareness that we have wrong ideas. In our conceptual
structure for grasping reality, there might be something we have to
revise. We have a vision of
reality that is the best we have found so far.
Science is not
about the data. The data suggest the theory. What
interests us is what the theory says about the world. General
relativity is interesting not because of its data but because it
tells us that there can be black holes and a Big Bang. Science is
about continually going beyond common sense.
gravity, there are two major research directions. String theory is a
beautiful theory, but it's not sufficiently grounded in general
relativity. Loop quantum gravity is an attempt to take general
relativity and quantum mechanics seriously and bring them together.
Quantum spacetime requires some change in the way we think.
Scientists who say they don't care about philosophy have a
philosophy. They have a headful of ideas.
2014 July 16
UK Cabinet Reshuffle
The new foreign secretary is Philip Hammond, a
hardline Eurosceptic. He is replaced at defence by Michael Fallon.
Former education secretary Michael Gove is now chief whip. Nicky
Morgan moves from the Treasury to replace him. She is 41.
was offered a junior role at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but
turned it down. Owen Paterson is replaced as environment secretary
by Liz Truss, 38.
Cameron: "This is a fresh team with the
ideas, the energy, the policy, and the ability to take this country
forward, to complete the long-term economic plan and secure our
future. I think it is a team that reflects modern Britain."
AR World Cup team? Poor joke. Fox will
pray for life after Dave.
2015: Tory Win
David Cameron's reshuffle leaves ministerial
ranks looking more feminine, youthful, and skewed to the right.
Young Tories are devoted to free markets, hostile to the European
Union, and unsentimental about the welfare state. There is a
changing of the guard on Europe. The task is to win, and to destroy
Labour as a force for government.
I think the country is pretty Eurosceptic
now. We all want reform in Europe, a different kind of Europe.
That's the agenda that's going to be pursued now to get those
reforms and then to give people a choice as to whether to continue
to be members or not.
AR My EU
line: reform or out.
2014 July 15
William Hague is standing down as UK foreign
secretary and is to leave politics next year. Defence secretary
Philip Hammond replaces Hague today as foreign secretary. Hammond
said last year that he would vote to leave the EU if it remained in
its present form.
"William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the
Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving
in two cabinets. Not only has he been a first-class foreign
secretary, he has also been a close confidant, a wise counsellor and
a great friend."
"From May 2015, after such a long period in politics, I want to
embark on many other things I have always wanted to do."
2014 July 14
We can learn from them Germany. Out of the
ruins of the second world war, and the grotesque atrocities of
Nazism, the Federal Republic emerged within a decade as the paragon
of a stable, inclusive liberal democracy. The German economic
miracle was no less extraordinary. Germany has become the
productivity powerhouse of Europe.
Britain's economy is
characterized by low productivity, a poor record in technical
skills, low levels of savings and investment, and relatively weak
performance in R&D. We cannot copy the German economy, or transplant
the culture in which it is embedded. But we can learn much.
Germany is committed to a free market economy in which capitalism is
organized and responsible. Its social market encourages long-term
thinking, promotes collaboration in the workplace, incentivizes
employers to invest in the skills and productivity of their workers,
tries to spread prosperity to Germans in all regions, and supports a
welfare system based on the principles of need and contribution.
Britain cannot become Germany. But surely it is time for us to
learn lessons from Germany. We may learn how to win another World
AR This is a central pillar
of my new political career (not the World Cup).
Borough of Poole
L to R: Robert Syms, MP for Poole; Andy Garner-Watts; Peter Adams,
Mayor of Poole; Andy Ross,
at the Mayor's Charity Beach Festival, Sandbanks, Poole,
Dorset, UK, Sunday, 13 July 2014
Newtown Neurotics w/
Attila The Stockbroker
2014 July 13
Operation Protective Edge
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke
to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman:
"I told Minister
Lieberman that continuing rocket attacks from Gaza are completely
unacceptable. Israel has a right to defend itself against such
attacks, but the whole world wanted to see de-escalation."
Hague also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:
offered my condolences for the loss of civilian lives in Gaza."
2014 July 12
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu: "No international pressure will
prevent us from acting with full force against a terrorist
organization that calls for our destruction. … No country would
accept its civilians being fired at without a harsh response."
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner:
"Israel uses its weapons to defend its civilians. Hamas uses its
civilians to defend its weapons."
Israeli parliamentarian Ayelet Shaked: "Behind every terrorist
stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in
terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be
on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the
martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should
follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as
should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes.
Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."
2014 July 11
Iron Dome Tourismus: Menschen, die, anstatt
bei Luftalarm Schutz zu suchen, lieber im Freien bleiben und das
israelische Raketenabwehrsystem bei der Arbeit bestaunen. Israels
Behörden können das als Zeichen werten, dass ihre Meldungen über den
Erfolg der Iron Dome Wirkung zeigen.
Iron Dome wirklich
eine Trefferquote von 90% erreicht ist ebenso zweitrangig wie die
Frage, wie weit genau die Raketen der Hamas reichen. Bedeutender
ist, dass der technische Rüstungswettlauf zu einem wichtigen
Bestandteil des israelisch-palästinensischen Dauerkonflikts geworden
Ausgelöst wurde die erneute Eskalation durch
bestialische Morde. Israel setzt seine Armee zur Vergeltung ein,
Hamas reagiert mit Raketenfeuer. Israel schickt Kampfjets und
verteidigt sich mit Iron Dome, Hamas beschafft sich Raketen mit
höherer Genauigkeit und größerer Reichweite.
2014 July 10
Knowledge interprets experience through
human cultural understanding and experience. Metaphor is the key to
the whole enterprise. A metaphor puts blinkers on us. The metaphor
of the world as a machine rules out an answer to the question of why
there is something rather than nothing.
If God is to do
everything through unbroken law, and I can think of reasons why this
should be so, then pain and suffering are part of it all. As an
evolutionist I think that all organisms are the end product of a
long, slow process of development thanks to the causal mechanism of
I think morality is a collective illusion,
genetic in origin, that makes us good cooperators. Being good
cooperators makes each of us better off in the struggle for
existence. So I don't buy the moral argument for the existence of
God. But I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving Christians.
2014 July 9
The Liberal State
Communism as a model of state
domination is very much alive in China and Russia. The new
authoritarians offer an alternate route to modern development:
growth without democracy and progress without freedom.
America no longer has the power to shape the international order as
it once did. When conservatives win elections, corporate interests
often take control. When progressives win back power, they make the
state more domineering. A continuing dynamic of political
alternation leaves the state unreformed.
The fiscal crisis of
the liberal state is due to rising income inequality, money power in
politics, and systemic tax avoidance by big corporations. The cost
of carrying the liberal state falls on the middle class. The
institutions of the state have been hijacked by the interests they
were created to control.
2014 July 8
Operation Protective Edge
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General
Benny Gantz: "We will now activate all of our force and take all the
time that is needed in various stages in order to reach victory."
AR V is
Kant: moral commands are categorical.
Act only according to that maxim which you can at the same time will as
universal law. Humanity has dignity insofar as it is
capable of morality. We have an absolute duty to respect personhood.
Nietzsche is not crowing about the death of God.
He realized that the Enlightenment project to reconstruct morality from
rational principles retained the character of Christian ethics without
providing its foundational authority.
ESA has approved plans for the Athena
X-ray space telescope. With 100 times more sensitivity than existing X-ray
missions, it will launch in 2028.
2014 July 7
Islam and Education
Children born and raised in Britain must be
integrated into British society. Schools and teachers have a duty to
ensure that children understand and adhere to the basic principles
of the surrounding society.
Our society is governed by a
secular law defined over the territory of the United Kingdom. This
territory is our home to defend. The Church of England has defined
itself in national terms.
Sunni Muslim law is not defined
over territory. It is a religious law. Islam provides an experience
of identity at variance with the nation state. Muslims find things
that repel them in modern Britain.
Islamists want to see
Muslims define themselves against their country. Christianity is an
institution, but Sunni Islam is an identity. I say when it comes to
identity, it is nationality and not religion that counts.
Roger, but when it comes
to identity, I am a rational human being who lives on planet Earth,
where a variety of polities, such as British and German, support
only superficial distinctions.
2014 July 6
Superintelligence: An intellect that greatly exceeds the
cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains.
Nobody knows how long it will take, but once AI scientists become
more capable than human scientists, progress will be rapid. There is
thus the potential for an explosive
distinguish three forms of superintelligence:
1 A speed superintelligence could do
everything a human mind could do, but much faster.
2 A collective superintelligence
composed of a large number of human-level intellects organized to
outstrip that of any current cognitive system could could drive
technological progress much faster.
A quality superintelligence would be cleverer than humans in the
same sense that we are cleverer than other animals.
Superintelligent machine brains would have many fundamental
advantages over biological brains, just as engines have advantages
over biological muscles. We cannot hope to compete with such machine
brains. We can only hope to design them so that their goals coincide
AR This was my big
concern in G.O.D. Is Great
2014 July 5
The Creative Brain
For my latest study, I scanned the brains
of some illustrious scientists, mathematicians, artists, and
writers. I examined 13 creative geniuses and 13 controls. Both
groups had an average IQ of about 120. Creative genius is not the
same as high IQ. The creative subjects and their relatives have a
higher rate of mental illness than the controls and their relatives
do. Eureka moments tend to be precipitated by long periods of
preparation and incubation, and to strike when the mind is relaxed.
2014 July 4
The New Caliphate
On the first day of Ramadan, ISIS declared
that it was reestablishing the caliphate. ISIS successes are built
around military competence that includes excellent command and
control, sound intelligence, well prepared logistics support,
training, high mobility, and rapid maneuver. ISIS is prepared to
play a long game and is appealing for educated and skilled Muslims
to join it to rebuild the caliphate.
continue to view the collapse of Muslim states as something to be
countered by military action and counterterrorism operations. The
United States and its allies need to get Iran and Saudi Arabia to
deal with the crisis in the Muslim world. The Organization of the
Islamic Conference and the Arab League should both be acting to
bring Iran and the Arab world closer together.
2014 July 3
The Islamic State appears well on the road to
restarting the caliphate. But even the earliest caliphs bear little
resemblance to jihadist mythology. Muhammad composed a Constitution
of Medina stipulating that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and pagans had
equal political and cultural rights.
misdiagnose the weakness and underdevelopment of contemporary Arab
society as stemming from its deviation from "pure" Islamic morality,
as if the proper length of a beard and praying five times a day were
a substitute for science and education, or could affect global
The Islamist dream of transnational theocratic
rule appeals to a dwindling number of Arabs. Rather than a caliphate
presided over by arbitrarily appointed caliphs, subjected to a rigid
interpretation of Shariah law, millions of Arabs strive simply for
peace, stability, dignity, prosperity, and democracy.
2014 July 2
The soldiers of the new caliphate might
cross into Jordan. The Jordanian military would step up in a way
that the Iraqi military has not. But how far into Jordan would an
ISIS incursion have to go before alarms went off in Washington? How
far before Israel felt it must act to defend
If we are to avoid a regional meltdown, the United
States, Europe, the Turks, and those from across the region must
act. The White House must send a clear message that Jordan is a real
While David Cameron was being
defenestrated in Brussels, I was in Strasbourg at the Council of
Europe, speaking on a new report into the future of the European
Union. The council comprises 47 countries and 800 million citizens,
and was formed in the aftermath of WW2 to guard and
promote human rights.
Report author Andreas Gross: "Rather
than constituting a model for an ever closer political union or a
European state, federalism implies a process of balancing power in a
differentiated political order which enables unity while
Most continental politicians would
endorse that definition.
2014 July 1
ISIS claims that it had fulfilled all the
legal requirements for the caliphate and that all Muslims around the
world are religiously obliged to swear loyalty to the new Caliph
Ibrahim. Muslims worldwide are likely to react negatively to the
Prior to the pronouncement, ISIS could have
fallen back with little loss of face and a huge increase in its
warfighting capabilities, thanks to captured weaponry and stolen
funds. Now, if ISIS is driven back, the loss would highlight the
hubris of ISIS.
ISIS appears to be standing on the edge of a
precipice with an adolescent faith in its ability to keep its
balance. A US military strike would give ISIS a new line of jihadist
argument: The caliphate was restored, but it was destroyed by the
The God Helmet
Julia Llewellyn Smith
The God helmet simulates religious
experiences by directing complex magnetic fields to the parts of the
brain that include the parietal lobe. More than 80% of those who
wore the helmet reported sensing a presence in the room that many
took to be their deity.
Oxford University Regius Professor of
Divinity Graham Ward: "Religion is at the root both of so many great
civilizations and of so many wars, it has so much mythological
power, we have to understand how it works and be alert to how
dangerous it can be."
Planned twin towers in Wuhan, China: 1 km tall, open 2018
Tiger 131 rolls again
Curiosity still at work after a Martian year on
it my way
Shine on you crazy diamond
Astronomers have found a faint white
dwarf that has crystallized into a diamond the size of Earth. It is
estimated to be 11 billion years old and is a partner to pulsar
PSR J2222-0137. The astronomers noticed the dwarf when it regularly
obstructed the pulsar signal. They say it is cold for a white dwarf:
only 3 kK.
The number of
falling below minimum living standards has more than doubled in the past 30
years, despite the size of the economy increasing twofold, claims a
PSE study on
poverty and deprivation
in the UK.
AR This needs action.
A betrayal of philosophy
2014 June 30
The Islamic State
ISIS now calls itself The Islamic State. ISIS
spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani al-Shami says Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim
Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, a.k.a. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the new
The Independent quotes Quilliam researcher Charlie Cooper:
"There hasn't been a Caliph since the Ottoman Empire outside of the
Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, and the Caliph is appointed as the only
legitimate successor to Prophet Mohammed."
Americans say their K-12 schools are mediocre
or worse, while their colleges and universities are world class. Yet
a recent study suggests that this view is wrong.
In 2013, the
OECD published the results of a large international assessment of
adult competencies. As with the measures of K-12 education, the
United States battles it out for last place. Countries such as Japan
and Finland have much higher levels of proficiency and skill among
adults. The results for people with different levels of education
show America still falls short of most other countries.
American dominance of higher education rests largely on global
rankings of top universities. But the rankings focus on universities
as research institutions.
The enemies of health reform made at least
six distinct predictions about how Obamacare would fail, every one
of which turned out to be wrong. The great majority of Americans
buying insurance through the new exchanges are getting coverage
quite cheaply, a lot of people have gained insurance through the
program, and the age mix of the new enrollees looks pretty good.
Obamacare was closely modeled on Romneycare, which has been working
in Massachusetts since 2006, and it resembles successful systems
abroad, for example in Switzerland. Why should it fail?
We just spent five trillion dollars on
useless wars. That could have gone to the moon. Or Mars. Or the
Shuttle. Or something that would inspire us in some goddamned way.
2014 June 29
David Cameron poses a "real and present danger"
to the economy as he leads Britain toward an EU exit that could put
up to 3 million jobs and thousands of businesses at risk, says
Labour leader Ed Miliband.
CBI director general John Cridland: "The EU
is our biggest export market and remains fundamental to our economic
future. Our membership supports jobs, drives growth and boosts our
international competitiveness. Alternatives to full membership of
the EU simply wouldn't work, leaving us beholden to its rules
without being able to influence them. We will continue to press the
case for the UK remaining in a reformed European Union."
A commission including Lord Browne of
Ladyton, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Sir Menzies Campbell, Sir Jeremy
Greenstock, and Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank considered whether to
spend £20 billion on renewing the Trident submarine nuclear
deterrent. They argue for doing so if there is "more than a
negligible chance that the possession of nuclear weapons might play
a decisive future role" in defending the UK.
In prison I changed. I am planning to become
a Liberal Democrat MP. I was bought up in the bad old days of
racism. I hated being attacked by skinheads but when we scared them
away by becoming extremists it became more fun.
Only 3% of the
population is Muslim, but 20% of the prison population is Muslim. If
we send guys who have planned terrorist attacks to prison, do we let
them just live out their sentences and then come out and continue on
their mission or do we use the time to change them?
is not a religion. It is an obsessive, outdated ideology. We are
still being too multiculturalist and politically correct about it.
Islamists are homophobic, antisemitic, and sexist. White males can't
be sexist and racist, so brown Muslims shouldn't get away with it
Muslim children need to see they can succeed in
Britain in conventional ways.
2014 June 28
UK PM David Cameron failed to block Jean-Claude
Juncker from heading the European Commission.
Cameron: "I believe
the British national interest lies in reforming the EU, holding a
referendum and recommending that we stay in a reformed EU. Has that
got harder to achieve? Yes."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
"The idea of an ever-closer union, as it is stated in the treaties,
does not mean that there is equal speed among the member countries,
but there can be different speeds that member countries adopt to
come to ever-closer union."
The population of Israel at the end of
2012 was just under 8 million, of whom 6 million were Jewish. But in
the whole land controlled by Israel, including the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, there are now about 12 million people. Jews now
constitute a minority in the lands under Israeli rule — 5.9 million
people compared to 6.1 million non-Jews — and the Arab birthrate is
Israel can either shed the West Bank and retain its Jewish
majority or it can continue to control the Palestinian territories
but undermine its claim to democracy because it does not allow all
those people equal civil rights.
International criticism is
inflamed above all by the West Bank settlements, which are illegal
under international law. The expansion of the settlements is the
prime reason why Israel's relations with many other countries are
becoming more difficult.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague:
"We and our EU partners are clear: systematic, illegal Israeli
settlement activity poses the most significant and live threat to
the viability of the two-state solution."
government since 2000 has signed up to the principle of the
two-state solution. But Israel has never had a negotiating
counterpart on the Palestinian side who seemed willing and able to
deliver adequate recognition of Israel's right to exist or its need
2014 June 27
Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln
Lebenszufriedenheit der Bürger in Deutschland hat einen neuen
Höchststand erreicht. Wer einen Job hat und sich gesund fühlt, ist
besonders zufrieden. Das geht aus einer jetzt vorgelegten
Untersuchung des Instituts der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (IW)
Our research is fully conscious of its normative
conditionality. We view humans as beings capable of living free and
responsible lives and having a corresponding ability to decide and
act for themselves.
In our understanding, open, free and
democratic societies require a liberal and competitive economic
order, whose constitutive elements include this responsibility both
for oneself and for society.
An excellent Kantian perspective.
Hacking the Soul
Humans make use of fundamental processes
of life regulation that include things like emotion and feeling, but
we connect them with intellectual processes to create a whole new
world around us.
There are certain action programs that are
installed in us so that we can survive, flourish, procreate, and
die. This is the world of homeostasis, and it covers a wide range of
body states. Once the action program is deployed and the brain has
the possibility of mapping what has happened in the body, then that
leads to the emergence of the mental state.
We must separate
the component that comes out of actions from the component that
comes out of our perspective on those actions, which is feeling.
This is also where the self emerges, and consciousness itself. Mind
begins at the level of feeling.
Damasio won the Golden Brain Award in 1995. I enjoyed reading
2014 June 26
Cameron and Europe
The New York Times
UK PM David Cameron should make sure
that his looming defeat over Jean-Claude Juncker does not turn into
a forced march to British exit from the European Union.
objects that Juncker has been put forward by the European
Parliament. He sees a shift of control over the European Union from
national governments to Brussels. The European Parliament is the
only directly elected EU institution. European Council members are
elected in national elections.
But the other European leaders
do not want to take on the Parliament. Cameron may have given
British Eurosceptics more ammunition for the promised referendum.
The 20th century saw a groping toward an
archaic mentality. Psychoanalysis, cubism, surrealism, and national
socialism can all be traced back to unconscious nostalgia for the
archaic. A society in crisis looks back for a previous model that
seemed to work. The breakup of medieval Christian eschatology led to
classicism. People looked back to Platonic philosophy, Roman law,
and so on.
An inchoate groping for yet another historical
paradigm is sweeping over the world. Freudianism, surrealism, and
the rise of electronic media are all insufficient. Once you zero in
on the archaic mentality, you discover the psychedelic experience.
That experience is as much a part of life as birth, death, making
love, eating, and so on, except in the western European traditions.
2014 June 25
Word War at Ypres
The New York Times
UK PM David Cameron has set himself up
for a public failure. Brussels veteran Jean-Claude Juncker is set to
head the European Commission.
Cameron is fighting the
Eurosceptic wing of his own party and the populist appeal of UKIP in
national elections next May. Principled opposition to a Brussels
appointment at odds with government hopes of negotiating a new
relationship with the European Union may be better than bowing to a
power grab by the European Parliament. Cameron: "I will go on
thinking it is wrong right up until the end."
At the summit
in Ypres, Belgium, in what was meant to be a symbol of European
reconciliation, Cameron will defy German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Saddam Hussein compared Baghdad's fall to the
Americans in 2003 with its fall to the Mongols in 1258. That earlier
conquest is remembered by Sunni Arabs as a calamity, when the rivers
of the cultured Abbasid capital are said to have run black with ink
from books and red with the blood of the Mongols' massacred victims.
Saddam rang a change on a centuries-old Sunni grudge to appeal to
sectarian prejudices defined by the feud between Shiites and Sunnis.
AR I guess Sunni Arabia will fight
Shiite Iran over Iraq.
2014 June 24
In the UN Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, not all of the rights listed are negative rights like the
right to free speech or the right to freedom of religion. The idea
that every human being has a right to adequate housing seems to me
nonsense. You can make a good case for universal human rights of a
negative kind, but you cannot make a comparable case for universal
human rights of a positive kind.
One exception is where life
and safety are concerned. You have rights of survival. But I think
it's a big mistake in contemporary political thinking to suppose
that there is a list of universal human rights of a positive kind.
As a professor in Berkeley I have certain rights, and certain
obligations. But the idea of universal rights is fantastic. Why not
extend the idea of universal rights to conscious animals?
2014 June 23
UK National Health Service
Conservative health minister Jane Ellison
says of running the NHS: "From a political point of view, it is a
bit like being on a high wire without a net at times; it can be
Ellison says health secretary Jeremy Hunt
has done a "brilliant job" of "turning the narrative round" from one
focused on reform of NHS structures to one focusing on patients and
David Cameron and Nick Clegg said the
Health and Social Care Act of 2012 was intended to make the NHS
"more accountable to patients" and to free staff from "excessive
bureaucracy and top-down control".
Department of Health
spokesman: "Giving operational control for the day-to-day running of
services to doctors was the right decision, but we have always been
clear that ministers are responsible for the NHS, and we are proud
of its performance in challenging circumstances."
AR Translation: Disaster narrowly
2014 June 22
Today the Western world faces four main
1 China will soon
have the world's biggest economy.
Russia has made a geopolitical comeback.
Britain could exit from the European Union.
4 Political Islam is spreading its vision of reordering
Imagine Margaret Thatcher's response to these four
1 On China, she
would favor engagement, but not appeasement.
2 On Russia, she would urge us to make
more effective use of NATO.
Europe, she would say it was in neither British nor German interests
for the UK to leave the EU.
Islam, we have the most to learn from Thatcher:
challenge of Islamic terror is unique. ... Perhaps the best parallel
is with early communism. Islamic extremism today, like bolshevism in
the past, is an armed doctrine. It is an aggressive ideology
promoted by fanatical, well-armed devotees. And, like communism, it
requires an all-embracing long-term strategy to defeat it."
The Soviet empire collapsed mainly because it lost a battle of
ideas. Today secular democratic movements in the Mideast are failing
to win the psychological war against the Islamists. Political Islam
is the new communism. Freedom will win only if we are prepared to
fight for it.
2014 June 21
Muslims may justly say that their religion
is not inherently violent: I recently read both the Koran and the
Bible from cover to cover, and can assure you that the latter is
more bloodthirsty. Evangelical Christians are almost as much of a
menace to wise American governance as are Muslim jihadis half a
On the whole, however, the Christian religion has adapted to
modernity while most Muslim societies have failed to do so, whether
by creating an educated mass workforce or producing scientific or
The lessons of history are that we
Westerners can do little to change the course of events in the
Mideast. Here at home we must fight with every weapon in our hands
to prevent the curse of Islamist militancy from spreading its
pernicious influence within our own societies. There can be no
compromise with such warped doctrines here, in the sorry name of
"How dreadful are the curses which
Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! ... The fact that in Mohammedan
law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property,
either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final
extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a
great power among men."
— Winston Churchill, 1899
2014 June 20
Ryde Academy headmaster Rory Fox sent 250
girls home for having skirts that were too short or trousers that
were too tight. Boys were also sent home for wearing shoes not made
of leather. If we want to enforce uniform policies then we have to
apply sanctions equally to boys and girls. School is no place for
AR Uniforms are
old hat and pants (to mix idioms). But the issue of distracting kids
with sexuality at school remains. There was practical wisdom in
2014 June 19
Don't Save Iraq
People take responsibility only if they
must. The more we intervene to prop them up, the less they do for
themselves. We can't save them from their bad choices. They have to
face the consequences and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Wolf Blitzer: "The US left behind a ton of equipment for the Iraqi
military, spent billions of dollars training these guys, and gave
them all the help that they possibly could for nearly a decade. The
first semblance of a little tension, they take off their uniforms,
they run away."
President Obama: "The United States is not
simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence
of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that
they're prepared to work together."
Right. Let them struggle.
Our cognitive powers may lie in the musical
hum of our brainwaves. MIT researchers used EEG to observe patterns
of electrical activity in the brains of monkeys as they taught the
animals to categorize patterns of dots.
At first, the monkeys
memorized which dots went where, but as the task became harder, they
shifted to learning the rules that defined the categories.
Initially, brainwaves were forming independently in the prefrontal
cortex and the striatum. But as the monkeys made sense of the game,
the waves began to synchronize and hum at the same frequency, with
each category of dots having its own frequency.
synchronized brainwaves indicate the formation of a connection
between the two brain regions. This may occur before the growth of
new synapses, giving us time to reflect before our brains wire a
The study is the first to show specific patterns of synchrony
linked to specific thoughts.
AR In my books I called such humming the
music of the hemispheres.
2014 June 18
ISIS spielt nur scheinbar in Irak die
alles überragende Rolle. Der Aufstand wird in Wirklichkeit
überwiegend vom FNPI getragen, dem "Nationalen, Panarabischen und
Islamischen Widerstand" des Irak. Das ist eine säkulare Koalition
mehrerer Gruppen, die schon gegen die US-Armee gekämpft haben.
habe in den letzten Tagen mehrfach mit Führern des FNPI gesprochen.
Nach ihrer Auffassung spielt ISIS als Juniorpartner des Aufstands
zwar militärisch eine wichtige Rolle. Diese Dschihadisten aus aller
Welt verbreiten wegen ihres Todesmuts und ihrer Härte Furcht und
Schrecken. Das hat große psychologische Wirkung. Aber mit ihren etwa
tausend Mann vor Mossul hätten sie keine Chance. Der Nationale
Widerstand hingegen ist in Mossul mit über 20.000 Mann präsent und
wird von der Bevölkerung getragen.
Der FNPI rekrutiert viele
Leute aus der ehemaligen irakischen Elite. Es sind Leute, die nach
dem 2003 US-Einmarsch entlassen wurden. Das militärische
Zweckbündnis zwischen ISIS und dem FNPI im Irak ist allerdings sehr
labil. ISIS will einen Gottesstaat, der FNPI eine säkulare
AR A good analysis.
Stephen S. Hall
Optogenetics had its origins at Stanford
in 2004. Researchers in David J. Anderson’s laboratory at Caltech
inserted a genetically modified light-sensitive gene into specific
cells at particular locations in the brain of a living male mouse.
Using a fiber-optic thread inserted into that brain, they turned the
neurons in the hypothalamus on and off with a burst of light to
activated aggressive behavior.
Anderson: "The ability of
optogenetics to turn a largely correlational field of science into
one that tests causation has been transformative."
2014 June 17
The United States and Iran have a common
interest in keeping Sunni radicals from taking over Iraq. Forming an
alliance with Iran to beat back ISIS would leave Iran stronger. We
have to decide which prospect we dislike less: an Islamist state in
Iraq and Syria or a strengthened expansionary Iran.
analogy. Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill teamed up with
Stalin to defeat Hitler. One outcome of this grand alliance was
that, at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union controlled all of
Eastern Europe. But the alternative would have been for Nazi Germany
to control all of Europe.
Iran is not the only possible ally.
Turkey has a deep interest in staving off an ISIS triumph. Nor can
the rise of ISIS be pleasing to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
or Egypt. The United States can coordinate action. The opportunities
are there, with Iran, Turkey, and others to do something smart.
2014 June 16
UK PM David Cameron believes that Britain
must forge a strong political and economic relationship with China.
But Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming says Britain now ranks behind
Germany and France among the powers in Europe.
AR Take note, Brits: The EU leaders
The BBC TV licence fee of £145.50 per year is
"a large amount for many families up and down the country," said UK
culture secretary Sajid Javid, in a TV interview.
AR Quite large enough, thank you. Cut
BBC fat cat perks.
To boldly rise above
Darker tan shows Sunni areas;
cities, from top down: Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra, Baghdad
moon of mythical oceans
New Scientist (1:26)
New Battle for Europe
It is wrong if we give in to the
British here. I am more confident than ever that I will be the
next European Commission President.
2014 June 15
China: Ecological Civilization
China is considering limiting its greenhouse gas
emissions so that they peak in 2030, then fall. Premier Li Keqiang has
declared war on pollution and his government has drawn up a philosophical
framework called ecological civilization. Chinese carbon trading schemes
will form the world's second largest carbon trading initiative after
Europe's. China has set targets to make more wealth using less energy.
AR A good precedent if it works.
No War, Low Growth
The world has not had much warfare lately. Today's
casualties pale in light of the tens of millions of people killed in the two
world wars. The greater peacefulness of the world may make the attainment of
higher rates of economic growth less urgent and thus less likely. War
Nuclear power, the computer, and jet aircraft were
all pushed along by Americans eager to defeat the Axis powers and win the
Cold War. The Internet was initially designed to withstand nuclear war. The
Soviet launch of Sputnik spurred American science and technology, and later
Ian Morris has revived
the hypothesis that war is a significant factor behind economic growth. But
today a big war would be a big disaster. Living in a largely peaceful world
with 2% GDP growth has advantages you don't get with 4% growth and many more
Intervene in Iraq
It is in our interests for ISIS to be stopped in its
tracks. It is vitally important that we realize what is at stake here and
act. The fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region, not outside
it. We have to act now to save the future.
Where the extremists are
fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. 9/11 happened for a
reason. That reason and the ideology behind it have not disappeared. This
is, in part, our struggle, whether we like it or not.
AR The next big war?
A reservoir of water three times the volume of all
the Earth's oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth's surface. The
finding could help explain where the oceans came from. The water is hidden
in rock called ringwoodite 700 km underground in the mantle.
Steven Jacobsen: "It's good evidence the Earth's water came from
2014 June 14
Laura Smith-Spark and Arwa Damon
ISIS has captured much of the
Sunni homeland in Iraq and is now threatening Samarra. Iraqi Shiite Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani called Friday for volunteers to fight back. Iraqi
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki: "Samarra will be the starting point, the
gathering station of our troops to cleanse every inch that was desecrated by
footsteps of those traitors."
The United States is considering
intervention. But the Iraqi state is Shiite. The Iranian Revolutionary
Guards Quds force is moving in to support it. Americans would be on the same
side as Iran. Events may be birthing a sectarian split into states for the
Kurds, the Shiites, and the Sunni, baptized in a bloodbath.
Iraqi military spokesman General Qassim Atta: "The security in Baghdad
is 100% stable ... The morale of the security forces is very high."
AR Reminds me of the "Baghdad Bob" bombast
From AQI to ISIS
The 2003 Iraq war precipitated the arrival of al
Qaeda into Iraq. In 2004, its brutal leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi launched
Iraq down the road to civil war. By 2007, Al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, had
become the de facto government of the western Iraqi province of Anbar and
controlled a good chunk around Baghdad, the "Triangle of Death" to its
south, and many of the towns up to the Syrian border. A Sunni backlash
fought AQI down to a rump. Then the Syrian civil war transformed AQI into
the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Now ISIS has marched back
into western and northern Iraq.
2014 June 13
Theories of quantum gravity seem to reach a primal
instant when spacetime is disconnected. Space was split into discrete chunks
in the first 10^-43 seconds of the universe, each separate from
In causal dynamical triangulation (CDT), the universe is
composed of tetrahedral grains of spacetime. The way they fit together gives
spacetime its curvature. The grains can all be different, and computer
simulations combine them in billions of different ways. The scenarios that
appear most often are the most likely histories of the universe.
Renate Loll: "We hope that our
simulations will give us an indication of how the universe wants to behave
near the initial singularity without arranging things by hand."
loop quantum cosmology (LQC), spacetime is a woven fabric of braids and
knots and the cosmos grew from a point where light could not travel, so
spacetime was disconnected here too. It will be a long time before we can
properly test these models against reality.
2014 June 12
Google has built a business that generates tens of billions
of dollars a year. With the $500 million purchase of Skybox, a startup that
shoots high-res photos and video with low-cost satellites, Google can extend
its reach far across the offline world. Thanks to its knack for transforming
mass quantities of unstructured data into revenue-generating insights, the
unprecedented stream of aerial imagery to which the company is gaining
access could spark a whole new category of high-altitude insights into the
workings of economies, nations, and nature.
Google is great!
2014 June 11
Merkel Versus Cameron
The New York Times
The European People's Party headed by
Jean-Claude Juncker won the European Parliament elections last month.
Blocking the EPP candidate for the presidency of the European Commission
would undermine the parliament and its elections.
Angela Merkel warned UK PM David Cameron: "I am for Jean-Claude Juncker ...
But when I made that statement in Germany, I also made the point that we act
in a European spirit ... Threats do not belong in that spirit."
Merkel: "Britain is really no cozy partner."
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is coming closer to
statehood. ISIS began only about a year ago as the Syrian offshoot of
al-Qaida in Iraq but now effectively governs a nation-size tract of
territory that stretches from the Syrian city of Aleppo to Fallujah in
western Iraq. Now it also includes Mosul.
ISIS is focused less on the
overthrow of the Assad regime than on enforcing its harsh and austere brand
of Islamic law. Its brutal brand of Shariah law including beheadings and
amputations seems to be provoking resentment among the people who live under
its black flag. Opposition to ISIS is a rare cause that the leaders of
United States, Iran, and even al-Qaida can agree on.
US Department of State spokewoman Jen Psaki: "The United States is
deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul."
AR ISIS is Jihadistan. It symbolizes the
heralded Shariah Caliphate. It must be terminated.
Ganz oben Ganz unten
Bild ist niemals der ganze Skandal, aber ohne Bild ist der ganze Skandal
nichts. Muss ich wirklich das Privateste preisgeben, um politisch überleben
zu können? Es war schamlos und entwürdigend. Der politisch motivierte
fehlerhafte Beginn der Ermittlungen erklärt für mich die Maßlosigkeit und
die mangelnde Objektivität der Staatsanwälte.
2014 June 10
UK education secretary Michael Gove pledged to act as Ofsted
found evidence that several Birmingham schools had been targeted by Muslims
in an organized campaign to impose Islamic ideology.
Gove: "We will
put the promotion of British values at the heart of what every school has to
deliver for children. What we have found was unacceptable. And we will put
2014 June 9
PM David Cameron has ordered education secretary
Michael Gove to start "dawn raid" school inspections after officials found
evidence of covering up Islamist infiltration in Birmingham schools.
Ofsted found staff at one of the schools involved used the notice period
given before an inspection to stage "hastily arranged shows of cultural
inclusivity" to include lessons on Christianity.
our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the
issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust
Our global neighbors watch our big budget films and see
America as a country where scenes of mass destruction are the norm, where
carnage is preferred over peace, love, and understanding. Let's call it what
it is: destruction porn. Our delight in seeing things blown up should make
us worry about the mental health of society.
2014 June 8
PM David Cameron ordered education secretary Michael
Gove to issue humiliating apologies and told home secretary Theresa May to
sack her closest adviser, following their public row over policy on
combating extremism in schools.
Britain has a long history of underestimating
the determination of those bent on subverting the West. After the 2005
bombings, the Labour government created a "preventing violent extremism"
strategy, known as Prevent, which funded councils and police to work with
community groups. But it focused mainly on preventing acts of terror, not
stifling the ideology behind them.
The coalition hardened things up in 2011. David
Cameron gave a powerful speech arguing that all forms of extremism can
create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism. He intervened in a row between
the independent reviewer of Prevent and the Home Office. The reviewer
believed it was unacceptable to appease extremism and Cameron backed him.
Bombshell reports by
EFA and Ofsted
claim Muslim radicals conspired to infiltrate governing bodies of Birmingham
Oldknow Academy has around 600 pupils, more than 95%
Muslim. It holds Islamic prayers on Friday, teaches Arabic, and organizes
trips to Mecca. Extremists allegedly pushed out head teacher Bhupinder
Kondal because she opposed Islamization. Teachers used terms such as "white
prostitute" and "hellfire" in school assemblies. Teacher Samir Rauf accused
Ofsted inspectors of "having an agenda".
Golden Hillock school has been
taken over by Islamists and fails to shelter students from extremist views.
Inspectors say the school did little to mitigate against cultural isolation,
leaving students vulnerable to marginalization from wider British society.
Chairman of governors Mohammed Shafique: "Ofsted's views are completely
unfounded. We do not practice isolationism or segregation."
2014 June 6
Niedergang der Siegermächte
Am 70. Jahrestag D-Day haben
sich die Gewichte entscheidend verschoben. Frankreich und
Großbritannien haben den Zweiten Weltkrieg gewonnen, die
entscheidende europäische Macht aber ist heute Deutschland. Für
die Statik der EU könnte das gefährlich werden.
Großbritannien zirkulierte während einer Wirtschaftskrise der
Spruch, das Land habe zwar den Zweiten Weltkrieg gewonnen, den
Frieden aber verloren. Über Deutschland lässt sich 70 Jahre nach
D-Day wohl das Gegenteil sagen.
Das Bild von der
deutschen Vorherrschaft befeuert den europäischen Populismus.
Das D in D-Day, 1944 die Abkürzung für "decision", steht 2014
nicht nur für Deutschland, sondern auch für eine gewisse Demut
im Ausgleich der europäischen Interessen.
The Myth of the Strong Leader
By Archie Brown
Bodley Head, 466 pages
AR I'm reading it now.
professor of politics
at Oxford for decades.
The Beginning and the End
By Clément Vidal
Roman Catholics and Eastern
Orthodox Christians may return
to Nicaea, Turkey,
Early followers of Jesus met
there in 325 CE to try to
Vote for me!
2014 June 5
Wiring up a rat brain with electronics
that replay memories from trained rats into the brain can give
it new skills. This research could help many people living with
Memories can be lost when damaged parts of the
brain fail to pass information from one area to another. An
electronic implant that interprets the signals from one area and
writes them into a second area can help. But first we have to
know what a memory looks like. The neural code that represents a
memory is thought to lie in the firing pattern of interconnected
A technique called multi-input/multi-output,
MIMO, can be used to pick out meaningful signals from the noise
of millions of neurons firing. A chip containing electrodes in
rat hippocampus uses MIMO to isolate and record the neural code
as rats recall a memory to act. In rats drugged to forget, the
same electrodes deliver the same firing pattern back to the
neurons, restoring memory.
MIMO has been used to record
the code for a task in a group of rats and replay it in other
rats, giving them new memories. DARPA is pushing the research
into human trials.
2014 June 4
American conservatives say there is too
much government. Government is the other side of freedom, and
what makes freedom possible. A free relationship grants rights
and duties to either party in a mutuality of interests.
The liberal conception of government is that the state exists in
order to allocate the social product, and government is the art
of seizing and then redistributing the good things to which all
citizens have a claim.
But the liberal state no longer
embodies the ethos of a nation. As in the EU, public displays of
patriotism dwindle to a few desultory spasms, and the political
class begins to be looked upon with sarcasm and contempt.
Conservative Americans can still see their government as an
expression of their national unity. They need to map out the
limits beyond which action by the government is a trespass on
the freedom of the citizen.
The uncut essay is magnificent — if you like dense prose.
2014 June 3
European Reassurance Initiative
President Barack Obama wants his Russian
counterpart Vladimir Putin to take steps to rebuild the trust
shattered by Russia's actions in Ukraine. Speaking alongside
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Obama announced that he
is asking Congress for a fund of up to $1 billion for a European
Reassurance Initiative to bolster the security of NATO allies in
AR Most reassuring!
The Obama administration has made a
strategic error stemming from a failure to grasp the nature of
political Islam. During the decades of dictatorship in the Arab
world, political Islamists marketed themselves in the West as
"moderate" movements that sought to reconcile Islam with
democracy. In reality, they were proponents of a messianic
ideology. The Obama administration bought into the fallacy and
failed to invest in civil society groups and secular democratic
parties in the Muslim world.
2014 June 2
Off to work for the
Europe, Wake Up!
The election results matter. They are a
wake-up call to Europe and to Britain. Our response in Europe as
in Britain should be to lead, not follow. We should make the
debate about more than the repatriation of certain competences
There is a keen sense that the moment is right
for Europe to think carefully about where it goes from here, how
it reconnects with the concerns of its citizens, and how it
changes in order better to realize its ideals in a changing
world. It has to be a debate elevated to a Europe-wide level,
with Britain playing a leading role, not just a negotiation of
Britain's terms of membership. It has to be about what is good
for Europe as well as what is good for Britain.
2014 June 1
The Soul of Islam
There is no single Islamist threat. The
battle is among Muslims for the soul of Islam. There is a fear
of diverse ways of thinking and living in Islamic societies.
There is also a propensity among many people in Islamic
societies to undermine any kind of intellectualism or critical
The radical ideology of "Islam versus the West"
is based on a toxic distinction. To make this distinction
meaningless, we must engage in conversations in public life. I
wonder whether part of the appeal of terrorism lies in boredom
and the constant search for a new struggle.
Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath
Employees are more
satisfied and productive when four core needs are met:
Physical, through regular opportunities to renew and recharge at
● Emotional, by
feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions
Mental, when they can focus on essentials and decide how to
● Spiritual, by
doing what they do best and feeling its link to a higher purpose
In the garden at Mottisfont, Romsey,
UK, May 31, 2014
||© J. Andrew Ross