Me from my Mac
David Bebber for The Times
Islam in Europe
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates that there are
2,869,000 Muslims in Britain, an increase of 74% since 2001.
Center is based in Washington, D.C.
Britain has the third largest
Muslim community in Europe.
Germany has 4,119,000
The Netherlands 5.5
2010 December 31
The New Middle Ages
Parag Khanna, FT
A thousand years ago, China's Song dynasty
presided over the world's largest cities, gunpowder, and paper money.
India's Chola empire ruled the seas to Indonesia, and the Abbasid caliphate
dominated from Africa to Persia. Byzantium swayed and decayed. In Europe
life was bleak.
Globalization is moving power from states to cities,
companies, religious groups, humanitarian organizations, and rich
individuals. In the post-colonial world, where overpopulation, corrupt
governance, ethnic grievances, and collapsing infrastructure are causing
states to fail, a hybrid of public and private governance is emerging. Most
states struggle to manage the flows of goods, money, and people that
globalization imposes. Companies provide essential services.
Today we have the legacy superpower of the United States. If the
European Union today is like the Holy Roman Empire, then America is the new
Byzantium, facing both east and west as it declines. The Middle Ages were a
time of invention and discovery.
2010 December 29
Islam in Britain
In a survey of Muslim converts in Britain, the Islamic
organization Faith Matters calculates that the number of converts has nearly
doubled in a decade to 100,000. About 5,200 people converted to Islam in
The converts are often isolated from their families and friends
and ignored or mistrusted by other Muslims. Nearly two thirds of the
converts are women. Most changed their appearance and adopted the veil.
Marriage played a part for some but most embraced Islam for reasons of
faith. Some converts criticized aspects of British culture such as alcohol
and drunkenness, lack of morality and sexual permissiveness, and
unrestrained consumerism. Most felt their lives before conversion had been
bad, sinful, or lost. The number of conversions is similar in Germany and
Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters, said conversion
"is based on the relationship between an individual and God." In Islam, "an
intermediary should not be involved in that relationship. It's a very
AR Sad that people should feel
the need to convert.
Chinese Naval Power
A new Chinese anti-ship missile that will alter
the balance of military power in the Pacific is now operational.
Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the
Chinese ballistic missile, which was designed to threaten U.S. aircraft
carriers in the region, had reached initial operational capability.
Defense analysts call the
Dong Feng 21D
ASBM a game changer since it could force U.S. aircraft carriers to stay
away from waters near China such as the Taiwan Strait. The land-based
missile is designed to target and track aircraft carrier groups with the
help of satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, and over-the-horizon radar.
Said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "If the Chinese or somebody else
has a highly accurate anti-ship cruise or ballistic missile that can take
out a carrier at hundreds of miles of ranges and therefore in Asia puts us
back behind the second island chain, how then do you use carriers
differently in the future?"
The "second island chain" runs in a
north-south line east of Japan and the Philippines. It borders what China
sees as its near seas.
AR Cue for a Tom Clancy
Salah Malkawi / NY Times
The New York Times
Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, a
kitsch rendition of London's Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the
Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the
world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan
shopping mall, a hotel, and a prayer hall. The huge Big Ben will be
decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped with a crescent.
Dong Feng 21D
The DF-21D is an anti-ship ballistic missile,
an ASBM. Its potential range of about 3000 km puts Guam, the key
military base in the Marianas, within range.
The DF-21D probably
uses both external and stand-alone guidance systems. It cannot rely
exclusively on an external signal for terminal guidance because
U.S. Navy has unrivaled electronic counter measures (ECM) capabilities.
For land attack, the DF-21C accuracy of 40 m CEP is good.
But an ASBM
must do better.
A ballistic missile warhead flies at Mach 10 and gets hot, up to
10 000 K, hard on electronics.
The British government opted for the Trident
system because it could kill 10 million Russians and inflict
"unacceptable damage" on the former Soviet Union. A Ministry of Defence
memo marked "personal and top secret" in support of the 1980 decision by
Margaret Thatcher to replace Polaris with Trident argued that deterrence
required "options" of 10 million dead.
Another "top secret" memo
described the destruction the UK should wreak: "Ground-bursts would
subject 55-60% of the city to a radiation dose sufficient to cause rapid
debilitation followed by death for most people in the area, and to
contaminate food, water, air and both damaged and undamaged buildings."
The memo advised ground-bursts to overwhelm Soviet emergency services.
AR I was at the MoD then.
I thought like that too.
China Helps Euro
China has promised to take further "concerted
action" to support European financial stabilization, including
continuing to buy the bonds of countries at the center of the sovereign
Beijing has emerged as an enthusiastic backer of
distressed European sovereign debt. The European Union is China's
biggest export market, with two-way trade valued at $434 billion in the
first 11 months of this year.
AR Will Globorg be Chinese?
Scholars of the World Unite!
The National Interest
universities are in danger. States have lowered their support.
Endowments crashed in 2008. Family incomes are mostly stagnant. The cost
of university study escalates. Drop-out rates are high. Students often
graduate with poor basic skills, few technical skills, and big debts.
Radical measures are needed. Perhaps we should let university presidents
act as CEOs. Let them run universities as teaching corporations, dismiss
professors, strip faculty of tenure, and cut salaries. But the American
corporate model looks battered. Corporations have cut their support for
basic research. We need universities to do it. American universities are
still the best in the world.
Portrait: Eagle illustrator Don Harley
Frank Hampson (left) and Marcus Morris (right) created the Eagle and
Hampson created Dan Dare (middle).
Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future
Neocons in China
the neo-conservative thinker Leo Strauss and and the anti-liberal writer
Carl Schmitt are at the center of debate. Strauss aimed to reformulate
the questions at the heart of the Western political tradition. Schmitt
explained why the distinction between economy and politics is false and
pernicious. Chinese students speak about the need for a new gentry class
to strengthen the state by making it wiser and more just.
A Golden Age of Islam
The New York Times
The 1001 Inventions
exhibition at the New York Hall of Science is meant to show that the
Western Dark Ages really were a Golden Age of Islam. For a thousand
years, the exhibition asserts, Muslim scientists and inventors
anticipated the innovations of the modern world. But it is less a
science exhibition than a typical identity exhibition. The promotional
goal is evident in every display.
According to Hawking and Mlodinow, there is no concept of reality that
is independent of a picture or a theory. There are just models.
AR I call them mindworlds.
Out of Our Brains
Andy Clark, NY Times
Brains support minds. But other
resources may be elements in an extended cognitive process. As our
technology improves, gadgets like iPhones become cognitive prosthetics.
If small devices implanted in the brain can support cognitive
processing, external hardware can too.
Like our bodies, our minds
are collections of parts that function together. When information flows,
our minds may emerge in integrated processing regimes that weave
together activity in brain, body, and world. Minds like ours are the
products not of neural processing alone but of the complex and iterated
interplay between brains, bodies, and the many designer environments in
which we live and work.
Swindle of the Year
Barack Obama won the great tax showdown of 2010. The new stimulus will
pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the
next two years. While getting Republicans to boost his own reelection
chances, Obama gets them to make a mockery of their newfound persona of
AR Another trillion in the red.
WikiLeaks represents an alternative society of
geeks and visionaries that constantly questions the world view handed
down to it from above. It's a classic case of walking the talk. The
elite feeds us a lot of guff about wars and foreign policy. But it's
time we stopped letting them decide what's good for us. WikiLeaks is
scary. Its aim is to illuminate, with a secondary recreational desire to
embarrass. The aims of our governments are considerably less apparent.
Taylor Momsen, 17, has clocked up nine film roles and become a TV
star in Gossip Girl.
"I was, like, 'Well, this is cool.'"
"You get more insight as you
get older, on everything.'"
kind of woke up and was like,
'Oh, I get it, I'm a product.'"
Founded WikiLeaks in 2006.
Published material about
extrajudicial killings in Kenya, toxic waste dumping in Africa,
Scientology, Guantanamo Bay, and several banks. 2010: began to publish
classified U.S. files.
Born in 1971 in Queensland, Australia. His
parents ran a touring theatre company. In 1979, his mother remarried.
The couple had a son but broke up in 1982 and struggled over custody.
The mother took both her sons into hiding for years. They moved dozens
of times and Julian attended many schools.
Began hacking in 1987.
He and his girlfriend had a son. In 1991, Australian police raided his
Melbourne home and in 1992 he pleaded guilty to 24 charges of hacking.
He was released on bond. His girlfriend separated from him and took
their son. They agreed on custody in 1999.
The Bahnhof bunker
(NATO name SS-27 Sickle)
Warhead 550 kilotons
Range 11,000 km
Accuracy 200 m CEP
Elizabeth Drew, NYRB
The Democrats got whacked by the center.
Independents swung to the Republicans and fewer moderates voted
Many Democrats blamed Obama. He didn't explain what he
was doing. His 2010 campaign themes seemed to wander all over the place.
He had left it to Congress to write the big bills. He didn't really
understand the role of the president as leader.
virtually wiped out the middle of both parties. So the House Democratic
caucus will be more liberal. The Republican leaders declined Obama's
invitation to dine with him at the White House after the election. It
was a sign of what is to come.
2010 December 28
Colin Wells reviews the roles of faith
and reason in history
2010 December 27
Assange £1m Book Deals
Julian Assange expects to earn more than £1 million
from book deals. He said he had to sign a big deal for his autobiography due
to financial difficulties: "I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs
and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat."
Excellent. He deserves to win financially in recognition of his
services to web-age investigative journalism.
British Universities Under Siege
Simon Head, The New York Review of Books
British universities are
under siege from a system of state control that is undermining the caliber
of their scholarship. The theories and practices driving this assault are
embedded in management systems using information technology marketed by
corporations such as IBM, Oracle, and SAP.
A proliferating structure
of state control has extended its reach from the purely financial to include
teaching and research. The system reflects a political consensus that the
academy must deliver its research output with a speed and reliability
resembling that of the corporate world and also deliver useful research. The
management practices include business process reengineering, total quality
management, benchmarking, management by objectives, and the balanced
The British government decides policy and the Higher
Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) administers the policy. The
HEFCE control system starts with a regular research assessment exercise and
continues with a funding process that legitimizes the micromanagement of
research and requires academics to spend time and energy writing reports in
Wonderful: SAP is implementing my revenge on smug and lazy British
2010 December 26
Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
As we debate budget cuts in
the coming year, we should remember that we have invested enormously in
military power and far, far less in diplomacy, education and other fields.
If we're trying to figure out how to raise our standard of living, or at
least preserve it, the evidence is pretty good that we'll get a better
return on investment in early childhood education than in, say, a military
base in Germany.
current level of U.S. military spending is certainly excessive, given the
current budget deficit. But some military spending has unexpected benefits.
For example, the F-35 Lightning II project is in large part an investment in
converting high technology into industrial-scale production goods, and then
in lining up allies who seal deals with future U.S. administrations to get
their hands on the new planes. As a quite different example, I've watched
U.S. service personnel in Germany for over twenty years and can confirm that
the benefit is real, albeit not what you'd expect. The personnel learn that
modern German life is much more civilized than they might have thought.
Conversely, Germans learn to like Americans and regard them as good
neighbors. Such attitudes are worth billions in reinforcing international
alliances in a world where the West could all too easily fall apart into
squabbling states that fail to understand each other. So military spending
is wasteful and often misdirected, of course. But the benefits are not
always merely military.
Christmas Day 2010
Airfix version of history:
Rolls-Royce, BMW, Daimler-Benz
2010 December 23
Plutocracy: Ten Facts
The American Interest
1 Income inequality has
increased substantially in the United States over the past three decades.
Corporate America has been doing very well for its officers and shareholders
but much less well for other Americans.
3 Financial regulation did not change the perverse
incentives that led to the financial crisis of 2008.
4 Money buys political
influence in contemporary America. Lobbying has become a form of legitimized
5 Americans are less bothered by unequal economic
outcomes than by equality of opportunity and social mobility.
6 Most Americans distrust big government. They think
government wastes tax money.
The working poor were bought off by cheap credit. People borrowed against
the future. The bankers won.
8 American elites believe they
are helping society. Financiers see themselves as value creators, not as
Street seduced the economics profession. The academics got big consulting
fees and Wall Street got legitimacy.
Economists said that growth unleashed by lower marginal tax rates would
benefit everyone. Many people still believe this.
AR The rich get richer and
China buys the squeezed lemon.
2010 December 19
Life of Brian
The Sunday Times
Raj Patel, 38, is a lecturer at the University of California,
Berkeley, and the author of books about the economics of poverty and global
Benjamin Creme, 88, is a Scottish UFO/yoga
enthusiast. His organization Share International has identified Patel as the
Maitreya — a long-awaited World Teacher who embodies not only the second
coming of Jesus Christ but also the Jewish Messiah, the Hindu Krishna, the
Islamic Mahdi, and the fifth Buddha.
"Maitreya is Raj Patel, Raj Patel is the ONE," read one of the countless
messages posted to Patel's Facebook page.
Patel: "I was in the wrong
place at exactly the wrong time." The facts of his life matched prophecies
Creme made in recent years.
Patel eventually released an emphatic
denial that he had anything to do with the Maitreya. He says the Maitreya
debacle reminded him of his former schoolfriend Sacha Baron Cohen's humor.
Patel read PPE at Balliol College, Oxford, then moved to the LSE for his
master's. After that came Cornell, Yale, Berkeley, the World Bank, the WTO,
and the UN. His wife is a neurosurgeon.
After the euphoria, some
followers have changed their minds and decided that he is not the World
Teacher but the Antichrist. For Patel this is even worse news than being the
Patel: "My dad thinks this is just purely risible." Patel Sr
even bought Raj's baby son some pajamas with the line from Monty Python's
Life of Brian on the chest: "He's not the Messiah — he's a very naughty
2010 December 17
SAP Christmas Party
Enjoyed the opportunity to talk with
all my old colleagues — and to get photographed on site —
AAAS Breakthrough of the Year
Working with Andrew Cleland and John Martinis at the University of
California, Santa Barbara, this year, Ph.D. student Aaron O'Connell became
the first person to induce and measure a quantum effect in the motion of a
The experiment required a micromechanical resonator, an extremely
sensitive measurement device, and specific conditions in which to place
them. O'Connell microfabricated the resonator on a wafer of silicon as a
structure containing aluminum nitride, a piezoelectric material that could
oscillate at 6 GHz. He isolated the resonator with a mechanical suspension.
As detector, he connected a Josephson phase qubit to the resonator. The
fabrication was challenging because it was built on the same substrate. Then
he had to cool the chip to a temperature so low that the resonator would
occupy its quantum ground state of motion.
O'Connell and his
colleagues used the qubit to demonstrate that they had reached the true
quantum ground state of motion. By controlling the qubit with an external
magnetic flux, they injected individual mechanical quanta into the
The resonator behaved as predicted by quantum mechanics.
The work was published online in Nature in March 2010.
Crusader to Tackle MoD Waste
The Government snubbed Ministry of Defence mandarins
and generals yesterday by appointing a reforming crusader to tackle the
waste and incompetence at the department, which has cost the taxpayer
billions of pounds.
We need to cut the wastrels some slack. Some waste is inevitable.
Specifying and developing new weapon systems is an art, not a science, and
like all such work it has a maximum efficiency of well below 100%. Let's not
give the bean counters such a boost that we never waste a penny again,
because not wasting means not spending, and then we'll have no weapons at
all. MoD desk pilots aren't financial wizards (or they'd be in the city) so
by all means draft a few more bankers into the ministry — and hope they
don't cause another crisis.
2010 December 16
Two Liechtenstein banks and several employees of the
institutions paid 50 million euros to the German government to avoid
prosecution for aiding and abetting tax evasion, according to the
Süddeutsche Zeitung. The fast settlement contrasts with the proceedings
against Credit Suisse, where prosecutors have evidence of a systematic
conspiracy over years to support tax evasion. That case is not expected to
end before 2012.
EU should threaten sanctions against Switzerland and Liechtenstein if they
don't clean up their act. Tax havens are damaging to our economy. People
like me pay more tax because rich criminals have havens. Make the crooks
Ned Block: "The eminent neurologist and
neuroscientist Antonio Damasio gives an account of consciousness that might
come naturally to a highly caffeinated professor in his study."
Does Antonio Damasio have an inflated concept of self?
2010 December 15
Nuclear Security Scare
A top secret anti-terror review is under way at Britain's nuclear power
plants after the discovery of security weaknesses at the Sellafield
reprocessing site. The Sellafield plant in Cumbria has a bunker storing
enough plutonium for thousands of nuclear bombs.
AR Now that would be a
Endogenous Electric Fields May Guide
Neocortical Network Activity
David A. McCormick
Neuron 67(1), 129-143
Local field potentials and endogenous electric fields (EFs) are
traditionally considered to be epiphenomena of neuronal network activity.
Externally applied EFs have been shown to modulate pharmacologically evoked
network activity in rodent hippocampus. We used the neocortical slow
oscillation in vitro as a model system to show that weak sinusoidal and
naturalistic EFs enhance and entrain physiological neocortical network
activity with an amplitude threshold within the range of in vivo endogenous
field strengths. Modulation of network activity by positive and negative
feedback fields provides evidence for a feedback loop between neuronal
activity and endogenous EF. Endogenous EFs could guide neocortical network
This result offers intriguing support for the EM field model of
consciousness proposed in my book
2010 December 14
Luton: Epicenter of the Global Clash of Civilizations
Luton is a hotbed of terrorism. The now-banned Islamist group
Al-Muhajiroun was based there. The July 7 bombers met there before their
London attacks in 2005. The Stockholm suicide bomber had studied in Luton.
The English Defence League (EDL) has invited Pastor Terry Jones — the
American Koran burner — to a rally in Luton. On February 5 he intends to
talk "against the evils and destructiveness of Islam."
AR I was born in Luton. This is my fight too.
2010 December 13
WikiLeaks and Press Freedom
For Berlin constitutional law expert Dieter Grimm,
WikiLeaks enjoys the protections for freedom of the press under Germany's
Basic Law. As a judge on the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Grimm
played a key role in shaping the current interpretation of freedom of
opinion and freedom of the press in Germany.
According to the
Constitutional Court, it is the ability of all citizens to access all
information that makes the formation of public opinion possible. The
unobstructed formation of public opinion is what legitimizes the outcome of
elections. The state is permitted to keep secrets from its citizens, but
citizens are permitted to disclose them.
The Constitutional Court
notes the absolutely essential importance of press freedom for democracy.
The press is allowed to print what it has obtained for a constitutional
reason. If the state derives its democratic authority from citizens being
well informed, then providing information is a civic duty.
AR Far be it from me to
criticize the constitution under which I choose to live in preference to the
uncertainties and obscurities of Britain's notoriously unwritten
Sam Harris says neuroscience
can help in morality
Roger Scruton says science trivializes the humanities
Mark Vernon says pi may not be in
"In the human brain, the world's structure has reached
its focal point: the structure of the world has acquired the ability to
reflect upon itself ... In this conceptual setting, science appears as a
collective effort of the Human Mind to reach the Mind of God ... The Mind of
Man and the Mind of God are strangely interwoven."
AR File this under gloriously
2010 December 12
The Character of Consciousness
"Even when I was studying
mathematics, physics, and computer science, it always seemed that the
problem of consciousness was about the most interesting problem out there
for science to come to grips with."
David Chalmers, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Director of
the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University and
Visiting Professor of Philosophy at New York University
The United States is examining ways to take legal
action against Assange, who is in effect editor of the world's first
stateless media organization. It has blocked access to the WikiLeaks website
and denied its citizens the ability to register protest through donations,
all without a warrant. It has also successfully pressured Amazon, Visa,
Mastercard and PayPal to withdraw their services from WikiLeaks, as well as
the Swiss bank PostFinance, to close Assange's account.
needs a strong and free media. It is the only way to ensure governments are
honest and remain accountable. WikiLeaks has revealed that we have been told
a great many lies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that there has
been little accountability. If WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization and if
its founder is prosecuted for espionage, the future of investigative
journalism everywhere is in jeopardy, as is our right as citizens to be told
AR Well said,
2010 December 10
MIT Technology Review
The WikiLeaks website says: "Wikileaks will
accept restricted or censored material of political, ethical, diplomatic or
historical significance. We do not accept rumor, opinion, other kinds of
first hand accounts or material that is publicly available elsewhere."
WikiLeaks has evolved since 2006. In 2008, it simply dumped documents to the
Web. But with the helicopter gunship video in April 2010 is made a curated
and packaged political statement. The latest release is through a group of
news organizations that can analyze and redact the cables, rather than
dumping them or using them to make a statement.
For the new release, WikiLeaks gave all the classified documents to Le
Monde, El Pais, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel. The Guardian shared its trove
with The New York Times. WikiLeaks is relying on the expertise of the five
news organizations to redact the cables as they are released, and it is
following their redactions as it releases the documents on its website.
Before the release, Julian Assange approached the U.S. State Department for
guidance but they simply demanded the return of the documents.
Last July, WikiLeaks posted an encrypted file with "insurance" in the
name. The insurance file contains unredacted and unreleased secret
documents. The file is 1.4 GB in size and is encrypted using a 256-bit key.
Assange says that if WikiLeaks is shut down, the key will be released. More
than a thousand sites mirror WikiLeaks content, but its website can be
attacked and its financing can be interdicted.
AR This is New Age journalism, the salvation of the
fourth estate in the world of electronic media.
2010 December 9
Dauerfeuer aus Ionenkanonen
Eine anonyme Armee wütender Protestler bläst die
Internetseiten von Weltunternehmen aus dem Web. Die Community ist berauscht
von ihrer eigenen Macht und sie lässt sich nicht aufhalten. Die Aktionen
sind vor allem der Ausdruck eines Herrschaftsanspruchs. "Wir sind das Web!"
sollen die Attacken zeigen.
Der Globorg-Weltkrieg hat begonnen.
Robert Darnton, New York Review of Books
Research libraries are
facing crises on three fronts:
1 The escalation in the price
of periodicals forces libraries to cut back on their purchase of monographs.
The drop in the demand for monographs makes university presses reduce their
publication of them. University presses fall back on books that fit into
niches or can be marketed to a broader public. Graduate students fall victim
to the syndrome of publish or perish.
Academics do research, write and referee articles, and serve as editors.
They buy back their own work via journal subscriptions. We need open-access
journals available from digital repositories free of charge that will be
self-sustaining. The economics of journal publishing can be reversed by
covering costs at the production end instead of the consumption end.
3 Google is investing billions
in the control of information. The fundamental incompatibility of purpose
between libraries and Google Book Search might be mitigated if Google could
offer libraries access to its digitized database. A Digital Public Library
of America (DPLA) could transform our libraries into a database for anyone,
anywhere, at any time.
We need a DPL of Globorg paid for by a Google tax.
David Chalmers, the character of consciousness (OUP), is brilliant. From
Eden to the Matrix — this image will haunt me as deeply as Descartes' evil
demon and Kant's phenomenal and noumenal worlds.
My tasks for 2011:
1 Write an appreciation of the
my novelized introduction to Globorg
3 Finish my philosophical
2010 December 8
Don't Shoot Messenger
Julian Assange, The Australian
WikiLeaks is fearlessly publishing
facts that need to be made public.
I grew up in Queensland where
people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as
something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. WikiLeaks was
created around these core values.
WikiLeaks coined a new type of
journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring
people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows
you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document
it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself.
Democratic societies need strong media. WikiLeaks is part of that.
AR Quite right. WikiLeaks
is a useful institution.
2010 December 7
NATO and Eastern Europe
NATO will defend the Baltic states and Poland
against Russian threats. Operation Eagle Guardian commits NATO to a military
response to any attack on its eastern members. In the event of Russian
aggression, NATO will send nine ground divisions, British warships and
squadrons of U.S. fighters to defend Poland and the Baltic states. The plans
are thought to have been approved by NATO summit in November.
AR The plan reads like a recipe
for turning Danzig into Dunkirk. We need to retool Russia and get it into
NATO, then build up a shared defense in depth against religionists and
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
The Daily Beast
DADT gave men a place to experience male-male
intimacy without being called gay. Men need ways to be close to other men
without forfeiting their masculinity. The military is a model for this type
of masculine environment. Soldiers can be intimate without being gay. Ending
DADT threatens this. Without a taboo about gay love, how can men love one
AR DADT seemed
like a decent compromise to me. If open gays serve, you might as well mix up
men and women in combat units. Hey, maybe that would work. See Starship
Troopers and Aliens.
2010 December 4
Wake up America
Paul Kennedy, The Times
WikiLeaks is not Watergate. But it is
worrying. The leakiness of the U.S. government's communications systems is
dysfunctional. The banality of the cables raises doubts about the quality
and utility of much of the U.S. diplomatic service. There is no sense in all
of this chaff of the epic challenges that America faces.
WikiLeaks can do nothing about the steady shift of wealth from America to
Asia and the sheer scale of U.S. debt. The United States cannot secure
itself against terrorists or the growing power of China and India. America's
sclerotic political system is the biggest weakness of all. Washington is
increasingly unable to carry out a grand strategy.
AR Instant fame on the
Internet is not a bug, it's a feature. Diplomats must wake up from their
dream world of invisible ink and secret mail drops and spin the new media
landscape to their advantage. Think every thought and write every word as if
it were instantly universal — this is Kant's moral law, the logical basis of
all higher morality since Biblical times. If diplomats can't rise to the
challenge, more fool them.
Mary Eberstadt on George
Weigel on Pope John Paul II
2010 December 3
WikiLeaks in Nuke-Proof Bunker
MIT Technology Review
Ongoing distributed denial of service attacks against WikiLeaks have forced
its administrators to move the site to a fortified data center encased in a
cold war-era, nuke-proof bunker under Swedish bedrock, courtesy of a company
called Bahnhof. The site will probably be under permanent attack for the
think even Hillary won't try nuking the servers. But I hear WikiLeaks is now
hosted in Switzerland. The neutral states of Europe have perverse uses from
time to time.
Assange "taking precautions"
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sent out 100,000 encrypted copies
of secret diplomatic cables so they will definitely be released whatever
happens to him. He acknowledged there had been death threats against him and
is thought to be lying low in the UK.
Assange, 39, may be detained
over two claims of rape and sexual assault in Sweden. Copies of the women's
police statements were leaked to Swedish media. Apparently, Assange slept
with two women while in Sweden for a seminar in Stockholm last August.
Before the seminar, he met Woman A and she let him stay at her flat. They
went for dinner and then had sex. There was a condom problem that Assange
said was an accident. At the seminar Assange met Woman B and they spent time
together. They met again later at her flat and had sex without a condom.
This was the basis for the rape charge, but after the event they parted as
friends. Woman B later telephoned Woman A. They were scared about sexually
transmitted disease. Assange was asked to take a test and he refused. The
women then told their stories.
AR Assange should take the rap
in Sweden and be grateful. The charges sound weak and he may get off
lightly. If not, I hear that Swedish jails are quite comfortable. They may
even be secure enough to keep out the CIA assassins. In any case, the story
will make a great movie one day.
2010 December 2
START with Russia
Blocking a nuclear arms treaty that would have the
United States and Russia working more closely together to control loose
nukes and that is supported by people across the spectrum to deny Obama a
political win is as low as it gets.
WikiLeaks on Russia
Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centered
on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs, and
organized crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state" with
arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for
gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money and secret
offshore bank accounts.
Assange on WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wanted to expose
China's and Russia's secrets as much as those of the United States. Speaking
via Skype from an undisclosed location after a warrant was issued by
Interpol following rape allegations in Sweden, he said countries with less
transparency, such as China and Russia, had the most potential to be
reformed by whistleblowers.
2010 December 1
The Wall Street
For decades, most economists have supposed that the whole
economy can be reduced to a mathematical model. They populated their models
with rational people who calculate the value of possible moves and choose
the optimal path.
The models translate personal preferences into
equations to forecast an exact trajectory for the economy. Complex models
get too difficult, so economists keep them simple. They tend to include only
households, firms, central banks and the government. They may represent each
player with a single equation.
Some economists are now questioning the foundations of these models. The
Institute for New Economic Thinking was launched last year with financing
from George Soros. The institute has approved several projects on new ways
to model the economy.
J. Doyne Farmer, 58, is an expert on complex
systems at the Santa Fe Institute. He has spent years trying to figure out
how to predict the future. He proposes a complex computer simulation of the
economy like those scientists use to model weather or traffic. Such
agent-based models can include millions of players, who can be irrational
and disagree with each other.
David Tuckett, 63, a professor at
University College London, studies how unconscious needs and fears can cause
swings in financial markets. He calls financial assets phantastic objects,
which people see alternately as capable of fulfilling their dreams of wealth
and power or utterly worthless and repulsive. He is working on models where
behavior changes with its psychological context.
Roman Frydman, 62, is a professor at New York University. As a graduate
student he rejected the concept of rational expectations. He thinks economic
actors do not always make decisions in the same way. He says capitalism
works because it lets people disagree about the future. He says economists
must come to terms with imperfect knowledge.
In his book The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley argues
that our success as a species resulted from our ability to trade. The human
condition has improved with the exchange of goods and ideas.
turns his rational optimism to development in Africa and climate change. In
discussing Africa, he fails to see that worrying about the worst case can
help to drive a solution. In dismissing concerns about climate change, he
fails to prove his case.
Pessimism is often wrong because people
assume there is no change or innovation. A lot of the rhetoric about
sustainability implicitly assumes that we will exhaust our natural
resources, as though we cannot substitute one commodity for another in
future. There are potential problems in the future. Bioterrorism and
pandemics are big threats. But excessive pessimism may cause problems with
how society plans for the future.
Ridley suggests that all innovation
comes from new companies, with no contribution from established companies.
He also seems to think that innovation involves simply coming up with a new
idea, when in fact execution is critical. He underestimates the innovation
that takes place within mature corporations.
Ridley underplays the
role of education, government, patents and science. Scientists and tinkerers
are engaged in a profound process of discovery. Without their curiosity and
creativity, no amount of exchange would have produced our world.
AR Worrying about Africa is
surely more rational than optimism.
The United States is losing its status in the
international system. In about 1850, the British Empire led the world.
Around 1900, the United States overtook it as the world's number one. By
1945, America possessed around half of the world's GNP.
years ago, Harvard professor Joseph Nye said that American strength and
influence in world affairs had three legs: soft power, economic power,
and military power.
America's soft power has declined in the past
two decades. America's relative economic and foreign-currency heft has
weakened. America's military strengths are still remarkable.
Nye studied PPE at Exeter College Oxford. He may agree that the
British decline since 1945 was accelerated by overspending on defense.
The Ego Has Landed
Julian Assange charges Swedish authorities with
"deliberately and illegally, selectively taking bits of its material and
giving them to newspapers". His response is telling. Had he celebrated
it, he would have appeared a fool, but not a hypocrite. Instead, he
appears as both.
AR Sad but true: Assange is a fool and a
hypocrite. The WikiLeaks contribution to investigative journalism has
been interesting and amusing, but is ultimately unsustainable as a
Zoroaster and the Ayatollahs
The National Interest
In 1979, Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini emerged to overthrow the shah. Khomeini declared that
the revolution was carried out to create a new Islamic society. For more
than a thousand years, Iran has been defined by Zoroastrian elements
battling with an Arab Islamic culture. A recurrent image in Persian art
is the cedar tree that Zoroaster planted in heaven which was bent by the
winds of Islamic hegemonic culture. Khomeini and his clerical allies
tried to dilute and diminish the past by derisively describing what
existed in Iran before the advent of Islam as jahiliyyah. They tried to
infuse the Persian language with Arabic, to Iranian nationalists a
detested tool of Islamic cultural invasion.
The first Eagle, April 14, 1950
Dan Dare was the front page story
until the end in 1969.
Symbol of my boyhood
The New York Times
Roger Penrose, of Oxford University, and
Vahe Gurzadyan, of Yerevan State University in Armenia, claim that
ripples in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) were caused by
colliding supermassive black holes in earlier cycles of the universe.
Other astronomers looking at the same data conclude that the rings are
part of our familiar universe.
The arXiv papers
Writer Rescues Obama
The Daily Beast
According to the pundits, things aren't going President Obama's way
because he has lost control of the narrative. Sam Lipsyte advises how to
find the plot:
"When I am writing and floundering, with no sense of
where to go, I look back to the beginning of what I am working on, and
ask: Where did I start? What set this all into motion? When you lose
something, it's usually where you've been, not where you think you're
I believe that the past is classical while the future is quantum
mechanical. Events in the past have happened, events in the future will
AR I said that years
Sean D. Kelly, NY Times
God is dead, wrote Nietzsche.
God no longer tells us how to live. When the structure of a worthwhile
and well-lived life is no longer agreed, a new freedom opens up. But
this brings the threat of nihilism. Freedom from the constraint of
agreed norms opens up fundamentally destabilizing possibilities.
In Freedom, Jonathan Franzen depicts America as a society of lost and
fumbling souls. But the literary trope that suburban life is full of
quiet desperation may fail to recognize the happiness found in everyday
engagements with religion, work, ethnic heritage, military service and
other pursuits that are potentially lofty and ennobling.
"Let women work and they drive
economic growth across all sectors. Send a girl to school even just for
one year and her income dramatically increases for life, and her
children are more likely to survive and her family more likely to be
healthier for years to come. Give women equal rights and entire nations
are more stable and secure. Deny women equal rights and the instability
of nations is almost certain."
Pixie Lott, 19, has won
platinum awards for her songs. Her second
single went straight from #73 to #1 in the charts.
She debuts as an
actress in the pre-teen comedy Fred: The Movie. She stars as Judy, the
luminescent lust object of Fred. He stalks her, harasses her, and
finally throws up on her. Judy then confesses, "I've been really mean. I
totally deserve to be barfed all over."
Strategic Defense Intelligence
Described as a diplomatic
the revelations include:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
urged the United States to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.
U.S. officials were instructed to spy on members of the UN leadership.
Iran attempted to adapt North Korean rockets for use as long-range
U.S. officials expressed fears over the security of
Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
Prince Andrew made inappropriate
remarks while abroad.
Spot the odd one out.
1993: helped start a public Internet service provider in
Australia. From 1994, he lived in Melbourne and developed free software.
In 1995, he wrote Strobe, the first free and open source port scanner.
He helped to write the 1997 book
Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier
Assange apparently attended six universities. From 2003 to 2006, he
studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne, which he
represented at the Australian National Physics Competition. He has also
studied philosophy and neuroscience.
Mathematics, physics, philosophy, neuroscience, computers, sex in Sweden
— what can I complain about in a history like that?
Mick Hucknall modestly estimates he slept with
more than 3,000 women in three years. Now he has offered an apology. "I
regret the philandering," he said in an interview. "I'm truly sorry."
Hucknall, 50, achieved huge success with Simply Red. "Between 1985-1987,
I would sleep with about three women
a day, every day." He said he
was in search of love. "It was an addiction that took me to my darker
period ... I really came close to the gutter."
Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954
The first U.S. H-bomb
and the most powerful nuclear bomb ever detonated by the
United States, with a yield of
Ahmed Rashid, NYRB
NATO has agreed to continue combat
operations in Afghanistan for years to come. But Afghan president Hamid
Karzai has turned against the West. His main aim now is making peace
with the Taliban and ending the war.
Karzai maintains that Iran
and Pakistan could help reach a settlement with the Taliban. Iran has
stepped up its support to the Taliban and Pakistan wants a leading part
in any talks with the Taliban.
Karzai wants to reassert Afghan
sovereignty. Most of his ministers continue to work well with NATO. The
tension does not augur well for either the United States or Afghanistan.
BMW S 1000 RR
Engine: 1-liter water/oil cooled
4-stroke inline 4-cylinder,
4 valves per cylinder
Rated output 142 kW (193
at 13,000 rpm
Max. torque 112 Nm
at 9,750 rpm
Emission standard EU-3
Maximum speed over 200 km/h
is the most powerful 1-liter
production bike on the
At 204 kg fully fueled,
it also has the best
"The owl of Minerva spreads
only with the falling
of the dusk"
Business confidence in Germany is at its highest
level since reunification. Unemployment is below pre-crisis levels,
consumers are out shopping, investment is soaring, and the government's
finances are heading back to surplus. For most Germans, the crisis in the
eurozone is just a humiliating irritant, and would be irrelevant were it not
for the disrepute it heaps on their currency and the anger felt at being
forced to bail out the profligate fringe.
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin would like to see a free trade
agreement between the European Union and Russia. The proposal comes as Putin
travels to Germany to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel. Putin also
envisions close cooperation on industrial policy. He mentions ship,
automobile and airplane construction, space technology, pharmaceuticals and
medical technology, nuclear power, and energy generally. He also proposes
closer cooperation in research and high-tech projects.
SAP und Oracle
Im Prozess um Software-Diebstahl muss SAP dem
US-Rivalen Oracle 1,3 Milliarden Dollar zahlen. Laut der Argumentation von
Oracle sei das gestohlene geistige Eigentum enorm wertvoll gewesen. SAP
hielt in dem Prozess eine Schadensersatzzahlung in Höhe von rund 40
Millionen Dollar für angemessen.
David Goodhart, Prospect
Thilo Sarrazin has written what is
probably the bestselling political book in postwar Europe. His message is
that Germany is becoming smaller and stupider. Much of the book is a dry
compendium of economic and social data. It trashes the liberal pieties of
the 1968 generation.
Nowhere in Europe is the gap between public
opinion and published opinion as wide as in Germany. Left and right agreed
to pretend that Germany did not have an integration issue. Sarrazin
describes the failure in shocking and pitiless detail.
Is God A Person?
John Lennox, 67, is a mathematics professor at Oxford
University. He believes in the Christianity of Holy Writ. The strongest
argument, he says, is the human brain. But he admits you cannot deduce God
from science. He believes that in some oasis in Africa Eve was persuaded by
a serpent to eat an apple and that ruined our world. He is a creationist and
argues that the complexity of DNA demands intelligent design. DNA seems to
him to be "a kind of biological singularity." Also singular, he believes,
were the virgin birth, Jesus' miracles, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.
For Lennox, God is a person.
In Praise of Dreams
Many entrepreneurs wildly overestimate their
chances of success. But the big winners beat the odds. These lucky fools
create new industries that improve life. Society is a casino that benefits
from foolish bets.
Modern consumers are dream artists. Markets give
us an opportunity to exercise our creativity and to fashion and express our
identities. Our consumer daydreams allow us to learn who we are and who we
With his book God is Not Great, the Hitch broke out
to a mass audience. In June 20120, the celebrated drinker and smoker who
claimed that "booze and fags are happiness" was diagnosed with cancer. If it
triggered his cancer, burning the candle at both ends, he said, also
produced a "lovely light".
His life is his writing, where the effect
that his life is consciously determined by the intellect is underlined by a
Zelig-like presence at great moments of history.
"What can be
asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"
MIT Technology Review
Wearing the Vuzix Wrap 920AR means looking
at the world through a pair of LCD video displays. The Wrap is heavier than
a regular pair of glasses. The displays are connected to two video cameras
on the glasses. The screens show different views for depth perception.
Meters and sensors track where the wearer is looking. The glasses have ports
to plug into an iPhone. Vuzix software aligns virtual objects in the real
world. AR glasses will take off when they get lighter, look cooler, and run
my book (chap 0001)
Russia Versus Japan
World War II is not over. Japan and Russia are
still technically at war with another. In 1945, the USSR annexed four
Japanese Islands that Russia has yet to return. This week, Russian President
Dmitri Medvedev angered the Japanese by becoming the first Russian or Soviet
leader to visit those islands.
AR The political action in my
novel Lifeball, mostly written in
1993 and set in 2013, started with a Japanese attempt to recover these four
islands from Russia by force.
Obama Must Cut Spending
Under current law, the U.S. federal government's
share of the economy will grow to 26.5 percent by 2020. Federal, state, and
local governments will then constitute more than 40 percent of the economy.
Government spending through the next decade will require $12.4 trillion in
additional debt, bringing total public indebtedness to $22.2 trillion.
President Obama should freeze government employment and growth in
discretionary spending. He must decide the amount that the government will
spend for the year and address entitlement spending. He must not let the
Bush tax cuts expire.
Romney = David Cameron
2010 November 30, St. Andrew's Day
A man is valued by his wealth and power, a woman by her youth and beauty. So
beautiful parents have more daughters than sons.
2 Liberals are more intelligent
than conservatives. Intelligent people like new things. Evolution made us
conservative. Being liberal is novel. So intelligent children tend to be
Most suicide bombers are Muslim. Islam lets men have many wives at once.
Some men get all the women and others get none. The prospect of a harem in
heaven excites the bombers.
Men like blondes. Blonde hair darkens with age. So blonde hair signals
5 Men are naturally polygamous.
If some men are much richer than others, women and children are better off
sharing a rich man than keeping a poor man.
6 Men with sons are less likely
to divorce. Men get wealth and power, women have youth and beauty. A father
can work to help a son succeed but he cannot help a daughter.
7 Geniuses and criminals are mostly young.
Creativity and violence are male traits that help get mates. So they peak in
adolescence and then decline.
8 Many men get a midlife crisis
because their wives do. Menopause is a sign that the man needs a new mate.
9 Powerful men marry one woman
but mate with many. Men strive for power to mate with more women.
10 Men abuse and intimidate
each other at work. So men who harass women at work are not sexist.
2010 November 28
North Korea and Iran
The Sunday Times
North Korea and Iran are cooperating on nuclear
and missile technology. The new North Korean centrifuge plant to enrich
uranium bears a striking resemblance to Iran's centrifuge plant at Natanz.
Iran may have helped design and build the centrifuges. The new plant can
help the North Koreans make more nuclear weapons. Also, an executive of an
Iranian industrial group that makes missiles was present at a military
parade in Pyongyang on October 10. The North Koreans unveiled eight new
missile types capable of carrying nuclear warheads 1,900 miles.
Kim young'un attended an English-language international school in
Switzerland until 1998, so maybe I can go and teach him some philosophy.
Science and religion are not incompatible, destined to
fight each other, until eventually the cool reason of science extinguishes
the fanatical flames of religion. Rather science educates us as to how the
physical world is and how it functions, and faiths educates us as to the
purpose to which such knowledge is put, the values that should guide its
use, and the limits of what science and technology can do.
AR Tony, I can help you both improve this statement and sort
out the Middle East.
Liberia, 1982: the new high priest stood before an
altar, naked. He slayed a little girl. Her heart was removed and eaten. The
priest had a vision that he would become a great warrior. The devil said he
must continue child sacrifice and cannibalism.
The priest was 11
years old. He grew up to become General Butt Naked. He and his coked-up boy
soldiers fought naked apart from boots and guns. He said he was responsible
for 20,000 deaths.
Today he is a reformed man. In July 1996, after
14 years of night talks with the devil, he had a blinding vision of Christ.
At 39, he is a married father of three, known as Pastor Joshua Milton
Blahyi, who lives as a Christian preacher.
AR What a heartening story!
2010 November 26
John Cassidy, New Yorker
A banking system should behave like a
utility. It should distribute money to where it is needed and keep track of
how it is used. Big banks should benefit their customers and the economy at
large. Historically, banks have financed the growth of vital industries.
But most people on Wall Street are buying and selling securities. Many
big banks have turned themselves from sources of capital for their clients
into immense trading houses that exploit movements in the markets.
Big banks are forever trying to invent new financial products. They peddle
opaque investment products and charge big fees for their own profit. They
design trading strategies for one customer that from a wider perspective
merely shift money around. They bet on movements in the markets to make
profits for their shareholders.
People in the financial sector are
overpaid. In most industries, when people are paid too much their firms go
bankrupt. The exception is the finance industry. Bankers are rewarded for
taking risks, but when a market collapses others are left to pick up the
losses. In the first nine months of 2010, the big six U.S. banks cleared
more than 35 billion dollars in profits.
2010 November 25
The Chinese support the North Korean regime.
Without Chinese energy and food aid the regime would collapse. The Chinese
have legitimate concerns. A unified Korea sitting on China's border with an
American security alliance is threatening.
The United States and
Beijing need to engage in a high-level and secret conversation about the
future of the Korean peninsula. Otherwise the Chinese don't have an
incentive to push the North Koreans. A stable Korea is a vital national
interest of the United States.
Excellent analysis, as always from Fareed.
We create our selves through narrative. Our brain's
left hemisphere is the language hemisphere. It interprets behaviors and
emotional states and forms hypotheses. Functional MRI studies and PET
imaging of the brain show activity in the areas for speech production and
language comprehension during silent inner speech. The inner voice narrates
the autobiographical self.
Narratives convey our individual
perspectives, with cause and effect and a temporal ordering of events that
we can communicate to others. The selves created through narratives have
linear plots with a fixed past, a present built coherently on it, and a
horizon of possibilities projected into the future. We make up our lives in
ways that conform to universal narrative prototypes.
Digital technologies are producing narratives that stray from this classic
structure. Books are just one technology for storytelling. Hypertext fiction
is a nonlinear story that the reader navigates as an active participant.
Interactive fiction is a story driven by the reader. Hypertext may be
embellished with multimedia components. These new technologies may change
the way we see ourselves.
Our self-narratives are actually neuromultimedia, imho.
2010 November 24
Nicholas Carr laments the hyperlinks that dominate much of what we read
online. Instead of adding context, they turn the Internet into an
interruption system. Many bloggers have begun to admit to an inability to
read entire books or even magazine articles. The Web presents us with more
information than we can process, let alone understand.
Google wants to set up a
global clearinghouse for personal data
Nile Gardiner, The Telegraph
The latest provocation by North
Korea comes at a time when American leadership has gone AWOL on the world
stage. In an increasingly dangerous world, Barack Obama looks increasingly
like a lame duck president. America needs to stand up to its enemies rather
than appease them.
Andy Ross, The Times
We need to dismantle the NK regime. First we
need an okay from China. As their prize for holding back, we can let China
take over for postwar reconstruction. Otherwise we let SK take the lead
after the conflict. With fast and hard conventional strikes, I believe we
can all but eliminate the risk that NK "succeeds" with a nuclear strike. If
they strike, we reduce NK to rubble and hand China a rather large DMZ above
SK. With Japan's help, we can rebuild SK to become even stronger in future.
2010 November 23
North Korean Shells South
North Korea shelled a South Korean village with
artillery today, killing at least two Marines and injuring at least 18
people. Witnesses reported fires spreading on Yeonpyeong island. South Korea
returned fire and scrambled F-16 jets to the scene.
A South Korean
government spokesman described the incident as a violation of the terms of
the 1953 armistice. The firing lasted for about an hour and started shortly
after the North warned the South to stop military exercises in the area. The
South continued the drills and the government issued a Class-A military
The attack is one of the most serious incidents since the
1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a ceasefire. North and South Korea
technically remain at war. The United Nations recognizes Yeonpyeong island
as part of the South. The area has been the site of repeated clashes.
AR Looks like war. We
should be able to finish this one quickly if we keep China on our side. The
North Koreans have nukes and can hit Seoul with artillery. But the nuke
sites are certainly targeted for air strikes. We can shoot down their
missiles with Patriot and Aegis. To minimize collateral damage on Seoul, we
need to push the front northward fast. A big armored push under massed air
strikes should take out the artillery in minutes. We can hope the NK regime
implodes faster than the Saddam gang. When it does, we hand over the whole
mess to China, with the bill.
Euro bleibt robust
2010 November 22
My forthcoming novel
GLOBORG — Love on a small planet
now has a back-cover text:
Amber Stewart is an ambitious journalist
and Arthur Cross is a successful philosopher. When Amber interviews Art to
get the key ideas of his work, she discovers the human being behind the
words. She is soon caught up in an affair with him that breaks through her
inhibitions and reveals dark secrets from her past. On the way, her
understanding of his philosophy deepens. Art's words about the emerging
global organism — Globorg — give her food for thought and make her fear for
the future. Beware: Amber tells an adult tale in explicit language.
Leo Tolstoy (1828—1910) was one of history's great truth-tellers, the
first of the great dissidents. The question of how best to live is at the
core of all Tolstoy's writings, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
War and Peace is not just a great national and family saga, it is a novel
about personal and national regeneration. After writing Anna Karenina,
Tolstoy became a fervent Christian and decided that what mattered was what
Jesus had taught — pacifism, anarchism, no government, no army, no upper
classes, no quest for wealth. In 1909, Gandhi became enflamed by Tolstoy's
Wittgenstein and other philosophers autistic?
2010 November 20
Believe it or not, thanks to
National Novel Writing
I've written a 50K-word novel in just 3 weeks:
GLOBORG — Love on a small planet
Now to publish it!
Gandhi: Naked Ambition
Jad Adams, The Independent
Mohandas Gandhi had an unusual sex
life. He married at 13 in 1883. His wife Kasturba was 14. Kasturba was soon
pregnant. Their last child was born in 1900. Gandhi later developed a
censorious attitude to sex. He decided to "give service" to humanity by
embracing poverty and chastity.
In 1906, aged 38, Gandhi took a vow
of brahmacharya. He described a brahmachari as: "One who never has any
lustful intention, who, by constant attendance upon God, has become proof
against conscious or unconscious emissions, who is capable of lying naked
with naked women, however beautiful, without being in any manner whatsoever
Gandhi worked out rules to say he was chaste while
still engaging in sexual behavior. He set up ashrams and began "experiments"
with sex. Boys and girls were to bathe and sleep together, chastely, men and
women were segregated, and husbands should not be alone with their wives.
Following Kasturba's death, Gandhi had women in his bed for his
Sushila Nayar used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. In
1947, Sushila was 33 and Gandhi was 77. Gandhi called for his grandniece
Manu, 18, to sleep naked with him. Abha, 18, joined his entourage. From
August 1947 he slept with both Manu and Abha at the same time. When he was
assassinated in January 1948, it was with Manu and Abha by his side.
AR Wow, I'm saintlier than Matatma Gandhi.
2010 November 17
Who Shall Inherit the Earth?
Birth rates are declining across the globe. But
they are declining least among those adhering to strict religious codes and
literal belief in the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran. The least likely to
procreate are those who profess no believe in God. As we approach the
religious fundamentalists, we find high fertility and rapid population
growth. The demographic tide of history favors fundamentalism.
world, birthrates increasingly reflect values choices. By a Darwinian
process, those who adhere to traditions that preserve and celebrate the
ancient injunction to go forth and multiply put more of their genes and
ideas into the future than those who don't. Secularism may have set back
religion but it hasn't dented the strongholds of faith. Fundamentalists are
claiming the future.
AR This seems a good reason to
found a Globorg religion.
2010 November 15
Your Brain on Metaphors
Robert Sapolsky, The New York Times
Consider eating some rotten,
disgusting food. Neurons in an area of the brain called the insula will
activate. Think about something shameful and rotten that you once did and
your insula activates. When we evolved the capacity to be disgusted by moral
failures, the insula expanded its portfolio.
Or consider pain.
Evolutionarily ancient regions activate in the brain, telling you about the
intensity of the pain and so on. A more recently evolved brain region in the
frontal cortex called the anterior cingulate is involved in the subjective
response to the pain. If you watch your beloved in pain, your anterior
cingulate will activate as if you were in pain. The anterior cingulate does
both physical and psychic pain.
Now consider cleanliness. The brain has trouble distinguishing between being
a dirty scoundrel and being in need of a bath. Volunteers were asked to
recall either a moral or immoral act in their past. Afterward, offered a
choice between the gift of a pencil or of a package of antiseptic wipes, the
folks who had just recalled their ethical failures were more likely to go
for the wipes.
What are we to make of the brain processing literal
and metaphorical versions of a concept in the same brain region? This neural
confusion gives symbols enormous power.
This confusion is what gives art and religion their power.
2010 November 14
The Sunday Times
One Day is the third novel by the London-based
author David Nicholls, 43. It is an international phenomenon.
Britain, it has now sold nearly 400,000 copies. First published in June
2009, it spent 10 weeks in The Sunday Times bestseller charts and returned
to the list for two months as a paperback in 2010.
In America, the
novel has sold 300,000 copies. In Sweden, the first edition sold out in
three days and became a #1 bestseller. Same in Italy. It reached #2 in
Germany and #3 in Russia. Translation rights have now been sold for 31
The novel tells the story of Emma and Dexter. We first
meet them on July 15, 1988. Over 435 pages, Nicholls revisits the pair every
July 15 for the next 20 years. The movie is scheduled for release next
AR My next novel
— Interviews: Love on a Small Planet — may be published by then.
2010 November 12
Mark Malloch-Brown, Financial Times
The G20 members together
represent more than 80 percent of world gross domestic product. But this G20
is far from united. Many G20 members fear that China is unstoppable in its
march to economic parity with the United States. China and others see
recklessness and threat in the exercise of U.S. power.
AR Like it or not, the G20 is
the precursor to Globorg.
"We cannot keep constantly explaining to our voters and our citizens why the
taxpayer should bear the cost of certain risks and not those people who have
earned a lot of money from taking those risks."
Quite right, Angela: Use my tax money wisely!
"adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the
greatest threat to the ecology of our planet."
— is cosmic genius Freeman Dyson right about global warming?
2010 November 10
I'm over halfway through the first draft of my next novel
Julian Young revisits
Nietzsche's philosophy of religion
Susan Jacoby reviews Sam
Harris's moral landscape
2010 November 7
Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books
The Social Network is a
movie about Mark Zuckerberg. A boy, Mark, and his girl, Erica, sit at a
little table in a Harvard bar, zinging each other. But something is not
right with this young man: his eye contact is patchy; he doesn't seem to
understand common turns of phrase or ambiguities of language; he is literal
to the point of offense, pedantic to the point of aggression.
came to the cinema expecting to meet Zuckerberg and it'll be a long time
before a cinema geek comes along to push Jesse Eisenberg, the actor who
plays Zuckerberg, off the top of our nerd typologies. The
passive-aggressive, flat-line voice. The shifty boredom when anyone, other
than himself, is speaking. The barely suppressed smirk. We know this guy.
Jaron Lanier has written a short and frightening book, You Are Not a
Gadget, on the ways in which people "reduce themselves" in order to make a
computer's description of them appear more accurate. In Lanier's view, there
is no perfect computer analogue for what we call a person. In Facebook, life
is turned into a database, and this is a degradation.
designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore's preoccupations.
Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what "friendship" is.
We were going to live online. It was going to be extraordinary. Yet what
kind of living is this? Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment:
Doesn't it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life in this format?
AR Yes. Thanks, Zadie, for
trashing a key ghost in my Globorg nightmare.
2010 November 5
Und ewig lockt das Blondchen
ProSieben-Moderatorin Sonya Kraus verstärkte die Blondinen-Quote der
ARD-Wissensshow "Wie liebt Deutschland?"
2010 November 3
Anatole Kaletsky, The Times
The European Union has taken a big
step toward becoming a unitary state by shifting key policies on taxes and
public spending from national to federal level. Last May, European leaders
saw the risk of a collapse of the euro and created a financial mechanism to
bail out nations unable to raise money from private investors.
commitment to permanent collective guarantees for the debts of eurozone
governments could never work without greater central control over national
budgets. At the EU summit in Brussels last weekend, these mechanisms for
control were in principle agreed. EU fiscal federalism will have
irreversible legal force.
Germany's political and business elite will
not agree to become permanent guarantors for the more improvident EU
countries without much closer supervision over their tax, spending, and
borrowing. European integration has always advanced through crises.
AR This is an excellent
analysis of what looks like an inevitable historical process. If European
integration is continued in this cautious and event-driven way, British and
other nationalists can rest easy in their cottage homes as they survey the
sunlit uplands that EU solidarity has put within reach.
2010 November 1, All Saints Day
Ted Honderich, New Statesman
John Stuart Mill, proud of his
logic, gave liberalism's 1859 answer, maybe the answer of Britain's Liberal
Democrats today ... John Rawls of Harvard gave us liberalism's 1971 answer
to the question of what is fair in a society ...
government is true to its inherited natures, the natures of liberalism and
conservativism. ... The coalition says and says again and again that it is
fair. The Principle of Humanity calls right now for the most effective forms
of speech and argument against this farce of fairness.
AR Ted Honderich argues well
(as usual) and his heart is in the right place (apparently) but his
conclusion here is wrong. The coalition government shares his concern for
fairness and seeks to minimize the pain of its cuts but faces its own
political limits. The fact is that the power of money has us all — wage
slaves, shareholders, and governments alike — by the balls. This is the
logic of capital, as Karl Marx confusedly sensed in his wordy ramblings on
the subject. The global flow of quantified symbols of value (money) will
continue to reward its sharpest servants — the Wall Street masters of the
universe and so on — until the machines take over. Then we'd better be sure
we've programmed the machines properly. Until then, the best that people
like Ted and David and Nick can do is to persuade the rich to work for the
wider good. Contra Ted, I believe that classic liberalism is now bankrupt.
My attempt to rescue the world from this predicament is enshrined in my new
book G.O.D. Is Great, where the
global organization (of G20, Wall Street, and so on) is Globorg, Globorg is
GO, GO dominion is GOD, and GOD is great!
The novelist who converts
heroic effort into effortless
come to seem like
the willed effort of the entire
create a novel
Michael J. Green
The Obama administration must persuade China to deter the North from
further escalation and from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. The United
States should visibly enhance defense cooperation with Japan and Korea.
The USS George Washington will be next to useless. It
took part in similar drills after the last provocation in March. North Korea
has little to lose. In a war, Kim Jong Il would be toppled and the North
Korean military would be wiped out within days. But before its defeat, North
Korea could inflict massive artillery damage on Seoul and devastate the
South Korean economy.
I say wipe them out and
take the pain. Britain should contribute by
sending Ark Royal with Harriers (sic) and fund the move by drawing on
European credit (like Ireland). We all profit from a stabilized Korea.
SAP and Oracle
The New York Times
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said in public
statements that former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker oversaw the vast copyright
infringement plan. Apotheker did not testify at the trial because Oracle's
lawyers were unable to serve him with a subpoena.
AR I never did warm to
North Versus South
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il this week
played two aces. The first was to reveal a uranium enrichment facility. The
site was monitored by U.S. satellites and their failure was described as the
worst nightmare of U.S. intelligence. The second ace was today's artillery
barrage against a South Korean island.
South Korean president Lee
Myung-bak last month skirted the issue of whether China was propping up
North Korea. Outsourcing the job of reforming North Korea to Beijing shows
how few cards Seoul has left to play.
Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre was born in 1929 in
Glasgow. He enrolled at Queen Mary College in London, went on to Manchester
University as a graduate student, and was appointed to a lectureship in
philosophy at age 24. His first book was a defense of Marxism. MacIntyre
applies his metaphysical approach with unrelenting rigor. There are skills,
like being a good burglar, that are inimical to the virtues. Those engaged
in finance are like good burglars. Teaching ethics to traders is as
pointless as reading Aristotle to your dog. The better the trader, the more
Left: me in Q1 2008
The Hollywood Reporter
Steven Spielberg will direct the robot
wars in a 2012 movie based on the novel Robopocalypse.
AR Hey, Steve, hire me and
rename it Robocalypse.
The Sunday Times
Rolls-Royce says the engine problem is specific
to the Trent 900 on the Airbus A380. In the short term, a new maintenance
and inspection regime avoids the problem. Later RR will replace the suspect
section of the 80 engines in service.
A Flying Wreck
The Qantas A380 Airbus that made an emergency landing
in Singapore last week was reportedly a "flying wreck." Investigators found
damage including massive fuel leaks in two of the 11 tanks, a huge hole in a
landing flap, a damaged wing, a loss of brake anti-skid system, and shrapnel
damage to the plane's exterior. In all, the failure of the Rolls-Royce Trent
900 engine was said to have caused 18 major flaws.
If you want to get rid of God, is the human race the
right thing to be worshipping instead? Positivists got rid of Cartesian
dualism but now consciousness is a scientific problem. The language for
talking about mental and spiritual life is sophisticated. Humanism has to
take account of religious thinking. I see no need to worship our love of our
own species and no reason to call that love humanism.
AR Quite right: outgrow worship
and species chauvinism. We need to identify with
Effing the Ineffable
Every inquiry into first principles will at some
stage come up against the question: what makes those first principles true?
And the answer is that there is no answer that can be expressed in terms of
the science for which those principles are bedrock. So how should we
There is nothing wrong with referring at this point to the
ineffable. The mistake is to describe it. I too am tempted to eff the
ineffable. What do our moments of revelation have to do with the ultimate
questions? When science comes to a halt, does revelation point to the cause
of the world?
Effing obviously not!
The Daily Show
The Washington Post
President Obama came to plead his case before
Obama: "In fairness, Larry Summers did a heckuva job."
Stewart: "You don't want to use that phrase, dude."
Obama: "My attitude is if we're making progress, step by step."
"You wouldn't say you'd run this time as a pragmatist?"
Obama: "I think
what I would say is yes we can, but — "
Cue for laughter.
Prime Minister David Cameron will implore European
leaders to live within their means and rein back plans for a 6 percent rise
in overall EU spending to €130 billion a year. The current budget cycle
began in 2005 when the total national debt across the European Union was €54
billion. Today it stands at €868 billion.
AR Everyone on the EU payroll is overpaid. EU
expenses are wildly out of control. EU foreign policy spending is money
thrown away. EU agricultural subsidies reward inefficiency. Our taxes fatten
MEPs who squeak ineffectually. Cut EU spending.
Judaism, Christianity, Islam
The New York Times
The Abrahamic religions share the belief that
God has made himself known to his prophets through acts of revelation. And
such revelations shape groups of believers by being incorporated in
canonical written texts: the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Gospels, the
Monotheistic religion is concerned with just two
poles: the human and the divine. Religious history becomes part of human
history. Christianity developed out of Judaism, and Islam grew out of both.
Each religion aggressively reinterpreted its predecessors. All three
religions saw themselves as shaping world history.
The German Genius
James Buchan, The Guardian
Peter Watson's colossal encyclopedia
might have been written for me. Watson is frustrated by the British
ignorance of Germany. Watson wonders not just why the nation of thinkers and
poets came to grief between 1933 and 1945 but also how it put itself
together again in 1989.
Thanks, Jamie, must read it.
Sex In Fiction
Martin Amis: "Very few writers have got anywhere with
sex." Where emotion meets sex on the page, it becomes "impossible" for the
writer and "embarrassing" for the reader.
In 2007, Amis became
Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. He says the
English novel's grand theme, from Clarissa to Lady Chatterley's Lover, was
"whether women are going to fall".
In 1993, Auberon Waugh founded the
Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
"The contrails of the more distant
aeroplanes were like incandescent spermatozoa, sent out to fertilise the
Martin Amis, Yellow Dog
"Keith imagined her buttocks as
a pair of giant testicles (from L. testiculus, lit. 'a witness' — a witness
Martin Amis, The Pregnant Widow
Pakistan Tests Our Patience
ISIS, the Institute for Science and International
Security, claims that Pakistan's secret Khushab-III reactor has been
extended, allowing Pakistan to increase its stockpiles of plutonium.
Pakistan has blocked the Conference on Disarmament and says a fissile
materials cut-off would hurt its national security interests.
British and French Nukes
The British and and French governments are close
to agreeing a deal that would let French CEA scientists service Britain's
160 nuclear warheads. France's CEA maintains the 300 warheads in the French
force de frappe. Britain has consulted the US over the proposed move. France
would charge the UK for access to CEA facilities. But the UK would not need
to build its own simulation laboratories to maintain the effectiveness of
Obama Apologizes Again
The New York Times
The Obama administration apologized to
Pakistani officials for a helicopter strike that killed three Pakistani
soldiers. Dozens of NATO oil tankers carrying supplies to troops in
Afghanistan have been attacked and burned in Pakistan. American pressure on
Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups is running up against Pakistan's
sensitivity about its sovereignty.
AR Take out the Paki nukes.
Giordano Bruno Stiftung
(Stiftung zur Förderung des evolutionären
Humanismus) ist eine Denkfabrik für Humanismus und Aufklärung, der
zahlreiche bekannte Wissenschaftler, Philosophen und Künstler angehören. Die
Stiftung sammelt neuste Erkenntnisse der Geistes-, Sozial- und
Naturwissenschaften, um ihre Bedeutung für das humanistische Anliegen eines
"friedlichen und gleichberechtigten Zusammenlebens der Menschen im
Diesseits" herauszuarbeiten. Ziel der Stiftung ist es, die Grundzüge eines
naturalistischen Weltbildes sowie einer säkularen,
evolutionär-humanistischen Ethik/Politik zu entwickeln und einer
interessierten Öffentlichkeit zugänglich zu machen.
Franzen: Stop the Press!
The British publishers of Freedom, HarperCollins said
the book had 50 typos after a mistake by typesetters. They have now offered
to exchange copies already sold for the new corrected edition.
Jonathan Franzen asked readers not to open the book but to wait until they
get a corrected copy. There are about 80,000 incorrect hardback copies in
A spokeswoman for HarperCollins said the mistake was
AR Great! I bought a dud copy.
Do I swap it or buy another and keep it as an investment?
The function of the novel is "to find an
adequate narrative vehicle for the most difficult stuff at the core of me,
in the hope that that might resonate with the reader who otherwise has been
feeling alone with those deep, difficult feelings."
2010 October 31
National Novel Writing
NaNoWriMo is a fun approach to novel writing. Participants
begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by
midnight, November 30. The only thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output.
It's all about quantity, not quality. You will be writing a lot of crap.
2010 October 29
No big developed country has come out of the global
recession looking stronger than Germany has. Exports are booming and
unemployment is expected to fall to levels last seen in the early 1990s. The
government is stable. Germany appears an oasis of tranquillity.
Germans are no longer so ready to be put on the moral defensive. Yet this
buoyancy is checked by equally potent anxieties. A third of Germans think
the country is overrun by foreigners. Germany is driven by the fear that
things could fall apart if they don't hold on to stability.
year's euro crisis brought out both the apprehension and the arrogance. The
crisis has created a new pecking order, with Germany on top. But Germany was
an awkward partner even during the golden age of European integration. The
Berlin republic is a different character from its Bonn-based predecessor.
Germany's most pressing European business is to sort out the euro, the
foundation on which the European edifice now rests. The reform of the euro
will create a more German Europe. Germany's vision of Europe is to secure
Europe's success in a globalised world. Europeans look to Germany for
build a new capital city for Europe in Germany (but let's not call it Berlin
2010 October 28
Solar Wind Power
A Dyson-Harrop satellite has a wire loop facing the
sun. This wire generates a magnetic field that snags the electrons in the
solar wind. These electrons are funneled into a receiver to make a current.
Part of the current generates the magnetic field and the rest powers an
infrared laser pointed at dishes on Earth that collect the energy. On the
satellite, the drained electrons fall onto a sail, where sunlight
accelerates them to keep the satellite in orbit.
satellite using a copper wire 1 cm thick and 300 m long, a receiver 2 m
wide, and a sail 10 m in diameter, orbiting at the same distance from the
sun as the Earth, could generate an 1.7 MW. A satellite with the same
receiver and at the same distance from the sun but with a wire 1 km long and
a sail 8.4 Mm wide could generate an octillion watts.
Since solar panels cost more per pound than the copper, Dyson-Harrop
satellites would be cheaper than big power satellites with solar panels. But
Dyson-Harrop satellites rely on the constant solar wind found high above the
ecliptic, so they would lie many Gm from Earth and even a sharp laser beam
would spread over 1 Mm on Earth.
Science fiction: the last sentence is the giveaway.
2010 October 26
Sex, Bombs, and Burgers
Feeding, fighting, and fucking have driven the
evolution of technology. Peter Nowak calls these "our shameful trinity" but
roots almost everything about modern living in their influence. Much
technological invention of the past was driven by religious motives but
we're living in the age of Eat, Slay, Love.
AR The ancient tension between the human and the
divine is now the tension between me and the state. More grandly, the global
organization Globorg and I (we) live in a dialectical synergy. The new
religion drove Apollo (man on the moon) and drives the LHC (from quarks to
black holes) so we're not atheists yet. Wise up, Nowak! If you read
my book on Globorg you'll probably
agree that we have quite a way to go before the human obsession with God is
over and done, despite our FFF thing.
Anne Applebaum reviews the
megadeath murders dictated by
Hitler and Stalin in the bloodlands of
2010 October 25
International Space Station
For 10 years, the crew of the International Space
Station have admired the Earth from a height of 350 km as the station orbits
the planet 16 times a day.
The English Defence League (EDL) has declared war on Islamic extremism.
The EDL threatens to "shut down" towns and cities if the Government and
local councils "pander" to multiculturalism.
EDL founder Stephen
Lennon has forged links with far-right movements in Europe and America. His
group is receiving funding to counter the "Islamisation of Britain".
Lennon claims to command a hardcore of about 10,000 foot soldiers prepared
to fight if their demands are not met. He claims that the EDL is capable of
bringing a "street force" to bear upon local authorities to address its
Its activists warn that if local councils change the name of
Christmas to a more multi-culturally considerate title, they will "turn the
heat on" to uphold Christian values.
The EDL held a demonstration in
London outside the Israeli Embassy. The protest included speeches from a
right-wing American rabbi who underlined the anti-Islamic stance of the EDL.
AR The EDL needs to avoid the trap of nationalism. Globorg
is good. Globorg is GO, GO dominion is
GOD, and GOD is great!
Angry Young Man
Stephen Lennon is the founder and leader of the English Defence League
(EDL). Wearing a leather jacket and jeans, he cuts a stocky figure with the
swagger of a man used to standing his ground amid the push and shove of the
Islamic extremists helped to spawn his group after
disrupting a troops' homecoming from Iraq by calling the soldiers
"terrorists" and "butchers of Basra". A few hundred football fans grew
almost overnight into the EDL.
Lennon was born in Luton to Irish
immigrant parents in 1982. He went to school in Luton and trained as an
aircraft engineer. But after brushes with the law he now works as a
carpenter. A lapsed Catholic, in 2004 he joined the British National Party
(BNP) and later set up the United People of Luton.
In front of the gates of the Israeli Embassy in
London, senior U.S. rabbi and Tea Party activist Rabbi Nachum Shifren
addressed the demonstrators: "Patriots of England, we shall be prepared. We
shall not let them take over this country. We will never surrender to the
sword of Islam."
As the Israeli flag was waved alongside the cross of
the protesters chanted "E — E — EDL" and "No surrender".
Hey, guys, this is not yet the Battle of Britain.
2010 October 24
Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair
"Until you have done something
for humanity you should be ashamed to die."
In Tumortown you sometimes feel that you may expire from sheer advice. A lot
of it comes free and unsolicited. Best perhaps to get these false hopes
behind one quickly. I would have happily offered myself as an experimental
subject for new drugs or new surgeries, partly of course in the hope that
they might salvage me, but also on the Mann principle.
As a long
shot, I am going to try to have my entire DNA sequenced, along with the
genome of my tumor. Francis Collins was sober in his evaluation of the
usefulness of this: "The potential for discovering mutations in the cancer
cells that could lead to a new therapeutic idea is uncertain — this is at
the very frontier of cancer research right now."
Last August a
federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a halt to all government
expenditure on embryonic stem-cell research. As a believing Christian,
Francis is squeamish about the creation for research purposes of these cell
clumps, but he was hoping for good work to result from the use of embryos
created for in-vitro fertilization. These embryos are going nowhere as it
is. But now religious maniacs strive to forbid even their use. If you want
to take part in the war against cancer, then join the battle against their
Yes, it is stupidity. I like the Mann quote.
2010 October 22
Britain's newest and most powerful nuclear submarine
ran aground off the Isle of Skye in a humiliating blunder for the Royal
Navy. The £1.2 billion stealthy attack submarine HMS Astute was exposed
after its rudder became stuck during sea trials.
HMS Astute is 97
meters long and weighs 7,400 tons. The nuclear reactor that powers it is the
size of a dustbin but will last 30 years.
2010 October 20
The Harrier jump jet will fly proudly off into the
sunset after its glorious career was ended by the government's defence
review. As the first fighter jet to be able to take off without a runway,
the Harrier jump jet was a giant leap for aviation technology when it was
introduced in 1968. The Falklands war in 1982 was the Harrier's greatest
moment. In dogfights above and around the islands, they achieved 22 kills
with no losses.
Another souvenir of my childhood gone.
2010 October 19
Karen Armstrong spoke at The Times Cheltenham
Literature Festival: "People are beginning to turn quite naturally to more
than one faith. Across the United States, ordinary people are reading the
Sufi poet Rumi. Jesuits have for years been learning to meditate with Zen
monks and more Christians read the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber than Jews
do. This would have been unheard of in any previous age."
AR Armstrong is a breath of
fresh air in religious writing. Pluralism is the best way to break
fundamentalism. If people try to juggle Sufi, Zen, and Buber in their own
thinking, they will surely either addle their brains or begin to understand
the value of modern neuroscience too. The nascent science of psychology can
The defense review identifies terrorism and
cyber-attack as the gravest threats to the UK. The defense budget will be
cut by 7.5 percent. The RAF will bear the brunt. About 20,000 British troops
will leave Germany by 2020. HMS Ark Royal and the Harriers will be
decommissioned. Two new carriers will be built but won't fly British jets
before 2020. Britain will project force with Tornados. HMS Ocean may be the
Navy's only platform for up to five years.
AR These changes and cuts look
okay to me. No point fielding men and machines that sit idle for years while
terrorists and hackers run riot.
2010 October 17
Carriers But No Harriers
The new Royal Navy aircraft carriers will be deployed
without jet fighters after the Harrier jump jet is axed in defense cuts. HMS
Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, due to enter service in 2014 and
2016, will operate with no jets until 2018.
Former First Sea Lord
Admiral Lord West said last night it would be "nonsensical" to scrap the
Harriers before the Lockheed Martin
F-35B Lightning II jets were
I say rename the budget-buster carriers BBC1 and BBC2.
The New York Times
A growing number of economists are pointing to
Japan as a dark vision of the future. Many economists are now warning of
falling into the same deflationary trap of collapsed demand that occurs when
consumers refuse to consume, corporations hold back on investments, and
banks sit on cash.
Deflation has left a deep imprint on the Japanese,
breeding generational tensions and a culture of pessimism, fatalism, and
reduced expectations. In 1991, economists were predicting that Japan would
overtake the United States as the world's largest economy by 2010. In fact,
this year China overtook Japan.
China has so thoroughly eclipsed
Japan that few American intellectuals seem to bother with Japan now. The
future looks even bleaker, as Japan faces the world's largest government
debt and a shrinking population.
Yesterday I finished the chapter on Japan in my autobiography. I
think I understand the problem.
2010 October 15
Clinton Defends NATO
On a trip to Brussels for a NATO meeting, U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "NATO has been the most successful
alliance for defensive purposes in the history of the world, but it has to
be maintained. Each country has to be able to make its appropriate
In a final meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron,
British service heads discussed the cuts to be announced next week. The RAF
is expected to bear the brunt, with its Nimrod fleet be phased out and the
fate of the Tornado in the balance. The Navy will keep two new aircraft
carriers, but questions remain over their complement of aircraft. The Army
will escape any big reduction in size until 2015, when troops leave
Two senior Pentagon officials have been working in the
Ministry of Defence in London on the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates fears that Britain and France might
reduce their defence spending to below 2 percent of GDP.
AR What NATO needs is a clear
mission statement. What and where are the threats? Only when we know that
can we know how much we need to spend. In any case, the spend needs to be
coordinated. NATO members must learn to work better together on nuclear
deterrence, aircraft procurement, naval operations, and army equipment. But
that must be obvious.
As for the mission, I see a big mid-century threat. NATO members will
need to counter robot weapon systems illegally purchased and deployed by
fundamentalist regimes in the Middle East. I invite NATO planners to read my
threat assessment: GLOBORG
2010 October 13
Made poster for my new book (PDF, 40 cm x 30 cm)
Kid Rock told Duffy he loved her debut album Rockferry
so much that he wanted to impregnate her. Duffy: "Really? I remember meeting
him but did he say that? I am going to get it put on a teeshirt."
AR Great album, sweet girl.
2010 October 11
Andy Ross, The Times
Science fiction is oxymoronic. Science
encourages structured and instrumental thinking, fiction encourages free
form and indulges presence and context. So SF will always be a marginal and
threatened genre. Anyway, in a world of big movies and virtual games, who
needs the old world of words written in long strings? My response is to back
down from science to tech, where the indulgence of presence is easier, and
to go from fiction to soliloquy, as a variant of the classic monograph. The
result is my new book
G.O.D. Is Great, where the tech
soliloquy becomes a prophetic voice from droid world and the urgency of the
message is hard to ignore. Break the SF ghetto wall.
The British Muslim Empire
At its height, the British Empire counted as
subjects over one in three of the world's Muslims. At the end of the First
World War, Britain had more than a million soldiers in the Middle East.
Britain defined the map of the region, creating new countries and putting
its clients into power.
In 1911, Winston Churchill was First Lord of
the Admiralty, in charge of the Royal Navy. Worried that the fleet could be
held to ransom by striking coal miners, he ordered the navy to switch from
coal-fired to oil-fired engines. That led Britain to colonize oil-rich
Persia and British-created Iraq.
In the nineteenth century, imperial Britain fought Russia in Central
Asia and Afghanistan to defend the approaches to India. In the early
twentieth century, Germany's friendship with the Ottoman Empire made Britain
wary, so British forces took over Egypt and Persia and destroyed the Ottoman
Queen Elizabeth II smashed a bottle of white
wine to inaugurate Cunard's new 92,000-ton ocean liner. The QE is nearly 300
meters long, has 16 decks, and accommodates over 2,000 passengers.
AR A Cunard QE — just like the
2010 October 10
The Female Eunuch
The Sunday Times
Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch was the
publishing phenomenon of 40 years ago. Greer was credited with inaugurating
a liberation movement that changed the world and set women free.
book was not concerned with political and social equality for women. What
Greer sought was a revolution in the manners of sex. The Female Eunuch gave
voice to barbaric simplicities about men.
Future historians may be
astounded at such irrational condemnations of an entire gender. Women in the
West must be the most privileged and free in the history of humanity.
AR I enjoyed the book. I
never accepted the charge of patriarchy except as it applied to the
Abrahamic tradition in religion, where I now see an evolutionary
significance for the basic biology of humans.
2010 October 7
Testing a new panel (above) for my new book ...
New Amazon review: "This is
a marvellous book"
Michael Holroyd, The Times
Biography has its dangers. Some people
read the life of a novelist or poet in place of the original novels or
poems, and others are tempted to reduce all literature to social or
To have a private life now is to be a nonentity.
New technology gives us instant access to information about the present. We
are impatient with the view that understanding the past helps us to
understand the present.
Biography uses an ancient technology. The
golden age of scholarly writers chronicling the achievements of a single
subject from birth to death is fading. Universities now offer courses in
The ancient art of Socratic autobiography, examining the lived life to
extract its lessons, is not dead. Next year, assuming optimistically that my
recent book on Globorg makes a big enough splash, I hope to prove this fact
of continuing life to the world of letters. But I should warn any aspiring
autobiographers that a precondition for writing a good life of oneself is to
have lived a life of painful frustration and rigorous self-criticism. As for
biographies of other people, recall that no man is a hero to his valet.
2010 October 5
Welcome to the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair. Google
Editions opens its store this winter. It has more material than either Apple
or Amazon. Three powerful internet players are battling over books.
HarperCollins CEO Victoria Barnsley says there is no tradition of giving
away books for free online. The internet can ensure the future of books
rather than threaten it. We can enhance e-books with audio, graphics and
apps. In 1935, when Penguin founder Allen Lane wanted something to read on a
train platform, he dreamt up the paperback, a disposable that would cost
less than a pack of cigarettes. E-books are as disruptive as paperbacks
The role of agents, publishers and retailers is up for grabs.
The issue of pricing and royalties from e-books is unresolved. With a
limitless supply of content on the web, publishers say they are needed more
than ever to select and improve content. But how to create demand for it?
AR E-books will really take
off when their readers demand more from them. Not just text but audio,
graphics and apps, all accessed via readers that don't look like books. We
need online 3D glasses with integrated projectors and earbuds, steered and
powered by body movements. Then our hands are free and we're mobile. Soon a
globalized Goomazon will feed our habit until we're consuming 24/7. Then we
become borgs in Globorg. My new book makes exactly this argument.
2010 October 3
Some of my friends erected an
Infostand in Heidelberg yesterday to promote the separation of church and
state in Germany.
Vanessa Thor, The Observer
Karen Armstrong, 65, lives alone in
London. In 2009, reviewing Armstrong's book The Case for God, Alain de
Botton hailed her as "one of the handful of wise and supremely intelligent
commentators on religion." In 2008, she was awarded a prestigious TED prize.
Armstrong grew up near Birmingham. At 17, she joined a community of nuns
called the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The nuns sent her off to Oxford
to read English. She earned a first but her thesis was rejected. A bleak
period alone in London followed.
She started work on her first book
in the 1970s. It led to television punditry and to further bestsellers,
earning her fame in America and across the Muslim world. Science, she
believes, has yet to provide an explanation of our existence.
AR Armstrong is a kindred
spirit: I've liked many of her books.
2010 October 2
A Tree in the Forest of Life
By Andy Ross
BOOK I: ROOTS
BOOK II: SHOOTS
BOOK III: PRUNING
BOOK IV: FRUITS
India Versus Pakistan
Isaac Chotiner, The New York Times
In the spring of 1997, the
literary quarterly Granta published an issue devoted to India's Golden
Jubilee. Fifty years after partition, an independent India was rapidly
establishing itself as an international power. The issue was a testament to
the country's extraordinary intellectual and artistic richness.
In the ensuing years, the American appetite for Indian culture has only
grown. Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, and Amit Chaudhuri continued to publish
fiction and reportage, and a new wave of novelists went on to write
prize-winning, best-selling books. The Indian experience has become part of
the American experience.
Now, Granta has assembled an issue on
Pakistan. Granta's Pakistan is a country of jihadists, anti-Americanism and
increasingly misogynistic and brutal forms of Islam. This issue of Granta
forces an uncomfortably close confrontation with American foreign policy and
the resentment it rightly or wrongly engenders.
Indian writers like
Roy and Rushdie can hardly be accused of whitewashing the status of women in
India. But the Pakistani contributors to Granta are particularly attuned to
the misogyny that has been so central to recent debates over Islam. The
compilation gives us glimpses of a less visible Pakistan while never
ignoring the crueler, more vicious aspects of Pakistani society.
AR Islam is responsible for the
blight of art in Pakistan.
2010 October 1
My three workstations at the start of Q4
Die Eiserne Kanzlerin
Angela Merkel kämpfte für eine neue
Euro-Krisenarchitektur und hat beim Brüsseler Gipfel ihre Kernforderung
durchgesetzt. Eine gezielte Änderung der EU-Verträge zum Schutz der Währung
European Debt Control
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will persuade
other EU members that a framework to prevent future financial crises must be
embedded in the Lisbon treaty. The Lisbon treaty lays down the rules
governing the European Union. A key clause says individual member states are
responsible for their own debts. Berlin argues that a permanent crisis
resolution mechanism cannot be created without amending the clause.
AR Renegotiate the Lisbon
The New York Times
From Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas in
the Palestinian territories to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamist movements
dominate in the Mideast region. Islamists have imposed a paradigm of
morality and absolutism that neglects social problems. In the Arab-Israeli
conflict, both Israel and its Islamist opponents have moved away from a
struggle between competing nationalisms and toward a historic clash of
religions. That is a sign of catastrophe.
Nein zu Multikulti
Berlin: "Der Ansatz für Multikulti ist gescheitert,
absolut gescheitert!", sagte Kanzlerin Angela Merkel auf dem Deutschlandtag
der Jungen Union (JU) in Potsdam. Man müsse Migranten nicht nur fördern,
sondern auch fordern.
Absolut richtig. Weiter so.
Jacobson Wins Booker
Howard Jacobson's laugh-out-loud exploration of
Jewishness, The Finkler Question, last night became the first unashamedly
comic novel to win the Man Booker prize in its 42-year history. Jacobson,
now 68, has long been highly regarded but unrewarded with major literary
prizes. He claimed he was going to spend his £50,000 prize money on a
handbag for his wife. "Have you seen the price of handbags?"
"Now more than ever, SAP NetWeaver is the strategic platform for SAP"
SAP CTO Vishal Sikka
TechEd 2010, Berlin
SAP NetWeaver is the platform for NewDB — based
on the old
"The global warming scam ... is the greatest and most successful
pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone
who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Navy Wants Its Carriers
British admirals propose drastic reductions in the
fleet to save two new aircraft carriers from defence cuts. The Navy argues
that the two carriers are vital if Britain is to retain its place as a
top-rank military power. The Navy has offered to slim down to as few as 12
surface ships, leaving it with six Type 45 destroyers and six Type 23
frigates. Its submarine fleet would reduce to seven Astute hunter-killers
plus the four Trident boats.
British schoolgirls forced
to wear the Islamic veil
Islamic schools have introduced uniform policies
that force girls to wear the burka or the niqab. Dr Taj Hargey, an imam
and chairman of the Muslim Educational Trust of Oxford, said: "Muslim
children are being brainwashed into thinking they must segregate and
separate themselves from mainstream society."
Britain's £100 billion
mental health crisis
Mental illness in England cost the nation more
than £100 billion last year, highlighting some of the most serious
emotional and psychological problems in Europe. Experts warned that the
figure is likely to rise as the government cuts public services.
HP CEO: Big Pay Package
Wall Street Journal
New HP CEO Léo Apotheker's initial
compensation package could be worth about $50 million.
Former SAP COO Erwin Gunst: Apotheker was known at SAP for making
promises to customers and "making sure that he and the company would deliver
against what he said." Unlike his predecessor at SAP, Apotheker "can get a
little rough with people."
Former SAP board colleague John Schwarz:
"I think that at HP he will have a freer hand to execute."
Larry Ellison: "HP employees, customers, partners and shareholders will
HP Taps SAP CEO
Wall Street Journal
Hewlett-Packard Co. have named Léo Apotheker,
57, a former CEO at SAP, as their new CEO. HP generates around $115 billion
a year in revenue and has 304,000 employees. SAP generates around $15
billion in annual revenue and has 47,000 employees.