BLOG 2011 Q4
2011 December 31
What a strange art form writing is. There
is no image to contemplate. Only the sequence of signs matters. The writing
is in the sequence of the signs. This is the one thing we can't change. The
experience is the sequence. The experience is not in any one moment of
perception, but in the movement through the sequence from beginning to end.
We are locked into a journey.
Every self has a story. It exists in relation to other selves and
other stories. The self exists in a web of words spun out of the mind,
separate from the world of sense.
Writers telling their stories
exploit this state of affairs. Using thousands upon thousands of
signs, they mimic the way we are forever constructing our lives
and the lives of others, in words. This is why we get interested. We refer
every story that we read to ourselves, our lives, because the medium of
written narrative is intimately involved with the way we make up ourselves.
Learning how to take intense pleasure in reading makes it also
useful for us, really useful and really exciting. Enchantment is only part
of it. The opening sentences of a novel are an invitation to enter a
separate world of rhythm and sound, mental activity and social positioning.
However fast you like to read a book overall, make very sure you read
the opening page or two with care. The pleasure here is of
entering into enchantment slowly, consciously, with vigilance. You have
every right to put a book down after a couple of pages. Life is simply too
short for the wrong books, or even the right books at the wrong time.
There are two sources of pleasure that you suppose to be in competition
with each other. If you learn to blend them, they intensify each other. The
first is enchantment, but the second pleasure is awareness. We read with a
new awareness, watching how the spell is being cast. This
approach sets us up for the most wonderful and life-changing reading
experience of all: when we come to a book with suspicion, only to
discover that the writer has hooked us.
The excitement of reading is
the precarious one of being alive now, intensely mentally silently alive,
and reacting from moment to moment, in the most liquid and intimate sphere
of the mind, to someone else's elusive construction of the precarious
business of being alive now.
The Need To Read
Psychologists from Washington University used brain
scans to see what happens inside our heads when we read stories. They found
that readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a
narrative. The brain weaves these situations together with its own
experiences to create a new mental synthesis in neural pathways.
discovery that our brains are changed by the experience of reading is
something many of us will understand instinctively, as we think back to the
way a good book had a transformative effect on us. This transformation only
takes place when we lose ourselves in a book, abandoning the chatter of the
Reading is the foundation of all education and an
essential part of the knowledge economy. But more significant is its emotional role as the starting
point for individual voyages of personal development and pleasure. Books can
help create and reinforce our sense of self.
If reading were to
decline, it would change the nature of our species. If we were no longer
wired for solitary reflection and creative thought, we would be diminished.
But technology throws up solutions: the ability of new
devices to put an entire library in your hand is an amazing opportunity.
AR Reading is magic — hence my new book
PHILOSOPHER, out next week or
Roger Scruton is a champion of traditional English
Green Philosophy, he appeals to the idea of a moral economy.
off his new book from Scrutopia.
More on Scruton
Judging by its newspapers and its politicians,
the people of Britain don't get Europe, don't like Europe, and don't want
2012 should be the year when we start the process of applying
to join the United States of America. It should be a year of homecoming, of
rejoining, of putting back together what should never have been separated.
Like parents whose children have all gone to live in Australia,
sometimes it's best to cut your losses and follow them.
AR Yes, the time is ripe for this.
suggest we also bring in the former British Dominions of Canada, Australia,
New Zealand, and South Africa, revise a few state boundaries, revamp the
U.S. Constitution, clean up Washington, and call the new entity the United
States of the Anglogenic World.
We can all sing The Star-Spangled
Banner and wave an Old Glory with a hundred stars on it.
Higgs And Me
The excitement from Europe earlier this
month was palpable. Experiments had hinted at the discovery of the Higgs
boson. Named for the British physicist Peter Higgs, the particle — if it
exists — would tell us that the Higgs mechanism is correct. Higgs and his
colleagues theorized that space itself contains a sort of charge. Particles acquire mass through their interaction with the charge.
me, a physicist whose work for the past quarter century has focused on the
mysteries of matter, any clue about the Higgs boson would provide valuable
and long-awaited insight. For a moment I even believed the Higgs boson might
really have been found.
The Damage Done
In 2003, after the invasion of
Iraq, Brookings Institution researchers followed the progress of the war.
Ten metrics reveal the damage done and the current state of Iraq:
At least 4,487 U.S. soldiers died during the war and 32,226 U.S. troops were
seriously wounded in action. Most of the casualties were due to IEDs.
More than 115,000 Iraqi civilians died as a result of war, and over
10,000 Iraqi security force personnel have died since June 2003. Bombings
are still common.
The first free elections were held in 2005 but
led to political turmoil. In 2010, the second series of national elections
resulted in a government in crisis.
Prewar oil production was
around 2.5 million barrels per day. Current production is only marginally
more. Insurgents often attack oil infrastructure.
The British Civil Service
Sir Gus O'Donnell
The Civil Service is the smallest since the
Second World War.
The initiative to do away with unnecessary regulations
is of critical importance. I believe successive governments have been far
too quick to solve problems with regulation and legislation. We must be more
creative and innovative in the way we solve problems. The more we can
innovate, the more we can ensure the Civil Service is an engine room for
growth. I would be proud of that legacy.
AR Sir Gus is Cabinet Secretary and head of the
until the end of the year. He joined the Civil Service in
I joined in 1977.
2011 December 30
The Golden Future
Goldman Sachs says the relative fortunes of the UK will
improve sharply in the coming decades. The investment bank's latest
long-term forecasts show Britain leapfrogging Germany, France, and Japan in
terms of wealth by midcentury.
Goldman says only the United States
and Canada will have higher national income per head by 2050. In terms of
the overall size of the economy, China will be #1, followed by the United
States, India, and Euroland, with Britain as #10.
more investment in the UK than in countries such as Germany. Thanks in part
to high immigration, Britain has a younger demographic profile and its
working-age population will rise more than in Germany or Japan.
AR Watch out, all you gullible Brits! You're
about to get sucked dry by the vampire squid squad!
Germany has emerged as the pre-eminent power in
Euroland. The German solution to the sovereign debt crisis is that other
eurozone members must accept fiscal orthodoxy and financial conservatism.
Debt is condemned as immoral. But there is a reciprocal relation between
debtors and creditors. No one can run persistent current account surpluses
without someone else running up deficits. There is a double standard here.
AR Indeed. Germans must recall that Adelheit
verpflichtet, or as they say on the Sceptred Isles, noblesse oblige, or as I
say, if you want the job you have to act the part.
Pyongyang: The son takes over, hopes of
"foolish political leaders in the world" are dashed, and military retaliation
is threatened for South Korea's "unpardonable sin" of dissing dad's funeral.
2011 December 29
Iran's Dangerous Game
Both the United States and Europe are moving toward
new sanctions to cut off Iran's ability to sell its oil. Iran is warning
them about trying to cut off its oil exports, but closing the Strait of
Hormuz would backfire, as all its export oil ships via the strait.
The Israelis view an Iranian bomb as a threat to the existence of their
country, and the Americans see such a weapon as a massive regional threat to
the Middle East and beyond. The Israelis seem now to be convinced that the
United States is not just trying to calm them down from attacking but is
serious about preventing Iran from getting the bomb. Iran says it will not
bow to sanctions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the United
States will do what's needed to stop Iran from getting the bomb. President
Obama and his administration have already pointed to an attack if Iran
insists on developing nuclear weapons.
We have a fight on our hands. Let's finish it and get the oil spike behind
us as soon as possible.
War With Iran
Iran warns that it will close the
Straits of Hormuz if an oil embargo is imposed. It has sent oil prices
soaring. Closing the Straits would choke off Iran's ability to export oil
and antagonize Russia and China, but makes oil prices rise due to the
increased risk premium. Higher oil prices are good for Iran but bad for the
United States and the European Union.
More aggressive measures will
likely be pursued by Iran in the next phase of this standoff with the West.
Such is the logic of pressure politics as both sides increasingly lose sight
of their original goals. As the conflict escalates, the psychological
cost of restraint rises, while further provocations appear increasingly
logical and justified. Soon the governments will no longer control the
Contrary to some perceptions, diplomacy has not been
exhausted. President Obama's room for diplomatic maneuver with Iran was
limited, and was quickly eaten up by pressure from all sides and by the
Iranian government itself in the fraudulent 2009 elections. By then, Obama's
entire Iran policy had become "a gamble on a single roll of the dice." It
would work either right away or not at all.
Diplomacy needs time,
patience, perseverance, and a clear under-standing that the cost of
abandoning diplomacy is greater than the cost of sustaining it, because of
the catastrophic repercussions of the military confrontation that will
follow collapsed talks. This might have escaped decision makers in
Washington and Tehran earlier but there should be no doubt now.
2011 December 28
2012 Economic Outlook
In late 2011, every major indicator of economic
health in the United States showed marked improvement. American
manufacturing remains highly productive, but it employs far fewer people and
far more technology. The digital economy and social media will continue to
thrive in 2012. In a country of 300 million people, the number doing well
exceeds the number struggling by a considerable margin.
economy has no problem funding its needs. Government debt has ballooned, but
very low interest rates mean that servicing the public debt costs less than
before. The financial system is still burdened by home foreclosures and a
bank credit squeeze, but that system is more stable and sober than in many
years. And the financial industry is slowly contracting and becoming less
Americans are facing a competitive global environment
fueled by China. We have the means to address unemployment by creating work
programs and educational initiatives. We have the means to invest in the
future, spend on applied and abstract research, and use the financial and
natural resources we have more efficiently. We are not in desperate economic
The F-35 Mess
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike
Fighter will be the most advanced fighter-bomber in U.S. history, and at
about $385 billion so far the most costly U.S. weapons program ever. The
plane has the most sophisticated stealth technology and the most complex
mission software ever planned for an airplane.
Two weeks ago in the
Senate, John McCain described the F-35 fighter program as "a mess." The cost
of each plane has almost doubled to $133 million, testing is only one fifth
complete but more than 90 planes have already been bought, the software
won't be ready for another four years, and yet the Pentagon had "sold this
program as a fifth-generation strike fighter that would — more so than any
other major defense procurement program — be cost-effectively developed,
procured, operated and supported."
The original plan was to build
3,000 F-35s to replace the fighter-bombers in each of the three services and
also be sold to foreign allies. For the Air Force, the conventional takeoff
F-35A would replace the F-16 and the A-10 and add to the stealth
F-22A. The Navy's version, the F-35C, was to fly from carriers and
complement the F-18E/F Super Hornet. The Marines wanted the
F-35B, a short
takeoff and vertical landing version, to replace the F/A-18C/D and AV-8B
Changes from 1986 to 2006, such as the end of the
cold war, cut the original F-22 Raptor plan by almost half. We should expect
more changes, such as the introduction of unmanned aircraft, to affect the
F-35 plans between now and 2031.
scrap the F-35B — that's the one with Harrier technology. But do give
Lockheed Martin a hard time for cost overruns.
2011 December 27
Astronomers worldwide watched Comet Lovejoy as it passed
within 140 000 km of the surface of the Sun last week. Amateur stargazer
Alex Cherney used a simple digital camera with a long exposure to make this
image at Cape Schanck, Victoria, Australia.
2011 Christmas Day
AR Thanks, Ma!
2011 December 24
Built for less than $5K, plus over a thousand hours of
hard but creative work, for sustainable living in a natural environment.
AR My Christmas tradition:
Dec 24 — watch Lord of the Rings I
Dec 25 — watch Lord of the Rings II
Dec 26 — watch Lord of the Rings III
2011 December 23
L to R: Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins, Harris
Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens come together
for the last judgment in the Christmas [sic] issue of the
Richard Dawkins: Modern society
requires and deserves a truly secular state, by which I do not mean state
atheism, but state neutrality in all matters pertaining to religion: the
recognition that faith is personal and no business of the state.
Daniel Dennett: Societies are complex in more ways than
colonies of bacteria are. What does shine through is a principle of good
design. Darwin showed us that the secret of life is the differential
reproduction of effective designs for fending off dissolution.
Sam Harris: Free will doesn't even correspond to any
subjective fact about us, for introspection soon grows as hostile to the
idea as the equations of physics have. Apparent acts of volition merely
arise, spontaneously (...), and cannot be traced to a point of origin in the
stream of consciousness.
Christopher Hitchens: I
became a journalist because one didn't have to specialize. I remember once
going to an evening with Umberto Eco talking to Susan Sontag and the
definition of the word "polymath" came up. ... I retain what's interesting
to me, but I don't have a lot of strategic depth.
Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, is
committed to holding a referendum on independence in the next three years.
The response of all three major British parties so far has been to reaffirm
their support for the Union. Maybe a majority of Scottish voters will vote
No, or will prefer an economic separation within the Union.
Nationalist Party gained an absolute majority at the Scottish Parliament in
Holyrood this year. Over the past 15 years, Scotland has become ever more
distinct from the rest of Great Britain. On all sorts of policies it is
spinning off at high speed in pursuit of something that looks like the
Alex Salmond was abrasively against David Cameron's
veto in Brussels. Membership of the European Union has made devolution, and
even independence for Scotland, less risky. An independent Scotland might
even join the euro. Several recent breakups in Europe have been peaceful and
left all parties satisfied.
2011 December 22
Gingrich On Shariah
The New York Times
"I believe Shariah is a mortal threat to the
survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it."
Newt Gingrich, July 2010
Gingrich was airing
a thesis in vogue with conservative thinkers but rejected by many American
Muslims. The antisharians say radical Islamists are working to impose
Shariah in a stealth jihad.
Obama administration officials decline to
label terrorism carried out in the name of militant Islam as Islamic or
jihadist. They say such labels can imply religious justification for a
distortion of doctrine that most Muslims abhor.
left's refusal to tell the truth about the Islamist threat is a natural
parallel to the 70-year pattern of left-wing intellectuals refusing to tell
the truth about communism and the Soviet Union."
Shariah is the law
of Allah, as derived from the Koran and the example of the Prophet. It has
far wider application than secular law but is subject to interpretation by
American University in Washington chairman of
Islamic studies Akbar Ahmed says the notion of a threat from Shariah to the
United States "takes your breath away, it's so absurd."
"We're not going to have
Shariah law applied in U.S. courts. That's never going to happen."
Romney, June 2011
War With Iran
Iranian VP Mohammad Reza Rahimi: "If
sanctions are adopted against Iranian oil, not a drop of oil will pass
through the Strait of Hormuz."
A spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet:
"The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital
to regional and global prosperity. Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom
of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of
nations; any disruption will not be tolerated."
A spokesman for EU
foreign affairs chief Baroness Ashton of Upholland: "The EU is considering
another set of sanctions against Iran and we continue to do that."
Higgs And Us
One nanosecond after the big bang, every
particle in the universe carried as much energy as can be generated by the
Large Hadron Collider. But to confront the overwhelming mystery of what
banged and why it banged, Einstein's theory isn't enough. A complete
understanding of all the particles and forces in the universe would be the
summit of an intellectual quest that began with the Greeks.
Most educated people still somehow
think that humans are the culmination of the evolutionary tree. That hardly
seems credible to astronomers. Post-human evolution could be far more rapid
than in the past, driven by technology rather than natural selection.
The Iraqi electricity supply is inadequate. Power disruptions are
common and complaints rampant. Iraq hopes to be self-sufficient for
electricity by 2014.
Today, Iraq has more than 22 million
phone subscribers and about 2 million people online. Satellite television
has had a massive impact.
Over two-thirds of the population can
now access drinkable water, but most still lack modern sanitation. Iraq's
GDP has expanded fivefold since 2003.
More than 1
million U.S. troops served in Iraq. When the U.S. combat mission ended in
August 2010, Iraqi forces on duty numbered 670,000.
Iraqis were displaced and an additional 2 million left the country. Many
Iraqis who returned regret coming back.
A majority of Iraqis
now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
A New Europe
The recent Brussels meeting portends a new Europe.
The Franco-German proposals on the debt crisis and Europe's economic
governance were the result of hard negotiation. Germany now defends the
right to have national interests and French elites realize that Europe can
no longer be a mere extension of French ideas and interests. Franco-German
cooperation will not be sufficient to lead the new Europe, but Cameron cast
a veto against British influence in European affairs.
AR Gérard Errera is a former French ambassador
to the UK.
British troops yomping toward
Port Stanley, Falkland
Argie-Bargie Again 30 Years On?
dusts off war plans after Argentina joins forces with Brazil and Uruguay to
blockade the Falkland Islands.
British war plans: How about a
Let The City Whinge
David Cameron's veto exposes two views of the City
It is a vital national interest, a unique network of
innovators and workaholics who generate revenue for the UK.
It is a
source of systemic instability, unfettered greed, and industrial-scale tax
Europhobes go for 1,
Europhiles for 2.
caricatures are true. A great deal of the European drive to tax and regulate
the City is prompted by protectionism. And much of the City's flag-waving
disguises special pleading on behalf of banks that have caused immense
damage to Britain's productive economy.
The British financial
services sector accounts for around 8% of GDP and employs around a million
people. But most of this is largely untouched by the threatened EU
regulation. Within the City itself there is a complex ecology, much of it
Consciousness and Complexity
University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientist Giulio
Tononi has an "integrated information" theory (IIT) of consciousness, based
on two axioms:
Conscious states are differentiated and
informationally rich. Think of all the frames from all the movies you have
ever seen. Each frame, each view, is a specific conscious percept.
This information is highly integrated. Underlying this unity of
consciousness is a multitude of causal interactions among the relevant parts
of your brain. If areas of the brain start to disconnect or fragment,
consciousness fades and might cease.
Britain Distrusts Germany
British distrust of the
European Union goes with distrust of Germany. The Daily Mail headline
"Welcome to the Fourth Reich" shows how Eurosceptics see the German-French
plans to rescue the monetary union as the economic colonization of Europe by
the Germans. The continuing obsession with Nazis in Britain stifles almost
all interest in Germany.
For the British, the fact that the Germans still produce
and export goods is a reminder of their own days as major exporters
during the Victorian age. The British financial sector is not a source of
national pride. There is a growing hostility toward Germany.
2011 December 21
Havel And Orwell
Václav Havel described a greengrocer
with a placard in his window saying: "Workers of the World Unite!" The
shopkeeper was not expressing his enthusiasm for such unity. And the leaders of the system had no desire
to unite the workers of the world. The sign was there to signal conformity
and avoid trouble. Havel translates the slogan as: "I am afraid and
therefore unquestioningly obedient."
George Orwell identified the
corrupting influence of discourse based on the repetition of pre-packaged
phrases. The vacuous rhetoric traps the leaders as well as the led. Havel:
"Both are objects in a system of control, but at the same time they are its
subjects." Orwell insisted that the meaning should choose the word, and not
the other way about. For Havel, the issue was the rehabilitation of human
Havel Right, Hitch Wrong
Václav Havel said
communism relied on the telling of lies, one citizen to another. In the
Stalin years, my grandmother worked on a collective farm in Siberia. Her story corroborates his view.
always told you what he thought. He saw with great clarity that Islamism was
a totalitarian doctrine and its demands non-negotiable. He argued that
freedom, democracy and respect for human life should be universal and that
those who offended against them must never be allowed to succeed when
offering a cultural or historical excuse.
Hitchens was a Trotskyist
for much of his life. Trotskyists advocate permanent revolution to destroy
the bourgeois class and its values, upon which liberalism depends. Whereas
liberal societies that respect individuals and human rights are built on
property rights, the rule of law, the suburbs and the middle class,
religious faith, marriage and family, the work ethic, social convention and
tradition, ancient seats of learning, respect for older people.
grandmother had a saying: "While the Queen is safe in Buckingham Palace, I'm
safe in Hendon Central." I was never sure that Christopher Hitchens could
RG (comment 2011-12-20-23-55) I think Hitchens clearly disavowed inflexible thinking,
leader worship and totalitarianism in his later thinking and writing and
became a truly independent thinker who recognized that freedom depends on
stable, friendly, and predictable institutions that are subject to the rule
AR Trots were and are extremists. It was and is the extremism
that appeals to a certain kind of person. Hitch was in a cult named after a
minister of war in a rebel regime, then late in life he rebelled against his
former self and became an apologist for a war of invasion led by a
born-again president (Bush 43) that ruined America. I think Finkelstein is
right to have his doubts. His grandmother and our queen represent a kinder
laments the contingency of the anthropic multiverse
2011 December 20
MIT Technology Review
General anesthesia is a
drug-induced reversible coma, says Emery Brown, an anesthesiologist at
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). But what happens in the brain during
general anesthesia is a mystery. Brown, who is also a neuroscientist and
professor at MIT, aims to use anesthesia as an instrument for studying basic
questions about the brain. He heads a research laboratory focused on
developing signal-processing algorithms to extract information from
electroencephalogram (EEG) data for anesthetized patients.
impressed by how quickly and completely drugs like propofol can alter brain
activity. As patients enter an anesthetized state, the normal pattern of
low-intensity but high-frequency waves shifts to one of less frequent but
more intense pulses, as if the constant chatter of the brain had given way
to a chant. The location of activity shifts from the back of the brain to
the front. Some drugs decrease the frequency of brain waves seen in EEG
readings, resulting in slow, regular oscillating waves across large areas of
the brain. Other drugs cause certain areas to show fast, regular
oscillations. Either way, the different parts of the brain can't
Other EEG studies suggest that anesthesia doesn't shut
the brain down but interferes with its internal communication. It interrupts
feedback between the front and back of the brain, disconnecting different
brain networks. Both EEG and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
show response to light and sounds, but somehow that sensory information is
never processed and integrated into conscious awareness. The studies cast
doubt on a theory that links consciousness to brain waves with frequencies
around 40 hertz. These waves can exist even when patients are unconscious.
The patterns anesthesiologists see support the theory that consciousness
emerges from the integration of information across large networks in the
Devalue The Euro
The large current account deficits of Italy,
Spain, and France can be reduced without lowering their incomes or requiring
Germany to increase domestic demand. The key is to expand the net exports of
those trade deficit countries to the world outside the eurozone.
Politicians wanted the euro as a means of accelerating
political integration. They believed that the single currency would somehow
cause productivity trends to converge. But productivity in Germany rose much
faster than it did in Italy, Spain, and France. Germany also placed limits
on wage growth. Now Germany has a current account surplus and the rest have
German officials and the ECB argue that the trade deficit
countries need to cut wages and prices to make their products competitive.
This could require a 30% wage cut, slower wage growth, a decade or more of
high unemployment, and declining GDP.
The current account deficits of
Italy, Spain, and France can shrink without austerity, internal
devaluations, or German expansionary policies if the euro is devalued. To
eliminate existing current account deficits, the trade-weighted value of the
euro might have to fall by 20%.
Devaluing the euro raises German costs but increases export competitiveness,
so this idea has wings.
2011 December 19
Former Czech President Václav Havel opposed the
Communist government in Czechslovakia before emerging as a leader of the
Velvet Revolution that swept it aside in 1989.
The playwright turned
political activist came to prominence as co-author of the Charter 77
declaration in protest at the arrest of a rock band. He remained active in
anti-Communist causes from Cuba to China until his death.
unanimously elected President of Czechoslovakia by the last Communist
parliament in 1989. He resigned after national politicians agreed to divide
the country in two in 1992, but went on to be twice elected President of the
Charter 77 co-signatory Martin Palouš: "Havel was the
man who was able to stage this miracle play. The sacrifice was to cast
himself in the main role."
Havel not only opposed the Communist regime, he articulated a theory of
opposition. In his essay
The Power of the Powerless, he asked the inhabitants of totalitarian
countries to "live in truth" by going about their daily lives as if the
regime did not exist, and by founding small institutions that would prevent
them from being totally controlled from above. He practiced what he preached
not only before the fall of communism but also afterward. He became an
establishment politician and recreated the Czech presidency.
In October 2001, Jürgen Habermas started talking about religion
After 2008 no sensible government (and few bankers) deny the need for
regulation. EU financial market rules are necessary since the single market
must apply to finances. The EU proposals cover areas in need of reform but
also include more damaging ideas. All these issues could be negotiated in a
The proposed EU transaction tax
is a technically challenging proposal wrapped up on the EU side as a high
ideal. But it is in reality a cynical raid on UK financial services to fund
the EU budget. It is not a serious threat to the City since taxes are
governed by unanimity. There is scope for taxing banks in other ways.
The issue of EU financial services regulation is a sideshow compared to
averting a catastrophic outcome to the eurozone crisis and a deep European
slump. And in the UK we need to ignore City whingeing and concentrate on
achieving growth by rebalancing the UK economy.
Vince Cable is the
UK Business Secretary
and a Liberal Democrat.
AR I talked with Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi at
ASSC XIII, Berlin, 2009.
My photonic theory of consciousness looks at the physics of decahertz
Brainwaves form resonances, extended quantum
entangle-ments, and superposed states.
These states stretch from
classical (past) brain states to virtual (future) states and hence define
"now" states whose durations of order 100 ms suggest realization in quantum
states of decahertz waves (e.g. 40 Hz photons).
Mindworlds I look at
phenomenal consciousness, not complexity. The IIT is good for
cognition, the waking state, and anesthesia studies, but it doesn't tackle
the hard problem. My theory does.
A German In London
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on a
visit to British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London: "My main message
is for the British people — you can count on us and we can count on you." He
recalled his childhood in postwar Germany to expound the ideals behind the
EU and insist that all its members had to move forward together.
urged Britain to act in unison with the EU, which was "not only
the answer to the darkest chapter of our history but also a life insurance
in times of globalization because no country is strong and big enough to
face the challenges of globalization alone."
With Kim Jong Il gone, his son Kim Jong Un will likely take over. A letter from the NK Workers' Party called him
"the great successor". Pyongyang urged increased NK military
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak cleared his
schedule and put the SK military on "emergency alert" to monitor NK
troop movements and tighten security measures at sea.
Following the Korean War in 1950, NK and SK never formally signed a peace
treaty and remain technically at war, separated by a tense DMZ.
North Korean missile tests,
The Korean War between SK and NK was a result
of the division of Korea by the Allies in 1945, when US troops occupied SK
and Soviet troops occupied NK.
NK invaded SK in June 1950. UN and US
forces were pushed back, then pushed up almost to
China. The PRC went to war beside NK and pushed UN forces back south. The
USSR supplied both NK and PRC forces. Hostilities ended in July 1953 with an
armistice that restored the border near the 38th Parallel and
created a DMZ between NK and SK.
Total killed: 3-4 million
On November 10, 2010, a USAF
F-22 Raptor crashed in Alaska, killing its pilot. The Raptor fleet was grounded while the problem was investigated.
The official crash report cites mid-flight failure of the on-board
oxygen generating system (OBOGS). Many Raptor pilots have experienced air
shortages and blamed the OBOGS.
This is only the latest in a series of problems with the
Raptor. Lockheed Martin recently rolled out the 196th and final F-22 after
14 years of production. Each Raptor cost the taxpayer $377 million.
London is the seventh-largest French city. It is also,
after Paris, the city with the best-educated French population. It is time
to set aside the gibes and name-calling in the search for a solution.
Clegg Fraps Fillon
The basic difference,
you should know,
Between GB and poor Sarko
Is this, that
we have got
The printing press
And they have not!
UK To Observe EU Talks
The UK is invited to participate in negotiations
on a new European treaty to govern eurozone economies. The invitation will
allow London to check whether EU institutions will be used to monitor and
enforce the new pact. The move is the first EU opening to the UK since the
India And China
India: Emerging market
economies are beginning
Indian finance minister
Mukherjee said India
must turn its attention to
growth as quickly
China: The global outlook is
"extremely grim and
The Communist Party of China
agreed to focus on maintaining fast growth amid the
2011 December 18
Kathleen R. McNamara
Europe is suffering from a
political crisis. Almost all the EU countries under attack by financial
markets are basically strong and productive. Yet the fiscal orthodoxy agreed
to at the Brussels summit is only likely to hasten the demise of the euro.
European polities under stress need to grow their way out of debt. EU
leaders need to commit to a true political and fiscal union.
deficit figures diverge widely across the European Union, yet debt levels do
not scale with the amount bond markets charge sovereign borrowers in Europe.
Arguing that Europeans need to live within their means is nonsense in a
world where there is flexibility in how markets perceive what appropriate
debt levels mean.
European countries are not too economically
divergent to be in a currency union. Currencies are determined by politics,
not convergent economic zones. From a purely economic standpoint, the United
States should not have a single currency. It survives because it has a true
fiscal and political union.
agreement is a rehash of the Stability and Growth Pact, which Germany and
France both violated to boost their economies. Merkel and Sarkozy must
recognize the need to pool sovereignty by agreeing to a Eurobond and true
AR Europeans are working on
it, but you can't just unite by fiat. It comes as a response to a shared
sense of crisis.
War Is Going Out Of Style
Joshua S. Goldstein and Steven Pinker
The invasion of Iraq may
have been the last war between two national armies. World War III was
canceled and the Korean War was the last war between great powers.
Overall, the annual rate of battle deaths
worldwide has fallen from almost 300 per 100,000 of world population during
World War II, to almost 30 during Korea, to the low teens during Vietnam, to
single digits in the late 1970s and 1980s, to fewer than 1 since 2000.
Atrocities against civilians are on a smaller scale too. During World
War II, in response to enemy atrocities, Allied forces repeatedly and
deliberately firebombed Axis cities, incinerating tens of thousands of
civilians in a night. Now we are repelled by war.
AR The years 1815 to 1914 seemed peaceful too.
Until the Mideast is sorted out, I prefer to hold back from agreeing with
Is Higgs The End?
Discovering the Higgs would be a modest achievement
relative to the grand ambitions of theoretical physics. The Higgs would
serve merely as the capstone of the Standard Model. But the model is
The dream of a theory of everything will
never be entirely abandoned. But fewer smart young physicists will be
attracted to an endeavor that has vanishingly little hope of an empirical
payoff. The quest for a unified theory will come to be seen not as a branch
of science but as a kind of mathematical theology.
AR This is too pessimistic. Supersymmetry is
both interesting and scientific. Gravity wave detectors and other new
experimental rigs will push out the envelope for as long as the money holds
2011 December 17
British PM Benjamin Disraeli in his novel
"Sensible men are all of the same religion."
"And pray what
"Sensible men never tell."
British PM David Cameron:
"The knowledge that God created man in his own image was, if you like, a
game changer for the cause of human dignity and equality ... When each and
every individual is related to a power above all of us, and when every human
being is of equal and infinite importance, created in the very image of God,
we get the irrepressible foundation for equality and human rights."
MP: "Religions do not create altruism or fellow
feeling, they direct these instincts. Morality born of a humanist impulse to
love and care for others is a higher and purer ethic than Christianity and
Islam's reliance on celestial rewards and hellish punishments. But for many,
and for all practical purposes, faith can and does act to reinforce
morality, both public and private."
Cameron To Archbishop:
Speak Up For Christianity
David Cameron last night called on the
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to lead a return to the "moral
code" of the Bible. Cameron accused Williams of failing to speak "to the
whole nation" when he criticized Government austerity policies. Cameron declared Britain "a Christian
country" and said politicians and churchmen should not be afraid to say so.
In my opinion, being a Christian is a political choice.
Pubic hair in America (adult content)
2011 December 16
"The next morning, at Christopher's request, Alexander and I set up a desk
for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines
across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his
laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a
few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker's biography of Chesterton.
Whenever people talk of Christopher's journalism, I will always think of
Nuke Spy Drones
like the RQ-170 Sentinel that crashed in Iran are very good at loitering
over a target of interest for hours on end. Unnamed military sources confirmed
that the RQ-170 was conducting nuclear surveillance over Iran.
2011 December 15
and final corrections completed
Text and cover files delivered to
Estimated publication date January 2012
AR This is a historic milestone for me.
Europe Needs A Firewall
The European banking sector is exposed to a
sovereign credit crisis. I suggest the ECB consider a sovereign debt
guarantee program as a firewall. The program would
immediately calm the credit markets. In return for a 1% annual guarantee
fee, and compliance with the ECB and/or IMF on implementation of structural
reform programs, Italy and Spain would be able to refinance all maturing
debt with an ECB guarantee. The program would be open for two years for
maturities of up to 10 years. The firewall is needed now.
Eurozone Fiscal Union
Angela Merkel says member states of the eurozone
have set themselves on an "irreversible course toward a fiscal union" to
underpin their common currency. "We are not just talking about a fiscal and
stability union. We have begun to create one." She expressed "great regret"
at the British veto but said a new treaty for "at least" the 17 eurozone
members was a big step forward.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier said "this is no breakthrough to more Europe" and
the isolation of Britain is "no cause for joy". Before the summit Europe
faced a debt crisis. "After the summit, we have a real constitutional
crisis. This estrangement process between Britain and Europe will not end."
Top Germans Like Merkel
A new survey of 500 German leaders finds that
about 70% see Angela Merkel as a strong
chancellor who is managing the crisis well and successfully promoting German
interests at the EU level:
78% support an economic and fiscal union
21% support the introduction of eurobonds
13% want the ECB to purchase all eurozone government bonds
74% of those in business are concerned about the euro
42% of those in politics are concerned about the euro
90% believe austerity is the right policy for indebted countries
95% like the joint Merkozy leadership of in the eurozone
92% think floating eurozone government bonds will get harder
11% think the eurozone will break up
A clear majority of the managers would
like to see the return of the grand coalition that brought together the
Christian Democrats and the SDP from 2005 to 2009.
2011 December 14
Not Worth A Fig
The Franco-German fiscal compact is no more
comprehensive or final than all the previous failed summit deals.
Principles of Biology
An Interactive Textbook
By Nature Education
Principles of Biology consists of
200 university-level modules collectively covering chemistry, genetics, cell
biology, animal physiology, plant physiology, and ecology.
learning module is self-contained experience, combining textual instruction,
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The German chancellor was determined to form a
fiscal union. But treaty change was a big political problem for the UK prime
Merkel found British politics "incomprehensible" but
said she would look for "sweeteners" to seal a deal in
Brussels. Cameron: "What about France?" Merkel: "Nicolas will agree."
A British gamble was
born. Downing Street thought the German "G1 in the eurozone" would prevail.
Spoils of Iraq War
After almost nine years, a trillion dollars
spent, and thousands of American lives lost, the United States is
withdrawing from Iraq, leaving the spoils to others. Turkey, Iran, China,
South Korea, and Arab states have already invested billions in Iraq, far
outpacing the US and UK in every non-oil sector.
The Daily Beast
Former Delaware Senate candidate and
Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
She cited his executive experience: "I trust him to
do the right thing."
"He's been consistent since
he changed his mind."
Jews and Jesus
Reflections on the Doctrine
of the Twelve Apostles and
the Epistle of
co-founder Paul Allen unveils his new company
Stratolaunch with plans for a
The spaceship will be launched at a height of 10 km
from a carrier aircraft with six 747 engines and a wingspan of 117 m.
spaceship is being designed by Burt Rutan and the spaceship and booster will
be built by SpaceX.
Clegg Versus Cameron
British deputy PM Nick Clegg
refused to sit alongside David Cameron in the House of Commons as the PM
defended his veto. Liberal Dem leader Clegg said the veto was bad for
British business and would leave the UK isolated. But Tory MPs cheered the
PM and claimed he had shown "bulldog spirit".
Cameron's veto is
causing anger across Europe. Britain also refuses to take part in an urgent
€200 billion funding boost for the IMF to tackle the crisis.
promised an "open mind" on whether the new euro-plus group could use EU
institutions like the European Court of Justice and European Commission.
2011 December 13
Hint of Higgs at 125 GeV
Large Hadron Collider may have seen the Higgs
boson at a mass of about 125 GeV. Both of the main detectors, ATLAS and CMS,
have found hints of Higgs. The standard model firmly predicted the Higgs
Today, CERN presented results from
trillions of collisions in the last year.
ATLAS saw a hint of the Higgs at
126 GeV with a statistical significance of 2.3 sigma.
CMS saw one at 124 GeV
with a significance of 1.9 sigma. A discovery is defined as a 5 sigma
signal, for less than 1 in a million chance of a fluke.
relieved. The observed masses of the W and Z bosons imply a Higgs mass
between about 115 and 130 GeV. A Higgs at 125 GeV or so "is just what the
doctor ordered," says Nobel laureate
Higgs Boson Podcast
Today the European particle physics laboratory CERN
seminar on the latest results in the search for the Higgs boson.
science correspondents Ian Sample and Alok Jha quiz
UK ATLAS team lead
Podcast (34:19, 33 MB)
End of an Era
The UK will soon have less influence and more
adversaries in Europe. Since joining the European project in 1973, the
British have annoyed Europeans with their constant demands for special
treatment and rebates and their blocking tactics. They have backed the
internal market but sabotaged a common foreign policy and recoiled from a
marks the beginning of the end of Britain's days as a member of the EU.
Britain will then be proud and free. It was no surprise. Cameron had already
announced what he would do if his EU partners refused to back off from
taxing financial transactions.
Cameron is a eurosceptic. He was held
back by his Liberal Democrat coalition partners but his own party pushed him
into confrontation. The Tories are campaigning against the European project
more ferociously than they did in the days of Margaret Thatcher. Many people
in the UK view the EU as another USSR.
AR EUSSR was big in the
Cameron Woos Clegg
David Cameron is preparing to give
ground to Nick Clegg over Europe. Deputy PM Clegg said he and Cameron
"clearly do not agree".
Cameron: "Our membership of the EU is vital
to our national interest. ... I believe in an EU with the flexibility of a
network, not the rigidity of a bloc."
Labour leader Ed Miliband
said the outcome was "bad for business, bad for jobs, bad for Britain". It
was not a veto "when the thing you wanted to stop goes ahead without you",
he said. "That's called losing."
Clegg: "There are many issues in the
coalition where the parties differ."
Polls show Americans approve of the U.S. Army
withdrawal from Iraq by a ratio of three to one.
A NATO training mission
had hoped to remain longer but could not agree with authorities in Baghdad
"robust negotiations conducted over several weeks."
<< A U.S. Army soldier from the 1st Cavalry Division, at Camp Virginia, near
Kuwait City, after arriving from Camp Adder, Iraq.
All U.S. troops will be
out of Iraq by the end of the year.
Two European leaders basked in praise over the weekend.
In Britain, David Cameron enjoyed accolades from some quarters for his
bulldog triumph against the new fiscal regime for the eurozone. Across the
Channel, Nicolas Sarkozy was admired for kicking the troublesome Perfide
Albion from Europe's high table.
The government has made the catastrophic decision
to opt out of a treaty that will shape Europe over the next several decades.
Britain will be excluded from all decision-making
on the key economic policies of Europe. How long are the other 26 likely to
put up with obstructionism by one member wielding the veto again and again?
Foreign Policy Down The Drain
Long years of
anti-European prejudice from the Tory Eurosceptics, laced with insults from their supporting press, have generated a growing
anti-British prejudice in many European capitals.
Franco-German plan doesn't work, things will not be better for Britain, they
will be much, much worse as our main trading zone collapses. Yet we have
rejected being in, helping prevent collapse, in favour of being out, hoping
for the best.
AR The best solution is for
David Cameron and his Tories to be replaced by David Miliband (not Ed) and a
Pity Those In Euroland
So we are isolated.
Britain has stood alone before. We defended the idea of democracy in Europe
then too. This putative treaty so triumphantly proclaimed by Merk and Sark
is an agreement to work toward an idyll of anti-competitive regulation and
tax harmonization. The United States of America has nothing like this. If
Britain is at all culpable for the nightmare implosion to come, it is only
that we did not argue hard enough for the integrity of democratic nationhood
and the value of free markets.
David Cameron deployed the ultimate
weapon in European summitry yesterday. EU leaders promptly agreed to bypass
Britain and establish a new accord on the euro among themselves. The EU
appeared poised to line up 26-1 against Cameron in support of the
Franco-German blueprint, leaving Britain utterly isolated.
AR End of
an era. No more
pussy-footing from London to
hide its contempt for the
European Union. Fortress UK fights on alone.
Cameron Played Poor Hand
Britain is not
leaving the European Union, just yet. But the EU may already have abandoned
Britain. The fog of the Battle of Brussels, 8-9 December 2011, is still
clearing. But the possibility of a UK departure from the EU is no longer
unthinkable. Cameron wanted Britain to become a kind of Cayman Islands
within the EU: enjoying the benefits of being part of a European single
market for financial services but not subject to EU oversight or regulation.
AR The idea that Britain can
survive as the world's bankers
is an illusion.
Revised EC Statement
The objective remains to incorporate
these provisions into the treaties of the Union as soon as possible. The
Heads of State or Government of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary,
Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Sweden indicated the possibility to
take part in this process after consulting their Parliaments where
AR Leaving UK and Hungary.
2011 December 12
Germany's one-woman show could doom the
continent's beautiful project. Merkel may look like the big winner today,
seemingly with Europe at Germany's feet, but this turn of events could well
prove to no country's detriment more than than Germany's. The prospect is of
a joyless union of penalties, punishments, disciplines, and seething
resentments, with the EU elites increasingly under siege from anti-EU
Merkel's audacious reaction to staunch the eurocrisis is
the Germanization of European monetary and fiscal policy, foremost the
codification of its obsession with tight money, fiscal purity, and budgetary
orthodoxy. She's doing it with Sarkozy at her side and over the heads of
European voters. This catastrophic mistake vastly expands the EU's
centralized authority while robbing it of even a fig leaf of democratic
AR People like a strong
leader who does "the right thing" — and
tight is right for my money.
Desert Sun Power
In 1986, German physicist Gerhard Knies estimated how
much solar energy was required to meet our global demand for electricity: in
just six hours, the world's deserts receive more energy from the sun than
humans consume in a year. An area of Saharan desert the size of Wales (2
Mha) could power the whole of Europe.
Dii is an initiative founded in
Munich in 2009 that currently includes more than 55 companies and
institutions. Dii aims to provide 15% of Europe's electricity by 2050
through a vast network of solar and wind farms stretching across the MENA
region and connected to Europe via highly efficient DC transmission cables.
The total cost is estimated at €400 billion.
Bring the Desertec
vision into reality: back Dii.
Has Europe Lost Its Soul?
When a civilisation loses its faith, it loses its
future. When it recovers its faith, it recovers its future. We must help
Europe to recover its soul. The market economy emerged in a Judeo-Christian
Capitalism is a
sustained process of creative destruction. The market undermines the values
that gave rise to it. The consumer culture is antithetical to human dignity.
Instead of being a means of directing self-interest to the common good, it
can become a means of empowering self-interest to the detriment of the
common good. Instead of the market being framed by moral principles, it
comes to substitute for moral principle. The market becomes an ideology in
its own right.
The current financial and economic crisis is an
opportunity to pause and reflect on where we have been going and where it
leads. The financial instruments at the heart of the current crisis were so
complex that bankers failed to understand their vulnerability. Financial
failure is the result of moral failure and a symptom of a wider failure to
see the market as a means not an end.
Markets need morals. The
keywords of a market economy are religious. Credit comes from the Latin for
belief. Confidence comes from the Latin for shared faith. Trust is a
religious and moral concept. It was a breakdown of trust that led to the
banking crisis. And trust depends on an ethic of honour and responsibility.
Markets were created to serve humankind.
Hear, hear. Fiscal duo Merkozy 1, City gent Cameron 0.
2011 December 11
Dear Prime Minister Cameron
I would like to heartily thank you! Your "No!" to
the rescue plans of the EU countries to date and may well thoroughly in the
future probably fly around your ears, but for me, whom I would describe
myself as a great lover of your country, it's a relief. For too long you
have been under the heel of the EU cucumbers and children's policies and
bulbs dictation, made small, much too long you can spoon-feed from norms and
treaties, that of a former world power like yours is not worthy.
see, I had the good fortune to live at the time of the Iron Lady in your
country and at that young age was very impressed with the coolness of
Margaret Thatcher divided the country and forced the working class to its
knees. And now, dear Mr Cameron, you also make the clear message and take
the step away from European folklore and mishmash in which we all love and
we act as if we also like to play with the grubby children.
Britain of my youth you knew from the "After Eight" ads, the TV
series "Upstairs, Downstairs" and music by the punk. And of course, by
Monty Python, so it was ready for anything that distinguishes your kingdom
like this: stubborn old ladies, strange ministries, parrots and, of course,
perfectly shaped queuing. Their compatriots always spoke of the "continent"
if they thought Europe apart from onions and cabbage was unknown.
this has been lost in the last 20 years. Her beautiful, weird traditions are
increasingly global standards of conduct from queue jumping, from eating a
croissant instead of porridge given way, people have turned their beautiful
capital to a sort of Disneyland Park. Only the money, your beautiful pounds,
reminds one still working to be a guest in a country whose traditions
established identity and always the latest adjustment avoided.
now you come! Like Superman stops the train with his bare hands, threatening
to take the dilapidated bridge, hold the European rescue shuttle on alone.
One word from you is enough and all that what your colleagues have been
working feverishly on, which will force the EU countries to more fiscal
discipline is worthless. "No!" You have said a word and rarely has promised
more delight. For now Great Britain is perhaps the back, from which arises
is admirable that marked your country once: quirky.
We, lovers of the
weird, quirky the kingdom, which had lost its identity under increasingly
global whip. With joy we would sail across the English Channel and come to
an island whose inhabitants are once again proud of their empire. And who
are we owe it? You, Prime Minister Cameron! Even now I would like to express
my thanks. I am sure one will pay homage to you. A rose for you or a street
name. At least one-way street should probably be in there.
Google for the translation)
Iron Man Cameron
Liberal Democrats condemned David
Cameron’s decision to veto a new EU treaty. Lib Dem party leader and deputy
PM Nick Clegg said he was "furious" at the way the PM handled the summit.
Clegg feared Britain would now be the "lonely man of Europe", with waning
influence for the City of London, less influence with the USA and reduced
Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable accused
David Cameron of going to war with Europe over the wrong issue: "I simply
don’t buy the view that the British national interest is synonymous with
banking and financial services." Cable called the veto a "pyrrhic victory"
for Eurosceptics "because nothing has really changed — certainly with the
financial services sector".
Lib Dem peer and former Treasury
spokesman Lord Oakeshott said many in the party remained quiet on Friday
because they were stunned and appalled: "It was Black Friday for every
Liberal Democrat and for our future in Europe."
party hailed Cameron as a hero and a true heir to Iron Lady Margaret
Thatcher. Conservative foreign secretary William Hague said Cameron had done
the "right thing for Britain".
Conservative chancellor George Osborne
said Cameron's veto was the "right thing for our country".
2011 December 10
German Vision Prevails
The New York Times
A new European Union is pushing Britain to the
sidelines and creating a more integrated core of nations under the auspices
of a resurgent Germany. Angela Merkel persuaded every current member of the
union except Britain to endorse a new agreement calling for tighter regional
oversight of government spending.
agreement was a clear victory for Merkel and it prompted a sharp rally in
stock markets in Europe and the United States. Obama administration
officials welcomed the overhaul of the eurozone but argued that stronger
measures were needed in the short run. Germany has argued that the solution
to the euro crisis is an overhaul of the rules that govern European
integration. Germany is using market turmoil as a cudgel to force more
austerity. But critics say such steps risk a deep recession.
loser in Brussels was Britain. David Cameron was perceived as having made a
poor gamble in opposing the push by Merkel and Sarkozy,
embittering relations and possibly damaging his standing at home. Some other
countries were initially skeptical but only Britain rejected the agreement.
Britain and Europe
Britain and the European Union was a mismatch from
the start. When the union was founded, Britain still clung to dreams of
empire. Economic arguments then led British industry to urge the government to
join. When the empire dreams evaporated, they were replaced by a sentimental
alliance with the United States. The British held back in the Europe of
Brussels, caricatured for decades in the British press as a bureaucratic
The UK is an EU member but never really
wanted to be. From the start, the political establishment and the media were
skeptical about the single currency. Much of what they said was accurate,
but it was simple monetary nationalism that kept the UK out of the euro. Now
Euroland stands apart from the UK with its financial autonomy. The British
need to ask why they are in the union. Without a fundamental change in
British policy, they should leave.
Bye Bye Britain
The European Union on Thursday night dropped the
hypocrisy. No longer is harmony the overriding goal. The United Kingdom may
no longer have a place at the table. London must decide whether it wants to
remain part of Europe or not.
The European Union has
reformed itself. The common currency union is following the Franco-German
desire to grow together. The UK stands alone. It is a new development. The
British have been the fly in the European soup for a long time, having their
say and wielding their influence. In past EU summits all this was glossed
over. No longer. The UK has been backed into a corner.
crisis has exposed a momentum that is creating a new Europe. Chancellor
Angela Merkel calls it a fiscal union. In reality, Europe is on the path
toward becoming a federal country. Germany and France will lead but all are
The preferred outcome is that Britain should become part of
an integrated Europe. But Europe can work fine without the British. The UK
can focus on its alliance with the United States. They don't have much time.
If the Brits wait too long, history will move on. Then we say bye bye
Great Britain Saves Itself
David Cameron's stand in Brussels was the culmination of a
consistent Conservative policy to resist any steps that would lead to
Britain's becoming a member of a federal Europe. The eurozone members and
the states that have chosen to follow them have just agreed to create a
federal fiscal union.
This is the founding charter of the United
States of Europe. It is not clear how the existing European institutions can
police a fiscal union that is not covered by any treaty. And the
balanced-budget rule is a recipe for excessive rigidity in fiscal policy,
unless there is a significant centralization of fiscal policy.
years ago, I warned that a monetary union without a fiscal component would
fall apart after about ten years. Four years ago, I pointed out that German
banks were in worse shape than American banks. Incompetent leadership has
brought the eurozone economy to the edge of a precipice.
The only way
to save the monetary union is:
quantitative easing by the ECB
Restructuring to reduce absolute debt burdens
Creation of a mechanism to transfer resources
Recapitalization of ailing eurozone banks
The Brussels agreement only
does these things half-heartedly.
In the absence of sufficient resources for
the new federal model,
the new rules will lead to pro-cyclical policies that
deepen the recession. The continent has now embarked on a course for a
chronically depressed federation. Cameron did the right thing.
AR Niall left the UK, loves the USA, and hates the USE.
2011 December 9
The European Union fractured today at a rancorous
summit when 23 countries signed up to a new euro-plus group without Britain.
Britain was left out with Hungary, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, as France
and Germany led the rest to form Core Europe.
Cameron said safeguards
for the City of London were the price of his support for new rules in EU
treaties. Both the Swedish and the Czech governments are expected to sign up
to the new pact after gaining parliamentary approval. Swedish Foreign
Minister Carl Bildt joked on Twitter that Britain might form an alliance
AR Many Brits will think this is a victory for
freedom. But Cameron has only acted to protect the selfish interests of the
moneymen who made a crisis out of the Greek drama in the first place.
Britain has sided against Europe and chosen irrelevance in the EU future.
No EU Treaty Change
Leaders of the 27 EU countries failed to agree to
change the EU treaties in order to impose tighter fiscal rules on the
eurozone and instead chose to create a new intergovernmental treaty.
president Mario Draghi approved the deal. The ECB can now move more
aggressively in eurozone bond markets.
David Versus David
David Miliband criticizes David Cameron for using the
V-bomb in Europe without benefit to Britain: "David Cameron didn't actually
stop anything because the other 26 are going on and the provisions of the
treaty would not have weakened our rights and freedoms one iota."
Balls Attacks Walkout
UK shadow chancellor Ed Balls attacked a
"catastrophic failure of leadership" by David Cameron and others at the EU
summit. He said Cameron should have played a lead role in trying to resolve
the eurozone crisis instead of "walking away" from the talks.
The Best BMW Ever
Bill Caswell, Wired
I think the 1 Series M Coupe is
the best BMW
I've ever driven.
I've been racing BMWs for over
10 years in everything from
local races to the World Rally Championships, and my daily
currently an E30 M3.
BMW 2011 M1: $46,135
David Confronts Europe
David Cameron saved his leadership by his brave and
stylish performance in Brussels. The British, and not just the Conservative
Party, like a champion who smiles while he sticks a finger in a foreigner's
eye. Lord Salisbury once decried a feeble foreign policy of "floating lazily
downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boathook to avoid
collisions". In European affairs, the time for boathooks has gone, and the
time for ironclads has arrived.
British Demand Unacceptable
David Cameron left the
European Union divided. Angela Merkel said the agreement still marked a
"breakthrough to a stability union" that would open the way for full fiscal
union in the eurozone. Cameron demanded safeguards for UK-based financial
services. Nicolas Sarkozy said the demand was unacceptable.
Cameron 0, Merkozy 1,
time to move on. British people say no to the EUSSR,
Europeans fence off the rabid bulldog.
The leaders of France and Germany
have more or less bulldozed Britain out of the European Union for the sake
of a treaty that offers absolutely no solution to the crisis at hand, or
indeed any future crisis. The EU may soon be reduced to a shell, with a new
union forming among the core. Utter confusion will ensue over the legal
structures of the EU. And what for? All this upheaval for a flimflam treaty?
AR Who's the blithering idiot? Ambrose seems to have forgotten
to take his
European leaders agreed
surprisingly quickly to fiscal union. But the new pact leaves out Britain.
David Cameron will not be able to prevent the UK from becoming a
second-class EU member.
Dana Point Harbor,
California, December 7, 2011
British riots: an analysis
The Shiites have enacted
bloody riots for centuries
The NASA Dawn spacecraft was launched in 2007
to encounter Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015.
Dawn uses ion propulsion
powered by solar energy.
This NASA Dawn image of the asteroid
Vesta is dominated by the Caparronia impact crater. It was obtained on October 23,
2011. The crater is about 55 km in diameter and the distance to the
surface of Vesta is 700 km.
AR Jesus would love it,
but what about Freddie?
The Muppets sing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody
Beauty is a movie about power and control. Lucy's lack of money requires
her to relinquish control again and again. She answers a want ad and a madam employs her to enact the fairy tale of the film's
War With Iran
a comprehensive reconciliation between Iran and the West have evaporated. It
is important that the issue is not reduced to a choice between the Iranian
Bomb and bombing Iran.
The Israelis know that attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities would, at best,
slow down development of a nuclear bomb, and not halt it. The Americans can
still hope that the Israelis will hold back.
2011 December 8
Lecture by Dr. Seth Jones, RAND Corporation:
Afghanistan Beyond the Bonn
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut, Heidelberg
The Merkozy Letter
Edited extracts from a letter to EC President Herman Van
We need to reinforce the architecture of
Economic and Monetary Union. The current crisis has uncovered the
deficiencies in the construction of EMU. Alongside the single currency, we
need a renewed contract between the Eurozone states.
need more binding and more ambitious rules and commitments for the Eurozone
states. They should reflect that sharing a single currency means sharing
responsibility for the Eurozone as a whole. They should pave the way for a
new quality of cooperation and integration within the Eurozone. We propose
that those new rules and commitments should be enshrined in the European
Eurozone governance needs to be substantially reinforced.
We should provide for more integrated and more efficient institutions based
on regular summits of the Eurozone heads of state and government with a
— signed by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy
AR Core Europe is on the way. The British
"divide and conquer" approach to Europe of previous centuries is obsolete. A
politically united mainland Europe is natural, inevitable, and good.
2011 December 7
Yes To Treaty Change
Resolving the eurozone crisis requires three
1 Tighter fiscal
discipline and closer fiscal coordination
2 A big firewall to prevent
contagion along with
properly capitalized banks
3 Improved competitiveness in the eurozone
that are struggling
A change in the
treaty governing all 27 members of the European Union is the most
comprehensive and credible way to provide tough sanctions to ensure that
eurozone countries stick to the rules on debt. Britain requires rules to
keep the single market fair and open for financial services.
eurozone has a problem of competitiveness. Countries that have large trade
deficits coexist with Germany, which has a huge trade surplus. These
imbalances have to be addressed.
Clarke: Resolve Crisis
UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has put himself
at odds with David Cameron by saying Britain should focus on "how to
maintain the financial stability of the western world" at the EU summit.
said it would be a distraction to try to open up discussions about the
"wider structures of the union".
Germany has a plan but it is something of a blunder.
opposition will block its full application.
Bad: Nothing better seems to
be on offer.
Ugly: Germans believe fiscal malfeasance caused the crisis.
Truth: This is a balance of payments crisis.
It requires huge
adjustments on both sides.
Hunting the Higgs
Rumors have hit the physics blogs that CERN may have
seen the Higgs boson. CERN scientists say that if the particle exists, it
was most likely to have a mass somewhere between 114 and 141 GeV. Rumors are
that the Atlas and CMS teams see Higgs-like signals around 125 GeV. That
fits with supersymmetry.
AR Wow! Just in
time for Xmas.
2011 December 6
France and Germany agree on new fiscal rules for
1 Change EU
treaty change, at least for eurozone members
Impose automatic sanctions for budget deficits over 3% of GDP
3 Set a constitutional "golden rule" requiring
4 Have the European Court of
Justice verify the golden rule
5 Let private
bondholders avoid haircuts in future restructuring
Bring forward the launch of the ESM from 2013 to 2012
must be agreed at the EU summit on Friday.
Standard & Poor's has put 15 eurozone countries
on negative CreditWatch. The AAA members Germany, France, Austria, Finland,
the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are under review for downgrade to AA+ if
their plans fail to convince S&P experts.
Politicians accuse the ratings
agencies of exacerbating the crisis. But the agencies worry about who will
pay for a eurozone solution.
In the past week, the UK has received two
bits of bad news:
1 The Office for Budget Responsibility believes
that the British economy is around 13% smaller than the government assumed
at the height of the boom.
Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts that the average British family will
be poorer in 2016 than they were in 2002.
In modern times, the only
other rich country that has undergone the kind of decline that now awaits
the UK is Japan.
2011 December 5
Independent Film Awards
won the best film award. Directed by Paddy Considine, this study of rage
stars Peter Mullan as a drinking, gambling, washed-up widower who early in
the film kicks his dog to death.
Considine won the Douglas Hickox award
for best debut director.
Olivia Colman won best actress for her role in
Michael Fassbender won best actor for his lead role in
Steve McQueen's second feature film after
2011 December 4
Iran Says It Shot Down U.S. Spy Plane
The New York Times
Iran's armed forces have shot down an unmanned
U.S. spy plane that violated Iranian airspace along the country's eastern
border, says the official IRNA news agency. The report quoted a military
official: "An advanced RQ-170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by
Iran's armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of
Iran's armed forces."
NATO Accuses Pakistan and Iran
NATO says Pakistan and Iran support the Taliban.
In a confidential report, NATO-ISAF military intelligence services raise
serious allegations against the the Pakistani intelligence service ISI and
Iran's secret police. The report says Pakistan and Iran provide financial
and logistic support for armed resistance to the ISAF in Afghanistan, such
as a training camp for insurgents in a project financed by Iran and
Suspicion of Pakistan and Iran is not
new. For years, the ISI has had close ties to the Taliban and supported the
armed struggle of the Taliban against the Afghan government and ISAF. The
government of Pakistan denies the ties, but ISI still works with the Taliban
and is cooperating directly with the insurgents. The Iranians are
cooperating with Pakistan and support the insurgents with training, weapons,
NATO officers in northern Afghanistan say the findings
come from "fusion cells" of intelligence staffs from Germany, the USA,
Sweden, and other nations. The German commander for northern Afghanistan,
Major General Markus Kneip, has described the influence of Iran and Pakistan
in his command area and warned against trained terror squads from Chechnya
and Pakistan that supported the Taliban.
2011 December 3
The endgame for the euro has begun. Fear is
growing in the financial markets and in the capitals of Europe. But Germans
seem calm. They are not blind to the depth of the crisis and most even think
the worst is yet to come. But they are still happy to go shopping. The
crisis is too complex for many of them.
partners accuse the chancellor of shamelessly dominating the ongoing EU
reform process. But Angela Merkel's approval ratings have gone up during the
crisis. Most Germans are behind her and want her to take a strong leadership
role in Europe. Germany should take the lead and the eurozone should follow.
THE BEAUTY AND THE SORROW
An Intimate History of the First
ALL HELL LET LOOSE
The World at War 1939-45
Hastings seek to draw readers into the intimate lives of people who suffered
through the First and Second World Wars. The books both excel in depicting
the horrors of war. Both solicit affect, so that readers are mesmerized by
horror. But affective history fails to provide new understanding.
United States of Europe, Part 3
Britain Outside Europe
The Prime Minister should encourage the 17 euro members to agree a separate treaty
among themselves, outside the existing EU treaties. Such a new treaty would
confirm that euro member-ship and political federation are distinct from the
single market. The new treaty would turn the EU back into a primarily
economic organization. Britain could lead the outer group.
is at the center of
Europe. Officials in Berlin say it is important to stand side by side with
France to avoid creating the impression that Germany is dominating Europe.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy: "France and Germany have decided to
unite their fate." Earlier: "All my efforts are directed towards adapting
France to a system that works: the German system."
Minister Radoslaw Sikorski: "I'm less worried about Germany's power than
about its failure to act. It has become Europe's essential nation. It must
not fail in its leadership. Rather than dominate, it must lead the reform
Kepler Finds New Earth
The NASA Kepler telescope had
found a new Earthlike planet. Named Kepler-22b, the planet lies 600 light
years away around a star like the sun. It is about 2.4 times as wide as
Earth and orbits its star every 290 days, right in the middle of the
habitable zone where liquid water can exist on its surface, and has a
surface temperature of 22°C.
launch a starship.
on the psychology of
War With Iran
Financial Times Deutschland
An oil embargo will worsen the social and economic situation in Iran. But an
oil embargo could also hurt the West. Higher oil prices would be poisonous
for the European economy. To get the Iranian regime to give in, support from
Russia and China is needed.
The Sovereign superyacht is the latest brainchild of
Sovereign can be yours for about
I guess the fan in the
tower is a wind turbine to advertise the owner's environmental credentials.
The eurozone economy is in imminent
danger of crashing into deflation. This would wreck Europe's €31 trillion
bank nexus. But the crisis can be stopped very easily by printing money. The
ECB can halt the crisis immediately by reflating Club Med off the reefs. It
chooses not to act because this would mean higher inflation for Germany.
AR Keep pressing until the
olive pips squeak.
Qatari PM Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani says
the West should embrace the rise of Islamist movements. Hamad played a role
in the Libyan revolution and spoke after the first round of the Egyptian
elections. Indications are that the Muslim Brotherhood party Freedom and
Justice is in the lead.The puritanical Salafist party Nour also did well.
2011 December 2
Eurogeddon: Ten No-Nos
1 Thou shalt not lack political vision and strategy
2 Thou shalt not lead via two member states
3 Thou shalt not neglect European foreign policy
4 Thou shalt not let austerity be the only policy
5 Thou shalt not fail to put people first
6 Thou shalt not accept technocratic governments
7 Thou shalt not run a democratic deficit
8 Thou shalt not impose cuts that cause recession
9 Thou shalt not cause panic in financial markets
10 Thou shalt not ignore economic differences
The Spirit of Enterprise
Germany and the United States are rich because many
of their citizens believe that people who work hard and play by the rules
should have a fair shot at prosperity. Work and self-control should be
rewarded while laziness and self-indulgence should not.
This ethos is
being undermined from all directions. People see lobbyists using connections
to divert money, traders making millions in devious manipulations, and
governments stealing money from future generations to reward current voters.
European nations like Germany and the Netherlands have played by the
rules and practiced good governance. Now they are being browbeaten for not
wanting to bail out nations that did not do these things. They are being
asked to paper over fundamental economic problems by printing money.
Our sympathy should be with the German people. They are not behaving
selfishly by insisting on structural reforms in exchange for bailouts. They
are defending the values upon which the entire prosperity of the West is
In a financial crisis you do what you have to do. But as soon
as the crisis passes, you repair the system. After the American financial
crisis of 2008, the people who caused the crisis were never held
responsible, there was no strategy to pay off the debt, and structural
problems were not addressed. We can do better.
Was ABB Insane?
Anders Breivik committed mass
murder to draw attention to his manifesto aimed at saving Europe from the
Muslims. The killings were part of a carefully planned political project. He
claimed to have worked on the plan for nine years. His manifesto is the work
of a man with a single vision. The question is whether a man who is so cold
and calculating in executing his logical plan is insane.
both cognitive and affective. Cognitive empathy is the drive to identify
someone else's thoughts and feelings and imagine what is in their mind.
Affective empathy is the drive to respond to someone else's thoughts and
feelings with an appropriate emotion. Cruelty results from low affective
empathy, plus other factors.
In Breivik's case, deeply held
ideological convictions may have been the extra ingredient. Breivik appeared
to have many parallels with the young Hitler. Hitler's Mein Kampf is a
diatribe against the "Judification" of Europe that parallels Breivik's
diatribe in his manifesto against the "Islamification" of Europe.
2011 December 1
War With Iran
A nuclear-armed Iran would mean the end of
non-proliferation. But that is not an argument for military action.
Diplomacy must take the lead. The regime faces challenges:
1 Sanctions, cyberwar, and covert operations
have impaired Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapons capability.
2 IAEA inspectors continue to monitor key
installations and operations, providing a tripwire to signal any dramatic
3 Iran's strategic influence in
the region is waning. Among the Arab public, Iran's popularity has plummeted
4 The Iranian people aspire
to the same kinds of open government that the youth of the Arab world are
Now is the time to put pressure on a weakened regime. A
concerted diplomatic effort on Iran is needed now to prevent another war in
UK Pu To Burn
General Electric proposes to build a new nuclear
reactor at the Sellafield site to convert the British stockpile of plutonium
into electricity. The multibillion pound project would burn fuel from
nuclear waste in a 600 MW
PRISM reactor. The GE Hitachi Power Reactor Innovative Small Module
reactor has been in use for more than 30 years in the US.
But the UK
government has not yet decided how to deal with its plutonium. Options
include long-term storage, converting it for use in a thorium reactor, or
building a new mixed oxide fuel (MOX) processing plant. Some in government
want the plutonium to be classed as an asset rather than a liability.
thorium reactor is an alternative to current nuclear plants that experts
say is safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly.
AR Iran would pay billions for our Pu.
ECB president Mario Draghi said a "fiscal
compact" could pave the way to a eurozone rescue plan. An agreement binding
governments to strong rules on public finances would be "the most important
element to start restoring credibility" with financial markets. A fiscal
compact would anchor confidence and boost investor trust.
AR First the new rules,
then the new money.
chips and mushy peas
FISH & CHIPS
To Go Global
Harry Ramsden's, the popular fish and chip chain, is about to close the
first restaurant it opened, in Guiseley, Leeds, UK, in 1928.
Teixeira: "Whilst the Harry Ramsden's brand remains strong nationally, it is
not immune from the challenging economic environment."
Ranjit Boparan has acquired Harry Ramsden's chain and says he plans to
expand it to a further 100 UK sites over the next five years and maybe
export it to India and China.
AR Fish and chips —
"Feminist theory often erects a false dichotomy:
either a woman is valued for her human capital (her brains, education, work
experience and dedication to her career) or she is valued for her erotic
capital (her beauty, elegant figure, dress style, grace and charm). Women
are not encouraged to do both."
The German business club
BGA says German
exports will rise by at least 6% in 2012.
Germany is the only country in Europe that can
act to save the eurozone and the wider European Union from "a crisis of
apocalyptic proportions", warned Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski
in Berlin on Monday.
2011 St. Andrew's Day
The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the
Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Canada, and the Swiss
Central Bank announced a coordinated plan to lower prices on dollar
liquidity swaps. A swap takes place when the Fed provides U.S. dollars to a
foreign central bank in exchange for the equivalent amount of foreign
currency. The plan is meant to "ease strains in financial markets and
thereby mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to
households and businesses and so help foster economic activity."
AR At last: a glimmer of sense from the
financial hand of GOD.
Euro: IMF Hope
Eurozone finance ministers agreed
on two levers to take the EFSF over €250 billion:
1 Raise insurance on government bond purchases
Open the fund to investors outside the eurozone.
Leverage of 3 to 5
times is needed to finance Italy and Spain.
Ministers expect a max of 3. They hope the IMF
can help out.
To drive down interest rates, eurobonds are a long-term
A short-term fix is for the ECB to buy more bonds.
ABB Declared Insane
psychiatrists say Anders Breivik was insane when he killed 77 people in
July. They say he had suffered for years from paranoid schizophrenia and was
psychotic. If the verdict is confirmed, he will escape criminal charges and
be committed to psychiatric care.
To meet the legal definition of
insanity in most countries, the defendant would have to be proven to be
psychotic to the point where they could no longer distinguish between legal
definitions of right and wrong, and no longer appreciate the nature of their
actions at the time of the offense.
Professor Paul Appelbaum,
Columbia University, New York, says that even though Breivik carefully
planned and executed the killings, he could still have lost contact with
reality to the point that he was no longer in control of his own actions. If
he felt he was fighting oppression, he might expect to be treated as a hero.
AR Breivik's manifesto shows he was
psychotic but by everyday standards he was sane.
2011 November 29
Richard J. Evans
Germany refuses to let the ECB
print money. Quantitative easing would stimulate demand as people spend the
Germans remember the Weimar Republic. The government
printed money and in 1923 inflation spiraled out of control. The depression
then destroyed the republic. Between 1943 and 1948, Germans ran a black
market economy to survive under the threat of inflation. It took decades of
hard work to create an economic miracle.
Germany will not let the ECB
print money because of inflation. But entrenchment and austerity are
deepening the recession. Fiscal discipline is all very well but we need to
AR The original (long)
article went on about Nazis.
Do neutrinos travel faster than light? Why is the
universe dominated by matter not antimatter? Why is our universe so
comfortable to physicists?
On neutrinos, we still await independent
The CERN Large Hadron Collider reports that
mesons decay differently from anti-mesons. If so, this would help explain
why we have more matter than antimatter.
The existence of multiple
universes solves the comfort problem by saying we just happen to live in one
that's friendly to physicists.
Theorists say dents in the cosmic
microwave background might show that our universe once collided with others.
The ESA Planck satellite is looking for the dents.
AR At least the ESA knows how to spend our
2011 November 28
Eurozone: Days to Collapse
The banking sector is broken. Parts of Europe
are cut off from credit. Contagion has reached the EFSF. The eurozone must:
1 Agree an ECB backstop and increase
liquidity for banks to head off bankruptcy.
Set up a eurozone bond to end the insanity of cross-border national
3 Form a fiscal union, with
new institutions and partial loss of national sovereignty.
European Commission produced a smart proposal last week. Angela Merkel can
get her fiscal union but only with a eurobond. Then the problem is solved.
Or we go down.
Europe Funding Freeze
The funding hole for European banks is deepening
following a sharp fall in bond issuance. European banks have sold only
two-thirds of the sum due to be returned to investors in 2011 as debts
mature, leaving the banks with a $241 billion funding gap.
AR Creak, bang —
I'm on the Titanic!
2011 November 27
Lecture by MIT Professor Frank Wilczek (Nobel Prize in
Physics, 2004, for work on the basic theory of the strong force, QCD):
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut, Heidelberg
Three billion years ago on planet Earth, Luca (the
last universal common ancestor) filled the oceans. Cells in the waters
exchanged useful stuff in an open-source paradise to form a global organism.
A search in a database of proteins shows that almost one in ten protein
structures are universal. Luca seems to have had enzymes to extract energy
from nutrients and nanomachines to make proteins but not enzymes for making
and reading DNA molecules.
Luca was made of cells with leaky
isoprenoid membranes that let them share stuff. She probably also had
organelles. Tiny granules in some archaea are precursors to modern
acidocalcisomes, suggesting that these organelles date back to Luca.
Luca made lots of errors when she made proteins from gene templates. So
early cells must have shared genes and proteins. Remnants of this
gene-swapping system are seen in communities of microorganisms that can only
survive in mixed communities. Any cells that dropped out of the global swap
shop were doomed.
When cells learned to live independently about 2.9
billion years ago, Luca gave birth to the trinity of archaea, bacteria, and
eukaryotes. The eukaryotes evolved into plants and animals.
AR Luca = Ur-Globorg
Manuel Bauer was once a neo-Nazi thug, heavily
involved in far-right paramilitary organizations and guilty of numerous
assaults against foreigners and immigrants in Germany. He has since turned
his back on the scene.
More than 2 million public sector workers are
staging a nationwide strike over cuts to public sector pensions. The TUC
said it was the biggest stoppage since the mass strike in 1979.
AR The 1979 "winter of discontent" was the event
that put Margaret Thatcher in power.
This year, for the first time, German companies will
export goods worth over €1 trillion.
European leaders need to provide "credible and
large enough firepower" to halt the sell-off in the eurozone sovereign debt
market or they will risk a severe recession, sys OECD chief economist Pier
Jürgen Habermas has no desire to see Europe consigned to the dustbin of
world history. Europe is the project of his generation. The longer the
crisis continues, the more confusing it gets.
Habermas calls the system that Merkel
and Sarkozy have established during the crisis a post-democracy. The
European Parliament has hardly any influence. The European Commission is not
responsible for what it does. The European Council engages in
politics without being authorized to do so. States are driven by the
markets. Everything about Europe is topsy-turvy.
Habermas is an optimist. He believes in the rationality of the people. He
believes in a public sphere that serves to make things better. He believes
in the power of words and the rationality of discourse.
Bob Petersen constructed this masterpiece on an
original Bentley Phantom II chassis with bespoke coachwork by giving it a
Rolls-Royce Meteor engine. The Meteor was derived from the legendary Merlin
of Spitfire fame, in essence by leaving off the supercharger. The 27-litre
V12 turns out a leisurely 660 bhp, ample for British tanks like the
Centurion that once used it.
Twiggy, 62, was born Lesley Hornby and
brought up in Neasden, London. At 16 she was discovered, nicknamed Twiggy,
and declared "the face of 1966".
"You shouldn't want to be famous.
You should want to be good at what you do."
The e-volo multicopter is an electric copter with 16 engines
and propellers. Flight time is up to 30
minutes, depending on payload and battery charge. Its empty weight is 80 kg
including the lithium batteries. Electricity for a full charge costs about €3.
The pilot uses a joystick to control attitude and direction in 3D via
multiple fail-safe onboard computers for independent control of motor
speeds. The software can be integrated with GPS or obstacle detection and
can land the craft safely if up to four motors fail. The craft can even pack
a safety parachute.
ECB president Mario Draghi says the eurozone
crisis is political so he will not bail out anybody.
TFEU Article 123 says the ECB shall not give overdrafts to governments.
But the ECB could launch a very large program of quantitative easing.
AR Print money?
Just say no.
The Osprey takes off like Clark Kent and flies like Superman
The New York Times
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is a $70 million aircraft
that Marines use for assaults in Afghanistan. After years of
problems, its builders now run ads celebrating its 100 000 flight hours and
say it is the safest Marine rotorcraft of the last ten years. Of the 458 Ospreys
on order for U.S. forces, nearly 300 are in service or in
production, with some $36 billion spent of a projected $54 billion.
AR Osprey Olé!
Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 is a nerd movie if there ever was one. And
geeks should get behind it. Breaking Dawn was made for a certain type of
geek and it succeeds wildly at appealing to their needs.
Eclipse left off, the film starts with the wedding of Edward and Bella.
It goes on to the romantic honeymoon where, yes, hot, bed-breaking sex is
had, many times. Bella then inexplicably becomes pregnant. Then things get
Breaking Dawn is an entertaining film. Yet it's still seen
as largely uncool amongst geeks to like Twilight films. Twilight fans are
predominantly women. If being a geek means loving what you love unabashedly,
collecting all of its related schwag, attending the related conventions, and
sleeping outside before a new film comes out, then Twihards are geeks of the
highest caliber. Breaking Dawn isn't going to appeal to anyone who isn't
already geeked out on the subject matter.
German GDP grew by 0.5% in Q3 over
Q2. The Federal Statistical Office estimates that GDP grew by 2.6% compared
with 2010 Q3. The office also revised its 2011 Q2 estimate upward from 0.1% to 0.3% of GDP.
Reasons for good growth:
Interest rates on corporate
loans very low
Wages rising for millions
Inflation forecast below 2%
Untitled, Georg Herold
New Art From Germany
Saatchi Gallery, London
The British decision to repatriate powers is
deluded and dangerous.
Britain needs an alliance
Britain needs to help move
the EU forward.
The eurozone crisis
needs to be
a spur to budgetary reform.
Britain should be making
Lisbon treaty work.
Britain needs a positive
A new biography
Israel Won't Tell
President Obama was rebuffed last month when he
demanded private guarantees from Israel that it would not launch a military
strike against Iran without White House notification. In the wake of the
IAEA report Israeli leaders have all but lost hope for a diplomatic solution.
IAEA Report on Iran
One, Two, Er
Rick Perry isn't letting a little "oops" bring him down. After his
debate brainfreeze he went on a media blitz. Will he quit the race? Perry:
"Oh, shoot, no. This ain't a day for quitting nothing."
AR Leader of the free world?
I wouldn't vote
for him to be
2011 November 26
Sex addiction can destroy a life much as addictions to
alcohol or drugs can. Substance abusers and sex addicts alike form a
dependency on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Chronic masturbators who engage
with online porn all day can suffer a hangover from the dopamine fall. An
estimated 5% of the U.S. population could be sex addicts.
AR Is this simplistic neuroscience or a very
Buddhism Is Bad
Buddhism is not much more rational than the
Catholicism. It espouses reincarnation and a law of moral cause and effect.
Together, these tenets imply the existence of a cosmic judge.
Buddhists say Buddhism is a practical way to achieve happiness. The main
vehicle for achieving enlightenment is meditation. But research shows
meditation to be unreliable. It can reduce stress, but no more so than
sitting still does.
Meditation leads to the idea that the self is an
illusion. But this perspective may not transform you into a saint. Human
suffering and death may appear trivial. Buddhists hold that enlightenment
makes you morally infallible, but some Buddhist masters have behaved more
like nihilists than saints.
Buddhism implies that detachment from
ordinary life is the surest route to salvation. It exalts male monasticism
as the epitome of spirituality. The concept of enlightenment suggests that
life is a problem that can be solved and should be escaped.
Science tells us that we
appeared by chance and we could vanish in the same way. This is not
comforting, but science seeks truth.
Yoga Is Satanic
Father Gabriele Amorth
Vatican chief exorcist Father
Gabriele Amorth says practicing yoga is Satanic and leads to evil, just like
reading Harry Potter books. He says science is incapable of explaining evil
and that sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church are proof that the
Antichrist is at war against the Holy See.
European Transfer Union
Germany is the eurozone winner and Club Med
countries are losers. The currency union that caused pain in the periphery
gave Germany its export boom. And once the euro crisis began, Germany
enjoyed the stimulus of capital inflows from the periphery. European
currency union involves transfers. Germans need to rescue it.
United States of Europe, Part 2
2011 November 25
Dorothee Oberlinger and the
La Folia Baroque orchestra
works by Händel, Sammartini, Telemann, Vivaldi, and Corelli
in the Mozart
Leaders of the Eurozone big powers (D, F, I) made
tougher fiscal governance a top priority in their battle to stem the
sovereign debt crisis. Their performance failed to impress the market.
Angela Merkel (D) and Mario Monti (I) spoke of creating a fiscal union to
drive economic integration and enforce budgetary discipline.
AR Ignore the market and do it right, but do
Isaac Newton imagined two rocks tied together with a
string whirling around their common center. The string pulls taut. But how
can we explain the taut string if the rocks are spinning in an otherwise
empty universe? Newton concluded that the string pulls taut because the
rocks are moving relative to empty space —
Albert Einstein was puzzled by gravity. How does
the sun keep the Earth tethered in orbit? His answer was that space and time
warp in response to the presence of matter and energy, which guides the motion
of objects like the Earth. Einstein concluded that gravity is the shape of
Quantum mechanics implies that some features of the
microworld are subject to random fluctuations. In a region of space that
seems empty, such quantum fluctuations make particles pop in and out of
existence and fields fluctuate wildly. Two metal plates close together in
otherwise empty space are forced together by an imbalance in the quantum jitters
outside and between them — quantum nothing.
This year's Nobel prize in physics is for three
astronomers who discovered that the expansion of space is accelerating. The prizewinning
data suggests an unseen energy permeating space called dark energy that
yields a repulsive gravitational push. Its identity remains a mystery. Most
of the mass of the universe is in dark energy — cosmic nothing.
Hadron Collider is being used to find evidence for the Higgs field, which is
believed to permeate empty space. Instead of driving the expansion of space,
the Higgs would exert a drag on particles, giving them their mass. According
to theory, colliding protons should produce a Higgs particle — a dot
2011 November 24
The New Crisis
The eurozone is in crisis. Investors are no longer
buying sovereign bonds. Banks holding them are in trouble. States can no
longer expect capital markets to finance their budgets.
European banks are doing all they can to clear their books
of state bonds. Most of the bonds have likely landed with the ECB, which now
holds €195 billion in bonds but doesn't want more.
with 2008 is frightening. The crisis has eaten deep into the credit system
and the situation is unsustainable. A loss of faith in European sovereign
bonds could lead to a death spiral.
government has the key. Germany is the only eurozone country that investors
still trust. Either Germany guarantees eurozone debt via eurobonds or the
ECB buys bonds from debtors. There is no other way.
A German bond auction Wednesday was a "disaster" — nervous buyers fear the eurozone debt crisis is
spreading to Berlin.
Pillars of Union
European leaders should build a permanent
structure for eurozone governance. The new structure must assign
responsibilities clearly. My proposal:
ECB: The European Central Bank safeguards monetary, financial, and price
stability as the lender of last resort to the eurozone banking system, but
not to sovereigns.
2 EMF: A European
monetary fund oversees medium term debt sustainability by assessing
performance, providing support, and policing reform.
3 EDA: A European debt agency finances eurozone
member states by issuing eurozone sovereign debt, mutualized only to a level
consistent with medium term sustainability.
Changing the EU treaty to
establish the EMF and EDA will take time. In the interim, the ECB can fund
the EFSF to buy sovereign bonds that later go to the EDA.
AR Can the ECB fund the EFSF?
2011 November 23
The eurozone confronts three challenges:
1 Manage illiquidity in
public debt markets. Vulnerable countries cannot prevail with austerity.
Interest rates must be capped. The countries will still curb their deficits
and lower their debts.
Reverse divergence in competitiveness. Peripheral countries must become more
competitive. More inflation in partner countries would help them. Too much
price stability can be lethal.
3 Ensure stabler economic relationships within
the eurozone. The financial sector needs a common regulator and fiscal
authority and could use a unified bond market. Eurozone policies need
AR Memo to Merkel: Your call.
How Good Are German Finances?
German national debt is too high. The Maastricht
Treaty required governments to bring the ratio of debt to GDP down to the
60%. The German debt ratio is over 80%, only average compared to other EU countries. Even Spain is below 80%.
The primary balance (PB) is the difference between
government revenues excluding new debt and government spending excluding
debt service costs. If the PB is positive, a country can cover its expenses
and meet its obligations. If it is negative, the country faces a growing
mountain of debt. To support bailout programs, donor countries expect
recipient countries to get PB surpluses.
From 2002 to 2006, the
German PB was in deficit. Italy generated a surplus in the same period,
and projects a surplus of 4.4% in 2013. Germany expects a surplus of 1.5% in
2013. If yields on German government bonds increased by only 1%, Germany
would have to pay €20 billion more in the medium term, but already new
German borrowing is only about €10 billion below its limit.
AR Politics trumps economics. If EU rules are
(a) sound and (b) followed, yields will go down and smiles return.
2011 November 22
UK Misses Debt Targets
David Cameron: "Getting debt under control is proving
harder than anyone envisaged."
Spending cuts alone are not enough. Get people working at something useful.
There are surely enough infrastructure and service projects to keep a few
million people off the streets. If the finance sector can't find a way to
pay them a living wage while they work, tax the financial parasites into
exile. The illusion that financial services could save the British economy
was what got Britain into this mess in the first place. Hard work on
projects that add substantial value — that's the way out.
Top Pay Deals
UK High Pay Commission recommendations:
1 Restrict top pay to basic salary +
discretionary award of shares
employees on remuneration committees
Publish total pay earned by an executive
Publish pay ratio of top-paid executive to company median
AR Publish the facts and shame the pigs.
Lecture by Sir Ian Kershaw:
Das Ende — Kampf bis
in den Untergang
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut, Heidelberg
The end of the Third
Reich is puzzling. How can we explain the extraordinary cohesion of German
society right up to the bitter end? The most obvious explanation — that
people really did believe in Him — begs the question: why?
AR Sir Ian wrote the
definitive biography of Hitler.
I read the thousand-page short edition in
2011 November 21
German Far-Right Threat
Today the German parliament debates far-right
violence in Germany. Government statistics show 46 homicides committed by
right-wing extremists between 1990 and 2008. Journalists have compiled a
list of at least 147 dead to date since 1990.
The Federal Court of
Justice demands strict proof in convictions for homicide based on political
motives. Such convictions are likely to be reversed on appeal. In some
regions, politicians and the police have collaborated to play down
The Justice Minister proposes consolidating the
state branches of the domestic intelligence agency. And politicians are
discussing a new attempt to ban the NPD. The last attempt failed in 2001,
when it turned out that NPD functionaries had worked in intelligence.
AR Get tougher. Zero tolerance.
Splendid Little England
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Britain could have joined the
euro in 1997. Instead it devalued and borrowed. Now it not only has to
improve competitiveness and produce goods the world will buy but also has to
cut a huge deficit. Britain could have helped build a better eurozone.
Britain has now lost its influence in Europe. The PM will swear to
defend Britain but achieve too little. Euro members will favor the ins
against the outs. A referendum in England will reach a foregone conclusion.
Another referendum may let Scotland go its own way.
Paddy has a case. If Britain had joined the euro, it would probably
now be economically somewhere between France and Germany. Britons would be struggling
to keep up with Germany and to keep their AAA rating. British exposure
to Club Med debt would be their worst problem. Instead, Brits now watch Europe
fall apart, as it did a hundred years ago. If it does, we all go down.
2011 November 20
Lecture by Professor Olga Holtz:
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut, Heidelberg
Mathematics is a
science that has a lot to do with creativity and aesthetics. Olga
Holtz was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 1973. She is a winner of the
Sofja Kovalevskaja Award and a Professor of Mathematics at the
University of California, Berkeley,
a Professor of Applied Mathematics at the
Technical University Berlin,
and a Professor at the Berlin Mathematical School.
David and Angela
David Cameron's call for a "big bazooka" to blast the
euro crisis misfired in Berlin. He pushed for the ECB to print money to save
the single currency but Angela Merkel argued for "limited" treaty changes.
Cameron repeated calls for "decisive" eurozone action, Merkel insisted on a
"step-by-step" approach. The PM said a big bazooka was a "Superwaffe" but was told he had the wrong word.
I think David will find the correct word is "Panzerfaust" (lit.
"armored fist") but I think Angela will agree that's the last
thing we need in Europe right now.
2011 November 19
Britain Versus Germany
David Cameron and Angela
Merkel struggled to disguise the gulf between them on how to tackle the
eurozone crisis. They have fundamental differences on three key issues:
1 New eurozone rules. Merkel wants limited treaty changes negotiated by
eurozone members. Cameron wants Britain involved because of the potential
impact on the UK.
2 ECB intervention to support the eurozone. Merkel
says no, it would fuel inflation. Cameron says all eurozone institutions
must do what they can.
3 Taxing financial transactions within the EU.
Merkel supports this. Cameron says it can only work if applied globally.
Wolfgang Schäuble: "One day the whole of Europe will have a single
currency and perhaps it will happen more quickly than many people on the
British island think."
GEHÖREN DIE BRITEN NOCH ZUR EU?
Bei der Euro-Rettung stehen die Briten abseits — und auf der
Insel wird immer lauter gegen die EU gestänkert.
Jüngster Anlass: Die
Kritik von CDU/CSU-Fraktionschef Volker Kauder am Nein Londons zur
EU-Finanzmarkttransaktionssteuer, die u. a. die Banken an den Kosten der
Krise beteiligen soll.
O-Ton Kauder: "Nur den eigenen Vorteil suchen
zu wollen und nicht bereit sein, sich auch einzubringen, das lassen wir den
Briten nicht durchgehen. In Europa wird wieder Deutsch gesprochen."
United States of Europe
German foreign minister Joschka Fischer wants eurozone countries to form a
powerful block in the European Union as an "avant-garde of the United States
Fischer: "When the others see how successfully the
avant-garde operates, many will want to participate." It would be a major
step toward the United States of Europe.
A European federal state
would go far beyond the Europe of the Lisbon Treaty. The Brussels
technocracy would be replaced by political institutions with the power to
shape economic and social policy for all of Europe. This can only work if
what happens at the European level is both fair and democratic.
President José Manuel Barroso was wrong to tell the European Parliament that
his commission was the economic government of the union. Europe can run
The most important decisions on rescuing the euro
were hammered out by national leaders. Merkozy presented the Brussels
machine with a fait accompli.
>> My longer cut
2011 November 18
German Euro Policy
The eurozone is the economic backbone of the
European Union. An erosion of the eurozone would jeopardize Europe as a
political project. Stabilizing the eurozone is in the interest of all 27 EU
member states, not least the UK.
the immediate crisis. Protect states and banks from contagion. This includes
reform of the national economies in crisis. Saving the euro by sacrificing
monetary stability would be a mistake. Printing money would raise inflation
and dissipate incentives for reform. Price stability is of paramount
2 Plan for competitiveness
and growth. Complete the single market by extending it to growing sectors
and create a more enterprise-friendly environment. Emphasize innovation,
education, and research in EU budgets. Coordinate economic and financial
policies more closely.
3 Upgrade the
monetary union to a stability union. Sound budgeting is in the interest of
Europe as a whole. We need a treaty change to strengthen the economic and
currency union. The eurozone needs deeper integration through tighter
economic governance and tougher rules for the stability pact.
The British Disease
The UK has problems. Unemployment stands at 2.62
million, 8.3%, a million of them under 25, which is 1 in 5 young people.
Inflation is over 5%, consumer confidence is at an all time low. Economists
talk about a possible relapse into recession.
The Bank of England now
forecasts just 1% economic growth in the next two years. The Cameron
government needs an economic rebound to reduce the budget deficit. The
Labour Party calls for government investment to stimulate the economy.
Currently the risk premium on UK government bonds is no higher than that
on German bonds, despite deeper debt and lower growth prospects. But British
banks are sitting on their money and small business owners face a credit
The British economy has serious imbalances. London and its
financial sector have weathered the crisis but the rest of the country
suffers. As jobs in manufacturing industry were lost, jobs in the new
service economy were supposed to replace them, but in many places this did
not occur. The diversified German economy is held up as a shining example.
Physicists have new evidence to support the claim
that neutrinos travel faster than light. They carried out new experiments to
rule out possible sources of error as they shot beams of neutrinos from CERN
near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy. This time they sent neutrinos in short 3
ns bursts. This let them measure their time of flight more accurately. The
neutrinos still arrived 60 ns sooner than expected. More experiments will
run next year. The result needs to be confirmed independently elsewhere. A
team at Fermilab near Chicago will shoot neutrinos to Minnesota.
2011 November 17
The New York Review of Books
The One Percent issue is runaway
incomes at the very top. Much of this income comes from financial
investments, stock options, and other special financial benefits available
to the exceptionally rich, who are often taxed at very low rates.
Over the past few decades, almost all the gains for the top 20% were for TOP
earners. And half of TOP gains were by the top tenth of TOP (TTT). For
earners in the band 80% to 99% the share rose only slightly, and the share
for the bottom 80% fell.
Three out of five in the TTT are executives
or managers of financial and non-financial companies. All of them are paid
in part in stock options. Many TTT earners are lawyers who make money from
Wall Street. TTT executives manage their businesses to push up their stock
prices. Many cut labor costs and R&D to boost short-term profits.
United States is more polarized than other countries. American boards give
their CEOs and other high level executives big raises and generous stock
options. The executives keep wages down to push up stock prices. Corporate
takeovers and leveraged buyouts build up cash flow by cutting expenses to
pay off the debt they took on for their acquisitions.
used to work for business, but now it wastes hundreds of billions in
speculation and gambling. Occupy Wall Street is right.
Quantum physics lets cold atoms get
together to form molecules. UCLA physicist Wade Rellergert and colleagues
studied the interaction of calcium atoms with ytterbium ions. At room
temperature, either the two elements stay apart or an ytterbium ion takes an
electron from a calcium atom. The team cooled the atoms to 4 mK and found that
calcium atoms were pairing up with ytterbium ions. At room temperature, calcium
atoms move around so fast that an electrons rarely jump onto
ytterbium ions. But at ultracold
temperatures, an electron can blur out over both a calcium atom and an
ytterbium ion. The pair may then emit a photon and relax as a molecule.
IBM researchers have invented a new type of computer chip that is both
powered and cooled by fluid pumping through it. The idea is to stack hundreds of
silicon wafers on top of each other to create 3D processors. Between each
layer is a pair of fluidic networks: one carrying in charged fluid to power
the chip, one carrying away the same fluid after it has picked up heat. The
new approach should shrink machines and reduce power consumption.
2011 November 16
Two thousand years ago, half of humanity was under
the control of the Roman and Han empires. The Han empire is reborn as the
People's Republic of China. The rebirth of the Roman empire is the dream
behind the European Union.
Germans believe a united Europe is in the
German interest. Chancellor Merkel seems to be following a "just enough,
just in time" strategy. [jujitsu — AR]
Italy may need to tighten fiscal policy by more than 5% of GDP to bring
public debt down from 120% of GDP. Austerity is not enough. Italy needs
export-led growth, but this will take time.
The Monti government needs:
1 Financing to roll over a trillion euros of
2 Profitable and dynamic external
3 Credible strengthening of the
Germany has the power. Now it must take charge.
2011 November 15
No Nuclear Iran
Iran poses a serious threat. Its people have suffered
for too long under a repressive regime that holds basic human rights hostage
to religious extremists. Now is the time for the international community to
stand together and confront the threat.
Biologism is the dual claim that the
mind is the brain and that Darwinism explains human behavior. If the brain
is an evolved organ, then the mind is a cluster of apps or modules securing the
replication of our genes.
A brain in good working order is necessary
for human consciousness, but many aspects of everyday human consciousness
elude neural reduction. A community of minds cannot be inspected by looking
at the activity of the solitary brain.
Terrence Deacon says we are
influenced by "absentials" such as beliefs and possible states or events.
Living organisms are shaped and defined by the constraints placed on their
development. Mind emerged not from matter but from the constraints on
Michael Gazzaniga says mental activity is not reducible to
neural events. Minds emerge from the group interactions of many brains. The
community of minds is where our human consciousness is to be found. We are
people, not just neural machines or smart apes.
in community — this is good. The absential halo invites the quantum
treatment I sketched in Mindworlds.
Greece and Italy
Greek PM Lucas Papademos and Italian PM Mario
Monti are at home in the world of yield curves and markets. We must hope
they can work miracles. For if they fail, the extremists are waiting.
the political extremes in Greece now muster more support than either of the
two mainstream parties. And Italy is no stranger to powerful communist and
far right movements. In the other nations of Europe, rising radical parties
rail against elites and are hostile to globalization and immigration. All
the populists are deeply sceptical of the European Union.
Europe, there is no extreme party that looks close to winning power. But
imagine what would happen if banks started to collapse, people lost their
savings and their jobs, and there was another deep recession. Voters would
turn to the extremists.
BARF: The Brown Army
A bomb wrecked a house a week ago in Zwickau. Z
left the house shortly before the explosion and disappeared. Hours earlier,
M and B robbed a bank and then shot themselves in a burning vehicle.
found four DVDs in the wreckage. A video by the National Socialist
Underground (NSU) was burned onto them. The authors form a network of comrades
who value action above words.
The BMZ trio may be the hard core of a Brown Army Faction.
This sort of terrorism was last seen forty years ago with the Red Army
Faction. For each of its attacks, the RAF wrote a letter explaining why they
killed their latest victim. BARF fits the pattern.
2011 November 14
Romney On Iran
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney says
America must be ready to go to war with Iran. He hints that the outcome of
the 2012 presidential election will be decisive: "If we re-elect Barack
Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney — if you
elect me as the next President — they will not have a nuclear weapon." He
said America must not shirk its responsibility as leader of the free world:
"If all else fails ... Then of course you take military action."
AR Right on, Mitt.
Italy and Europe can now look forward to a new
administration led by Mario Monti. It must rebuild confidence among
investors and allies by fixing both the Italian economy and the broken trust
between voters and politicians. The new team must reform the labour market,
open up the service sector, change the tax system, and try to balance the
budget and reduce the debt burden.
In 2008, Barack Obama was presented with an economic
crisis of astonishing severity. He underestimated it. Almost everyone did.
But then the problem was political. Having passed a very big policy that you
promised would revive the economy, the country blames you when the economy
does not revive. Barack Obama was the greatest confidence man of the last
few years. He gave America hope. He made America believe he could deliver
change. But the president needs to do more than lead. He needs to govern.
President Obama said at the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu that the new Trans-Pacific Partnership
(TPP) with eight other Pacific states can be a model for future trade
agreements elsewhere. The TPP will ensure that state-owned enterprises
compete fairly with private companies and will address digital technologies.
The 21 members of APEC account for 55% of global GDP, 43% of world trade,
and 58% of U.S. exports.
AR Europe is
fading — long live Globorg!
2011 Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prizewinner
The nocebo effect is the flip-side to the
placebo effect. When volunteers feel nocebo pain, brain scans show they
really are responding to neurological pain. One of the neurochemicals
responsible for converting the expectation of pain into pain
perception is cholecystokinin. When drugs block cholecystokinin from
functioning, patients feel no nocebo pain. But telling volunteers who had
been given a strong opioid painkiller that the drug had now worn off was
enough for their pain to return.
doctors try to avoid lawsuits by overemphasizing side-effects to their patients, the nocebo effect can
cause a treatment to fail before it has begun. Many illnesses like allergies
or back pain could be physiological in some people and nocebo effects in others. We should think twice before medicalizing them. We
should not build up our everyday worries into psychological syndromes and we
should make health warnings on new drugs specific and accurate.
AR This is my short cut of a much longer essay.
Photo: Rolfe Horn
The Ten Thousand
The 10 000 Year
Clock is a monument-size mechanical clock designed to measure time for
ten millennia. Designed by MIT engineer and Thinking Machines supercomputer
guru Danny Hillis, the clock is the flagship project of his
Long Now Foundation,
founded in 01996 with help from Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.
Jan Vogler and the
La Folia Baroque orchestra
works by Händel, C.P.E. Bach, Fasch, and Telemann
in the Mozart
AR Simply heavenly!
The Big Lie
Wall Street has a Big Lie. It is that banks and
investment houses are merely victims of the crash. The entire boom and bust
was caused by misguided government policies. It was not irresponsible
lending or derivative or excess leverage or misguided compensation packages,
but housing policies that were at fault.
York Mayor Michael Bloomberg built Bloomberg Data Services on the notion
that data are what matter most to investors. He put the Big Lie like this:
"It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and
simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who
were on the cusp."
Banks present a systemic risk to the economy, but
reducing that risk by lowering their leverage and increasing capital
requirements lowers profitability. Congress deregulated the financial sector
and the Fed turned a blind eye to bank abuses. The Big Lie is that free
markets require no adult supervision.
The One Percent
TOP people have extraordinary intelligence or
creativity or drive, they say. Nobel economics laureate and psychologist
Daniel Kahneman studied the performance of wealth advisers and found that
those who got the biggest bonuses had just got lucky. Wall Street traders
and fund managers are paid millions for gambling.
In another study, senior British
managers and CEOs were tested against patients at Broadmoor hospital for the
criminally insane. The bosses were often worse than the patients.
Egocentricity, a sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others, and a
lack of empathy and conscience are good for business.
executives are psychopaths. But the economy has been rewarding the wrong
skills. Chief executives are paid sums out of all proportion to the work
they do or the value they generate. They are no more deserving of their
wealth than oil sheikhs.
TOP bandits have been stealing our
wealth for decades. In the United States between 1947 and 1979, both
productivity and the income of the bottom fifth of the population rose by
about 120%. From 1979 to 2009, productivity rose by 80% and the income of
the bottom fifth actually fell, but TOP income nearly trebled.
AR We 99ers need to get angry.
Timothy Garton Ash
The economic and financial crisis is
accelerating the shift in the balance of power from West to East. The West
is now forced to ask the Chinese to invest and purchase government bonds.
But this is not the Red Army. The Chinese are showing up not with tanks but
We have to build this Europe with the material we
have at our disposal. And this material is national democracy. Today, the
key to Europe's renewal lies in the national democracies. We should apply Churchill's words about democracy to Europe: We have
the worst of all Europes, except for all those others that have been
For the first time in its history, Europe has a union of
politics, economics, and security policy, in which most people are free and
also enjoy prosperity, freedom of movement, and social justice.
Future rail travel can use a rail infrastructure where local
trams connect to a network of non-stop high speed trains enabling passengers
to travel from their local stop to a local address at their destination
(even far away) without getting off a train.
A tram picks
you up from your local stop, runs fast alongside a high speed train, and
docks to let you cross. Near your destination, you cross to another docked
tram and ride to your destination. The high speed train need never
stop. This reduces journey times.
Economics Is No Science
Behavioral economists think policymakers need better
models of human behavior.
Economists try to keep up with psychology
but research on human irrationality suggests they are still way behind.
We have evolved to inflate our achievements, play down our failings, and
rationalize away our mistakes.
Neuroscience shows that the structures
of our brain are ill adapted for modern life.
Economics should be
rebuilt on evolutionary biology.
In the last year of World War II, as many people died in Europe as on all
military fronts throughout all of World War I.
The Lego Technic 1/12 model of the Unimog has 2048
Price ca €160
Sex And Porn
Sex education should value sexual pleasure. If teenagers
don't learn much about sex beyond how to use a condom from trusted adults,
they're going to turn to porn. And porn is no good on women's pleasure.
QE Prize for Engineering
The Queen Elizabeth Prize for
Engineering, announced today, will be awarded for an engineering achievement
that an international panel of judges decides has created the most
significant benefit to humanity.
The £1 million prize will be:
Shared by up to three people
of any nationality
Managed by the Royal
Academy of Engineering
UK Libel Law Reform
Campaigners crowded in the House of Commons to press MPs to reform the libel
laws in the public interest.
AR MPs: Just
do it, now.
It is time for a breakthrough
to a new Europe.
Our task is to complete economic and monetary union.
If the euro
Europe will fail.
We need a rescue fund to
We need to build a firewall if Greece
reschedules its debts.
We need better budgetary control throughout
The Sunday Times
Academician and recent Visionary victor at the Women of the Year awards, met the Queen on Friday.
AR This counts as
news in the British Sunday papers.
Market Spikes Rescue
Market upheaval in Europe has made it
difficult to increase the firepower of the eurozone rescue fund to the
trillion euros that leaders wanted. Luring investors back by offering
insurance on losses will be expensive.
Leaders must supply vision. Then investors will risk losses.
Imperial War Museum
Cool To Be Kind
When you perform an act of
kindness your brain produces dopamine, associated with positive thinking,
and endogenous opioids that make you feel good. If you do an act of kindness
face-to-face with someone, your body produces oxytocin, the bonding hormone.
Kindness benefits your blood pressure and your nervous system.
November 13 is
World Kindness Day
The U.S. Air Force has confirmed that the Lockheed Martin
F-35A Lightning II probably won't be ready for combat until 2018. The new
fighter has been beset by parts failures, design changes, and a 64% increase
in overall cost since development began in 2001. At nearly $400 billion and
counting, the program still needs thousands more test flights before the
first batch of regular pilots can begin training. The effects of the delay
are cascading through the USAF. The Force must keep its cold-war-era F-15s
and F-16s in service far longer than originally planned.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Latest instalment of the best- selling game franchise ever
Nuclear clocks could be 60 times as accurate
as atomic clocks. The idea is to use an atomic nucleus as a tuning fork. A
nucleus jumps up and down between energy states only when primed with a
specific frequency of light. Tuning a laser to prime it sets the frequency
with high precision. Atomic clocks are similar but electrons do the
jumping. The most accurate atomic clocks drift by an amount equivalent to
4 seconds since the big bang (1 part in 10^17). A nuclear clock based on
thorium would drift by 1 second in 200 billion years.
Big Bang Boom
A California TV comedy is being credited with making
physics "cool" among British teenagers. There has been a 10% boom in the number
of students accepted to read physics since 2008/09, when The Big Bang Theory
was first broadcast in the UK.
Millisecond pulsar J1823-3021A is 25 million years
old, spins 185 times per second, and is 28 000 light
years away. The NASA Fermi space telescope has confirmed from
its copious gamma rays that it is losing energy fast. Pulsars are
neutron stars that beam signals like lighthouses. Millisecond
pulsars are supernova remnants that spin fast. Most seen so far are
about a billion years old.
The great divergence
began half a millennium ago. Westerners got
richer than everyone else. A century
ago, a few Western empires controlled
most of the world and its riches. The gap
between the West and the Rest widened until
thirty-odd years ago. Now it is shrinking fast.
The West surged ahead
thanks to six
The rule of law
The consumer society
The work ethic
Western predominance is ending on our watch.
The Rest has figured out
how to download the apps.
TED talk video
Greek PM scraps
FT 1611 GMT
Yes Or No Aid
leaders suspend aid to Athens and issue an ultimatum. Under pressure from France and
Germany, Greek PM Papandreou accepts an early referendum on eurozone membership.
Turkey Versus Greece
Turkey is hurtling toward a
military showdown in the eastern Mediterranean
as it steps up gas exploration in the region.
The dispute pits Turkey against fellow NATO
member Greece, and could drag in Israel, Syria
Greek Cypriot diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis:
"They want to draw a straight line across the
eastern Mediterranean with Turkey controlling
the upper bit, Egypt the lower and no room for
The Levant Basin could
contain the equivalent of 20 billion barrels of
oil. Turkey wants a bonanza and has threatened
to break off relations with the European Union
if there is no deal over Cyprus by next summer.
If there is a big find, Europe could work it
jointly with Israel. But Israel fears its
installations would be targeted by Hezbollah or
Hamas, acting as proxies for Iran.
A plan for Europe: Throw Turkey out of
NATO, relocate all our Afghan forces to Cyprus,
put massive backup forces into Greece, base a
large naval task force in Israel, claim the
entire gas field as EU-Israeli property, and
fight off any Turks or Arabs who try to stop us.
Good: Europe gains energy.
Bad: Military costs
2011 November 10
Italy May Go Down
Italy may soon lose market access. This could
lead to a forced restructuring of its public debt of €1.9 trillion. That
would not solve its flow problems. Italy may need to exit the eurozone.
Italy and other illiquid sovereigns need a big bazooka. But there is none.
Italy needs a primary surplus of over 5% of GDP just to cap its debt.
Output is in free fall and the austerity that Germany and the ECB are
imposing will make the debt worse. Restructuring the debt won't restore
growth and competitiveness.
To head off disaster:
1 Make the ECB an unlimited lender of last
2 Let the euro fall to parity with the
3 Give the eurozone core a fiscal
4 Impose austerity in the eurozone
The Origin of Sex
My theory is that sex originated from
an archaic horizontal gene transfer process among prebiotic bubbles on the
ocean surface. Bubbles exchanged genetic material
freely, leading to more bubbles with membranes allowing meiotic
recombination of DNA. Bubbles exchanging genes were selected for adaptive
variation. Primitive interactions selected the most libertine bubbles.
2011 November 9
Five Reasons Not To Bomb Iran
1 There's no good end
state. Striking Iranian nuclear sites is like mowing the grass. Even in the
best case, the Iranians would react with the kind of legitimacy and urgency
that can only come from an attack by an outside power.
2 No one can prevent Iran from acquiring a
nuclear weapon except Iran. Denying Iran a weapon means changing the
national calculation and motivation of a power that historically has
imagined itself as a great nation.
There are severe costs to the United States. The price of oil would spike
exponentially. The Iranian capacity to wage a clandestine war against
American and Israeli interests across the Mideast is formidable.
4 It will legitimize and popularize Iran in the
Mideast. Sanctions may never stop the Iranians but they do have some impact.
An Israeli attack could undermine all that good work and would enrage the
5 If the Israelis strike,
the United States is involved. Tehran will assume that the attack was
coordinated with the United States. The United States is involved in two
wars in two Muslim countries. The last thing it needs is another one.
Greece would introduce a new drachma. New contracts
executed under Greek law and taxes and spending in Greece would be in this
currency. Existing contracts would stay in euros. Banks would have legacy
euro accounts and new drachma accounts. The market would set the
drachma-euro exchange rate.
The Greek government would strive
for fiscal balance. Its central bank would manage the drachma.
Hyperinflation could be avoided with external support. Public and private
default on euro liabilities would be massive. But the only way to avoid
contagion is for the eurozone to grow its way out of the crisis.
Berlusconi To Go
Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi pledged to resign
after parliament passes a new financial stability law that will implement
fresh austerity measures demanded by the European Union. After his
announcement share prices rose worldwide and the euro rallied.
AR An austere Italy without SB — new hope dawns.
2011 November 8
There is a gap between what your brain can do and
what you can tap into consciously. Some experts can rapidly ascertain the
sex of one-day-old chicks, based on very subtle visual cues, but they cannot
say what those cues are. They look at the chick's rear and just know the
correct bin to throw it in. The experts teach student sexers by standing
over them as they pick up a chick, examine its rear, and toss it into one
bin or the other. The master gives feedback: yes or no. Weeks later, the
student is trained.
During World War II, under threat of bombings,
the British needed good aircraft spotters. The government tasked the best
spotters with training others, but the spotters were unable to explain their
strategies. So new spotters were trained by trial and error. A novice would
hazard a guess and an expert would say yes or no. Eventually the novices
with anterograde amnesia cannot consciously recall new experiences. If you
spend an afternoon trying to teach them a game, they will say the next day
that they can't recall the session. But their performance on the game
improves just as much as nonamnesiacs. Their brains learn the game but the
knowledge is not accessible to their consciousness. Essentially everything
about your interaction with the world rests on this process.
In the industrialised world, roughly 1 person in
every 25 has severe mental disorder, and nearly half of us will experience
some kind of mental illness during our lives.
Conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder,
and autism, are at least in part inherited. Perhaps natural selection has
not eliminated them because they were once advantageous to humanity.
The stone-age tool revolution around 100 000 years ago may have been
triggered by people with traits on the autism spectrum, who can be
systematic and cherish precision. By about 35 000 years ago modern humans
were painting pictures on cave walls that resemble the drawings of some
Evidence of religion and
spirituality also appear during this period. Shamans painted some of the
cave art, and modern shamans tend to be unusual and creative people, who may
have schizophrenic traits and often appear to have had mood disorders.
Complex emotions such as compassion set us apart from other species.
Neanderthal shared almost all their genes with modern humans, but they
carried subtly different forms of genes associated with autism and
Researchers call such genes orchid
genes: nurture them and the carrier thrives, neglect them and a maladaptive
2011 November 7
This week the
International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to reveal that the Islamic
Republic's nuclear program may include a "possible military dimension"
enabling Tehran to build nuclear weapons, and that Iran may have
conducted work on warhead design and experiments on triggering systems for
Israeli headlines last week featured leaked accounts
of fierce debates about bombing Iran and warnings that Israel could start a
war without first consulting Washington. Media spectacles included a
long-range missile test, a long-distance Israeli Air Force exercise, and a
civil defense drill.
Intelligence correspondents say the war talk is
part of a strategy to raise pressure on Iran. But former Mossad chief
Ephraim Halevy said Iran represents no existential threat to Israel. New
Mossad chief Meir Dagan dismissed bombing Iran as "the stupidest idea
I've ever heard" and said Israel could not win the resultant war.
Tragedy of the Commons
Last week the U.S. Senate killed a $60 billion
bill to upgrade America's infrastructure. Republicans objected that it would
be funded by a 0.7% surtax on millionaires. In 2005 Republicans on Capitol
Hill passed a $280 billion Highways Act stuffed with boondoggles. Those were
the good old days.
Even U.S. aviation and
internet infrastructure is outdated. Last week Washington scrapped a plan to
fund a satellite-based air traffic system to replace antiquated radars. Car
drivers with satellite navigation systems are years ahead of the aircraft
above them. As for the internet, the OECD says average U.S. home connection
speed ranks 29th out
of its 34 members. Some countries, such as France, Japan, and Sweden, offer
speeds more than four times greater than what U.S. citizens endure.
The United States would need to spend more than $2 trillion in the next
five years to maintain its existing infrastructure. Obama could find a new
way to fund the infrastructure bank but instead he let Republicans vote
against a minor surcharge on millionaires. It might work politically but it
is bad news for U.S. competitiveness.
2011 November 6
Defending German Sloth
Europe created a single currency without adequate
fiscal policy coordination. Now Germany is trying to force countries like
Greece to enact meaningful reforms. If the Germans guarantee eurozone debt,
financial panic would end but countries like Greece and Portugal would feel
no pressure to balance their budgets, repair their fiscal houses, or become
Germany is trying to force as much reform in debtor
countries as possible in part for political reasons. German taxpayers would
revolt if Chancellor Merkel guaranteed the debts of countries like Greece.
Greece will likely fail but the European Central Bank can stabilize the
euro. Recapitalizing the ECB sounds much better in German than bailing out
2011 November 5
Today in 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested in
London and charged with high
treason. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered in January 1606. He had
been involved in a Catholic "gunpowder plot" to blow up
the British Houses of Parliament.
His image is now used by the hacktivist collective
2011 November 4
The World from Berlin
Either Greece accepts European help or it leaves the
eurozone. If Greece left, attention would move on to the next weak link in
the chain. A domino effect could reach France.
and Sarkozy bet the house with the Greek prime minister. They said the Greek
referendum would be a vote on Greek membership in the eurozone.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
Merkel, Sarkozy, and Juncker seem to have
run out of patience. The dangers are obvious. It could become a slippery
slope. Europe is experiencing a crisis of confidence.
Regardless how the Greek drama ends, confidence in the euro has
been damaged. The message sent by Merkel and Sarkozy was that the euro was
not built to last.
The Italians will
determine whether the euro survives. Italy has 60 million inhabitants, the
third-largest economy in the euro club, and €1.9 trillion of debt. Blame the
How do you build a
firewall in Europe? How do you protect Italy and Spain? Italy is close to
bankruptcy. But who will buy Italian bonds? The eurozone is
facing a crash.
A Russian team has just ended the longest manned
mission in the history of space flight. After 520 days of isolation in a
container in Moscow, six men ended their "Mars 500" simulation of
a flight to Mars. The German Center for Air and Space Travel
participated in the experiment and called the windowless container a mixture of Finnish
sauna and seventies loft apartment.
Scientists and Autism
Autism spectrum disorders can range from profound autism
to Asperger's syndrome. The idea is popular that many people in professions
such as science and engineering are on the spectrum.
Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge, UK, thinks the parents
of autistic children have an aptitude for understanding and analyzing
predictable, rule-based systems. He thinks the genes that give parents such
minds could lead to autism in their children.
survey of Cambridge undergraduates he found that those studying mathematics
were more likely to have been diagnosed with autism than were students
majoring in medicine, law, or social science. And students in science and
maths had higher scores on measures of autistic traits than did students in
the humanities and social sciences. He says systemizing is part of a broad
Other researchers suggested that fathers of
children with autism are just more educated. A 2010 analysis of autism
diagnoses in California found clusters in areas where parents were older and
more highly educated. People with more education tend to have children later
in life. Perhaps age is the key.
The autism enigma
2011 November 3
Image: Martijn van den Heuvel/University Medical Center
Connectome with hubs: green—red = fewer—more
Researchers have found that 12 well-connected hubs
orchestrate neural traffic in your brain. The hubs form six pairs, with one
of each pair in each hemisphere:
The precuneus seems to integrate high-level information from
all over the brain.
2 The superior frontal
cortex plans actions and governs where
3 The superior parietal cortex is
linked to vision and locates
4 The hippocampus processes, stores and
5 The thalamus
interlinks visual processes, among other things.
The putamen coordinates movement.
The hubs enable the brain to
integrate information for decisions.
The OECD predicts weak GDP growth in the USA,
negative growth in parts of Europe, and slower growth in emerging economies.
The USA did its best to win the Cannes G20 summit award for the most
incompetent decision making. But eurozone leaders take the prize by letting
Greek debt get out of hand.
G20 action items:
Exchange rates. Protectionism is creeping back as currency manipulation.
Countries in surplus should let demand rise.
2 Monetary policy. The Bank of Japan should
scale up its asset purchases and the ECB should lower interest rates.
3 Fiscal stimulus.
Countries in surplus should increase public spending. China must move to a
consumer-driven model. Germany should think about Europe. The USA needs more
For the global economy, 2012 could be dismal. World leaders
must rise to the challenge.
AR The G20 is
currently the top political organ of
Globorg. Google is currently the top functional organ.
2011 November 2
Turkey wants to join the European Union. Turkish
prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says German politicians "should do much
more for Turkey's EU accession because it would massively encourage the
integration" of the 3 million Turks in Germany. Some Germans fear Turkey may
turn away from Europe. With economic growth of 10% and a tripling of per
capita income since 2002, Turkey is an important export market for Germany.
Turkish politicians often accuse Germany of protecting Kurdish
terrorists. In the Mideast conflict, Turkey is on the side of the
Palestinians. This summer Turkey threw out its Israeli ambassador. Erdogan
recently called Israel a threat to the region.
Turkey has occupied
the northern part of Cyprus since 1974 and does not recognize the Greek
southern part, the Republic of Cyprus, which is an EU member state. The
republic has claimed the huge gas and oil reserves in the waters around the
island and agreed on dividing the claim with Israel. Erdogan said the
Turkish navy will patrol the area and he will freeze relations with the EU
when Cyprus assumes the rotating presidency next year.
AR Put a European army onto Cyprus and throw the
Greek prime minister Papandreou wants to ask the
people how to save Greece. It seems desperate. They will be voting on
whether to stay in the eurozone. Do they want the euro or the drachma?
But he is right for several reasons:
1 He needs instant legitimacy for his actions.
He was elected before the crisis escalated and the new plan is extreme.
2 The Greek opposition is
obstructive. They fail to understand that Greece is in deep trouble. A
popular vote may wake them up.
Greece is in a death spiral. As jobs vanish, the economy shrinks, more
austerity is needed, and so on. Voters must accept the gravity of the
Each citizen must make a choice. Do they want to lose all
their assets or not? The drachma would be massively devalued. The debt is in
euros, so Greece would soon go bankrupt.
Europe Versus Greece
European leaders are racing to save the eurozone
rescue plan after financial markets reeled on fears of a disorderly default
In a joint communiqué, Angela Merkel and Nicolas
Sarkozy said they were "determined to ensure the implementation without
delay of the decisions adopted at the eurozone summit."
AR Lord Wolfson was right (blog October 19) to
say we need a plan to help a state exit the eurozone. We need it for
2011 November 1
A Tale of Two Europes
The Eurozone has a leader, Germany. It has a goal,
the stability of the euro. And it has a principle: Those who botch their
finances stand to lose part of their sovereignty. Its central administrative
body is the EFSF, which manages the bailout fund.
Chancellor Merkel didn't want to be Europe's savior. She wanted to
protect German money. Over a year ago, she said EU member states would make
no effort if Germany was too generous. Her strategy was to scare the other
nations into making an effort. Now the euro is safe, for a while.
The price of her success is the division of Europe. The countries
outside the Eurozone are now out of core Europe. Eurozone states will work
more closely together without waiting for the non-euro countries. The EFSF
is a Eurozone facility for members only.
The European Union is now a
two-class society. In addition to the European Commission, which represents
all 27 member states, a new Euro Summit group of the 17 Eurozone nations
will meet regularly. A strong second structure will appear alongside the
European Commission. Germany will get the Europe it wanted.
AR Good. I must do
PHILOSOPHER V12 this
The Quantum Universe
Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw tell
those uncomfortable with quantum theory: "It is the resistance to new ideas
that leads to confusion, not the inherent difficulty of the ideas."
An asteroid "the size of an aircraft carrier" passed within
the moon's orbit Tuesday, the closest approach by an object that large in
over 30 years.
The asteroid passed within 202,000 miles
AR A lump of rock some
400 m in diameter (that's something like 100 megatons in mass, whereas
aircraft carriers have mass in the 100 kiloton range) passed with about
320 Mm of Earth. The more relevant fact is that if it had hit Earth it would
have caused a magnitude 7 earthquake.
National Gallery, London
Leonardo da Vinci
After reading half of the manuscript of
Richard Bradford's biography of him, Martin Amis didn't like what he saw and
the original publisher pulled out. Amis is hyperallergic to bad writing and
seeing his life half-swaddled in Bradford's sentences must have induced
anaphylactic shock. As the subject of this
biography has pointed out, style is not something added after the fact, like
nice wrapping paper. It is the thing, the gift, itself. And once the
sentences start running away from a writer, everything else goes as well.
New British Muslims
Since 9/11, some 100 000 British people, 75% of
them women, have converted to Islam. Most of the women, of average age 27,
said they felt confused after conversion. A quarter of them liked Islam
because of the rigid gender demarcation.
Nostradamus was born in France in 1503 and worked as a pharmacist. In
1534 his wife and children died of the plague. For years he battled the plague.
In 1550 he began to publish weather almanacs that
brought him wealth and fame. In 1555 he published The Prophecies and
the queen of France, Catherine de Medici, began to consult him.
died in 1566 but his writings lived on. People said Napoleon was the
first prophesied Antichrist, the second Hitler. The third is yet to come.
The Book of
Revelation is the strangest book in the Bible.
It doesn't have any ideas, stories, or moral
teaching. It only has visions, dreams, and
nightmares. How do we account for the fact that
ever since it was written the book has been
enormously influential in western culture?
I chose the book of Revelation as the
toughest test case for the question: Why
is religion still around?
The Book of
Edge Master Class 2011
No Quantum Jerks
mechanics may soon explain why wave functions
collapse on measurement. The GRW approach said
collapses are random and rare for any given
particle, but measuring a particle quangles it
with the measuring equipment so any collapse
triggers collapse of the whole quangled mass.
Refining GRW with continuous spontaneous
localization (CSL) triggered by fluctuations in
an extended field caused jerks
that clashed with special relativity. A new
field smooths out the jerks and makes CSL
Google Translate mines existing
translations and uses probability to deliver the
best match based on context. Today, it
under-stands language as well as a child of ten,
but it is learning fast.
"The actions that I will take will be actions
recommended and supported by Israeli leaders.
I don't think America should play the
role of the leader of the peace process, instead
we should stand by our ally."
Bad Move, Papa
Greek prime minister
George Papandreou has announced a referendum to
approve the new EU rescue deal for Greece. Greek
voters are angry over public sector job cuts and
tax hikes. They are striking and protesting in
Athens and other cities.
AR If he gets a yes,
If not, chuck Greece out
and man the
Climate scientists caught
lying and cheating
Seven billion people: Imagine ten trucks carrying a total of 200 tons of rice: that's about 7 billion grains.
The European Union will
not break up if the eurozone fails. Germany is
moving toward a form of fiscal union for the
eurozone but there is still a chance that the
Bundesbank will prevent the slide to a United
States of Europe.
The President of the
European Council must remain above the euro
issue. The president should not chair meetings
of the euro group without also chairing meetings
of the ten countries not in the eurozone,
creating a new non-euro group.
group would be a mechanism for unity rather than
division. Eurozone membership is not inevitable
and some countries may never join, such as the
€100 000 000 000
said private investors must take a 50% cut in
the face value of their Greek bonds. German
chancellor Angela Merkel: "Debt sustainability
for Greece can only be established if the
private sector participates in a substantial
The agreement came just before 4 am
after nearly 11 hours of talks. The deal
includes a new €130 billion bail-out for Greece
and increased firepower for the €440 billion
AR My pension cut will help
reward Greek sloth.
transmitting concrete, LiTraCon, is made by
combining concrete and optical fiber strands
that act like aggregate. The fibers make up 4%
of the volume of a block. Blocks up to 20 m
thick can still transmit light.
In the 1960s, when apocalypse
was just a button away, U.S. Air Force B-52
Stratofortress bombers flew on permanent standby
alert, 24/7, each loaded with two B-53
nine-megaton bunker buster bombs. Today in
Texas, the last B-53 bomb will be dismantled.
AR Bid a fond
the MAD years.
British PM David Cameron
faced down backbench rebellion as 81 of his MPs
defied a three-line whip and voted for a
referendum on EU membership. They want Cameron
to get tough in EU treaty negotiations.
AR Whip 'em harder!
Prof. V. Krawczyk-Wasilewska reads a paper on
avatar dating and the social meaning of virtual
identities at the Center for Impact Assessment
Studies and Forecasting, Kozminski University,
Cold and Lonely
2011 Nobel Laureate
The expansion of the universe is speeding up.
When light travels through space to us it has to
fight the expansion. In the future the universe
will become so stretched that the light from
distant galaxies will never reach us. The
universe that is not gravitationally bound to us
will be stretched beyond our horizon. Our part
of the universe will collapse down into a
supergalaxy and the stars in it will burn out
and fade to black. The universe will be cold and
Mine is already.
The Pod Delusion (1:36)
Our solar system may
once have had a fifth gas giant that was thrown
out four billion years ago. The present four gas
giants may have formed closer together but one
planet would have been ejected as they spread
David Nesvorny ran simulations of
Jupiter ejecting a fifth planet from between
Saturn and Uranus. The models show how Jupiter
jumped and the outer gas giants drifted out to
their current orbits. The violence explains the
"late heavy bombardment" of the Moon.
2011 October 31
come through the crisis with an economy that is stronger and fairer if we
focus on three fronts:
1 Confronting our
debts. We went into the bust with the biggest structural deficit in the G7
and came out of it with one forecast to be the biggest in the G20. Yet the
rating agency that downgraded the USA confirmed our AAA rating. We will stay
Strengthening Britain's competitiveness. In terms of future productivity,
our infrastructure deficit is as serious as our budget deficit. The
government will create jobs by starting projects.
3 Unlocking global trade. We have to push for a
more balanced world economy, where countries like the UK do better at saving
and investing and restoring their competitiveness, and trade surplus
economies increase domestic consumption. We still boast some of the best
universities in the world and the world's first language.
"We still boast" — for how much longer?
2011 October 30
Michael Czisch and Martin Dresler, Max Planck
Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, and colleagues observed the brain activity
of lucid dreamers as they clenched a hand (a) awake, (b) in imagination, and
(c) in a lucid dream.
They found that dreaming brain activity
associated with hand clenching was very similar to activity when imagining
hand clenching. Real hand clenching was similar too but with a greater area
Daniel Erlacher, University of Bern, Switzerland: "If
you can get a detailed reading of brain functions and know what each
represents, you can read dreams."
2011 October 29
to be in Phuket, now that autumn's here!
2011 October 28
China is likely to contribute to the eurozone
bail-out fund, depending on contributions from other countries and on safety
guarantees. With over $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, China could
be willing to invest around $100 billion in the EFSF.
Pankaj Mishra on Niall Ferguson: my cut
2011 October 27
Good: The eurozone is finally getting real.
Its leaders had been in denial. Now we have a plan to recapitalize European
banks, a bigger bailout with a bigger reduction of Greek debt, and a deal to
increase EFSF capabilities to guarantee private bondholders against losses.
Bad: Eurozone leaders have attempted to tackle the
crisis with hardly any new money on the table. The bank recapitalization
plan calls for banks to raise only €106 billion in fresh capital. On the
expansion of the EFSF, the deal is aimed at giving the fund more firepower
without adding any more ammunition. The size of the fund will remain the
same. The Greek situation will improve due to the 50% haircut imposed on
private bondholders, but Greeks still have a dangerously high debt burden.
Ugly: The deal includes a proposal to tap China and
other cash-rich emerging markets to participate in bolstering the EFSF. The
eurozone leaders think the Chinese are gullible enough to put in their
savings? I don't think so.
Europe: "China has an interest in a healthy European economy ... When
Chinese firms take over foreign assets, they usually do not remove the
existing management and workforce. Instead, they integrate the acquired firm
in their existing operations."
Brits and Europe
In the British parliament last Monday, Jacob
Rees-Mogg advised the government to "stiffen your sinews, imitate the
actions of a tiger, for that's how you should behave to our European
partners". He was quoting Shakespeare's Henry V to commend behaving toward
allies and friends as if they were bitter enemies.
of the debate was clear. Europe was a bad thing, the British people were fed
up with it and the only question was whether you got out or demanded
root-and-branch reform. Any heirs present to the great Tory Europeans —
Hurd, Heseltine, Heath, Brittan, Churchill, Thatcher — were silent.
Forgotten were the words of Margaret Thatcher in 1986: "What we need are
strengths which we can only find together ... we must have the full benefit
of a single large market."
Pro-Europeanism long has since ceased to
be a rallying cry. But we are not sleepwalking into a federal Europe, we are
sleep-arguing ourselves out of the European Union. And the price would be a
catastrophic loss of influence in setting the rules and terms for the place
where we do more than half of all our trade with the entire world. It is
still as Mrs Thatcher argued it was 25 years ago.
If you go back to
first principles, the case for the EU, like the case for the alliance with
the United States, is overwhelming. This is an interdependent world, in
which the UK is a small to medium-sized nation. We need to stand together
with our neighbors. We need to work with our allies, not against them.
2011 October 26
Europe Fights Reality
A common fiscal policy is neither necessary nor
sufficient for a successful monetary union. Monetary union implies that
areas with different conditions no longer make compensating adjustments
through currency devaluation. They must instead impose appropriate local
policies on taxation and public spending.
Franco-German monetary union was an ambitious project. But an excess of
ambition extended membership of the eurozone to states that were neither
willing nor able to accept the economic disciplines that replaced those
imposed by the currency market. These states escaped the consequences by
Financial markets are desperate to be bailed out. The
decisive action they all seek is that the German government should write
very large cheques, or underwrite very large borrowings. Eurozone leaders
are fighting not the markets but reality.
Buried in sediments below Arctic permafrost and
beneath the ocean floor, methane hydrates could contain more energy than all
other known fossil fuels combined.
we can spend trillions on ocean and Arctic rigs instead of on enriching Arabs and
yet still cook the planet.
Global warming was about
0.9 K over land in the past 50 years
2011 October 25
My Eurozone Plan
1 Eurozone member states
accept a common fiscal policy. They go to the ECB for liquidity and ask the
EFSF for risk guarantees.
2 The EFSF
takes over the Greek bonds held by the ECB and the IMF to allow voluntary
3 The EFSF guarantees banks,
not bonds. Recapitalization comes later on a national basis.
4 Big banks take instructions from the ECB or
lose access to the ECB discount window.
The ECB instructs banks to maintain credit and loans and installs inspectors
to control risks.
6 The ECB lowers the
discount rate and encourages insolvent governments to issue treasury bills
for banks to park liquidity. The ECB issues its own bills and stops open
market purchases. The EFSF guarantees the solvency risk.
7 Markets are calmed and banks are
recapitalized. Eurozone member states accept a common treasury.
Steve to Walt: "I know there
will be a lot in your book I won't like. I won't read it for a while,
because I don't want to get mad. Maybe I will read it in a year, if I am
Jobs was a fussy eater. He may have been bulimic
and was often a fruitarian. Sometimes he ate only apples, hence the name
1983: Bill Gates told him Microsoft was developing a new
operating system with a graphical interface. Jobs: "I trusted
you, and now you're stealing from us." Gates: "Well, Steve, I think there's
more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this
rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and
found out that you had already stolen it."
1985: Jobs was forced out
of Apple. He called Mike Murray in the Macintosh team, cried "it's over" and
1997: Jobs returned to Apple.
2000: Jobs said all
other digital music players "truly sucked" and decided to build the iPod.
2005: Apple prospered but the iPod provided nearly half of its revenues.
Jobs: "The device that can eat our lunch is the cell phone. Everyone carries
a phone, so that could render the iPod unnecessary." Apple built the iPhone.
Soon after, Jobs dined with a Microsoft employee who raved about the
coming of the tablet. Jobs: "This dinner was like the tenth time he talked
to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said fuck this,
let's show him what a tablet can really be." Apple built the iPad.
2011 October 24
A Trillion Euros
Angela Merkel wants to leverage the EFSF to €1 trillion and to impose a
Greek haircut of up to 60%.
The leveraging plan is
unclear. The measure to pump up the EFSF will be put to a
full vote in the German parliament on Wednesday.
Merkel also wants
€100 billion to increase European bank core capital to 9% and prepare them for the haircut.
AR If this works I shall breathe a sigh of
summit is considering levering the European financial stability facility as
a monoline insurer for sovereign bonds. Leveraging raises possible losses
for the AAA states who provide the insurance. If France lost its AAA rating,
the EFSF would lose its rating too. The AAA countries can support this only
so far. If Germany plays hardball, the crisis ends in a break-up.
The German chancellor must seek Bundestag approval before negotiating in
Brussels. This makes it hard to coordinate policy in the European Council. A
monetary union may require a formal transfer of sovereignty that includes
the rights to levy certain taxes, set fiscal rules, and impose market
regulations. European electorates might accept this to save the euro.
AR I say go for union. Let German bankers
rule Club Med.
A German demand to discuss
European Union treaty changes this year presents a dilemma for British PM
David Cameron. Speaking at the end of the summit, he said there was a
"possibility" of changing the treaty but that now is not the time to claw
back powers from Brussels.
AR Britain no
longer has a useful political role in Europe.
2011 October 23
Euro Empire Plot
European Union chiefs are drawing up plans for a
single treasury to oversee tax and spending across the eurozone. The
treasury plan emerged in Brussels yesterday as European finance ministers
discussed the eurozone crisis. A full-scale rescue plan could cost about €2
trillion. The treasury would be the clearest sign yet of a new United States
of Europe — with Britain left on the sidelines.
Britain and Europe
Tomorrow the British Parliament will debate a
motion calling for a referendum on possible British withdrawal from the
European Union. I don't believe that a Commons vote could tip Europe into
the abyss, but a British withdrawal could. The UK is a major market
competitor in continental Europe. Eurosceptics argue that EU membership on
present terms shackles British competitiveness. They say we
should be free to undercut those in the eurozone. Do they suppose the
eurozone would just grin and bear it?
AR Plot? Brits need to rethink their attitude to
2011 October 22
Mind and Body
Place a fake rubber arm where you can see it on a
table and hide your real arm from view, then ask an accomplice to stroke
both rubber and real arms at the same places and in time with each other.
You begin to feel as if the stroking sensation is coming from the arm you
Brain scans taken as people fall for the trick show that
when our senses provide information about our bodies, this is compared and
integrated with the body map in the premotor and parietal cortices. When the
integrated information reaches the insular cortex a feeling of embodiment
emerges in consciousness. The insular cortex also processes internal bodily
signals to give us interoception. People who are good at interoception are
less susceptible to embodiment illusions.
Embodiment is central to
consciousness. Without input from your body, your mind would be unable to
generate a sense of self or process emotions properly. Embodied cognition
even seems to cover mathematical thinking and language processing.
AR It is but a bagatelle to perform the
induction to infinity and infer that all is mind, slumbering for the most
part in deep, deep sleep, waiting only for the kiss of her panpsychic lover
to awaken her to the immanence of the godhead.
2011 October 21
A second EU summit will be held next Wednesday
because Paris and Berlin need more time to agree on the European Financial
Stability Facility (EFSF). Europe needs a quick fix to reassure markets that
the problem is under control. British PM David Cameron said European leaders
should use a "big bazooka" to fix it.
Ulrike Guérot of the European
Council on Foreign Relations says the debate highlights the German role in
the new Europe. Germany wants to avoid positioning the European Central Bank
as the funder of last resort. No euro bonds, no banking license for the
EFSF. The debate is beyond reason: "If it is a carrot and sticks game,
Germany is only on the sticks side."
Iraq: Troops Out
The United States will pull troops out of Iraq by the end
of the year. President Barack Obama: "America's war in Iraq will be over."
He promised "a normal relationship between sovereign nations." The U.S.
military role in Iraq is now mostly advisory.
Perhaps my former Iraqi students can relax now.
The Book Biz
Literature has always been about the struggle over
who would have the social authority to determine what would count as
literature. But the book business deserves to die. Its business model is
crap: send a bunch of losers out as reps and have them place the books on
consignment, like junk in an auction.
There are now only two big
players, Amazon and Google. Everyone else is trying to figure out the best
way to go bankrupt or to become something else. From their point of view,
the book was just a platform that has had its day. Amazon is now trying to
win as much monopoly power as it can.
Literature requires a book
culture. But the narrative of the Great Works has lost its legitimacy. If
that past is what literature seeks to preserve as its future, then it has no
AR There is still a market for
great books. Universities still make up reading lists and sell courses. The
core canon of texts shaping Western civilization is big and growing and
fuzzy at the edges. Google can define it by logging the online buzz.
The Quantum Universe:
Everything that can
Brian Cox and Jeff
Cox and Forshaw reassure the
reader that while quantum physics has a
reputation for being fiendishly difficult, the
barriers to understanding it are not
insurmountable. But by chapter two, your
reviewer, who has a PhD in physics, had
developed a deep furrow across her brow and
needed to retire to a quiet room. As they take a
classic route through quantum theory, they add
new examples and the "vast" numbers that Cox has
become famous for. The book is littered with
Sounds like one for me.
HP To Keep PC Arm
keep its personal computer division. Former CEO
Léo Apotheker had proposed to sell it. His
successor Meg Whitman: "This was first and
foremost a math exercise, and a very revealing
Sorry Léo: bad call.
The Recursive Mind
Barbara J. King
Michael Corballis believes that mental time
travel and theory of mind are uniquely human
ways of thinking that propelled our species
above all others, thanks to recursion. Noam
Chomsky claimed long ago that only humans
communicate recursively, by embedding structures
recursion is what distinguishes the human mind
from that of other animals. But chimps have
mental time travel and theory of mind. Corvids
think recursively. Corballis is wrong.
Humans are smug.
Researchers at PARC and Thinfilm Electronics
have announced a printed electronic device that
can compute small amounts of data. Printed
devices are slow but they can be bent and they
cost only pennies.
AR Smart food labels
Greek debt holders
will be asked to take a 60% cut in the value of
their holdings. The hardline stance is a victory
for northern creditor countries led by Germany.
This thriller stars
Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and Jude Law. It's
practically a public service announcement — what
can you do if a deadly disease breaks out that
threatens to kill up to a billion people within just
a few weeks?
Pricing the Future
future events. Their models shave off the same
percentage every year and asset values decrease
exponentially. Far future values tend to zero.
Under hyperbolic discounting we have a
strong preference for a good today rather than
tomorrow but only a weak preference for it on
day 100 rather than day 101, yet on day 100 we
strongly prefer the good that day.
A recent paper shows that in times of
uncertainty hyperbolic discounting makes more
sense than exponential discounting.
TW Hydrae system
Astronomers have found
lot of icy snow in a protoplanetary disk around
a young star. The discovery supports the idea
that Earth got its water from comets that rained
down after the planet cooled.
and colleagues used the Herschel space
observatory to study the young star TW Hydrae.
In the outer frigid regions of its disk they
found the spectral signature of ice amounting to
about half a percent of the mass of Earth's
oceans and inferred that the ice in the disk
should add up to several thousand Earth oceans.
The European Banking
Authority plan to strengthen the eurozone
banking system finds a capital shortfall of
about €80 billion to be made up in early 2012.
A recent IMF report found a €200 billion
Virgin Galactic has opened
Spaceport America in New
Mexico, about 180 miles southwest of Roswell.
Bosco Verticale project will integrate vertical
gardens into some new buildings in Milan, Italy.
Michael Longo thinks the
universe might be spinning.
years mining SDSS data, he finds an excess of
galaxies with left-handed spin in the northern
sky and an excess with right-handed spin in the
southern sky, all around the "axis of evil"
detected in the cosmic microwave background.
Longo says that if the asymmetry is real,
the universe has a net angular momentum and was
born in a spin.
Kurt Gödel must be spinning with joy in heaven.
2011 October 20
Five Steps to Credit
The European troika's planned aid package of over €100 billion for Greece is
not enough. Creditors agreed to a 21% haircut, but now a 60% cut is on the
2 Banks: As a firewall
against spillover, banks should increase their core capital to 9%. But banks
think accepting state capital is bad for business.
Bailout: The European Financial Stability Fund may need a trillion
euros. This was denied in Berlin. The guidelines need German government
4 Policy: Eurozone countries
plan to coordinate economic and fiscal policy. Berlin says euro countries
must agree to reduce debt, ideally with a debt brake on the German model.
5 Treaty: A proposed European
Convention would strengthen stability criteria and allow for debt
offenders to be sued in the European Court of Justice.
Salman Rushdie interview
2011 October 19
Greek Tax Rats
Athens is pursuing an agreement with Switzerland
that would enable Greece to pursue tax evaders who have deposited money in
Swiss bank accounts.
Greek citizens have deposited
an estimated €200 billion in Swiss accounts, much of it unreported. Experts
guess up to €120 billion has flowed out of Greece since the beginning of
2010, reducing the lending capacity of Greek banks.
Horst Reichenbach said a deal
"would be an excellent avenue for Greece to access a new tax revenue stream
and at the same time to slow capital flight out of their own country."
AR Crack down hard on the rats. And punish Swiss banks.
Goldman Sachs lost $428 million in Q3 yet so far has
set aside $10 billion in its compensation fund for 2011. Analysts and other
midlevel suits in Goldman Sachs make salaries of $400,000 or more, and CEO
Lloyd Blankfein received $13 million in pay last year. This was the
bank's second quarterly loss since going public in 1999. Profits per share
through the first three quarters were down more than 70% compared with 2010.
Goldman stock has fallen since January by 43%.
AR Perhaps we're seeing the death throes of this
loathsome vampire squid, but
don't count on it. If they still pay themselves well the other numbers are
just PR to lower their profile and blend in with the losers. I say people
who work with money should not be trusted to pay themselves. To avoid moral
hazard, they should be paid servants of the state.
No Future For Euro
A eurozone rescue package must fix banks, fix
Greece, and fix other fragile eurozone sovereign debt markets:
Start with a credible stress test. Ask what capital ratios to aim at. Derive
required levels of capital. States must ensure that banks do not cause a
2 Greece: Greek debt service must be put on a
sustainable basis. The IMF starts here. The case for radical cuts is
3 Markets: The simplest
solution is for the ECB to ensure liquidity in fragile eurozone sovereign
fiscal union is not the answer. A transfer union would be a calamitous
outcome of European monetary integration. Eurozone policymakers have long
insisted that the balance of payments cannot matter inside a currency union
and that only fiscal deficits matter. This is nonsense.
deficits mean residents are spending more than their income and financing
the difference abroad. Prolonged external deficits shape the structure and
competitiveness of an economy and lead to huge liabilities that endanger
banks. Inability to devalue rules out an easy escape.
union with structural mercantilists in the core now threatens a permanent
slump in the periphery. This is the problem.
Lord Wolfson is offering £250,000
to the person who comes up with the best plan for winding up the euro in an
orderly way. The Wolfson Economics Prize, launched today, gives entrants
until the end of January 2012 to formulate their plans.
"The prize will help answer some of the many important yet unanswered
questions from over a decade ago when the monetary union was first set up."
Think tank Policy Exchange will send entry details
to 200 economics departments. PE chairman Daniel Finkelstein:
"We are trying to make sure the people with the best solutions to this
crisis find us."
AR Is this my next pay cheque?
Humans are storytelling
machines. But like all good narrators, we tweak our stories to make them
better stories. We are constantly revising our memory of the past in
response to social pressures.
Science paper (below) reports an
experiment. Groups of subjects watched a documentary about a police arrest.
Three days later, they returned to the lab and completed a memory test about
it. Four days after that, they were brought back again and asked about it
while inside a brain scanner. This time, they were shown the answers given
by other people in their group. They didn't know these were false answers to
the questions they had previously answered correctly. This false feedback
caused nearly 70% of them to give an incorrect answer.
researchers invited the subjects back to retake the memory test, saying the
answers they had previously been given were randomly generated by a
computer. Some of the responses reverted back to the original, but more than
40% remained wrong. The subjects had come to believe their own bullshit.
Following the Crowd:
Brain substrates of long-term
M. Edelson, T. Sharot, R.J. Dolan, Y.
Human memory is strikingly
susceptible to social influences. We examined how socially induced memory
errors are generated in the brain by studying the memory of individuals
exposed to recollections of others. Participants exhibited a strong tendency
to conform to erroneous recollections of the group, producing both
long-lasting and temporary errors, even when their initial memory was strong
and accurate. Functional brain imaging revealed that social influence
modified the neuronal representation of memory. A particular brain signature
of enhanced amygdala activity and enhanced amygdala-hippocampus connectivity
predicted long-lasting but not temporary memory alterations. Our findings
reveal how social manipulation can alter memory.
PHILOSOPHER — bullshit alert!
2011 October 17
The G20 and the Eurozone Crisis
Europe's banking crisis and sovereign debt
crisis must be solved together. G20 finance ministers must:
1 Clarify which balance sheets will do the heavy
lifting, not only between the private and public sectors but also within the
public sector between taxpayers and monetary institutions.
2 Specify mechanisms to inject funding into the
system, in an overall architecture that never envisaged the current
3 Ensure conditionality, so
that satisfying the first two conditions is accompanied by visible changes
in behavior of aid recipients.
Does stabilizing the eurozone involve
fiscal union for the current members or for a smaller set of countries?
G20: Fix Euro This Week
The G20 told the eurozone that by next Sunday it
should agree on:
1 A Greek haircut
2 A plan to
recapitalize European banks
3 A Greek firewall
secretary Tim Geithner: "They clearly have more work to do on the strategy
and the details, but when France and Germany agree on a plan together and
decide to act, big things are possible."
2011 October 16
WE ARE THE 99%
Protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street
movement have spread to cities around the world. In Stockholm, activist
Bilbo Goransson said: "There are those who say the system is broke. It's
not. That's how it was built. It is there to make rich people richer."
AR That is an insightful statement.
remain between Paris and Berlin not only on the
financial firepower of the EFSF but also on the
size and shape of the proposed haircut for
private creditors in a rescheduling of
Future buildings could absorb carbon dioxide and
use it to regenerate their facades and create
GDP (2010): EUR 2.5 trillion
GDP per Capita (2010):
GDP by Sector (2010):
GDP Growth (2010): 3.6%
Exports of Goods (2010):
EUR 952 billion
Imports of Goods (2010):
EUR 798 billion
Price, 33, published her fourth autobiography,
You Only Live Once, in October 2010. Her sixth
novel, The Comeback Girl, was released in July
2011. Price has an estimated net worth of over
The process of writing a novel is getting to
know more about the novel until you know
everything about it. It's a kind of dreamlike
state where you're letting the novel make its
own shape, and you're putting into it the
pleasure of creation, which is intoxicating. You
can do absolutely anything; you are the freest
of all artists. It's that freedom that's
frightening in the end.
Martin Amis, Mexico
Courtesy Steve Griffin
Iraq, 2006: Specialist
Jose Merced was my tank driver. We were ordered
to patrol in tanks, to rely on their armor.
During our first patrol we made contact, with a
roadside bomb and heavy machine-gun fire.
Specialist Merced volunteered to take the
lead in our next patrol. Our tank led each
patrol for the next week. He drove the tank like
I had never seen before, running down enemy
fighters in speeding cars and using the tank's
heavy armor and big gun to draw insurgents into
fights they were certain to lose.
Specialist Merced was something special. He
loved to fight. I pushed for his promotion to
sergeant and made him the tank gunner. He was a
A new study
suggests that men's objectification of women
might not cause them to see women as mindless
bodies but instead change the kind of minds that
they perceive. We tend categorize minds by
agency, or the capacity to act, and experience,
or the capacity to feel. Researchers showed
participants images of individuals exposing
different amounts of flesh. Seeing more flesh
caused ratings of agency to diminish but ratings
of experience to increase. As the images became
more sexually suggestive, perceptions of agency
decreased and perceptions of experience
increased. Participants were less willing to
inflict pain on individuals showing more flesh,
suggesting they see them as humans in need of protection.
More than a Body:
Mind Perception and the
Nature of Objectification
Kurt Gray et al., to appear in
and Social Psychology
Life Of Brian
Terry Jones: "I took the view it wasn't blasphemous. It
was heretical because it criticized the
structure of the church and the way it
interpreted the Gospels. At the time religion
seemed to be on the back burner and it felt like
kicking a dead donkey. It has come back with a
vengeance and we'd think twice about making it
Woody Allen: "Shouldn't I stop
making movies and do something that counts, like
helping blind people or becoming a missionary or
want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier
The first Iranian nuclear
power station is inherently unsafe and will
probably cause a "tragic disaster for
humankind", according to a document apparently
written by an Iranian whistleblower. Iran is the
only country with a nuclear power plant that has
not joined the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
Boston Dynamics founder and president Marc
Raibert gave a keynote talk at the 2011
International Conference on Intelligent Robots
and Systems. He says even he is creeped out by
the company's new humanoid robot PETMAN.
has just rolled out
AlphaDog. Like its forerunner BigDog, AlphaDog is a
robotic pack-mule designed to carry all the
heavy gear that a modern soldier lugs into the
field. It can carry a payload of 181 kg a
distance of 32 km.
Video: AlphaDog in action
Nobel for Dark Energy
share the Nobel prize in physics for their
discovery that the expansion of the universe is
accelerated expansion has been attributed to the
energy of spacetime. Dark energy creates a
repulsive force that counters gravity and is
blowing up spacetime.
The three: Saul
Perlmutter, Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory, California; Brian Schmidt,
Australian National University; Adam Riess,
Johns Hopkins University.
Genes and the Mind
Twin studies suggest
that people with schizophrenia and bipolar
disorder have changes in gene activity caused by
their environment. Researchers at King's College
London scanned the genomes of 22 pairs of
identical twins in which one twin per pair was
diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar
disorder. The twin scans revealed methylation
differences in genes linked to the disorders.
The environment influences gene expression in
part via methylation and demethylation, which
turn genes off and on.
Human Molecular Genetics
Quantum mechanics is one
of the most reliable theories in science. Most
physicists accept that there is no essential
reality beyond the quantum probabilities. These
become certainties via decoherence, as
interactions of an object with its environment
collapse superpositions into a unique state.
Quantum Darwinism says quantum systems can
leave imprints on their environment. Each
observer sees an imprint and all observers agree
on the properties of the system. The quantum
states that create many identical imprints are
selected out of all the possible states of the
See my blog 2010-01-07
2011 October 16
Those Fast Neutrinos
Times of flight between a source and a
detector observed from a GPS satellite
Ronald A.J. van Elburg
The theory of special relativity predicts that the distance between the
production location of a particle and the detection location will be changed
in all reference frames that have a velocity component parallel to the
baseline separating source and detector in a photon time-of-flight
experiment. For the OPERA experiment the correction is in the order of
32 ns. The correction needs to be applied twice here for a total correction of 64 ns.
AR The OPERA team
used GPS satellites to measure the distance between their detector and the
CERN source. The problem was a 60 ns time discrepancy. This could be
2011 October 15
Die gbs ist eine Denkfabrik für Humanismus
und Aufklärung, die 2004 gegründet wurde. Ziel der Stiftung ist es, eine
tragfähige säkulare Alternative zu den bestehenden Religionen zu entwickeln
und ihr gesellschaftlich zum Durchbruch zu verhelfen.
Vortrag von Dr. Colin Goldner
Dalai Lama: Fall eines Gottkönigs
Iranian Assassination Plot
If the allegations of the assassination and bombing
plot are true, and the covert operation had proved successful, Iran's
leaders would have invited retaliation on a scale far more vigorous than any
they might have contemplated.
The United States should:
1 Bring the assassination plan to the UN
2 Encourage Saudi Arabia to
support tough sanctions against Iran
nations circumventing sanctions against Iran
Explain that Iran's nuclear weapons program poses a threat
5 Strengthen our ability to keep the Persian
6 Improve the defense of friends
and allies threatened by Iran
7 Urge Saudi
Arabia and the Gulf States to coordinate defense
Release intelligence exposing Iranians responsible for this act
United States and Saudi Arabia should proceed with vigor.
The Rapture Index has been up this
year. In August it hit an all-time high of 184. Thousands of Christians
around the world are on red alert for Judgement Day. In December 1993, when
the index began, it stood at 57. Today it is near its brief 9/11 high.
Christians believe the Apocalypse will start with the Rapture as the
righteous vanish from the face of the Earth, whisked up into heaven, leaving
the damned to face death and destruction.
Rapture is living on Facebook, Iran be damned.
2011 October 14
The European Space Agency launched the
Rosetta spacecraft in
2004 to land a probe on comet
November 2014. Rosetta took this photo
showing Antarctica on
November 12, 2009.
European leaders cannot go on kicking the can down
the road. The financial markets are anxiously awaiting the next move. Greece
needs an orderly restructuring because a disorderly default could cause a
Eurozone leaders talk about recapitalizing the banking
system. Germany does not want to recapitalize French banks. The banking
system needs to be guaranteed first and recapitalized later.
governments can provide a credible guarantee because they have the power to
tax. The European Central Bank is already guaranteed by the member states.
The ECB would instruct the banks to maintain their credit lines and loan
A new agreement for the eurozone should not only
codify the practices established during the emergency but also lay the
groundwork for a growth strategy. The debt burden will become unsustainable
2011 October 13
The second law of thermodynamics says the entropy
of the universe can never decrease. It does not explain the arrow of time.
Entropy reflects the number of ways you can rearrange a system's constituent
particles without changing its overall appearance. High entropy systems are
more likely than low ones since there are more ways to produce them. Both
past and future worlds are likely to have higher entropy.
Observations show that the universe started out in an extremely unlikely
low entropy state. In the beginning, matter and radiation were spread
smoothly in space. Gravity clumps things together, so in a system with
gravity a smooth distribution is most unlikely.
Cosmologists say that
the early universe inflated, which stretched it smooth. Inflation only
pushes the problem back. The field driving the inflation has low entropy
too. If the field started out in a high entropy state, the inflation of our
smooth universe would be just a random blip in a larger field. So there are
many universes in an infinite multiverse. Some universes have arrows of time
and some don't. We can only live in one that does.
remain. How does the second law fit in with quantum theory, which says
systems are always in superpositions of possible states until a measurement
irreversibly selects a unique state? And why do we remember the past and not
AR Time is a "psy-phy" concept at the interface of physics
and a future scientific psychology, on which I have expressed original
chapter 13 of my book Mindworlds.
2011 October 12
America's Pacific Century
The Asia-Pacific region
is central to American economic and strategic interests. Open markets in
Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for
investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Strategically,
maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly
crucial to global progress.
China represents one of the most
challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has
ever had to manage. The United States and the international community have
watched China's efforts to modernize and expand its military, and we have
sought clarity as to its intentions. On the economic front, the United
States and China need to work together to ensure strong, sustained, and
balanced future global growth.
The relationship between India and
America will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, rooted
in common values and interests. There are still obstacles to overcome and
questions to answer on both sides, but the United States is making a
strategic bet on India's future.
The United States has moved to fully
engage the region's multilateral institutions, such as the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) forum. We are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral
relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on
exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness.
The world still looks to the United States for leadership. Our military is
by far the strongest, and our economy is by far the largest in the world.
Our workers are the most productive. Our universities are renowned the world
over. America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership
in this century.
civilization depends on science and technology. But technological progress
has fallen short in many domains. The high cost of fuel points to a much
larger failure in energy innovation. Computers have become the single great
hope for the technological future. The speedup in information technology
contrasts dramatically with the broad stagnation of real wages and incomes
since 1973, the year when oil prices quadrupled. To a first approximation,
the progress in computers and the failure in energy appear to have roughly
canceled each other out. The technology slowdown threatens the entire modern
AR Pathetic. Computers
have brought huge advances. And robots will bring even more. Paying
trillions to Arabs for oil was dumb, maybe, but try telling the developing
world there was no progress. Globorg
is the future, right on schedule.
2011 October 11
Good: Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan has made Turkey a major player in the Mideast and a model for the
Arab world. He has won three elections, presided over an economic boom, and
enacted social reforms.
Bad: Erdogan has said he will step down after
his third term in office. But he seems intent on moving on to the presidency
and on amending the constitution to gain more power.
Ugly: Erdogan is
becoming more willing to court confrontation. Before the end of the year
Turkey could face conflicts with Cyprus, with Israel, and with the Kurds.
The Palestinians rejected UN resolution
181 of 1947 and started a war whose goal was to destroy the new state of
Israel. In 1967, their war aim was to destroy the state of Israel.
Israel cannot return to the pre-1967 borders. If the Jordanian monarchy
falls, Israel might face a Palestinian state four times the
size of Israel.
2011 October 10
Mormonism No Cult
Richard J. Mouw
Mitt Romney is Mormon. Some say to cast a vote
for him is to promote the cause of a cult.
I am not
prepared to say that Mormon theology falls within the scope of historic
Christian teaching. But those of us who have made the effort to engage
Mormons in conversations have come to see them as good citizens whose life
of faith often exhibits qualities that are worthy of the Christian label.
Mitt Romney deserves a careful examination of his views. He does not
deserve to be labeled a cultist.
Richard J. Mouw is President of
Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.
2011 October 9
Romney Calls For American Century
The New York Times
Mitt Romney delivered his foreign policy
vision to military cadets at The Citadel on Friday. Actions he would take in his first
in office include:
1 Strengthening naval power by
relationships with the country's closest allies
Increasing measures to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon
4 Revisiting a missile-defense system
5 Reviewing the country's strategy in
6 Working for economic
opportunity in Latin America
"In an American Century, America leads
the free world and the free world leads the entire world."
Mitt Romney, 2011
"If the Americans continue such politics, they
are going to face major troubles. ... If America does not withdraw its
troops from all over the world, its economy will never improve."
Saddam Hussein, 1993
2011 October 8
History of an unfolding Greek tragedy portending global doom
2011 October 7
American Lessons for Euro
Ever since the American
Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008, Europeans have pondered a EuroTARP.
1 Size matters. TARP was a
"bazooka" that stunned markets and turned sentiment around.
2 Coordination is crucial. TARP worked because
it was wielded by a single team.
out government. Congress vetoed TARP before approving it after a market
4 Keep plans flexible. TARP was
created to buy bad assets but was used to recapitalize banks.
5 Stress tests only work if they address points
people care about. TARP stress tests did so.
TARP stabilized asset values and money was repaid. A EuroTARP need not lose
AR But can Europe afford to buy
2011 October 6
you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking
you have something to lose."
"Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made
creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the
product or service."
"These technologies can make life
easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise."
"Working on Macintosh was the neatest experience of my life."
2011 October 5
I love physical books as much as anyone. But when
shopping for books, I am acutely sensitive to the opportunity costs of
reading them. If your book is 600 pages long, you are demanding more of my
time than I feel free to give. And if I could learn as much by reading a
60-page version of your argument, why not publish a book this length
I have begun to experiment with self publishing short
ebooks. Last week, I published LYING. My goal was to write a very accessible
essay on an important topic that could be absorbed in one sitting. I know
how revolutionary it is to be honest with everyone one meets and I know how
few people do this. LYING spells out my reasons for thinking that we would
all be better off living this way. LYING reached the #1 spot for Kindle
Writers and public intellectuals must find a way to get paid
for what they do. I write longer books for a traditional press and publish
short ebooks myself on Amazon. If anyone has any better ideas, please
PHILOSOPHER will be under
2011 October 4
Quantum theory might help explain smell and
In a quantum theory for
the sense of smell, the brain interprets the vibrational frequencies of
certain molecules as smells, rather as it interprets the vibrational
frequencies of light as colors.
In 1996, biophysicist Luca Turin
proposed that vibrational sensing might work via electron tunneling. When an
odorous molecule lodges in the pocket of a receptor, an electron can tunnel
through the molecule to unleash a cascade of signals that the brain
interprets as a smell. There must be an exact match between the electron's
quantized energy level and the odorant's natural vibrational frequency.
Harvard researcher Jennifer Brookes and her colleagues showed that the
mechanism is physically plausible: the timescales are consistent with how
fast the brain responds to smell, and the signals generated are large enough
for the brain to process.
In 2011, Turin and his colleagues at the
Alexander Fleming Biomedical Sciences Research Centre in Vari, Greece,
showed that fruit flies can distinguish between two types of acetophenone,
one containing normal hydrogen and the other deuterium. Both forms have the
same shape but vibrate at different frequencies. That sensitivity suggests
In 2007, a group led by Graham Fleming at the University of California,
Berkeley, looked at photosynthesis in green sulphur bacteria. They detected
beat signals characteristic of quantum wave interference in the
photosynthesizing centers of bacteria cooled to 77 K.
In 2010, a
group led by Gregory Scholes of the University of Toronto, Canada, showed a
similar effect at room temperature in light-harvesting proteins from two
marine algae. Scholes says that sunlight briefly kicks electrons into a
superposition that links light-gathering molecules to the reaction center
where photosynthesis takes place. This lets an electron probe all paths and
choose the path of least energy.
been asserting the possibility, indeed the probability, of something like
this for years.
2011 October 3
NATO defense chiefs face are facing a drastic
decline in defense spending across NATO. Europeans have cut back so much
that they can no longer defend themselves without U.S. help.
secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen says NATO nations need to reduce
duplication: "We must prioritize, we must specialize
and we must seek multinational solutions."
This is hard for three
1 Government leaders are focused on
the euro crisis and the
2 Governments only share defense capabilities if
they can trust
Governments do not want to lose national defense capabilities.
Christian Moelling of the German Institute for International and Security
Affairs says the decline in R&D spending means Europe will be a
"technological wasteland" by 2020.
2011 October 2
Let Science Lead the Way
Today's politicians seem
more comfortable invoking God and religion than they do presenting facts or
numbers. Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her own religious
beliefs. But when science and reason get shortchanged, so does America's
future. With science, we put together observations with explanatory
frameworks whose predictions can be tested and ultimately agreed on.
Empirically based logic and the revelatory nature of faith are very
different methods for seeking answers, and only logic can be systematically
improved and applied.
Randall is a leading contributor to the mathematics of string theory.
Light Too Slow for Stock Traders
The New York
Stock Exchange handles a third of the world's stock trading. NYSE Euronext,
who operates the exchange, wants to speed it up. NYSE Euronext head of
network services Andrew Bach: "The speed-of-light limitation is getting
The present transit time between London and New York is 65
milliseconds. A new $300 million transatlantic cable will shave 6 ms from
the time. Bach proposes speeding up signals further by using not solid-core
but hollow-core optical fibers. Glass slows light down by about a third.
Bach also suggests dropping data compression and error-correction codes,
which could save a few microseconds.
Bach needs to slow down and find better ways to waste punters' money.
2011 October 1
Daniel Soar, LRB
Google is ambitious. Google wants to organize
the world's information. Google may soon know the contents of your fridge,
your heart rate when you're exercising, the weather outside your front door,
the pattern of electricity use in your home, your credit card numbers, your
purchasing history, your date of birth, your medical history, your reading
habits, your taste in music, and your interest or otherwise in anything
Google is learning. The more data it gathers, the more it
knows, the better it gets at what it does. The better it gets at what it
does, the more money it makes, and the more money it makes the more data it
gathers, and the better it gets at what it does. Google's brain is a sponge
that gets smarter from the information it soaks up. If Google misunderstands
you, and delivers the wrong results, the fact that you'll go back and
rephrase your query will help it get it right next time. Every search for
information is itself a piece of information Google can learn from.
In 2010 Google launched its Android operating system and released a
search-by-voice service. You tapped the microphone icon on your phone's
screen and your speech was transmitted via the mobile internet to Google
servers, where it was interpreted using the advanced techniques that Google
had learned. Google now has a vast and growing repository of spoken words,
in every language on Earth, and a much more powerful learning machine. Soon
there will be a Google machine in the cloud that can correctly transcribe
all speech in any language.
Google bought YouTube in 2006. If Google
can deploy its voice recognition system to transcribe the spoken words in
the videos uploaded to YouTube, there will be an explosion in the amount of
searchable material. If Google launched satellites into orbit it could
record all terrestrial broadcasts and transcribe those too. That’s no
crazier than some of the ideas that Google’s founders have found a way of
implementing, such as photographing all the world's streets, scanning all
the world's books, and building cars that drive themselves. If Google
doesn't do these things, who will?
far to go from Google to GLOBORG
German tanks for Saudi Arabia
Obama Goes Cold
senior fellow Bruce Riedel: "One of the things
that made Obama attractive to many Americans was
a Bush hangover. ... They wanted a more cerebral
president who thought ahead rather than plunged
in. Two years ago, that cerebral look seemed
cool to many Americans. Two years later it seems
Washington political analyst
Charlie Cook: "I think the emphasis was on going
on television and trying to explain his agenda,
to the point now where I think if the American
people haven't hit the mute button their finger
is very close to that button where they just
don't listen any more."
The Black Death
The Black Death killed up to a half of the
population of Europe in the Middle Ages.
Researchers say plague bacteria must have evolved
to infect humans just before the first outbreak
of the plague. They analyzed plague
DNA from mass graves dug in London in
The researchers compared the
reconstructed genome with a modern reference
genome and found they differed at very few places. They say the original plague
bacterium dates back only to about 1282.
A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of
the Black Death
Two monkeys at the
Duke University Center for Neuroengineering
used brain activity alone to move their avatar
hands and feel virtual objects. Their use of a
bidirectional brain-avatar-brain interface
(BABI) suggests a future where paraplegics can
enjoy a full life in a robotic exoskeleton.
Nature lead author Miguel Nicolelis: "Such
an interaction between the brain and a virtual
avatar was totally independent of the animal's
real body, because the animals did not move
their real arms and hands, nor did they use
their real skin to touch the objects and
identify their texture."
MIT Technology Review
new prototype petri dish can create an image of
what's growing on it and send that information
to a laptop.
Caltech professor Michael
Elowitz: "Normally, one leaves the cells in an
incubator and just checks up on them from time
to time. With ePetri, it's like getting
continuous tweets from the cells."
An Android app called LHSee
learn about the LHC
and its ATLAS experiment,
view collisions live from CERN,
"Hunt the Higgs"
Discussing the "long peace"
since the end of the second world war, Steven
Pinker says the developed states have stopped
waging war on one another. The result is no more
credible than the efforts of economists until
2008 to demonstrate the permanence of the long
boom. The long peace is another delusion.
U.S national soccer team goalkeeper Hope Solo in
ESPN The Body Issue
Good way to go gardening
To Pay Or Not To Pay
The Guardian has been
losing money every year since 2004.
Editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger says the
Guardian is not in business to make money, so he
focuses on the web. The Guardian website ranked
fifth worldwide this August among the most
popular newspaper sites, attracting almost 32
million users a month. But the site is free.
This year the New York Times put up a pay
wall around its new site. The NYT has a global
audience of 47 million users a month and is
still the #1 news site. A feared slump in online
advertising revenues never materialized. The NYT
says good journalism has a price.
AR My blog loses