Super Blood Moon
Bored with yachts?
"Numbers and speed of
immigration matter and this is
particularly the case with people
who have very different
affiliations. Fundamentalists with
a political agenda ...
do pose a
challenge to the creation of an
Sailing Yacht A
Owner: A.I. Melnichenko
Jews and Muppets
The Muppets are so Jewish.
frog has the same
dialogue with himself that
Moses had with
He knows nothing in life
is granted from
If you want it, you have
to work for it.
2015 September 30
Ridley Scott's new movie The Martian
maroons NASA astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) on Mars for four
years. Damon: "Ridley and I agreed The Martian is not one of those
existential survival movies. Neither is it just a popcorn kind of
... experience. The key is to have the audience feel the enormity of
the stakes without it seeming ponderous."
This tale of the
NASA bid to rescue one of their own gives every department a hero.
Watney survives because he is smart and knowledgeable, can get by
without company and likes the sound of his own voice. The approach
favors accuracy over visual bombast. The movie conjures up habitats
and space kit that carry the NASA stamp of approval.
behave in extreme circumstances: love your job, embrace the little
you can do and do it. Like it or not, death is always coming, so to
hell with it. This is the real heart of The Martian.
2015 September 29
UN 70, Putin 1, Obama 0
On the 70th anniversary of the UN in New York,
Russian president Vladimir Putin left US president Barack Obama
struggling to defend his legacy. Putin said US intervention has
failed in the Mideast. On US involvement in Iraq and Libya: "Do you
realize now what you've done?"
Putin called for a ministerial
conference and a UN resolution on strategy against Islamic State
militants. Obama responded: "History is littered with the failure of
false prophets and fallen empires, who believed that might always
Senator Marco Rubio says Putin made a case that
Obama had failed in the Mideast: "If left with a choice between
Russia and nothing, they're going to choose Russia."
The UK government is conducting a strategic
defense and security review. It will be a fudge. The huge commitment
to replace Trident has been ruled out of the debate. The government
must also pay for its new aircraft carriers.
There is a
mismatch between the threats from Russia and the Mideast and the
state of our armed forces. We must either bargain with Russia or to
help others fight back as the Syrian civil war fuels a mass
migration to Europe.
Trident 100 000 000 000
Trident is Britain's most powerful,
most expensive, most irrelevant, and most useless weapon.
Conservative chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee
Crispin Blunt: "At what point is it no longer value for money for
the UK? In my judgment we have reached that point."
will cost an estimated £100 billion over its lifetime. Its
credibility depends on whether a rational British prime minister
would ever take an independent decision to order Trident submarine
commanders to launch a nuclear weapon. That is fantasy.
2015 September 28
Water on Mars
NASA scientists say they believe they have confirmed
that water intermittently flows on the surface of Mars. Analysis of
imaging from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows that seasonal
dark streaks on the Martian surface are left when briny water
periodically flows across the surface.
Russians in Syria
The Russian intervention in Syria comes
when the US strategy for resolving the conflict is wavering between
working with Putin to find a political solution or expanding US
Russian president Vladimir Putin
presents himself as a potential solution to the misery of the Syrian
civil war, which has left more than 300,000 dead, displaced some 11
million people, and left the Assad regime in control of a quarter of
the country. He says the conflict is the product of a decade of
irresponsible US policies in the region.
Putin has effectively built up an air force for an Assad regime
whose own ability to wield air power has been depleted. Western
intelligence officials estimate that Russia now has at least 28
Sukhoi fighters in Syria, plus at least 24 attack helicopters.
Moscow will send about 2,000 military personnel to Syria to run its
air base near Latakia.
American officials do not know whether
Putin is escalating his presence in Syria to save the regime or
because he believes Assad is doomed and wants to position himself
for a transition.
Saudi Arabia is degenerate,
malignant, pitiless, powerful, and dangerous. The state transmits
its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds
hatreds, and crushes human freedoms and aspiration. But the West
genuflects to its rulers.
Saudi Arabia executes one person
every two days. A blogger who dared to call for democracy was
sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. Last week, 769 faithful
Muslim believers were killed in Mecca where they had gone on the
Hajj. Initially, the rulers said it was "God’s will" and then they
blamed the dead. The Saudis have turned Mecca into the Las Vegas of
Saudi King Salman has offered to build 200 mosques in
Germany for recently arrived refugees. He offered money not for
resettlement or basic needs but for Wahhabi mosques. Wahhabism is
now a global brand. It makes hearts and minds small and suspicious,
turns Muslim against Muslim, and undermines modernists.
Since 9/11, the Saudis have become more aggressive, more determined
to win the culture wars. They pour money into Islamist organizations
and operations, promote punishing doctrines that subjugate women and
children, and damn liberal values and democracy. They are pursuing a
cruel bombing campaign in Yemen that has left thousands of civilians
Our ruling establishment collectively sucks up to the
Saudi ruling clan. This enemy will not be stopped by Trident. Our
leaders will not confront Saudi Arabia, the source of Islamist
brainwashing and infection. They want the oil and the profits.
As the Volkswagen scandal has demonstrated,
in the European Union we are governed by unelected regulators who
are immune to democratic recall, captive chums of the industries
they regulate and tools of the pressure groups that infest the
corridors of the Berlaymont. Greens obsessed with carbon dioxide
combined with German carmakers obsessed with diesel to visit more
noxious nitrogen oxides and particulates on us all. This is not an
isolated case. EU regulation is not fit for purpose.
2015 September 27
The Seven Sisters is one of the great walks
of England. From the top of Haven Brow the view is just sensational.
Ahead of you stretches a hazy infinity of rolling hills, each ending
at the seaward side in a sudden plunge of white chalk. On a sunny
day like this one, it is a world of simple, bright elements: green
land, white cliffs, deep blue sea, matching sky.
Nothing is more extraordinary in Britain than the beauty of the
countryside. Nowhere in the world is there a landscape that has been
more intensively utilized and yet remains so comprehensively and
reliably lovely over most of its extent. And what a joy it is to
walk in it.
I was on the South Downs Way, which runs for 100
miles from Winchester to Eastbourne along the rolling chalk downs of
the south coast. I have done most of the trail in chunks over the
years, but this is my favorite stretch. To my left were bosomy hills
of green and gold, to the right a spangled plane of bright blue sea.
Dividing the two were cliffs of brilliant white.
The South Downs Way is not only
lovely but getting better. I discovered that the Seven Sisters —
which are, namely, Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point,
Flat Hill, Bailey's Hill and Went Hill — don't include Belle Tout or
Beachy Head, which meant that I was in the process of climbing nine
hills, not seven. No wonder I was tired.
Eco-mentalists spent years telling us we
must all buy diesel cars. When half of us had done just that, they
said: "Diesel cars are the new peril. They produce a blend of
nitrogen and oxygen that we shall call NOX because that sounds
Governments around the world promptly
introduced new regulations on how much NOX a car could produce. Car
firms had to spend a fortune designing a whole new range of diesel
systems that run on a mix of diesel and concentrated urine.
Volkswagen fitted its engines with a clever bit of software that
exaggerated their economy and cleanliness when they were being
tested. I bought a VW in the summer I am not interested in what
comes out of its poo shoot.
2015 September 26
Bournemouth University Freshers Fair
AR Great day out for
To defend European Christendom, Hungary, the
Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania voted against distributing
120,000 mostly Muslim asylum seekers among EU member states. In
January a Hungarian minister said Hungary could easily take 170,000
Hungarian-speaking Ukrainians, who are mostly Christians.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban is posing
as the Christian savior of Europe. Hungary was a bastion of
Christianity against the Mongols in C13, against the Ottomans in C16
and C17, and against the Bolsheviks during WW2. Now it is, he says,
as the West sinks into moral relativism, multiculturalism, and gay
Hungary has built a razor-wire fence along the
Serbian border and is constructing another along the frontier with
Croatia. A new law lets the government introduce a state of
emergency, mobilize military reservists, and treat illegal border
crossing as a crime punishable by years in prison. Hungary has
become a fortress.
Diesel Defeat Devices
EU officials warned of the dangers of
defeat devices in a 2013 report that drew attention to devices
designed to skew the results of exhaust readings. The technology had
been illegal in Europe since 2007 but regulators failed to pursue
The scandal focused on cars sold
by Volkswagen in the US market is widening as Germany says VW
cheated in Europe too. Over half of new car sales in the EU are now
2015 September 25
Osborne in China
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George
Osborne is touring China. He aims to sign financial and investment
agreements when President Xi Jinping visits the UK in October.
Osborne seeks Chinese money to take the edge off
domestic austerity. But back in London, national security officials
are drafting a new national security strategy centered on the
alliance with Washington. The defense review foresees a big
expansion of British capacity to counter cyber attacks. Many of
these are directed from China.
There is no evidence that
kowtowing to China wins favorable treatment. Beijing tends to
disdain perceived supplicants. UK prosperity and security rest on
the open international system underwritten by what China sees as US
Oxford during the Thatcher years provided a
layer of protection against the legal consequences of the more
boisterous kinds of fun. What happened behind college gates stayed
behind college gates.
After a period in which
British society seemed to be shaking off its ancient
stratifications, the Cameron era has seen the revival of unabashed
elitism. In power, he has surrounded himself with ministers of his
own class and background. The #piggate tale emerged only because a
billionaire was denied a cabinet position to which he felt entitled.
Conservative voters might be expected to take a dim view of
Cameron's student activities. But they have always looked on such
transgressions with a mixture of jealousy and appalled fascination.
2015 September 24
Europe in Peril
European Council president Donald Tusk warns
"mutual recriminations and misunderstandings" over the migration
crisis risk destroying the European Union.
a plan to secure frontiers and distribute refugees the "chaos we
have witnessed in the last weeks" would recur: "The most urgent
question we should ask ourselves tonight is how to regain control of
our external borders. Otherwise it doesn't make any sense to even
speak about common migration policy. What is at stake is also the
future of Schengen, the sense of order in Europe and the common
UK prime minister David Cameron: "We need
to do more to stabilize the countries and regions from which these
people are coming, not least to help them but also to stop people
wanting to make or thinking of making this very, very difficult and
very dangerous journey to Europe."
Xi in China
In the history of the Chinese
Communist Party (CCP), general secretary Xi Jinping is only the
second leader clearly chosen by his peers. The first was Mao Zedong.
Xi has centralized power under his leadership. He chairs a new
national security commission, the Central Military Commission, and
groups on reform, foreign affairs, Internet security, and
Xi will stamp out corruption in the
CCP. He has conjured up the "Chinese dream" and lists six alien
doctrines to be extirpated: constitutional democracy, universal
values, civil society, economic neoliberalism, investigative
journalism, and promotion of historical nihilism.
Xi is as
concerned as Gorbachev was to transform the Communist Party. The
Soviet example proves to him that glasnost is not the way to go. Xi
has chosen economic reform as his form of perestroika.
ease off against corruption or try to divert attention. He can
either stoke the fires of nationalism or start a new attack on the
degradation of the environment.
Xi in America
Chinese President Xi Jinping understands
power. His first call in America was not on the political leaders in
Washington but on the business elites in Seattle. He will meet Apple
CEO Tim Cook, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and investors Warren
Buffett and Bill Gates. With Xi are Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Tencent
boss Pony Ma, and Baidu president Zhang Yaqin, who control the most
vibrant parts of the Chinese economy.
Xi has unleashed an
attack on corruption in the Communist Party and tightened up the
People's Liberation Army. He has cracked down on dissidents,
lawyers, and academics. He has built runways on artificial islands
in the South China Sea and set up new financial institutions. He has
shown that he knows how to wield political power. But he must relax
his authoritarian tendencies to unleash the full potential of
China's private sector.
2015 September 23
The desperate human beings landing on
European shores pose daunting moral, political and practical
difficulties. But a way has to be found to manage them without
sacrificing the values on which modern Europe was built.
EU must distinguish between refugees and immigrants. Countries have
legal and moral obligations to refugees. They do not have such
obligations to other immigrants.
Europe will receive up to a
million asylum applications this year. Of these, less than a half
are likely to be granted refugee status. The number would still
amount to only a thousandth of the EU population. Given the size and
prosperity of the EU, the task it faces is relatively trivial.
Solidarity is needed to help refugees integrate successfully.
They will need assistance with learning the language and housing.
Richer countries will have to assist poorer ones. Vulnerable states
on the front lines of the refugee crisis need far more assistance.
The EU needs to find a way to cope, other than by becoming a
E-Book vs Print
E-book sales exploded after 2008. Print
sales dwindled and bookstores struggled to stay open. But the
digital apocalypse has not arrived. Digital sales have instead
E-book sales fell by 10% in the first 5
months of this year, say to the
books accounted last year for around 20% of the market, roughly the
same as a few years ago.
Publishers are investing in print
infrastructure and distribution. Booksellers see a reverse migration
to print. Independent bookstores are showing strong signs of
2015 September 22
Volkswagen cheated on US air pollution
results. US authorities may impose fines of up to $18 billion.
VW fitted half a million diesel cars with code that tricked
regulators into under-recording noxious emissions. Nitrous oxide
(Nox) and small particulate matter account for tens of thousands of
early deaths a year. Diesel engines are cleaner in terms of lower
CO2 emissions, but dirtier in terms of emissions of Nox and fine
particulate matter. VW's "defeat" software activated controls over
Nox emissions only when the software detected that the engine was
The German carmaker may be accused of
deliberately thwarting the EPA.
Matthew J. Goodwin
Before the end of 2017, Britain is due
to vote in a referendum on continuing its membership in the European
Union. A Brexit looks more likely now than for years.
British never fell in love with the European project. As their
neighbors moved toward closer union, they became skeptical. Winston
Churchill in 1953: "We are with them, but not of them."
EU enlargement in 2004 brought in a band of former Eastern Bloc
states. Surveys of British public opinion found disquiet at the
arrival of workers from them.
Europhiles long assumed that
the merits of the single market and economic integration would
appeal to the head over the heart to win the vote. But now voters
contrast stagnation and instability in the eurozone with British
The refugee crisis has pushed public
anxiety about immigration to a new peak. Nearly twice as many voters
now voice concern over immigration as the economy.
2015 September 21
Europe Lost Control of Borders
Europe has lost control of its external
borders, said European Council president Donald Tusk ahead of an
emergency summit on the refugee crisis in Brussels. Leaders must
face the "brutal reality" of the situation in border countries such
Leaders are expected to demand the EU steps in to
shore up Greek borders. This would mark another transfer of
sovereignty from Athens to Brussels. In exchange for greater EU
control, officials say Brussels will give Greece financial aid.
Ambassadors from all EU governments discussed a plan to share
out 120,000 refugees. Berlin backs the plan but Eastern officials
say they want a voluntary scheme. A Warsaw diplomat: "The first
priority must be to seal EU borders. Only by doing so will we be
able to avoid further chaos and brutal skirmishes on the frontiers."
2015 September 20
The EU refugee crisis will get worse.
The civil war destroying Iraq and Syria has caused a huge exodus of
people in the Mideast. A bloody stalemate in Iraq leaves the country
divided by heavily defended military fronts. Accusations fly over
ethnic or sectarian cleansing. Islamic State jihadists pump up
communal hatred by daily bombings of civilian targets.
Nationalism once brought peace and security to the Mideast, but
national loyalties are disintegrating. Governments have abandoned
efforts to provide economic security for their people. Ruling elites
have turned capitalism into crony capitalism and state machinery
into money machines. This looting of states has opened the door to a
Joseph Stiglitz decries the costs of US
income inequality. In his Nobel Prize work he showed how
imperfections and asymmetries of information regularly lead markets
to results that do not maximize welfare. He argued that government
interventions could help correct these market failures.
Stiglitz says the enormous riches at the top of the income
ladder are largely the result of the ability of the top 1% to
manipulate markets and the political process to their own benefit.
American capitalism has gone wrong. People at the top get paid much
more for their work than they once did, while everyone else gets
paid about the same, or less.
The economy suffers when more
efforts go into getting a larger slice of the pie than into
enlarging the pie. This hurts society and does serious damage to
economic growth. It hurts demand because rich people consume less of
their incomes. It leads to excessive debt because people feel the
need to borrow to make up for their stagnant incomes. Central banks
try to make up for stagnant incomes by inflating bubbles, which
Stiglitz wants much tighter regulation of the
financial sector. He wants to loosen intellectual property
restrictions and have the government aggressively enforce antitrust
laws. He wants to reform corporate governance and to limit tax
breaks that encourage the use of stock options. He wants to raise
taxes on the highest earners and on capital gains, institute a
carbon tax and a financial transactions tax, and cut corporate
subsidies. He also wants more investment in schools, infrastructure,
and basic research.
Something like this worked after WW2.
Stiglitz: "Just because you've heard it before doesn't mean we
shouldn't try it again."
Ferguson on Kissinger
Niall Ferguson shows that the views of Henry
Kissinger were shaped more by Spinoza and Kant than by Machiavelli.
Kissinger grew up in Germany and moved to New
York. 1939: "Alongside excessive wealth, unspeakable poverty. And
then this individualism! You stand completely on your own, no one
cares about you, you have to make your own way upwards."
US conscript in Germany he helped clean up after the war and saw
what Nazis had done to Jews and others. But he retained his sense of
the centrality of Germany to European civilization. He then went to
Harvard, majored in government, and wrote a long thesis on the
meaning of history.
He gained fame for his views on nuclear
warfare. Wrestling with the problem that any threat to NATO
interests would lead to nuclear retaliation, he proposed an
escalation ladder that started with small nukes. In fact the cold
war was contained by accepting mutually assured destruction: MAD.
Kissinger saw the significance of Mao Zedong for China. But
Richard Nixon saw the economic significance of China. The odd couple
focused on getting out of Vietnam and into China.
"It is the dilemma of conservatism that it must fight revolution
anonymously, by what it is, not by what it says."
2015 September 19
The Conservative Case for the European Union
The European Union is sometimes compared to
the Soviet Union. Critics of its overregulation, its moral hazard,
its currency, its structural funds, or its agricultural policy make
valid points. But conservatives should appreciate its successes too.
The democratic deficit is vastly overstated. Conservatives
are no fans of giving unelected international bureaucracies powers
that belong to democratic states and their citizens. But decision
making in the EU under the 2001 Treaty of Nice required that
practically all EU decisions be reached by consensus of member
states represented by their leaders in the Council of the European
The European Commission is only as powerful as
politicians want it to be. It can issue legislation only in a small
number of mostly technical areas, such as competition policy,
expressly delegated to it by the council. All other EU legislation
is adopted through a democratic process by elected European
parliamentarians and ministers from member states.
a history of violence. Only after 1945 did democracy in Europe start
to flourish. Central European states became liberal democracies
because political elites saw the prospect of EU and NATO membership.
If conservatives want democracy and free enterprise to triumph not
just in the West, but also in republics of the former Soviet Union
and beyond, they should see the EU as an ally.
The fall of
the Soviet empire liberated some 100 million people in central and
eastern Europe from the shackles of communism. Today their embrace
of markets and democracy is under threat again from Moscow. Collapse
of the EU would drive its more vulnerable member states toward
Conservative critics are right to say the
introduction of the common currency was driven by political motives.
Countries that keep the euro as their currency must move toward
closer political union, with tighter fiscal rules and scrutiny. They
will also need deregulation and safeguards against new red tape.
Conservatives should applaud.
The European Union is a work in
progress. Generations of democratically elected European politicians
have presided over a historically unprecedented period of peace,
economic openness, and prosperity. There is no guarantee that
dismantling it would preserve these achievements.
To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
For a generation Germany hosted an explosion
of nationalism, aggression, conflict, crisis, and racism. Millions
were terrorized, starved, tortured, raped, bombed, burned, and
The First World War unleashed the demons. The Second
World War was the culmination of this time of terror. The postwar
years saw hunger, revenge killing, mass rape, and ethnic cleansing.
period saw Soviet Communism transform society and cause famines that
killed millions and cowed the rest. Nazi Germany waged a genocidal
war until defeat stared the country in the face.
went on to enjoy generations of peace, stability and prosperity,
policed by the Cold War superpowers with nuclear weapons.
AR German militarism
forced the evolution of a global nuclear clampdown.
Photo: Ira Nowinski
Thank You Cam
RAF drone zaps Brits in Syria
to foil queen death plot, says
David Cameron. RAF Reapers
made 29 strikes in
16 in July against IS nuts.
Eric Ray Davidson/Netflix/Rex/Allstar
Daryl Hannah, 54, was diagnosed
early in life as borderline
IMAGE: EPA WU HONG
Tiananmen Square, 2015-09-03
CDU spokesman on home affairs
"I have always
had sympathy and understanding
for the British
role in the EU and
the demands for renegotiation.
But we are
now in such a huge
humanitarian catastrophe, I
do not have any
sympathy or understanding for one-country
AR Wir sollen
machen mit der britischen
2015 September 18
Hitler described humans as members of
races doomed to eternal and bloody struggle for finite resources. He
called ethics a Jewish invention. Races needed ever more
Lebensraum in order to feed and breed. Nature demanded that the
higher races overmaster and starve the lower.
was a means to restore the state of nature. The mass murder
began in a zone of double state destruction. In 1939, Germany and
the Soviet Union invaded Poland and the Soviets occupied the Baltic
states. Germans invading in 1941 encountered stateless populations.
When Hitler called for the total eradication of global Jewry,
mass murder extended through Belarus and Ukraine into Russia. In
1942 the policy of total killing then spread back west into Europe.
German Jews were deported to eastern zones and killed. The Holocaust
spread in stateless zones.
An alternative to ecological panic
and state destruction was the pursuit of agricultural technology.
Scientists were already preparing the green revolution.
Within decades Europe faced not food shortage but surpluses. The
green revolution has removed fear of hunger from politics.
After the final German defeat in 1945, the green revolution met
demand in Europe and elsewhere. Yet no scientific solution
is eternal. The green revolution might be reaching its limits. Rich
elites could again face the choice of how to define the relationship
between politics and science.
The planet is changing in ways
that make an ecological apocalypse seem possible. A 4 K increase of global temperatures this century would transform human life.
A looming crisis can trigger drastic measures. Climate denial might
hasten disasters that collapse politics into ecological panic.
The state guarantees and protects rights. When states are
absent, rights are unsustained. Political thought is the
historically informed imagination of plural structures that can
preserve life and decency. States should invest in science so that
the future can be contemplated calmly.
2015 September 17
Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris
Islamism is the desire to
impose a version of Islam on the rest of society. Political
Islamists generally do not believe in resorting to violence, though
there are different attitudes among them toward democratic
Political Islam is an offshoot of religious
Islam. It highlights the problems of religious literalism,
dogmatism, and pious intolerance. Most Saudis agree that the Islamic
State caliphate conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law.
Many liberals consider any discussion of the problem posed by
Islamism to be a sign of bigotry. Holding Islam up to scrutiny,
rationally and ethically, must not be confused with bigotry. In an
open society, no idea can be above scrutiny.
Mind Uploads: Bunk
Futurists say a detailed map of neural
connections could be enough to restore a person's mind by uploading
it into a computer simulation. But a map of connections is not
sufficient. Many signals that regulate behavior are mediated by
chemical cues in networks with unknown anatomy. Brain activity
cannot be inferred from the connectome.
The problem of
simulating a brain is colossally hard. But it is far easier than
replicating a particular brain, as required for the promised
personal immortality of uploading. The features of your neurons and
synapses that make you "you" are not generic. And they are what
engrams (the physical constituents of memories) are made of.
We can imagine simulating a brain down to the synaptic or molecular
or even quantum level. But the idea that you can be conscious in two
places at once defies intuition. Replication or simulation would
result in a new person with distinct conscious experience. Any
suggestion that you can come back to life is bunk.
2015 September 15
Mama Merkel versetzt die Vergangenheit
Es gab einmal eine
Zeit in der Flüchtlinge verzweifelt versuchten, per Eisenbahn aus
Deutschland zu entkommen. Heute sehnen sie sich danach, per Zug
einzureisen. In Zukunft wird der Anblick einer riesigen deutschen
Menschenmenge nicht nur an Nürnberg erinnern, sondern auch an die
Plakate mit der Aufschrift „Refugees welcome“.
Im Verlauf der
Eurokrise wurde Deutschland in Teilen des Kontinents als gefühlloser
Schurke dargestellt, der dem nichtsahnenden Volk der Griechen
einschneidende Sparmaßnahmen aufzwang. Die herzliche Aufnahme
syrischer Flüchtlinge in Deutschland sollte das strenge Bild durch
ein freundlicheres, sanfteres zu ersetzen. Die Deutschen werden
nicht gern als Tyrannen des Kontinents gesehen.
hat auch die niedrigste Geburtenrate der Welt. Sie reicht nicht aus,
um die Arbeitskräfte zu produzieren, die für die Zukunft benötigt
werden könnten. Das Land müsste mehr als 500.000 Einwanderer pro
Jahr aufnehmen, nur um das Gleichgewicht zu halten. Es ist schon aus
Eigeninteresse sinnvoll, dass Deutschland syrische Ingenieure, Ärzte
und Hochschulabsolventen willkommen heißt.
2015 September 12
Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest
Ein linker Utopist, untauglich für
AR Absolut: Spass,
2015 September 11
A hectic and
2015 September 10
UK Drone Strikes
The UK government ordered the killing of two IS
terrorists. It did so on the basis of available intelligence about
their activities and the threats they posed, as well as military
These were not a couple of British tourists. They
were part of a barbaric organisation involved in systematic gang
rape, torture and beheadings. They were enemy combatants who took up
arms against the armed forces of their own country and plotted to
murder and maim their fellow citizens at home.
There is ample
legal justification for this action under international law. This
was an example of accountable and responsible government acting in
line with its duty to defend our national security. The transparency
of the political decision making process has been on full view in
Parliament this week.
The behavior of these young men was a
conscious choice. In this case the consequences were fatal. The
safety of our people is the first duty of Government.
2015 September 9
Limited connectivity until further notice
2015 September 8
New Stealth Bomber
The Pentagon is about to pick a new bomber.
The contest pits Northrop Grumman against a consortium of Boeing and
Lockheed Martin. The winner gets to build 100 new bombers.
Twenty years ago, the Pentagon switched from B-2 bomber development
to work on stealth fighter jets such as the F-22 and F-35. The F-35
has been a disaster, yet the Pentagon is buying about 2,300 of them
to fill the front lines for the next three decades. Now planners see
they need the Long Range Strike Bomber to help out.
has a budget capped at $550 million per plane, perhaps $1 billion
including R&D, about half what a B-2 cost. It will be "optionally
manned" so it can be flown as a drone for missions too dangerous or
dull for a human pilot, and stealthy enough to outpace efforts by
Russia, China and others to develop new sensors.
wants the first LRS-B squadron to be ready in a decade or less.
Leading British medical researchers support
the careful use of a new gene editing technique on human cells. Six
genetic engineering scares:
1 Forty years ago, the discovery
of how to do genetic engineering in bacteria led to debates about
the risks. Scientists imposed a moratorium and held a conference to
devise rules. Today the technique is routinely used and has saved or
improved the lives of millions.
2 The discovery of how to
fertilize human eggs in test tubes led to debates about what this
might do to human reproduction. The technology has largely cured
infertility and made millions happy.
3 Twenty years ago,
scientists began to modify the genes of plants. GM crops have cut
insecticide use, raised yields, and delivered healthier foods.
4 Around the millennium, scientists developed techniques to
clone mammals. Cloning has proved helpful in only a very few
laboratory settings, but has not been used for frivolous purposes.
5 Scientists sequenced the human genome, identified
disease-causing mutations and began to offer pre-implantation
genetic diagnosis to avoid bringing people into the world with
problem conditions. Demand for positive selection has proved
6 Scientists discovered how to use viruses to insert
new genes into living tissues to cure fatal diseases. Early trials
in human beings using retroviruses triggered cancer and were
abandoned. But safer lentivirus gene therapy is being used in
Score 6-0 to the optimists. The latest
gene-editing technique is much more precise and effective than
previous ways of altering genes.
2015 September 7
Daniel Dennett: "We are all
virtuoso novelists ... We try to make all of our material cohere into
a single good story. And that story is our autobiography. The chief
fictional character at the center of that autobiography is one's
These are not universal human truths. The deliverances
of memory are hopelessly piecemeal and disordered. A great shambles
seems a much better characterization of human
The tendency to attribute control to self is a
personality trait. It divides human beings who feel they are authors
of their thoughts from those who feel their thoughts are things that just happen.
"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a
luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the
beginning of consciousness to the end."
2015 September 6
China aspires to be a superpower. In 1980
its share of total world output was less than 2.3%. Today, with an
$11 trillion GDP at PPP, it is just under 17% — more than the US
share (16%) and more than the combined shares of Brazil, India, and
Russia (13%), making China the world's #1 economy.
president Xi Jinping wants to: shift the economy from manufacturing
to services, shift from external to domestic demand, shift from a
state-controlled to a market-based financial system, crack down on
corruption, increase the international use of the renminbi, and grow
at around 7%.
Refugees: UK Response
UK prime minister David Cameron is prepared
to accept 15,000 refugees from Syria. A review of aid spending
across Whitehall will divert money to the refugee crisis from
Cameron also wants airstrikes against IS
militants in Syria soon. Former defense secretary Liam Fox: "The
policy of attacking ISIS in Iraq but not in Syria is patently
A new dimension to this refugee crisis is
just how impotent Europe is proving itself to be. If the EU is not
resilient in face of this disaster, it could be torn apart.
For years, our warm-hearted land has consistently accepted more
asylum seekers than Germany. It would be a mistake to give way to
bullying calls to immediately open our doors to tens of thousands of
refugees. We are a small island and recent immigration figures are
highly disturbing. Alas, Germany opening its doors to this influx
will make Europe into an even more attractive magnet for floods of
A hundred years after the Armenian and
Assyrian genocide, in which over a million Christians are estimated
to have been killed by Ottoman Muslims, the same is happening today
in the form of an ethnic cleansing of Christians in the region.
Christians have been crucified, beheaded, raped, and subjected to
forced conversion. Islamic State and other radical groups are openly
glorifying the slaughter of Christians.
There has been too
much Muslim mass immigration to Europe. This has resulted in ghettos
of Muslim communities following their own customs and laws.
2015 September 5
China is becoming a leading missile producer. Where
local capability falls short, China buys from Russia and hopes
quantity will trump quality.
The Chinese defense industry
still has a long way to go to close the gap with the US and European
military manufacturers. New policies aim to help defense
corporations break remaining technological barriers. China still
lacks an overarching body to integrate companies with national
procurement and geopolitical strategies. Other obstacles include the
evolution of monopolies in the defense sector.
advances over the past decade have been extraordinary. China remains
on course to become a leading military manufacturer.
Safe Nuclear Reactors
MIT Technology Review
A European consortium has begun a
program to show the safety benefits of molten salt reactors. These
nuclear power plants run on thorium, which is cleaner, safer, and
more abundant than uranium.
Their safety advantages include a
bathtub design with a freeze plug in the bottom, so they drain if
things go wrong and the plug melts. The reactors run hot enough to
burn existing nuclear waste.
A UK government report on
technologies from potential molten salt reactor developers sees
promising signs for the next decade. The most advanced program for
such reactors is in China.
2015 September 4
Germany 1: Britain 0
For the most part, the refugee crisis has
shown Europe at its worst: lofty rhetoric about collective action
betrayed by a fearful retreat into the narrowest of nationalisms.
The victims of war could stay in camps in Jordan and Turkey.
Angela Merkel is getting it right. She understands that solidarity
in such circumstances is not merely a sentimental or dutiful
response to misery but the only practical answer. A rich and aging
continent can easily absorb such newcomers. Over time it will profit
from their energy and enterprise.
2015 September 3
Experimenters have refuted local realism
Using the Bell inequality that limits the correlations
between the properties of two particles under local realism, the new
experiment closes a number of potential loopholes.
Bell test begins with a source of photons, which spits out two at
the same time in different directions to two detectors, operated by
Alice and Bob, who choose their detector property settings
independently. If the photons are quangled, repeated tests violate
the inequality to refute local realism.
But unless the
detectors are far enough apart to leave no time for a light signal
between them, you cannot trust the correlations. This is the
The detectors must pick up a lot of
photons. But the further you separate the detectors, the more
photons get lost on the way. This is the detection loophole.
In the new test, Alice and Bob sit in two labs 1.3 km apart. Light
takes 4.3 μs to travel this distance and their measurement takes
only 3.7 μs, closing the locality loophole.
Each lab has a
diamond containing an electron with spin. The team hits the diamonds
with microwave pulses so they each emit a photon quangled with the
electron spin. These photons fly to a location C between A and B,
where a detector times them. For those with the same arrival time,
any correlations in the quangled spins are nonlocal. The spins are
constantly monitored and the detectors are good, closing the
The results refute local realism. We live
in a quantum world.
2015 September 2
The Refugee Crisis
Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken the lead:
All Syrian refugees will be eligible to claim asylum in Germany. "If
Europe fails on the question of refugees, its close connection with
universal civil rights will be destroyed."
EU nations need to
act together in face of an ongoing tragedy. The task is to manage a
crisis of unprecedented dimensions. Drawing up a common European
asylum policy is urgent, and so is finding the resources to back it
Cllr Merkel has reminded Europe that it was built on
values. Special reasons why Germany is proving more willing than
others to open up to refugees include an aging population. But
Europe must agree on this strategic issue.
Ludwig Wittgenstein developed two
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) made a huge
impact on the logical positivists. In it he tried to chart the
relationship between language and the world. Later he rejected his
premise that our linguistic statements depict true or false states
of affairs and that formal logic regulates these statements.
Wittgenstein changed his mind. Language did not have a fixed and
logical relation to reality. The process of measuring the truth of a
statement against reality was neither objective nor cleanly
delineated. The meaning of what we say cannot be abstracted away
from the context in which we say it. Our speech acts are grounded in
Artificial intelligence was slow to learn
this lesson. Google succeeded by ignoring semantics as much as
possible and by sticking to finding patterns without trying to
understand the meaning of words or sentences. Google could count the
popularity of a word and see which people, where, use which words,
without deciding what was right or wrong.
AR Wittgenstein and Heidegger led the
two main diverging streams in post-Hegelian philosophy.
2015 September 1
If China became as rich per head as South
Korea, its economy would be bigger than those of the United States
and Europe combined.
But in emerging economies
growth tends to be marked by discontinuities. Chinese growth might
suffer a discontinuity. The current pattern is unsustainable, the
debt overhang is large, and dealing with these challenges risks a
sharp collapse in demand.
Chinese growth depends on
investment as a source of supply and demand. Since 2011 additional
capital has been the sole source of extra output, with productivity
growth near zero. The incremental capital output ratio has soared as
returns on investment have tumbled.
The ratio of capital to
output in China is on an explosive path. If the ratio is to
stabilize at current levels, and the economy is to grow at about 6%,
the investment share in GDP needs to fall by about 10%. If that were
to happen suddenly, it would cause a slump.
economy could slow much faster than almost anybody now expects. A
discontinuity is now more likely than for decades.
Birth of the Space Age
Science Museum, London
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin
wants a master plan to
Mars within 25 years. As a professor and senior faculty
adviser at the Buzz Aldrin Space
Institute, Florida Institute of
Technology, he will shoot for a Mars settlement by 2039
Quilliam founder Maajid Nawaz
on Islamists: "Treat them like
racists. The only way you can
challenge bigotry is by being
consistent against it."
is quite good in
2015 August 31
Northrop Grumman is developing an inflatable,
propeller-powered aircraft to cruise for months in the sulfurous
skies of Venus and wants to enter the concept for $1 billion of NASA
funding in the New Frontiers planetary science competition.
The Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable
Platform (VAMP) air vehicle is a hypersonic entry vehicle that
transitions to a semi-buoyant, maneuverable, solar powered aircraft
for flight in the skies of Venus. VAMP is transported to Venus
orbit by a carrier spacecraft, then deployed and released to float
down into the clouds. There it flies, transmitting science data to
Earth. VAMP holds over 40 kg of instruments and can fly around the
planet for up to a year. VAMP is the first of the Lifting Entry
Atmospheric Flight (LEAF) family of atmospheric rover vehicles.
AR A good preliminary for the Venus
sky city idea (blog
Pierre R. Blanquet
A new conception of
intentionality is proposed. Visuomotor neural pathways accompanied
by quantum transitions might self-organize to control intentionality
in the brain. In the models of Giuseppe Vitiello and Gordon Globus,
a dissipative system governs the dynamic dialog of dual quantum
modes between environment and brain. Based on this conception of
mind-world interactions, intentionality might be a fundamental force
that draws us irreversibly toward the future.
AR I proposed a similar idea in
Mindworlds (2002, PDF, 7 MB; see slides 120-132): virtual
futures might be realized when input photons entangle with retinal
molecules and lock the viewer into the landscape. Intentionality
arises in the adoption of VR brain models based on the locking. The
"fundamental force" idea is bunk — a poor echo of Schopenhauer.
2015 August 30
Freud spoke of all psychoses as narcissistic
disorders: one becomes the most important person in the world,
chosen for a unique role, whether it is to be a messiah, a redeemer
of souls, or to be the focus of universal persecution and
accusation, or derision and degradation.
Mania is by no means
all pleasure. When one ascends to the exorbitant heights of mania,
one becomes very isolated from ordinary human relationships. There
is much evidence to suggest a possible relationship between mania
Where Am I?
The sense of self is grounded in the
body, its feelings, and our brain maps of them. Errors can occur.
For example, sit at a table and rest one hand on it, with a rubber
hand nearby and a screen hiding your view of your own hand, and let
an experimenter stroke both the real hand and the fake one. Before
long, you feel the stroking sensation transfer to the location of
the rubber hand. Your brain assigns the rubber hand to you. Similar
illusions can shift your sense of where you are to elsewhere.
AR A familiar feeling for me from
immersion in books or movies.
2015 August 29
Martin Heidegger once confessed:
"Nietzsche hat mich kaputt gemacht."
said he who thinks greatly must err greatly. Unlike Nietzsche,
Heidegger never abandoned his academic post. He aimed instead to
connect the dots between the history of being from the Ancient
Greeks to the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin and Third Reich
For Heidegger, Greek tragedy pointed to the
inescapability of fate and destiny. History was tragedy and
Heidegger thought he knew what roles he and the German people were
to play in it.
Hegel had enough hubris to think that he stood
at the end of history. Heidegger likewise considered himself the
first true philosopher since Heraclitus. In the black notebooks he
noted that the names Heraclitus, Hegel, and Hölderlin each began
with the letter "H" (so did Heidegger and Hitler).
Freedom to Fail is a lament for a philosophical epoch. True
thinking means never having to say you're sorry. Peter Trawny: "For
Heidegger, evil belongs to thinking. Insofar as it elucidates being,
it elucidates evil. For even evil belongs to the world-narrative."
A mathematical proof is an exhaustive
sequence of logical steps leading from an established starting point
to an undeniable conclusion. But some mathematicians think math is
reaching a limit. Real breakthroughs can be too complicated for
others to check.
Computers can help. When
humans write out proofs, they skip a lot of the boring details.
Computers must account for every logical step, but a program known
as a proof assistant can help verify that each step of a proof is
Vladimir Voevodsky splits math into four quadrants.
Applied math involves high complexity but low abstraction. Pure math
involves low complexity but high abstraction. School math involves
neither. Q4 math involves both. Humans may need computers to access
Voevodsky wants to help the computers. Math is currently
defined in terms of set theory, but there are many ways to define
math in terms of sets. If two computer proofs use different
definitions for the same thing, they will be incompatible. Voevodsky
swaps sets for types, a way of defining mathematical objects in
which every concept has exactly one definition. Proofs built with
types can also form types themselves. So mathematicians can
formulate their ideas directly with a proof assistant.
An Intuitive Introduction to Motivic Homotopy Theory
We start with topological spaces. We
invent something about this geometrical world using our visual
intuition. We abstract it and rewrite it in terms of category
theory, which provides a connecting language. And then we apply it
in the new situation of algebraic equations. So what we get is a
fantastic way to translate geometric intuition into results about
algebraic objects. And that is from my point of view the main fun of
AR Hegel and set theory — my twin obsessions 40
2015 August 28
My campaign is for a strategic approach in
which business, the state, and the population work cooperatively to
create wealth, and for that wealth to reach all sections of society
and all regions and nations of our country.
leader, I will appoint a shadow cabinet of all talents within the
parliamentary Labour party. Our party has been reinvigorated and we
will use the surge in excitement to focus our energies on
Revolutions in all the key industries
of the future have been dependent on strategic public-sector
investment. Stable capital must be provided through a public
investment bank to support our most innovative sectors.
vision is of a country in which people are secure in their work,
secure in their home, and able to better themselves, in which people
are supported by strong public services, and with a more balanced
AR Labour talents lack
the wisdom to pick winners among industries of the future. The
public investment bank would waste billions and run up more debt.
2015 August 27
Islamic State rules vast portions of Syria
and Iraq, and enjoys a following among Sunni Arabs in certain
pockets. The ordinary Sunnis in those pockets may dislike the
crucifixions, beheadings, lashings, and amputations, and may recoil
at the mass slaughters. But they have been terrified by the rise of
Shiite power, and they see in Islamic State a force that is willing
to protect them.
Islamic State inherits much from the old
Arab Baath Socialist Party of Saddam Hussein. Baathism is an
extremist movement that is also adaptive. Over the decades the
Baathists have basked in the secular sun and also dipped into the
seas of Islam. Saddam started out with an Islamic orientation,
veered in communist directions during his years of glory, and later
inscribed "Allahu Akbar" on his flag.
The Baathist officers
began by allying with the Sunni Islamist cause in occupied Iraq.
They ended by sailing the seas of jihad, where they remain. Islamic
State acquired an officer corps, administrative skills, and a
security apparatus. The Arab Baath Socialist Party turns out to be
the worst affliction the Arab people has ever endured. Each new
adaptation has proved to be expert at slaughter.
State slaughters for religious reasons. Its piety requires the
efficiently organized jihadis to slaughter the Yazidi minority in
Iraq, to slaughter the Shia, and to slaughter Christians. It would
surely require them to slaughter the Jews, if only the Israeli
Defense Force would let them. Given the opportunity, Islamic State
would slaughter most of the world.
Italian fascism bred Nazis, Iraqi fascism bred IS jihadis.
Dark Quark Matter?
Sabine Hossenfelder and Naomi Lubick
Glenn Starkman says
dark matter could be quark nuggets.
Dark matter accounts for
85% of the mass in the universe, yet is invisible and seems to
interact only weakly with other matter. Edward Witten suggested long
ago that quarks of different flavors could combine to form what he
called quark nuggets, which would be massive, tiny, and well nigh
Constraints on Starkman's hypothesis:
1 If dark matter nuggets were about as
massive as our sun, they would be common enough to cause frequent gravitational lensing, contrary to observation.
2 If they were much smaller and spread
out through space in a thin fog, they would interact with normal
matter and hinder the formation of galaxies as we know them.
The nuggets would have to be light enough not to cause frequent
gravitational lensing and yet heavy enough to be sparse, so as to
interact only rarely with normal matter. Starkman found that nuggets
compatible with observational data would have masses in the range 50
grams to 50 gigatons.
No one knows whether quarks can form
AR Dark matter
could thus be solved in principle.
2015 August 26
The Chinese market is not a normal one. The
Chinese authorities decided to stake substantial resources on an
effort to stop the collapse of a bubble. They also decided to
devalue the renminbi. They must have been driven to do so by concern
over the economy, so we should worry too.
A deeper concern is
whether China can shift from an investment-led economy to a
consumption-led one, while sustaining aggregate demand. If it can,
the economy will also sustain growth of 6-7%. Gross fixed investment was 44%
of GDP in 2014, which for an economy growing at only 5% means low or
negative marginal returns. Investment could fall sharply, causing a
collapse in demand.
The Chinese authorities face three
1 Cleaning up the legacy
of past financial excesses while avoiding a financial crisis
2 Reshaping the economy to depend more
on consumption and less on investment
Achieving all that while sustaining dynamic growth of aggregate
AR Interesting times
2015 August 25
China's central bank cut interest rates
and said it would pump liquidity into the banking sector in a bid to
boost the slowing economy and stem the slump in share prices.
David A. Bell
Timothy Snyder suggested in
Bloodlands that Hitler depended on Stalin not only for a model
of terror and murder but also for destroying civil institutions to
cast the Holocaust as part of a larger pattern of mass death.
Black Earth is a meditation on the Holocaust. Hitler saw the
world in social Darwinist terms as a death struggle between races.
The German race would exterminate the Slavs and expropriate their
rich farmlands. Standing in the way were the Jews. Snyder claims
that Hitler only decided on genocide in reaction to his failure to
make the USSR collapse like a house of cards. But this is
Snyder argues that Communists bore
responsibility for assisting the Nazis. He identifies the Soviet
Union far more with mass murder and the destruction of states than
with the successful struggle to defeat the Nazis.
China stocks opened sharply lower again. The Shanghai Composite has
now declined 42% from its June 12 peak, erasing all gains year to
1 China's economy is
slowing faster than anticipated.
2 Uncertainty over US Federal
Reserve interest rate.
3 Cheap oil: crude is now trading below
AR Cheap oil — back to climate change.
2015 August 24
World Markets Plunge
CNN Money, 12:26 AM ET
Shanghai Composite closed down
Nikkei closed down 4.6%
Dow plunged 1000 pt, now rallying
JP Morgan strategist
David Stubbs: "What we're seeing is not a reasonable correction.
We're definitely in the world of psychological downturn and real
concern about the future."
Photo: Sally Adams
Vulcan XH558: From the deck of a cruise boat in
Poole Bay I watched her final exit after 55 years of flying. The
last flying example
of a total of 136 Vulcan nuclear bombers in
RAF service from 1956 to 1984 flew back and forth along the beach
pumped up the power to her four Olympus jets and thundered
up and away into the heavens.
When you breathe in the proper
it calms the conscious mind.
The PNS reduces the flood of
that keeps the brain
wired for danger and allows
the mind to be more
This is why meditation is
Professor LeDoux hosted
The Self: From Soul to Brain
2015 August 23
A novelist is someone who takes years
trying to get it right. I care about the novel. People who write
them, people who read them. That is who I consider my clan, my kin.
I like the kind of people who give sustained attention to something,
let themselves have a full experience and then respond to it
I was already trying to do something with this
book in the early 1990s, the idea of a dissident poet from East
Germany. They had the most exhaustively complete system of
totalitarian rule ever seen outside North Korea. Several things came
together. German thoroughness and love of bureaucracy and love of
order, and also the guilt that communist Germany had. They did it
really more thoroughly than Russia did. Russia was sloppy.
believe success is not merely a matter of hard work and
determination. There's a discomfort that comes with privilege. And
there's been a discomfort for me that comes with success and with
the level of attention that my books have gotten. Remaining in that
state of discomfort is a way to try to keep myself honest.
2015 August 22
Islam spread with the early Arab armies. The
black flags under which extremists now fight recall what are
imagined to be the battle banners of the earliest Muslim forces. The
faith emerged at a time when Byzantine Rome and the Persians had
exhausted themselves in centuries of conflict.
a utopian community during his lifetime. That community then
transformed much of the known world. While the earliest Jews
suffered exile and early Christians persecution, Sunni Muslims
enjoyed one of the most successful military and political campaigns
Across much of the world, for two thirds of the
last 1,300 years, the power, the glory and the wealth was, broadly
speaking, Islamic. The story of the caliphate lives within the
context of this overarching narrative.
When Mohammed died, he
left no clear instructions as to the "caliph" who should succeed
him. The split over the first succession became the division between
the Shia and the Sunnis. The title eventually ended up with the
Ottoman sultans, until Kemal Atatürk abolished the caliphate in
In 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took the unilateral
decision to appoint himself as the new caliph. His caliphate would
allow Muslims to heal the damage done by centuries of western
dominance. An apocalyptic tone in his rhetoric is undoubtedly
present, but the historical element is just as powerful.
most Muslims, the new caliph is simply the latest of a long line of
religious revivalist leaders. His claim to the title is dismissed by
all major Islamic religious authorities. But none would dispute his
dream of resurrecting the power and the glory of Muslim rulers from
the Golden Age of Islam.
A new vision of the extent of the
caliphate is emerging, no longer constrained by the boundaries of
earlier Islamic empires. Some speak of flying the black flag of
Islam over the White House.
2015 August 21
tank maker KMW chief executive Frank Haun: "In the eastern EU and
NATO countries, there is very concrete interest in the establishment
or upgrading of specific capabilities. NATO is aware of the
deficiencies in its conventional deterrent capability."
Ukraine has prompted Germany and other NATO countries to review
their land forces. Haun: "Simply put, what would deter a potential
aggressor from risking a conventional war? It's combat tanks and
armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery, and heavily armored
In Germany, Bundesverteidigungsministerin
Ursula von der Leyen is raising the number of Leopard 2 Kampfpanzer
in Bundeswehr service from 225 to 328. The ministry is spending €620
million on a further 131 Boxer GTK and is considering more Puma
Henrik Heidenkamp: "What Ukraine, and basically Russian policy
behavior, has done is to highlight to German policymakers that there
is a need to think more constructively about how to strengthen the
German defense industry."
The Fall of the USSR
Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1990: "The crisis of
the Soviet Union is a historic crisis like the crisis of the Ottoman
Empire, for example. It is a crisis of stagnation, of attrition, of
demoralization, of fragmentation, and of intensified potential for
Wassily Leontief compared the Soviet economy to a
yacht that was unable to catch the wind. It was held back by
government interference and regulation, but he praised its
achievements before and after WW2. When the Kremlin invited him to
analyze it he said structural changes could fix it.
Leontief said Communist leaders seeking to join the global
capitalist world had ruined the system. It was burned to ashes and
had to be rebuilt from scratch. Today Russia is a source of raw
materials for the global economy.
2015 August 20
HMS Iron Duke
Reception and Capability
Dress uniform 1C or equivalent
Germany (pop. 80 million) expects to
receive a record 800,000 asylum seekers this year, more than the
entire EU in 2014. This is the biggest refugee crisis to face Europe
The EU border control agency said the number of
people entering Europe by irregular means rose to nearly 110,000 in
July, the highest monthly total on record and treble the number for
July 2014. The "Dublin rule" requires refugees to claim asylum in
the first EU member state they enter. But some EU border states
allow large numbers of refugees to head north.
minister Thomas de Maizière: "In the long run, there won't be any
Schengen without Dublin. Control-free borders cannot exist in the
long term without a real European asylum policy."
Angela Merkel says the refugee crisis is of far more concern than
the stability of the euro.
Solche Zahlen sind unerträglich. Mit so vielen Einwanderer werden
wir Probleme ohne Ende einführen. Wir brauchen dringend eine neue
Politik — Festung Europa.
2015 August 19
The narrative about what went wrong with
the euro is based on dubious claims:
Claim: The euro damaged
weaker EZ economies by pushing up wages and preventing currency
Fact: The peripheral economies did not price
themselves out of markets. Most held on to their market share and
most of their wage inflation was in domestic sectors.
• Massive capital flows from the
core to the periphery fueled an import boom and wage inflation, but
less so in sectors that trade internationally.
2 Sovereign bailouts
Claim: There was no alternative to offering rescue loans to the
crisis-hit EZ governments. Sovereign defaults would have had
Fact : Sovereign defaults are almost
always followed by faster growth and better creditworthiness.
Research suggests that they encourage investment by bringing
• Market panic across
the periphery may have owed more to inherent risks than to
3 Fiscal union
Claim: A monetary union must put enough fiscal resources in common
to help its members absorb shocks. The logic leads from monetary
union to fiscal union.
Fact: The case for sharing risk applies
regardless of monetary union. The US and German monetary unions
absorb most local shocks in private financial markets: US fiscal
insurance absorbs 15% of local downturns and German 10%.
• Fiscal union would marginally
help EZ countries, but the real prize is more private financial
Claim: Peripheral EZ nations must reform their
economic structures to make their debts sustainable and to catch up
with the core EZ economies.
Fact: IMF research finds only a small
positive effect of structural reforms on productivity and output.
After 5 years of product and labor reforms, output would be 3.7%
higher than without them. In the long term, product market reform
boosts GDP by 8.6%, labor market liberalization by 2.2%.
• The benefit is too small to make
AR The EZ
narrative promotes economic virtue.
2015 August 18
Russia Looks Weak
Vladimir Putin has consolidated Kremlin
power. But both the Russian political model and its economy look
threadbare. The economy contracted 4.6% in Q2 of 2015 year on year.
Now US GDP at PPP is 5 times larger than Russia's. The Russian
population has fallen to 142 million.
The west is right to
sanction the Putin regime for trampling over Ukrainian sovereignty.
It is right to bolster NATO defenses bordering Russia. But it would
be rash to declare a new cold war. The west should leave the Russian
door ajar for a future leader.
The German approach is wise: Keep calm.
2015 August 17
EU Foreign Policy
European countries are small and can only
exert real influence by acting together. To represent the
interests of the European Union as a whole, the Lisbon treaty
established the office of EU council president (now Donald Tusk) as
well as an office of high representative for foreign policy. These
offices were intended to aggregate the interests of the member
states, to direct EU diplomacy, and to conduct foreign policy on
issues where there was consensus.
Recently some EU member
states have taken center stage in foreign policy crises. On Ukraine,
Germany and France have taken it upon themselves to manage Russian
aggression, with only partial success. If foreign policy is about
helping to manage the free world, member states should calculate
whether a given issue is better resolved by them alone or by the EU
as a whole. If they decide upon the latter, they had better get
behind EU policy. If Ukraine goes wrong, Germany will be
blamed. EU member states should lead behind their jointly
Eastern European NATO members will join
forces to increase pressure for permanent bases in their countries.
Leaders from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic,
Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania will meet in November to
lobby for a larger NATO presence on the eastern front. Poland and
the Baltic states say NATO must respond more robustly to the Russian
annexation of Crimea. Berlin says any permanent NATO bases in the
eastern states would contravene a 1997 agreement with Russia. Warsaw
says the agreement is now moot.
Polish workers in London will go on a
one-day strike Thursday to protest against the lack of appreciation
for their huge input into the British economy. Without the efforts of the Polish community London could grind to a halt
2015 August 16
The Man for Mars
Elon Musk parlayed the $165 million he made
from PayPal into the more than $11 billion behind Musk Industries
today. He built the electric car company Tesla Motors, he founded
and runs the aeronautics company SpaceX, and he chairs SolarCity.
Tesla cars are sold with the guarantee of free solar energy from
charging stations powered by SolarCity. The lithium battery
technology for Tesla cars also covers for cloudy days and dark
nights: A home battery called Powerwall stores energy and kicks in
for the solar panels.
Musk proposes a hyperloop
transportation system to carry passengers in pods from San Francisco
to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. He wants to build an Internet service
based on 4,000 small LEO satellites launched with SpaceX rockets.
He founded SpaceX because he believes that a future where
humanity is out exploring the stars is more exciting than one where
we are not. SpaceX is actively developing the technologies to make
this possible, with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on
Musk has all the attributes of a classic narcissist:
the grandiosity, the quest to be famous, the lack of empathy, the
belief that he is smarter than everyone else, and the messianic plan
to save civilization.
Zen and the Art of Dying Well
Zen Hospice Project
its staff to care mindfully. They
pay scrupulous attention to the
senses that keep people awake
and engaged with the last
moments of their lives.
Photo: Mario Testino
Photo: Mario Testino
Renminbi falls again with new
cut: global markets
fear currency devaluations
China devalues renminbi 2%
against US dollar in
IMF to accept renminbi as a
global reserve currency
Southern Owl Nebula
A dolphin swims in front of
Porcellio scaber, woodlice,
have personalities. Ivan Hadrian Tuf
and colleagues captured some
and observed their responses
to being pushed and handled.
"Porcellio scaber is one of the
species of terrestrial
isopods with documented
Photo: John Wright
Women's Health UK
"I would love to have a little fat
on my sides so I can be
curvy. I'd love a big butt. But
I just can't get there."
AR Looks OK to me.
Photo: Allan Ballard
2015 August 15
NATO vs Russia
Nancy A. Youssef
Top US military officers have begun to
call Russia an existential threat. Moscow has roughly 4,000 nuclear
weapons, the world's third largest military budget, and an
increasingly bellicose leader. But they can't agree on the threat
Against Russia, US forces cannot rely on air
dominance, as they can in the Mideast, and they are ill prepared for
a sustained fight. In March, Russia conducted major field exercises,
deploying 80,000 personnel, focused on the Arctic and High North,
Kaliningrad, Crimea, and the Baltic states. In June, NATO conducted
its own exercises called Allied Shield, where 15,000 troops focused
on the Baltic states and Poland.
Analysis suggested NATO
could not maintain a sustained fight against the Russians. Worse,
Russia has learned to blend special forces, local proxies,
weaponized propaganda, cyber espionage, and sneak attacks, and says
it is ready to go nuclear first. NATO is struggling to figure out
how to respond without starting World War III.
States spends roughly $600 billion on defense. Russia spends $60
billion. Russian weapons are far less modern, and Putin had to
abandon his $400 billion plan to upgrade them earlier this year as
the Russian ruble fell. But during the height of the Cold War, there
were roughly 250,000 US troops deployed to Europe. That number
AR Europe could
fall like France in 1940.
Retail seems like magic to me. You walk
into a space filled with well lit, cunningly arranged, tantalizing
objects, you see something you like, you hand over this stuff called
money, and they give you what you want. What could be better?
The first thing I do in any new country is go to a hardware
store. The Japanese have the best department stores. They are fully
immersive lifestyle experiences, and they sell everything. They're
so well put together that you feel like you should dress up just to
I was really excited to go to Harrods in London.
When I got there everything looked like it was designed by the same
guy who did Michael Jackson's wardrobe. I guess I was expecting a
whole other level of luxury. Humanity seems to be split down the
middle on luxury: those who want gilded leopard-shaped teapots, and
those people who want to live in the white box their iPhone came in.
AR I like a white box.
2015 August 14
Rosanell Eaton reaffirmed a fundamental
truth. What makes our country great is not that we are perfect, but
that with time, courage and effort, we can become more perfect.
Nearly three decades after Rosanell testified to her unbroken
faith in this country, that faith was vindicated. The Voting Rights
Act put an end to literacy tests and other forms of discrimination,
helping to close the gap between our promise that all of us are
created equal and our long history of denying some of us the right
I am where I am today only because men and women
like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full
measure of equality. Their efforts made our country a better place.
2015 August 13
NATO and Poland
Polish president Andrzej Duda criticizes
NATO for treating Poland like a buffer zone. He urges the alliance
to place permanent bases in Poland and adapt its strategy to
Russia's actions in Ukraine and Georgia.
Warsaw will host the
NATO biennial summit next year. Discussions over permanent bases in
eastern Europe might be a central issue. There are still no NATO
combat troops deployed east of Germany.
Duda and his
right-wing Law and Justice party cohabit awkwardly with Poland's
center-right government. The president heads military and foreign
policy and can propose and veto legislation.
minister Ewa Kopacz supports the EU initiative to reduce CO2
emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030, but Duda and his party
criticize the proposals. Poland has vast coal reserves and the
mining industry employs more than 100,000 people.
AR Burning coal is filthy.
Paul Mason says capitalism is a complex
adaptive system that has reached the limits of its capacity to
adapt. His argument:
technology has reduced the need for work.
Information goods can be replicated endlessly, for free.
3 People are collaborating in ways that
do not make economic sense.
Mason says technology has turned
us all into individualists connected by networks. He wants to use
their power to build a world no longer dominated by neoliberalism,
where only part of the population would work for cash and the rest
would pursue other goals.
His vision is a world where the
government provides the framework to enable individuals to flourish
and state functions are handed over to citizens. People will be free
to write Wikipedia pages. It sounds utopian.
AR A Conservative vision
Jerusalem's Temple Institute hopes to
raise $125,000 in order to implant the frozen embryos of Red Angus
cattle in Israeli cows, in the hope that the herd produces an
unblemished red heifer. Such a holy cow plays a big part in the
ancient Jewish ritual of purification.
At our finest
universities and hospitals, doctors and scientists are exploring
treatments that edge closer to tinkering with the sacred orb of the
self. We should prepare for a future in which a slew of undesirable
behaviors could be eradicated with a light electrical pulse.
Genesis tells us that when Enoch died he became the angel Metatron,
patron of scientific progress. Is his story a cautionary tale
against attempting to short-circuit our freedom to choose good from
evil? The answer may be harder to come by than a holy cow.
AR Homo sap = Holy cow!
2015 August 12
Russia vs NATO
European Leadership Network
The war in Ukraine has
worsened the relationship between Russia and NATO. Russian
brinkmanship has resulted in many close military encounters between
Russian and NATO forces. Russia and by NATO have also increased the
scope and size of their military exercises in the Euro-Atlantic area
since the Ukraine crisis began.
We analyzed two recent
• A Russian
exercise in March 2015 with 80,000 military personnel.
• The NATO Allied Shield exercise
in June 2015 with 15,000 personnel from 22 states.
is training with the other side in mind: Russia is preparing for a
conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible
confrontation with Russia. We need more communication between NATO
and Russia on exercises and agreed reciprocal territorial
limitations on deployment of certain weapons.
UK defense secretary Michael Fallon: "Russia is continuing to
test NATO's resolve, but we have shown we are standing firm. Seven
thousand people have already died in the Ukraine, right on the
doorstep of Europe, as Ukraine fights for its freedom. This is not a
frozen conflict, it's still red hot."
See NATO expansion eastward as a cool reprise of the 1941-42
assault on the Soviet Union: the Ukraine conflict becomes our
Stalingrad, the limit of our powers. The 1943-45 Red Army rollback
was brutal. A new Russian rollback into Europe
could do real damage.
2015 August 11
One Party State
We are now facing a one-party state. In the
Commons, the opposition is cowed and aimless. A future Labour
majority now looks like a pipe dream. Conservatives are pressing
ahead with boundary changes that were blocked in the last parliament
and will increase the their majority by 30 or 40. In the Lords, the
government will appoint a phalanx of new Tory peers.
last election, the Conservatives had more money to spend than all
the other parties combined. Now they want to introduce union
reforms likely to deplete substantially the funding available to the
Labour Party. The BBC is to be eviscerated, legal aid is
disappearing, and the Freedom of Information Act will be reviewed.
Democrats need to wake up and act.
Conservative rule OK: UK democracy needs rethink.
2015 August 10
Pressures on Greek self-determination
micromanagement of policy by creditors
Shameless intervention in Greek elections by EZ leaders
3 Huge efforts made to avoid any upset
of the EZ program
Greek opinion polls show most Greeks want
to keep the euro but reject the policies imposed by creditor
institutions. The EZ political elite has done everything it can to
frustrate this preference.
Either EZ leaders believe there is
no alternative or they cannot admit they were wrong. But EZ
imposition of austerity and monetary tightening was a policy choice.
People can say no.
The EZ goal was to smooth trade
and investment and prevent a return to past enmities. It was not to
remove any choice over economic policy. Denying democracy betrays
AR Lesson to
Greece: EZ money is not easy money.
Digital publishing encourages skim reading.
People react to the volume of academic papers by skimming them. They
read ebooks on devices they use for other things, such as
cellphones, with distraction a thumb swipe away.
shorter now. You can look up a word in an ebook by selecting it. If
you like a passage in an ebook you can highlight it. Then you can
read just the highlighted bits. Wikipedia pages on novels embody
Good beach reads:
Literary novels with clear prose and plots
Popular novels with a high writerly craft
Literary autobiographies, diaries, reportage
Today life is
more immersive. Writers are up against it.
AR Zine-like ebooks — EZ books — are the
2015 August 9
29 US Scientists Praise Iran Nuclear Deal
New York Times
Top US scientists, including Nobel
laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms, and former White House
science advisers, wrote to President Obama on Saturday to praise the
Most of the 29 signatories are physicists, and
many of them have held Q clearances granting access to a special
category of secret information that bears on the design of nuclear
In Greek mythology, the
omphalos marks the navel of the world. But where is it? Kazakhstan,
Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan
were once crossed by the Silk Roads — for
Peter Frankopan the
crossroads of civilization.
Ancient Greece and Rome are
traditionally seen as the birthplace of European civilization. Yet
the Greeks and Romans looked to the East for enlightenment and
mystery. Europe was a barbarian place. Roman grandeur was built on
riches from the East.
From the East came cinnamon, nutmeg,
ginger, silk, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Muslim commentators
noted with regret how the advance of Christianity effaced the traces
and paths of learning. The Christians were the fundamentalists back
The Silk Roads also transmitted a plague to Europe that
triggered a change so profound it remade the West. Europeans claimed
the mantle of the Greeks and Romans. But today the massive wealth is
in the Gulf region. So where is the omphalos?
AR The omphalos is in the great "I am"
— the concept of self that exceeds all understanding.
2015 August 8
A few years ago, the
Four Horsemen of the
New Atheism pressed the case that God does not exist and that many
aspects of organized religion are pernicious.
against the New Atheists has led to a new consensus. People will
never be disabused of their religious beliefs. Perhaps societies need unifying creeds to promote
altruism and social cohesion. Also, science relies on faith in
testing and universal laws. If science and religion just stayed on
their own sides of the bed we could all just get along. This is
Jerry Coyne says science is distinct from
religious faith. He defines science as a system of
belief grounded by reason and evidence rather than faith. People
who appreciate science ought to treat all claims with
skepticism, and provisionally accept only those warranted
by arguments and evidence that anyone can recognize. They should not
accept claims on faith.
The existence of the God of scripture
is a testable empirical hypothesis. Religious beliefs are
falsifiable. Coyne finds arguments for them false or
Are we too intelligent?
"Human beings tend to think being clever is such a good thing, but
it might be that from an evolutionary perspective, being stupid is
Humans have evolved a form of intelligence and
cognitive complexity unseen in other species. This has let us
dominate a planet and develop advanced science. But it has also
taken us to the brink of global problems like climate change and a
mass extinction. A disaster could wipe us out.
Metzinger: "It is cognitive complexity, but without compassion and
flexibility in our motivational structure."
We are moved by
instincts such as greed and jealousy, and not by global empathy or
rationality. Our minds have cognitive biases. We pay
less attention to future risk compared with present risk. We also
have a bias to prefer to be rather than not to be. Why have we met
no intelligent aliens? Metzinger: "They may have come to the
conclusion that it's better to terminate their own existence."
AR I first met Thomas in 1997 and
stayed in touch until 2012 or so. A true philosopher.
2015 August 7
The world is unlikely to go another 70
years without nuclear weapons being used.
The chance of the
United States, Russia, China, Britain, or France deliberately using
such weapons is minuscule. They have robust arsenals capable of
surviving a first strike and intelligence capabilities that give
each of them a good picture of what the others are doing. Diplomacy
and arms control arrangements further buttress stability.
risk comes from countries that have acquired these weapons more
recently. Pakistan is arguably the most serious concern. North Korea
might use nuclear weapons or sell them to others. Israel has a
nuclear arsenal. Iran will keep most of the prerequisites of a large
nuclear weapons program. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates,
Turkey, and Egypt may well follow suit.
use of nuclear weapons may be the challenge of the century.
Israel vs Iran
Israel has been at the receiving end of gun
and missile fire for decades. The ayatollahs in Tehran would have us
believe that they seek a tranquil, stable Mideast, but to understand
the regime we must look at what it is doing.
Iran is the
world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism, arming and supporting
Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Syrian regime, and
Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards perpetrate
acts of terrorism throughout the world, from Asia to Europe to the
United States. The regime also maintains terror cells in Africa and
The regime has been working for decades to
develop a nuclear weapon. Even today, with the Vienna deal signed,
IAEA concerns on the military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear
project remain unanswered. President Rouhani boasted of how in
previous rounds of negotiations he took advantage of talks in Europe
to secretly advance the nuclear military project.
not conform to western values and has not signed up for peace. Iran
is merely using the tools given to it by western democracies. The
terror will continue, and the military nuclear project will be close
on its heels.
2015 August 6
Israel vs Iran
Israel is besieged. I operate on the
presumption that Iran is a fundamental danger, that they are engaged
in negative activities throughout the region, and that they consider
Israel a fundamental enemy. Everything we have done here is to build
a bulwark. Then we can deal with the other things.
We went to
negotiations. People agreed to what was happening. If we
unilaterally walk away from this process and turn our back on their
cooperation, this will be the ultimate screwing. We cut a deal, we
stand up, China, Russia, France, Germany, Britain, all sign off. Now
the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah's suspicion, and
there's no way he's ever coming back.
We did a nuclear deal.
We looked at how do you take the most immediate threat away from
them in order to protect the region. And if we're going to push back
against an Iran that is behaving in these ways, it is better to push
back on an Iran that doesn't have a nuclear weapons than one that
If Congress rejects the deal, we're back to square one.
Suppose they start to dig deeper under a new mountain. They have an
ability to get a bomb. The hue and cry will be: "Iran is going to go
to a bomb, you better drop the thing on them now to stop them." It's
inevitable. Then you have tit-for-tat.
that keeping those six nations together, keeping international law
on your side, keeping that option and giving it the opportunity of
playing out, is a far smarter way to go.
2015 August 5
USS John Warner
SSN-785 USS John Warner comes in on target and under budget, $2
billion worth of steel and stealth, with war-fighting controls
resembling a video game. The new attack sub has no periscope but looks up
through a photonic mast with HD and IR video. The video is streamed
to big screens in the command center, where a joystick controls the
view. Two sailors facing a curved wall of screens drive the boat.
Displacing 7,800 tons and 115 m long, the Warner is armed with Tomahawks and torpedos
and can also launch UUVs carrying
SEALs without breaking surface. Commander Daniel Caldwell: "The
shiniest and coolest thing I've ever seen in my military career."
Senator John Warner is a WW2 sailor and marine and a former
undersecretary and secretary of the Navy: "This ship embraces every
single known bit of high tech that is required to equip it and allow
it to maintain the toughest missions."
AR I recall the bluff and bellicose Sen. Warner fondly from his CNN appearances.
Jonathan Franzen's novel
Purity is about the false idolatry of the digital age, its
pretense of truth-telling and revelation, its ideological purity
that reduces to monomania and fanaticism.
The opening pages
give a bleakly satirical picture of aimlessness in the smudged
afterglow of the Occupy protests of 2011–2012. The protagonist,
named Purity but in a reference to Dickens called Pip, is a recent
college graduate, sexually experienced and conversant in all the
current dogmas, but otherwise as lost and alone as her namesake.
Purity is less fluent than
The Corrections and
Freedom. In places it lacks their propulsive power, in part
because it is structured as a scrambled sequence of novellas, and
includes long digressions and delays. Among other things, it is a
compendium of rabid purities: environmentalism and anti-nuke
activism, high-tech entrepreneurialism, old-style feminism.
Franzen allows his prodigious imagination to flow into the crevices
of his invented world and give it the texture of lived experience.
He convinces us that his vision unmasks the world we live in.
AR I enjoyed
Freedom, must read
UK General and Local Elections 2015
Poole Conservative Association
AR My campaign souvenir
2015 August 4
Biomedical research promises vast increases
in life, health, and flourishing.
The Global Burden of
Disease Project estimated the number of years lost to premature
death or compromised by disability in 2010 at 2.5 billion. The past
two decades have seen a 35% reduction in the per capita,
age-specific, disability adjusted life-years lost to disease
Citizens of richer countries live longer and
healthier lives. Basic public health measures and medical
interventions have largely conquered the disorders that still take a
toll in the developing world. As the treatments get cheaper and poor
countries get richer, the gains will spread.
Given this, the
primary moral goal for bioethics must be: Get out of the way.
2015 August 3
The Decent One
Kurzbiographie durch privaten Filmaufnahmen und Briefe - die Briefe
waren in deutscher Sprache ausgelesen. Mir war es ein Vergnügen,
kultiviertes Deutsch nochmals zu hören. Nur schade, dass der Anlass
dafür so grausam war - immer ein Risiko bei dieser Sprache.
The violence waged by Islamic fundamentalists
worldwide is toxic. These extremists represent a blasphemous form of
Islam that sanctions the killing of anyone who does not agree with
The Islamists aim to establish a caliphate. They want
to convert the whole world to their brand of Islam. Their views have
roots in Wahhabism, the most fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni
Islam, which became dominant in Arabia. Wahhabis divide the world
into two, the land of Islam and the land of war. The latter they aim
to convert and subjugate or destroy. First comes the jihad of the
tongue, then that of the purse, and finally that of the sword, which
We need to counter all three aspects. We must use our military
might. We must encourage prosperity. And we must compete for hearts
and minds. We must defend and promote our values.
2015 August 2
The Sunday Times
Robots are coming to a
parking lot near you. Driverless cars are in development, and legal
problems are now the hardest obstacle. Autonomous technology will
take to the air as well. Robot soldiers are on the march too. None
of these have to be perfect, just better than their human
equivalents. Robot cars and planes will crash, but less often than
human drivers and pilots.
Google visionary Ray Kurzweil says
a confluence of robotics, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering by
around 2050 will create the Singularity. The next transhuman age
will banish sickness and old age and rely on the machines to make us
all rich and happy — a "rapture of the nerds" that Oxford
transhumanist Nick Bostrom calls a bigger threat than global
No one knows if machines can be sentient. We don't
know how human consciousness works. But if the machines ever wake
up, we had better hope they like us. Soon they will control our food
and water, our electricity, and our hospitals and banking networks.
Our best hope is to code human values into them. If they decide to
scrap us, then bye-bye Homo sap.
All this (with a global
gloss invoking Darwin and Dawkins that I spell out in my 2013 book
Coral) recalls my
Germany is the cockpit of Europe. For
centuries, its population of hard workers and good soldiers made
Germany the most valued prize in the European state system. But the
Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was bitterly divided. This
vacuum at the heart of Europe invited war.
the old empire. The German Confederation of 1815 followed, but was
built on similar lines. The result was a political culture
preoccupied with rules and procedure to the point of paralysis.
Bismarck destroyed it to create a united Germany in 1871, which went
on to overturn the European and global balance of power.
Global coalitions crushed German empires in
two world wars. After 1945, Germany was partitioned into a communist
east and a democratic west. The project of European integration was
intended to contain Germany in a peaceful polity like that of the
old Holy Roman Empire, based on the diffusion rather than the
concentration of power.
Defense integration against the
Soviet threat remained the task of NATO. After 1989, the EU and NATO
expansion eastward left Germany surrounded by friends. Now the
European security bubble has exploded with Russian aggression in
Ukraine, the question arises of how far the Germans can think of the
general geopolitical good of Europe.
The strengths and
weaknesses of the old Holy Roman Empire live on in the European
Union of today. Instead of anchoring the common currency in joint
parliamentary representation and a strong state, Berlin is
attempting to run it through the acceptance of German political
The eurozone could continue to stagger from crisis
to crisis. But the euro will fail unless someone is responsible for
its sovereign debt. A German exit from the euro would frustrate the
purpose of the currency. Only complete political union, with
transfer of sovereign powers to the European Parliament, can settle
the German question.
AR Let the
eurozone become German Europe to face down the Russian threat. Let
the UK become a Taiwan to a German China.
Berlin is now the third most visited city
in Europe. Only London and Paris are ahead. With 45,000 newcomers in
2014, Berlin now has more than 3.5 million residents. In 2013 an
estimated 10,000 Brits lived in Berlin, and in late 2014 some
You can live in Berlin without speaking
German. For the same lifestyle, your cost of living in Berlin can be
half the cost in London, assuming you rent in both cities. Consumer
prices in Berlin are 30% less, and rental costs are almost 70%
AR I was fascinated by
Berlin during a 3-month stay to read Hegel there in 1974, and liked
it more and more in several later visits.
2015 August 1
Frank Wilczek peers through layers of
theory to the nature of the universe. His question: Is the physical
universe, and the equations that physicists have derived to explain
can appreciate the beauty of the standard model of particle physics
you need to understand it. The ancient Greeks first glimpsed the
deep numerical order underlying the world. Isaac Newton experimented
with prisms and light, then James Clerk Maxwell wrote a theory of
light as electromagnetic waves. That theory is now part of quantum
The electromagnetic force is one of
four fundamental forces of the universe. These forces act on
particles, which can be organized into related families. The
standard model describes how forces and particles behave in a
mathematical framework of astonishing symmetry. The apparent duality
of forces and particles is resolved in a deeper symmetry called
The links between phenomena and the
symmetries inherent in the equations are profound, and the
scientists who devise and confirm them are creative, but is this
AR I met Wilczek in
Heidelberg and liked his vision of physics.
J. R. R. Tolkien
Oxford don J.R.R. Tolkien lectured on
Middle English, Anglo Saxon, and Old Icelandic. His trilogy The Lord
of the Rings (1954) is arguably the greatest and certainly the most
popular fantasy novels of all time. His Oxford friend C.S. Lewis
encouraged him: "The steady upward slope of grandeur and terror is
almost unequalled in the whole range of narrative art."
Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic but Lewis
began as an atheist. They were both enchanted by mythology. Myths
are stories that convey deep truth, Tolkien told Lewis, who then
converted, and became as fierce an advocate of Christianity as he
had been an enemy.
taught at my college in Oxford, but before my time.
will provide internet access in remote parts of the world. The solar
powered drone weighs about 400 kg and
has a wingspan of 42 m.
Launched with the help of helium balloons, it will fly in the air
for 90 days at a time
in big circles at an altitude of 27 km by day
and 18 km by night. Its first flight will be later this year.
The Nokia Ozo camera lets
and edit 3D
VR content in real time.
Basic neuroscience and
psychology for pre-teens,
a movie with
enough story to carry a
jaded adult like me
a happy end.
Pluto: halo of backlit nitrogen
seen when New Horizons was
about 2 Gm past Pluto. Air
decreases hugely as
Pluto approaches aphelion and
falls as snow.
Sputnik Planum shows swirls
of viscous ice. The glacial flow
on Pluto is nitrogen ice,
which flows glacially much as
water ice does on Earth.
Pluto: new composite
Hanging in the Woods
Hilde Krohn Huse
(HD video, 11:36)
AR She was no scout —
wrong knots in rope
My new image
Clueless — summer hit of 1995.
Alicia! I was like, no way, dude!
I was gone, man. Crashed
AR Hint —
Hero Jon was born in 1979
and grew up in California
spoke like me.
Scout SV has ISTAR
service in 2017.
Program cost: £3.5 billion
2015 July 31
The referendum allows the British people to
choose the future path the UK will take. It is a choice between real
and imagined power. Some say Brussels is strangling Westminster, but
it is more true to say Westminster silences its own MPs. The failure
of MPs to exercise the powers already available to them has reduced
British ability to influence EU affairs. A recent report published
by the Centre for European Reform drew attention to the failings of
the Commons in reducing the effectiveness of MP scrutiny of EU
affairs. The Commons does have powers but MPs fail to use them
Globalization has unleashed huge population
movements. Many European countries have higher levels of migration
than the UK. The EFTA countries have higher levels of immigration
per head of population than the UK. And EU migrants come here to
work, not to claim benefits. They are much less likely to receive
benefits than British nationals. EU migrants in general pay more in
tax than they claim in state assistance. Immigration can be
controlled without leaving the EU and within the framework of free
movement. The UK immigration system is laxer than most others in
2015 July 30
Kepler 452b is rocky, about five times the
mass of the Earth, and comfortably within the orbital region of its parent star
known as the habitable zone, where temperatures should be right for
liquid water to exist.
Some say life on Earth is made
possible by a remarkable concurrence of circumstances that render
our environment stable and hospitable, such as the seasonality of
climate, a large moon to create tides, and the presence nearby of a
giant planet that sweeps up local cosmic debris.
that given the raw chemical ingredients and an energy source to set
them reacting, the appearance of organization is virtually a law of
nature. If life appears in the cosmos, it is highly likely to evolve
by Darwinian natural selection.
There is no reason to think
that life must always evolve to the complexity of humans. But it
seems an absurdly solipsistic idea that we can extrapolate from the
fleeting status and motivations of Homo sapiens today to deduce
anything at all about the fate and goals of intelligent life on
2015 July 29
Edmund S. Phelps
Classical political economy lets wage
rates sink to whatever level the market takes them and offers a
safety net. But many people want to do more with their lives than
consume goods and have leisure. They want to participate in a
community. They want inclusion.
Workers view the economy as
unjust if they or their children have no chance of climbing the
socioeconomic ladder. And moving up appears harder now. For some
decades, productivity slowdown and globalization have prevented
western economies from offering a good life.
The good life
involves using imagination, exercising creativity, taking
fascinating journeys into the unknown, and acting on the world.
Historically, innovation was not limited to elites. The experience
of working in those dynamic economies was good for most people.
An economy must be such that the satisfactions of prospering and
of flourishing through adventurous, creative, and imaginative work
are widespread. An economy without such dynamism is pitiful, much
like the theoretical models of classical economics.
2015 July 28
A thousand AI experts plus Stephen
Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak, have signed a
petition calling for a global ban on killer robots:
select and engage targets without human intervention. Artificial
Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the
deployment of such systems is feasible within years. They have been
described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and
The key question for humanity today is whether
to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If
any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a
global arms race is virtually inevitable. Unlike nuclear weapons,
they become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers
to mass produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear
on the black market. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as
assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations, and
selectively killing a particular ethnic group.
A military AI
arms race should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous
2015 July 27
Cut Wind and Solar Taxes
UK energy secretary Amber Rudd is trying to
rein in regressive stealth taxes on energy bills. Since these have
been ineffective and expensive, this is sensible reform.
was always fanciful to think that wind and solar farms could stop
global warming. Despite vast subsidies, wind produced 1% of global
energy in 2014 and solar 0% (rounded to 1 sig fig). Fossil fuel
produced 87%, unchanged from 10 years earlier. With current
technology, only nuclear power, gas, and a surge in energy
efficiency can slow down the rise in emissions significantly, let
UK CO2 targets were predicated on rising
fossil fuel prices, on rapidly rising temperatures, and on
international agreement. Put money into research instead.
China Stock Rout
China's benchmark index rallied from the
low of early July, after a collapse of more than 30%. But the
sell-off resumed Monday. The Shanghai Composite Index closed down
8.5%. Nearly 1,800 stocks — more than 60% of all stocks listed —
fell by the daily limit of 10% and were suspended.
7.4% in 2014, its slowest pace in 24 years, and grew by 7.0% in Q1
and Q2 of 2015. Government credibility has been undermined by a
stream of overly positive forecasts from senior officials.
Hillary Clinton plans to wage war on
quarterly capitalism. Her case for reforming shareholder capitalism
is strong. The level of US investment is at its lowest since 1947.
With healthy profits and a near zero cost
of capital, now ought to be the time to lay down plans for the
future. But listed companies are almost uniformly opting for
Clinton would introduce a tapered capital
gains tax that would fall with the duration of the investment. Those
who held their stake for at least 6 years would pay a lower capital
gains tax of 20%. Those who sold within 2 years would pay almost
double. It is doubtful such tinkering would be enough.
AR Animal spirits spooked by China!
London is the most open metropolis in Europe.
On a soft summer evening, by the canal or in a park, London in its
civility and continuity can seem like perfection.
is skewed in dangerous ways. House prices keep jumping. Cranes are
everywhere, hoisting new luxury developments into being. Some are
certainly for wealthy Greeks. The capital has become a glittering
enclave in a country often resentful of its dominance.
sucks in money and the affluent from the rest of Europe. London is a
capital of inequality and tax evasion. New elites whose dream is an
American or British lifestyle and education for their children
acquire real estate, drive up prices, and push aside the native
2015 July 26
UK Labour Leadership Contest
The leadership candidates are Jeremy Corbyn,
Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Liz Kendall. Polls put leftist
Corbyn, 66, in the lead. A veteran of the hard left, Corbyn has
campaigned against the Iraq War, nuclear weapons, and austerity. He
learned his socialism in part from Ed Miliband's father Ralph
Miliband, a Marxist academic.
The leadership election will
use the Alternative Vote system. Party members will rank candidates
in order of preference. The candidate with the fewest first votes is
eliminated and their second and lower votes redistributed among the
other candidates. This process continues until one of them wins more
than 50% and is elected leader.
A poll suggests Corbyn would
beat Burnham by 6 points in the final round of voting. The poll puts
Blairite centrist Kendall in last place. She says she will not
withdraw and thinks she can still win.
Labour: Principles and Power
My campaign principles: ending inequality in
the early years, tackling low pay to build a living-wage society,
and devolving decisions to communities and councils. We must be the
voice of community organizers, civic leaders, and workplace
activists in the fight against poverty and injustice.
Application of Labour principles legislated for equality for LGBT
people, stopped the tolerance of failing schools, attacked child
poverty, and reversed the European social chapter opt-out. I
disagree with those who have nothing good to say about the previous
would make a credible sparring partner. Corbyn would make a dirty
great rude noise.
New Labour Needed
Labour needs a fresh set of policies for
2020. People are not looking for a politics of fudge and nudge. They
want a new vision for these new times.
Things need to change.
The party has never really resolved its central purpose. Labour must
become new kind of social movement capable of sustaining and
renewing itself both in opposition and in government. This means
changing its vertical structures into a more horizontal shape fit
for the Google age.
The leader must end command and control
of the grass roots, build strong relationships at local level, build
ties with other progressive movements, ensure that policies are no
longer parachuted from on high, let party members select more local
candidates, and create new structures of accountability.
party needs a modern style of leader.
Labour needs to lie down, in a "horizontal shape" and bottom
up, heeding the grass roots. Let others do the vision thing.
2015 July 25
Laser Nuclear Fusion Rocket Science
Boeing is has patented a
laser fusion drive for future deep space missions.
deuterium-tritium fuel pellet into a bell cavity and blast it with
lasers, triggering nuclear fusion and blasting propellant from the bell. Harvest the heat caught by the bell to
drive the lasers. Presto — a new drive is born!
A system of
free-electron lasers provides pulsed laser beams to vaporize pellets
comprising D-T propellant. Thermal compression of the pellet
triggers fusion, releasing energy beyond the break-even level and
generating thrust. A specific impulse of 100-250 ks is feasible.
Free-electron lasers use synchrotron emission from electrons to
generate photons. They can be tuned to emit within a huge range of
frequencies. Boeing has been working on them since at least 2009.
At the National Ignition Facility, researchers fuse small
pellets of deuterium and tritium using 192 lasers. The fusion can
reach break-even, releasing as much energy as they pump into the
pellets, though not yet enough by far to feed the lasers, but in
principle it works.
Good concept: Project Orion
(Freeman Dyson) meets NIF (blog 2009-03-26) to spawn a real
candidate for a starship drive.
Lawrence of Arabia said insurgents never try to
hold ground or waste lives in battles with regular armies. Chairman
Mao said guerrillas should be fish who swam in the sea of the local
population. US Army studies say holding ground, fighting pitched
battles, and alienating the cultural and religious sensibilities of
the local population are fatal.
Yalda Hakim makes rough brutality the secret of Daesh domination.
Abdel Bari Atwan describes an organization that combines
bureaucratic efficiency and military expertise with a sophisticated
use of information technology. Zaid Al-Ali talks about Daesh
incapacity to govern and the total collapse of water supply,
electricity, and schools, and ultimately population under its rule.
No one knows what draws the 20,000 foreign fighters who have
joined the movement. These new recruits seem to sprout from every
conceivable political or economic system.
The movement now
controls a terrorist state far more extensive and far more developed
than anything that George W. Bush evoked at the height of the Global
War on Terror. Daesh controls Anbar, Mosul, and half of Syria. Its
affiliates control large swaths of Nigeria and areas of Libya.
Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions displaced.
Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar: "This group is
satanic — they should have their limbs amputated or they should be
Much of what Daesh has done contradicts the moral
intuitions and principles of its supporters. The members and leaders
of the movement are not great strategists. Its government is not
delivering economic growth or social justice. The theology,
principles, and ethics of its leaders are neither robust nor
Nothing since the triumph of the Vandals in Roman
North Africa has seemed so sudden, incomprehensible, and difficult
to reverse as the rise of Daesh.
Braveheart warrior cult — restore the caliphate or die
2015 July 24
Kepler 452b is the first
known alien world that circles a sunlike star at a distance that
should allow liquid water to exist on its surface. It was discovered
after a first pass through the full data set from the NASA Kepler
telescope. The analysis also yielded about a dozen other candidate
worlds close to the size of Earth in the habitable zone around their
Kepler 452 is about 1400 light years away in Cygnus and is slightly bigger than our Sun. The planet
Kepler 452b orbits slightly further out than Earth and its year is slightly
longer, but its diameter is 60% larger and humans on its surface
would probably weigh about twice as much as here. Its age is about
6 billion years — old enough to grow its own life.
2015 July 23
Karl Marx once said that philosophers have
interpreted the world but the task was to change it. He did so with
calamitous results. The other nine thinkers on our list interpreted
and changed the world mostly for the better.
Isaiah Berlin witnessed the Russian Revolution as a small boy.
Sigmund Freud, Karl Popper, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Hannah Arendt
all left their middle European origins to seek a safe harbor in the
free world. Most of them found their way eventually to Britain.
Berlin, Popper, and Arendt built on the work of the Victorian
liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill. Popper and Berlin did a lot to
save the world from Marx. Bertrand Russell departed from Mill to
reinvent philosophy as a technical discipline. His former student
Wittgenstein led later philosophers to retreat from history into
Freud took a medical perspective on reason and
emphasized our passions. Albert Camus offered our passions as a
consolation in a world with no meaning. John Rawls reinvented
liberal political theory for our times.
See C20 history as
a titanic clash of ideas from Marx and Mills. British liberalism
but for how long?
How to recover a qubit that has fallen into a
Carroll et al.
Let Alice and Bob each have one of a pair
of quangled particles. Bob sends one bit to Alice. She uses that bit
and her half of the quangled pair to teleport one qubit from where
Bob is to where she is.
A black hole emits quangled particles
in Hawking radiation. Spontaneous production of a particle and its
antiparticle from the vacuum normally ends instantly in a puff of
energy, but near the event horizon one particle falls into the black
hole and the other flies out as Hawking radiation. The two particles
are quangled with each other.
Let Alice be outside the black
hole with access to one of the pair and Bob be inside the black hole
with access to the other. The only way they can retrieve information
from the black hole is for Bob to send classical information to
If Alice measures the spin of the black hole before
and after dropping a qubit with unknown spin into it, the change in
black hole spin is like a bit of classical information transmitted
by Bob to Alice.
Alice can use the change in the black hole
spin, plus her half of the Hawking radiation emitted after she drops
in the qubit, to work out the spin of the qubit she dropped in, and
hence retrieve information from beyond the event horizon.
2015 July 22
New York Times
Islamic State uses terror to force
obedience and frighten enemies. It has seized territory, destroyed
antiquities, slaughtered minorities, forced women into sexual
slavery, and turned children into killers. But its officials are
apparently resistant to bribes.
The Caliphate has
provided relative stability in a region troubled by war and chaos.
It has filled a vacuum left by failing and corrupt governments that
also employed violence. It is putting in place the kinds of measures
associated with governing.
Stephen M. Walt: "I think that
there is no question that the way to look at it is as a
revolutionary state-building organization."
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
On Monday, the British prime minister
condemned Islamist extremism as a doctrine hostile to basic liberal
values. He rejected the grievance justification for extremism and
the violence it spawns.
Islamist extremism is derived from
Islam as a religion. This is why jihadist outfits across the world
can endow their violence with moral righteousness. What the
Caliphate is putting into practice is Islam unreformed and literally
The prime minister has made it clear why unreformed
Islam is incompatible with British values. In proposing a tougher
strategy he is boldly going where no other European leader has dared
Britain faces a referendum on whether to stay in
the EU. Pessimists see no future for Britain within Europe. We need
reforms of the single market, labor mobility, and benefits. But the
challenges of continued EU membership do not outweigh the economic
advantages and opportunities.
our biggest trading partner. We gain hugely from EU trade policies
and regulatory harmonization. Much foreign investment in the UK
depends on our continuing membership. And our voice in global
economic negotiations is stronger if we stay in the EU and fight our
The Greek debt deal is damaging. One
cannot expect the reforms to be enacted by a government that does
not believe in them. Their mixture of structural reforms of state
and economy with neoliberal impositions will discourage the Greek
people and kill any impetus to growth.
The European Council is effectively declaring itself politically
bankrupt. The de facto relegation of a member state to the status of
a protectorate contradicts the democratic principles of the European
Union. The outcome can only be understood as an act of punishment.
During the crisis the European executive has accrued more and
more authority. Key decisions are taken by institutions that lack
any democratic basis. I do not see how a return to nation states run
like big corporations in a global market can counter a drift away
AR The debtors
will take the EZ road to political union. The UK will stand aside.
Good and Evil
David Cameron now sees himself as being
engaged in a battle between good and evil every bit as important as
the fight to defeat Nazism. He wants to step up the air campaign
against the Caliphate. Former chief of the armed forces Lord
Richards of Herstmonceux says we shall sooner or later have to send
in troops and tanks.
In terms of mortal risks to people in the
UK, Islamist terrorism ranks behind diet, smoking, alcohol,
loneliness, the slow collapse of the NHS, child poverty, air
pollution, traffic accidents, and lack of exercise. In the longer
term, climate change, antibiotic resistance, soil loss, and nuclear
proliferation are orders of magnitude more dangerous.
Coinbase co-founder and former Goldman
Sachs currency trader Fred Ehrsam guesses bitcoin can can spam.
Venture capitalists now focus on its blockchain technology to log
bitcoin micropayments for almost any internet activity. Some $400
million of venture capital has funded the development of blockchain
apps. Ehrsam: "I can't sit here and tell you all the killer
applications but I know that the possibilities are near endless."
AR Example: micropay for this blog.
2015 July 21
Russian billionaire Yuri Milner has
launched a $100 million SETI project. Astronomers will look for
signals from the million nearest star systems, the core and plane of
the Milky Way, and the hundred nearest galaxies. Milner: "The search
will be 100 to 1000 times more efficient than ever tried before."
The Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the
Parkes Observatory in New South Wales will scan frequency ranges
between 500 MHz and 15 GHz. Martin Rees: "It's a worthwhile gamble
because the payoff from detecting any artificial signal is so
AR I helped sponsor
Society SETI project BETA back in the last century.
Earth image by Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera EPIC on Deep Space Climate
a million miles away in solar orbit at Lagrange point L1
THE ROLLING STONES
Saatchi Gallery, London
April — September 2016
Sputnik Planum, Pluto
NASA scientist Alan Stern:
"I think the solar system
best for last."
Pluto has a young surface
with big ice mountains
Pluto and Charon
LHC researchers bag
states, over 9 sigma.
Grand Mosque, Mecca,
Night of Power 2015
In Quest of Beauty
and Museum, Bournemouth
2015-04-01 — 2015-09-27
UK royals watch fly-past on
75th anniversary of start of
Battle of Britain
AR Der alte
Fritz lässt grüßen.
Help to Greece no justification
wrong economic philosophy
causing the crisis. "Magnum
AR Zitat Cicero:
Eine große Einnahmequelle ist die Sparsamkeit.
2015 July 20
Struggle of a Generation
David Cameron today made his first major
domestic speech on Islamist extremism. Most British Muslims loathe
ISIS and Al Qaeda, and opposition to liberal democracy among them is
a minority concern. They just want to get on with their own lives,
like everyone else.
But too many blame others for collective
historical failure: Jews, the CIA, western governments, Israel.
Support for liberal democracy is compromised by practices that
discriminate against women, reservations about free speech, and the
dream of an Islamic state.
Conservatives are as divided about
how to respond as the security services and the civil service. Some
stress targeting terrorist acts and the groups that carry them out.
Others say there will always be crocodiles if the swamp is not
drained by targeting extremist ideas.
Cameron has wrenched
policy decisively in the direction of combating extremism.
The Greek prime minister
capitulated. Grexit remains the most likely ultimate outcome —
I am really afraid of the ideological or
political contagion, not financial contagion, of the Greek crisis.
It was always the same game before the biggest tragedies in our
European history, this tactical alliance between radicals from all
sides. Today we can observe the same political phenomenon.
2015 July 19
Economic life is moving to a new rhythm. In
Greece, there are food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel
currencies, local exchange systems, squats, carpools, and free
kindergartens. They trade in the currency of free time, networked
activity, and free stuff.
Austerity means not just spending
cuts, as in the UK, or even the social catastrophe inflicted on
Greece. It means driving the wages, social wages, and living
standards in the west down for decades until they meet those of the
middle class in China and India on the way up.
model of info-capitalism restricts information. It aims to
monopolize and protect data, capture data generated by user
interaction, push into areas of data production that were free
before, mine the data for predictive value, and ensure nobody but
the corporation can use the results. But information wants to be
Information is physical and software is a machine. By
creating millions of networked people, financially exploited but
with the whole of human intelligence a click away, info-capitalism
has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and
connected human being.
Recall the replacement of feudalism by
capitalism. Feudalism was a system structured by obligation. Feudal
laws and customs were shaped around ignoring money. When money and
credit burst through the boundaries to create a market system, it
was a revolution. Capitalism was born.
be structured around human liberation. Information is corroding
capitalism. Most laws concerning information define the right of
corporations to hoard it and the right of states to access it. The
stagnation of late feudalism is now the stalled start of the third
industrial revolution, where instead of automating work out of
existence, we are creating menial jobs on low pay. The new source of
free wealth is the internet.
Energy depletion, climate
change, aging populations, and migration are altering the dynamics
of capitalism and making it unworkable. We need to expand the
technologies, business models, and behaviors that dissolve market
forces, socialize knowledge, eradicate the need for work, and push
the economy toward abundance. We need Project Zero.
AR Eradication of work is the Second
Coming of millenarian socialism. Bad argument.
2015 July 18
The Next Wave
Ray Kurzweil and people like him say we are
on the brink of self-aware machines. I don't see it. Their argument
is all about this exponential acceleration that comes out of the
semiconductor industry. I've discovered it's over. In the last two
years, the price of each transistor has stopped falling.
covered the DARPA robotics challenge. They built Terminator-style
machines that would be able to work in a Fukushima-like environment.
Only three of the machines were able to even complete the tasks.
Most of the robots failed at opening a door. Rod Brooks: "If you're
worried about the Terminator, just keep your door closed."
watched the rapid acceleration in robotics. People say there will be
no more jobs, the automation is going to accelerate, and by 2045
machines will be able to do everything that humans can do. But all
over the advanced world we see a dramatically aging population. The
robots may show up just in time because there may not be enough
Deploying these technologies will take more time
than people think. The development of the technologies to make these
things work is uneven. Deep learning is a modern iteration of
artificial neural nets that lets machines learn how to recognize
objects and how to understand human language. But on cognition we
have no breakthroughs. We are not about to turn these machines loose
in the environment to do all the things that human beings do.
The last major platform in the world that defined the picture of
computing was the smartphone in 2007. I spent a lot of time thinking
about what comes after smartphones. My own bet is that it will be
some flavor of augmented reality.
My bet too.
2015 July 17
Napoleon the Great
AR Reading it now and enjoying it.
2015 July 16
When the Soviet empire fell apart the United
States had an opportunity to become the guarantor of peace in the
world. The Washington Consensus let financial capital move around
freely and was a triumph for market fundamentalism. But unregulated
financial markets are inherently unstable.
The crash of 2008
had a lasting negative effect on all the Western economies. The
Chinese economy replaced the American consumer as the motor of the
global economy. The crash was also responsible for the euro crisis.
The euro had a common central bank but not a common treasury. So the
financial crisis has morphed into a series of political crises. The
European Union became preoccupied with its internal problems and failed to pull
its weight in the international economy.
The inward turn of
the EU and US led to a power vacuum in international governance. The
world may break up into rival camps both financially and
politically. China has begun to build a parallel set of financial
institutions. China could align itself with Russia not only
financially but also politically and militarily. In that case, we
would be on the threshold of a third world war.
government should try to forge a strategic partnership with China.
2015 July 15
The deal is better than Iran unfettered
and ever closer to a nuclear weapon. But its effectiveness depends
on international inspectors accessing military sites and insisting
on full compliance.
Iran might not comply fully. Supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set red lines weeks ago that
contradicted foreign minister Javad Zarif on key issues. This
reflects divisions in Tehran.
Iran is now the dominant
outside influence in Iraq. It acts as kingmaker in Syria. It
operates in Lebanon via Hezbollah and in Gaza via Hamas. It supports
Houthi rebels in Yemen. Expect years of rivalry with Saudi Arabia
and the United States.
IMF May Block Greek Deal
The IMF may yet walk away from a Greek
bailout. Greek debt may peak at 200% of GDP for 2 years and Greece
needs massive debt relief to return to financial markets.
IMF will only pay out if there is agreement on debt relief. It
cannot participate in a bailout if debt is deemed unsustainable and
there is no hope of a return to private bond markets. The IMF bent
its rules to participate in previous Greek bailouts.
EZ hardliners insisted a Greek bailout requires IMF participation.
No IMF, Grexit.
2015 July 14
New Horizons flies by the Pluto-Charon system: closest approach
New more accurate
estimate of Pluto diameter: 2370 km
New York Times
Creditors have forced regime change in
Greece. They have also destroyed the eurozone as we know it and
demolished the idea of a monetary union as a step toward a
democratic political union.
The eurozone is now a system
run in the interests of Germany. The shadow of Grexit looms for any
member that challenges German economic orthodoxy.
previous barrier to exit was political commitment. Without ambitions
for a political and economic union, the eurozone becomes a
utilitarian project in which member states weigh the benefits and
costs, just as the UK is assessing the pros and cons of EU
AR Germans have earned the right to lead Europe
and the European Union is the modern successor of the Holy Roman
Empire. Ist doch gut so, finde ich.
The German Question
The German Question is back. From 1945, the
United States nursed the German Federal Republic. The European Union
married Germany into Europe.
Germany now dominates Europe to
a degree unimaginable even 15 years ago. Germany has no choice but
to assume its power. It wants to use it well.
Genau. Lass es sein.
2015 July 13
Germany has piled pressure on Greece to
implement bold reforms and accept intense external supervision in
return for a possible €82—€86 billion rescue.
The euro jumped to $1.1175 and Bund prices were weaker, showing
lower demand for safe havens. Angela Merkel said earlier: "There
will be no agreement at any cost."
The mood among finance ministers
was violent. The meeting was
suspended after German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble lashed out
at ECB president Mario Draghi.
2015 July 12
Gallery and Museum
Mayoral Reception and Viewing
Reading my 2011 fictional interview (PDF,
2.34 MB): I still like it.
Human beings are not the master species but
the servant species. Our power should be exercised in looking after
creation. Beings with the capacity to suffer have the capacity to be
wronged. They also possess some degree of cognitive ability and some
sense of self awareness.
We are experiencing a gradual paradigm shift from the idea that
animals are commodities to the idea that, as sentient creatures,
they have dignity, value and rights. The Christian church has made
similar shifts on the rights of women, and gays, and of the child.
2015 July 11
The Anglo-Scottish Act of Union of 1707 was
driven by the threat of an expansionist France. England and Scotland
embarked on a partnership that enabled them to punch above their
weight on the European stage. The 1707 union was the model for the
American patriots after 1776, whose solution of 1787 was seen as an
improved variant of the Anglo-Scottish Union.
In 1946 Winston Churchill argued that only the creation of a
kind of United States of Europe would rescue the continent from
chaos. It would solve the German problem and mobilize democratic
Europe against the threat of Soviet communism. Initially it had the
potential to develop into something akin to the United Kingdom or
the United States.
Now the European Union is a political
project without power or purpose. Its predicament closely resembles
those of the British and the Americans in 1707 and 1787. A United
States of Europe would take from the Anglo-Scottish Union the
successful transcendence of national differences and from the United
States the model for reconciling the needs of the center and the
A single EZ state would begin with consolidation of
debt. Foreign policy and border security would be handled by the EU
and a single army within NATO. A federal EZ state in NATO would save
the euro and reduce the military strain on the USA and the UK. The
Churchillian model demands federation within the EZ state and
confederation between it and the UK. This is in British interests.
We are near the dawn of a post-human future.
It could be as prolonged as the billions of years of Darwinian
selection that preceded humans. Human civilization might be a
transient precursor to a deeper culture dominated by machines.
Few doubt that machines will one day surpass more
of our human capabilities. This is cause for optimism. Human brains
have gone far, but there is no reason to think they can understand
all reality. Far more of our kind of thinking will be done by
silicon or quantum computers than has ever been managed by people.
Artificial minds will not be confined to the biosphere in which
organic life has evolved on Earth. Interplanetary and interstellar
space will be the preferred arena for the grand constructions of
robotic fabricators. Their deep thinkers might one day develop
insights as far beyond us as string theory is for a monkey.
There may be billions of habitable planets in our galaxy. If life is
widespread, other worlds could have had a head start. Aliens may
long ago have transitioned beyond the organic stage. Machines may be
orbiting distant stars.
Neural networks are racing ahead. They can
recognize tumors in medical images, play Super Mario World and the
board game Go, assist in online interactions, recognize faces, read
and understand text, and interpret photos and videos.
Google was the first company to bring a neural
network into our everyday lives. Facebook has troves of NN fodder.
Google and Facebook use the actions of ordinary users to train their
networks for free.
The next NN frontier may be in
human-computer interaction. Neural networks will learn and interpret
our behavior and translate it into computer instructions. The next
smartphones could hold NN chips running adaptive learning systems.
2015 July 10
The cliffhanger over Greece and the euro
threatens to unravel postwar Europe. Without a cohesive Europe,
Germany is lost. Former chancellor Helmut Kohl understood this. The
euro would make a united Germany safe for Europe. Kohl foresaw a
European Germany, not a German Europe.
With Grexit looming,
there is calm in the markets. The big risk is in politics. Voting No
collided with the wish of most Greeks to keep the euro, but as an
act of desperation and defiance it spoke to the frustrations of
citizens across Europe. This is what mainstream political leaders
The EU is not to blame for globalization,
Russian aggression, or Mideast wars. Yet populists have channeled
public anger toward Brussels. European leaders seem almost
embarrassed to say that in a world where power is fast slipping away
from the west, they are better off sticking together.
2015 July 9
A deal with Greece might
risk EZ integration. Grexit would pose no existential threat to the
euro. The risk of contagion from Grexit is low and market
reaction to the Greferendum No was muted. EZ governance
is a balance of rules and trust among democratically elected
participants. The Greek government rejects the EZ rules. A deal
could undermine EZ trust.
Grexit would promote further EZ
deepening. Many EZ governments need to spell out the implications of
EMU to their citizens and make a case for greater fiscal solidarity
and deeper integration. Grexit would spur EZ members to define a mechanism for planned
exit from the euro.
AR Grexit is good.
Grow the economy and get UK finances under control with the national
• Support working people by allowing you to earn
£11,000 before paying income tax.
• Reduce corporation tax to
send out the message that Britain is open for business.
• Set a
new national living wage so that 2.5 million people will get a
direct pay rise.
• Take the home out of inheritance tax by
letting you pass on up to £1 million tax free.
defense with the pledge to spend 2% of national income on defense.
• Put welfare spending on a sustainable footing with a package to
save £12 billion.
• Tackle tax avoidance and tax evasion and
abolish permanent non-dom tax status.
• Improve productivity
with a new fund to pay for sustained investment in our roads.
AR GO is great!
2015 July 8
Living cells are full of tiny
electrochemical machines. We are made of trillions of nanobots.
We are assembled from proteins. The ribosome is a nanobot made
of proteins and nucleic acids that makes proteins. Ribosomes
synthesize proteins by reading messenger RNA that copies genetic
code from DNA molecules and knitting amino acids into protein
strings for cells.
Living cells run on energy from molecules
of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Animals and plants make ATP in
mitochondria. The nanobots in mitochondria are motors with rotors,
stators, and catalytic heads. They use the electrochemical gradient
across a membrane between a high density of protons (hydrogen ions)
and a lower density. The protons pass through the ATP nanobot and
turn its rotor. Each turn forms three molecules of ATP.
Archaea and bacteria used various energy sources. Then some bacteria
began to use sunlight to power photosynthesis. This process yielded
much more energy than other sources, giving its users an
evolutionary edge. Photosynthesis permits brief local reductions of
entropy using a partly quantum mechanical process.
communicate by quorum sensing to modulate activity within their own
populations and within wider ecosystems. Over 1 Gy BP, a larger cell
began to communicate with a smaller one it had ingested. Quorum
sensing let the smaller cell live inside its host and let genes act
to benefit the new chimera. The swallowed cells became mitochondria
and made ATP in the first eukaryotic cell.
swallowed bacteria that could photosynthesize. Quorum sensing
synchronized their nanobots and the new trinity organism became the
photosynthetic ancestor of every plant on Earth.
formed about 4.5 Gy BP. Its first 500 My are known as the Hadean
Eon. A big planetoid hit the Earth, forming the moon and melting the
planet into a ball of molten rock, which cooled quickly and let
oceans form. Earth was almost certainly hostile to life in the
Hadean Eon. The Archean Eon began 4 Gy ago and continued until 2.5
Gy BP. The nanomachines evolved to make the first bacterial
ecosystems in about 3.5 Gy BP.
Life may have begun at hot
mid-ocean ridge vents known as black smokers. These are protected
from UV radiation by the overlying ocean and are rich in the
elements required for DNA. Some of the most ancient life forms on
Earth thrive in hot water. Nanobots that turned nitrogen and
hydrogen to ammonia were in existence by 2.5 Gy BP. When RNA strands
floated in droplets within lipid cell walls, their chemistry
stabilized and they evolved into life as we know it.
next billion years nanobots evolved quietly. Photosynthetic bacteria
excreted oxygen. This reacted with biomass at first, until organic
remains began to fossilize. Then free oxygen accumulated in the
Large animals breathing oxygen first evolved 500 My BP.
Now humans burn fossil fuels.
Genghis Khan created a new world order.
His Mongol army waged war on multiple fronts across vast distances,
making brilliant use of speed and surprise. When he was born in
1162 CE, Eurasia was broken into regional civilizations. When he died in
1227 CE, they were welded with contacts that are still unbroken. He smashed the feudal system of hereditary privilege and built a new
system based on individual merit, loyalty, and achievement. He bowed
only to the law of the eternal blue sky.
AR The body count for the Mongol wars
was up in the tens of millions, in the same league as those of the
A blue tide has swept through
the South West
from Bristol to
Land's End except Exeter is in
our hands: 51 Conservative
MPs hail from the
AR Fox is the Engish
Germany vs Greece
After nearly 425 ks over the
Solar Impulse 2
landed in Hawaii. Leg 8 of a
planned 13 around
the world set
a record for the longest time
and distance for a
only on solar power.
European Union is not
perfect. But recent squabbles
imperfections in a
union of 500 million people in
studying and working together.
It is a work in
2015 June 20-24
London terror police or
2015 July 7
New York Times
Germans prize fiscal rectitude and
adherence to the rules. They have scant sympathy for the Greek
demand for more money. So as de facto head of Europe, Chancellor
Angela Merkel faces a challenge that will test her leadership
Europe faces challenges beyond Greece.
Britain is planning a referendum on membership in the European Union
and threatening to exit. Russia is emerging as a security threat and
exposing rifts within Europe about how to react. And there is no
consensus about how to deal with the migrants washing into southern
Radicals on the left and right in Europe cheered the
Greek No as evidence that the European project was crumbling. Merkel
and others see a threat not only to their own political fortunes but
also to the entire postwar architecture of Europe.
Conservative fury at Greece is mounting. German finance minister
Wolfgang Schäuble wants Greece to exit the euro. But Merkel's
domestic critics were more sympathetic on Monday. Wolfgang Bosbach:
"The chancellor did everything that was humanly possible to help the
David Cameron is one of our greatest
post-war prime ministers. Conservatism now dominates British
politics. Every part of the public sector and welfare state now
feels the lash of reform. He has set a high bar for what he wants to
Like all great leaders, Cameron possesses
fortitude. In the election campaign he stuck to his core message on
the economy. It was brutally simplistic and successful. His strategy
and his judgement were vindicated. His victory was historic.
The one imponderable remains Europe. Once the European question is
put to bed, Cameron will have delivered what he promised. His last
trick will be to ensure an orderly transition to new management for
the next election in 2020.
2015 July 6
CNN, 1640 GMT
Greeks voted NO to the latest EU bailout
offer. They want less austerity and less debt. Greece is out of cash. Another bailout will depend on Germany. Most Greek debt is
held by governments and big institutions. Greece could exit the
AR Throw the bums out.
Germany vs Greece
Greece is in deep trouble. Its taxation and
land registry systems are broken and no one thinks it can ever repay
its debts. Its governments plundered the state.
When the euro
crisis erupted in 2010, German chancellor Angela Merkel made sure
that the IMF was involved in Greece. When former chancellor Helmut
Kohl introduced the euro, he paid too much attention to his emotions
and not enough to economics. The IMF added mathematics.
Merkel respects numbers. She says Europe contains 7% of the
global population and is responsible for 25% of global economic
output, but pays half of all global social welfare, which is
unsustainable. Such claims show why Greeks see her as the German
dominatrix of austerity.
Tweet last week from Greek prime
minister Alexis Tsipras to Merkel: "With a clear 'NO' we send a
message that Greece is not going to surrender."
2015 July 5
Development Corporation designs and manufactures an
Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) to keep
astronauts breathing and hydrated in space. The company wrote a
study for Mars One, the idea to send crews to Mars who would live
and die there for reality TV.
Once a robot ship landed on
Mars, the ECLSS would extract water from rocks. It would turn some
of the water into oxygen and mix it with nitrogen and argon in the
Martian atmosphere to mimic Earth air. For 2 years, it would heat
and cool the air in the still empty living quarters against surface
temperatures ranging annually from 133 K to 294 K (21°C) to prove it
can work reliably.
The colonists would touch down and step
into warm and ready accommodation. They would want drinking water
and bathroom water. They would learn to grow crops that needed
water. The ECLSS would have made enough for them, and would recycle
the used water into drinking and other water.
have not yet tackled inadvertent contamination of Mars by life forms
from Earth. They have also not addressed leaks, repairs, fires,
radiation protection, electric power generation, or how to mine
rocks for water. They need more time. Mars One candidates would land
about 12 years from now. At least all this is useful research that
may one day help land real Martians.
2015 July 4
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and
Sapiens is big
In the beginning was the bang. The laws of physics
governed the creation of the stars, which cooked up the stuff that
made Earth and formed life. Blind evolutionary processes led to Homo
sapiens, which may soon evolve into a different species.
histories put humans among other species in the biosphere. Harari
dwells on the multiple extinctions caused by Homo sapiens over the
course of history. Humans are Nietzschean predators impelled by
instinct toward the Übermensch.
Sapiens is a punchy digest of
more nuanced and detailed studies. Harari spins difficult concepts
and complex stories into a synthesis with three revolutions:
1 Cognitive (70 kybp): Evolution of language and symbolic
2 Agricultural (12 kybp): Rising population,
empires, trade, religion, money
3 Scientific (500 ybp):
Capitalism, imperialism, globalization, environmental ruin
Harari presents everything beyond the natural world of science
as myth. While constrained by biology and physics, our species
coexists in imaginary worlds of its own devising. Saps live in a
Homo superior will likely be as restless and
dissatisfied as Homo sap. We are often misled by our own
fictions. History is a useful fiction that can yield enlightenment.
Sapiens means wisdom.
ate my lunch — CORAL
2015 July 3
Israel and America
David P. Goldman
There are two nations and only two
nations in the world that are chosen, because their inhabitants
became citizens by choice rather than happenstance: the United
States of America and the State of Israel. Every other nation in the
world defines itself by common territory and heritage.
forces us to either remember or finally repudiate who we are as
Americans. Both the American Revolution and the founding of the
State of Israel demanded an inspired loyalty to a higher principle.
God choose Israel and Israel chose God. Men become free by
taking responsibility for their own destiny, by choosing between
good and evil. Israel was the first manifestation of freedom in
human affairs. Other peoples defined themselves by the happenstance
of language and geography.
This biblical vision of a free
people assembled by choice that chooses God rather than a human
monarch as its sovereign provides Americans with a chance to
remember sacrifice and boldness of purpose.
AR The dialectical reciprocity of God
and those who chose God was the pearl of my
CORAL. The logic I used
exactly 40 years ago to grow classical mathematics from the null
Big Bang to Big Rip
The universe is expanding and the rate
is accelerating. Dark energy tries to expand the universe and
gravity tends to make it collapse again.
In the Big Freeze
scenario, the universe keeps expanding gradually until only a thin
soup of radiation is left, which cools down into eternity.
the Big Rip scenario, dark energy overwhelms gravity. Our new theory
predicts that the universal expansion will accelerate to infinity.
Phys. Rev. D 91, 043532
2015 July 2
Last week, the Perimeter
Institute in Waterloo, Canada, hosted its inaugural Convergence
conference. Perimeter director Neil Turok: "Theory is becoming ever
more complex and contrived. We throw in more fields, more
dimensions, more symmetry — we're throwing the kitchen sink at the
problem and yet failing to explain the most basic facts."
Convergence gave researchers a chance to parade puzzling
experimental results. The goal is to give young theorists
alternative paths to pursue, guided by empirical evidence.
Areas discussed included dark matter and dark energy, how the human
brain relates to fundamental quantum physics, and whether the
quantum structure of black holes can show that spacetime emerges
from quantum entanglement.
Also discussed were the
implications of the latest Planck measurements for the theory of
inflation. The theory is adaptable enough to fit any observations we
can currently do, so maybe it is too flexible to be called a theory.
But possible observations we could do would falsify it.
Fascinating — in a parallel world I might have been there with a few
2015 July 1
Israel and the Caliphate
Islamic State insurgents have threatened to
take over the Gaza Strip. They accuse Hamas of being too lax on
religious enforcement. Hamas is cracking down on jihadis in Gaza who
oppose its truces with Israel and reconciliation with Fatah.
IS video message to the "tyrants" of Hamas: "We will
uproot the state of the Jews and you and Fatah, and all of the
secularists are nothing and you will be overrun by our creeping
multitudes. The rule of sharia will be implemented in Gaza."
Richard J. Evans
No crime in human history outdoes the
Holocaust, the Nazi extermination of 6 million European Jews. Yet
only about 2.3 million people were put into Nazi concentration camps
between 1933 and 1945. More than 1.7 million lost their lives and
almost 1 million of them were Jews killed in Auschwitz.
During the first half of 1933, makeshift camps
were set up for political prisoners. By 1934, the remaining camps
became dumps for asocials, alcoholics, vagrants, and social
deviants. By 1939 there were six camps. During the war, they were
transformed into centers of forced labor.
Up to the final
phase of the war, Jews made up no more than 1 in 10 of the inmate
population. By September 1939, half the Jewish population of Germany
had gone, leaving mostly the elderly behind. The total number of
Jews in the SS concentration camps amounted to about 1,500 out of
From 1941 onward, Jewish inmates were removed and
taken to extermination centers, where they were killed along with
Jews brought from all over Europe. Toward the end of the war, the
Nazis put increasing numbers of Jews into the labor camp system
rather than the gas chambers. Even then, only a third of the camp
population were Jews.
The genocide of the Jews was part of a
far wider program of mass murder. It is unhelpful to subsume all
these crimes under the concept of the Holocaust.
AR The Nazis were responsible for most
of the more than 40 million premature deaths in WW2 Europe. Like
Islamic State today, they had a brisk way with death that forms a
dialectical counterpoint to the gentle approach to life in the