Monday, July 15, 2019

Amazing Wimbledon Final

It will probably go down as one of the greatest Wimbledon finals of all time (maybe just a notch behind 2008 and 1980) and that is not by any means an overstatement of yesterday's edition of the Gentleman's End Game.  As a Roger Federer fan I was saddened to see the Swiss maestro go down to the power punches of Novak Djokovic but if he had to lose to anybody the Serb would be my pick. Overall the match was a tremendous endorsement of the high quality of play that exists at the upper echelon of the ATP tour.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Challenge continues

It has been a while since I last posted a reflection  but I have been immersed in the everyday activities of real life. I use this blog as a type of escapism so its always great when I can post with a meaningful input. My biggest struggle over the last few weeks is my ongoing attempt to crystallize a better understanding of the world. I have tried to qualify this in purely scientific terms based on the cold steel of reason but the inner tug of spiritualism (and a belief in a higher power) clouds such an approach, at least from a broader philosophical perspective.

Its not that this ultimately bothers me - but I can't help but wonder how this struggle would be simplified, if one of these two variables were more easily reducible. That they are not could be a blessing, in that it forces me to contemplate with greater intensity, and through this mechanism I am forced to grow.

But I still stare over hills and past valleys, wondering if the ark of truth lies over the horizon. It is both frustrating and motivating...but if I had the answer I doubt whether I would appreciate the apparent nirvana. So maybe I should just let it go, scuttle the inquiry. Yeah right...who am I trying to kid?... I know for myself that this is impossible..

Friday, July 5, 2019

In your opinion, how dangerous is Antifa to the US’s politics and stability?

My answer on Quora.
Antifa in and of itself is not yet a danger to the US politically . However the tactics that Antifa uses in attacking journalists, doxxing opponents and shutting down the First Amendment Rights of its critics most certainly does. Should their approach become the acceptable norm then the nation will indeed be staring into a darker abyss.
The United States of America was and remains a brilliant experiment in liberalism, private ownership of property and individual sovereignty. At its core are the notions of freedom of speech and thought. By extension this implies that ideas should be allowed to enter into the market without mandated barriers, even if the ideas are deplorable (a feature that is usually but not always the preserve of the various extremes).
Antifa does not adhere to this essential nation-building philosophy and by its philosophy of direct action violence is more of a pernicious instrument directed at our liberal core. While a strong stance against Fascism is at times necessary, Antifa has used this excuse to cast the net further by physically attacking both oppositional extremists as well as legitimate critics. This should not be acceptable anywhere in a free society.
The attack on journalist Andy Ngo is just one example of Antifa’s propensity towards violence. We need to pay attention to the attack on Andy Ngo.
Those legitimately concerned about the fate of journalists should have been universally concerned about this. Some are - Three suspects sought in connection to Antifa Andy Ngo attack - The Post Millennial.
Others are conflating the issue for political firepower - Opinion: The right want to make Antifa aggression a reason to stop confronting fascists.
The Ngo incident is not a first in Antifa’s history of violence. They were involved in a series of violent altercations in February 2017 at Berkeley (in response to a talk by Milo Yiannopolous), where they were seen throwing Molotov cocktails and destroying property. The Boston Free Speech Rally in 2017 was another event that was violently transformed by Antifa. There are several others. 'Antifa' violence in Berkeley spurs soul-searching within leftist activist community
However it is not just protests that define Antifa’s violence. In December 2018 two US Marines were attacked. BUSTED: Shadowy Leader of Notorious Antifa Mobs Arrested For December Assault on Two US Marines. Neither is this the first time U.S. Marine have been targeted Philly Antifa member in custody following attacks against U.S. Marinereservists
Clearly Antifa’s actions and rhetoric pose a number of challenges to all of us who value our democracy (speaking to both sides of the political equation). In fact they could be empowering the Alt Right further. Pictures like the one above could well serve as a recruitment aid for those on the Far Right. There is enough division in the nation on key issues that we don’t need extremists on either side adding to the tension.
However Antifa’s presence brings up a far bigger question which the left itself has yet to deal with. At what point do those who campaign under the same ideological tent go too far?
Jordan Peterson talks about this notion under the rubric of limits and boundaries. Conservatives figured this out some time ago when Bill Buckley ousted the Birchers - The Inside Story of William F. Buckley Jr.’s Crusade against the John Birch Society | National Review.
Will the mainstream left do the same with Antifa and indeed the other radicalisms that are poisoning it?
Dissent editor Michael Kazzin takes a practical approach when he says ‘Non-leftists often see the left as a disruptive, lawless force. Violence tends to confirm that view’ The case against antifa.
However what is most concerning is that the case against being made by progressives is largely not formulated within the context of Antifa’s opposition to Free Speech. Was this ideal not once part of the mantra on the left? Free Speech Movement.
If Free Speech is no longer a priority on the left (including protection of the rights of those we abhor) then a necessary common ground to build bridges across the fractured spectrum has indeed been lost. This is the real concern.

At election time do you prefer to hear policies or rhetoric from politicians?

My answer on Quora.

The problem here is that in election time it is difficult to distinguish the two. Politicians put forward policies that are high on rhetoric and short on practicality. This of course is deliberate as nobody wants to be placed on the defensive at election time. It is far easier to defend ‘pies in the sky’ than to descend into the trenches to outline the workables.
Besides it is rhetoric that brings out the base. ‘Medicare for All’ rings well for some. Outlining how you intend to pay for it. Not so much. It is no wonder that Bernie Sanders ran from this question in the last debate while slipping on the Walter Mondale banana skin of ‘tax increases.’
Donald Trump saw the value of rhetoric with his ‘Make American Great Again’ so did Barack Obama and his mantra of ‘Change’. Both were high on voice bytes but lacking in specifics. It is for this reason that listening to campaign speeches is largely a waste of time. Debates are only one step better (although you wouldn’t think so with Round I and II of the recent Democratic free-for-all). The best you can get, if you value informed policy, would be a one-on-one interview with no soft ball questions. They are rare for a reason.
Elections are popularity contests not moments of intellectual swagger. They are the domain of the marketer not the technician. Brand is all that matters with complications around policy relegated to the realm of the after thought,lest they detract from the end goal of victory.
This is the tragedy of the election. It exists everywhere. The trouble with American politics in particular is that the nature of the system has set up a continuous election cycle with virtually no break from recourse to the partisan denominator.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Is the West in Decline?

My answer on Quora.
This may be one of the biggest geopolitical questions out there and seems as pertinent now as it was when Oswald Spengler wrote his Decline of the West (1918).
Oswald Spengler - Author of the the Decline of the West. Source: Philosophy of History Part XVII: Oswald Spengler and the Decline of the West
There are five schools of thought that I have identified here when researching this question. These in a nutshell are their respective positions.
  • Better Angels (titled taken from Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined): No. The world especially the West is getting better not worse. Crime is falling, health is improving, people are living longer, science is on the march forward, superstitious belief is trending downward and we may indeed be living in the greatest of all times. There is no decline. If the west is losing ground it may be more of a function of the rest of the world catching up than anything else.
  • Progressive Pessimists: YesNeo-liberal economic policies are amplifying wealth disparities and depriving essential services of the necessary government funding that they require. This has been expedited by Trumpism in the US and his tax cut initiatives. Add on to this the climate change crisis and the west and the rest of the world is heading for disaster. Society has to undergo a rapid transition to avoid what is essentially the inevitable. The West can be saved but it needs to transition away from market economics towards policies of ‘inclusivity’. Thinking of oneself as a global citizen would be a positive move. The End of the West and End of days: Is Western civilisation on the brink of collapse?
  • Left Extreme: Yes. The West is declining. Let it collapse, after all it is racist, sexist, homophobic and was built on the backbone of oppressive policies. Long may it rot. ‘We’ will pick up the pieces afterward and build a new just society. Fuck You, Dying American Empire: Reflections of an Aging Anti-Imperialist
  • Conservative Pessimists. Yes. Europe in particular has been transformed into a post-christian society that is a shadow of its former self. In the US the Gramscian walk through the institutions has wrecked higher education. Free speech is under threat, socialism is making headway and lax border policies are destabilizing the integrity of the nation state. Couple that to declining birth rates and the rise of Islamism as a political force, and the future does not bode well for the west. What is needed is a greater emphasis on the principles that form the bedrock of Western Civilization, especially Judeo-Christian values. Opinions as to the efficacy of nationalism in this area differ. Check out the links below to books by Jonah Goldberg, Patrick Buchanan and Douglas Murray.
  • Alt Right: Yes. Decay is everywhere. Our systems have failed. Traditional conservatives are too ecumenical and have conserved nothing. What is needed is a return to a society that rejects the toxic brew of multiculturalism and globalism. In any case a white ethno-state is needed somewhere in the West.
So it all comes down to who you ask and what parameters they most value.
Here is my synthesis.
I think the Better Angels approach makes sense for half the story. The world is indeed improving with respect to health and economic parameters. One can credit science, market economics and the spread of democracy for this reality. Seven reasons why the world is improving.
However this is only part of the story. It is most obvious that the West is also in a demographic death spiral with respect to falling birth rates. Death Spiral Demographics: The Countries Shrinking The Fastest
Entitlement is rampant, education standards are falling and illegal immigration is out of control. Manufacturing sectors have been gutted by an outsourcing mania with power shifting away from the vital middle class to a financial elite that all to often appears as though it has no loyalty to anyone other than themselves.Culture of entitlement not limited to youth
A fixation with identity politics – both race and gender – has further poisoned the water and encouraged an odious narrative that has proved to be extremely divisive. Media spin has fueled this further. The curse of identity politics and the case for shared values - Openforum
Add to this a growing national debt load and and the markers for decline are apparent. U.S. National Debt Hits Record $22 Trillion
Across the board leadership in the First World is poor, but more than anything else most westerners can't even articulate what our civilization stands for. Is Western Civilization a Thing? - Quillette. While the US –the epicenter of the West - is still ten or fifteen years behind a moribund Europe in this regard its trajectory is likely to be similar. Europe Paves the Way for Its Decline and Europe is losing its soul.
The ruling class talks with an air of authority, however it often succumbs to the lure of a ‘Realpolitik’ that short-changes shared values for the sake of political expediency.The Arrogant Elite
Islamic based Jihadism will not bring down the West but the inability of centrist leaders to champion western exceptionality and defend the essence of what we have on all fronts will most certainly do. We no longer believe in ourselves and this is tragic. The decline takes the form of a whithering away. Niall Ferguson: why the West is now in decline
While we still have the luxury of the blinker world that engulfs the lives of so many of us we need to move against apathy and indifference. What is needed is a broad movement centered on the engine of the middle class that cuts across ossified party/cultural and race lines and places at its core the Western values of free speech, rule of law, rationalism, an emphasis on shared values, earned respect, and self-sufficiency. It is not too late.
Further Links
  1. Oswald Spengler | Biography, Books, & Facts
  2. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined: Steven Pinker: 8601300108858: Amazon.com: Books
  3. Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy: Jonah Goldberg: 9781101904930: Amazon.com: Books
  4. Amazon.com: The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam eBook: Douglas Murray: Kindle Store
  5. The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization - Kindle edition by Patrick J. Buchanan. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Can anyone who identifies as conservative or right-leaning make a case for opposition to Trump?

My answer on Quora.

The case against Donald Trump from a conservative/right perspective can roughly be categorized into five different positions:
  • Neoconservatives such as Max Boot, Bill Kristol and David Frum largely oppose Trump as he appears to articulate a position that is at odds with their notion of global interventionism. They also share a strong concern with former cold war warriors who take issue with Trump’s Russian and North Korean outreach.
  • Deficit hawks such as Ron and Rand Paul are not at all pleased with the fact that the US debt under Trump is growing (even if they approve of his tax cuts). This was very much the case under Obama as well, however they would rather see a fiscal conservative at the reins of power, who will curb government spending.
  • Free Traders (many of whom were once involved in the Bush 41 and 43 administrations) are perturbed with Trump’s use of tariffs. Are they a means to an end - forcing China for example to play fairly - or does he actually believe that this is sound economic policy? A tariff war with China from a Free Trade angle could have serious global financial implications.
  • Some traditional conservatives doubt Trump’s sincerity and are concerned that his rhetoric will damage the conservative brand in the long run. I would file John Kasich and George Will under this category. Trump’s anti-intellectualism, in their opinion, flies in the face of conservative philosophy.
  • There is opposition to Trump’s immigration policy from certain segments of the Libertarian right, as routinely expressed by the Cato Institute and the Koch brothers.
The problem for the conservative Trump opposition is that many of these points don’t resonate as much with conservatives and those on the general right, as much as they did in earlier times.
Neoconservative interventionism is widely regarded as a strategic and economic failure (even if it was well intended). Debt reduction is viewed as important, but not when it comes at the expense of job creation. China is seen as a nation that flagrantly violates the precepts of free trade and ought to face economic consequences, until it no longer does so. Curbing illegal immigration is priority #1 with many conservatives when one views the crisis at the border. Cato and the Kochs are seen as being out of touch with grassroots conservatism here.
While Kasich and Will raise a very legitimate concern (and to some extent I agree with them), they don’t offer much of an alternative. The last two pre-Trump establishment presidential candidates nominated by the GOP - McCain and Romney - were still savaged by the press and on top of that failed to deliver the goods. Conservatives have come to realize that they perform best when they take their gloves off. Trump knows this and does this.
One should therefore place this opposition in numerical context. 85%+ of Republicans will probably vote for Trump in 2020 (this was the case in 2016). While less than half this tally makes up his hardcore base, the vast majority of people on the center right/right will give the thumbs up to Trump for two important reasons
  • He has advanced conservative positions on illegal immigration (plus immigration reform), SCOTUS, education, tax cuts, deregulation, job growth and individualism.
  • The alternative Democratic Party has moved so far to the left that their stance on several of these key points is anethma to most people on the right. The fact that they are still obsessed with the notion of impeachment is not helping their case here either, as is their daily recourse to identity politics.
Yes, most conservatives realize that Trump is a flawed person. However in an eventual two horse presidential race, where the opposition is so unappealing he is seen as the better choice. It also helps that the economy in the Trump era has largely been booming. If it slows down by 2020, a whole host of questions will emerge, however in terms of politics the election is light years away.

How was 20th century physics so successful with so limited amount of experimental data?

My answer on Quora

The 20th century saw the full scale development of both Special/General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Modern Cosmology, the Standard Model, Solid State Physics and Plasma Physics. All of these were driven by innovate and powerful analytical thought.
Key breakthroughs were indeed backed up by solid empirical evidence, that is a testament to the ingenuity of experimental physics. In fact from a practical era this was indeed a Golden Age as well. Here is a list of some key experiments and technologies that heralded the 20th century revolutions and indeed made it possible for theoretical physicists to take their models to the next level. Although one couldn’t acquire the extent of data that we can obtain today the brilliance of these adaptations more than substituted.
  • Millikan’s oil drop experiment (1909)- determined the magnitude of the elementary charge (JJ Thomson’s experiment a decade earlier had already narrowed down the charge to mass ratio for the electron so that Millikan’s work proved to be vital as well for the determination of the mass of the electron);
Millikan’s Experiment - Can actually be performed at the High School Level Source: Figure 1. The apparatus used by Robert A. Millikan for performing the...
  • Geiger-Marsden’s gold foil experiments (1908–1913)- identified the positive nature of the atomic nucleus;
  • Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy’s transmutation experiments (1901) - these examined the conversion of one type of an atom into another;
  • Enrico Fermi’s demonstration of nuclear chain reactions (1942) - this is the basis for continuous Nuclear Fission;
  • X-Ray Crystallography experimentation work by the Bragg team (father and son - 1915) as well as Rosalind Franklin later - helped unravel the Double Helix nature of DNA and other molecular structures;
  • Invention of the Bubble Chamber by Donald Glaser (1952)- an extremely valuable tool in particle physics;
Bubble Chamber profile - can identify particles using motion outlines and careful application of conservation of momentum. Sources: Bubble chamber
  • Stern -Gerlach Experiment (1922) - showed that spatial orientation associated with angular momentum is quantized;
  • Davisson-Germer Experiment (1923)- Observed diffraction patterns with electrons (vital in the development of the notion of wave particle duality);
  • Bell Test Experiment (1982) - Performed by Alain Aspect - showed that ‘ghostly action at a distance’ was indeed a reality;
  • The science and technology around the family of particle accelerators that include - linear induction accelerators, betatrons, circular or cyclic RF accelerators and synchrotons;
First Particle Accelerator 1932 The First Particle Accelerator 1932
  • The development of the Transistor (1947) and the various spin-off technologies around semi-conductors (opened up the idea of the integrated circuit and the microprocessor);
  • The invention of Radio Telescope by Karl Jansky in 1932 (useful in the elucidation of key cosmological phenomena).